The Destiny of A Dynasty

We are witnessing the wonder and the glory of the golden age of the NBA. Some would argue that the age of Wilt and Russell or the age of Dr. J and Larry Bird and Ervin “Magic” Johnson or the age of Michael Jordan and Isaiah Thomas and Tim Duncan and LeBron James were the wonder years of the NBA. Perhaps.

But I submit that the years of the current Golden State Warriors dynasty may well and arguably be the best years basketball has even known. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, a.k.a the “Splash Brothers,” and the rest of the Warriors have been destined to show us just how the game of basketball should be played. And Its played as a team.

As of this writing, the Golden State Warriors are up two games to none over the Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference Finals and chances are they are only a few games away from winning their fourth championship in five years. And it doesn’t look like there’s any team that can stop this run away train.

So let’s just sit back and watch this wonderful, colorful, incredible run that should lead to the crowning of the current reigning kings of basketball. Again.

Did Kawhi Leonard Beat the 76ers?

kawhi-leonard

Some will say that Kawhi Leonard beat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in Toronto. Yes, Kawhi had 41 points. Yes Kawhi hit the fadeaway, game winner from the right corner falling out of bounds with no time left on the clock. And yes Kawhi was the best player on the court, hands down. But the 76ers shot themselves in the foot time and again.

Note to file: that game winning shot wasn’t a swish; in other words, it didn’t hit all net. What had happened was quite to the contrary. Kawhi shot the ball high enough to get the it over Joel Embiid who was lunging at him, then the ball hit the right side of the rim, bounced up, bounced high off the right side of the rim again, then bounced twice off of the left side of the rim, THEN it fell through the net. It felt like it bounced around the rim for what seemed like an eternity, but the ball eventually bounced in, not out. Game, set, match – Toronto. But that miracle is not what beat the Sixers. The Sixers beat themselves.

First, the Sixers came out jittery, fidgety and frazzled and played that way most of the game. But at times the Sixers had the lead, and at one point they went on a 17-0 run and took what looked like a commanding seven point lead. AND Jimmy “Buckets” tied the game at 90 with 4.2 second left! (Note to file: keep Jimmy Butler and ban Brett Brown from anything that has to do with the 76ers organization from now, henceforth, and even forevermore). In other words, all of Philly is not down with Coach Brown. He’s got ta’ go.

While the Sixers had their chances, their play and their coach failed them down the stretch. Embiid and Simmons, their best players, coughed up the ball time and again, committing turnover after turnover in the final minutes. They even committed TWO – count ‘em — TWO shot clock violations with the game on the line. Oh well.

The moral of the story is this: don’t beat yourself. Unforced errors, careless mistakes and the lack of effort all combine to confound and contradict all of the positives you may have going your way, no matter how hard you try.

Let’s all learn the lesson. Don’t beat yourself.

Virginia: How To Turn Your Worst Loss Into Your Best Win

UVA Kyle Guy
Cavaliers junior Kyle Guy who was named most outstanding player and had 24 points said, “this is how this it was supposed to end.”

Coach Tony Bennet drew inspiration from the Contemporary Christian song “Hills and Valleys” as he described how his University of Virginia team bounced back from one of the most humbling losses in sports history.

They said it would never happen, but one year ago, the Virginia Cavaliers were the first No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed. Ouch — that one really hurt. I remember that loss like it was yesterday.

But now, The University of Virginia Cavliers are champions of the college basketbal world for the first time in men’s program history. In his post-game comments, the Virginia head coach recounted how he drew inspiration from the movie Rocky and used the film as a source of motivation for his players. As well as crediting Rocky, Bennett also mentioned a song by Tauren Wells. The song called “Hills and Valleys” contains these heartwarming, spirit lifting words:

I’ve walked among the shadows

You wiped my tears away

And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak

And I’ve seen the brighter days

And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place

And I have held the blessings

God, you give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough

No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains, I will bow my life

To the one who set me there

In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there

When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own

When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!

You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Hills and Valleys!

Here’s what Coach Bennet had to say after the big overtime win:

“I played a song for them today called ‘Hills and Valleys’ by Tauren Wells,” Bennett shared after the game. “It just means that you’re never alone in the hills and the valleys and we faced those this year. The credit goes to these young men and I can’t wait to celebrate with my wife and my kids and my parents. I do want to thank the Lord and my savior.” https://kfan.iheart.com/featured/mansour-s-musings/content/2019-04-09-this-is-the-song-that-helped-push-tony-bennett-virginia-to-a-championship/

Beyond just the sting of last year’s opening-round loss to the UMBC Retrievers, Bennett has faced numerous questions about whether his defense-first approach was holding back the Cavaliers in the tournament. Despite enjoying a lot of success in the regular season, Virginia had just one Elite Eight appearance in Bennett’s first nine seasons.

Charles Barkley aptly pointed out that Virginia’s best player, De’Aandre Hunter, who went to MY High School, Friends’ Central in Philly, DNP – did not play in last year’s painful loss to UMBC. Hmmmm.

And so this title is an emphatic statement as to Bennett’s tactical acumen. And with only one senior (Jack Salt) on the roster, Virginia might be right back in the Final Four in 2020.

Virginia defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders 85-77 in Monday’s 2019 NCAA men’s basketball national championship game.

With 12.9 seconds left in regulation, De’Andre Hunter hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 68 and send it to overtime. Hunter stepped up big again in overtime, connecting from long range to put Virginia ahead 75-73 with 2:10 remaining.

Since I’ve lived in Virginia most of my life, I’m so happy for UVA and for Coach Bennet and for the players that endured last year’s cross of a loss which was for them a Calvary.

Theologically speaking, it just proves all over again that a cross always paves the way to a crown. Virginia’s win proves all over again that we oftentimes must endure the lowest of lows before God raises us up to rejoice in the victory that is ours. And it is our destiny that we win.

Thou Shalt Console Thy Brother

alshon jeffrey drop

Alshon Jeffrey did not lose the game. His dropped pass near the 20 yard line in the waning moments of the Divisional Playoff game against New Orleans in the Super Dome certainly would have put the defending Super Bowl champions in position to score the winning touchdown, but it just didn’t happen this time.  Primed for another miraculous comeback victory, Nick Foles drove the Philadelphia Eagles into scoring range down just six points to the No. 1 seed Saints ahead of the two-minute warning.

Then, zap. The magic was gone. We all hoped that Saint Nick had one more trick up his sleeve and we all believed that he could pull just one more rabbit out of his hat, but his pass, which was right on target, was dropped by the Eagles best receiver.  “Foles zipped a pass to his top receiver, Alshon Jeffery. The ball slipped through the wideout’s hands and landed in the gut of Saints corner Marshon Lattimore. Drop. INT. Comeback bid evaporated.

The interception epitomized the Eagles’ offensive struggles the final 45 minutes of the 20-14 loss to the Saints. And Jeffrey felt like he had blown the game all by himself.

“I let my teammates down. I let the city of Philadelphia down. That’s on me. We’ll be back next year for sure,” Jeffery said in the locker room. “One play don’t define me. I mean, all of the greats, they have missed game-winning shots. … So it happens. It’s part of football. I just hated the way it happened in the playoffs and it was the final moment.”

It’s hard. I mean, it’s really hard because he’s so down,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson told reporters of his message to Jeffery. “But for me, it’s about staying positive. Listen, he’s made many, many big catches for us this season and he will continue to do that. He’s just got to keep his head up. Don’t let one play define you. It’s not who he is. He’s too good of a player. He’ll embrace it obviously and he’ll be better for it, but I told him to keep his head up and keep playing.”

The Eagles started the game scorching hot scoring back-to-back 75-plus-yard touchdown drives to open the game with a 14-0 lead to stun the Superdome fans. The Eagles gobbled up 151 yards and eight first downs in the opening quarter.

But then the momentum shifted and Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints scored 20 unanswered points to overcome their biggest deficit ever in post season play. There were a lot of plays between the first quarter and the fourth quarter that got away from Eagles, and that’s why Alshon shouldn’t shoulder the weight of this loss on his own.

But back to the play that said it all for the Eagles. Nick didn’t play all that well, and the defense, while holding Brees to 20 points, gave up too many big plays.  And Alshon Jeffrey did not lose the game. No he did not. The moral of the story is this: “one play and one day does not define you.” No it does not. And those of us who understand life and living know that a legacy is not built or destroyed in a day. Your legacy is built on the test of your character over time.

Keep your chin up. Hold you head high, and be an encouragement to someone who may have failed today but has the promise of destiny tomorrow.  Because failures are not final, and God has a plan for you, and he plans on using the good and the bad, the happy and the sad of your life to make you better.

So always remember, after a tough loss, the first commandment with promise is “thou shalt encourage thy brother.”

Did You See The Fight? (At The Lakers Game)

Brandon-Ingram-Rajon-Rondo-Chris-Paul

Fights are indicative of tension and boiled over hostility. But they should have  no place in the course of a game or contest, outside of the boxing ring, of course. They do but they shouldn’t.  At the Lakers home opener last weekend, Rajon Rondo, Brandaon Ingram and Chris Paul were involved an ugly, unecessary brawl that left players and fans alike whispering and wondering, “what in world is going on?” 

The lecture here is short and to the point: tempers and tensions may flare, but it’s the lesson of life to let cooler heads prevail. Hats off to LeBron James for jumping in and going to his OPPONENT, but friend, Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets, to help break up the fight.

Good for you LeBron, good for you.  Becasue blessed are the peachmakers.

Here’s the skinny from ESPN staff writer Adrian Wojnarowski :

“The NBA suspended Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (four games), guard Rajon Rondo(three games) and Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul (two games), all without pay, for their roles in a fourth-quarter fight on Saturday night in Los Angeles.

“Ingram has been suspended for aggressively returning to and escalating the altercation and throwing a punch in the direction of Paul, confronting a game official in a hostile manner, and instigating the overall incident by shoving Rockets guard James Harden,” the league said in a statement. “Rondo has been suspended for instigating a physical altercation with, and spitting and throwing multiple punches at, Paul. Paul has been suspended for poking at and making contact with the face of Rondo, and throwing multiple punches at him.”

Rondo threw a punch at Paul after Paul poked a finger into his face. Once Rondo and Paul’s altercation occurred, Ingram sprinted from half court and threw a punch of his own in the direction of Paul and PJ Tucker that did not land cleanly.” http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/25047465/multiple-suspensions-lakers-rockets-scuffle 

The Mystery of Momentum

Carson Wentz After Loss
Carson Wentz after the Eagles blew a 17 point Fourth Quarter lead at home to the Carolina Panthers on October 21, 2018

What’s wrong with Wentz? (And the rest of the Eagles, for that matter)  The Eagles lost momentum, and they lost the game because of it. Wentz played adequately and respectively for three-quarters, and then the bottom fell out.  With less than a minute left in regulation AT HOME, on the potentially game willing drive, Wentz forced a pass into double coverage to Alshon Jeffrey, a pass that should have been intercepted in the end zone, when a WIDE OPEN Wendell Smallwood was clearly within reach.  If you could see me right now, as I write this blog, I’m just shaking my head. I spoke to a dear friend Sunday night after the game, and he was still heated; we were HOLLERLING at each other about how bad the Eagles played compared to how good we were last year. 

The sportsman’s Bible says this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for wins, for they shall be rewarded with victories.”

Ok, ok, ok, no that’s not exactly what the actual Bible says, but it’s close.  Hunger and thirst are perquisites for accomplishing and achieving our goals.  Last year, my Eagles were flying high; they had all of the right ingredients to win, and they won big. They had coaching, running, receiving and a defense that could actually stop the other team when necessary. And they had momentum, right up through the Super Bowl; through injuries and replacement players and a backup QB leading us to front and center in the football world. But that was then. And this is now.

Now, my Eagles couldn’t stop granny from robbing a bank with a Beebe gun. They can’t seem to stop the bleeding because they can’t even afford to pay attention. This Eagles team couldn’t stop payment on a check for $0 if their life depended on it. The Eagles had a 17 point lead over the Carolina Panthers in the FOURTH QUARTER and still lost! They allowed Cam Newton to drive downfield for touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, AND allowed a two point conversion. They allowed the Panthers to come back. When it mattered most, the Birds couldn’t hold onto the ball to sustain a drive to save their lives.  Yeash. 

So, here’s the question: will Wentz wither away or will he WILL himself and his teammates back to respectability and out of this abysmal mess?  It’s like my parents used to tell me when my sisters and I wanted something that we probably weren’t going to get; we’ll see. The Eagles were celebrating prematurely, and the Panthers saw it and seized “it” right from under their noses. 

So . . . , let’s learn the lesson. Don’t lose momentum. DON’T give your opponent the ball when they have the momentum. Don’t do it. Do whatever it takes to hold onto the ball and maintain possession, especially when they have the hot hand. Note to file, NEVER EVER give the ball back to the other team when they have the hot hand.

Momentum is energy and force and motion. It means to push and to drive forward no matter what. But momentum is a funny, tricky thing. Momentum is electric and elusive.  Momentum will spark your battery and spur your inner horses. You can’t really quantify it, but it’s tangible nonetheless.  Either you have it or you don’t. And when you have it, you protect it with your soul and you hang onto it for dear life; because you never want to lose it, or worse yet, give it away.  The irony is, you know when you have it, and you can barely fathom when you lose it. Because momentum is “it”, and you’ve got to have “it” to win.

Spiritually speaking, momentum lies in your heart.  The Bible says to “keep your heart with all diligence, for out it flow the issues of life.”

The Carolina Panthers couldn’t spell touchdown for three-quarters of football, and yet all of a sudden they seized the momentum from the Eagles. All of a sudden, they flipped the script. All of a sudden, they could drive down the field like it’s a walk in the park and punch it in. Seriously?  C’mon Man!  How’d they do it? They realized the mystery of momentum.

Should We Pity Poor, Winless Nebraska?

Nebraska Coach Scott Frost
Despite the Historic 0-6 Start, Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost Should Keep Looking Up

The  University of Nebraska was once a college football power.  Under Tom Osborne from 1973 to 1997, the Cornhuskers went an astounding 255 – 49–3,  for a winning percentage of 0.836. Osborne subsequently became Nebraska’s longest-tenured coach, ending with the fourth-highest winning percentage in major college football history. Osborne never won fewer than nine games and secured 13 conference titles in his 25 seasons. And for those interested in ancient college football history, before Osborne, there was head coach Bob Devaney.

Bob Devaney lead Nebraska to a 101–20–2 record, with a 0.829 winning percentage from 1962 to 1972.  Delaney brought about an immediate turnaround in the fortunes of Nebraska football. He led Nebraska to a 9–2 record in his first season, which was capped by the school’s first bowl win, against Miami in the 1962 Gotham Bowl.  Wow. Talk about winners. Nebraska could surely use Osborne or Devaney right about now.

Now, the once mighty and proud Nebraska football program has fallen on hard times. Most recently, The Cornhuskers blew a ten point margin and fell to Northwestern, 34 -21, after having a 31-21 fourth quarter lead. A Northwestern field goal cut the lead to 31-24 with about two minutes left in the game. Northwestern would then get the ball back and marched 99 yards with zero time-outs for a game tying touchdown that sent it to overtime. Unbelievable. Just unbelievable, especially for a team that was 0 -5 and searching desperately for its first win.

In that oh so painful loss to Northwestern, Nebraska had the ball first in the extra period. The drive came to a fourth and one, and then a nightmare for Huskers fans. A botched snap and QB Martinez was forced to scramble; he launched one for the endzone and it was intercepted. Northwestern got the ball and got into position to allow kicker Drew Lauckenbaugh to make a 37 yard field goal to give Northwestern the stunning 34-31 win.

Last week, after Nebraska lost to Michigan, Head coach Scott Frost told his players in the locker room at Michigan Stadium that “things can’t get any worse”, and their 56-10 loss to No. 19 Michigan could serve as a “watershed moment” for the program in its first year with a new coaching staff. When they were 0 -5, the Nebraska coach believed that the Cornhuskers had reached the bottom.

But then the bottom fell out, and they lost this heartbreaker to Northwestern to fall fo 0 – 6 for the first time in school history. It’s the worst start EVER for this storied football program.

Incredible. Just incredible. So, are we to feel sorry and compassionate for the Cornhuskers? Some say yes, but most, I surmise, would say no. They had their heyday, and now the mantle for winning big in college football has moved on the Southeastern Conference. The SEC touts such powerhouse schools such as Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia, just to name a few.  Ohio State and Michigan, two bragadocious, Big Ten schools, are still powers, so why not Nebraska? It’s a thousand things, none of which can be fixed in an instant. 

So let’s encourage Nebraska.  And let’s encourage all of our friends who are going through a tough time. Things will get better. Things HAVE to get better, right? They have to; they just have to.  Becasue life is like sports and sports are like life.  Trouble don’t last always. 

And always remenber; “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”