Despite Durant’s injuries OKC is poised to win division, MVP title for Westbrook

Russell Westbrook has been phenomenal this season, keeping his team in playoff contention despite a myriad of injuries to key players.

Russell Westbrook has been phenomenal this season, keeping his team in playoff contention despite a myriad of injuries to key players.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

With a dozen games remaining in the Thunder’s season they have a three game lead for the eighth seed in the Western Conference and trail by five games in their division. This writer is predicting that the Thunder will continue their winning ways and eventually win their division, propelling them to a top four seed in their conference.

Kevin Durant (l) and Serge Ibaka (not pictured) will likely not be available for the rest of the regular season. Westbrook (r) will have to continue picking up the slack.

Kevin Durant (l) and Serge Ibaka (not pictured) will likely not be available for the rest of the regular season. Westbrook (r) will have to continue picking up the slack.

Winning the division would have been viewed as implausible as little as a few days ago when news circulated that reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant will not be returning to action anytime soon. Durant’s setback, coupled with the news of Serge Ibaka’s recent knee surgery, means that the Thunder will be without two of their best three players for the remainder of the regular season. The Thunder have responded by winning their last three games since learning of Durant’s setback while showing continued resiliency following Westbrook’s lead. However, it will take a grandiose effort on the part of the team to ultimately win their division.

The Portland Trailblazers currently lead their division with 14 games left in their season. They will have a hard time maintaining their lead with LaMarcus Aldridge (l) and Nicolas Batum (r) battling injuries after already losing Wesley Matthews (c) for the rest of the season.

The Portland Trailblazers currently lead their division with 14 games left in their season. They will have a hard time maintaining their lead with LaMarcus Aldridge (l) and Nicolas Batum (r) battling injuries after already losing Wesley Matthews (c) for the rest of the season.

The Thunder’s injury woes have been headline news but the Northwest division leading Portland Trailblazers have their own injury concerns that threaten to derail their season. Both LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum left their last game together with different injuries and are questionable for their next game. Guard Wesley Matthews suffered a ruptured Achilles a few weeks ago and is out for the season. With three fifths of their starting lineup potentially absent or compromised, the Trailblazers have a tough stretch remaining on their schedule while trying to hold off the surging Thunder.

The Thunder have added quality depth to their team this season especially along their frontline with Mitch McGarry (r) and Enes Kanter (c) joining Steven Adams and Nick Collison (l).

The Thunder have added quality depth to their team this season especially along their frontline with Mitch McGarry (r) and Enes Kanter (c) joining Steven Adams and Nick Collison (l).

The Thunder have given themselves a chance for a late season push by making moves to add quality depth to a team that has usually been described as being led by two superstars. The Thunder have been able to deal with the absence of forwards Durant and Ibaka with the emergence of other talented big men like Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, rookie Mitch McGarry, and veteran Nick Collison. Guards Dion Waiters, D.J. Augustin, and Anthony Morrow have also taken advantage of more playing time in wake of the numerous injuries the team has endured. The team seems poised to finish the season on a high note.

Westbrook has been relentless as he has guided his team into playoff contention so far. if the Thunder capture their division, Westbrook would deserve MVP honors.

Westbrook has been relentless as he has guided his team into playoff contention so far. if the Thunder capture their division, Westbrook would deserve MVP honors.

While the Thunder’s front office and coaches deserve credit for putting together and developing a roster that can endure the changes they have so far, the bulk of the praise still rests with Russell Westbrook. Westbrook almost notched his tenth triple-double on Sunday and continues to lead the league in scoring. He is also second in steals and fourth in assists. Night in and night out, Westbrook plays with a fiery passion reminiscent of Allen Iverson. It is a long shot, but winning a division with the challenges this team has faced would create a narrative likely to propel Westbrook to the top of the NBA MVP race. It would be well deserved.–OnPointPress.net– Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a training/benefits consultant. Follow me @GloverIsGood on Twitter.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.