Serge Protector

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By Stefan Anderson

When the Western Conference Finals began, I believed that it would be highly competitive series with Oklahoma City and San Antonio. With the Spurs big 3 searching for the next title on their “closing” window, and the Thunder searching for their first title as a young core.  But after the first two games of the series, I was proved wrong after the Spurs came out looking the Spurs destroying the Thunder in a fashionable manner. Allowing an average of 117 points in the first two games, the Thunder looked out of sort and looked to see a similar fate as in years prior.

But their rim protector, 3rd option on offense and best defender was missing in action.

During a game 6 win versus the Clippers, Serge Ibaka had early exit due to a calf injury and was scheduled to miss the rest of postseason, which would put the Thunder in the same predicament as last season when they lost Westbrook to a freak knee injury.  But the first two games were finished; team doctors upgraded Ibaka’s status from out indefinitely to day to day, which changed a lot this series.

After watching the first two games of the series’ most believed whether Ibaka played or not that Spurs were in rare form and looked like a team determined to get their redemption and hoist up another championship trophy. But after game 3, the doubters were proved wrong after Ibaka’s return. In his return he gave his team that added scorer need after starters other than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook only scored 9 points in two games, chipping in 15 points.

His offense was an addition to the Thunder’s game plan, but was obvious for the defensive end as well. Ibaka presence was felt as it always is it, providing consistent shot blocking (he has finished with the most blocks in the past 4 seasons in the NBA), brought the rim protection his team needed.  During the past 2 games, Ibaka has accounted for 7 of the 18 blocks his team has taken away from the Spurs hot offense. His presence in the post was well needed after witnessing the Spurs 66 and 54 of their points in the paint, exploiting the Thunder’s inferior front line, but when Ibaka returned he has cut those numbers down to 40 and 36 in the following games. With play like this that Ibaka was snubbed of the DPOY in the past two seasons, but his impact can be seen throughout the floor.

I don’t know what the outcome of the series is going to be but I am going to say if the past is anything like the present then the Spurs are in trouble. With the Thunder being the last Western Conference team to eliminate them in a playoff series (after erasing a 2-0 deficit ) and owning them in the season series ,without Russell Westbrook in two of those games, it appears the Thunder have the Spurs number. But u can never justify Pop’s willingness to have the other team in a chess match and just baiting them into a checkmate. I want to believe that the Spurs have one more legendary run in them before that window closes but the Thunder just don’t want any more breeze and have the opportunity to end one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history.

My Prediction: OKC in 6, I think that moment will allow them to steal one in San Antonio lead by monster game by the MVP Kevin Durant going for somewhere close to 45 and then they will close out the series at home in Oklahoma City, to set up a epic rematch for LeBron and Durant.

Scapegoat or Savior

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By Stefan Anderson

A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player, and I’m the first to have your back through it all. Just stay the person you are. Everybody loves you here. I love you.” MVP Kevin Durant uttered those words about his running mate Russell Westbrook after receiving the honor of becoming the league’s superior award.  But the speculations about Westbrook have been love or hate, or maybe hate to love from the majority of sports fans. I believe that Russ takes the blame for things that he has no fault taking blame for.

When Kevin Durant went on his miraculous tear this season, due to a Westbrook injury many questioned the necessity of keeping the tandem together. In the prior it was shown that Westbrook was vital to Oklahoma City’s success. After a second round exit by the Memphis Grizzlies, it proved that Russell Westbrook is what they needed after defenses set their plan against taking out Durant. A formula that worked previously, did not work this year when Memphis faced OKC in the first round that featured Westbrook.

The Thunder posted a 24-9 record while Westbrook, The team seen the emergence of many roles players including Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and Serge Ibaka to help fill void of the Thunder’s secondary superstar. Although they played well without him they are fairly better offensively and defensively with Westbrook. With Westbrook the Thunder score nearly 5 more points and hold teams to almost 4 less points a game.

The majority of Westbrook’s criticism comes from his shot intake and erratic play but you cannot blame him for his needed offense. Although Ibaka has shown improvement over the years, his offense is still inconsistent along with Perkins and Sefolosha, lacking that 3rd scorer the Thunder lost when they traded James Harden.  With 2 guys that start and cannot scratch close to 10 points a game, his shot selection is explained well. 

What I can argue with is why Westbrook decides to make himself a better playmaker at times. His playoffs stats are a small sample size but show how he can improve his game slightly. In games that his team has lost this postseason, he averages more points less assists and rebounds (29 ppg, 8 rpg  and 7 apg) in opposite to when his teams wins (24 ppg, 9 rpg, 9apg). But Russell Westbrook competitive spirit is second to none, which is why he is so valued. If Kevin Durant goes cold as he did in Game 5 (6-22 from the field), you need a Russell Westbrook to win games as he showed in tonight game. Westbrook went off for 38 points, including the clutch steal over Chris Paul and then sinking the 3 game winning free throws.

“An emotional guy who would run through a wall for me. There are days when I want to just tackle you and tell you to snap out of it sometimes. I know there’s days you want to do the same with me. I love you man. Durant echoed those words after winning his first MVP award but he meant tonight, as Westbrook proved that he should never be the scapegoat for the losses but credited for all his efforts. 

We’re Just Getting Started

By Stefan Anderson

After the NBA’s scandal, lifetime bans, Floyd Mayweather winning again (Is He Ever Going to Lose?), the NBA playoffs continued. Returning to a first round, that has been more competitive than any in the years past. This year’s opening round of the playoffs is a great introduction to what could be a legendary postseason, which could be discussed centuries from now.

Aside from the Miami Heat and the Washington Wizards, every team had a very competive series leading to a record 5 game 7’s. One of the most intriguing series that didn’t lead to a game 7 was the Rockets vs. Blazers series, which nearly went to a deciding but was ended after a cold blooded dagger by Damian Lillard. These playoffs have had fans on the edge of their seats and reaching near heart attack but a joy to watch.

Throughout these game 7’s two things remained supreme, Star Power and Experience.

• In the Eastern Conference:
The #1 seed Indiana Pacers where on the ropes and were almost knocked by young, hungry Atlanta Hawks team. Down 3-2 in their series Indiana went on the road to fight for championship aspirations. After a lineup change that helped the Pacers downsize they were able to compete with the undersized Hawks teams that continued to spread their defense out and knock down 3’s. Including two tremendous games by their star Paul George and their leader David West.

The Toronto Raptors already had defied the odds this season they went on to win the Atlantic Division and earn 3 seed this season. The task of knocking off the veteran Brooklyn Nets seemed like a tough task but they were close to making it look easy. Putting the Nets in an uncomfortable position after 3-2 defeat, they looked to close out the series in game 6. But Brooklyn responded quickly by returning the favor in a 97-83 blowout to send the series into a game 7. In a game 7 where Brooklyn looked like the team everyone predicted them to be, the young Raptors made a final run to save their playoff hopes and show what they made of. Down 1 with a few seconds left, the Raptors lacked a prime go-to scorer or big shot maker and left the game in Kyle Lowry’s hands where he seen his last second floater get returned by the Veteran Paul Pierce. Aint that The Truth.

• In The Western Conference
The Spurs have had so many tough battles between them and the Dallas Mavericks, that you knew this year’s matchup would give you the same. The Mavericks different from those teams that once featured Dirk, Nash, Finley, etc. now have a new cast but still possess the same great talent with Monta Ellis, Vince Carter, Devin Harris, and of Dirk . But the Spurs have never lost core of stars and show that chemistry does mean something in this league. After watching Vince Carter hit the time machine and hit game winning shots, Manu Ginobli turn back the clock and show vintage Manu, this series reminded me of the early 2000’s. After former Spur now Mavericks Dejuan Blair come out and make clutch plays against his former team in 6, the series would be decided in Game 7. The Spurs proved once again why they had the best record this season and trampled the Mavs 119-69, led by Tony Parker’s 32 point performance.

Oklahoma City has had a great amount of trouble dealing with Memphis and their grind out style play in the past few years, especially in the playoffs. This postseason was no different. After 4 straight overtime games between the two, Memphis put OKC in a tough position once again. Down 3-2 facing elimination, who could the Thunder rely on to help guide to the promise land, Kevin Durant. The MVP Candidate went off for 36 and 10 to help force a game 7. After losing their star Zach Randolph due to an altercation, Memphis lacked their star power to compete for a final game where Kevin Durant chipped in 33 points and Russell Westbrook put in a triple double himself.

The Warriors and Clippers series went as planned as both teams were poised for a heavyweight bout in the first round. After facing so much attention of the court and it affecting the play on the court, The Clippers looked to be down and out for this series. But after their big man duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan put their team on their back the Clips stayed alive to continue championship dreams. Not that Warriors, do not hold star power in this time, they just need some extra help from a big man which they lost in the unhealthy Andrew Bogut.

For this to be the first round of the playoffs, shows exactly why the NBA playoffs are what they are for a reason. The Win or Go Home attitude gives the players that extra enthusiasm need and gives up fans the great show that we love to see. I cannot wait to see what happens in the second round.

Money, Power and Respect

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By Stefan Anderson

Two #1 seeds nearly eliminated, almost every team playing in a overtime matchup we have been on journey as fans of the game. Shortly after witnessing some of the best first round basketball in the past few years, NBA fans have not been focusing on the great play of recent. With the recent drama that has unfolded between Donald Sterling and the Los Angeles Clippers organizations has sidetracked the playoffs this year.

The actions have led to all parties involved to make extreme, critical decisions.

 V. Stiviano, in her best Kerry Washington impression has created the entire controversy; from the way it panned out it looked like it was bound to happen. Being Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s mistress for throughout the past few months, took a photo with “The King of LA” and former Laker Magic Johnson that made Sterling irate. Following her infamous Instagram photo, she went on tape a private conversation between herself and Sterling that hit the World Wide Web and caused an uproar. After hearing Sterling’s prejudice comments on African Americans and how he feels about the race led to what would be a exciting episode of Scandal , but terrible for the NBA.

The Los Angeles Clippers, in their best season in franchise history were up 2-1 in series versus the Golden State Warriors, were looking edge up one game and continue their run to the promise land of a NBA championship. But after the news struck, the team appeared to be in disarray. After players planning to boycott and showing their own symbolism by turning their warm-ups inside to not have any affiliation with the franchise. The news even led on the most generous and humble people in the NBA, Doc Rivers in question about his job and working under such conditions. Following the distraction the Clips watched Stephen Curry and the Warriors hand them a terrible 118-97 loss on Sunday.

Adam Silver, three months into his new tenure as NBA commissioner, was faced with his first difficult task on the job. After thoroughly investigating the issues at hand, Silver came down with the unexpected and unprecedented judgment. Silver handed down a lifetime ban of Sterling from the NBA and any of its allying parties. Along with the lifetime ban Sterling was given a maximum fine under of NBA bylaws of $2.5 million dollars and depending of Board of Directors of ¾ will force the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Whether his privacy was violated or not, what Donald Sterling said cannot be justified in any matter. Sterling’s past actions and treatment towards minorities have been brushed under the rug for so long that his mess built up and came back to bite him this time. Despite all the amendments and the constitutions that were created for us, we continue to break one of the most important one, All Men Created Equal. No matter how much money or power you perceive to have it cannot outlaws human rights. I believe that this is just a slap in a fight that will continue to be a slug fest in today’s society, and will not be stopped until us as humans begin to change that. Until we figure out that no matter the skin color, race, orientation, social status or monetary status, we all have to respect for the world and humanity.

 The ban gives hope to the future and shows the NBA will be under great leadership under new commissioner Adam Silver, with conscious efforts to protect the integrity of the game. This also can bring a great deal of emotion for the Clippers as they go on their pursuit for the NBA title. As they say “controversy builds character”. Now that we can put this drama behind and continue to enjoy my favorite game and its most exciting moments as the NBA playoffs continue. 

Sterling Silver

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By Maceo Lester 

If you haven’t heard the disgusting racist comments made by Los Angles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, you must be living under a rock. People of all ages and races have been stirred up by Sterling’s controversial remarks. A highly competitive and intense NBA post-season has been abruptly disrupted by offensive comments such as “Don’t bring black people to my games….don’t have black people on your Instagram.” Those statements were made during a recorded conversation between Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano [Maria Vanessa Perez.] Stiviano made a simple Instagram post as many of us frequently do in our spare time. Stiviano’s post just happened to be picture of her and NBA hall-of-famer Magic Johnson, someone who Stiviano says she “admires.” Sterling? Not so much, he doesn’t seem to favor Magic or any black people for that matter.

            “Why are taking pictures with minorities?,” Sterling ask. “There’s a culture, people feel certain things. Hispanics feel certain things towards Blacks, Blacks feel certain things towards other groups. It’s been that way historically, and it will always be that way.” With this type of mentality, it is easy to assume that Sterling has been raised or has grown to be segregated from other races. The irony of it all, he owns an NBA team. The NBA consists of the most African-American athletes out of all the four major sports. Los Angeles, California is highly populated with Blacks. Doc Rivers, the Clippers head coach oh yeah, he’s black too. Chris Paul, their starting point guard and president of the NBA Players Union, you guess it, he happens to be Black too. So let’s put this all in perspective, this man is willing to take part and have ownership in a nearly all-black league, allow black coaches on the staff, and black players on the team. Not to mention, ALL of the blacks who work for or within the franchise. Let’s not forget about the black fans, the backbone of your franchise Mr. Sterling, they might not all have floor seats but they’re ensuring sold out arenas.

           Enough with Sterling’s ill-advised statements, it’s evident that he has racist beliefs and prejudices.  He is afraid that his image or reputation will be tarnished if he is associated with, interacting with, or even taking pictures with Blacks if it’s not basketball-related or making him money. The focus now turns to NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver.  Silver is extremely new to his commissioner position, taking over the duties of his predecessor Donald Stern. Roughly three months into his tenure, Silver is faced with an extremely difficult task. Many players, and former players have let their voices be heard on this topic via social media, and sports media. It’s obvious that the NBA community and others desire harsh punishment for Sterling. Many believe he should be stripped from his team ownership, kicked out of the league. Several sponsors who partnered with the Clippers organization have already pulled the plug on their contracts. With such a controversial topic at hand, the discipline must be aggressive. If not, this will be an ongoing problem with hundreds of protestors taking to the streets.  This is bigger than basketball; it’s bigger than the NBA, bigger than the Clippers. In this monumental event, Silver must be tough, he must be strategic, Silver…must be gold. 

The Playoffs Are Upon Us: The Eastern Conference

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By Jazmine August

     On the Eve of the kickoff to the 2014 NBA Playoffs, the media outlets are buzzing with match-up predictions, potential upsets and possible title contenders. It is that special time of the year again and it sure feels like we are in for a special couple weeks. With the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on a quest for a three-peat, the aging but stacked San Antonio Spurs team seeking revenge after a devastating Game 6 loss and the runaway leader for the 2013-2014 NBA MVP award  Kevin Durant in search of his first title the excitement for this year’s tip-off is unparallel.

    So let’s take a brief look at our first round match-ups in. The number one seeded Indiana Pacers will face the eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks which has the potential to destroy some brackets. Since March 1, the Indiana Pacers have only won 12 of their last 25 games and in the month of April their All Star center Roy Hibbert has struggled; averaging 6 points 3 rebounds and 1 assist. It has been the total opposite with the Atlanta Hawks who turned it on late in the season to crush the playoffs hopes of the dismal New York Knicks. But I believe even with the Pacers limping into the playoffs mentally they will still come out the first round victorious but not without a good fight put up by the Hawks. Pacers in 6.

      The two/seven match-up between the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Bobcats will not end in any surprise. Although Al Jefferson has had an All Star caliber season, the suffocating defense of The Miami Heat paired with the strength and greatness of the reigning league MVP Lebron James will prove to be too much for the young Bobcats team and they will fall at the champion’s feet. Heat in 4.

The young and slightly underrated Toronto Raptors may just shock the veteran Brooklyn Nets in the first round. Experts may be under estimating the squad led by first time All Star Demar DeRozan; ability to get up and down the floor which can tire out the older Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Raptors will pull off the upset of the East. Raptors in 7.

The mighty Bulls, led by the man with a heart of lion, Joakim Noah will face one of the best backcourts in the East with the Wizards John Wall and Bradley Beal. This match-up may be the most intriguing of the first round in the East. The Bulls at times struggle offensively and on conversely the Wizards excel in this area; this will prove to be a true war between offense and defense. Not to be cheesy and quote one of the best movies of all time, Love & Basketball; “offense sells tickets, defense wins games”. Nonetheless Bulls in 6.

2014 NBA Playoffs: 1st Round Predictions

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By Stefan Anderson

Now that the 82 games have been played and teams had made the last minutes adjustments it time to bring home what you play every season for, A NBA Championship.  Although, the Eastern Conference packs a great value of entertainment, the best games throughout the playoffs are on the Western Conference playoffs. The first could knock off a potential powerhouse or help a good excel for a final push after competing with a team with the same potential.

Here are my first round predictions for the Western Conference.

  •          1. Spurs vs.  8. Mavericks: The Texas showdown has brought some of the greatest battles throughout the past decades and will provide some exciting games this year as well. I have the Spurs winning in 6 games, I believe that Spurs will ultimately win the series but I believe Dirk has a few more magical games left in him. Dallas doesn’t possess enough talent and star power to compete with the perennial winners in San Antonio.
  •          2. Thunder vs. 7. Grizzlies: This has been a great battle between the two teams in the past 3 years and can alter the outcome of this year’s playoffs as well. As the majority of NBA fans believed the Thunder will reach their redemption after being the defeated by the Miami Heat in the 2012 Finals, the Grizzlies were there to kill their championship dreams. The tough paint play with Gasol and Z-Bo versus Ibaka and Perkins should, 1990’s style of banging down low. The Grizzlies do have two defenders in Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen who can help to slow down to be named MVP Kevin Durant, but have no answer for the X-Factor Russell Westbrook. OKC in 6 tough, brutal games.
  •          3. Clippers vs. 6. Warriors: High scoring, highlights, high flying, intensity on the highest points, this should be the most interesting series out of all the playoff series. The matchup between CP3 and Steph Curry should be a lot of ankle breaking, high floaters and 3 pointers that you wouldn’t hit in a game of H-O-R-S-E.  This series will include some of the best games seen throughout this year’s playoffs but will end in game 7 loss for the Warriors as they will have a tough time containing Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan without their big man Andrew Bogut.
  •          4. Rockets vs. 5. Blazers: Two of the NBA’s quietest teams this season and I believe this series will be overlooked as well. While the two teams mirror each other, this series should be another one that goes down to the wire as well. With the matchup of Patrick Beverly guarding Damian Lillard and Howard versus Aldridge, this should be a good matchup on both sides.  The X- Factor will be how Rip City contains James Harden, and I don’t believe they will be able to, so I have the Rockets in 6.

With so much excitement and buildup, the 2014 playoffs will be a beauty to watch. I can’t wait to tune in and watch “Where Amazing Happens”. 

It’s Marathon Not a Sprint

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By Stefan Anderson

As most runner that run long distance would tell, it’s all about pacing yourself. Ironically the Indiana Pacers have failed to do so. After being defeated by the Miami Heat in the 2012 playoffs in 6 games, they bounced back and stretched the series out one more game in Eastern Conference Finals, but failed to finish the Heat and watched the Heat win their second consecutive title. Following last year’s defeat in the playoffs, the Pacers believed that if they hosted the game 7 of series it would have been a different outcome, making it a priority to earn this year’s top seed in the East.

Starting from the offseason the plan was in full implantation for the upcoming season.

After acquiring Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland, the Pacers stacked up their bench and went forth with executing their plan. The Pacers came out the gates hot this season, holding on the top seed and holding the best record in NBA for a good amount of time. Indiana was on course to complete the task, the emergence of Paul George blossoming into a superstar and force to compete with the league’s biggest star Lebron James.

But the trade deadline came about.

After reaching higher heights without their once franchise player Danny Granger, they decided to trade Granger for a younger, athletic swingman in Evan Turner, to give their team more weapons to put an end to Miami’s dreams of a three peat.  Also signing the inconsistent but valuable when healthy Andrew Bynum, they were poised to continue their reign and win the Eastern Conference as planned.

Then the plan backfired.

Since trading away Danny Granger, the Pacers have been 10-13 including losing 7 of their last 10 games.  The Pacers find themselves in a familiar but uncomfortable position chasing the Miami Heat for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Was Granger that much of a factor for Indiana? Maybe but I believe that Indiana’s has more than chemistry issues. Granger, has been good asset for Indiana since being drafted but has seen a decline in the past few years and has lost role due to injuries.

Therefore, I do not believe that he is the main reason for their recent loses and that it comes from continuity. The Pacers with their new additions and more depth on the bench, puts Coach Frank Vogel in a tough spot to adjust to his new players along bringing them into the rotation. Now after having a set amount minutes for each player, while keeping starters at the same minute total, a very complex situation to say the least.

The Pacers are not totally out of their place, because of their consistent defense and physical style of play that holds teams just over 90 points a game. They have fared great amongst the good teams in the NBA and the East as well, splitting with the Bulls and could win the season series with the Heat if they win on Friday. The Pacers are still in a great position, but have to play with a chip on their shoulder and should be very interesting to watch in the playoffs as the season comes to a close.