May 08, 2014

 

By Kenneth D. Miller

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Their human dignity challenged by the racial epithets of embattled owner Donald T. Sterling, the predominantly African American Los Angeles Clippers NBA basketball team will return to Staples Center on Friday May 9 with a new mettle and mindset.

 

Two weeks after Sterling was banned for life from the NBA and forced to sell the team, coach Doc Rivers has become part ambassador, part physiologist, father and brother to his millionaire players in his quest to keep Los Angeles’ new marquee team on a championship mission.

 

Rivers, who is in his first season as coach of the team after arriving from Boston where he spent nine seasons and captured an NBA title with the Celtics, has long been considered a great coach, but now is a symbol in basketball similar to what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to the civil rights movement.

 

He refused to speak to Sterling prior to the owner’s ban, pushed his team to a gut wrenching seven games series victory over the defiant Golden State Warriors and this week began their Western Conference semifinals series with the high flying Oklahoma City Thunder with an emphatic game one victory 122-105 in OKC.

 

Meanwhile Sterling has vowed that he will fight the sale of his team, creating yet another inconvenient, and unnecessary obstacle for a team that has been so emotionally tormented that it is unconceivable they are still playing.

 

Point guard Chris Paul scored 32 points and passed for 10 assists in the game one win over the favored Thunder, star redhead Blake Griffin added 23 and newly crowned Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford finished with 17 for the Clippers, the only team from the city that wears Los Angeles on the front of its road uniforms.

 

How the Clippers proceed from here is anyone’s guess, but after their team owner casted them off as slaves, degraded not just them as individuals but also their entire race and culture they have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

 

Thus they begin their second series playing loose and with a giant chip on their shoulders.

 

To a man and a team they have adopted the slogan “We Are One”, a rallying cry that began the day Sterling was banned.

 

The city of Los Angeles has joined them. This team that has never won an NBA championship. The team with the Black mascot, the team that has long been the laughing stock of the league because their owner didn’t want to spend money to compete. This team that has been the ugly stepsisters to the storied Lakers.

 

This is the team that now is capable of erasing all of that if they can continue on and win an NBA championship.

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May 01, 2014

By STEVE REED

Associated Press

 

Dwyane Wade will have a chance to rest those sore knees and that tight hamstring.

And LeBron James can ice up his thigh contusion.

The Miami Heat earned a little extra rest and relaxation after completing a four-game sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats with a 109-98 victory Monday night.

With Toronto and Brooklyn tied at 2-2 in their series, it could be until Sunday before Miami knows its second-round opponent. That would mean at least a week off for the two-time defending NBA champions.

“I’m sure our guys will love it, but the most important thing is that we have the chance to move on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Miami is the only team that can say that.

No other NBA team has closed out its opponent, and only the Heat swept their series.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” Spoelstra said. “Some people that are cynical may look at this as a 2-7 (seed) matchup and say they were supposed to win 4-0. It's not working that way in this league. ... We understand how tough it is to win in this league.”

They also know how to win titles.

It’s the second straight year the Heat swept their opening-round series.

“We have been here before, we have learned some lessons from last year, and that is the best part of it,” Chris Bosh said. “I think we will handle it better this time.”

Miami Heat’s LeBron James grimaces after being injured during the second half in Game 4 of an op …

In many ways, the Bobcats might have been just what the Heat needed.

The Heat were challenged by a hungry Charlotte team, but were never in any real danger of losing the series.

So it gave them a chance to dip their feet once again into the playoff waters and the long, grueling run that awaits.

“We could tell we are working to get our rhythm back,” Wade said. “They pushed us. They’re a very competitive team, a very scrappy team, but we obviously felt we were the better team.”

James said the Heat improved with each passing game.

“The biggest thing I'm happy with is the way we protected the ball,” said James, who scored 31 points and had nine assists in closing out the Bobcats. “When we don’t turn it over, we’re able to set our defense up and get good shots.”

That was a concern at the end of the season.

James said the Heat did a “horrible” job of protecting the ball in March and April. Yet the team that has now won nine straight playoff series was able to flip the switch and win the turnover battle with the Bobcats.

“When we don’t turn it over, we give our offense a great chance to succeed and our team a chance to win games,” James said.

James was injured in Game 4 when he drove to the basket and his right thigh collided with Bismack Biyombo’s knee. He remained on the ground as concerned teammates gathered around.

He said he will be fine for the next round.

After the game Monday, James received congratulations from Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, who has two three-peat titles under his belt.

James is in search of his first triple this season.

“It’s a process, and we’re headed in the right direction,” James said. “This is a great direction after these four games. We played championship-level basketball and that was great. We got tested by a very young and scrappy Bobcats team. The way we responded was a championship attitude.”

But he cautioned they will have to play better in the next round.

“We can’t win in the next round playing like we did in this round,” James said. “We’re looking forward to finding out who our next opponent is and preparing for them.”

In the meantime they will have plenty of time to rest up and think about what must be done to move on to the Eastern Conference finals.

“I think it helps,” Udonis Haslem said of the rest. “You want to get through healthy. We did that. Two, you want to get some guys that may be logging major minutes some rest and, you know, help guys take care of some bumps and bruises. And that’s what we were able to do.”

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April 24, 2014

Associated Press

 

TORONTO — Rubin “Hurri­cane” Carter, the boxer whose wrongful murder conviction became an international symbol of racial injustice, died April 20 at 76.

John Artis, a longtime friend and caregiver, told The Canadian Press that Carter died in his sleep Sunday. Carter had been stricken with prostate cancer in Toronto, the New Jersey native’s adopted home. Carter spent 19 years in prison for three murders at a tavern in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1966. He was convicted alongside Artis in 1967 and again in a new trial in 1976.

Carter was freed in November 1985 when his convictions were set aside after years of appeals and public advocacy. His ordeal and the alleged racial motivations behind it were publicized in Bob Dylan's 1975 song “Hurricane,” several books and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington, who received an Academy Award nomination for playing the boxer turned prisoner.

Carter’s murder convictions abruptly ended the boxing career of a former petty criminal who became an undersized middleweight contender largely on ferocity and punching power.

Although never a world champion, Carter went 27-12-1 with 19 knockouts, memorably stopping two-division champ Emile Griffith in the first round in 1963. He also fought for a middleweight title in December 1964, losing a unanimous decision to Joey Giardello.

In June 1966, three white people were shot by two black men at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson. Carter and Artis were convicted by an all-white jury largely on the testimony of two thieves who later recanted their stories.

Carter was granted a new trial and briefly freed in 1976, but sent back for nine more years after being convicted in a second trial.

Thom Kidrin, who became friends with Carter after visiting him several times in prison, told The Associated Press the boxer “didn’t have any bitterness or anger — he kind of got above it all. That was his great strength.”

“I wouldn’t give up,” Carter said in an interview with PBS in 2011. “No matter that they sentenced me to three life terms in prison. I wouldn’t give up. Just because a jury of 12 misinformed people ... found me guilty did not make me guilty. And because I was not guilty, I refused to act like a guilty person.”

Dylan became aware of Carter’s plight after reading the boxer's autobiography. He met Carter and co-wrote “Hurricane,” which he performed on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975. The song concludes: “That’s the story of the Hurricane/But it won’t be over till they clear his name/And give him back the time he’s done/Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been/The champion of the world.”

Muhammad Ali also spoke out on Carter’s behalf, while advertising art director George Lois and other celebrities also worked toward Carter’s release.

With a network of friends and volunteers also advocating for him, Carter eventually won his release from U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who wrote that Carter’s prosecution had been “predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.”

Born on May 6, 1937, into a family of seven children, Carter struggled with a hereditary speech impediment and was sent to a juvenile reform center at 12 after an assault. He escaped and joined the Army in 1954, experiencing racial segregation and learning to box while in West Germany.

Carter then committed a series of muggings after returning home, spending four years in various state prisons. He began his pro boxing career in 1961 after his release, winning 20 of his first 24 fights mostly by stoppage.

Carter was fairly short for a middleweight at 5-foot-8, but his aggression and high punch volume made him effective.

His shaved head and menacing glower gave him an imposing ring presence, but also contributed to a menacing aura outside the ring. He was also quoted as joking about killing police officers in a 1964 story in the Saturday Evening Post which was later cited by Carter as a cause of his troubles with police.

Carter boxed regularly on television at Madison Square Garden and overseas in London, Paris and Johannesburg. Although his career appeared to be on a downswing before he was implicated in the murders, Carter was hoping for a second middleweight title shot.

Carter and Artis were questioned after being spotted in the area of the murders in Carter’s white car, which vaguely matched witnesses’ descriptions. Both cited alibis and were released, but were arrested months later. A case relying largely on the testimony of thieves Alfred Bello and Arthur Bradley resulted in a conviction in June 1967.

Carter defied his prison guards from the first day of his incarceration, spending time in solitary confinement because of it.

“When I walked into prison, I refused to wear their stripes,” Carter said. “I refused to eat their food. I refused to work their jobs, and I would have refused to breathe the prison’s air if I could have done so.”

Carter eventually wrote and spoke eloquently about his plight, publishing his autobiography, “The Sixteenth Round,” in 1974. Benefit concerts were held for his legal defense.

After his release, Carter moved to Toronto, where he served as the executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted from 1993 to 2005. He received two honorary doctorates for his work.

Director Norman Jewison made Carter’s story into a well-reviewed biographical film, with Washington working closely alongside Carter to capture the boxer’s transformation and redemption. Washington won a Golden Globe for the role.

“This man right here is love,” Washington said while onstage with Carter at the Golden Globes ceremony in early 2000. “He’s all love. He lost about 7,300 days of his life, and he’s love. He’s all love.”

On Sunday, when told of Carter’s death, Washington said in a statement: “God bless Rubin Carter and his tireless fight to ensure justice for all.”

But the makers of “The Hurricane” were widely criticized for factual inaccuracies and glossing over other parts of Carter’s story, including his criminal past and a reputation for a violent temper. Giardello sued the film’s producers for its depiction of a racist fix in his victory over Carter, who acknowledged Giardello deserved the win.

Carter’s weight and activity dwindled during his final months, but he still advocated for prisoners he believed to be wrongfully convicted.

Carter wrote an opinion essay for the New York Daily News in February, arguing vehemently for the release of David McCallum, convicted of a kidnapping and murder in 1985. Carter also briefly mentioned his health, saying he was “quite literally on my deathbed.”

“Now I’m looking death straight in the eye,” Carter wrote. “He’s got me on the ropes, but I won't back down.”

Kidrin said Carter would be cremated, with some of the ashes given to his family. Two sisters are among Carter’s survivors, though Kidrin said Carter was alienated from many relatives.

Kidrin planned to sprinkle Carter’s remains in the ocean off Cape Cod, where they spent the last three summers together. Artis planned to bring some of the ashes to a horse farm in Kentucky the boxer loved.

Kidrin spoke with Carter on Wednesday.

“He said, ‘You know, look, death’s coming. I’m ready for it. But it’s really going to have to take me because I’m positive to the end.’”

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May 01, 2014

Associated Press

 

Serena Williams’ father says he won’t return to Indian Wells, Calif., the site of a tournament his daughter has skipped since 2001, when their family was booed — and subjected to racial epithets, according to his new book.

“I would never go back,” Richard Williams said in a telephone interview.

But he added that it’s up to Serena whether to play at Indian Wells again.

“She was taught to make terrific decisions,” he said. “Any decision she makes, I would be behind, 1,000 percent.”

His book, “Black and White: The Way I See It,” comes out May 6. It goes into detail about how Indian Wells, in his words, “disgraced America.”

Serena was on the entry list for the event this year but withdrew, citing a back injury.

The book covers plenty of other ground, although there is not much that is revelatory about the professional tennis careers of Williams’ daughters Serena and Venus. He said he has another book, focused more on them, in the works.

First taught the game by their father, the sisters have won a combined 24 Grand Slam singles titles and have both been ranked No. 1.

“From the beginning, I decided that if people came to me later on and told me my daughters were great tennis players, I had failed,” he writes. “Success would be if they came up to me and said my daughters were great people.”

Written with Bart Davis, the 292-page “Black and White” reads as part autobiography, part parenting guide (“I feel that we’re way too soft on our children,” Williams says in Chapter 19), part self-help book, part tennis instructional manual.

“I released the book because Serena kept telling me to,” Williams said. “She thought it would help a lot of people.”

It is dedicated to his mother, and much of the early chapters concerns lessons she imparted to him and her influence on his life — and, by extension, his children's lives.

There are meditations on the American dream, ambition — and, above all, racism. The latter is the prism through which he learned to see the world and, as he repeatedly hammers home, still does to this day.

“If a person doesn’t know where they started from, they sure as heck don’t know where they’re going,” he said in the interview. “As they read, they can kind of relate more to who you are and where you’re from and where you’re going to.”

In the book, Williams explains how his world view was shaped by growing up in Louisiana and during his time in Chicago as a young man.

There are tales upon tales of run-ins with the police and confrontations with strangers, often ending in violence.

“I could not embrace a turn-the-other-cheek philosophy,” he writes.

At another point, he writes: “I became fascinated with stealing at the age of eight. I don’t know if the thrill was being able to get away with a crime, or that the crime was against the white man. Either way, it was the start of a prosperous career.”

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April 24, 2014

Sentinel News Service

 

Bishop Montgomery’s Justin Bibbins has been maligned most of his basketball life.

He’s too short at 5’7 and too small at 150 pounds dripping wet to achieve an measure of success in a game where height is the most significant component.

However, after four years as starting point guard at Bishop Montgomery and a senior year as South Bay Player of the Year, John Wooden Player of the Year, All CIF-Southern Section Open Division First Team, there was one more statement to be made.

The Collision All-Star Game has created its share of basketball memories over the past 15 years. The 16th annual showcase at Redondo High School on Saturday was no different.

The girls game featured a St. Bernard reunion as DeMoria White and Chenelle Pelle teamed up with former teammates Michelle Curry (Culver City) and Cydney Bolton (Serra) to help power the Southern Section to 76-43 win.

It set the stage for the boys game a few hours later as Justin Bibbins helped the Southern Section to a 110-86 win that tied the overall series at 8-8. The Southern Section girls lead the series 13-3.

White had a game-high 18 points and Curry, named the game’s MVP, finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

“I missed playing with them so it meant a lot ending our season together,” Curry said.

“It feels like a reunion with the family I started with,” White said.

Serra’s Caila Hailey also was pleased to share sides with with not just Curry and her St. Bernard rivals but also her coach McKinsey Hadley, who coached the Southern Section girls.

“It was bittersweet in getting to play with my rivals, but it was also my last game,” Hailey said. “I still had a lot of fun.”

The City Section cut the lead to 24-20 late in the first half but the Southern Section responded with a 14-0 run that carried over into the second half. Tatiana Maimot’s layup made it 38-20.

White had a four-point play for an 18-point advantage, 43-25. The Southern Section’s size also proved tough as Bishop Montgomery’s Janelle Odionu led a frontcourt that featured players well over six feet.

With the City struggling for layups, it settled for jumpers and with Hadley calling for his team to run it soon grew tired trying to keep up with its CIF counterparts.

There was small consolation as Narbonne’s Jade Everage was named the Albert “Cap” Lavin Scholar Athlete of the Game for posting a 4.2 grade point average.

“To know you’re appreciated for all your hard work and not just playing basketball, it’s really special,” Everage said.

The Southern Section boys jumped out to 23-5 lead and never looked back as Bibbins standout had nine points and four assists during the run.

The Southern Section led 57-41 at halftime and looked like the more comfortable team throughout the game.

“Once we set the tone and got a big lead, we could just play our game,” the Bishop Montgomery standout said.

He was named the game’s most valuable player after finishing with 17 points and six assists.

Westchester’s Nick Hamilton, who’s never received less than an ‘A’ in high school, received the boys counterpart of the scholar athlete award.

“It feels good to be recognized not just for your play on the court but even more for academics,” Hamilton said.

Comets teammate Cameron Young led the team with 18 points and Elijah Stewart added 15. It was almost fitting Young would have such a big game, considering Westchester won its last game of the season at Redondo.

“I love playing here,” Young said. “I didn’t expect to play at Collision so I just came to play my best,”

Saturday also marked the last game at Redondo for Ian Fox and Terrell Carter. Fox gave the crowd one last look at his shooting touch with 14 points, including several three-pointers.

“It meant a lot winning my last game at my gym,” he said.

Redondo Beach native Thomas Welsh (Loyola) also relished the chance of playing his last prep game in front of family before moving on to UCLA. The McDonald’s All-American had 18 points and seven rebounds as his coach Jamal Adams watched from the bench.

“It was a lot of fun, especially finishing with coach Adams,” Welsh said.

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