By: Law Murray
Because of them, there are no games scheduled for the 4th of July this Saturday. But there is a triple-header Friday night. And there is an 8-game schedule on Sunday.
Most importantly, pros are eligible to play at the Drew starting this weekend. This coincides with playoff pushes becoming a real thing now. There is only one team with an undefeated record: Citi Team Blazers. There are only ten other teams with winning records going into July. That means that at least five teams that are currently .500 or worse will make the playoffs.
Teams with byes in week 8 include Hank’s Panthers (5-2), Legacy (3-4), Hank’s New Image (2-5), Hank’s United Ballers (2-5), LA LOOP (2-5), and Hank’s Bulldogs (2-5):
Pandas (1-5) vs. Sky Ryse (6-1)
(Fri. July 3, 5:30pm)
That game-winning prayer that Ian Pinckney made last month vs. BB4L is the only thing keeping the Pandas from being blanked in the win column. Meanwhile, BB4L is the only team to defeat Sky Ryse this season. BB4L is also the only team with a winning record that Sky Ryse has faced all season. It looks like Donovan Morris and Josh Gordon (30 points in Week 7) are set up for big games for Sky Ryse – if they don’t play down to the competition.
NWA (6-1) vs. I Can All-Stars (4-2)
(Fri. July 3, 6:45pm)
This is one of the Commissioner’s Games of the Week, and it features two teams looking for a quality victory. NWA has taken care of business and will get 2013 co-MVP Jonathan Gibson back at some point this month. Detractors will point out that none of the teams they have faced already have a winning record currently. I Can All-Stars are led by “The Body Snatcher” Vince Camper, the only current MVP candidate who has appeared in every game this season. NWA Coach Keion Kindred outmaneuvered Legacy despite a size disadvantage two weeks ago, but that may be a bigger challenge against I Can All-Stars, a team that always stays big with Camper at PG.
M.H.P. (3-3) vs. C.O.A. (2-5)
(Fri. July 3, 8pm)
This is where things get interesting. M.H.P. may have played the worst game of Week 7, catching a senseless beatdown at the hands of Hank’s United Ballers. Their effort was terrible – but 6’11” center Larry Sanders says he’s playing in the Drew with Nick Young, calling the two “Swag brothers.” C.O.A. is actually the only other team to lose to Hank’s United Ballers this season, and Craig Smith was unable to finish last week’s overtime loss to The Clozers. It remains to be seen if Rhino will be healthy enough to go at it against MVP candidate Victor Rudd, who needs a bounce-back game (six turnovers in Week 7).
Problems (2-5) vs. Reapers (1-6)
(Sun. July 5, 10am)
It’s not a surprise to see the Reapers in a Breakfast Club game in July. The fledgling squad is at rock bottom with the most losses in the league, and they’re coming off their worst game of the season after a blowout loss to Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars. It is a surprise to see Problems struggling so much. 2014 MVP Money Mike Efevberha came back last week, but he struggled mightily (13 points, 4/17 FGs) as Problems failed to break the 70-point barrier for the fifth straight week. At least one of these teams will break a long losing streak.
The Clozers (3-4) vs. Tradition (4-3)
(Sun. July 5, 11:15am)
The Clozers toughened up and won an overtime game against C.O.A. last week, setting up a big game against Tradition. The Clozers are riding it out through the good and bad of teenage big men Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, with Boatwright handling a big offensive load and Metu flying around rims. Tradition has been a hard team to figure out, but they have won three of their last four, and they seem to be at their best when PG Zeon Gray and SF Marcus Johnson are being aggressive.
ICEO (5-2) vs. Salvatori’s Spirit (2-4)
(Sun. July 5, 12:30pm)
Both teams played and won without primary scorers last week. ICEO won without MVP candidate Charles Hinkle, while Salvatori’s Spirit scored a season-high 86 points without Frank Robinson. While those two southpaws make for an intriguing individual matchup, it must be noted that both teams have more than enough talent elsewhere on the perimeter. ICEO guards A.J. Gasporra and Katin Reinhardt are both threats to drop 20, while Spirit added Deontae North to go with Dejon “DeDe Smoove” Prejean.
BB4L (5-2) vs. LAUNFD (6-1)
(Sun. July 5, 2pm)
This is the Commissioner’s other Game of the Week. BB4L keeps adding talent out of nowhere, as SF Kaimyn Pruitt debuted last week and had 14 points and nine rebounds in a win vs. Salvatori’s No Shnacks. LAUNFD didn’t have damn near their entire starting lineup (happy birthday, Trevor Ariza), but they still had Ekene Ibekwe and Hassan Adams holding it down to secure their 6th straight win last week. Who actually shows up for this game will be as interesting as the fact that both teams are rolling.
Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars (6-1) vs. Hard Times (5-2)
(Sun. July 5, 3:15pm)
Hard Times took an L last week vs. Hank’s Panthers, managing a season-low 68 points. That takes the shine off a bit in this matchup against the defending champs, but the importance remains. Houdini’s All-Stars continues to add pieces to the puzzle, picking up SF Justin Carter last week. Hard Times likes to run and gun, but every team knows the deal against Houdini’s All-Stars: you only have a chance if you protect the rock. Hard Times also needs players like Jordin Mayes (six points, 3/18 FGs last week) to step up.
Citi Team Blazers (7-0) vs. Salvatori’s No Shnacks (3-4)
(Sun. July 5, 4:30pm)
It’s hard to stay undefeated. The Blazers felt that heat under the collar in Week 7, as they trailed a less talented LA LOOP squad in the 4th quarter before literally stealing a win. The Blazers haven’t been as strong defensively in recent weeks, and Salvatori’s No Shnacks will challenge them. No Shnacks C DeShawn Stephens is coming off a 33-point performance against BB4L, and his all-around efficiency could give Blazers some major problems.
C.A.B.C. (2-5) vs. Jaguars (2-5)
(Sun. July 5, 6pm)
C.A.B.C. didn’t lose a game last year with C Mamadou Ndiaye. This isn’t last year. Ndiaye came back to the Drew for C.A.B.C.’s back-to-back, and they were smacked twice. In another example that this isn’t last year, the Jaguars have lost five straight games, affirming their place as one of the two or three worst second half teams in the league in that time. While Ndiaye would appreciate better play from the guards (Terrence Phillips is missed), Coach Lovely would just appreciate a complete effort from his team.
#Juglife (2-5) vs. Salvatori’s Nova Stars (3-4)
(Sun. July 5, 7:15pm)
#Juglife came into Week 7 without a win. By the end of the weekend they had two, and now they’re in a tie with four other teams that are half a game out of a playoff spot. They’re a full game behind Salvatori’s Nova Stars, who are playing like the Nova Falling Stars lately – and everyone’s wishes have been granted against them during their four-game losing streak. #Juglife got two strong performances from SG Jordan Burris, and they got another motivator in Vince Camper, who decided to make #Juglife his interconference ally for a change. As for the Nova Stars? They can score plenty with Deon Marcus and Jeremiah Ward. But they’re getting pushed around inside. If C JaVale McGee decides to make his debut for #Juglife now, it would be a big factor in a potential playoff push.