Harper Making Curry-like Ascension to the Top

(Photo via washington.cbslocal.com)

We are only about 15 games into the regular season, but already, we are seeing numerous stars in the MLB come into the league and dominate. With former superstars like David Ortiz, Ichiro, Albert Pujols, etc. that are likely heading to their final at-bats in this league, the MLB is ready to usher in a new age of talent and excitement to the game. And no star shines brighter than Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

Harper, 23, was first recognized back in his high school days in Las Vegas, Nevada. Even by age 19, scouts and executives knew that this player was something special. He ended up getting drafted by the lonely Nationals 1st overall in the 2010 draft. Since then, Harper has become the youngest position player to ever make an all-star team, was the 2012 rookie of the year, and became the youngest MVP winner in league history. In his breakout 2015 MVP season, Harper batted .330 with 42 homers and 99 RBIs. But his greatness doesn’t stop there…

Bryce Harper has started his 2016 season even stronger than last year. In just 13 games, Harper has hit 7 HR, to go along with 20 RBIs, and has led his Nationals to the second-best record in the league (they are only a ½ game behind the Cubs). Clearly, Harper is ascending at an incredibly fast pace. He looks poised for the same kind of performance leap that Stephen Curry saw from last year’s MVP season to this year.

Both Harper and Curry have become the faces of their respective leagues, and both are only going to get better. While Steph has transcended the way the game is played, with more emphasis on dribbling and outside shooting, Harper has also become a trailblazer for how our national pastime is played. He is adding a jolt to this slow-paced game, making it more exciting and enjoyable for both players and fans alike. He has taken the throne atop the rest of the league’s superstars, just like Curry did, bypassing King James in the process.

It might be too early to call, but Harper looks well on his way to another MVP title this year. What remains to be seen is if his Nationals squad has the pieces to contend for a title. They always seem to look good on paper, but tend to fizzle in performance near the end of the year, or just simply underachieve. But what I know for certain is that whatever the Nationals hope to achieve over the next few years, they will have to rely on the 23 year old prodigy to get them there.

– J. Yellin

Curry vs. World

(Photo via totalprosports.com)

Everyone is all hyped up about the recent comments from basketball great, Oscar Robertson. People are appalled that the legend is not buying Curry’s stock. Every great player is going to have what we’ve labeled as “haters.” Is he right though?

It’s pretty hard to keep surprising people when you constantly raise the bar night after night. However, even with breaking records at an exponential rate, Curry is doing just that. I’m just going to say it, Curry is the real deal. He is quite possibly the greatest shooter we will ever see. He can create space and his release is so quick that by the time you realized you lost him, it’s already too late. On the other hand, I actually hear where the Curry critics are coming from. Before you stop reading, hear me out.

Critics should not really be targeting an individual, however, you need to question the league itself and the way games are officiated. Old players are coming off like that old man (Robertson)  yelling at the young kids (the Warriors) to get off his lawn. But, back in the day, basketball was a physical sport with big men going at it at both ends of the floor. Nowadays, I feel like the NBA is a few whistles away from soccer.

That’s why older players are saying that the all stars of today couldn’t compete back then. And you kind of have to respect that. If the Warriors took a time machine back to play The Bad Boys of Detroit in their hay day, then lookout. The refs in the 80’s and 90’s let the players play. I think were missing that today, but that’s a whole debate on its own.

Michael’s Bulls vs. Today’s Warriors

-Today’s Refs, Warriors win due to their ability to spread the floor and knock down threes.

-Old School Rules, Bulls win due to the physicality and dominance down low.

Bottom Line: The Warriors are one of the greatest team of all time. However, do to different rules and officiating it is impossible to compare teams from different eras. It depends on the rules they are playing by.

– R. Ilardi

NBA Finals Simulation

Not that it comes as much of a shock, but we believe the Golden State Warriors will be facing off against Lebron James and the Cavs. Here’s how What If Sports simulator has it going down. (Sorry CFerg)

Game 1

CLE  87     @     GSW  96

Game 2

CLE  84     @     GSW  105

Game 3

GSW  100     @     CLE  102

Game 4

GSW  102     @     CLE  90

Game 5

CLE  96     @     GSW 116

Is LeBron James a Coach Killer?

(Photo via fansided.com)

A Coaching Injustice

With the recent firing of Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, many are left to wonder why a coach sitting atop the eastern conference halfway through the season is being handed a “pink-slip”.  After coming off an NBA Finals appearance in just his first year as head coach, Blatt had to game plan against the league’s MVP, Steph Curry, and an extremely talented Golden State Warriors roster.  Without his own all-star point guard, Kyrie Irving, and power forward, Kevin Love, the Cavs went 6 games with the Warriors, eventually losing the NBA Finals game 6 on their home floor.  Reason for firing?  Not yet.

After opening the 2015-2016 season with 30 wins and 11 losses, Cleveland believed that it was somehow time for a coaching change.  How does a coach with a winning percentage above .500, and in first place in the Eastern Conference, get fired after a year and a half.  Multiple media outlets suggest that coach Blatt did not have the ear of LeBron James and therefore was not fit to coach “his” team.  The Cavaliers promoted their associate head coach and two time NBA champion, Tyronn Lue, to take over for Blatt.  Some may not be able to read between the lines, but to me, if Blatt was indeed African American and shared the brotherhood of the NBA with LeBron, Blatt would not be standing in the unemployment line.

For example, Blatt played his college basketball in the Ivy League, at Princeton, and did most of his coaching overseas. He does not have more than a year and a half of NBA coaching experience, and was hired well before LeBron was a part of the Cavaliers. When Blatt was hired by the Cavaliers, he was handed a roster with many young players, like Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennet, and already had a star player in Kyrie Irving. By the time his first season was starting, LeBron James and Kevin Love had been added to the team, while getting rid of one of the best looking young guards in the game, Andrew Wiggins. Blatt’s job was completely reconstructed when LeBron announced he would be returning to Cleveland, as now Blatt would become more of a puppet in LeBron’s bigger picture for this Cleveland team.

While taking to social media, James calls the criticism of him being a coach killer unfair and has had nothing but respect for his coaches. He denies having anything to do with Blatt being fired, but I struggle to believe that Cleveland made the decision to fire their 30-11 head coach, without consulting the greatest player in the world. After all, wherever there is smoke, there is fire.  In the words of Ryan Ilardi, “a guilty bird sings.”

– J. Tennent

 

Curry Ruining the Game?

(Photo via cbssports.com)

Stephen Curry, the reigning MVP of the NBA, is playing at an unprecedented level. His consistency in making shots with such high level of difficulty has made him one of the stars of the league. With great teammates around him, such as Draymond Green having a breakout year of his own, Stephen Curry is following up his MVP season with quite possibly an even better one. Through 44 games, Curry has made over 200 3-pointers, while still being top 5 in 3-point percentage.

During Curry’s MVP season last year, former Golden State Warrior coach Mark Jackson brought up an interesting thought, suggesting that Curry may be “hurting” the game of basketball with his new play style. Jackson explained his thought, saying that younger generations of basketball players are running straight to the 3-point line and not appreciating everything that basketball has to offer. Jackson also said, “You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of your game. People think that he’s just a knockdown shooter. That’s not why he’s the MVP. He’s a complete basketball player.”

While I understand the point Jackson is making, I completely disagree. Basketball continues to change over time, and Stephen Curry is not the only player influencing the change in basketball that is going on today. Forty years ago, you wouldn’t even see a 3-point line on a basketball court. But nowadays, 3-pointers are one of the biggest aspects of the game. Being able to make 3-pointers consistently is important as a player, but even more important for a team as a whole.

Curry is playing better than any player in the league right now, and it isn’t a hard case to argue. His high paced, run-and-gun play style is fun for any fan to watch. Not only is Curry playing at a high level, but his team mates are also playing exceptionally well, as they see their team sitting at 40-4 just over halfway through the regular season. With a San Antonio Spurs team that has plenty of talent and years of playoff experience sitting just a few games behind the Warriors, Golden State needs to continue to play at this high level to get out of the stacked western conference, let alone win another championship.

While winning back-to-back championships is a very hard thing to do, I believe the Warriors are poised two win their second title in as many years. With the emergence of Draymond Green who has become one of the best all-around players in the league, I believe the Warriors are playing better than ever, and may not even be at their best yet. As Klay Thompson continues to have another strong scoring year, and key role players like Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes continue their strong play, the Warriors are the most complete team in the NBA, and the only one that nobody has found a way to stop.

– J. Horrigan