Brandon Roy Returns to NBA in Timberwolves Uniform.

Written By: Tom McKay

Brandon Roy shoots over Marcus Thornton in Minnesota's opener vs. Sacramento.

Brandon Roy shoots over Marcus Thornton in Minnesota’s opener vs. Sacramento.

Two years after his second NBA All-Star game and one year after an early retirement due to knee injuries, Brandon Roy has returned to the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Roy played in the Wolves’ regular-season opener Friday against the Sacramento Kings, recording 10 points, six assists, and five rebounds in 30 minutes, helping the team collect their first win in what is a hopeful season for the 28-year-old guard.

His health will be the major question mark this year. Wolves coach Rick Adelman has said that he and Roy plan to adjust Roy’s role as the season goes on, until they have a clearer picture of how Roy’s knees will handle the long, grueling NBA season. His 2-year/$10-million contract is certainly a risk on the part of Minnesota’s management. If Roy is unable to maintain a certain level of play due to his health, the Timberwolves could potentially use their amnesty clause on him.

Roy, averaging a career 19 points per game, was entering his prime two years ago as the Portland Trailblazers’ undisputed leader, before being derailed by a degenerative knee condition. His final season with the Blazers was comprised of limited playing time and frustrating performances for a player who was once heralded as the best shooting guard in the Western Conference not named Kobe Bryant.

However, the season also ended with one of the most memorable playoff comebacks in Blazer history against the Suns, orchestrated almost solely by Roy. It was a flash of his former brilliance which had Portland fans pining for the return of their superstar’s old form, and kept Roy in the backs of any potential NBA General Managers looking to improve their team via Free Agency.

Minnesota saw just such an opportunity.

Asked about his performance in Friday’s game, Roy said “I think as far as playing I feel good, but it’s just getting the legs back.” As far Roy’s talent goes, there is no cause for Minnesota’s staff to be concerned. Roy provides the Timberwolves with exactly what a promising young team needs: veteran leadership and a strong locker room presence. Roy’s ability to handle the ball, make plays, and draw defenses should take pressure off young, second-year point guard Ricky Rubio and franchise bigman Kevin Love, particularly late in games when Roy has proven himself as a capable finisher.

Only time will tell whether Minnesota’s experiment will pay off, but Roy is optimistic about his return, as are his many fans.

New Orleans Hornets’ Future Looks Bright

Written By: Brendan Nienhaus

The New Orleans Hornets’ future looks bright, despite a year plagued by misfortune. Following a tumultuous year in which the New Orleans Hornets suffered from the loss of their two star players, being owned and operated by the NBA, and a lock-out-shortened season plagued by injuries and inconsistencies, the Hornets’ future is finally looking up. First, the Hornets and the State of Louisiana agreed to an extension to keep the team in the New Orleans Arena through 2024 in March. Then, New Orleans Saints’ Owner Tom Benson agreed to buy the team from the league in mid-April for a reported $338 Million. Then, fortune continued to smile on the Hornets when they were awarded the top pick in the June 28 NBA Draft during the NBA Draft Lottery on May 30. It seems fate was finally beginning to smile on the Hornets, and their beleaguered fan-base, after the turbulent past year.

The New Orleans Hornets’ misfortune began last year when the NBA bought the Hornets from previous owner George Shinn for fear that any of the interested buyers would try and relocate the team to another state. This created uncertainty for the franchise and helped convince their two star players, David West and Chris Paul, to leave the team. West left for the Indiana Pacers via free agency while Paul requested a trade. After an up-and-down course of events, this finally led to Paul landing with the Los Angeles Clippers. These events made it incredibly difficult for the Hornets to attract free agents to the city, so the team was forced to field a very inexperienced team.

Then came the lock-out shortened season where the Hornets were besieged by injuries and inconsistent play that led to the worst record in the Western Conference at 21-45. Guard Eric Gordon, obtained in the Paul trade from the Clippers, missed all but nine games with a knee injury and subsequent arthroscopic-knee-surgery. Both starting G Jarrett Jack and Forward/Center Jason Smith missed significant time with injuries to accompany a slew of missed games from other Hornets, including 39 missed games from C Emeka Okafor. It seemed the Hornets misfortune would never end.

Slowly but surely, however, the Hornets’ fortune finally started to take a change for the better. In December, the Hornets reached their sales goal of selling 10,000 season tickets. This seemed to increase the team’s marketability and soon potential buyers were becoming interested. This also helped motivate the state to work out a long term deal to ensure the Hornets remained in the area through 2024. Soon, Saints owner Tom Benson decided to step up and purchase the team to ensure that it remained in New Orleans.

Benson: “We really never stopped talking to them (the NBA). With out of state owners. . . . I called David (Stern, NBA commissioner) and said, ‘Look I’m the only guy you can count on who’s really going to stay here. Let’s work this thing out.’ “

Optimism began to spring anew for the Hornets’ fans, once again, and they would soon be rewarded with yet another fortuitous occurrence: winning the rights to the first overall pick in the June 28th NBA Draft, despite only having a 13.7% chance of doing so. The team is expected to take the consensus best player in the draft, Kentucky F Anthony Davis. This along with promising comments from G Eric Gordon about his willingness to return to New Orleans, has Hornets General Manager Dell Demps excited.

“This is the start of a new beginning. We’re hoping for the best. I think we have a good core right now, and we’re looking forward to building for the future and be good for a long time.”

Indeed, despite all of the injuries and inconsistencies the Hornets have faced during this past season, they did receive some promising play from their younger players like G Greivis Vasquez, F/C Gustavo Ayon, and F Al-Farouq Aminu, who was acquired in the Paul trade with the Clippers. Coupled with ample salary-cap room (even before an expected move of either Emeka Okafor’s or Trevor Ariza‘s expensive contracts), a new owner, a new longtime lease agreement with the state and two lottery picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Hornets’ future is looking bright again.

LeBron James Wins Third NBA Most Valuable Player Award

Written by: Kidist Amanuel

The Miami Heat’s forward LeBron James was named the MVP of the 2011-2012 NBA season on Saturday, May 12, 2012, making this the third time James has won the award.

LeBron James became the first Miami Heat player to win the MVP award, and he graciously accepted the trophy in front of the media and his teammates. “I haven’t been nervous like this in a long time,” James said. “I don’t know why. I just think back to where I come from.” James, hailing from Akron, Ohio, is one of only eight players in NBA history to win the award three or more times. This short list of players includes legendary players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson. A great list to be a part of, right? Unfortunately, he is also the only player out of this eight that has not won a championship, which he addressed during his acceptance speech. “We have a bigger goal,” James said. “I want that championship. That’s all that matters to me.” He even mentioned that he would give all his three MVP awards back for a championship.

LeBron James wins third MVP award

LeBron James Accepts Third MVP Award

James received a total of 1074 points, including 85 first-place votes, in this MVP race that was tallied from 120 sportswriters and broadcasters and one MVP fan vote. Players were awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for second-place, five for third, three for fourth, and one for each fifth place vote. Rounding out the top five in order in voting are Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, and San Antonio’s Tony Parker.

In this shortened season of NBA due to the lockout, James posted impressive numbers and led the Heat to a 46-20 record and the second seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. He averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. He shot career-best 53 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from three-point field as well. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month in January and February and Eastern Conference Player of the Week six times.

When his career comes to an end, LeBron James might match and even pass the record for most MVP awards, which currently stands at six. He is one of the most versatile and arguably the best player in the league right now. As Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers pointed out, “LeBron is an MVP candidate every year. It is just who he is. He only does everything. So I don’t know what more you can ask from him.”

Los Angeles Clippers Win Playoff Series

Written by: Kidist Amanuel

The Los Angeles Clippers advance to the Western Conference semifinals after beating the Memphis Grizzlies on May 13, 2012 in game 7 of their first round series.

Just for the third time in the 41 years history of the franchise, the Clippers have won a National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff series. In this best of seven series, the Clippers led the series 3-1, but the Grizzlies hold off elimination twice to tie the series 3-3. Game 7 was a tough, physical game, but the Clippers defeated the Grizzlies on their home court to advance to the second round of playoffs and to faceoff the San Antonio Spurs.

Los Angeles Clippers Advance To Western Conference Semifinals

Los Angeles Clippers Advance To Western Conference Semifinals

This series had it fair share of dramatic moments. It ended up being one of the more interesting first round series this year. The first game featured one of the greatest comeback victories in league history. Down by 27 in the second half and 24 points with eight minutes left in the game, the Clippers put together an incredible 26-1 run to steal game one and thus home court advantage from the Grizzlies. The Clipper lost game two and the series was tied 1-1 when the teams went to Los Angeles for game three and four.  Similar to game two, game three was a closely contested game and the Clippers won the game by one point. The Clippers then went on to win game four of the series and get a commanding 3-1 lead, pushing the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination. However, the Grizzlies bounced back and got right back in the series with wins in game five and six by playing their brand of bruising style of basketball. Game seven, which was played in front of the Grizzlies home crowd, was another closely contested game, but the Clippers held on to win the game and thus advance to the next round of the playoffs.

The strong game of point guard Chris Paul during the series is one of the reasons the Clippers are advancing right now. The addition of Chris Paul during the 2011 off-season revitalized and automatically made the Clippers a championship contender team for the next few years. The addition of Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams has also given the team one of the best backcourts in the league. With star power forward Blake Griffin already on the roster, it was no surprise that the Clippers made the playoffs this 2012 season, even if many did not expect them to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Defending Champs Dallas Mavericks Eliminated in First Round

Written by: Kidist Amanuel

The NBA defending champions, the Dallas Mavericks, have been eliminated from the first round of the 2012 playoffs after being swept by Oklahoma City Thunder in four games.

The number two ranked Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the best teams in the league throughout the season, were the clear favorites against the number seven ranked Dallas Mavericks when the series started. The veteran Mavs started the best of seven series by playing the first two games on the road. The Mavs lost these two games by a total of four points. They lost the first game on a heartbreaking game-winning shot at the buzzer by Kevin Durant, NBA’s leading scorer. Similar to the first game, the Mavs led in the final minutes of the second game, but once again could not close it out with a win. While the two games in Oklahoma City could have gone either way, game three of the series was a different story. Back in their home turf, the Mavs were expected to bounce back and win the two games at home. Unfortunately, game was not a close game. The Thunder led throughout the game and it was a rout from start to finish. The Mavs put on a valiant effort in game four, but behind the great game of James Harden, 2012 sixth man of the year, the Thunder won the game and clinched the series, effectively sweeping the Mavs.

Dallas Mavs Eliminated in First Round

Dallas Mavericks lose to OKC Thunder in first round of 2012 NBA playoffs

Just a little less than a year ago, the Dallas Mavericks hoisted the first championship trophy in the club’s history. So what happened? How did the Mavericks become just the second team in NBA history to be swept out of the playoffs the year after they win the championship? The roster changes that took place during the off season played a major role.  The Mavericks lost important role players that helped them during the championship run. Defensive and emotional anchor, center Tyson Chandler, was traded to the New York Knicks. Back-up point guard Jose Barea, who played a major role in numerous games, was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Mavericks traded these two players and a few others to open up cap space and prepare for 2012 free agency, showing that their main priority for the season was acquiring top free agents and build for the future rather than defend their championship. Will this pay off? We will have to wait and see in the 2012 off season.

It Rained Purple & Gold in L.A.

The teams have met twelve times in the NBA finals

The Celtics led by as many as 13 points against the Lakers on Thursday but lost Game 7

Purple and gold confetti rained down in the Staples Center late Thursday night after the Los Angeles Lakers clenched their 16th NBA title, beating the Boston Celtics 83-79 in game 7. The Finals MVP Kobe Bryant then jumps up on the scorer’s table, shook his fists and extended five fingers… marking his fifth title with the Lakers.

There was no question from the beginning that these two teams weren’t going to let this be an easy Final for one other to win. The competition between the Lakers and Celtics was apparent from the first jump ball in game 1 to the final minutes in the 4th quarter of game 7. The teams have met twelve times in the NBA finals, but this win only marks the third win for the Lakers. And although Bryant had been downplaying the NBA’s best rivalry for the past couple weeks, even he acknowledged that banner no. 16 will be a little bigger in his mind compared to the others that hang in the rafters. “I was just lying to you guys,” Bryant said after the Lakers first game 7 win over the Celtics, “this one is by far the sweetest, because it’s them.”

In the series he averaged an impressive 28.6 points, but left the fate of game 7 up to his teammates. Bryant shot only 6 of 24, eventually earning eight free throws and ending up with 23 points. The Celtics defense forced L.A. to miss 21 of its first 27 shots and held them to only 21 successful shots in the first three quarters, with Bryant and Gasol having a combined 6 for 26 in the first half. “This was the hardest one by far. I wanted it so bad and sometimes when you want it so bad, it slips away from you. My guys picked me up.” Despite his disappointing and uncharacteristic stats, he still earned his fifth title and second MVP with the Lakers.

Team stats and game leaders in game 7 of the finals

Team stat comparison and game leaders between the Celtics and Lakers in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals

Another big question is Phil Jackson and his return to the Los Angeles Lakers. His contract is up and it is not guaranteed he will be back next season, although all indications are that Jackson will be back to sign with the Lakers. With this win in the finals, Jackson has earned his 5th NBA title with the Lakers, making it his 11th overall. “I’ve got to take a deep breath. I’ve got to take some time to think about this,” Jackson said, who would be entering the next season at 65 years old. “This was great. I’ll wait to make that decision in a week.”

Whichever Jackson decides, the Lakers will be grateful for the years he did give. They’ve closed out their playoff opponents on the first try 10 times while winning three straight Western Conference titles over the last three years with Jackson. And although the Celtics led by as many as 13 points against the Lakers on Thursday, the game 7 trophy is now in Los Angeles.

2010 NBA Finals: Boston Celtics vs. Lakers or Suns?

Paul Pierce, 4th career playoff game with 30+ pts.

Paul Pierce lead the Boston Celtics to victory in Game 6 against the Orlando Magic with 31 Pts and 13 Reb.

I’m not going to lie; after game five of the Eastern Conference Finals, thoughts of the Orlando Magic tying and possibly winning the series was no longer unbelievable, but possible. The team was down 0-3 in the series and not looking to make a comeback. Their first win against the Celtics in game 4 had people thinking they got lucky. Then by the end of game 5, it was starting to look like the Magic might accomplish something that no other team in the NBA ever has… a 0-3 comeback to win and advance to the 2010 NBA Finals against either the Lakers or Suns. Unfortunately for the Orlando Magic that was not the case and Boston was able to use a little of their own magic to make them disappear.

The Celtics managed to avoid the biggest playoff collapse in league history. Boston clinched the series 4-2, beating Orlando 96-84. The Celtics are the first team in NBA history to advance to the Finals after having a better road record than home record during the regular season. It will be the 21st trip to the NBA finals for the Celtics organization, only the Lakers have more with 30. Now the next question is who will the Celtics play in the finals? Will it be the Suns or are the Lakers going to make their 31st appearance? The Lakers are currently leading their Western Conference Finals 3-2 against the Suns.

Regardless who their opponent may be, if Boston (17-3 all-time in NBA Finals) keeps playing the way they did in game 6 of the East Finals, they will definitely have a good chance of taking home their 18th NBA title in franchise history (no organization has won more titles than the 17-time World Champion Boston Celtics). Each game they have a different player that rises up to lead the team to victory. The win over Orlando in game 6 was their 17th straight game with a different leading scorer. Seriously! They have not had the same player lead them in scoring in consecutive games this entire post season. Game 6 goes to Paul Pierce, ending this Eastern Conference Finals in game 6 with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. Pierce was aggressive and assertive and it worked perfectly in Boston’s favor. Celtic’s guard Ray Allen followed Pierce with 20pts.

Robinson stepped up big in the second quarter

Nate Robinson had 13 Pts off the bench in the second quarter after starting point guard Rajon Rondo suffered an injury

It was Nate Robinson though that seemed to get Boston fans on their feet. After Celtic’s starting point guard Rajon Rondo took a hard fall, it was time for the little guy to step up in a big way. After the incredible season Rondo has been having, especially in the Finals (Rondo had 14 points and six assists before leaving the game), Robinson had some pretty big shoes to fill in a very important game. Luckily for Boston, he was up to the challenge. With 13 points off the bench in the second quarter, Robinson was making passes and nailing three’s that had the players he was sharing the bench with only moments before on their feet. Robinson had more points in the second quarter than he had in the previous 8 games combined. “There will be a game where we’re flat and need somebody to make something happen and Nate [Robinson] will do that. He’s going to win us a playoff game”, stated Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics head coach, back in April.

They now have just shy of a week to rest and practice until they hit the court again. This will be the Celtics second NBA finals appearance in 3 years. The first game of the 2010 NBA Finals is Thursday, June 3rd.

Early Exit Likely for Injury-Hobbled Lakers in 2010 NBA Playoffs?

The long-standing injury to Kobe Bryant's right index finger is one which could easily limit the Lakers' chances of a repeat in 2010.

Despite earning the top seed and home court advantage throughout the NBA Western Conference Playoffs for the third consecutive year, the injury-plagued Los Angeles Lakers—who finished the last ten games of the regular season at a dismal 4-6 win/loss record—have more than enough reason to be concerned going into the 2010 NBA Playoffs.

Although he has stated that he will return from injury in the Lakers’ playoff opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers may be forced to begin the 2010 NBA Playoffs without the availability of center Andrew Bynum due to a strained Achilles tendon suffered on March 19 against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Staples Center.  With the Lakers regular season record standing at 38-12 with a healthy combo of Bynum and forward/center Pau Gasol versus a 19-13 record with one or both injured (Mike Trudell, BasketBlog), it is no secret that the Lakers’ success depends very heavily on the health of their front court.

Another injury which may prove to be even more troubling for the Lakers in the 2010 NBA Playoffs is that to the right index finger of Kobe Bryant, which has remained a source of concern for the Lakers throughout much of the regular season.  Prior to suffering an avulsion fracture in his right index finger during the regular season, Bryant’s shot percentage was four percentage points higher; his scoring average three points per game higher than the time of the injury—after which Bryant began playing with a splint on his finger.  This will be critical for the Lakers—for whom it can easily be argued that the difference maker in finishing two games ahead of Dallas to earn the top seed in the Western Conference was a number of decisive clutch shots from Bryant.

NBA Holds ‘Hoops for St. Jude Week’ for St. Jude Children’s Hospital

Denver Nuggets Head Coach George Karl visits child cancer patients of St. Jude Children's Hospital. Karl, a survivor of prostate cancer, was recently diagnosed with throat and neck cancer.

For the NBA and St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the first week of March marked Hoops for St. Jude Week; a week in which NBA players, coaches and fans joined together in efforts to raise funds and awareness for the work of St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN.

Hoops for St. Jude Week was part of an ongoing commitment of the NBA to support the work of St. Jude Children’s Hospital to save the lives of childhood cancer patients who otherwise would not have the financial means to afford treatment.  NBA players Pau Gasol, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay, Steve Blake, Kevin Love and Shane Battier have each pledged to make a donation for every point they score throughout this NBA season, as well as an end-of season donation of $20,000 each.  The Hoops for St. Jude team of NBA players was joined in their effort by Denver Nuggets Head Coach George Karl, a survivor of prostate cancer who has been recently diagnosed with throat and neck cancer, who has also pledged a $20,000 donation toward the cause.  In reflection upon his decision to join the cause, Karl commented, “One of the greatest things I can do as I battle this terrible disease is to help children who are facing the same struggles.”

As part of the NBA commitment to support the work of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Karl additionally outlined the curriculum for a school-based program, designed for schools which have committed their participation in Hoops for St. Jude Week.  The school-based program, which included a fundraising effort, emphasizes the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle while teaching basketball fundamentals to youth.

You can join the NBA in the fight against childhood cancer by making a donation to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.  Fans who make a donation of $20 and upwards will receive a commemorative pin, which coaches across the NBA wore throughout the week in support of Hoops for St. Jude.

NBA Leads by Example in Social Responsibility With NBA Cares Community Outreach Initiative

Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Farmar signs an autograph for a boy at a free clinic hosted by the Lakers for underprivileged children in Washington, D.C.

Through networking with numerous community outreach organizations NBA Cares has made it possible for players, employees and even fans to become more directly involved in taking positive action in the well-being of a vast number of communities. 

A recent example of the community outreach efforts of NBA Cares took place on January 25, 2010, the morning the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers were set to make their White House visit to be congratulated by President Barack Obama.  In the midst of an eight-game road trip, the Los Angeles Lakers invited a class of 30 children from Stanton Elementary School in Washington, D.C.—of which 92.2 percent of the student population is classified as “Low-Income” as of 2006, according to a Washington Post report—for a clinic in which they were given the opportunity to take part in drills to learn basketball fundamentals from professional NBA players; and for a talk on the benefits and importance of building solid habits for maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle to one’s overall well-being and quality of life.

The community outreach efforts of NBA Cares are not limited to league players or employees.  NBA Cares also helps to provide its network of community outreach organizations with support by providing links to volunteer opportunities on its website through which you can become involved in taking positive action in your community.