Westbrook Slams The Spurs, a.k.a. Can You Hear The Thunder Roll?

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

This year, more than any other year in recent memory, the NBA Playoffs are as unpredictable and un-scriptable and unforeseeable and undeterminable as could be. I mean, the twists and turns and bumps and bends in the road are enough to throw anybody off of their game. And that’s just like life. That’s why you play hard and play smart and trust and believe that all things will work together and work out for good (Romans 8:28).

Sometimes and oft times and most times you think the ball is going to bounce your way and you think that things are going to go your way and all of a sudden, out of the blue, you’re injured and break your hand or bust your knee and everything changes. Just like that. On the other hand, you could win when no one gave you a chance and you could defeat the favorite when they were supposed to blow you away, and just like that, you’re contending for a title.

Yes, King James is going to play in the Eastern Conference Finals, and yes, Stephen Curry is going to defend in the Western Conference Finals, but all in between we’ve had unbelievable and unpredictable results.

In the East, the Raptors and the Heat are playing Game 7 in Toronto tomorrow. And it’s anybody’s guess who will come out on top, as the Raptors look like champs one minute and chumps the next. So, if they get by Dwayne Wade and his band of boys from South Beach, there’s no tellin’ how they’ll fare against King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the next round. But the gift we really want to see under the tree is Wade and LeBron going head to head. But this year’s playoffs don’t seem to be in the giving mood.

More importantly, the LA Clippers are as snakebit as they come. I felt really bad for Chris Paul. I did. He and the Clippers just can’t seem to win in the playoffs. And the amount of injuries the Clippers dealt with in just one series was almost unthinkable; losing Chris Paul (hand) and Blake Griffin (quad) in Game 4, they could’ve phoned it in when their stars went down. Instead, the banged-up, beat up, severely depleted Clippers fought and scraped for every loose ball and every long rebound in an elimination Game 6 against the Portland Trailblazers, before eventually falling just short in the game, the series and the season in a 106-103 loss.

Then, to top it all off, the San Antonio Spurs lose in six games to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Who saw that comin’? The favored and fundamental Spurs fell from grace in six games, losing two games AT HOME, as Russell Westbrook and the 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant wouldn’t go down without a fight. And it turns out they were determined not to go down at all. The Spurs were supposed to win going away and set up a showdown with Curry and the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Oh well; there goes the script.

So who ya got? Can Curry carry his comrades past the plucky, perky, chirpy duo from the dustbowl destined to derail the destiny of the boy wonder? We all want Curry to win another title. It would be a shame to waste a record setting 73-wins season and not win another Championship, right?

But who could argue against a Kevin Durant/LeBron James Finals? Steph Curry could. So this is a tough one. If Curry loses, the basketball world will be voting and pulling and cheering for Durant to finally win the NBA Championship he so clearly and dearly desires and deserves. That’s why we play the games and keep score.

So tell me again – why aren’t you watching the NBA playoffs?

The Society We Live In

Dwyane-Wade-Wallpaper-69

Why Does Free Agency Cost So Much?

Free Agency costs too much.  For starters, Dwayne “D” Wade just re-signed with the Miami Heat for $20 mil. That’s twenty million dollars to play basketball for one year.  Regardless of injury or his declining ability, he gets paid. Twenty million dollars. Do you know how much 20 million dollars could buy? A lot.  A whole lot. But this is the society we live in. 

Free agency is not free. It costs. It costs our society and our civilization. It taxes and tolls and adds tension to our already stressed and strained, divided and dichotomous domain.  It continues to separate and segregate and isolate and insulate the upper echelon and the higher carillon from the lower and lesser and feebler and frailer amongst us. Because this is the society we live in.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. In sports, what we as a society pay professional athletes only seems to aggravate and exacerbate this devilish dualism.  The “haves” and the “have nots” continue to coexist along parallel paths that never cross or converge. We can spend what we will on what we want (athletes salaries) but can’t seem to find the money to pay for the things we need. And this is the society we live in.

The cost of free agency to the players who sign and savor these huge, overinflated and overabundant contracts is negligible to them. I like D. Wade. I do. And this is not about him, per se. It’s about the salaries of athletes and CEO’s and movie stars alike. Are they at fault for receiving or are we at fault for allowing such exorbitance and extravagance? Who is at fault when so many have so little and so few have so much?

Twenty million dollars to play basketball for one year.  This is the society we live in.

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I’m not hatin’. I’m just saying.

What’s Wrong With The NBA?

LeBron-James-Kevin-Durant-2014

What’s wrong with the NBA?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong. The Philadelphia 76ers are 0-10, and since I’m from Philly, that’s a BIG problem!  The Los Angeles Lakers are 1-9, and therefore all of LA Land is in meltdown.  The Oklahoma City Thunder are 3-8 (sans Kevin Durant, 2013 NBA MVP), and The Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers are 5-4. On the other hand, the Memphis Grizzlies are 10-1; the Toronto Raptors are 8-2; and the Washington Wizards are 7-2. Go figure. Age-old and perennial powerhouses are at the bottom of the heap, and wishful-thinking, wanna-be teams like the Wizards and Raptors (they were a good team a LONG time ago) are first place in their Division?  So what’s up with that?

LeBron James and Kevin Durant are what’s right with the NBA as they are the faces of the NBA franchise. One has won championships recently and the other is the reigning League MVP, but they can’t hold down the fort all by themselves. Durant is hurt and LeBron is back in Cleveland with a new team and new teammates who are trying to find themselves and figure it out.

What’s wrong with the NBA?  Who can watch these games?  It’s too early in the season to really pay attention, as most games end too late in the evening to stay up and watch. There’s too much competition from the NFL and college football, and there’s too little interest from middle-aged men like me to warrant any viable discussion about a bunch of overpaid, over privileged, over-hyped “kids” playing what amounts to a slowdown, one-on-one style of game with no “teamwork” in sight.

What’s wrong with the NBA? The great NBA legends of the game are long gone, such as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Willis Reed, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, John Havlicek, and of course, the greats from my generation such as Dr. J, Moses Malone, David Robinson, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isaiah Thomas, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Walton, George Gervin, and of course, Michael Jordan.   Without them, the game is just not the same.

So what’s right with the NBA? We still love the game and we will still watch, but not until after Christmas.  I mean, the regular season for the NBA is about as exciting and enthralling as watching paint dry. The new kids, such as Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose and of course LeBron James have charisma and chutzpah, but it’s just not the same as it was before. Many of the newbies in the League lack character and don’t have a reputation for being solid and stable people.

And many have a problem with Christianity as well, for just the same reasons. Many Christians lack muster and metal, moral fiber and spiritual muscle. The lack of integrity and veracity, legitimacy and authenticity turns people off. So, the challenge for Christians is to be true to the fundamentals and foundations, the nitty-gritty and nuts and bolts of our faith. 

I may be old-fashioned an old fuddy dud, but I believe that character still counts. I really don’t care how good you can play ball if you stink at playing the game of life.

PS: I thought this article (see below) spoke to why we as Christians are sometimes given the cold shoulder by unbelievers, because we should be willing and able to share our faith (the verb) with those who question and query our Faith (the noun).   Anybody?

Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make About Christians

Continue reading

There Is No “I” In Team

SHAQ-2000
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
Acts 2:1, KJV

Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal has a doctorate in education.  Go figure.  But he is best known as a huge former basketball all-star, and is mostly known for his size and stamina, standing 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall and weighing 325 pounds (147 kg).  Better known by his nickname “Shaq,” he was one of the heaviest and heftiest players ever to play in the NBA.

Throughout his 19-year career, O’Neal used his size and strength to overpower opponents for points and rebounds.  He won four NBA Championships; three consecutive with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and one with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in 2006. But for all of his hulk and bulk, Shaq could not win on his own. He knew the power of the team.

Shaq played on great teams, but great teams don’t just happen.  And scrumptious meals don’t cook themselves.  Just like custom cakes, winsome wins and triumphant triumphs are cooked and baked and good food is simmered and sautéed with only the best and finest of ingredients.

As big as he is, Shaq must know a little bit about good home cookin’, right? But how many know that good cooking doesn’t just happen?  And neither does winning.  All the right amounts and just the right components are required for success.

Shaq eloquently speaks about the ingredient of “team.”  Much has been made of his falling out with Kobe, and rightly so.  The team could not hold together when Shaq and Kobe were falling apart. And so Shaq went looking for another team, and he found another great team and another great teammate in Miami, where the blending of elements once again produced a championship team.

The ingredient of team is often overlooked and mostly undervalued.  Yes team is the sum of all the parts, but it is also the particular part that makes up the total sum.  You often hear commentators and coaches speak of teams as family or fraternity, and as a fierce fellowship of friends.  On the other hand, teams are not a fractured, frenzied fraction of foreigners who just so happen to be on the court or the field at the same time.  Unless a team is a bond of brothers, winning probably won’t happen, and winning really doesn’t matter.

Rarely is the component of a tried and true, great and genuine team stressed or even pressed.  It’s as if “teamwork” can just come along for the ride. Au contraire: teamwork must be driving the bus.  It seems that since teamwork is so vitally important, the necessity of a team working together must be mandated and made mandatory at the beginning of every season.

My loving wife is a great cook, along the lines of my mom and mother-in-law.  I, on the other hand, can barely boil water or toast bread. Well, maybe I’m not that bad, but you know what I mean. Likewise, some athletes don’t have a clue or give a hoot when it comes to playing on a championship team, or participating in a championship season. I, on the other hand, might not be a great cook, but I know what a good team looks like and I sure as heck know what a bad team looks like. And I think I know what it takes to build a team, and a winning team at that.

The spiritual tie is easy to make but hard to maintain. Together we stand; divided we fall. This truth applies across the board. Winning teams take chemistry and alchemy, symmetry and synergy and a whole lot of “the right place at the right time” kind of stuff.  So be a great teammate. Be a total team player. Put the team first, put others second, and put yourself last. And you will most certainly reap a ripe reward.

End Of An Era

Guest Blog from http://writersandhunters.com/

Spurs End of an Era
After the Heat got off to an 8-0 start last night, it made you wonder why Mario Chalmers was in the starting line up in Game 4. Having Lebron guard Tony Parker definitely slowed down the Spurs attack as well. As Mark Jackson said, “You take Chalmers out of the starting line up and you lose nothing, because LeBron can play any position on the floor”.

Spurs started the game 1-11. Kinda looked like they got sucker punched…

Lots of things going through my head at this point, most of all, can the Heat keep it up?

Well, then the Spurs went on a 12-0 run. Momentum shifted. Heat were up 29-22 after one, their 1st lead after the first quarter in the series, but believe it our not, I still had the feeling the Spurs were still in control. Mid way through the 2nd, it felt like the Heat were drifting back to their former selves. Wade missing easy buckets, Ray Allen dribbling the ball into the ground. Everyone staring at Lebron.

Spurs led 47-40 at the Half. This one was over. Fat lady was singing.

Almost four minutes had gone by and the Heat still hadn’t scored. For the record, I’m not a Miami Heat fan but a LeBron James fan. Love his game. It was pretty painful to watch a great player struggle on a mediocre team. But the King won’t get any sympathy. He’s still a two time champ and at 29, still has another 5 or 6 good years left in him.

The Spurs were without a doubt the best team in the league this year. Not even close.

I’m glad the best team won.

Lovers and Haters

 

 Hatorade

But if you hearken attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.                           Exodus 23:22, RSV

Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:19-21, RSV

LeBron James left Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals with 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter and with his team holding a seven point lead. After his departure, the Spurs went on a 21-7 run and won the game 110-95. With James, the Heat were on; but as the heat wore on, James, wore out.

Lest you think this is a LeBron fest, I’ll spare you after the NBA Finals. But for now, we focus on the focus of the basketball world; the condition of LeBron James and his Miami Heat. Will they or will they not win another title? The lovers vote yes, and the haters hope no. Some love him and some hate him; but like him or lump him, for now, he’s the center of our attention and the core of our consideration, as it pertains to the NBA Finals.

Only a select few celebrities and superstars have the leading and the following of LeBron James. The NBA list is short: Magic and Michael, Wilt and West, Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird are the ones from my and my father’s generation that come to mind. And of course there’s Dr. J, Allen Iverson and Moses Malone from Philly, but there on the list because they’re from or played for Philly.

LeBron James has left an indelible mark on the NBA. And so has Tim Duncan. But few players, just a select few, generate and germinate such love and hatred, such loathe and liking, such adoration and vilification as LeBron James. And that’s how we should be. We, as believers, are by definition, polarizing. People like us or hate us; they’re our friends or our enemies. They entreat us or envy us; it’s rarely if ever middle of the road.

Lovers should love their enemies because haters will hate even their friends. It’s that simple. Some people have it like that. My friend, who is pretty and smart and anointed, said she has haters. https://www.facebook.com/lesleyfrancisco Hard to believe, but it’s true. So she is handling her haters just as LeBron and the rest of us should, with grace.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss of espn.com said it well:

“If Tim Duncan suffers those cramps, it’s probably a footnote. When James suffers them, it’s a trial. Obviously, this is because few people have anything against the former, and many people have something against the latter. This moment is indicative of how, no matter how much he wins, James continues to play before a constituency that still harbors resentment toward him. The ranks can lessen a bit as the victories pile up.

The ranks can go dormant during championship parades. But the group is always there — waiting for situations such as this. Perhaps it’s the Jordan comparisons that have rankled a certain bloc of those who traffic in 90s nostalgia. Perhaps it’s also the legion of Kobe fans who would rather not see another perimeter player eclipse their favorite. That anxiety of comparison plays a role, but the dominant factor is probably a decision that’s in the past but continues to permeate the present. On the face of things, James’ relocation to Miami and the reaction that ensued could not be less like the man cramping up in the heat of battle. There are similar dynamics in play, though.

When James had millions waiting on his every televised word, it was illustrative of just how powerful a basketball force he was. When the Heat fell apart after James left the game, it was illustrative of just how powerful a basketball force he is.” Ethan Sherwood Strauss, espn.com http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/68792/lebrons-value-evident-in-absence

 

Revised King James Version: Achieving Greatest

King James Verson, Revised

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: Genesis 12:2, KJV

It is fairly debatable who the greatest basketball player of all time is. Michael? Kobe? Wilt? Magic? Bird? Take your pick. For the time being, the reigning “best of the best” award must go to Lebron. Like him or not, he has the chance to win his third NBA Championship in a row, and the evidence for the greatness of his highness is compelling. They don’t call Leborn King James for nothing.

It is fairly debatable which team was the best team in NBA history. Michael’s 72-10 Bulls certainly tops the list, but the 2014 Spurs are making a run for it. If they blunder against the Thunder, then the conversation is over. But if they do in fact win the Western Conference Championship and then go on to beat the Heat in the finals, well . . .

Right now, it’s fairly debatable who will win the NBA Championship. Lebron will have to revise his play from his career lot 7 points in Game 5. But whoever wins will be able to lay claim to basketball immortality. What is fairly debatable is how you rate yourself. Are you loud and proud or gentle and genteel? Are you gracious or gratuitous? Haughty or humble? Pompous or pleasant? There is a difference.

Achieving greatness is not accomplishing a single solitary feat, but enduring a multifaceted process. It’s not a step; it’s a journey, one step at a time. How about you? Are you on the road to greatness? Can you lay claim to greatness in you part of the world? Is your life an example of greatness?  

“Achieving” is a modifying verb, meaning it is always used with an object. Here, the object is greatness. Achieve means to bring to a successful end; carry through; accomplish; it also means to get or attain by effort; gain; obtain. We don’t achieve greatness; if anything, we are in the process of achieving greatness.

There is no debate on how to achieve spiritual greatness. In fact, we don’t achieve it or obtain it in and of ourselves; much rather, we are granted greatness. God told Abraham that He would MAKE him great or famous. Abraham was given the promise of being a great nation and having a great name. Abraham, for his part, had to do nothing. Nothing? Yes, nothing. All he had to do was to be.

There’s no debate that Abraham’s job was to be meek and modest, unassuming and unendearing, unpresumptuous and unpretentious. Abraham’s job was to walk humbly and live nobly, and to be poor in spirit and rich in faith. Yet doing and being are as opposite as night and day.

Our Lord said it best: “whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister.” The New Living Translation says “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” (Matt 20:26-28).

So in the final analysis, there is no debate. To achieve greatness before God is to demonstrate humility before man. The way to prominence is immanence. The way up is down, the way over is to go under. The Apostle Peter said “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.” In return, we can “cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about us.” (1 Peter 5:6-8, RSV)

If Lebron wants to be considered the best there ever was, he will have to give everything for his team and not hold back anything for himself. And same goes for us too.