ICYMI: Craig Sager, old friends, and new possibilities

Jun 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; NBA broadcaster Craig Sager gets a standing ovation during game six of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland won 115-101. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; NBA broadcaster Craig Sager gets a standing ovation during game six of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland won 115-101. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The content machine here at The Step Back is running in high gear and it can be difficult to keep up with all of the great stuff we’re putting out. To make your life easier, we’re going to be running a regular Friday post that curates some of our favorite stories from the week. Please enjoy.

IT’S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YOU: The NBA family lost one of it’s greatest personalities and ambassadors this week, as Craig Sager passed away after a lengthy battle with leukemia. Sager was a small character in the NBA landscape but was a bastion of pure joy and enthusiasm. Andy Tobo asks that we remember Sager as a man who got as much out of his work and his life as any of us can ever ask for. We honor Sager by living as he did — do as much as you can today, for as many todays as you have.

BEHOLD, THE UNICORN: The rise of Kristaps Porzingis continues unbridled. He’s reached a point where putting him in pick-and-pops is essentially an unguardable proposition. It’s not a good sign for the rest of the league when he’s 21-years old and the best defense that can be mustered is, “hope he misses.” We also received some reports this week that the Lakers were unimpressed with Porzingis in his pre-draft workouts, because they worked him out like a throwback big man. Basically, the Lakers missed out on his potential because of an absurd lack of imagination.

INTRODUCING THE STEP BACK DAY-TO-DAY: This week we launched our new daily NBA podcast, The Step Back Day-to-Day, hosted by Jason Mann. You may know Jason as the co-host of our basketball history podcast, Over and Back. The format is short and light, small chunks to keep you up-to-date on all the happenings around the NBA. Watch out for plenty of guest appearances from your favorite Step Back writers. You can also find this new podcast, along with all the rest of our shows, in The Step Back Podcast Network’s iTunes feed.

UP-AND-COMING-UP-AND-COMERS: You never know where the next key rotation player will come from. Chris Reichert’s weekly D-League call-up rankings are nice place to start looking though. The man at the top of those rankings, Briante Weber, has battled back from injury to make himself into everything a team could ask for at the point guard position. Also appearing on those rankings is 25-year old Cory Jefferson, who has added 3-point range to his bouncy game and could be a useful piece once January rolls around and 10-day contracts can be signed.

SPEAKING OF UNSTOPPABLE: Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry can irreparably break a defense, and they don’t even need the ball in their hands to do it.

THE DARK HORSE MVP RACE: Who ya’ got? Marc Gasol or Giannis Antetkounmpo?

LIGHT YEARS AHEAD: The Oklahoma City Thunder have leveraged the domestic draft-and-stash option with their D-League affiliate (which happens to play directly across the street from their NBA team) to perfection.

THIS WEEK IN WARRIORS: The Golden State Warriors are slightly behind last year’s pace in terms of their record. But by a few different statistical indicators, this year’s team might be even better than last year’s. One of the things that makes this team so special is their historic passing and assist numbers. These cool visualizations from Positive Residual help illustrate how much more balanced their ball movement is than the rest of the league.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (NON-EMBIID DIVISION): Is a second round pick coming off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks?

WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING LOCKOUTS: The outline for a new CBA is reportedly in place and could be ratified before the end of January, keeping us safe from strikes and lockouts for the next seven years. There are several new elements in place in this agreement and Cole Zwicker breaks down how it should affect young players and draft prospects.

I LOVE WILSON CHANDLER: He’s always been one of my favorite players and it’s wonderful to see him healthy and enjoying a career season. However, Chandler talked with our David Ramil and seemed rather staid about playing well for a team that wasn’t. I suppose when success means a possible trade and more transition, you don’t get too excited about career-best numbers.

WHEN DOES IT END? The Process appears to be alive and well in Philadelphia (both Joel Embiid’s career and the broader metaphysical philosophy of patience). Who knows how long either of those things will sustain, so it’s worth asking what are acceptable outcomes from all the Sixers’ past suffering.

GOT BUCKETS? We all know that transition baskets are generally easier. So which is more indicative of a unique skill — getting more transition baskets or making more transition baskets?

ARE YOU READY FOR MAX-CONTRACT OTTO PORTER? Porter has been a beacon of competence for a Washington Wizards team that has had precious little of that to rely on this season. Offensively and defensively he’s found a niche and could be inline for a huge deal. Jared Dubin digs into what’s working for Porter, as well as a few other mid-level guys struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of success.

POINT GUARDS, SERVED THREE WAYS: A little fan fiction, built around Rajon Rondo and a “Better Call Saul” situation. Dennis Schroder is the Atlanta Hawks’ savior, just not this season. And musing on the robotic efficiency of Chris Paul, as he ticks off another career milestone.