SteveDwriter's Blog

Reading Sports w/ SteveDwriter

The Best and Worst Three Picks of 2010 NBA Draft | The Afro-American Newspapers | Your Community. Your History. Your News.

 

 

 

 

The Best and Worst Three Picks of 2010 NBA Draft | The Afro-American Newspapers | Your Community. Your History. Your News.

.

Advertisements

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resurrecting a Rivalry: Baltimore and D.C. Find Other Ways to Compete | The Afro-American Newspapers | Your Community. Your History. Your News.

Resurrecting a Rivalry: Baltimore and D.C. Find Other Ways to Compete | The Afro-American Newspapers | Your Community. Your History. Your News..

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Washington, the Writing’s on the Wall

The swagger, the speed, the athleticism. It's a package deal that the Washington Wizards are poised to aquire in Thursday's NBA Draft (Courtesy photo).

Kwame Brown, Oleksiy Pecherov, Jarvis Hayes and Jared Jeffries. Underachievers in the NBA but promising draft picks at the time to the Washington Wizards. The Wizards have a chance at draft redemption on Thursday when they drop their selection card into the hands of NBA commissioner David Stern. A chance at building a winner. A chance at becoming relevant again. A chance at wiping the slate clean and starting anew. And it all starts with Thursday’s NBA Draft and two simple words; John Wall.

But the 19-year-old Kentucky point guard has a few history hurdles to overcome in his race to first. Only two point guards have been drafted with the top overall selection since 1979 when the Los Angeles Lakers made Magic Johnson the first pick. Critics suggest that championship teams are best constructed with imposing big men, which explains why either a power forward or center has gone No. 1 eight times over the last 10 years.

Although the 6-foot-4 Wall may not be the biggest prospect in the draft, he certainly has some of the biggest qualities. The biggest name. The biggest upside and plays a position that allows for the biggest impact. The media circus that has surrounded the North Carolina native the past two years continues to grow by the day. And was never more apparent than his pre-draft workout last week when more media filled the halls of the Verizon Center to cover a Wizards’ event than at any point over the last few seasons.

All for a player who hasn’t even been drafted yet.

However, there’s something special about Wall and basketball browsers know it. Maybe it’s the quickness or the smooth handle. Maybe it’s the pass first mentality or the leadership. Whatever it is, it’s something that’s not present in Washington but could be packaged on the first train smoking come draft day.

The Washington franchise doesn’t have the golden touch of organizations like Boston, San Antonio or the Lakers to stockpile rosters with capable talent. But as seen with teams like Cleveland, Miami and Oklahoma City, all it takes is one dynamic wonder to make a franchise relevant again.

The Wizards had that in Gilbert Arenas before he shattered his knee then later his reputation after being indicted on gun charges. Now Washington is in the hunt again for a player to breathe life back into a listless franchise and restore interest into a team that’s rapidly moving behind the Redskins, Nationals and Capitals in terms of importance amongst the city’s pro clubs. And for a brief moment on the day of Wall’s workout, the Wizards became relevant again. A renewed interest was born and headlines were graced.

All for a player who hasn’t even been drafted yet.

After Wall’s workout, new owner Ted Leonsis stood outside the Wizards’ locker room and answered question after question from hungry reporters. During the session, Leonsis talked about building a winner and not trading away his top selection. He mentioned how sometimes a team has to endure a miserable season in order to reap the benefits of a plentiful one. He also raved about Wall’s talent and gushed when discussing how the point guard position is an excellent start to building his masterpiece.

Cornered by media, Leonsis had the look of an owner savoring the taste of the new life that Thursday’s draft is scheduled to bring. He saw the masses of news coverage stationed throughout his building and the mass hysteria that made headline news even on the day of the NBA Finals game seven. It was exciting, it was invigorating and it was unexpected.

And it was all for a player who hasn’t even been drafted yet.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodman League Shines on Friday Night

Miami Heat power forward Michael Beasley goes up for a dunk "inside the gates" on opening day of Washington, D.C.'s Goodman League, the city's premiere streetball league. (Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah)

Friday night’s twilight game at the Goodman League was more about the hoopla than the hoops on a cool evening in the District. The scent of grilled barbeque decorated the air at Barry Farms’ basketball court while announcer Miles Rawls provided the jokes for those in attendance. When the crowd wasn’t enjoying the surrounding festivities, they were enjoying a barn burner between Team Ooohs and Ahhs and the Maryland Greenhawks. The Greenhawks, headlined by Randy “White Chocolate” Gill, raced down to the wire with Ooohs and Ahhs, edging them 91-84.

In a high scoring shootout, both teams forced the ball downcourt relentlessly as fastbreaks were pushed whenever the opportunity presented itself. Usually when two teams run and gun to the extent of Friday’s action, the term “bring your track shoes” is often used as an illustrative description. But one player on Team Ooohs and Ahhs took the saying to heart and Rawls made sure to take it to him.

“Look at the new guy checking in with the track shoes on,” Rawls joked. “He must have had those on his grocery list for K-Mart. Milk, toilet tissue and new shoes.”

It was that type of night at the Goodman, where the atmosphere of a storied city basketball league could’ve easily been mistaken for a summer family cookout. Rawls does an excellent job of compensating for entertainment whenever the games lack the star power of top name professional ballers. Although the night featured famed And 1 hoopster Gill and a few other familiar ballers, it was mostly staffed full of miscellaneous first names that members of the crowd had never heard of.

Former Tennessee point guard Bobby Maze led the Greenhawks with 31 points while Wade added 24. Boo and Chris Matt both added 24 points for Ooohs and Ahhs in the defeat. Names like Wade, Boo and Chris Matt aren’t going to pack the bleachers but their games are impressive. Both Maze and Wade showcased their slashing abilities as they got to the basket when they wanted, whenever they wanted. Boo and Matt are excellent one on one scorers who should help the Greenhawks remain an attractive team to watch for as the summer progresses.

June 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Wizards Work Out Wall as Draft Nears

He hasn’t even been drafted yet but Kentucky point guard John Wall is quickly becoming one of the most popular pro athletes in Washington, D.C. The Washington Wizards hosted a private 30-minute workout for the Freshman of the Year on Thursday with hordes of front office execs and media hounds on hand for his every move.

With cameras flashing and presidents and owners nodding their heads in approval, Wall showcased the trademark quickness and athleticism that has him projected to become the Wizards’ No. 1 overall selection in the first round of the NBA Draft on June 24.

Following instructions from Wizards head coach Flip Saunders and assistant coach Sam Cassell, Wall raced up the court doggedly as he nailed runners in the lane and sliced through the air for dunks. A few free throws here, some ball handling drills there and Wall had the look of a top prospect as he completed each drill smoothly with effortless flair. The only thing easier than Wall’s workout was the endless amount of questions he answered calmly and at times jokingly from a large media turnout.

“If the Wizards pick me I’ll come in and try to help the team the best way I can,” Wall said when asked about his expectations for next season. “Your first year you have to learn a lot. I know that I’m not going to come in and be the best player in the world and come in and not have [any] ups and downs. I’m just preparing myself for that. You [have] to be mentally prepared for that type of stuff.”

While Washington general manager Ernie Grunfeld and new team owner Ted Leonsis have yet to give any indication that Wall will indeed be the top selection, their presence on Thursday went a long way into providing some type of premonition. Considering that Evan Turner— the draft’s projected second overall prospect—refused to workout for the Wizards this past week, the chances of Wall becoming the top selection increases by the day.

“He is certainly a very talented player and there is consensus if you go across the board that he would be the first pick,” Leonsis said.

Despite a tumultuous season for the Wizards, Leonsis admitted that earning the draft’s top selection is just part of the process that helps teams turn their fortunes around.

“Sometimes you have to be bad to be good,” he said with a smile.

If drafted first overall, Wall will join Derrick Rose and Allen Iverson as the only point guards taken with the top overall selection in the last 30 years. Ideal company for the 19-year-old who grew up idolizing Iverson and mentions Rose as one of his favorite players in the league.

“Growing up, everybody liked Allen Iverson,” Wall recalled. “Little kid with braids, tough, had a crossover. Now, I like guys like LeBron (James), Derrick Rose [and] Chris Paul.”

Wall will get a chance to join the likes of heroes on June 24 when the highly coveted prospect will be a trendy name even if Washington elects to go in a different direction. The popular Wall has gained so much acclaim over the last few years that it would be amazing if he’s not chosen No. 1.

Although Wall isn’t sure himself of where he’ll land come draft night, he’s just enjoying the moment at this point.

“It’s a dream come true,” Wall kept repeating during a 20-minute press conference. “Three years ago I didn’t have any of this. I was just a regular basketball player.”

Judging by Thursday’s media turnout, it’s safe to say no one in Washington will be expecting Wall to be ‘just a regular basketball player’ next season.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kevin Durant Dazzles in D.C. in Second Appearance at the Goodman

It’s not too many ballers who could drop 30 points after entering a game late and fresh off the street, but Kevin Durant is one of the privileged few. The Oklahoma City small forward arrived about five minutes into the evening’s twilight game between his Awash squad and Team H.O.B.O. decked in a Raiders cap and a white tee, but it didn’t take long for him to get suited and thrown into the action.

Durant began his second appearance at Washington, D.C.’s Goodman Summer League on Wednesday much like his debut on Sunday; launching a three pointer on his first attempt just to check the heat on his jumper.

After a flailing airball and a few one-on-one dribble duels with Team H.O.B.O. and local standout Omar Weaver, the man nicknamed KD was finally warmed up and riding with the flow of the game. After Weaver swished a three in Durant’s face, the competitive 21-year-old flashed a confident smirk as he jogged back down the court ready to attack on the next play. Facing up against Weaver on the left side of the basket, KD darted right before swinging the ball back left and finishing over Weaver with a one-handed dunk that left a sparse crowd shaking their heads in disbelief.

If you’ve never seen a 6-foot-10 NBA forward cross someone over and flush, it’s a pretty amazing sight to see, especially live in person. Durant made it his duty to show off his athleticism on the night; angling his body for tip dunks and gliding through traffic for no look passes and fadeaway jumpers.

“He loves it here inside the gates and the gates loves him right back,” announcer Miles Rawls gushed when praising the NBA’s scoring champion. But it was Weaver who finished as the night’s high-point man, posting 37 points and showcasing a game that even a future NBA MVP had to appreciate. Weaver’s performance helped his H.O.B.O. team narrow a 15-point second half deficit to one before KD got serious again.  

Durant drew a pair of and ones on a couple of effortless layups and dished off to open cutters once the defense started to double and triple down on him. Despite the late arrival, Durant still finished with 30 points and revived his team just in time for them to finish with the win against a hard-charging H.O.B.O team. 

It’s something about a NBA All-Star hooping it up with local regulars that always launches a buzz into the air at the Goodman but it’s becoming a regular scene for attendees these days. Rawls warned the crowd to enjoy Durant’s early summer presence while they can since the budding superstar will be leaving in August to partake in Team USA’s training camp for the 2010 World Championships.  

“Enjoy him while you can because he’s gone come August,” Rawls cautioned. “Got some things to take care of overseas.”

Until August, Durant’s taking care of things at the Goodman League and showcasing an Olympic-style game that continues to impress. Even without a proper warmup.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lakers and Celtics Brace for Epic Game 7

Just another battle for a magazine cover as the Lakers prepare to take on the Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals (courtesy photo).

It’s come down to a coin flip for the NBA Finals. When the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics tip off Game Seven on Thursday night, it’ll be just the third time since 1994 that the NBA Finals has required a deciding game. And for the NBA and its fans, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

After a second consecutive failed attempt at a Lebron/Kobe Finals matchup, the league was delighted to settle for an old school brawl between Boston and Los Angeles. The Lakers and Celtics remain as the two best teams in the NBA, headed for a one-game elimination to settle the score for the championship title. Perfect!

Despite both clubs dealing with key injuries to their starting center positions, plenty of star power remains for Thursday’s game in what could turn into a record breaker for viewership ratings.

You know it’s Lakers-Celtics, the biggest rivalry in NBA basketball, seven games. It is what it is,” Boston point guard Rajon Rondo told Boston.com when asked about Thursday’s title clincher.

Multiple sources have already confirmed that Celtic center Kendrick Perkins will miss Game Seven after spraining his knee on Tuesday. With Perkins out for the Celtics, the Lakers will probably have to endure another injury-riddled effort from starting big Andrew Bynum. Bynum has gutted it out so far through the Finals with a knee injury but left the second half of Game Six after complaining of stiffness in his leg. With a championship on the line, Bynum is fully expected to give it one more go.

Boston will be expected to give it one more go after a poor performance in Tuesday’s 89-67 loss. The Celtics were outrebounded 52-39 and scored just the second-lowest point total in NBA Finals history. But Game Six for the Celtics is exactly that at this point, history. With their eyes focused on Game Seven, Boston will be expected to lay it all out on the line for the last time this season.

“To me, the game (Game Six) is over,” Rondo told reporters. “We have one game (left). They have one game. All or nothing. (Game Six) is in the past.”

If the Lakers and Celtics’ past is any indication, Los Angeles could be in trouble. The Lakers and Celtics have played in four Game Sevens over the course of their 11 previous Finals matchups, with Boston winning all four. Although the two clubs haven’t played in a deciding final game since 1984, Boston still owns the edge in the series 9-2.

While the Celtics have the history, the Lakers have Bryant. The four-time champion will try to extend his ring count to five with a win and further add to an already stellar legacy. But maybe more important than adding to his hardware collection will be inducing confidence to a Lakers team that has appeared rattled at times during the series.

“We’re used to being in must-win situations,” Bryant told reporters. “The way we look at it, (Game seven) is just a game we’ve got to win. I know what’s at stake but I’m not tripping.”

Bryant doesn’t have to “trip,” the NBA’s fan base will be head over heels for Thursday’s Game Seven; The league’s ultimate elimination game between a pair of the league’s ultimate franchises.

“This is what it’s all about,” Glen “Big Baby” Davis told reporters. “This is what you guys are going to talk about for years. You guys are going to remember this moment. You are going to remember Thursday forever. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to step up on the floor and win here in L.A.”

Confidence at its strongest. Perfect for a NBA Finals series at its most storied.

June 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mild Thunder in Kevin Durant’s Summer Debut at the Goodman League

D.C. residents crammed "inside the gates" on Sunday to welcome the return of Suitland, Md native Kevin Durant back to Barry Farms' Goodman League (Camera photo by Stephen D. Riley)

Kevin Durant showed up for his Washington, D.C. Goodman League summer debut on Sunday with lots of people to please but little to prove. After all, the NBA’s reigning scoring champion did give spectators at Barry Farms something to remember last summer with a 62-point outburst.

Topping that feat would’ve been difficult for even the modest NBA 2K champion, let alone the NBA’s leading scorer. But fans didn’t withstand the sweltering heat and bypass the first half of Sunday night’s NBA Finals to see the extreme; they just came to show support for one of the best home-grown ballers in the league do his thing. And Durant answered their wishes.

His performance wasn’t 62-point-esque but Durant’s 35 points raised enough ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from a packed crowd to grade his Goodman League debut as a success. Playing alongside the Washington Wizards’ Andray Blatche, Durant and Blatche dazzled at times “inside the gates” for their 3rd Eye ball club. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward launched the first shot of the game; a three-pointer that grazed off the rim before executing a spin move on his next possession and finishing with a one-handed dunk. That would turn into an ongoing theme for much of the night for the 21-year-old nicknamed “KD.” While his normally reliable jumpshot wasn’t falling, KD was busy attacking the rim and finishing strong with two-handed and one-handed rim rattlers. Clapping his hands after explosive finishes and face-flexing to the crowd.

“KD is officially here at the big show,” announcer Miles Rawls bellowed whenever Durant would throw down one. Watching the 6-foot-10 scoring machine glide up and down the court with his smooth handle and crossovers galore made a few onlookers shake their heads in disbelief but if you’ve been watching Durant emerge as one of the NBA’s best players over the last three seasons then the display came as no surprise.

Durant wasn’t the only NBA specimen impressing. Much like his Wizards’ responsibilities, Blatche did a little bit of everything on Sunday. Rebounding, passing and scoring, Blatche recording a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ on his own courtesy of some slick crossovers and a few athletic finishes. But while NBAers Blatche and Durant were starring, it was Team Cricket’s pair of And 1 superstars Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones and Lonnie “Prime Objective” Harrell that stole the show. Following along the lines of his And 1 exploits, “Baby Shaq” made play after play during the evening’s twilight game, scoring at will and swishing the final shot in overtime that sent Durant and his 3rd Eye team home losers on the night.

Despite the defeat, Durant’s presence alone made winners out of the neighborhood kids who arrived by the masses to come see him. With their fingers pointed in amazement and juice stains decorating their shirts, star-struck youngsters applauded Durant’s every move and grinned in excitement with his every dunk. Durant didn’t have to top 60 on the evening; he just had to show up. And for local D.C. residents on Sunday night, that’s all anybody could ask for.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rondo’s Shove on Artest Pushes Lakers in 3-2 Hole

When Rajon Rondo shoved Ron Artest with 4:41 remaining in the second quarter of the Celtics’ 92-86 Game 5 victory on Sunday, it triggered a role reversal that played out for the rest of the night. With less than five minutes remaining in the quarter, Rondo attacked the Lakers on a fast break, setting up Boston center Kendrick Perkins who later dished off to a cutting Kevin Garnett. Garnett was then shoved to the ground by Artest on a hard foul, prompting Rondo to push Artest in retaliation after the whistle was blown. Rondo received a technical foul for his exploits but his team received a shot in the arm for his courage.

With his team leading 34-31 in the second period, here’s Rondo —the second smallest member of the Celtics’ rotation— shoving Artest — arguably the Lakers’ best defender and most physical player— to the side like he’s two inches shorter than him. Rondo’s push, followed by a profanity-laced reprimand of Artest, showed the Celtics’ heart and passion and was just one of a series of plays that helped to mentally subdue two of the Lakers’ most important players for another contest.

Highlighted by 6-foot-4 reserve guard Tony Allen’s block on Laker seven-footer Pau Gasol in bottom of the third quarter, the Celtics out-muscled and out-played the Lakers for a second consecutive game. Gasol, who went on record after his 23-point, 14-rebound performance in Game 1 to say “Garnett has lost a step,” was stuffed three times in the period. One by Allen that left him on the floor and two others by Garnett, the same player who had “lost a step.” 

In fact, Garnett has actually gained a few steps over the past few contests, averaging 19.6 points per game in the last three outings. Light years more effective than the 11 points per game Garnett struggled to score in the series first two games. Garnett’s inspired containment of Gasol (15.3 points per game the last three meetings, 12 points and 12 rebounds in Game 5) has helped swing the series in Boston’s advantage but it was Rondo’s shove that swung the series momentum.

Artest, known for his bruising style of in-your-face defense, was pushed by Rondo and later torched by Paul Pierce for 27 points while the Laker forward could only muster a seven-point, 2-of-9 shooting performance. Since churning in a strong Game 1 with 15 points and two steals, Artest has bottomed out over the last few games (like Gasol). Artest has averaged just six points per game and is shooting a wretched 24 percent from the field, connecting on 8-of-33 field goals in his last four games.

Artest was acquired by the Lakers last summer to be their hired hit man; their bruiser sort to speak. After his first career Finals game, Boston has now turned Los Angeles’ biggest offseason acquisition into its biggest goat and a player that Lakers coach Phil Jackson has to strongly consider lessening minutes for at this point.

Gasol and Artest aren’t the only two reasons why the Lakers now find themselves down 3-2 and one game away from another Celtics’ championship. However, Los Angeles cannot afford to have two of their core players physically and mentally manhandled again in Game 6 if the Lakers want to even the series.


June 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celtics’ Reserves Campaigning for more Playing Time Despite NBA Politics

The play of Celtics reserves Nate Robinson and Glen "Big Baby" Davis in Game 4 of the NBA Finals should warrant more playing time (Courtesy Photo)

You have to commend Boston coach Doc Rivers for not giving into politics during the Celtics’ 96-89 win in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. With reserves Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Nate Robinson providing electricity off the bench, Rivers had a chance to pull the plug on the show midway through the final period but declined. As he should have.

With Lakers center Andrew Bynum tied to the bench with a knee injury, Rivers wasn’t up against the size disadvantage that he’s faced throughout the first three games of the series, meaning his shorter reserves like Davis (who’s outplayed starting forward Kevin Garnett at times throughout this year’s playoffs) were able to see extended minutes. Bynum’s knee injury going forward could and possibly should result in more minutes for Davis. He’s the only Boston big who appears content with attacking Los Angeles downlow and rather bang than settle for a jumpshot.

But while a vote for extended action for Davis is obvious, Robinson also deserves to be in the running for an increased workload. His perimeter shooting opens up the court for Boston’s half court offense and allows one-on-one specialists Davis, Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen more room to operate in isolation. It’s clear that Robinson is no where near the playmaking point guard that Rondo is but the long distance shooting and scoring that Robinson provides over Rondo is unmistakable.

Before Thursday night, Rivers had played Rondo 40, 42 and 42 minutes through the series’ first three games and received modest but unconvincing numbers from his star point guard. Aside from a 13-minute, scoreless performance in the Game 1 (where the whole team played poorly), Robinson has given the Celtics 24 points in just 29 minutes of playing time in the last three contests. Even Senators haven’t campaigned harder for more face time than Robinson has this past week.

It remains questionable why Rivers hasn’t ran more of a Rondo-Robinson backcourt at times, especially when Lakers coach Phil Jackson is playing some combination of Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar as his guard set. While Rondo and Robinson are both small in stature, they play bigger than their size, collecting rebounds and blocking shots (Robinson’s block on Dwight Howard in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals was athleticism at its finest).

Rivers’ reluctance to play the 6-foot-8 Davis heavy minutes against Bynum and Pau Gasol through the first three games was understandable but his reluctance to play Robinson however is something he’ll need to rethink going forward. Now that the complexity of the series has changed drastically with Bynum’s availability for the remainder of the series in serious doubt, it should allow Rivers to be more creative with his bench. Robinson, Davis, Tony Allen and Rasheed Wallace played fantastic during Game 4 and have played solid overall during the Finals as well.

If Garnett, Ray Allen, Rondo and Pierce continue their inconsistent play, Rivers should continue to avoid NBA politics and rely on his reserves if he wants to avoid losing the 2010 championship election.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment