November 15, 2012

By Kenneth Miller

LA Watts Times

 

To this very day it is a real head scratcher as to why the man who is statistically the greatest basketball player to ever live has been punished for what absolutely has nothing to do with the game of basketball.

The Lakers will unveil a statue of Kareem Abdul Jabbar on Nov. 16 in front of Star Plaza at Staples Center, roughly 23 years to the day he played his last basketball game for the team.

By the time they erect his signature skyhook on Friday there will be more statues in front of the building than cars in the Petersen Automobile Museum.

Let’s see there is Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky, Chick Hearn and Oscar De La Hoya. Did I miss anyone?

Perhaps someone will think of a reason to add another one before ‘The Captain’ as Hearn aptly described him gets his ceremony.

Some may scoff, what’s the big deal at least he’s getting one!

No slight to Magic, whom we all love and West an all time favorite, but we are only talking about a man who is the all time NBA scoring leader with 38,387 points, six regular season MVPs, holds records for games played, minutes played, field goals made and attempted, blocked shots and defensive rebounds.

This elegant royal knight for the game of basketball who appeared on no less than 25 covers of Sports Illustrated magazine, played in a record 19 NBA All Star Games, but could not get a sniff for a head coaching job after his playing career was over, and literarily had to bend his 7-foot-2 frame to secure a measly special assistant or scout position, and was subsequently regulated to coaching an obscure high school team on an Indian reservation. Are you kidding me!

No one ever said that life would be kind, but for a man who came west from Manhattan NY after leading his high school team to a 79-2 record at Power Memorial, led UCLA to consecutive NCAA titles from 1967-1969 as a three time first team all American---basketball life has been cruel to him.

Jabbar, who changed his name in 1968 from Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor when he joined the Nation of Islam, was the only child of a department store checker and a father who was a transit police officer and jazz musician.

I am not attempting to apologize for the greatest player to ever live, I am merely writing the facts.

This is a man who lists Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman and Alexander Hamilton among his heroes.

He was castigated, judged and evaluated through every human microscope imaginable.

Magic Johnson penned that Kareem refused to sign an autograph for him as a child, reporters who begged to get a closer introspective roused that he was distant and uncooperative.

They clamored to shake hands and hug him after a hard fought basketball game, Kareem wanted to shower and go home.

This is a man who was far more intelligent than your avid jock. He read books and studied the history of such men as Wild Bill Hickock, Thelonious Monk all while absorbing musicians such as Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn.

His game trumpeted over all others as his trademark sky hook played out in a symphonic rhythm that gracefully carried teams in Milwaukee and Los Angeles to NBA championships.

Kareem was the centerpiece to it all. The mastery of Oscar Roberson with the Bucks and then Magic Johnson of the ‘Showtime’ Lakers were glue sticks.

Magic was a wide-eyed freak point guard at 6’8 and Kareem who undoubtedly only found peace when the lights were lit at the Great Western Forum, was a sight to behold.

Pat Riley emerged from the broadcast booth and rode those giant shoulders to a Hall of Fame coaching career.

Magic, or Buck as he was called then gave ‘The Big Fella” a reason to smile, albeit reluctantly.

Through the aperture of his eyes through sweat-fogged goggles, Kareem saw the world and America for what it was, unapologetic to his kind, but instead of fighting it, he studied.

While Malcolm X was being gunned down by one of his own, Kareem prayed. When Dr. King was being hosed and jailed, he solemnly prayed.

Kareem refused to subject himself as a basketball lab rat that would be queried by white journalists who later aspired to be his friend.

What others say made him aloof and distant also made him great.

This week his bronze statue comes during a time when he is so removed from the game of basketball as a Cultural Ambassador to the United States.

Then on Saturday he will be celebrated in a roast that will benefit his Skyhook Foundation at the Ritz Carlton. Funnyman George Lopez will host the all-star gala and Magic will be among the guests.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s legacy was secure a long time ago before his famed number 33 was retired to the rafters at Staples.

Photo Credit: AP Photo

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

November 08, 2012

By MICHAEL MAROT Associated Press

 

Indiana needs to find a long-term replacement for Danny Granger.

Team officials announced Wednesday that the one-time All-Star forward is expected to miss up to three months after receiving an injection in his left knee to treat patellar tendinosis.

Losing Granger for an extended period is a big blow for a team that entered this season hoping to contend for an Eastern Conference title. He was the Pacers’ top scorer last season (18.7 points) and is typically their first option in late-game situations, too.

All the Pacers can do now is move on.

“We still have a heck of a team,” coach Frank Vogel said before Saturday night’s home opener. “We’ve still got a great deal of talent, a great deal of depth. So my hopes are very high that we’ll excel without Danny.”

Granger originally hurt the knee during May’s playoff run. Vogel said the soreness dissipated for a while, then returned while Granger was working out during the offseason.

In September, Granger said he underwent blood-platelet treatment, which he described as a painful experience that could take months to fully heal.

“It hurts,” Granger said in mid-October. “They take the blood out and inject it back in, so it hurts. But it helps you heal tremendously.”

Apparently, Granger hasn’t reaped those benefits yet. He has not played in any of Indiana’s first four regular season games, though he did make one preseason appearance. At Cleveland, on Oct. 23, Granger scored nine points in 13 minutes.

Without him, things haven't always gone smoothly.

The Pacers (2-2) are averaging 20.3 turnovers a game, a number Vogel has already acknowledged needs to be cut significantly.

Vogel is also trying to figure out lineups and rotations without Granger. Gerald Green, signed as a free agent in the offseason, started the first three games. He’s scoring 9.8 points and grabbing 4.3 rebounds, but giving up 2.5 turnovers per game. On Monday night at San Antonio, Sam Young moved into the starting lineup and finished with three points and three rebounds in a 101-79 loss.

Granger's absence has been more notable in the closing moments of games.

Indiana looked out of sync in the final minute last Friday at Charlotte and couldn’t take advantage of several chances to win at lowly Charlotte. Instead, they wound up losing 90-89 — the Bobcats’ first win in 24 games. The next night, against Sacramento, Indiana missed two shots at the end of regulation and two more at the end of the first overtime before finally getting past Sacramento 106-98 in double overtime.

Even opponents have noticed a difference.

“Maybe if you have him (Granger) he closes that (Charlotte) game out,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “Not having your go-to guy can change a lot of things.”

But instead of building this team around a superstar, the Pacers decided to reinforce their bench. They’re hoping that will take them go deeper into the playoffs than last season’s second-round exit against Miami.

That decision could serve them well now.

David West, Paul George and George Hill are all scoring in double figures. All-Star center Roy Hibbert is averaging 8.8 points 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. And Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stephenson have given the Pacers good minutes off the bench.

So Vogel remains optimistic.

Granger has averaged 18.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in seven NBA seasons.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

November 08, 2012

By Perry Green

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody in the history of football with the combined skills and talents that RGIII has. He’s the total package!”

Those were the words legendary Howard University Sports Information Director Ed Hill Jr. used to describe the impact of Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

In fact, that’s how several folks have described what they’re witnessing from Griffin so far this NFL season. Whether it is hardcore ‘Skins fans, NFL reporters, national pundits or even the president of the United States: they all suggest that RGIII offers something that has never been witnessed in the league before.

Hill has served as Howard’s SID for 29 years and worked as a sports reporter for years before arriving at Howard, so he’s seen his fair share of talented football players. He’s covered athletes that went on to win Super Bowl titles in the NFL, yet none of them quite compare to what he’s seeing from Griffin, the former Heisman trophy winner.

“There are maybe only a handful of quarterbacks that come close to the skills that RGIII have shown us so far this season,” Hill told the AFRO. “Some of these names are commonly known like Warren Moon, Doug Williams, Steve McNair, Randall Cunningham or most recently Michael Vick. But some of the older quarterbacks like Marlon Briscoe, had the talent but never got a chance to show it because of the racial tension back then.”

Hill said all of those players were great in one category or another, whether it be running the ball or passing but weren’t equally effective doing both. Warren Moon and Doug Williams were great passers but weren’t very mobile; Vick and Cunningham could run and scramble but weren’t as accurate passing the ball.

Hill said Griffin can not only outrun any and every quarterback that has ever played football, but can pass the ball just well and accurately as he runs.

“His speed as a runner is unmatchable and his arm strength and accuracy is as good as any passer out there, but you know what, the most impressive thing about this kid is his confidence,” Hill told the AFRO. “He’s just so confident in his abilities and people attract to confidence. His teammates, his fans, and even his haters, they all can’t help but follow this kid because he’s just so confident that he can do anything he wants on the field.

“That confidence is what will eventually lead him to becoming probably the best quarterback in the NFL,” Hill continued. “And not just the best Black quarterback, but the perhaps the best of any race to play the game.”

One of the Black quarterbacks that Hill mentioned, Doug Williams, echoed that sentiment that RGIII can develop into the best to ever play, almost as if Griffin is setting the precedent for a new prototype of quarterback in the NFL: one that can be equally great as a runner and a passer, not just be good at one or the other.

“Cunningham and McNair were both pretty passers and we all know they both could run the ball very well, but I don’t think neither one of them passed the ball as pretty as Griffin does,” said Williams, the first and only African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl and win Super Bowl MVP as a starter for the Washington Redskins in 1987.

“Some may say that I threw a pretty pass, but I can tell you that I only wish that I had half as much talent as Griffin has. This kid throws the prettiest pass that I ever seen, and he’s only a rookie.”

Williams told the AFRO that the culture of the NFL was far different back when he was first drafted in 1978 compared to today’s league. Because of those differences, Griffin will get a chance to become not only the face of his franchise, but also the face of the entire NFL.

“When I was drafted in ’78, things were different. I was drafted to be a Black quarterback and Black quarterbacks had limitations. It’s a new league now and RGIII wasn’t drafted to be just a Black quarterback; he was drafted to be the quarterback. He was chosen to be the star of the city, and he’s been thriving in the role so far.”

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

November 08, 2012

By JANIE McCAULEY Associated Press

 

Frank Gore looks at his three 100-yard rushing performances, four touchdowns and overall stellar output in the season’s first half and is quick to praise an un­heralded offensive line that plays such an integral part in helping him do it.

Helping San Francisco’s en­tire offense shine, too. These big boys block all over the field, every which way — even if it means taking on a speedy, more athletic defensive back.

“It’s fun because they look at you like you’re not supposed to be down there,” right tackle Anthony Davis said Wednesday. “We’re a lot bigger than them.”

Gore appreciates every athletic block, every hustle play.

The three-time Pro Bowl running back insists he has never had such huge holes ahead of him to run, and that is the ultimate compliment to the 49ers’ talented, much-improved O-line. Gore is now gearing up for a strong stretch the rest of the way with the NFC West-leading Niners (6-2), as long as these guys keep doing the dirty work ahead of him to keep things clicking toward another playoff berth.

Gore has run for 656 yards on 119 carries, averaging a career-best 5.5 yards - topping his 5.4 average in 2006.

“My O-linemen are doing a (heckuva) job of springing me and giving me big lanes that I’ve never seen before,” Gore said. “So I have to give it to them, and to the receivers blocking down field.”

While Gore has only played alongside two Pro Bowl linemen during his eight NFL seasons with San Francisco — Larry Allen in 2006 and left tackle Joe Staley last season —recognition hardly means much to this tight-knit unit that truly enjoys going to work together each day during the grind of a 16-game season.

Early last year, the line faced criticism for a slow start, then took more heat after quarterback Alex Smith was sacked nine times in a Thanksgiving night loss at Baltimore. Staley, Jonathan Goodwin and Co. have done their best to ignore — and sometimes even call out — the skeptics and move forward by sticking together to stay the course.

“There’s a lot of talent in that room, on that line. The one thing I'll say about this line is it’s a hard-working line, it's a line that’s not satisfied with a little success,” Goodwin said. “I think everybody wants big success for themself and this team.”

And the Niners are getting more of a push from opposing defenses within the division this season, as every team has either upgraded or just plain improved on that side of the ball.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher realizes what a load his defense faces on Sunday in stopping Gore, slowing down Smith and his large cast of receivers — and doing all that against a physical, do-everything offensive line.

“I can’t remember having to prepare for an offense that was so well-coached and so diversified in the run game and so talented, the different types of run concepts,” Fisher said.

Smith connected with nine different wideouts in a 24-3 road rout of the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football on Oct. 29, and like Gore the quarterback gives much of the credit to the line. Smith was also sacked four times that night and has been taken down 22 times this season for 128 lost yards — yet the 2005 No. 1 overall pick recently said he takes the blame and would rather be sacked than risk throwing an interception.

“They have a lot on their plate, week in and week out,” Smith said. “We ask them to do a lot, run and pass. Really, our balance starts with them, the ability in the run game and then protect in the pass game. They continue to execute, not just physically but mentally.”

That’s just part of the job, said left guard Mike Iupati. He and Davis were both first-round draft picks in 2010 and became instant starters. Now, they’re veterans.

“We’re all on the same page. We want to win. That’s the key to it,” Iupati said. “Just sticking together, camaraderie. We have each other’s back, and also the communication factor.”

Whatever makes them work, other teams are taking notice. There’s so much to deal with on San Francisco’s offense.

“They have a lot invested in the O-line and do a very good job. It just makes that play action a nightmare when you try to stop the run,” St. Louis linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “And when you have an O-line like that, they have some weird running plays. They’ll run some running plays I don’t think I’ve seen since the Tecmo Super Bowl, playing that video game.”

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

November 01, 2012

Associated Press

 

James Harden has agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract extension with the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets acquired the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in a stunning trade with Oklahoma City October 27.  Harden was in the starting lineup when Houston opened the regular season at Detroit on Wednesday night.

“We have him for this year and five more, so six years,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “Our goal is to do a good enough job as a staff that we win, make the playoffs, develop the young guys and that we never, ever, ever come to camp again with 13 new guys.”

Houston also picked up the options for forwards Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson for the 2013-14 season. The Rockets have undergone a bit of an overhaul this season, adding Harden and guard Jeremy Lin.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey called Harden a “foundational player” at his introductory news conference this week. He will become the featured player in Houston after three seasons in a supporting role behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.

Harden averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists for the Thunder last season. He started only seven games in three seasons with Oklahoma City but became an indispensable reserve.

Morey acknowledged he was “shocked” that Harden was available, and said the deal came together within a few days last week. The Rockets have been trying to land a first-tier star for years, failing in an aggressive bid to sign Dwight Howard over the summer.

The Rockets were close to getting Pau Gasol before last season in a proposed deal that also would have sent All-Star guard Chris Paul to the Lakers. But NBA Commissioner David Stern, acting on behalf of the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, vetoed the deal that would have brought Lamar Odom to the Hornets, along with Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick.

McHale and Morey said before training camp began that the objective this season was making the playoffs. That remains the same, although with Harden on board, it seems much more reachable. 

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