Andrew Nicholson tries to find niche in Orlando #Bonnies

By Aime Mukendi, @Sir_Aimezing

Just over a year into the NBA, Andrew Nicholson still hasn’t found his niche.

The highlight of his rookie season was playing in the Rising Stars Challenge to kickoff NBA All-Star weekend. And even though the Orlando Magic have struggled since his arrival, Nicholson is optimistic about what’s to come.

“It’s great to be here,” Nicholson said. “I’m looking forward to the future. I just want to be better the next year and keep on building.”

Since graduating from St. Bonaventure University in May 2012, the Mississauga, Ont. native has had a busy calendar; which is a reason why he enjoyed playing close to home in Toronto. Nicholson’s schedule included 75 games for the Magic, playing five Summer League games and representing Canada in the FIBA America’s Championship.

Continue reading “Andrew Nicholson tries to find niche in Orlando #Bonnies”

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Former #Bonnie Conger reflects on his basketball career post graduation

By Aime Mukendi, @Sir_Aimezing

Nearly two years after being named to the Atlantic 10 All-Championship team, Demitrius Conger’s basketball career has reached new heights.

Following Conger’s May graduation from St. Bonaventure University, he worked out for a number of NBA teams — most notably his hometown Brooklyn Nets. Despite failing to make an official roster Conger had an encouraging experience.

“It was pretty fun,” Conger said. “I got to meet and see people who are in the NBA and some of the guys I worked out with got drafted.”

Among the people Conger met was former point guard and three-time NBA champion, Sam Cassell, who he spoke with one-on-one. Conger also saw Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni and met with the first-year coach for the Nets, Jason Kidd. A few current players were also at workouts, including Brooklyn’s point guard Deron Williams.

Continue reading “Former #Bonnie Conger reflects on his basketball career post graduation”

Aime Mukendi talks to former Buffalo Bill Butch Rolle

By Aime Mukendi

Butch Rolle is a former tight end that played eight seasons in the National Football League. Rolle was a seventh-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1986 and finished his career as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. He played in the Bills’ first two Super Bowl appearances.

“It was very exciting,” Rolle said. “It’s something that every player who plays in the National Football League wants to get a chance to do. I was fortunate. It was fun watching the media. That’s the most fun part. That whole week is just a different vibe with the media and all the attention surrounding it. That’s the most memorable part.”

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Rolle played alongside Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly for five years. Although the Bills used Rolle more for his blocking, he held a streak of 10 consecutive receptions for touchdowns in 1991. He finished his career with 11 total touchdowns, but given how offenses use tight ends now his numbers would be different if he played in the league today.

“It’s bigger and faster for sure. The game has grown as far as speed and size. I think it depends on the coach, ” Rolle said. “Today tight ends are definitely a big part of the offense they’re more receivers.  I was a big strong guy and strong blocker so I would be able to use that to my advantage. I think I would have been in a better position to catch more passes in this era.”

Buffalo has not made the postseason since the 1999 season, and fans are hoping rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel can change that.

Former players like Rolle also hope Manuel can change that.

“I always look to see who they’re going to draft,” Rolle said. “A good quarterback is always well deserved and well needed. I’ll go on the record and say they haven’t had a good quarterback since my boy Jim Kelly was there. It’s hard to replace a Hall of Fame guy like that.”

Manuel is expected to start the season opener against the New England Patriots after undergoing a minor procedure on his knee for an injury suffered against the Minnesota Vikings in the third week of the preseason.

“I hope E.J. becomes healthy, so he can contribute,” Rolle said. “Quarterback is a tough position. As long as he can stay healthy and he can learn the game quick enough where he’s not making mistakes, he should be fine.”

Rolle’s favorite moment in his football career was when he received the call on draft day from the Bills.

“That was my favorite moment in sports,” Rolle said. “That’s what I worked for all my life.”

Rolle also played in the Arena Football League for a couple of years. He now coaches football at his old high school, works as a real estate agent and recently became a professional in IFBB men’s physique. Although he has kept himself busy in life after football, Rolle admits he misses the game.

“I miss the excitement of the game,” Rolle said. ” I miss the locker room, the guys joking around having fun, the crowd and going out on Sunday. I wish we could play this game until we were 50.”

mukendas11@bonaventure.edu

NBA Regular Season Awards

By Aime Mukendi, Staff Writer, @Sir_Aimezing

If I had a vote…

Sixth Man of the Year: J.R. Smith, SG New York Knicks

Stat line: 18 points per game, five rebounds per game, three assists per game

Smith averaged a career high in minutes, points and rebounds per game. He also stepped in as a replacement for Carmelo Anthony making a few game winning shots versus the Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Bobcats. He also recorded a career high eight double-doubles this season. More shots, more points, bigger impact.

Most Improved Player of the Year: James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets

Stat line: 26 points per game, six assists per game, five rebounds per game

After a disappointing NBA Finals performance as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden was traded to Houston before the season. He recorded 37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals in his first game as a Rocket. He finished fifth in the league in scoring and led the Rockets to their first playoff berth since the 2007-08 season. Harden is the second best shooting guard in the playoffs.

Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trailblazers

Stat line: 19 points per game, seven assists per game, three rebounds per game

Lillard broke Damon Stoudamire’s team record in three pointers made. He is the second player in Trailblazer history to finish a season with 1500 points and 500 assists; he is the third rookie to accomplish this in NBA history and the first since Allen Iverson in the 1996-97 season.

Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls

Stat line: 12 points per game, 11 rebounds per game, two blocks per game, one steal a game

In Derrick Rose’s absence he has become the ultimate difference maker for the Bulls. His presence in the post has been enough to help rank the Bulls third in points allowed per game this season and eighth in rebounds per game. He is the ultimate hustle player and deserves to be recognized for leading the Rose-less Bulls to the fifth seed in the playoffs.

Most Valuable Player of the Year: LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat

Stat line: 27 points per game, eight rebounds per game, seven assists per game

The only thing James had not done since joining the Heat during the regular season was to make a game winning shot. This season he made two. He shot 57 percent from the field and 41 percent from the three-point line, which both are career-highs. Six straight games with 30 points while shooting 60 percent from the field, a 27 game-winning streak and in 76 games failed to score at least 20 points just four times. Miami also has home court throughout the postseason.

Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat

Stat line: 66-16

The Heat are ranked fifth in scoring, fifth in points allowed and seventh in assists in the NBA. Miami has set a team record for wins, clinched home court throughout the postseason and have the second longest winning streak in NBA history. Miami is 8-0 without Chris Bosh in the line-up, 10-2 without Dwyane Wade in the line-up and 5-1 without LeBron James in the line-up.

All-NBA First Team:

Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard

All-NBA Second Team:

Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Brook Lopez

All-NBA Third Team:

Stephen Curry, James Harden, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Chris Bosh

All-Defensive First Team:

Chris Paul, Paul George, LeBron James, Serge Ibaka, Tim Duncan

All-Defensive Second Team:

Mike Conley Jr., Dwayne Wade, Andre Iguodala, Larry Sanders, Dwight Howard

All-Rookie First Team:

Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond

All-Rookie Second Team:

Pablo Prigioni, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, Jonas Valanciunas

NBA: Posey Discusses Career

[Photo courtesy of sportsofboston.com]

By Aime Mukendi, staff writer, @sir_aimezing 

James Posey is an NBA veteran who has had success at all stops during his career, but as the season comes to an end, he is still without a team.

He played a major role in helping the Memphis Grizzlies make their first postseason appearance in 2004, stood by the Big three in Boston as they won the 2008 NBA championship and contributed to the Miami Heat’s first NBA championship run in 2006. 

A 12-year veteran, his most recent employment came with the Indiana Pacers.

Posey was drafted in 1999 by the Denver Nuggets and avoided the only lockout in NBA history until this season.

One of the additions to the Collective Bargaining Agreement which helped end the lockout was the new Amnesty Clause. This clause allows for a team to release a player and not have his contract count towards their cap space while still paying the player. 

The Indiana Pacers used this clause on James Posey during the shortened offseason making him a free agent.

“Money wise it was a blessing,” Posey said. “Right now I’ve just been working out. I can get a call any day.”

Posey explained he had to acclimate himself to a lesser role with the Pacers.

“In Indiana it was a tough situation,” he said. “They wanted to go young. It was tough but I understood, I wouldn’t want to be in that situation again.”

Teams have made no offers to Posey but he has received a few calls.

“I have gotten phone calls but at the end of the day with anything you hear it’s all talk until things actually happen,” he said on his free agent status.

As a former NBA Champion, Posey says he would prefer a chance at another ring rather then being a mentor on a young team.

“At the end of the day I still want to play,” he said. ” At this point of my career I would like to be on a more veteran orientated team, [where] it’s all about winning.”

During the interview Posey reminisced about his career. He talked about the best teams he played for. 

He mentioned the 2004 Memphis Grizzlies that was coached by Hubie Brown, where he played with Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Bo Outlaw, Earl Watson and Jayson Williams and the 2006 Miami Heat team coached by Pat Riley, where he played with veterans Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, Antoine Walker and star Dwayne Wade. 

He also made sure to mention his time spent with the Big Three of the Boston Celtics.

“Those three teams were special in different ways,” he said.

He shared how each team had different expectations and had different ways of accomplishing their goals. In Memphis it was the hard work in practice, Miami had to meet expectations due to all the big name players, and in Boston it was hard work and camaraderie.

Posey also spoke about how players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen asked him what they needed to do to be like the 2006 Miami Heat team or even be better than that team.

“Those guys with all the accolades to actually listen to me with some of the things I had to say regarding practice or just how we played went a long away,” he said of his time in Boston.

Posey also praised the intensity that Kevin Garnett brought to each practice, which transferred to the games, and helped bring a championship to Boston for the first time since Larry Bird’s Celtics won in 1986. 

“He’s paid $100 million and when I say he’s hard in practice like it’s a game that’s what he does. He don’t slack off.” Posey said about Garnett’s competitiveness.

Posey also shared the methods that Pat Riley often used to win in Miami. 

” For me it was a great experience. There was no bad blood or beef between me and Pat Riley it was all about winning,” he said. “When I had to miss those games it was a tough pill to swallow. So it was like now I’m the skape goat, blame me for this and that. That’s just another one of his tactics. He’s known to have guys walking on egg-shells. He’s like God walking around there.” 

Posey weighed in on the ultimate question as well — who is better LeBron or Kobe? 

“I wouldn’t mind playing with LeBron James. He plays the game the right way. He’s very unselfish as a star player like KG. As far as skill set I gotta go with Kobe he’s more polished as a player. He [Kobe} is the more complete player,” was his answer.

Posey said he was able to sustain his career by working hard, something others could learn from.

” I been blessed injury-wise I didn’t have any major injuries. I took care of my body [and] prepared for the season. I accepted [my] role and did it the best I could,” Posey said.

mukendas11@bonaventure.edu

NBA: The Lockout Hurts

[Photo courtesy of espn.com]

By Aime Mukendi, staff writer, @sir_aimezing 

The NBA lockout may have been the scariest moment of time for small-market NBA teams, die-hard fans and LeBron James.  

 The fear of not having a season put companies such as Nike, Adidas and television affiliates such as ESPN and NBA-TV in danger of losing millions of dollars.

But when the lockout ended, the excitement and anticipation for the NBA season had risen to unheard of levels.

Workers who depend on the NBA for an income were extremely happy that the season although shortened, would be played and the players were relieved that they wouldn’t have to resort to pick-up games for an entire season.

But there was one major problem with a shortened season.

A shortened season equals rushed training camps, minimized free agency period, less practice time and a grueling week-to-week schedule. 

Teams with youth would suffer from the lack of practice while older teams would struggle to maintain consistency and health with a higher frequency of games.

NBA personality and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley has been vocal about his feelings on the shortened season.

“I want to apologize to the fans,” he said. “I cannot believe how bad the NBA is right now. I’m embarrassed about the product we’re putting out there right now.”

He is right.

The game has been sloppy and teams are not playing as well as they previously had.

There are seven teams averaging 90 or fewer points per game this season. Last year the lowest by any team was 91.9 points per game.

During the 2010-2011 NBA season teams averaged 99.6 points per game, shot 45.9 percent from the field, 76.3 percent from the free throw line,and 35.8 percent from the three-point line.

All numbers have decreased through the 2011-2012 season.

Teams are averaging 94.6 points per game, shooting 44.4 percent from the field, 74.5 percent from the free throw line and 34.4 percent from the three-point line.

The quality of basketball is down.

Yet there are some pros.

The intensity of defense has increased as each team realizes that in order to win they must play consistent defense and a team who might have struggled for much of the season can make a run at the Larry O’Brien Trophy come mid-June. 

For instance, a team like the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers can take a page out of the New York Giants Super Bowl pamphlet by catching fire late in the season, ending in a title run.

But Barkley says the poor level of play cannot be attributed to just the lockout.

“They have all built in excuses about it’s the lockout,” he said. “Let me tell you something if these teams played once a week they would still suck.”

However, Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale and New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni have both expressed that many issues that they have found in games are hard to correct when practice time is rare.

Coaches are now having to muster up better game plans and strategies in shorter times, while players must use travel time to evaluate their play on film.

The lockout has shown the huge difference between the elite superstars in the league and the guys who have to battle to make a roster on a daily basis.

Charles Barkley is correct in stating how bad the NBA has been this season but the real question now is do the players realize how bad they have played thus far?

Or has sloppy ball become the new NBA trend?

mukendas11@bonaventure.edu