Category Archives: Basketball

Oh, Donald Sterling

by Sean Begin and Navindra Persaud

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling cast a dark shadow upon his team with racially charged remarks that he allegedly made, as first reported by TMZ.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” said the man alleged to be Sterling in the audio clip.

The comments were recorded by Sterling’s then-girlfriend and mistress, V. Stiviano, who is currently being sued for almost $2 million by Sterling’s wife for embezzlement.

Sterling also referred to NBA legend and former Los Angeles guard Magic Johnson in his comments. It was a photo of Johnson and Stiviano on her Instagram that sparked Sterling’s comments.

“Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me.  And don’t bring him to my games.”

In response to these remarks Johnson responded on Twitter saying “I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African-Americans.”

Johnson has said he and his wife will no longer be attending Clippers games in the future while Sterling remains owner.

These comments have naturally caused outrage amongst people involved with the NBA on every level, from owners and executives to players and the media who cover the sport.

The irony in this all is that Sterling is the owner of the Clippers whose entire success has been thanks to the players and coaches on the team, who are predominantly black. The NBA itself is an African-American dominant league, with over 70 percent of its players identifying as black.

If indeed the investigation proves that Sterling did make these comments (his side claims they are not him), he does not deserve to have a place in the league let alone own a team.

LeBron James, who is arguably the face of the NBA the same way Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan before him, spoke on the matter after his teams win over the Bobcats.

“I’ve wavered back and forth if I would actually sit out, if our owner came out and said the things that he said. I would really have to sit down with my teammates, talk to my family, because at the end of the day, our family and our teammates are way more important than that. But there’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There’s no room for him.”

It is easy to understand the frustration that Clippers players and others around the league have and the mental battle that they face having to decide whether they should play for an owner who would allegedly make such callous statements.

It was refreshing to hear that the Clippers continued to participate in Sunday’s game despite the remarks allegedly made by Sterling. Their silent protest came during the pregame shoot around, when they left their warm-ups at center court and wore regular red t-shirts. The Clippers fell to the Warriors 118-97, evening the series at two games each.

The entire scenario seemed to weigh heavy on the players during the game. There seemed to be a dark cloud hanging over the team. As the starters sat on the bench for the remainder of the day there was a look of utter despair.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a public statement calling the audio recordings disturbing and stating that the NBA will work to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.  Silver said that he would not discuss any moves towards punishment because all members of the NBA do in fact have a due process to state their side of the story.

Silver is just three months on the job, after taking over for David Stern, who served as commissioner for 30 years before retiring in January. This incident is an immediate test of his ability to exert control over the 30 owners who voted him in as commissioner.

What needs to be answered his why the league failed to acknowledge or sanction Sterling for his prior racist and actions and comments. The uproar now is justified but could have easily been avoided had owners made a stand previously. But since the Clippers for years were the laughing stock of the NBA, his actions were pushed aside and ignored.

Well, that cannot and will not be ignored any longer.

Even Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and notorious fence rider, condemned the comments Sterling made. The owners will have no choice but to try and force Sterling from his ownership. His comments are, after all, bad for business. And, for better or worse, money does talk. As of Monday evening, more than half a dozen companies had withdrawn their corporate sponsorship with the Clippers.

Its clear Sterling has no place in the league anymore. What’s clearer is Sterling shouldn’t have had a place in the league for years though. But when you consider the people who also own NBA teams – guys like Cavalier’s owner Dan Gilbert who made millions in mortgages while the economy collapsed or Magic owner Richard DeVos who has dumped millions of dollars into anti-gay marriage initiatives – you see a fraternity that has hidden on of their members.

While the words and attitudes expressed by Sterling are horrible and contemptible, it is not the first time his racism has surfaced nor is this nearly the most racist thing Sterling has done.

Sterling was sued by the federal government for housing discrimination back in 2003 with documents of his testimony surfacing in 2006. In those documents, Sterling said black people attract vermin and had no place living in his housing. He settled out of court, reportedly in the largest settlement in history over discrimination.

So while what Sterling said is reprehensible, this outrage should have surfaced over a decade ago. Housing discrimination can lead to incredible levels of violence: see Chicago in 2014, where people die every day over land and territory with little education or opportunity.

It’s time for Sterling to go, but its time for everyone to look at the larger problems, for once, and try and solve them, rather than lose their cool over some unsurprising comments made by an 81-year-old man.

Charlotte Shows Fight Against Defending Champs

By Navindra Persaud

The Miami Heat managed to hold off a fighting Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the NBA Playoffs Sunday, defeating them 99-88. The Bobcats, however, showed clear signs that the have the ability to take control in opening minutes, which could be threatening to the reigning NBA Champions.

Not only were the Miami Heat outrebounded but they also may have gotten a little help on the officiating end as the Bobcats had 12 free throw attempts while the Heat had 26, most of which came from, you guessed it, Heat guard Lebron James.

Charlotte, who have now fallen to the Heat a total of 17 times in a row, managed to out rebound the heat 44-38 in the game despite an injury sustained by their center Al Jefferson. Most of Miami’s rebounds came from center Chris Anderson and James who combined for 19 of Miami’s 38 boards.

Jefferson did return to the game and put together some quality minutes. He is quite capable of generating points in the paint and being a he defensive presence as well. He averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds this season and managed to score 18 points and grab 10 rebounds through 35 minutes, the majority of which were played with a plantar fasciitis injury.

The Bobcats also got help on the offensive end from guard Kemba Walker who provided 20 points, dished six assists and grabbed five rebounds. Walker provided not only offense but also a spark on the Bobcats that they seemed to ride as the game went on. Guard Gary Neal also provided 17 points and forward Josh McRoberts added 15 points and seven rebounds.

“We did some really good things today,” Walker said in an Associated Press interview. “We just have to keep executing throughout the game. We can’t get rattled.”

Clearly the Bobcats offense was clicking. However, the fact that the Heat got to the free throw line much more often is the major factor in their win over Charlotte. They were allotted more trips to the line providing an advantage to earn easy points. Perhaps this could be prevented if the Bobcats didn’t turn the ball over 13 times versus the Heats seven total.

The numbers are simple and the Bobcats should know exactly what adjustments they need to make. Jefferson told the Associated Press he does not plan on sitting out and should hopefully be able to fight through his injury to help the Bobcats win.

They will also need to find a way to neutralize Miami guard Dwayne Wade who, despite only playing 28 games out of precaution by the Heat, came back absolutely strong, finishing with 23 points and going 10-of-16 from the field and adding five assists.

Wades ability to penetrate the defense and get inside the paint for high percentage shots has always been key to the Miami Heat’s success prior to the arrival of James but when they both take the court the Bobcats need to figure out how to stop both from scoring rather than just concentrating on one of them.

Jefferson took care of Miami center Chris Bosh in the paint, holding Bosh to just four rebounds in the entire game. Bosh’s offense was also limited but he managed to score 13 points.

The pieces are there for the Bobcats and after a few minor adjustments fans should be prepared for a fight from Charlotte, who are making the playoffs for just the second time of the 10 years the franchise has been in the league.

With Playoffs Looming, Pacers Need to Find Offense

by Navindra Persaud

When the Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers last Friday, it showed quite a bit of weakness in the Pacers offense. As things stand, the Pacers are in the number two spot in the Eastern Conference but they will need to figure out a way to get past the offensive slump that they have been in lately.

There has been very little effective ball movement from the Pacers on the offensive end, and they are very fortunate to at least have the number two seed. They may survive the first round of the NBA playoffs, but may not make it out of the second round if they have to face the Chicago Bulls, who have really put together a stellar season, given the circumstances following Derrick Rose’s season ending injury and other ailing players.

Brian Windhorst said it best in his article for ESPN last Saturday: “All of it comes down to their struggle to execute such basic concepts like throwing entry passes, standing in the best spot or setting a screen that actually screens someone. There’s sloppiness and poor execution everywhere.”

It is hard to pinpoint whether the problem is with Frank Vogel’s coaching or simply just the players failing to understand, but he looked visibly upset with the way his offense was performing. Vogel stated in a post game interview for ESPN that he was still confident in the team and still believes that the team is in good shape.

Indiana guard Paul George, who finished the game against the Heat with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists in the loss also said that the team needs to be able to “prepare well.” He relied on the excuse that in the playoffs the team understands that it’s a clean slate and that they will be able to start fresh. Though this may be the case, the Pacers should worry about their offensive problems now in order to make a statement in the closing games of the regular season.

The Miami Heat have managed to show that they don’t plan on cruising out the remainder of the season and that is something the Pacers should strongly try to mimic. It would be in their best interest to start putting the fear in other teams in the Eastern Conference.

In the last 13 games that the Pacers have played they have only scored above 90 points four times. They managed to get through the season and just finding their offense at times, but streaky will not be enough to get them through the playoffs and into championship contention.

Fans also have to take into consideration that the Pacers struggled even with Miami guard Dwayne Wade sitting out of the game. With Miami’s full roster, the Pacers have to worry about Wade as another offensive threat that they will either need to match or eliminate by playing excellent on the defensive end.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chicago Bulls posed more of a threat to Miami than the Indiana Pacers do at this point because of their effective defense. While Indiana’s defense is decent, it is clearly not enough to offset a smooth offensive team like the Bulls have managed to be this season.

Paul George is a great scorer but he can not bear the load on his own, and so far this season starting point guard, George Hill, has only managed to average 10.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists. To have a point guard struggling as Hill wasn’t able to score against the Heat.

The Pacers are being a little bit too passive and they do not look like a team who is hungry enough to win the NBA championship. They need to whip themselves into shape as the regular season comes to a close.

Is the Media Jumping the Gun on Kyrie’s Career with the Cavaliers?

by Navindra Persaud

Last Friday, Cleveland Cavalier guard Kyrie Irving voiced his frustration over Twitter about the way the media has handled rumors of him possibly leaving the team.

“Sick to my stomach with all these rumors and accusations. Can I play without media guessing at my life and putting B.S out for headlines,” tweeted Irving after a loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Throughout the NBA regular season, rumors of his possible departure from the team have been circulating after he missed a total of 49 games due to injuries (broken nose, index finger and right hand, along with a bruised knee and, most recently, from a strain in his left bicep tendon).

Unfortunately for Irving, his injuries have not given him the opportunity to completely assume the role of one of the premier players in the NBA. However, the shades of that great No. 1 overall draft pick still show through: see the game against the Charlotte Bobcats last Saturday. Irving managed to score 44 points (his new career high) in just the third game since returning from a bicep injury.

“They’re writing reports, ‘Is he staying or is he going?’” Irving said, according to the Associated Press. “I mean that’s the last of my worries right now. It’s portraying me in a light and it’s bringing negativity to the team that I don’t want. Our focus right now and my focus right now is winning and trying to finish out the season strong. That’s where my focus has been and where it’s going to stay.”

Irving has repeatedly stated that he is happy in Cleveland despite reports such as Chad Ford’s statement via ESPN’s Chat with Chad Ford in which he stated that Irving had been saying that “he wants outs” in private conversations.

That is quite a bold statement to make. These private conversations are supposed to be, well, private. It’s why we haven’t heard other credible sources confirming this as well as Irving himself. It all seems like a he-said/they-said argument — the truth being completely lost in translation.

It seems as though Cleveland cannot escape the shadow of negativity when it comes to their franchise players staying with the team or not. The last time Cleveland was under the spotlight was just three seasons ago when Lebron James decided to “take his talents to South Beach.”

When Irving plays, he is quite effective. His ball handling skills enable him to slash to the basket or create crafty plays that leave defenders scratching their head after he has scored. Irving is still a player to be afraid of when he steps on the court; voicing his frustration is completely understandable.

Still, Cleveland has a chance to clinch a spot in the NBA playoffs but that will require the Atlanta Hawks to struggle and the Cavaliers to find it within their team to dominate the competition before the regular season ends on April 16th.

For now, the media should trust in what Irving says. His story has been consistent. Irving’s only concern seems to be with the team and their run to try to make it into the post season for a chance at NBA championship contention.

The Cavaliers are currently 10th in the NBA Eastern Conference with a record of 31-47 on the season. It is difficult to say that this record is due to Irving or to put any of the blame on him as a player. Neither the media nor Irving will be deciding his fate. It is up to the Cavaliers front office to assess his performance.

Everyone Loves an Underdog

by Navindra Persaud

Everyone loves a story of an underdog rising to the top while going through tough competition. These stories are what make the NCAA tournament so interesting and exciting for college basketball fans, and this year it happened to come from a place that many overlooked: Stephen F. Austin.

No, it’s not the name of a specific player, but the university that had the makings of a good ole Cinderella story. After defeating an excellent VCU team 77-75 in overtime two weeks ago, the SFA Lumberjacks began to make a statement for being a serious contender in the NCAA Tournament.

The 12th-seeded Lumberjacks were able to rally from a 10 point deficit to surpass the fifth-seeded VCU team in an upset which was sure to be sending already damaged brackets in a complete downward spiral.

“We lucked out. That’s March Madness at its best. It’s exhilarating,” said SFA guard Thomas Walkup about his team’s magical win, according to New York Times writer Billy Witz in his March 21 account of the game.

Having won 29 games in a row since losing to East Tennessee State University on November 23, SFA began to make me a believer as well. This team was not on my radar until I witnessed the spectacular comeback against VCU.

With a mere 3.9 seconds left in the game, guard Desmond Haymon drilled a three-pointer while drawing contact from VCU freshman guard JeQuan Lewis, creating a four point play that sent the game into overtime. Lewis’ foul served as an extremely costly mistake to his team, one that can only be explained as a “freshman mistake.”

The team showed incredible control and trust moving forward and it was that exact spirit that would be necessary to try and get past fourth-seeded UCLA Bruins. SFA was 45th in the country in points per game and needed to step up in that area if they expected to get past UCLA, who were 12th in scoring this season.

Unfortunately for the Lumberjacks, their tournament run was cut short as they lost to UCLA last Sunday 77-60 in the second round. However, looking back on the run that SFA had and the amount of games they needed to win in a row to make the tournament, their team proved yet again how excitingly unpredictable the NCAA tournament could be.

SFA brought what the NCAA Tournament is known for: excitement and upset. Year after year teams fight their way into the tournament, and though some of the best have made it to the end, there have also been many instances of upset, like Duke’s loss to Mercer this year in the first round (yet another bracket buster).

Though the Lumberjacks went out in the second round of the tournament, I saw remnants of the Florida Gulf Coast University team from the 2013 NCAA tournament. The 15th seeded FGC team made it to the Sweet Sixteen but fell short in the Elite Eight, losing to the University of Florida 62-60.

Teams like SFA and FGC display what the NCAA tournament is about: those nail-biting, shocking moments that leave fans of their respective teams holding their breath.

It also goes to show that anything can happen in the tournament; teams that no one gives a sliver of hope to are able to prove the nay-sayers wrong and where their run ends depends on their talent and drive.

Despite the loss to UCLA, SFA made quite the impact in the 2013-2014 NCAA Tournament, with the remainder of it shaping up to be yet another memorable championship.

On the Knicks, Phil and Melo

by Navindra Persaud

The New York Knicks have been under the rumor radar with speculation that Phil Jackson, one of the most decorated coaches in the NBA, could be joining the team’s front office.

This news comes as rumors of star forward Carmelo Anthony taking his talents elsewhere are buzzing around.

The Knicks have had an embarrassing season and are tied for 11th place in the Eastern Conference. This team will not be in playoff contention, and the nightmare could get even worse for fans if Anthony decides to part ways to free agency this offseason.

Owner James Dolan has reportedly offered “The Zen Master” an unspecified front office position, likely one that would give Jackson most, if not all, control of basketball operations.

Many might be asking why Jackson? He has a long history with the Knicks. He spent 10 years playing for them, helping the team earn their only two NBA championship rings. It is a place that he is familiar with, and an organization that needs a ton of help at this moment if they want to make New York basketball relevant again.

Jackson also has a decorated career as an NBA coach, winning a total of 11 NBA championships (five with the Los Angeles Lakers and six with the Chicago Bulls). He has also coached two of the greatest players to play in the NBA — Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

When it comes to winning, Jackson has plenty of success; his total career record stands at 1155-485. His wins come through being an intelligent coach and helping great players become better as a team. It is hard to say whether Jackson would be able to continue his success from an executive position, a role he has not filled before.

Certainly, with his knowledge of the game, Jackson would be able to make conscious decisions on how to build the Knicks by figuring out their strengths and weaknesses. One simply does not have success without being able to inform players on how to do so; therefore, the hope is that Jackson will be able to save the team from further years of embarrassment.

It could ultimately depend on what Anthony decides to do in free agency. Melo is the centerpiece for the team, as well as the center of any relevance that the team has had all season (just look at his 62-point game against the Charlotte Bobcats that made Knicks history). Anthony has shown improvement on and off the court, coming a long way from the brawl in 2006 against the Knicks while he was still with the Denver Nuggets.

If Anthony leaves, rather than heading into next season with a head start and knowing who they would build around, the Knicks would have to start a complete rebuilding process similar to what the Boston Celtics are going through this season. It would be in the Knicks’ best interest to try to keep Anthony in the organization to have a jump start on the process, rather than taking a few steps backward.

Anthony went on record with ESPN to say that, if he needed to, he would accept less money in order to attract bigger-named players to New York, in hopes of  a playoff run to capture an NBA title, one that has eluded him — unlike his fellow draft classman Lebron James and Dwayne Wade.

If Phil Jackson commits, and the Knicks can still hang on to Anthony, the potential for improvement is very high.