You Know Why I’m Here

By Stefan Anderson

Super Bowl XLIX is just days away and we are embarking on one of the premier championship games in years. But most viewers and fans subjected are prepared for the next scene in the NFL’s current soap opera.

It all started with Deflate gate, where the Patriots were suspected of deflating footballs to help them clobber the Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship.

The deflated balls are supposed to give quarterbacks a better grip for passing, why didn’t Andrew Luck capitalize on the issue as well? Not to mention that Legarrette Blount ran all over the Colts defense and provided all the damage needed, so how much did the deflated balls affect the game?

Exactly

Now, we are wasting our attention on Marshawn Lynch post game and press conference. “I’m Thankful” to have some like Lynch , who focused on the task at hand.

Reporters understand that “Beast Mode” doesn’t want to answer his question and has already stated at last year’s Super Bowl Media Day “I’m just about that action, boss” , which everyone else should be about.

As a reporter, I would love to have a great quote from Lynch but it’s plain and simple that he has nothing to say to the media. If the Seahawks running back decides not to help you put together your story there is a roster full of Seattle players that will, including what some would call outspoken Richard Sherman.

There are some many story lines and features that can be headlining this intriguing matchup. For example, Russell Wilson can become the first quarterback to repeat since Tom Brady, maybe even how this could the first time for Brady to capture a championship ring in over a decade, and the possibility of discussing the legacy of the Legion of Boom , becoming the greatest defense units ever.

There is so much more to be discussed about how legendary this game could be, instead we are focusing on everything off the field. Hopefully within these next days’s hope can be restored and as the wise Marshawn Lynch stated “You know why I’m here”

Who’s in your Top 5 ?

point guardBy Stefan Anderson and Jazmine August

Point guards  of present day NBA are not only averaging 9 to 10 assists but have been able to put up 20 to 23 points a night. Some may say that these new age point guards are hybrid two-guards, who have a shoot first mentality. One of the NBA’s hottest topics has been the new “golden age “of floor generals and most importantly who is the best of the class ?

We took the discussion up here at The Starting Point and rated our Top 5 Point Guards in the NBA.

Jazmine’s Top 5 PG’s 

#1 Stephen Curry

It is no surprise that one Stephen Curry is at the top of my list of point guards in the NBA, Steph can easily be one of the top 5 all around players in the league; he’s just that great. His shooting ability and efficiency makes him by far the best shooter in the league and is in contention to be the best shooter ever. Steph is averaging 23 points and 8 assist and shooting 92% from the free throw line. He is not only excelling at passing but he can pull up from thirty as Stephen A. Smith would eloquently put it. These qualities have made the claim that he is the best point guard in the league very easy. Stephen Curry beat out Lebron James for the most NBA All-Star Votes, with over 1.5 million votes. As the run-away leader in the MVP race, Stephen Curry game has improved tremendously over the last three years. Aside from playing alongside players like Andrew Bogut and veteran player Andre Igoudala, Curry is a part of a unique fraternity; “The Splash Brothers”. When you pair him with stud Klay Thompson ,who together form “The Splash Brothers”, he is simply unstoppable. Not to mention, his team has the best record in the league, 36-6; they also play in the super-competitive western conference. Do I see the NBA Finals in their future?

#2 John Wall

The Washington Wizards have emerged as title contenders this season and in large that is due to its starting PG John Wall. This season Wall is averaging 17 points and 10 assist and shooting just about 50% from the field. Wall’s speed, agility and athleticism have propelled him to elite status among his counter parts. Not only has his mid-range game improved but his basketball IQ has done the same. When Wall was drafted first overall into the league in 2010, he only knew one gear and that was full-steam towards the basket. Wall now knows how to slow the game down and play at multiple paces. Wall broke Wizards record for most consecutive 12 assist games earlier this season. Wall amazes fans night in and night out with his crafty moves to the basket and agile passes to the likes of Nene and Paul Pierce. It doesn’t hurt that he has, rising-star guard Bradley Beal in the back court with him.

#3 Kyrie Irving

Starting point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and playing alongside the best player in the world in Lebron James, Kyrie’s star still isn’t dimmed. Averaging 20 points, 5 assist. and shooting about 50 percent from the field, Kyrie is best known for his incomparable ball handling skills. When soaring past defenders, he appears to have the basketball on a string and still manages to finish at the rim. Arguably, the best finisher in the game, Kyrie has found some of the most creative and athletic ways to get past post-players that tower over his 6’3 stature. He has help lead his team to a quiet 5 game winning streak ,after struggling a bit in the start of the season. The Cavs have improved to a 25-20 record and are over .500 in a conference where the top 3 spots are pretty much up for grabs. Kyrie has improved his 3 point shooting; causing opposing teams to not only fear his passes but his lethal top of the key shots. It’s safe to say that Kyrie has a bright future ahead of him.

#4 Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard has emerged as one the most electrifying players in the NBA and in a conference ,where each night he’s facing some of the world’s toughest defensive players; his team still comes out victorious. After being named Rookie of the year in 2013, Lillard went on to lead his team to its first playoff victory in 14 years against the Houston Rockets in 2014. Lillard’s sharp passes, lethal jump-shots and rhythmic moves to the rim allows his teammates to flourish. What sets Lillard apart is his innate killer instinct and the fact that he doesn’t shy away from the moment. Although, Lillard was snubbed from the NBA All-Star starting roster, he is averaging 22 points, 6 assist, and a free throw percentage of 86%. Lillard has proved himself to be not only an excellent point guard but a closer and he’s only in his 3rd season in the league.

#5 Chris Paul

CP3; standing at just 6 feet tall and in his 10th season is still averaging 17 points and 10 assist. A true floor general and “Young OG”; he is known in the league for his defensive tenacity and his ability to lead his team at crucial points in the game. He has been named to the All-Defensive 1st or 2nd team six of the last seven years. Not only is he able to get in the paint and finish at the rim, he can defend just about any other point guard in the league. Chris Paul plays like a true, traditional point guard, reminiscent of a John Stockton or Gary Payton of the 1990s; this is his best gift and curse. In a hybrid-guard driven league, Chris Paul’s inability to put up as many points as today’s point guards has landed him at 5th on my list.

Stefan Top 5 PG’s:

# 1 Damian Lillard:

Lillard has become one of the biggest stars since entering the league two seasons ago. Leading the NBA in 4th quarter points, the Portland Trailblazers floor general, leadership skills and killer instinct is the reason I selected him over Curry. Distributing while taking over the scoring load (22 PPG and 6 APG) ,makes the Oakland Native a tough match-up for any point guard. With his potential propelling game to game, he soon will be one of the most notable stars in the league

#2 Stephen Curry:

To believe that he was not offered any scholarships to play Division I basketball and made it to the league as a walk-on, is remarkable. Curry has moved into the elite class of NBA players and can be hoisting up the MVP trophy at the end of this season. Curry possesses everything you want in your starting PG, great play-making skills with an unbelievable jump shot, and improved defense (leads NBA with 2.1 SPG). But I have not seen the clutch gene or a true killer instinct come out of Curry as of yet.

# 3 Rajon Rondo:

Mr.Triple Double; Rondo’s game is reminiscent of past guards and something every team needs. Rondo has a knack to make a play whether it’s on offense or defense.The former Celtic guard has not advanced his offensive game which makes him a liability in most cases but Rondo still gives you the qualities of a  traditional pass first guard.

#4 Russell Westbrook:

One of the most feared players in the NBA; Westbrook has the size of the two-guard and the athleticism of a wing player which makes his style of play unbearable for most guards in the NBA. The UCLA’s ill-advised play are his gift and curse and is one of the reasons why Westbrook is not at the top of totem pole for the point guards on this list. If Westbrook cleans up his game and becomes less turnover prone he will definitely be on top.

#5 Micheal Conley:

Many question whether to mention Conley in the top tier PG’s of the NBA. Well, Micheal Conley has my vote. To lead a great Memphis team, year after year while averaging nearly 18 points and 6 assist, and improving his stats playing in the tough Western conference. Conley doesn’t have the athletic capabilities of most of the guards on this list but definitely has a classic feel about him. He is often overlooked by many for what he does not have but not looked at for what he does bring to the court.

3 Points With Aaron Hampton

By Aaron Hampton

Three thoughts from the past weekend of EPL action that saw Chelsea impress, Manchester United earn a hard fought three points, and Southampton continue to improve their top four credentials:

Chelsea Impress, City Search for Answers

The two clubs at the summit of the Premier League put in two contrasting performances over the weekend as Chelsea cruised to 5-0 victory over Swansea, while Manchester City struggled in their 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. After a 5-3 defeat to Tottenham to start the new year, Chelsea now seem poised to put their recent lackluster run of form behind them, having now kept back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League and netting a combined 7 goals against Newcastle and Swansea City respectively. Saturday’s win over Swansea was everything we’ve come to expect from Jose Mourinho’s side on both sides of the ball, as they took the lead just 48 seconds in behind a goal from Oscar and rode a sublime performance from Diego Costa en route to victory.

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Saturday’s win over Swansea took the Blues five points clear of Manchester City, who themselves could not muster a result against an Arsenal team that has quietly won 5 of their last 7 Premier League matches. The return of Vincent Kompany was thought to give City a boost going into the match-up, but the Belgium international showed rust throughout and personified an unimpressive day for the City defense.  With Arsenal striking for goals on either side of the half, City were unable to find a breakthrough despite enjoying a healthy amount of possession.  With their unbeaten streak of 12 snapped, and their midfield engine Yaya Toure away on international duty, all eyes will be focused on a January 31st clash with league leaders Chelsea, which has the potential to see Chelsea move eight points clear of their nearest threat to the Premier League crown.

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Manchester United Survive

Louis Van Gaal has long admitted that Manchester United remain a work in progress despite sitting fourth in the Premier League, and Saturday’s 2-0 win over QPR showed his squad still have much smoothing over to do before they are a finished product.  For a majority of the first half, QPR looked much the more threatening side in carving out better chances of the two squads. United, who rolled out a 3-4-1-2 formation to start the match, showed they still have yet to achieve a comfort level using three at the back and looked much better once Van Gaal went to a more orthodox back four in the second half.

Goals by Marouane Fellaini and James Wilson were enough to allow Manchester United to pick up the three points, but they have still yet to click going forward with all of their expensively assembled attacking options. Radamel Falcao put in decent shift against QPR, but his scoring touch has yet to make its way to Old Trafford as he could not find the back of the net despite having at least two clear-cut chances at goal.

Falcao was partnered up top with Angel Di Maria, who Van Gaal continues to experiment with up front as a forward to mixed results at best.  Di Maria works best centrally or out wide were he can take advantage of his blistering pace to move past defenders to go either on goal or set-up teammates.  When you pay close to $100 million dollars to bring in Di Maria you have to maximize his strengths, and playing with his back to goal or dropping deep just doesn’t allow him to impact the game in ways we’ve become accustomed to seeing.

In the end, it’s hard to argue after a club takes home three points, but if this result is any indication Van Gaal will remain the mad scientist tinkering for answers, while United remain a work in progress.

Southampton Continues to Impress

A recent run of 16 points out of a possible 18 have Southampton sitting third in the Premier League table and bunkering in for what will be a season-long push for Champions League football at St. Mary’s Stadium come next season.  Recent loan signing Eljero Elia repaired the Saints gratitude as he scored his first two goals for the club to help take them past Newcastle 2-1. Despite missing both Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama from their starting 11, Southampton never seemed as though they were ever truly threatened in the match by Newcastle, who themselves suffered their third defeat in four games.
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It seems like only yesterday questions surrounded Southampton and their ambitions to field a competitive club after selling off the likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, and a host of others, and yet week in and week out they continue to defy expectations and make us all of wonder if they have yet to even played their best football this season.  Whether or not Southampton can this up and see out the season in one of the four Champions League spots remains anybody’s guess, but with matches against Crystal Palace, Swansea City, and QPR all looming on the horizon, one has to fancy their chances to at least ride this wave of incredible form for the foreseeable future.

Cowboys Robbed: Was that a catch or not?

By: Jazmine August

With A little over four minutes left, Tony Romo had possession of the football two yards shy of the 30 yard line on fourth down. With the game practically on the line, Romo executed an amazing throw to Dez Bryant, which he caught within inches of the goal line. I literally had goose bumps. Dez Bryant had done it again. One of the most amazing catches of the post-season; were my sentiments exactly. But before the words could fall from my mouth Mike McCarthy threw down his final challenge, which would turn out to be a valuable one. Within a few minutes of the celebration, the call had been reversed. Incomplete pass on fourth down. Green Bay ball.

Let’s take a look at the rule:

If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

I was appalled Dez Bryant had completed the process, made three steps and attempted a football play that any competitive athlete would: he went for a touchdown. Before he lunged for a touchdown, he had already secured the catch.

From tip-off the game had been electrifying, from the efficiency of RB Demarco Murray to the pure greatness of Aaron Rodgers. The excitement and fun of the game had been stripped by a terrible call. A better that needs to be implemented into the rule book should be officials should NOT determine the outcome of a game. After that devastating reversal of Dez Bryant’s catch, the Cowboys were deflated and the momentum had shifted to the Green Bay Packers unfairly, Packers won the game.

When reversing a very questionable and close calls, the moment in the game should be considered. Will reversal of this call determine the course of the game? If the answer is yes and it is an extremely close call and based on technicality; the call that is originally called on the field should stand. We will never know how great the game could have been. Let me set the picture for you:  Dallas scores a TD with a substantial amount of time for Aaron Rodgers to search deep for one more amazing drive up the field. How amazing would that scenario have been?

Some will say this was a bitter dose of karma from last weeks’ NFC Wild card game vs. the Detroit Lions. A very questionable flag was picked up which would have resulted in Detroit having an automatic first down but instead possession was given to Dallas and they went on to win the game. If Dallas Cowboy fans didn’t believe in Karma before this game, they do now.

Never The Right Time To Say Goodbye

byeBy Stefan Anderson

Two different stories but with the same parallels, Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning, two of our generations greatest athletes finding themselves at the ends of their run and can’t figure out a way to end their career on the right note.

Bryant, now in the final two years of his contract, has accomplished the accolades that he wanted to pursue except for that 6 championships to put himself on the same plateau on the GOAT, Michael Jordan. Following nearly seasons missed due to injury, Kobe now has to attempt to reach his dreams with all the odds against him.

Now playing on a Lakers team that at best compete for the 8th seed for the upcoming finds himself chasing the dream of going out on top. Not to put the blame on Bryant but after a receiving the contract he received, but Kobe could of took a selfless role like a Dirk Nowitzki, who took a pay cut for this team to bring a big free agent to help his team compete.

Now the Black Mamba has to stick out the remainder of contract chasing the dream of going out on top.

Manning , on the other hand has seen brighter days after sitting out for a season due to a near career ending neck injury, has seen the best regular seasons during his 3 year run in Denver. While remaining one of the most feared quarterbacks in the NFL, the Tennessee product has yet to bring his team over the hump. Denver on the other has brought a tremendous amount of talent on both ends of the field to provide the former MVP with all talent needed.

The results haven’t panned out in the way they need them too.

Bryant now 36, and Manning who is 38, are playing to finish their career with the proper story book ending to a illustrious careers on both ends but their competitive drive is what makes great is a gift and curse.

Both known to be the hardest workers in their respective sports but neither have paved the way or made another player around them to become better. How many quarterbacks under Manning have seen a starting position after playing behind him? How many guards or players have seen stardom or a career blossom after playing under Bryant? And while the discussion is there, both Bryant and Manning are known to be clutch performers but how many championship winning plays have either of them made?

That is beside the point, Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning have extended their careers further then they needed to go and now face the reality to see their careers end in the way they don’t want them to.

Its cliché, but there is never a perfect ending to anything.

Birds Flying High

hawks

By Stefan Anderson

Following their postseason trip where they battled the #1 seed Indiana Pacers, into 7 games, the world was not on notice of how the Hawks could be build off of their success of the past, including myself. Well the Hawks are taking the league by stand again and could continue to be a force to reckon with.

The Hawks have managed to string together their last 22 of 24 games and doing it in a fashionable form. Knocking off the top tier of NBA teams in route to gaining the Eastern Conference’s best record, wins like at Cleveland, Dallas, Portland, Houston and LA, also conquering the top teams in the East, Washington and Chicago.

Atlanta has been on a tear as of late, which is surprising to most but makes sense to those who understand their style of play. With one All-Star in Pau Millsap, the Hawks do not rely on a superstar play to lead them they do it collectively.

With all five starters of Atlanta averaging double digits, they all remain second in the league with 25.4 assists per game. Under the guidance of Mike Budenholzer, a longtime assistant of Greg Popovich, the Hawks resemble the modern day Spurs, with playing great team ball and stingy defense, 4th in team defense, to win games but also providing a faster pace unlike San Antonio.

There is an old cliché that states that players play when under a contract year, with the Hawks having new ownership rumors floating around some might speculate that would be what is inspiring their latest stretch.

Whether that is true or not, Atlanta is have put together a formula to make that next step this season and I can see them knocking off a team that would have an upper advantage against them in the postseason.

Legends Never Die

Stuart Scott was a pioneer in sports broadcasting and journalism and has left an honorable path for many of us to follow, the staff here at The Starting Point take the time to honor Stu and his legacy.

Jazmine August 

They often say it’s not until something is no longer present that you are able to appreciate its value. This truly applies to the life of Stuart Scott. A pioneer in the world of sports journalism; he coined catch phrases like “Cooler than the other side of the pillow” & “boo yah!” and brought another aspect to sports broadcasting. Stuart Scott wasn’t afraid to be himself in the way he delivered information and conducted interviews. Even in the face of cancer, Stu still gave 110% to this business. It was very evident that this was his passion and purpose. He used his stage and audience to encourage others to fight what ever battle they were facing. He exemplified perseverance and strength. As an African-American aspiring sports journalist, Stuart’s life and death has inspired me to give 110% to my passion and while doing so inspire others. Stuart Scott’s life, although short, was well lived. I’m appreciative of the years I was able to watch him effortlessly broadcast to millions of people world wide. Thank you Stuart Scott.

Kelsey Miller 

Thank you Stuart. For your courage, drive and exposure to the world. When someone has an impact on your direction and how you want to live, you always wish well for that person who worked hard to inspire others. As a young black woman trying to break into the industry of sports journalism, I am heartbroken at the loss of ESPN pioneer Stuart Scott. My memories keep reverting back to your ESPY’s speech about the battle with cancer. Stuart, your battle is over and you fought an amazing fight that many could never duplicate. To the young black men of the sports journalism industry, recognize Stuart as a great. He is part of the reason why color in sports media is slowly filling the gaps. Rest in power Stuart, and thank you. Thank you 1,000 times Mr Scott. 

Maceo Lester 

Stuart Scott, the icon, the expert, the main reason why I would rush to turn on ESPN in the morning. Scott changed the game, changed ESPN, and changed the sportscasting industry forever. His cool, urban way of covering sports gave so much more energy to ESPN. His signature phrases like “boo-yah” and “cool like the other side of the pillow,” made highlight plays on ESPN even better. Scott, was one the main reasons why I wanted to enter the media industry. I was truly hurt to hear of his passing. I felt like a part of my childhood left with him. ESPN will never be the same, there will never be another Stuart Scott.

Stefan Anderson

In the 3rd grade, my teacher Mr.Silverman had this idea to keep me interested in school. Knowing that I had a love for sports and ESPN, Mr. Silverman suggested to my mom that I should type a morning sportscast every day on the daily announcements. I was only 9 at the time, so my older brother helped me come up with my lines. We worked to come up with the slogan, “This is Stefan Anderson or sometimes Stuart Scott Little( the movie was big at the time, but it was catchy), reporting Livveeeee from Smith School Sports Desk”

But what I really wanted to do was imitate this icon that i seen on TV everyday, Stuart Scott.

His legacy will forever live on in the hearts of many and his lasting impact on many sports journalist across the globe. I  am truly honored to have watched and learned so much from a trailblazer who led the way that I can one day follow. Thank you Stuart Scott, I hope to one day keep the legacy alive similar to what you did.