The most popular professional sports league is at it again attempting to cut down language issues. Fritz Pollard Alliance is widely known for monitoring diversity within the National Football League and they have announced that they expect the league to institute a 15 yard penalty against any player or team who makes use of the n-word during the course of a game.
According to Ravens General Manager, Ozzie Newsome, the NFL has discussed it and looks to do something about the use of this word on the field. It’s no secret that profanity is something that can be found with ease by both fans and players during the course of an NFL game but as the NFL tries to clean up its image, this is an important feature to ensure that football can remain a family sport and a sport suitable for children.
The penalty would be enforced by refs and would be accounted for by individual players. The second occurrence would result in an automatic ejection from the game. In March, NFL owners will officially sit down and discuss the potential rule and its penalties. This is an interesting rule as it can be a major factor among many players who grew up using the word and are accustomed to using the word in any sort of matter.
The issue of the word is not with the connotation it holds as oftentimes it is used in an endearing manner but more so with the history connected to the word and the miseducation of its use. The word should not be accepted in any manor especially not by anybody who is not African-American. The issue will be brought up about a player’s right of free speech but the NFL must realize that in order to send a message on its values, the league must be able to ensure its players are disciplined, representing the NFL properly, and are respectful to all.
The NFL has been under a lot of criticism lately after the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin controversy that has unfolded the last couple months. Incognito, a white male, was accused of bullying teammate and “friend” Martin with hazing, threats, name calling (including the use of racial slurs against the African-American), and more. Prior to the season, Eagle’s star wide receiver Riley Cooper was scrutinized for his use of the profane word. Though members of his team stood in support of him (such as Michael Vick), many notable NFL players acknowledged that he had a target on his back and that they did not support his use.
Another development linked to this that I would love to see is if the NFL could institute a similar penalty attached to homophobic slurs. With the coming out of SEC All-American Michael Sam, it seems like the perfect time to gain some social rights in what is generally considered a “man’s league.” Though trash talking may be a staple within sports in the past and will continue to be in the future, there is no place and no need for any sort of discrimination on or off the field and it is a very progressive move should the NFL choose to institute these new rules.
It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have entered an off year compared to their usual winning ways. The franchise has consistently been one of the most dominant from year to year holding the all time winning percentage record over the rival Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers have the second most NBA championships and have the most finals appearances with 31 in the league’s 67 year history. The franchise has been known for decades having gone from duo to duo and priding themselves with nothing less than championship aspirations every year. With legendary players like George Mikan, Gail Goodrich, Happy Hairston, Bob McAdoo, Norm Nixon, Jamaal Wilkes, AC Green, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, James Worthy, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Pau Gasol, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and the current face of the franchise and a generation, Kobe Bryant, it’s not hard to see why the Lakers have had such great success on the court. The list of laker greats go on and on but the number of greats listed above is also equal to the number of wins the 18-35 Lakers have this year.
To understand how the Lakers got to this point, it’s important to take a second to decipher the path that took the 2010 NBA Champions here. In 2010, the Lakers were coming off a 4-3 finals victory against the rival Celtics and their hall of fame worthy big three consisting of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. An emerging Rajon Rondo was on his way to stardom as well. Coached by Phil Jackson, these Lakers finished 57-25 with stars Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom playing at their prime. The newly renamed Metta World Peace played his heart out and was a crucial defensive stopper and provided game changing offense when he was asked to along with nightly entertainment with his antics and press conferences. Andrew Bynum, who had finally found his health, was beginning to play like the star everyone knew he could be when the Lakers took a chance on him drafting him when he was only 17 five years prior. The Lakers looked to be at the top for the next few seasons as long as their solid core stayed put.
The 2010-2011 season was much of the same until the postseason. In the postseason, the Lakers won a tough first round series against Chris Paul, David West, and the New Orleans Hornets. The Lakers seemed tired out and were simply out played by the blue collar Dallas Mavericks who went on to beat the Miami Heat for the NBA Championship. The series was very disappointing as Laker fans constantly saw little man JJ Barea cutting through the Lakers tall front court, Jason Terry “jetting” his way through the court, Shawn Marion stopping all perimeter penetration, Dirk Nowitzki playing like a man on a mission, and the newly acquired Tyson Chandler showing why he was a top three rim protector in the league. An ugly scene in game 4 where Bynum executed a dangerous flagrant foul on the speedy Barea set the tone for the rest of Bynum’s career up till now.
Following the sweep, legendary coach Phil Jackson retired and former Cleveland Cavaliers defensive coach Mike Brown was signed on as the first black coach in the franchise’s history. The 2011-2012 season was part of a lockout and thus created a shorter season. Just a couple weeks before the season began, news broke that star point guard Chris Paul was to be sent to the Lakers as part of a three way trade. The Lakers would’ve received Paul, the Hornets would’ve received Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic, while the Houston Rockets would’ve gotten big man Pau Gasol. The deal was lining up to be one of the best steals in Laker history to get a future hall of fame point guard in the middle of his prime. Also at the time, defensive player of the year Dwight Howard was requesting a trade and the teams were getting ready to pull the trigger on an Andrew Bynum/Dwight Howard swap before Howard walked away in the offseason for nothing. The trade that would’ve probably created the Lakers as title contenders for the next decade and brought about the next great Laker duo after Kobe’s retirement was shot down as retired commissioner David Stern held ownership of the Hornets at the time and declined the trade saying very little other than “basketball reasons.” The other owners had a fit when they found out about the proposed deal setting up the Lakers and there was much outrage and Stern stated that the Hornets weren’t getting enough in return and NBA owners and GM’s stated it would create too much of a basketball dynasty. Stern was cautious to cross these owners after the lockout had just ended. Just a few days after, the Hornets star was traded in a deal to the hometown rival Los Angeles Clippers creating an exciting tandem consisting of Paul and the exciting 22 year old, Blake Griffin.
Feeling alienated by the failed trade and going through some tough personal problems, the former sixth man of the year, Lamar Odom, requested a trade from the franchise he had the most success with. Odom was soon traded to the Dallas Mavericks but had to skip games due to personal problems. When he returned he was never the same dealing with stints in the D-League, the having his relationship with reality star Khloe Kardashian aired on television weekly, and the eventual scandal of the former star being allegedly addicted to cocaine. It was a sad road to see the generally cheerful and versatile player go down.
As Mike Brown and the new look Lakers (who had now also traded away long time Laker Derek Fisher for Jordan Hill) marched into the postseason with a 41-25 record, they surprised many showing that they could crank out the wins. With Bynum now turning into a full blown star and the Lakers boasting a big three of their own, the team rolled into the playoffs but that wasn’t without many drama filled moments. The chemistry was going down as Bynum’s ego was raised. Without locker room leaders Derrick Fisher, Lamar Odom, and respected coach Phil Jackson, the responsibility fell onto the quiet and personal superstar Kobe Bryant, nice guy Pau Gasol who stuck with the Lakers through the Hornets trade, and Metta World Peace who’s infamously known for thanking his psychiatrist after the 2010 finals. In the postseason, the Lakers squeaked by the Denver Nuggets 4-3 and were upset by the young, talented, and fast Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 2012-2013 season called for a complete renovation to the roster if they were going to be able to compete with teams like Oklahoma City and the Miami Heat. The Lakers did what they do best, created Hollywood drama. In the summer of 2012, the Lakers acquired two time MVP Steve Nash and center Dwight Howard who had one year left on his current contract and made no guarantee to return. The Lakers received Howard, Chris Duhon, and Earl Clark. The Magic received Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflao, All Harrington, and many future draft picks. the Philadelphia 76ers received veteran Jason Richardson and Andrew Bynum while the Denver Nuggets finished off the trade by receiving versatile swingman Andre Iguodala. The trade was a huge switch in the NBA and the Lakers seemed to have gotten the best of it.
As tension had built between the Lakers and Mike Brown, GM Mitch Kupchak had Brown on a tight leash along with Kobe’s apparent “death stare.” The team started off 1-4 and fired Brown almost immediately. Assistant Bernie Bickerstaff lead the Lakers to a 4-1 record as the interim head coach and was widely known to be a player favorite as he let the players play something reminiscent of playground basketball. After failing with a defensive first coach like Brown, Kupchak sought out other potential head coaches. The two candidates at the end were former coach Phil Jackson who most of LA was hoping for, chanting “We want Phil!” during games, and former Suns and Knicks coach, Mike D’Antoni, who was known for his prolific offense seven seconds or less offense. As the Lakers seemed to tease Jackson and eventually sign D’Antoni who had a great relationship with fellow Italian speaker Kobe Bryant, the Lakers drama began. With Steve Nash getting hurt and only being able to play in 50 games and newly acquired Dwight Howard coming off a serious back injury, the Lakers were left with less depth and relied on 34 year old Bryant to play 38.6 minutes per game and washed up role players like World Peace, Antawn Jamison, and emerging role players like Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake, Earl Clark, and Jordan Hill. The team made the playoffs with a 45-37 record losing to the future champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Tension had boiled over the duration of the season between a frustrated Pau Gasol trying to find his place in D’Antoni’s system, Kobe and Dwight feuding due to their polar opposite demeanors, and even with D’Antoni and the Laker fans who clearly were in support of Phil Jackson rather than D’Antoni. Another franchise changing event happened in January 2012, legendary owner Jerry Buss, who bought the Lakers in 1979 died after battling cancer. He was one of the most influential owners in NBA history and is often considered the most successful owner across sports as he brought in the Showtime Era of the 80’s, years of success in the 90’s, the resurgence of the dominant title runs with a three peat in the early 2000’s, and two consecutive titles to start of the 2010’s. As ownership was passed to his son Jim Buss, many questionable decisions were being made and had been made since Jerry fell sick months before.
The following offseason held a desperate attempt by GM Mitch Kupchak to hold onto big man Dwight Howard but ultimately failing as he was courted by James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and the Houston Rockets organization. The Lakers decided to cut fan favorite Metta World Peace in favor of clearing up cap space and decreasing the luxury tax. When the 2013-2014 season began, many avid Laker fans could hardly recognize their own roster with Kobe going down with an achilles tear at the end of the 2012-2013 season, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock, Antawn Jamison, Darius Johnson-Odom, Darius Morris, and Metta all not returning to the Lakers for the 2013-2014 season.
The new look Lakers returned in 2013 with low expectations and a team built around the D’Antoni system acquiring a plethora of athletes and shooters. With returners Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Jordan Farmar, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre, the team was sure to see many new faces. Former Laker backup Jordan Farmar and childhood friend and LA native Nick Young took pay cuts to return to LA while another big man, Chris Kaman, returned to LA to play for the Lakers this time. Former top picks Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson were signed to add athleticism at the guard and forward positions. Shooting big man Shawne Williams was an instant favorite of D’Antoni and was named a starter at the beginning of the season. Summer league standout Elias Harris was signed and 2nd round pick Ryan Kelly finished out the roster to create a younger version of the old school Phoenix Suns roster blessed with countless athletes, shooters, and a number of raw prospects ready to be turned into players.
The season began with a bang. With the Lakers putting out a starting lineup of Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Nick Young, Shawne Wiliams, and Pau Gasol, the Lakers were heavy underdogs to Chris Paul and his Clippers. Instead, D’Antoni used a balanced bench attack with 11 players each playing over 13 minutes. D’Antoni just rode the hot hand this concluded in a Laker win with the Laker bench bolstered by Jordan Farmer, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, and Chris Kaman playing most of the fourth quarter and outscoring the Clippers 41-24. It truly was the biggest moral victory a bitter Laker fan base could have after seeing the two guys they thought would carry the Laker legacy playing for different teams. The team began 10-9 and was quickly hit with injuries. From that point, the team has accumulated eight wins and 26 losses on their way to being tied with the Sacramento Kings for the worst record in the Western Conference.
During these first 19 games, the Laker team was relatively healthy outside of Kobe Bryant who hadn’t announced his return date just yet. They were able to get wins against Chris Paul and the Clippers, the Atlanta Hawks, Dwight Howard and the new look Houston Rockets, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Golden State Warriors, the Brooklyn Nets lead by former Celtics stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the Detroit Pistons twice, and the Sacramento Kings twice. As the start of the losses began to pour in on December eigth against the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers became victims of the injury bug. Steve Nash was hit with injury after injury and as a result has only played 10 out of the 53 games, fellow point guards Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar, both playing the best basketball of their careers have only played a combined 50 games this season. Diamond in the rough Xavier Henry has only played 31 games with a knee injury after a hot start, and Pau Gasol has had to make tough decisions to stay in games or play in games while injured knowing that without him the team doesn’t stand a chance. Though he should’ve probably only played around 35 games, the veteran has manned up to play 44 of the 53 games. There isn’t a Laker who’s played in every game and only two Lakers have been able to play in 50 games. In a season where injuries have killed any chance for a Laker playoff run, the team has even played a game where only eight were active to start off the game, two got injured, and two fouled out. Yes, the Lakers only had four eligible players but they were somehow given permission to finish out the game with Robert Sacre in the game playing with 6 fouls as long as each foul from there was treated as a technical.
Though the season has looked all bad from this standpoint, the Lakers have a few bright spots to be optimistic about heading into the future. They were able to cut plenty of money from their roster in the last year and by not having Dwight Howard’s max deal on the books. Expert GM Mitch Kupchak was able to find players who other teams had given up on such as Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill, Xavier Henry, Kendall Marshall (mid-season signing from the D-League), Ryan Kelly, and even had a good stint from scorer Manny Harris.
Jodie Meeks was a throw-in for the Dwight Howard trade almost two years ago and has flourished into a top shooter in the NBA. Meeks is currently averaging 14.4 points per game and is shooting over 40% from three point. He’s proven that he’s more than just a bench player or offensive spark plug as he has shown he has a knack for defense averaging 1.5 steals per contest. Wesley Johnson was the fourth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and was quickly given up on by the Minnesota Timberwolves after two seasons. He is now on his third team in the last four years but seems to have found a home with the Lakers. In 28 minutes a game, he is showing his defensive abilities and has proven he can also be relied on as a shooter holding a 37% mark on the year from long distance.
Everybody knew about Jordan Hill’s toughness but few had in mind the talent and drive the former eighth pick out of Arizona had. In only 19.5 minutes per game, Hill is averaging an astounding 7 rebounds a game along with 8.5 points. Fans have been upset with D’Antoni for not giving the big man enough playing time. Xavier Henry was the 12th pick in the 2010 draft and was quickly given up on by the Memphis Grizzlies. In only 21.8 minutes per game, the reserve is averaging over 10 points and has proven to be someone who can score in bunches.
The most surprising of all has been the play of Kendall Marshall. The former North Carolina Tar Heel was the 13th pick in the 2012 draft. He is the ACC’s all time assist leader for a single season and is known as a pass first guard who was just a backup as a rookie for the Phoenix Suns. As he was cut in the beginning of the year by those same Suns who now have future star Eric Bledsoe, he found himself in the D-League. In an interesting move, GM Mitch Kupchak signed the second year player to a two year deal implying that he was a part of the future rebuilding for the Lakers. In his first start of the season following lengthy injuries to every other point guard on the roster, Marshall scored 20 points and added 15 assists. In the month of January he went on to average 11.5 assists going for double digit assists in 11 of the Lakers 15 games. He even eclipsed 13 assists seven times on the month going for 17 which he tied for his career high on February 13 against a top Oklahoma City Thunder team. In the month of February, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Jordan Farmar have all returned but Marshall has still averaged 29.8 minutes per game through their poor health and has put up 9.2 assists per game.
Though Pau Gasol has been playing well this season, averaging around 17 points with 10 rebounds a game in just under 32 minutes, he’s been the center of all trade talks. The Spaniard has been constantly distracted by trade talks since the Chris Paul deal was nixed being the Lakers top trading chip and the most desirable player for any other team to go after. In January, when the Lakers were hit hardest by injuries, Gasol looked like he was back in his prime averaging 21 points a game, 12 rebounds a game, 4 assists, and almost 2 blocks a game in 35 minutes keeping the Lakers respectable. Right when his value got highest, the Lakers decided to engage in talks with the Cavaliers to potentially ship him off for Andrew Bynum and another first round pick and essentially cut Bynum to open up more free salary space and also lower their luxury tax bill for this offseason. As Cleveland pulled the trigger on a Bynum deal with the Bulls and the Bulls cut him not allowing him to ruin their locker room with his childish behavior, the Lakers looked for another option. The next option was the young Phoenix Suns looking for a veteran presence in the locker room to help ease the transition into a perennial playoff team. The Suns would ship injured big man Emeka Okafor and a first round pick for Gasol. Trade talks cooled off though as Gasol got hurt in late January and still hasn’t announced his return date. It’s possible that the trade talks resume as the deadline is February 20, but don’t expect the Lakers to be able to ship off Gasol as their asking price might be too much.
The biggest enigma has been which direction the Lakers are going in. At the beginning of the season, nobody wanted to believe that the team wasn’t gearing up for a playoff birth though most knew this was the reality in the tough Western Conference. Kobe Bryant was coming off of an injury but felt insulted when ESPN ranked Kobe as the 25th best player in the NBA and the Lakers were projected to finish 13th in the Western Conference. Now Kobe has only played six games on the year due to getting hurt again right after his anticipated return. He is now unsure of when he will return but maintains that he can return to the team this season and still be the same player he once was. With his contract extension, he is now locked in to play both next year and the year after signing a 2 year/$48.5 million extension. Many fans and critics alike were shocked at the price of this contract for a player who has struggled to even get back on the court and though nobody doubts his drive and skill, it isn’t the same Kobe so to justify that contract may be difficult. He has openly stated that he plans to bring about the day Laker fans have avoided thinking about since he was drafted as a 17 year old by the Lakers in 1996, his retirement.
The only signed players through next year are Steve Nash’s also inflated salary, Nick Young’s player option should he choose to stay another year with these Lakers, reserve big man Robert Sacre, and Kendall Marshall. This ensures that the team is bound to look very different next year as the Lakers try to scrap for the best possible team they can make with their current financial situation. The signing of Kobe to that deal creates enough money for one possible star to come to LA with a bit of a pay cut but cutting Steve Nash or allowing him to retire, given his injury history on the season, this is a possibility would free up enough money for a second large contract.
This year’s free agent crop consists of a group of players who are still unsure about whether they will resign with their current teams or not. LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet and has taken the torch from Kobe Bryant, he has an early termination option but it seems unlikely that he would leave Miami after another seemingly successful season (along with other early termination option teammates Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade). Carmelo Anthony has the same option in New York but hasn’t found nearly the same success team wise there as his fellow draft mates from the Heat have. There’s a strong possibility he opts out of his contract but it doesn’t seem like the Lakers would be a great fit as the team will always be centered around Bryant and though they are friends, it seems unlikely that the two could coexist leading a team together. He also recently stated that he’d be interested in taking a pay cut to remain a member of the New York Knicks as long as they show they are steadily trying to improve and build.
Big man Greg Monroe from the Detroit Pistons has blossomed into a rising star and will be a restricted free agent, with Andre Drummond also developing into a top talent, it’s unlikely that the Pistons would match a high salary offer for their big man. Point guard Eric Bledsoe is another restricted free agent but the Suns have maintained that no matter the price, they’ll do anything to keep him in Phoenix. Veteran swingman Luol Deng is on track to be an unrestricted free agent this summer after being traded to Cleveland and it’s very likely that he opts out to sign with a contender this summer. Wings Evan Turner, Gordon Hayward, and Avery Bradley could all be in line to be pursued by the Lakers but the contracts will all come at different costs. As the Lakers look to get younger, it’s likely that Pau Gasol will be released from his contract leaving room for a big man. Possible options include players like Spencer Hawes, Marcin Gortat, Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson, and others.
The free agent crop for this year doesn’t look too promising but 2015’s class looks to possibly boast talents like Kyrie Irving, Reggie Jackson, Brandon Knight, Rajon rondo, Ricky Rubio, Kemba Walker, Arron Afflalo, Monta Ellis, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Jeff Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kenneth Faried, Kevin Love, Thaddeus Young, Omer Asik, Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert, Al Jefferson, DeAndre Jordan, Enes Kanter, and Brook Lopez. While these names have Laker fans salivating, they will have to wait at least another season before getting any of them. Some even anticipate star Russell Westbrook to be interested in making a jump to his hometown Lakers at some point. The most immediate form of help will come through the NBA draft as this year looks to be one of the best drafts in recent memory and has several potential all stars in the making.
The elite players in this year’s draft are Joel Embiid (center), Andrew Wiggins (shooting guard/small forward), Jabari Parker (small forward), Dante Exum (point guard/shooting guard), Julius Randle (power forward), and Marcus Smart (point guard). Exum and Smart could fit the long term solution at point guard for the Lakers with both providing size and athleticism to the spot. Wiggins is an incredible athlete and two way player who is also known as a defensive stopper. Parker is an all out scorer and looks to translate to a Carmelo Anthony mold in the NBA. Embiid is a center who’s game is most reminiscent of fellow African big man, Hakeem Olajuwan. While nobody is saying that his game is anywhere near “The Dream,” he certainly has the potential to go down as a special center because of his incredible length, athleticism, and work ethic. He is a top notch shot blocker but has the hands of a guard. He can shoot the ball from right around 15 feet and looks to be a can’t miss prospect even though there’s talk about him returning to school for another year.
Prospects like Aaron Gordon (explosive, athletic forward), Noah Vonleh (long forward/center), Tyler Ennis (traditional and efficient point guard), UCLA star Zach Lavine (good at everything combo guard), and international star Dario Saric (stretch 4) will continue to make all the options of this year’s draft incredibly interesting as it can play out any way and many late picks will develop into solid players while a couple of the guys who are thought of as elite may not wind up doing much in their careers.
The Lakers have to figure out now whether they want to gear up for a run next year and go all out this summer in free agency and the draft or get ready to prepare for two years from now with hitting a home run in this year’s draft and getting ready for the 2015 offseason. Many Laker fans would love to see Kobe’s last season be with other superstars such as Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and whoever the Lakers take with their high draft pick this summer. The Lakers are now looking to plan for the future but in Los Angeles, GM Mitch Kupchak has proven that there’s always a bright side and something tells me that in 2015, the Lakers will be just fine.
This was supposed to be the year Red Storm fans saw their beloved basketball team return to Big East prominence and gain some attention coming into March as that team you didn’t want to run into in the tournament. With the return of last year’s leading scorer D’angelo Harrison (returning from suspension), Jakarr Sampson (Big East Freshman of the Year), Chris Obekpa (led the NCAA in blocks per game with 4.03 last year), and the favorite for Freshman of the Year this year, Rysheed Jordan, the stars seemed to align for the Johnnies. Coach Steve Lavin was handed an incredible amount of raw talent and asked to make some magic with it.
As the season got started with the annual tip-off event, many were hyped and ready for a successful season. The team was introduced in the event by Coach Lavin and rap star Lupe Fiasco decided to join in on the fun by giving a concert to all in attendance at the event. The season started with a bang against #20 Wisconsin in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Badgers got off to a quick 11-2 run to start the game and would continue their first half dominance closing out the first half with a 12 point lead. A St. John’s run created a 58-54 deficit with around 8 minutes left but Wisconsin’s experience and maturity helped close the game out. The Johnnies wound up losing 86-75 to open up the season 0-1. With Sampson and Harrison being the only players to score in double figures, it was a very disappointing game for a team who many expected to pull off the upset. The next four games were against much easier opponents with the only close game being a 4 point win against sharpshooting Bucknell.
After this stretch, St. John’s would face another real test with a few big conference schools in the Barclays Center Classic. The first game pit St. John’s against Penn State out of the Big 10. While the Red Storm went down by 7 at the end of the first half, they wound up forcing the game to overtime and gave away the game due to scorer Tim Frazier scoring 10 points in overtime alone. In the second game of the tournament, the Johnnies picked up a quality win against Georgia Tech playing in the ACC. After running all over Fordham, St. John’s faced their biggest test of the entire season in the battle of New York against Syracuse. Syracuse was #2 at the time and is now #1 with a 24-0 record, most Johnnies believe they should be 23-1 because of this game. As the Johnnies love to do, they started off slow and got hot after the halftime break. After recovering from a 12 point defect at halftime, the comeback kids were tied at 53 with 9:16 left in the game. After a series of lead changes and momentum runs, star forward CJ Fair and mature freshmen Tyler Ennis displayed poise and passion down the stretch to take the game. Along with help from a few careless turnovers down the stretch, the Red Storm gave away a game that would’ve put them on the national spotlight once again.
The Red Storm finished out the non conference portion of their schedule at 10-3 with their three losses against two ranked teams and tough Penn State team. The kickoff of the Big East competitions were the lowest point of the season as it seemed the team played with almost no motivations. Suffering a 10 point loss to Semaj Christon and the Xavier Musketeers, St. John’s went into play a Georgetown who has had an up and down season losing to the likes of Northeastern and Seton Hall but also beating ranked teams like VCU and Michigan State. The Red Storm had an awful first half being outscored 42-16. This was the point where the team had to find out where the magic they supposedly had gone. Although they outscored Georgetown in the second half, they still wound up losing 77-60. The next game was another tough game against #6 Villanova. They wound up losing by 7 in a game where the Red Storm lost control of it in the last few minutes and their immaturity was still showing. After the game, the team decided to play with a chip on their shoulder but it wound up in a 77-75 loss to DePaul and a 84-83 loss to Providence in double overtime. The team had started off conference play at 0-5. The team had enough.
After getting their first conference win against a weak Seton Hall, they went on to beat a quality Butler team by 17. The team was now on a 3 game win streak going into a matchup against Wooden Player of the Year favorite Doug McDermott and his #20 Creighton Blue Jays. The Johnnies and Blue Jays were battling the entire game with each team making large runs to control the game for a period of time. At one point the Red Storm were down by 18 but tied it up and didn’t let momentum shift…for a while. It was a matchup of complete opposites with a fast-paced, athletic team like St. John’s squared up against the half court, sharp-shooting team from Creighton. The game concluded with a game winning three pointer with 2.4 seconds left by McDermott. These were just three of his 39 points on the night. St. John’s felt like they played a great game and in their usual comeback kid way, they had a much better second half than first half.
This game seemed to inspire the Johnnies to play that much harder and the next game against a Marquette team who started the season off at #17 in the nation, the Red Storm played with fire in their eyes slamming down dunks, performing alley-oops, and making vicious blocks all night long. The team won by an easy 15 points without showing weakness all night. The next game was against scorer Bryce Cotton and Providence who beat the Johnnies in double overtime last meeting. After opening up to a 53-37 lead, St. John’s won by 10 points.
The Red Storm had now won five out of their last six and were facing a surging Creighton who was now up to #12 in the nation. The Johnnies had now been playing with that magic everybody expected them to have at the beginning of the season and were almost expecting a win against a team that had beat them last time. As the two teams met again, St. John’s took the lead early and never let up again. As Creighton made late game surges to tie the game and keep it close, the Johnnies never let up with Harrison clinching the game due to an ice cold, pull up three pointer. The Red Storm didn’t allow McDermott to score or even take a single shot in the final 8:40 of the game.
The Red Storm are now sitting at 15-9 with a 5-6 record in conference. They are winners of six of their last seven games and have been playing their own version of showtime basketball. Suddenly, one of the most athletic and exciting teams in the nation is now on everybody’s NCAA tournament bubble watch and are still playing with a chip on their shoulders. With all their players beginning to play their roles the way they were expected, the Johnnies are in a position to make a surge into the tournament.
Leading scorer D’angelo Harrison is now having his best season averaging 18.3 points per game, 4.3 rebounds, and only 1.2 turnovers a game which is down from an average of 2.25 between the last two seasons. Harrison has raised his three point percentage from 31.5% last season to 36.9% this season. Harrison has become the St. John’s all time three point leader and is climbing up the scoring ranks. The long and athletic small forward Jakarr Sampson is averaging 12.5 points a game and 6.3 rebounds per game. He is also shooting nearly 49% from the field and has become the Johnnies top lockdown defender. He was the major defensive stopper in the Creighton game and was matched up with Doug McDermott in the final stretch. Freshman Rysheed Jordan started the season off slow but has lately began to turn it up being named Big East Freshman of the Week twice in the last three weeks averaging almost 10 points, 1.7 steals, 5 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game during that stretch. The 6’5 super athletic point guard is now beginning to show exactly why he was rated the number three point guard coming out of high school last year and was heavily recruited. Sophomore Chris Obekpa is displaying why he’s one of the nation’s top shot blockers swatting away 3.3 shots per game in only 20.5 minutes a game.
With these four players playing their game and players like the efficient Phil Greene IV, defensive minded Sir’Dominic Pointer, enforcer God’sgift Achiuwa, versatile big man Orlando Sanchez, and the more than capable point guard Jamal Branch all playing to the best of their abilities, this team is hard to stop. As the team tries to keep up its exciting brand of basketball and prove that they can be New York’s team again as they advertised to start the season, the Johnnies have been picking up fans very quickly. With seven more games left in conference, St. John’s has a chance to show the real version of the team people thought they were at the beginning of the season.
As long as the Johnnies don’t lose the games they should easily win against teams like Seton Hall, Butler, DePaul, and Marquette, they should maintain this newfound energy and momentum into the big games. With games left against Georgetown, #6 Villanova, and under the radar tournament team Xavier and their possible first round pick Semaj Christon, the Johnnies must win at least two out of these three games.
Although the NCAA Tournament is no sure thing and winning the Big East Tournament will be a tedious and unlikely task, if there’s any team who can rebound from their poor start it’s the comeback kids of St. John’s. These boys have an amazing knack for being able to surprise everyone and make incredible, odd defying comebacks. I think that these boys can do it again and can definitely scare a few teams and even upset a few teams in the NCAA Tournament this march. Keep an eye out for these Johnnies because they believe they’re ready to march their way into the big dance and the city of New York is all behind them!
College football has been dealing with the issue of whether athletes should be paid for their services or not. It’s been a factor since the commercialization of the NCAA and college sports. Football has probably been the most commercialized college sport and has hit a lot speed bumps along the way with the treatment of their players. One of the biggest issues has been whether the NCAA should be paying players to play or not. It isn’t a secret that many football players come from a variety of different economic backgrounds and many would need the money more than others. With the players taking so much time to ensure that they stay eligible academically and also try balancing things like training, practice, and having as much of a social life as possible through all the traveling, many have little to no free time to hold down a job. With the physical toll football players take with practices, games, and training, it’s unbelievable that many of them don’t seem to get proper medical care either even though the NCAA uses medical care and athletic scholarships as their primary form of compensation.
Many football players like Jadeveon Clowney, a bonafide first round pick and probably a top 5 pick in this year’s draft, believe that players deserve to be paid for their efforts. He noted to Jim Rome on Showtime that he would’ve stayed an extra year if college athletes were getting paid. He believed that with all the jerseys being sold, merchandise and tickets being bought, and images being used for advertising. With all the revenue the football programs at these schools bring in, players feel ill compensated. Clowney sited needing to pay for his family being the main reason why he made the jump to the NFL. According to ESPN, a preliminary hearing was done and a group of lawyers determined that the players should be eligible under the National Labor Relations Act.
Clowney looks to be drafted right at the top of the draft board. According to Mel Kiper’s big board, Clowney is ranked number one overall. His balance of quickness and speed for a guy his size is a once in a generation type of talent. Kiper notes that Clowney can play in any scheme regardless of the defensive players around him or the game plans made for him. It is very possible for him to slide in the draft though because of the need of many teams near the top of the draft board to select a quarterback. His history with coach Steve Spurrier while in college accusing him of not playing hard enough focusing enough on the season at hand has given a bit of a reputation that many scouts are willing to overlook for his talent. In Kiper’s latest mock draft, he has the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting the powerful big man with the third pick in the draft though they could easily pass on that with their strong need for a starting quarterback.
In my personal opinion, it’s just a mystery as to how this should be regulated. Not all colleges have the same revenue from their athletic programs or the funds to play their players. The issue would arise whether certain players should be paid more or less than others by position or role on team or even their family’s socio-economic status. It’s an interesting position as it could create a large imbalance for recruiting as bigger or more profitable schools may be able to pay their players more money than smaller schools like mid-majors. This would probably open the door up to a countless number of recruiting scandals as well. People against the notion of paying athletes will generally argue all these points and also that the payment of players would result in less school tradition and take away from the merit and character of college athletics. It’ll be an interesting story to follow over the next few seasons.
On Saturday, February 8th, star guard for the 19th rank Oklahoma State Cowboys was suspended for three games. He was involved in an altercation with a fan that was reportedly screaming cruel things to him the entire game. Smart was launched into the crowd following a hustle play on a fast break and seemed to have heard something foul. In an instant he turned around and the two quickly shared heated exclamations and Smart followed with a powerful push. He was quickly taken away by his teammates to prevent any further damage or altercations but the entire time he could be seen shouting back and eventually attempting to plead his case to his disappointed coach. He wound up claiming the fan had shouted at him using a racial slur but the fan disputed that saying that he was incredibly sorry for his remarks and name calling but never called him any racial slurs. He remarked that he wouldn’t attend anymore Texas Tech games this season though he was considered one of their most loyal fans and was even known around campus and through players over the years. Smart later took full responsibility for the situation and apologized in name to the fan saying he was out of line as well. Serving his suspension will place a lot of “hurt” on him as his coach said because he’s a great character guy hailed for his leadership and good nature. The team is now on a three game losing streak and has fallen out of the rankings as of the week 15 rankings (Monday, February 10, 2014). If they drop the next three games without their star player, there’s a chance they can drop out of the running for the tournament and finish out much worse than where they peaked (number 5 in the rankings) just a few weeks ago.
I was really drawn to this story because I like to consider myself a semi-expert with the NBA and especially the NBA draft. I have been tracking Smart as a player since he was in high school and saw this story develop as I was watching the game. It’s really interesting to see how this could potentially affect his draft stock as now questions are arising about his temper. He also acted out kicking a chair in a loss earlier this season. The man who was considered the most NBA ready player in college basketball and the shoe-in for the 2nd pick in last year’s draft is now having to take a bit of a back seat to the rest of the younger, talented freshmen taking the game by storm. This also deals with the issue of how fans and players have a relationship. People always examine the player’s gestures, words, and attitudes toward the fans but many neglect to acknowledge the words being thrown around at the players. These players often face so much cursing, obscene gestures, and hatred directed upon them just because of whom they play for. This is something the NCAA needs to examine, as it’s not easy to take such mental abuse at the hands of these fans from a former player’s standpoint.
Original Article: http://msn.foxsports.com/southwest/story/oklahoma-state-guard-marcus-smart-suspended-3-games-for-shoving-fan-020914?related=40a2f594-8601-4da3-8704-64e1aa5b8500
The article sums up the NBA’s season in a nutshell. The article summarizes a trade possibility being explored for Lakers star Pau Gasol. The move would reportedly send the Spaniard to Phoenix for injured and washed up former 2nd pick, Emeka Okafor and his large contract. The move sounds very one-sided but shows the changing statuses of the NBA. Many younger teams who seemed to look as if they had a few steps to go are making their playoff pushes like the Suns who are taking all the steps to acquire talent in a “win-now” kind of effort. On the flipside, teams like the Lakers are actively getting rid of players who may not be essential to the long-term future of the team like the aging star. Teams like the Celtics have already started this process just last year getting rid of stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and acquiring multiple draft picks and expiring contracts to gain money for the future. The move would likely send a first round pick in a loaded draft to the Lakers as well as shed Gasol’s heavy contract for another large contract that will be expired at the end of the season and put the Lakers out of having to pay a luxury tax for being above the cap space. The Suns will wait to see the status of Pau Gasol and how he handles the groin injury he’s currently dealing with.
I chose this because I’m a Laker fan and am incredibly interested in the constant drama between the Lakers and their own players. Being from LA, Laker basketball is definitely part of a culture. No matter what it follows you and is always interesting and shipping off a top player for a potential draft pick who is playing in college right now is interesting. It also shows the changing culture of Laker basketball as they transition into a quick rebuilding process to set them up in a successful position as soon as possible. This potential move would free up money to spend on younger, better players for the future as well as acquire some young talent in the draft.
In today’s NBA, fans have witnessed a lot of changes since the modern age of superstars took over. Even more specifically, fans have witnessed incredible instability among NBA Franchise ownership and much of this based on the money that the team is worth, bringing in, and also due to the success of the franchise. As the tenured commissioner, David Stern, is making his way out of this role and deputy commissioner Adam Silver is getting in position to step up as the new commissioner, Silver gave a briefing on the current situation of NBA ownership at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit. Silver stated that “there’s a great buzz around the league right now” and that “there aren’t any NBA teams for sale right now but if there were [the price] would be robust (Windhorst).”
Many owners are excited about the new TV deal the NBA is in place to receive to bring more revenue both to individual teams as well as the league as a whole and Silver is optimistic about the current future of the industry with a new group of stable, committed owners. Some examples of recent changes in majority ownership cited in the article were Michael Jordan purchasing a majority share of the Bobcats for under $200 million in 2011, the 76ers being bought for only $280 million, a group buying the New Orleans Pelicans (owned by the NBA for 18 months until the best offer came around) for $338 million, the Memphis Grizzlies for $377 million, and progressive NBA owner Vivek Ranadive flipping his minority share of the Golden State Warriors and picking up the large price tag of $534 million to buy the fresh start Sacramento Kings who were fighting relocation from supporters of the Seattle NBA team movement. Now that prices of teams have begun rising once again and stability in ownership is back, things like the 2011 NBA lockout are hopefully in the rear view mirror for the NBA. The new collective bargaining agreement agreed on between the NBA officials, owners, and the players association should also be a good help as to how stability has been reached and more owners like Mark Cuban who are so infused with both the name and the brand of the team have started becoming a new trend in the NBA front offices.