Previewing the NBA Conference Finals + The WNBA Season Has Begun | Crooked Media
Jon, Jon & Tommy's first ever book is here - Order Democracy or Else NOW! Jon, Jon & Tommy's first ever book is here - Order Democracy or Else NOW!
May 17, 2022
Previewing the NBA Conference Finals + The WNBA Season Has Begun

In This Episode

When Jason is away, the guest hosts will play. Jamel Johnson and C.J. Toledano take the helm of the Takeline this week, as the NBA conference finals are set to begin on Tuesday. Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated joins the show to break down the matchups and storylines surrounding Miami vs Boston in the eastern conference finals, as well as Golden State vs Dallas out west. On the women’s side of the game, the storylines are multiple. From the WNBA season kicking off at the beginning of May, to Brittney Griner being seen in public for the first time since her detainment in Russia back in February last Friday, there are plenty of headlines to talk through with Jordan Ligons, host of the Spinsters podcast as well as the Jumpman brand.


Subscribe at for exclusive video clips and to watch ALL CAPS NBA. New episodes every Friday!




C.J. Toledano: What is up everyone? Do not adjust your computers, your phones. I am indeed a different Philippino NBA personality. I’m C.J. Toledano guys, we have a great show for you today. I’m filling in for Jason Concepcion. He’s out today. But guys, I’m joined here on this episode of Take Line with a friend, a collaborator, another NBA personality. He hosts Air Buds Pod, Sorry We Love the NFL and NBA Storytime. Jamel Johnson. Jamel, how are you doing?


Jamel Johnson: First off, I’m not an NBA personality. Don’t even. Don’t try it.


C.J. Toledano: What are you? Then what would you call yourself?


Jamel Johnson: I am a man with a Twitter account. That’s it.


C.J. Toledano: Aren’t we all?


Jamel Johnson: A NBA personality. We’re. Come on, man. You ain’t never seen that.


C.J. Toledano: Is that offensive?


Jamel Johnson: I wasn’t on TNT with the Home Alone jacket on Home Alone, Jeff. That was, you know.


C.J. Toledano: That’s two inside. All right. Listen, me and Jamel, if you guys don’t know us, work for Follow Through. You’ve seen us on NBA Twitter. We’re two guys with accounts we get takes off. So that’s why it’s perfect. We’re hosting Take Line.


Jamel Johnson: We are here shooting our shot. This is our big shot for Internet radio supremacy. And we’re going we’re going to hit him. This is this is not Davis Bertans pulling up for three. We making our shots today. Dammit.


C.J. Toledano: Okay. And that’s what you we’re worried there’s some bigger names from the weekend, but we’re going to hear a lot of Bertans talk. This episode.


Jamel Johnson: 42 minutes about Davis Bertans.


C.J. Toledano: Aamazing show. We have plan for you guys. We have Chris Herring, a Sports Illustrated help preview the conference finals. We’re also going to be joined by a fellow friend, Jordan Ligons, host for the Jordan Brand, co-host of The Spinsters show, WNBA host for Buckets. But hey, guys, let’s get into Talk of the Weekend. Let’s welcome producers Ryan Walerson and Zuri Irvin to chop it up about the two very juicy games. I don’t know if juicy is the right word.


Jamel Johnson: Juice less, the most driest. The most wack, that was not basketball. Those were not games. Those were fraudulent. Those were government plans Joe Biden made that all happen to take our minds off the real issues. That’s how I feel.


C.J. Toledano: I think we got to start on the Mavs Suns Game seven. What an atrocity. I’m just going to say the score in the score. Does it tell the story in a wild way? The Mavs defeated the Suns 123 to 90 to win the series. Zuri or Ryan, one of you guys start us off. What the hell happened?


Zuri Irvin: They laid an egg. I don’t. I don’t. It’s I don’t know if Chris Paul can be that washed that quickly, Stephen A  keep saying that as soon as he turned 37, then he fell off the cliff. I don’t know what kind of birthday he had. I don’t know how late he’s stayed out that night. But you know, I guess he takes a lot of onus. And then the other thing is Devin Booker, far too young, far too healthy to play like that in Game seven. I think that’s the most disappointing thing.


Ryan Wallerson: But that’s that’s what makes it not about age for me. Like Chris Paul’s had a great season. Chris Paul has been not dominating, but he’s been impactful in these playoffs both positively and negatively. He carried them out of that first round. He was the one that kind of stopped the bleeding and said, You know what, we’re not losing to New Orleans. The series is getting a little bit too interesting for the talking heads. This is over now. Instituting curfews came out like shooting like gangbusters in the deciding game. And you thought, but Chris Paul just wants to march right back to the finals. And we all were willing to accept that narrative because around the league, people want Chris Paul to retire with a ring, at least the fans, if not the players. I remember when we had Aaron on the show, Out 2-0. He said, and I quote, “This will be done soon guys.” And I told him, Be wary of this 2-0 lead because we’ve been here before and I didn’t think it was going to come to fruition when I said it. I just, you know, I reminded him not to tempt the basketball gods and wow, like this is absolutely devastating. Like, I can’t imagine how the Suns wake up, like, what mood they wake up in when they open their eyes this morning and realize that they really just did that again. Chris Paul especially.


Jamel Johnson: A bad day is a bad day. Chris Paul started it. He started eating ribs again. He had ribs. Yeah, you saw him.


C.J. Toledano: This weekend?


Ryan Wallerson: I just hope he didn’t start it on Instagram. I just hope he didn’t start it on Instagram.


Zuri Irvin: Well, Ryan, you’re. You mentioned that like a lot of people want Chris Paul to retire with a ring. I’m curious, C.J. and Jamel, are you guys some of those people who were like, he deserves this.


C.J. Toledano: I do not care. I do not care.


Jamel Johnson: Yo, I’m so over narratives. I just want to watch a basketball game happen. I’m tired of you. And it’s mainly because I lost, like, hundreds of dollars gambling on narratives. Oh, I want Chris Paul to be happy. He’ll have 14 points today.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah.


Jamel Johnson: Wrong.


C.J. Toledano: And I think that there is a difference between. I don’t even know if these are official. Labels I’m trying to put them on but like Chris Paul is no question a great but then there’s the greatest of all times in to be the goats you have to win you have to close out stuff. You have to win championships. And we’re seeing it shake out. Like I had said last week, I think we’re in the Hallinger interview. I was like, I feel like Chris Paul peaks too much and at the wrong times, like no question, he went 14 for 14 in that Pelicans game. I wasn’t I wasn’t like officially stating Chris, this is Chris Paul’s year or he’s going to win a championship like that happened. Great. But you got to do that in the right situations. Game seven in the second round should be easy for him in and he not only didn’t close it out. He didn’t show up, period. The Suns did not show up. And he’s the leader of that team. He’s got to take a major part of the responsibility of that embarrassment.


Jamel Johnson: It’s time for an investigation. Somebody needs to be looked into. I don’t know who. I just. Why does it feel like Patrick Beverley won the second round? We just watched him. We just watched him on TV this morning in a dress shirt, and it feels like he had a better playoff than Chris Paul, which is not true. I don’t know. It’s a nice shirt and I know he’s got really good plates in his house.


C.J. Toledano: So Patrick Beverley He did say on it because I was catching parts of this morning. The major headline was he went on there, he flew to New York from Minnesota or wherever the hell he is right now to tell the world that no one in the NBA fears Chris Paul.


Jamel Johnson: I mean, that’s fair.


C.J. Toledano: Is that? Is that real?


Jamel Johnson: When Jose Alverado picked his pockets, when, yo, we should have known when Jose Alvarado was in his shorts that it things were done.


Zuri Irvin: I almost wish New Orleans won that. Won that series. I want to pick up something C.J. said. It seems like the Suns are kind of front runners in that sense. And I keep thinking about that press conference. I think it was after game one or game two with Booker and CP3 kind of laughing about Luka’s defense. And then, you know, skip to a week later and this is how it ends. I wonder if this is a chance to talk about Luka, though, or if they like. Maybe are they? Are the Suns like oddly immature for a super mature team. Or like, maybe don’t. Maybe don’t put those bites out there. Maybe don’t I mean ruffle feathers.


Jamel Johnson: Like I mean. That’s definitely how it should go.


Ryan Wallerson: Well, you know, the the same way that they say that this Celtics series was won against the Bucs went up but in that moment with Al Horford and Giannis when when Horford just like put the face on when his sister tweeted about like yeah I know that face they say that this series was one when I guess it was like in warmups or on a timeout when Luka who was going about to go take a shot and Booker blocked him and like took the ball and Luka just like walks away, looks back at him and like mutters to himself. And we can talk about everything that Pheonix didn’t do, but last night was also a whole lot of what Luka did. Yeah. Everything that we wanted from. Yeah, right. Like we got to talk about the victors here and I guess it’s, you know, I think personally it’s borderline sad to watch the Suns crash and burn like this. But you know what? It is what it is. And the team that did it to them has to get their time with the flowers.


Jamel Johnson: I don’t want to get any. I’m not giving Spencer Dinwiddie credit for anything. You guys can talk


Ryan Wallerson: You kind of have to.


Jamel Johnson: No, you can do that. I’m not doing it.


Ryan Wallerson: Look, man. How many? You know, how many Knicks are on that team? I feel the pain.


C.J. Toledano: Well, let’s recap that then, because yeah, we do get to celebrate the Mavs a little bit because they did this to the Suns, the Suns did it to themselves. And the Mavs also on top of that did that to the Suns. So Luka had 35. He didn’t play the fourth quarter really. I don’t even think at all he had 27 at the half, which was the same amount that the Suns had. And it, like you said, Dinwiddie had 30. Jamel, as a Wizards fan, I know we’ve been talking about this before, even the playoffs. You don’t like seeing Dinwiddie thrive, but why is he on this team?


Jamel Johnson: Because he’s finally accepted his role as a backup guard. He’s accepted his role and is in his thriving. Okay. He didn’t want to accept that with us. He thought he was better than Brad. And that’s how he acted in the media and that’s why he left.


C.J. Toledano: Do you think there’s any validity to people were making jokes about him playing because crypto’s down. So he got to…


Jamel Johnson: 100%. Yeah his life is ruined. Him and the guy from The Bachelor have a pile of sawdust sitting in a in a closet right now. And he’s got to get back. He’s playing for his freedom. And hats off, brother. I’m glad. And I think we have to give Lil Wayne some credit for calling Luka a hoe I think Lil Wayne is also partially responsible for Luka’s dominance.


Zuri Irvin: I think Spencer is probably a starter on 15 teams in the NBA. 16 teams. Yeah. Also, it’s such a crooked box score in this game seven win, Spencer had 30, Luka had 35, Jaylen had 24 and no one else had more than six. And it just felt like a really crisp game from the from the mess. Maybe they can just win in a bunch of different ways, but it seems like a losing box score.


Ryan Wallerson: This was also about how bad the Suns played, though. Yeah. Yeah. Like, so this isn’t I don’t think that that’s a winning box score against a team that plays winning basketball. But the Suns played everything but winning basketball.


Jamel Johnson: And I hope the Mavs keep it up because this is shaping up to be a classic Warriors Finals march against a bunch of depleted teams that don’t make no sense.


Ryan Wallerson: Come on.


Jamel Johnson: Be in here. Yeah, that’s what we’re looking at.


Ryan Wallerson: Drake has a has a fortune teller that told him that it was going to be a seven game series against the Dallas Mavericks to go to the NBA Finals, because now that bet he made makes a whole lot more sense. Yeah.


Jamel Johnson: And low key, I also I would like to give myself some credit for picking the Mavs to make the West Finals in the fall. Go ahead. Throw on there, buzz.


C.J. Toledano: On what.


Ryan Wallerson: You said last night.


Jamel Johnson: Because I didn’t know it was going to be at the hands of two of my wizards. I did not warranted that.


C.J. Toledano: What warranted that though? What warranted that, Jamel?


Jamel Johnson: Honestly, you know, I picked the Mavs because I thought that the Lakers would I thought it was going to set up for the Lakers to walk into the finals. So I’m like, okay, who’s a good matchup for the Lakers to just run over? Oh, the Mavs.


Ryan Wallerson: Oh, you were perfectly right in that role that they’re going to play that.


C.J. Toledano: Well, I feel like in the first round everyone was talking about, oh, this Mavs team is surprising. And like in the off season, they’ll get this piece in that piece. But now we’re talking about potential of them, you know, playing against the Warriors, making the finals here now. So do the Mavs. Have they figured it out accidentally? I don’t even think this was part of their plan. Are they missing a piece or are they going to Warriors the Warriors? And in the finals here, just shooting threes on them.


Jamel Johnson: Is Jason Kidd a good coach?


C.J. Toledano: That’s what I’m saying, is Jason Kidd a good coach?


Jamel Johnson: Let’s I don’t know.


Ryan Wallerson: He coached the hell out of that game seven he was floor generalling the hell out of that on the sidelines screaming at those boys. I thought it was very active. It seems like he put his fingerprints on that victory.


Jamel Johnson: Because we all thought it was unnecessary. Like when the Bucs let him go and then they won a title, we’re like, okay, this was everything that happened before this was Jason Kidd.


C.J. Toledano: No, he was a joke. He was kind of a joke at the league.


Zuri Irvin: Yeah. Yeah. So he’s got to overcoming that, you know, that stereotype. But putting Chris Paul in  a straight jacket is a smart decision. I don’t know if it’s a genius decision, but it was obviously the right one. So yeah, give him a little credit.


C.J. Toledano: I think my other part of the question is, do the Suns because like, you know, when an embarrassing thing happens in the NBA, you kind of like, how is this team going to address it? Well, we had to wait months for this team to address it. Like, are they going to make some major changes or are they going to run it back with this team?


Ryan Wallerson: That’s the thing. I mean, talent wise, I still don’t understand how they lost that series. I mean, it required awful shooting from their backcourt, their All-Star backcourt, to lose this series in seven games. It required plethora of turnovers in Game three and then fouls in game four from Chris Paul. Like he hit that 2-0 lead and all of a sudden his bike handle started wobbling and going down that hill. Yeah. And he’s just been crashing his way through the rest of the series. They need a sports psychiatrist more than they need to make any significant roster changes. I mean, this team is currently assembled. Is championship caliber on paper.


Jamel Johnson: Yeah, it’s true. But I mean, Jae Crowder is fraud. Like Jae Crowder belongs in the Big Three tonight. You know, get them off my TV. I will say this. I’m happy. Maybe this means I can finally buy a Valley jersey. Everybody was acting like this. Suns jersey was like. Like Ambrosia or something. Like, it was the most coveted. Like, it was the damn ark of the Covenant or something.


C.J. Toledano: Dude, Jamel, I don’t know if you knew this. I was talking to some people in, like the vintage community, but apparently a bunch of thrift shops in Pheonix were putting premiums on the gear and like were just upsetting people. So this is a little taste of their own medicine. I do like a little bit of the like the revenge that’s going on here, but it’s it is sad. The one thing I wanted to ask you guys about was also Ayton didn’t like he got bench and then they ask Bonnie why and he says it’s internal. What does that mean?


Zuri Irvin: Well peaple are saying that he talked back on the bench.


Ryan Wallerson: Means it’s all in his head.


Zuri Irvin: He maybe just can’t play him. He just doesn’t trust his instincts.


Ryan Wallerson: The mentality was wrong. This is all head games with them, I feel like.


C.J. Toledano: I just felt like this was, you know, they’re a regular season great team. I don’t know how head games, but I don’t know how you get your own head in the playoffs against the Mavs.


Jamel Johnson: We’ve never played in the playoffs though. C.J. when was last time was in the playoffs?


Ryan Wallerson: We were a bunch of talking heads, man.


Jamel Johnson: You were in there.We’re in the ZOG Sports Hollywood playoffs in 2019. I saw you. Okay. You had an okay game.


C.J. Toledano: Right. Let’s not forget, we also had another game seven, Celtics-Bucs. It was all Celtics. It was pretty much all Celtics. It was Celtics versus Giannis. Grant, the Grant Williams game, I guess, is what we should call this. God damn. I was not talking about Grant Williams until these playoffs, which seems to happen a lot. What did you guys think of game seven Celtics-Bucs Celtics winning this and moving on to the conference finals Jamel.


Jamel Johnson: Roll players play good at home and Boston is the hardest place to play in basketball, period.


C.J. Toledano: The cutaways to the fans made it seem like that for sure.


Zuri Irvin: Yeah.


Jamel Johnson: They had the heat, turned up the floor. They probably put a waterbed underneath the court.


Ryan Wallerson: Look, I can’t knock it. And not only was the atmosphere tremendous, but, you know, we’re talking about the ascension of a player into like legitimately into the top five conversation with the performance that Jason Tatum is putting on in this postseason. You know, first he did it to KD and he did it to the Nets. And we talked about like how we felt about that and how we felt about Brooklyn. But I think all of us came into this series looking at the Bucs as a team that at least had a floor of the Eastern Conference finals, even with the Middleton injury, simply because of how much of a monster Giannis is. And I mean, I think in the series he became the only player ever to have 200 points, 100 rebounds and 50 assists in a series and caught the L. Like this is the opposite of the Booker, CP3 situation like Giannis can hold his head high on this he maybe he just needs he got unlucky with the Middleton injury and needs a little bit more help on the flank now Boston’s supporting cast as Jamel said, you know, they played out. They showed that especially in game six and seven. But damn, this was the series.


Jamel Johnson: I mean.


C.J. Toledano: This was great series.


Ryan Wallerson: Both teams for me.


Jamel Johnson: I think Khris Middleton proved his worth not being there, you know, in my head like a so pro Middleton on this show, on every basketball show. But then when they walked over to the Bulls, I was like, Well, does he matter? But it shows.


Zuri Irvin: Well, when Drew’s shooting poorly, they definitely need another punch on the team. I want we just got Grant Williams a little more, I think like, yeah, it’s a lesson in perseverance. It’s a lesson in, like, being publicly shamed and, like, just kind of pushing through it. But my thing, too, is like, do we like the style of basketball? We have to shoot 55 threes to dominate a playoff game. Is that like, do you guys just enjoy that?


Jamel Johnson: That’s I mean, it just is what it is because I mean just because I can’t dunk.


Ryan Wallerson: It’s the modern NBA.


Jamel Johnson: Because I can’t dunk. It’s like, okay, it’s nice. I guess I could shoot a three potentially. So it’s like it makes more sense when I look at it, but it makes the results so much more volatile. You know, I’m saying like, yeah, if you’re not hitting your threes, you lose. That’s the bottom line.


Ryan Wallerson: And if you are hitting your threes, playing a team that’s not hitting their threes, these margins of victory can get real exaggerated.


C.J. Toledano: Well, it’s also an answer to, I think, you know, Giannis just bullying down the lane and getting literally anything he wanted. All right, cool. He can do that. But, you know, it’s worth more than that? Are threes and they hit those. Yeah. And they won.


Zuri Irvin: And they started calling hooks on Giannis too. They started to officiate a little more tightly and rightfully so.


C.J. Toledano: Ooh.They look frustrated in that second half because, yeah, everything that everyone was complaining about with Giannis was happening.


Jamel Johnson: I think it’s time to make three pointers with two and a half.


Zuri Irvin: Yes.Thank you. Scale it back.


C.J. Toledano: Do you think that Jrue got kind of exposed a little bit in that series?


Ryan Wallerson: Well, I mean, I think he was called up to be the second option and they lost. So it’s a fair question to ask. But they lost in seven and game seven being as lopsided as it was. I suppose so simply because they weren’t able to put up like a better fight in the deciding game. But over the course of the seven game, it was inconsistent. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I don’t think that he got like exposed as like being wholly unfit for the role.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah.


Ryan Wallerson: You just wish you could have done it more.


Jamel Johnson: The truth is, Boston has just been the best team in the league since the All-Star break, and it just showed up and they played good defense. And yeah, I hate them. And yeah, I’m tired of listening to Jason Tatum talk about how young he is in interviews. But so what they’re they’re just really good and there’s nothing I can do about that.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah, I remember we were like, Oh, man, I can’t believe the Celtics got that two seed. Why did they do that to themselves? And they’ve really proved to be the two seed. People stepped up.


Jamel Johnson: Like, what do you mean you don’t want the two seed? Yeah, why wouldn’t I want to be the two seed? Home games.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah. And like you said that it is a pressure cooker in that what is it call now the TD Garden like truly do not want to play in.


Ryan Wallerson: The TD Garden.


Jamel Johnson:  The Hellscape.


Ryan Wallerson: I’ll. I’ll tell you this though, as a Knicks fan who hasn’t won against the Miami Heat in like four years, three or four years now, I’ve actually been to a couple of the games down in American Airlines, and that’s a pretty tough place to play, too. Yeah. So I think this is going to be a really good series too.


Zuri Irvin: Have you guys noticed how late he transferred off to games? I feel like it’s been this way for 15 years.


Jamel Johnson: Cause, man. That’s right. It’s right after happy hour, right?


Ryan Wallerson: That’s honestly what it is like. You’re finishing your last drink, you’re like, you’re not going to leave that $20 margarita like half done right?


Jamel Johnson: I’m at Wet Willie’s.


Zuri Irvin: For this playoff game that I paid $10,000 to go see courtside. I’m going to show up 8 minutes into the first quarter.


Ryan Wallerson: For the people dropping ten grand, it’s really like $10. So they’re like, you know, we’ll catch like three fourths of it. It’ll be fine.


C.J. Toledano: It’ll be is it true? Are there nightclubs in the Heat’s arena? Are there like clubs you can hang out during halftime?


Jamel Johnson: Multiple clubs?


C.J. Toledano: I’ve heard that because if you leave the stands after halftime and people, it’s just empty.


Zuri Irvin: Yeah.


Ryan Wallerson: That’s true. Actually, I don’t know where they go. That would explain it, but that I can, I can definitely confirm that they do vacate like almost wholly at halftime and then come back.


Jamel Johnson: If you go to concessions in the 217 section. Uncle Luke is serving up chicken tenders and that’s where everybody.


Zuri Irvin: This is not worth leaving. Yeah. Any predictions of maybe for Heat-Celtics?


Jamel Johnson: God. I mean, it’s either it’s either Boston in six or the Heat in seven. I mean, I think it’s going to be some tough games. That’s all I can really see is going to be blowouts. Just because these are two teams that are very defensive minded.


Ryan Wallerson: These are going to be low scoring. This could be like nineties style basketball game.


C.J. Toledano: That’s true.


Ryan Wallerson: These these could be games that don’t break 100, like with regularity. And I’m really excited for that. We’ve seen Jason go up against offensive minded cats with KD and Giannis. Now he’s going to be locking up with Jimmy, whose main purpose out there is to bring hell to whoever his assignment. Oh, I’ll get some points along the way, but like, I feel like Jimmy’s main purpose out there, almost just like Draymond, Black Air Force energy, just like he’s out there to do as much damage to his assignment as possible, especially in the playoffs. What was the line he had at the end of the 76 series? Tobias Harris over me.


C.J. Toledano: Oh, yeah.


Jamel Johnson: Oh, yeah.


C.J. Toledano: He does not does not drop grudges, man. He holds that shit. And I just got it. As you were saying that I got excited for Jimmy in the garden. Like he’s the type of guy he wants to be that villain. He wants to prove people wrong. Him healthy is scary.


Jamel Johnson: Enemies.


C.J. Toledano: Plus, having that team around him.


Jamel Johnson: And he’s best friends with Mark Wahlberg we’ve got the Wahlberg affair.


C.J. Toledano: To go for 40 and say that was for you Father Stew. To oh man that’s going to be great. Yeah yeah. I think I think it’s Miami in six. I think it’s Miami in six guys. Yeah. Yeah.


Zuri Irvin: I’m with you guys. I think Miami just shooting a little too. I think  Strus is like, wildly inconsistent. I feel like he was really cold for half the playoffs. And if they play Duncan-Robinson, maybe they’ll shoot with Boston. But. They may not have to.


Ryan Wallerson: I think they will. I think they will need Robinson in this series. I think they’ll need his shooting to keep up with the Celtics offense. But it’s just amazing that they’ve gotten this far while sitting such a major piece and contracts for that value of their team and continuing to thrive. Like we had a lot of questions and even on this show we asked a lot of questions about Miami’s depth and they’ve answered it. It’s really been incredible to watch them run, and I think even more impressive than the talent on Miami is the mindset. They are a bunch of dogs. Yes. And Tyler Herro. *banter*


Jamel Johnson: He goes dog at home. When he’s in Miami. He is like, yeah, what’s up? It’s like very like when a guy picks, it’s like starting a fight and his friends are holding him back. Yeah. That’s Tyler Herro at home. And he’s talking the most shit is the most aggressive. But then in Boston, I expect him to disappear.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah, I think. Well, I was going to say, with the time off in between series, I feel like P.J. Tucker has taken Tyler into, like the dog dojo and just imparting what it is like there are is going to be a part of it where like Tyler Herro is going to go out there and try to be the dog and like the the Heat bench is going to be laughing like, oh, that’s cute. He’s going to go in and Jimmy, Jimmy and and Bam are going to go in and do work and it’s not going to matter. But yeah, that’s the thing is like you were talking about Duncan Robinson not even being a factor in that last series. I’d be like, you bring him in to hit shots against this team. Their defense is fine, you know, against the Celtics, I think. I think it’s almost like with a Payton Pritchard on the floor, put Duncan on. I think Duncan’s is canceling that out and overcompensating. So I’m excited to see what they do.


Jamel Johnson: As long as they don’t play Kyle Lowry a ton. I think they got it.


Zuri Irvin: Yeah. I think the less they play him, the the better chance Miami actually has for sure. And then the Pheonix -Golden State. Any any predictions on that one?


Jamel Johnson: Man,You know what?


Ryan Wallerson: You see what you just did.




Jamel Johnson: I guess I’m saying warriors in seven. I think the Mavs have a shot, but. The Warriors are there. They got to be there salivating. What a match up.


Ryan Wallerson: Warriors in five. I think this is an absolute jackpot for the Warriors. And being the championship contending mindset team that they are, they’re not going to drop the ball on it. They’re not going to make it an interesting series. I think you let Luka go ham, and you bottleneck everyone else, and that’s how you eliminate the Mavericks.


Jamel Johnson: I hope it happens just so they get ran over.


Zuri Irvin: Exactly.


Jamel Johnson: I hope Boston … just dumptrucks them in the finals.


Ryan Wallerson: Yeah. I can’t have Boston teams winning the finals. That’s why we’re going from Miami.


Jamel Johnson: I understand.


Zuri Irvin: And I with Jamel. I think I want them to have a gimme, too, to have them slip up in the finals. And then I think every game is close, but probably Golden State in five or six.


Ryan Wallerson: Why are you guys so sure that they’ll slip up in the finals, though?


Zuri Irvin: Because look at who’ve they’ve been playing.


Jamel Johnson: Yeah, because Boston is actually the best team. That’s just so I’m just based on it off that I feel.


C.J. Toledano: I’m with you guys. But the question I keep wondering who who does guard Luka like this is a question of like can Luka score 50 every night and win these games because who is.


Jamel Johnson: Draymond baby? They’re going to play Draymond. They’re going to say.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah, he’ll get in foul trouble because of them.


Ryan Wallerson: One Draymond andtwo, I honestly think that Luka can go straight  LeBron in those finals against the Warriors. No, I think that he can have like other worldly games and lose.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah. Yeah. Okay.


Ryan Wallerson: I think he can go the way of Giannis in the series.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah.


Ryan Wallerson: It’s going to, it’s going to take the role players and the supporting cast on balance, you know, continuing to show out. I just don’t think that they’re going to be able to keep up with the Warriors shooting. But the Warriors do have to shoot because they put together some clunkers so far. But hopefully it’s out their system. We’ll see.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah. I mean, Klay Thompson was not Klay Tom. Like who? And you know what I’m going to say here that Klay figures it out in this series and that that honestly makes me feel like they won’t get trucked in the finals and they have a genuine to be genuine contenders for that title. So because guys, this is very close to the best Warriors team when they’re healthy and humming. So yeah.


Ryan Wallerson: I’m just sitting here like, who’s eliminating Golden State?


Jamel Johnson: Hey, Luka, Luka, if you’re listening, wear a cup.


C.J. Toledano: [AD]


C.J. Toledano: All right. So the conference finals, the NBA playoffs are upon us. We’ve got the Eastern Conference finals. They begin tonight, Tuesday evening in Miami in the Western Finals, kick off in San Francisco tomorrow night. So in the East, we got Boston Celtics participants in exactly half the East Finals in NBA history. And then we got Miami Heat for the conference’s top seed this season and the victor of this exact matchup in the 2020 bubble playoffs in the West, we got the Mavericks surprising victories over the top seeded Pheonix Suns. Feel like they want us to start talking about that game seven. And they’re led by Luka Doncic and they’re going against the Golden State Warriors who have yet, I think in our opinion, to play their best basketball yet in these playoffs. But any point, these Mavs could be the dangerous team that topples them. So here to help us dig into these series and give us a preview, we’ve got Chris Herring, NBA writer at Sports Illustrated and author of the New York Times bestseller Blood in the Garden. Chris man, welcome to Take Line. How are you doing?


Chris Herring: I’m doing okay. I really appreciate you guys having me. How are you all?


Jamel Johnson: Man? I’m doing I’m doing so dang good. Also, C.J., great job. A kudos.


C.J. Toledano: Mouthful. I mean, but we got we got two really good matchups. Chris, which of these matchups are you most looking forward to you like? What do you think is going be the more compelling series out of the two?


Chris Herring: I mean, to be quite honest with you, I think it’s the Dallas- Golden State series. I normally tend to lean toward the East just because I think I don’t know, maybe it’s like just a subconscious bias, just being kind of an Eastern Conference part of the country. But a lot of times, you know, the East would play tougher defense, harder defense than what you saw in the West. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true now, but you know, that Celtics- Bucs series was kind of more my speed as far as an element of physicality, plenty of talent, plenty of skill. You generally see a little bit more of that in the East than you do in the West. So but all that said, I think that Dallas, as you mentioned, kind of been just teeing all this up. It was a little bit surprising that they won the Pheonix series to begin with. Maybe not after you got past Game four and you saw that, you know, depending on where the game was played, that they could hold their own. And obviously, even once, it didn’t matter where the game was being played with the Game seven outcome. Dallas is not the team that so many people have kind of thought of them as being where they don’t have a McHale Bridges necessarily. They don’t have necessarily a Draymond Green in the Post as far as defense is concerned, but they have enough and I think they’re more than the sum of their parts defensively, obviously to throw a wrench in what Pheonix was doing, the historic level of offense that Pheonix was playing, kind of leading up basically to the series. You take that into account, you take into account like look at the numbers and look at the the film. On what they did with Golden State this year. Steph Curry, his worst three point percentage of the season against any team was against Dallas and Dallas outscored Golden State from three in three of the four games they played. They also won three of the four games they played against Golden State this year. So their defense kind of was responsible for a lot of what made them so good this year. It’s very easy to look at Luka, obviously, but I do think that there’s something to be said for their defense and something that makes stuff a little bit more difficult for Golden State. Not to mention that their offense is going to put Golden State in plenty of rotations the same way they did with Chris Paul. Maybe in a way that will wear out Jordan Poole, wear out Klay Thompson, will wear out Steph Curry. So I’m really looking forward to watching that as part of why I picked them to win the series over Golden State, I’m very intrigued to kind of see what happens.


Jamel Johnson: I mean, I could feel that I mean, it all comes down to making threes. I think every team it’s you make threes or you don’t. But when I think about Dallas, they need threes the most and they got capable dudes. You know Reggie Bullock? He can get hot as anybody in the world and he’s like, what, the fourth or fifth option on that team? How do they win if the threes aren’t going down?


Chris Herring: I think you circle back to what I was talking about before their defense. They gave up the least threes in the league, less than 11 a game. They were surrendering 32% from three, which was a top three rate in the league. I mean, Steph, you know, we could call it a small sample size. I was I mentioned this in my newsletter the last time that I really remember people kind of looking at the numbers as it related to Steph with a matchup where someone was kind of, I won’t say getting the best of Steph Curry, but someone that was playing well enough to really hold their own where you’re like, Oh wow, this is well below Steph’s numbers, generally speaking. Is there something to this was Fred VanVleet back in 2019 when they were playing in the finals. His numbers stacked up very well against Steph’s as far as how he defended Steph one on one. How many points per 100 possessions that was scoring against the Raptors during the season? That was before we thought of Fred VanVleet as kind of close to elite defense. And then B.A., you know, he was kind of a borderline starter at that point, you know, kind of platooning along with Kyle Lowry playing alongside Kyle Lowry. He’s a physical, you know, kind of stout dude, kind of like one of those fire fire hydrants, sort of stocky builds that he has. And to some extent, that’s kind of not necessarily what Luca is as a defender. But I just kind of feel like it’s going to be a little bit more difficult than Steph is used to. At least that’s what we saw this season. Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock, I think hold held Steph two four for 15 when they were defending them this year during the regular season and we’ll see what happens with everybody else. I think it’s mostly a question of whether the Mavs can stay attached and not lose sight of guys. Obviously, the Warriors set so many screens and weird places and have everybody from Steph to Kevon Looney setting them. It’s a much different sort of assignment to try to guard them than it is Pheonix. But I do think that the possibility is there. And when we ask How will Dallas score enough? I actually think we need to be putting that question more toward Golden State a little bit based on what we saw during the season and the fact that Dallas successfully kind of held them down from a three point standpoint, including Steph.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah. I mean, so you had mentioned that against a team like the Grizzlies, they got off to an incredibly slow start and a bunch of those games. And we don’t think, you know, you’re saying you can’t do that against the Mavs. Do we need to see Klay return to normal or what are some other factors that you need the Warriors to show that they weren’t showing the past series for them to win this series against the Mavs?


Chris Herring: I mean I think part of it is actually that in a very different sort of looking way, but it’s the same problem is how are you going about stopping the head of the snake? And that was why we saw them struggle to put away Memphis at the beginning of the series as they couldn’t guard Ja Morant worth a damn. I mean, he Steve Kerr, as much as I like him, was really, really, really reluctant to start putting a second guy anywhere near the ball. And Ja was, you know, using that to score 40, 35 points a game and the first couple of games of the series. Okay. So Luka’s not Ja Morant. He’s not going to float around you and, you know, like speed past you necessarily and hang in the air. But he’s still Luka and he’s still capable. And, you know, basically averages what Ja was doing over the first couple of games, at least in the playoffs. So the question becomes like, who are you using to guard him? And you hear plenty about Andrew Wiggins being the one to take that assignment and I’m sure he will be at times. Luka didn’t struggle with him during the season and if anything, it was the other way around. The one game, the season where where Wiggins fouled out was against Dallas. And I mean, obviously Golden State has an ace in the hole, if you want to call it that. But I don’t think you want to use Draymond Green early in games. You may not want to use Draymond at all to defend Luka just because I mean Luka can certainly drop foul trouble. Luka’s a big physical guy and not to mention if you have to bring Draymond that far up in your coverage, you don’t have kind of your quarterback manning the backline anymore from a defensive standpoint. Gary Payton would be a really, really good player to have for a series like this. Would he lock down Luka? No, I think Luka shot like 80% against him and by five or six shots this year, so not automatic that he’d stop them. But it would be nice to have another body. It would be nice to have another guy that has enough physicality and at least hold his own at times. Andrew Wiggins does not strike me as the most capable of doing that, but neither does Jordan Poole. Klay Thompson still rounding back into form from that standpoint. Steph is not that guy. I mean, he can, you know, possession here or there. So it’s going to be difficult. And I think that’s kind of the biggest question looming here for Golden State is, okay, Ja was tearing you up. The series became a little bit easier. I know the games were tight at times and obviously Memphis won the one game by like 90 points. But obviously it’s an easier defense to defend when Ja is not out there. So how do you go about guarding Luka? Because they really don’t have a great person at, you know, point of attack sort of person with Gary Payton out. So that that’s the key thing I’m looking at here from Golden State standpoint is like who are you using on that assignment? And when Luka inevitably gets it going, which you will, because it’s Luka, what are you doing to try to slow them down?


Jamel Johnson: What’s more likely Draymond Green and Steve Kerr get into it on the sideline when Draymond asks to check Luka one on one or Draymond kicking Luka in the nuts?


Chris Herring: It’s one of those. It’s like that meme. It’s like, why not both? I could. I mean, I could see both things happening. I… Look, if it gets to a point where he’s doing that much damage, I could see Draymond putting his hand up to go play defense on him and Kerr wanting him to do that. I just think that if that comes across too early in the game or too early in the series, the other thing it has the potential to do is really wear Draymond down and I don’t know that you want to do that. I mean, he was pretty honest in saying that that kind of warmed down a little bit when he was defending Jokic. Now you didn’t have as many options, you know, in that situation you kind of had to use Draymond I don’t think you could feel comfortable putting Kevon Looney or anybody else that far out in the perimeter against him. But he, you know, he came out of the series just kind of singing Jokic’s praises and Jokic had a lot of praise for him as well because that’s a big dude and he has a lot of skill that’s not common at that position. Luka is obviously the same thing, just in a different spot and someone that handles the ball even more than Jokic does. So Draymond might be capable. I mean, I don’t love the idea of asking him to do that for 30 minutes a game and again, if he’s the one that’s going to be doing that, I can imagine at a certain point you’re not normally looking to target Draymond because he’s just too great a defender. But if you can get him in foul trouble and you can take away that anchor for them, that could see them trying to target that at a certain point if he’s already got three or four fouls a game.


Jamel Johnson: Gentlemen, I got three words for you. Otto Porter, Junior, the people’s champ.


Chris Herring: It’s been good for him. I don’t know. We’ll see. It’ll be interesting. I. I mean, I just kind of feel like Luka. Maybe I’m thinking too much about Otto’s frame. I mean, he’s. He’s a much better defender than I think he gets credit for. But, man, like, I just think a lot of the guys on that team, I think Wiggins is like that too, to some extent, or is just like the frame doesn’t seem like it would hold up, but I would like to guard somebody like Luka. But we’ll see. I mean, it’ll be really fascinating because of all this.


C.J. Toledano: I think, you know, the biggest theme obviously here is is defense. I think in both series, too, you go to, you know, Celtics-Heat and just even just taking a look at the names alone. You got Marcus Smart, you got the Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker. You know, I’m seeing a lot of talk on Twitter of these series kind of being akin to the nineties. And you wrote Blood in the Garden. You talked about, you know, the physicality of the Knicks and just these you know, I don’t want to call them violent, but you.


Chris Herring: Can call them violent.


C.J. Toledano: Are hard fought. Yeah. I mean, it was it was physical. Do you think there’s accuracy to that statement that we’re potentially looking at these series that are very reminiscent of of the nineties, both in both conferences?


Chris Herring: No, I mean, I what I’ll say. Well, we’ll see. I think that there’s some potential for that with the with the Miami- Boston matchup, just because you’ve got such great defenses playing against each other. And granted, I mean, I guess you have to top six to top seven defenses with with Dallas and Golden State as well. I don’t think there’s physical necessarily. Yeah, Boston in Milwaukee was really physical even for somebody like me that had really gone back and had to watch those games, probably more than I would have liked. And, you know, having to analyze and write about those teams, talk to those guys more than, you know, than I ever had before that did that reminded me of like as as recent of a nineties sort of portrayal, as we seen, where the refs didn’t even seem to really know exactly how to call it. Everything was being reviewed because everything looked brutal. I think it started to play into the guys flopping a little bit more towards the end of the series because everybody was falling anyway and there were plays where you’d see three and four guys on the ground and obviously we all saw the image of Giannis is bleeding from his eye. So it was really physical. I don’t know that I would put all of the series so far in all the situations we’ve seen on that level. But I do think just the physicality that Miami brings, that they play with that kind of their M.O. and obviously Riley’s influence and Riley’s Stamp being on that team. There is some of that. And I think Boston, just based on what we just saw at this last series with Milwaukee, there is some of that.


Jamel Johnson: Is Boston going to get any second chance points in this series? Like I in my head, Miami is the best rebounding team left in playoffs. Am I just making that up or is that facts?


Chris Herring: I mean, it’ll be difficult for them. I mean, for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is obviously that, you know, that Boston is going to play with lineups that are that can space the floor just to kind of create more space and more driving room for Brown and Tatum. One thing that will be interesting and gives them the potential for a little bit more from that standpoint is okay, Robert Williams, we assume, is back. I think bone bruises are a little bit more more serious than most people realize or that they can be or more painful. But Ime Udoka and I think this was a really interesting kind of thing to say out loud was saying that Robert Williams could have played in Game seven. They said he was available, but Robert Williams basically made a joke and said, I held him out just because I kind of felt like that was what we should do. Meaning that, you know, if you read between the lines of it, plus minus wise, they were a lot better with Robert Williams off the court in that series. He could have a role in a series like this, particularly if you feel like you’re getting beat on the glass, particularly if you’re feeling like you’re not going to get second chances, but you want to. He’s a really good person to plug in a situation like that. He’s also healthier than he was in the last series. So yeah, I mean, I don’t think that anyone’s expecting Boston to come away with a whole lot of second chance points in the series. But I do think that Robert Williams gives them the potential for more, and I think that he could have a much bigger role in the series because of that.


C.J. Toledano: Let’s talk about Jayson Tatum now. I feel like several years people are like, oh, Tatum has arrived. He’s arrived for some reason still. Now it’s up for debate. Like this is his ascension. He is now top five. Like we’re even saying, he’s top five now. How do you feel about that label and how do you feel just in general about sort of his post-season this year? And do you think he’s he’s a star player? Because I feel like in a lot of games where he doesn’t step up, we see a Jaylen Brown and there’s been even conversation of this is Jaylen Brown’s team. Do you feel like this is officially Tatum’s team and it is up to him to sort of close out these series and and take him to the finals?


Chris Herring: Yeah. I mean, I think we’re I think we’re past that conversation now as far as two things. One, whose team it is, I think Tatum is, you know, kind of the superstar of the team. And if there is one, it’s him. I think it’d be hard to, you know, to make the argument that Jaylen Brown is a guy, particularly now that we’ve seen Tatum really have an influence on Kevin Durant’s ability to score. And, you know, not that he was doing it by himself, but there were several possessions each game where he was taking on that role by himself and doing a good job with it. And so once you get past that, you look at the steps that Tatum has made as a passer, certainly as a one on one defender. And I think that we all could acknowledge that he’s got a little bit more to his game from a one on one standpoint and just the willingness to kind of pull, pull up and take a shot with someone right in his face. In certain moments, it’s it’s gotten pretty difficult to kind of say where Jaylen Brown would have the the room to say that he’s that guy you know maybe if you want you can say 1a,1b, but I don’t even know that it’s that close anymore. So that’s fine. But I think we’ve moved past that. And I think this, you know, this stretch of season for them in this postseason run, for them to knock off the defending champs, we’ve obviously also moved past the idea of like, do you need to split them up? Which was the conversation that was happening midway through the season? Well, it’s kind of hard to believe that it was. But I mean, this is a team that not only those guys being really influential, really important, but the rotation that they have, which was deep enough to take out a team like Milwaukee granted, shorthanded and granted Giannis playing his butt off. But I mean, that’s what this sort of team is supposed to do with Grant Williams and Al Horford and Payton Pritchard doing what he did and really, you know, a really key piece of the last two games in that series, Derrick White, someone that they traded for. So this is a team that I think just kind of gels and fits perfectly. Marcus Smart, obviously a big part of it, too, and the ability to do it without Robert Williams or realizing that Robert Williams maybe wasn’t a great fit for that, but having somebody else that you can go to, to space the floor, get seven threes out of a grant Williams in a game seven or 30 points out of Al Horford in a game, what was it, four or game five. So you know, I think we’re past the conversation of whose team it is. I think Tatum is that guy, but I don’t think that if you’re going to be making runs to the title or the conference finals every year, which that could be their future now then hopefully you would hope guys aren’t that worried about the titles and the titles of whose team it is. Even as we’re hearing about Kyrie Irving saying that he regrets kind of not speaking to LeBron in the way all that stuff broke down in Cleveland, it doesn’t make sense to get into that if titles, championships are on the table, potentially, you just want to go out and figure that out.


C.J. Toledano: I just want to remind all of us of I feel like there was a time this season where packages, including Jaylen Brown, were being discussed for Ben Simmons.


Chris Herring: Sure, There were.


C.J. Toledano: And I just I’m disgusted at this point of remembering talk of these two being split up to an incredible duo at their age, like you said, could be the future of this league for the for the league, the conference for the next five, ten years.


Jamel Johnson: I mean, tested, bro. They’ve been together for like five years.


C.J. Toledano: Yeah, it takes a minute, guys. It takes like, that’s what we all need to remember.


Jamel Johnson: And Tatum’s got the Ruffles deal.


Chris Herring: The stuff puts pressure on you. Yes, stuff puts pressure on you when you. When you’re talking about. Contracts of that size. Patients, I am already seeing that and I think it’s just a part of us being relatively young and very much online all the time. Somebody you know, there was the drumbeat last week after Philly got eliminated the way they did and people saying, you know, is Doc coming back? You know, it’s weird because you feel like fanbases are trying to play hot potato with Doc where the Lakers fans on Twitter don’t want him. The Sixers fans certainly don’t want him. And, you know, they’re waiting for the end of season press conference for Daryl Morey and Doc to figure out is he coming back? And it’s like you do realize the guy is owed 8 million a year for the next three years. And you do realize that NBA owners, for all the money they have, are very, very cheap, like they’re not going to let a championship caliber. And by that I mean someone that literally has won a championship as a coach. I know the roster he had when he did it, but he won a championship as a coach. He’s had other teams very close to that before. I don’t think you’re just ousting the dude after two years, particularly when the team was shorthanded, Embiid missed two games of the series. Harden played like asked like we’re not multiple things can be true at once. Maybe someone did do the best job coaching, but unless you can pin something solely on Doc, I don’t think it’s going to happen. And as I was saying that on Twitter, you know, Knicks fans were like, Well, what do you think about Thibodeau? I’m like, the guy that won coach of the Year last year. I don’t think that the Knicks are just going to fire the dude after one bad year. Even though it was a rough year, it was a bad year. But that’s clock on. So much of this stuff has sped up for so many fans and I don’t think they realize it. And I don’t think that they realize that sometimes things take a while to work out. Sometimes you have a year where you take a step back. I was one of the I was really I think one of the only people I really saw out there saying that I really expected the Hawks to struggle this year for exactly that reason. The growth is not always linear when you’re talking about young players and young teams that have like a really surprising run out of nowhere, so they end up being the eighth seed and getting in, you know, the last moment. But that’s just kind of how stuff works, is that we’re so used to just kind of expecting growth and expecting a certain type of growth. And if you have a breakout moment, the next game has to be that way too. And it doesn’t always work that way. And and so, you know, Boston is a very good example of how that comes to pass. And I think also look at, you know, they had really good growth at the beginning. Tatum and Brown were part of that team that almost made it to the finals with Kyrie not even in the lineup several years back. And, you know, so it doesn’t always happen in exactly the order that you think, but that would not have been a reason to break them up, as we’re now learning.


Jamel Johnson: I’m glad you guys mentioned Philly. Let’s talk for a quick second about the greatest player in Sixers history, Jimmy Butler. What is his impact on this series going to be? We know what Tatum is. He’s probably the best guy just skill wise in this series. But how can Jimmy neutralize the duo that is Brown and Tatum?


Chris Herring: We’ll see. It’s going to be a lot of work for him to do that. What I’m really curious to see as we talk about that is as he tries to do that, and that’s going to be a lot of work for him and obviously he’ll trade off those roles. I imagine PJ Tucker will be involved, you know, in terms of trying to stop guys, Bam will obviously get switched onto those guys as well. So it’ll be interesting to watch it because it won’t be just his responsibility. But what I really want to see, and I think one of my biggest questions for the series is, does Kyle Lowry return for this series? If he does, how does he look? What does he have in the tank if he doesn’t or if he’s not good? What does Oladipo bring to the table? Because Oladipo is really kind of a savior for them in some ways. Hell, you know, at the end we were watching him lock up James Harden. Not not just that, but also, you know, giving you 15, 20 points a game, which is a lot to ask for for someone that wasn’t even in the rotation at the end of the season. Vic is certainly a skilled, talented dude who’s just been banged up the last few years with all the injuries. But the reason I bring all that up is if Victor isn’t great, or if I’m sorry, if Victor isn’t great, or if Kyle Lowry really can’t go or isn’t himself. If Butler’s got the same strain on him from a scoring standpoint that he did in the last series where you’re asking him to go for 35 and 40. That’s a whole lot to ask of Jimmy when you’re also going to be asking him to help lock up two of the elite wing scores in the east and the league, really. It’s probably too much to ask of him. I think you could get away with that in the last series because Philly, as we saw with Harden, really didn’t have a wing scorer that was really going to touch Jimmy like that. Harden did not look right, was not his elite self the way we’ve seen before. So Butler could kind of focus more from a scoring standpoint. And mostly everybody else is kind of perimeter based. So, you know, and the hardest work Jimmy had to do was to try to front Embiid, which after a while they had to go away from that because it really wasn’t working. So it’s a different type of work. It wasn’t running around the perimeter trying to get around screens the way you’re going to have to do with Tatum and Brown. So I don’t know what that looks like for Jimmy. I’m hoping for his sake and for Miami’s sake that they can trade off that responsibility and enough to where it’s not just his. And I’m hoping that he doesn’t have to go for 35 in the series just because I think it would be too much to ask of him. I think he can do it. We’ve seen him try to do it before in the finals a couple of years ago, but I don’t think it bodes very well for them if he has to do that. I think Oladipo being as good as he was last year would be huge just for kind of protecting Butler’s body and kind of his his energy in the series.


Jamel Johnson: Who you got? Who you got?


C.J. Toledano: Yeah. You got to give us who you got. Got Mavs in the West, right?


Chris Herring: I’ve got both the Mavs in six and I’ve got the Celtics in six for the series.


C.J. Toledano: Wow. And then in the finals, who would you take?


C.J. Toledano: I have no idea. I have not thought that far ahead. I feel like even this morning was just trying to watch some film to put together a piece for a newsletter. I can be really honest in saying I haven’t thought about who I would have in the finals or when we get there. Is everybody even healthy? You know, for what we were just talking about, how physical stuff is in the East. I’ll, you know, I’ll take a rain check on that as far as picking that. But I, I do think it’s intriguing just to look at if Dallas can make it there, how different they are and what they look like and who’s going to stop Luka Which I think that’s kind of the question you would have for anybody in any series but Boston. Boston and Miami would be better equipped than most teams to try. So I don’t know who I’d pick, but it would be really fascinating to watch Dallas get there and then watch either of those two teams try to defend them.


Jamel Johnson: I got to ask one last one for my guys in Wizard Nation. When we get the ninth pick again tonight, will we get the ninth pick for the rest of human history, yes or no?


Chris Herring: No. I think over time something will change. Knicks fans ask me that question all the time about will they ever move up in the draft? Because I don’t think they have ever before in the draft lottery era, which a lot of people view as like, oh, well, this is a you know, that the the first lottery was rigged because, you know, they’re doing everything they can to hold the Knicks down now to make sure they never, ever, ever get a first pick again. So, no, it will not be permanent. We may not live to see it between the Wizards and the Knicks at this rate, but I do I do trust that assuming the NBA goes for a long, long time past you know, past our lifetimes, possibly the Wizards at some point will not be locked in number nine.


Jamel Johnson: That’s all I need to hear. Thank you, sir.


C.J. Toledano: Chris Thank you so much, man. Everyone go read his book, Blood in the Garden and read him on Sports Illustrated on Twitter. Chris, thank you so much for joining take line. Enjoy the series.


Chris Herring: Thanks, man. You guys, too. Thank you for having me.


Jamel Johnson: As the NBA playoffs roll on and continue to be made. A true basketball savant knows that the WNBA season also started last week, and there is no shortage of headlines surrounding the women’s game. Here to keep us locked in one of the greats, the WNBA host for Buckets, the YouTube show. She’s got her own podcast called Spinsters, which she is the co-host. She is also the host of the Jordan Brand series. Take it from L.A.. Dag on it. Ladies and gentlemen, is Jordan Ligons. Welcome to Take Line, Jordan.


Jordan Ligons: Thank you so much. Great intro. I’m so happy to be here.


Jamel Johnson: Come on, man. I practice. I was in my bathroom mirror for two hours.


C.J. Toledano: He was. He was sending me tapes.


Jamel Johnson: I did.


C.J. Toledano: You crushed that, Jamel.


Jamel Johnson: Voice memo. Thanks, bro. Appreciate you, man. How you doing?


Jordan Ligons: I’m great. I’m great. I’m so happy to talk about the W. It’s been so fun so far. I hope you would all agree.


C.J. Toledano: Oh yeah.


Jamel Johnson: Has been great. I’ve been having a blast using Mystics fan. You already know you’re real happy. I’m loving it more than McDonald’s. But, you know, some tough stuff going on. Brittney Griner. We finally saw a picture of her for the first time in like three months on Friday, had a court appearance in Russia. Look, look, it looks bleak.


Jordan Ligons: It does.


Jamel Johnson: I don’t know. Your initial thoughts. I mean, it’s been like 90 days.


Jordan Ligons: It has been 90 days. I think that’s just alarming. Seeing that picture just broke my heart. I think you just can’t help but feel for her. And we know Brittney Griner as this bubbly, like, bright person. She’s always smiling. She’s always cracking jokes on the court. So to see her with a hoodie on, head down in handcuffs. It just doesn’t sit right with my soul. Like it’s just not right. And the story and her case is, you know, evolving as we speak, I feel like. But the latest that I read was, you know, they’re thinking of a trade, a trade with a Russian prisoner here in the U.S. for her. Other experts are saying that’s not a good idea because then this could just be a trend that Russia will continue to capture Americans and be wanting to trade. So I don’t know how this is in our basketball talks like this doesn’t this is not prepped for a WNBA reporter to be prepped on foreign affairs. This is wild.


C.J. Toledano: That’s yeah, I’m trying every every little piece of this. I’m like reading about trying to understand and this trade. And to me, it’s because a lot of people are coming out and saying, like, hey, if this was LeBron James, if this was another male athlete like this, would it be a this story would have been done months ago. And to me, it almost it represents how we treat black women, how we treat, you know, women’s sports, how, you know, it’s just it’s representing a lot of issues. How how do you see this ending? What needs to change? And again, I hate it’s tough mean we want to talk basketball but I’m almost asking you how to fix the world and for what we thought was common sense. But over the last few years, it’s like people don’t have common sense anymore and this is just all fucked up.


Jordan Ligons: It really is. And I love that you said that, C.J., because. The biggest thing that is so troubling about all of this is we’re asking America to protect a black queer woman when she is overseas, when we don’t feel protected here. Like, you know, that’s that’s such a hard thing to tackle. There’s layers to it of race and and gender, but there’s also layers of okay, if she was actually getting paid what she’s worth, there’s no need for her to be in Russia in the first place. A lot of people don’t understand. She was there to get the bag like she was playing overseas because they actually pay her. So she had to be there. She wasn’t just there on vacation. She was working. So there’s layers to that. And then how I see this ending, I, I just want her to be home like she missed her wife’s graduation. Her wife is now a lawyer, which is so ironic. And she’s missing huge parts of her life because she was wrongfully detained over there. And all we can do is right now it feels very helpless. Like, I don’t know what I could be doing. I don’t know if I should be calling someone. I don’t know if there is anything that we can do. It seems like it is only the White House that can make that decision and bring her home. And that’s just a sucky feeling. Like I didn’t ever. I wish there was like a point of action here, all the things that we can do as fans to bring Britney home. But for right now. We have her initials on the basketball court. Like we have buttons, we are sending good vibes. Sometimes it just feels like that’s not enough, but our hands are tied. I don’t I don’t know what we can do. And that’s the frustrating part.


Jamel Johnson: Anything short of being L.L. Cool J in NCIS Los Angeles feels terrible. I don’t. I just don’t know neither. I mean it when it really when they when they released the first guy U.S. Marine Trevor Reed. I had no idea he was in Russia for three years. It really put things into a crazy perspective. And they’re making it seem like she could be home soon, relatively. And who knows what that even looks like? A month, couple of months. I say make the trade. Who cares if this guy is an arms dealer? So they’re saying they want to trade for this guy. What’s his name? Viktor Bout, Viktor Bout. Yeah. Whatever, man. Let him go over there. We’re not giving them any more money. Take your stupid ass home.


Jordan Ligons: Bring Britney home.


Jamel Johnson: Bring Britney back.


Jordan Ligons: Yeah.


Jamel Johnson:  End of story.


Jordan Ligons: Exactly.


C.J. Toledano: And you connecting this back to like to basketball it does affect you know, she was over there, like you said, because, you know, a WNBA player needs to take on almost several jobs. And the there was a you know, there’s there’s always a fight to get people more people to watch the WNBA. Right. And now there’s a person detained and like when you bring him over and it it gets down to like paying these players. And the WNBA itself isn’t doing their own players any favors.


Jordan Ligons: Right.


C.J. Toledano: You know, do you think this situation is going to have an effect on how the league takes care of its players?


Jordan Ligons: I would hope so. I really hope so. I think it is it is shining a not good light on the WNBA, if you ask me, because once people start digging in and people who aren’t fans of the game are asking those questions like, wait, why is she over there? Wait, she’s making how much here and how much over there? Like, once those questions are starting to get beyond WNBA circles, it’s not looking good for the WNBA. And to me, I’m worried about the the players who, you know, Russia is like, hey, I do have a shiny contract. Come play over here. And they’re like, I don’t know if I want to go play overseas anymore. Like, I’m scared that that has to be an effect of all of this as well, you know?


Jamel Johnson: You know, stop it with the commercial flights while we’re at it. I mean, it’s crazy. Got it’s like every team’s got a star with COVID right now because they’re flying commercial.


Jordan Ligons: Let’s listen to what you just said. Isn’t that crazy? Yeah. That statement.


Jamel Johnson: You know, I was thinking it’s 25 years, right? It’s been 25 years. And I was thinking about the NBA at 25 years. NBA at 25 is like what? Early seventies. No one cared, but there also were no televisions. Like half the people in TV. Half the people in America had a TV at this point in the NBA’s history. And the NBA’s biggest issue was that the ABA was more fun and they could fight and be on drugs. The WNBA is biggest issue is just like straight up disrespect and like wage gaps. Yeah, it’s like crazy. I don’t know what to make of it, but I do. I could see this affecting the international game in a way where maybe even like women who wouldn’t come to America are coming here to get out of the way is an international incident, maybe get some higher quality. Maybe we maybe this forces the league to add some more teams.


Jordan Ligons: Yeah, we got to have some spots for them. If they come, we get them. It’s it’s so many it’s so limited spots right now. And that’s all the rage of, you know, you see really high caliber players getting waived. Crystal Dangerfield sticks out because she was Rookie of the Year two years ago and she gets waived. That’s like if Ja got waived this season like that. I have to always put in perspective of that of those terms. She’s so good still and she’s not currently on a roster. So there are so many conversations. People are saying there should be a G league for the W. They need to add, you know, a couple more teams to the WNBA, kind of put out a statement kinda that they will add a few more teams in a few years just to kind of give a blanket statement. No promises. Yeah, but I think they we just add a couple roster spots and keep them as practice players, like allow them to develop on a team, throw them some money because the the option if you get waived, you’re just like in my mind, they’re just floating in the WNBA abyss until another team needs them. But there’s no other seasons are happening right now. They can’t go play anywhere else.


C.J. Toledano: Well, let’s talk about the fun of basketball. I know you have such a bubbly personality. We’re like opening up the questions. But just like, again, foreign affairs and respecting women like the WNBA, the league kicked off last week. What are some first impressions? What do you who are you excited about? Yeah, just let’s talk basketball a little bit here.


Jordan Ligons: Yeah, yeah, that’s the fun part. That’s the fun part. Well, Jamel, your Mystics  are looking good. They’re looking good.


Jamel Johnson: Come on. Where’d you have them? In the preseason. Don’t lie.


Jordan Ligons: I had question marks around if Alysa Clarke would be healthy, but now she’s back. So she’s.


Jamel Johnson: Still not.


Jordan Ligons: She’s. She’s not.


Jamel Johnson: She’s like she’s still not.


Jordan Ligons: She’s not.


Jamel Johnson: That’s a work in progress.


Jordan Ligons: But they are doing like a Kawhi load management with the Elena Delle Donne, which makes me very happy. So by the playoffs, she will she’ll be looking good. She looks good while she’s out there now. But…yeah


Jamel Johnson: That’s true. And I’m glad to see she’s not traveling. I mean, come on, man. They making them fly Spirit Airlines and like, don’t do it, you know, because every year, every year Atlanta has an MVP caliber year. But by the time they get to the finals, she is broken into several pieces. Facemask, double knee brace got the big air bags like Steph on ankles be crazy.


Jordan Ligons: Yes. Yes.


Jamel Johnson: I think Dallas looks good I. I think my league pass alert the Dallas Wings folks, they have the best player in the league. Arike Ogunbowale is the best women’s basketball player, period. Maya Moore 2.0. She goes nuts. She put us in the dirt in D.C., which is hard to do, very hard to win it. Yesterday I saw her hit, what, like four straight threes.


Jordan Ligons: She’s a dog. Like she is one of my, she’s one of my favorite players. I will shout from the rooftops watching Arike Ogunbowale, she’s so, so good. And now she has help. Like, she’s been good for this whole time. She’s been like the league’s scoring leader, but now she has some players that can help her, so they’re actually going to win. That’s like even scarier. They got it to the first round single elimination last year, now there’s no more single eliminations, which is big news for the W, so I think they’re going to make a deep run in the playoffs. If she keeps playing like this, you can’t stop her. You cannot stop her.


Jamel Johnson: It’s true. And then they got. Is it Allisha Gray?


Jordan Ligons: Allisha Gray? Mm hmm.


Jamel Johnson: She’s great. That’s a gold medalist. They got Satou Sabally coming back.


Jordan Ligons: Yes.


Jamel Johnson: And all the every team also has them. Every team has a player with COVID because they have to fly commercial. And they also have a player who stuck in Europe because the Europe finals are happening at the beginning of the season. They don’t even have their starting center yet. And Dallas looks like a top four team.


Jordan Ligons: That’s the hardest part because this is like you can’t really take these teams in the first week as they are because they are all missing players. Like you said, a lot of contracts are either partially suspended or fully suspended because they are still coming from, again, their bag in the Euroleague. They’re coming from that to do their side hustle, which is the WNBA, so that they have to make those priorities. But it’s going to be very interesting next year with the CBA, they’re going to basically fine them. If they come late to training camp or suspend them, there’s going to be some type of penalty for coming late. The W was like, hey, we want to be your priority. We’re not going to give you more money, but we want to be your priority. So we’re going to fine you if you come late. And that’s going to be so interesting. I’m very curious how that’s going to play out. Players are going to have a choice, like, do I stay for my full season overseas or do I come and start the year with with my WNBA team that’s going to be looking out for that?


Jamel Johnson: Two things. If I had to go to Turkey to do stand up comedy and get paid, I would be an accountant. I would have I would have paid attention in high school. I would have did all my worksheets on time. None of this would be taking place. Two things, I think the Europe game is about to suffer because of the war, because of the war in Ukraine. If there was no war and then W tried to enforce these penalties, the W would suffer. But I think there’s some real fear in living overseas. And plus, when you put the money on it, I think a lot of these European teams are about to suffer.


Jordan Ligons: That’s a fair point.


C.J. Toledano: One thing you guys did, that moment with Sue Bird and Taurasi, kind of trash talking, getting into it? I mean, obviously from this summer to in the tournament, the women’s college tournament, I need those two, whether it’s a manning cast or we need to see. Those are the moments that I think transcend just, you know, WNBA, women’s sports. It’s like all sports. They’re going viral on Twitter and whatnot. We need to set up more opportunities like that and aspects of entertainment that those two, because they’re like, Oh, people are like, don’t watch the WNBA because there’s no stars. There are two legitimate stars there and they need to give them the platform. So what would you like to see? Either the league itself or even like these channels like ESPN, Bleacher Reports? How do we continue to push and give those platforms to personalities like Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi?


Jordan Ligons: Yeah, there’s when people say there’s no stars, it’s every team is a super team. We just named off like all all stars, all number one picks. They’re all on one team, they’re all stars. And Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird are not only are they best friends, they make great content. My favorite thing from that broadcast was Bill Walton being like, I can’t believe you guys are not in the Hall of Fame yet. And they’re like, We’re still playing Bill. They are still currently in the WNBA. We’ve been playing forever. So I think also like Sue Bird has kind of said that she is retiring. She’s kind of doing a Tom Brady where she’s like, did I say, this is my last year? Diane Taurasi is like, I’m playing ten more years. Don’t count me out. I’m always going to play. I think if Sue Bird does retire, she, I believe, is going to be a champion for this league. She is going to be on broadcast. She is going to be everywhere. People love to hear her talk about basketball. Not only is she a point god on the court, but she’s so good with, you know, breaking down film, breaking down plays, talking about player development. She’s been in the league for 20 years. Like she knows everything. So I want to see more of that. I also want to see which is my mission with what I’m showing off those personalities throughout the league. Like we have a show, an episode coming up with Brittney Sykes on the Sparks. Maybe not a superstar that you you know, if you’re not really in tune, that she would know. But she’s hilarious and she would have been a professional bowler. Like all of these personality traits that make the NBA so popular, you latch on to and because you’re like, okay, he has a flip phone. He has he named his dog after himself. Like all of these things that we know because it’s constantly pushing in our face. I want that for the W because the women, they’re hilarious. They have personalities. They are more than just basketball players. And that’s what I think is going to bring more fans, because even if you you’re not, you know, a Sparks fan, you’re going to be like, oh, my gosh, I love bowling, too, just like Brittney Sykes. I want to watch her play. And that’s how we have to get more fans of more people invested, to me.


Jamel Johnson: You know, what it is I think is is the TV deals in is is where it is like. Then we need a inside stuff. Yes, when we grew up. The nineties, we was we we found out about how NBA players live because of inside stuff. I don’t think the W has that. I think TNT,  I think we need TNT to get involved. I think it’s time for an Inside the W. I don’t think there’s a we got the two spots. You got Sue and Diane. Yeah. So that’s like Charles in Shaq.


Jordan Ligons: Yep.


Jamel Johnson: But we still you still got to figure out the last two seats.


Jordan Ligons: I would love to volunteer as Ernie.


C.J. Toledano: I would vote. I vote for that.


Jamel Johnson: Yes, Jordan, you’d be an amazing Ernie. Can you wear a bow tie?


Jordan Ligons: I love bow ties. I used to make them in high school. That’s a very, very horrible, fun fact about me, though.


C.J. Toledano: Who would you say, Jordan, right now? Like in the way I love how you talked about because yeah I mean that’s the whole mission with follow through not to like plug but we’ve all been involved with it is that.


Jamel Johnson: Follow Through Dots Studio. Follow Through Dots Studio.


C.J. Toledano: Jamel is always the hype man, but it’s like, you know, there’s players who watch them play, but these are human beings who have incredible stories off the court. So to people who are in love with the NBA and who we need to tell that the WNBA offers these same type of stories, if not better sometimes. Who would be like the. J.R. Smith in the WNBA?


Jordan Ligons: Oh,.


Jamel Johnson: Courtney Williams. Easy. It’s done. I already have that.


Jordan Ligons: It is Courtney Williams.


C.J. Toledano: Oh. Well, tell me why. Why?


C.J. Toledano: Why Courtney Williams?


Jamel Johnson: Courtney work because Courtney Williams is a little goon.


Jordan Ligons: She is.


Jamel Johnson: She’s. She’s crazy. She’s a she’s an elite scorer.


Jordan Ligons: Yeah.


Jamel Johnson: She’s amazing. She’s country as hell. Last summer, her and her messy stripper girlfriend threw a girl’s only pool party, and there was a photo of her in lobster flip flops holding a a liter of Crown Royal Apple.


Jordan Ligons: A liter.


Jamel Johnson: A big handle.


Jordan Ligons: Definitely seeJR doing that she would also totally go back to school for a sport. It would probably be like tennis or something. You ride like that for pickleball? Yes. Yes, yes. And and she she will she also is like the the Ja Morant connection to throughout the playoffs because her dad when the Connecticut Suns were making that playoff run he I went to that game with the Sparks game he was front row, Ja’s dad was more cool though, but Courtney’s dad had her jersey on. He had a sign


Jamel Johnson: No chill , no chill whatsoever.


Jordan Ligons: He was leading chants.


Jamel Johnson: Going nuts.


Jordan Ligons: Like he was at every single game and I loved that storyline her her dad support that was that’s a little bit of the Ja, but yeah Courtney Williams is.


Jamel Johnson: Did you see what she said about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit?


Jordan Ligons: Yes. Cover. Yes, I agree with her. So the Sports Illustrated the Sports Illustrated cover had some WNBA players on it, rocking bikinis. It was great. It was wonderful. But she said, you know, that’s not what sexy means for women, for all women. And so why not have women and boardshorts and a T-shirt and something that she she would wear.


Jamel Johnson: She said. How about wear something for the studs?


C.J. Toledano: Yeah.


Jamel Johnson: That put me I want to see somebody in a beater and it was incredible.


C.J. Toledano: All right, guys. Well, watch the W. Watch Jordan Ligons, host of Jumpman Brands, Take It From L.A. ,Spinsters and guys watch Buckets. Jordan, thanks so much for joining us and joining Take Line. I want to give you one one more give us one more reason why we should check out Buckets on wave and how we can check it out.


Jordan Ligons: Yes. Well, subscribe to Buckets on YouTube. We’re going to be it’s called the Buckets five. We’re going to talk about, you know, my top five things every week. And we’re going to do some retros. We’re going to talk about the rookies. We’re going to talk about everything, about the W. It is really a fantastic league. What I always say hoop is who real hoopers? Well, watch the W because the basketball is very, very good and loud louder for the people on the back. Hoop is hoop. Now, I do agree with what you said, Jamel, with it is kind of difficult to figure out where the games are, but just push through it, get on W twitter will tell you we’re all holding hands and helping each other. But yeah, the W is great. It’s so important and make sure to watch.


Jamel Johnson: That is it for us. Follow and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcast. And don’t forget to subscribe to Takeline show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode. Plus all Cavs NBA, which airs every Friday. Check that out. I’m Jamel Johnson. It’s Air Buds pod. Thats C.J. Toledano. Follow Through Dot studio. Thank you for listening. C.J.. Say bye.


C.J. Toledano: Bye. We love you, Jason.


Jason Concepcion Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Ryan Wallerson and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Engineering, editing and sound design by the great Sarah Dubalaska and the folks at Chapter four. And our theme music is produced by Brian Vasquez. Mia Kelman is on the zoom for vibes, and the vibes are fantastic all the time.