2014-15 All-Underappreciated Team

All-Star frenzy is officially in full swing.  Media heads and fans have been assembling their twelve-man rosters for the East and West for the past week or so, giving their two cents on questions with no right answer.  “Do the Hawk deserve four All-Stars?”  “Have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook missed too many games to be considered?”  “Should a guy like DeMarcus Cousins be penalized because of his team’s poor record?”  

Now that the reserves have been announced, everyone will undoubtedly shift their attention to the biggest snubs, most notably Lillard and Cousins (who is now Kobe Bryant’s replacement). However, I want to shed some light on a few players who haven’t been involved in any of the All-Star talk by creating an All-Underappreciated Team.  

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R-E-L-A-X, It's Only December

Remember when everyone in Green Bay was panicking about the Packers’ 1-2 start?  After suffering defeats at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions, quarterback Aaron Rodgers took to the mic and reminded everyone to “R-E-L-A-X.”  Since Rodgers’ memo, the Packers have rattled off seven wins in eight tries and sit atop the NFC North.

Which brings me to the NBA… We are officially at that dangerous point in the season where the sample size of games is large enough that critics and fans think they know everything that the season has in store for them.  Contenders and title favorites are declared, struggling high-profile teams are overanalyzed, and MVPs are crowned.

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Clippers' Seven Game Swing

After stumbling to a 5-4 start, the Clippers have rebounded with the most successful road trip in franchise history.  They won an unprecedented six out of seven games with the only loss coming to an emerging Memphis Grizzlies team led by darkhorse MVP candidate Marc Gasol.  It helps that the opposition was softer than usual; the wins came against Orlando, Miami (without Dwyane Wade), Charlotte, Detroit, Houston (without Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Patrick Beverley), and Utah.  Regardless, the Clippers won these games in convincing fashion and look to have snapped out of their funk.  They became the first team in NBA history to have an average win margin above 11 in a road trip of seven games or longer, proving their dominance as of late.

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Marc Gasol: Center of Attention

The 2015 NBA Free Agency class is loaded with talent, but some of the biggest catches of the summer have essentially already taken themselves off the market.  LeBron James and Kevin Love are opting out of their deals after the season, but will most likely re-up in Cleveland.  LaMarcus Aldridge has expressed his desire to stay in Portland.  And Duncan and Ginobili are Spurs for life.

That still leaves some nice options, both restricted (Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Brandon Knight, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris) and unrestricted (Rajon Rondo, DeAndre Jordan, Goran Dragic (Player Option), Greg Monroe, Roy Hibbert (Player Option), Monta Ellis (Player Option)).

However, Marc Gasol will be the one creating the most buzz during the offseason.  He has put himself in the discussion for best center in the league and terrorizes teams on both sides of the ball, but more importantly, there is a real chance he leaves Memphis.

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3x3: Rockets Up, Clips Down, K.J. Everywhere

The 2014-15 NBA Season is rolling along.  It’s still early, but teams are beginning to show their true colors, players are figuring out their roles, and fans are beginning to form their opinions.  So in case you’ve missed out on the action, the Franchise is here to break down three hot topics from the NBA in three days.  This is part 3, but you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.  So without further ado…

What has surprised you most thus far in the NBA season?

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3x3: Rudy Gay's Extension

The 2014-15 NBA Season is rolling along.  It’s still early, but teams are beginning to show their true colors, players are figuring out their roles, and fans are beginning to form their opinions.  So in case you’ve missed out on the action, the Franchise is here to break down three hot topics from the NBA in three days.  Here is the first:

Too high, too low, or just right: Rudy Gay’s 3-year, $40 million extension

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Lakers No Laughingstock

Stop the presses, and stop laughing.

The Lakers may have lost Tuesday night to the Memphis Grizzlies, but their performance was a worthy follow-up to a convincing win two nights ago against the Charlotte Hornets. They parlayed that 107-92 victory, keyed by a huge third-quarter rally, into a valiant assault on the league’s best home team. And they nearly won.

The game was tight until, with 6:50 remaining in the fourth, the Grizzlies opened up a 17-point lead.

You’re forgiven for suffering pangs of deja vu. This Lakers team has displayed an early-season predilection for folding late.

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Are the Lakers About to Piss Off the Whole League... Again?

In 2008, the Memphis Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers for perennial punchline KWAMAY Brown (to paraphrase Stephen A.) and a bag of peanuts.

The deal was universally panned. Clearly the deck was stacked in favor of the big-market juggernaut. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gave voice to the collective disgust emanating from the rest of the league:

“What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension,” said Popovich. “There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I’d like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade.”

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Tony Allen: the Birth of the GRINDfather

I had a chance to make my first trip to the FedExForum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies.  My beloved Los Angeles Clippers were playing in the playoffs for just the fifth time in my 22 years of life (and three of those appearances occurred before I was 5).  Luckily, I was attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and decided to make the 3-hour drive to Memphis to root my team on in Game 1.

The game was a memorable one.  The Clippers made a historic 27-point comeback.  Reggie Evans transformed into our MVP.  Swaggy P drained three consecutive 3’s in the 4th quarter. And I blacked out when Kenyon Martin locked down Rudy Gay at the buzzer.  But the thing that stuck out most to me that night wasn’t our miraculous win.

On the long drive to the Forum, my friends and I were debating which Grizzly player was likely the most popular.  Was it Zach Randolph?  Rudy Gay?  Marc Gasol?  Mike Conley?

While there was a good mix of Z-Bo and Gay jerseys, there was another jersey that popped up with alarming frequency around the arena: #9, for Tony Allen.

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