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What Have We Learned From NBA Free Agency So Far?

As fireworks continue lighting up across the United States in honor of Independence Day, the NBA has witnessed its share of them. Since last Thursday, the 2022 NBA free agency has kept fans, media, and even players glued to their phones in great anticipation of what could be next.

Sparked by the evolving nature of player movement, the known and unknown worked together in creating the madness we experienced during free agency’s opening stretch. While fans knew of the likelihood that Jalen Brunson would sign with the New York Knicks, we were thrown a curveball upon the news of Rudy Gobert getting traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Even the broad daylight robbery of a trade done by the Boston Celtics with the Indiana Pacers threw us in for a loop.

As free agency’s opening week concludes in two days and the shift turns to the second wave of signings– while we’ll also wonder who gets traded first: Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant?– now is the perfect time to examine what has happened so far.

Here are our five biggest takeaways from the opening weekend of NBA free agency.

Why leave home when there’s a super-max deal?

Even with the combined desire by fans and media to see players leave their home teams, it’s becoming less of a reality given the introduction of super-max contracts. Fueled by incentives including All-Star and All-NBA selections, players are quickly putting pen to sheets near the end of their rookie or latest deal.

Within the first 48 hours of free agency, six super-max contracts were signed that totaled over one-point-two billion dollars (Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Nikola Jokic, Ja Morant, Darius Garland, and Zion Williamson).

Put some respect on Brian Windhorst’s name

The long-time ESPN Insider was arguably the MVP this past weekend, given his memorable explanation behind the Utah Jazz’s way of thinking before they moved All-Star center Rudy Gobert.

All meme-worthy moments aside, Windhorst’s connecting of the dots between the Jazz suddenly moving Royce O’Neale and current team CEO Danny Ainge’s willingness to start from scratch painted a great picture of what would happen in Salt Lake City.

Productive veterans will always be paid

Even for a league that is getting younger, they will always pay productive veterans– even if it’s expensive. The Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, two legitimate Eastern Conference competitors, both signed or resigned productive veterans, PJ Tucker and Bobby Portis, at a combined cost and commitment of $79 million over seven years.

You never know when the trade market will be active

Minus an on and off busy night from the Draft, there wasn’t much happening in the trade market before Kevin Durant’s sudden trade request last Thursday. But you still have to remember this: Even with a busy rumor mill, it doesn’t mean trades will happen right now.

In the case of KD, the Nets can let his situation play out longer due to four years remaining on his contract. Regarding a potential Kyrie Irving for Russell Westbrook trade, the hold-up can be over one thing. And if you’re the Jazz, you must be 100% certain you want to let go of All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.

Who you got: Woj or Shams?

I’m more of a Woj guy but Shams is nice too *shrugs.

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Youngest NBA Head Coaches This Season

The NBA is changing. Well, it’s evolving. The NBA has been trending in a faster and younger direction since the early 2000’s. The average age of an NBA player continues to fall as athletes become pro-ready at younger and younger ages. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we’ve also seen a spur of young coach hirings. Just recently, the Utah Jazz made Will Hardy the youngest head coach in the league at 34 years old. So who did Hardy dethrone as the youngest head coach? Here are the five youngest head coaches in the NBA heading into the 2022-2023 season.

5.) J.B. Bickerstaff: 43 Years Old
Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers it looked as though the franchise would be in shambles for an extended period of time. In just his second season as head coach of the Cavaliers however, Bickerstaff was on the cusp of leading the Cav’s to the playoffs. They would ultimately lose to the Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament. Bickerstaff has been coaching for six years now, and began his career in Houston at the age of 37. He has been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2004 and was son of former coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who still works in the Cavaliers front-office.

4.) Willie Green: 40 Years Old
New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Willie Green had an extremely solid NBA career, playing for 12 years and five separate franchises. Green would find the most success in his post-playing days. After his retirement in 2015, Green joined the Warriors as an assistant coach right before the 2016-17 season. He would win two championships with the Warriors as an assistant before becoming an assistant in Phoenix and helping revive their franchise. Finally, Green was named a head coach for the New Orleans Pelicans before the 2021-22 season. He helped turn the Pelicans into a playoff team and even took a couple games from the Sun’s in the first round.

3.) Taylor Jenkins: 37 Years Old
Memphis Grizzlies Head Coach
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Taylor Jenkins began his coaching career in the NBA during the 2008 season as an assistant for the Spurs G-League affiliate Austin Toros. His first year as head coach of the Toros he led them to a 27-23 record. Jenkins would then become an assistant coach for the Hawks and Bucks before taking the head coaching position in Memphis. In his third year as a head coach in the NBA, Jenkins led the Grizzlies to a 56-26 record, and was runner up for Coach of the Year. Jenkins without a doubt has the most job security on this list with the amount of success he’s seen in such a short span of time.

2.) Mark Daigneault: 36 Years Old
Oklahoma City Thunder Head Coach
(Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

The former youngest coach in the NBA is Oklahoma City Thunders Mark Daigneault. Daigneault is a coaches-coach through and through. He began his coaching journey as a student manager at UCONN under the great Jim Calhoun. After serving his time as an assistant coach in the NCAA and G-League, Daigneault was named head coach of the Thunder in 2020. There isn’t much to say about Daigneault’s resume currently as the Thunder have been rebuilding during his tenure. It will be interesting to see how he can develop and mold the current young budding stars on the Thunder.

1.) Will Hardy: 34 Years Old
Utah Jazz Head Coach
(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

The new title of youngest head coach in the NBA goes to Will Hardy. The experience that Hardy has had coaching in the NBA is not expansive, but it’s the mentors he met along the way that make his career special. First, Hardy was an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs from 2015 to 2021. We’ve seen a flurry of incredible coaches come from the Greg Popovich tree, and Hardy is hoping to be the next. Hardy also was an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics last season, giving him coaching experience in the NBA finals. If the Jazz lose Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert however, Hardy may not get much of a chance to win in Utah.

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The Five Best Teams Who Can Trade For Kevin Durant

Nearly 24 hours later, the NBA world is still in shock over Kevin Durant’s trade request from the Brooklyn Nets. The two-time NBA Finals MVP is likely to generate the kind of interest rarely seen by any player that’s suddenly available, but the questions are who will be pursuing him and at what price?

And while there’s no doubt about Durant’s ability to play at a high level— he was placed on the All-NBA second team after averaging 29/7/6 this season– it does exist regarding his soon-to-be former team. Even during this era of player empowerment and movement, the Brooklyn Nets can’t get forced to trade Durant to his chosen place.

With four years remaining on his contract and a desire to either compete for a title or land a massive haul for him, the Nets and Durant could stay together beyond this summer. But what are those odds?

Below are the five best teams who can trade for the accomplished superstar.

Phoenix Suns

After the initial shock of Durant’s trade request, another one came in the form of his most- preferred trade destination: the 64-win and No. 1 seeded Phoenix Suns.

Upon looking at their roster and assets, there’s an immediate offer that makes sense– Mikal Bridge, Cam Johnson, Deandre Ayton, and an assortment of first-round picks. The only thing to be discussed is if the Nets trade Ben Simmons elsewhere. Under the Designated Rookie rule, a team can’t have more than two players who signed four or five-year extensions after their rookie deals, and only one can be acquired through a trade.

This rule is huge because Simmons signed a massive five-year extension in Philadelphia before being traded, and Ayton is in line for a massive contract this summer.

Miami Heat

Like Phoenix, Miami is another title contender that ranks high on Durant’s list of trade destinations, yet; they have a critical asset that can’t get traded to Brooklyn because of the Designated Rookie rule (Bam Adebayo). But is that enough to stop a deal?

If anything, the Heat could offer a package of Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, and a third player attached with first-round picks unless the Nets decide to trade Simmons elsewhere, as mentioned in our Suns discussion.

Memphis Grizzlies

Could you imagine if KD returned to the Western Conference as a Grizzlie? It’s certainly possible given the team’s salary cap situation, their immensely talented, young superstar in Ja Morant, and a trade package headlined by dynamic-two-way big man, Jaren Jackson Jr.

Golden State Warriors

Talk about what would be a full-circle moment? But when looking beyond the jokes and chaos Durant’s return would create, the Warriors could offer a fair exchange for their former superstar— the newly-motivated Andrew Wiggins, a certified bucket in Jordan Poole, and 2020 No. 2 overall pick, James Wiseman.

Toronto Raptors

Hey, you better not sleep on the Raptors in these trade discussions. Besides the brotherhood Durant has with superstar musician and Raptors ambassador Drake and Masai Ujiri being an incredible dealer, the Eastern Conference competitor has several attractive trade assets.

Anyone between All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam, reigning Rookie of the Year, Scottie Barnes, and OG Anunoby could start a return for the Nets– especially with various picks involved.

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ONE37pm’s Sports Vertical Previews The 2022 NBA Free Agency

*This article was written prior to the news of Kevin Durant requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets early Wednesday afternoon.

As much action is filled on the court every NBA season, the same is said for off of it. Through the growing nature of free agency and trade talks, it’s become common for NBA fans and media to speculate about the future of players and teams. And that development will play out again as the 2022 NBA Free Agency begins at 6 PM EST tonight.

While this year’s free agency isn’t defined by its star power, it includes impactful contributors (Jalen Brunson, Zach LaVine, and Deandre Ayton) who have enticed teams that are determined to improve. Before the start of free agency, ONE37pm’s Sports Vertical came together and shared their expectations for this time of year.

Will there be any surprises? Is there a certain signing each team should make? Continue reading to find out more!

What is your biggest expectation for free agency this summer?

Justin Cohen: I think there will be a lot of player movement. I don’t expect a lot of blockbuster trades, but I expect teams to buff out their rosters and add depth with impactful role players. The CBA is set to expire at the end of this season, so I’m intrigued about how that may affect teams signing players to longer-term contracts. 

Martino Puccio: My biggest expectation is a team like the Lakers to make some sort of move that doesn’t waste time on the partnership of LeBron and AD. Whether it’s getting rid of Westbrook or adding great role players. They have the most pressure to figure it out

Which teams do you expect to be the most and least active?

Jack Tien-Dana: Considering the Knicks have already made three trades and loosened up $30 million in cap room, it’s hard to imagine a team being more active than them. To a degree, this activity is necessary—the Knicks have 22 draft picks over the next seven years and can’t possibly add that many guys to a roster that already has a critical mass of developing young players.

Continuing their decades-long trend, the Knicks will be confusing at best and smooth-brained at worst. Whereas the Knicks chronically do too much, Oklahoma City is devoted to never doing anything. With mega-prospect Victory Wembanyama looming as the prize of next year’s lottery, the Thunder are in no rush to try to be an actual team for the foreseeable future.

Justin Cohen: A team like the Miami Heat will be extremely active this free agency. Miami Heat president Pat Riley is never satisfied, and a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals surely left a fire burning in his seat.

I expect them to try and target another superstar to pair with Butler and Adebayo. I don’t think the Warriors will be active in acquiring new players but instead will focus on resigning players. 

Jael Rucker: I expect Brooklyn to be very active {laughs}.

If there’s a signing that makes TOO much sense, what would it be?

Bo Templin: You know what signing makes a lot of sense? The MASSIVE 5-year deal for the St. Louis product, Bradley Beal. Go get that bag.

The other fit that seems nice is PJ Tucker going to the Sixers. He’s played with Harden and would be an outstanding voice for that team.

Jack Tien-Dana: Mo Bamba to the Lakers. Despite having two of the very best players alive, the Lakers are a sclerotic team without many avenues to improve. Accordingly, Mo Bamba (of “Mo Bamba”  fame) is the sole realistic option who could make a meaningful difference.

An expert shot-blocker and budding marksman, Bamba was one of only four players to average more than 1.5 threes and 1.5 blocks per game. And he’s somehow rumored to be available for just the $6.5 million mid-level exception. Still only 23, Bamba offers an enticing package of immediate production and future promise.

Justin Cohen: Blake Griffin to the Clippers. Yes, this wouldn’t be the most impactful or even the best fit, but to see Blake Griffin in a Clippers jersey one more time would be beautiful.

It would also be quite poetic to see Griffin win a championship with the franchise he brought back from the dead. 

Martino Puccio: A signing that would make too much sense to me is Brunson to NYK. For the Knicks to move all these mountains and for him to get insane money for just four years is something that should be a no-brainer, IMO.

Speaking of Jalen Brunson, do you believe he’s worth a max contract?

Bo Templin: While I think Jalen Brunson is a very solid player, I’m not sold on him being a max contract player on a championship-contending team. He would help the Knicks, sure. But what would really change? A first-round exit maybe?

Jael Rucker: Yes! Give Jalen Brunson what he deserves!

Justin Cohen: When dissecting who ‘deserves’ a max contract, the context of player availability is crucial. I don’t think there are many great point guards slated to be free agents this summer and Brunson has proved he can put up wins in the postseason.

I’ve personally gotten the opportunity to watch Jalen grow since his freshman year of high school and the progression he continues to show is worth a max in my mind. 

Given the likelihood of James Harden and Bradley Beal resigning with their teams, do player options carry as much weight as they use to?

Bo Templin: This is a really interesting question. I think the player options only hold weight if the dominoes fall in your favor. Every off-season, it feels like there is a 1-2 domino falling process that really kickstarts everything else.

People with options have the luxury of waiting. So I think they still hold weight with the timing of the offseason.

Jack Tien-Dana: Player options are the most basic, effective way that players can control when and what they’re paid. Since Bradley Beal is opting out of his deal, the Wizards have no choice but to lavish him with a quarter-billion dollars to stick around—by turning down his $36.4 million option for next year, he’s now positioned to make $50 million for the next five.

Conversely, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving all exercised their options because it guarantees them a payday they wouldn’t receive otherwise. What teams are lining up to throw a max deal at two guys who are probably bad now and another guy who’s a terminally flighty weirdo? More than Brechtian trade demands or sub-tweet melodrama or podcasting, player options are how players are empowered.

Jael Rucker: Yes and no. I think it depends on the player, the team, and the situation. I will say that I think owners are kind of starting to take control back of situations.

Justin Cohen: They do because it’s just another way to give the players more freedom. I really like James Harden taking a page out of Tom Brady’s book and taking a pay cut to allow the 76ers flexibility with their cap space.

With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire at the end of next season, we could see a change in how player and team options work. 

Martino Puccio: I think these player options don’t hold as much weight depending on the situation, but the money for these superstars after the tv deals are so great that they have so much flexibility.

Seeing what an Evan Fournier can grab via FA these guys know the leverage they have so they probably don’t stress the options.

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Can John Wall Reinvent Himself With the Clippers?

It’s easy to forget that John Wall is only 31 years old. He headlined an era that ended three eras ago. Back in 2009, he was John Calipari’s first major recruit at Kentucky, kicking off the wave of one-and-done moral panic. In 2010, an entire Reebok ad campaign was anchored by his signature shoe deal. Later that same year, he taught everybody how to Dougie and then tried to make the John Wall catch on too. To anybody older than, like, 17, this is probably all acutely incomprehensible; Wall’s cultural importance is like a scarab scavenged from ancient ruins—sure, you know it was once important, but it belongs to a culture that doesn’t exist.

On the court, he justified all the hype. When healthy, Wall was among the best point guards in the league, a proto-Ja Morant who breathed momentum into one of the NBA’s most stagnant franchises. He existed in the half-space between stardom and superstardom, making an All-Defense team in 2015 and an All-NBA one in 2017. With Wall at the helm, the Wizards were hugely successful by their standards, coming within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. 

Then Wall functionally disappeared, his prime robbed by a ruptured Achilles tendon and the Houston Rockets. Since December 2018, he hasn’t played a single truly meaningful NBA game—his sole appearances on an NBA court took place in 40 memory-holed games during the surreal pandemic season. Last year, he was paid $41 million to not play basketball; the Rockets put him on mandatory paid leave so they could lose as much as possible. During his should-be prime, Wall barely played—and when he did he was blah. From ages 29 to 31, Wall appeared in roughly a half-season of games and played the worst since he was a rookie. He—and, most of all, his situation at large—stunk. 

But now, with Wall slated to join the Clippers once free agency begins on July 1, he’s back, literally if not figuratively. The fit is fairly obvious—the Clippers have no guards and Wall is the best guard they could conceivably acquire. If the Clippers are awash with highly-coveted mid-sized wings, they’ve long lacked a steadying backcourt presence; their infamous collapse against the Nuggets in the bubble can largely be chalked up to the fact that nobody could mellow out their fraying nerves. While Reggie Jackson spent last year manifesting his destiny as a “SGP,” he over-dipped his chip, belching forth the lowest effective field goal percentage of any guard in the NBA.  

For the first time, Wall will not be the best player on his team the next time he suits up. With the Wizards, Wall was their animating force, making an All-Defense team in 2015 and an All-NBA one in 2017. With the Rockets, he was their star by default—he was the best player because that other 11 guys were all worse. Accordingly, he now finds himself in the same situation that late-stage point guards often find themselves in, grappling with the fact that he can no longer do what he’s always done. This rupture between the past and present is what abruptly harpooned Allen Iverson’s career and has turned Russell Westbrook into a tragic figure, but Wall’s game has always mostly resisted their kind of mega-usage. 

In this sense, Wall is a necessary addition because he provides an additive skillset. Even when he was at his absolute apex, Wall was something more interesting and opaque, an ace playmaker and defender who was pressed into lead duties by necessity; Wall’s greatest achievement isn’t his individual awards so much as the fact that he single-handedly paid for Martell Webster’s and Marcin Gortat’s great-great-grandchildren’s college tuition. Ultimately, success in Los Angeles will be determined by whether John Wall embraces the idea of reinvention or if he clings to the hope of resurrection.

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Rashod Bateman Reflects On Rookie Season And Explains What’s Next For The Ravens

For any former rookie in the NFL, their second offseason is night and day from their first one. In exchange for times when they were unsettled and readjusting to the evolving speed of the pro level, they’ve gained a calmer sense of who they are, what to expect, and why it’s happening. It’s a reality most commonly seen by wide receivers, and Rashod Bateman is a prime example.

The 2021 first-round pick out of the University of Minnesota joined the Baltimore Ravens with clear expectations— to become a very reliable target for former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. Standing at 6-foot-1 with sure hands and capable of running a 4.43 40-yard dash, Bateman immediately boosted the AFC North competitor’s offense. But it was towards the end of last season that the NFL understood why.

Despite missing his first five games, the Tifton, GA native finished with 46 catches, 515 receiving yards, and his first NFL touchdown— scored in Week 16 against the eventual AFC Champion, Cincinnati Bengals. “Throughout everything I experienced last year, I learned what it meant to be patient,” Bateman told me. “Letting everything play out was the best thing.”

Coming off of a rookie campaign where both his catches and receiving yards were top-ten across a stellar wide receiver draft class, Bateman’s expectations have only increased again. After wide receiver Marquise Brown was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on draft night, all eyes are on the Minnesota product to step up and show out. But don’t expect Bateman to take that for granted.

“If it’s God’s will and we’re healthy, we can do some special things,” Bateman told me. “Our entire organization is good from top to bottom; we’ve been through a lot, and most importantly, we’re hungry.” As the NFL off-season continues, Bateman and the Ravens will continue to build towards what could be another competitive season in the DMV.

To follow Rashod, click here!

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Who Is Lauren Jackson?

What if? It’s the hypothetical question sports fans love to use when dissecting why their favorite team or players failed. As a die-hard Chicago Bulls fan, I regularly ponder the alternate reality that Derrick Rose never got hurt. Lauren Jackson, Naismith Basketball HOF member and one of the most dominant Australian basketball players ever, has pondered that “what if” since injuries forced her retirement in 2016. Now at 41 years young, Jackson will finish her career on her own terms with the Australian Women’s National Basketball Team -Also known as The Opals- at the 2022 FIBA World Cup. This is the story of Lauren Jackson.

Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL)
4x MVP, 5x Champion, 4x Grand Final MVP, 6x All-Star Five
(Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Lauren Jackson began her basketball in the Women’s National Basketball League when she was just 16 years old. At only 17 years old she led the Australian Institute of Sport to the WNBL championship. In 1999, Jackson would join the Canberra Capitals where she would play the rest of her WNBL career. Jackson’s 1999 WNBL season made waves to any scout watching. She won the WNBL MVP, the WNBL championship, and was named to the WNBL First-Team. Jackson would resign with Canberra in 2013, but never saw the court due to injuries. She would continue to battle and attempt to play until ultimately having to retire in 2016.

WNBA
3x MVP, 2x Champion, 2010 Finals MVP, 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, 3x Scoring Champ, 7x All-Star, 7x All-WNBA First Team

As Lauren Jackson was dominating the WNBL, a new league was sprouting 9,000 miles away. In the fifth ever WNBA draft, Lauren Jackson was selected first overall by the Seattle Storm in 2001. Jackson was quick to make her name known, earning an All-Star nod in her first season. She would be named the captain of the Storm in her second season, making her the youngest player in the league with the designation. Jackson would claim her first WNBA title in 2004, but the best was yet to come. In 2007, Lauren Jackson had maybe the greatest individual season in WNBA history. She put up maddening averages of 23.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks. Those numbers were good enough to lead the league in scoring and rebounding, giving her the edge to win MVP and DPOY. Jackson would win one more title with the Storm in 2010, also winning her first Finals MVP. Over the course of the 2011 and 2012 season, injuries derailed Jackson and she only saw the floor in 22 games. She officially announced her retirement in 2016.

The Opals
2x Gold Medals, 4x Silver Medals, 3x Bronze Medals
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Lauren Jackson is not only one of the most decorated basketball players in professional leagues, but she has also won a slew of medals in an Australian uniform. Jackson has played in four Olympic games and medaled in every competition. In 2006 The Opals would go on a dominant run, winning gold at the FIBA World Championships and Commonwealth Games. She attempted to suit up for The Opals in 2014 but worsening injuries forced her to have surgery. After not playing basketball competitively since 2015, Lauren Jackson made her return in the Semi-pro NBL1 East for the Albury Wodonga Bandits. She was otherworldly, averaging 32.6 points and 11.6 rebounds. At the age of 41, Jackson showed not only that she could play, but that she was still one of the best players in the world. She will join The Opals this September in her return to the FIBA World Cup, a competition she has not played in since 2006. Jackson proves that when you truly love and want something, no form of adversity can get in your way. 

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Nike’s NYvsNY Tournament Has A Fun Night At Dyckman

Since its launch five summers ago, Nike’s “NYvsNY” summer tournament has provided great energy in New York City’s reemerging basketball scene. With five of the best city parks (reigning champion Dyckman Park, Lincoln Park from Queens, West 4th, Tri-State, and Watson Basketball Classic) competing in a nearly-two month-long tournament each week is guaranteed to have great action.

On Tuesday night (June 28th), the second week of the 2022 NYvsNY tournament took place at Dyckman Park. As always suggested by Dyckman’s team, early arrival was encouraged as the park was already halfway packed an hour before game time. But soon, in front of a packed house, with barely any room to move, the first of two games got underway between Lincoln Park and West 4th.

While NYC’s summer hoops can consist of all three levels (youth, college, and pro), NYvsNY serves as a big stage for the former. With each park consisting of their area’s brightest high-school talents, you’re often staring at the game’s future. Guards come in all shapes and sizes but possess the same skillset. The big-men jump so high you think they were playing on a trampoline. And it becomes more surreal once you remember they’re in high school, where their age ranges from 14-18.

But we did witness a bit of everything on Tuesday. After having a memorable 17-point comeback win last week, Lincoln Park followed up with another one and pushed their record to 2-0. The reigning NYvsNY champion, Dyckman Park, cruised to an 18-point victory and entertained their home crowd. With the first two weeks of action concluded, three weeks of regular season play are remaining before the playoffs begin on August 2nd.

Click here to learn more about the 2022 Nike NYvsNY tournament!

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Israel Adesanya’s 5 Best Fights

This Saturday at UFC 276, Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will attempt to defend his title for the fifth official* time against Jared Cannonier, who’s coming off of a vicious finish of Derek Brunson. In anticipation of the headline bout, we decided to take a look back at Israel’s five best fights so far in his UFC career.

* Israel would argue that his unification bout against Robert Whittaker in 2019 counted as a defence, which would make Saturday’s fight his sixth defence.

5. Robert Whittaker at UFC 271
MMA Fighting

Perhaps you’re a little confused about this fight making this list. For many, it was shunned as a boring fight with little to sway judges, but for anyone who understands who nuanced MMA is for either of these fighters, this was a nail-biter.

For Robert, vengeance was on his mind. For Israel, he had the tough task of having to outdo his own impressive performance against Whittaker a few years earlier. In the end, neither man fully completed their task, but that’s only a credit to their opponent.

Israel was careful about when to strike due to Robert’s explosive tendencies and Robert was timid about when to step in, the grey cloud of the first fight hanging over him. It made for an incredible spectacle and one that doesn’t make it unlikely that we see a trilogy fight between these two in the near future.

4. Paulo Costa at UFC 253
The Sporting News

Before their headlining title bout at UFC 253, both men were coming off of polar opposite performances against the Cuban Muscle Crisis, Yoel Romero. Costa and Romero had a war which left both men a little lesser than they came in. Adesanya and Romero however, was a fight that disappointed many with its inactivity.

Anyone who thought that might have an effect on the result of Adesanya and Costa’s fight at the UFC Apex was doing MMA math though, which rarely adds up. Styles make fights and Adesanya had to remind fans exactly who he was.

For the 9 minutes that the fight lasted, the Nigerian-born fighter had his way with Paulo, using lateral movement, feints and well-timed leg kicks to freeze the Brazilian. The fight was a masterclass and a swift reminder that Adesanya was in his own league when it came to kickboxing.

3. Robert Whittaker at UFC 243
MMA Fighting

Whittaker and Adesanya’s rematch from earlier this year made the cut for this list, but it’s their first meeting from 2019 that remains in fans’ minds the most.

The setting was perfect. An Australian champion fighting in Melbourne against a fighter from New Zealand, in front of a crowd of nearly 60,000. That crowd was roaring from the get-go, hearts racing because of Robert’s fiercely focused walkout and Adesanya’s dance routine before his.

Learning from Kelvin Gastelum’s success against Israel earlier that year, Whittaker had no qualms about rushing in with a barrage of punches, ending combinations with his signature high kicks. Unfortunately for him, Israel had learnt from his prior mistakes and seen what Whittaker had to offer before. He was smooth as ever, leaning out of the way of strikes that had finishes fighters in the past.

The end sequence from this fight is one that can’t help but stick in your mind. Israel was confident on the inside and used Whittaker’s own momentum against him, dropping him with a short left hook, the opening for which he had seen minutes ago. It was a star-making performance and a night to remember for both men.

2. Anderson Silva at UFC 234
The Body Lock

This fight isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s impossible to deny the optics.

Anderson and Israel were toe to toe with their vintage styles, the younger man coming out on top most of the time. Watching the two trade strikes was a moment that’s hard to describe, a true passing of the torch.

Much of this fight’s technical aspects needs rewatches to fully appreciate, but even on a more surface level, watching the pair embrace after 15 minutes of fighting was beautiful and only ages more and more gracefully as the pair see their own versions of success over time.

1. Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236
Bloody Elbow

This is a no-brainer. Adesanya and Gastelum’s war in Atlanta, Georgia was heralded as the Fight of the Year by most outlets who compiled a list and there wasn’t much to argue about. The interim title fight was made because of Adesanya’s aforementioned win over Anderson Silva and Whittaker pulling out of his fight with Gastelum on the same card.

Some fans predicted that Kelvin’s wrestling could give Izzy a look he hadn’t seen before, but in reality it was his lunging strikes which caused the most problems, doing all but dropping Stylebender. The pair fought tooth and nail over five rounds with Israel getting his hand raised at the end of the fight and rightfully so.

It was the kind of performance that no fighter ever wants to have to put on, but was welcomed by both men anyway.

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Sports

 Way Too Early 2023 NBA Title Odds

The path to an NBA championship is not easy. Teams have to endure the six month marathon that is the regular season and then battle through three months of post-season play. What happens after that championship is won? Well, you go out and do it again. Former Chicago Bulls offensive coordinator Tex Winter, who invented the ‘Triangle’ offense and won nine championships as a coach, famously said: “You’re only a success for the moment that you complete a successful act.” Simply put, you have to do it again. That’s exactly what the Warriors will attempt to do this season after winning the 2022 NBA Championship. So who stands in their way of repeating? Here are the five teams with the best 2023 NBA title odds as of June 2022. 
(All odds are taken from DraftKings Sportsbook)

5.) Brooklyn Nets: +800
2021-22 Record: 44-38
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

It should be no surprise that a team with two 27+ per game scorers is heavily favored to win the title next year. Despite a turbulent 2022 campaign, odds makers still like the Nets. I would be weary to sprinkle some units on this because of the uncertain future with the Nets roster. Kyrie Irving and the organization have come to a standstill. Irving has a player-option left in his contract but has demanded a long-term deal. It’s increasingly looking like he may force a sign-and-trade to get out of Brooklyn. If the domino of Kyrie leaving falls, Kevin Durant will most likely be next. Without the one-two punch of Irving and KD the Net’s have a better chance of winning the draft lottery than an NBA championship.

4.) Milwaukee Bucks: +650
2021-22 Record: 51-31
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Milwaukee Bucks won their second NBA championship ever last season and subsequently entered this year as the second best odds to repeat. A slew of injuries hit the Bucks locker room over the course of the season. Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo dealt with a nagging knee injury and a number of role players would be sidelined. Just as it looked the Bucks were hitting a stride entering the playoffs, Khris Middleton sprained his left MCL. The Bucks would lose in seven to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics. Now with extended rest and looking to comeback fully healthy, the Bucks are primed for another title run.

3.) Los Angeles Clippers: +600
2021-22 Record: 42-40
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Since former Microsoft CEO and eccentric billionaire Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers in 2014, he has spent every waking moment and dollar to manufacture them into a competent franchise. The Clippers have been a franchise in the NBA since 1970 and are one of only six teams to never reach an NBA Finals. This season they are hoping to get back a healthy Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has played just 52 games in the last two seasons. It’s easy to forget what Leonard is capable of doing on a basketball court with him sidelined so frequently but, when healthy, he turns the Clippers into legitimate contenders.

2.) Boston Celtics: +600
2021-22 Record: 51-31
(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics were without a doubt the best team in 2022. From January to the end of the season the Celtics were a league best 34-12. The Celtics powered their way through the East and made it to their first finals since 2010. They would lose to the Warriors in six games though. The Celtics have no real free agent losses this offseason however and are looking to run-it-back with the same squad. With the added knowledge and fire of a NBA Finals loss, the Celtics are in excellent shape to make another run. They sit with the best odds currently to win the eastern conference at +265.

1.) Golden State Warriors: +550
2021-22 Record: 53-29
(Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

The NBA’s greatest modern dynasty solidified that designation this past season winning their fourth title in eight years. Stephen Curry finally claimed his coveted Finals MVP trophy after defeating the Celtics in six. The Warriors know more than anyone on this list what it’s like to enter a season coming off a championship, and they will surely use that experience to try and claim championship number five. The Warriors will have to fill in some free agent holes this offseason. They will have to resign or replace Looney, Payton II, Porter Jr, Bjelica, and Iguodala. The Warriors did have the highest payroll in all of basketball last season, so don’t be surprised if they run it back with the same squad.