Toronto?  Kaw-Why!?

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Sometimes somethings just don’t make a whole lot of sense on paper. And sometimes somethings make less sense in reality. And Sometimes somethings weren’t even a good idea at the time. Hence is the Kawhi Leonard trade from San Antonio to Toronto. Yes, Toronto. That perennially great regular season team that can’t do a darn thing in the playoffs. Now they’ve essentially rented Kawhi for one year, because next year he’s a Free Agent. (And why does free agency cost so much?)

Toronto traded Kawhi for DeMar DeRozan, but “in the initial aftermath, reports came out indicating that neither of the star players involved were thrilled about the deal, and in fact Leonard had no interest in playing with the Raptors. However, it seems that Leonard has softened that stance a bit. According to a report from Bruce Arthur, the Raptors have had ‘positive’ talks with Leonard’s camp, and the star has shown no indication that he’ll holdout.

And so Kawhi Leonard finally got his wish. He’s no longer a member of the San Antonio Spurs. Only, the blockbuster trade that got him out of town sent him not to Los Angeles, but the polar opposite: Toronto. Early on Wednesday morning, the Spurs and Raptors swung a huge deal that sent Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors and DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick to the Spurs.

So again, the $25,000 question is “Why?” Why did the marriage between Kawhi and San Antonio, and more specifially between Kawhi and Greg Popovich, go so bad so fast? Why Toronto? And why do teams trade their best player to a team they don’t want to play for?

Sometimes somethings just don’t make sense. But for those who know and trust God, there is a silver lining. Romans 8:28 says that “And we know that all things work together for good for them who love God; to those who are called according to his purpose.” The Message Bible puts it this way:

That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Every detail is worked into something good. I don’t know what Kawhi’s spiritual status is, but I absolutely know mine. And that means that all of the bad and the ugly are working together for my good. Thank God. Job felt the same way. He went thorugh somethings that did not make sense. And without this promise, Job and I would have gone crazy a long time ago. So we hold to this promise, and all the while sing this old hymn, until our change comes:

We are tossed and driven
on the restless sea of time;
somber skies and howling tempests
oft succeed a bright sunshine;
in that land of perfect day,
when the mists are rolled away,
we will understand it better by and by.

Refrain:
By and by, when the morning comes,
when the saints of God are gathered home,
we’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome,
for we’ll understand it better by and by.

When You Get Down, You Don’t Have To Go Out

Curry Victorious

Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors were down by 22 points to the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio. Twenty Two Points! And yet they won by twelve, 110 to 98. That’s a 34 point swing. Talk about a turnaround! When they were down, they were mentally tough and physically smart and they didn’t let their circumstances dictate their destiny.

What could have been an ego bruising, pride damaging loss turned into a late season, message sending, thriller of a win ON THE ROAD for the Warriors. The Spurs were trying to send the first place Warriors a message. Instead, the golden boys from Golden State sent a gold leaf message of their own by erasing a disappointing deficit and turning it into a surprising surplus. 

The message to the rest of us and even to the best of us is loud and clear: if the Warriors can do it in sports, we can do it in life, too.

So always, always, always remember this: if you get way down, you don’t have to wither out. To mix sports metaphors, being down in the count doesn’t have to mean you can’t or won’t hit a homerun. Quite the contrary; being down is not the end. Staying down can mean the end, but we all know that down is not out.

We are destined to win. Even though disappointment and discouragement and setbacks and letdowns are a part of life, they are not the lot of life. The keyword here is “part.” They don’t make up the whole of living. Time is filled with swift transition. Peace like a river can attend your way one minute, and then sorrows like sea billows roll can rush in the next. But the key is our faith and our focus.

Just like Steph Curry and the Warriors have shown us, when you get down, don’t stay down. Keep your chin up and your hopes high. Watch your body language and check your facial expressions.  And when you have a down moment or a down day or a down season, just do like Mo Farah did last summer in the Olympics: get back up and get back going! https://godandsports.net/2016/08/13/note-from-mo-farah-get-back-up-and-get-back-going/ 

A good reminder is the poem from the unknown poet, who once gave us these encouraging words:

Don’t Quit

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

In Basketball, “TD” Stands for Timmy Duncan

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I know it’s time to blog about baseball and the boys of summer and the Olympic Trials and Tom Brady losing his latest appeal regarding “Deflate Gate,” but we must pause because due applause is fitting and proper for one of the all-time great basketball players of our time: Tim Duncan.

Timmy Duncan was solid and steady, sturdy and stable, dependable and reliable, night in and night out. He just came to play and got the job done. Game after game and season after season and championship after championship, Tim scored points and grabbed rebounds and blocked shots. He wasn’t flashy nor was he flamboyant. And thank God for that.

The New York Times reported that “Duncan’s retirement was as quiet as Kobe Bryant’s was colorful and protracted. The Spurs released a statement highlighting his achievements, but without a quotation from the player.” It speaks volumes to how unassuming and unpretentious this humble and yet heroic player was. And what a lesson for all the sports world to follow.

Thanks for 19 great seasons, Timmy. You were one of the best. And boy will we miss seeing you together with these guys. 

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Here’s the full New York Times article:

By VICTOR MATHER

“After 19 years and five championships with the San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan announced Monday morning that he would retire at age 40.

Duncan was an elite player on an excellent Spurs team for his entire career. The Spurs made the playoffs every year in his tenure, never with a winning percentage lower than .610, and won five titles, with Duncan the finals’ most valuable player in three of them. He also won the league M.V.P. Award twice.

A relative latecomer to basketball growing up in the Virgin Islands, the 6-foot-11 Duncan was initially a swimmer. He was the No. 1 pick in the N.B.A. draft after four years at Wake Forest. (The Spurs had the top pick as a result of a rare down season largely caused by an injury to David Robinson.) The player selected just after Duncan, Keith Van Horn, has been out of the league for a decade.

Duncan initially starred in a “twin towers” lineup with Robinson, winning two titles. After Robinson’s retirement in 2004, Duncan carried on as the team’s star, winning three more N.B.A. crowns, most recently in 2013-14 over the Miami Heat in LeBron James’s last year there.

Duncan’s low-key nature often kept him out of the spotlight, but the sheer force of his accomplishments pushes him onto just about every list of the greats.

Duncan ranks fifth in career blocked shots (3,020), sixth in rebounds (15,091), seventh in games played (1,392) and 14th in points (26,496).

Duncan’s playing time had gradually been reduced in recent years, and he had ceded his starring role on the Spurs to Kawhi Leonard. Though he started 60 of the 61 games he played this season, he hit career lows in just about every category. But he was an All-Star as recently as 2015.

Duncan’s retirement was as quiet as Kobe Bryant’s was colorful and protracted. The Spurs released a statement highlighting his achievements, but without a quotation from the player.”

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http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/sports/basketball/spurs-tim-duncan-retires-after-19-nba-seasons.html?_r=0

 

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?

Why Aren’t You Watching The NBA Playoffs? (2016 Edition)

Kevin-Durant-Russell-Westbrook-large-ChrisElise

I know that many of you don’t  really like basketball in general and detest the NBA in particular, but I’m telling you, if you aren’t watching the 2016 Playoffs, then shame on you. And that goes for me too.

The NBA Playoffs, for all they are not, are entertaining and intriguing and even inspiring. Yes, inspiring. The best player on the best team is out with an injury and yet his team hasn’t missed a beat. The Golden State Warriors are warlords on a war path en route to a 2nd Straight NBA Title. Or so it seems. So, no Steph? No problem! Clay Thompson and Draymond Green have stepped up to the plate and they’re hitting it out of the park, so to speak.

And in the other Western Conference series, the Oklahoma City Thunder got absolutely smashed in Game 1, 124- 92. Everybody, and I mean everybody didn’t see this coming. Not their humbling loss in Game one nor their exhilarating win in Game 2 (98 – 97). How do you lose by 32 points one night and then turn all the way around and win a nail biting thriller the next?

Their hero and soon to be free agent-leader Kevin Durant didn’t cry or wine or complain after the loss. He just came back and played Game 2 in the cauldron of the steamy AT&T Center with reckless abandon. And San Antonio is a place where the Spurs had lost only once this season — to the Warriors — the greatest regular-season team of all time, mind you.

So, for Durant and Westbrook and the Thunder to thunder back and win in San Antonio to tie the series when they did, how they did, the way they did, has got to be some sort of miracle. The win was instantly inspiring and encouraging and moving and motivating. And I didn’t even watch the game! But when I saw the final score, something in me just jumped up and basically broke down. I wanted to leap for joy and break down in tears all at the same time. OKC may have been down, but they’re not out.

It just goes to show that in sports and in life you can come back from the brink, and yes, even from the dead. When everyone and everybody everywhere puts you down and counts you out and  writes you off, and you STILL manage to mount a comeback and stage an upset and triumph in a turnaround, you know that Providence must be doing another great work.

Why Was I Doing My Taxes Instead of Watching Kobe Score 60 Points In His Last Home Game?, a.k.a., The NBA Now Stands for “Not Bad Anymore”

Kobe-Bryant-Last-game-in-the-NBA

I don’t have a good answer. I don’t. But my taxes are done and I don’t owe. That’s what matters. But I missed the game. Kobe’s LAST GAME! Seriously!? So . . .

The NBA is BACK! The Warriors broke the Bulls record for wins in a season, Steph Curry broke his own record for 3 Pointers in a season, and Kobe went out with a bang.

First, the Golden State Warriors have indeed made the NBA fun again. They play with pizazz and shoot with sass and pass with panache. They’re the golden team from the Golden State that is sitting on a golden goose of a future if they can keep this pace up. They’ve beaten the NBA’s best, and so the only drama for the playoffs is to see if San Antonio can give them a run in a seven game series or if Cleveland can in fact reach the Finals for the relished rematch we all rave to see.

Steph Curry, the darling denizen of the NBA’s elite echelon, is only 28 years old. He’s got more than a few good years left on those legs, and he can carry his team like only Mike and Kobe could (with an honorable mention to LeBron and Bird and “Magic” and of course Wilt “The Stilt” and Bill Russell). That said, His team won 73 games. Do they have it in them to win another title? That is the ONLY question. But it’s a question worth tuning in for to find the answer.

And finally, Kobe. Yes Kobe. His sayonara send-off tour got more press than his play, but his play ruled the day on the last night of his consummate and accomplished career. Kobe knocked down 60 – that’s right 60 – points in his final act at Staples Center. What a way to go. And I didn’t see it. But we went over that already. Anyway, Kobe couldn’t miss, and Utah couldn’t stop him, so we had one of the most epic and epochal ends to an ecstatic and euphoric 20-year career.

Kobe scored 33,643 points over 20 seasons, the third most all-time. He was surpassed only by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Hall of Famer Karl Malone. Mike came in at number four, and Wilt Chamberlain is No. 5 on the all-time points list. Not bad company. In fact, it’s rarified air indeed. AND, he scored the most points in his now legendary last game. In other words, Kobe scored more points in his last game than any other NBA player, EVER! By Far! And I missed the game! (As you can see, I’m still not over it yet). And so, like him or lump him, you cannot deny him his place in the annals of basketball lore.

So, the lesson is this: just when you think things are bad and bottoming out, here comes a Steph Curry to carry the League. Just when you think Kobe doesn’t care and the NBA is not relevant, you have records being ripped and story book endings being written. It just goes to show ya, the tango of sports and life are inseparable, not insufferable.

Chris Paul: Gutting It Out and Getting It Done

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Chris Paul hit the game winner. He hit the game winning shot with 1.0 second left in regulation to send Timmy Duncan and the defending champion San Antonio Spurs home packing. It was nip and tuck and back and forth and give and take the whole way, and it was probably the best NBA game I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Chris Paul and The Los Angeles Clippers accomplished the improbable, eliminating the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series with a 111-109 win Saturday, May 2, 2015 at Staples Center. Fitting for the series, the game came down to the final second. With one tick of a tock left on the clock and the game tied, 109-109, Chris Paul made an incredible, unbelievable, almost impossible, running jumper that banked high off of the glass with Tim Duncan and Danny Green in his face to give the Clippers the win.

Clippers Win Game 7

Chris Paul put in a gutsy, gamey, gritty performance as he played through an aching hamstring for most of the game. Essentially, Paul played on a bad leg and with one good “wheel” down the stretch. Paul played hurt, and gutted it out to get it done. Paul painted a powerful picture and presented a perfect performance in order to lead and pull and direct and drag and steer and strap his team on his back to cross the finish line first and secure the victory.

The Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs provided a near-perfect capper to their thrilling seven-game series. And let’s not forget that these same Clippers forced a Game 7 by avoiding elimination in Game 6 with a 102-96 win in San Antonio on Thursday. It was a fitting end to the past championships won by San Antonio, and perfect prelude to what the future may hold for Paul and The Clippers.

So “Go” Chris Paul. “Go” Blake Griffin.” Go” Doc Rivers. And “Go” Clippers. They’re broken the spell and jettisoned the jinx and hurled the hex that they’ve been living under for years: that they’re not good enough for the second-round of the playoffs and that they’re just a second fiddle team and a second row contender in the post season. The Clippers have only been in the playoffs four times, and only once have they made it past the first round. Now, they’re always the bridesmaid and never the bride no more.

And Paul gave us yet another pertinent portrait for our spiritual lives. Hurting and hobbled physically and smarting and smacking emotionally, Paul pulled off THE signature playoff win of his career. He probably shouldn’t have played, but there was no way Doc Rivers or anybody else could have held him down or held him back. He HAD to play, bad leg and all, and play he did. Paul played gallantly and valiantly and won the game to boot.

So now all they have to do handle Houston and riddle the Rockets. Good luck. Oops! We don’t believe in LUCK!