Tuesday, October 17, 2017

NBA Preview: 2017-18

By Trevor Hass

I don’t know about you, but I’m particularly excited for the NBA season this year. Granted, I get giddy just looking at a basketball, but I really do think we’re in for a treat this season.

While the Warriors are the clear favorite, and will likely repeat, I’d say there are five other teams (Cavaliers, Thunder, Rockets, Celtics, Spurs, in that order) that have a legit shot at dethroning the champs.

Nothing will beat the Mavs’ run to the title in 2011, but every year I come into it hoping we’ll see something like that. Dirk and LeBron faced off in a series and Dirk won! How dope is that? Nothing even against LeBron…Dirk’s just the man.

Anyway, I digress. Back to 2017, where if you’re not on a team with three superstars you’re doing something wrong. It was crazy how the dominoes ended up falling this offseason. Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Paul Millsap, Jimmy Butler and Isaiah Thomas are all on new teams. That’s wild.

It seems like nearly every team is different, except maybe the Spurs, who will likely still have the same nucleus in 2030 – perhaps with Tim Duncan’s kid thrown into the mix.

I say this every year, but I think the overall identity of the NBA is often misconstrued. Some people don’t like watching because they already know what’s going to happen. Will the Warriors win it all? Probably. Will people talk about Lonzo and LaVar Ball way too much? Probably. Will the Sixers tank? Probably not, so that’s cool!

But that’s not where the fun is. The fun is in the unpredictability and the chaos, the triple-doubles and the comeback wins. Think of it like going to see a movie, even though you likely know what’s going to happen. I mean, Harry was always going to kill Voldemort, but that didn’t make it any less exhilarating when it happened. I think this season will be the best one in a few years, so without further ado, here’s a preview:

East

1) Cleveland Cavaliers (54-28) – I could see this going either way. I think the Celtics and Cavs will finish with about the same record, but I think the Cavs will ultimately get the 1 seed. Losing Kyrie will hurt in the Finals, but getting D Wade and Isaiah ain’t too shabby. Their starting lineup is obviously great, but have you seen their bench? Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert, Jeff Green, Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye is honestly one of the deeper benches ever. It might be the best. I mean that group of eight is pretty much a fringe playoff team in the East this year.

LeBron’s made the Finals seven straight years, so I see no logical reason to bet against him. Though the gap is dwindling, he’s still clearly the best player in the NBA. I think what’s really interesting here is how the Cavs will match up with the Warriors in the likely tetralogy.

I think Isaiah Thomas will have trouble guarding either Steph or Klay for extended stretches. With Kyrie gone, a lot of the scoring onus will fall on Kevin Love, and I think he’s going to have a big year. The Cavs can match the Warriors shooting 3s at nearly every position, and I think they’re deeper and more experienced at several spots, so it will be fun to see how it unfolds.

2) Boston Celtics (52-30) – It’s truly astonishing how much Danny Ainge and Co. chose to overhaul a 53-win team that made the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s kind of like going to one college and liking it, knowing it doesn’t benefit you long term and transferring to a new one and a potentially better life before it’s too late.

I wrote a full Celtics preview, that you can check out here, but to sum up: I think they’ll be very good, really fun to watch and a step better than last year. It’s still LeBron’s East, though, at least for the time being.

3) Washington Wizards (51-31) – People seem to forget that the Wizards have just about everyone back from a team that was a normal Kelly Olynyk shooting night away from the Eastern Conference Finals. John Wall’s entering his prime, Bradley Beal’s one of the better two-way 2s and Otto Porter can do no wrong. The Wizards should be solid again this year, especially with the East in semi-disarray.

4) Milwaukee Bucks (44-38) – Everything in Milwaukee starts with Giannis Antetokounmpo (spelled it right on the first try. Midseason form, baby!). The Bucks have a really solid core around him, and I expect them to make a jump this year. They might even win a series.

5) Toronto Raptors (43-39) – The East, while far inferior to the West, isn’t that terrible. I mean if the Raptors, who are a very good team, could finish out of the top three, that tells you something. They’re kind of stuck in no man’s land, like the Grizzlies – very good and fun to watch, but unable to get over the hump.

6) Miami Heat (41-41) –The Heat are somewhat brash, and I think they think they’re better than they are, but sometimes that can help. As long as Dion Waiters is there, this is a team to watch. Championship or bust, am I right?

7) Detroit Pistons (39-43) – Avery Bradley was one of the most underrated acquisitions of the offseason. He’ll be a nice complement to Reggie Jackson and will help him get more uncontested looks. Bradley’s a lockdown defender, and when you put him with Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson and Andre Drummond, good things are going to happen on that end of the floor.

8) Charlotte Hornets (38-44) – The loss of Nicolas Batum to start the season hurts, but this should still be a playoff team. Fun fact about Dwight Howard you might not suspect: He’s made the playoffs every year but one since 2007. He’s still dominant on occasion, and I think he, Kemba and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can lead them to the postseason.

9) Indiana Pacers (37-45) – This team has 9-seed written all over it. Myles Turner is one of the bright young stars in the league, and Victor Oladipo will help, but the Pacers are still in that in-between territory.

10) Philadelphia 76ers (36-46) – Sorry, I just don’t see it. Not yet, anyway. I think the Sixers will definitely make the playoffs next year, but I don’t think they’re quite there. Ben Simmons, though incredible in transition, is a turnover machine. Joel Embiid, even with his new paycheck, is incredibly injury-prone. J.J. Redick helps. They actually have a lot of shooting now, between Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Redick and Jerryd Bayless, but I think they’re going to struggle defensively and with turnovers. Next year. They’re certainly on the rise, though, and they’re way too good to tank.

11) Brooklyn Nets (36-46) – Recently, the Sixers and Nets have been battling for the No. 1 pick, and soon they’ll be battling in the playoffs, but right now they’re battling for mediocrity. D’Angelo Russell’s cool and all, but what makes people think he’s going to lead them to the playoffs when he’s still so unproven? Give it time, people. I will say that the Nets are tough. Sean Kilpatrick, Allen Crabbe, Trevor Booker and DeMarre Carroll are all fierce competitors, but I don’t see it meshing perfectly quite yet.

12) Orlando Magic (33-46) – The Magic have some nice pieces, especially Nikola Vucevic, but they don’t have enough firepower to make the playoffs. I think Jonathan Isaac will play a lot and could be in the running for Rookie of the Year.

13) New York Knicks (31-51) – Melo’s (finally) gone, which opens the door for Kristaps Porzingis to be the face of the franchise. There’s just one problem. I don’t think he’s destined to be the best player on a contender. He’s a great player, but I think he’s better suited as a No. 2 or 3 option. For now, though, it’s his team. Tim Hardaway Jr., Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee are all solid players. I don’t think the Knicks will be a train wreck, but I don’t think they’ll sniff the playoffs, either.

14) Atlanta Hawks (27-55) – The Atlanta Hawks might be a train wreck. They’re counting on Dennis Schroder to be a star, which he’s naturally not, and they’re also expecting an awful lot out of Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince.

15) Chicago Bulls (24-58) – Yep, I think it’s true. I think the Bulls really are the worst team in the East, and thus the league. Rose, Butler, Gasol, Deng, Noah and Michael Jordan are all gone. This team ain’t what it used to be. Bobby Portis and Zach LaVine should have big years stat-wise, but I don’t see this team winning too many games.

West

1) Warriors (67-15) – Ho-hum. Excited to see Swaggy P and JaVale celebrate in June. 

2) Rockets (59-23) – Yep, I think they’re that good. The main question is whether Chris Paul and James Harden can mesh well together, and I think the answer is a clear-cut yes. They’re both going to have the ball a ton, and having two truly elite playmakers, who can both shoot, pass and dribble, will help immensely.

Chris Paul really needed a change, and now he has one. I also think the Rockets’ supporting case is criminally underrated. Nene, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela and P. J. Tucker are all very solid role players, and Mike D’Antoni has them playing the right way. I think this is a team that can win 60-plus games.

3) San Antonio Spurs (56-26) – Ho-hum, part two. But seriously, do you really think Pop would let the Spurs dip below the three seed? I don’t. And that’s without them even caring about the regular season. They’re just too good.

4) Oklahoma City Thunder (53-29) – The Thunder are one of the teams I’m most intrigued to watch. They’re almost built like an all-star team. I think having Russ and Paul George around him is going to open things up a lot for Melo. He’s been dominant in the Olympics when he hasn’t had to take every shot, and I think playing with other stars will really benefit him.

It isn’t just the big three, either. Steven Adams is as tough as they come. I’ve never been a huge Andre Roberson guy, but he shouldn’t have to take very many shots now, which will bring out the best in him. The Patrick Patterson pickup is also stealthily huge. He’s terrific. There was certainly a lot of change, and there are a lot of ball-dominant players on one roster. But hey, maybe it’ll all work out. Either way, they’ll be a fun team to watch.

5) Minnesota Timberwolves (48-34) – You better believe it. The Wolves are playoff-bound this year. Karl-Anthony Towns could be a sneaky MVP candidate, Jimmy Butler is entering his prime and Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, my man Gorgui Dieng and Taj Gibson is a heck of a supporting cast. Oh, and where’s the offense off the bench coming from, you might ask? Why, from Jamal Crawford, one of the most prolific sixth men in NBA history.

The Wolves are legit. The rebuild is over, and now it’s time to win. If it ends up being Thunder-Wolves, getcha popcorn ready.

6) Denver Nuggets (44-38) – Don’t look now, but the Nuggets are the kind of team that could potentially stage an upset in the first round. They’re a little inexperienced at guard, but they’re absolutely stacked at forward/center. Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee is a heck of a foursome. Millsap was probably the other most underrated signing, along with Bradley, and I think he’s poised for a fringe 20 and 10 year if he stays healthy. He and Jokic should pair well together, as they’re both unselfish and play at a similar pace. The Nuggets should turn some heads this year.

7) Utah Jazz (42-40) – The Jazz lost Gordon Hayward, but they’re still stacked. Ricky Rubio will be a nice fit there and open things up for their shooters. Rodney Hood’s a rising star and Rudy Gobert is one of the most reliable players around.

8) Portland Trailblazers (41-41) – Which Blazers team will we see this year – the one that started last year slowly or finished last year strong? I think it’ll be somewhere in the middle. They’d be a clear playoff team in the East, but in the West it’ll be tough. Jusuf Nurkic will help Dame and C.J., and I think they’ll sneak into the playoffs.

9) Memphis Grizzlies (41-41) – As long as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are there, this is a solid team. Hopefully Chandler Parsons bounces back this year. Tyreke Evans’ health could be a big factor, and Ben McLemore will give them a nice scoring boost off the bench. I don’t see them making the playoffs, mostly because the West is so loaded. In the East, they’d be a 5 or 6 seed. They’re in no man’s land, and this could be the year they break it up.

10) New Orleans Pelicans (40-42) – Wait, the Pelicans have Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday…shouldn’t they make it? They should, but they won’t. their supporting cast might be one of the worst around. Once Rondo comes back, that should help, but until then it might be tough treading.

11) Los Angeles Clippers (38-44) – The Clippers are a curious bunch. They lost Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, but if Milos Teodosic is all he’s cracked up to be they still could be good. If Blake stays healthy they’ll be fine, but in the West nothing is given.

12) Los Angeles Lakers (34-48) – The Lakers have a rookie who’s going to change the face of the NBA. He played in the Pac-12 and was a first-round pick. His name…is Kyle Kuzma…No, but seriously, Kuzma’s really good. Lonzo? I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

13) Dallas Mavericks (29-53) – I want better for Dirk, but this might be his destiny. Part of me wants him to go to a contender, but most of me doesn’t because that goes against everything I believe.

14) Sacramento Kings (26-56) – The Kings are going to struggle offensively. Zach Randolph, as bullish as he is, is their main threat, and that’s not ideal. De’Aaron Fox will be a star in a few years, but it could be a rocky start on a team without much punch. But Vince Carter is there, so who knows?

15) Phoenix Suns (25-57) – Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson is a really nice core, and I think they should think twice before breaking it up. They’re just so young, though, and the West is so loaded. We shall see.

Playoffs:

1 Cavs over 8 Hornets in 5
2 Celtics over 7 Pistons in 5
3 Wizards over 6 Heat in 6
5 Raptors over 4 Bucks in 7

1 Warriors over 8 Blazers in 5
2 Rockets over 7 Jazz in 5
3 Spurs over 6 Nuggets in 6
4 Thunder over 5 Wolves in 7

1 Cavs over 5 Raptors in 5
2 Celtics over 3 Wizards in 7

1 Warriors over 4 Thunder in 6
2 Rockets over 3 Spurs in 7

1 Cavs over 2 Celtics in 6
1 Warriors over 2 Rockets in 6

1 Warriors over 1 Cavs in 6

NBA Finals MVP: Kevin Durant

Regular season awards:

MVP:
1) Kawhi Leonard
2) LeBron James
3) Kevin Durant
4) Karl-Anthony Towns
5) Russell Westbrook

Rookie of the Year:

1)    Jonathan Isaac
2)    Dennis Smith Jr.
3)    Josh Jackson
4)    Ben Simmons
5)    Kyle Kuzma

Coach of the Year:
1)    Mike Malone
2)    Jason Kidd
3)    Tom Thibodeau
4)    Mike D’Antoni
5)    Brad Stevens

Scoring Leaders:
1)    Kawhi Leonard (29.4)
2)    Kevin Durant (27.6)
3)    James Harden (26.8)
4)    Karl-Anthony Towns (25.9)
5)    Giannis Antetokounmpo (25.7)
6)    Russell Westbrook (25.6)
7)    DeMar DeRozan (24.8)
8)    Steph Curry (24.6)
9)    Devin Booker (23.9)
10)  DeMarcus Cousins (23.6)

Rebound Leaders:
1)    Rudy Gobert (13.7)
2)    DeMarcus Cousins (13.4)
3)    Dwight Howard (13.2)
4)    Hassan Whiteside (12.8)
5)    Andre Drummond (12.6)
6)    Karl-Anthony Towns (12.2)
7)    Anthony Davis (11.8)
8)    Giannis Antetokounmpo (10.4)
9)    Nikola Jokic (10.4)
10)  DeAndre Jordan (10.2)

Assist Leaders:
1)    Chris Paul (11.4)
2)    John Wall (10.9)
3)    Russell Westbrook (10.4)
4)    Jeff Teague (9.9)
5)    Ricky Rubio (9.5)
6)    LeBron James (9.1)
7)    Jrue Holiday (8.7)
8)    Steph Cury (8.3)
9)    James Harden (8.1)
10)  Draymond Green (7.8)

Buy or Sell:
Lonzo Ball a future superstar  – Sell
Lonzo Ball a solid starter – Buy
Sixers make the playoffs this year – Sell
Sixers make the playoffs next year – Buy
Chris Paul and James Harden gel – Buy
Devin Booker all-star – Buy
Grizzlies make a trade – Buy
Dirk Nowitzki retires – Sell

Random predictions:
-       Jimmy Butler will have a huge year
-       Jeff Hornacek will be fired mid-season
-       Klay Thompson will flirt with 50/40/90 but won’t get it
-       Paul George will average less than 21 PPG
-       The Raptors will look very different after this season
-       Isaiah Thomas won’t play until February
-       Giannis will be considered one of the best of the best players in the league when the season ends
-       Brook Lopez will have a sneakily good year for the Lakers
-       Dwyane Wade will play fewer than 50 regular-season games
-       Paul Millsap will be exactly what Denver needs
-       Blake Griffin will either get injured or have a huge year – not in the middle
-       Bradley Beal will average over 23 PPG
-       Kevin Durant will shoot 90 percent from the line
-       J.J. Redick will lead the league in 3-point percentage

I’m sure all of these predictions will be wrong, but that’s not what matters here. What matters is that the wait is over! The NBA is back!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Celtics preview: A breakdown of why I believe this team will ultimately be successful

By Trevor Hass

*** Flaming hot take: Kyrie Irving will have a miserable year, Brad Stevens will get visibly flustered every game and the Celtics will miss the playoffs. ***

All right, now that I have your attention, here are my thoughts on the Celtics this upcoming season. Obviously, none of those things are going to happen. Kyrie may view the world as flat, but his game is anything but. I’m pretty sure Brad could watch The Exorcist and just calmly stare at the TV. The Celtics will easily make the playoffs.

In fact, I think they’re going to be quite good. Some people are predicting a clear path to the Finals. I don’t envision that happening. See: LeBron James. However, others expect some turbulence in the early stages and long-term underachieving, and I don’t think that’s going to happen, either.

The thing I like about this team on paper is that it really is a well-constructed roster, top to bottom. I think when you look at star-studded teams in the past, the ones that often flourish have three stars with specific, different roles and a deep, balanced supporting cast.

For example, I think the reason the Heat were so good with LeBron, Wade and Bosh is because they all had unique games that blended well together. Talent is obviously imperative in the NBA, but the teams that are masterfully put together are generally the ones that thrive when it matters most.

I think Kyrie, Hayward and Horford are a perfect trio. Kyrie’s a wizard with the ball and can get into the lane just about every time. Then he has Hayward and Horford, either cutting or on the wings for uncontested 3s.

With LeBron, Irving was a beast, but he was often the second-best player on the floor and was overshadowed. This is the chance he’s wanted, and I think it’s going to bring out the best in him. Hayward can score at all three levels, and Horford does just about everything well.

Next comes the supporting cast, and you have to start with Marcus Smart. In the first preseason game, it was almost like he was playing Pop-A-Shot, or he had to shoot to save mankind. I have no problem at all with Smart taking in-rhythm 3s, but he needs to remember that he doesn’t have to hoist. Overall, though, he’s trimmed down and looks as feisty as ever.

One important thing about this team is that it genuinely has more offensive firepower than last year’s group. I think once everything gets going, shots are going to come really easily to role players. Last year’s team often had to work hard to manufacture shots. This year’s group will have to grind out some games, sure, but it will win many others on talent alone.

Take Aron Baynes, for example. Wait, what? Aron Baynes and talent in the same sentence? No, no, it’s true! He’s actually really good. In the preseason win over the Hornets, Baynes finished 5 for 8 with 10 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. I wasn’t totally sold on him as a starter at first, but now I think I’m warming up to the idea.

He doesn’t really make mistakes, and he and Horford are very solid passers and defenders at the 4 and 5 who could grow to complement each other well. Baynes showed a much smoother touch than I had remembered. He consistently hits 8-to-12 footers and is enough of an offensive threat where you can’t forget about him. I think he’s going to surprise some people.

Next up is Jaylen Brown, who should have a breakout second season. A lot of people were down on the pick early last year, but he quickly proved the doubters wrong. Brown’s at his best when he’s attacking and finishing at the rim. The shot will come, because the stroke is there. I like having him in the starting lineup over Smart, personally.

Marcus Morris, who officially joined the team this week, could start on most teams. He may even end up starting for the Celtics, but that remains to be seen. He’s a polished mid-range shooter and will provide some intensity along with Smart and Terry Rozier. Morris is tough, versatile and can guard multiple positions, so he should be a major asset.

OK, so Jayson Tatum’s preseason debut won’t be shown in his Hall of Fame highlights. Big whoop. I’ve been high on Tatum since well before the Celtics drafted him, and I’m still high on him. It was easy to see he was overly energized Monday night. I don’t think he was nervous, necessarily, but he seemed so excited to finally be playing that a lot of his shots went long. He was thinking about what to do instead of just doing it, which is often the cardinal sin in basketball.

The thing that impressed me most, though, was his defense and rebounding. His offense is going to improve as he gets more comfortable, but his long arms and instincts will help him earn minutes right away. Fans need to be patient, because he’s oozing with potential. There’s going to be one game early this year where he drops 20 and his teammates go crazy on the bench. He’s 19 years old. 19! Give it some time, people.

This is a key year for Rozier, whether it’s to earn his long-term spot with the Celtics or to audition for another team. He’s explosive, a pest and his plus-minus is usually remarkably high. He’s a perfect eighth or ninth man on a playoff team, and a nice complement to Smart off the bench.

Next up is Daniel Theis, aka the greatest basketball player that ever lived. No, but seriously, like Baynes, he’s really good. He kind of reminds me of Mason Plumlee – an athletic big who rolls well, finishes at the rim and knows how to pass out of the double. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get some minutes.

On the other guys: Shane Larkin’s electric with the ball in his hands. Guerschon Yabusele reminds me of Leon Powe. He has some work to do, but the potential’s there. Semi Ojeleye’s a little small to be a 4 and a little big to be a 3, but in Brad’s quasi-position-less system I suppose that’s a matter of semantics. Abdel Nader, who toasted everyone in the G League, is a quality scorer. Jabari Bird has a tough name to live up to, but he’s a solid wing.

One particular stat to keep an eye on this year is rebounding. The Celtics were 27th in rebounding last year (not ideal). On Monday (yes, it’s one preseason game), they outrebounded the Hornets 52-45, including 13-7 on the offensive glass.

I do think this team is better equipped to rebound. Last year, Isaiah, as spectacular as he was, really was a liability on the boards. This year’s lineup (Kyrie at 6’3, Jaylen at 6’7, Hayward at 6’8, Horford at 6’10 and Baynes at 6’10/260) has size all around. If you ask me, that’s pretty far from a coincidence.

One thing that stands out to me about the potential of this team is that it should have the ability to win against teams that play a fast, up-tempo style or ones that slow it down. Brad wants them to run, which makes sense, but I don’t think they’ll have any problem winning ugly games, too.

I think Cleveland’s the favorite right now. You just really can’t bet against LeBron considering his track record, and the Cavs are just silly loaded. However, I do think this Celtics team is better-equipped to give them a run than last year’s team was.

That’s really all that matters, right? Anything can happen, but I’d be surprised if the Eastern Conference Finals isn’t a rematch of last year’s one-sided affair. And holy smokes, what a series it could be. So many storylines and fascinating matchups. Isaiah on Kyrie, LeBron on Hayward and Kevin Love on Horford? What else could you want?

But we’ll have to wait a while before that happens. For now, let’s enjoy the preseason and regular season. There’s a whole lot to be intrigued about with this team, and now it’s time to see how it all comes together.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Keeping his memory alive


Family plans to honor Duxbury's Perry with basketball tournament

By Trevor Hass, Sports Editor/Reporter
Twitter: @DuxburySports

Perched in a tucked-away study room on the top floor of the Duxbury Free Library on a muggy Monday in early July, Tamika Perry suddenly stops talking and peers out the window, a single tear flowing down her right cheek.
She shakes her head, breathes in heavily and finds the strength to keep speaking about her son Khai, who died last year.
“I remember him always saying to me, ‘Mom, I’m going to make it big, and when I do, you’re going to get a butler.’”

Those close to Khai Perry agree he always lit up a room whenever he entered. Even from a young age, his infectious personality benefited the lives of others. 
Photos courtesy Tamika Perry
That day never came, but it’s easy to see she’s still swelling with pride. The past year – her first year without Khai – has been unfathomably difficult for Tamika and the rest of her family, but she’s trying desperately to make something positive out of her dreary situation.
Khai never complained, so she strives to live the same way. He would do almost anything to play basketball or football. The flu, an injury or incessant heckling would never stop him from doing what he loved, and now Tamika is hoping to honor that unmistakable passion and exuberance for life the best she can.
Duxbury’s Khai Perry died May 4, 2016, at 20 years old, and an indescribable emptiness has stuck with Tamika ever since. But she wants to remember the blessings he brought the family and community while he was here, so she’s starting a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in his honor. The first Khai Perry All-Star Memorial Basketball Tournament Fundraiser will take place Saturday, July 15 at 10 a.m. at the South Shore Fieldhouse in Pembroke.
“It’s a big void that we’re living with,” Tamika said. “A constant, constant void. His passing was very unexpected. It’s very tragic. He left big shoes to fill, so we’re just going to continue on and try and continue his legacy and keep his memory alive. That’s all we have left, is his memory. For a lot of people, they may move on and it may fade, but for us it will never fade. If we can keep his memory alive and do good at the same time, that’s what we want to do.”
Their Michael Jordan
As soon as he learned how to walk, Khai Perry learned how to dribble. It was more surprising to see him frolicking around the house without a basketball than with one, and he gravitated to the sport immediately.
Even at a young age, Khai Perry was always playing basketball. He gravitated to the sport early, and he made sure those around him grew to love it as well.
He wasn’t tall, but he never let that stop him from blossoming into a standout at the varsity level. He started as a freshman and was one of the Dragons’ best players as an upperclassman.
Tamika recalls a playoff game against Easton where Khai was sick with the flu and feeling miserable as he trudged out onto the court. Many in that spot wouldn’t have played, and many more would have played poorly, but it ended up being one of his best games ever.
They know about the Michael Jordan flu game, but to his family Khai’s masterpiece is a much more precious memory. One they’ll cherish forever, even with him gone.
As he developed a personal love for the game, he also helped those around him harness their own zest for the sport. His younger sister, Shaylice, went to almost every one of his games, but one particular moment stands out.
Duxbury was playing Marshfield, and the always-heated rivalry was intensified because the game was tight. In the final minutes, the Marshfield fans heckled him when he took his free throws, but he calmly sank both.
“He and I had a rough relationship,” Shaylice said, tearing up, “but basketball made us close. I miss going to his games. I fell in love with it because of him.”
Khai’s 12-year-old cousin, Devanti, is now a budding star on the Amateur Athletic Union circuit, and he’s gotten where he is largely because of Khai. Part of his success stems from Khai’s technical basketball help, but the more meaningful component is the way Khai played the game.
He was relentless, and he wouldn’t let you stop him. If you took a jab at him, he’d jab back even harder. Devanti plays the same way, with that unmistakable fire.

(From left) Tylana (aunt), Khaileah (first cousin once removed), Shaylice (sister), Tamika (mother) and the rest of the family are honoring Khai with a basketball tournament. 
Photo by Trevor Hass
“He’s following in Khai’s footsteps,” Khai’s aunt, Tylana, said. “If it wasn’t for Khai, he wouldn’t be where he is now. He was like his big brother more than his cousin. You’re looking at a miniature Khai. Devanti’s going to keep Khai’s memory going. He’s going to do everything he does because of Khai. I miss Khai dearly. I wish he was here.”
The Perrys named Tylana’s granddaughter, who is five months old, Khaileah as another way to keep his memory alive. The way they look at it, just because he’s not physically here it doesn’t mean he can’t remain in their lives.
“He was only here 20 years, but he made his mark,” Tamika said. “My goal is to continue that.”
More than just another kid, a true friend
When Max Duggan was a sophomore and Khai was a senior, Khai always went out of his way to say hello.
“All my friends would be like, ‘How do you know KP?’” Perry recalled in a letter to the family.
One day after school, a senior on the football team slurred at Duggan as he left the gym. Khai heard him, approached him and pinned him to the wall. “If you disrespect Duggy you disrespecting me,” Duggan recalls him saying. “And you don’t wanna do that.”

In his Duxbury High days, Khai Perry was a standout basketball player. Even though he wasn’t the tallest person on the court, he had a knack for making the most of his natural ability.
The teammate apologized to Duggan and never insulted him again.
On another night, Duggan threw a party and was flattered when Khai made an appearance. Duggan let everyone know at 11 that his parents would be home so they all had to leave, but Khai stayed and said, “Your mess is my mess, Duggy. Let’s clean.”
“People respected Khai like he was more than just another kid, because he was,” Duggan wrote in the letter. “Khai is the strongest, most loyal person I have ever known.”
Like a celebrity
On that fateful day, when Khai passed away, his great aunt Angela Perry plummeted to the bathroom floor and sobbed when she heard the news.
“To say my heart sunk to my feet doesn’t come close to describing what I felt at that moment,” Angela said. “It was as if I had lost my own son.”
Those who knew him describe him as a momma’s boy with an infectious smile and a gregarious personality. When Khai Perry entered a room, you knew he was there.
He’d be the most rambunctious guy at a sporting event one day then go home to watch Discovery Channel and CNN at night. He was confident but caring, an unusual mix of swagger and sweetness.

Khai Perry was somewhat of a “momma’s boy,” and his mother, Tamika, was extremely proud when he graduated high school.
“Khai was like a celebrity in the halls of Duxbury Middle School,” his friend Nick Kates said.
Those close to him know this tournament can’t bring him back. They’ll never quite feel the same without him, but that doesn’t meant they can’t try to honor him and make his legacy live on forever.
Tamika’s goal is to make this an annual tournament, and she also hopes to provide wellness scholarships in Khai’s name to kids in the area.
“He was an unforgettable kid,” Tamika said, “so we have to make sure he’s never forgotten.”