Happy All Star Weekend!

(Yeah, yeah. And Valentine’s Day.)

We’re coming with a huge Backdoor Cut this week with lots of features and introducing our contributing writer, Shawn Sanquenetti. This is an exciting time. The league has stayed pretty interesting all season long and now there are several story lines blossoming just before the All Star break. Today we’re going to take a look at a few of the bigger ones and take a look back at how the season is shaping up so far. Also, we’ll delve into our first week of the mascot fighting tournament.

All Star Replacements

After Dwayne Wade stepped aside from an All Star spot to nurse his ailing body, Kyle Korver was named the replacement. So we now have four fifths of January’s Eastern Conference Player of the month in the game. Honestly, DeMarre Carroll should just lace up and sit on the bench too. No one would notice. The other recently named replacement, Damian Lillard, is one called out on the last Backdoor Cut as an obvious All Star. With his impressive running of the Trailblazers and Korver shooting being darn near mechanical this season, it seems fitting that both players made it in.

George Karl to coach the Kings

Most people who like basketball respect George Karl. The man has lead some very good teams, probably most notably the Soncis squad that squared off against Jordan’s Bulls in the Finals. I’m still a little skeptical of the hire for both sides. For Karl’s end, I would think that young, athletic Magic roster may have fit his coaching style better and with less opposition from ownership. I don’t know that the job would’ve been available, but you’d think the Magic would’ve considered it. As far as the Kings go, I just hope Vivek does stay out of the way. Firing Mike Malone earlier this year was a mistake, especially with Corbin being the answer as a replacement. The team needs a strong willed coach to build up an identity that isn’t affected negatively by its owner. I’m guessing it was the untapped potential of the Kings young big that drew coach Karl in.

The MVP Race

We’re being treated to some pretty special performances this year. It’s entirely possible that Lebron James, still ostensibly the league’s best player and having a really good season, would finish no higher than fifth if the ballot was taken today. While there is still time to shake things out, it seems like it would take a pretty incredibly final run for Bron to capture another MVP. A scoring tear as he lead the Cavs to the number one seed might do it. But those kind of sustained scoring onslaughts have never been his calling card. Sure, he’s always among the league leaders in scoring and has huge games. But he’s always imposed his will as a jack of all trades. Dominating games with point totals in the twenties and stuffing the box score in other areas.

But those three to four guys likely ahead of him? We’re going to be in for some fun to finish the ride. With all due respect to the individual brilliance of Marc Gasol and The Brow, I believe we’re witnessing a showdown of two of the most distinctive offensive forces in our league. James Harden is the poster child for today’s number, with analytics now changing our perspective on the game. While Charles Barkley may disagree, when used as a way to view what we see on the court, the numbers can help us make smarter decision. Daryl Morey’s vision of threes and free throws in heavy doses finds itself materialized in the intelligent, herky jerky beauty of The Beard. He can spend portions of games vacillating between exhilarating and tedious, maintaining a high level of efficiency all along the way. Harden’s recent outburts including that 40 point, 12 board, 9 assist game against the Suns have him possibly edging out the next player we’ll mention.

While Harden has moments where we puts viewers to sleep at the free throw line, the other guy vying for the trophy evokes the kind of excitement that you just want to share. The League Pass Alert hashtag should just be changed to a Steph Curry alert. The man is a baby faced assassin, the kind of good that just drives opponents crazy. That quick, off the dribble release is legendary. He’s already viewed as one of the best shooters of all time. His relatively small stature probably lends to more fan appreciation. He looks like you could hang with him on a good day. We can’t see ourselves flying through the air for huge slams or chase down blocks, but on our best day, if we were just hot enough, we could see ourselves being Steph. Maybe that’s why he’s taken over as the league’s top jersey seller. Or maybe it’s because his brand of basketball is Rex Chapman’s shooting confidence and Steve Nash’s creativity in a package we haven’t seen before. Steph started out the season as one of the favorites along with Gasol and I think the race will come down to one of these two awesome guards.

NBA Mascot Tournament
Today we're going to unveil some of the results
of round one of the secret fighting tournament 
held this past offseason. It was a hard fought 
contest. You can see the bracket here.

tourneycut

The mascots typically meet each other in secret location every All Star break to compete in your standard array of feats of strength and skill. This time was a bit different as talks got heated and they decided to let semi retired Commissioner Stern find a way to settle who was the best mascot alive. So he drew up a randomized bracket and decided to let them go Jean Claude Van Damme on each other. The fight was until one opponent was knocked out and left the winner to fight in the next round. Generally Trivial was lucky enough to secure coverage of this gruesome bracket. Here are some of the early results.

Round One.

Champ – Mavericks vs. Pierre – Pelicans

pierrechamp

The first fight looked like it was going to be a terribly disappointing affair. That fair, white hair on Champ was quickly tinged red. Only it wasn’t his own wounds causing it. He wailed on Pierre with massive hooved uppercuts and the green feathers flew. Pierre quickly looked like he’d be the disappointment of the contest. But a change began to come over Pierre’s expression as he took the blows. His face lost that new, genial presence  that it had gained. Blow by blow, the old and terrifying Pierre came back. Champ threw a hard punch that he was sure would knock out the massive Pelican. Instead, his first was met with the blue palm of Pierre, a new found strength found in those massive, terrifying eyes, now filled with rage. Lightning quick blows to hid midsection had Champ hunched over quickly. Pierre then moved in for the finish, clamping down his mighty beak on Champ’s throat and trashed around until the horse lay before him. Victory was Pierre’s.

pierre-the-pelican

Above: The face of fear itself.

grizzcoyote

The Coyote – Spurs vs. Grizz – Grizzlies

The pantsless wonder versus the furry representation of the Grit and Grind lifestyle. Much like his cartoon counterpart, Coyote is very wiley. He used every dirty advantage he could to fend off Grizz’ advances. After a few failed flurries furiously flailed against the superior defense of the massive bear, Coyote found himself on the ground. He kicked dirt up into his opponent’s eyes before sweeping the leg. Unfortunately for Coyote, Grizz didn’t need a crane kick to return fire. He jabbed a few times before grabbing just inside the arms of Coyote, lifted him above his head, and brought him down into a massive backbreaker. The bear’s grim snarl said it all.

.burnieboomer

Burnie – Heat vs. Boomer- Pacers

On paper this match up between an anthropomorphic fireball and a cat didn’t seem like much of a contest. Boomer quickly showed that he was not to be taken lightly, however, with a series of bites and claws right out of the gate. Burnie was reeling from the initial onslaught but was able to blast Boomer with a fireball and get some breathing room. Burnie took the opportunity to regain his footing and start on the offensive firing fireball after fireball. Boomer was able use his speed to avoid most of the blasts and looked set to pounce when he slipped up and became prone. Burnie, taking full advantage of the mistake was able to refocus and blast Boomer with a massive fireball to secure the first round victory and move on to the next round.
bisonbear
Jazz Bear – Jazz vs. Rumble the Bison – Thunder
This first round match up was a battle of true heavyweights featuring two of the larger land mammals in the United States. The two combatants came out fiercely, engaging each other in a test of strength for supremacy. Neither warrior seemed to have the upper hand with both refusing to bend to the will of the other. Soon the strain got to Jazz Bear and he began to falter. Fortunately, he was able to turn Rumble’s own momentum against him and send him crashing to the ground. Jazz, however, was still weak from the initial power struggle. He attempted to go in for the kill on Rumble but was met with a swift kick that doubled him over. With the opening Rumble was able get a running charge and stampede over the broken body of Jazz, finishing the bout.
That's it for the first group of games. Check 
back next time to see how the tournament unfolds.

Thanks once again for reading the Backdoor Cut and again, a warm welcome to Shawn for guest writing the Burnie-Boomer and Jazz-Rumble fights. Let us know below what you think.

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