The San Antonio Spurs are in Brooklyn tonight taking on the Nets. The Spurs come into the game at 34-9 and sit in second place in the western conference. The Nets are 9-34 and looking towards the future with some young assets.
Before the game, Black Sports Online sat down with the reigning 2x defensive player of the year.
Jarod Hector: Kawhi, thanks for giving us a few minutes. What’s your focus right now as we are a few weeks from the all star break?
Kawhi Leonard: Obviously we want to get over the hump. This is where guys start to get tired [physically and mentally] a bit. We just want to raise our mentality and make sure that it gets through to the entire group. We want to make sure that we keep winning and go into the break well.
JH: For you, your workload has increased this year. It was high last year, but has gone up another level. You are the man on this team. How do you prepare for that mentally? How much more taxing is it from that standpoint?
KL: I mean, it’s something that I want. I prepare my mind all summer and in previous years when I wasn’t the focal point. I just wanted to get better as a player and have an increased role. I have a great group of guys with me on the floor, and they make my job easier. Tony, Pau, Manu. A lot of vets but also some youth.
JH: It’s a Spurs thing, you guys don’t care about individual accolades because the ultimate goal is the NBA championship. But I would love to know what you think. I know you hear the chatter out there. You are a legit MVP candidate and could win it this year. What would that mean to you?
KL: It’s great. It’s a stepping stone in your career and great for your legacy while in this league. It’s a gap in your life and it would be a great accomplishment in this game. I’ve been hearing it since last year. But, like you said, it’s not about me getting that award. I would trade it in for a Larry O’brien trophy [championship] at the end of the day.
JH: And another Finals MVP…
Kawhi is a humble star in this league and is a part of this “golden age” of small forwards that we are witnessing. In speaking with him you can sense he wants to be a great player. It’s the way he carries himself and the way he works at getting better. This is a player that didn’t shoot 3’s in college and now shoots at well over 40%.
Yes, Bron and KD are the gold standard at his position, but Kawhi has a ring, a finals MVP, and is getting better. Kawhi’s name will continue to be mentioned perennially among the league’s MVP candidates. If things break right and he wins one he will certainly be appreciative, but for Kawhi it’s just part of the process.
Our thanks to Kawhi Leonard for spending a few minutes with us today.
Black Sports Online spent a few minutes with Rockets G/F Corey Brewer, pre game before his team faced the Rockets. Brewer was watching the Packers v Cowboys playoff game when I sat down and asked him a few questions.
Jarod Hector: Corey, the Rockets have won 8 of 10. You’re only a game back of the Spurs and four back of the Warriors. Are you guys pleased with being top 3 and how much are you pushing for a top 2 spot in the conference?
Corey Brewer: We’re not satisfied. We’re playing well, but we want one of those top 2 seeds. Home court advantage for as long as possible is key. We really like the way we’re playing and if we continue there is no reason we can’t get into the top 2.
JH: How has the team adjusted to year one under Mike D’Antoni? You can see how the spread pick and roll is benefiting the team on offense but, defensively things are looking better.
CB: We brought in defensive coach (associate head coach) Jeff Bzdelik and we are keying in on defense. Last year we gave up too many layups and uncontested shots. This year we are hardly doing that, if at all. We are focused and paying attention to detail.
JH: We’re at the midway point of the season. The all star game is in a few weeks. What is key during that period and the upcoming slog of the NBA season when most players can’t wait for the playoffs?
CB: The key is to get healthy. Use that time to recuperate and gear up for the stretch run. Get rest, recover both physically and mentally, because this is the heavy stretch of the season and if you want to make a late playoff run, you’ve got to be healthy.
Brewer and the Rockets have every reason to be optimistic. D’Antoni has the team playing well offensively and they can score with any team in the league. The bugaboo for the Rockets will of course be on defense and what to do when they’re playing the league’s best SF’s. The trade deadline is approaching, maybe there is a piece they can add for the stretch run. There probably isn’t any available move the Rockets can make that will solve these problems, but don’t put anything past GM Daryl Morey.
Our thanks to Corey Brewer for spending a few minutes pre-game with Black Sports Online.
Nets Caris LeVert Talks With BSO About Challenge of Guarding Harden & Ups and Downs of Being a RookieRead Now
Nets rookie SG Caris LeVert sat down with BSO following his team’s 137-112 loss against the Houston Rockets. It wasn’t an exceptional game from Caris. He played about 22 minutes, scored eight points, grabbed 2 rebounds and was a +7. As usual, his effort and intensity were high and he competed hard on the defensive end.
Jarod Hector: Caris, as a young guy in this league what goes through your mind when you know you’ve got to defend James Harden?
Caris LeVert: Honestly, I’m not thinking about it. I’m out there competing. Coach gave me the responsibility to match up with him when I was on the floor. So, I just went out there and gave it my best effort and competed hard.
JH: Tonight you played about 22 minutes how do you manage your own expectations as it relates to the fluctuating nature of playing time as a young guy in this league?
CL: You’ve got to stay ready. That’s what I try to do, prepare myself mentally and be ready, so that whenever my number is called I can go in and contribute positively to my team.
JH: Finally, the transition from college to the NBA is a difficult one. The number of games increase exponentially, you play back to backs, four games in five nights. How do you continue to improve and how do you handle losing?
CL: I don’t look at it as a negative. I love to play man. So, back to backs, or four games in five nights isn’t a negative. You can’t really prepare for the NBA, it’s such a different environment. When you get here you just have to work, and continuously improve to get better. As far as losing, it’s tough. But as a team we have to continue to compete, work and stay together.
The Rockets handed the Nets their 10th straight loss. While the playoffs are obviously not in the cards this season, the Nets can take hope with their rookie SG. LeVert is a good shooter, and has shown playmaking ability. His demeanor is excellent and you can sense he wants to be a very good player in this league. Despite the blowout loss, the team really competes hard and you can see flashes of potential. Obviously the roster needs upgrading and the team needs to figure out what it’s going to do, given it’s draft situation. But, it’s not so bleak in Brooklyn, and Caris LeVert is one of the reasons why.
Earlier today at the Sheraton Times Square hotel in NYC, Allen Iverson and former NBA players were part of a press conference, announcing the BIG 3 professional basketball league. The league is the brainchild of rapper, actor, and entertainer extraordinaire Ice Cube, and his business partner Jeff Kwatinetz.
Cube and Kwatinetz have collaborated together in the entertainment field and wanted to develop a project based around their mutual love for basketball. The two men decided to create a professional basketball league with former NBA stars and players they felt still had a desire to play at a high level. Speaking at this morning’s press conference Ice Cube said:
It’s [not fun] to see your favorite players retire. Especially when you know they still got game. My father always told me, ‘if you don’t think big, you’ll always be small.’ So, we came up with a big idea to bring a style of basketball to the people that I grew up playing and watching. Three on three basketball.
Kwatinetz echoed Cubes statements, and added:
Three on three basketball is the most played sport in the world. It is a beloved form of basketball that really highlights a player’s skills and abilities.
This is no fly by night pick up game league. Cube and Kwatinetz spent a year and a half researching consumer demand for basketball and have spent countless sessions with former players, coaches and officials on the viability of another professional basketball league. The result is the BIG 3.
The league already boasts some big names familiar to NBA fans, who were present at today’s press conference including player/coach Iverson, Kenyon Martin, and Rashard Lewis. Additional players that have committed include: Chauncey Billups, Jason Williams, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, and Gary Payton.
The press conference had the typical “debut announcement” level excitement and Cube and Kwatinetz are committed to making the league work. For their part the players too were excited, sharing good natured jokes and discussing how much they are looking forward to competing.
Cube and Kwatinetz, were adamant about the fact that the BIG 3 is not here to compete with the NBA. This is a league with retired players that want to lace it up once per week and compete in a high level, three on three half-court games with their peers.
Kwatinetz was coy about the platforms the league’s games will be broadcasted on but said, “We want to be the most connected league, while maximizing revenue and the player and fan experience.” He also added the games will be televised and they are in negotiations with networks.
Besides the ticket revenue, the distribution platforms are where the league has a real opportunity to capitalize. They could partner with the NBA and its network; they could opt for the traditional cable or network route. Then there is also the possibility of partnering with a subscription streaming service. If managed correctly it would allow the league to flourish and give it a lengthy shelf life. How great would it be, knowing that after guys like Bron and KD retire from the NBA, you could still see them battle it out in a three on three league?
This is a great opportunity for these former NBA guys to keep their competitive juices flowing and also give people in their lives who have never seen them play, a chance to see they can still play. During the press conference Rashard Lewis joked, his daughter keeps asking him to show her that he can play and he’s excited that he now can.
Former NBA player and Deputy Executive Director of the Players Association, Roger Mason Jr., will serve as the Commissioner and league President. The league will be composed of eight teams, five players each, one head coach and one assistant coach. All coaches will be former NBA players.
The regular season will begin on June 24th and end on August 12th. Playoff games will be August 19th and 26th. Teams will play one game per week on Saturday with all four games taking place in the same venue on the same day. The BIG 3 will also introduce the 4-point shot via three 4-point circles beyond the 3-point line.
The End of an Era: President Obama to Address the Nation in Farewell Speech From ChicagoRead Now
Roughly eighteen days remain in the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama II. Today the White House announced, President Obama will deliver his farewell address to the nation from his hometown of Chicago. The remarks will take place at McCormick Place on January 10th and admission is free. Tickets are being released on January 7th and available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Much like his victory speech in Grant Park in 2008 and subsequent inauguration in 2009 this will be a must see event. President Obama is the first Black Commander in Chief in the history of the United States, which in and of itself is something. His remarks, which he says are in the early draft process, will be a celebration of the ways the country has changed “for the better” over the past eight years. President Obama will also “offer some thoughts” on how we as a nation can continue to progress in the years ahead.
No doubt it will be passionate and stirring as President Obama is one of the great orators the world has ever produced. Check the receipts. His remarks will be filled with hope and optimism because that’s who this son of a Black Kenyan economist and White American anthropologist is. President Obama is one of the most optimistic politicians to ever be elected to public office. His belief in the goodness within his fellow man is what allowed him to navigate the difficulties of the presidency with grace, class and dignity like no other President before. In recent comments to the media, President Obama said:
Since 2009, we’ve faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger. That’s because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding—our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better.
Coming off one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent memory and as we embark on the New Year and a new presidency, we should look back and think about the Barack Hussein Obama II era.
The election and re-election of President Obama did not signify the dawn of a post racial nation. It caused us to reckon with this nation’s sinful and abhorrent past. The behavior of this nation’s citizens before, during and after the recent election shined a light on that. No, we are not in a post racial America. We live in a nation still very much governed and affected by race. The rise of Barack Hussein Obama II proved something that has always been true. A truly exceptional Black person can rise above the mountains of inherent, systemic and systematic racist forces designed to deny progress and even ascend to the highest office in the land. But, he is the exception not the rule. While many would argue we live in a better world, I would urge caution. Let’s judge if we are truly in a better world when we can see improvements and progress among everyday people.