Last week, I talked about another L.A. Clipper by the name of Chris Paul. This week, we focus on All-Star L.A. Clipper Blake Griffin. The Oklahoma product has been outstanding since winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award back in 2011. He’s been to four All-Star games and won the Dunk Contest that year after he jumped over he hood of a car! Recently, the power forward been averaging a career-high 24.2 points per game this year and he’s had his best season at the free-throw line, shooting 70.5 percent. More importantly however, he considers himself an evangelical Christian and a man after God’s heart. His father, Tommy Griffin, is a pastor and had him home schooled until high school. While at home, Griffin was taught the Biblical principles of life and how to build a strong foundation in his faith. He ended up going to Oklahoma Christian High School, playing under his father and won state titles all four years there. Then Blake joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes during his years at the University of Oklahoma. Before he could play a single game in the NBA, Griffin broke his kneecap and had God humble him in a big way.
“I was just excited about the opportunity to play in the NBA,” said Griffin. “I was ready to go, but everything came crashing down, so to speak. But these things happen. That was God’s way of just humbling me.” (Credit: thehollowverse.com)
Griffin’s patience to get back on the court helped him out better than anyone thought. This superstar is now one of the top players in the league and is currently on a team headed for a title. Also, his gravity-defying dunks are unbelievable! Griffin revealed that for every dunk he makes, he donates$100 to fight childhood obesity. By the way, when he dunked over that Kia car in the Dunk Contest, he donated the car with the proceeds benefiting Stand Up to Cancer. No wonder he likes to dunk the ball! All of these great things are going for Griffin, because he has great trust and faith in God.
“I know everything happens for a reason,” Griffin said. “I don’t know what the reason is, but only God knows. I just have to wait and let his plan unveil.” (Credit: christianpost.com)
We can all learn a good lesson from Blake’s story. He had everything going right for him at such a young age. When that knee injury occurred, his dreams were put on hold. Griffin had to first understand that God’s plans are more important than Blake’s plans. After Griffin put his faith into what God was doing for him, the rest is history. We must lean on God when the circumstances are tough and trust Him that He will pull through for us. He always has in the past and He always will in the future.
The L.A. Clippers point guard has been out with injury most of the season, but with him back, the Clippers have won their last three games. In Paul’s last game before the All-Star Break, he had 20 points, 12 assists, four rebounds, and three steals in the 122-117 win against the Trail Blazers. It was his 26th double-double of the season out of the 36 games he has played this year! Before getting injured, he was leading the NBA in assists per game. While he may get great assists on the court, it’s his assists off the court that I would like to focus on. Chris Paul was born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to parents Charles and Robin Paul. They brought Chris up in a Baptist church all his life and that part of him has rooted him in his faith. Paul’s father Chris talks about how God has blessed his family by giving Chris the talents of a great basketball player.
“My wife and I give all the credit to God because God is the One that gave us Chris and gave us a chance,” said Charles Paul. “Like Chris says, he was given an opportunity to play basketball, so we’re grateful for how God has blessed us.” (Credit: Winston-Salem Journal)
Chris Paul started the CP3 charity foundation that has donated to organizations such as the Salvation Army Boys and Girls club, Feed the Children, Meals on Wheels, and even the Special Olympics. Giving back as always been something that his parents taught him while growing up in church and it’s something that Christians around the world should do no matter what kind of income they have. Back in an interview when he was on the New Orleans Hornets, Chris Paul talks about his growth in the Christian community:
“I grew up in the church and still go to church every Sunday if we don’t have practice,” said Paul. “It’s always something that my parents instilled in me. I’ve grown to be pretty devout in my faith.” (Credit: nba.com)
Paul has been an inspiration on and off the court the last five years. His team is in prime position to make an NBA title run mostly due to his play-making ability in the games. That title run resumes on Tuesday against the tough San Antonio Spurs.
The first half of the NBA regulat season is in the books. There’s been a lot of great stories and games so far. Let’s take a look at some of the things that happened earlier this year that we should keep an eye on later on this year. Here are the top five stories going on in the NBA:
1. Kevin Durant leads the NBA in scoring…again. The Durantula has been on a hot streak ever since Russell Westbrook got injured. His ability to put the ball in the basket has been phenomenal this year. He leads the NBA in points per game with 31.5. Carmelo Anthony is the closest to that mark with 27.3 and LeBron James is right behind him with 26.5. This could be the year that Durant has been waiting for. His Oklahoma City Thunder team has the best record in the NBA with a 43-12 record, which is four games better than the San Antonio Spurs’ 38-15. Unless something drastic happens to Kevin Durant, he could finally win that MVP award that has eluded him so many times.
2. DeAndre Jordan is having a stupendous year! The big man had a nasty dunk last year that took over the SportsCenter Top Ten plays for months! This year he’s playing like a true All-Star, leading the league in rebounds (14 rpg) and field goal percentage (65.9 percent). He’s also a great defender with 2.4 blocks per game, which is 4th in the NBA right now. His L.A. Clippers are also 4th in the Western Conference standings and have the 2nd best offense in the NBA, averaging 107 points per game. As the season dwindles down, the Clippers could go far into the playoffs and DeAndre Jordan could be that cornerstone in the Clippers’ title hopes.
3. How good are the Portland Trail Blazers? Last year, the Trail Blazers went 33-49, ending their disappointing season on a 13-game losing streak. This year, they’re 5th in the Western Conference standings with a 36-17 record! They also have the number one offense in the NBA and lead the league in rebounds per game! Head Coach Terry Stotts has led a great turnaround for this basketball club in his second season. The former Dallas Mavericks assistant has this team headed in the right direction although they are 4-6 in their last 10 games. They hope to rebound next Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs with superstar power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and young point guard Damian Lillard leading the way.
4. The East will be won in either Indiana or Miami. The Eastern Conference of the NBA is definitely weaker than expected. Indiana and Miami are number one and number two in the conference respectively and by a long shot. Third place belongs to the surging Toronto Raptors with a 28-24 record. LeBron James is holding the Heat together without an injury plagued Dwyane Wade and he’s looking more dominant than ever. However, the Indiana Pacers boast the NBA’s best defense with only 90.3 points allowed per game. Guys like Roy Hibbert and Paul George are doing a great job at keeping this team at the top. These top two teams will be a great preview for the Eastern Conference Finals game unless teams like Toronto or Chicago step up.
5. Houston does not have a problem. So far it looks like Houston was the right fit for All-Star center Dwight Howard. The Rockets are 3rd in the league with points per game (105.5) and are 8th in rebounds per game (44.9). James Harden is leading this high soaring club with 23.9 points and 5.3 assists per game. Howard is also having a fantastic season with 18.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Coach Kevin McHale has this team headed in the right direction and could prove a legitimate threat in the Western Conference playoffs once things roll around.
So as you can see, the NBA season is getting more and more interesting. The second half will provide all the drama a basketball fan could want. Which teams in the East are going to make the playoffs? Who will win MVP? Who’s poised for a championship run? All of those questions will be answered after the All-Star break.
Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat have had a nice three-game stretch lately. Wade scored 30 points againt Detroit last Monday and is coming off a 14 points and 8 assists performance in a win at the Los Angeles Clippers.The 32-year-old shooting guard was already a star before LeBron James came to South Beach. When he played at Marquette University, he led his team to their first ever conference championship and a Final Four appearance. He was drafted 5th overall by the Heat in 2003 where he went on to become Sportsman of the Year in 2006, the same year he won his first NBA Finals and Finals MVP. He is the all-time leading scorer in Miami Heat history and was the NBA’s leading scorer in 2009. He was also a critical part of the Heat’s back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. However, despite all of this success, Wade has found difficulty in his life. He grew up in a dysfunctional family on the south side of Chicago where his mother was a drug addict. In 2008, he also had a nasty divorce with his wife and mother of two sons. Through all of these hard times, Wade says that Jesus Christ has helped sustain him in these tough moments. In an interview with Chad Bonham of Beliefnet, Wade shares his faith about the One who has been with him through all the trials.
“There are going to be good time and bad times,” said Wade. “There are going to be people who love me and there are going to be people who don’t love me. As long as you are real with yourself knowing that you’re still human even though some people put you on a pedestal. I know that I have to be the same person no matter if people like me or not. I try to tell kids that there are going to be people in your life that try to tell you that you can’t do something. There were people in my life who told me that I couldn’t make it to this point in the NBA. I believed in God, myself and my abilities to get to this point. Always believe in yourself no matter what anyone may say to you.” (Credit: beliefnet.com)
To give you a better look of what Dwyane Wade has gone through in his early life, take a look at this video done by ESPN that conveyed the relationship between the basketball superstar and his mother:
I addition to supporting his mother, Wade also founded The Wade’s World Foundation in 2003. The organization provides support to community-based organizations that promote education, health, and social skills for children in at-risk situations. He also hosts a variety of community outreach programs in Chicago and Miami. He wears the number “3” to represent the Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. Dwyane Wade has had a positive impact for the NBA both on and off the court.
The talk of the NBA right now is Oklahoma City Thunder star, Kevin Durant. The small forward out of Texas University has been on fire lately, especially after that big win last Wednesday night at Miami. Durant helped take down LeBron James and the Heat with his 12th straight game of scoring 30 points or more. He finished the showdown with 33 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in a 112-95 victory. Many thought that his scoring streak would come to an end after suffering that injury at San Antonio on January 22nd, but on his first game back at Philadelphia, he recorded his second triple-double of the season with 32 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. Speaking of assists, his per game average has gone up since last year, which is helping out the Thunder’s offense tremendously to now nine straight wins! Not only is Durant unselfish on the court, but he is also unselfish off the court. Last summer, Durant’s charity foundation donated $150,000 to three different youth organizations at his home in Prince George county in Maryland. They were the programs that helped Durant develop into a great basketball player and he just simply gave back to the people who affected him in a positive way. Not only that, but in that same summer, he also donated $1 million to the regional Red Cross relief efforts in Oklahoma after the devastating tornado damage took place last May. He also got Nike involved to donate $1 million worth of apparel to the residents affected by the storms. It’s this kind of stewardship that Christians should be more involved in. Giving back to communities is one way of reaching out to other people so that they could know Christ. God gave His one and only Son for our sins to show others that we need to make sacrifices to help each other out. Durant is a great example of a Christian man using what God has provided for him to help others in need. I loved his quote in the postgame interview at the end of the Miami Heat game the other night. Doris Burke of ESPN asked him what has driven him to get this scoring streak going and he simply said, “God. My Lord Jesus Christ. That’s it,” and he walked away. A man with such humility is someone worth watching as the NBA season gets deeper and deeper. That is why the Durantula is the Christian Athlete of the Week.
As I have said in my previous post, Kevin Durant is my favorite player in the NBA. So to hear the swish in the net from all of his made shots during this stretch of greatness is just sweet music to my ears. Durant’s 54 point game was just the beginning. After Wednesday night’s win over the San Antonio Spurs, the D.C. native has gone nine consecutive games where he has scored 30 points or more. He is currently averaging 37 points per game during the month of January. And these magical performances have been helping the team out as well. After this win against the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder have won five in a row and are 3-0 against Gregg Popovich’s team this season. That’s pretty impressive considering that San Antonio is one of the best teams in the NBA right now. When the Spurs play offense, it’s a beautiful sight to watch. They make great passes to find the best possible shot and every player is unselfish. That’s why they lead the NBA in three-point percentage and bench points per game this season. But let’s get back to Durant. His ability to score points is not the only thing going right for him this year. He made 10-11 free throws last Wednesday night and has shot 88 percent from the free throw line this year. During the five-game win streak, Durant has hit 52 out of 60 free throw attempts. Not only that, but he’s getting better at being a team player. His assists per game have gone up every season. This season he had to run the offense a lot more often with the absence of Russell Westbrook, but Durant has done a great job with that averaging just over five assists per game. He has also gone four straight games with double-digit field goals made. In the twelve games he has played this month, he scored more than 45 points in four of them. That’s just incredible! We haven’t seen scoring outbursts like this since Kobe Bryant’s glory days. Now that you know the stats, you should agree with me that Durant is the frontrunner of the MVP award this year. Sure it’s early and things could happen, but just this month’s performance alone should allow him to win it. Sure other players in the league have had games where they scored 35 points or more multiple times this season, but no one is doing it as consistently as Durant. He is almost unguardable, being six-foot-nine (I’m pretty sure he’s taller than that) and have the shooting stroke that he has. If Durant could keep this performance up in the month of February, then who knows, LeBron James would be old news. But forget about the stats and the hype. The real reason why I’m a Kevin Durant fan is because of his relationship with God. Durant has not only progressed as a basketball player, but also in his Christian walk with the Lord.
“My mom always sat me down and talked to me and I have spiritual teachers that help me out,” Durant said in an interview with Chad Bonham. “I’m not perfect at all by any means. I’ve got a long way to go to become closer to the Lord but hopefully I can continue to stay on the path. I might take a few steps forward and take a couple steps back and take some steps forward, but I want to get better.” (Credit: beliefnet.com)
And through all the fame and fortune, Durant remembers where he came from and it’s his humilty that has impressed me the most on and off the court.
“In the Bible, it says the Lord exalts humility and that’s one thing I try to be all the time—when I’m talking in front of people or when people tell me I’m great, I remind myself that I can always be better. I always work on what I have now. I’ve just got to be thankful to the Lord for what the gifts He’s given me. My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can. I’ve got to continue to be that way.” (Credit: beliefnet.com)
God has truly blessed Kevin Durant and has given him an unbelivable amount of talent. It’s this kind of God-given talent that can take the Thunder all the way to the NBA Finals this year.
Kevin Durant is one of my favorite players in the NBA, so to see him go off against the Golden State Warriors last Friday night was a dream come true. The six-foot-nine small forward cashed in a career-high 54 points in a 127-121 win over the Warriors. It was a game that had shootout written all over it. The Splash Bros were knocking down threes all night and the Oklahoma City Thunder kept feeding the ball to their scoring machine, who ended up finishing with the most points he’s ever scored in a single game. The University of Texas product had more field goals made (19) than the rest of the Thunder team combined (18). Some may call it being a ball hawk, but I call it putting the team on your back and winning a tight Western Conference game.
“As the leader of this team, my main objective is to serve my teammates and some nights I have to put it up,” said Durant of his big-time performance. (Credit: nba.com)
Durant was 7-8 in the first quarter and finished the first half 11-14 with 29 points. Some players in the NBA are lucky enough to get those kind of stats in a single game! Durant also finished the game with four rebounds and six assists and shot 68 percent from the field (19-28). The last player to put up numbers like that in a single game was when Michael Jordan did it back on April 3rd, 1988. On top of that, Kevin Durant is leading the NBA in scoring with 30.6 points per game (Carmelo Anthony is 2nd with 26.1). Durant won the NBA scoring title three times in a row from 2010-2012 and it would have been four times in a row if it wasn’t for Carmelo Anthony’s MVP-like performance last year. Durant could easily win it for the fourth time in his career and he’s only 25 years old. The Oklahoma City Thunder is also 3rd in the Western Conference Standings with a 30-10 record and they’re doing it without Russell Westbrook who’s still out with a right knee injury. Could this finally be the year where Kevin Durant wins the MVP award? Think about it, if you take Kevin Durant away from that team, the Thunder would be an average squad that would be fighting for the playoffs every year. Oklahoma City is a championship contender because of this guy. The Washington D.C. native has always finished second and he’s sick and tired of it. He was the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft (he would win Rookie-of-the-Year that season), he finished 2nd in the league for the scoring title last season (he was behind Anthony by .6 points per game and he had a better field goal percentage than him), and he lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals (that’s when James won his first championship). This year, the Thunder could make it all the way. They would have to go through teams like the Portland Trailblazers, the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Clippers, or the San Antonio Spurs to do it, but they can pull it off. Scott Brooks is a fantastic coach and Russell Westbrook is expected to return before the playoffs start. There’s no doubt in my mind that LeBron James is the best player in the NBA right now, but if Durant could get that championship win under his belt, he’ll start making people think twice.
Chicago Bulls’ point guard Derrick Rose won Rookie of the Year back in the 2008-2009 season. He went to three straight NBA All-Star games from 2010-2012 and he was named the NBA MVP in 2011. Since then, Rose has had two season-ending injuries. The former 1st overall pick out of Memphis hasn’t played a game since November 22nd of 2013. He had surgery on the meniscus in his right knee on November 25th, which should rule him out for the rest of the season. Then Rose made an interesting comment on Thursday about his status for this season:
“If I’m healthy and the situation is right, I’m going to be back playing,” he said at his first press conference since the injury. (Credit: ESPNChicago.com)
The Bulls ruled Rose out for the whole season, but the injured point guard said that he might return in time for the playoffs. If the NBA season ended today, the Bulls would be the six seed in the Eastern Conference. Should Rose risk another injury by returning for the playoffs, where it gets more physically demanding? I think the Bulls are in an interesting situation here. Rose has had a great young career. He’s only 25 and he has accomplised so much at such an early age. But should Rose keep playing for the Bulls? At this rate, Chicago is paying a man that hasn’t been playing that much in the last two years. Sure he’s a great talent, but how are you going to win an NBA championship without a top point guard? The NBA draft is going to produce some great point guards this year. There’s Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State (who can also play shooting guard) and there’s also Russ Smith from Louisville (who knows how to win big games). If I was Chicago Bulls’ General Manager Gar Forman, I would give Tom Thibodeau a brand new start. Forman already traded their leading scorer Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers and picked up a bunch of draft picks for it. The Bulls did acquire Andrew Bynum in the trade (great, another injury prone player to add to the roster), but how long will that help the team? Bynum may be a young and talented player, but he is also on the downward spiral of his career. Forman doesn’t believe in rebuilding a team and hey, with a successful franchise like the Chicago Bulls, I don’t blame him. But he does have to think about the future here. Even if Rose does come back, how productive would he be after two knee injuries? I would trade Derrick Rose for a 1st round draft pick to a team like the Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, or even the Los Angeles Lakers (who knows how many years Steve Nash has left in him). Those three teams could produce a good draft pick, so you may not land Marcus Smart or Russ Smith, but you can still get someone pretty good. If it were up to me, I would move on in Chicago. You already gave up your third-best player in Luol Deng and you can’t rely heavily on Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. Build a younger team that Thibodeau can coach and the Bulls should be championship contenders about two years from now.
Every team in the NBA is trying to build their team through the draft and recruit young talent. Not the San Antonio Spurs! They are currently 31-8 and have won six games in a row. They have won 9 of their last 10 games. And their best five players are in their thirties. Not only that, but they have the oldest coach in the league in Gregg Popovich at 64 years old. He is showing the NBA that you don’t have to be young and energetic to win, you just have to be smart. Tony Parker runs the offense just how Popovich wants him to. They have the second-best field goal percentage in the league with 49.3 percent (right behind the Miami Heat’s 50.7 percent) and they are second in the league in assists per game with 25.3 (right behind the Atlanta Hawks’ 25.4). The most important stats however are their points per game and their point differential. The Spurs are fifth in the league with 104.7 points per game and second behind the Indiana Pacers with an 8.1 point differential. At this rate, the Spurs could be looking at another championship run and Tim Duncan could finally ride off in the sunset with another NBA Finals victory. My prediction is that they’re going to face either the Thunder or the Houston Rocket in the Western Conference Finals and then battle the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals. I believe that this team can go a long way, even with one of the oldest rosters in the NBA. Some of the young guys like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are going to have to step up if they want this championship run to happen, because the NBA season is a long one.
Well looks like a little NCAA violation wouldn’t stop P.J. Hairston from pursing his basketball career. The former UNC shooting guard will join the Texas Legends in the NBA Developmental League this year. Hairston is expected to play in his first game on Saturday January 18th. Hairston will also be the first player ever to get signed by a D-League team midway through the college basketball season. The Greensboro, NC native was supposed to play for the Tar Heelsthis season, but due to some illegal benefits via rental car, he was suspended by the NCAA. He was not reinstated because he used rental vehicles tied to a felon and party promoter in Durham. He finished his short career with the Tar Heels after averaging 14.6 points and 4.3 rebounds last season. The 21-year-old has decided to take this route knowing that he wouldn’t play another game at North Carolina. He should be a great prospect due to his shooting range, shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc last season. The question is: will Hairston succeed at the next level? I think so. It will take him some time to adjust to the speed and talent of the NBA, but I’m sure the former Tar Heel will be wearing an NBA jersey next year.
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