For whom the bell tolls …

For whom the bell tolls ….

The NBA is now gearing up for an emphatic season , but a great deal of off-court news has somewhat created a dilemma for the league . Granted , with sale of the Los Angeles Clippers and abandonment of the Sterling family , of which Donald and Rochelle Sterling are no longer owners of the once besieged franchise , it now leaves the NBA to start afresh , or so we thought. Atlanta Hawks’ owner Bruce Levenson for some inexplicable reason in an e-mail he sent, saw fit to go on a racial tirade stereotyping African-American players and individuals of the ethnicity in a very repulsive way. To further exacerbate the situation we then had the franchise’s general manager Danny Ferry be extremely critical of then free agent Luol Deng who chose not to sign with the Hawks during the off-season.

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Slideshow.

Ferry’s statements attributed to an e-mail he read from , states the player was of low intelligence often seen with players of ethnicity and those from the African continent . Danny Ferry has now taken a leave of absence while offering very little by way of an apology for his remarks . Bruce Levenson sold his majority stake in the franchise with Michael Gearon now assuming control of the Atlanta Hawks. In the midst of his all , NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has not seen fit to reprimand either Ferry or Levenson for their actions , instead Silver has seen fit to issue a statement in support of the Hawks while not necessarily distancing the league from Ferry’s remarks.

The NBA’s handling of the Donald Sterling saga was a complete embarrassment for the league and the criticism of the league was more than warranted. Such incompetency and hypocrisy by the league , its owners and the union (NBPA) in general, had many questioning what the mindset was said to be within the league hierarchy, not just under the present commissioner , but also his predecessor, David Stern . The latter has been given a pass, while his legacy seems to remain intact , with this continued idiocy , Stern was of great benefit to the league, because of the rise in profits and revenues of the NBA in general and his custodianship of the league. In truth, David Stern simply fought the battles he felt would benefit his image and raise his profile even higher among his peers , the fans and public in general.

One could continue to be critical of the NBA, but it would be of little benefit because the league, like the NFL , MLB and NHL are simply bereft of leadership and creativity. It will continue to be that way, no matter what changes are proposed by the hierarchies under the existing leadership. One simply has to look at the current mess within the NFL and the poor handling by the hierarchy, as led by Roger Goodell.

The Atlanta Hawks will face a tough season in the NBA, as the team opens up their schedule with a game against the Toronto Raptors on the opening night of the league on the 29th October ,2014. The exhibition season for the franchise will begin on the 6th October , and there the Hawks will begin their preseason schedule with a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Philips Arena, in Atlanta , Georgia,. Head coach Mike Budenholzer and his coaching staff will be under pressure to succeed with the team that is light on experience, but is likely to play with a great deal of fortitude as the season begins. Atlanta will be looking to seasoned veterans such as Elton Brand , Kyle Korver and Al Horford to provide the team with much-needed leadership while rookies , Adrian Payne and Walter Tavares are not expected to make a great contribution in the first half of the season , while still learning the ropes at the professional level. Jeff Teague is likely to be the player with which Budenholzer is expected to see the biggest improvement as he provided the Atlanta Hawks with a great deal of leadership throughout much of last season and is expected to do the same again this year. For the moment however, this remains Al Horford’s team, as he is still by far the best player on the roster.

LeBron James is back in Cleveland, much to the chagrin of the Miami Heat and team President Pat Riley , but as they say, ” the show must go on “ .Unfortunately, for the Heat the cast is now a bunch of nondescript coupling, with an aging Dwayne Wade who is now past his sell by date , along with a very inconsistent Chris Bosh who has been in essence the ” third wheel” , as part of the franchise’s former ‘Big Three’ . As to what that now says about the current roster remains to be seen before they embark upon their preseason schedule as well their regular season sojourn. With the roster as it is, I certainly do not believe the Miami Heat will be good enough to win their division but they are likely to gain a postseason berth, if Wade and Bosh can play at an optimum level while leading the team. Erik Spoelstra will be counting the duo’s experience along with Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen .

An eight-game exhibition season, will give the Heat head coach just about enough time to gauge how competent his players are likely to be, before their first regular season encounter when they take on the Washington Wizards at home in the AA Arena in Miami , Florida. LeBron James’ departure simply placed a monkey wrench in the plans of Pat Riley, but to my mind this departure while a surprise came about because of the executive’s unwillingness to bolster the roster in the ways needed and if it meant the decoupling of the Big Three , then it should have been done, rather than this asinine belief James could continue to carry the team on his back. He was barely supported throughout last season and during the postseason , his teammates were literally nowhere to be seen as shown in the lopsided series’ loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals . Not much more needs to be said beyond that !

Steve Ballmer may well have paid for the privilege of owning the Los Angeles Clippers with his audacious bid of $2 billion , simply blowing any competing bid out of the water. Ballmer was needed more by the NBA, than they would actually care to admit because of their poor handling of the Donald Sterling affair. Nobody can yet justify the value of the Clippers was on the mark , in terms , of the final sale price , but here is what we do now know , every single owner in the NBA must be now salivating , because of the sale price and the belief the value of their respective franchises will continue to rise.

With Donald Sterling’s departure, the Los Angeles Clippers can set about re-imaging the franchise , but it will be down to head coach Doc Rivers and the two mist visible members of the roster , Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to bring about a new change in how the public view organization. The Clippers for their part last season proved themselves the better of the two Los Angeles’ based franchises winning the Pacific Division , with the Los Angeles Lakers bringing up the rear within the division. As to what this suggests about the decline of the Lakers , can be best summed up by the upheaval within the franchise with the departure of Mike D’Antoni , his being replaced by Byron Scott and the departure of several players from last season’s roster. From my own perspective , I firmly believe Mitch Kupchak has lost his touch , with Jim Buss simply being clueless about what is needed in resurrecting the fortunes of this now fast declining basketball club.

Kobe Bryant remains part of the current Lakers’ roster and the likely only chance of survival the team will have this upcoming season. Their contests with the Clippers should prove to be engaging , with the belief Blake Griffin , Chris Paul and their teammates having the upper hand in the season meetings , which was definitely the case this past year. The first of those highly anticipated games will take place on the 31st October , with the Clippers being the visiting team at the Staples Center , in Los Angeles , California , on the night in question.
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As tumultuous as the off-season was said to be for both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers, both franchises are thought to have fared reasonably well in the NBA Draft , but clearly, the Clippers are ready to be deemed contenders now , rather than later . For Byron Scott and his coaching staff , this will likely be a season where he is simply left to gauge the makeup of the roster and let things fall where they may.

The Los Angeles Clippers had a memorable season , but their postseason foray ended abruptly with a conference semi-finals’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder . Kevin Durant would prove to be the star of the series, leading all players in scoring average and points scored in the series . Oklahoma for its part , would fall the to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals , where defense played its part in the Spurs’ success, but in essence it was systematically the all round play of the team , which led to the victory.

Disappointment in 2013 and 2014 , and it would seem the Thunder are found wanting , with / Scott Brooks being unable to get his teams over the hump during the seasons in question. He has the reigning MVP in Kevin Thunder and one of the most dynamic players in the NBA with point guard Russell Westbrook . There is also the defensive prowess of Serge Ibaka , but somehow the team last season was lacking the killer instinct needed to get the job done. Oklahoma was favored to come out of the Western Conference and likely to seen as a real threat to the Miami Heat , but it was all to no avail , as witnessed in the series’ loss to the eventual champions the San Antonio Spurs. This season the Thunder will be under a great deal of pressure , but Kevin Durant will be severely tested as to his acumen and appetite as he chases after that elusive first NBA title of his career. Frustration has begun to build for the player and recent statements attributed to him, suggest he would like to play somewhere else, at some point in the future. Albeit , he has not stated where , Durant is a native of Washington , DC and the likelihood of his suiting up in Washington Wizards’ uniform for the moment might seem remote , but it would prove to be a tremendous morale booster for the beleaguered franchise .

Durant will not become a free agent until 2016 , but he can opt out of the final year of his contract in 2015 , which seems to be the likely outcome for the player who is represented by the up and coming sports’ management agency RocNation Sports , home to several high-profiled professional athletes. If Durant can be persuaded to remain with the Oklahoma City Thunder, then Scott Brooks , GM Sam Presti and the franchise’s ownership group will have to move heaven and earth to prove to the player, they all share the same goal and that is to bring an NBA title to the franchise and the city of Oklahoma, where this basketball team has been well supported ever since their relocating to the city.

We have seen a marked decline in the play of the Dallas Mavericks over the past two seasons and with Dirk Nowitzki in the waning years a of an outstanding career with the franchise. It will hard to imagine how the team in its present guise can be viewed as major contender within the Western Conference. An aging roster led by Nowitzki , with veterans such as Devin Harris , Jameer Nelson , Richard Jefferson , Raymond Felton , Tyson Chandler and coached by Rick Carlisle . If the Mavericks are to succeed this season , then these veterans will have to be the leaders on the team as the likes of Jae Crowder , Ricky Ledo and Gal Mekel make their way through the season where it will be a rigorous schedule for the players. The Mavericks’ first regular season game will pit them against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio , Texas on the 28th October, 2014 , opening night of the regular season within the NBA .

For the Dallas Mavericks’ owner , the larger than life Mark Cuban , he and GM Donnie Nelson can only hope this will be the season in which Dirk Nowitzki can bow out on a high note. I view this team as one which will go through the motions in trying win a second NBA title , but in reality , this group of players, will face a tough task even making it out of their division much less garnering a playoff berth this upcoming season , as the Western Conference is likely to very competitive, throughout the year.

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Picture gallery.

With the upcoming NBA season , which teams or players do you believe will have the biggest impact on the league ? Also, in light of the problems now besieging the NFL , do you think the NBA hierarchy will be able to deal with any major issue likely to affect their image should it be a problem concerning the behavior of a player ? Your thoughts on this and anything else are more than welcome concerning this article .

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Picture gallery and slideshow details below.
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(1) Donald Sterling and his now estranged wife Rochelle Stein-Sterling are now the former owners of the Los Angeles Clippers . Banished by the league , Donald Sterling having lost his case concerning the sale of the franchise to Steve Ballmer , has a civil case pending against the league hierarchy in US Federal Court in California . The former owner is seeking $1 billion in damages from the league with punitive damages on top of the proposed figure mentioned . AP Photo / Keith Morris …

(2) Steve Ballmer , former Microsoft Chairman and now the league’s newest NBA owner . The billionaire paid an astonishing $2 billion for the franchise far exceeding most expectations in the value of the Los Angeles Clippers . Getty Images North America / Steve Matthews … …

(3) Former Atlanta Hawks’ owner Bruce Levenson , foreground is seen here with team general manager Danny Ferry . The two executives have been caught up in furor concerning racial epithets and stereotypes used in something of a very derogatory way to describe African-Americans . Levenson has since sold his majority stake in the basketball franchise and Ferry has taken a leave of absence from the team. Neither individual has been punished by the NBA for their actions. AP Photo/ Christina McIntosh …

(4) Miami Heat team President Pat Riley , left, introduces the team’s draft pick Shabazz Napier to the press at a press conference. Seated center , is Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra . The Heat’s roster will have drastically changed from last season , after the departure of LeBron James and several other players. AP Photo/ Paul Mason ……

(5) Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is seen here with head coach Scott Brooks during a game played at the Chesapeake Energy Center in Oklahoma City , Oklahoma,. Getty Images / Paul Ross ….

(6) Court-side from left to right , Rick Carlisle , Jose Barea and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. Getty Images/ Leon Patterson … …..
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tophatal ……..

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No soliloquies needed here .

The Boogie Man Came Out And There Wasn’t A Hooded Man In Sight

The Boogie Man Came Out And There Wasn’t A Hooded Man In Sight

Preseason in the NBA and already the controversy is raising its ugly head and if things surrounding the LeBron James’ saga hasn’t been weird enough . It now appears that James won’t let this episode die a natural death. LeBron James in a statement allays to the fact that one the reasons he left the Cavaliers is that ‘race’ became an issue in his departure from the franchise. And it certainly hadn’t helped that neither of the lead characters in this soap opera appears to have been able to show any sign of maturity. Instead Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert came off looking like an ass and the player wasn’t that far behind in his own behavior and that rather idiotic interview (entitled ‘The Decision’) he granted to ESPN with reporter Jim Gray, in tow. In all honesty this whole episode has been about as interesting as having an enema !

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Slide show for your perusal.

One would’ve thought with the PR people surrounding the player that he’d be able not to court this at all but instead he issued a statement that now becomes cannon fodder for the press and those who’ll use this as evidence to make a inane statement about race in this country. This whole issue has nothing to do with race but more about ego and more about two individuals who are driven by greed and money . James states that he’s striving to win a title and granted he was ill equipped to win with an organization who literally didn’t know how to assemble the prerequisite staff to make the Cavaliers a competitive team. Danny Ferry who at the time was the general manger of the team couldn’t galvanize this roster to mesh and Mike Brown as coach, couldn’t communicate with the players on this team. But what might have been even more telling was that in the off-season with the firing of Brown , Gilbert sought not to seek any input from his star player as to who Brown’s successor should be. If that wasn’t enough of an indication to James that it was time to move on then I don’t know what is. And the rather idiotic fans there in Cleveland who sought to burn the player’s replica jersey in what they felt was an act of betrayal by LeBron James clearly have no concept of business or for that matter integrity or loyalty. Now all they have to show for the franchise there in Cleveland is an aggrieved owner in Dan Gilbert and unfortunately for Mike Brown’s successor Byron Scott, a team that’s liable to become a bottom feeder within the Eastern Conference of the NBA .

Now while this is all going on there has been sniping at the Heat organization and the fact that Pat Riley and team owner Micky Arison had the bravado to pull off such a coup in landing both James and Chris Bosh. Truth be known, the Heat needed to do this merely to stay a viable concern within the NBA from a financial standpoint. The franchise having posted a $45 million loss in 2009 had a declining attendance for the Heat games at the AA Arena (Miami) and it has to be said that without this orchestration to land the duo we might have been looking at the departure of Dywane Wade from the team. Now the pressure is on the triumvirate to prove that this all isn’t a ruse and that they’re intent on bringing another title to South Beach.

And while the Heat seem to have been anointed the preseason favorites to raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy next June , I’m of the opinion that it’ll take a great deal more than the showmanship and the greeting of the crowds before James and his buddies can simply think that the title has been won. The NBA season simply isn’t about creating hype and then not playing the games as can be seen in the pitiful experience and aftermath of the season had by the Los Angeles Lakers and their subsequent loss in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons . That year all the praise being heaped upon this team which at the time had five predetermined Hall of Famers on the roster led by Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton , Karl Malone and their coach Phil Jackson . The Lakers were summarily dispatched by the Pistons in five games (4-1) with there being a great deal of dissent and bickering between the quartet of players.

Now while I don’t discount the fact that the Miami Heat will be viewed as the prohibitive favorites for the NBA title, to my mind absolutely nothing is set in stone. The Lakers as reigning champions are still the team to beat and until they’re knocked off their throne all things start and end with them . Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has the enviable task of coaching this triumvirate but at the same time he also has to get the best out of the role players on this team. And it will also be interesting to see who defers to whom and the roles to be played by LeBron James and Dywane Wade in this whole scenario. One ball and two rather egotistical showmen on the court at the same time each looking to showcase their talents and attain the praise of the fans . Can anything go wrong? Well, each of the three say that they simply want to win and that their goal is to bring another championship to Miami. The thinking is that should the team fail to make it to the Finals then the finger pointing begins and all eyes will be on James as to the reasons behind any failure.

From the social standpoint and the racial accusations by James I think he ought to step back and think long and hard about his statement ! If he really wants to talk race then he ought to take a look back at the pages of history and the plight of the “Little Rock Nine” and then see that his situation bears nothing at all about race , more to do with ego and the fact that he was slighted by an owner who simply didn’t want to defer power to him as it concerned the Cleveland Cavaliers. And though to my mind neither party is without blame at the fallout from his departure from Cleveland , I do now believe that James if anything is now showing further signs that he’s yet to mature as an individual. Winning they say “cures all” and that may well be the case as clearly James yearns to be seen as a winner _ an Olympic gold medal and two time league MVP pales into comparison when you can say “look at me I’m an NBA champion” ? And that is literally what is biting at LeBron James at this juncture as he’s seen his peers in Kobe Bryant having won twice since his entry into the NBA and that of elder statesman Kevin Garnett lead the Boston Celtics’ team to their most recent title win. James doesn’t want to be viewed as the player all the hype was created over and at the end of the day he simply has nothing to show for it after 5 years in the league. Impatient as he may well be , he’s simply got to learn that before you can earn respect you have to give respect to the game. And while undoubtedly he’s done a lot since his entrance into the NBA you get the feeling that the player feels that he’s entitled to have it all lavished upon him simply because of who he is ………. and the fact that he’s the self anointed ‘King James’ global icon and superstar.

Whatever the season now holds not only for the Miami Heat but also the remaining 29 teams around the NBA, one thing is certain the scrutiny that the Heat will be placed under will show warts and all the underside of everything that’s good and bad about the game. Commissioner David Stern and the league’s hierarchy may well welcome this all, as it takes all eyes off the game’s state of affairs as it relates to the league’s ongoing negotiations with the NBPA (players’ union) and trying to renegotiate the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Take that from under the microscope and have this, a season long running roadshow and that might just keep the fans at bay and extremely happy. One way or another it’ll make a number of teams in the Eastern Conference exceedingly happy knowing that the Heat is part of their schedule and the same can be said of their counterparts in the Western Conference as there’ll be a great deal of money to be made for all parties concerned.

One thing that does placate this whole situation somewhat is that once the controversy has been created the easiest way to negate that all is to simply have money awash the whole scene and it’s so easy to forget what brought this all to the fore. Chances are a month from now all this will have died down and we’ll be talking about the Heat , how many games can they win and whom they may well face in the NBA Finals ? Not so fast may well be those dissenting voices who feel that the Miami Heat roadshow isn’t the only game in town as they’ve won nothing as of yet in their present guise. But it will be fun watching to see whether or not this team does prevail or if they simply fall by the wayside as some may well expect them to do. From my own view point I look at this all as a jigsaw puzzle that’s yet unfinished as there are so many pieces yet to fit into place. Once that the puzzle is finished then we’ll see the whole picture clear and as it’s meant to be.

For LeBron James, he brought up the subject of ‘race’ and the ‘tabooed boogie man’ was nowhere to be seen ……… no hooded horseman ranting and shouting racial epithets . So it begs the question what was this all about in the first place ? Ego once again quite possibly ? Or is it James and his handlers wanting to court the press merely because he wants to be viewed as the face of the NBA ? Clearly he’s still not happy at his perceived treatment by Dan Gilbert and the remarks that were made by the owner after his departure. But as I alluded to earlier the evidence shows that neither party handled the situation well and in fact they both showed the petulant behavior of a rather infantile child . Common sense still hasn’t prevailed and it’s unlikely to at this juncture .

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Picture gallery for your perusal . By clicking on an individual frame you can view that picture in its original sized format.

James’ statement as you view it , do you feel that he makes a valid point ? In his making the claim the way he was treated by Gilbert had to do with his race was one of the reasons he left the franchise, do you truly believe that there’s any veracity behind his argument ? Chime in with a comment as to your thoughts on the matter and anything else that might be of interest to you with regard to the NBA and its ongoing story-lines.

NB James’ manager Maverick Carter reiterated in an interview conducted with a journalist from CNN that ‘race’ did play a part in the player’s decision to leave the team.

To read more about the Little Rock Nine simply click on the link provided . Little Rock Nine

Brown vs. Board of Education …

Alan aka tophatal …….. 🙂 _ 😦 _ 🙂

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Candace-Cabrera

Eye candies courtesy of Smooth Magazine . Candace Cabrera

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Candace-2

More ‘candy’ Candace for us all and that has got to be a good thing don’t you think ?

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