Kolby KickingWoman

#KickinWithKolby — Thoughts from a Native sports fan #Sportzball

I wanted to share a little PSA before we got into the meat and bones of the week’s column — Attention fellow Native sports fans, general sports fan and all good people in general, there is a “Not Your Mascot” march and rally tomorrow evening in Minneapolis, Minnesota before the Thursday night game between the Vikings vs the Racial Slurs.

If you are in the Twin Cities area, definitely think about going out and urging the Washington football franchise to retire its racist mascot.

WHEN:

Thursday, Oct. 24

March begins: 4:00 p.m.

Rally: 5:00 - 7:15 p.m.

WHERE:

March:

Peavey Field Park

730 E. 22nd St.

Minneapolis, MN 55404

Rally:

The Commons, near U.S. Bank Stadium

425 Portland Ave. S.

Minneapolis, MN 55415

Now, back to our originally scheduled programming.

In the inaugural #KickinWithKolby, I shared with you all how excited I was for the NFL to be back; the season is just about to hit the halfway point this weekend and it’s been pretty good so far. I certainly can’t complain.

Although now, my favorite, first sports love is back in all its glory, the NBA baby!

After another crazy offseason, with a wild free agency period and a number of crazy trades that followed, the field of championship contenders is wide-open!

For the first time in years, you can’t pencil the Golden State Warriors into the NBA Finals. The Western Conference will be as strong and competitive as it has ever been and the Eastern Conference will do what it normally does — have two or three teams with a legitimate shot at the Finals while the rest of the conference battle it out for the scraps to get into the playoffs.

If Kevin Durant didn’t tear his achilles in last years Finals, things would be a lot more interesting out East but we basketball fans will have to wait one more year before we see KD and Kyrie lace ‘em up together in Brooklyn.

There are so many intriguing storylines heading into the year, I’ll give you just a few: Lebron and Anthony Davis vs Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the battle for Los Angeles (go Lakers!), how will James Harden and Russell Westbrook work out in Houston? Can the 76ers overcome last season’s devastating defeat in the playoffs and make a run at the championship without their closer, Jimmy Butler (who is now in Miami)? Will Portland make a “win-now” move to make their push to the Finals? Not to mention the ongoing tension between the league and China.

And that’s just scratching the surface, you can always count on the NBA for some drama and pettiness on #NBATwitter.

If opening night was any indicator, it’s going to be a fun, fun year for basketball fans. Admittedly, I was watching Game One of the World Series (kind of have to in a Nats town), but the first game of the year between the Raptors and Pelicans went into overtime and the Lakers vs Clippers, dare I say it, had a playoff-like atmosphere!

It was well worth staying up till 1:00 a.m. to watch out here on the East Coast, despite my beloved Lakers losing by 10.

A person could easily make the case for this being the best week in sports. Between the World Series, opening week of the NBA, the NFL in full swing, NHL regular season underway, MLS playoffs, college football and more; sports junkies can binge all the sports until they can binge no more.

I. Love. It!

With all that being said, I wanted to give you my predictions for the upcoming NBA season.

First, the playoff teams from each conference, in no particular order:

West: LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks.

East: Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Indian Pacers.

Toughest choice was leaving the San Antonio Spurs out of the playoffs because all Gregg Popovich does is win 50 games a year and it would be the first time the Spurs have missed the playoffs in 20-some years. But I’m sticking with the Mavs!

Most Valuable Player: Lebron James, LA Lakers — I just have a feeling this is a man on a mission. Players don’t admit it but they hear and see everything said about them and my gut tells me LBJ is going to go scorched Earth on the league this season.

Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies — With Zion Williamson being sidelined for the first six-to-eight weeks with an injury, I think Morant will put himself far enough ahead of Williamson as the league’s best rookie. Plus, all the opportunity he’ll get on a struggling Memphis team will help build his case.

Coach of the Year: Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks — Carlisle has always been one of the better and well-respected coaches in the NBA for a while now. With Luka Dončić taking a second-year leap and a healthy Kristaps Porzingis, I think this team sneaks into the playoffs and gets Carlisle another Coach of the Year award.

Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks — After not making the Finals last year after winning the MVP, I believe Giannis went to work all the facets of his game this summer. He was a beast on both sides of the ball last year and I think he’ll take his defense up another notch this season.

Sixth-man of the Year: Lou Williams, LA Clippers — The NBA should just rename this award after him, he’s in contention for it every year. He’s won it three times, tied for most all-time and is on a team where his skill-set flourishes when he’s on the court. This is basically a lock.

Most Improved Player: Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans — This one is always the toughest because who knows how the people who select the awards view improvement. I’ll take Ball because sometimes players just need a change scenery to re-find their game. Also, playing with Jrue Holiday in the backcourt takes a lot of pressure of Ball so he doesn’t have to be the primary playmaker on offense. We’ll just have to wait and see how much he fixed his jump-shot during the offseason.

Finals Prediction: LA Lakers over Milwaukee Bucks in six games!

Don’t listen to the pundits who say it’s gonna be the Clippers coming out of the West, they are the NBA version of the Cleveland Browns. Doesn’t matter if they signed Kawhi and brought in Paul George, one way or another, they’ll find a way to screw things up.

There you have it, an NBA season preview by yours truly. I love talkin’ hoop, so please, feel free to reach out to tell me why I’m wrong with any of my selections.

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Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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