Kawhi Leonard: 2019 NBA Champion & Finals MVP

Kawhi wins NBA Championship with Toronto

His hands are raised Heavenward, his eyes looking upward, his heart and soul certainly looking onward, all the while celebrating the moment inward,  Kawhi can now say “mission accomplished!”  How spiritual is that? Kawhi is the example of how we should be; our hands lifted up and our mouths filled with praise, celebrating the Victory.

Kawhi came to Toronto for one reason and one reason only — to win an NBA Title.  Done.    

Kawhi crushed and killed every living opponent that came a calling by playing lights out night in and night out. At times he played like a rabid wild animal, demanding the ball from friends and commanding the attention of his enemies. Most times he played consistently excellent and masterfully brilliant, dicing and slicing his way to nightly double doubles from game to game and from series to series as he led his new team to the NBA’s promised land.

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors, 114-110, in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, the last Game at Oracle Arena, sealing the first title in franchise history and claiming Canada’s first championship in a major American sports league since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.

Kawhi Leonard, who posted 22 points, six rebounds and three assists, was named Finals MVP for the second time in his career, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to win that award while representing multiple teams. The all-star forward, who sealed the title with three free throws in a surreal closing second, previously won in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs, who traded him to the Raptors last summer

Now, Kawhi can demand whatever he wants from whomever he wants. And now he’s got his newly stocked resume to back up every commanded penny. From his four bounce buzzer beater against the Sixers to win Game 7 of that series to overcoming and overpowering and overtaking Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals to outperforming and overwhelmingly whupping the defending champs, Kawhi and the Raptors earned every bit of this championship. Every bit.

On the other hand, we must mention and acknowledge the wounded Warriors. The hobbled and humbled defending champions fought like cornered canines but in the end it wasn’t enough.  In the end, anything and everything the Warriors did or even tried to do wasn’t enough. Even the injured Klay Thompson running back out of the tunnel onto the playing floor to shoot his two free throws wasn’t enough.  The weary and well-worn Warriors were well on their way to defeat long before Klay went down,  for the SECOND time. Physically dent and emotionally spent, the W’s were tired and they were beat long before the final buzzer sounded. Curry was not himself and the team was reduced to a shell of their former championship form. But fight they did.

Here’s how ESPN Senior Writer Ramona Shelburne put it:

“This season has been a war of attrition and attention for the Warriors. At times, the team seemed to be dragging itself along — too talented and proud to surrender, but too tired and injured to mount the kind of fight it has become known for.  Five straight years of breathing the same air with the same group of human beings can wear on the most gentle soul. Five years of doing that under the spotlight that accompanies being the best team in the NBA is when pipes start bursting.”

But surely we digress. This is Kawhi’s time. This is Kawhi’s moment. So Congrats to the Raptors who ripped Kawhi from San Antonio. Congrats to first year Coach Nick Nurse who came from out of nowhere to do what previous and banished head coach Dwane Casey couldn’t do. Speaking of Coach Nick Nurse, what about him? He’s got a feel good, upsets, comebacks and turnarounds story all of his own as well.

“Coach Nick Nurse’s team Toronto defeated Orlando, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Golden State in these playoffs. That means Nurse got his team past ones coached by Steve Clifford, Brett Brown, Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr. That foursome is about the toughest draw a first-year coach in the league could get in his maiden postseason voyage.

‘He’s one of the hardest-working coaches I’ve seen,” Raptors assistant Jamaal Magloire said during Toronto’s victory celebration after the title-clinching win. “When it comes to this team’s success, he deserves every bit of it.” Nurse played at Northern Iowa, started his coaching career there as an assistant and wound up becoming a head coach at Grand View when he was 23. He coached in Belgium and Britain. He won a pair of British Basketball League titles as a coach, in Birmingham in 1996 and London in ‘00, then got a couple of titles in what is now called the G League.

The second G League crown got Nurse noticed. He was at Rio Grande Valley, guided them to a title in 2013 and that’s when the Raptors called and wanted to talk to him about offense. They ended up hiring him as an assistant.” And the rest is history.

Finally, congratulations to this Raptors team that made it work. Kawhi’s teammates, from Pascal Siakam in Game 1 and certainly to Kyle Lowry Game 6 — with Serge Ibaka and Fred VanFleet and Marc Gasol mixed in between — they all pitched in. And whenever they would and wherever they could, each did their part, and it amounted to a total team win.

So always remember, it’s “Team, team, team;” that’s what it always takes to pull off a quantum victory  like this.


Oh Cananda!

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 Heart of a Champion: Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors Show Doggedness Without Durant

Steph Curry Scores 33 in 2nd Half
Steph Curry Scores 33 2nd half points after going scoreless for the first two quarters in an epic win over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semi-finals May 10, 2019

The Golden State Warriors just did it again. They beat the Houston Rockets to advance to the Western Conference Finals — again. That’s four times in the past five years. James Harden, Chris Paul, Coach D’Antoni and the rest of the Rockets did everything they possibly could to stop Steph and Klay and Igoudala, but all to no avail. The Warriors willed their way to a win on the road, in a hostile environment without their leading scorer (and best player) Kevin Durant.

It was a beauty to behold. It was improbable and next to impossible. But they did it, and they did it in incredible fashion. It took them everything they had, and just about every player they had as they employed their diversity. And Steph Cury had to overcome in game adversity as well. Steph, held to zero points in the first half, broke out for 33 points in the second frame and ripped the Rockets on their home court. Steph scored 23 points in the fourth quarter and 16 in the final five minutes. And it is worth noting that the ENTIRE Rockets team scored 16 points in the final five minutes of the game. Incredible.

Klay Thompson, the other half of the Warriors backcourt, was terrific throughout, finishing with 27 points while shooting 7-of-13 from 3-point range — including one that essentially sealed the win in the final minute. The Splash Brothers came through when it mattered most.

For their part, Houston was supposed to win at home, especially since Durant was injured and wasn’t even in the state of Texas for the game. Yet the Rockets state of play showed just how wounded they are. Yes they played hard, but it wasn’t enough. Yes they went toe to toe for three quarters, but they fell short, again. And yes they wanted to win, but why did they not have the will to win?

And that’s the difference between the Rockets and the Warriors, and between victims and victors and between chumps and champions. No offence to James Harden and Chris Paul; they are great future Hall of Fame players, but they lack the grit and the gumption to pull off and pull out a win when defeat is taunting them and they are face to face with the fear of failure.

The difference between these two groups is will. Will has power; that’s why we call it willpower. Dogged determination will move mountains and stops the mouths of lions. It speaks peace to the tempestuous storm, and settles the raging seas. It rebuilds ruined cities and restores the joy of our salvation. Will is akin to faith, and faith must be spoken, without hesitation or reservation.

Will is determination, and determination must be rooted in resolve. And nothing can uproot or dislodge or destroy a man or woman with a made up mind that knows they are destined to destroy the works of the devil. No hint of doubt or trace of fear should be found in a man or woman of destiny. The task may seem improbable or even be said to be impossible. But don’t delay or postpone or suspend your decision to believe God.

Say with me: “I will believe that what God has promised, He is able also to perform.”

A Young Lad Goes From Bad To Sad: The Markelle Fultz Story

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Markelle Fultz’s Future in Philly is Fairly Debatable

It’s not just bad — now it’s turned so, so sad for this young lad. The Markelle Fultz story in Philly has quickly gone wrong in a hurry. It’s not just bad, it’s really, really sad. It really is. First let’s talk about the bad.

It seemed like a good thing that Markelle Fultz was the No. One overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. The Philadelphia 76ers picked him because of his explosiveness, his ability to drive to the hoop, and most importantly, his ability to shoot the ball. But all that’s gone. Game over. This kid’s game is kaput, out the door and over and done with, or so it seems.

No one seems to be able to put their finger on it, but the thing we can point to is that this kid can’t shoot, he’s scared to drive, and his verve and his nerve have evaporated into thin air. AND, if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s lost his confidence. You can see it in his eyes.  Fultz has lost his sureness and his certainty and his assertiveness. In other words, Fultz has lost his faith.  And his loss of faith leads us to the sad part.

Markelle Fultz looked so good on paper as far as potential for the NBA was concerned.  He’s so young, but so gifted, that it doesn’t seem possible that he would be struggling like he is. In college Fultz was “a player who jumped off the page athletically and possessed creative scoring instincts and playmaking skills. Everyone everywhere held that Fultz would be the consensus among sports analysts to be the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft.”  But that was then, and this is now.

Now, “Markelle Fultz and the Philadelphia 76ers could be headed into an inevitable divorce after rumors circulated that the former No. 1 overall pick is no longer considered part of “The Process.” Fultz has been a huge disappointment since the 2018-19 NBA season started, and as of now, he remains on the sideline, dealing with shoulder and wrist injuries.” (Bleacher Report)

So what’s the lesson to be learned here? How can Fultz regain his faith and overcome his fears?  The same way you and I can: go back to what works.  Stop listening to the “experts” and the pundits and listen to the voice you hear from above that speaks to your inner man.

Fultz can get back and come back if he listens to what God says, and not what man says. And that’s what we need to do too.  God says that we are more than a conqueror through Him that loved us. God says that it’s not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit. God says that I’m the head and not the tail, above only and not beneath. God says that the enemy is under my feet, and that I’m healed by the wounds in his side. God says that one can chase a thousand, and two can put then thousand to flight.  God says that we are to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life!

So let’s say what God says.

 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

 Philippians 4:13  KJV

 

We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.

 2 Corinthians 3:4-6,  New Living Translation

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

The 76’ers Are Now The New “Beast in the East” — a.k.a., Who Wants To Bet That The Sixer’s Win The East?

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Jimmy Butler hits the game winner on the road in OT against the Charlotte Hornets, November 17, 2018

Here’s a note for Philadelphia 76er’s fans everywhere:  “Have no fear, Jimmy Butler is here!”  Not the question is this: with Butler, will the Sixers win the East? After what I saw last night, there’s no reason not to believe they can.  But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves;  let’s just start with Jimmy Butler and last night.

Did you see last night’s game? No? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. But I saw the highlights, and Jimmy “Bucket” Butler is as good as advertised.  Last night, in just his third game with his new team, Butler and the Philadelphia 76er’s defeated the Charlotte Hornets 122-119, in OT. hopefully, it is a healthy harbinger of what is to come with Butler and Embiid and Simmons playing together, who now make up the new “Beast in the East.”

Butler didn’t sink the potentially game winning basket at the end of regulation, but he did block Kemba Walker’s shot near the end of overtime. He also saved the ball from landing out-of-bounds, and THEN managed to sink the game winner from beyond the arc for a thrilling, last second, game winning three-point basket to the chagrin of everyone at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, but to the glee of every 76er’s fan anywhere.   

Despite a ridiculous game from Kemba Walker, Butler and the Sixers managed to pull another rabbit out of the hat.  Walker scorched the Sixers for a season high 60 points in one game, but he couldn’t seal the deal when it mattered most. Butler, on the other hand, had a mediocre game – he finished with 15 points — but he had the heroics when it mattered most and hammered the nail down on the coffin so that the Sixers put the Charlotte Hornets to bed for the third time this year. 

Once again, we see that a team can be impacted by just one player, for good or for ill.  Indeed, when it matters most, one man, or one woman, can make a difference.  And that’s the message:  you can make a difference. So stop saying that you’re only one person and that what you do doesn’t matter and that you’re small part doesn’t amount to much. Just stop it!  You can make a difference.

And what a difference Jimmy Butler is making. He’s glad to be in Philly, he genuinely enjoys playing with Embiid, Simmons, JJ and the gang, and he’s excited about what the future holds.  You just can’t put a dollar value on effort and hustle and guts. You just can’t.  And Butler brings all of that to the table, and some.

And so there you have it: after just three games, Jimmy Butler has proven that he’s worth his weight in gold as he has seamlessly sewn himself into the Philly fabric. Butler has made himself useful in more ways than one. Amen to that. 

And here’s to more to come.

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