Ask The Czar

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Cropped photo courtesy of Jan Fante

Alan Jensen from Pleasant View, Utah casts his vote for French import Rudy Gobert:

I have seen the stat that only three players in the NBA have achieved a season with 1000 points, 1000 rebounds, and 200 blocks since the 2000-2001 season. It’s happened twice by Dwight Howard, twice by Tim Duncan, and now this year by Rudy Gobert. Yet, Stu and yourself did not select him for any of your awards. Rudy is a clear choice for Defensive Player of the Year and a very strong candidate for Most Improved Player. Rudy has improved tremendously over the past season. He is accomplishing feats this year that many of us thought would take two or more seasons to attain. His field goal percentage will beat the team record by 15%. He has raised his free throw percentage by 10%. I know that he does not play for one of the high profile teams, but you two should reconsider your choices.

Alan, you make a convincing argument, and I respect your position on Utah’s Rudy Gobert. In fact, Rudy was one of my top three contenders for 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, along with Kawhi Leonard and my first choice, Draymond Green. Gobert has indeed made significant strides this season, and he’s been a tremendous asset to the Jazz on defense, consistently frustrating his opponents around the rim and bringing down their field-goal percentages. But Green is a more versatile defender who has the ability to shut down his opponents in multiple positions, and he ranked among the top three players in all defensive categories. Furthermore, Green’s tenacious leadership at the defensive end of the court enabled Golden State to finish the regular season as the No. 1 defensive team in the league.

I look forward to watching Gobert and Green face off in the Western Conference Semifinals!

Around the League

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Gameday Dish

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles LakersThe Oklahoma City Thunder, owners of the best record in the league at 42-12, come to the Staples Center this evening to take on the 18-34 Los Angeles Lakers.

The Basketball Gods have been merciless on the storied franchise, and it has taken a horrible toll. The 16-time NBA Champs have lost 21 of their last 26 games.

The Lakers now sit in a virtual tie with Sacramento for the Western Conference’s worst record. In addition, coach Mike D’Antoni’s squad has lost their past six home contests.

With a loss tonight, this Lakers group will set a mark for the most straight home defeats. The franchise has not endured seven consecutive losses since moving to SoCal in 1960.

Injuries have plagued The Lake Show this season. Los Angeles continues to play without five of its key performers: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Nick Young, Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry. Jordan Farmar has also missed 19 of the last 20 games, and Steve Nash will be sidelined yet again after exiting against Utah due to issues with his leg and back.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers

When the Purple & Gold played Tuesday night, they were bludgeoned by the woeful Jazz, 96-79. Eleventh-year center Chris Kaman led the team with 25 points and 14 boards.

The Lakers and Thunder last met on December 13th in the Sooner State. KD and company drubbed LA 122-97, outscoring the Lakers in every quarter. Durant, now the clear frontrunner for the 2014 NBA MVP, went for 31 points, 8 boards, 5 dimes and 4 steals in the one-sided affair. It was just Kobe’s third game back from injury, and he scored only 4 points, but managed to dish out 13 assists. Pau Gasol had 14 and 7 boards in the loss.

The surging Thunder have gone 14-2 over their last 16, including a 98-95 hard-fought W in Portland on Tuesday night. KD was his usual unstoppable self, hitting for 36 points and 10 boards. Second-year SG Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to add a crucial 19 points on 8-11 shooting.

Tune in to TNT tonight at 10:30 PM ET to see if Los Angeles, playing the unfamiliar role of struggling underdog, can stop OKC’s winning ways and prevent a dubious home loss mark.

Czar’s Season Preview

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Fratello Telestrator

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