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A Cruel Summer: A Review Of The 12 Biggest Storylines Of The NBA’s Offseason

Leave it to Kanye West to postpone the summer as long as David Stern did the NBA season a year ago. The G.O.O.D. Music performance that capped off Jay-Z‘s Made in America music festival teased us almost as much as a new NBA 2K13 trailer from 2K Sports. But the best things in life are always worth the wait. Now, Yeezy has dropped Cruel Summer upon us, while the NBA’s offseason is at a dead period until training camp starts.

Still, it’s as good a time as any to look back on this summer’s major headlines through Hit-Boy’s well-produced beats…

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1. JEREMY LIN SIGNS WITH THE ROCKETS
“To the World” – Kanye West feat. R. Kelly

Knicks fans should’ve seen this coming. Jeremy Lin wasn’t going to stay in New York forever – or at least not for a discount.

“I’m going down to make sure I do it my way. If it doesn’t get me where I want to go I can live with that,” Lin told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an exclusive interview back in February.

Once he got the opportunity to shine, he made up his mind going forward. Lin was going out on his f@#&in’ terms, no matter what. R. Kelly’s intro is stuck on repeat. And James Dolan should be informed these Kanye lines are directed at him: “These n!$$@s tryna hold me back, I’m just trying to protect my stacks. Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax, Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax.”

2. STEVE NASH & DWIGHT HOWARD GO TO L.A.
“Clique” – Kanye West and Big Sean feat. Jay-Z

Lately, the most significant NBA trend is squads stackin’ up to form super teams. The Miami Heat winning the title epitomizes this. Yet, they’re no match for the Los Angeles Lakers. They know how to do it better. They stole Steve Nash from a division rival with a trade exception and draft picks. Someone better be spittin’ Hov’s line, “It’s the Dream Team, meets the Supreme Team.”

As Magic Johnson dished dimes to other Hall of Famers, and Supreme McGriff controlled the crack game back in the day, Nash represents the ringleader, while Dwight Howard’s path from The Indecision to the anointed next great Laker center is conveyed through this Big Sean line: “But I’m the f@$%ing villain, man, they kneeling when I’m walking in the building.” Yeah, Kobe Bryant is bobbin’ his head to the hook…

Ain’t nobody f#&%ing with my
Clique, clique, clique, clique, clique

3. NEW ORLEANS DRAFTS ANTHONY DAVIS, AUSTIN RIVERS, BRINGS BACK ERIC GORDON & ACQUIRES RYAN ANDERSON
“Mercy” – Kanye West, Big Sean and Pusha-T feat. 2 Chainz

Leading up to the draft, this joint applied solely to Anthony Davis. A couple months later and “Mercy” relates to the New Orleans Hornets as a whole. Since David Stern engineered the Chris Paul trade, he has 29 other squads jealous of the package they got for their former superstar. Orlando Magic fans probably wish Stern was calling the shots there instead of Rob Hennigan.

Seemingly overnight, the Hornets have transformed from a place of pity to an exciting, promising upstart. These Big Sean verses describe their recent events:

Whoa, make the ground move, that’s an ass quake
Built a house on that ass, that’s an ass state

Finally got paid, now I need shade and vacay
(And ni$&@s still hating) so much I need an AK

4. BROOKLYN TRADES FOR JOE JOHNSON, RE-SIGNS DERON WILLIAMS & BROOK LOPEZ
“New God Flow” – Kanye West and Pusha-T feat. Ghostface Killah

I came aboard for more than just to rhyme with him
Think ’99, when Puff woulda had Shyne with him

Pusha-T is rapping for Joe Johnson in this verse. Brooklynites wanted Dwight Howard as the tag team partner with Deron Williams. But Johnson is out to prove he’ll be a better running mate. The Nets are pushing their “Hello Brooklyn” campaign. It doesn’t really matter which cats were going to join up. They ended up keeping four of their starters from last season, and nevertheless, one should’ve expected a “New God Flow” to take over the franchise – D-Will’s parallel to Kanye when he spits, “Did Yeezy not get signed by Hov’ and Dame?” Maybe Brooklynites should also hope Jay-Z dumps Mikhail Prokhorov once his bread is useless.

5. THE CLIPPERS EXTEND BLAKE GRIFFIN, TRADE FOR LAMAR ODOM, RE-SIGN CHAUNCEY BILLUPS, SIGN JAMAL CRAWFORD, GRANT HILL
“The Morning” – Pusha-T, Common, CyHi The Prynce, Kid Cudi and D’banj feat. Raekwon and 2 Chainz

Just as this track is filled with the most cats on one song on the album, the Clippers made the most moves this summer. Who predicted the Clips would be this active? They now possess the second-best bench in the league and everyone fills a role. Whether it’s the veracity of Pusha-T (Jamal Crawford’s crossover), The Chef cooking quietly (The Goods’ stat lines), the old school wisdom of Common (G-Hill’s smoothness), just know that the Clippers are revamped. Lob City woke up in “The Morning” with a whole new look.

6. KRIS HUMPHRIES RE-SIGNS WITH THE NETS
“Cold” – Kanye West feat. DJ Khaled

Kanye changed this track’s title (“Theraflu,” “Way Too Cold” and now “Cold”) almost as often as his girlfriend Kim Kardashian flips boyfriends. Regardless, everyone identifies this joint as the Kris Humphries diss track.

“Lucky I ain’t have Jay drop him from the team,” Kanye spits. What was that, Kanye? Humphries came back a few months later with a brand new two-year, $24 million deal. It must be nice to be Humphries these days: having smashed Kim, make $8 million off a wedding, re-up with the Brooklyn Nets for three times that wedding, and then be featured on the most popular album of the year by Kanye.

7. BRANDON ROY, ANDREI KIRILENKO SIGN WITH MINNESOTA
“Higher” – Pusha-T feat. The-Dream and Ma$e

It’s interesting that Kanye decided to put The-Dream and Ma$e, in particular, on this album. Other GMs must have thought that David Kahn was “higher than a motherf@#%er” when he added Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko. B-Roy retired more than a year ago and AK47 has been out in Russia for a season as well. Still, either one of their returns isn’t anymore surprising than Ma$e coming out of the woodworks.

AK47’s play for CSKA Moscow and in the Olympics suggests he’ll be back stronger than ever before. Kahn is just hoping, for his sake, both of them regain their form like time hasn’t passed. Ma$e did it on this track. Why can’t they?

8. DAMIAN LILLARD NAMED CO-MVP OF THE VEGAS SUMMER LEAGUE
“Sin City” – John Legend, Teyana Taylor, CyHi The Prynce and Malik Yusef feat. Travi$ Scott

Sex, drugs, and playin’ dices, those are our favorite vices
But this life’ll take a toll on ya
Well I guess you gotta pay the prices

CyHi The Prynce’s lines depict the NBA lifestyle welcoming all of the rookies into the Las Vegas Summer League. There’s no other city that’ll tempt to these young cats harder than “Sin City”. Yet, it was the kid from one of the smallest schools, Weber State, who put in the most work.

Damian Lilliard lit up Vegas with 26.5 points, 5.3 dimes and four boards a night in four games. He wasn’t fazed at all by the competition, or the territory. After games, he may have been the only one shootin’ in the gym.

9. LeBRON JAMES WINS HIS FIRST RING, FINALS MVP AND SECOND GOLD MEDAL
“The One” – Kanye West and Big Sean feat. 2 Chainz and Marsha Ambrosius

The Chosen One finally lived up to the tat draped across his back. Kanye distills the glamorous life that LeBron surely shares, and the glory from these luxuries feels better because of the path he took for redemption. His game gets compared and is expected to be just like Michael’s. Nonetheless, now he belongs in the same list as Tyson, Jackson, Jordan – Michael Phelps.” LeBron’s ascent from where he was two summers ago is nothing short of remarkable. He can nod to this hook and outro in his Beats by Dre…

10. JAMES HARDEN’S PENDING CONTRACT SITUATION
“Creepers” – Kid Cudi

This self-reflecting, confessional joint by Kid Cudi encapsulates what’s running through James Harden’s mind right now. Sam Presti could’ve dealt with this issue by picking him over Serge Ibaka. Instead, reports are surfacing that Harden wants a max extension before Halloween. It was inevitable he’d demand that kind of money in the open market once Eric Gordon was offered the max this summer. The fast, pulsing pace of this track reflects the amount of attention, and the immediacy this matter will have as the deadline looms. Harden isn’t used to being the center of the media’s interest, which is why he can relate to this verse:

I’m just doin’ my thang, if you know what I mean, get it right
And they think they know and they think they know

11. ANDREW BYNUM TRADED TO THE SIXERS
“Bliss” – John Legend and Teyana Taylor

Will Smith‘s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or even “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” would be the ideal theme song for Andrew Bynum’s newfound home. But Kanye didn’t invite Mr. Smith to take part of this cypher. Still, “Bliss” is by far the smoothest track on the album that can also convey Philadelphia’s brotherly love for Bynum. They haven’t been this infatuated to see a superstar’s news conference since A.I.‘s infamous “Practice?”

Bynum wanted his own franchise as much as the Sixers needed a savior. This honeymoon period will last for the whole season. And when it’s his time to test free agency, the Sixers will just recite these lines from John Legend:

Don’t ever wonder
Cause you deserve the best
Once you reach the top
You’ll never question why you left
My world is yours

12. RAY ALLEN AND RASHARD LEWIS SIGN WITH MIAMI
“Don’t Like (Remix)” – Pusha-T, Kanye West and Big Sean feat. Chief Keef and Jadakiss

The media crucify me like they did Christ
They want to find me not breathing like they found Mike

These Kanye West lines typify the kind of grandiose reaction haters had when Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis signed with the reigning champs. Jesus Shuttlesworth handled it as the consummate professional… yet, the Heat can’t help but boast on their status in the basketball universe, like Kanye did about his in the music industry throughout this compilation album. “Don’t Like (Remix)” just adds to the fire they’ve both created over time. The rich get richer. The entire league is left yelling Chief Keef’s hook.

Which of these storylines will have the biggest impact this season?

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