May 31, 2014 § Leave a comment
Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel didn’t mean to set off a frothing Twitter storm after Game 6.
But he compared LeBron James to Michael Jordan, and, well, that’s enough to boil blood.
“It’s bitterly disappointing to lose to this team three years in a row, but we’re competing against the Michael Jordan of our era, the Chicago Bulls of our era,” Vogel said after James scored 25 points and had six assists and four rebounds in Miami’s 117-92 victory Friday that eliminated the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals.
Jordan and Bulls fans shot that down immediately, referencing Jordan’s six titles vs. James’ two and pointing out Jordan never lost in the NBA Finals, where James dropped his first two appearances.
During Jordan’s ascent to greatness, the Detroit Pistons had the Jordan Rules, their defensive principles for limiting Jordan. Today, it’s the Jordan Comparisons, and really only two players deal with them: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
“Any time I hear my name or our team in the same breath with legends and great teams and franchises, it’s so humbling, man,” James said when told of the latest comparison. “It’s like — I really don’t know.”
The admiration he has for Jordan is obvious.
“Me and (Heat star Dwyane Wade) grew up watching the great Chicago Bulls team and the great Michael Jordan and the rest of those guys,” James said.
Before this goes any further, James will be remembered as one of the best players ever, right there with Jordan, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain. Add a few more, if you wish.
“To be able to play the game that we love at a high level for one another, for our teammates, it’s the ultimate,” James said. “When you hear the comparisons, you respect it. You’re humbled by it.
“You just feel like while you’re in the moment hopefully, while you’re playing the game, that you can make an impact enough to where you move on and people will start comparing you to ones that’s in the game at the present time.”
May 29, 2014 § Leave a comment
LeBron James is pretty difficult to guard. At least that’s what it looks like, I’ve never guarded him before. Roy Hibbert was was standing next to LeBron on the Heat’s last possession of Game 4 and King James decided to help the Pacers big man out on defense by telling him what he was planning to do with the ball.Drive James did and when Hibbert came to help, he found an open Bosh who shot … and missed.What have we learned? Not too much. LeBron made a smart basketball play, as did Hibbert, and Chris Bosh missed so any real drama or controversy has gone begging. Still, it’s fun to know that LeBron is so supremely confident in his ability that he feels comfortable telling his opponents where he’s planning to go.
May 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
On the day that Kevin Durant re-established his reputation as one of the likable athletes in all of professional sports, when he gave the MVP speech to end all MVP speeches Tuesday and made mothers everywhere dry their eyes with his heartwarming message, the skepticism that has always surrounded him and Russell Westbrook was still there.
It’s always there when it comes to Durant and his co-star, of course, that question about whether they’re truly as simpatico as they say and whether their personalities and playing styles truly fit.
So as Durant fought back tears and thanked everyone from coach Scott Brooks to the veteran players to all the young guys who sat on stage inside this Edmond, Okla., facility, there was one question on everyone’s mind in a jam-packed room that was getting more tense by the second: Did he forget about Westbrook?
And then, it came, in the most heartfelt of ways.
“I could speak all night about Russell,” Durant began. “An emotional guy who would run through a wall for me. There are days when I want to just tackle you and tell you to snap out of it sometimes. I know there’s days you want to do the same with me. I love you man. A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player, and I’m the first to have your back through it all. Just stay the person you are. Everybody loves you here. I love you.”
It was no accident that Durant and Westbrook were better than ever one night later, when they nearly pulled off the unprecedented feat of having two triple-doubles in the same playoff game. With the 112-101 win vs. the Los Angeles Clippers, the Western Conference Semifinals series is tied 1-1.
Speech was ‘perfect time’
There was a cathartic component to Durant’s words, a relief that came with their relationship getting that kind of emotional exposure and his polarizing co-star hearing this meaningful message.
For six seasons — from Westbrook’s arrival as the fourth overall pick out of UCLA in 2008 when they were tabbed this generation’s version of Shaq and Kobe to now — Durant has told anyone who would listen that they were wrong about Westbrook. He said there was no friction between them. But he had never told him like this.
“Never, never, never,” Durant told USA TODAY Sports when asked if he had ever told Westbrook how he felt. “That was the first time I really got to speak from the heart, you know what I’m saying? I felt that it was just the perfect time. You have that sense of ‘Yeah, that guy, that guy right there, he’s down for me. That guy loves me.’ You know what I mean? And I know we both feel that way about each other without even saying nothing, but to tell somebody in front of everybody with tears coming down your eyes? There’s just something special about that.
“He’s human, man. Everybody makes mistakes, but everybody needs to feel like they’re loved. Not liked — or like, I wish this person would say something good about me — but they want to feel warmth, you know what I mean? Comfort.”
The night before Westbrook’s 31-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist and three-steal performance that prompted TNT analyst Kenny Smith to predict that Westbrook would win an MVP award within the next two years, Durant had told the world that he was “an MVP-caliber player.”
Durant detailed how they had tried to outwork each other all these years, how Durant was always so incensed when he would pull up to the training facility parking lot only to discover that Westbrook was already there.
And then, Westbrook — who worked his way back from three knee surgeries in a span of eight months and returned Feb. 20 after the latest setback cost him 27 games — played that MVP part as if his health was never an issue to begin with. His Game 2 performance was proof of that. His whole electric, eccentric arsenal on was display as he convulsed and converted throughout the night. For as transcendent as Clippers point guard Chris Paul was in his Game 1 performance, Westbrook looked just as ready to lead the Thunder to the Western Conference finals with the way he dominated Game 2.
Durant’s speech, make no mistake, played a part here.
“It’s easy for me to just talk about a person and just say, ‘I love this guy, he’s the best person, the best teammate,'” Durant said. “But I wanted it to be authentic and real. You know, there are some days when we don’t like each other. That’s just normal with relationships you have. I’m sure if anybody has a brother or a cousin or somebody you’re close with, you have good and bad days, and that’s how our relationship is. But through all that, it’s love.
“I think that with a person like Russell, it just seems like everybody is always on top of him. I feel that he deserves that love, because you can tell he’s one of those guys that likes to feel that love.”
Bond always has been there
Thunder coach Scott Brooks told USA TODAY Sports, “It’s something that I’ve seen for the last six years. They’ve grown up a lot, and just like every close family, they’re brothers. They’ve had their heated discussions. They’ve had their very competitive moments in practice. I’ve put them in those positions, one on one. I’ve put them on opposite teams, because I knew that they would continue to push each other to (new) levels … They have a bond and a trust in one another, and a belief in one another, that the stuff that’s out there can’t penetrate.”
Westbrook had listened intently as Durant told the world how he felt about him, a subtle smile and a look of peace upon his face. When the speech was over, there were no words exchanged between the two. And as Durant saw it, there was no need.
“When you look somebody in the eye, you can tell that you have that connection with them,” he said. “That’s what we had.”
May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
The La La La (Brazil 2014) video also sees Shakira and Activia team up to support the World Food Programme (WFP).
Shakira, 37, said of the project: ‘With La La La (Brazil 2014) we want to make a small contribution so that everybody knows about the outstanding work the World Food Programme is doing to fight hunger.’
Shakira and Activia will also be donating funds to support the WFP’s School Meals Programme, helping deliver 3,000,000 additional school meals to support good nutrition and education for children in developing countries.
May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
The base of the current FIFA World Cup™ Trophy, which was introduced in 1974, has space for 17 inscriptions – enough for all the winners until 2038.
It is made of 18-carat gold, stands 36.8cm high and weighs 6.175kg. The original Trophy, though, remains in the permanent possession of FIFA, with every winning team awarded a replica.
The champions are then able to retain their version of the Trophy, while a fresh copy is made for each new edition.
May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
In the many months that followed the San Antonio Spurs’ crushing collapse in the 2013 NBA Finals, Gregg Popovich was always open about one thing: The Miami Heat still were haunting him.
But the Spurs coach may have a new figure to fixate on after the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 106-97 Game 3 win in the Western Conference finals that cut San Antonio’s series lead to 2-1: Serge Ibaka. The Thunder big man made his miraculous recovery from a left calf strain on Sunday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, impacting the game in all the crucial ways he had when the Thunder won 10 of their last 12 games against the Spurs entering this series.
He treated the paint like it was his own personal man-cave, blocking four shots and grabbing seven rebounds in all while contesting and altering countless others. He gave the Thunder the third scorer they were so sorely lacking, scoring 15 points in 30 minutes while hitting six of seven from the field.
“I think I did very very well,” Ibaka said in a TNT postgame interview. “Just wanted to give us some energy … and control everything (in the paint) and rebound.”
All this after the now-infamous press release from the Thunder back on May 16 in which the doomsday message became official.
“Ibaka is expected to miss the remainder of the 2014 postseason,” general manager Sam Presti said in the news release after Ibaka suffered his injury in Game 6 of the previous series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
As the first two games had so clearly shown, Ibaka’s mere presence on the floor allows the Thunder to compete as Presti always intended. Kevin Durant doesn’t have to do things like guard Tim Duncan (see Game 1), and role players like Nick Collison aren’t forced into unfair situations in which their typically valuable talents are no longer a factor because of the ripple effect of Ibaka’s absence.
So it was in Game 3, as the Spurs— who shot a combined 53.8% from the floor in the first two games while scoring 122 and 112 points, respectively — hit just 36 of 91 shots (39.6%%) and suddenly struggled to run the offense that had been so unstoppable. In the ever-important points-in-the-paint category that has said everything about the Ibaka effect, the Spurs had just 40 in Game 3 after averaging 60 in the first two games.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks made the tough decisions here that went past Ibaka, too, benching Collison and shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha (neither played) while putting point guard Reggie Jackson (15 points on six of 13 shooting) in the starting lineup with fellow point guard Russell Westbrook, center Kendrick Perkins, Ibaka and Durant. Durant finished with 25 points (8-for-19 shooting) and 10 rebounds while Westbrook had 26 points (8-for-19 shooting), eight rebounds and seven assists.
The Thunder didn’t pull away until the fourth quarter, when they led 104-84 with 4 minutes remaining before the Spurs closed on a meaningless 13-2 run. Ibaka was pulled with 3:16 left and the 20-point lead still in tact.
“I will try to do my best to be everywhere,” Ibaka said of his plans for Game 4 Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, TNT). “I will keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing the past couple days, icing and such.”
Ibaka wasted no time in making an impact. On the Spurs’ first possession, he closed and contested on a Parker midrange jumper that misfired and followed with a jumper of his own to start off the scoring. He hit all four of his shots in the first quarter for eight points and had three rebounds and two blocks as the Spurs led 29-28. By comparison, his replacement, Collison, had totaled two points, five rebounds and one block in the first two games.
But Manu Ginobili almost single-handedly kept the Spurs close, hitting seven of 10 shots (including five three-pointers) in the first half for 20 of his 23 points. Still, the drastically changed landscape was already evident.
May 24, 2014 § Leave a comment
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder have changed the status of forward Serge Ibaka from being out of the playoffs to day to day, thereby unofficially announcing that there’s a chance he could play as soon as Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday in Oklahoma City (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT). Ibaka, the team’s top rebounder and shot-blocker, was ruled out because of a left calf injury from the Western Conference semifinals.
His absence has been disastrous in the Western Conference finals, as the San Antonio Spurs have rolled out to a 2-0 lead with consecutive home blowouts.
“The abundance of blood and therefore swelling in Serge’s calf has reduced substantially and unexpectedly, allowing a level of movement and stability not thought possible after the initial diagnosis,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in a news release. “Based on both imaging and physical exam, the considerable swelling in the calf indicated the likelihood of a certain degree of injury, and that established the original time frame for recovery.
“At present, Serge has yet to complete a full basketball workout, but is walking and doing light basketball drills. With this new information, and in an effort to keep his status current, we are now listing him as day-to-day with the understanding that there is a possibility for him to play in this series.”
When asked later in a news conference about Ibaka possibly playing in Game 3, Presti added, “We can’t rule him out.”
Meanwhile in San Antonio, the Spurs were no doubt rolling their eyes at the whole affair considering they had warned us all that this might happen. From coach Gregg Popovich on down, they had refused to believe Ibaka would miss any time and were roundly ridiculed for being paranoid.
He even took a good-natured stab at Presti, who came up in the Spurs system under Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford before eventually running a team of his own.
“I’m shocked; I’m so surprised,” Popovich sarcastically told news reporters Friday. “We know Sammy. We knew he’d be back.”