Friday, 30 July 2010

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME

(Originally Published By Slamonline (06/19/10) http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2010/06/the-beautiful-game/)

BY TIM DAVID HARVEY

June 17, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02208180 Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (Top) and Boston Celtics' Rasheed Wallace (Bottom) struggle for a loose ball during the first half of game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 17 June 2010.
Let's take a look back at this years NBA Finals. OK, so Game 7 was ugly — Sam Cassell ugly — but there was still some beauty in it. Kind of like the old flame who wasn’t the prettiest of them all, but, looking back, there was just something about her.

After all the hype and build-up for the final game of the Playoffs some fans felt let down like the infamous Forum balloons of 1969. Game 7 may have not kept itself classy like San Diego but the scrappy nature gave us a finale that suited these storied franchises down to the ground.

Game 6 was a different story. A good, old fashioned blowout. A great statement game in the sense that the Lakers reaffirmed their position in a series that for the last two games where Celtic-dominated. It was also one of those useful game finishes where fans could leave early to avoid the gridlock. This is all well and good for a mid-season game but who really wants to see that in a Game 7? In the end of this series, just like with Joaquin Phoenix, a close shave was the only thing that was going to look good.

June 17, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02208201 Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant watches a loose ball go out against the Boston Celtics during the first half of game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 17 June 2010.


So after both opponents had traded blows, decade after decade, game after game for almost 60 years and six games, it all came down to the last quarter of a real drawn-out game. The competitive nature had been nurtured through the times and moments these two teams had been through and shared over the course of their historic rivalry. This rivalry heated up and intensified so much over an evenly matched series that it all boiled down to player’s nerves spilling over from what looked like a classic case of over-enthusiasm. Someone needed to find where Larry David was sitting.

This over-eagerness in some superstar players revealed their more human side. Mistakes where made and Shawn Bradley shots where thrown up. Statically speaking this looked like a Clippers/Nets exhibition. Fans looking for a reputable spread across the offensive box score would be disappointed, but those looking for true grit, determination and a clinic in defense wouldn’t be. With so much riding on the defining game some of the more confident players looked vulnerable. A player’s skill was almost a non issue to be thrown out the window. The winner on this night would be the team with more resolve.

LOS ANGELES, June 18, 2010 Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo (C) controls the ball during Game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals against Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, the United States, June 17, 2010. Los Angeles Lakers defeated Boston Celtics 83-79 and won NBA's Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy for the 16th time.

This made for compelling viewing; it was almost like watching a ‘next basket wins’ game on the streets or as one commentator said a wrestling match. The two teams where going at it minute after minute, quarter after quarter, round after round. The gloves where off and just like Ali’s ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ with Joe Frazier L.A. took everything the Celtics had on the chin until they wore Boston down and delivered the final knockout. The Lakers may not have been making the grades through the first three quarters but they finished strong like Mister Cee, and that’s what mattered. Sure the game wasn’t played extremely well but it was fought brilliantly.

There’s nothing glamorous about hustle but there is everything to be admired in the hard work that gets the job done. Maybe the Hollywood brethren in Staples weren’t excited by the basketball they were seeing, but it was necessary. Just like the Zen Master said, “it got the job done.” For the Lakers to finally overcome their nemesis they had to play like them. Another installment of ‘Showtime’ wouldn’t of worked, the Lakers had to put in more work than that and grind it out against Boston’s blue…excuse me, green collared approach. In doing this they finally got the monkey off their back. They finally beat the Celtics at their own game and even with all its bumps and bruises it was a beautiful game to.

Even amongst the grit and grime pretty plays could be found. For the Lakers, Fisher added some color to the game from his first open look to his last rainbow jumper. Whereas as far as the Celtics were concerned Garnett added his trademark ferocity from his opening ‘in control’ two hander (off a Rondo alley oop) to his ‘we’re still in this’ statement dunk late on.

June 17, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02208229 Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (L) Ray Allen (2L) Boston Celtics' Glen Davis (C) Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo 2R and Boston Celtics' Rasheed Wallace (R) regroup during the second quarter of the NBA Finals Game Seven at the Staples Center in Los Angeles California, USA 17 June 2010. The best of seven series is tied at 3 all.

When the ‘Big Three’ were tiring Rondo was throwing passes, scoring beautiful layups and draining threes in the clutch that breathed life in to the game. ‘The Truth’ and ‘Jesus’ still came up big, adding refreshingly wet jumpers in the middle of dry spells. Now that sounds like some good Basketball.

Pau Gasol’s 19 points and 18 boards came from hard work and determination. There were times where he made a mess around the cup but how he cleared the table more than wetted the fans appetite for more. The strength and the tenacity he displayed on the boards, the blocks and on second chance efforts showed that he’s come a long way since he last met the Celtics imposing frontcourt in the 2008 finals.

In the last Celtics/Lakers Finals, Pau may have appeared a little out his depth, but his passion this year for the Lakers was far from shallow. The Gasol glare, which after last year seems like a new, Laker tradition may be more scary than appealing but this is the type of love for the game that is sometimes lost on other players with that type of talent. That, however, is what separates good and great basketball players and winners and losers. In 2008 Gasol was weaker and it wasn’t so pretty to watch. Today, he’s much stronger and he’s never looked better.

The other difference maker for the Lakers brought immeasurable heart and charm to a so-called lackluster affair. Remember when Ron Artest was first signed by the Lakers, and he said the blame was on him if they didn’t win? Well, he was playing like a man of his word, responsible for his team’s success and how sweet it was to see and hear him go on about making that three off a Kobe pass? Now that’s entertainment.

June 17, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02208491 Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (C) shoots over Boston Celtics' Ray Allen (R) as Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett look on during the second half of game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 17 June 2010. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79 to win their 16th championships.

Kobe himself may not have played in this game like a series MVP but he still went hard. Those 23 points may look like that of a second or third option player but those last 10 came through strong drives and his ability to stay with his game. Kobe’s 6-24 may have been numbers John Starks guys are made of but once ‘The Mamba’ composed himself and slithered in to a rhythm the fourth quarter became a classical piece.

How often in the NBA Finals does the outcome come down to a Game 7? Well this is only the third time since 1990 and to those ‘80s babies who are edging that little bit closer to 30, you may not like to admit it but that was a long, long time ago. Even if some fans found the game hard to watch there was no denying this was a more definite ending to a normal NBA Finals. Now that’s the type of ending everyone wants to see. Years from now which Lakers series will be talked about more? This one, or their 4-0 sweep of the Nets?

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant hugs his father Joe Bryant as he holds the MVP trophy after the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Los Angeles, California June 17, 2010.   REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

A Game 7 was exactly what this chapter of the Celtics, Lakers needed especially after all the statement games that came beforehand, whether on a Christmas Day or mid-season Western Conference road trip. Would anyone really be satisfied if this clash didn’t come down to the last minutes of the last game? That was real drama that no build up commercial could truly evoke. This was where amazing was happening for real. Lil’ Wayne can attest to that, ‘Sorry LeBron. Get ‘em next year.’

It was clear toward the end of the third quarter that whoever won this game would really, truly deserve the title. After all the blood, sweat, tears (we see you Ron, Ron) and years the true victor was the team who stuck it out to the end and prevailed. Game 7 gave everyone a real competition and a true final game. The play on the court may have needed as much dolling up as Christina Aguilera received before she delivered the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ but the way the passion of the game was played out was more than just a good look.

THROUGH THE WIRE: NEWS (07/30/10)

Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh speaks to the media after finishing the NBA season in Toronto, April 15, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

"I play this game as hard as I can every time I step on the court. On the back of my jersey it says 'Bosh' ... The Boshes are hard workers. We have a lot of pride in what we do, in our jobs and in life." Chris Bosh.

Former Toronto Raptors franchise player Chris Bosh has hit back at comments from his old GM Bryan Colangelo that he 'quit' early last season. The recently acquired Miami forward insists that he put his "heart and soul" into his time with the team. Colangelo claims CB4 "checked out" early last season. Although Bosh refutes this claim it's clear he wont think about booking a reservation in Toronto anytime soon. Despite his former teams managers unfriendly comments, Bosh still considers the fantastic city of Toronto (where he spent 7 years) home. When he returns to the Air Canada Centre with his two new best pals next season we will see whether he will be given the same below freezing, frosty reception Vince Carter gets each year. Things are getting real cold up north this summer.

Speaking of the Raptors (and another disgruntled team left by this Miami Heat supergroup), the Cleveland Cavaliers have signed former Raptor Joey Graham. The electrifying player will provide a much needed spark that this team has obviously lost, but he is more of a highlight player than an impact one. The Cavs need to bulk up like Grahams arms if there going to fulfill owner Dan Gilbert's promise of overcoming Miami. Mo Willimas cant do it on his own.

The Boston Celtics however look to really challenge Miami. They are adding more and more depth in this free agent market. They've signed former Lakers, Nuggets and Rockets swingman Von Wafer. Who was last seen on the big stage sporting a Mohawk and lighting up the Lakers at times in the 09 playoffs. Von can score off the bench and is a good replacement for Tony Allen who was recently snapped up by the Memphis Grizzilies.

Apr. 02, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02102448 Los Angeles Lakers Shannon Brown claps his hands during late action against the Utah Jazz in Los Angeles, California, USA 02 April 2010. The Lakers beat the Jazz 106-92.

In other free agent news it's decision time for Shannon Brown. Will it be 'Team LA' or 'Team New York' for this Slam Dunk dynamo. The Lakers would love to retain this guy who gives them depth and a jolt of energy off the bench but New York would also benefit from his presence where their trying to re-invigorate Madison Square Garden basketball. For Brown he's got two of the biggest cities and markets to choose from. Will he feel the 'California Love' or adopt a 'New York State Of Mind'? Both cities would be dream destinations for anyone, but one definitely has a better 'Ring' to it.

The biggest free acquisition of the Knicks, Amare Stoudemire has been spending time in Israel exploring his Hebrew roots. He's getting in touch with his roots from his mother's side of the family. Stoudemire is with his girlfriend on a week long trip and is "soaking it all in". This will come in handy playing for his new Knick team in New York which has the biggest Jewish population in the United States. Amare has begun studying Hebrew and is posting phrases on his Twitter page. Bet your liking this Knicks free agent move even more now hey Jon Stewart?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

THROUGH THE WIRE: NEWS (07/29/10)

The basketball world is shocked and saddened by the tragic news of the death of Lorenzen Wright, a player with tremendous heart, ability and courage. Our thoughts are prayers are with his friends and family. R.I.P Lorenzen Wright.

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson (L) and Andrew Bynum watch team practice for Game 1 of the NBA Finals basketball series against the Boston Celtics in Los Angeles June 2, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

LA Lakers center Andrew Bynum has had successful surgery on his right knee this Wednesday. Unlike fellow teamate Kobe Bryant (Who also underwent knee surgery this week) Bynum will not be 100% for training camp. It is expected however that he will be back for the start of the regular season and hopefully the Lakers high-profile international preseason games in London and Barcelona. The Lakers will look to start this next season with their injury prone center ready in the quest for a three-peat.

Another favourite for the championship the Miami Heat stocked up once more as Eddie House re-upped with the team. A contract worth $2.8 million over two years ensured Eddie kept his 'House' a home in South Beach. The rest of this superstar Heat team seems to be taking shape.

In other free agent news Josh Howard signed a one year deal with the Washington Wizards who he played out last season with. The $4 mill that the Wiz put on the table is 'incentive' based and hopefully his talent alongside the addition of Kirk Hinrich can bring some light to this troubled franchise.

Jan 28, 2010 - Taiyuan, China - Two-time NBA All-star guard STEPHON MARBURY arrives to the city.

Stephon Marbury is keeping things democratic in China. Signing on for three more years to play there. Although things ended badly in what was once billed as legendary in his time with his hometown Knicks Steph seems to have managed to find himself a more stable home overseas. A company will also be set up to sell his range of sneakers and basketball apparel (hopefully still at their discounted prices, watch that exchange rate Steph). Marbury became a popular figure in China last year despite playing only 15 games for Shanxi Zhongyu. Wishing you well Steph.

A fan in Cleveland took in an Indians game but also decide to still show love for the Cavaliers former favourite son as he wore a LeBron James, Heat jersey to the game. Police had to escort the fan out of the arena as things turned ugly. The man, along with his female companion was jeered. He seemeed to love the attention however popping the Heat logo on his jersey like he'd dunked on the whole crowd as he left. Whether this impressed his date and worked in his favour remains to be seen however.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

R.I.P LORENZEN WRIGHT 1975-2010

Sad news today. Rest In Peace to Lorenzen Wright one of the greatest, hardest working and most consistent frontcourt players of the last 15 years. Thoughts and prayers with his family. May he always be remembered for not only his talent, dedication and memories on the court but also the good nature of his personality. He was 34 years old, taken too soon. He always gave his best so let us all remember him this way.

R.I.P. Lorenzen Wright 1975-2010

Jul 28, 2010 - Los Angeles, California, USA - Police in Collierville, Tennessee, are investigating the disappearance of a former professional basketball player and say 'there is a high level of concern' in the search to find him. LORENZEN WRIGHT, 34, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, has not been seen or heard from since July 18 when he visited his ex-wife and their children in Collierville, near Memphis, investigators said. PICTURED: NBA Basketball. 20 Dec 2004: Lorenzen Wright of the Memphis Grizzlies during the Grizzlies 82-72 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.

DEATH OF A DYNASTY?

BY TIM DAVID HARVEY

BEIJING, July 25, 2010 Chinese basketball star and Houston Rockets center Yao Ming takes part in the charity gala for Yao Foundation Charity Tour in Beijing, capital of China, July 23, 2010. The Yao Foundation charity fund-raising tour was initiated by Yao Ming with the purpose of helping Chinese children. The Yao Ming Foundation was established in 2008 in the aftermath of the earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

JUNE 26, 2002

It still seems like yesterday. With the 1st Pick in the Draft the Houston Rockets select Yao Ming. A wide smiled, 7 foot 6 high phenomenon received the news sitting on a chair in a place in China. No suit, no tie, he looked like he just came from practice. The moment looked more like a conversation on Skype than an internationally televised event. It was unique, just like Yao.

The world and Yao however were ready for the next Ming dynasty. There hadn't been a number one draft pick this compelling for years (and aside from 'The Chosen One' a year later), there hasn't been one since. There were great expectations but also reasonable doubts back on this draft day. The excitement on the other hand was undeniable; the whole of the NBA was watching and now so was the whole of China.

SOME EIGHT YEARS LATER

Today however it feels more like seven days have passed than more than seven years but as another 'Big' once said 'Things Done Changed'. It was all good just a week ago, or so it seems. Yao's been around for awhile, but it seems that between injuries, shedding 'soft' labels and constant questions we haven't appreciated him for that long. Now just like not knowing what you've got till it's gone a foot injury may call time on Yao before we truly receive him in his prime.

So while Yao's chronic foot injury lingers so will his decision on whether to retire or not. So once again Yao's career is shrouded with questions which tarnish the shine of what he's already achieved somewhat. Will he come back? Will he ever be the same? Is this it? This is a shame because just like in the beginning, the possible end of his career is taking this unsure direction. Ming however is much more than the speculation and talk that has come hand in hand with his development in the NBA.

Mar. 30, 2010 - Houston, United States - (100331) -- HOUSTON, March 31, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Yao Ming (L) and Shane Battier of Houston Rockets look on during the NBA game between Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards in Houston, south United States of America, March 30, 2010.

Even if Yao's career is more like Walton's or Sabonis' than Shaq's or Hakeem's what he has done for the sport of basketball let alone the NBA should never be put in question. Yao birthed a revolution of basketball in China and the rest of Asia. He has inspired kids to pick up a basketball which is one of the most influential things an athlete can ever do. His Rockets number 11 jersey is like Jordan's number 23 in China (Although McGrady did outsell him one year). His jersey even makes a 'blink and you'll miss it' cameo appearance in the new 'Karate Kid' movie. Speaking of 'The Karate Kid', Yao may be the biggest cultural icon from China since the legendary Jackie Chan.

Yao Ming carries the flag as he leads the Chinese Olympic team into the National Stadium, called the Bird's Nest, during the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing on August 8, 2008. The Summer Games will run through August 24, 2008. (UPI Photo/Pat Benic) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

Yao made travelling Houston Rockets fans out of people who probably wouldn't choose Houston as their first American holiday destination, (with all due respect to the beautiful city). From commercials, to skyscraper billboards and basketball hoops right next to ancient temples, Yao has ushered in change and made basketball a new tradition in his home country. His inspiration and positive influence has been huge and to be basic about it this guy has made so much money for his team, league and country. Money talks and what more can you say about all that Yao has earned, not only in his career but also in his young life so far.

The questions and doubts that cloaked the beginning of Yao's career where soon checked at the door. This boy has come a long way from his 0 point, 2 rebound debut, now proving he more than belongs with career averages of 19.1ppg and 9.3rpg. Sure he got dunked on by Kobe et al but he didn't get posterized like Shawn Bradley. He gave his good as he got, people remember the block, but Yao was more than a highlight reel, his game was complete. The real thing.

Ming would eventually dominate inside, dunking and rebounding with the authority some critics always thought Yao would never command. The only thing soft about this guy’s game is his touch. Able to shoot from distance and sky hook with authenticity. Even Yao's post moves are on point and pivot. Over the years he has developed some fine footwork courtesy of some 'Dream Shake' tutoring from Hakeem. The centre's play has garnered nearly as much attention as his massive celebrity has.

Good things always seem to have a habit of ending too soon and although Yao isn't gone for sure the mere prospect of him retiring echo's other short-lived great things associated with his career. Just like the hyped partnerships with Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady which offered some great moments but where taken away before their time.

Or just like how close his team was to knocking out the eventual champion Lakers in 2009 playoffs. With a strong team featuring Ron Artest, Luis Scola, Von Wafer and many more Houston could have gone all the way. In the end however Yao's foot put a stop to him and his team stepping any further. As Yao was taken to the locker room by trainers he protested and tried to walk back on to the floor. This showed another side of the mild-mannered, quiet warrior that is Yao. A side that is often overlooked and ignored, his heart, passion and desire for the game. In those few seconds you didn't need a chest thump or mean mug to see that. The Rockets could have taken off to their first championship. If they had Ming would have been the centerpiece of this.

Houston Rockets' Yao Ming (R) holds teammate Ron Artest back after Artest was ejected in the fourth quarter during Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinals with the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on May 6, 2009. The Lakers defeated the Rockets 111-98 to tie the best-of-seven series 1-1. (UPI Photo/Jim Ruymen) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

While Shaquille O'Neal was still in his prime Yao showed that he could more than hold his own. At the start of Yao's career he received a lot of hate from fans due to the amount of votes he received from China for the All-Star Game (which would Shaq's previously untouched starting position from the Western Conference team). As the years passed by however and Yao got better the hate turned to love. Once Shaq went East and both centres started and faced off in the All-Star game it was clear Yao belonged. Before Shaq's best years where behind him (You've still got it though daddy) and before injuries got the better of Yao these two bigs had some epic duels. It's a shame two of the last 'true' centers in the league (Aside from Dwight and Bynum) couldn't duke it out for longer.

Yao has also had the honor of representing his country in the Olympics. Today however he see's the chances of him leading the way to London in 2012 as, "Very small". The talent of Chinese basketball players is growing thanks to Yao and others; however guys like Yi Jianlian or former Laker Sun Yue haven't been enough. The national team lost embarrassingly to Iran in the Asian championships. Without Yao they are raw and in development, with him the Ming dynasty could result in more competitive basketball from China. Which would further enhance Yao's already King like royalty in China but more importantly it would help improve the development of basketball in China and China in basketball even more.

Apr. 14, 2010 - Houston, United States - (100415) -- HOUSTON, April 15, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Houston Rockets' Chinese player Yao Ming makes a statement that he feels terrible about the strong earthquake happened in the northwest China's Qinghai Province early Wednesday and he has set up a hotline to help North American Chinese residents reach family and friends in China and his Yao Ming Foundation will raise fund to help the survivals there before the NBA match between Rockets and Hornets in Houston, the United States, April 14, 2010..(Xinhua.

Times however are changing. It's hard to believe Yao is 30. Yao once lit the Olympic flame but now before 2012 Yao is stressing the importance of the torch being passed to a new flagship basketball player for China,”I'm 30. As an athlete, I am not the future of China basketball anymore.” The Rockets also remain grounded on Yao's situation recruiting tough centre Brad Miller for insurance.

Yao may not have played his last game as a Houston Rocket. He may have not even played his last game for China but it is evident that things are not looking good. Until we see him in uniform again or suited up at a press conference debate will rage over what will happen. One things for sure is that right now when or if he returns is anybody's guess, we just don't know. The fact that can't be doubted however is the unparalleled, positive influence Yao Ming has had on the centre position, the critic’s opinion of Asian basketball players and the influence of basketball in China. When looking at these factors the one thing that can be removed is...

?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

THE (REAL) LAST SHOT

(Originally Published By Slamonline 11/09/09 http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2009/09/the-real-last-shot/)

The part of MJ’s career most would like to forget… but shouldn’t.

Michael Jordan flanked by Wizards owner Abe Pollin (right) and minority owner Ted Leonis (left) smile for photographers during a press conference, Washington DC, January 19, 2000. Jordan who retired the previous year after leading the Chicago Bulls to a sixth NBA title, joined the struggling Washington Wizards as part-owner and head of basketball operations. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

June 14, 1998

Its Game 6 of the 1998, NBA Finals. The Chicago Bulls are down one point to the Utah Jazz; the score is 86-85. Its Utah’s possession and Karl Malone is facing off with Dennis Rodman (they have been physical all series long). Michael Jordan catches an opening and swats the ball away, this time the mailman failed to deliver.

The Greatest Player of All-Time takes the ball up court for what might be one of the greatest plays of all-time. Jordan has less than 10 seconds to claim victory — this is almost cinematic. He takes the ball to his right against poster-child Byron Russell, he crosses over, Byron stumbles to the ground, Jordan finds his spot, plants his feet, cocks, aims and POPS! Nothing but net and rich NBA history.

These are the moment’s basketball fans fiend for. Michael Jordan wins the 1998 NBA Championship for his Chicago Bulls with the last shot he will take before he retires from the game. The commentators were right: This is fitting.

September 25, 2001 | Three years, three months, 11 days later.

Michael Jordan announces his second comeback to the National Basketball Association. He joins the Washington Wizards. It turns out June 14 wouldn’t be the day of his last shot after all. This storybook career was about to add one more chapter.

The hype was out of this world. The Greatest Player of All-Time was back. The Babe Ruth of his time, like Muhammad Ali in the ’70s. Basketball purists and casual fans alike could not contain their excitement. This was it. Newspapers, television networks and radio stations couldn’t cover this story enough. This was Jordan’s moment. Suddenly the Kobe Bryants, Allen Iversons, Vince Carters and Latrell Sprewells had to take a back seat. The most talked about, watched, photographed basketball player of all-time was about to have all the talk, eyes and lenses focused back his way. It felt like ’95 all over again. The good, old days.

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 07:  NBA 97/98 CHICAGO BULLS; Michael JORDAN/CHICAGO BULLS  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Then, like the morning after, reality set in. It wasn’t just the jersey that MJ wore that felt unfamiliar. The game changed even if the name remained the same. An uninspiring debut, turmoil within his team, failed playoff runs and bad press. The once unstoppable Jordan was now being schooled by the same players who hung his posters on their walls when they were watching him growing up. Air Jordan was no longer throwing down facials on the regular, ‘his floorness’ was blowing open opportunities. Fans wanted new posters and new hops to imitate. They wanted a guy coming out of retirement and not missing a step. They didn’t want ‘Kingdom Come’; they wanted ‘American Gangster.’

Today, Michael Jordan enters the Hall of Fame for all the amazing things he did and all his classic moments with the Bulls. With all these great moments in Michael’s basketball library, there was no need for his two years in Washington. In fact they shouldn’t even be mentioned anymore… right?

Wrong.

Someone who’s given the world of basketball so much should be given a break. The man was pushing his 40s and victim of many niggling injuries. Michael Jordan may not have being breaking records, ankles and opponent’s hearts but one thing is for sure: He could still play. Basketball was his dance and he could still get down. It may be best that Jordan sticks to challenging the likes of Bill Murray and Justin Timberlake in golf these days but there was nothing wrong with his last comeback.

Understand if you don’t already know, Mike really is the most competitive basketball player ever. He refused to lose… period. All the losses he accumulated, which he never truly experienced this way before and all the times he showed rust or limitation he was humiliated. For Michael Jordan giving his best didn’t matter, anything short of being the best was shameful to him. Despite suddenly adopting a negative tag which he couldn’t cut off MJ endured the criticism and the humiliation and soldiered on. He carried on because he was that competitive; he always wanted to prove his worth and prove he could play.

3 Nov 2001:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Washington Wizards dishes the ball off to a teammate during first half action against the Philadelphia 76ers at the MCI Center in Washington DC. DIGITAL IMAGE.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 2001 NBAE.   Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images/NBAE

By some modern standards you’re only as good as your last game, shot or possession. Michael knew this and set this as his yardstick. Anybody who puts that much unattainable pressure on themselves deserves credit. This drive, this passion and this hunger (even after everything he already achieved) were the makeup of Michael Jordan. The characteristics still made him a potent threat as a player, even in his final two, struggle-filled seasons and may have made him a legend. His drive made him work from 7 a.m. in the morning ’til 11 p.m. at night; it’s this work that made him The Best of All-Time.

Michael still averaged around 20 ppg in his two years in the nation’s capital. He still put fans in seats and wowed them sometimes too. Jordan gave the players who idolized him the chance to play with or against him and all the fans that championed his legend the chance to see him play again. Michael’s return was necessary to scratch a basketball addict’s itch, but it was also a very selfless run. He risked his credibility and his legacy but also to gave the world a chance to see him one last time. This was MJ’s goodbye. To anyone who looks at this man’s comeback with cynicism, they should remember Michael donated all his salary to the relief fund for the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. All his salary. It doesn’t matter how rich he already is. How many professional sportsmen would really do that?

Forget about the groundwork ‘Floor Jordan’ put in, because even with the air knocked out of him, he still had nice hops. Forget about him being crossed over by the likes of Allen Iverson again, because sometimes when the floor general rallied his troops together they could beat the likes of the Lakers. Forget about Dikeme Mutombo’s laughter at MJ’s blown, open dunk at the All-Star Game. Instead remember his sick, two-handed block. Forget the numerous times he couldn’t hit 10 points and remember the time where he recorded 51 points at 38 years of age. Forget about the drama with Kwame Brown and remember the influence he has had on generations of players. Forget about not getting voted on as an All-Star starter and the unnecessary pressure everyone else put on Vince Carter. Instead reminisce Mike’s fade away, buzzer-beater in the 4th quarter (Come on now Kobe).

May 22, 2010 - Concord, North Carolina, U.S. - Former NBA star and owner of the Charlotte Bobcats MICHAEL JORDAN is introduced before the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.

Nobody’s perfect and even superstars and superheroes have weak spots. Superman has kryptonite and Michael Jordan had fluid in his knees. Rock stars die and movie stars get old. The things you cherished in childhood in time belong only to nostalgia. Time catches up with everyone eventually and sometimes it takes the best of them.

Michael’s Wizards days may not have a patch on the rich tapestry of his time with the Bulls but his tenure in DC was still an important and noteworthy part of his basketball legacy. Despite his exposed weaknesses and the bad press he still gave new memories to old and new fans alike. The slam dunking, three-peat, tongue out, and fade away days may have past but MJ still had something to give. He still showed how on some nights he could recapture the magic of the ‘90s. Jordan found new ways to score the basketball and win games when his body and his age wouldn’t allow him to do it the way he used to. Michael showed even when his back was against the wall and everyone was against him he could still hold his own.

Apr. 18, 2010 - Orlando, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - epa02123405 Orlando Magic owner and former NBA player Michael Jordan (L) and former NFL player Ahmad Rashad (R) watch the Magic take on the Charlotte Bobcats during Game One of the First Round of the NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida, USA, 18 April 2010.

April 16, 2003

The final curtain is about to be drawn for the finest basketball player to ever grace this stage. The Washington Wizards are playing the Philadelphia 76ers but their playoff hopes have already disappeared in the rear-view. It just didn’t feel right to see a legend in his farewell, riding the pine in the 3rd quarter with just 13 points. Chants from the home fans of Philadelphia overshadow the game itself.

The veteran, shooting guard’s number is called. ‘Into the game Number 23, Michael Jordan’. With less than two minutes to go MJ is fouled intentionally, let’s end this right. To the charity stripe he goes, sinking the first free throw. The home fans aren’t distracting the opposing teams player this time. All 21,257 eyes rest on Mike. He bounces the ball once, twice, follows the same, old routine, spinning the ball threw his fingers. Mike sets it up, aims and follows through, it’s all twine. He backpedals down the court, with a smile one last time.

There is a break in play and he walks to the bench to a three-minute standing ovation. MJ hugs his coaches and his teammates, he acknowledges the crowd and sits down. He drinks it all in because this is his moment. He nods repeatedly with satisfaction, turns around, stands up and acknowledges the crowd one last time. Now he’s saying thank you.

… and that was the last shot.

Monday, 26 July 2010

THE WAKE UP SHOW

BY TIM DAVID HARVEY

Mar. 23, 2010 - New York - (100324) -- NEW YORK, March 24, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Tracy McGrady (C) of New York Knicks shoots as Arron Afflalo (L) and Carmelo Anthony of Denver Nuggets defend in their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York March 23, 2010. Knicks won 109-104. (Xinhua/Shen Hong.


It aint hard to tell when the shine from a star player in the NBA starts to tarnish. Their jerseys go from filling everyone’s wardrobes to lining discount rails. Their names go out from rappers mouths to the keystrokes of a negative blog. Tracy McGrady is an example of a guy who's gone from being talked about in households and barbershops to becoming a mere afterthought. Jay-Z's no longer talking about "banging like T-Mac" instead he's "paying Dwyane Wade". T-Mac’s end of season trade to the Knicks saw him playing in the Mecca of basketball. In his contract year in the Big Apple however he found it difficult breaking through to the team’s core? Now Tracy’s free, but for how long?

Tracy's career to this point has been a mix of defining moment highlights and great expectations turned into sour disappointment. This however isn't something that is his fault. He has suffered the type of niggling injuries that can be career ending or devastating to a star player’s legacy. There are players that stay strong and consistent through their careers like Reggie Miller and then there are the guys like Penny Hardaway, which (to no fault of their own) could have been so much more if they lasted longer.

Tracy was right there with guys like Kobe and Vince Carter as an heir apparent to Jordan’s throne. Nowadays however the baton of star status has been passed to the likes of Lebron, Wade and Melo. It doesn't seem long at all since Tracy’s was shining in the limelight but it’s been many years since he's been a perennial player in this league. Tracy’s 'commercial' success had him on many billboards and television screens. His swagger was Mick Jagger when he was featured in an 'Adidas' advert showing how dominant he was. A vast array of offensive firepower where on display to the soundtrack of Baby and The Clipse. Fast forward to today and fans are left thinking 'What happened to that boy'? T-Mac isn't as high profile as he was or featuring in as many commercials as he once did.

We've gotten out of our seats when we've seen Tracy dish the ball off the glass to himself for a dunk but we've also looked in disbelief as he blocked his own lay up against Milwaukee some years back. We've been amazed as he dropped 13 points in 33 seconds against San Antonio, but we've also felt the pain of yet another first round playoff loss, as we witnessed the speechless press conference where McGrady's tears said it all. Although these tears may have garnered more laughter then sympathy was this really the emotions of a cry-baby or a player truly driven to do more?

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - AUGUST 31:  ***PUERTO RICO OUT***INTERNET OUT***  Jermaine O'Neal #7, Tracy McGrady #6 and Vince Carter #8 of the USA sit on the bench as the USA plays against Argentina during the gold Medal game of the Athens Olympic Qualifying Basketball Tournament of the Americas on August 31, 2003 at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using  this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jose Jimenez/Primera/Getty Images)

Tracy's journey to the top began up north with his cousin Vince Carter in Toronto. If people couldn't see the rise of these two guys in Canada then they certainly saw what they were both capable of in the electrifying year 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. The future stars of basketball never looked more exciting. This partnership (although rooted in kin) wasn't destined to last however and Tracy was off to much hotter climates in Florida.

At Orlando the initial hype of McGrady teaming up with Grant Hill was immense. People were talking dominance and rings. Unfortunately though Hill was another elite player who's career would be dominated by more time on the chilling list then the court.

Tracy's one-two punch with Yao Ming in Houston lasted a bit longer. McGrady was an upgrade from Steve Francis and Yao and Mac's styles looked to compliment each other similar to the way Shaq and Kobe's did in the Lakers three peat years. This Houston team set out to dominate for the first time since the dream shake left the building. Then injuries yet again seriously reduced the amount of time this partnership had to develop.

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  Yao Ming #11 and Tracy McGrady #1 of the Houston Rockets look on at the end of the game against the Golden State Warriors  November 29, 2007 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. The Warriors beat the Rockets 113-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Following this, younger players began to develop, rounding out Houston into a better team. Then with the addition of guys like Trevor Ariza it seemed these Rockets didn't need as much Mac as before to propel them further. This league is fast paced, slow down and you'll be taken over. This is a business plain and simple and if players are not always around then they can quickly be forgotten. This is what happens when you only play an injury-ravaged 35 games last season, despite averaging a more than solid 15.6ppg, 5.0apg and 4.4rpg. Even if all Tracy wanted to do was get down to business last season his year ended up being all suit and tie.

Tracy Houston problems continued this season with his knee, disputes over when he'd return and lower averages across the board (3.2ppg, 0.8rpg, 1.0apg). The last time Mac suited up in red and white was December 23rd and the last time he went up against big competition was when he was torched for 11 points in 7 and a half minutes by Carmelo Anthony. That baton wasn't about to be passed back anytime soon.

So the only thing that then changed hands was McGrady. At the trade deadline Tracy was part of a 3 team, 9 player blockbuster that sent him to New York. Once again- just like old times- everyone was watching. The Knicks needed a star of McGrady's stature to liberate themselves and McGrady needed some redemption himself. The problem though with Tracy’s history of injuries is whether that ‘star power’ was still in the tank or in the rear-view. Questions are being asked of what he could still do. There was no doubt in those sleepy eyes of McGrady during his Knick debut against Oklahoma however. He was all Kanye West, 'Graduation', track 3. Despite his injuries he took the ball to the rack hard, several times over. He also swooped in for a classic, sweet reverse layup that never gets old. His jumper looked good and so did his confidence as he flexed his muscles and rubbed his fingers in celebration. He even hit a crunch time shot with 1:34 to go in the 4th. It didn't ice the game because the Knicks got froze out, but Tracy still looked good in the clutch. So despite playing on the losing team Tracy won over a couple of naysayers on his way to 23 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists in 32 minutes of burn.

Since then he averaged a respectable 8.2ppg, 3.10rpg, and 3.3apg for the Knicks, numbers that may not be on the level of the player he used to be but recognise that he was still getting his feet wet at a new ball club after spending extended time on the injury list. The NBA may not have seen all Mac can still do as of yet. Injuries are still a problem now however as T-Mac's lingering knee trouble kept him on day to day and on the pine more then it did on the court during his last days as a Knick. The positive sign however was that when Tracy was on the court he playing hard. Just like when he went for 23 points in 25 minutes. So Trace is still a guy who can drop 20 on any given night, just imagine if he ever gets back to 100%.

Forget about imagining it because Tracy could be receiving a full time gig for next season. After working out for the Chicago Bulls recently Mac could be back. A strong team with talent in depth is exactly what Trace needs at this point in his career. As for Chicago, they could use the experience of a big time player, with big game experience, could T-Mac be the perfect fit?

Don’t Sleep!

BRITISH INTELLIGENCE

(Orginally Published by BasketballBuzz http://basketballbuzz.ca/international/british-intelligence/link/2101/)

Basketball - Great Britain Basketball Training - The O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, London - 5/9/08..Great Britain's Luol Deng before training Photo via Newscom

In the FIFA World Cup this year neither England or the USA impressed that much. When the two nations faced off with each other they drew. What can be taken from this campaign is that England could have certainly played better and the USA are definitly getting better. A couple years back however this would have been a different story. So these days’ clich├ęs may not have completely worn off but there certainly getting old. Americans can play football and Englishman can ball.

Believe it or not but it's true, neither country may be dominating these respective sports but they are definitely improving fast. The English basketball league is improving by the year and the recent champions the Everton Tigers (Under the same umbrella as the football team Everton) even made it into American basketball magazine 'SLAM'.

The big focus in the UK however is the national side 'Team GB'. Especially with the next Olympic Games being held in London in 2012. The team is looking very strong right now with a decent pool of talent. This team has come a long way from the days when their most famous player was John Amaechi, who over recent years has become more infamous for his 'coming out' book rather than the talents he had as a player. Thankfully these days the reason British basketball is getting exposure is due to what is happening on court.

Basketball - Great Britain Basketball Team Training - The O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX - 5/9/08..Great Britain's Luol Deng during training Photo via Newscom

The talent is leaving fans drooling at the mouth more than Beethoven (the dog from the movies, not the composer) and Glen Davis combined. The anticipation is so big that the team’s official webpage is named www.gameongb.com. The reason that this anticipation is so high could have something to do with the fact that the team features two prominent NBA stars who have declared that they will play for both club and country, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon.

These are two guys that are not only former teammates and players experienced in winning big games they are also real, developed talent. They are guys that Team GB doesn’t have to wait on; they are already big time contributors. Gone are the days where British fans would hang on to the little British ties stars had like Steve Nash's family roots or the fact that Ray Allen spent time in Ipswich. British basketball finally has its cover stars.

Luol Deng, born in Wau, Sudan but of British nationality after emigrating to Brixton has been the 'new' poster boy of British basketball for some time now. He has climbed up the Chicago Bulls ranks past players who at first where seen as guys who would leave this dynamic forward languishing on the bench. He has spent year after year in the NBA whilst withstanding consuming injury and international duty to craft himself as one of the top tier talents in this league in scoring and all, round play. He even spearheaded last years NBA Europe Live exhibition game featuring his then victorious Chicago Bulls against the Utah Jazz in London. In this game he displayed his talents and leadership for not only his team but his country. He did this in front of his hometown fans from Brixton and other corners of London and the whole world watching on TV.

March 12 2010: Detroit Pistons' Ben Gordon (7) during the NBA basketball game between the Washington Wizards and Detroit Piston at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Ben Gordon, who was Born in Britain and has dual citizenship with the US may no longer be playing alongside Luol in Chicago but the experience he garnered doing this will pay off in dividends for him and his former running mate and more importantly his national side. Ben was a big time player in the Chi. He was and still is quick, clutch and savvy. Alongside Deng Gordon was one of the Bulls premier go to guys leading the stampede. His charges included making dangerously deep shots and forceful aggression at the basket. Even in his rookie year Gordon was so hot that Chicago was almost declaring that there was a new Benny the Bull in town. Ben's college experience with the University of Connecticut’s NCAA Championship team gave him veteran confidence in his first year. We all remember his teardrop against the Knicks. These days Ben has been given the responsibility as one if the main Pistons motoring forward the new, rebuilt Detroit franchise. The location may have changed but the game hasn't. Ben Gordon is still one of the freshest, developing talents in the league.

So in this Team GB set Luol will be the 'franchise' guy leading the way on the court and in the team’s heart. Ben will be more than 'the other guy' or 'the co-pilot'. He'll be the big time scorer and more importantly the clutch player, which in international competition against talented teams such as Spain and Argentina could be decisive.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - SEPTEMBER 3: (ISRAEL OUT) Pops Mensah Bonsu of Great Britain goes to the basket during the EuroBasket 2009 qualifier match between Israel and Great Britain on September 3, 2008 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Team GB's talents don't just begin and end with Deng and Gordon however. The talent derived from the national basketball organizations of England, Scotland and Wales is full of young, hungry ballers. Ballers like Tottenham born; former Toronto Raptors versatile forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu and swingman Andrew Sullivan. Head Coach Chris Finch and his assistants Tony Garbelotto, Tim Lewis and Nick Nurse have there sights set on a new beginning for a team who only ever made the Olympics once in 1948. The interesting thing about this team is that even as the host nation for the 2012 Olympics their place isn't guaranteed. They have to prove their competitiveness to FIBA, the international basketball federation. From the looks of things this team looks ready to prove themselves.

The Eurobasket 2011 qualifiers this August will prove a big enough stage for this British team to prove if they are worthy enough for the European stage let alone the world, Olympic stage. Lead by two NBA go to guys with renewed focus and motivation behind them this team looks ready to given it everything they have. Which, by the looks of it appears to be a lot more than most people think.

COURTESY, PROFESSIONALISM, RESPECT

(Originaly Published By BasketballBuzz: http://basketballbuzz.ca/nba/derek-fisher-courtesy-professionalism-respect/link/2069/)

Jun. 09, 2010 - Boston, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - epa02194204 Los Angeles Lakers player Derek Fisher during press conference the day after game three of the NBA Finals at TD Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 09 June 2010. The Los Angeles Lakers lead the series at 2-1 for the best of seven games.

True sportsmen are hard to find in today’s game of basketball. This is especially true when coverage is dominated by heavily rotated highlight reels. Ok, there’s not much that beats alley-oops and baseline reverse slams but what about the fundamentals of the true warriors of the game? Those who don't make the top ten plays of the week but instead possess something deeper. Derek Fisher shows us how much he embodies all the aspects of being true to the definition of sportsmanship.

sportsmanship
n : fairness in following the rules of the game

You can't call yourself a basketball fan if the figure '0.4' doesn't register in your mental encyclopaedia of historic NBA Playoff moments. There's not a lot of things you can do in 0.4 seconds (you can barely even bounce a basketball) but that was all Lakers guard Derek Fisher needed in the postseason of 2004. Just four-tenths of a second to break the playoff run and hearts of the San Antonio Spurs. Less than half a second to lift his written off Los Angeles team to the NBA finals. He did all this with a beautiful turnaround, fade away J off an inbounds pass from Hall of Fame candidate Gary Payton. This was Derek's hall of fame moment though. Catch, turn, shoot, BANG! With that Swish Derek went from respected role player to among other things, "The Fish that saved L.A.". I bet he's glad that name didn't stick. From now on just call him 'Mr. 0.4'.

Just one heroic moment for a seldom known role player right? Wrong! This is the same guy who's been a playoff hero year after year. The same guy who averaged double digits in points in three consecutive seasons whilst having to share the ball with two guys who had enough trouble sharing the limelight. The same guy taken with the 24th pick out of Little Rock, Arkansas. The same guy who's practice coupled with his workout regime keeps him as fresh and strong as he was when he first entered the L with Kobe almost 14 unbelievable years back. The same guy who maintains this high level even after suffering two stress fractures to his foot. The same guy who in playoff runs was a killer in the clutch like the Lakers Horry. Keeping his teams hopes alive shot after shot, charge after charge, big play after big play. The same guy looking these finals to do what countless other star NBA players haven’t, fill an entire hand full of rings. Spurs purists will also be heartbroken every time they remember Derek taking over quarters, wetting so many three pointers with marksman like precision. Shooting the lights out to an NBA record 15 three pointers in the 4 game 2001 Western Conference semi-finals sweep. Philadelphia 76er fans wish they could forget the Finals, Game 5, deep dagger three from D-Fish which sank along with their hearts and hopes of championship glory back in 2001. The normally reserved Derek with an assassins look on his face put his finger on his lips signalling the home crowd to be silent after that shot. The city of brotherly love had nothing more to say. Respect paid.

Fast forward a couple of 365's and Derek was still that reliable point guard but like November 4th change can happen and Derek Fisher was part of the death of a dynasty in LA. Kobe remained but his reported on off relationship with Shaquille O’Neal ran its course when the diesel fuelled up and took a trip back down to Florida. This was the biggest news story but all good Hollywood stories have sub-plots and Shaq wasn't the only one who said goodbye to Hollywood. The Zen was gone, Karl Malone retired along with Rick Fox and Gary Payton was traded. In all this mess as per usual things were said and stories emerged. Shaq and others were quick to let their feelings about Kobe and the management be known. Even the mailman delivered some barbs Bryant’s way. However amongst all these dramatic exits and gossip column worthy quotes, one guy who's loss would effect the Lakers just as much as many of the others remained quiet. Derek Fisher just went on his way. Fisher showed something the other players didn't…

May 25, 2010 - Phoenix, ARIZONA, UNITED STATES - epa02173301 Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher (R) looses the ball as Phoenix Suns' Channing Frye defends during the second half of game four of the NBA Western Conference basketball finals at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, 25 May 2010. The western conference champions will face the eastern conference champions in the NBA finals. The Suns defeated the Lakers 115-106 to even the series 2-2.

Courtesy.

Fisher went north to Golden State. The Oakland team put $22 million on the table so they could pride themselves on having a real Golden State Warrior. Although he struggled at first he improved when Baron Davis took the reigns of the Warriors. This freed Fish up to be the player he is, always having his star man’s back. This resulted in Derek's best offensive season averaging 13ppg. He was still making those trademark spot up jumpers, he was still drawing fouls. Those huge plays that win ball games.

Then it was off to Salt Lake City were like with any good Jazz piece, Fish knew his role well, and with perfect harmony bought his own unique style to an already established ensemble. Again Derek the consummate professional gave 100% to his duty in Utah every night. A man who does this deserves to be recognized and when Derek was elected president of the NBA Players Association in 2007 you know it was because of his embodiment of sportsmanship. A man who should be a shining example for the rest of the league. There’s not much that keeps this man from the court, but even true sportsmen know that as important their responsibility to their team is, some responsibilities are simply just more important. Like Family.

Derek Fishers 10 month old daughter Tatum suffered something nobody, let alone no child should have to endure. Retinoblastoma, a rare, degenerative cancer of the eye. Emergency surgery was required. Like any true father Derek was right by his daughters side every step of the way at the New York's Presbyterian Hospital. These are times when conference semi-finals don't matter and duty can be put aside.

So Derek was with his family. But then he did something nobody expected even a renowned true sportsmen like him to do. With the doctors blessing he flew back to Utah. The Jazz were almost three quarters deep in trouble against Fishers former team Golden State. They needed a hero. Derek answered the call. Fans will remember him walking into the arena surrounded by personnel. Instead of warming up, he suited up and was on court late in the 3rd. For all the all stars that were on the floor for Utah (Deron Williams, Andrei Kirlienko), Derek knew it was time to show this ball club how a seasoned playoff hero plays this type of game. He high-fived his Jazz bench, entered the game to a standing ovation and embraces from current and former team-mates, he held his hands up high and looked to the heavens and then it was down to business. To win games first you have to take care on the defensive end . Derek did just that with a critical stop against Baron Davis taking his team to overtime. Then up 120-117 the Jazz were finally in control but the W wasn't sealed yet. They needed a sharp-shooter to put these Warriors down for good. Utah's go to guy Deron Williams found Fisher open in the corner, catch, shoot, swish, W.

That was deeper than just simple sportsmanship. This is the magic of players like Derek Fisher. This is the magic of the NBA. ‘Where Amazing Happens’, right? This moment arguably just as brilliant as his 0.4 second shot and definitely more heroic. Coming in for his team in their time of need, when it was his time of need displayed courage and something real special. Something that was although deeper than, still true to the definition of sportsmanship...

May 02, 2010 - Los Angeles, California, U.S. - Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher (2) called for the offensive foul against Utah Jazz forward C.J. Miles (34) in the second half of game one of a Western Conference semifinal Round Playoff basketball game as the Lakers beat the Jazz 104-98 at the Staples Center on Sunday, May 2, 2010 in Los Angeles.

Professionalism

But even when your truly dedicated to your work, when times get real hard sometimes you just got to walk away. Derek Fisher told the Jazz he had to go to a city that had the medical means to take care of his daughter. He at that point had walked away from the game he loved to devote all his time to his daughters care. If this man’s career was called at this point on July 2nd 2007 nobody could have fronted on this man’s dedication, selflessness and level of sportsmanship. However Derek’s basketball diaries are now in the process of having a storybook ending.
A city that had the medical needs to look after Tatum and a team to take care of Derek’s career came calling. As if it was meant to be, the familiar city of angels beckoned the Fisher family back home. Kobe was putting Los Angeles back together but Batman needs Robin. So Number 2 of the Lakers belonged to Derek Fisher once again and its like he never left. The headband may have gone but the hard work and dedication still remained. As did the clutch 3 pointers, the Orlando Magic can attest to that. Derek still gets his and gives his team the energy and the heart they need. Even in these finals Fish is still there shooting rainbow jumpers and taking charges, making big plays at 35. The Lakers may have been a mess when Fisher left after his first tenure, but if you look at this team now its a different story. It’s a championships story. The Zen master Phil Jackson came back and he may arguably have as much talent at his disposal as he's ever coached. This includes a strong, deep bench mob, star players Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and defensive master Ron Artest the ever developing Andrew Bynum and of course the leagues best Kobe Bryant. With this great unit its easy to forget the hard workers who don't always get their shine. Believe me though if you don't think Derek Fishers just as important as any of these pieces then you don't know basketball. This man’s great legacy may yet include a few more championship rings to join the four his cabinet already contains. If this happens do not think this of it as mere coincidence.

June 17, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02208455 Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher (L) and Lakers' head coach Phil Jackson celebrate after defeating the Boston Celtics during game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 17 June 2010. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79 to win their 16th championships.

Still how do you honour a man who gives his all to not just his cities team but its community too. How do you honour a man who's heart and spirit is immeasurable. Well the city of Los Angeles made a big start a few years back declaring March 5th 'Derek Fisher Day'. City Councilman Bernard Parks words speak volumes of Derek’s heroic moments, "He made sports history when he missed the first championship game (For the Utah Jazz in 2007) due to the illness of his daughter, but then he arrived in the fourth quarter of the second game and just in time to score the winning three-point basket, which proves not only his commitment to his family but also the commitment to his team". Bottom Line we need to recognize this man as a lot of times the wrong sportsman are being idolized. The city of Los Angeles showed Derek Fisher the same thing he in his career has shown every city, team, coach and player he's ever played for or against and the league of the NBA as a whole…

Respect.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

BOSTON REGAL

BY TIM DAVID HARVEY

(Originally Published By http://basketballbuzz.ca/nba/boston-regal/link/2441/)

Boston Celtics players (L-R) Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen sit on the bench in the final moments of their team's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Los Angeles, California June 15, 2010.    REUTERS/Alex Gallardo (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Forget what they say Boston green hasn't had its day. Sure the Lakers are the reigning champs and there's more Heat in Miami but you should never underestimate the pride of a Celtic.

Like Sam Malone in 'Cheers' critics are calling time on this ageing team. Sure now these guys nay be seasoned but their nowhere near drawing out pensions.

Look at the San Antonio Spurs for example. There still in the hunt. Sure as they get older there primary weapons may begin to look more like bows and arrows but these Spurs have been clicking around contention for years. This is the exact same space of time that critics have been writing them off.

That's just the way people see it though right? As soon as you hit 30 it's over and then after that 'you’re too old right'?

Wrong!

It's time to put that notion to bed. It's common knowledge that three things win championships; role players, defense...and experience.

Now do the Celtics have plenty of these things in abundance? Role players? Well Glen Davis really is big but his jersey isn't the hottest seller, so check. Now as for defense, where talking about the Celtics here, so check two. Finally as for experience, well people have said the Celtics are old right?

Check!

So next season when all the hype of the summers blockbusters have died down don't be surprised if it's the Celtics that are at the forefront of everyone's mind. Believe it, this won't be inception. It'll be Doc, Rondo, KG, Jesus and Paul Pierce. It'll be the truth.

The Lakers are the team to beat and LeBron, Wade and Bosh have formed a super group for a generation. Take that and the fact that there's always Magic in Orlando and Nuggets in Denver we definitely have an exciting season on our hands in 2010/2011. Contenders can come from anywhere next year, Dallas, Oklahoma, Chicago. Times are changing but even one of the oldest franchises in league history is moving with the times.

How can this team even be considered too old when their best player is one of the youngest Point Guard talents in the league? Throw stardom aside because Rajon Rondo hasn't been the fourth Beatle for a long time now (Sorry Ringo), now this young bucks nipping at the heels of Deron Williams and Chris Paul.

As for the 'Big Three' these guys may not be taking to the stage like Wade and his new pals but they certainly still deserve their place on it.

Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett (L) and teammate Paul Pierce pause during overtime in their loss to the Orlando Magic in Game 4 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series in Boston, Massachusetts May 24, 2010. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Kevin Garnett may not be 'Da Kid' that was a hive of energy for 48 straight like he was as a Timber wolf anymore but he still brings more energy, heart and enthusiasm then 99% of players in the league. Also as KG has matured his game has to, making him one of the best all round forwards ever, just like Tim Duncan.

Ray Allen's fade may have gone but his game hasn't disappeared. His shaved head, three point stroke and killer clutch play (especially come playoff time) is making him look like the closest thing the leagues got to Reggie Miller.

Now as for Paul Pierce. You can't handle the truth, no one can. He's still one of the best, top free agent target or not. The Celtics re-gain really is every other team’s loss.

The rest of Boston’s roster is also taking a shape that Glen Davis would dream of. The re-signing of pint sized, Slam Dunk king Nate Robinson freshens this Green team up nicely. Where as solid guys like Daniels and Perkins hold the team together. Even Rasheed Wallace, a guy close to retirement can offer as much hustle, determination and entertainment as anybody. The best of the new additions is former All-Star talent Jermaine O’Neal, who gives the team yet another go to guy and one who can come off the bench, or start. This gives the C’s a one, two punch in terms of their first and second teams. Over four quarters they may even be the last team that’s going to look like a bunch of old guys.

Who's the best player in the league right now? It's obviously between Kobe and LeBron. Now as for the best team, the two heirs to the throne right now are Boston and LA. That rivalry is very much alive and until Miami prove it instead of just saying so, Boston is still the king of the East. Los Angeles better be careful as well because the boys from Bean town have stopped Showtime before and they where only one game away from doing it again this year.

Want to know another reason why this Boston team is still relevant? This writer saying all this bleeds purple and gold!

You can't ignore truth, isn't that right Paul?