The Evster's NBA Playoff Preview

The Evster's NBA Playoff Preview

This is not an NBA Playoff preview. I don't know why I called it that. I guess I figured no one would click on a link titled "Some Things The Evster Felt Like Talking About This Week on a Blog That Actually Pays Him to Write Stuff." But then again, it's not like you think you're about to get legit NBA analysis here. You know what you're getting into. This post is written by the same person who predicted this guy would win Defensive Player of the Year:

I still believe in you, Wendell!

Regardless if you're an NBA junkie or an actual junkie, this year's NBA playoffs have enough juice to get any fan's blood flowin'. I don't even know what that means, "juice," no one has used that word since 1992. What I was trying to say is that there are a bunch of players and a couple of storylines that I am so, so, so excited to follow. And below are some of the ones I'm most looking forward to seeing.

So read away, get pumped for the playoffs, and if anyone wants to do drugs while watching the games this weekend, please contact me at BigDInYoFace@The700Level.com.

BEST EARLY ROUND MATCHUP -- Clips vs. Dubbs

WELCOME TO BONERVILLE. I can't ever remember another first round series that featured such a bonkers matchup. Although to be honest, the Clippers could be playing against the St. Louis Slingdongs and it would still be entertaining. But luckily for us, they're playing the Warriors, who have essentially been on an 82-game heat check. With the Splash Bros., Andre Iguaodladlalldaala and Mr. HAND DOWN MAN DOWN himself going against Lob City, there is a very good chance that I will make soft, missionary-style love to my TV this Saturday.

At some point during this series, I fully expect Jamal Crawford and Steph Curry to launch 35-foot bombs while I bite down on every pillow I own. I seriously might wear a dog collar while watching. DeAndre Jordan can dunk with his FACE. Matt Barnes will kill you. I haven't even mentioned the best pg in the game or Blake Griffy McGrifflestein!!!  Just because I can -- and to show you how excited I'm getting -- I will now type one last series of exclamation points using only my dork.

Ready?

!Q!!!#!~!##!!!@!W!!!!!!@W!!!!!Q!!!!!!!!!

Edit THAT, Enrico!

FAVORITE DUDE WHO PLAYS 16.5 MINUTES PER GAME -- Nick "Wiz" Calathes

I didn't know that was his nickname either!

Also that painting kinda looks like Jerryd Bayless.

Also who paints a picture of Nick Calathes/Jerryd Bayless?!?!

No player in the league has had a bigger impact this year than Wizzy C (not his nickname, also not a true statement). But whatever, after spending the last four years playing in Greece and Russia, Pat's little bro has found an NBA home as the Grizzlies backup point guard. He's not necessarily that good, and he hasn't really done anything that warrants him being included in this article, but there's something about Nicky C that makes you really pull for him. Maybe it's the fact that he's embraced his male pattern baldness in a way that only Clyde Drex and Manu Ginobes have done in the past. To see Wiz scurrying around, making post entries, and kicking it out for wide open threes whilst rocking a legitimate bald spot is an inspiration to all, receding white men. I just wish he would also embrace his shoulder hair. And let it just sprout. Forget about Jason Collins coming out, the NBA needs a guy to embrace shoulder strays. I'm lookin' at you, Nick Collison. I'm lookin' at you!

WATCH THIS JAWN NOW -- New Damian Lillard Adidas/Foot Locker Commercial

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/vnaZBRumpg4 width=620 height=349]

No big deal, just the $100 million Adidas deal for Damian this week.

#JUSTTHEHUNDO

OMG WHAT WILL THIS DUDE DO NEXT -- Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson is by far my wife's favorite basketball player. A total loose cannon, this guy could go berzerker at any given mome. For example, one half he could be on pace for a triple dubb, and the next he could eat a guy's shoe. I love him, too. Love his okie doke handle. Love when he palms the ball in the half court set. Love this pic of him celebrating in high school.

Ayyyyyyyyyyy!

This is awesome too:

HEY GUYS, GLAD YOU COULD MAKE IT. TAKE OFF YOUR COAT AND STAY AWHILE. CARE FOR SOME CHEESE? I RECOMMEND THE BOUCHERON. IT'S QUITE LOVELY -- John Wall, Kyle Lowry and Kemba THE NOT WHITE Walker

Look, the West may have most of the talent, but these three Eastern Conference point guards are easily the most electric. (I mean, besides Russell Westbreezy. Obviously besides Russell Westbreezy. It would be silly to write an NBA article and not call Russell Westbreezy the most electric point guard to ever play the game. He plays so ANGRY. And Chris Paul, too, but whatever. That's a given. And I already mentioned Steph. Okay, so they're like the 4th through 6th most electric point guards. Maybe 7th if you wanna include Shabazz Napier. And there's Rondo and Derrick Rose too, but, let's just move on. Let's just move on.)

Do you know who had the most total assists in the league this year? John Wall. (Ricky Roobs was second by the way, which I found fascinating.) Kyle Lowry ain't scare o' NOBODY. And Kemba Walker is the best professional basketball player who you have never seen play an actual professional basketball game.

TV SHOW YOU NEED TO WATCH – The Starters on NBATV

If you’re not watching The Starters every single day you are living a goddamn lie. The show is essentially this: four idiots sitting around in flannel shirts breaking down every angle of the NBA. But they’re not just idiots, they’re really knowledgeable and passionate idiots. Daily features on the show include: Wedgies (highlights of the ball getting wedged under the rim and against the backboard), Leigh Ellis’s Very Solid Play of the Night (normally consisting of a dude playing nice help defense or making a very solid bounce pass) and the Kobe Bryant Twitter Watch (he’s still not following Kendall Marshall). I love these guys so much and desperately want to be Twitter friends with them/shampoo their hair/go grocery shopping with them.

BIG THREE, SCHMIGG SCHMEE. THE HEAT BENCH IS WHERE IT'S AT: B-Eazy, Birdman and Oden

Look, we all love LeBron. And when D-Wade actually plays basketball, he's incredible too. And I even kinda sorta almost like Chris Bosh (no I don't). But the most fascinating players on the Heat roster are the dudes who hardly get any burn: Chris Andersen, Michael Beasley and omg you know who I'm talking about I just wrote their names in the header for goodness sakes.

When Birdman is on the court, he is impossible to ignore. IMPOSSIBLE. LeBron could be going coast to coast for one of his patented Chinese locomotive dunks (not a thing), but if Birdman's in the game, forget about it. IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE. I went to see the Sixers play the Nuggets a few years ago when Birdman was on Denver... didn't see one play the entire game. I just locked in on Birdman. Whatever he did, wherever he went, my eyes followed. Setting screens. Sitting on the bench. Staring at chicks while he was supposed to pay attention in the huddle. Seriously, there was one timeout where George Karl was drawing up a play and Birdman locked eyes HARD with a Sixers Dance Team lady. I think he was looking at that redhead. I love that redhead. How does she not have any moles?

Michael Beasley is just a weirdo. A super skilled, versatile, weirdo. But at some point during these playoffs, B-Eazy is gonna go off. He's too talented not to. He might go off the rails. But he's gonna go off. Every playoffs, someone comes out of the blue and just goes off. I'm not sure Michael's even aware that the playoffs are starting.

Poor Greg Oden. It's just sad. But it's nice to at least see him getting out of the house for once. He has the weirdest head. Honestly, what is going on with his head? I can't believe we have seen both his and Paul George's dorks.

NSFW BY THE WAY.

PREDICTIONS

East: Round 1 -- Pacers over Hawks (obvs); Heat over Bobcats (double obvs); Raptors over Nets (Terrence Ross!); Bulls over Wiz (not yet John Wally!) ... Conference Semis -- Pacers over Bulls (not one upset picked yet!); Heat over Raptors (sweeeeeeeep) ... Conference Finals -- Heat over Pacers (WHY ARE PEOPLE SLEEPIN ON BRON BRON)

West: Round 1 -- Spurs over Mavs (RIP Dirk); Thunder over Grizz (awesome series though); Clips over Warriors (no Bogut, no dubbs); Blazers over Rockets (Dwight and the Beard are SOFT) ... Conference Semis -- Spurs over Blazers (is anyone actually reading this part?); Clippers over Thunder (I'm not sure if I actually believe that!) ... Conference Finals -- Spurs over Clips (Can you believe Kawhi Leonard still has cornrows?!??!?!)

Finals -- Heat over Spurs (in 7!) I'LL BELIEVE SOMEONE BEATING LEBRON WHEN I SEES IT.

Enjoy the games everybody!

Basketballlllll!!!!!!!!!!

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/_shxzlTRK44 width=620 height=465]

Honestly that's the most amazing/corniest video EVER.

Follow The Evster @TVMWW.

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

ATLANTA — Seven months after he was acquired from the Houston Astros and anointed a key piece in the Phillies’ rebuild, pitcher Vince Velasquez could be on the move again.

The Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez, a major league source told CSNPhilly.com on Friday night (see story).

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network earlier in the week and essentially confirmed when three Rangers scouts, including Scott Littlefield, one of that club’s top talent evaluators, showed up at Turner Field for Velasquez’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Velasquez delivered a solid but unspectacular performance in a 2-1 loss to the Braves, but he still has the qualities that attracted the Phillies to him last winter. He’s just 24 years old and has a power arm that has produced a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has the upside to pitch at or near the top of a rotation if his development goes in the right direction and he stays healthy. That is a legitimate concern because he had Tommy John surgery as a young minor leaguer and spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a biceps strain.

The question now is: where will Velasquez continue his development? Philadelphia? Texas? Somewhere else?

Clearly, the Phillies’ big wintertime acquisition is in play as Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.

Manager Pete Mackanin said he knows nothing of the front office’s trade plans, but he offered his opinion on trading a young pitcher like Velasquez.

“Our whole goal was to get young pitchers because they’re the most expensive commodity and if you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you’re ahead of the game,” Mackanin said. “But at the same time, at least as far as I’m concerned, I’ll listen to any offers. If you get three guys that are really good looking prospects because pitching is such a commodity, I’m sure you have to consider it.”

With the Rangers' scouts looking on, Velasquez pitched six innings and gave up seven hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out five. His fastball reached 96 mph, proving that his stuff is good. Mackanin, however, said he thought Velasquez relied too much on his off-speed stuff instead of his power fastball.

“It was unusual to me the way he pitched,” Mackanin said. “It was almost like a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher. I’m not arguing with it because he did a good job, but he made me a little nervous here and there. I like the 16 strikeouts.”

That, of course, was a reference to Velasquez’s 16-strikeout complete game win over the Padres on April 14. Could anyone have imagined that he'd be the subject of trade talks 3½ months later?

Velasquez said he was aware of the trade buzz surrounding him and unbothered by it. He’s been down this road before. He said he would not be disappointed if he were traded because he understands baseball is a business.

“At first when I got traded from the Astros it was kind of tough for me, but you have to move on and make the best of what you've got,” Velasquez said. “If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today.

“It's just one of those things I can't control. I had to fight, had to battle for a spot here in Philadelphia and I'm very thankful for the opportunity and everything. Again, I've still got to keep working hard and make the best of what I've got.”

Any team looking to acquire Velasquez would have to pay a steep price. In addition to having talent and upside, he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2018 season and free agency until after the 2021 season.

The Phillies have a good knowledge of Texas’ deep farm system having scouted it extensively — and plucked from it — in making the deal for Cole Hamels a year ago. Are the Phillies about to fuel their rebuild with more talent from the Texas system? Stay tuned.

Velasquez isn’t the only Phillies starter who could move. Several teams remain interested in Jeremy Hellickson (see story), who is scheduled to pitch against Atlanta on Saturday night. The Rangers, in fact, have some interest in Hellickson as a fallback option if they don’t get a pitcher elsewhere. Velasquez is not the only pitcher the Rangers have on their radar, but from a Phillies’ perspective, he is certainly the most interesting.

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rougned Odor homered twice, A.J. Griffin pitched into the sixth inning and the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3 on Friday night.

Jurickson Profar also went deep for the Rangers, and scored three runs.

Odor hit a solo homer in the first that put AL West-leading Texas up 3-0 against Edinson Volquez (8-9). That 443-foot drive into the second deck of seats in right field came a night after Odor's 465-footer that is the longest in his career. He had another solo shot in the seventh, his 21st of the season barely clearing the 8-foot wall in right.

Eric Hosmer homered for the defending World Series champion Royals, who dropped to 10 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

Griffin (4-1) had his longest outing in seven starts in just over a month since coming off the disabled list because of right shoulder stiffness. The right-hander struck out one and walked two while throwing 66 of 98 pitches for strikes in 5 2-3 innings (see full recap)

Chatwood, Gonzalez lead Rockies over Mets for 4th win in row
NEW YORK -- Tyler Chatwood kept winning on the road, Carlos Gonzalez homered and drove in four runs and the Colorado Rockies defeated the New York Mets 6-1 Friday night for their fourth straight victory.

Mark Reynolds also homered for the surging Rockies, who are 11-4 since the All-Star break and have moved within four games of Miami for the second NL wild-card spot.

Chatwood (10-6) improved to 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA away from Coors Field this season. The 26-year-old is 4-6 with a 5.69 ERA at home.

Gonzalez matched a season-high hitting streak of 11 games with an RBI double in the first. He hit a 448-foot, three-run drive in the ninth for his 21st homer.

Steven Matz (8-7) gave up two runs and 10 hits in six innings (see full recap)

Lester recovers from rut of bad starts, Cubs rout Mariners
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester recovered from a rut of bad starts, pitching six shutout innings that led the Chicago Cubs over the Seattle Mariners 12-1 Friday for their third straight win.

Jason Heyward and David Ross homered as the NL Central leaders improved to 9-5 since the All-Star break following a 1-9 slump. Seattle lost in its first trip to Wrigley Field since 2007.

Lester (11-4) had lasted just 16 innings over his previous four starts, going 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA. That skid came after he had gone 9-3 with a 2.03 ERA in his first 16 starts.

Lester gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked two. He was already done when there was a 74-minute rain delay in the seventh.

Mike Montgomery, traded last week from Seattle to the Cubs, pitched the final two innings. He gave up a single to Shawn O'Malley in the ninth for the Mariners' run.

Hisashi Iwakuma (11-7) had won his last five starts, but gave up five runs and eight hits in three innings (see full recap).

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies lost, 2-1, to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The big news from this game, however, was that Vince Velasquez might have made his last start with the Phillies. A major league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez. The Rangers, the source said, also have some interest in Jeremy Hellickson, who pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night, but he appears to be a secondary target (see story).

It would take top talent to get Velasquez, a 24-year-old right-hander with a power arm. The Phillies acquired him over the winter from Houston as the centerpiece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

The Rangers had several scouts at the game, including Scott Littlefield, one of their top talent evaluators.

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported earlier in the week by Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Apparently there’s more than just interest (see story). Stay tuned as Monday’s trade deadline approaches.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez scattered seven hits and two runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Velasquez battled some command issues and needed 91 pitches to complete the six innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since a brief stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins gave up just one unearned run over six innings.

Bullpen report
Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball.

At the plate
Phillies leadoff man Cesar Hernandez reached base in his first three at-bats and scored the Phillies’ only run on an error in the third inning. 

The Braves scored two runs in the third inning on three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk against Velasquez. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis drove in the runs with base hits.

Up next
Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) makes perhaps his final start with the Phillies on Saturday night. He will face Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71).