More than 30 minutes after his teammates had departed the Los Angeles Lakers’ locker room at Philips Arena in Atlanta Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant finally emerged from the training area, walking gingerly and looking angry.It was more than the fact that his team that is vying for a Western Conference playoff spot lost to the Hawks, who played without injured starters Jeff Teague and Josh Smith. It was more than about being injured on the potential game-tying shot attempt. It was how he was and who caused the future Hall of Famer’s pain.“I can’t get my mind past the fact that I got to wait a year to get revenge,” said Bryant, who claimed Jones invaded his space when he went up for a baseline 14-footer that would have tied the game in the final seconds. Bryant came down on Jones’ foot, turning his left ankle.He had x-rays taken after the Hawks’ 96-92 victory; results were negative. He was listed as out indefinitely. But Bryant’s pain tolerance level and will to play is virtually unprecedented.Asked if he thought Jones intentionally tried to hurt him, Bryant said: “I don’t ever want to put that on somebody, I really don’t. I just think players need to be made conscious of it and I think officials need to protect shooters. Period.”It had to increase Bryant’s angst that it was Jones at the center of this situation, for it was Jones who was called for a flagrant foul for intentionally tripping Bryant in Game 4 of the 2009 Western Conference finals when he played for the Denver Nuggets.Bryant, who erupted for 20 points in the third quarter but otherwise had a horrible shooting night (31 points on 11-for-33 shooing), said: “As defensive players, you can contest shots, but you can’t walk underneath players. That’s dangerous for the shooter.”Bryant later added on Twitter: “#dangerousplay that should have been called. Period.”Jones responded via Twitter: “Tape doesn’t lie. Ankle was turned on the floor after the leg kick out that knocked him off balance. I would never try to hurt the man.He later added: “Leg kick that makes contact with a defensive player is an offense foul. Period. The nba changed that rule 2 yrs ago. Stop it!”Bryant drew comparisons of former NBA player Jalen Rose’s similar maneuver in 2000 where he moved in when Bryant was airborne, causing Bryant to land on his foot and turn his ankle. “He Jalen Rose’d me,” Bryant said of Jones on Wednesday night.Rose admitted on “The Jalen Rose Show,” a podcast on ESPN.com’s Grantland Network, back in September that he purposely stepped under Bryant. “I can’t say that it was an accident,” Rose said.
OAKLAND, Calif. — LeBron James’s relative solo act has been discussed at length this postseason. But for how much his showings set him apart from his team, there’s an argument to be made that no Cavalier feels more alone than Kevin Love.And on Sunday night, Love was made to feel like he was on an island again and again and again — maybe a dozen times in all. In each instance, Stephen Curry — a two-time MVP and the greatest shooter on the planet — had Love right where he wanted him: By himself, with no help defender in sight, giving the Golden State star the time and space to dissect him off the dribble to the tune of 33 points and a finals-record nine 3-pointers. The lights-out shooting helped spur the Warriors to a 2-0 edge in the best-of-seven series, which now heads to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday.Certain shots will understandably garner the majority of the attention — particularly this nearly 30-foot circus shot to beat the shot clock early in the fourth that provided Golden State enormous momentum as Cleveland was attempting to make one final push. But beneath the surface, Curry is giving the troubled Cavs defense fits, in part because of what he and Klay Thompson do better than anyone else: move without the ball to free themselves for open shots.In particular, Curry has played a mix of both Hot Potato and Tag, essentially setting up give-and-go plays with his teammates by passing them the ball with the hope and intention of getting it back after he has sprinted to an open spot behind the 3-point line. The style of play makes him an even more challenging cover for the 29th-ranked Cleveland defense, not only because of the occasional confusion it brings about, but also because Curry’s teammates will occasionally use his give-and-go sequences as an opportunity to screen for him in the corner.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/passback1.mp400:0000:0000:10Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/passback2.mp400:0000:0000:11Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.“It’s tough — really tough — to guard Steph anywhere out there on the floor because he’s just so good at finding himself open,” Love said after the game, in which Curry shot a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point range in the final period.Curry’s ability to shake free was far from the only thing that explained Golden State’s victory. The Warriors, who’ve struggled at times with focus, jumped out to a 15-6 run to start the game and appeared locked in from the outset in the wire-to-wire victory. They made a point of being more aggressive defensively with James after his stellar Game 1 and sought to force the ball out of his hands by occasionally sending a second man at him. And perhaps most noteworthy: Curry’s co-stars, Thompson and Kevin Durant, were even more efficient than Curry himself, with Durant scoring 26 points on just 14 shots and Thompson getting 20 on 13 shot attempts.Yet the performance — with the sprint-and-shoot element of Curry’s game coming alive — highlights something meaningful about the Warriors. After looking stagnant and vulnerable at times on offense in its seven-game bout with the Houston Rockets, Golden State finally appears to resemble itself again — even without injured forward Andre Iguodala, whose presence as a secondary ballhandler has been missed on that end.Since Game 6 of the Houston series, Curry has shot 5-of-9 on give-and-go 3-point tries. By contrast, he has shot just 3-of-18 on all other catch-and-shoot looks from deep, according to analyst Matt Williams with ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. (Worth noting: Curry is getting almost an extra half-foot on average between him and his nearest defender when his shot stems from a give-and-go.)Curry noted Sunday that the sprint-and-shoot strategy is one that he has used for a while now. “We’ve been doing that for a long time — it’s just that everything’s under a microscope now in the playoffs,” said Curry, who’s building a case to win his first NBA Finals MVP. “With how teams guard us with all their switching and things like that, you’ve got to find ways to create space.”That space often comes in the form of a big like Love or Clint Capela lacking the footspeed necessary to track Curry all the way back out to the 3-point line after cutting through the paint. This — and Curry’s hesitation moves into the paint, which defenders have to honor to avoid him getting off 3-point attempts — is how Golden State makes teams pay for perimeter switches.And on Sunday, it resulted in Curry making Love and Larry Nance Jr. look like bad stuntmen — they went lunging and flying after the Warriors guard when he broke free in the short corner.So, sure: The Cavaliers might be able to take some solace in the idea of going back home for Games 3 and 4. But unless they can find a way to bottle up Curry and the rediscovered Warriors offense, even home-court advantage may not be enough to make this a series again.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
By MARK F. GRAY, Special to the AFROIn the second act of an Emmy Award winning career former, WUSA TV-9 sports anchor Dave Owens is working with high school students in Prince George’s County on a video project that is grooming a new generation of high school broadcast journalists by producing a weekly show.Through the lens of their peers, stories of P.G. County student-athletes are brought into focus weekly with the web based series “PG-13.” Viewers are taken behind the scenes while students are preparing for and competing in athletic events throughout the county.Former, WUSA TV-9 sports anchor Dave Owens. (Courtesy Photo)This marks the third consecutive year that Owens will advise students. The students are developing their own style of short form programming.These vignettes, between four and seven minutes long, allow the students to go in depth for more than just scores and highlights from the past week’s games. Owens is developing the lost art of broadcast storytelling in students who are accustomed to fast pace shock value content on the Internet.“Our ability to produce longer form pieces allows viewers to see the depth and multi-dimensions of our subjects, giving them a deeper understanding and appreciation of their experiences,” Owens tells the AFRO.The show is a public private partnership between Owens’ company – Visionary Media Productions – and Prince George’s County Public Schools. Last year they produced 25 episodes chronicling fall and winter sports. The students produced 13 football episodes featuring Wise High School’s run at a perfect season. They also produced an episode on Eleanor Roosevelt’s tradition of excellence in class and in competition and the grassroots restart of the Bladensburg athletic program. Production has already begun for 25 new episodes that will start being posted September 10.“I think these relationships will become more important for municipalities to take control of the narrative in their community in the future,” Owens said. “There just aren’t as many resources at local TV stations as newsroom staffs continue to shrink with companies downsizing so it’s becoming more difficult for them to get out and find those good stories to tell these days.”High school and sports coverage have been hurt the most by corporate downsizing of local TV news operations. Prince George’s County athletics has been virtually absent from television unless on the local community access or public school channels that few cable subscribers watch. Owens recognized that audiences who are engaged by this programming are getting their information via smartphones, tablets and computers in this new era of communication. This is why he established “PG-13” and focused on a digital distribution model.“I just felt like we had to meet the audience where it is these days,” Owens said. “People are thirsty for this type of programming and this allows the audience to access it when they want to.”Owens settled on the name “PG-13” because he initially wanted to focus on the 13 most important stories in the Prince George’s County beyond high school sports. However, with over 100,000 views over an entire production season, it has begun changing the perception of P.G. County’s school system through its local acclaim.“It’s not like we’re [HBO’s NFL] “Hard Knocks” but we know that people are watching and there’s value in our program,” said Owens. “We’ve got to convince parents they don’t have to pay private schools for their kids to get a quality education.”