Anthony Davis Is A LA Laker

Anthony Davis-LeBron James

Well! That was fast. The ink is barely dry on the NBA championship certificates and teams – er, make that the Lakers team – is rushing in to pan for 2020 gold. In other words, the Toronto Raptors barely finished prying the Warriors’ fingers from the Larry O’Brien Trophy when the Lakers Organization proceeded to claim dibs on winning the 2020 NBA Title.

And here’s the news on the NBA’s latest blockbuster trade: This just in — The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to trade the farm, er, make that the farm animals, for Anthony Davis. No offense to Brandon Ingram who is a legitimate, up and coming star, but Lonzo Ball is a bust, and Josh Hart is, well . . . just who is Josh Hart again? Anyway, the Lakers have come into this offseason looking and smelling like the city dump but will come out of this trade looking and smelling like a rose. For their part, the New Orleans Pelicans (I almost said the New Orleans Jazz – it just sounds better) – anyway, the Pelicans have the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, and so getting Zion Williamson, for now — aka, on paper — is fair compensation for losing Anthony Davis.

We’ll see how this one works out. The Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in six years. Six years. And this past year was LeBron’s first with the proud but now pitiful franchise which has had the offseason from hell. For the Lakers it’s been rough sledding. This past season, the saga has been sordid: Magic comes and then goes; Walton goes; potential coaches come and then go. The toasts of Tinsel Town couldn’t write a more soapy script.

But if — that’s IF —  the Lakers can pull off a turnaround next season, it will be one for the record books. And that’s the lesson. From the world’s perspective, if you just turn things around, you will be forgiven and all will be forgotten. It does not matter how bad it looks or how bad it gets, just turn it around. And all will be forgiven.

Spiritually, it works for us the other way. Just accept God’s amazing grace, and then He will turn you around and He will turn things around for you. All is forgiven when you accept his grace. Don’t try to do this at home; that is to say, don’t try to do this on your own. It takes the toast of Heaven, our Lord and Savior, to turn things around. It does not matter how bad it looks or how bad it gets, He can turn it around for you. He can and He will, if we trust Him and believe.

Kawhi!

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Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors are on the verge of winning the NBA’s biggest prize. After absolutely torching the defending champs in Game 4 — AT ORACLE, mind you — the Raptors are almost rapturous as they stand on the verge of winning their first NBA Championship. Who saw this one coming? It is an upset of epic proportions, as the Warriors were supposed to rip the Raptors in Six Games. Instead, it looks like it will end the other way around. And all of Canada is singing “Oh Canada” and dancing in every Jurassic park north of the order.

This steady and stoic superstar rarely smiles or shows any emotion. Yet this 2019 Finals Championship series has been all about the man who has become the NBA’s most dominant and dominating player — Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has been putting up outrageous numbers during the postseason, dispatching the Bucks in six games after falling behind 0-2, just after sending home the Philadelphia 76ers, after falling behind Philly 2-1, with a Game 7, buzzer-beating, series-winning shot. Now in the NBA Finals, Leonard and the Raptors are one win away from dethroning the defending-champion Golden State Warriors.

Looming over Leonard’s play and the Raptors’ success is the fact that he may most likely decide not to re-sign with the team after the season. It has long been speculated that Leonard wishes to play in his home state of California; with his contract expiring at the end of the playoffs, his future will be entirely in his hands. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For now, Leonard and the Raptors are trying to get their hands on the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Kawhi Leonard has proved and proven that he is a force to be reckoned with. He’s averaging 31 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Not too shabby. He’s leading his team night in and night out, with no excuses for a mistake here or there and no regrets, especially for leaving San Antonio. Yes Kawhi left a good team and a great coach in Gregg Popovich for Toronto. Yes Kawhi has been very good for most of his career. And yes Toronto has also been pretty good for the past few years. But for Kawhi, Toronto was an unknown commodity in uncharted territory, for he was getting a new, first year coach and new teammates — and nothing was for sure.

But all of that seems like ancient history now, as Kawhi has led his new team to the summit of the season and the apex of the basketball world. Kawhi has the third highest scoring average in these payoffs, behind Kevin Durant and James Harden. And now he’s takin it to the reigning champs.

Yes there have been players to leave a team they’ve been with for years for another team. Dr. J did it. Moses Malone did it. Kevin Garnett did it. And Kevin Durant did it. All of these players did it to do one thing: win a championship with their new team. But how ironic is it that Durant is injured and not playing against Kawhi now?

And Kawhi has help. Over the course of the Finals, supporting actors the likes of Pascal Siakim and Marc Gasol and Dennis Green and Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka have filled in admirably and taken turns in helping carry the load as Leonard has led the way. Last night, Serge Ibaka scored 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench for the composed and confident Raptors. That means Ibaka shot 75% from the floor. These red hot Raptors are shooting lights out when they need to and turning back every Warrior threat at raucous Oracle — where home fans were stunned and silenced when the final buzzer sounded.

Not even the presence of Hall of Famer Al Attles, the Warriors’ former general manager, coach and player, could help the Warriors. Attles attended Game 4 and it was the first game in approximately eight months for the 82-year-old Attles, who has had health issues.

As for the reigning champs, they will have to dig deep and stretch wide and strain to reach higher than they’ve reached in order to pull this one out of the hat. The return of KD – Kevin Durant could help, but then again, after missing nine straight games, a herculean effort is what it’s going to take to overtake the red hot Raptors.

The key is that the Raptors believe. They believe in their coach, themselves and their leader. They are confident, they’ve played confidently, and they are in no way, shape or form being overly optimistic or arrogantly simplistic. Yes they are up 3-1, but they still have to win one more. It’s just one more game, but it’s still a full game. As Lowry said, “We aint done nothing yet.” And he’s right because it aint over till the fat lady sings.

But if Leonard leads like he’s led them so far, it’s over. It is absolutely over. And we’ll be crowning and congratulating a new champion come Monday night.

The lessons learned here are these: be humble, because Leonard is as self-effacing as they come. Be heady, as Leonard is one of the smartest, hardest working players in the league. And be happy for those who happen to be having a season of success. Remember, “Rejoice with them that rejoice.” You’ll want others to rejoice in your success too.

The Toronto Raptors: Oh Canada!

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Ok. So the Raptors ripped the reigning NBA royals a new one. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can hear you all the way over here. 

Yes the Raptors won Game One. No, the Warriors did not look like the Warriors. Yes, it was the first NBA Finals game outside of the good ‘ole USofA.  No, Durant did not play. And yes, the fans were pumped and primed and the energy in the building was crazy. And no, the Warriors did not match the Raptors’ intensity. So there; a Game One win for the home team.

But just who were those guys in the home whites? Kawhi turned in a pedestrian performance as he ONLY scored 23 points. But the rest of the Raptors? Who were they? And where did that come from?  I mean a guy named Pascal Siakam scored 32 Points!  Thirty-Two points! On 14 for 17 shooting! Seriously?  That guy shot 82.3% from the floor?!  Are you serious? In other words, that guy, that guy who has a 10 point career scoring average, took 17 shots and missed three.  That only happens once in a never. Is this a dream or what?

Ok — let me try this explanation another way, as I try to lower my blood pressure – breath, breath . . . . Pascal Siakam just played in his first NBA Finals game.  His FIRST. Siakam is averaging 18 points per game in the playoffs and he averaged a very respectable 16.7 for the season.  But his unexpected 32 points in Game One was the most points in an NBA Finals debut since Kevin Durant had 36 for Oklahoma City in 2012, and it made Siakam the first player to score 30 or more on at least 80 percent shooting in a finals game since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2004.

Those two players, Durant and Shaq, were top-two draft picks, as were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan, the other players since 1970 with 30 points in an NBA Finals Game 1 within their first three pro seasons.

So, do you believe in miracles?  This guy from Cameroon, who was going to be a priest, turned to basketball and now turns in the performance of his life when his team needed it most. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. As I watched Game One in disbelief, I realized that it appears that we may, just may, have an upset in the making?

While I’m pulling hard for “my” Warriors, it appears that the team from up North has all of the farm animals lined up to make a dress for the ball.  The newest entry on the long list of sports Cinderella’s thinks she can dance her way into the prince’s heart, and the pumpkin is ready and waiting outside. That’s the pumpkin that just got turned into a riding carriage. We’ll see.

Here’s how Jackie MacMullan from ESPN saw it:

“TORONTO — When you are champions, you stick with what got you here. For the Golden State Warriors, the formula in these 2019 playoffs had been fairly transparent: identify the best player on the opposing team — see James Harden and Damian Lillard — and harangue him into a night of frustration and disappointment.

Thus, the blueprint against the Toronto Raptors was to reduce Kawhi Leonard’s basketball life to misery, or at the very least considerable discomfort. Blitz him, double him, triple him if necessary, force him to give up the ball and dare the others to beat you.

It was a sound strategy on paper — except the “others” were not only expecting it, they were aiming to exploit it. So, it was a collection of “complementary” Raptors who vaulted Toronto to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals 118-109 in a raucous Scotiabank Arena, delivering a roundhouse right to a team that so often has seemed invincible.

On a night when Leonard, who had been the most transcendent player in the playoffs, was a mere mortal, players such as Pascal Siakam happily filled the void. Siakam, the 24-year old forward who once was on a path to the priesthood — until a visit, on a lark, to a summer basketball camp in his native Cameroon detoured him on an improbable basketball journey — scored 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting. It was a prolific performance that would have been unthinkable two short years ago, when he was a raw, unpolished player who couldn’t shoot.

At all.

‘I was joking with him the other day,” teammate Fred VanVleet told ESPN. ‘We used to shoot together in my rookie year, and me and the guy rebounding used to duck sometimes because his shots would come off the rim so hard.

‘He had some bad misses. But what you are seeing now is the result of a lot of hard work. You can just see his confidence soaring.”

And the confidence of the Raptors is soaring as well. Not only do they think they can win, they believe they will win. And that’s how we should be: full of faith, void of fear and brimming with confidence that the Lord of Hosts, the King of Glory. shall fight for us. Regardless of the opposition, notwithstanding the competition, we must trust and believe that we are victors, not victims. We must cling to the Old Rugged Cross and to the truth that we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us.

As for the Warriors, they have their work cut out for them, with or without Durant.

Carmelo Anthony

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Carmelo Anthony’s tumultuous NBA career may soon be over, after grinding to a halt in Houston

Carmelo Anthony’s tumultuous, up and down, all around NBA career may soon be over, after grinding to a halt in Houston.

It’s all so sad. And like him or not, you’ve got to feel so bad, because it just makes you mad. How can a perennial All-Star become a journey-man, bench warmer who can’t keep a job? He has skills and ability and a decent basketball IQ, but somehow, all of his talent has not totaled into a tenure that we all can look back on and say with any confidence that it was a good run. Denver may be as close as Melo got to a good situation. His time with the New York Knicks was a slow burn/meltdown of a disaster, and the OKC experiment failed miserably. Now we have this mess in Houston. 

What can we learn from Melo’s latest malaise and his history of malfunctions? Sometimes you need to look yourself in the mirror. The truth hurts, but you can indeed learn from it if you are willing to admit and own up to your part of it. 

Here’s how Sporting News put it:

“Fifteen years after coming into the league, the sad truth is that we may be seeing Anthony’s final days in the National Basketball Association. Carmelo’s had knee surgery and he’s 34 years old, but neither age nor injury have caused his career to hit the rocks, a reality that came into sharp focus this weekend. Just 10 games into his career as a bench player with the Rockets, Anthony was held out of back-to-back games in order to discuss his role with the team. 

That’s been translated to mean that Anthony soon will be cut by Houston, which has struggled to a 6-7 record after finishing last year with a league-best 65 wins. GM Daryl Morey labeled that speculation “unfair,” but Anthony remains away from the team. He has not been great for the Rockets, averaging 13.4 points in 29.4 minutes per game on 40.5 percent shooting and 32.8 percent 3-point shooting.

Even if he did get a new deal to finish this season elsewhere, glumness looms over this stage of Anthony’s career. He is a Hall of Famer just playing out the string. When next spring hits, Anthony probably will be wrapping up his time in the NBA, and he won’t be doing so on his own terms. A job with any of the league’s 30 teams will be hard to find, and Anthony’s best chance at a continued pro paycheck will be on foreign shores, possibly China.”

http://www.sportingnews.com/us/nba/news/carmelo-anthony-lost-in-new-nba-must-confront-harsh-truth-about-his-future/15vd9c3j9msv01qxf2ajv9zmxm

Maryland Get’s It Wrong, Then Makes It Right

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Jordan McNair, former University of Maryland offensive lineman, died tragically as a result of a heatstroke suffered during practice on May 29, 2018

Former University of Maryland Head Football coach DJ Durkin was placed on paid administrative leave August 11, 2018.  This was  in response to the June 13th death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair from a heat stroke he suffered at a May 29 workout.

Durkin had been reinstated Tuesday, following two separate investigations into the football program and five meetings and calls between the 17-member board of regents. Then,  just one day later, after a public outcry, largely from the student body, Durkin was fired by President Wallace Loh.  The decision to reinstate Durkin had been met with outrage and protests by students, politicians, McNair’s family members and even some of the players themselves.

“We feel gratified that some justice has been done, that Dr. Loh took it upon himself to do the right thing,” Marty McNair, Jordan’s father, told SportsCenter on Wednesday night.

One student tweeted this assessment of the situation: “I don’t think Maryland could have possibly handled this entire situation any worse. He should have been fired in July or August.”  Amen.  How does a student die becasue of an incident suffered on the practice field, and then you investigate the situation to death, and then you reinstate the head coach, and then you fire him?  Seriously? 

Without question, it was a tragic death that Jordan McNair died. But the University of Maryland made his demise a hundred times worse and more painful by dragging the verdict out and then flip-flopping the punishment for Coach Durkin all over the place.  First of all, the investigation took too long.  Period. Then, the aftermath was like, coach DJ Durkin is a good man, so let’s give him another chance.  No. Not at Maryland. Not at the expense of feelings and emotions and passions and sentiments, and raw anger. 

The morale (pun intended) of this story is this: we need to right wrongs as quickly as we can. And Maryland taught us that dragging out an apology and the necessary restitution is actually a second fatality that only exacerbates the original mortal wound.  In other words, Maryland killed Jordan McNair more than once. 

So let’s all remember, when we make a mistake, let’s not make this same mistake.

 

 

After 50 Points, This One-Time MVP Is Smellin’ Like A Rose

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Derrick Rose scores 50-points for the first time in his career

You can’t help but be happy for DRose. He turned it around. He absolutely came back from way back when no one thought or dreamt or even bet he could. Yes, we’re talking about Derrick Rose, the onetime League MVP and Rookie of the Year. And in 2011, Rose, with Jimmy Butler at his side, lead a Chicago Bulls team that was 62 -20, and the No. 1 Seed in the playoffs. But that was then, and this is now.

At one point, many argued that Rose was the best point guard in the NBA. Yet those high career highs have been replaced with some very low and lonely lows. Of late, Rose has been through heartache and heart break; injury and rehabilitation and trades and new teams have been the hallmark of his rickety, rockety career.

Now, Rose continues to rebuild his career and has found a home in Minnesota with Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, again. Now, Rose is working to rebuild his commitment to his craft and his confidence in himself and his faith in his future ability to be the player he knows he can be.

After scoring 50 points, including the game winning basket in the 128-125 win over the Utah Jazz, Rose was in tears. Tears. He actually was sobbing as the emotions bubbled up and boiled over in an open show of gratitude and thankfulness.

Good for you DRose. Good for you. All of basketball is happy and is rejoicing with you.

Here’s how ESPN reported on the revival of Derrick Rose:

“To say Derrick Rose has had a rough few years would be an understatement. The former league MVP saw his run with the Chicago Bulls come to an unceremonious end, played one disappointing season with the New York Knicks, then signed on to join the Cleveland Cavaliers’ star-studded lineup last season, only to end up taking a leave of absence from the team before eventually being traded.

When he signed on with the Minnesota Timberwolves late last season, it was seen as a coach doing a favor for his former star player. But Rose never lost faith in himself, telling The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, ‘Anything that comes my way I am going to grab it.’

He did that in a big way Wednesday night, scoring a career-high 50 points to lead the Wolves to a three-point win. He made the go-ahead basket with 30 seconds left, then gave Minnesota a three-point cushion with a pair of free throws with 13.8 seconds left to reach the 50-point mark.” http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/25139327/derrick-rose-scored-50-points-nba-players-loved-it

The Eagles Are Baaaaaaaaack!

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Philadelphia Eagles Star Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery

The Eagles, for the first time this season, looked like their 2017 selves Thursday night. They weren’t nearly perfect, but they led comfortably throughout what would eventually become a 34-13 pasting of the New York Giants at Giants Stadium, err, I mean MetLife Stadium. With the big win, the Eagles may well have saved the NFC East from becoming the NFC Least!

With the big win, Carson Wentz and the Eagles are baaaaaaaack! They’ve climbed back to .500, so now at 3-3, they can legitimately say that the are again the class of the NFC East. Things were looking kind of dicey there for a while, but the Super Bowl Champs are back; they’ve turned things around and straightened some things out, so let’s just hope they’re back to stay.

OK, so yes they beat the hapless, helpless New York Football Giants, so let’s not get carried away or get too ahead ourselves. No, they did NOT play perfect, championship level football. Yes, they looked better than they have since the Super Bowl, and no they can’t punch their ticket to Super Bowl LIII just yet. One win doesn’t erase the previous five weeks. The Eagles still have issues and still have an increasing number of injuries. But it had to feel good to get ahead early, expand the lead, and put an opponent away with rather ease.

It took until Week 6, but the Eagles finally played to expectations. The Eagles offense finally caught up to Carson Wentz in the road win, and with Fletcher Cox leading the way, the Eagles pass rush turned up the heat on Eli Manning. No, Eli is not the Eli of old, because this Eli is now old man Eli. He struggled all game, and that’s putting it kindly.

The only bright spot for the Giants and the only blemish for the Eagles is how the Birds let rookie sensation Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Barkley made like Red Grange out there, “The Galloping Ghost” who played for the Chicago Bears way back. Barkley ran the ball 13 times for 130 yards, catching it nine times for 99 yards, and zigging every time the Eagles zagged as he made Manning’s numbers look better than they truly were.

But enough about Eli Manning and the Giants already. Let’s get back to my Eagles, the defending Super Bowl Champs!

The win wasn’t exactly pretty or simple. The Eagles were playing on three days’ rest, they had to travel up the Jersey Turnpike, and the Giants have enough firepower to have produced the opposite result. But they caught a squad that’s reeling with an aging, ineffective quarterback. Jim Schwartz’s defense deserves credit for getting after Eli Manning, but the 37-year-old quarterback is all but done. The Giants will win some more games, and Manning might have some decent outings on paper, but he’s no longer capable of willing his team to victory. He doesn’t trust his arm to throw downfield and doesn’t have the necessary athleticism to extend plays in the pocket behind a leaky offensive line.

The 3-3 Eagles don’t have to worry about the Giants in the division. The Redskins (2-2) and Cowboys (2-3) are still clearly in the NFC East picture, but when the Eagles play as they did Thursday, with an elite quarterback firing on all cylinders, a suffocating defense with a ferocious pass rush and special teams that are mistake-free, there are few teams that can keep up.” http://www2.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/eagles-giants-carson-wentz-fletcher-cox-alshon-jeffery-what-we-learned-thursday-night-football-20181012.html

So let’s celebrate the win, but let’s not celebrate too long or too much. There’s still much work to do; there’s still too much at stake, as defending our title and defending our honor is still on the line.

And this is the same lesson all of the rest of us need to learn too.