AND1 SEASON PREVIEW: LANCE STEPHENSON

Last season, Lance Stephenson stepped into the starting lineup and became the catalyst for the Eastern Conference Finalists. Now, Danny Granger will miss at least the first few weeks of the season due to injury, meaning the debate about the Indy’s starting lineup is over. Lance is in.

Sound familiar?

Lance was a surprise starter last year, but he stayed in the lineup because his energy lifts the whole team; if you don’t follow the Pacers, you probably saw his destruction of his hometown team, the Knicks, in the Eastern Conference Semis. Indy may have fallen to the Heat, but Lance was a big reason the series went seven games. He spent the offseason working with a shooting coach to get his percentages up—if he becomes a threat from outside, look out.

So this season has started just the way the last one did, with Lance back in the starting five. But after all he’s been through, and the way last season ended, Lance doesn’t care who starts. For him, it’s all about how you finish.

SEASON PREVIEW: JAMAAL FRANKLIN

It’s no secret that Memphis has depth on the wing. Tony Allen, Mike Miller, Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter are all established veterans who have made their name in the game. But of all the young players to play for the Grit ‘n’ Grind Grizzlies in recent years, only one earned “Grindfather” Tony Allen’s blessing as “The Grindson”: Jamaal Franklin.

Franklin, who did it all as a collegian at San Diego St., couldn’t have landed in a better spot. With Allen as a mentor—the Grindfather has already mentioned taking our boy under his wing during preseason—Franklin will see how to harness relentless energy at both ends of the floor, to go along with his strong overall game. And that’s the thing: although he’s a rookie, Franklin has more natural ability than Allen. Could there be a battle for those pressure minutes as the season plays out?

Jamaal is the Grindson for a reason; he’s already known for his tenacity and work ethic, so he may not be learning from his mentor for long. Come playoff time, maybe they’ll be more like Grindbrothers.

Earn Your Burn

Scouts have a phrase for Jamaal Franklin: he’s a “jack of all trades.” Too often they follow that up with, “…and master of none”—but Franklin is out to show that, in a league full of specialists, there’s room for an energy guy who does a little bit of everything.

Take Franklin’s game last Sunday. A line of 4 points, 3 board, 5 dimes, a block and a steal might not do much for you … but all that in just 12 minutes? That’s crazy production. The game before that, he nearly had a double-double in just 23 minutes, and threw up another 4 assists. And that’s not to mention his defense; watch Franklin once and you know, preseason or not, he doesn’t take a play off. Coach Hollins has certainly taken notice, as Jamaal notched 20 minutes, 10 points and 6 Rebs in a win against the Hawks over the weekend.

Franklin’s Grizzlies have become a force in the Western Conference without a true superstar. They did it on hustle and hard work. Jamaal is gonna fit right in.

INTRODUCING ISAIAH AND JAMAAL

Seems like we’re not the only ones excited about our two newest brand reps. We’ve been seeing it around the web, and now we’re proud to confirm the announcement of our two newest brand reps: Isaiah Canaan of the Houston Rockets, and Jamaal Franklin of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Following in the footsteps of Lance Stephenson, Isaiah and Jamaal are everything we’re about: hard work, dedication, energy and a love for the game of basketball. Calling Isaiah a little man with a big game is missing the point: last season at Murray State, the two-time OVC Player of the Year scored a point every 36 seconds, so you know he can fill it up.

Meanwhile, Jamaal simply does it all: the 2012 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year led San Diego State in points, rebounds, assists, and steals—he even finished second in blocks, all as the team’s primary ball-handler. Oh, and he also guards three positions with the ferocity of a pit bull off its leash.

They have all the accolades—and there are many still to come—but these two made their names on what doesn’t show up in the box score. Welcome, Isaiah and Jamaal: we can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store.

CALM BEFORE THE STORM

It’s getting a little breezy outside. It’s getting darker a little earlier. Maybe you need to head home from the playground a little sooner.

But that’s the beauty of fall—when you can’t spend all day on the courts, there’s plenty of ball on the TV. We can’t believe preseason NBA is already in full swing, and even though it’s gonna get serious in a hurry, right now it’s got all the silliness you’d expect from guys just working themselves into game shape.

Metta World Peace brings the kind of crazy that builds team chemistry and will win the Knicks games. In this video, he’s grilling Tim Hardaway, Jr., about the spiritual meaning of a banana, and asking Tyson Chandler about his favorite toes. It’s insane—and we love it.

The Kings may not rack up as many W’s, but they’re gonna have fun either way. Rookie Ben McLemore will be dunking over dozens of opponents this season, but with Patrick Patterson’s help, he actually threw one down over teammate Travis Outlaw.

Nothing But A Number

Videos like THIS are why we do what we do.

FIVE/FIVE is the story of Brandon Todd, a high school and Div. III star in Ohio, who had one dream through it all: to dunk a basketball despite being just 5’5”.

In the mini-documentary, Todd talks about weighing 117 pounds as a high-schooler, and feeling like he didn’t belong on the court. He threw himself into Russian bodybuilding techniques to build up his explosiveness, and after years of training and discipline, he finally threw one down.

“I’m willing to put myself through all this pain and anguish for that one moment to can say, ‘I can do it,’” he said. How’s that for inspiration?