Storylines from the First Round of the NBA Playoffs | Crooked Media
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April 26, 2022
Storylines from the First Round of the NBA Playoffs

In This Episode

Zach Harper (The Athletic) joins Jason Concepcion as a special guest host to talk through the first round match ups of the NBA Playoffs. Memphis Grizzlies sideline reporter Kelcey Wright Johnson gives Jason and Zach the court side vantage point of Memphis’ trash talk laden series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Josh Eberley ( Canada) joins the guys from north of the border to discuss the Toronto Raptors’ series against the Philadelphia 76ers, and whether the ligament damage in Joel Embiid’s hand gives Toronto space to dream of returning for the 3-0 abyss.


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Zach Harper: Ben Simmons is dressed like Doug’s friend Skeeter from the show, the cartoon Doug on the sidelines. Like I think Mike Bryan of Levittown said that like it’s it’s all bad. Like, why wouldn’t you check out?


Jason Concepcion: Welcome back. The playoffs are in full swing and we’ve got a great show for you today. Zach Harper is with us as a special guest. You know him from The Athletic NBA show, many other programs. We’re going to talk Memphis Grizzlies with Grizz sideline reporter Kelcey Wright Johnson. We’re going to talk with Josh Everly of Canada about whether the Raptors have a chance now that Joel Embiid is has a torn ligament in his thumb that he’s going to hold off on on surgery for. And we have a wonderful game of Take Survivor a wonderful and thrilling and suspenseful game of Take Survivor. But first, let’s let’s chop it up about what we’re seeing over this weekend in the NBA playoffs, starting with Heat – Hawks. We’re going to be joined by producers Ryan and Zuri. Fellas, how are you?


Ryan Wallerson: Doing well, good morning.


Jason Concepcion: Zach. How are you?


Zach Harper: Oh, I couldn’t be better.


Jason Concepcion: Let’s talk about.


Zach Harper: I could not be better.


Jason Concepcion: Me too. It’s delightful day, a delightful morning to wake up after a wonderful weekend of NBA. Let’s talk about Heat – Hawks and the beginning. The first little drops of schadenfreude, a caffeine that I’m going to inject into my into my blood. Heat romp 110- 86 commanding lead now. What did you see? Zach, start with you.


Zach Harper: Ugh I mean, the Heat have just been someone who if they want to strangle the Hawks, they can strangle the Hawks like they, there’s, it’s just all about the whole, like playing with your food phrase that has become overwrought at this point. But like, the problem with the heat is when they play with their food, it’s usually Jimmy Butler just throwing it at teammates, you know, like that’s that’s what ends up happening. And so if they want, they can destroy everything about the Hawks. There’s nothing the Hawks can do because the Heat have Trae Young completely clamped down in the series he’s shooting. Did you know, he’s not even the leading scorer in this series for the Hawks? It’s De’Andre Hunter. That’s how bad this is going for Trae Young is he’s not even the leading scorer for the Hawks in the series.


Jason Concepcion: You know, people have been saying for as long as Trae Young has been in the league, incredible offensive talent needs to learn to play off the ball. Look at the way Steph’s career like, gained another level when he was able to trust his teammates and play off the ball and become like a dangerous floor spacer lurking on the weak side. And I think. I mean, the Heat just kind of made it obvious. Like, whatever Trae’s resistance to that is, it needs to happen. Or the Hawks have a very, very hard ceiling over them because the Heat are like, okay, you’re not going to score, you’re going to give up the ball. And when you give up the ball, you’re not getting it back. And we’ll let these other guys do their thing and we’ll see what happens. And what happens is without Kyle Lowry, they just smother the Hawks. It’s wreckage. Zuri? Ryan?


Ryan Wallerson: This is one of my favorite series to watch, you know, as a Knicks fan, I’m really enjoying the desecration of the Atlanta Hawks. And I tell you, the one game that they got, you know, I feel like the Heat have run roughshod over the Hawks in the games that they won in the one game that the Hawks got. I honestly believe that it was a good duel. It was the best performance we’ll probably see out of Atlanta in this series. And yet the Heat still had a chance to end it in their favor. And Jimmy just like throws that sideways. Two, three. I’m not even sure what it was, but it was a horrible shot.


Zach Harper: It was it was a shit. It was a shit ball. That’s what it was Ryan, it was he just threw a shit ball at the rim.


Ryan Wallerson: But that tells me one thing and one thing only. And that’s that Jimmy Butler wanted to win the series in game five in Miami so that he could get a proper celebration because the that victory did not move the needle in terms of the chances of the Hawks winning this series whatsoever for me. It was like when a Jaguar has its paw around the gazelle and the gazelle like starts to just try to walk away and it gets a few steps. And then the, the, the Jaguar was like, oh, no, no, no, no, no, not yet. But eventually. Like, it’s I love it. It’s like I said before, Trae Young looks like a fourth grader playing with seventh graders out there. And even though they lost one of the most important ones, the overall just quality and depth of Miami is just absolutely overwhelming Atlanta and Knicks fans, we love to see it. Come on, Jason. You know, it’s true.


Jason Concepcion: It is. It is true. It’s delightful to watch. This is exactly what you wish the Knicks would have done last season had they had the personnel to do such a thing. Ugh, Zuri?


Zuri Irvin: Um Trae. Trae did say that like he hasn’t been guarded like this since high school, so shout out to whoever was guarding him in high school. Shout to that kid


Jason Concepcion: Shout out. Wild shots. Yeah, wild shots to 29 other NBA teams.


Zuri Irvin: Yeah, I know. shout out to anyone that played him in college. Also I just think that the Capela injury is being downplayed. I think that like, they’re the most buddy buddy combo in the league and without him, I think we’re seeing it and we sort of skip past that in the series.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, I agree. Like Capela certainly is an important cog in this machine, but like again, everything flows through Trae. It’s all designed to work the way it works because Trae has the ball and is able to do the things that he does. And when you take that out of the equation, we watch what happens. Actually, I think the Hawks have looked their best when Bogey or Hunter has been able to create a little bit, and that’s when they’re making their runs. Like that’s when it’s happening. So they need to look at this and they need to say, okay, Trae, like, I know that you don’t necessarily want to play off the ball, but guess what? You kind of have to because this is how teams are the heat are giving everybody the blueprint right now and you’re gonna see this for the rest of your career.


Zach Harper: They would have swept the Hawks if Capela played because they would have taken the Hawks way more serious than they did. I don’t think that at any point in this, like. I think I think you’re right. I think against any other team, Capela, not being out there would have would have really mattered. And it’s not that he’s not important. I just think they because he’s not there, they’re like, I got to worry about Gorgui Dieng. Or Onyeka Okongwu like PJ Tucker last night was like trying to start a fight and Okongwu was just like, just doing like he’s just looking off to the side. He’s still talking, but he’s just looking away. Kind of being like they knew the Hawks didn’t want any part of him.


Jason Concepcion: And this is, you know, the other thing that I think people have worried about with the with the Heat and I think rightfully so, is like, do they have the depth so big win for them to do it without without Lowry And just kind of show that that is a thing but I still going forward this team needs did not get injured like all the other teams that are that are pushing their way through the through the playoffs and have been slotted as teams to watch what you know Philly the Bucks the Suns etc.. This is a team, the Heat can’t get injured. None of their guys can get hurt, period. Okay, let’s move on to the next game. Nuggets, Warriors, Nikola Jokic. Where are we? Okay, where are we in the running? Does he deserve MVP debate now after Nikola Jokic showed up doing?


Zach Harper: What are we doing? Why is this the fuckin move? I’m like, oh, this guy, he’s an MVP candidate  oh, my God, look what he’s doing. Wait, the Warriors are better then him? Get this guy out of here, like, let’s, like, retract these votes. Everything’s redacted. Like, everything’s got to be removed. Like, what are we doing?


Jason Concepcion: But this is where this is where we are. So where do we stand now after Nikola Jokic has has a huge game? Where do we stand now after a Nuggets win to stave off a sweep? Uh, you know, shots, first of all, shouts to him. He needed that. I here’s why we’re here with it with this MVP debate because. It looks a little goofy as a regular season, this is the weakness of the entire award. We saw it when Dirk won. Dirk won his right. It’s a regular season award. It’s always been okay. But we award it during the playoffs and it looks goofy. If the guy who won MVP is not there.


Zach Harper: Also is around to like accept the award because he would love to have that on ceremony like game one of round two. Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: Love that. Yeah. And so and so that’s why. And if you’re going to win your second one, this is not written anywhere. It’s kind of the unwritten rules. I think everybody’s instinct. Maybe it’s because we’ve all played video games and the second boss is always harder than the first boss. You feel like the second one should be harder to win. So if you’re also getting eliminated in the first round, again, it feels weird. That’s all.


Zach Harper: It is. This is this. They’re not facing glass Joe. They’re facing fucking Mike Tyson. And, like,


Jason Concepcion: I Know Mike.


Zach Harper: 5 Mike Tyson’s like, at once, like, that’s what they’re doing. This isn’t this isn’t like, oh, this game’s going to get progressively harder if they somehow beat the Warriors. Like, let’s just say for some reason they beat the Warriors in round one. They come back 0-3, whatever. This is the hardest opponent they’re going to face.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, I agree. I agree. I mean, that’s that’s what it would looks weird. Let me ask you everyone who is the Nuggets second best player?


Zuri Irvin: It’s Will Barton right? As of today. As of this moment?


Jason Concepcion: I mean, he had I mean, like it’s it’s like whoever decides to be there, it’s definitely not Aaron Gordon at any given time.


Zach Harper: Even when he has a good game, it’s never Aaron Gordon. What a waste of $92 million coming up.


Zuri Irvin: My my theory on the Warriors is like. you know, how are they going to lose? How are they going to be slowed down? Is it possible that if Jordan Poole, like, just thinks he’s a superstar, there’s that moment where Klay was asking for the ball over the weekend and he kind of just shook them off and like they did his own thing. Do you think that Jordan Poole could be the demise of the Warriors if he’s just his head gets too big?


Jason Concepcion: The too much of a good thing. Like he gets he gets crazy and is like, it is me right now. I’m Neo. I just I’m Neo in the matrix. Like I stopped the bullets and it’s now is the time to fight all the agents.  I don’t, I feel like they’re too well-coached with too strong a culture.


Zach Harper: I, I kind of think they should not bring Steph back to the starting lineup. It’s just let Jordan, like, start things out, do what he’s going to do, and then the adult gets to come in here and clean up the mess and like, you know, do everything. And then, like, Jordan can still do whatever. But I kind of feel like that, that it also would drive the internet crazy if Steph won finals MVP as the sixth man, I think it would really mess with everybody. And so I kind of think like the whole Jordan Poole aspect, the way you allow him to think he’s the guys let him keep starting and then Steph just just comes in and is like, okay, let’s, let’s settle things down by making things more chaotic for the opponent.


Ryan Wallerson: I think there’s a chance, Zuri, that what you say may come to fruition simply because of the youth, with Poole. Although I do agree that the Warriors have too strong a culture and too good a coach to allow it to happen. But until it happens, until that manifests in any way keep starting pool because curry off the bench is absolutely devastating and I feel like it’s three days. It’s insane for like the opposition when they’re like battling the starting lineup.


Jason Concepcion: You watch the arena shoulders like as a group, just slump when he comes in.


Zach Harper: I think they forget. I think they forget that stuff. So he gets up off the bench like, Oh, come on, what are we doing? Like, this isn’t minor. Yeah. Shimmying. Oh, my God. Yeah. He just comes. He just walks on the court shimmy. And it’s just like it’s just the death shimmy. Like, that’s what it is.


Ryan Wallerson: It’s like Prince in Chappelle’s Show.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: Lot of Warriors fans in the arena. And I just have to say, this would never happen if we had a strong hooligan culture like in English soccer here in the United States.


Zach Harper: Also I love the fact that’s all. I love that Warriors fans are pissed at what you guys just said by saying they’re well coached because they hate Steve Kerr for some reason. I love that.


Jason Concepcion: I know. Well, they they just that is one of the most mystifying if I may like really truly mystifying takes is like a Steve Steve look what they you know, it’s like look what they did to WISEMAN Like, what’s going on with these rotations, I was like, are you guys serious? Like, what is? I guess that’s just what happens when you succeed,.


Zach Harper: When you ruin basketball?


Jason Concepcion: Nothing’s ever good enough. Yeah. Okay, let’s let’s move on to Bucks-Bulls we have it certainly appear is now a fully engaged and operational Giannis a31 series lead Bucks win one 1995 It was like a end to end but whooping and with Alex Caruso out folks this is going to be a wrap. Any thoughts here, Zach?


Zach Harper: I’ve seen some people and look, I get it. You want to bargain a little bit when you’re a Bulls fan, like you had a good step forward and you weren’t you couldn’t even make the play in tournament team last year or Play-In tournament game last year after acquiring Vucevic. And like now look at you top six seed best team in the league in the first half of the season or at least in the Eastern Conference first half of the season. It felt really good to be back. The Bulls were back shout out to Trey KIRBY But you could put Gary Payton in his prime and Gary Payton too in in his current state in that starting lineup. And you’re not going to be able to defend with Vucevic DeRozan and Levine out there like you just can’t This was always going to happen.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah. You can’t do it. Yeah. You’ve got to outscore people, period.


Ryan Wallerson: Game four was ugly for them, but game three was actually like the worst beatdown. So since they were able to come back and even the series at one, it’s just been like 220 plus point margins of defeat. And you know, there’s probably going to be one more and then the bulls will call it a season.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: Here’s what confuses me about the Bucks. They’ve been a flipped the switch team since before they won the title. Like, in a weird way, weirdly unearned. We’re going to flip the switch squad. And then after they won the title, it’s like, okay, now they’re going to solidify it. Now they’ve realized what it takes, what you know, that the things they have to do to be this dominant championship squad like all the time. And now they’ve only just like continued to be like, okay, what’s the path of least resistance all the time? Why do they do this? It’s here. Why does this happen?


Zach Harper: Why do I wait till the last day to file my taxes. Like, it’s just. I do.


Jason Concepcion: It’s true. It’s true. This is very true. Okay, let’s move on to man Suns-Pelicans.


Zach Harper: All the Bucks-Bulls games.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, yeah. Fuck it. It’s just. It’s over. It’s. It’s fucking over. It’s over. Oh, well, I guess we should say, like, what do we. Without Middleton going forward. What do we think? Still. I still have them in the Eastern Conference finals, but it’s going to be really tough with that.


Zuri Irvin: I don’t know. I am frustrated by how efficient Grayson Allen is. He’s like leaps and bounds better than we he got in the league. And I think each year he gets a little more efficient. Maybe. Maybe in the meantime, until Chris comes back. But that’s it. And then I just like watching Zach Lavine play basketball. Be a little more game out of that and put some season.


Ryan Wallerson: The really fascinating thing about these playoffs and we’ve talked about it before is that like every single team is missing, like one very important component to it. So it’s like the Heat without Lowry or the Bucks without Middleton or the 76ers with a damaged Embiid. Really the only team that’s been able to escape this this health bug to this point is the Celtics. And that’s probably why we see them having the success that they are against the Nets team that can’t really get into it. But I don’t think that any one player missing can change like the dynamic or the outlook for finals contending teams simply because it’s kind of even throughout the conference. I still think that the Bucks have a floor of the I want to say of the Eastern Conference finals.


Jason Concepcion: Wow. Okay, let’s move on to man game four Pelicans, Suns, Pelicans win 118 103. And folks, I thought the Suns should win this series regardless with, you know, despite Booker’s hamstring injury. That’s going to keep him out for an unknown amount of time. But the Pelicans went on a romp. 118 103 Brandon Ingram continues to show the nation why he is a really, really, really good player. Jose Alvarado got into his bag a little bit got it to his bag.


Ryan Wallerson: Annoying the shit out of Chris Paul.


Jason Concepcion: Was Broney down there let me say this about okay TNT whoever is going to air these games are it’s TNT right now. When Jose Alvarado was on the floor. Right. And say the pelicans come down, they score. Jonas goes inside, he scores. And then, like every normal telecast, the camera follows Jonas as he runs back down the court. Don’t do that when Alvarado is on the floor. When Alvarado is on the floor. Keep it in the backcourt. Because that’s where the action is. We missed a couple of good Alvarado moments because the camera followed the guy who had just scored. And don’t do that anymore. We want to see this. I was saying in in the pre pro. This reminds me of the 2001/1 round match up between the heat and the Charlotte, then Charlotte Hornets. The heat. Everybody expected them to just like wrap around these young the young hornets led by Baron Davis, like a like a python and just choke the life out of them. But then the Hornets had this, like, edge of athleticism and they just kept running at the heat. And all of a sudden you realize, Oh, shit. The here kind of old like an important spots. And I’m not saying the pelicans are going to win but the way they won. Made you realize not that we needed to realize it, but like made us realize, oh, shit. Chris Paul, he healed. He’s. He is old. Like, it was all cute when he was telling Alvarado, Get out, get out of here. Kid, you bothered me. But then  I think. Yeah. Yeah, you bothered me. But. But, like, you know, Chris Paul is like a Porsche on gas fumes, and Alvarado is a Prius who doesn’t need to be filled up right now. And it’s just doesn’t it doesn’t look great. Okay. What do we think is going to happen with this series? Certainly. Yes. Ben, what a way to lose. Series tied to two now. I still say the Suns. You know, in six. But it’s I don’t know. Now.


Zach Harper: I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I want to get caught up in the moment, like, you know, like I’m going to be wrong so much. And who cares? I’m wrong all the time anyway. Like, you know what? Pelicans in six. How about that?


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Zach Harper: I don’t even know if I believe it. I don’t care that I want chaos. I want like I would love for the the Suns at full strength Devin Booker back to go there march back to the finals and just put on a show. I think that would be fun. I want to see them against the Warriors or the Grizzlies in the conference finals. I want to see all that shit. But there is part of me that I respect the hell out of how the Pelicans didn’t give up like they were one in 12 this year and then they’re three and 16, and then the rest of the way they went like 33 and 30. Like for three quarters of the season, this was a good above 500 team missing their most important player. And all they did was like, like get these rookies up to speed to be able to play big minutes in playoff games. Trade for C.J. McCollum, like believe in Brandon Ingram to do stuff. You know, they shifted Devonte Graham’s role like 13 times. They tried to figure out how are you good. Like, how can we make you even passable on this court after giving you so much money? Like they’ve just kept adjusting and adapting. And Willie Green’s like a really good coach.


Jason Concepcion: He’s a good coach, but incredible series, man, and it’s hard not to root for the Pelicans. Let’s go now to my favorite series ever in the history of Earth in the NBA. It is is the the Celtics ongoing sweep of the of the absolutely shambolic chaotic and just learning about each other Brooklyn Nets. They just need time to gel, guys. Here’s the thing. Look at the Celtics. They’ve been together the whole season longer than that even, and they’ve had time to get to know each other. Here’s the problem with the Nets. They just they’re just figuring it out, you know? They just need time to get it together. That’s or at least that’s the message that is coming out of the Nets world from Steve Nash, from from Kyrie, from from Katy a little bit. Katy is the only buddy is the only person over there who he listen to is worth talking, you know, worth listening to what they say anyway, who seems to kind of understand the magnitude of the bag fumble that is happening. Right. And the reality, like the real scope of it, Kyrie, is still like, oh, man, how did this happen? So weird? I don’t know what anybody could have done differently, but this is just you know,.


Zach Harper: See thats. That’s where I disagree with you. Kyrie’s the only one I want to hear from at this point.  Like because he has so little awareness. I think it was you that was like hot dog car engine revs or something.


Jason Concepcion: Yes.


Zach Harper: I don’t know. Like I wish we could get that time back, you idiot. You were like, what are you doing? But you said you would be a voice for the voiceless. But you didn’t say anything. And by the way, the voiceless had a loud voice in the streets.


Jason Concepcion: They’re still speaking.


Zach Harper: They’re still there. They’re still like. Get him out of here. Don’t even make em anymore.


Jason Concepcion: Let me let me ask about this clip. So there is a there’s a clip going viral of Kyrie after the game, leaving with a lot of bags. This is a home game. Series ongoing. Did he clean out his locker already. What is happening? Why does Kyrie travel with this much stuff?


Zach Harper: You think that he was living in the Barclays Center once he was allowed to go back there?


Ryan Wallerson: He just didn’t want to leave.


Zach Harper: If I told you I had inside sources that said Kyrie Irving has been living at the Barclays Center ever since he’s been back with the team. Would you be like, that’s crazy. There’s no way that’s true? Or would you think, okay, maybe I’ll listen to more?


Jason Concepcion: I mean, Kanye did it right. I mean. It’s like kind of like a Kanye move.


Zuri Irvin: It’s the same source that said Ben’s going to play a game for us. It’s the same guy.


Jason Concepcion: Well breaking news, folks. Steve Nash was asked this morning about Ben. Sorry it’s. This really is funny. Ben, in a possible game five, I don’t know. We’ll see how he progresses.


Zach Harper: He should just wear that on a shirt. At this point, he just wear these Nets, monogram. And then, I don’t know, we’ll see how he progresses. And that should just be there.


Jason Concepcion: I really believe the Celtics should throw game four just to put Steve on the spot.


Zach Harper: I think they should throw being four and five. They know they’re going to win. There’s no part of them that’s not going to win the series. But they are. So am I. And look, I went into this, I think I, I think I cowardly pick the Celtics in seven because I don’t know like I don’t know. But I wanted to pick the Nets the whole time and I do believe like the nets when KD played this year we’re on pace for 53 wins the heat won the one seed with 53 wins. Right. Like so when KD played, this was a very good team or at least a successful team in terms of win percentage, all that bullshit. But. I don’t like the fact that this is the fallout, that this is the way it’s gone. You like you could tell me that the Celtics forfeited games four or five and six, and we go to Game seven like they’re going to they’re going to wax this Nets team.


Jason Concepcion: KD at a certain point, like, of course, KD and Kyrie are incredible. KD is probably the best score we’ve ever seen ever. At a certain point, playing 37, 38, 40 minutes being the focal point like that, you’re you just get tired, man. You just get tired over time. To the Ben Simmons of it all, everybody. Let me just say this to clutch. Communication’s clutch PR.


Zach Harper: You’re doing great, sweetie.


Jason Concepcion: This is a colossal fuck up, you guys. You can’t. So, you know, earlier in the series, they’re leaking. Oh, Ben may play at Ben’s getting ready. He’s targeting game four. He’s going to play like he’s going to get on the court. He’s going to play. And they asked Ben about it. He’s like, I can’t wait out my team. It’s been hard sitting there, but I’ve been vocally supportive and I need to get out there. You got to get out of Game four. But always there is that caveat barring setbacks, barring so everybody knew can plan. He played in a year. He played with these guys before. They did not get throw out there. They’re talking about need time to gel they going to throw a new guy out there in the mix, famously plug and play Ben Simmons.


Zuri Irvin: Well, I mean he didn’t really play in Philly. A month and a half


Jason Concepcion: Right and so like, right, so like the whole time that Ben is saying, oh, you know, they’re targeting game and then clutch PR is saying is leaking we assume it’s clutch right leaking to two Woj and everybody Oh targeting game four he’s going to play they’re asking simultaneously Steve Nash and Steve’s laughing and going what? Who what huh? Clutch You need to coordinate with the other stakeholders in this conversation if you’re going to leak something like this. So it so other people who have voices in this don’t go, wait, what? I know that’s not going to happen. And then nobody believes that it’s going to happen. And when it doesn’t happen, everybody makes fun of you. You are like, whatever your attempt to to bolster the trade value of Ben Simmons is, you’re actually like undercutting it with this. You guys fucked this up. Big time


Zach Harper: Jason understands this better than than most people. Like, he has such a good handle on, like, how this stuff goes. I could not disagree more because I think this is better content. I think you should never make anybody like clutch. You guys got this? You do it your way. Ben Simmons still collecting money. You do it your way. Good luck on the arbitration by the way, clutch sports I’m pulling for you. Someone said that Ben Simmons is dressed like Doug’s friend Skeeter Flash, the cartoon dog on the sidelines. Like I think Mike Brown of Levittown said that, like, it’s it’s all bad. Like, why wouldn’t you check out?


Jason Concepcion: All right. So we’re recording this on Monday morning, super fun weekend of basketball. Excited to see what happens next. We’re going to have Kelcey from the Grizzlies coming up. Fellas, fun conversation.




Jason Concepcion: You take two of the fastest teams in the league by pace. You add a combustible mix of animal rights, protests, father bonding, trash talk, swagger, small market braggadocio. And what do you have? You have you have really, I think, the most exciting series of the first round of the playoffs. You have Grizzlies Timberwolves and help us talk about it, it’s Memphis Grizzlies sideline reporter Kelcey Wright Johnson. Kelcey, welcome to Takeline. Thank you for joining us.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: What’s going on.


Jason Concepcion: Kelcey? How do people keep getting so close to the court so they could get on it? Let’s let’s go there first. Did you witness the Memphis version of the court invasion?


Kelcey Wright Johnson: So I was there. Yeah, but I was on the complete other side.


Jason Concepcion: Mm hmm.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: So the first thing I saw and I don’t know if this was even, like, captured, is, like, they initially, like, threw a bunch of, like, pamphlets or something.


Jason Concepcion: That I saw. I saw that. Yeah, that was on on the broadcast for sure.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Okay, it was okay. So then there was also foul shots happening. So like that’s where you’re paying attention to. So then the pamphlets were like, Oh, someone dropped something like, I don’t know what the heck happened. I don’t know.


Zach Harper: Are we are we surprised they haven’t brought actual chickens into the mix? Because it doesn’t seem like security is great. Security got better last night at the Target Center because we had just an amazing tackle by the shot stopper. Yes. He’s just a player who probably the second most impressive Minnesota performance in the series so far this year, tackling a random woman. But. But I just feel like at this point, it’s so easy for them to get on. And I look, I, I, I’m pro animal rights and everything. I can’t imagine what’s happening to these chickens, but I just I feel like it’s going to continue to escalate. Like someone’s going to come in a chicken costume. Are they going to throw chickens from the ceiling or something like. Are you prepared for what’s next?


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Yeah. I don’t feel like these plans have been that good.


Zach Harper: To be fair. You weren’t there for the glued hand to the floor. Okay. You weren’t there for that, Kelcey.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: But like, okay, first of all, glue does not dry that quickly.


Zach Harper: Okay. It wasn’t a great play.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Number two, the plan yesterday was to give a technical foul to Glen Taylor and eject from the game.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, I didn’t know that. I, I again, I think like Zach, I, I care about the animals, too. I think factory farming is terrible.


Zach Harper: It’s terrible.


Jason Concepcion: I do think that right now with inflation very, very high in the global supply chain, constrained because of war and various other things, maybe now is not the right time to, like, do something that would potentially raise the price of food, which falls disproportionately on lower income people like let’s I agree factory farming has got to go, but like maybe not right now. Also, the reason that Glen Taylor’s farms are and many, many other poultry farms are like euthanizing millions of birds is because there’s a bird flu outbreak in like the Midwest and the eastern part of the country. Bird flu, if it jumps to people, is like very deadly. And you know what? Again, I love animals, but like, if the birds have the bird flu, they got to go. And I’m sorry about it, but they do have to go for people, all of which is to say this is not the way to do it. Direct action, folks. But I but I understand.


Zach Harper: It is a little weird that a Glen Taylor operation would be mismanaged, but that’s another topic for another day. Like that’s only happened for like 25 years at this point.


Jason Concepcion: Kelcey, what is the vibe in Memphis right now? What is the what is the excitement level and what is, you know, the transition? We all remember the wonderful grit and grind. Run is a completely different team that plays like that, mixes the attitude of grit and grind with a lightning pace and just it feels like the city has really coalesced around this team. So what’s the vibe there right now?


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Yeah, the players talk about that a lot, actually, because I mean, some of them, you know, some of them weren’t alive, but they’re not that young. They they remember that era. And so they talk about kind of incorporating that into their attitudes, like you said, and then playing their own style of basketball, which has been really cool. I was not here for that era, but I’ve heard a lot about it, like when they went to the Western Conference final. Like everyone always talks about that. They have those same traditions here, which I think is pretty cool. Like they love their growl towels, they love that trick. And I think so this is my third season here. In my first season, they’d always be like, Oh, like, wait till I get to play with that trick. Like, it’s so cool. And in my mind I’m like, okay, I actually like, no, no, no. Like I was just like, All right, like, that’s cool deer thing. I know. I don’t know what that is, but vibe out everyone being there for the playoffs when they play that when you know you’re kicking the other teams but I can now say is insane and like the Memphis the arena is not huge and the seats aren’t like like, you know in the Barclays Center, how the seats are very much like this. The seats are not like that. You are on top of the floor. It is so fun. Even the watch party for the away games, they’re having a watch party right over by kind of on the river. It had like hundreds and hundreds of people there last night. Like it’s just I think they the Grizzlies are the main thing here. We’re not a multi-sport city. We don’t have a hockey team or a baseball team. And so when this team is doing well now, everyone, like everyone’s in Grizzlies jerseys, everyone is behind this team. It’s been. Fun and different than the last two seasons.


Zach Harper: Kelcey I think you and I talked about this a couple of months ago on NBA radio, but the bravado and the shit talking of this team is like my favorite thing in the NBA this year. Like, I just I love it so much, but it’s one thing to do. It is like a young team to do it as like a 56 when to see. Like it puts so much more pressure on a young team. And I actually mean this in, like, the nicest way. Are they too naive and young to know, like, what kind of pressure that’s supposed to add to, like, what’s at stake here? Because there’s a lot of expectations now, right? Like that. Like it’s up there.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, yeah.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Yeah, yeah. And we we talk about that too. And I think that they prefer to be fueled from still being that underdog. And so I think it may be somewhat being naive or like not to have experienced it, but I mean, that’s an interesting way to think about it. I, I wouldn’t have put it in those words, but I don’t think I disagree that maybe that is what it is because they are like, who’s the oldest person on the team right now? Like Kyle Anderson. Right. Like they like they’re young. They like they don’t have that experience. I guess Steven would have some life experience. Times has maybe a little bit. But yeah, I just think they’re I like to say confident. They’re just confident. Yeah. And, and very, very like unapologetic. Like Josh has changed, kind of like even the attitude of the other guys on the team. Like I’ve seen their attitudes change the more that he rubs off on them. And so, I mean, if that’s the way that they’re going to build their confidence then versus everyone and they are not scared to tell you.


Jason Concepcion: What was your personal favorite example this season? It can be the post-season regular season of the Grizz, just like rubbing a team’s face in the whole L because. It’s like.


Zach Harper: I know, I know my mine. My favorite


Jason Concepcion: I know mine as well, but I’ll. I’ll wait to see. I’ll wait to see what? Kelcey what you say?


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Wait, wait. Can you guys can you guys tell me your favorites?


Zach Harper: I think we probably have the same one.


Jason Concepcion: It’s the Lakers, the.


Zach Harper: Yeah, yeah, it’s the Lakers. It’s where Desmond Bane is talking so much shit to LeBron. And then LeBron goes in like dunks on Jaron, right the next block and he’s like, pumping his chest. It’s just like, you’re down 18, what you doing? And then they killed about like 30, and it’s just like they didn’t care. They didn’t respect LaBron. They’re just like get out of here, old man.


Jason Concepcion: Like LeBron was like, You better. Hey. You got to stop this. And they’re just.


Zach Harper: I’m going to call neighborhood watch on you, kids.


Jason Concepcion: Laughing in his face. It was so good.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I think he like he like brushed by Des right there. And Desmond’s like, I’m not scared of those. Like, what did he say? Like, I’m not scared of those footsteps.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I feel like I’m fine. I think the other one that would probably be most known is Ja’s postgame. And I know that’s not like in the thing, but when he’s like, we don’t smoke, like we’re not scared of anyone, I think, yeah. I mean there’s just been too many to count, I think. And some, some of them probably have to come from Dillon Brooks too, like we’re talking about Des and Ja. But like Dillon’s the best trash talker on the team. We probably just don’t see those ones as much because they’re like in the person’s ear.


Zach Harper: Right. I do like the idea of him


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Ja’s Dad too.


Zach Harper: Oh, my God.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: It’s a whole.


Jason Concepcion: Oh, my gosh.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Its everyone. He talks trash as well as everyone else and he’s always sitting courtside, so.


Zach Harper: And he’s like, totally fine. Just like and I know they’re friends and they’re joking. He’s just totally fine. Like calling Karl-Anthony Towns Senior, he’s like, You’re not going to fit in my son’s jersey. Like, just fat shaming them. Yeah, this is great. Like, this is so fun.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I mean, he. He shamed him the other way, too.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: He was like, you.


Zach Harper: Oh for sure. It’s like, totally mutual and loving. You can tell there’s real admiration there, but it’s just. Yeah, T Rant like, might be the best trash talker out of all of them.


Jason Concepcion: So fun. You mentioned something touched on something I think thats really interesting about this team. Obviously, the Grizz take a huge amount of their their swagger and their personality from Ja and his confidence and the way he plays. But also something I think is really unique about this team and it’s been evident all throughout the regular season, is they also pick him up when either he’s not having a game in which he’s scoring particularly well or even when he’s out. Everybody knows about what a strong record the team had when when he was out for a stretch. How how have they developed that? How have they been able to like rally not just take their personality from Ja, but then fill in the blanks when he is maybe not having the best game or is, maybe not even there.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I think if this was an easy answer, more teams would replicate it. I think a lot more credit goes to guys like Tyus Jones who don’t get a lot of recognition, but who are just like really solid backup second unit guys. And I also think it goes so underrated that this team is just really deep. And so you look at it like you look at the roster, right? And you’re like, why is this team number two in the West? Why is this team number two in the NBA right now? And you would look at it on paper and be like, the Nets should be better, Boston should be better. Like you can go down the list, but it’s just like the depth. They might not have like three, ten out of ten guys, but they have ten guys that are like seven, eight out of ten that like other people would not necessarily put on their rosters. And I think the front office has done a really good job too in terms of like fit. Like if you put John Konchar on the Nets, he doesn’t have the same season that he did this year. And he was relatively unknown. He was on the D-League team here last year. So I just think a lot goes to depth and a lot goes to the job that honestly Tyus Jones has been able to do when Ja was out for however many games, he was out like he didn’t even qualify for what was it, 56 games, right. To qualify for the leaderboards. And so Tyus Jones man. He gets a new contract this year.


Zach Harper: He’s good.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Mm hmm.


Jason Concepcion: And to your point, I mean, you know, this is in team building. You kind of have to get lucky sometimes. And the Grizz have just knocked it out of the park with their with their drafting, which is, you know, Dillon Brooks was what was he like the 45th pick like that, you know.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Des.


Jason Concepcion: Des.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: It’s like they’ve really just, Bane, crushed it with these like late draft picks that are just crushing it at a very, very high level right now.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Desmond Bane was 30th. What?


Jason Concepcion: It’s crazy. It’s crazy. I think they thought he was too muscular. Do you think that was it? They were like this guy.


Zach Harper: They were just like, that’s a linebacker. Like that’s what that is.


Jason Concepcion: The wrong sport.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: It might be more like a measurable thing, right? Like his wingspan is not his wingspan is not what whoever else is in front of his was. But like he broke records in college. And I guess sometimes the college game also doesn’t translate to NBA, but that was seamless for him. He’s a shooter.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Zach Harper: I wonder, like, there’s no way they thought he would be this good, right? Well, any of these guys, they may have thought, like, because, like you said, like they have ten guys who are like seven or better. Right?


Jason Concepcion: Right.


Zach Harper: I would imagine like you’re grabbing a guy 30th, you’re like, all right, he could be a five for us, like five out of ten or this guy can be a six. Like if you get a rotation guy anywhere outside the top ten in the draft, you’re like, Oh, great, we did our job. And for them it’s like, Oh, we have a, we have like nine number three guys now. They have nine guys who can like be the third option on this team. And, and like you said, like someone like Tyus Jones who was in Minnesota and was kind of like couldn’t find a spot there, couldn’t find the right role. Like, he goes there and it’s like, hey, you’re behind Ja. Go pick up. Like whenever he’s out of the game, whether he’s playing or just, you know, on the bench for a breather and like everyone just steps up and it’s that shouldn’t happen with a young team.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: It’s crazy. Yeah, it’s just. It’s just like a perfect fit. Yeah. Like the fit is. And you see this all the time. Like when guys just get drafted to the wrong team and they’re like, yeah, kind of somewhat of a dud. And then they go to the team and they’re like, Oh, wait, like, where was this guy this whole time.


Jason Concepcion: As a Knicks fan, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  You know, it’s the playoffs, so officiating is going to be a big part of the conversation. You know. Witness Joel Embiid derisively clapping at the refs a few days ago and there’s plenty other examples of a similar kind. A Coach Taylor Jenkins has was pretty vociferous about his thoughts about the officiating after the last game. It is an extremely physical game and is the intensity is seems to be ratcheting it up like every quarter as the series progresses. What are your thoughts on on how the the officiating has been.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: The game is tipped off yesterday at 9:00. It did not end until 1230.


Zach Harper: Oh, my God.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: There was 18 foul shots taken by one team in the first quarter. Like, call me crazy, but I think you know what? I’m going to I’m going to refer to something that Dillon Brooks said after the game yesterday, because obviously none of us have played in NBA playoff basketball. But he said he always watched in his first three years, he always watched playoffs. And thought it was far more physical, far faster. A little looser. And he said it’s been the complete opposite. He says, like he feels like they’re touching the air and things are being called both ways. He didn’t say it was necessarily like just on them. He was saying it was like 56 or 58 fouls called in a 48 minute game yesterday. Thats wild.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: We didn’t get one minute of straight basketball.


Zach Harper: No, no. There’s like no flow to it at all. And like, so if you’re there, I think if you’re if you’re Memphis or even Minnesota to a certain extent, like I think you can expect game five with the complaining from from I think kind of both sides but mostly like justified by Memphis. So the fact that you 25 fouls and you’re starting lineup is insane and so I think like you can expect the calls to be fewer and fewer in game five and I think that from Memphis, like I know Minnesota likes to play fast, but Memphis just seems more comfortable playing fast. They seem to be more controlled within that chaos.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Yeah, because then they’d obviously rather score in transition than play up against a set defense. Yeah. It was just it was funny after the game yesterday to I was like, yeah, how did I hit three or four? Right. And he was like, I don’t like that. I don’t remember the last time Ja had four fouls, right? Ever.


Jason Concepcion: Jenkins called the game, like, inconsistently officiated and arrogantly officiated.


Zach Harper: I love that. I love that.


Jason Concepcion: Whoa! I guess that is it.


Zach Harper: If I mean, if I made as much money as Taylor Jenkins, I would have paid his fine for him. Like, that’s such a great line.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Dillon Brooks said he’s going to pay the fine.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: I absolutely love that. And by the way, like, that’s what you have to do at this level. Like Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, they would start the conversation about the officiating before the series kicked off, you know, saying, hey, well, they hack us all the time and they, you know, they they get away with this and that and, you know, but of course, the referees don’t care because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I just I do love this. I think this is great. Gosh. What has been your favorite part of this series thus far, which again, I think is one that I think a lot of people, myself included, figured there are some matchup things that that make you think, oh, this is going to be an exciting series, but not necessarily a long one. And it’s looking like it could potentially go seven. You know, the the Timberwolves make a million mistakes all the time but they have this they have the scoring punch to like overcome it like we like to make fun of them because of the two blown double digit leads, forgetting the fact that they also had two double big double digit leads. So you know, this is gonna be exciting series. What has been your favorite part thus far?


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I would say other than like the atmosphere of winning at home, it’s like so cliche. I think it’s so the the game where you come back from two 25 point deficits.


Jason Concepcion: It’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I think not only did that show crazy right. Like it doesn’t make sense.


Zach Harper: That is the most Wolves shit ever to close two 25.1 each half it’s the most Wolves shit ever


Jason Concepcion: It was so. Patrick Beverley went off the backboard to himself like he was Vince Carter in the first quarter.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Like that that hurt your soul.


Jason Concepcion: What was that game.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: And then the “we in Minnesota now.”.


Zach Harper: Oh my God Ja that’s why Ja’s the best of this trash talk like because he just he didn’t have to go. He just like a simple quote tweet. That’s all it took. And he’s just like, oh my God.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: He had that he had that drafted before he went and did his press conference because he was like, I have a video coming for you guys just wait. The minute he steps off the stage.


Zach Harper: Boom. Oh, my God, what a master. What a masterful trash talker.


Jason Concepcion: That is so good.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Yeah.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: That’s got it. That’s got to be it, though, right? Like.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah. It’s amazing.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: It shows not only the resilience and then they got to talk even more insane trash talk after that because they’re like, all right, now we’re up and like, What were you guys doing? Why did you let us do that?


Jason Concepcion: My favorite meme after that, after the fact, was a screenshot of Pat Beverley doing the two small hand gesture along with the two 20 plus point leads.


Zach Harper: Yeah. So how do you how do you even like get ready for game five without because this this series like I think we all well maybe we don’t know it was I think we all believe like Memphis is the better team and will win this right like I.


Jason Concepcion: I Believe it.


Zach Harper: Yeah and it’s Minnesota like even if they weren’t it’s Minnesota. So like, they’ll find a way. But how do you even prepare for game five of like what to expect? Because I feel like this has been all over the place.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I think it has. But I think that the Grizzlies have shot like 30% from the field and none of it has come from the way that they want. Like the fastbreak points have been ten, 11 points every game. And so I don’t think they’ve actually played a good game yet. I know it sounds crazy because they won two playoff games. I don’t think they’ve played a good game at John hasn’t had a game like George Aaron’s been fouled out every game not fouled out but like, you know, he’s taking a lot of time on the bench. I mean Dillon’s had an okay game does had a really good game he’s been shooting well but like I. I think to come out and have a game where you actually can at the end of the game look at the box score and be like, okay, this is Grizzlies basketball. This is how Memphis has played all season. They haven’t had they haven’t had that yet. They’ve just been better twice than a seventh seed, which I should be.


Zach Harper: Right, especially that 7 seed.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Zach Harper: I don’t know if you can say that, I’ll say that I’m fine with that.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I mean, the other seven seeds not doing very well either.


Zach Harper: Yeah. I guess like if you’re the seventh seed, you just suck for a reason.


Jason Concepcion: That’s like, like, yeah, there’s a reason you’re down there.


Zach Harper: You might get swept, you might blow two 25 point leads in the same game, who knows.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Pick your poison.


Jason Concepcion: Kelcey, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck in the rest of the series. Super fun. Tell Jaren to stop fouling. I agree with Taylor. I agree with Taylor on every thing that he said. But I do think. I do think Jaren needs to stop fouling. That’s all.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: You like okay but that last foul yesterday.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Zach Harper: Yeah,.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I’ll start a fight.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, I agree.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: That one was crazy.


Jason Concepcion: That one was crazy, but I do just in general, like he’s is could be like one of the greatest defensive players, like, in the league. Just please stop fouling. That’s all. That’s all. Excited for the series to continue. I’m hoping it goes seven. Kelcey thinks again.


Zach Harper: She didn’t like. She wants to be done in six.


Jason Concepcion: You want it. I get it.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Grizz in six baby.


Jason Concepcion: Thank you so much.


Zach Harper: Thanks Kelcey.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Thank you, guys.


Jason Concepcion: When you think Toronto, when you think Canada, what do you think? You think Rush. You think Drake. You think Michael J. Fox. You think Laura Harrier. What else do you think? You think Josh Eberley from Canada and Hoops Mag. Josh Eberley is joining us to talk about the Toronto Raptors who said that’s far enough. Philly, stop it. Josh, welcome to take line. Your thoughts on this on the series thus far?


Josh Eberley: Well, first of all, thank you for having me on here. Appreciate it. I knew that Canadian flag in my Twitter profile would pay off eventually. Right. I had had to keep it quiet. No, you know what I mean? I think this was a series that was very hate fueled, and there were a lot of people who would love to have seen Joel Embiid and James Harden flop in a historic fashion, Doc Rivers included. And it just it hasn’t been it hasn’t been the case. Yeah, this team has a rapport. You know, they have a history of being scrappy and fighting hard. And you saw that in game four and great similar to towns last night. Graydon Pascal coming out, answering the bell, having that kind of a game after all the criticism that was being levied his way after losing Fred in that game, you know, you expect nothing less from Nick nurse team. But at this point, I think you look at the talent disparity. And if Tobias Harris is going to be a positive factor for the Philadelphia 70 Sixers like, that’s the nail right there.


Zach Harper: But Josh, like, I agree with everything you just said, but Joel Embiid has this torn ligament in his thumb. Right. Or some kind of damage ligament. His thumb. Yeah. It’s James Harden. It’s Doc Rivers. It is the Sixers like, if any. I’m just saying if anybody, I’m not ask you to predict, but if anybody was going to blow a three or leave for the first time in NBA history, maybe this will sound stupid Monday night, but like it would be them, right?


Jason Concepcion: Also like series at three one. I feel like you guys got em right where you want em.


Zach Harper: That’s right where you want em.


Josh Eberley: Them. You know what I think I did? Maybe it was you who tweeted. Somebody tweeted out like if you were going to cast a movie about a 3-0 lead being blown, you would start with James Harden. Yeah, yeah. And I can’t. I can’t lie. It’s true. But like on the other end of that, like you look, maybe Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, like if you wanted to cast you guys to dig yourself out of that hole, you know what? Toronto felt like a team this year that, like, really found something within themselves. Like, Fred was playing his best basketball. Pascal was making a case that maybe he could be more than that supplementary costar Scottie. Obviously, Rookie of the Year, huge surge like they had. They’re a really good team, but I still don’t think they’re there. And despite the James Harden fall off and Joe on his thumb and you know some suspect officiating that you know foul foul play on the foul play.


Zach Harper: Yes. Say it, Josh. Say it. Say it.


Jason Concepcion: They’re dirty. They’re on the take aren’t they, Josh?


Zach Harper: Do what Taylor Jenkins did. Call them arrogant. Call them arrogant refs.


Josh Eberley: Netflix dropping their news about the Donahue special a day after that Raptors game. Coincidence? I don’t know. I don’t know boys.


Jason Concepcion: Let’s talk about that. Okay. Because one of the notable things about this series was I think it was for a lot of people that that watched the NBA and opine about the NBA. It was the series that people kind of circled as watch out for this one is is a potential like that.


Zach Harper: You know Jason, I picked the Raptors in five.


Jason Concepcion: Listen, you’re not alone. You’re not alone. I had I had the Raptors. I thought it would go seven and I had Raptors at seven but but I thought it would be close. You know, I think a lot of people looked at some of the kind of like underlying factors, the fact that Matty’s table wouldn’t be available in Toronto. You know, James Harden’s played this stretch of the season and and just the way that a nick nurse coach team plays the amount of looks on defense that they give a team and they thought, Oh, look out. Now that hasn’t occurred. One, what do you think happened here and what do you what did we all get wrong, Josh?


Josh Eberley: I mean, I’m probably going to oversimplify and like, what was the ESPN panel was 11 and 12, 11, Toronto, 12, Philly, like a lot of people were split on this year. But like we always talk about how games slow down the playoffs, halfcourt offense is super important. And whatever we think about James Harden, I think Harden and Joel are still the two best half court players in the series. And then Max, he’s been incredible. I mean, yes, yesterday wasn’t his best game, but Max is putting himself into that star conversation. And I’m going to keep mentioning Tobias Harris because Sixers fans were ready to bake this guy and send him to any other place in the world.


Zach Harper: Anybody. Yeah


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, anyone. For years now.


Zach Harper: Yes. It’s like get his ass in Sacramento right now. Like we’re done with him.


Josh Eberley: Things things have gone right for them. And like Scottie’s got hurt. Fred’s got hurt. I’m not saying it’s a different series. I’m not going to do that like the what if isms. But like it truly hasn’t been Toronto at full strength here either.


Zach Harper: Yeah, because I think at least in like the Scottie injury, right. Because I, I’m huge on Scottie like I actually here’s here’s an exclusive for you Jason.


Jason Concepcion: I love it.


Zach Harper: First on Takeline I changed my vote last minute to Scottie Barnes for rookie of the year official ballot right there how about that yeah him one Evan Mobley two.


Josh Eberley: They’d give you the keys to Toronto for that right now I think.


Zach Harper: That was my whole reason for it. It was just like, what can I get out of Toronto? No, but I think and I think I think if you I think like Sixers fans are going to laugh at that idea or like it, just any random NBA fan is going to laugh at that. But like Scottie is like really important to what they do. He’s not the best player. He’s not even the second best player. But like having a guy that does what he does does unlock a lot of things on both ends of the floor. So not having him was pretty big.


Josh Eberley: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And it’s crazy to think, too. I was looking back that Jalen Suggs comment, which I really believed him, you know, pre-draft last year when he was like, You’re going to regret it if you don’t take me. And I was like, I believe I believe him. Like the way he holds that I believe him. But, you know, credit to Masai because Scottie, like the way that he played this year all the way through, but especially the last couple of months to even be talked about as such a key factor in a series with Harden and Embiid wow yeah hella picked.


Jason Concepcion: Okay let’s talk about the officiating Joel Embiid notably sidled over to Nick nurse and was like stop whining about the fouls then Joel Embiid after the last game a Raptors a stirring Raptors victory in which they dug down deep and did all the defensive things we were expecting them to do over the course of the series. They did it. Joel Embiid ended the game by derisively clapping the refs off the floor though. Yeah, I did like it was a good move and I like, listen, it’s all spice for the soup, which I like, I like a spicy soup. But Josh, what are your thoughts on the refereeing?


Josh Eberley: Well, a couple of things, right. Like I think the idea that you’re going to force Joel Embiid out of the post and you’re going to swarm him when he’s the biggest guy on the floor by far, he brings those elbows up, you’re going to have hands and you’re going to get calls against you. So I will get I’ll give me that. Like the Sixers fans are like officiating is not supposed to be 5050. It’s supposed to be call the fouls where they are. And I think fans have a hard time there. But both of these teams are gritty. These are gritty teams. Pascal has had his moments in the series, too. But like the the hypocrisy and lack of awareness from Embiid was very delicious. I can’t I can’t lie like the whole like, quit it, nurse. You know, let’s not talk about that clapping. I did it and then he did the very famous I’m not going to talk about this but I’m going to talk about this moment.


Zach Harper: Yeah. I do that every time. Every time. Yeah


Jason Concepcion: I similarly do that, too.


Josh Eberley: And if you’re going to roll that way, I mean, people are going to have their fun with it because how can they not?


Zach Harper: And I also think, like just in that series alone, I think Toronto could benefit from more whistles just because I do think that they’ve been pretty aggressive at times. But also you’ll see Pascal dribble around for 16 seconds and then put up a bad contested shot or just like throw it to Fred. You do it like I, you know, at the end of the shot clock. Like I think that Philly is obviously more forceful because they have Embiid and that that lack of like aggressive consistency from Toronto probably hurts them getting those calls in the other end.


Josh Eberley: Yeah for sure for sure and like the reality is I don’t know if it held, but the first 15 games or so they were together, it was like the most fouls ever accumulated by two players on the same team at the same time. Like, I don’t know how the script was going to flip for the playoffs, like it was hope for it, but it just it wasn’t realistic. So


Jason Concepcion: This team, the Raptors, their halfcourt offensive struggles have been, you know, talked about all season. I think it’s a not they’re not going to be able to crack this series, but going forward going into next season, what are some of the things you think that the Raptors are going to try to do to just kind of, you know, raise their ceiling?


Josh Eberley: Yeah, I mean, give Masai some credit earlier. Having Maxey on the other team in this series probably would have helped them a little bit with that. If Masai had decided that Lowry playing home games in Tampa wasn’t that important. But, you know, the past, the past, I think for Scottie and OG, like just the next steps for them as being the on ball creators like Scottie, it’s a little bit more this year. There was a lot of hope for OG come into the season. I felt like he was an NBA Twitter darling outside of Toronto. Obviously missed a lot of time with injury, but like, does he have that next level as being a dribble drive guy or is he going to remain like the defensive Swiss Army knife open, step back shooter? I, I think if OG has that next layer or if Scottie continues to improve, like that’s sort of their answer. But this might still be a team that has four amazing second secondary tertiary players in need of that primary creator. His greatest threat is the size. And so maybe maybe that’s something they’re still looking at in a trade.


Zach Harper: I. I was big on Precious Achiuwa when he came out and then and then I really liked his rookie year with Miami and a new kind of what their plans were for him like I think they looked at him as like not the next Bam Adebayo, but a guy who could do some similar stuff. And then he gets moved to Toronto, obviously. And you’ve seen him progress throughout the year, but before the season was over, it might even even have been that game against Philadelphia. He brought the ball up the floor and took a three in transition without ever looking to pass. And he hit it. And I just remember, like I immediately flashed to Andrew Bynum and we’re just like, What the hell is he? Oh, my God. Like, he kind of has this now. Like, do you think that Precious is maybe not as big a part moving forward as someone like this, someone like Scottie, but like he’s a pretty important piece, I feel like, to them, to their future.


Josh Eberley: I think he’s really slotted in well. And I don’t know, maybe you guys see something different, but I don’t know how much further the ceiling is or like how much they would run for him. But like his ability to stick in all sorts of sets and be a floor spacer has certainly like increased how viable he will be in a bigger role moving forward. So I definitely think he’s turned out to be a good find. He’s not Maxey, but he’s been a good player for me.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Josh Eberley: I’m a little hung up if you can’t tell.


Zach Harper: Do you want to just give a love letter to Tyrese Maxey right now? Like, I feel like. Like I’m with you. We can pen it together. Like he’s incredible.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah. I know, right? We can try.


Josh Eberley: There was that game last year where everyone in Philly was out like it was like Reed and Isaiah Joe, and Maxey and like Mark Walburg’s character.


Zach Harper: Isaiah Joe sounds like such a fake player. Like,.


Jason Concepcion: I know it really does. It sounds like when you let your 2k like run to like 2045 and.


Zach Harper: Right


Josh Eberley: They were doing like open tryouts. Man. Mark Wahlberg’s character from Invincible was on the floor, I think, like Maxey went for like 30 something points in that game, and Denver had no idea what to do with them. And it was just like one of those moments where you’re like, Wow, this kid is really special, and everyone can see this. Like, My grandma is watching the game. She can tell this kid has it. And then to then see that game and be like, You know what, we’re going to hold on Lowry and we’re not going to trade for Maxey because we really want Sibel in the deal is just always going to rub me in a bad way. Yeah. Thank you for letting me air that out on Takeline today.


Jason Concepcion: After all after all, Masai has done for this organization it’s like the guy can’t he can’t win.


Zach Harper: Look, when you pass on Tyresee Maxey.


Jason Concepcion: I know. I’m still angry about the way he swindled my New York knickerbockers over the years. It’s a painful. It’s painful. Anyway, we’ll move on. Josh, there’s been. In seemingly every series and to seemingly every contender, there has been a notable injury. So things are really in flux right now. You know, a world in which we watch the Celtics and the Warriors square off for a finals matchup is is seems like a very real world that could that could appear to us. What are your give us your predictions for Eastern Conference finals Western Conference finals and finals.


Josh Eberley: Yeah. I think with the Middleton injury, that is going to swing me Boston’s way. I think Boston is going to go against Philly. The Lowry injury, obviously, is another significant bump to to Miami, whether he’s out there or not. You know, these things linger. I think Philly everyone’s going to hate. I think it’ll be delicious. Like everyone will hate. Philly going going into the finals as they just get hacked all the way. But I think Boston, Philly and I still think Golden State, Phenix and hopefully Devin Booker can get back out there. Paul can keep the ship steady through the series and then Booker can get back because it would be I would genuinely feel terrible for for the Suns and Chris Paul if Booker wasn’t able to go like it just what a terrible run of luck.


Jason Concepcion: I agree they were my pick early in the season to go all the way. And I, I think that they can win. I think they can beat the pelicans without Booker. But you know, I don’t think they could think could go all the way. He is Josh Eberley of Canada and Hoops Mag. Josh, it’s been wonderful having you here, man. Good luck.


Zach Harper: Free Tyrese Maxey.


Jason Concepcion: Free Tyrese Maxey. Congratulations on having such a fun team. Knick Nurse Forever.


Josh Eberley: All right, appreciate it, boys. Thank you very much.


Zach Harper: Thanks Josh.


Jason Concepcion: [AD].


Jason Concepcion: Yeah. You know what that sound is? That means it’s time for Take Survivor the game where only the strongest take survives today. We have an incredible collection of talent here to to give us their takes and find out which of their takes is the most ferocious, the most victorious. Coming to us from Wave TV, where he is a senior creator, formerly of The Ringer and ESPN. He is Sean Yoo. Sean, how are you?


Sean Yoo: I’m doing great. Really excited to get some takes off.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, you know him from The Athletic NBA pod, from all of his other pods from guest hosting this podcast. Right now, he is the great, the unmatched Zach Harper. Zach, how are you feeling today?


Zach Harper: I don’t feel confident in this game at all.


Jason Concepcion: Okay.


Zach Harper: Like at all. Or maybe maybe I’m just slow playing that. Maybe I’m.


Sean Yoo: Trying to psych us out.


Zach Harper: Yeah, exactly.


Jason Concepcion: Ohhh shiiiit.


Zach Harper: Uh huh. Uh huh.


Jason Concepcion: He is a former journalist, a current television writer on Bob’s Burgers, Netflix, Cartoon Network, various other things. He’s also the co-host of the terribly funny Airbuds podcast. He is Mike Benner. Mike, how are you?


Mike Benner: Hello. Ready to take it to the streets, baby. Let’s go.


Jason Concepcion: *Singing*


Jason Concepcion: She is a musician, a writer, a comedian, the premier sports centric tarot card reader in the world, Ariana Lenarsky. How are you?


Ariana Lenarsky: Hello, America. I’m excited to be coming back from three zip with the Nuggets. We’re going to do it, baby.


Jason Concepcion: Yes, you heard it first from a person who can see the future. Folks. This is Take Survivor. And what does that mean? I’m going to tell you right now, three rounds, three prompts, first two rounds. Our contestants will give their take. Then everyone on the Zoom call will vote on whose take is the weakest. We will compile those votes and the person with the most votes will get ejected from the island, including in the voting pool, of course, are contestants. We got around to where the same exact thing happens. Another person ejected. The people who are ejected stay in the voting jury and then we go to the finals, in which case we all vote for the winning take. The winning take. Don’t worry, I’m going to repeat all these instructions again. Is everybody ready to go?


Sean Yoo: Yes.


Ariana Lenarsky: Yes.


Jason Concepcion: Here we go.


Zach Harper: Yes, Jason.


Jason Concepcion: First prompt. Coachella, as we all know, is going strong right now. I believe it’s the last weekend unfortunate for all of us fans of a quiet and easy to navigate. Los Angeles. Who is your dream Coachella headliner? Who is your dream Coachella headliner? Let’s start with you, Sean. Who’s your dream Coachella headliner?


Sean Yoo: So Danny Elfman recently did a set and people said it was extremely chaotic. He played like The Simpsons theme song and a plethora of other things. So I’m going to go with Hans Zimmer with an orchestra behind him. I think.


Jason Concepcion: Zimmer, baby.


Sean Yoo: There’s a lot of movies there that would would really, you know, hype up my Coachella experience.


Jason Concepcion: So 58 year old Danny Elfman swole as hell. We go with sixty


Zach Harper: Way too swole.


Jason Concepcion: We go with 60 something year old Hans Zimmer, who, of course, has played the festival, shouts to the great Hans Zimmer. Zach Harper, Who is your dream Coachella headliner?


Zach Harper: I really want to go with someone who would have to be a hologram, but I have to stay true to myself. It’s someone who, every time they come on the radio, playlist, whatever, you just feel better about it. And to headline Coachella with Shaggy, you think it’s going to get better and more energy than that? Exactly. So everyone wants Mr. Boombastic on there.


Jason Concepcion: Shaggy. It wasn’t him. A proud native of Riverhead, Long Island shouts the Long Island shouts to Shaggy an incredible pul.


Sean Yoo: Does he have enough songs?


Jason Concepcion: Well, he can just do It Wasn’t Me.


Zach Harper: Just keep doing the three. Do anything. Yeah, just make it a medley, it doesn’t matter. You have a problem with that? No, of course not.


Jason Concepcion: No one will have a problem with that.


Zach Harper: I’d be the first artist to continuously play all three days of Coachella when we played that song. And people would love it. Just one song one day, then the next. And the next. There’s a three songs.


Jason Concepcion: Big fan of of my fellow Long Islander Shaggy. Michael Benner. Your dream Coachella lineup. Headliner Excuse me. Your dream. Coachella headliner.


Mike Benner: Headliner. Well, it’s funny you said lineup because this act encompasses a lot of people. You know, we’re all we’ve all been out at the bar or you’ve been to our wedding and people are trying to get the dance floor going. And the one song that gets everybody on the dance floor is Back That Ass Up and I want to have the entire lineup of Cash Money records and Cash Money Millionaires, Birdman, Mannie Fresh, BG, Juvenile, Lil Wayne and Turk. Let’s get them all out there and just do a mega set. That’s 3 hours of hits right there.


Jason Concepcion: I’ll tell you what. When I hear the strings from Back That Ass up. Something in me just stirs that can’t be controlled. And I think a lot of people feel the same way. Clearly, you do Mike. Ariana your dream Coachella headliner?


Kelcey Wright Johnson: I really struggled with this because I can’t imagine going to Coachella. That sounds really miserable to me. So I was like, What? What would really, truly bring me to Coachella? And I was like, The only way I would go to Coachella and I think everyone could agree with me here would be if my mother headlined. I think everyone can relate to that idea, like the fantasy of seeing your mom headlining Coachella, just like out of sheer curiosity. Like, what would she do? Like, how would you handle that situation?


Jason Concepcion: What’s her just like? What’s her opener? What’s Mom opening?


Kelcey Wright Johnson: That’s what I’m wondering. Like, would she have a band? Like what? What’s her band name going to be? Is she going to connect with the audience? Like, is she going to criticize the audience? Like, I would learn so much about her, and I’d most importantly, be putting her on the spot. And I can’t pass up that opportunity.


Jason Concepcion: I absolutely love it. Fantastic take.


Zach Harper: You just pitched a a really good episode of Black Mirror.


Jason Concepcion: Let’s go to the voting folks. Here it is the first round of voting. Who will be the first take ejected from the island? Will it be Sean who says, Hey, Danny Elfman did it? Why can’t Hans Zimmer do it again? Will it be Zach Harper who said, you know, who’s going to get ejected from the island? It wasn’t me because I want Shaggy at Coachella. Will it be Michael Benner? Who said bom bom bom bom bom, bom, bom. Got to hear those strings for Back That Ass Up with the Cash Money Millionaires. What a star studded lineup that group was for a hot second will be Arianna, who says, you know, I what would be surprising would be shocking. What would be absolutely dumbfounding. What would be heartwarming, what would be a conversation inducing would be my mom just randomly on stage at Coachella. I would get a million texts would be like, hey, is that your mom on stage at Coachella? Yes, that’s my mom. And so the votes are coming in now and we are compiling them. We have one vote for Sean Yoo to leave the island. We have one vote for Mike Benner to leave the island. We have another vote for Sean Yoo to leave the island two votes, Sean. We have one vote for Ariana’s mom to leave the island.


Zach Harper: Oh, no.


Ariana Lenarsky: Wow.


Jason Concepcion: And then our final vote for our first ejectee on the island is for Sean Yoo. Sean, I’m sorry to say, I think it was the fact that Hans Zimmer had already played.


Sean Yoo: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: Sean, what do you have to say?


Sean Yoo: It would have been a double, double dose? You know, I’m just glad to be on the island, glad to experience it. It’s really disappointing that my torch is being snuffed out this early. But, you know, I was happy to be here.


Jason Concepcion: It was wonderful to have you. And fire is your life and your fire is still burning. Just not here. Let’s move on. Next prompt what NBA stat would you like to see implemented in future NBA seasons? We’ve we’ve all witnessed the explosion of advanced stats, whether it’s VORP or PER or net rating or offensive rating or per36, etc., etc., etc.. What stat, whether it’s invented or real, would you like to see come to the fore as the preeminent stat when talking about NBA basketball? Let’s start with you, Ariana. What is your ideal NBA stat?


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Well, this is something I’d like to include in the repertoire. I would call it a fit to win percentage. So it’s.


Jason Concepcion: Fit to win.


Kelcey Wright Johnson: Fit to win. And it’s how often a really cold fit before a game will lead to a double or a loss. So if they’re looking good while they’re walking down the runway,.


Jason Concepcion: Wow.


Ariana Lenarsky: To the game, do they then win or lose? And honestly, my first thought was that LeBron’s would be low.


Jason Concepcion: Low fit to win. So a low correlation. So what we’re looking so let me just back up and try and tease this out. What we’re looking for is a correlation between a good, unique and dynamic fit and a win.


Ariana Lenarsky: And a dubb. And a dubb. Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: Who do you who you think would have the strongest fit to win correlation?


Ariana Lenarsky: Oh, I mean, I’d love to at least see Kyle Kuzma. That’d be really interesting. Wow. Or maybe even Will Barton. Yeah, I think. Well, actually, I also think the guy who was on the, I can’t think of his name right now who’s on the Rocketss who has like a million shoes. What is his name ?


Mike Benner: PJ Tucker.


Jason Concepcion: PJ Tucker, currently.


Ariana Lenarsky: That would be super fascinating.


Jason Concepcion: currently of the Miami Heat.


Ariana Lenarsky: And I guess maybe Russ.


Jason Concepcion: Interesting. Well, Russ, I think I might not. Russ Russ and LeBron’s, I think also low, although, you know, maybe not over the course of his career.


Zach Harper: But career wise, I think Russ’s.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah yeah Career wise, I think it would be a pretty strong one.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, career wise. I think it’s pretty strong. Yeah.


Zach Harper: Jordan Clarkson would have an interesting one. Jordan Clarkson got as we get a lot of wins and he’s got great fits. Yeah, I love that. I think Shay Gilgeous-Alexander is like one of the best dressers in the league but currently on a tanking team.


Jason Concepcion: So we need to figure out a way to figure out. Yeah, yeah. But also weight it.


Zach Harper: But also he misses like 30 games a year. So do you count the one, right? Count the ones where he misses. Right. And they lose all those games. So he might actually have a very surprising one.


Ariana Lenarsky: Yeah. I don’t know how we would incorporate like people who are injured and sitting on the bench in suits.


Zach Harper: Mm hmm.


Ariana Lenarsky: I don’t know that that counts.


Jason Concepcion: Here’s what I think is great about this stat is like it is the it would be the first ever unified stat. Like, we break stats down by, like, preseason, regular season, postseason play and now. Any game that you show up to, that you play in, that you walked into wearing clothes is part of this stat. So you get you would just use. So it’d be every single game. So I think that would be really interesting. Mike Benner. What NBA stat do you think should exist and should be used going forward as the way we discuss the NBA?


Mike Benner: I think, you know, we have numbers for everything. Now, you can quantify just about anything in the NBA and life really by by math. So I want to go something a different way, a little more poetic. And I think every team should be assigned a like Chaucer, like a writer who kind of catalogs lore of each season or. Yeah, like we got a whole like kind of view of like what’s happening. Like did Delonte West actually, fuck LeBron’s mom, right? We would know if we had a documentarian there.


Ariana Lenarsky: Wow.


Jason Concepcion: So you’re saying like a herald, like each team needs, like a herald.  That precedes.


Zach Harper: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: That precedes the team and is like, hear ye hear ye about to arrive in the arena from the great city of Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty in North America. Like that?


Mike Benner: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. They’re also documenting it. So like we would know, like do the Nets to do any of Ben Simmons teammates on the Nets like him? Like I want to know that.


Jason Concepcion: I absolutely love this right. And we can release the books like ten years, you know, like like.


Mike Benner: Right.


Jason Concepcion: Like to to preserve the kind of, like, privacy of the team. You keep him sealed until, like, a certain date, ten years or whatever, after the last member of that team is like retired. And then you open the books and you can read the history. I actually love this.


Mike Benner: How much did Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert actually sit together? Right, like. like for lunch.


Jason Concepcion: How many times?


Zach Harper: Yeah. Yeah. I love that idea


Jason Concepcion: And was it just love the one time that Quin Snyder, like, happened to walk through the cafeteria and was like, Oh, things are going good. Zach Harper, what is an NBA stat that should exist and should be used?


Zach Harper: Oh, man, those are two tough ones to compete with. But I look, I believe that advanced stats have a place in the NBA. I’m not going to go out there and say like, oh, it just means shoot threes, you know? But I also am kind of sick of what they represent. I’m kind of sick of them not capturing the entire story of what they’re supposed to represent, especially defensive stats. So I have an advanced stat that is three parts. It’s called the Coward Index, and the cowardly index is made up of one. How many business decisions did you make as a player was attacking the basket too? How many times did you did you pass the ball at the end of a shot clock so you didn’t pick your field goal percentage? And three how many times did you switch off a player willingly so that you didn’t have to guard them anymore? So that those are the ones like how many times, you know, like if you’re if you’re all of a sudden, like you’ve got James Harden, he does have the ball and then Draymond’s like, get the fuck away from James Harden like, I got him. You go guard this other, you go guard like Andre Roberson or someone, right? So it’s all those three. They’re all weighted in a different way, but it creates the cowered index number.


Jason Concepcion: Who if you just had to like, you know, off the top of your head, guess who’s like the top five of the Coward index are. Who would you guess is in the is is up there in the Coward index?


Zach Harper: I mean Karl-Anthony Towns is going to be high. Unfortunately. Unfortunately Kat is going to be up there maybe at an all time rate.


Jason Concepcion: He might just go home and have a glass of wine and think about that and decompress.


Zach Harper: Sure. Maybe the all time leader after this season is LeBron James, because that dude was making a lot of business decisions on on on the defensive end of the floor. So that would have been heavily weighted. I think that Nikola Vucevic is going to be there vote. Vuch is going to be up there for sure.


Jason Concepcion: Vuci Man.


Zach Harper: Yeah, yeah. Vuci Mane is going to be there. Literally anyone who’s played for the Kings over the last 16 years is very high on the list. Like that’s a tie. And then I think I think one final one that I that I believe would be very high up there is is any any center, any washed up center that like the the Mavs or the Rockets or now the Sixers are bringing in like an Andre Drummond, a DeAndre Jordan, like any of those guys, I think going to be very high on there.


Jason Concepcion: This is all fantastic answers. Let’s go to the voting folks who will be eliminated from the island in this the second round of take survivor. Will it be Arianna who says my stat that I want to to use in the NBA going forward and I think that Adam Silver should implement is fit to win. How much does a great outfit correlate to winning or losing in the NBA? It’s honestly not been explored yet. And we need to figure it out. Would be Michael Benner. Who says? What about poetry? Forget numbers. What about words? What about narrative?


Mike Benner: I really. Regardless. I want this to be implemented intot the NBA. Like, it neds to be there.


Ariana Lenarsky: I’m going to be a person that does that. I’m going to start that.


Mike Benner: Oh my god. what a good idea.


Jason Concepcion: What about? What about what about Paul  Bettany? What about Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer in the 2001 medieval action comedy A Knight’s Tale, starring Heath Ledger?


Zach Harper: By the way, one of the best one of the best sports movies ever made.


Jason Concepcion: Absolutely.


Mike Benner: Accurate. Accurate. Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: What about a figure like Geoffrey Chaucer in that movie played by Paul Bettany, better known as the vision in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Or will it be Zack Harper, who says, We got to know who’s afraid? Who’s run from the smoke? Who doesn’t want the grind? Who’s scared of it all? It’s certainly not PJ Tucker, who I’m watching, get into it with members of the Hawks team right now on my secondary screen, who’s passing out of the shot clock late in the game, who’s trying not to get dunked on, who is scared of the smoke? Votes are coming in now and we’re starting to compile them. Oh, gosh, folks. First vote is for Michael Benner. Sadly, a second vote is for Ariana. Another vote for Ariana. Two votes, Ariana. One vote for Michael Benner. One vote. Oh, my gosh, folks. We’re one vote for Zack, though it was very difficult. And another vote for Zack. Which brings us to a head to head, folks. Oh, 2 to 2. Ariana vs Zack. This means that everybody has to vote again. Zack and Ariana, you cannot vote everybody else but must vote for either Zack or Ariana to be ejected for the island. We’re going to the vote off, folks. We have. Oh, gosh.


Ariana Lenarsky: Clothes make the man.


Zach Harper: Come on, Patriarchy.


Jason Concepcion: We have one vote for Ariana. One vote for Zack. Another vote for Zack. And we’re waiting for that last vote. We’re waiting for that last vote, folks. From. Oh, yeah. And it’s our our second person ejected from the island is, unfortunately, Zack Harper. Zack Harper. What do you have to say?


Zach Harper: It was.


Ariana Lenarsky: Wow.


Zach Harper: What an honor to compete against. And I want to include Sean on this as well. Just three unbelievable competitors. I knew I didn’t. Once I heard those two ideas for the stat, I knew I didn’t have a great chance. I’m happy to have fought. I’m happy to have had my flame go as long as it could. And it’s just an honor to be here with you, Jason.


Jason Concepcion: It was an honor to be here with you, Zack. What a magnanimous, humble and honestly stirring way to go out. We go to the finals. Now it is Michael Benner versus Ariana Lenarsky in a true matchup of champions. Folks.


Mike Benner: I can’t believe something called the Coward Index did not make it to the finals.


Jason Concepcion: It didn’t make it. It didn’t make it. But that is that is, that is the fickleness of destiny. The fickleness of fate in the fickle is of Take Survivor, the greatest game on the Internet, folks. Here’s our final prompt. The MVP, as we all know, is a award that is voted on through the regular season. Regular season stats and wins and losses and such are counted. Everything else that happens after that is not counted. But, let’s put that aside. Through the first round of the playoffs. Who is our MVP? So who is our first round playoff MVP? Forget the regular season just in this first round of the playoffs. Ariana, let’s start with you. Who is the MVP of the first round of the NBA playoffs?


Ariana Lenarsky: Okay. This is a really, really hot topic. It is. And my really hot take is that the MVP of the first round of the playoffs is Ben Simmons.


Jason Concepcion: Oh my god.


Ariana Lenarsky: Here’s why.


Jason Concepcion: You better say why.


Ariana Lenarsky: Imagine getting so.


Jason Concepcion: What if you just didn’t say anything? What if you just stopped?


Ariana Lenarsky: Maybe that being more powerful. Maybe that’d be more powerful.


Jason Concepcion: No tell us. We got to know. We gotta know.


Ariana Lenarsky: Listen, like, imagine getting so much attention for doing so little this guy’s front page news.


Jason Concepcion: It’s really amazing.


Ariana Lenarsky: Like, if he takes a shit, people want to know which toilet bowl they do. That’s celebrity. He is the celebrity of the NBA. He’s the moment. He’s everywhere. He’s nowhere. All at once. He’s like Beyoncé. And he’s keeping the Nets relevant, frankly.


Jason Concepcion: He really is.


Ariana Lenarsky: Like will he or won’t he. Like, I’m on the edge of my seat.


Jason Concepcion: It’s really true.


Ariana Lenarsky: And I give him. I just feel like I need to give him my award for Most Valuable Player because credit where credit is due, we are all being played right now. So I’m impressed. And you should be impressed, too. That’s my take.


Jason Concepcion: Michael Benner, who should be the MVP of the first round of the NBA playoffs.


Mike Benner: You’re never going to believe this. But Ben Simmons was going to be my answer too.


Jason Concepcion: Just give it to us. Fuck it.


Mike Benner: For the same exact reasons as Ariana.


Jason Concepcion: As a Sixers fan, let us know why.


Mike Benner: He is a call out king. He doesn’t go to work. He doesn’t have to. He’s collecting his paycheck. He’s like, I maybe I’ll show up and then he realizes work is going to be hard tomorrow. So, you know, but I’m I’m good. I’m not going to call it all right. But look, I can I can pivot.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah.


Mike Benner: And I’ll be more earnest. My actual MVP was almost Jason Tatum, but narrative matters. And so I have to go with Joel Embiid, my guy for my favorite team.


Jason Concepcion: I love it.


Zach Harper: Alright 3rd in points, 3rd in rebounds, 50% shooting percentage, fifth best PER in the playoffs, all doing it with a injured hand, the torn tendon in his thumb or ligament or whatever. And he had the best shot of the playoffs so far.


Jason Concepcion: Incredible shot.


Mike Benner: Turnaround three to win in overtime. So Joel Embiid is my answer now.


Jason Concepcion: 33% three point shooter. Has been an up and down three point shooter throughout his career. Did you think that was going in?


Mike Benner: No, I thought I did not.


Jason Concepcion: Did you like that play when it was unfolding?


Mike Benner: I was absolutely shocked to learn later watching like Doc Rivers was mic’d up and that was how he drew that play up.


Jason Concepcion: He did draw he drew it up exactly like that.


Mike Benner: He drew a fucking broken play somehow.


Jason Concepcion: Incredible. Let’s go to the voting for the finals. And one more reminder, folks. Our jury is going to be voting for the winner. You’re going to be voting for the winner, not the person who has been ejected. And who will it be? Will it be Ariana who says, Ben Simmons, you’re driving the narrative, you’re driving the the pizzazz, you’re driving the heat? We can’t stop talking about that. That like a college ecstasy dealer outfit that you were wearing on the sidelines. We can’t stop talking about the fact that you said you were going to play and everybody knew you weren’t going to play and then you woke up with in your backyard. Now you’re definitely not going to play in game four will be Michael Benner, who also is going to pick Ben Simmons for very, very personal reasons, but then pivoted for equally personal reasons to the great Joel Embiid, who is truly gutting it out with a torn ligament in some that is going to require surgery, which he is going to put off until until after the season, because that’s how a person that makes millions of dollars to play basketball, does it? Unlike unlike Ben Simmons, we are going to the voting now and folks, we have one vote to win. Michael Benner. We have one vote win for Ariana. We have another vote to win for Ariana. We have another vote to win for Michael Benner. It is two, two folks. It really is a co winner today. But we’re going to give the crown to Ariana Linskey, who had a incredible, incredible answer about Ben Simmons. But our our vice winner is Michael Benner, folks. Let’s hear it to both of you. What do you have to say? Ariana, let’s start with you.


Ariana Lenarsky: Well, I just never thought I’d win $1,000,000.


Jason Concepcion: It’s $1 million.


Ariana Lenarsky: I feel so, so excited.


Jason Concepcion: And I’m writing the check right now.


Ariana Lenarsky: I’m going to place it all on a bet for the Nuggets to get into the second round. I’m very excited.


Jason Concepcion: Michael Benner, your thoughts on what it was, a stirring rendition of Take Survivor today?


Mike Benner: Well, when I saw you starting to rent a check, I instantly regretted giving the win to Ariana. So, ugh. Fuck.


Jason Concepcion: Sorry. We’ve only got the one mill. We’ve only got the $1 million.


Ariana Lenarsky: I’ll take you out to dinner. It’s fine.


Mike Benner: Thank you. I’ll take that


Jason Concepcion: And that’s been it folks. Thank you. From all of us here at Take Survivor headquarters. What a fantastic game at Take Survivor, catch you next time. Goodbye.


Jason Concepcion: That’s it for us. Subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to Takeline show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode. Plus my digital series All Caps NBA, which airs every Friday. Check it out, folks. Byee. 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.