OKC’s Russell Westbrook’s popularity soars in wide open NBA MVP race

(l-r) James Harden, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook have made strong cases for NBA MVP this season.

(l-r) James Harden, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook have made strong cases for NBA MVP this season.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

There are roughly six weeks left in the current NBA regular season and the race for NBA’s Most Valuable Player is still wide open. As teams finish the last quarter of the regular season, fans will weigh in on their favorite for MVP this year. The MVP race is indicative of an excellent NBA regular season that has about two thirids of the teams jockeying for playoff position at this time.

Karl Malone finished just ahead of Alonzo Mourning and Tim Duncan to win his 2nd MVP in 1998-99.

Karl Malone finished just ahead of Alonzo Mourning and Tim Duncan to win his 2nd MVP in 1998-99.

This MVP race is setting up to be the closest race since the 1998-99 lockout shortened NBA season when Karl Malone won his second MVP award. What makes this season comparable to that one is that there was no strong favorite to win the NBA title for that season which seemed to enhance the importance of the regular season. This season has the same uncertainty about the postseason, which makes playoff seeding and the regular season seem more important than usual. Here is the case for the top MVP candidates:

LeBron James is in the MVP conversation every season and this  year is no different. He might be in line for his 5th MVP this year.

LeBron James is in the MVP conversation every season and this year is no different. He might be in line for his 5th MVP this year.

Four- time regular season MVP-winner LeBron James is helping his Cleveland Cavaliers move up in the standings in the Eastern Conference while having his usual fantastic season. James is currently third in scoring with 26.3 ppg and seventh in assists at 7.3 apg. His value is not only determined simply by his numbers as the Cavaliers had a recent stretch of winning 19 out of 21 games. James can solidify his fifth MVP if his team can continue moving up in the standings because James will continue playing at his current high level.

Stephen Curry has emerged as a top star this year while his team has emerged as a title contender this season.

Stephen Curry has emerged as a top star this year while his team has emerged as a title contender this season.

Stephen Curry has helped the Golden State Warriors  reach the top of the Western Conference at this point of the season. Curry is currently fifth in scoring  with 23.8 ppg sixth in assists at 7.8 apg. Curry has seen his national profile grow in conjunction with the success of his team this season. At this time, the Warriors have the best record in the West at 47 – 12. If they can maintain their lead in the conference, it will greatly help Curry’s MVP case.

James Harden won the 6th man of the Year Award a few years ago while playing for the Thunder. Harden is hoping to add MVP to his mantle in Houston this year.

James Harden won the 6th man of the Year Award a few years ago while playing for the Thunder. Harden is hoping to add MVP to his mantle in Houston this year.

James Harden has been excellent this season for the Houston Rockets. His impact has  has been necessary with Dwight Howard’s many injuries. Harden is currently second in scoring with ppg 26.9 and tenth in assists at 7 apg. His scoring and playmaking have helped the Rockets stay in the hunt for home court advantage in the playoffs this season. If Harden can regain the scoring lead and help the Rockets finish as a top four seed in the West, it will drastically help his case for MVP.

Russell Westbrook's recent hot stretch has helped change perceptions that Westbrook is a selfish player. Westbrook may add regular season MVP to All-Star game MVP if continues playing at his current pace.

Russell Westbrook’s recent hot stretch has helped change perceptions that Westbrook is a selfish player. Westbrook may add regular season MVP to All-Star game MVP if continues playing at his current pace.

Russell Westbrook has helped keep the Oklahoma City Thunder’s playoff hopes alive with the prolonged absence of last season’s MVP Kevin Durant. Westbrook’s recent stretch of four consecutive triple-doubles has helped move him to the top of the NBA in scoring with 27 ppg and fourth in assists at 8.2 apg. The Thunder are still battling with the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans for the final playoff spot in a tough Western Conference. If Westbrook can maintain his high level of play and help the Thunder move up from the 8th seed, it would help his MVP case.

This season will be remembered for many things: James’ reunification in Cleveland, injuries to top stars, and the disappointment of some the NBA’s most esteemed franchises. However, the playoffs and MVP race will likely make this season remembered fondly for years to come.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a training/benefits consultant. Follow me @GloverIsGood on Twiiter.com. For business inquiries contact (646)309-1938.

Foster care children benefit from celebrity support, testimonials

Alicia Keys and her husband attend the 8th annual gala in support of the childrensrights.org benefit in October 2013.

Alicia Keys and her husband Swizz Beatz attend the 8th annual gala in support of the childrensrights.org benefit in October 2013.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

As the school year nears its conclusion throughout the country, parents will try to figure out how to keep their children occupied during the summer. Meanwhile, there are thousands of children across the country who are hoping to return to their families from foster care this summer as well. The plight of children in foster care is typically emphasized in May, Foster Care Month. According to childrensrights.org, roughly 640,000 children spent some time in out-of-home care last year.

There are many factors that cause children to be removed from their homes and ultimately placed in foster care. In many instances, parents have legal, physical or mental health issues that prevent them from being capable of being the primary care givers for their children. The children are also removed from the home because of their own issues, such as legal issues, sexual, emotional, drug or physical abuse, or mental health problems. Once removed from the home, the children have to receive treatment to address their presenting issues.

President and CEO of The Children's Village, Jeremy Kohomban PH.D  oversees an agency that services foster children in New York City and Westchester County.

President and CEO of The Children’s Village, Jeremy Kohomban Ph.D. oversees an agency that services foster children in New York City and Westchester County.

According to childrensrights.org, nearly half of the children in foster care have chronic medical conditions and upwards of 80 percent of these children have diagnosed emotional or mental health problems. This reality makes it challenging for potential foster parents who want to make a difference in these children’s lives. As a result, group homes, residential treatment facilities (RTF), and residential treatment centers (RTC) have become alternatives to provide resources and care to children who need extra attention. However, this solution has drawbacks for the children.

Many are unaware of the fact that actor/comedian Eddie Murphy spent a brief part of his childhood in foster care.

Many are unaware of the fact that actor/comedian Eddie Murphy spent a brief part of his childhood in foster care.

The Children’s Village is a foster care agency that services children in New York City and Westchester County. Children’s Village President and CEO Jeremy Kohomban Ph.D. believes that  “The longer kids stay in institutions, the less capable they are of reintegrating into society.” There structured settings often do not resemble everyday life and limits emotional, educational and social development of many foster children. There are also unfortunate incidents where children endure physical or sexual abuse while in these institutions, from either other children or staff, that compound their situation. These factors make it difficult to find the proper place for these children that need the proper care.

Actress Victoria Rowell may be most known for her role on The Young and the Restless, but she is also a strong advocate for foster children as a former foster child herself.

Actress Victoria Rowell may be most known for her role on The Young and the Restless, but she is also a strong advocate for foster children as a former foster child herself.

Ideally, children can find the care they need within their neighborhoods and stay as close to their families as possible. John Mattingly is a senior program associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland. While studying national trends in childcare services he surmised, “The key [to helping foster children] today is to build a stronger neighborhood to protect our kids.” Mattingly highlighted trends that demonstrated that children greatly benefited from being in traditional settings when possible. However, there is a balance that needs to be met that allows the child to be properly healed, or instilled with the proper coping mechanisms, so that they can thrive in their returns from foster care.

NBA Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning has used his platform to bring awareness to foster care issues as a former foster child.

NBA Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning has used his platform to bring awareness to foster care issues as a former foster child.

The awareness that children have of their circumstances while in foster care cannot be understated. The average age of foster children entering care is over 9 years old. Former NBA player Alonzo Mourning became a foster child at the age of 11 after his parents divorced. Mourning remembered, “I wasn’t comfortable at home. Divorce is hard to understand when you’re a kid.” The decision that resulted in Mourning’s entrance into foster care helped him come to an understanding that, “No part of life is always going to be milk and cookies.” The resolve he developed at that age helped him in his career and forged a mindset that was the genesis to Mourning’s giving spirit.

Author and director Antwone Fisher uses his personal background as a foster child to inspire others.

Author and director Antwone Fisher uses his personal background as a foster child to inspire others.

Mourning used his celebrity profile to bring to issues surrounding children in need including the Overtown Youth Center he helped found. Other notable celebrities who have been in foster care include Eddie Murphy, Victoria Rowell, and Antwone Fisher. They have all brought attention to the improvements needed in the foster care system while standing as positive role models for those who share the foster care experience.

For those interested in becoming a foster parent, information is readily available at www.fostercarenetwork.org.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a former foster care case worker. He is also a sports writer and  management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

Have the New York Knicks learned from the Pat Riley saga?

The Knicks seemed poised to bring New York a championship in the 90's with the pairing of Pat Riley (l) and Patrick Ewing (r).

The Knicks seemed poised to bring New York a championship in the 90’s with the pairing of Pat Riley (l) and Patrick Ewing (r).

By Charles Glover Jr.

With rumors swirling that Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson is considering a front office position with, the New York Knicks, the team he once won a championship with as a player, the question that comes to mind is, can even he save this team? The Knicks’ franchise has a tortured recent history of mishaps and missteps that traces all the way back to 1995 when then head coach Pat Riley wanted final control over personnel matters. While it wasn’t clear at the time, the Knicks should have given in to his request.

Pat Riley is the only person in the 3 major sports to win a championship as a player, coach and an executive.

Pat Riley is the only person in the 3 major sports to win a championship as a player, coach and an executive.

The immediate aftermath of Riley’s acrimonious departure was actually favorable for the Knicks. The Miami Heat, where Riley signed on the day after turning down the Knicks contract extension offer, were found guilty of tampering and the Knicks would consistently get the better of the Heat in the several times the teams would meet in the playoffs between 1996 and 2001. However, the takeaway from Riley’s early tenure is that the Heat became immediate championship contenders shortly after his arrival as a head coach/president of operations. Meanwhile, the Knicks’ post-Riley experience peaked in 1999 with an upset of the Heat, with the Knicks as a #8 seed, and another unsuccessful trip to the NBA Finals. When Riley stepped down as head coach of the Heat in 2004 after a string of disappointing seasons, it was the beginning of a successful stretch of executive moves.

Riley is hoping to be at the helm of a 4th championship for the Miami Heat.

Riley is hoping to be at the helm of a 4th championship for the Miami Heat.

Riley has made some smart decisions in the NBA Draft, taking players like Eddie House, Caron Butler, Dwayne Wade, and Mario Chalmers, all players that have helped the Heat teams win championships. Riley is more known for his ability to attract free agents and make significant trades. In 1996, Riley traded for Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, then signed key free agents like Jamal Mashburn, P.J. Brown, and Dan Majerle over the next couple of seasons to make that team a championship contender. In 2004, Riley signed Lamar Odom, then used him in a trade, along with a draft pick, Caron Butler, and Brian Grant, to acquire Shaquille O’Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Riley will forever be linked to successfully convincing LeBron James to take his “talents to South Beach” when James, Wade, and Chris Bosh all joined forces in the summer of 2010. The signing of Ray Allen proved that Riley possesses the ability to convince high quality players that championships can be had if they join his team.

Will Phil Jackson become as legendary as an executive as he is a coach?

Will Phil Jackson become as legendary as an executive as he is a coach?

As Knicks fans jump for joy with the possibility of Phil Jackson taking over as president of basketball operations, there is a lesson to be learned from the Riley saga. As successful as Riley has been with the Heat, it took him 10 years to bring that franchise a championship. It took another six years and the best player in the NBA to win the second championship. There’s no doubt that the Knicks would have to be better with Jackson at the helm, as long as James Dolan stays completely out-of-the-way.

But, if Jackson’s goal is to bring a championship to New York, that does not seem to be on the way any time soon, based on NBA trends. So Knicks fans should temper their expectations regarding Jackson’s final decision and ask this question instead: Have the Knicks really learned from the Pat Riley saga, or is this just more of the same, with a so-called executive in charge on paper and Dolan meddling as usual behind the scenes?.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.