NBA

Howard’s Homecoming Cut Short

By: Trey Walker


With the NBA Draft just two days away, teams are scrambling to get their last trades in and compile as many picks as possible for this unusually heavy draft class. For the most part, no blockbuster trades have been made.

However, rumors arose earlier today that the Hornets and Hawks had engaged in trade talks. It was later confirmed that the Hawks dealt Charlotte Dwight Howard and the 31st pick in this year’s draft. In turn the Hawks received Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and the 41st pick. Dwight Howard’s time in his hometown of Atlanta was cut to only one season.

Why?

Well, the Hawks have established a couple things in this trade. First, Dwight Howard was not worth the money. This move frees up about 5 million in cap space for Atlanta. Also, the Hawks have moved into re-building mode. Paul Millsap will most likely not return to a team that has only a few assets. A new group of front office personnel is ready to start fresh from the ground up.

Charlotte made out like a bandit, kind of. Dwight Howard is definitely on the back half of his career but will provide size and valuable rim-protection. Howard is a high riser that can catch lobs and isn’t easily bullied in the post. Last season Howard saw career highs in field goal percentage and offensive rebounds.

Bottom Line: Solid move for Charlotte. Also, Two Tobacco Road legends will finally be reunited.

Plumlee and Kelly

Ryan Kelly and Miles Plumlee were college teammates at Duke. 

In Case You Missed It: Free Agency

By: Trey Walker


On Friday, July 1st at 12 PM EST, the scramble for free agents began. Let’s take a look at the new destinations for some NBA superstars…

1.) Nic Batum

Contract: 5-year, $120 Million

Team: Charlotte Hornets (Re-signed)

This move should have Buzz City fans relieved, as Nic Batum emerged as one of Charlotte’s most valuable players down the stretch last season.

2.) Michael Conley

Contract: 5-year, $153 Million

Team: Memphis Grizzlies (Re-signed)

CHA-CHING!  ….The Grizzlies better hope this pays off. This yet-to-be All-Star’s contract is the richest in NBA history.

3.) DeMar DeRozan

Contract: 5-year, $145 Million

Team: Toronto Raptors (Re-signed)

LA really let this one slip. DeRozan dissed the Lakers and returned to Toronto where a nice paycheck awaited him.

4.) Andre Drummond

Contract: 5-year, $130 Million

Team: Detroit Pistons (Re-signed)

Big man. Big money. Big expectations.

5.) Dwight Howard

Contract: 3-years, $70.5 Million

Team: Atlanta Hawks (from Houston Rockets)

Howard helps bolster the Hawk’s rim protection, as Al Horford has moved on.

6.) Solomon Hill

Contract: 4-year, $50 Million

Team: New Orleans Pelicans (from Indiana Pacers)

THIS IS LUDACRIS. The Pelicans have invested 50 million in a player who averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds last season. You decide if he was worth it….

7.) Matthew Dellavedova

Contract: 4-year, $38 Million

Team: Milwaukee Bucks (from Cleveland Cavaliers)

Delly just cashed in. Aside from a killer shoe deal on the way with PEAK Sports, Delly just earned himself some serious lettuce. The Aussie now makes almost as much as Stephen Curry.

8.) Luol Deng

Contract: 4-year, $72 Million

Team: Los Angeles Lakers (from Miami Heat)

After failing to lure in DeRozan, the Lakers had to intensify their efforts to land someone during the free agency period. Deng will be a good veteran presence for a young Lakers roster.

9.) Timofey Mozgov

Contract: 4-year, $64 Million

Team: Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland Cavaliers)

Not too shabby for a guy who only averaged 5.8 minutes in the Finals this year….

10.) Al Horford

Contract: 4-year, $113 Million

Team: Boston Celtics (from Atlanta Hawks)

Al Horford will get the unique chance to mentor the League’s brightest company of big men in Boston: Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, and Jared Sullinger.

11.) Bradley Beal

Contract: 5-year, $128 Million

Team: Washington Wizards (Re-signed)

After KD lost interest in Washington, the Wizards had plenty of cap space to keep their best shooter locked up for 5 more years.

12.) Joakim Noah

Contract: 4-year, $72 Million

Team: New York Knicks (from Chicago Bulls)

And just like that, the Knicks have become a serious contender in the Eastern Conference.

13.) Harrison Barnes

Contract: 4-years, $95 Million

Team: Dallas Mavericks (from Golden State Warriors)

A shaky Finals performance did not prevent the Maverick’s front office from offering this former Tar Heel a wealthy deal.

14.) Kent Bazemore

Contract: 4-year, $70 Million

Team: Atlanta Hawks (Re-signed)

Atlanta didn’t want to take any chance of letting Bazemore loose after Al Horford escaped to Boston.

15.) Ish Smith

Contract: 3-year, $18 Million

Team: Detroit Pistons (from Philadelphia 76ers)

This former Demon Deacon has finally gotten what he needs: stability. Smith has bounced around between 9 different teams in his NBA career, and now he will get to stay in one place at last. Well deserved.

16.) Bismack Biyombo

Contract: 4-year, $72 Million

Team: Orlando Magic (from Toronto Raptors)

Biyombo took advantage of his dominant and somewhat surprising performance in this years playoffs to gain exposure for himself. As a result, he became a hot target on the free agency market, and fell to the highest bidder: Orlando.

17.) Pau Gasol

Contract: 2-year, $30 Million

Team: San Antonio Spurs (from Chicago Bulls)

With Tim Duncan mulling retirement, Gasol is a reliable option for Coach Popovic to play in the post.

18.) Courtney Lee

Contract: 4-years, $50 Million

Team: New York Knicks (from Charlotte Hornets)

Lee’s acquisition by the Knicks rules out a scenario where D-Wade goes to the Big Apple.

19.) Chandler Parsons

Contract: 4-year, $94 Million

Team: Memphis Grizzlies (from Dallas Mavericks)

Parsons should be the player that the Grizzlies need to become a serious threat in the Western Conference.

20.) Kevin Durant

Contract: 2-year, $54 Million

Team: Golden State Warriors (from Oklahoma City Thunder)

If you can’t beat them, join them. Durant’s move was considered by many a weak and classless one. After spending almost a decade with Oklahoma City, KD built up a great reputation, and even led his team to the NBA Finals. Since his announcement, fans have torn apart, burned, and defecated Durant’s jersey. This move is up there with Lebron’s as the most scrutinized in NBA history.

Cavs Take Title in Historic Comeback

By: Trey Walker


“CLEVELAND, THIS IS FOR YOU!”

-Lebron James

James and Love

After 52 long, and sometimes disappointing years, the “Cleveland Sports Curse” has finally been lifted.

The Cleveland Cavaliers accomplished a feat that many thought was impossible: coming back from a 3-1 deficit(CLE is the first team to ever do this in the Finals). Coming off of a 6-game series victory against the pesky Toronto Raptors, the Cavs had the luxury of getting up to 6 days of rest while the Warriors were still fighting for survival against the Thunder.

It’s undeniable. The Cavs were rolling, and it didn’t look like anything would stop them-(Cleveland didn’t lose a playoff game until Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals). But they experienced a rude awakening in the first game of the Finals. Cleveland’s inability to shoot the ball well (.381%) and contain Shaun Livingston(20 pts) came back to haunt them, as they dropped to an early 0-1 series disadvantage after a brutal 104-89 loss.

Golden State kept the ball rolling in Game 2, and held their ground on their home turf. The series was now headed to Cleveland with the Cavaliers facing a 2-0 series deficit.

Northeast Ohio did all they could to root their team on to victory. A sold out crowd in Quicken Loans Arena helped sway the luck to the Cavaliers, as they responded in bold fashion, taking Game 3 from the Dubs 120-90.

A statement win was needed in Game 4 for the Cavs, for if they dropped it, they would have their backs to the wall, and would have to win 2 games in Oracle Arena, a place that only hosted 9 losses the entire regular season.

It was a close game all the way until the end. Kyrie dropped 34, but his efforts were not any match for Curry’s 38 points and the rest of the Warriors. Gameplay became increasingly chippy as time went on, and at the end of the game, Lebron James and Draymond Green had to be separated by officials after James disrespectfully grazed his groin across Green’s body. James claimed he was simply “returning to the play”. Green retaliated(and we all know who gets penalized in these situation, always be the bigger man kids…) and was suspended later. The Cavs fell to 1-3 and many people had given up hope.

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Green watched Game 5 with Marshawn Lynch in O.co Coliseum    PC: ESPN


Community Quotes:

FullSizeRender.jpgChris Thorburn is a sophomore at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, NC. Chris and I came up through the ranks in middle school, and I have never encountered an individual so passionate for Cleveland sports. On many occasions we would butt heads, for I am a die-hard Cincinnati Bengals fan. Nonetheless, Chris was fortunate enough to attended Game 6 at Quicken Loans Arena, and shared his experience with me.

Question: As a die hard Cleveland fan, What does this championship mean to you?

CT: I can firmly say this is one of, if not the greatest moments in my life. I cant think of a time in all the sports I’ve watched or even played in where I’m in such a state of astonishment and joy, and in all that joy I literally had no idea what to do once they had won because I’ve never come close to being in that position as a Cleveland Fan. So in short, It really does mean the world for a championship to come back to Northeast Ohio.

Question: What were you thinking when the Cavs went down 3-1?

CT: I’ll be honest, after Game 4, I thought there was 0% chance we were winning this series, with how the bench of GS was playing and all the role players. Also, they have been in close out situations before and it looked pretty clear they would close it out again. After the Game 5 win I was feeling pretty confident for a Game 7, but after attending Game 6 and just being in the atmosphere of Quicken Loans Arena, I just felt that Lebron and the Cavs were literally going to do anything possible to come out with the series. So heading into Game 7, I was feeling pretty confident he could bring it home.

Question: Can you now forgive LeBron for when he left for Miami?

CT: Oh no doubt, I forgave him the moment he came back.


Cleveland exploited Golden State’s weak paint protection and won in an elimination situation. Andrew Bogut was taken to the locker room mid 3rd quarter to get his knee examined after some awkward contact. Bogut was later ruled out for the remainder of the Finals, which only exacerbated the interior defense of the Warriors. James and Irving went berzerk and tallied 41 points apiece.

LeBron did everything in his power to win the Final two games.

And on June 19th, 2016, King James fulfilled his promise to the city of Cleveland: bringing home an NBA Championship…….

 

 

 

Raptors Extinguish Heat in 7

By: Trey Walker

For the first time in the Toronto Raptors 21 year franchise history, “The North” will be headed to the Eastern Conference Finals. I believe that Dwayne Casey’s team deserves this, as they have been bounced in the opening round for the last 2 years.

However, I can’t further my praise for the Raptors without first tipping my hat to the Heat. Dwayne Wade brought his team back after being on the verge of defeat against the Hornets. D-Wade hit crucial shots down the stretch in Game 6 of that series to keep the Heat’s hopes alive and force Game 7. It was definitely a team effort but Wade has stood out this postseason, averaging 21.4 points per game(13th overall in postseason PPG).

This grouping was easily the most evenly-matched series thus far. In 3 out of 7 of the games, a victor had to be determined in overtime. The Heat’s average margin of defeat was only 8 points in 4 losses.

Additionally, the absence of their rim defending big man, Hassan Whiteside due to a strained MCL was a big blow, but the paint wasn’t as vulnerable, for Raptors Center, Jonas Valančiūnas was ruled out with a tweaked ankle in Game 4. All-Star forward Chris Bosh did not play at all in the playoffs and his status to return to play remains uncertain(Bosh was limited to 53 games this season after an early diagnosis with blood clots).

If you are a Heat fan, don’t be discouraged. Your team reached the Conference Semi-Finals this year after losing key elements from the 2013 title team: Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, and Chris “Birdman” Anderson. Young wing players like Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow have a bright future in South Beach.


Community Quotes:

Following the loss, I dug deep into Raleigh’s Heat fan base, and tripped upon a close friend Stephen Holloman. Steve has been a Heatle at heart since his youth, and I asked him about how he felt regarding the Heat’s performance this year amid injuries and roster transactions, and his response was optimistic………

IMG_2146.PNG

“As a long time Heat fan I feel content with making the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals this season. With Bosh’s situation and Whiteside’s injury that took place, it was hard to expect anything more with this team in the playoffs. It was nice to see vintage D-Wade show out in key moments of some games against Charlotte and Toronto. The offseason will be an interesting one, with Dwayne’s contract and possibly working the cap out to lure KD in to Miami. Or who knows, maybe the King will return to South Beach pending another possible Finals loss…..”


On the other hand, Toronto did an exceptional job changing their gameplay in the absence of Valanciunas. Former Charlotte Bobcat prodigy, Bismack Biyombo stepped up and DOMINATED the glass for the Raps. The Center from the Congo averaged 8.9 rebounds during the series. Offensively, Kyle Lowry became the hot-hand(18.9 PPG in postseason).

Bismack on the rim

Biyombo getting some hang-time

Against the Cavs, the Raptors will need all the help they can get offensively, so look for Derozan to chip in too. Valanciunas is out for 2 games at least, per Dwayne Casey this afternoon.

Bottom Line: These two teams were evenly matched, but the Raptors just pulled away and won when advancement was on the line. 

Lastly, this Raptors run has been fueled by good play from the players, and outstanding coaching. Good coaching is underrated this time of year, as the star players get most of the spotlight. But wow, one cannot help but appreciate that Toronto has a hidden gem on their coaching staff….

Jerry Stackhouse Toronto

Stack has made a name for himself as a coach

 

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

pop pointing.jpg

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

allen corner 3.jpg

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.

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