Westchester Knicks G Travis Trice talks with The Starting Point

By Stefan Anderson

Westchester Knicks guard Travis Trice spoke with The Starting Point following their final regular as the Knicks head to the NBA Development League playoffs. Trice, following a good career at Michigan State University playing with good talent like Draymond Green, Adrien Payne and Denzel Valentine gathered many deep postseason runs and is hopeful to use his experiences to propel Westchester.

Averaging 15.3 points and 5.7 assists per game, Trice has teamed up with highly touted prospect Jimmer Fredette to combine into one of the best back court tandems in the D-League. Trice and Fredette will showcase their skills as they face off against the record-setting Maine Red Claws in an opening round series.

What A Time

By Stefan Anderson

The 2016 NCAA Men’s Tournament was filled with a range of emotions and some legendary matchups that killed brackets, bets and predictions from anyone you can think of.

It started with some of this….

Then there was some of this ….

This was setting for Monday evening’s classic National Championship game, between North Carolina and Villanova. We saw two of the best, consistent teams in college basketball and got what we ordered then some. It would be hard to say that the best team won the game but I will say that the more disciplined team did.

You cannot discredit how great of a season the Tarheels had but the Wildcats were proven to stick with their game plan good, bad or indifferent. They were going to play tough defense and make North Carolina beat them from the outside and if they get a chance to score in the paint they will harass penetration from ball handlers and hound big men when close to the rim. Villanova held UNC tandem of Johnson and Meeks to 7-18 from the field.

The Tarheels closed the first half shooting 7-9 from outside but as hot Carolina seemed to be they could not shake off the determined Villanova Wildcats. Villanova’s strategic defense plan to keep the high flying UNC offense to play at their tempo kept them alive no matter how many haymakers the Tarheels threw at them. But when you shoot 58 % from the field it’s hard to counter any attack.

The win was perfect for Villanova and embodied the greatness that this tournament exemplified. Villanova coming from the “weak” Big East conference proved why they placed at the top of the rankings all season. Despite what their regular season may look like, they played three tough games to head to the National Championship. To beat the top ranked Kansas team, shut down the best player in college hoops in Buddy Hield and Oklahoma to then completing it with a win over North Carolina, Nova rightfully deserved this title. This win is a great win for a great team and should cement Coach Jay Wright’s Hall of Fame career.

APJ Boxing Club eyes “Golden Gloves”

 

By Stefan Anderson

POUGHKEEPSIE-It was just six months ago, while preparing for his second annual boxing showcase,  Upstate vs. New York City, when APJ Boxing trainer/owner Kariym Patterson, envisioned his talent transform from its humble beginnings in 2012 to budding talent here in 2016.

To turn their compact gym on Catherine St, into a household name has been the objective since its opening. The affirmation is now within six rounds as two of the gym’s fighters, Tyriece Stokes and Dominque Crowder set to compete for in the 89th annual, New York Daily News Golden Gloves championship in the 178 lb. and 123 lb. open divisions.

“I say this every day, this is our year” said Crowder.

Determination has been the pillar for APJ as they continue to strive for greatness.  From trainer to fighters, the same message resonates through the boxing Club.

“It’s a blessing to be here, but I know I’m here because of hard work and dedication” says Stokes. “From Monday through Sunday, we work hard, no days off” added the 123-pounder Crowder.

For Stokes, the fight on Wednesday evening at the Empire City Casino versus former Golden Glove finalist, Patrick Aristhene, will be the biggest test in the Poughkeepsie native career.

After stepping in the ring for the first time in 2013, the 178-pounder remembers when he first began the sport, “I remember when I first started, I could barely even jump rope and now I am mixing it up with some of the best,” said Stokes. “But it doesn’t feel complete until I put those gloves around my neck and I’m the Golden Gloves champ.”

“It’s a lot of great things about him but it’s his will to become a great in this sport that will take him higher,” said the APJ owner/trainer, “If he wants it bad enough, he will get it.”

Crowder, after migrating from the city of Baltimore, MD, has found a home in Poughkeepsie especially at APJ. “I did the right thing at the right time and I feel like this is what I am supposed to be doing”, Crowder stated.  With his lanky 6’2 frame at 123 pounds makes him scarce at that weight class. But it is the “Dominator’s” passion is what makes him unique.  As Patterson puts it “Coming from fighting in the streets, Dom has a lot of heart and he never gets rattled.”

The rematch with finalist Ariel Lopez, on April 18th at the Barclays Center has also been on his checklist since the defeat. “He beat in 2013, it was split decision last time but this time I want to take him out”, said the former Baltimore Native.

“I think these guys will be successful, just based on their will to want it” said Patterson.

 

Thunder in Oklahoma City

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By Stefan Anderson

It was all good just a week ago, well maybe a few weeks ago.

Prior to the All-Star break the Oklahoma City Thunder were rolling through teams, gathering wins in seven of its eight games during the stretch, and showing they are amongst the elite of the NBA. It has been a different story as of late for OKC , losing its last six of eight games heading into a downward spiral heading into the latter part of the season. But what has caused the Thunder to come falling down ?

The second ranked offensive team has struggled to complete games due to their inconsistencies of lineups have led the Thunder to fall out of the discussion of the top teams and one game from losing their 3rd place standing in the Western Conference.

OKC’s lineup has two gaps in the shooting guard and center position.

Since James Harden was sent to Houston, the Thunder has yet to find a solution at the two spot.  Andre Roberson has shouldered the load due his defense prowess but offensively just allows teams to help on drives and trap the teams prolific scorers, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Dion Waiters appeared to be a solution for a brief stint , but his streaky shooting has given Coach Billy Donavon and fellow teammates headaches. Although OKC traded for Randy Foye at the trade deadline, Foye has yet to find his niche amongst his new roster.

Why not give a proven shooter an opportunity? Anthony Morrow has been known to be less of a defender than a Roberson, but has a better offensive skill set than Roberson and with Waiters giving the Thunder a -5.7 rating while on the court and not to mention his current 24/68 shooting slump over the past  few games. I think Morrow makes a good fill-in for Thunder.

Also, Steven Adams gives solid minutes each night as a starter we practically ever seen their $70 million dollar signee, Enes Kanter,when it matters.  Kanter gives the Thunder another scorer when the possessions are closer allows another option for Durant and Westbrook to make more plays.

During the limited minutes experienced the lineup of Westbrook, Morrow, Durant, Ibaka and Kanter has been a plus in the majority of categories including points and field goal efficiency.  I am aware that the two players listed are not adept defenders but they Thunder have not been able to come up with stops with better defenders on the floor and cannot gain points either.

In their recent fourth quarter debacles, the Thunder have reverted to their old offensively ways of Durant/Westbrook isolate and score.  The two are in the top ten in isolation possessions this season, with Durant in 6th with 220 and Westbrook in 8th with 199, but have taken nearly half of their team’s shots during the final period.

For example:

  • In their loss to Indiana: Durant and Westbrook combined for 9-21 shots taken in the 4th.
  • Loss to vs New Orleans , 16-24
  • Loss to Golden State, 13-24
  • Loss to LA Clippers , 11-20
  • Loss to Golden State, 11-20

That ball stopping offense cannot help them win as it has been proven these past two weeks. The lineup change could be what they are looking with the recent slide. The Thunder are one of the best teams in the NBA, but will fall short again if they cannot figure out to close out games.

SB 50 Takeaways

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By Stefan Anderson

Usually, I am able predict who I think can win the Super Bowl each year but this year I had tough decision to make between The Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. After many days of deliberating. I began comparing the teams’ two contrasting styles. I began to believe the Broncos had the edge with defensive front 7 and a better offensive unit, but something would not allow me to bet against Cam Newton after his MVP performance this season.

Ultimately a scrappy 24-10 Super Bowl 50 win, crowned the Broncos as the champs. While the match up was not as enticing as some expected, we were able to witness somethings that were not foreseen.

Peyton’s Final Game: Winning the Super Bowl only helped cement Peyton Manning’s HOF resume and solidified that he is a top five quarterback of all time. Previously, I stated that Manning was fighting the inevitable ending of the career and could not return to the glorious player he once was. But Manning returned after missing seven games due to injury and returned in a new role as a game manager. Prior to his injury, Manning was responsible for 17 interceptions, but since has only thrown interception and completing over 50% of his passes in route to his 2nd super bowl win. Manning reached title as possibly the best game manager we’ve ever seen heading to potentially his last game.

MVP: Despite the great season Newton had his spectacular run was halted when faced with the league’s top defense. But it goes to show how good he really was this season, with 45 total touchdowns without a true deep threat and a 1,000 yard rusher, they still managed to have a 15-1 record with a trip to the Super Bowl. But without that help last night, Newton showed how great that he has played and the helped need to win.

Defense Wins Championships: The cliché statement proved to prevalent as the top ranked defense conquered the top ranked offense. Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and the front seven of the Broncos clogged every gap and rushed Cam Newton all night long. Newton has hit 13 times, forced to a horrific 16.9 QBR on 18-44 passing night.

Could either team return to the big dance? Carolina has a chance to return granted that they will be motivated after having that great season, will reach where they need to if they can find another target for Cam Newton as Kelvin Benjamin returns. Denver whether Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning is under the center, can return but will have to defeat a furious Tom Brady and Co.

Buddy vs. Ben — Who’s Going First?

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By Kelsey Miller

Buddy Hield will be the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Why? I do not know any other player who can shoot as accurately as him, who is not already in the NBA. Adding a player with this much consistency will not only increase a future teams shooting percentage, but add to the depth of their bench. Can a player of this stature be compared to LSU’s star Ben Simmons? Absolutely. There are key differences between the two players but both guys would be a huge asset to any NBA team.

“Buddy Buckets” as he is normally called, is a monster behind the three point line. I watched him during a pregame make 30 threes in a row. In. A. Row. The only other person I see making 30 three pointers in a row is Steph Curry and I could not say that about him in college. Not only is Hield the best shooter in the Big 12, but arguably in the country. I’d like to see a three point competition between Hield and a few of the guys on BYU (also a great shooting team behind the arc).

In their last game against LSU, Hield was essential to their second half comeback win over the Tigers. He can deliver in situations where a clutch hand is needed. As a senior, Hield is a great leader. His teammates want to feed him the ball because they know he can make contested shots, let alone if the defense falls asleep and leaves him open.

Simmons is the most versatile 6’10” guy I’ve watched this year. Someone of that stature who can put the ball on the floor and take it to the rim, shoot consistently from midrange and behind the arc and bring the ball up the floor as a point guard is insane. The guy averages a double double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. How great is it for one of your big men to be able to play almost three positions at a time?

During the Oklahoma match up, Simmons made a reverse slam dunk which I see no college player doing anywhere. I’m used to the typical alley oop or fast break dunk down the middle of the lane, but putting the ball on the floor and driving past the defense for the reverse? That kid has NBA skills.

Why do I think Buddy Buckets will go number one over a versatile Simmons?  Hield’s resume is alot better than Simmons for many reasons. It’s about who you play and there are much tougher teams in the Big 12 conference than the latter SEC. I know Simmons will continue on the current one and done treatment and be a top three pick, but he has only spent one year with an unranked team who stands second in their conference at 13-8. As a senior, Hield has had ample time to improve on his jumper and become a leader. He will only become a better shooter as time goes on.

Black Boy Fly

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By Stefan Anderson

After a 26 year drought between African American quarterbacks not being able to obtain a NFL Championship, the streak was broken as Russell Wilson led the Seattle Seahawks to the Lombardi Trophy in 2013. It ended the speculation and broke in a new generation of QB’s killing the stigma that black quarterbacks could not win it all.

“I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to”said Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton.

For the fourth season consecutively we have seen an African-American quarterback after Cam Newton dabbed his way to his first Super Bowl appearance. Also Newton is on his way to becoming the second black QB to secure a MVP trophy.

With Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Wilson all spearheading the new generation that denounces the statement that African-Americans can not the lead at the most challenging position in the league but also succeed.  I never once thought that black quarterbacks couldn’t win it all but I pose more a different question. Does it depend more on what kind of personnel the team surround its leader with? Not as playmakers but a team as whole, how can one succeed if the defense cant kept the opposing team off of the the field.

It was shown in the past with players like Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb and even Randall Cunningham, if given the proper team it can surpass the odds.

Before falling short to the “Dirty Bird” Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship, Cunniningham was on his way to ending the old adage but it was talented defense that helped Minnesota reach that point. Minnesota during the season was 6th points allowed; holding opponents to 18.5 points a game.  The 1998 Vikings had the potential to win over the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl especially with their offensive fire power.

McNair, led the Tennessee Titans to Super Bowl to face the greatest show on turf, the St. Louis Rams and was a Kevin Dyson arm short away from defeating the Rams. But if it wasn’t for that 15th ranked defense and the “Music City Miracle”, we may have never seen McNair on that stage.

McNabb in 2004, finally made it to the Super Bowl following man short coming in the NFC championship, were defeated by the New England Patriots.  McNabb had  was the general for the 8th ranked offense but Philly’s ability to hold opposing teams to 16.2 points per game helped  the Eagles overcome the failures to close in NFC championship games.

In the past three years we have seen the same trend as the Seahawks and 49ers had top ranked defenses and Carolina continue with the current 6th ranked defense in the league. As with every great quarterback whether the race, if you don’t the right pieces it will never fit. It has been beautiful to witness these quarterbacks stand on the barriers of their predecessors and hopefully change the outlook for forthcoming quarterback coming into the league.

Ok, Now What

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By Stefan Anderson

Coming off an impressive win against the Los Angeles Clippers and showing signs of the alpha dog in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to make a huge change mid-season. After winning 10 of their last 12 games, only losing to the two best teams in the NBA, the Spurs and the Warriors, the axe has come down former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt.

Blatt, had to face the news of his firing on his day off, in what seemed to be the coming for a long time. Monday evening’s 132-98 massacre with Golden State might have been the last stop on the Blatt train but is one that doesn’t seem as farfetched.

From blatant disrespect from the league’s premier star and Cleveland’s prize possession Lebron James, after subbing himself mid-game during a match with Atlanta, calling his own audible on set plays and most recently sitting in Blatt’s chair on the bench, the message was clear that whatever the king says goes.

Although he coached Cleveland to a finals matchup with Golden State even capturing two game with a diminished roster to choose from. To then returning to having the best record in the East sitting 30-11, was still not enough to satisfy King James.

But this is very similar a former star who James’ game emulates after, Magic Johnson.

Johnson grew frustrated with his head coach at the time Paul Westhead during the 1981 season, similar to James, Magic also had his franchise in his palms and ultimately had Westhead removed from his position.

Luckily for the Lakers, there was an assistant by the name of Pat Riley, who stepped in and carried the torch to what we know now as the “Showtime” Lakers. Tyron Lue, will now step in as Cleveland head after five years of being an assistant for Boston, Los Angeles and Cleveland to help restore faith for the Cavs. Lue, as a player was coached by Phil Jackson and is under the coaching tree of former Celtics and current Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, and has the knowledge that can help lead the Cavs to the promise land.

The promise land won’t easy for the Land.

The Cavs have bigger fish to fry. Cleveland although remain on top of the East will have to win against either San Antonio or Golden State to win a championship. With the inconsistency of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love it will be a tough feat. The huge difference between Cleveland and the other top tier teams is depth and bench production.

San Antonio is 1st in bench efficiency; Golden State is 3rd and Cleveland ranks 24th, with the bench only accounting for 28.2 points a game. The Cavs will need the supporting cast step up or find pieces to help bolster their bench. Irving has missed 42 games over the past 3 season and has yet to play a full 82-game season in his short career, Love is currently battling an “undisclosed” injury, Iman Shumpert has only appeared in 19 games and Mo Williams has not played effective minutes in months. Once again, leaving the load on James to carry Cleveland once again.

Lue can be the solution for Cleveland, but their roster has to make some important changes that can that make sense of the 109 million dollar payroll. The overall goal has to be restore the relationships lost with Blatt and make your superstar, Lebron James, job a lot easier.

 

Sunshine In A Dark Place

d'antoni.jpgBy Stefan Anderson

Just over a decade ago, Mike D’Antoni was the head coach of the infamous Run-N-Gun Phoenix Suns in the late 2000’s, that made a lasting imprint on the NBA.Years removed the league, we missed D’Antoni’s offense in the NBA and pondered why such an explosive offense hasn’t been brought on by other teams. Now, the Marshall product has now returned to bench with the league’s worst team the Philadelphia 76ers, bringing a bright spot to the gloomy franchise.

We have seen this time and time, where D’Antoni’s offensive philosophy, that has birthed a new generation of basketball. The system focuses on playing with more space, a faster pace, allowing point guards to push the ball and getting shots early in the shot clock working to get more possessions out of each game.

The system has allowed many guards to flourish over the years. Examples are:

  • Prior to being traded for Carmelo Anthony in 2010-11, Raymond Felton was having his best NBA season. During the 54 games he played with the Knicks, Felton was able to put up 19.0 points per game and average career high 9.0 assists.
  • Can’t forget about that kid named Jeremy Lin, who had New York City in a frenzy under D’Antoni. “Linsanity” also had a great year under D’Antoni averaging 14.6 ppg and 6.2 apg.
  • D’Antpni most successful project thus far would be Steve Nash. Nash would go on to nab two MVP trophies under D’Antoni direction averaging 17.5 and 11.2 during his tenure with D’Antoni.

It’s shown that guards have benefited from D’Antoni success and his new point guard experiment Ish Smith has grown since his arrival. Smith has gone on to average 16.8 ppg and 8.3 apg since D’Antoni arrival. In his second tenure with the Sixers, Smith has gone on to have five game where he accounted for 10 assists or more.

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Not only did Smith improve under D’Antoni but the Sixers as a whole also have grown since December 18th.

Philadelphia prior to D’Antoni:  91.4 ppg on 81 FGA, 41% FGP, 32 % 3PT, and 18.7 apg

Philadelphia after D’Antoni: 99.7 ppg, 84.4 FGA, 45% FGP, 33% 3PT, 23.3 apg and winning 4 games during the 14-game stretch.

With point guard play and high offense being on demand, it doesn’t make sense why the offensive guru wasn’t given a chance prior to. Although Philadelphia is far from contenting again, this experiment it should allow him to find another opportunity elsewhere and possibly help solve the conundrum in City of Brotherly Love.

Watch The Throne

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By Stefan Anderson

June 16th caused a major shift in the balance of power for the NBA. The Golden State Warriors captured their first title in 40 years and the Cleveland Cavaliers still have that bitter taste of the finals loss.

Today on Christmas, we will finally get see the unanswered questions.

What if Cleveland had their big three? Would Stephen Curry be able to attack Kyrie Irving and make him look inadequate like the other guards he faced in the postseason? So many questions and now we finally get our answers today.

The most important question, has Lebron James’s crown been taken by Stephen Curry?

This is reminiscent of few years ago when Kobe Bryant was the alpha dog and an emerging Lebron James was coming to heir the throne and had to face off against him on Christmas day. James was 3-0 versus Bryant and ultimately took the NBA by storm. This win could be important for Curry as he puts his exclamation mark that he is the best player in the league.

Curry, fresh off his first championship and MVP award has shown no signs of slowing down and is playing at even higher level than the previous season. “Chef Curry” has seen a spike in each category other than assists and free throw percentage and his team is right along with him at astonishing 27-1 record.

But while Warriors are on a remarkable run, the balance of power in conferences has shifted as well. With the Eastern Conference being known as the weaker conference, we have seen more teams in the East improve as the 9th best team in the East, Boston, has same record as the 3rd best record in the West, the Clippers.

But as the East has gotten better, Cleveland still remains the best team in the conference and King James and Co, are headed back to full strength with the return of Kyrie Irving and Mo Williams and have to show that are just as superior as the Warriors.

The Warriors 1st ranked pace could be damaging for the Cavs 28th ranked pace, but it could also hurt Golden State as well. Unlike Golden State who has 13.5 point differential are not used to playing close like Cleveland. Cleveland has played in 8 games with the score was decided by 5 or less unlike Golden State that only played in four games.

But it will not be easy as King James is “Mr.Christmas”, averaging 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds and seven wins in his nine holiday appearances.

This will be an interesting matchup and will serve as an evaluation for the rest of the NBA to see who the real powerhouse team is.