Thursday, 31 January 2013



6. Avery Johnson’s firing

In the offseason, the Brooklyn Nets lost the Dwight Howard sweepstakes to the Lakers.However, the Nets were able to resign their prized point guard Deron Williams and solid role player Gerald Wallace and acquired All Star Joe Johnson.

The Nets started off the season at 11 – 4 and whispers begin as to whether the Nets would be able to challenge the Knicks for the title of the best team in the Big Apple. These talks have cooled as the Nets have since gone 16-15 and the Knicks have been able to maintain their high level of play.

Obviously the Nets front office have been disappointed with the recent drop in their performance and fired their head coach Avery Johnson in December 2012. This came as a surprise to many as Johnson was awarded the accolade of Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October and November. One of the deciding factors seemed to be the fact that Deron Williams criticised Johnson’s offensive strategy, prompting Johnson to scrap a significant portion of his offense. This move could indicate that Johnson was feeling the pressure and thus signalling that he may have been unsure of himself.

Since P.J. Carlesimo has taken over as the Nets head coach the team has gone 13 - 5, with them sitting in the 4th position in the Eastern Conference with an overall record of 27-19.

Let’s hope the change in coaches and offensive schemes will enable the Nets to replicate their early season success.

7. The Houston Rockets Backcourt

Many were surprised at the shock trade of James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets at the beginning of the season. Many are even more surprised at how well Houston is playing!

Houston wanted to make a splash in the offseason as it cleared cap space in order to sign free agents. James Harden was traded to Houston due to him wanting a more favourable contract and he was able to get his desires fulfilled with the Rockets.In addition to James, they signed Linsanity (Jeremy Lin) after the New York Knicks chose not the match the offer. This represented a new start to a franchise as they acquired a highly popular point guard since the days of Steve Francis.

Many wondered, however, whether both of these players were worth the money. Essential James has always played off the bench and thus has never been a starter in the league.  In addition Jeremy Lin only played 26 games with the Knicks as a starting point guard last year and was never available for a whole season to be able to truly assess his talent. The biggest criticism of both players is that they both need the ball in their hands to perform at their best and this would cease movement of the ball to teammates and thus be detrimental to the team.

Nevertheless, the combination of Lin and James result in a dynamic duo that has lifted the Rockets to a 25 – 23 record which sees them sitting in the 8th position in the Western Conference. There is no doubt that they have brought back an element of excitement to the Houston organisation and its fans and have actually created a reality where the rockets have a possibility to end their 3 year playoff drought.

8. Resilience of the Atlanta Hawks

Since losing their All-Star in Joe Johnson to a trade with the Brooklyn Nets andas trade rumours swirl around their powerforward Josh Smith, many didn’t have high expectations of the Atlanta Hawks. Additionally, the loss of role players such as Kirk Hinrick,Tracey McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse would seem to compound the issue that Atlanta’s bench would be depleted. With additions of DeShawn Stevenson, Anthony Morrow from the Joe Johnson trade and Devin Harris from the trade with the Dallas Mavericks, however, the Hawks have surprised many with their tough play and decent performance.

Head Coach Larry Drew has this team playing remarkable well given the circumstances of having to a incorporate a lot of new players onto the team. The Hawks currently have a record of 26-19 which stands at 6th in the eastern conference.

Although it is most likely that Atlanta will not pass the first round of playoffs, credit must be given to this resilient team and the old saying that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ definitely comes into play in this situation.

9.The Rise of Damian Lillard

Every year a new draft class of rookies enter the NBA to embark on their journey to becoming a good NBA player. All the media experts, analysts, fans etc always cast their opinions on which first year player would take home the coveted title of Rookie of the Year. In the past, only a few players have had an exceptional start in their NBA career in terms of their development of a player and their immediate contributions to their teams. Current players such as Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Lebron James have managed to achieve this and thus have all won Rookie of the year after their first year in the NBA.

It seems as everyone’s decision for Rookie of the Year has already been agreed upon this early in the season. Many have been raving about Damian Lillardwith the phenomenal start he has had.

Entering the NBA out of Weber state, this 6 ft 3 in point guard has exhibited the maturity, skills and talent as would be possessed by a 5 year NBA vet. Lillard has already taken (and made!!) big game winning shots against the New Orlean Hornets and The New York Knicks and had amazing performances against teams like San Antonio Spurs and his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors. There are even talks of Damian Lillard being the first rookie since Michael Jordan to make an NBA all-star team.

Overall see can already see the potential of the great player that Lillard will be one day and all those practice sessions in the off season with Jason Kidd and Gary Payton seems to be paying dividends.

10. Silly Injury to Andrew Bynum

This was the year that the Philadelphia 76ers wassupposed to take a step closer to become a contender in theEastern conference. However injuries to their star player, Andrew Bynum, have hindered this from happening.

Fed up with his immaturity and lack of giving maximum effort in games, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to trade Andrew Bynum in hopes of acquiring another elite centre, Dwight Howard. It made front page news when Andrew Bynum was traded to the 76ers as this gave hope to this franchise that’s been on the cusp of being a contender in the Eastern conference but need that missing piece in a low post player to take them to the next level. Unfortunately after 45 games into their season, Andrew Bynum is yet to set foot on the court. Bynum was originally scheduled for a return in January due to an injury with his knee, unfortunately in the off season, it seems as if he’s done additional damage by picking up an unspecified injury during a bowling game. Yes, that’s correct, bowling!! Bynum has been known to be a bit injury prone playing in 392 games out of 603 for his career.

As ridiculous as the cause of Andrew’s Bynum latest injury sounds, he is scheduled to return around the All-star break and let’s hope he will be able to suit up in a 76ers uniform sooner rather than later. His team needs him to help them better their record from the current 19– 26 and move up from their current position of 9th place in the Eastern conference so as to guarantee a playoff berth.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


By Quett Walker.

With half of the 2012-2013 NBA season over, there’s no doubt that we’ve experienced a few surprises. So let’s take a look at the top 10 most surprising things of the season so far.

1.  Lakers Disappointing Performance
This has to be the most astonishing thing so far. The biggest story in the off season was the formation of a Laker ‘super’ team which involved the additions of veteran point guard Steve Nash and the heavily pursued, best centre in the league, Dwight Howard. Experts, analysts and NBA legends afar were already crowning this Laker team the NBA champions even before the season began. Fast forward to today and the Lakers are 7 games under .500 with a paltry record of 17-25 and are in 12th in the Western Conference.
This could be down to the fact that Dwight Howard is coming off of back surgery and hence hasn’t fully recovered as yet or the fact that Steve Nash was out for 24 out of the 42 games this season due to nerve irritation from a fractured leg. Firing head coach Mike Brown 4 games into the season and replacing him with a coach in Mike D'Antoni whose up-tempo system doesn’t mesh with the old legs of this Laker team doesn’t help the situation either.
One bright spark is that Kobe Bryant is second in the league in points per game at 29.2. However the Lakers are losing overall and this situation closely resembles their 2004 – 2005 season when the Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
Now the Lakers are without Jordan Hill for the reminder of the season, a disgruntled Pau Gasol and a recovering Dwight Howard and the purple and gold nation have their hand on the panic button.
2. Los Angeles Clippers 17 game winning streak
The other team in LA however has not been experiencing a sub-par season whatsoever. The Clippers have announced their arrival into the upper echelon of the West Conference by going on a franchise best 17 game winning streak this season. High expectations are present as they should be able to   build from their improvement from last season.  Not only did they make the playoffs for the fourth time in 28 years last season, but they have managed to put a dent into the Laker’s ‘Little Brother’ persona held by many basketball fans. No one actually thought they would have experienced this much success this early in the season.
Ever since acquiring Chris Paul, one of the best point guards in the league, the Clippers have actually achieved quite a high level of success. With the continuing evolution of Blake Griffin and with additions such as Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and Eric Bledsoe, the Los Angeles Clippers have shown that they are to be taken seriously as a contender in the West as they currently sit third in the Western conference standings at 32 -11.
3. Terrible play of the Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics were envisaged to be the only team that could contend with the Heat for the Eastern conference championship and so far this season, this has definitely not been the case. Many attribute their poor performance to the effects of too many miles on the ageing legs of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the underachievement of Jeff Green and the lack of improvement on the part of Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics possess a talented roster and are one of the best teams in the East but are yet to showcase this and as a result have slipped down the standings in the conference to the no 8 position with a record of 20 -21.
The Celtics have prided themselves on being a defensive minded and tough team and although they are an experienced team, the expectations of them being one of the two teams left in the Eastern conference when the smoke clears has dropped immensely.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have to play at an elite level and contributions from the supporting cast such as Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Brandon Bass and especially Jeff Green are vital to propel the Celtics to the top of the east once again.
Ultimately, the fate of the Celtics lies with Rajon Rondo. Rondo is the engine that drives this Celtics team and it needs to be in tip top condition to reach its destination of securing another NBA championship.
4. The Streaking Knicks
With Amare Stoudemire expected to be sidelined due to injury for the first two months of the season, everyone thought the Knicks would be just another decent team, however they have managed to exceed these expectations. Many factors contribute to fuelling the success of the Knicks. Their superb 3 point shooting, the tenacious defense and rebounding prowess of Tyson Chandler and the veteran presence of Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace.
However the most vital factor has to be the leadership and fantastic play of one of the best offensive players in NBA, Carmelo Anthony.  He has definitely thrived in the absence of Stoudemire as this makes him the number 1 option in the Knick offense. Anthony has not only put up 3 40+ point games this season so far (with two 45 point games), he is second in the league in points per game 29.3 only behind Kobe Bryant. Anthony’s emergence as a leader and his commitment on the offensive and defensive end has become contagious as this has been instilled throughout the Knick team. 
With the return of Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks have decided to bring him off the bench to minimise the disruption to the chemistry. This strategy has been beneficial as the Knicks are currently in second place in the East at 25-14, only a half a game behind the first place Miami Heat.
It is doubtful that the Knicks can maintain their 3 point shooting percentage which has been responsible for them for winning games. It will be interesting to see if the Knicks can sustain their incredible performance through times of adversity.
5. The Improved Warriors 
Everyone remembers when the 8th seeded Warriors beat the 1st seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs in one of the biggest upsets in NBA history. This seems like light years ago since the Golden State Warriors haven’t experienced a winning season since the 2007-2008 NBA season.
David Lee, Stephen Curry, Jarret Jack, Klay Thompson, Karl Landry and veteran Richard Jefferson form a young core that gel together. With ex-NBA point guard Mark Jackson in his second year as the head coach of the Warriors, he has this team playing at a very high level. The defensive minded Jackson has instilled his principles in this young Warriors team and as result it has managed to reflect his personality. The Warriors currently sit 5th in the Western conference standings with a record of 26-15.
The Warriors performance has brought the basketball bug back to Oakland and has everyone in the bay arena jumping with excitement again. This has longed been missed in area that is basketball rich and is responsible for producing NBA talent such as Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. Hopefully the Warriors will be able to maintain this level of consistency.

Monday, 21 January 2013


His Day.


"Has anybody seen my good friend Martin/Can you tell me where he's gone/He freed a lot of people/But it seems the good die young yeah/I just looked around and he was gone"-Marvin Gaye: Abraham, Martin & John.

This Monday's schedule for NBA games on MLK day see the Indiana Pacers and the Memphis Grizzlies facing off, as well as the New Orleans Hornets hosting the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats playing host to the Houston Rockets. If that wasn't enough the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Atlanta Hawks play, along with the battle for New York between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks and a Californian clash between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. Then as an extra treat, going into the night the San Antonio Spurs head to Philadelphia to play the Sixers, while the Washington Wizards duel with the Portland Trailblazers, before all eyes watch the Chicago Bulls face the Los Angeles Lakers. Still, this nine game, event of a day is much more than NBA aficionado's getting to see everyone from Kobe to Carmelo play on their T.V.. This day means much more than that, like the NBA's halftime tributes. This day is for the honor of the great Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last year when this writer was travelling back home from New York he made a connection in Atlanta airport. There as many commuters where rushing to catch their next flight I came across a display paying tribute to the late clergyman and activist of the African-American Civil Right Movement. Among this display was photo's information and many personal effects of the man, including his suit, handwritten notes and a baseball and bat that he used to play with his son. This moving display captured the heart of a man whose main inspiration as a child of how to be and treat people came from this man from Atlanta, Georgia.

A man that believed that all men should be equal regardless of their race, creed or background. A man who next to Malcolm X fought-albeit in different ways-for the rights of African-Americans and people across the world. A figure as inspirational as the Kennedy's in the political world, or the Dylan's, Belafonte's and Ali's in the music, film and sport world of entertainment. A man who had a dream, that awoke a nation and opened the eyes of the world. A man that influenced America and inspired the world. A man who went to war with love against hatred and made peace.

"I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today"-Martin Luther King Jr, 1963.

A man whose dedication and devotion to the cause could be seen more than just on the paper of his autobiography, compiled of memoirs, speeches and dear letters to his wife Coretta Scott King. A man who moved a million African-American men and billions more around the world regardless of race, creed or gender to believe in the change his non-violent protests could produce. He fought the fight with an extended hand but an unclenched fist, with all his heart and soul. The fight for his dream. The same fight Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poiter almost got run off the road by the Klan for. The same dream Ali fought so hard for outside the ring. The same "war is not the answer" fight Marvin Gaye sung for with all his soul. The same dream Malcolm X gave his life for just as he was seeing MLK's visionary non-violent side. As Mr. Carter, Jay-Z said "Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther could walk, Martin Luther walked so Barack Obama could run". Look at the world now. Look at the friend you're talking too. He may have different skin but he's still your kin, your brother and without what Martin did, you might have had the taken for granted opportunity to share each others company so gracefully.

It's what Stevie Wonder sung 'Happy Birthday' for. The ultimate protest song that isn't meant for everybody's special day really like everyone thinks. Moreover it's for one mans special day. Today is the day we give thanks to a man whose birthday was the 15th January and a man who last year finally received his memorial in Washington D.C., next to President Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves. A stone memorial near the magnificent mall where he dutifully delivered his most amazing address. A soaring speech which took the people to the mountain top and promised land...and in spirit and his honor he got there with us. A man who opposed the Vietnam War and won the Nobel Peace Prize. A man who walked everywhere from Birmingham to Montgomery and now thanks to hi marches, hundreds of streets in the United States Of America carry his name. A man who gave the poor a voice and made the rich think twice. A man who asked "how long" and responded "not long". A man who never fought but instead showed love in the face of all the injustice and hate. A man who took all that was wrong with the world and made it right. A true leader and legend whose legacy is seen in the acts of kindness and humanity.

He gave the world it's years back. They should have never taken the life of a young 39 year old man. As that fateful, hateful shot rang out in the balcony of Memphis, Tennessee, the worlds heart broke. Still, because of the mans unwavering spirit, the weariness never took its soul. It's a crying shame that as the decades pass and the generations handed down more and more young people won't know as much about MLK and his day as they should outside what they learn in the classroom. These days in some ways it's good we take for granted when people of all backgrounds and beliefs get along. Still it's important to know where this all came from and the teachings of the man who really brought it all together. The lessons learned could and should still be applied to some of the real problems that exist today. Because after all peace, love and understanding is something we should work at every day like a labor of love and this man who never rested with his dream, but instead worked on it, knew this.

A man who took the beliefs of Jesus Christ and Ghandi and made the people see them for real with a genuine stand. So whatever you do on this holiday, or whatever special event is scheduled, spare more than a thought of consideration for a man who had everyone's well-being on his mind, big heart and pure soul. Act now to make sure others see beyond the history and right through to a man who did something about all he cared and believed in. What he did was for us. Today is for him.

"I just never understood/How a man who died for good/Could not have a day that would/Be set aside for his recognition/Because it should never be/Just because some cannot see/The dream as clear as he/That they should make it become an illusion/And we all know everything/That he stood for time will bring/For in peace our hearts will sing/Thanks to Martin Luther King/Happy birthday to you/Happy birthday to you/Happy birthday". Stevie Wonder: Happy Birthday.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


The Greatest & The Chosen One.


It's after midnight. In the back-yard a young boy is dribbling a basketball, spinning left, pivoting right like it's the championships final game and second. He fades away as his father watches from the window with pride, not yet ready to tell him it's time to come in. The ball sinks through the chain-link net with a familiar metallic swish. The ball goes through the hoop again, and again and again. Until it goes through the hoop for an NCAA Championship game before the nylon nets are cut down by a victorious North Carolina alumni. The ball goes through the hoop again, and again and again as the North Carolina jersey comes off and one embroided 23 and embodying Michael Jordan comes on. 

The back-yard dreams become front page news as Michael Jordan made his father and the city of Chicago proud as the NBA and the whole world watch a Basketball and entertainment revolution, redeeming the sport and the phrase 'excitement'. Complete in a shaved dome ("baldy?!"), gold necklace and Nike trainers. The air of excitement was pumped back up like 'Back To The Future' trainers, the present legend and legacy. Flying more than hover boards his airness, switched hands and dominated lay-up lines (see, the Lakers) and Slam-Dunk contests (whether against Dominique in February, or the rest of the league on a nightly basis).

From shrugs to last shots. The flu to the number 45 and Madison Square Garden to the NBA Finals Michael Jordan played through it all on the biggest stage of world basketball and focus of a million camera lenses flashing. Picture anyone having this kind of impact. All the opponents defeated. All the teammates carried. All the young kids inspired to pick up a ball that will always mean more than the old men now able to pick up any cheque because Michael made them rich. He even showed baseball and his smiling down father he could proudly play. Before showing a gang of space aliens the door with Bugs Bunny. Warner Brothers certified with Walt Disney dreams come true. This fantastic man even came back and cast some spells as an old Wizard in Washington. He did that for free too and for you, and those devastated by September 11th, donating his entire salary to the 9/11 relief fund. Yes, it's not just the rings, gold medals, MVP's, titles and endorsements that tell you he's the greatest.

It's after midnight. Somewhere in Italy a young boy is dribbling a basketball, spinning left, pivoting right like it's Michael Jordan's championships final game and second. He fades away as his father comes home from playing a professional game in the Euro-league and watches with admiration. The ball sinks through the chain-link net with a real familiar metallic swish. The ball goes through the hoop again, and again and again. Until it goes through the hoop and across the world again and again up in Lower Merion. The ball goes through the hoop again, and again and again before skipping college for a Los Angeles Laker jersey embroided 8 (and some years later one more for 24) and embodying the next, great one Kobe Bryant.

The Italian work became the American dreams as Kobe Bryant made and continues to make his father and the city of L.A. proud as the NBA and the whole world watch a Basketball and entertainment redux, giving new, post-Jordan life to the sport and the phrase 'greatness'. Young Kob' came back home, grew an 'fro and dominated the game. Save for a few missed postseason years where airballs where thrown up to go with contest worthy and winning dunks. Still, soon after, armed with a new uniform, coach (Phil Jackson), big partner (Shaq) and a Hollywood supporting cast led by Big Shot 'Bob Horry, Kobe made his game 'Big James' as the city of Los Angeles dominated the NBA with its Laker team to the tune of three-Jordan like, back to back, to back championships.

The scoring titles and MVP's came later as Kobe strived and survived it all, from court to court, even the death of a dynasty, the departure of Shaq (as his Miami Heat cooled off California) and his coach (twice...and almost three times). From the number 81 to Madison Square Garden, just 'Like Mike', Kobe made the world of basketball his Mecca with big numbers worthy of Hollywood's biggest picture. That's why Jack Nicholson and everyone was watching as Kobe won championships without the Notorious B.I.G. and made the Los Angeles Lakers his own before remaking himself as the ultimate team player who now has more big help with Dwight Howard. Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. A guy who refuses to let critical doubt, father time, or any injury (see the menace of his Phantom face-mask), or Miami Heat player deny him and his Los Angeles Laker gold shining at the beginning of Summer once again like California. The venom hasn't been drained from the Mamba yet. That's why he's the chosen one.

Just look at this classic picture. Beautiful like the game isn't it? It says it all. We all know whose the student and whose the master. The God of basketball, offering psalms of wisdom to his young disciple. This isn't just another comparison, head to head piece. Look at the picture. Two very different players and men with the same impact. Still, we all know who the greatest of all-time is and we all know whose the closest to the greatest. The one chosen to take 23's career to 24 and show Spike, Scoop, the fans, players and the world of basketball once more that there was still hope once the best ever retired for the third and last time. Can you believe in less than three years the chosen one will hang up his Nike sneakers too. It's been a long time since that number 8 Afro. Still, before Kobe Bryant finally relinquishes the torch to LeBron James that Michael Jordan handed down to him we will get to see just for a few more golden years just how much two men gave flight and helped this sport soar. Next to each other 23 and 24 forever more. Now that's Basketball.

For Holly.