Tag Archives: Washington Wizards

Paul George Injury Leaves Questions in Eastern Conference

After Paul George suffered that devastating leg injury that will keep him out for next season, the Indiana Pacers lost a valuable member of their squad. Without George, there is little hope for the Pacers’ title hopes in 2015. Although this may not take them out of the postseason just yet, let’s look at some threatening teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are a favorite simply because they have LeBron James. Not only that, but they also have an All-Star point guard in Kyrie Irving and a future superstar in Andrew Wiggins. However, their front court could be their ultimate downfall. The main reason why James was so successful in Miami was because he had Chris Bosh pulling in rebounds and giving him extra chances. Last year’s number one draft pick Anthony Bennett was a huge disappointment, but he is the best option for next season’s starting forward position. For center, they have Anderson Varejao and Brendan Haywood, but they are old veterans that can be reliable in all 82 games next season. Tristan Thompson would make a good fit at the power forward spot and Dion Waiters will make a great back-court player that could compliment both Irving and James. It’s mostly wait-and-see at this point for the Cavaliers.

LeBron James' return to Cleveland gives the Cavaliers the best chance for a title run next year. Credit: www.cleveland.com
LeBron James’ return to Cleveland gives the Cavaliers the best chance for a title run next year.
Credit: http://www.cleveland.com

The Chicago Bulls look to be the favorite in the East as well. They have an established coaching staff that knows how to win with low-caliber players, but this year, they get Derrick Rose back…again. If Rose can stay healthy, this Bulls team will be Cleveland’s main competition in the Central Division. They signed Pau Gasol in free agency and landed Doug McDermott in the NBA Draft. All of the pieces are there with Joakim Noah coming off a terrific year, winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. Guys like Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Ronnie Brewer will also aid Rose in chasing that elusive NBA Finals, somewhere they haven’t been since Michael Jordan led the way many years ago.

Derrick Rose looks for a breakout year. The last time he played a full season, he won the MVP averaging 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. Credit: pagesix.com
Derrick Rose looks for a breakout year. The last time he played a full season, he won the MVP averaging 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Credit: pagesix.com

With the Pacers, Cavaliers and Bulls fighting for the Central Division, let’s take a look at some other potentially threatening teams in the East. The New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors will be battling for the Atlantic Division. Carmelo Anthony’s decision to return to New York will definitely give them a chance. Phil Jackson looks to make this team a consistent winner in the East and will have to go through the upstart Raptors in order to get there. The Raptors finished last season with the 3-seed in the East with a surprising 48-34 record. They did better than the Brooklyn Nets who landed a tight 44-38 finish. Coach Lionel Hollins will try to make his new Nets team a title contender this year. If he can’t get them that good in a short amount of time, the Knicks and Raptors will dominate this division.

The two most surprising teams last year were the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats. Both finished with more than 42 wins, which is saying a lot for both of these franchises. The back-court combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal will definitely keep the Wizards in the championship race, but their front court will have to play consistently well in order to compete in the division. The Bobcats are now back to being called the Hornets and hopefully this rejuvenated team will make more surprises this year. With the Miami Heat losing some firepower because of the whole Decision 2.0 fiasco, the Southeast Division is wide open for the taking. Even the Atlanta Hawks are contenders after making the playoffs last year with a losing record. You can never count out everyone  in that division. Unless you’re the Orlando Magic.

The Eastern Conference will definitely be more interesting this year and a lot more competitive. Unfortunately for the Pacers, their chance at a title shot is dampened with the George injury. Hopefully they can learn some lessons from Chicago on how to make the playoffs without your superstar player.

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NBA Conference Finals are Set

Four teams punched their tickets to the NBA Conference Finals and all four teams are the top two seeds in their conference. It will truly be a test to see who the best team in the West and the East really are. First, let’s see how each team got there.

The Miami Heat were expected to make it this far, after sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats and finished off the Brooklyn Nets in five games. Ray Allen knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in Game 5 to advance the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 96-94 victory.  LeBron James has been a dominant force in the playoffs, averaging 30 points a game. The Heat is looking for a three-peat, but they will first have to handle the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers have struggled throughout the playoffs, and many thought they wouldn’t make it this far after their poor performance against the Washington Wizards. This team has had trouble rebounding and boxing out. Indiana had to go all the way to Game Seven with the Atlanta Hawks (a team with a losing record), but they finally ended up beating the Wizards last night 93-80 in Game Six. Roy Hibbert has not been the same player he was during the regular season. He averaged 10.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game and now during the postseason, he is averaging 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. He has also gone three games without scoring a single point (two against the Hawks and one against the Wizards in Game One). If Hibbert can play consistently against the Heat and have games like he did in Game Two against the Wizards where he had 28 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks, then the Pacers might have a chance.

Paul George has played consistently well in the playoffs, averaging 21.9 points and 8.7 rebounds a game. Credit: indystar.com
Paul George has played consistently well in the playoffs, averaging 21.9 points and 8.7 rebounds a game.
Credit: indystar.com

As for the San Antonio Spurs, the one-seed out in the West is not having too much difficulty getting to where they are now. They did have to go to Game Seven against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, but they were able to close out and move on to the Portland Trail Blazers. Against Portland, the Spurs defeated them in five games and all five wins were dominant victories. They closed out on a 104-82 blow out on the Trail Blazers last Wednesday. Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich has this team right where it needs to be and they have been playing great basketball lately. The only concern is the injury status of Tony Parker. The veteran point guard has a tight hamstring that might limit his mobility, but he says that he is ready to go. Small forward Kawhi Leonard has really stepped up for this team. He is one of the youngest players on the roster and he has made a big difference. During the regular season, Leonard averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. In the postseason, Leonard has averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. His performance is the X-Factor when the Spurs take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.

Speaking of the Thunder, they have had a roller-coaster ride of a postseason. They have had the strongest playoff schedule out of any of the teams. First, they took out the Memphis Grizzlies in seven games after being down 2-1. Then they just recently beat the L.A. Clippers in Game Six 104-98, after through tough matches with them. After that win, they will advance to the Western Conference Finals for the third time in the last four years. Kevin Durant has arguably been the best player in the postseason, leading all players with 31.4 points a game and capping off the Game Six victory over the Clippers with an amazing performance of 39 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists. He also has six double-doubles this postseason, showing that he has been carrying this team on his back and lifting them up game after game. Teammate Russell Westbrook has been a game-changer this entire postseason. When he plays well, the Thunder win. When he doesn’t play well, they don’t win. Oklahoma City has to rely on both Durant and Westbrook to bring their best against San Antonio. While Durant has had double-doubles, Westbrook has had triple-doubles. His first one came in a losing effort against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Five on the first round of the playoffs. Then his Game Seven performance against them was historic, with 27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds. His best game to date was in Game Two against the L.A. Clippers where he had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. If Westbrook can play consistently well, the Thunder could go very far. They have already swept the Spurs during the regular season and have played well against them in recent years.

Kevin Durant will have to keep his scoring pace going as the MVP takes on the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Credit: nba.si.com
Kevin Durant will have to keep his scoring pace going as the MVP takes on the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
Credit: nba.si.com

The Eastern Conference Finals will be played first on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The Indiana Pacers will host the Miami Heat for the first game of the series. Then on Monday, the San Antonio Spurs will host the Oklahoma City Thunder at 9 p.m. for the first game of that series. These games are must-see NBA playoff T.V. It’s the four best teams of the NBA squaring off and you just can’t miss it!

Christian Athlete of the Week: Nenê

At birth, his name was Maybyner Rodney Hilario, but we all know him simply as Nenê. The Brazilian basketball player was originally drafted by the New York Knicks in the 1st round of the 2002 NBA Draft, but was then immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets. He began his rookie season as a bench player, but then started to ease into the starting lineup by the end of the year. Next season, as a full-time starter, he averaged 11.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. Problems with injuries slowed his career down at Denver, but then on January 11, 2008, Nenê received some devastating news: he had testicular cancer. He was only 25 years old when doctors found the tumor and it seemed as if his NBA career was coming to a sudden stop to the power forward. He talks about going through that difficult time to The Christian Post:

I say: ‘Why? Why me? All bad dudes around, why me? I’m a good guy,'” said Nenê, according to the Post. “But God, when He want to test someone, He put this kind of test and He bless you after that. I had to prove that I can get back from cancer. From cancer!” (Credit: The Christian Post)

Nenê stayed diligent in prayer and on January 14th, 2008, he got the tumor removed at a Denver hospital. He returned to action on March 27th later that year and received a standing ovation. Even better, the Nuggets won the game by beating the Dallas Mavericks 118-105. Now, Nenê is playing for the Washington Wizards and finished the regular season with 14.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He has been a huge help for the Wizards in their playoff run. In the series win against the Chicago Bulls, Nenê averaged 17.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Currently, the Wizards are down 3-1 to the Indiana Pacers and are facing elimination. 

However, Nenê has learned how to deal with any tough situation. Growing up in Brazil, he wasn’t always so fortunate and his story is a true rags to riches kind of tale. 

“I always remember what I’ve been through to be here,” Nenê said. “I have no shoes, I have no clothes, but I was blessed. I remember my mom. She have money to buy the food or give to God like you’re supposed to, because we’re Christian. She give to God and say, ‘You know, we don’t have food today, but God is going to provide our future.'”

Whether it was cancer or poverty, Nenê learned how to trust God in difficult situations. His wife, Lauren Hilario, was also going through brain cancer around the same time that Nenê had testicular cancer. The couple have now celebrated five years of marriage and have a baby boy together. Nenê is now making more money than he could ever dream of and God has truly blessed his life. 

“I realize God, He marked me, to understand, back in the day when I diagnosed with cancer, He said, ‘You’re going to have it because you’re going to help a lot of people,'” Nenê said. “I’m not nothing without God. The things I’ve been through, I been through because He was with me. If I wasn’t, I would’ve fell on the first wall.”

Nenê understood that just because you are a good person does not mean that bad things won’t happen to you. Nenê now knows what God’s plan for him is and said he will retire before the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He said he wanted to retire earlier than most people would expect him to (around the age of 33) so he can be more involved with God is the Answer, his church in Brazil. A humble man with a humbling past, Nenê is a true role model of Christian athletes everywhere.

Five Game Sevens

NBA history was made last Saturday when three Game Seven NBA playoff games were played on the same day. After today’s Game Sevens, the NBA postseason can move on to the second round: the conference semifinals. One of the biggest stories was the Washington Wizards advancing to the next round over the Chicago Bulls, winning their first playoff series since 2005 where they also beat the Chicago Bulls. This year, the Wizards defeated the Bulls’ squad 4-1 and were led by a young back court featuring John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall has been great for this young and talented squad, he is 5th in both assists and steals per game this postseason. As for Bradley Beal, he averaged almost 20 points per game against the Bulls, including a game where he scored 26 points and pulled down 7 rebounds to help put the Wizards up 2-0 in the series. Speaking as a guy that was born in D.C., I can say that I am excited for their match-up with the 1-seed Indiana Pacers Monday night at 7 p.m.

John Wall averaged 18.8 points, 6.8 assists and 2.2 steals in the series win over the Chicago Bulls. Credit: www.rantsports.com
John Wall averaged 18.8 points, 6.8 assists and 2.2 steals in the series win over the Chicago Bulls.
Credit: http://www.rantsports.com

As for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they finished out in fashion with a 120-109 rout over the Memphis Grizzlies in their Game 7 finale.  Kevin Durant may not have had the field goal percentage that he was looking for, but he is still putting up points this postseason with 29.9 per game so far. Then there is Russell Westbrook. Some people have judged him and saying that he was the problem with the Thunder’s struggles to close out. I was one of those people. Now, my confidence is regained in Westbrook after putting up a triple-double in the last game against Memphis. The young point guard finished the bout with 27 points, a career-high 16 assists and 10 rebounds. Westbrook also became just the second player in NBA history to record a triple-double in a Game 7 (Rajon Rondo did it first). Sure the Thunder were able to win without the Grizzlies’ top player Zach Randolph, but hey, a win is a win. Durant and Westbrook combined for 60 points and Oklahoma City shot 60.9 percent from the field as a team. Now they will have to put up those kind of numbers when they play the L.A. Clippers Monday night at 9:30 p.m. That should be an exciting series as well.

Kevin Durant took over the series against Memphis by averaging 29.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Credit: www.usatoday.com
Kevin Durant took over the series against Memphis by averaging 29.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 blocks per game.
Credit: http://www.usatoday.com

I was disappointed in the Houston Rockets this year. They had a lot of talent in James Harden and Dwight Howard, but they just couldn’t make it work against the Portland Trail Blazers. LaMarcus Aldridge and company closed out the series 4-2 when Damian Lillard knocked down a three-pointer at the buzzer (thanks to some horrible defense by Houston’s Chandler Parsons) to win the game 99-98. Lillard became the first player since John Stockton in 1997 to knock down the game-winning shot to win a series. You have to give a lot of props to last year’s Rookie-of-the-Year for being the big play-maker at point guard. As for Aldridge, he put up monster numbers in this series against Houston. He had back-to-back 40 point games in the first two games of the series (46 and 43 respectively). Then in the next two games, he recorded consecutive double-doubles and then in Game 6, he scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. He is third in the postseason in points per game with 29.8. LeBron James leads the postseason with 30 per game.

Lastly, there was San Antonio knocking off the Dallas Mavericks 119-96 and the Brooklyn Nets defeating the Toronto Raptors 104-103 in an overall thrilling series. Brooklyn will face the Miami Heat Tuesday at 7 p.m. while the Spurs will battle the Trail Blazers the same night at 9:30 p.m. The first round of the NBA playoffs was something to behold. A lot of Game Sevens and a whole lot of fun. This second round will prove to be more exciting with teams starting to lock on to that championship.