The pride and the passion ..

The pride and the passion

With so much happening over the last few days within the sports’ world, fans have not had enough time to collect themselves and to digest all of the information and news emanating from each avenue. The NBA Draft came and went , with little of note beyond the New York Knicks and in particular Phil Jackson proving that he is simply no better or worse than Isiah Thomas as an NBA executive. Granted, Thomas was able to achieve a great deal of havoc within and outside of the organization without having much success on or off the court. In the case of Jackson , he set about presiding over one of the worst seasons ever witnessed in the history of the New York Knicks.

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Phil Jackson and the coaching staff , then set about making their picks in this draft , taking as the fourth overall pick from the first round, Serbian Kristaps Porzingis . To understand the decision, one would also to have to acknowledge the fact it was deemed bewildering by the franchise’s fans who yearned for a player would be able to have an immediate impact for the Knicks. Porzingus in most circles is considered a project and not much else beyond that.

If the New York Knicks are to succeed, then they are going to need players, who are ready to play in the league and not be developed over the course of the next two to three years .

Given the fact beyond Carmelo Anthony, there seems to be no one else on the current Knicks’ roster able to provide the team with anything meaningful by way of productivity , and it easy to understand the bewilderment of their fans and the lack of progress seen or otherwise throughout much of last season with the New York Knicks.

With the choice of Porzingis in the first round by New York, then to be followed by their trading of Tim Hardaway Jr to the Atlanta Hawks for Jerian Grant , acquiring Willy Hernangomez from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for two future second draft choice and money. Somehow, it is hard to explain what Phil Jackson and the front office hope to gain from the acquisitions much less the draft choices , given the poor coaching acumen shown by head coach Derek Fisher and his coaching staff. Fisher for his part has been unable to explain, why it was the team failed to meet his expectations and that of the fans. Granted, Carmelo Anthony missed a sizable chunk of the regular season schedule, managing to play in only forty games during this past regular season.

Anthony has never provided much leadership on the court, simply being nothing more than an offensive minded player . Yet, it is now being reported the former NBA scoring champion is disgruntled at the moves made by the organization. Is it really that much of a surprise to begin with ? Never-mind the fact Carmelo remained with the Knicks in the pursuit of money , rather than seeking to fulfill a goal of playing for a contender. Regrets , most definitely, but the idiots providing the player with their input, as well as the Knicks’ front office, have provided nothing but comedic value to the season , along with the player’s own asinine insistence he remained in New York to fulfill his ambition of winning an NBA title. Four decades and counting, the New York Knicks have barely sniffed or touched the Larry O’Brien Trophy , while being able to call it their very own and signifying themselves as champions.

Injuries asides , there should be no excuses made for the team’s lackluster performances and poor record, but it remains one of the main focal points of another pitiful season, one of no passion from the players, much less among the coaching staff or from within the front office. Team owner James Dolan remains an executive who seems disinterested, simply knowing the franchise remains the most valuable and profitable of the NBA’s thirty teams.

The NBA hierarchy tries to make more out this annual farce, with the NBA Draft barely drawing any notice among the viewing public by way of its broadcast with ESPN or the league’s own cable outlet , the NBA Network. Yet for all sense and purpose the NBA makes more of it than is utterly necessary. In the aftermath of witnessing a less than exhilarating NBA Finals , where the Golden State Warriors had the better of their opponents the Cleveland Cavaliers and the asinine apologies being made by the LeBron James’ supporters. It begs the question , where does the league now go from here ? Six NBA Finals’ appearances for the four-time NBA League MVP and two wins , has now left many wondering if the ten-year veteran will win another NBA title. Clearly , without a team to complement his skill-set, James cannot do it all by himself , in spite of the ongoing ridiculous comparisons being made with Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Apathy and clear stupidity seems to be the norm among the protagonists of that particular debate.

I have often been told athletes now compete for the glory , but in the world of professional sports , it now has become about the “ bling-bling” , selling an image , brand management , fame and fortune . In the world of the NBA , it has become paramount and one of the primary reasons the league has become stale and vapid . Current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver may well be pursuing ideas, seeking to realign the league’s image , but I believe his predecessor David Stern placed the league on its downward slide , with it all taking shape over the past two decades. There is no pride or passion within the NBA and it has become a soulless entity , without character and a real identity.

With Golden State having claimed their first title in four decades , the franchise will now set about the task of improving for next season . Two key pieces are already in place with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson seen as the keys to the Warriors’ long-term future. Golden State Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr has the backing of an organization ambitious to build upon this season’s success . Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber , alongside consultant Jerry West have laid a formidable foundation from which to build upon and made the Warriors a desirable destination for a free agent to seek out winning an NBA title.

From my own perspective I believe the franchise will be a prohibitive favorite to win the title next season, even with the odds-makers in Las Vegas bearing down on the Cleveland Cavaliers , simply because of the LeBron James’ factor. Predicated upon what the Cavaliers’ front office is able to achieve , re-signing Kevin Love is most certainly a pressing need for the Eastern Conference champions, but it is nowhere near a forgone conclusion , Love wishes to remain in Cleveland. Cleveland’s needs are many and it remains to be seen what decisions are likely to be made by GM David Griffin and head coach David Blatt.

Warriors’ GM Bob Myers after his successful season at the helm of the organization had a very good draft class and it will be interesting to see how the new rookies acclimatize themselves to being members of an NBA championship team , even if they are likely to be losses from the team’s roster. The nucleus of the team will remain intact as Golden State looks to make a successful defense of their title this upcoming season.

A woefully inept season after the era of LeBron James and the success attained has left fans of the Miami Heat feeling bitter and sour. Now it appears the organization might well be willing to move on after what appears to be conflicting rumors concerning the long-term future of Dwyane Wade. The former Finals MVP has been nowhere near the player who brought the franchise their first NBA title and with it being the ” Pride of South Beach” . Wade might well have been part of Miami’s two later successes, but much of that can be put down to the exploits of his former teammate and close confidante LeBron James. And as close as the two players are said to be , I wonder if Wade was made aware of James’ intent to leave the Eastern based franchise at the end of the previous season after the disappointment of losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals.

During the off-season, Pat Riley and his closest advisers within the front office will have several meaningful decisions to make concerning Wade and several of the other Heat unrestricted free agents. Riley will have to consider the cap as well as whether or not it would be in the best interests of the Heat to retain a player who in recent years has become injury prone and less of a contributory factor , lacking leadership and a proven offensive weapon, beyond Luol Deng and the sporadic play of Chris Bosh , who like Dwyane Wade has his best years behind him , far behind him, that he can barely see it from the view of a rear-view mirror. In some respects the roster of the Heat might well have gotten younger , but several of these players have yet to show the ability that they are capable of playing in this league. Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff will be back at the drawing board searching for answers once again after such a disappointing season.

It will be interesting to see if Dwyane Wade joins LeBron James in Cleveland or jumps to another contender, either in the East or Western Conference. Wade’s years of earning a top-notch salary have now passed and the thought appears to be he is likely to sign a minimal deal , one likely to be in line with a player of his experience and not much else beyond that.

As an avid San Antonio Spurs’ fan the disappointment of seeing the team bow out in the early stages of the NBA Playoffs was not only disappointing, but I felt the team lacked direction heading into the postseason. Granted , Kawhi Leonard coming off a sensational season and his Finals’ MVP run , a great deal more was expected from this Gregg Popopvich coached team.

The aging wonder , Tim Duncan is still able to play at a high level , even if he has lost a step or two. Teammates , Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are still able to work their wizardry when called upon to do so. But now is the time for the young guns on the roster to step up and take the lead , if the success of the franchise is to continue.

Five-time championship winning head coach , Popovich has written his legacy in the record books and his achievements speak for themselves. Peter Holt and RC Buford have been no slouches with their wizardry and custodianship of the Spurs’ franchise. The two are indelibly linked with the head coach , the famed trio now on the roster alongside perhaps San Antonio’s best player in its history , The Admiral , David Robinson .

I certainly believe the San Antonio Spurs will be able to challenge for postseason honors this upcoming season given the consistency shown by the franchise over the last eighteen seasons. They are likely to be seen as one of the favorites within the Western Conference alongside the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies , Los Angeles Clippers and the reigning champions , the Golden State Warriors. San Antonio simply went about their normal business during the draft , as they have often done over the past few years , managing to pick up players who are then able to the readiness of the team. Nikola Milutinov and Cady Lalanne have become the newest members of the Spurs and it will be interesting to see their development within the organization , with their being placed within the development structure of the franchise before making their professional debuts within the NBA during a regular season game.

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Do you believe the state of the NBA is one of the teams lacking passion and a great deal of pride ? Or has it more to do with the state of the game being one of sheer greed and a lack of insight , leadership within the union , hierarchy and the owners ?

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Legends and legacies are often made, you can choose to be one or both, if not , then , you’re often forgotten

Legends and legacies are often made, you can choose to be one or both, if not , then , you’re often forgotten

The NBA Playoffs are now in full swing with the conference semis now coming to a close. For the Cleveland Cavaliers and their four-time League MVP , All Star forward LeBron James , they have now punched their ticket to be one of the two remaining teams for the Eastern Conference Finals . For the ousted team in the series , the Chicago Bulls, they are now left to ponder what might have been .

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And for Bulls’ head coach Tom Thibodeau this might well have been the last time he coaches this team , with the likelihood now, GM Gar Forman and Head of Basketball Operations John Paxson will come to the decision of not extending Thibodeau’s contract , seeking to go in another direction with a new head coach helming the team next season. It was widely known, Forman and Paxson had lost faith in the coach , believing he was simply no longer getting capable of getting the team to play with a sense of urgency. This series might now have justified the executives’ thoughts on the matter , altogether.

With the return of Derrick Rose during the playoffs and the play of Jimmy Butler , it was thought the Chicago Bulls would provide the Cleveland Cavaliers the sort of test sought , but when it mattered most , Chicago was simply lacking. Instead, it was left to LeBron James to put on another postseason display often associated with the player from his title winning ways with the Miami Heat.

For Derrick Rose and his teammates , the disappointment of this series’ loss will not be easily forgotten. With Chicago bowing out, the players are now left on the outside looking in , knowing they never really took advantage of the chances which came their way throughout the conference semi-finals.

LeBron James will now advance to his fifth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals’ contest , with Chauncey Billups being the only other player to have accomplished the same feat in recent NBA history. David Blatt and his coaching staff will now seek to get the team prepared for their opponents , the winner of the series between the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards .

The Hawks have been far from convincing in this series with the Wizards belying their seeding , proving to be a more than adequate opponent for Mike Budenholzer’s overrated team . With Atlanta holding a tenuous lead (3-2) and the two teams set to meet tonight at the Verizon Center in Washington , DC. It will certainly be interesting to see how the visiting team acquits itself and whether or not DeMarre Carroll , Paul Millsap and Al Horford will be the players to provide Atlanta with the chance to make their first conference finals’ appearance in franchise history .

Steph Curry has more than justified his winning this season’s League MVP Award and with it , have come the plaudits for being the NBA’s best player this season . The Golden State Warriors for their part have been the league’s best team all season-long , with Steve Kerr claiming the NBA Coach of The Year Award for the Warriors’ regular season success.

Having swept aside their first round opponents with effortless ease , Golden State faced the daunting task of taking on the Memphis Grizzlies , a team capable of giving the Warriors real problems, as evidenced with their regular season series this season. Leading the series 3-2 and with a pivotal game six being played on Friday evening . I firmly believe Golden State would prefer to win tonight’s game rather than the momentum gained by a Grizzlies’ win and then having to play series’ decider at home with all of the pressure being placed upon their shoulders and the expectations of Steph Curry having to lead the way once again. The Warriors should win the series , but as we already know and have witnessed in the NBA Playoffs , nothing is ever a certainty.

Curry and his teammates will have a great deal to prove as the expectations are, Golden State will be one of the two combatants in the Western Conference Finals. Steve Kerr would like nothing better than to lead this franchise to an NBA title and proving the success this season was all about hard work , consistency and teamwork.

Houston you have a problem . And that problem might just be the best power forward in the league, Blake Griffin , whose all-round game has been exceptional this season . While there might well have been a great deal of praise being heaped on the shoulders of the New Orleans’ Pelicans’ phenom Anthony Davis . I truly believe Griffin has been equally invaluable to the Los Angeles Clippers , just as Davis has been for the Pelicans . Unfortunately, for the Pelicans , they ran into a juggernaut when they faced the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs and they were simply swatted away by the Warriors without their having to break sweat. Now the Houston Rockets will have to deal with a Clippers’ team intent on proving the city of Los Angeles has more than one noteworthy NBA franchise .

If the Rockets are to have any chance of bringing down the Clippers , then James Harden and Dwight Howard will have to be at their very best if Houston are to pull off the presumed upset . Rockets’ head coach Kevin McHale and his counterpart in this series Doc Rivers are two former players with with playoff experience as well as being coaches with a great deal of acumen. The series itself. has now become something of a chess match , with the on-court Grand Masters being Chris Paul and Blake Griffin making moves against their opposite numbers James Harden and Dwight Howard .

Tied at three games apiece(3-3) , game seven on Sunday afternoon at the Toyota Center , in Houston , Texas , promises to be a real thriller . Game six if anything, showed us how vulnerable the Clippers might just be , because the home team seen at the Staples Center came unglued at the seams .

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Throughout the NBA Playoffs which team from either conference do you believe appears to be playing the best basketball? Also , given how an injury to a prominent player can play a major part in determining a series , with the loss of John Wall , are the Washington Wizards likely to bow out of the postseason ?

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Walking a mile in someone’s shoes, isn’t as easy as first thought

Walking a mile in someone’s shoes, isn’t as easy as first thought

With the NBA Playoffs still taking shape , several teams have now made it to the next round with the conference semi-finals set to begin as of Tuesday , 5th May. Yet, the biggest story of the Playoffs has nothing to do at all with the play of the teams, but the rather surprising decision was the firing of Scott Brooks by the Oklahoma City Thunder front office , led by GM Sam Presti. The decision had the blessing of the team’s best player Kevin Durant , who acknowledged Brooks’ contributions to the franchise’s success and his own growth and success as a player and as a draftee by the Thunder.

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Billy Donovan, having formally been introduced as the new head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder , answers questions from the convened press at the Chesapeake Energy Center , Oklahoma City , Oklahoma . Donovan has signed a lucrative five-year deal with the franchise, The main objective for the Thunder will be to secure the services of Kevin Durant signing him to a max contract , building the roster around the reigning League MVP and teammate Russell Westbrook . AP Photo/ Chris Wright

Scott Brooks should not be solely to blame for the team’s missing of the NBA Playoffs , with the loss of Kevin Durant due to a season-ending injury. A loss of this magnitude , would have a profound effect on any team, but somehow this all seems to have been overlooked by the front office as well as the senior partners who make up the ownership group of the Western Conference based franchise.

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Sam Presti has been quick to hire a successor to Scott Brooks, with the organization formally announcing the hire of Billy Donovan , the two-time NCAA National Tournament championship winning coach of the Florida Gators . If Donovan brings along with him the type of coaching acumen seen with the collegiate program , then the continued success of the Oklahoma City Thunder would seem assured. Kevin Durant for his part , I believe will remain with the franchise , rather than seeking to opt out of the final year of his contract with the franchise !

Of the first round series still in force, perhaps the most competitive and thrilling might happen to be the Western Conference series between the Los Angeles Clippers and the defending NBA champions the San Antonio Spurs. The series has been encapsulated by the play of two seasoned veterans, point guard Chris Paul of the Clippers and power forward, Tim Duncan of the Spurs.

With their series tied at three games apiece (3-3) the series’ deciding seventh game will be played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on 2nd May, 2015 in front of a sellout crowd likely to be cheering on the home team. For Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers the emphasis will be about having his players prepared as they meet the onslaught likely to be thrown at them by Gregg Popovich and this Spurs’ team . These are two evenly matched teams , competitive at almost every position on the court , but it all now comes down to willpower and being able to meet adversity square on , without flinching. History indicates, the team winning game six of a Playoff series’ more often than not , takes with them the advantage going into the deciding contest and it would appear the advantage now lies with the Los Angeles Clippers. Yet, it would take a bold individual to believe the San Antonio Spurs can be counted out of this series altogether.

When Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls went down to what was believed to a season-ending injury , no one believed the former League MVP would be making a return to the team’s lineup during the NBA Playoffs. Rose has been instrumental in getting the Bulls into the position, where they have made it to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals , having destroyed the Milwaukee Bucks in their series (4-2) , with an emphatic game-six win , where the margin of victory, was an astounding fifty-four points with the 120-54 destruction of the Bucks.

Old rivalries will be renewed when the Cleveland Cavaliers play host to the Chicago Bulls in game one of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals’ Series . Nemesis’ LeBron James and Derrick Rose may well go head to head , but I believe the play of Jimmy Butler will be so pivotal in this series !

The Cavaliers will be without Kevin Love for this series, after the player’s injury, suffered during the series against the Boston Celtics in what appeared to be a provocative and deliberate attempt by the Celtic’ Kelly Olynyk to injure the Cavaliers’ power forward . Olynyk denies the claims, his intent was to injure the player, with the game officials failing to act and the league hierarchy failing to penalize Kelly Olynyk . The NBA Playoffs will once again be questioned, as to ongoing ineptitude of the officiating and the league’s failure to act.

I have never been enamored with the NBA’s referees, as I believe them to be far too willing to be part of the problem, rather than simply showing their acumen and knowledge of the game. Inconsistent officiating, with the ongoing stupidity, first shown by former NBA Commissioner David Stern, to repeatedly back the referees, has simply indicated the NBA remains behind the times and that Stern’s all too autocratic rule, has now led to the ruination of not only the NBA , but also the quality of the game itself.

I was once told, is was not David Stern’s fault for the lackluster quality of the play within the NBA , but almost at every juncture, with regard to the countless rule hanges made over the past fifteen years, Stern’s imprints have been there for everyone to see. Only a complete idiot, would believe the now retired league executive , was not to be faulted.

Fate may well deal someone a blow this season, with regard to a number of the regular season NBA Awards to be handed out . Mike Budenholzer won the NBA Coach of The Year Award . Andrew Wiggins was named NBA Rookie of The Year and Kawhi Leonard beat out Draymond Green for NBA Defensive Player of the Year , but the the league’s most important regular season individual award might well end up being a bone of contention, once the recipient has been announced for the League MVP. Leading contenders for this season’s award, are Steph Curry, James Harden , Russell Westbrook and the four-time League MVP winner, LeBron James .

For LeBron James , I believe this might well be his most crucial season yet in the NBA , where as the two-time Finals’ MVP and the perennial face of the NBA since 2003 , and the pressure will be on the All Star to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title , in what would be the first in the franchise’s history. James’ legacy has been set, wealth accumulated and global icon status few North American born athletes have reached over the past decade , with the exception of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Floyd Mayweather and Kobe Bryant .

It would be remiss to believe that the Cavaliers are likely to have their way with the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals’ Series. With the loss of Kevin Love , I believe this tilts the scales slightly towards the Bulls and the fact, Tom Thibodeau is a vastly more experienced coach than his Cleveland counterpart David Blatt . Cavaliers’ point guard Kyrie Irving will be expected to raise the level of his play in this series if the Cleveland Cavaliers are to prevail.

If LeBron James and his teammates do fail, then the crescendo likely to heard will be deafening, and one of criticism not only of the player (James) , but also the fact the roster was essentially made up of mercenaries acquired to be at the beck and call of James’ self-absorbed ambitions, with his seeking redemption after last season’s NBA Finals’ comedic fiasco against the San Antonio Spurs.

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As the NBA Playoffs have progressed which player , players , team or teams, have impressed you the most ? Finally, which pairing in the NBA Finals, do you believe will offer a compelling and competitive series ? Chime in with your thoughts as you see fit.

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