Former Orlando Magic player and NBA Analyst Dennis Scott talks with The Starting Point

IMG_0811.JPGBy Stefan Anderson 

I had the opportunity to chop it up with former sharpshooter Dennis Scott during a charity event held in Poughkeepsie,NY for the Teen Resource Activity Center. 

SA: Earlier in your career you played in Orlando, where you witnessed a star leave in Shaq. Oklahoma City is in a similar situation. How do you think they’ll respond after Kevin Durant ?

DS: As a organization, I like what Sam Presti did. He said hey Russ, I don’t want to go through the same thing I went through with KD. Here is the extension if you want to stay. I’ll trade you if you want to leave. Now we have to see what kind of leader Russell Westbrook is going to be. KD missed 57 games last year and Russell had 18 triple-doubles. Does that now translate to wins ? You have Oladipo now, do you make him a better player? Do you make Kanter a better player ? It all depends on how Russell Westbrook leads.

SA: You were a great shooter during your career. In fact, you led the league in 3’s in 1995-1996. Who are some of your favorite shooters to watch today?

DS: It’s been well documented that they call me Uncle Splash. I am really cool with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they are probably my two favorites. I do enjoy Damian Lillard, I like the way he shoots the basketball and I think Paul George is an underrated shooter because he does so many things on the floor. I think the three-ball is used differently now, compared to when it wasn’t used as much as it is now. Every team has at least two or three guys shoot the ball well.

SA: You always played with some great guards in your time, Kenny Anderson during college and Penny Hardaway with the Magic. How would you compare the guards from your era to the guards of today?

DS: The key phrase is mentality. The guards of the 80’s and 90’s goal was to set the team up, run the offense and get your team involved. The guards of today, the Stephs, Kyries , Damian Lillards, the Allen Iversons, I think that today’s guards have the mentality that I can take my man when I want to  and also be a traditional guard and set my teammates up and make them better. That’s why Kyrie and Steph are the best two today.

SA: What are you looking forward to this season ?

DS: How does San Antonio weather the storm, no Tim Duncan? That’s kind of crazy–for the last 20 years we’ve been seeing Timmy and Pop, it’s going to be weird seeing no Timmy and Pop. OKC,that’s an obvious. But I’m really interested in seeing the young guys. Ben Simmons, does he make Philadelphia better ?  Kris Dunn, does he come in and take Ricky Rubio starting point guard position? That a little more intriguing instead of the obvious stuff like guys changing teams. Also, D-Wade in Chicago, how does that play out?

 

 

Am I Wrong ?

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By Stefan Anderson

The annual free agency period normally creates a domino effect, where the biggest star on the market garners the attention of his desired team, then all of the remaining options follow suit. This year’s was a bit different–more like a complicated game of dominoes. Each team made its moves and the important piece, Kevin Durant, put his block on the game with his signing with the Golden State Warriors.

Durant joins the historic Golden State Warriors after they fell to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. Similar to James in 2010, Durant is leaving his beloved Oklahoma City to chase the Larry O’Brien trophy.  In his short career, the Texas product has earned an MVP trophy, multiple scoring titles and Olympic gold medals but still lacks the most important piece to his resume, an NBA championship.

The 2013-14 MVP has been ridiculed for making his decision to join a team that just won 73 games, was a game away from earning their second consecutive championship– a team that his former team the Thunder, was one game away from beating as well. Since 2012, when the Thunder were defeated in the Finals by another super team, the Miami Heat, they have seen the Western Conference Finals twice and been knocked off both times.

Boston’s big three in 2008, the team that birthed this new era of super teams was formulated after Kevin Garnett, the Wolves’ biggest star to date, and Sonics standout Ray Allen forced a trade out of their respective teams and gathered savvy vets to help them meet their goal of winning a championship for Boston. When Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up to form the Heatles, it was for the same goal and they accomplished it twice. The lament for Durant can be understood. Ultimately he made the best basketball decision for himself as he stated in his Players Tribune essay.

If you look at it from a larger scale ,each of the last 10 champions in the NBA have all had 2-3 potential Hall of Famers and/or great supporting casts. A special consideration to Cleveland and Golden State because we cannot project where Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving will finish, but they will all have a pretty good shot at it.

San Antonio (2014), Miami (2013, 2012), Dallas (2011), LA Lakers (2010, 2009), Boston(2008), San Antonio (2007), Miami (2006).

After looking at those rosters, look how many of the same teams were formed because great players understand that after battling for so many years and not achieving the ultimate goal of winning the NBA Finals, you have join another team to do so. Elder fans scream “Barkley would never have teamed up with Jordan,” but  he did team up Hakeem and Clyde after losing year after year to them.  They say “Magic would never join Bird,” but fail to reference the other teams that won during the 80’s like the Philadelphia 76ers with two NBA MVP’s and the Bad Boy Pistons that collected a ton of Hall-of-Famers on their roster, to dethrone the alpha-dogs, Lakers and Celtics. Also see these Lakers and Celtics.

The Warriors were organically grown into their position, by drafting their core players, by being bad for many years to now climbing out the bottom of the West and becoming a powerhouse. A star like Durant, who is still in his prime after bringing Oklahoma City up from the pits to contender, has been through the struggle and contemplates if they are able to reach that place again in OKC. Rather than pondering that decision, Durant now is in contention for the prized possession. In the current NBA, we often see players as free agents make the choice to get paid the amount desired or play for what they most desire. Kevin Durant made the decision to play for what he most desired.

Draft Day

By Stefan Anderson

Draft night, the moment every aspiring basketball player dreams of. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announces “With the (insert number) pick, the (insert team) selects (insert name) from (insert university).” Hearing that statement validates all the years and hours put into the gym.

In the 2016 NBA Draft, 26 international players were selected. The wave of international players is great for the diversity of the league and the sport spreading worldwide. At the same time it has taken away roster spots from NCAA players.

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(stats courtesy of the NCAA)

This could be detrimental to the league. But it could help in other areas.

The D-League: The NBA’s developmental league, also known as the D-League, was created in 2001-02 to begin a farm system similar to Major League Baseball’s minors, where teams get the chance to bring in talent and groom them into the players they should be. Over the last two seasons there were nearly 90 call-ups from the D-League to NBA.

The incoming stock of un drafted could lead to a more competitive D-League. This could bring in an abundance of talent that comes into the NBA. Hassan Whiteside, of the Miami Heat, for example, had his big payday this summer after going from the D-League to leading the NBA in blocks per game.

One and Dones: After a rule change in 2005, high school players are not allowed to declare for the NBA draft. They needed a year of college. This led to an era of what is called one and done, where they play college ball for a year to prep themselves for the jump to the NBA.

The influx of international players taking their spots in the NBA has forced many to stay in college for an extra year or two to hone their skills. The first three selections in this year’s draft were all NCAA freshmen. But out of the 34 non-international player draftees, 20 were upperclassmen. Hopefully this epidemic of one and dones will come to a halt.

The rise of the talent from overseas has given us some of our favorite players. It has also made it harder for athletes to jump from college hoops to the NBA. But the international players may be forcing the homegrown talent to improve their native sport.

Just One More

By Stefan Anderson

The Golden State Warriors have lost the “heart and soul” of their roster , Draymond Green, after he was suspended  for surpassing his allotted flagrant points during his altercation with Cleveland Cavs star Lebron James. The Warriors are on the cusp of closing out the Cavs in the game five of the 2016 NBA Finals, will they be able to win without Green?

Of course the altercation could have been avoided if James did not step over Green to get back into the play. Green could have also reacted in a different way by not jabbing James where the sun doesn’t shine. Players from each side stated that the whole situation was wrong. Andrew Bogut of the Warriors added “They did what they had to do and they got one of our guys out.” Cavs forward Kevin Love even stated “You don’t see it too much, but yeah, I think it is looked at as a form of disrespect”

But neither debate nor statements can bring Green back for a closeout game on Monday evening. What Green brings defensively as auxiliary defender from three to the five spot can’t be replaced. His playmaking skills to run the Warriors offense can’t be replaced either.

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(via Zach Lowe and John Schuhmann)

As stats have shown, Golden State is not the same team without Green. But the Dubs have a capable defender that will force James to continue to work hard offensively in 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.

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(via John Schuhmann)

As far as replacing Green’s minutes, Iguodala will obviously start in place for Green at the 4 spot; Livingston can come in and play the point-forward spot for offensive end in extended minutes to jump start the Warriors offense. Green’s suspension does force center Festus Ezeli and Mo Speights to play more with the staggering health of starting center Andrew Bogut.

The move to include more big men plays into Cleveland’s hands, but also creates more chaos defensively as Kevin Love and Channing Frye will have to switch out or trap Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as they come off of high screen and rolls.  Golden State is now given the option for  3 on 2’s or the Splash Brothers will continue to exploit the Cavs bigs off the dribble as they did in game four when they exploded for 17 three-point field goals.

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The Warriors resiliency will be on display once again, but if there is any team with a roster to find an array of guys it will be the Dubs. For example, in Game 4 when former Cleveland fan favorite Anderson Vareajo came in provide great minutes including a game changing possession in which the center grabbed three offensive rebounds in a possession that lasted nearly two minutes long. Warriors coaching staff even found seven valuable minutes for James Michael McAdoo, who was in a suit just two games ago.

If Golden State has proven one thing this whole season is that they thrive in chaos, in fact, they have to be the most motivated team I’ve seen in years. The way they continue to find ways to motivate themselves to be great has been astonishing and Monday evenings win will encapsulate the great season they have had with the final statement, winning the 2016 NBA finals.

“It’s another challenge for us, but we’re going to embrace it and we’re going to accomplish it.” said Klay Thompson. The Warriors will be playing with another chip on their shoulder with their heart and soul not being able to join them. “We’re going to go out there and do it as a team and win for him,” added the Warriors guard.

 

5 on 5: 2016 NBA Finals Preview

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By Stefan Anderson and Jazmine August

The match we’ve all been anticipating. The clash of the two best teams and arguably players in the world. After a devastating Finals loss in 6 games, The Cavs find themselves back in position to snatch the trophy from the defending Champion Golden State Warriors. Let the games begin.

What are the respective teams’ advantages and disadvantages?

SA: For Cleveland, I believe their shooters like J.R. Smith, Channing Frye, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving gives the help that was desperately needed in last year’s finals. Knocking down 42% of their shots from the field allows the penetration of LeBron James keeps the Warriors defense honest.

On the other hand those same players are vulnerable on defense to the Warriors constant Pick and Roll matchups. Among the work 2-man lineups in the postseason, Cleveland has eight of the bottom ten two man lineups in point differential. As well their best lineup featuring Irving-Smith-James-Love and Thompson has a -8 point differential.

For the Warriors, their shooting and pace that led to them 73 wins and an astonishing 3-1 comeback over the Oklahoma City Thunder, is simply a nightmare for any team. The death lineup (Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Iguodala-Green) can be what propels them to consecutive championships or can derail their story book season. The lineup relies heavy on switching on everything, which end up with situations with Stephen Curry guarding Lebron James, which will force defenders to help and can cause havoc with Cleveland shooting just over 43% from behind the arc.

JA: The Warriors advantage is their ability to score faster than any team I’ve ever seen score in all my years of watching basketball. They have arguably the two best shooters in the league in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They move the ball so effortlessly. This advantage is both a gift and a curse. When the Warriors aren’t raining threes they look like a one-trick pony. Their lack of versatility is what makes them most vulnerable.

What supporting cast is more important the team’s success? Why?

SA: Cleveland supporting cast is needed more, especially when Golden State bench’s is +14 in points per game. So if Klay, Draymond or even Barnes has a bad game someone off of their deep bench can find a way to replace some of that scoring. But Cleveland is complete a different team if Irving and Love do not show up for the Cavs. In games that Cleveland lost this season, the two combined for +31.8 +/- in wins and -28.7 in losses.

JA: The Cavs hands down. Without a good to great performance from the likes of JR Smith, Channing Frye and Tristan Thompson, it will be nearly impossible to succeed against the Warriors.

Who’s the X-Factor in the series for each team?

SA: For Cleveland it has to be Kevin Love, he will be needed to help spread the floor allow Irving and James the driving lanes needed to attack the Dubs best players on the defensive end. Also, Love will be forced to play center if Cleveland decides to downsize and matchup with GS’s Death Lineup. The UCLA product is notoriously known his lackluster defense and has been criticized for his awareness of the moment but has come alive if Cleveland has a chance of securing their franchises first title.

For Golden State, Harrison Barnes has to play a large role. Whether he has to come off the bench or start, his minutes are valuable. When Barnes gives effective minutes when he’s knocking down his shot from behind the arc and crashing the glass, the Warriors are a different team shooting 40% from 3 and at least a 45% percent of grabbing rebounds. In a game where each possession will be critical, Barnes has to prove he is worth a max contract worthy in the 2016 Finals.

JA: The X-Factor for the Cavs is a tie to me between K. Love and Lebron James. If Kevin Love can average somewhere between 18-20 pts a game, he will make a huge impact on his team’s success. Andre Igoudala is an X-Factor once again for the Warriors. The Finals MVP ability to contain James and limit his effectiveness in the paint could alter the game for the Warriors.

A Championship means more to what team? Why?

SA: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since his arrival two seasons ago, he left his empire on South Beach to bring the championship to hometown. To lose three straight finals and drop to a 29 % finals winning percentage will not tarnish the King’s legacy but will haunt him for forever. Ultimately, it will lead to another unwanted exit from the Land.

JA: I think both teams are hungry and motivated by different factors. However, I believe a championship is more important to Cleveland. If the Cavaliers are able to overcome the GSW, they will have ended a 50 year drought of championships in the city of Cleveland and will adjust the crown atop LeBron’s head as the King of the league.

We both agree that Warriors and Cavs have two different styles of play. Which teams style hurts the opposing team more?

SA: “We’re not going to slow the ball down and be at ease. We’re going to push the pace, try to get easy baskets early in transition but make sure we’re taking good shots.” said Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue.  Cleveland’s ability to dictate the pace of the game put them ahead 2-1 in GSW-CLE Part I, but ultimately they birthed the Death Ball lineup, where Golden State’s overwhelmed them. Cleveland trying to downsizing and playing into a shootout will ultimately take them out again this year. Therefore the Cavs have to own the pace in order have a chance to overthrow the defending champs.

JA: Throughout the course of the playoffs the Cavaliers have been able to beat opponents both with their 3pt shooting and their ability to get points in the paint from there leading scorers. If both facets of the Cavs game is clicking they are virtually unbeatable.

Overall Prediction:

SA: I am going with the Warriors in 7 tough fought games. The reason why in the past two seasons, there was six teams defeat the Warriors at the Oracle Arena, Cleveland happens to be one of those teams. So they have the ability to do so again and Golden State went to Cleveland closed the Cavs, so they both know how to win on each other floors. But I know that either team wants to be closed out on their home floor, which would lead to epic game 7. But the Warriors are 12-1 following a loss which propel to the conclusion their magical season.

JA: I think this series will make up for the lack of competitive games outside of The Thunder and GSW series and moments of the Portland/GSW series. I see no huge blowouts. These teams are pretty evenly matched. From star power to scoring ability this should be a high scoring, intense and emotional series. I believe that Lebron will play his best basketball in this series and the of murmurs “he is now #2 to Chef Curry?” will be silenced. Kyrie will be consistent, closing the games when needed and Kevin Love will give the Cavs solid games. Look for Channing Frye or J.R. To have a big game as well. The drought will be over Cleveland. Cavs in 6.

Jazmine August is a Starting Point alum and now has ventured on to her own self titled site, http://www.IamJazAugust.com and can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @IamJazAugust.

Living in the Moment

By Stefan Anderson

The NBA is such a fickle league and often we caught up in the moment instead of taking  it for what it is. While being a prisoner of the moment, we are now succumbed to question greatness of the 2015 finalists, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, and now are forced to decipher which team is better respectively.

It all starts with the teams superstars, Stephen Curry and LeBron James. After Curry was awarded the first ever unanimous MVP award, the uproar began on why he deserve such prestige as if he didn’t improve after earning the award last season. The Warriors star also improved to career-highs in scoring, steals, FG and 3-PT percentage, while leading the Golden State to the best record in NBA history.

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But now the question is being posed about how James is still the best player in the association. I agree that Lebron James is still the premier talent of the NBA but the league currently belongs to Stephen Curry regardless of the situation. It is reminiscent of when Steve Nash conquered two consecutive MVP titles and Kobe Bryant was the best talent in NBA.

Now that both teams are in the Conference Finals and inching towards a finals rematch that not only James would love to see, but we would all like to see. As the Warriors are currently in a gridlock series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland is now ahead 2-0 over the Toronto Raptors, gearing towards a sweep to finals.

Cleveland having an easier route to the finals, is discrediting what they have done thus far. To win 10 games in a regular season is impressive. To win 10 straight in the postseason, is out right astonishing. The Cavs only finished one game ahead of Toronto in the regular season, but in the postseason they are in another stratosphere. That is because Cleveland has excelled their play to another level by improving defensively and offensively beating opponents but 13 points, while shooting 45 % from 3 and 49% from the field.

Golden State has faced great competition facing four of the top 20 stars in the NBA and the 3rd and 4th highest playoff scoring offenses in their three series. Despite the competition, the Warriors are beating opponents by 11 points. It is hard for the Warriors reaching further than 73 wins, but they continue amaze spectators, while missing Curry for several games.

Regardless of who is better and who has played who and who is better, we’re on the brink of witnessing two great teams at full strength rematch for the Larry O’Brien. No disrespect to the Thunder or Raptors but let’s not live in the present and head to the NBA Finals we’ve waiting on since last June.

APJ Boxing Club recaps their Golden Gloves expierence

By Stefan Anderson

“Hardwork, focus and determination will get you to where you need to be” said APJ Owner and Trainer “Kap” Patterson.

With two of its fighters, Tyriece Stokes in 178 lb.division and Dominique Crowder in the 123 lb. division, to the New York Daily News Golden Gloves championship, the APJ Boxing Club is relishing on the moment and want to ride the momentum to carry their boxing gym to the next level.

After falling short in semifinals for the past two years, Crowder, earned the revenge he was seeking when he defeated Ariel Lopez from Gleason’s gym in Brooklyn, NY and is heading to the National Golden Gloves tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 16th.

Stokes, fell short in his title bout with Patrick Aristhene from Freeport PAL. Although he lost in the finals, Stokes has appreciated the lesson from his title fight and hopes to make the third time a charm similar to his teammate Crowder and capture the “Gloves” in the upcoming year.

Both boxers and their trainer “Kap” Patterson recap the experience at the Golden Gloves and what it meant for APJ Boxing Club. The trio along with the many fighters who train in APJ daily, are all working toward enriching the boxing culture amongst the city of Poughkeepsie, NY.

With the city’s first NY Daily News Golden Glove champion, it will certainly expand the sport along the small city on the Hudson River.