Month: April 2016

5 Keys to Winning a NBA Title

By: Trey Walker

Stringing together 4 playoff series victories is tough. So tough that every year, only 1 out of 30 teams can accomplish such a feat. Recently, I sat down and talked hoops with one of my good friends Tyler Palmer(who happens to be a basketball expert), and he bequeathed upon me his 5 steps that each championship caliber team must possess in order to win the NBA Finals….


1. Depth

Spurs Bench

PC: San Antonio Local News

Teams that can get the first unit a breath always have the best shot. In recent seasons, the San Antonio Spurs have mastered how to effectively develop bench players. Their bench is able to contend with other teams first rotation. In 2014, experts were doubting the Spurs ability to win because many believed that their “old” team would grow fatigued and the bench could not hold their ground. Patty Mills and company proved them wrong. Check the rafters, guys.

2. Star Power

PC: cbsnews.com

James and Curry are Superstars

Enough said. 5 role players don’t win rings. Check out the last 5 champions and their superstar(s):

Team:                                                                       Superstar(s):

2015-Golden State Warriors                         Stephen Curry, Draymond Green

2014- San Antonio Spurs                               Tony Parker, Tim Duncan

2013- Miami Heat                                             Lebron James

2012- Miami Heat                                             Lebron James

2011- Dallas Mavericks                                   Dirk Nowitzki

There is no “I” in “team”, but there is in “champion”.

3. Have a Good Coach

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Good players need a good coach. This season the world saw how much having a good coach can affect a team’s destiny with the Sacramento Kings. Voted Coach of the Year in 2013, George Karl(UNC Alum) has been revered as one of the greatest coach of the decade, and truly turned the Kings around this year. Last year the Kings had a 29-53 record(11-19 record under Karl, he was brought in mid-season), and this year only 4 more games entered the win column; they finished 33-49. Karl got dealt a bad hand. He turned the team around, and at the end of the year had his squad in a position to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, his egocentric star Center, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins didn’t warm up to coach Karl and they had high tension. Cousins disapproval of Karl led the team to falter late in games and essentially give up on this season. Karl was unable to mend the relationship between himself and the NBA’s Technical Foul leader. (Sorry Coach, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the Kings let you go). Bottom Line: Be sure to have a good coach who can work out chemistry issues and lead a team effectively.

4. Win Close Games

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Sacrificing games late due to inability to finish games is tough. This is a true test to show a teams mental toughness and capability to be called a world champion.

5. Luck

To some extent, you just need a little bit of luck. Injuries and other unpredictable circumstances pop up and there is nothing that can be done to prevent them. Go home, and wish upon a star that your team can bring home hardware.

Heat Stay Hot to Handle Hornets in Game 1

By: Trey Walker

Well it’s finally that time of year. The NBA playoffs have returned, and once again the Golden State Warriors are the favorite to bring it home.

Although this is the heavily favored outcome, the fine folks of North Carolina can’t help but support their hometown Hornets this year. Playoff contention has been a rarity in the Hornets organization, for this their 3rd trip to the postseason in the last decade.

In those 3 trips, no games have been won(0-9).

Kemba and Nic Batum

Nic Batum and Kemba Walker have been explosive together         PC: atthehive.com

Optimism surrounded Buzz City, as the Hornets cruised into April with the 3rd best record since All-Star Break. Their 12-8 resume sat behind only San Antonio (20-7) and Golden State (24-5).

High chemistry and disciplined basketball proved that Charlotte was a legitimate powerhouse in the Eastern Conference.

Monday night the Hornets squared off with their divisional rival Miami Heat.

To put it lightly, Miami came out ready to ball.

The Heat set a franchise record for the most points in a playoff quarter. In the first quarter they managed to get 41 points to fall! Luol Deng was the one man show, as he scored 31 points off of  11/13 shooting from the floor. North Carolina high school alumn, Hassan Whiteside chipped in 21 points and 3 blocks for the Heat.

Entering the break with a 17 point deficit, the Hornets continued to struggle to find their place in the game. The Heat outscored them 56-41 in the 2nd half. French phenomenon, Nic Batum, netted 24 points and was pretty much the only player that showed up on the offensive end.

Despite taking a big L in South Beach, don’t count our Hornets out just yet. Steve Clifford’s team plays good basketball on their home turf (30-11). Expect a good fight in Game 2.

Spieth Stumbles Late at Augusta

By: Hardy Hogan, Guest Contributor

Broughton Senior and Golf star Hardy Hogan attended this year’s Masters tournament. He took diligent notes and offered his take on the tournament for the OT…..

  A tradition unlike any other….The 2016 Masters contained all of the story lines, excitement, and drama that makes it one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world.

  Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, Georgia hosted it’s 80th consecutive Masters tournament on April 7-10. Heading into the final round on Sunday, Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, had a 3 shot lead over Dustin Johnson and top ranked player in the world, Jason Day. The lead was two over the young Japanese star, Hideki Matsuyama, and 58 year old Bernhard Langer. Rounding out the chasers was 24 year old Smylie Kaufman, making his first Masters appearance.

  Conditions were tougher than usual during Masters week, with high winds causing scores to be much higher than in years past. However, going into the back nine on Sunday, with a five shot lead, Jordan Spieth seemed sure to defend his green jacket, and repeat as Masters champion.  

  Arnold Palmer once said, “I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s game, it’s called an eraser.” With a bogey, bogey, quadruple-bogey start to his back nine, Spieth would have loved to use one. Hitting two balls in the water on the par three 12th, and carding a four over par quadruple-bogey, Spieth quickly saw his lead destroyed.

  Playing a few groups ahead was Englishman, Danny Willett. Willett began the day three shots back of the lead, but with a bogey-free final round score of 67, the underdog– and new father– found himself as leader in the club-house.

  Spieth would fight back with birdies at 13 and 15, but with a missed birdie opportunity at the par three 16th, and bogey on 17, Danny Willett was crowned Masters champion, giving him his first major championship victory.

 The next major championship is the US Open taking place at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. Jordan Spieth will again be attempting to defend his title at the Open, on June 16-19.

Photo Credit: talkingbaws.com

Adieu, Mamba

Young Kobe Lying Down

KOBE BRYANT

1996-2016

 BY: Trey Walker

November 29, 2015

“Dear Basketball, ……..

……..This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.”

-Excerpt from Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement poem, “Dear Basketball”

April 13, 2016

Mamba will lace ’em up one last time to take on the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center in his final NBA game ever.

Kobe has been hooping for Los Angeles for 20 years. During his time there he has truly left a legacy on the sport of basketball.

As a son of a professional basketball player(Joe Bryant), Kobe spent some of his early years in Italy while his pops played in the Italian Professional Basketball League.

Early on, scouts knew Bryant could ball. After leading Lower Merion High School(PA) to a state title his senior year, the guard elected to take his talent to the NBA, and forgo his collegiate eligibility. Scouts and coaches knew that whoever got their hands on the player would punch their ticket to the playoffs as long as he saw court time.

Draft day came around, and Kobe Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick of the 1st round.

Bad news Buzz City- Kobe wanted no business playing in the Old North State. His agent confirmed that he would be unhappy and most likely request to be traded soon, so the proactive and always-logical Hornets front office delt Kobe’s draft rights to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac, (good one guys!).

However, North Carolina did have him first….

1996 NBA Draft

People can only wonder what could have been if Kobe stayed with Charlotte.

Kobe started the “one-and-done” movement, as he was the first guard EVER to be selected in the NBA draft straight out of high school.

L.A. Days

Mamba by the Numbers:

-5 time NBA Champion

-2 time Finals MVP

-1 regular season MVP title

-3rd on the NBA’s all time scoring list

-18 time All Star selection

Mamba spent 20 seasons with the Lakers, making him the only player ever to spend their entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. People will remember Kobe for his ability to produce year after year- he has a 25.4 points per game rating over his entire career! Lakers fans could always trust Kobe to come through clutch when it was needed.

The Lakers hired Phil Jackson prior to Kobe’s 3rd season in the league. This coach ended up being the catalyst Kobe needed to start winning rings. Jackson increased playing time and touches for his star guard, and the rest fell into place. The O’Neal and Bryant duo brought home 3 straight titles in Jackson’s first tenure.

Struggles fell on the Lakers after the 3 peat. A loss in the NBA Western Finals to the Spurs(2003) and an upset the following year in the Finals to the Detroit Pistons(2004) brought frustration and disappointment to the team and the city. Phil Jackson’s coaching contract had expired and he had no desire to renew it; Rudy Tomjanovic filled the coaching void.

Players came and left, but Kobe remained in a gold jersey. 2 more titles followed in his marvelous career.

Kobe changed the game. Whether you choose to remember the Kobe that holds the record for most missed shots, or the Kobe that dropped 81 and won 2 gold medals for the United States National Team in the Olympics, Kobe was a beast.

“Friends Come And Go, But Banners Hang Forever”

-KOBE BRYANT

Tar Heels Falter Late in Title Game

By: Trey Walker

Monday night was rough for Tar Heel fans across the country. Kris Jenkins single-handedly denied Carolina of suspending their 6th national title banner in the rafters of the Dean Dome.

On paper, yes Villanova won the 2016 national title, but all you Tar Heels out there: Hold your heads high.

This season has been the tale of ups and down for our Heels. Some of our lowest moments came in the 2 point defeat to the Texas Longhorns in late December (Shaka Smart caught a break with the no-call foul against Marcus Paige in the closing seconds), or in a frustrating home loss to the Blue Devils which left many people questioning Coach Williams coaching ability- Even the #FireRoy crowd resurfaced.

In the frustration and sadness of the Duke loss, a fire was lit under the Heels. A fire that led to most of this seasons positive memories. For the remainder of the season this squad looked revived, and cruised their way to an ACC Regular Season title, an ACC Championship title, and a trip to the National Championship in Houston, Texas.

For a while, this year’s NCAA tournament was comparable to the magnificent title run in 2009. Slow starts were followed by strong finishes. Until the championship, all of Carolina’s games had been won by 16 or more points. The college careers of Yogi Ferrell, Michael Gbinije, and VJ Beachem: all ended at the feet of UNC.

Win after win, it seemed surreal that once again, after a short 7 year drought, the boys in blue would be playing for the title.

Monday, April 4th, 2016 9:20 Tip-Off

After one half of play, things were looking promising. Joel “Strong Man” Berry II was a walking bucket; he entered the intermission with 15 points off of 6-7 shooting. Up five, the only thing left Carolina had to do was keep shooting well and maintain their lead.

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Courtesy of UNC Basketball

Sorry guys, teams don’t win championships for 1st half performances.

Villanova came out of the locker room on a tear. Jay Wright had conveyed to his boys that they were still in the game.

Fouls, on fouls, on fouls….

This was the story of the 2nd half. At one point, the officials had charged Carolina EIGHT straight personal fouls. It became evident (when both teams entered the bonus above the 10 minute mark) that this game would be earned from the charity stripe.

31.7 percent shooting from the Heels only helped the Cats to control the second half. A 9 point lead by Villanova had shrunk to 3 point with just 13 seconds left.

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Photo Credit: New York Times

Then this happened.

Houses and bars across the state erupted in shouts and and cheers.

Tar Heel enthusiast, and Broughton Junior Vance Brice recalls the moment inside the Dean Dome, “I have never seen a place get so loud, so quick. It was really something special.”

Paige’s miracle heave tied the game, and had given his team one last chance. Coach Williams promptly called a timeout following the shot and debriefed his team about the 4 seconds that remained. They had to keep the ball from going through the hoop just one time.

“Villanova inbounds it, Arcidiacono has it front court……. Arcidiacono to Jenkins….. For the Buzzer Beater…… GOT IT!” – Title Game announcer

And that was it. Dreams crushed. Aspirations gone. Banner gone. Rings? Not getting them.

Streamers shot from the ceiling and the celebration festivities had begun.

Despite losing, Marcus’ shot will be remembered forever. It was simply sensational. His career had shaky moments at times but he never failed to represent the University of North Carolina well, on the court or in the classroom(1st team All-American Academic Team). This group showed the world that a title can still potentially be won the “old fashioned” way by developing 4 year players instead of a roster filled with one-and-dones.

Photo Credit: News and Observer

We will miss you, 5. We will look up at the rafters and remember what a decorated career you had. You embody a true leader with good character. Thank you for a great 4 years.

 

P.S.: In your face, NCAA. You have been clouding skies in Chapel Hill for 6 years and still haven’t made a decision on the academic misconduct allegations. Recruiting has taken a huge hit, and you have made talented athletes afraid of attending UNC. It’s ok though. Clearly the program is persevering through this 6 year rough patch and winning nonetheless.

Your Guide for the National Championship

Final Four Logo

By: Trey Walker

“The Road Ends Here…….”

A phrase plastered around NRG Stadium for all to see. That is where the road to the championship ends, and dreams go to die, or become a reality. One team will bring home all the marbles tonight, the team that plays the best basketball for 40 minutes. This team will be crowned the best squad in the country.

So lets break down this matchup by team:

-Villanova Wildcats 34-5, (16-2 Big East)

Head Coach: Jay Wright

Key Players:

-(SR/PG) Ryan Arcidiacono: 4.3 Assists per game, 12.4 Points Per Game. GRADUATE ALREADY!!!! A savvy ball handler that gets the ball to the hot hand and has a great stroke himself

-(JR/G) Josh Hart: 15.5 Points Per Game, 6.7 Rebounds per game. Had arguably the best game in his career against Oklahoma in the Final Four. Led the Wildcats in scoring against the Sooners.

-(SR/C) Daniel Ochefu: 7.6 Rebounds per game, 1.5 Blocks per game. This dude is a monster in the paint. Watch for him to crash boards and rattle the rims.

Pros: Villanova is an offensive powerhouse. They don’t struggle putting the ball in the hoop. During the tournament, they are averaging 78 points per game in the tournament, and a point differential margin of +14.7. If the Wildcats score more than 65 points, it is likely they will win.

Cons: Inside presence: The Cats’ don’t have many options to power the ball inside besides Ochefu and Kris Jenkins. Coach Wright’s lack of depth may come back to haunt him; Mikal Bridges was the only bench player to receive more than 11 minutes of court time.

How to win: Contain Brice Johnson in the paint, and force the Tar Heels to take off balance three point shots, and lock down the interior. Shoot like they did against Oklahoma. Dont get the forwards in foul trouble.

-North Carolina Tar Heels 33-6, (14-4 ACC)

Head Coach: Roy Williams

Key Players:

-(SR/F) Brice Johnson: 17.0 Points per game, 10.5 Rebounds per game. The best big the Heels have had since Psycho T. All-ACC 1st Team, All-American 1st Team, Wooden Award Finalist: Johnson has achieved it all this season and will do everything in his ability to see his group come out on top. The 6’9″ forward is automatic inside and has a decent midrange shot to add.

-(SO/G) Joel Berry II: 12.6 Points per game, 1.5 Steals per game. Berry has been the saving grace for Coach Williams in tournament play. He has grown comfortable with his ability to sink the trifecta. Another thing to consider: Joel Berry is fearless. Joel Berry is strong. Joel Berry is not afraid to drive to the hoop against players twice his size.

-(SR/G) Marcus Paige: 12.3 Points per game, 3.7 Assists per game. Its been an interesting season for the Tar Heels prodigal son. Paige was plagued with a brutal midseason slump, and much of the North Carolina fanbase had abandoned the guard. However his 16 converted three pointers during the big dance have lured fans back.

Pros: Depth: Roy Williams has had no problems this season digging deep into his teams bench to relieve his first group. Players like Kenny Williams, Isaiah Hicks, and Joel James have been getting the job done while their superstars catch a break.

Cons: Shooting from 3: The Heels had a horrendous performance shooting the Tre in the semifinal versus Syracuse, only making 4 for 17 attempted. Also, when opposing teams get on scoring runs, Ole’ Roy tends to conserve those timeouts to try and win the most unused timeouts award given annually at the end of each college basketball season. As a result, UNC plays out of sync often in crunch time.

How to Win: Call timeouts when they are needed Roy, your team can’t save themselves in every situation. The Tar Heels MUST have a fortuitous night from the three pointer and play well on the interior. Make sure the front court players stay out of foul trouble, Johnson cannot afford to receive 2 fouls in the early minutes of this one. Pray Villanova doesn’t shoot 74%.