Articles By Athlon Sports
From 1961 to 1997, Smith was the head coach of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. His lengthy list of accolades includes 11 Final Four appearances, two national titles, four National Coach of the Year designations, and an Olympic gold medal won in 1976. He trained many notable NBA players, including Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, Sam Perkins, Jerry Stackhouse, J.R. Reid, Kenny Smith, Brad Daugherty, James Worthy, and of course Michael Jordan. Jordan released the following statement, Sunday, in memory of Smith:
“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach — he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life. My heart goes out to Linnea and their kids. We’ve lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family.”
Stackhouse sent out this tweet, and explained in an XM radio interview how Smith would even assist him with financial management.
Worthy kept it short and sweet:
There are so many things I could say about Coach Dean Smith but simply put, he is the greatest man I've ever known. pic.twitter.com/tWaE2LPYpK— James Worthy (@JamesWorthy42) February 8, 2015
And Worthy’s fellow Los Angeles Lakers trustee, general manager Mitch Kupchak, sent out the following:
“Coach Smith was one of the most influential people in my life, and his passing brings me great sadness. However, he was a great man and someone I loved and respected greatly, and I celebrate the fact that I knew him and had him in my life for as long as I did. His influence on my life didn’t end when I left Chapel Hill, as he was a trusted and valuable advisor to me when I became a player, then an executive in the NBA. He had a hugely positive impact on the lives of hundreds of young men who were lucky enough to call him Coach, and I was blessed to be among them.”
Rest in peace.
— John Wilmes
On top of the bad loss was a worse media gaffe by their point guard and leader, Chris Paul. Paul took to criticizing rookie female referee Lauren Holtkamp after the game. He wasn’t too pleased with a technical foul call in the third quarter.
"I think we have to show better composure, but at the same time some of [the technical fouls] were ridiculous," Paul told reporters. "The tech that I get right there was ridiculous. I don't care what nobody says, I don't care what she says; that's terrible. There's no way that can be a tech. We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court, and when we did that, she said, 'Uh-uh.' I said, 'Why, uh-uh?' And she gave me a tech. That's ridiculous. If that's the case, this might not be for her.”
Poor choice of words, CP3. While criticizing a rookie referee is hardly taboo, and while the “her” in “this might not be for her” is technically correct, many are going to read this as sexist.
Personally? Paul doesn’t strike me as the politically incorrect type; just a guy who got beat badly by one of his close friends — LeBron — on national TV, and was thus liable to say all kinds of dumb nonsense in his post-game frustration. He was throwing a bit of a hissyfit at the wrong time. That’s the peril of having a job where they throw microphones into your face right after you take a shower.
In any event, it’s a bad look for Paul, his team, and for the league, and it should surprise no one when he inevitably gets fined for his words.
— John Wilmes
Add body No. 2 to the dispatched head coaches of the 2014-15 NBA season. Jacque Vaughn joined the previously fired Mike Malone in the unemployment line yesterday, when the Orlando Magic excused him as their man.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports — who broke the news — reports that assistant coach James Borrego is expected to fill in as the interim leader for now, while rumors that Scott Skiles could step into the job on a permanent basis have been alive for at least a week. Skiles is a former Magic point guard and head coach for the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks. ESPN’s Chris Broussard is the one to connect him to the job opening, while Wojnarowski has also floated his name.
Vaughn, a 39-year-old who played point guard for five different NBA teams from 1997 to 2009, had just a .269 winning percentage over three-and-a-half years of leading Orlando. The Magic didn’t have high expectations for any of his teams; they handed Vaughn the keys at an obviously transitional moment, when Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy had been traded and fired, respectively, in the summer of 2012.
But there has been little-to-no improvement in central Florida, and the team’s front office clearly became convinced that Vaughn wasn’t the right man to get the most out of a young roster featuring Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton.
Is Skiles the man to right the ship for them? Who knows. The fiery coach has had success in turning teams around, but he also tends to grate on his players over time. He’s gotten all of his squads to the playoffs, while he’s also had ugly mid-season exits from every coaching job he’s had.
— John Wilmes
Joining Houston Rockets MVP candidate James Harden (who gets the nod as Western Conference Player of the Month) is the entire starting five for the Atlanta Hawks, representing the Eastern Conference: Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford.
In Adam Silver’s NBA, this move isn’t entirely surprising. The league’s new commissioner — who just hit his one-year mark on the job — is all about grand symbolic gestures.
When 2014 draft hopeful Isaiah Austin, a standout big man from Baylor University, saw his hopes dashed a by tragic diagnosis of Marfan Syndrome, Silver made him a ceremonial pick on draft night, offering him a job in the league so long as he finishes his degree at Baylor.
And there’s also, of course, Silver’s brash lifetime ban of disgraced former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling — the move that announced Silver’s presence to many followers of the league.
The decision to give the Hawks’ front five this award as a collective is, similarly, a sign of Silver’s relatively radical ethos. A celebration of teamwork and selflessness, the gesture could perhaps encourage other lineups throughout the league to skew their games in a direction less concerned with individual achievement, and more concerned with group achievement.
The curious announcement should also turn some more heads to what’s going on in Atlanta. Although they had their 19-game winning streak snapped by Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans this past Monday, the Hawks had a lossless January. And it’s not as if they did it with a creampuff schedule: their victim list through the month included the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies.
Three of the Hawks’ starters (Teague, Horford, Millsap) were, additionally, selected as reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
— John Wilmes
After suffering one of the most difficult-to-watch leg injuries in pro basketball history at a televised Team USA scrimmage, Indiana Pacers forward Paul George began to heal with alarming speed.
That trend has continued, and George is now looking almost ready to play. After Pacers president Larry Bird said things were looking good recently, George sent out this tweet:
March?!— Paul George (@Yg_Trece) February 3, 2015
"It seems like every week Paul is getting better and better," Bird said to reporters on Tuesday. "So if we do have an opportunity to get into the playoffs and [George] can get some games under his belt and get ready to go next year ... I always say if a player is ready to play, they gotta play. We're not going to hold him back if he's able to go out there and play. When you're out like that, you lose something. ... I still think it's important if he's able to play, he should be out there.”
Bird’s approach shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. His Boston Celtics teams of yore frequently pushed through injuries. Then-teammate Kevin McHale played with a broken navicular bone in his right foot suffered in March of 1987, all the way through to an NBA Finals loss against the Los Angeles Lakers.
And while George isn’t promising to play in such a compromised state — McHale’s gambit has resulted in a visibly hobbled step he now displays on the sideline as coach of the Houston Rockets — he and his team look like they’re definitely not going to go down the maddening, confusing, constantly prolonged recovery route that teams like the Chicago Bulls have with ever-valuable superstar Derrick Rose.
In the shaky Eastern Conference, one month of George could be the difference between the playoffs and the draft lottery for Indiana. Despite having their worst season since 2009-10 at 17-32, the Pacers are just 4.5 games away from the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
— John Wilmes
6. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
If defense could be quantified es easily as offense is, The Warriors’ starting power forward would be a shoo-in for New York City this February. A “stretch-four” who makes the opposition run around with his 34 percent mark from deep, Green does everything well except for the stuff that typically makes the highlight reels. An unusually mobile 230-pounder, he’s quite the bulky utility man, and an indispensable piece for the Western Conference-leading Warriors. Helping teams win and lose on a high level doesn’t always result in glitzy accolades, but if it did, Green would be a star.
5. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
The Suns are still ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference standings, but with zero all-stars, they have two fewer than the Thunder’s über-famous Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. And while Phoenix wins with a full-out, balanced assault of speed, shooting and athleticism, one Sun has stood out just a little bit more than the rest of them: Bledsoe. The 6’1” University of Kentucky alum is leading his team in points, steals and assists, nightly flustering other point guards with the uncanny court power that earned him the nickname “Mini LeBron.”
4. Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks
The 33-17 Mavericks are four games better than they were this time last year, and right in the mix with the No. 6 seed amidst a historically potent Western Conference. But, like the Suns, they’ll have no representatives in this year’s exhibition game in New York. Chandler has been a terrific rim-protector for Dallas, and his typically productive self as a pick-and-roll finisher, clocking in with the second-highest NBA field goal percentage at .676. Tyson is just what the Mavericks have needed, and the Western All-Stars would have him along for the ride if their squad was a reflection of the truest difference-makers.
3. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
Because he plays on a bad team in year three of a transitional phase, Magic center Nikola Vucevic is still unknown to most casual fans. But he’s one of the best post-up scorers in the league, averaging 19.4 points per game as he regularly overwhelms other big men with his 7’0”, 260-pound frame and fancy touch around the rim. When Orlando’s unseasoned roster matures around him and the Magic (hopefully) bring in a defensive-minded coach, it’ll be real hard to keep Vucevic from the league’s shiny February summit going forward.
2. Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks
Kyle Korver’s having one of the best shooting years of anyone, ever. If he stays above 90 percent from the free-throw line, 50 percent from three, and 50 percent from the field (as he currently is) Korver will enter a new stratosphere of marksmanship that he can call all his own. So why isn’t he an All-Star? The 40-9 Hawks certainly have their fair share of ballers headed to NYC with Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague selected for the game, but perhaps the Eastern Conference coaches erred when they didn’t throw Korver onto the team as well.
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
The biggest snub of all has, of course, already let the world know how he feels about his exclusion. Here’s what Lillard put out on his Instragram account, after being left off the team last week:
I just want to thank everyone that felt I wasn't good enough. This isn't unfamiliar territory for me. It actually is what my life has been inspired by. I'd be lying if if I said I wasn't disappointed or that I don't feel disrespected, but it's not too much to handle. Not the first or last guy to be snubbed, but "you should have been there" is not good enough for me. But anyway, the reason I'm in these shoes is because I've always used the hand I was dealt to my advantage. A wise man once told me "it ain't always gone be peaches and cream, but somebody has to pay for the reason it's not...one way or another." #ImThankful #Real #NonAllStar #RipCity #YellowTape
A photo posted by Damian Lillard (@damianlillard) on
Lillard’s made the fifth-most threes of anyone in the league this season, and he frequently drains them at will when it comes to crunch time. “Videogame Dame” has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the game’s most fearsome closers, and if he’s truly so motivated after being spurned by the league, then the Western Conference has a lot to be afraid of on his upcoming revenge tour.
— John Wilmes
-Chicago Bulls @ Houston Rockets, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN
Derrick Rose is slowly regaining his elite athleticism, and he’ll need every bit of it he can muster if he’s to challenge MVP candidate James Harden on Harden's home court. With Dwight Howard in and out of the lineup, The Beard has become the Rockets’ saving grace, as they’ve had to design nearly all of their offensive sets around his tricky forms of misdirection. See if Jimmy Butler and the rest of the Chicago defense have the formula to slow him down.
-Dallas Mavericks @ Golden State Warriors, 10:30 PM ET, ESPN
Rajon Rondo will be out of action for the Mavericks for some time with facial injuries, and that’s bad news for the Texas ballers. Particularly because the very hardest point guard to contain in the league, Steph Curry, is their assignment this Wednesday. The Mavericks will need some hot-handed shooting from Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki to come out of Oakland alive.
-Los Angeles Clippers @ Cleveland Cavaliers, 8:00 PM ET, TNT
Quietly, the Clippers have been the Western Conference’s best team since mid-January. LeBron James and the Cavaliers have reeled off eleven in a row to take that title in the Eastern Conference, as they’re starting to finally live up to the huge hype that’s followed them around ever since the King came home. Between him, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin and Co., this matchup proves to fertile ground for some true superstar fireworks.
-Golden State Warriors @ Atlanta Hawks, 7:30 PM ET
Whether or not anyone saw it coming — or believes in the sustainability of it — the Hawks and Warriors have been basketball’s two very best teams through January. Something must give as their insanely good records collide in Atlanta this Friday, and two of the smartest squads of recent memory meet to give us a dose of pure basketball pornography.
— John Wilmes
Signing Day is one of the top events during college football’s offseason. After months (and potentially years of deliberating) high school prospects can officially fax a letter of intent on Wednesday, Feb. 4 to declare where they will continue their playing career.
Every year, Parade’s annual high school All-America team highlights the biggest stars headed to the next level.
The 2015 team is headlined by Kyler Murray, a dynamic dual-threat quarterback slated to sign with Texas A&M.
Here’s a look at Parade’s All-America team and the honorable mentions for 2015.
Parade 2015 All-America Team
|QB||Kyler Murray||5-11||175||Allen (Allen, Texas)||Texas A&M|
|QB||Ty Storey||6-3||220||Charleston (Charleston, Ark.)||Arkansas|
|QB||Jake Browning||6-2||205||Folsom (Folsom, Calif.)||Washington|
|RB||Jacques Patrick||6-2||230||Timber Creek (Orlando, Fla.)||Florida State|
|RB||Markell Jones||5-11||205||Columbus East (Columbus, Ind.)||Purdue|
|RB||Kellen Overstreet||6-0||190||Penney (Hamilton, Mo.)||Wyoming|
|WR||J.J. Arcega-Whiteside||6-3||210||Dorman (Roebuck, S.C.)||Stanford|
|WR||Trent Irwin||6-2||190||Hart (Newhall, Calif.)||Stanford|
|OL||Richie Petitbon||6-4||320||Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.)||Alabama|
|OL||Tristen Hoge||6-5||300||Highland (Pocatello, Idaho)||Notre Dame|
|OL||Martez Ivey||6-6||270||Apopka (Apopka, Fla.)||Uncommitted|
|OL||Mitch Hyatt||6-6||270||North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.)||Clemson|
|OL||Chuma Edoga||6-3||275||McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.)||Southern Cal|
|UTIL||Christian Kirk||5-11||195||Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.)||Texas A&M|
|DL||Trent Thompson||6-4||295||Westover (Albany, Ga.)||Georgia|
|DL||Byron Cowart||6-4||255||Armwood (Seffner, Fla.)||Uncommitted|
|DL||Albert Huggins||6-3||280||Orangeburg-Wilkinson (S.C.)||Clemson|
|DL||Daylon Mack||6-1||330||Gladewater (Gladewater, Texas)||Uncommitted|
|LB||Malik Jefferson||6-2||210||Poteet (Mesquite, Texas)||Texas|
|LB||Justin Hilliard||6-2||230||St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio)||Ohio State|
|LB||Porter Gustin||6-5||240||Salem Hills (Salem, Utah)||Uncommitted|
|LB||John Houston||6-3||210||Serra (Gardena, Calif.)||Uncommitted|
|DB||Iman Marshall||6-1||190||Poly (Long Beach, Calif.)||Uncommitted|
|DB||Derwin James||6-2||200||Haines City (Haines City, Fla.)||Florida State|
|DB||A.J. Gray||6-2||210||Washington County (Sandersville, Ga.)||Georgia Tech|
|6-0||175||Warren Easton (New Orleans, La.)||Texas A&M|
|K/P||Austin Seibert||5-10||195||Belleville West (Belleville, Ill.)||Oklahoma|
|QB||Tucker Israel||6-1||200||Lake Nona (Orlando, Fla.)||Clemson|
|QB||Brett Rypien||6-2||185||Shadle Park (Spokane, Wash.)||Boise State|
|QB||Joe Burrow||6-4||210||Athens (The Plains, Ohio)||Ohio State|
|QB||Alex Malzone||6-2||200||Brother Rice (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)||Michigan|
|QB||Brandon Wimbush||6-2||205||St. Peters Prep (Jersey City, N.J.)||Notre Dame|
|QB||De’Andre Johnson||6-0||175||First Coast (Jacksonville, Fla.)||Florida State|
|QB||Will Hefley||6-5||205||Pulaski Academy (Little Rock, Ark.)||Tulsa|
|RB||Dominick Bragalone||5-11||210||South Williamsport (Pa.)||Uncommitted|
|RB||Reggie Gallaspy||5-11||205||Southern Guilford (Greensboro, N.C.)||N.C. State|
|RB||Ke’Shawn Vaughn||5-11||210||Pearl Cohn (Nashville, Tenn.)||Uncommitted|
|RB||Darrell Henderson||5-9||190||South Panola (Batesville, Miss.)||Memphis|
|RB||Jamarius Henderson||5-11||215||Dale County Chr. (Ozark, Ala.)||Uncommitted|
|RB||Larry Scott||6-0||205||Hubbard (Hubbard, Ohio)||Michigan State|
|WR||Deondre Farrier||6-0||195||Lake Nona (Orlando, Fla.)||East Carolina|
|WR||Damarkus Lodge||6-3||190||Cedar Hill (Cedar Hill, Texas)||Uncommitted|
|OL||Maea Teuhema||6-5||340||Keller (Keller, Texas)||LSU|
|OL||Lester Cotton||6-4||325||Central School (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)||Alabama|
|OL||Drew Richmond||6-5||310||Memphis Univ. School (Tenn.)||Ole Miss|
|DL||D’Andre Walker||6-2||220||Langston Hughes (Fairburn, Ga.)||Georgia|
|DL||Breiden Fehoko||6-3||295||Farrington (Honolulu, Hawaii)||Texas Tech|
|DL||Tim Settle||6-3||300||Stonewall Jackson (Manassas, Va.)||Virginia Tech|
|DL||Darian Roseboro||6-4||265||Lincolnton (Lincolnton, N.C.)||N.C. State|
|LB||Ricky Deberry||6-3||240||Atlee (Mechanicsville, Va.)||Oklahoma|
|LB||Roquan Smith||6-2||205||Montezuma (Macon County, Ga.)||Uncommitted|
|LB||Asmar Bilal||6-3||205||Ben Davis (Indianapolis, Ind.)||Notre Dame|
|DB||Holton Hill||6-2||185||Lamar (Houston, Texas)||Texas|
|DB||Minkah Fitzpatrick||5-11||180||St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.)||Alabama|
|UTIL||Kerryon Johnson||6-1||200||Madison Academy (Madison, Ala.)||Auburn|
|UTIL||Austin Kafentzis||6-1||200||Jordan (Sandy, Utah)||Wisconsin|
The first Wednesday in February is essentially Christmas for every college football head coach. After months of hard work on the recruiting trail, coaches will hit the offices bright and early on Wednesday for National Signing Day to welcome a new class full of freshmen and maybe a few junior college transfers to chase a national championship.
With most college football teams signing around 25 prospects on Wednesday, there’s over 3,000 players coming to the FBS ranks next season. And it’s no surprise there are some rather entertaining names among the new group of college players. Athlon combed through the recruits for the 2015 signing class by using the databases at Rivals, Scout and ESPN and rounded up the best (and most interesting) names joining an FBS roster next season.
Note: Positions of players can very from recruiting service. Players in this article were listed by position according to Rivals.
2015 College Football Recruiting All-Name Team
Musa Alsulaimani (Simon Gratz) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Austin Apodaca (Mesa C.C.) Mesa, Arizona
Bartimaeus Bell (Wekiva) Apopka, Florida
Li’Jon Cordier (Landry-Walker) New Orleans, Louisiana
Chris d’Entremont (Golden West C.C.) Huntington Beach, California
Cinjun Erskine (Barnegat) Barnegat, New Jersey
Gabe Gonslaves (Torrance) Torrance, California
Rockman Hunt (Oakland Tech Senior) Oakland, California
Grey Jackson (Fairhope) Fairhope, Alabama
Ryder Kuhns (St. Louis) Honolulu, Hawaii
Emil Neugent (Potomac) Oxon Hill, Maryland
Willy Pflug (Sunset) Portland, Oregon
Benji Philippe (Foothill College) Los Altos, California
Baylor Romney (Franklin) El Paso, Texas
Rope Ruel (Douglas County) Castle Rock, Colorado
Brion Sanchious (Northeast) Oakland Park, Florida
Chance Thrasher (Peachtree Ridge) Suwanee, Georgia
Ruvim Tyutyunnik (Riverview) Finley, Washington
Chason Virgil (West Mesquite) Mesquite, Texas
Chase Whetsel (Refugio) Refugio, Texas
DeUndre Pickett-White (Southwest) Miami, Florida
Soso Jamabo (Piano West) Piano, Texas
Bry’Kiethon Mouton (Acadiana) Lafayette, Louisiana
Shi’kim Coward (Niceville) Niceville, Florida
Bolu Olorunfunmi (Clovis North) Fresno, California
Desherrius Flowers (Vigor) Prichard, Alabama
Mon Denson (La Grange) Lagrange, Georgia
Richard Worship (Valley Forge) Parma Heights, Ohio
Mufasa Abdul-Basir (St. Joseph’s) Trumbell, Connecticut
Jatory Sparks-Brown (DeSoto) DeSoto, Texas
Dare Odeyingbo (Cistercian Prep) Irving, Texas
Hekili Keliiliki (Bentonville) Bentonville, Arkansas
Venus Triplett (North) Olathe, Kansas
Superiorr Reid (Mount San Jacinto CC) San Jacinto, California
Sanjai Bruno (Miramar) Miramar, Florida
Jett Robertson (Ironwood) Glendale, Arizona
Keke Coutee (Lufkin) Lufkin, Texas
Jazz Ferguson (West Feliciana) St. Francisville, Louisiana
Spencer Tears (Richards) Oak Lawn, Illinois
Pace Temple (Geneva) Geneva, Illinois
Fundrail Quimbley (Lee County) Leesburg, Georgia
James Kicklighter (Windsor Forest) Savannah, Georgia
Penny Hart (King’s Ridge Christian) Alpharetta, Georgia
CoChese Temple-Laws (Russellville) Russellville, Arkansas
Richard Ukelegharanya (East Longmeadow, Massachusetts)
Chadwick Maycumber (Lake Nona) Orlando, Florida
Q’ Drennan (Americas) El Paso, Texas
Deric Phouthavong (Hamilton Township) Columbus, Ohio
Raleigh Beougher (Riverside Military Academy), Gainesville, Georgia
Zacchaeus Drew-Toles (College of the Desert) Palm Desert, California
Apollos Hester (East View) Georgetown, Texas
Lucky Jackson (Lafayette) Lexington, Kentucky
Furquan Shorts (Atascocita) Humble, Texas
Buzzy Yokoyama (Orange Coast CC) Costa Mesa, California
Equanimeous St. Brown (Servite) Anaheim, California
Hunter Register (Comeaux) Lafayette, Louisiana
Hamiid Pack (Neshaminy) Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Alex Stump (St. Edward) Lakewood, Ohio
Justice Shelton-Mosley (Capital Christian) Sacramento, California
Greyson Bankhead (Centennial) Corona, California
Kyle Penniston (Mater Del) Santa Ana, California
Daniel Imatorbhebhe (North Gwinnett) Suwanee, Georgia
Alexx Zielinski (Brighton) Brighton, Michigan
Chis Copier (Snow College) Ephraim, Utah
Sebastian Sock (Valor Christian) Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Ceejhay French-Love (Poly) Long Beach, California
Case Brabham (St. Mark’s) Dallas, Texas
Tomond Hampton (Georgia Military College) Milledgeville, Georgia
Critt Johnson (Cox) Virginia Beach, Virginia
Devonaire Clarington (Booker T. Washington) Miami, Florida
Alize Jones (Bishop Gorman) Las Vegas, Nevada
Bar Milo (Chaminade) West Hills, California
Cedric Bigge-Duren (Oceanside) Oceanside, California
Cutler Salmon (St. Mary’s) Stockton, California
Barnabas Baning (St. Mary Ryken) Leonardtown, Maryland
Levon Livingston (Ballou) Washington, District of Columbia
Will Ficka (Dodge City) Dodge City, Kansas
Bravery Ratcliff (Pomona) Arvada, Colorado
Riley Lovingood (Beech Senior) Hendersonville, Tennessee
Cap McClure (Cody) Cody, Wyoming
Athlete (as listed by Rivals.com)
Ray-Ray McCloud III (Sickles) Tampa, Florida
Kai Locksley (Gilman School) Baltimore, Maryland
D’Anfernee McGriff (Leon) Tallahassee, Florida
Shaquery Wilson (Coral Gables) Coral Gables, Florida
Ykili Ross (Riverside Poly) Riverside, California
Tyriuq Trotman (Landstown) Virginia Beach, Virginia
Britain Covey (Timpview) Provo, Utah
Tuli Wily-Matagi (Kahuku) Kahuku, Hawaii
Ernest Gunn (Selma) Selma, Alabama
Evan Rambo (La Salle) Pasadena, California
Ketner Kupp (A C Davis) Yakima, Washington
Olabisi Johnson (Bear Creek) Lakewood, Colorado
Shyheim Lineberry (Asheboro) Asheboro, North Carolina
Nasir Adderley (Great Valley) Malvern, Pennsylvania
Abu Daramy (Westerville South) Westerville, Ohio
KamRon Johnson (Saguaro) Scottsdale, Arizona
Deon Sanders (Centennial) Franklin, Tennessee
Chico McClatcher (Federal Way) Federal Way, Washington
Chukuemeke Egbule (North Sore) Galena Park, Texas
Mehdi El Attrach (Lake Nora) Lake Nora, Florida
Alisshuwa Becoat (Varina) Richmond, Virginia
Ish Seisay (St. Stephens & St. Agnes School) Alexandria, Virginia
Yannia N’Guetta (C.D. Hylton) Woodbridge, Virginia
Na Vonn Gurley (Morton Ranch) Katy, Texas
Raequawon Hascall (Putnam City North) Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. (Edgewood Academy) Elmore, Alabama
Benning Potoa’e (Lakes) Lakewood Washington
Mizaire Cromartie (Dudley) Greensboro, North Carolina
Twazanga Mugala (Ardrey Kell) Charlotte, North Carolina
Stone Wolfley (Morgantown) Morgantown, West Virginia
Tipa Galeai (Trinity) Euless, Texas
Winston DeLattiboudere (Howard) Ellicott City, Maryland
Dondaycee Millbrook (Pike) Indianapolis, Indiana
Mufu Taiwo (McDonough) Pomfret, Maryland
Tommy Woo (Oceanside) Oceanside, California
Nicholas Czar (Highland) Highland, Illinois
Sie Doe (Butte CC) Oroville, California
Paris Black (Terry Sanford) Fayettevile, North Carolina
Kyle Power (Cheyenne) North Las Vegas, Nevada
J. Hunter Roman (New London) New London, Connecticut
Hezekiah Applegate (Johnston) Johnston, Iowa
Success Chandler (Merced CC) Merced, California
King Newton (Carroll) Southlake, Texas
Shy Tuttle (North Davidson) Lexington, North Carolina
Olive Sagapolu (Mater Del) Santa Ana, California
Elu Aydon (Leone) American Samoa, NA
Boogie Sewell (Desert Hill) St. George, Utah
Army Motuapuaka (Salem) Virginia Beach, Virginia
Pedro Gomez (Ellsworth CC) Iowa Falls, Iowa
Kingsley KeKe (George Ranch) Richmond, Texas
Royal Silver (Washington) Cedar Rapids, Iowa
C.J. Stalker (Lakota West) West Chester, Ohio
Fotu Leiato (Steilacoom) Steilacoom, Washington
DJ Beavers (Crespi) Encino, California
Porter Gustin (Salem Hills) Salem, Utah
Nas Anesi (St. John Bosco) Bellflower, California
Sh’Mar Kilby-Lane (Hallandale) Hallandale Beach, Florida
Bo Wallace (John Curtis) River Ridge, Louisiana
Riley Whimpey (San Clemente) San Clemente, California
Bull Barge (Colquitt College) Moultrie, Georgia
Caileb Booze (Edmond North) Edmond, Oklahoma
Winner Watts (El Camino CC) Torrance, California
Ty Tyler (Charlotte) Punta Gorda, Florida
Emmitt Smith (Warren Central) Bowling Green, Kentucky
Sam Papa (Mesa CC) Mesa, Arizona
DonTwain Cornish (Lake Forest) Felton, Delaware
Colton Sis (McCook) McCook, Nebraska
Andre Jumper (American Heritage) Plantation, Florida
Sha’mond Squires (New Bern) New Bern, North Carolina
Jay Hockaday (Christ Presbyterian Academy) Nashville, Tennessee
Teamer Terry (Fullerton CC) Fullerton, California
Rufus Rushins (Bishop Fenwick) Peabody, Massachusetts
Prentice McKinney (South Oak Cliff) Dallas, Texas
Simba Short (De La Salle) Concord, California
Shola Ayinde (George Ranch High School) Richmond, Texas
Tank Scott (Highland Springs) Richmond, Virginia
Abdurrahman Yasin (Southwest Dekalb) Decatur, Georgia
Jay’Onn Myles (Pierce C.C.) Woodland Hills, California
Ephraim Kitchen (South Panola) Batesville, Mississippi
Nyhre Quinerly (Lake Taylor) Norfolk, Virginia
Thaddeus Philyaw (De Anza CC) Cupertino, California
Deshadrick Truly (East Mississippi CC) Scooba, Mississippi
Ugo Amadi (John Overton) Nashville, Tennessee
Kode Mwirigi (Las Vegas) Las Vegas, Nevada
Boomer Bakich (Highland Park) Dallas, Texas
Lyrics Klugh (Byrnes) Duncan, South Carolina
Blessuan Austin (Milford Academy) New Berlin, New York
Taj-Amir Torres (Amherst Regional) Amherst, Massachusetts
Afolabi Laguda (Butler County CC) El Dorado, Kansas
Sir’Vegias Steele (New Mexico Military Institute) Roswell, New Mexico
Guy Stallworh (Southwest Mississippi CC) Summit, Mississippi
Cules Rose (Pinnacle) Phoenix, Arizona
Emile Hope (Laney CC) Oakland, California
Blair Manly (Cibola) Albuquerque, New Mexico
James Bond (Trinity Christian Academy) Jackson, Tennessee
Speedy Miles (West Mesquite) Mesquite, Texas
BoBo Jones (Xenia) Xenia, Ohio
Stone Wilson (IMG Academy) Bradenton, Florida
Jarry Jones (Lenape Valley Regional) Stanhope, New Jersey
Chase Vinatieri (Roosevelt) Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Benedict Svwavarsson (Northeastern) Elizabeth City, North Carolina
- By Jesica Parsley
Love shook off the negative energy, later, though.
"Truth be told, I thought it was a pretty good reception, especially from people, familiar faces," Love told reporters after the game. "It was nice to see, shake hands, give a lot of hugs to different people and smile, wave… [Timberwolves owner] Glen and Becky Taylor came over to me and said some really nice stuff. Different teammates from the past, different guys over on the other bench. Flip [Saunders], as well, I gave him some love in the second half. It all went pretty well, and we ended up getting a win. Like I said earlier before the game, that's what we came here to do. We walked away with 10 straight.”
While Wolves fans might not love Kevin at the moment, they shouldn’t have too hard of a time moving past him. The man they got back when they traded him, No. 1 overall draft selection Andrew Wiggins, is thriving as he looks to have the Rookie of the Year race all but decided. The Canada native — whose “Maple Jordan” nickname seems increasingly apt — finished the contest with 33 points, even scoring a good amount of his baskets on LeBron James as he went 14-for-25 from the floor. In January, the 19-year-old took off, shooting 47 percent from the field and putting together an impressive highlight reel.
Love, meanwhile, is still struggling to find his optimal role in Cleveland. He missed the cut for the Eastern Conference All-Star squad this winter and has not been able to find his comfort zone in the Cavs’ offense. These challenges aren’t likely to last all season, as LeBron and Co. knew what they were getting in Love: one of the best offensive big men in the league. He’ll look more like that eventually. But for now, Wiggins’ ascension and Kevin’s stalled game are giving plenty of ammo to skeptics in Cleveland, and lots of relief to fans of the Wolves.
— John Wilmes
Glendale, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - New England quarterback Tom Brady was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLIX after leading the Patriots to a 28-24 come-from-behind victory over the Seattle Seahawks for his fourth career Lombardi Trophy.
Brady threw two of his four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, the last a 3-yard strike to Julian Edelman that put the Patriots ahead with 2:02 remaining. The 37-year-old finished 37-of-50 for 328 yards and shook off a pair of costly interceptions, the first coming at the goal line in the opening quarter and the other leading to a Seattle touchdown in the third.
Making a record sixth Super Bowl start at quarterback, Brady earned his third career MVP award to tie boyhood idol Joe Montana for the most in the game's history.
Brady also earned his fourth career Super Bowl win, which was sealed by rookie Malcolm Butler's interception of Russell Wilson at the Patriots' 1-yard line with 20 seconds left. That ties him with Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most by a quarterback.
The savvy veteran also broke Montana's record for most career Super Bowl touchdown passes during the game, with the four giving Brady 13 all-time. His 37 completions against the Seahawks, meanwhile, established a new Super Bowl mark.
Brady was also the MVP of New England's first two Super Bowl triumphs, which came in Super Bowls XXXVI (against St. Louis) and XXXVII (against Carolina).
The college basketball Saturday has turned into the Day of Dunksand that’s before the primetime slate has started.
Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell gave us perhaps the alley oop of the season, but all good things have to wait.
Let’s walk through the Day of Dunk so far:
• From the morning session, Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes sprints from off screen to the rim to get the put back against Iowa.
• Then, Florida’s Alex Murphy shows us how to beat the press against Arkansas.
• In the same game, Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith drives to beat the shot clock.
• And finally, this Montrezl Harrell alley oop for Louisville sends us to a different universe.
Seattle can join a rather exclusive club with a win over New England in Super Bowl XLIX. It would mark the ninth time in the Super Bowl era that a team was able to repeat as champion.
Where would the Seahawks rank among past repeat champs? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, they need to win first; but Super Bowl victories over slam-dunk Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady would be a strong start for any argument.
Here’s a look at the eight teams that have managed to repeat and how we rank them. Keep in mind, we are really splitting hairs here.
1. Miami, Super Bowls VII and VII
Regular season record: 26-2
Points in their favor: This was perhaps the most dominant two-season run in the Super Bowl era. The Super Bowl VII champs remain the only undefeated team since 1929, led the league in offense and defense and can even boast a road playoff win, as some odd scheduling rules at the time sent them to Pittsburgh for the AFC title game. Even though Miami didn’t go undefeated in 1973, the Dolphins still put together an impressive season, and they were more dominant in the postseason than they had been the year before.
What hurts their case: About the only knock you can come up with for this run would be that Miami’s Super Bowl competition was not as strong as some others on this list. The games were less than memorable, save for kicker Garo Yepremian’s ill-fated attempt at a pass that resulted in Washington’s only points in Super Bowl VII.
2. Dallas, Super Bowls XXVII and XVIII
Regular season record: 25-7
Points in their favor: The Cowboys won the league’s toughest division at the time in both 1992 and ‘93. They also had to get by equally dominant San Francisco in the NFC title game both years, the first time on the road. While the two Super Bowls look like easy wins if you just look at the final scores, Dallas was not rolling over teams just happy to be there. Buffalo was loaded with Hall of Famers, desperate after two previous Super Bowl losses and in fact led in both games. The Cowboys just rolled over them.
What hurts their case: Both Super Bowls got out of hand, so perhaps there is a “clutch” factor missing here that can be found elsewhere on this list. But in terms of overall dominance for two seasons, including facing tough playoff competition, this run is difficult to beat.
3. San Francisco, Super Bowls XXIII and XXIV
Regular season record: 24-8
Points in their favor: This was the height of the 49ers’ powers, as they were in the league’s top five offensively and defensively in both 1988 and '89. Their 10-6 record in 1988 sent them on the road for the NFC title game, but they routed Chicago, 28-3. The 1989 team was outstanding, going 14-2 and winning its playoff games by a combined score of 71-16. The Super Bowl wins may be the most impressive on this list when you consider they beat the league MVP (Boomer Esiason) in the first and a Hall-of-Famer (John Elway) in the second.
What hurts their case: It’s impossible to ignore a 10-6 regular season when matching this team up against the undefeated 1972 Dolphins. Some may also be less-than-impressed with a rout of a Denver team losing its third Super Bowl in four years, but those Broncos had given up the league’s fewest points.
4t. Pittsburgh, Super Bowls IX and X
Regular season record: 22-5-1
Points in their favor: We’re copping out a bit by not picking one Steelers’ repeat over the other, but it’s essentially the same cast of characters. The perception is that the Steelers’ first two Super Bowl teams were carried by the defense, and to some extent that is true. But both the 1974 and ‘75 squads were also in the league’s top 10 on offense, as stars such as Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and Terry Bradshaw were just hitting their primes. The 1975 Steelers were the league’s most dominant team all season as Bradshaw finally started every game at quarterback, adding a big-play element to a dominant running game. It would make the difference in the Super Bowl as Swann caught four passes for 161 yards to earn MVP honors in a 21-17 win over the Cowboys.
What hurts their case: The 1974 team may have dodged a bullet in that they hosted wild-card Buffalo in the divisional round of the playoffs despite having the AFC’s third-best record due to the league’s odd rotation for playoff matchups at the time. But the road win at Oakland in the AFC title game was impressive enough to make up for that, and the Super Bowl was no contest as the Steelers ran over the Vikings.
4t. Pittsburgh, Super Bowls XIII and XIV
Regular season record: 26-6
Points in their favor: The 1978-79 Steelers were still dominant defensively (ranking third and second, respectively, in the NFL) but much more explosive offensively than the 1974-75 teams that won the Super Bowl. In fact, in six postseason wins on the way to winning Super Bowls XIII and XIV, Pittsburgh averaged 32 points per game. The Steelers also defeated a defending Super Bowl champ in Super Bowl XIII, one of only two teams on this list to do so.
What hurts their case: While these may have been more balanced teams than the earlier Pittsburgh Super Bowl champs, the earlier teams faced tougher competition in the postseason. While the Super Bowl win over defending champ Dallas is impressive, it is cancelled out by facing a 9-7 Rams team in Super Bowl XIV.
6. New England, Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX
Regular season record: 28-4
Points in their favor: New England’s 28-4 regular season record is eclipsed only by the 1972-73 Dolphins when it comes this list. The Patriots also had impressive playoff wins along the way, beating Peyton Manning and the Colts both seasons and going on the road to defeat 15-1 Pittsburgh in 2004. While many others on this list cruised to Super Bowl wins, New England was tested twice and came out on the winning end of two 3-point games.
What hurts their case: Some would argue that two clutch Super Bowl wins could also be called “less-than-dominant.” Needing a last-second field goal to beat upstart Carolina was especially surprising. The Pats were also not loaded with Hall of Fame players like some teams on this list. It’s certainly harder to keep a team together and repeat in the 21st century, so perhaps that is in their favor; but in terms of overall dominance, this is a tough list with which to compete.
7. Denver, Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII
Regular season record: 26-6
Points in their favor: The 1997 Broncos represent the only non-division champ on this list. But despite finishing second in the AFC West, they were top-five in offense and defense and had the league’s best point differential. They also defeated defending champ Green Bay in the Super Bowl. The 1998 team featured league MVP Terrell Davis and beat a 14-2 Atlanta team in the Super Bowl.
What hurts their case: We knocked the Niners down a peg for a less-than-dominant regular season, so we have to consider that Denver was a wild card team in 1997. Also, while the 1998 Falcons were very good, the fact that they upset a 15-1 Vikings juggernaut in the NFC title game leaves us wondering what might have been in Super Bowl XXXIII.
8. Green Bay, Super Bowls I and II
Regular season record: 21-6-1
Points in their favor: The Packers are victims of bad timing here, because their two Super Bowl wins came at the tail end of a run that saw them win five NFL titles in seven seasons. If the Super Bowl Era had started even one season sooner, odds are we are talking about the only three-peat ever.
What hurts their case: Green Bay’s stars were all aging at this point. In fact, legendary backs Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung moved on after Super Bowl I, while other stars such as Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Willie Wood, Forrest Gregg and Jerry Kramer were all on the wrong side of 30. There is no denying the greatness of this dynasty, but the pre-Super Bowl Packers were the stronger and more dominant teams.
-- By John Gworek
1. Atlanta Hawks (38-8)
There’s no better way to put it: the Hawks have beaten the crap out of everybody, east and west, for multiple months running. Until their 17-game winning streak comes to a halt, there’s no reason to drop them from this spot.
2. Golden State Warriors (36-7)
Despite having their 19-game home court winning streak snapped by an inspired Chicago Bulls squad this week, the Warriors are still sitting pretty, and they’re still the favorites to represent their conference in the Finals.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (34-12)
Quietly, quietly, quietly — that’s how the Grizzlies have always compiled top marks in the regular season, and this year is no exception. Marc Gasol is finally getting some overdue recognition as a starter for the Western Conference All-Stars, but otherwise the Grizz are still an unseen title contender.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (32-14)
The Clippers have snapped out of their malaise and won six in a row, climbing up the prickly Western standings and finally looking urgent enough to perhaps meet their championship-or-bust expectations.
5. Houston Rockets (32-14)
The Rockets have endured a lengthy absence from Dwight Howard already, and the recent buzz about his knee suggests they might have to do it again. If they come out of this one still shining, James Harden’s MVP campaign will only grow stronger.
6. Washington Wizards (31-16)
John Wall has become the best pure point guard in the league, and the addition of Paul Pierce continues to give the Wiz an added calm and edge. Washington isn’t talked about as a potential Eastern Conference champion too often, but they should be.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (32-14)
LaMarcus Aldridge has foregone surgery on this thumb to play through the pain. He must believe there’s something special on the horizon with this Blazers squad to jeopardize his body that way.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (27-20)
The Cavs’ trades for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert have paid off, and LeBron James is spry and back to playing MVP-level ball. It doesn’t hurt that Kyrie Irving is having his most productive season yet, too.
9. Chicago Bulls (30-18)
A shocking win at Golden State — along with wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks — was par for the Bulls’ 2014-15 course. So was their double-overtime loss to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers. It’s been a confounding season for this so-called title contender.
10. San Antonio Spurs (30-17)
The Spurs are looking better with Kawhi Leonard back in the fold, but doubts about their remaining motivation will persist until they go on one of their signature late-season winning streaks. Do they have another one left in them?
11. Toronto Raptors (31-15)
The Raptors had a bad January. Their recent four-game winning streak is encouraging, but this team nevertheless looks day by day more like one that’s not built for a tough seven-game series just yet.
12. Dallas Mavericks (30-17)
Rajon Rondo’s been a strange, awkward fit in Dallas. They’ve made it work, for the most part, but a recent four-game skid has raised some questions — particularly about their thin front court behind Tyson Chandler.
13. Phoenix Suns (27-20)
The Suns are holding tight to the eighth and final playoff spot in perhaps the best Western Conference of all time, but the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder are coming. And in the case of Kevin Durant’s Thunder, they’re coming fast.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (23-23)
OKC has a lot of questions to answer, but the response to almost all of them is this: more great play from Durant and Russell Westbrook, two of the most fearsome players of this era. You should be surprised if you don’t see them sneak into the playoffs.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (24-22)
Monty Williams is on the chopping block for his job with the Pelicans, but he probably shouldn’t be. After Anthony Davis, this is a team with a ton of problems and shortcomings, and that falls on general manager Dell Demps’ shoulders.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (24-22)
The young Bucks are one of the best surprises of the season, as they’ve created one of the league’s best defenses under second-time coach Jason Kidd. They could scare some overdogs in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
17. Miami Heat (20-25)
The Heat continue to struggle through the post-LeBron era, despite the emergence of big man Hassan Whiteside. The latest road bump? An indefinite absence from the freshly injured Dwyane Wade.
18. Charlotte Hornets (19-27)
After a disastrous start to the season, the Hornets have gotten their defense together and strung some wins together off the radar. They’re still falling well below expectations, but Charlotte should be able to fit into the playoff picture out East.
19. Denver Nuggets (19-28)
The Nuggets have as little direction as any of the NBA’s lost teams. The good news is that they did well to trade for rookie sensation Jusuf Nurkic, a 20-year-old from Bosnia who could be the best big man of his class.
20. Brooklyn Nets (18-27)
The Nets remain a depressing collection of bad contracts and ambitions no higher than the east’s eighth playoff spot. It’s no mystery why owner Mikhail Prokhorov wants to sell this underperforming team.
21. Sacramento Kings (16-28)
DeMarcus Cousins is an All-Star snub. What else is new? Boogie is the best offensive big man in the game, but the league still seems far from recognizing him as such.
22. Detroit Pistons (17-30)
Brandon Jennings’ tragic ACL tear has derailed one of the best stories of the NBA season, and the Pistons look as bad the last week as they did in their season’s terrible beginning. Can they get back on course without their point guard?
23. Utah Jazz (16-30)
The Jazz continue to lose competitive games, which is the very best they can do as a young, learning squad. Look for them to make a leap next year, after a summer spent absorbing the lessons of these growing pains.
24. Indiana Pacers (17-31)
The Pacers won’t be competitive until they get Paul George back. Even then, though, this season has demonstrated that they might need another significant piece before they can get back toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
25. Orlando Magic (15-34)
Head coach Jacque Vaughn doesn’t look long for the job these days. A talented young crew hasn’t made the expected jump this season, and the Magic are said to be actively seeking a replacement.
26. Boston Celtics (16-28)
The Celtics stay in their holding pattern, waiting out the season to make noise in the draft again — especially now that Jeff Green and Rondo are out the door, taking the chance of real Celtics’ competition with them.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (13-34)
The Lakers suck. Everybody loves it, because this never happens. Kobe Bryant’s out for the year, and things look bad for the short term. But don’t be surprised if a star reaffirms the glamour of playing in Tinseltown, and signs there this summer.
28. New York Knicks (9-38)
The Knicks have begun their rebuild in earnest, and any team interested in their leftover veteran pieces should not hesitate to call Phil Jackson about a trade. Losing is the new winning in New York.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-37)
Andrew Wiggins has been the premier rookie in the league for quite a while now, and the Wolves look destined for another great prospect as they keep dropping contests. They’re not far from being the league’s best farm system, if they aren’t already.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (9-37)
The Sixers are tanking. Didn’t you hear? And guess what? It’s working. They’ll be back at the top of the draft this June, just like they planned.
— John Wilmes
Great college basketball teams can only go as far as their star players take them.
Where would UConn be last March without Shabazz Napier’s constant heroics? As the calendar flips to February and conference play intensifies, coaches are looking for their stars to separate themselves from the rest of the conference crowd and lead their teams deep into March.
Here is our list of top Conference Players of the Year contenders with a little more than a month left in the season.
The Favorite: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
After sitting out most of last season for academic reasons, Jerian Grant has become the ACC’s most explosive and complete offensive weapon. Grant leads the Irish in points (17.4) and assists (4.6) while shooting better than 51 percent from the floor. After Wednesday’s 23-point, 12-assist, six rebound performance in a win over Duke, Grant has overthrown Jahlil Okafor as the favorite for ACC Player of the Year for the time being.
Other Candidates: Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, Virginia’s Justin Anderson
The Favorite: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
The Sooners have slumped of late, but Hield is still averaging better than 20 points per game in league play. Overall, he leads the Big 12 in scoring (18.6 points per game) while contributing 5.5 rebounds. He’ll have a better shot of holding off other contenders if Oklahoma can turn its fortunes down the stretch.
Other Candidates: Iowa State’s Georges Niang, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten
The Favorite: LaDontae Henton, Providence
A year ago, Providence had Bryce Cotton leading the Friars to the NCAA Tournament. Now, Providence has another prolific scorer who has Ed Cooley’s team on the way to a second consecutive Tourney for the first time since 1989-90. Henton is ninth in the country in scoring at 20.8 points per game while averaging 5.6 rebounds. His season-high 38 points in a 75-74 win over Notre Dame back on Nov. 23 looks more impressive now than it did at the time.
Other Candidates: Butler’s Kellen Dunham, Seton Hall’s Sterling Gibbs
The Favorite: D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Russell is the most complete and physical guard in the nation. Second in the conference in scoring (19.4 points) and fourth in assists (5.1 assists), Russell has almost single-handedly kept Ohio State in the NCAA conversation. He has posted 21, 27, 33, and 22 points in his last four Big Ten games. The Buckeyes will only go as far as their freshman point guard takes them in March.
Other Candidates: Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell
The Favorite: Delon Wright, Utah
The 6-5 Wright has a sterling 6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio to add to his 129.9 offensive rating and 14.6 points per game, making the Los Angeles native one of the nation’s most efficient players. A lockdown defender, Wright is the heartbeat of the No. 11 Utes, playing 31 minutes and pulling in four rebounds per contest. If Utah wishes to dethrone Arizona as kings of the Pac-12, Wright’s continued success is going to be vital.
Others Candidates: Stanford’s Chasson Randle, Arizona’s Stanley Johnson
The Favorite: Bobby Portis, Arkansas
Portis is the most versatile piece in the Razorbacks' high-scoring offense. Able to connect from behind the arc or play on the block, the 6-11 Portis is a matchup nightmare. Ports leads the SEC in scoring (17.7 points) and is fourth in rebounds (8.5) all while shooting 56 percent both from 2 and from 3.
Other Candidates: Tennessee’s Josh Richardson, Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein
The Favorite: Ryan Boatright, UConn
With the departure of Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright is coach Kevin Ollie’s go-to player and senior leader. Boatright is responsible for 28.1 percent of the Huskies total scoring, shooting 27.1 percent of the team’s shots and connecting 42.7 percent of the time. The Huskies are a long-shot to make the Big Dance with just 11 wins, but if anyone knows about getting hot at the right time, it’s the American’s leading scorer and most efficient player.
Other candidates SMU’s Nic Moore, Tulsa’s Shaquille Harrison
-By Jake Rose
The Cleveland Cavaliers starting point guard was sensational last night, leading his team past the vaunted Portland Trail Blazers, 99-94. Irving shot 17-for-36, tallying 56 percent of his team’s points with LeBron James out of action, resting with a day-to-day wrist ailment.
It’s fitting that Irving’s performance came against Portland, too. The Blazers are one of the many teams the Cavs lost to at the peak of their early-season growing pains — 101-82, on November 4. Now, Cleveland has shifted course, and they’ve matched their season-best eight-game winning streak behind Irving’s scintillating play.
It’s particularly encouraging to fans in northeast Ohio to see their team beating a quality opponent without the basketball king, James, who recently said Irving is becoming a leader beneath him in his own singular way. With a game like last night’s, it’s hard to dispute that claim. Take a look as Kyrie torches the Blazers:
South in Texas, Irving’s Team USA running mate James Harden was getting props from an old frenemy. Former teammate Chandler Parsons — now a forward with the in-state rival Dallas Mavericks — says The Beard needs to be recognized as this season’s MVP.
“He's the best player in basketball right now," Parsons told reporters before his Mavs fell 99-94 to Harden's Houston Rockets. "The things he's doing are incredible. The scouting report is focused in on stopping him and you see he's still getting 30 a game. It's impressive. It doesn't really surprise me. I saw firsthand how talented he is. He works extremely hard. He's playing better defense this year. He's leading their team. He's hitting tough shots. There's not much he's not doing.”
Harden dropped 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds to lead Houston, who grabbed the victory despite Dwight Howard missing the contest. The resume continues to build.
— John Wilmes
Hardly a physicist or investigator myself, I can’t offer any clarity on that one — that job is left, apparently, in Bill Nye’s hands. All I can give on this subject is the knowledge that such behavior is not unique to the sport of football.
“In the history of the National Basketball Association, there were teams that would take your breath away, leaving those watching gasping for air at the sight of their extraordinary acrobatic feats. And there were other teams that were so methodically powerful that they would quickly take the air out of opponents.
"And then there were the New York Knicks of the early 1970s, a team that had Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Jerry Lucas, Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier and Dick Barnett and that represented for many the apotheosis of the game.
"They simply took the air out of the ball.
"The team that basketball purists often called the best ever because they embodied many of the most respected elements of the game, such as sacrifice and intelligence, which they merged with efficient passing, aggressive defense and timely shooting, had this little gimmick that often gained them just enough of an edge to win.
"But it wasn`t cheating, exactly. It was more like creative invention that might come from the likes of some McHale, McAdoo or Machiavelli.
"'What we used to do was deflate the ball,’ recalls Phil Jackson, the cerebral reserve forward who was every bit as metaphysical as he was physical. 'We were a short team with our big guys like Willis, our center, only about 6-8 and Jerry Lucas also 6-8, DeBusschere, 6-6.
"'So what we had to rely on was boxing out and hoping the rebound didn't go long.
"'To help ensure that, we'd try to take some air out of the ball. You see, on the ball it says something like 'inflate to 7 to 9 pounds. We'd all carry pins and take the air out to deaden the ball.
"'It also helped our offense because we were a team that liked to pass the ball without dribbling it, so it didn't matter how much air was in the ball. It also kept other teams from running on us because when they`d dribble the ball, it wouldn't come up so fast.’”
Slower team? No problem: just make sure you’re playing with a slower ball.
— John Wilmes
Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks overflows with dramatic storylines and features fascinating characters that rival any Hollywood blockbuster. Tom Brady is the A-list superstar. Russell Wilson fills the role of the successful up-and-comer looking to steal Brady’s thunder. Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick are the leaders of men looking to cement their legacies as the conquering head coaches of the football realm, all supported by a fantastic ensemble cast of Richard Sherman, Rob Gronkowski, and Marshawn Lynch. This is better than Hollywood.
While those stories and leading men will garner so much of the attention this week leading up to the biggest football game of the year, here are some x-factors that also could play a big role in the outcome on Super Sunday.
The most over-dramatic headline in recent sports memory will surely be the elephant in the stadium all week long. While media outlets relentlessly pine over PSI and the science of pigskin in wet and cold conditions, the Patriots will be completely ignoring the “conspiracy” altogether — or at least try to. For the first time in his NFL career, Tom Brady is seemingly playing the role of bad guy after last week’s awkward press conference in which Brady was asked if he thought he was a cheater. As a franchise, New England has long been known for its constant stoicism and professionalism, but is the spotlight from another “cheating” allegation during the biggest week of the football calendar going to be too much of a nuisance for the business-like Patriots?
Patriots’ Receivers vs. The Legion of Boom
Defenses beware — every eligible player is an option in New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ playbook, something the Ravens and Colts know all too well. This offensive versatility is due in part to the variety of weapons that Brady has to throw to, as six players have more than 20 receptions this season.
Brady loves to use the middle of the field to exploit defenses. With tight end Rob Gronkowski being such a matchup nightmare for linebackers, wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell typically have extra space underneath opposing teams’ coverages in which to operate. But this Seattle defense is a different animal. The Seahawks’ vaunted “Legion of Boom” makes a point to get in their opponents’ faces (and their minds) with their physical play and relentless swagger. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell are backed by hard-hitting press safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, and all four bring heavy pop to the field. It will be interesting to see how effective the Patriots’ receivers are against the LOB. Brady may have to rely on his running backs as pass-catching options out of the backfield more than he usually does.
Castaways, no-names, and journeymen have been lining up at running back behind Brady for the better part of a decade. And no running back fits the Patriots’ misfit mold quite like Blount does. Blount, in his second stint with New England, was claimed on waivers in November after being waived by Pittsburgh for leaving the field early during the Steelers’ win against the Titans on “Monday Night Football.”
Back with the Patriots, Blount didn’t see significant playing time until Week 15 against the Chargers when he rushed for 66 yards on 20 carries. Over the next three games Blount would total 21 carries for 80 yards, including three carries for one yard against Baltimore in the AFC Divisional round. But Blount came alive last week against the Colts, putting up 148 yards and three scores on 30 carries.
When Blount takes the field Sunday, the defense opposing him will be one of the best of the past decade. Seattle ranks first this season in total defense, first in passing defense, and third against the rush. If the Patriots are to have any success against the terrorizing Seattle defense, Blount may have to carry a lot of the offensive load.
Willson won't get the attention from opposing defenses that his tight end counterpart Rob Gronkowski does, but that doesn't mean he will be a non-factor in this Super Bowl. Wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin will attract the most attention from New England’s cover corners, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, so Willson should see more balls thrown his way, especially in the fourth quarter. Willson has saved his best for last, as half of his catches and two of his three touchdowns this season have come in the final 15 minutes.
Willson caught just 22 passes during the regular season, but he averaged an impressive 16.5 yards per grab, making him a great option down the field. Fourteen of those catches also resulted in first downs and he has six receptions for 79 yards and a score thus far in the postseason. Due to Seattle’s efficient read-option run game, Willson could be most effective on play-action passes when linebackers are caught in-between reading the potential handoff to Marshawn Lynch or a Russell Wilson keeper outside of the pocket. The Patriots must also keep Willson in check on blitz packages, as he is averaging more than 14 yards per catch on plays in which defenses bring pressure.
Both Seattle and New England are near the top in the NFL when it comes to protecting the football. While turnovers may be limited in this year’s Super Bowl, the consequences of those turnovers could be the deciding x-factor.
The Seahawks uncharacteristically turned the ball over five times against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, but only surrendered two field goals from those extra possessions, leaving just enough room for Seattle to force overtime by forcing several turnovers of its own. On the other hand, the Patriots led the NFL in the regular season with the fewest turnovers (13) and were second in points off of turnovers (110 points), and net turnover points (+61). If the Seahawks want to raise their second straight Lombardi Trophy, not giving Brady and company extra opportunities will be imperative.
— By Jake Rose
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the “Splash Brothers” of the Golden State Warriors, and Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks — all of whom are having historically effective seasons from beyond the arc — will participate in the contest. As will Wesley Matthews of the Portland Trail Blazers, and J.J. Redick of the Los Angeles Clippers. This according to Yahoo! Sports — the official announcement from the league is yet to come.
The group is one of the most potent fields to enter the competition in quite some time. While the dunk contest is populated with up-and-comers, the 3-point show will feature the very best in the game at what they do, and all of these players are in their primes.
Curry and Thompson comprise a backcourt that looks likely to go down as the best shooting duo the game has ever seen. And Korver, across the country, is the most potent weapon in an outstanding Hawks offense, flirting with numbers that no one’s achieved before.
An elite club of just six players (Dirk Nowitzki, Larry Bird, Mark Price, Kevin Durant, Reggie Miller and Steve Nash) has shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the charity stripe over a full season. Korver, through 44 games, has been transcendent with not just a 50-40-90 mark, but an otherwordly 50-50-90 line.
It’s fitting that the star power will be in the shooting contest this year, not the dunking contest. Floor-spacers have been on the rise in the modern state of the game for a while, and this season’s All-Star weekend will put that transition onto center stage.
— John Wilmes
The Blazers, quite quietly, have compiled one of the best records in the NBA, and they’ve done it without everything going as planned. Starting center Robin Lopez has missed 20 games, and crucial small forward Nicolas Batum is having one of his worst years since he entered the league. Much of the Blazers’ ascension is due to the exponential growth of Damian Lillard’s game, but Stotts deserves credit for Portland’s defense improving considerably in 2014-15.
5. Kevin McHale, Houston Rockets
Coming into the season, Mr. McHale’s job status couldn’t exactly be described as “secure.” His Rockets petered out early in last year’s playoffs, falling 4-2 in the first round to the Trail Blazers and often looking disorganized and uninspired as they did so. But McHale has helped shape Houston into something more fierce this year: a defense-first team that falls in line behind MVP front-runner James Harden, and plays selflessly. Harden deserves a lion share of credit for a better Houston with his emergence as a top-five force — as does the continued defensive dominance of Dwight Howard — but McHale has certainly earned himself a nod too.
4. Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons’ post-Josh Smith turnaround is one of the more remarkable transformations within recent NBA memory. By kicking the highest-paid player off the team, Van Gundy (who also runs basketball operations in Detroit) created eminent authority for himself and made the necessary platform on which to effect change. But nobody saw things turning this quickly — the Pistons went on a 12-3 tear after shedding Smith, looking suddenly purpose-driven and anchored by a set of shrewd Van Gundy principles. He hasn’t done a full season of excellent work, but Stan gets recognition for one of the most uncanny months in NBA coaching history.
3. Jason Kidd, Milwaukee Bucks
It’s hard to believe how quickly Jason Kidd has brought change to Milwaukee. Last year’s worst team in basketball, the Bucks are a playoff team who surpassed their 2013-14 win total before we even hit 2015. And they’ve done it with minimal roster change: Their biggest transaction was drafting Jabari Parker at No. 2 overall, and the rookie left the team with a torn ACL more than a month ago. The team’s turnaround has been more about Kidd’s sense of direction than anything; under his tutelage, the young squad has become one of the very best defenses in the league. Be afraid of Kidd’s team as they go forward and get more experience under their belts.
2. Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors
No first-year coach has ever had a better record than Kerr does with the Warriors. This is in keeping with the former 3-point shooting ace’s biography: Be it either through correlation or causation, nearly every basketball scenario he’s been involved with has seem blessed. Golden State was a good team before Kerr came, but now they’re a great one. Their league-leading 36-6 record owes much to his maximization of their wide array of shooters, passers, defenders and all-around ballers.
1. Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks
In any other year, Kerr’s historic start would launch him into the clear top spot in the race to the top of the coaching hierarchy. But what coach Bud is doing in Atlanta is simply amazing. A team with zero superstars has been nearly perfect since late November, amassing a 30-2 record over their last 32 games. And they’re doing it in a way that only a team with an elite coach can: through exquisite passing, mutual trust, and top-to-bottom sacrifice in the name of a greater good. Budenholzer’s Popovichian system is the star for the Hawks, and the open man is their go-to scorer. If they keep this up, there won’t be a team who can beat them out of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
— John Wilmes
One way or the other, history will be made when the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks meet in Super Bowl XLIX this Sunday. Either Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will win their fourth Super Bowl rings, tying for the most among their respective positions, or the Seahawks will become just the seventh franchise in history to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Coming up with five definitive reasons for why the New England Patriots will win any game, let alone a Super Bowl, is difficult. That’s not because they are unlikely to win, obviously; you are just never sure how they are going to do it.
The Patriots’ biggest strength under Bill Belichick has always been the ability to adapt to their opponent. Give him extra prep time like he has for a Super Bowl, and you can bet Belichick will find something about the Seahawks to exploit that no one saw coming.
But since we’re supposed to be the experts, and “just because” isn’t going to cut it, here are five reasons the Patriots come out on the winning side on Sunday.
Critics will point out Brady hasn’t won a Super Bowl in 10 years, and there’s no denying that fact. But you’d still be hard-pressed to find many postseason defeats that you can lay at Brady’s feet. He hasn’t thrown games away.
Still, he knows the critics are there, and since a Week 4 loss to Kansas City sparked whispers that he was no longer an elite quarterback, he has been as good as ever. Throw in the whole “Deflategate” fiasco, and Brady comes into this game with a giant chip on his shoulder.
But even beyond his motivations, Brady is just not likely to give the Seahawks any freebies. While many elite QBs become their own worst enemy by forcing passes to their top receivers or at an elite corner (Richard Sherman?) just to show that they can, Brady has always been content to take what is given. If that means dumping the ball off 15 times to a running back, he’ll do it.
Of course, Brady does have a favorite target …
The Gronkowski factor
Seattle has two very good safeties in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, and against most teams they are made better by the fact that they don’t have to worry about helping CB Richard Sherman. But New England is not most teams.
The equation changes against the Patriots because tight end Rob Gronkowski is their biggest weapon in the passing game. Seattle can’t just put Sherman on an island against him and dare the Pats to throw at him.
So now the Seahawks will need to pick their poison: Commit to stopping the run and leave Gronkowski in single coverage, or double-cover Gronkowski and risk the Patriots exploiting a run defense that was good on paper (third in the NFL in yards allowed in the regular season) but has allowed more than 130 yards on the ground to both Carolina and Green Bay in the postseason.
Seattle’s passing game won’t scare the Pats
This is one area where we are giving Belichick the benefit of the doubt a bit. While the Patriots were a top 10 defense against the run, they were vulnerable at times: Excluding the meaningless loss in the season finale, New England allowed 176 yards per game on the ground in its three other losses.
On the other hand, two of those losses were in September, and the other was against Green Bay, whose passing game gave the Pats more to worry about. Seattle’s passing game carries with it no such concerns.
No NFL team threw the ball less than Seattle in the regular season, and the Seahawks ranked 27th in passing yards. None of the receivers will strike fear into a Pats defense that ranked fourth in pass coverage according to ProFootballFocus.com.
We’re betting Belichick and the Patriots will find a way to stop the run and force Seattle to beat them through the air. Even if Russell Wilson doesn’t give the ball away like he did in the NFC title game, can he win a passing duel with Tom Brady? Not likely.
New England won’t give the game away
Perhaps we are guilty of overreacting to a couple of high-profile games here, but it’s hard to imagine the Patriots playing things the way the Packers did in the NFC title game or making big mistakes like the Broncos did in last year’s Super Bowl.
History tells us Belichick will not play safe and kick field goals the way Green Bay did if given the chance to put Seattle in an early hole. And while there may be no tangible evidence one way or the other, can you imagine a Belichick-coached team bungling an onside kick?
And while we’d never suggest that Super Bowl XLVIII was just a couple big plays from going Denver’s way, when was the last time New England gave up a safety, interception return TD and a special teams TD in the same game? Right from the first snap over Peyton Manning’s head, Denver looked unprepared, overmatched, or both.
The Patriots will be none of those things.
The Pats vs. The World
This isn’t about a rousing pep talk before the game. As dominant as New England has been for 14 seasons now, Belichick can’t exactly play the “Nobody believes in us!” card. (And “They think we win because we cheat!” isn’t much better.)
But even before the whole “Deflategate” thing, this game was destined to have a huge impact on how history views Belichick and Brady. Winning Super Bowls 10 years apart with everything else changing around them would be unprecedented. And while their first three titles can’t be taken away, there is a huge difference between 4-2 in the big game vs. 3-3 with a three-game losing streak.
It also may be their last chance. Brady and the Pats recently restructured his contract to create cap space, but it also made it easier for them to part ways. Even if he sticks around, there’s no guarantee they ever get back here.
None of that will help them complete a pass or tackle Marshawn Lynch. In fact, maybe all that proves their best days are long behind them. But do you really want to bet against them?
— By John Gworek
A recent report from Michael Lee of the Washington Post reveals that Kobe Bryant wanted out of L.A. as a youngster, so he could join his idol Michael Jordan during his two-year victory lap with the Washington Wizards. The plan dissolved when Jordan and then-owner of the D.C. squad, Abe Pollin, parted ways in 2003. Jordan, of course, went on to become the majority owner of another team down south, while Bryant became one of the few legends of the NBA to stick with one team for nearly two decades.
Bryant tore his rotator cuff recently, and his team has announced that the 36-year-old is out for the season. Many are speculating that Bryant could retire, and not play out the final year of his contract with the Lakers. And while that’s just the stuff of rumors for now, something else has become clear: Bryant’s not long for the sport, and he has fewer and fewer reasons to keep secrets from anyone about what’s happened over his 19-year career.
Kobe’s confirmation of his past desire to team up with Jordan could be just the first of many titillating details to come out about the behind-the-scenes tales of his NBA life. This story tells us something we already know — that Bryant loved Jordan probably even more than all of us who watched him so rapturously in the '80s and '90s — and also gives us a fascinating rabbit hole to go down. What would Kobe — and the league — have been like with the greatest player of all time whispering advice over his shoulder?
— John Wilmes
Just as he was turning into the best player of his life — and one of the NBA’s most impactful players in the month of January — Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings has had his health and glory stolen from him by the cruel thief that is fate.
Jennings went down and left the game Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, after 26 minutes of play. He did not return, and his team announced Sunday that he’d be out for the season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon.
As far as hard news in the 2014-15 season goes, this bit just about sucks the most. Jennings had been an erratic player through his career under a combined four coaches in five seasons with the Pistons and Bucks, and it was heartening and exciting to see him tap into his deep potential with his fifth in Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons have been one of the hottest teams in the league lately, and it’s had a ton to do with B.J.
In January, Jennings put up a terrific 20.9 points per game on 44 percent shooting, to go with 7.2 assists. He was one of the very most efficient players in the game over the month. He even entered history with a 21-assist game.
The easier news to swallow, for Pistons fans, is that their team is still in fairly good condition to make the playoffs. Behind Jennings in the depth chart is D.J. Augustin, a speedy dynamo who flourished with the Chicago Bulls last year under similar conditions, when he was signed mid-season after Derrick Rose went down with a torn meniscus.
Augustin started for Detroit in a 114-110 loss to the Toronto Raptors, but the L was hardly his fault. D.J. stepped in for B.J. with a crazy good performance, turning in 35 points — including five three-pointers — and eight assists.
— John Wilmes
A month ago, 25-year-old Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside was looking like he wasn’t long for the NBA. Over 19 total career games with the Sacramento Kings in 2010 through 2012 and very few minutes, the seven-footer hadn’t earned himself a solidified spot in the pros — not even on the end of benches.
He’d been out of the league for the better part of two seasons when this January happened. Miami’s reclamation project has boomed as Whiteside is suddenly looking like one of the most dominant big men in the league. No performance more clearly announced Hassan’s arrival more than his triple-double against the Chicago Bulls yesterday afternoon, on national TV.
Whiteside led the Heat to an impressive 96-84 victory, collecting 14 points, 13 rebounds and an otherworldly 12 blocks in just 25 minutes. No player has ever tallied a triple-double including blocks in so few minutes. He also took the cake in the category of post-game interviews, referencing his NBA 2K numbers right after his performance:
In January, Whiteside has shot 72 percent from the floor, averaging 12.1 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 21.4 minutes per game — I want to play that video game. His overwhelming presence in the lane has added some stability to Miami’s attack in a transitional year, and drastically changed the future outlook for his franchise. While Whiteside’s unbelievable play of Sunday afternoon is not likely to be maintained, he certainly looks like the Heat’s best starting center since Alonzo Mourning.
“Hassanity” has become the buzzword for Whiteside’s surge into basketball’s mainstream, and it’s an appropriate one. Not since Jeremy Lin’s flurry of clutch scoring in 2012 has a player burst out of obscurity with such force. Stay tuned as one of the season’s best stories continues.
— John Wilmes
Funny thing about it: Mike Budenholzer, of the 35-8 Atlanta Hawks, wasn’t even a head coach two years ago this time. Neither was first-year Golden State Warriors man Steve Kerr, who’s led his team to a franchise-best 34-6 start.
Change happens fast in the contemporary, parity-driven NBA, and these two men might as well be the faces of it. Both coaches have improved their teams mightily by getting them to play their most selfless ball possible, trusting each other and some firm principles on defense, and moving the ball around fluidly to a vast array of deep-shooting talent on offense.
At time of publication, The Warriors and Hawks are No. 1 and No. 2 in 3-point field goal percentage, respectively.
Budenholzer and Kerr also share the common ground of a history with renowned San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Budenholzer was an assistant under Pop for the majority of his stint in San Antonio, while Kerr played for the Spurs toward the end of his career, winning two titles with the team.
While the All-Star game is all about hijinks, levity and celebrity, this coaching showdown could very well prove to augur more serious stuff — the Hawks and Warriors are on a collision course in the NBA Finals. It’s just January, so there’s plenty of time for that to change; but there’s a fair chance we’ll look back on this event as the beginning of an epic NBA rivalry.
For now, the All-Star game can wait, but you certainly shouldn’t miss basketball’s two best teams as they finally square off two weeks from today in Atlanta.
— John Wilmes