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.

Pick One !

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We’re implementing a new section of The Starting Point, called Pick One! , which compares two greats against each other to see who you would prefer.We will start off with a #TBT edition, comparing two of the decades best floor general’s, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash, both are shoe-in Hall of Famers and could easily go down as top 5 of their position. Lets take a look at their stats and you choose who was better Nash or Kidd.

Player        FG  FGA  FG%  3P 3PA  3P%  2P 2PA  2P% eFG%  FT FTA  FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV  PF  PTS
Jason Kidd   4.5 11.2 .400 1.4 4.1 .349 3.0 7.1 .429 .464 2.2 2.8 .785 1.3 5.0 6.3 8.7 1.9 0.3 2.9 1.8 12.6
Steve Nash   5.2 10.6 .490 1.4 3.2 .428 3.8 7.4 .518 .556 2.5 2.8 .904 0.5 2.5 3.0 8.5 0.7 0.1 2.9 1.6 14.3

Breaking Barriers

women

By Jazmine August

It seems like the idea of women in sports has been the buzz around the business over the last few weeks. Starting with San Antonio Spurs assistant coach, Becky Hammon, serving as the team’s NBA Summer League  head coach, a first in men’s professional sports history. But Hammon didn’t stop there, she led the team to a championship during the tournament.

Women have been involved in sports for decades, from the league offices to reporting from the sidelines but we are now seeing women break into the coveted society of coaching men’s professional sports.  Just two weeks after Becky Hammon broke headlines, the Arizona Cardinals named Dr. Jen Welter to their coaching staff throughout training camp and the pre-season working with inside linebackers. In a recent interview Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said, “Coaching is nothing more than teaching” and believes that,  “One thing I have learned from players is, ‘How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don’t care if you’re the Green Hornet, man, I’ll listen.’ I really believe she’ll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her”

And these women are more than qualified. Becky Hammon played 16 years in the NBA, was named WNBA All-Star six times, two-time  All NBA first team and two-time Olympian with the Russian national team. Dr. Jen Welter has not only played 14 seasons with the Women’s Football Alliance, but she holds a masters in sports psychology and a doctorate in psychology all while winning two gold medals playing for Team USA in the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship in 2010 and 2013.

But before there was a Becky Hammon and a Dr. Jen Welter, there was Stephanie Ready, the first female assistant coach of a men’s professional team. She was named assistant coach of the NBA D-League now defunct team the Greenville Groove and she help lead them to a D-League Championship in the 2001-2002 season. Not only is Ready a woman which is a minority in the world of professional sports but she is a black woman. In an interview with on NBA.com, Ready states that “there were lots of sleepless nights up late watching video, writing scouting reports and doing game prep” but she added that “I did everything the right way and worked my tail off.”

Stephanie Ready is now gearing up for her 12th season as the Charlotte Hornets sideline reporter. She has also covered the NBA and WNBA playoffs and the NCAA Women’s basketball tournament for ESPN. Ready says that “being a double-minority if you will because I’m African-American and a woman in the sports industry, you have to really be conscientious of how you get to where you are and (again) who came before you”

Women like Stephanie Ready, Becky Hammon and Dr. Jen Selter who are blazing the path for young women with a deep affinity for sports inspire me to even believe that I can make my mark in this male dominated world. I know who’s shoulder’s I stand on.

State of the West

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Golden State WarriorsBy Stefan Anderson

Perennially, the Western Conference, has the superior conference of the National Basketball Association and this year, it will be no different. Preceding the NBA Champs, the Golden State Warriors, repeat their success of the 2014-2015 season, everyone out West is looking to take the conference for their own. Here is some things to take in perspective as we look at the West.

Watch the Throne

Of course the Warriors will be the team to beat this year, but some teams are after the reigning champs’ title, specifically the Spurs and the Clippers. San Antonio and Los Angeles have made the big free agent splashes, with the Spurs snagging up prized FA prospect LaMarcus Aldridge and veteran David West. The Clippers were able to bring back DeAndre Jordan after the dilemma he starred in for weeks, along with veteran leadership in Paul Pierce and great assets in Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith. The irony that both Coach/President of B-Ball Ops, made the moves to dethrone the Warriors, but both teams present the greatest threat to Golden State and I believe can complete the jobs unless they meet in the playoffs.

The Last Harrah

Which one of the superstars in the final moments could lead their team to a better season? Kobe Bryant or Dirk Nowitzki? The answer was clear that it was more likely for the Mavs to be in a better position with the addition of Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan, but following the negation of Jordan left Dallas in the same position as Los Angeles. Both have great rosters filled with good role players and prospects but with their aging stars it will difficult to surpass the top tier teams of the West.

The Forgotten Team

After appearing to jump to the forefront of the conference, the Thunder, took a step back and missed the playoffs after the concurring injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The two nearly seen any action together and have yet to progress with their roster that has been bolstered after last year trade deadline. “Loud City” has been forgotten of their past success and have not been mentioned for whatever reason it may be, but with Billy Donavon at the helm, new beginnings could help to find that output they could not find with Scott Brooks.

First out the Hole

The Suns and the Kings have been on the outside looking in for the past few season, both teams showcase great rosters but yet have made the efforts to see the next level.  Both teams have veteran leadership this season, with the Suns acquiring Tyson Chandler and the Kings with Caron Butler and Rajon Rondo. Both teams could be this year’s New Orleans Pelicans, with the new additions.

Team of the Future

After the departure of their starting lineup, except for Damian Lillard, the Blazers have put together a group of young players that would be outcasts elsewhere but could join forces to become the team of the future. But the Blazers will have to compete with the young talents like the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves, who both possess an abundance of young talent looking to make their splash in the league and quit be the doormats for the superior teams.

New Day

By Stefan Anderson

Trends like most things are temporary similar to the majority of things that the world has to offer and change is the inevitable. But in the National Basketball Association, change is something most are not used to, but the 2015 Free Agency period has brought a new aspect to the league.

Subsequently, after the Warriors claimed the 2015 NBA title, it killed the theme of each team putting together a group of superstars whether it be two, three maybe even four, to propel their franchises to next level. But it exemplified that you will need to create a core of good players and not just a couple of great ones and a lot below average or mediocre ones to surround them with.

The precedent that we have seen of past champions, a la the San Antonio Spurs, keep a good team together you will sustain a great record.  And for the majority of the free agent class of 2015, has remained loyal to their respective teams and continue to figure with the current roster and try to fill in spots that were vacant in the prior.

We’ve seen the likes of Jimmy Butler, Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, Paul Millsap and Kawhi Leonard all remain with prior teams and not just chase the money and max contract but are chasing the highest achievement in the NBA, the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The free agency period has shown that players who steadily work on this game and are making something out of the career despite their past struggles. Draymond Green, Damarre Carroll, and Kris Middleton, all received great contracts due to their improvements and what their upside could be based on their performance and work ethic.

Along with the underdogs earning their pay the underdog teams are now gaining the big players and taking them away from major markets like LA or NYC, where players at point had fantasies of playing in the bright lights of the big cities. The biggest example of that is where C/PF Greg Monroe decided to take his talents to Milwaukee, to join a young budding roster that could make a great splash with his addition, and deciding to decline to join the Lakers or the Knicks. We could also see Lamarcus Aldrige do the same forego playing a huge market and play in the small one like Phoenix or San Antonio.

We have seen teams like Portland, a small market team who would normally fret of losing a star like Aldridge, now figuring out to how to maneuver without him and have gathered many young prospects to join along their young superstar Damian Lillard in order to restore hope on their future and not dwell on their past.

I like the direction the league is pointing towards. Once known for being a me, me, me league in now making the transformation into becoming a  we, we, we league instead of having a superstar, having a great team. I believe this makes for more entertaining basketball and makes for a more competitive league, overall. I am looking forward to the new changes and trends are always fun and make each time period fun, let’s just enjoy this one.

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.

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.

Don’t Panic

cavs

By Stefan Anderson

In the beginning of the season, you had no idea that you would see the frontrunner Cleveland Cavaliers in this position early. But the Cavs are going to have their fair share of growing pains as the season comes along with a rookie NBA head coach and supporting stars and role players that have never seen success like LeBron James.

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Although it’s early in the season, it is very odd to see the alpha dogs of the NBA struggle with their uncompromising positions. If these teams and players can take heed from Aaron Rodgers, they can become acclimated and figure out of the early struggles.

In the beginning of the season, you had no idea that you would see the frontrunner Cleveland Cavaliers in this position early. But the Cavs are going to have their fair share of growing pains as the season comes along with a rookie NBA head coach and supporting stars and role players that have never seen success like LeBron James.

Is Cleveland the Paper Champs or are they the Real Deal?

Like James eluded already Relax. Cleveland will find themselves in the Playoffs in the Eastern Conference.  It will all start when the team makes its defining roles and everyone steps in and plays their role night in and night out.

Who is going to be the Real #2 scorer between Love and Irving? I believe that Cavs should run their offense through Kevin Love similar to how Miami utilized Chris Bosh during the Big 3 era. With Irving and James both accustomed to being primary Ball Handlers, their ability to be off ball playmakers causes even more concerns for opposing defenses.

Should Dion Waiters be a starter or a 6th man? I think that Waiters and Irving’s playing style resemble each other’s too much and that it causes too much confusion when on the floor together. Two score first guards will not work on a team that has so many weapons and need the ball to be distributed out amongst them. I think that Waiters will be dealt in the near future or closer to the trade deadline due what these Cleveland team needs.

Die Hard Cleveland Fans and Bandwagon fans have no reason to jump ship this early and just have to learn that the inexperience and chemistry will come as fast you want it, it will take time. There are signs for the future to be bright as you earned your first win against the battle tested Chicago Bulls.

It’s About That Time

draft and free agent

 

By Stefan Anderson

At the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, Carmelo Anthony had already let it be known to the public that he would be opting out at season end and testing the free agent market.  And Sunday, that became evident once again those who second guess that action. To test the waters is the right thing to do right?

Anthony is walking away from the opportunity to make an astounding $129 million over five years to sign back with the Knicks, if he decides to sign elsewhere. But sources are showing that Melo after bullying his way into New York is bound to leave the franchise in a frenzy that has been over the last 10-15 years.

But Anthony is not the only player with an early termination option (ETO), this upcoming off season. The Big 3, the model franchise of building a team through free agency, equaling out to 2 championships in 4 years to the finals. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, all have of the option of parting ways with each other or returning to make another run at more championships.  They are all leaving approximately 20 million on table to either take less to build a better supporting cast or go and make the money they were bound to make initially before teaming up.

Then there is the NBA Draft coming up on Thursday, with the arguably best draft class since 2003. Joel Embiid, the frontrunner for the number 1 overall draft pick has undergone surgery to repair a foot injury and now the question marks are surrounding him and whether his draft stock goes down or remains steady. Cleveland owns that #1 pick and has their eyes set to establishing winning ways with cap room and possibility of adding Kevin Love and/or the homecoming of LeBron James.

Speaking of Love, many teams are lining up and packaging up deals to bring in the double-double machine. Love has expressed his interest on being traded before his free agency year begins. Love is in the final year of his contract and wants to leave Minnesota to compete for a NBA championship.

With so many twists and turns, What will happen in the upcoming weeks?

My Prediction:

Carmelo leaves New York for Chicago and Chicago only because they offer the best opportunity to become a legend if he can lead the Bulls into glory land once again. If it doesn’t work out in Chicago, I do see Melo returning to New York to envision Phil Jackson master plan.

The Big 3 all opt and explore what options they can have, Wade ultimately retires after this final contract, Bosh earns a big contract and showcase his ability to become the all-star that he once was, and Lebron returns back to Cleveland under a new international system with Coach David Blatt, Kyrie Irving and possibly Kevin Love or the number 1 draft pick.

Cleveland tries to package up the ultimate deal for Love or drafts Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins because of their for a young athletic wing player that can take the scoring load off of Kyrie Irving.

Love either gets traded the 1 pick and sent to Cleveland or sent to Golden State that offers up the best packaged deal offering Thompson, Barnes and David Lee to bring in the superstar big man to pair him alongside Stephen Curry and new head coach Steve Kerr.