Making History ! or Making History ?

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By Stefan Anderson

To return from a retirement to a 4-2 defeat to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern conference semifinals in 1995, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were looking for revenge.

“I think it was without question the biggest motivation coming that following season,” former Orlando Magic head coach Brian Hill said. “Michael Jordan played the whole season with an unbelievable will to win. There were eight to 10 games where he basically willed his teammates into winning games.

The vengeance they sought was a record setting 72-10 season solidifying  the 95-96 Bulls as one of the greatest, if not the greatest team ever.

One game away from eclipsing Chicago’s record, the Golden State Warriors will have to beat the team provided their magic, the gritty Memphis Grizzlies. 

After falling down 2-1 to the Grizzlies during the Western Conference semifinals last season, the Warriors magical season appeared to coming to end and the old adage of fast, jump shooting teams could never win a NBA championship.

As told by soon to be named back to back MVP, Stephen Curry during an interview with ESPN’s Zach Lowe in February the losses to Memphis motivated the Warriors to get back on track to where they were.

“It wasn’t clicking. We didn’t have our usual flow, as Coach Kerr would call it. For whatever reason, Memphis found a way to muck up the game. We had to shake it out, and get back to who were. We showed our resilience rolling off three straight, and doing the same thing against Cleveland.”

“That has made us such a more mature team going into this year — having gone through that.” said Curry.

The Bulls went on to sweep the Magic in the conference finals the following year en route to their first championship of their second three-peat.

Golden State has the same opportunity to turn motivation into history with their Wednesday night win over Memphis, while continuing to defying the odds set against them on how great of a team they too are one of the best teams we’ve ever witnessed.

The Magic will forever be etched in NBA history not only for Nick Anderson’s missed FT’s in the finals and his infamous “didn’t look like the old Michael Jordan,” and “No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to”, but were responsible for assembling a top-five guard-big combo in Shaq and Penny.

Memphis might not be remembered in the latter years, but have been a maverick of their own, with their grit and grind style of play in today’s NBA.

But if the Grizzlies can find another way to “muck up” the game again, it will the brightest spot of their gloomy injury ridden season. Memphis will be amongst the New York Giants of 2007 and University of Wisconsin of 2015, keeping them in the history books as not only the team that helped to inspire the storming Warriors, but that stopped the possibility of 73-9.

 

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New York Knicks F Derrick Williams talks with the Starting Point

By Stefan Anderson

Derrick Williams of the New York Knicks sat down to discuss a range of topics with The Starting Point during a charity event hosted at Quinnz Pinz in Middletown, NY. Williams along with Knicks teammates Pine Bush, NY native, Cleanthony Early and Kevin Seraphin participated in the bowling charity that gave proceedings to the Kevin Shaw Foundation and the Middletown Middies sports program.

Shaw, who passed away in a tragic car accident, was a good friend of Williams during their basketball encounters. Shaw known for his impact on the court and as coach  for the infamous New York City’s Gauchos  program. The event was a great opportunity for some aspiring players including the NYS Class AA state finalist Middletown Middies to get acquainted with professionals.

Check out the interview above.

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.

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.

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.