Warriors aim to repeat as NBA Champions

After a close MVP race this NBA season, James Harden (l) and Stephen Curry (r) are the clear frontrunners to win the award.

James Harden (l) and Stephen Curry (r) will continue their rivalry during the post season with game two tonight.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The Golden State Warriors, toast of the NBA during the regular season, entered the post-season on a good note. The Warriors beat last season’s Western Conference opponents, the Houston Rockets, in their game opener with their star, Steph Curry, scoring 24 points before leaving the game due to a recurring ankle injury.

The Warriors started the regular season with 24 straight wins, a record in the NBA. They capped their historic season with 73 wins, setting a new record for wins in the regular season by winning one more than the Chicago Bulls in their 1990s heyday.  Anything short of an NBA title will be a major disappointment for the Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors celebrate their trip to the NBA Finals.

The Golden State Warriors celebrate their trip to the NBA Finals in 2015.

Curry, last season’s regular season MVP, was better this year despite head coach Steve Kerr missing the first half of the season recovering from back surgery. Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and others are performing well. Overall, the team played all season with a heightened level of confidence earned by winning it all last season.

This year the Warriors lost only once to a team (San Antonio Spurs) that finished in the top four in their conference. They finished second to the Spurs for the best home record in the NBA with 39 wins and just 2 losses. There is no question they are the overwhelming favorite to win the title this year.

Stephen Curry and the top seeded Golden State Warriors now know their opponent in the Western Conference Finals. Now the MVP must play at a high level to get his team to the NBA Finals.

Stephen Curry and the top seeded Golden State Warriors  are focused on repeating as NBA champions this year.

Essentially, there are no excuses for the Warriors to lose in the playoffs. Curry proved on Saturday that he could deliver results despite his ankle Injury and the same dedication is expected of his team mates. Last season, LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals minus two of his best teammates for a significant portion of the playoffs as Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving both endured serious injury during the playoffs.

Fatigue cannot be used as an excuse as the bulk of the Warriors team is in their physical prime. The Warriors they have rested players at various junctions throughout the season. They have defeated all competitors this season and there is no reason not to expect a dominant post-season performance from the defending champions. That is what an all-time great team is expected to do.–OnPointPress.net–

 

Kobe Bryant, the ultimate perimeter player, signs off

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Kobe Bryant played the last game of his 20-year career for the Los Angeles Lakers amid much fanfare on Wednesday, April 13. Bryant dazzled fans, scoring 60 points as the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz in the season finale, capping a farewell tour for Bryant that started once he made it clear he was retiring at the end of this season.

"Penny" Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan's departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

“Penny” Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan’s departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

While not accurate, it is often said that Michael Jordan passed the proverbial torch to Bryant.

The similarities between Bryant and Jordan are easy to see. Both are similar in height, position played, disposition on the court, and team success.

However, many forget that there were two superstars who were poised to follow in Jordan’s footsteps but suffered career altering injuries: Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway, and Grant Hill. Both superstars were similar to Bryant early in their careers because they had charisma, exciting talent and marketing appeal.

On the strength of two championships at Duke university, Hill emerged quickly as a superstar leading all NBA All-Star Game players in fan voting in his rookie season and soon afterwards leading the Detroit Pistons to multiple playoff appearances. Hill was a dynamic player with excellent scoring and play-making ability.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

Hardaway also had quick success, helping to lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995 with Shaquille O’neal. Hardaway and Hill had huge endorsement deals and were well positioned to be pre-eminent perimeter players in the NBA upon Jordan’s second retirement in 1999.

Other perimeter player contemporaries of Bryant who entered the NBA during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s include Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, and Ray Allen.

All of these players helped lead their teams in different ways, while displaying entertaining and captivating styles of play. All of these players were also major faces in advertising, which assisted in bringing extra attention to the NBA internationally.

(I - r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

(I – r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

Bryant might have the highest international profile of all of the previous mentioned players, except Jordan, and his battles with those players helped pave the way for the current wave of perimeter All Stars. Bryant’s 20 year career has allowed him to compete with players already in the basketball Hall of Fame as well as number of players likely to land there as well.

Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, James Harden, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James headline a long list of perimeter players that have carried the torch of exciting the fans and helping fans fill the impending the void created upon Bryant’s retirement.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

As Bryant retires, perimeter play is on the uptick in the NBA. The last several regular season and NBA Finals MVP have been perimeter players. Bryant reminded all spectators that current NBA fans enjoy seeing their perimeter stars score in bundles as he scored the most points by a player this season in his final game. A great ending to an even greater career.–OnPointPress.net–

 

NBA Conference Finals feature compelling matchups

Stephen Curry and the top seeded Golden State Warriors now know their opponent in the Western Conference Finals. Now the MVP must play at a high level to get his team to the NBA Finals.

Stephen Curry and the top seeded Golden State Warriors now know their opponent in the Western Conference Finals. Now the MVP must play at a high level to get his team to the NBA Finals.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The Western Conference finals are now set as the Golden State Warriors will host the Houston Rockets after a convincing game 7 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday afternoon. The Eastern Conference championship will also feature the top 2 seeds in the conference as the Atlanta Hawks will host the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Curry received his MVP reward a couple weeks ago, now he hopes to add a ring to his trophy.

Curry received his MVP reward a few weeks ago, now he hopes to add a ring to his trophy.

This postseason could conclude with history being made as 2 of the remaining teams have never won an NBA title. The Warriors only NBA championship came in 1974-75 with a team featuring Hall of Fame players Rick Barry and a rookie at the time Jamaal Wilkes. This Warriors team hopes to continue the momentum they created in defeating a tough Memphis Grizzlies team. Stephen Curry, fresh off of winning NBA MVP this year, will go head-to-head with the runner-up to the MVP award in James Harden.

Dwight Howard (l) and James Harden (r) are hoping to return to the NBA Finals together after having suffered separate defeats on the biggest stage.

Dwight Howard (l) and James Harden (r) are hoping to return to the NBA Finals together after having suffered separate defeats on the biggest stage.

The Rockets are hoping to build on their own momentum after becoming just the 9th team to overcome a 3 – 1 deficit and win the series. Harden and Dwight Howard are hoping to return to the NBA Finals stage together where they were both on the losing side in their own separate championship appearances. The Rockets won back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995 with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon leading the way.

If the Hawks are to advance, they must continue to receive good production from their starters, (l - r) Paul Milsap, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, and Jeff Teague (not pictured).

If the Hawks are to advance, they must continue to receive good production from their starters, (l – r) Paul Milsap, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, and Jeff Teague (not pictured).

The Atlanta Hawks are also looking to achieve an historic end to their season as the franchise searches for its first NBA title. The Hawks have had several close games so far this playoffs, but have found ways to have different players step up at key moments. Though the Hawks are the higher seed, many consider the Cavaliers the favorites to win the series, largely because of the brilliance of LeBron James in recent years in the playoffs.

LeBron James (l) and his teammates Tristan Thompson (m) and Kyrie Irving (r) are looking to continue moving through the playoffs despite injuries to key players this postseason.

LeBron James (l) and his teammates Tristan Thompson (m) and Kyrie Irving (r) are looking to continue moving through the playoffs despite injuries to key players this postseason.

If the Cavaliers are able to get past the Hawks, it will make the 5th consecutive NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James, a feat reminiscent of the 1960’s and those Bill Russell led Boston Celtics. The Cavaliers will have an uphill battle considering they are without starting forward Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving has been battling injuries throughout the playoffs as well. So far injuries have not impacted the playoffs significantly yet as the 2 top seeds in each conference are playing for a chance to go to the NBA Finals.

Earlier this year on OnPointPress.net, this writer said offense, not defense wins championships in this NBA. Time will tell if that theory continues to hold true this year in the NBA Finals.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr is a sports aficionado and a licensed insurance agent with Health Markets. Follow me @GloverIsGood Twitter.com.

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.

NBA All-Star Weekend set to torture long-suffering New York basketball fans

New York will be center stage as the best NBA players participate in several events for All-Star Weekend 2015.

New York will be center stage as the best NBA players participate in several events for All-Star Weekend 2015.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

1976 was the year of the bicentennial celebration of America’s independence, Sugar Ray Leonard and Bruce Jenner were celebrated for winning their gold medals in the 1976 Olympics, and the NBA and ABA merged, uniting the best basketball players in one league. 1976 also happens to be the last year a professional basketball team won a championship in New York.

"Dr. J" Julius Erving led the NY Nets past the Denver Nuggets for the last ABA championship in 1976.

“Dr. J” Julius Erving led the NY Nets past the Denver Nuggets for the last ABA championship in 1976.

Julius Erving led the New York Nets, based in Long Island, to an upset victory over David Thompson and the Denver Nuggets. 29 years later, the NBA’s best players will take center stage in New York, with events taking place at both Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden.

Erving (l) and David Thompson (r) not only went head-to-head in the 1976 ABA Finals but also the inaugural slam dunk competition as well. Dr, J was victorious on both occasions.

Erving (l) and David Thompson (r) not only went head-to-head in the 1976 ABA Finals but also the inaugural slam dunk competition as well. Dr, J was victorious on both occasions.

Friday and Saturday will be highlighted by the Celebrity Basketball game and a newly formatted Rising Stars challenge that will pit first and second year players from the US against international players. 1976 was also the year of the inaugural slam dunk competition, won by “Dr. J” Julius Erving. Saturday, will also feature the Slam Dunk competition, as well as the Skills Challenge, and a star-studded 3-point shootout.

The Eastern Conference starters that were voted for Sunday's game. (l - r) Pau Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, John Wall, and Kyle Lowry.

The Eastern Conference starters that were voted for Sunday’s game. (l – r) Pau Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, John Wall, and Kyle Lowry.

The Friday and Saturday events scheduled for the Barclays Center will surely be entertaining, Sunday’s All-Star game at MSG should be intriguing. LeBron James will headline an Eastern squad that will feature four Atlanta Hawks and the lone New York representative in Carmelo Anthony.

Steph Curry (l) and James Harden (r) are top MVP candidates this season and will compete in the 3-point shootout while starting together in the backcourt  for Sunday's All-Star game.

Steph Curry (l) and James Harden (r) are top MVP candidates this season and will compete in the 3-point shootout while starting together in the backcourt for Sunday’s All-Star game.

The Western squad will be headlined by this season’s MVP candidates Steph Curry and James Harden. The West will be the favorite in the matchup as their team also includes the best duo in the NBA in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant as well as talented big men in LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, and DeMarcus Cousins.

The last time the Knicks went to the NBA Finals was the year after New York hosted the 1998 All-Star game. Larry Johnson's 4-point play against the Indiana Pacers was perhaps the most memorable  shot on that Finals run.

The last time the Knicks went to the NBA Finals was the year after New York hosted the 1998 All-Star game. Larry Johnson’s 4-point play against the Indiana Pacers was perhaps the most memorable shot on that Finals run.

While NBA fans will have the opportunity to enjoy the splendor of New York, weather permitting, and marvel at the best players the league has to offer, Knicks and Nets fans will have to return to a season where both teams have been disappointments. But who knows? The last time New York hosted the NBA All-Star game was 1998 then the Knicks went to the Finals the following year. So there’s a little hope for New York basketball fans.–OnPointPress.net–

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

3 bold predictions for the 2013-14 NBA Season

Dwight Howard (l) and James Harden (r) will lead the Houston Rockets to the championship this season.

Dwight Howard (l) and James Harden (r) will lead the Houston Rockets to the championship this season.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) opened the new season on October 29, 2013 and the prevailing question for this new season is: Will the Miami Heat win a third straight title? Many are predicting a third successful title run for the Heat. That is a natural conclusion considering how well the team has played the past few seasons.

These bold predictions for this NBA season are sure to create a stir. Feel free to comment on which of these predictions (if any) you feel may end up coming true.

Kobe Bryant will have the most challenging individual season of his career this year.

Kobe Bryant will have the most challenging individual season of his career this year.

Bold Prediction No.1: Kobe Bryant will not average more than 20 points per game this season. The Achilles tear that Bryant suffered is a devastating injury that would immediately lower expectations of almost every other athlete for at least one year after  sustaining that type of  injury. Bryant’s reputation for playing through pain has fooled many analysts into believing that he will not only resemble his former self, but that he will do so soon. It is hard to envision Bryant playing before December. Additionally, the rigors of the NBA season will make it difficult for Bryant to create the space for his shot or get past defenders. These factors will lead to a sub par season for the Black Mamba.

John Wall will lead the Wizards to a first round upset in the Eastern Conference this season.

John Wall will lead the Wizards to a first round upset in the Eastern Conference this season.

Bolder Prediction No.2: The Washington Wizards will advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs this season. Four teams in the Eastern Conference are heavily favored to advance in this season’s upcoming playoffs: The Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and Brooklyn Nets. These four teams have players that have had recent postseason success together. The Wizards, on the other hand, have not made the playoffs since the 2007-2008 season and only a couple of the teams’ players have ever been to the playoffs before. It may seem unreasonable to expect a team with such playoff inexperience to advance but just last season we saw a Warriors team in a similar circumstance unexpectedly advance to the second round.

(L-R) Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Jeremy Lin are the players that will lead the Rockets through the playoffs this season.

(L-R) Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Jeremy Lin are the players that will lead the Rockets through the playoffs this season.

Boldest Prediction No.3: The 2013-14 NBA Champions will be the Houston Rockets.(In full disclosure this article is not being written by a Rockets fan. I root for favorite player Russell Westbrook) so this is not wishful thinking because my desire is for the Thunder to win it all. The reasoning for this prediction is about the Miami Heat’s challenge to win a third straight title and the team in the West that seems best equipped to stop the Heat from reaching that goal. The interior presence of Dwight Howard and Omer Asik can present problems for most teams in the league and the Rockets have excellent perimeter players, led by James Harden, who can not only shoot well but get to the basket and finish. This combination of talent and playoff experience of the Rockets’ two best players (Howard and Harden) seems like a familiar mixture (Celtics in 2008 and Mavericks in 2011) that has led to the accomplishment of ultimate postseason goal: The NBA Championship.–OnPointPress.net

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant.