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Popular Culture

Pour Up with these Celebrities who Own Tequila Brands

There’s a new angle to the long-held debate of who is the G.O.A.T.— LeBron James or Michael Jordan. Fans and haters of both legendary athletes have vehemently argued about everything from their stats on the court to who has the best sneakers to which one has delivered the better Space Jam. Now folks can offer their opinions on which baller has delivered the best tequila. Next month, MJ’s Cincoro Tequila and Bron’s Lobos 1707 Tequila will go up against each other for the title of “Best Tequila Reposado.” Unlike with most of the other debates that involve Jordan and LeBron, these two aren’t the only ones competing for the top spot in the tequila game. There are several other celebrities who own tequila brands that are aiming to be the people’s champ.

Tequila is one of the most popular spirits in the world, so there’s no surprise that its popularity has caught the attention of celebrity investors and entrepreneurs. There is a growing number of celebrity owned tequilas founded and funded by moguls in entertainment, international pop stars and iconic athletes.

While some celebrities have simply lent their names to a tequila brand, others have been so heavily involved in the production process that they’ve collaborated with the distillers to create unique flavor profiles. It’s easy to assume that as the popularity of tequila continues to grow, more and more celebrities will get involved in the tequila business. Your favorite celeb may even be next to release a brand of tequila. Until then, you can just drink responsibly and pour it up in celebration of these celebrities who own tequila brands.

Michael Jordan

Cincoro Tequila

Price on Drizly: $10 – $3,000 

Michael Jordan knows how to build a winning team. The six-time NBA champion joined forces with the owners of several NBA franchises to create their ideal tequila, Cincoro Tequila. The super team of tequila lovers served up their first bottles in 2020.

George Clooney

Casamigos

Price on Drizly: $16 – $133

In 2013, George Clooney and a couple of partners got together to launch the tequila brand Casamigos. Their passion project soon paid off when Diageo purchased the company that the Academy Award-winning actor co-founded for more than $700 million.

Sean “Diddy” Combs

DeLeón Tequila

Price on Drizly: $26 – $1,311

Sean Diddy Combs is a mogul who has conquered music, fashion, television. He’s even reigned supreme in the spirits industry. Ciroc became a household name after Diddy attached himself to the liquor brand. Brother Love is also behind a line of tequila called DeLeón Tequila. This smooth, high-quality spirit is made out of 100% Highland Blue Weber agave that has been grown on fertile soil located in the Los Altos region of Jalisco, Mexico.

Kendall Jenner

818 Tequila

Price on Drizly: $32 – $100

It’s no surprise that Kendall Jenner has gotten into the tequila game with her own brand, 818 Tequila. The name comes from the area code for San Fernando Valley, which is where she grew up. It’s currently available in three flavours: Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo. She of course announced the launch of 818 on social media, with a post that featured her posing with a bottle of the drink. “So happy to finally share this with you all!” she wrote. Although the launch of the brand was met with controversy, the tequila has received solid reviews.  

Rita Ora

Próspero Tequila

Price on Drizly: $21 – $78 

Singer and socialite Rita Ora added “tequila maker” to her resume in 2019 when she partnered with Conecuh Brands for Próspero. The British entertainer said that part of why she decided to take a stake in the handcrafted spirit that features Mexican and European influences was working with Stella Anguiano. Anguiano created Próspero and is one of the first female tequila distillers. “Stella and her team are incredibly passionate about what they do and have given me the chance to collaborate on a project that celebrates all women,” said the “Hot Right Now” singer.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Teremana Tequila

Price on Drizly: $24 – $99

For years Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson asked us to smell what he was cooking. Now he wants us to drink his tequila. The G.O.A.T. wrestler, actor and producer r is a proud owner of Teremana Tequila. Handcrafted in a small town in Mexico, Teremana uses local businesses and traditional practices to create a tasty and sustainable ultra premium tequila. Teremana is said to mean “spirit of the earth.”

Nick Jonas and John Varvatos

Villa One Tequila 

Price on Drizly: $10 – $81

The worlds of music and fashion have collided in a variety of interesting ways. Platinum-selling artist and Jonas bro, Nick Jonas and famed fashion designer John Varvatos teamed up on a tequila called Villa One. Known for its bold and unique flavors, Villa One Tequila features notes of dried fruit and toasted nuts. 

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Sports Strength

Five Random NBA Predictions In 2022

In its 75-year history, 2021 will go down as one of the most transformative years in the NBA. Several franchises saw their fortunes change overnight. A once-mediocre franchise became an NBA champion and was led by a player many didn’t expect to become the best in the world. And lastly, the league continued to navigate through a global pandemic. As 2022 is mere hours away from happening, I have five predictions for what could happen in the NBA next year.

Ja Morant will win the MVP

As crazy as this sounds, it will only be accurate when it happens. The former second overall pick is taking that “superstar leap,” that consists of producing a career-best stat line (24 PPG, 5 RPG, 6 APG, and nearly two steals per game), team success (The Grizzles are 22-14), and MVP-like moments— Morant outdueled LeBron James two nights after making a game-winning shot on the road against the 27-7 Phoenix Suns.

Even if Morant doesn’t win the MVP this season, you can expect his name to pop up in the conversation, and he will probably begin the 2022-’23 season on the shortlist of viable candidates who can win the award.

The league’s interest in expansion will come to fruition

For years, the NBA’s reported interest in expansion sparked conversations that have only gotten hotter due to the number of potential teams growing. But with significant support from the general public, especially when it comes to giving the city of Seattle a team again, the NBA could make expansion a reality by the end of next year.

And besides Seattle getting a team, cities such as Las Vegas, NV, and Kansas City, MO have been mentioned as the following locations to receive an NBA team, specifically the former.

Ben Simmons will be traded… in February

Since last summer, the former first overall pick has been in a stalemate with the Philadelphia 76ers, and there have been few indications of when he’ll play for them again. As much as 76ers general manager Daryl Morey wants to get his “bang for the buck” in any deal for Simmons, there’s a reported expectation that the team will trade him by this coming February’s trade deadline.

With a sizable list of teams interested in the three-time All-Star point forward, most notably the Portland Trail Blazers, there will be a loud reaction on the day Simmons gets traded and how much the 76ers received in exchange for him.

Everyone will love an in-season NBA tournament

Even though some people, including a few teams themselves, are still against the NBA’s play-in tournament, the truth is it’s a massive success from both a competitive and entertainment standpoint. The league has been motivated to find a way to make their regular seasons more critical, and they believe a mid-season tournament can help make that happen.

Fueled by several financial and competitive incentives, as well as European soccer’s ability to hold tournaments seasonally within their schedule, commissioner Adam Silver has championed this cause, with hopes it happens between next season and 2024-’25.

LeBron James will retire after the 2022-’23 season

It’s insane to believe that LeBron James and retirement hasn’t been realistic to us NBA fans because of his insanely-high level of play, but as the man himself said on Tuesday, “he is on the other side of that hill.” So given what it takes to play at the level the four-time NBA champion and MVP is required to play at, it wouldn’t be a surprise if James made the 2022-’23 season his last one.

Other than what is happening with the Los Angeles Lakers and their title chances, James will be playing in his twentieth season and could surpass Kareem Abdul Jabbar for most points scored by a player in league history. And minus the historic chance to play alongside his oldest son, Bronny James (who’s currently draft-eligible in 2024), King James doesn’t have much to play for at this point of his career.

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Sports Strength

The Five Things We Learned Most About Sports In 2021

Sports tend to teach us incredible lessons on any occasion throughout a year, but what we learned in 2021 may have been the most taught to us in a long time. If there’s anything I took away from sports this year, it’s that not everything is what it seems, and anything is beyond possible. Below are the five things we learned most from watching sports in 2021.

Dominance comes in different shapes and sizes

At the beginning of our relationship with sports, we were constantly presented with images of what dominant athletes looked like– all in great shape and deemed “perfect.” But in 2021, the likes of Tyson Fury and Nikola Jokic showed you could achieve dominance in your field even if that weren’t the case.

Fury, the undefeated world heavyweight boxing champion, and Jokic, the reigning NBA MVP, dominated their opponents with their unique blend of size, mental toughness, and intelligence despite lacking in other areas that some fans, and even their peers, believe are the most important to have.

Sports is now positionless

While positions in team sports will always exist, this past year really proved there are simply labels for the identification of players. In sports such as basketball and soccer, we watch everyone possess a similar skillset and push the boundaries for where the game is going next– a reality that was incomprehensible for some even a decade ago.

The Olympics allowed every country to have their moment

Despite the Tokyo Olympics being delayed a year because of the initial start to this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s most significant athletic competition was back in action this past summer. And among the various things we witnessed, it was the dominance a multitude of countries had in any sport.

As the United States maintained its lead in sports such as basketball, Great Britain excelled in boxing, and China shined the most in diving, with an extensive trail of countries putting the world on notice in their respective sports.

Women’s athletics is the home of trail blazers

While naysayers will continue to hate women’s athletics in any way possible wrongfully, this was an excellent year for women’s athletics. Sports such as basketball, gymnastics, and tennis saw their talent level get advanced on every level. A new wave of exciting talent got introduced in mixed martial arts and softball.

But most importantly, a majority of women’s athletics utilized their platforms to highlight issues in race relations, pay disparity, and equal rights.

Age is nothing but a number if you’re Tom Brady or LeBron James

Earlier this year, sports fans marveled (or groaned) at the sight of quarterback Tom Brady winning his seventh Super Bowl title. At the age of 44-years-old, Brady is balancing the act of dominating his competition and still improving, a situation 37-year-old LeBron James is going through in the NBA.

This is a massive development as the narrative around an athlete’s prime and longevity is revised. It will get accepted that their “prime” is much longer than everybody else for some players.

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Sports Strength

Where Do the Lakers Go From Here?

Last Friday, Anthony Davis sprained his MCL, which, knowing Anthony Davis, will keep him out for between four and 40 weeks. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers were pulverized 108-90 by the Phoenix Suns, dropping the Lakers to 16-16. Despite the fact that Lebron James is still one of the best players in the world, he’s failed by a supporting cast that seems to actively sabotage him; in their loss to the Suns, the Lakers’ depressing back-up point guard battery of Isaiah Thomas and Rajon Rondo combined for 3 points on 1-13 shooting. It’s clear to even the most ardent Lakers believers that shit is going south. For LA’s legendary, aging warrior, is this a dagger which he sees before him?

It might be a little bit premature to say the sky is falling, but it’s definitely sagging dangerously. While the Lakers are still firmly in the playoff picture, they’ve been buoyed by the league’s fourth-easiest schedule so far; schedule-adjusted metrics such as Basketball Reference’s simple rating system or 538’s ELO both peg the Lakers as a bottom-ten team. Still, the team has generally been given the benefit of the doubt—almost nobody actually believes that there are 24 teams better than the Lakers. But now, as the team faces a prolonged Anthony Davis-less stretch, the Lakers’ playoff hopes seem increasingly grim. 

For a team with such lofty pedigree, the Lakers’s success was always oddly precarious. Whereas most great teams are able to win easily, the Lakers are visibly straining. They have no easy releases—the spacing is naturally cramped and relies on layers of intricate off-ball actions to unclog the floor; their offensive production and defensive soundness are both almost entirely reliant on Lebron James’s all-history greatness. If teams like the Suns and Warriors are proof of how synergy and physical empathy can engender victories, the Lakers operated on the assumption that their talent and experience could paper over their awkward construction. And they were kind of right—before their recent Davis-less three-game slide, the Lakers were 11-6 with James in the lineup. 

As such, Davis’s injury reveals the fragility of this team’s internal calculus—you can only out-talent your opponent if you can guarantee the health and availability of all your talent. Davis has always been an elemental part of the team that the Lakers imagine themselves becoming, even if he’s struggled to recapture his previous Bubbled greatness. In particular, he caulks over some of the team’s more glaring structural flaws; he represents a broadening of possibilities. A versatile defender and slithery interior scorer, Davis is a central component of every style the Lakers could potentially assume—he’s dextrous enough to play alongside another center in ultra-big lineups, yet physically imposing enough to anchor units on his own. Amongst a topsy-turvy team, he had been the one consistent, stable force in the frontcourt; 12 Lakers’ lineups have logged more than 50 possessions and Davis has been part of eight of them. 

In this sense, it’s almost hard to imagine how the Lakers can play without Davis—and, evidently, it’s been hard for the Lakers to imagine this too. Under head coach Frank Vogel, a crucial element of the Lakers’ identity has been their humongousness, the result of the combined size and skill of James and Davis. Without Davis, though, that arrangement is impossible—Vogel’s infamous two-big lineups barely worked when Davis was healthy, but any lineup with both Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan would be such a disaster it’d border on farce.  

Unable to play large-ball, the Lakers have downsized, relying on lineups that are anchored by James or (gulp) Carmelo Anthony. And while these lineups are offensively potent, they place a possibly unmanageable load on two guys more used to load managing. More, these lineups reveal the Lakers’ paucity of wing depth; the weirdly lopsided Lakers just don’t have enough useful players, especially in this Covid-addled state. Outside of their star troika and Anthony, the Lakers bench ranges from mediocre (Talen Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk, Austin Reeves, Wayne Ellington) to bad (Kent Bazemore, DeAndre Jordan) to quite literally some of the worst players in the NBA (Isaiah Thomas and Rajon Rondo). 

Going into this season, it was clear that Davis’s injury prone-ness, James’s oldness and Westbrook’s general on-court vibe made the whole operation more tenuous than anybody in Laker-land seemed willing to admit. To a degree, this team represents the limits of Lakers exceptionalism, the belief that everything will be okay because, well, everything has always usually been okay. This roster isn’t quite the maladaptive ratking that NBA Twitter seems to believe it is; rather, it’s a victim of organizational hubris.

At some point, the cavalry will return—Davis’s injury isn’t supposed to be season-ending and Kendrick Nunn will presumably shore up their rickety backcourt. But that’s almost besides the point—nobody has any reason to fear the Lakers anymore. It’s no longer heretical to question whether the King still has clothes.

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Sports Strength

The Development of Bronny James Is A Massive Success

Even though his name generates a ton of attention, please make no mistake about Bronny James and his game. The Class of 2023, four-star prospect is as good as advertised and is having a good season for top-three-ranked national powerhouse Sierra Canyon. And while he’s on a team with so much talent, including 2022 five-star UCLA commit Amari Bailey, Bronny is having his moments of being the best and most impactful player on the court.

Since the start of his high school career, Bronny’s development has been fueled by his growth spurt (now 6-foot-3), athleticism, and ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. Even though he is unlikely to carry similar offensive responsibilities like his father, four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, Bronny thrives as a combo guard who is comfortable playing on and off the ball and can shoot lights out from the three-point line. That’s a good sign for his future as a high-level collegiate player and potential pro.

There have been plenty of times during games where LeBron’s eldest son is coming off of screens, exchanging spots on the perimeter, and running hard in transition, giving him additional opportunities to score. This was evident during Bronny’s 19 point performance against his father’s alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary, on national television earlier this month.

While Bronny is more of a role player on offense, he’s a budding star on defense. Since he entered the public spotlight three years ago, the four-star prospect has taken pride in being a relentless defender who forces turnovers and can guard up to three positions (both guards and small forward). With only a season and a half left in his high school career, Bronny is beginning to level up, which means everything else will, too, including his recruitment– Duke and Kentucky are among those who are the most interested in him. Luckily for Bronny, thriving under pressure runs in the family.

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From December 6th-12th

On any given night, NBA Twitter is abuzz with reminders to appreciate Lebron James or Kevin Durant while they’re still active. This week, they gave us ample opportunities to do so. To be sure, though, they weren’t the only players in the league to have notable performances. Down below are our four takeaways from it!

LeBron and KD continue to add to their highlight reels

While their greatness gets anticipated on a nightly basis, James and Durant somehow surpassed even the loftiest of expectations this past week. In addition to leading their teams to a combined 6-2 record, the pair of former NBA Finals MVPs produced one signature performance after another.

Between Durant scoring 51 points, the most scored by a player this season, and James becoming the oldest player in league history to produce a 30-point triple-double on Sunday night, it only served as additional highlights on their overwhelmingly extensive resumes.

Kelly Oubre Jr is becoming must-watch TV

Despite his obvious talents, Kelly Oubre Jr. has flown under the radar and hasn’t really showcased the true breadth of his abilities. But throughout this month, the 6-foot-6 swingman has played the best basketball of his NBA career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the playoff-contending Charlotte Hornets.

Oubre Jr is not only averaging 26 points per game since December 1st, but he’s helping the Hornets as an additional playmaker who takes some pressure off of star point guard LaMelo Ball. And the Kansas product should be applauded for being a willing rebounder, too, as he snagged ten rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers last Saturday night.

Luka’s conditioning is now in the spotlight

Although many things said on social media about NBA players and teams don’t gain any traction, the conversations surrounding Luka Doncic and his conditioning have only gotten louder. Ever since he arrived in the league, the Mavericks’ superstar has thrived despite not being in top shape, and fans have wondered what it would be like if he were.

But with his recent ankle injury expected to have him out for multiple games, Doncic’s health is being examined more than ever. Alongside dealing with various ailing injuries over the years, Doncic has struggled with his weight and conditioning, especially with the star confirming his issue of staying in playing shape.

The LA Clippers have discovered another talent in Brandon Boston Jr

When people think about the Los Angeles Clippers, they immediately think of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but the franchise has quietly become one of the league’s best talent developers. This season, Terrence Man has built on the role that he established in last year’s playoffs and second-round rookie Brandon Boston Jr. has wormed his way into the rotation.

The 2021 second-round pick from the University of Kentucky had his best NBA game against the Boston Celtics last Saturday. Boston Jr scored 27 points and was a marksman from downtown, making five out of eight three-pointers. Even though George and, eventually, Leonard will determine the Clippers’ immediate success, their team’s ceiling could be defined the development of its promising young talents.

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From November 22nd-28th

Even amidst unusual change, there’s a tendency for things to return to normal; the chaos of the day-to-day of the NBA season eventually smooths away with time. The Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns, last year’s NBA Finals matchup, appear to be on an early track for a Finals rematch. Joel Embiid made his return to action and picked up where he left off. And lastly, we witnessed another example of how arrogant fans can be. Down below are my four takeaways from the NBA’s latest week in action!

The Suns’ winning streak is now at 16!

While pundits and fans may harp on aesthetics and style points, true contenders are content to win by any means necessary. The Phoenix Suns are a proud member of the latter group, given the wide variety of recent victories that comprised ongoing 16-game winning streak.

Whether it’s blowing out teams (Knicks) or winning in the last minutes (Spurs and Nets), the Suns aren’t apologizing for how they win and are more focused on what’s ahead of them: a huge primetime matchup against the 18-2 Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.

Anthony Edwards is on track to become a superstar

Although most fans would expect a No. 1 overall pick to have the potential to become a superstar, it doesn’t make it less exciting when their potential is producing at a high level. The 2020 No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Edwards, is becoming a nightly highlight reel for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Alongside averaging 22 points, six rebounds, and nearly four assists per game in his second NBA season, Edwards offers energy and gamesmanship, which have helped drive the Timberwolves’ improvement this season. And besides his magnificent dunks, Edwards provides valuable intangibles—such as his leadership and clutchness—that were overlooked before he arrived in the league.

Joel Embiid’s absence didn’t bother him during his return

Before missing nine games because he tested positive for COVID-19, Joel Embiid was beginning to find his rhythm as he lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 7-2 record to start this season. And while a three-week absence would harm most players, last season’s MVP runner-up didn’t miss a beat in his return to action last Saturday night.

Despite the 76ers’ double-overtime loss to the Timberwolves, Embiid posted 42 points and 14 rebounds, reminding the league just how dominant he can be. Even at Embiid’s level of stardom, few players possess his combination of impact and production that can vault their team into contention.

Once again, fans cross the line for no other reason than being selfish

Even though most interactions between players and fans aren’t harmful, there are times where a line gets crossed. Last Wednesday, during the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers game, LeBron James asked for two fans to be removed from their courtside seats due to offensive comments they made towards him.

And while there hasn’t been confirmation of what the fans said to James, the fact they got removed (and almost received a lifetime ban from attending NBA games) proves the need to improve fan behavior further. Regardless of who you are and the location of your seats, fans must remember they have to abide by the high standard that’s in place for spectators at these events. It’s an embarrassment to everyone involved when situations like this happen.

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Sports Strength

Ranking The Ten Best NBA-Inspired Lyrics In Hip-Hop

If you’ve been around sports and hip-hop long enough, then you’ve come across this quote– “Rappers want to be like athletes, and the athletes want to be like rappers.” The two very influential entities, specifically basketball and hip hop, have a special chemistry. It has become familiar as the sunlight to find our favorite rappers sitting courtside at games or our favorite players quoting their lyrics. But their relationship is sustained by tributes (or plain disrespect); rappers pay homage to ballplayers in their songs, which sparks another round of conversations.

Down below are the ten best NBA-inspired lyrics from hip-hop.

1. Ice Cube, “Today Was A Good Day,” 1992 –

“Get me on the court and I’m trouble.

Last week f—– around and got a triple-double.

Freaking n—– every way like MJ.

I can’t believe today was a good day.”

2. Jay-Z, “Encore,” 2003 –

“As fate would have it, Jay’s status appears.

To be at an all-time high, perfect time to say goodbye.

When I come back like Jordan, wearing the 4-5.

It ain’t to play games with you, it’s to aim at you, probably maim you.”

3. Drake, “Thank Me Now,” 2010 –

“I can relate to kids going straight to the league.

When they recognize that you got what it takes to succeed.

And that’s around the time that your idols become your rivals.

You make friends with Mike but got to ‘A.I.’ him for your survival.”

4. Lil Wayne, “Kobe Bryant,” 2009 –

“Kobe doin’ work, 2–4 on my shirt.

He the greatest on the court and I’m the greatest on the verse.

Going for the fourth ring like it was his first.

Gotta get the bling, do it for Kareem.”

5. Jay-Z, “Pump It Up (Remix),” 2003 –

“Go ahead, bug out, I’ll Raid, n—-, scurry.

Worry, I’m, not, the Mike Jordan of the mic recording.

It’s Hovi, baby, you Kobe, maybe; Tracy McGrady.

Matter-fact, you a Harold Miner.

J.R. Rider, washed up on marijuana.

Even worse, you a Pervis Ellis.

You worthless, fella; you ain’t no athlete, you Shawn Bradley.”

Getty Images

6. Kendrick Lamar, “The Heart Part IV,” 2017 –

“Tables turned, lesson learned, my best look.

You jumped sides on me, now you ‘bout to meet Westbrook.

Go celebrate with your team and let victory vouch you.

Just know the next game played I might slap the s— out you.”

7. J. Cole, “Return of Simba,” 2011 –

Ced said, ‘Look, my n—–, we got a foot in’.

Being good is good, that’ll get you Drew Gooden.

But me, I want Jordan numbers, LeBron footin’.

Can’t guard me, Vince Lombardi, John Wooden.”

8. Jadakiss, “Put Your Hands Up,” 2001 –

“And y’all scared I can tell.

That I’ma get Bucks like Milwaukee, cause like Sam, I ca’ sell.”

9. Kanye West, “New God Flow,” 2012 –

“Went from most hated to the champion god flow.

I guess that’s a feeling only me and LeBron know.”

10. Drake, “0 to 100 / The Catch Up,” 2014 –

“I’ve been Steph Curry with the shot.

Been cooking with the sauce.

Chef Curry with the pot, boy… 360 with the wrist, boy!”




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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From November 15th-21st

While we’re still at a relatively young point of this current NBA season, just about 20 percent of the season has elapsed and it’s becoming increasingly clear what fate holds for each team. Down below are my four takeaways from the NBA’s latest week in action!

Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan are the league’s best duo

To some, this first takeaway may be absurd, but it’s not if you’ve watched LaVine and DeRozan play consistently. Even in a league where dynamic duos are as common as foul calls and slam dunks, there hasn’t been a better and more impactful duo than the Bulls’ pair of likely 2022 All-Star selections.

Between the two leading the league in fourth-quarter points (DeRozan has 126 and LaVine has 111) and being the fastest duo in 59 years to produce ten games with 25+ points apiece, DeRozan and LaVine have lifted the Bulls’ ceiling from fringe-playoff team to a viable title contender.

The Bucks are beginning to bounce back

Even though the reigning world champion’s 6-8 start had a few people questioning their chances of repeating, the Bucks have righted the ship after winning three consecutive games. Giannis Antetokounmpo is not only going beast mode as he’s averaging 33 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists per game during the Bucks’ winning streak but so is the rest of their roster as key players recover from injuries.

With the return of fellow All-Star Kris Middleton (COVID-19) and Bobby Portis and Jrue Holiday regaining their productive form, the Bucks have the opportunity to rack up wins during a soft portion of their schedule; until December 8th, the Bucks only face four teams with a winning record (Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, and Miami), and two of them are battling injuries as we speak (Cleveland and Denver).

Rudy Gay is going to fit in nicely in Utah

Sure, the 11-5 Utah Jazz already have a plethora of talent, but that doesn’t mean they can’t receive additional help. While receiving reliable and all-around production from their regular cast of contributors, the Western Conference competitor received a sizable bump in scoring and size when veteran forward Rudy Gay made his season debut on Saturday night.

The former San Antonio Spur delivered 20 points in his first game as a Jazz and has added another dimension to the team’s offense. At 6-foot-8, Gay is comfortable playing on the perimeter and is able to create his own shot from any area of the court because of his ability to shoot over defenders. This development is massive for a Jazz team that enjoys having as many shot-creators as possible, especially in the postseason.

The Lakers can’t be any worse than what they just were

The last three weeks have certainly been a roller-coaster in La-La land, but you know what? Even at 9-9, the Los Angeles Lakers are pretty much at their nadir as a team, and, for them, that’s a good thing. Even while enduring a recent Lebron-less three-game losing streak and randomly getting blown out by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers showed just enough promise of what they could become soon.

And while it’s easy to look at Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook as the primary reasons for such optimism, the most promising development has been the improvement of third-year wing Talen Horton-Tucker. Through his first five games, Horton-Tucker has offered the Lakers a needed jolt of energy and athleticism; head coach Frank Vogel has to keep him involved no matter what.

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Sports Strength

Don’t Panic, Lakers Twitter: the Lakers Are the NBA’s Most Interesting Puzzle

No matter what agenda you want to push, the Los Angeles Lakers are here to help.  Through the first seven games of the season, the Lakers have unsurprisingly offered fertile soil for the NBA Twitter Hot Take Industrial Complex to harvest—depending on who you ask, Russell Westbrook is an elite point guard or the dreaded Westbrick; Carmelo Anthony is either barbecuing chicken or is barbecue chicken himself; the narratives around Lebron James form such an unparseably dense palimpsest that it’s not even worth engaging with them. But amidst all the daily frenzy, the Lakers remain one of the best teams in the league—this is the NBA’s most interesting puzzle, a mish-mash of players that turn line-up construction into an exercise of faith.

More than just about any other team, the Lakers have a rupture between who they are and what they can be. Although the team boasts a winning record at 4-3, they’ve largely been lurching and wooden, unable to muster the focus or synergy to play cogently and cohesively for more than a few minutes at a time; their 107.7 points per 100 possessions is barely a smidge above league-average. And this is totally fine—it’s barely November. But within the scrum of wayward pull-up jumpers and too-long isolations, flashes of future goodness are visible in moments—kick-out passes that land in shooting pockets, cuts that unravel defensive shells. 

When the Lakers’ offense is humming, it presents a path forward for what a post-postmodern NBA offense can look like. Whereas most current NBA offenses focus on spreading the floor, the Lakers primary concern is compacting the opposing defense. At times, they’re a study in how to create spacing without the benefit of great shooters, occupying weak-side defenders with clever cuts and the threat that’s posed by genius passing.

Built around Lebron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ attack can be sketched in stark, brutal vectors. Every possession is informed by a sense of momentum, informed by the Big Three’s combined defense-warping gravitational force. Even if the awesomely frightening parade of dunks and layups hasn’t quite come to fruition, the Lakers are able to parlay their potential rim pressure to create open three-pointers; according to NBA.com’s tracking data, only 8.2 percent of the Lakers’ three-pointers are taken with a defender within four feet of the shooter. 

The problem, though, is finding lineups that can supply that point-scoring goodness while maintaining enough defensive integrity. Carmelo Anthony has become a load-bearing presence in their offense as he’s eased into a regular season version of the mythical Olympic Melo, but he’s possibly the leakiest defender in their rotation and requires stauncher teammates to cover for him; Malik Monk offers a much-needed jolt athleticism and shooting in theory, but not much of either of them in practice. Anthony Davis is possibly the best center in the NBA, yet insists on playing as a power forward alongside Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan—which, in turn, makes it difficult to find a natural spot for Russell Westbrook. 

As such, the challenge for Frank Vogel is to assemble lineups that accentuate his players’ strengths while masking their obvious weaknesses; the roster is stocked with gifted players, albeit ones who largely require the right context for their gifts to fully come into focus. The Lakers have an array of shooters who can’t defend, defenders who can’t shoot, big men who can’t play together, and a Rajon Rondo who straight-up can’t play. For Vogel, building a workable five-man unit is a task somewhere between playtime with Mr. Potato Head and an LSAT logic game—here’s an adaptable, customizable set-up with a raft of distinct and productive parts, but one that’s also riddled with prerequisites and limitations. 

Certainly, there’s no rush (yet) for Vogel to solve the Gordian Knot that is his roster. The Lakers have such iridescent, undeniable talent that they could probably secure home-court advantage in the playoffs if they were coached by a semi-trained seal; the Lakers have a winning record even while James, Davis and Westbrook have gotten off to uncharacteristically slow and irritable starts to the season. Still, for the Lakers to achieve the kind of postseason success that this roster is capable of achieving, they need to solidify an identity and scheme.

It’s a mystery whether the Lakers will unleash inverted pick-and-rolls with Westbrook screening for James or if Trevor Ariza and Talen Horton-Tucker will be the remedy for the Lakers’ shallow wing depth once they get healthy or if Davis can rediscover his bubble sharp-shooting. But, in a regular season that sometimes feels like a lifeless prelude to the postseason, the Lakers’ fledgling attempts at self-discover will, at the very least, be a joy to watch.