Unity, Teamwork, and Trust Help Warriors Advance

 

USP NBA: PLAYOFFS-OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER AT GOLDEN S BKN USA CA

Credit: USA Today

As the final buzzer sounded, superstars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green walked with their teammates to the visitor locker room, dejected, after receiving a 118-94 drubbing at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It seemed all was lost for the defending champs. They had dropped 3 of the first 4 games of the series to Oklahoma City, including losing by a combined 52 points away from home.

Lose one more game, and everyone would remember the winning-est team in NBA history as chokers, as a team that couldn’t finish what they started.

If there was any solace to the situation, the Warriors would be able to play at home for the next game. But then, if they won, they would have to return to OKC.

“This is a tough situation to be in, but the series isn’t over,” Curry said, according to ESPN.com.

And the series wasn’t over. Golden State responded by winning 120-111 Thursday night. After hitting a layup that put the Warriors up 10 with a minute remaining, Curry ran up the court yelling, “We ain’t going home! We ain’t going home!”

Then they did Saturday what they couldn’t do before, they won in OKC, defeating the Thunder 108-101 in an exciting Game 6, in which the Warriors outscored the Thunder 19-5 in the closing minutes.

According to the San Francisco Gate, Game 7 received the highest ratings of any NBA game in history. All eyes were turned to watch to see if the Warriors could come back from the brink of elimination.

The Warriors did not disappoint. Thompson, after missing his first seven shots, finished with 21 points and shot over 50 percent from three point range.

Curry scored 36 points and broke another record. He hit 32 three pointers in the series, a playoff record. And, oh yeah, Thompson hit 30, which was also broke the previous record.

The Warriors had done what only 9 teams had done previously in the history of the NBA, and that was come back and win a 7 game series after being down 3-1. How was this possible for a team that was absolutely dominated in games 3 and 4?

The reason why became apparent in game 7. The Thunder, on one hand, looked frustrated and seemed to be arguing and pointing fingers.

The Warriors, on the other hand, were encouraging and strategizing together. There was a sense of unity and teamwork with Golden State, while OKC seemed to go into panic mode.

This sense of unity and trust seemed to be felt not only between the players, but head coach Steve Kerr as well. Holding a 6 point lead late in the 3rd quarter, Kerr put in backups Leandro Barbosa and Anderson Varejao, to give the starters much needed rest.

Barbosa and Varejao responded with a combined 4 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, and some crucial defensive stops. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan went only 2 deep in the bench with Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters, electing to play 4 of his starters for 39, 43, 45, and 46 minutes.

Now the Warriors move on to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals, beginning Thursday night, a rematch of last years finals. Last year, the Warriors overcame a 2-1 series deficit to the Cavs to win the NBA finals.

Should the Warriors fall back down in the finals, the memory of sitting in the locker room in Oklahoma City, dejected, on the brink of elimination, and how they responded to that situation, could prove the difference in determining the NBA Champions.

 

Steph vs Russ

This time a week ago, there was much discussion on Steph Curry vs Russell Westbrook as the MVP of the NBA. Both were point guards, both all-stars and leaders on their teams.

Curry was the presumed MVP nearly the entire season, after accomplishing feat after feat, hitting dagger after dagger to win games. But Westbrook quietly recorded over 30 triple-doubles, an incredible stat, and has led his team to the Western Conference Finals, upsetting the Spurs in 6 games.

This led to quite the discussion on who should win MVP this season. Steph Curry was unanimously picked last week as the league MVP, leading to a lot of backlash from fans.

However, Westbrook didn’t even finish second in the MVP voting. According to PalmBeachPost.com, Westbrook finished 3rd behind Kawhi Leonard.

So was Curry deservedly the MVP? Or did Westbrook get swindled from his MVP bid due to the success of the Golden State Warriors? Let’s take a look.

All stats for Curry and Westbrook were found on ESPN.com.

Curry played in 79 out of 82 games and averaged 32 minutes per game. He shot 50% from the field, and 45% from 3 point range. Pretty good for a point guard.

Curry was basically money from the foul line, hitting 90% of his free throws, which averages 1 miss every other game. That is ridiculous.

Ultimately he averaged out to 30.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, and 6.7 assists per game. Very good numbers, but even more impressive when looking at the season totals.

Curry accounted for 2375 points this season, and hit an insane 402 three point shots, demolishing his previous NBA record of 286. It is likely this record will never be broken.

Westbrook didn’t have a score-a-thon like Curry, but his all around game has proven better. He played 80 out of 82 games, and averaged 34 minutes a game.

He shot 45% from the field and 30% from 3 point range, solid but somewhat average compared to Curry.

Westbrook shot 80% from the free throw line, which is about 3 misses in every 2 games. Still very good, but not as impressive as Curry.

However, here is where the stat line gets impressive, Westbrook put up 23.5 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and 10.4 assists per game. That’s right, he averaged a double-double.

A lot of players don’t average 10.4 POINTS in a game, let alone assists. Westbrook hasn’t needed to be the one to score all the points, he has teammates that he can distribute to, who can make clutch shots.

The verdict: While Westbrook had an impressive overall stat line, Curry still had solid numbers all around, but in addition, he shot lights out all season long. While a very convincing case can be made for Westbrook, Steph Curry’s value to his team is very tangible. When he went down to injury, his team lost 2 games in 2 weeks, after losing 9 for the entire season.

Westbrook’s team, the Thunder, have players like Kevin Durant who can take over when Westbrook is out, while the Warriors seem to have lost a leader on the court. Whatever the case may be, these are both great players who play on great teams.

Fortunately for us, we get to watch these two battle it out in the Western Conference Finals. This should be fun.

Steph Curry

OK, so, this isn’t going to be a full blog post everybody, but I just have to say something about this.

Steph Curry started the night on the bench for the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 against the Portland Trailblazers. It was supposed to be an easy night for him as he was still recovering from an injury.

Well, starter Shaun Livingston get two technical fouls in the first half and is ejected from the game. Suddenly Steph Curry has to play or else the team does not have a true point guard.

So still recovering from injury Steph Curry scores 13 points in the first 36 minutes, a solid night. Then he woke up in the 4th quarter. He scored 10 points in the final 12 minutes and led the team from a double digit deficit to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Then what did he do? He only scored 17 straight points in OT, which is only 5 minutes long, keep in mind. He finished the game with 40 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists.

After draining a 3 in OT, Curry yelled to the crowd, “I’m back! I’m back!” according to ESPN.com. My whole apartment was jumping up and down screaming the same exact thing after the game.

In coach Steve Kerr’s post-game press conference, he opened up simply stating that Steph Curry would start Wednesday. Was that even a hard decision for Coach Kerr?

Sexual Assault and College Athletics

Baylor University, Vanderbilt University, and The University of Tennessee. These high profile universities are highly regarded and well known for their academic as well as athletic achievements throughout their lifetimes.

But more recently, these schools have been thrown into a more negative light, regarding the treatment of women on their campuses. Multiple reports have come out in recent years regarding the sexual assault of women by student athletes.

Vanderbilt University was enjoying a very successful era for their football program, something that is not very common for the school. Head Coach James Franklin was accomplishing what had not been done in decades for the football program. But at what cost?

In June of 2013, a woman was drugged and raped by four football players, each taking turns, and one video taping the whole incident. They were dismissed from the team and later arrested and charged with aggravated rape among other charges. They all are on trial awaiting prosecution.

Recently, a lawsuit has been filed against Baylor University for, “not [taking] any action whatsoever to investigate,” her sexual assault claim as a freshman, according to sportingnews.com. She claims the school did not offer her academic support, as her grades suffered and eventually was on academic probation and lost her scholarship. She left Baylor in 2013.

In late 2014, Michael Williams and A.J. Johnson, football players for the University of Tennessee, were charged with aggravated rape of a female student. The university has also had some negative light shed on it in the past 3 or 4 months.

Eight Jane Does filed a lawsuit against the university in February, 7 of which claiming to have been sexually assaulted by student athletes, and that the university promoted a culture of tolerance towards student athletes alleged of sexual assault. Incidents listed in the lawsuit consist of a timeline dating back to an incident involving Peyton Manning mooning a trainer in 1997, up to as recently as February of this year.

I do not mean to debate the truthfulness of these claims in this post, rather to discuss these occurrences from a different angle: Why? Why so many incidents in the previous years involving student athletes and sexual assault?

Once again, I don’t want to presume innocence or guilt to the accused unless a ruling has been given in a court of law. So I will try to present this in the most unbiased way possible.

As a fan of the University of Tennessee athletic program, it is my initial reaction to want to defend the student athlete of my school, because I don’t want to believe that the people I root for and support assault women. As Dr. Clair Walsh, former director of the sexual assault recovery program at the University of Florida said,“The entire group will fall behind the accused and deny an offense has been committed. The entire community associated with this group will come to its defense. In every single case they will deny there was gang rape but that there was group sex.” However, one had to admit, with so many claims there has to be some merit.

So why is there a correlation between college athletes and sexual assault? Some would argue the players feel a sense of entitlement and feel like they are untouchable, which would arise from being star athletes their entire life and getting typically whatever they want. Ken Dryden, a Hall of Fame NHL goalie and now lawyer stated, “It’s really a sense of power that comes from specialness … anyone who finds himself at the center of the world [he’s] in has a sense of impunity.”

I found a couple really good articles that talk some more about this topic, one at pact5.org and one at nytimes.com. To sum them up, there are multiple reasons athletes commit sexual assault, ranging from peer pressure, to the way women are viewed in our society, as rewards or trophies.

As for me, I am ashamed of the way our society is headed. Chivalry and respect for women sometimes feels like it is completely gone from society, and it is so sad to see our morals crumble. Assuming that just even some of the allegations are true, we see so many lives effected and people, real people, who are victims of rape and other sexual crimes, suffer.

So what now? What can we do about these issues that face us now? From my experience, those who have influenced me in my life have set examples on how to live and how to act. We all have circles of influence in our own lives, we have people that look up to and respect us, and we can use our examples of making the right decisions and treating others with respect to help others see a better, more moral way.

I know this is just a humble opinion of a college student in Idaho, just one of 8 billion voices in the world, but this is an issue that means a lot to me, and I hope maybe something I have said can help make somebody better, or make the difference in one life. Thank you all for reading, pass it on to others.