VIDEO: The Fast Break: Dec. 26th
No. 1: Curry makes fan, not foes, cry — You can be impressed with Golden State’s Steph Curry all over again because he was named the Associated Press 2015 Male Athlete of the Year, joining LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as the only basketball players to win that award in its 85 years. Or you can admire him, instead, for the consideration he demonstrated for a single fan, at the end of a long road trip, on the Warriors’ only night of defeat so far this season. Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal-Times was on hand to chronicle a memorable evening and special moment from earlier this month between Curry and a fan of his dating back to his Davidson days, and the tale lent itself to a Christmastime telling:
When the unbeaten Warriors rolled into Milwaukee on Dec. 12 for their only appearance against the Milwaukee Bucks, Barry Hankel wanted to give his wife a special present — tickets to the game and perhaps the opportunity to meet her favorite player.
Barry sought to bring some joy to his wife, who has been living a nightmare for almost two years. In March of 2014, while the Hankels were residing in Green Bay, Becky learned she had a myofibroblastic tumor, a rare cancer that occurs mainly in the soft tissue and internal body organs.
“The doctor who gave me the results was taken aback,’’ said Becky, a 2001 graduate of Union Grove High School whose maiden name is Thom. “He had never heard about it. It’s not very common.’’
The cancer settled in Becky’s lower left leg. She underwent radiation treatment followed by surgery in June of 2014 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
An infection arose and lingered, eventually creeping into a bone and necessitating another trip to the Mayo Clinic, where she underwent three more surgeries.
Becky’s problems didn’t stop there. Three months ago in Janesville, she broke her leg while waiting in her car for her two children — Lexie, 8, and Liam, 5 — to get out of school.
“And all of a sudden, I heard a pop,’’ Becky recalled. “I felt immediate pain.”
That meant yet another trip to the Mayo Clinic for her fifth operation. This time, doctors determined Becky needed to have her leg amputated below the knee.
The surgery was deemed successful and Becky said she is cancer free. While she is using a wheelchair, a prosthetic is on the way. Finally, there is light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel for the Hankels.
Considering the physical and mental hardships his wife had to endure and the strain his family has been under, Barry thought attending the Bucks-Warriors game would be therapeutic.
And it was. In the days leading up to the game, Becky excitedly went online and purchased Curry jerseys for the entire family.
The game was thrilling and memorable as well. Before a raucous capacity crowd of 18,717 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the Bucks — Becky’s favorite team — snapped the Warriors’ winning streak. Curry, Becky’s favorite player, finished with 28 points.
Becky’s memorable night didn’t end there. Raymond Ridder, the Warriors vice president of communications, arranged for Becky and her family to have a private meeting with Curry, just outside the Warriors’ locker room.
“Becky was ecstatic,’’ Barry said. “She’s wanted to meet him forever. When he came out of the locker room, Becky got up out of her wheelchair and said to him, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ And he said, ‘Of course.’ ”
Becky agreed it was an unforgettable occasion, saying she’s still having difficulty comprehending that she got to meet Curry.
“I remember seeing people who would meet a celebrity, like their favorite singer or player, and they’d start to cry,’’ Becky said. “And I would say to myself, ‘Why would they do that?’ But when he came out of the locker room, this emotion came over and I said ‘Oh, my God’ and cried.”
No. 2: Cavs kicked in keisters — LeBron James didn’t think much of his Cleveland team’s mess in Portland Saturday night, a 29-point blowout loss that, in the Cavs star’s mind, wasn’t worth the paper the score sheet was printed on. “Throw it in the trash,” James said after the Eastern Conference favorites got thoroughly outplayed by a sub-.500 team from the West. Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com enumerated, as is his wont, Cleveland’s multiple failings against the Blazers, so here are some of his 18 points of analysis:
5. David Blatt insisted before the game there wouldn’t be a hangover from the Warriors game, but changed his mind afterwards.
6. “I’m sure that had something to do with it,” he said before also mentioning the travel and the back-to-back before stopping himself. “You’re asking me a legitimate question and I’m trying to give you a legitimate answer but that sounds like an excuse. There’s no excuse that I can give you that is reasonable. We got kicked in the keister. That’s it.”
7. Players and Blatt have warned for some time that just because guys are healthy now doesn’t mean all of their problems are solved. Indeed, it seems as if more problems have been created. I’ve written for weeks one of the problems of a fully healthy roster could be an inability to settle on a rotation. That seems to be happening.
8. To be clear, an inconsistent rotation isn’t the reason the Cavs were blown out of Moda Center, but James mentioned it for the second time in as many games, which is worth noting.
9. “For the first eight weeks we had built chemistry, we knew who was playing, we knew who wasn’t playing. We had rotations, Coach had rotations down, so we got to get back to that,” James said. “We have no rhythm. We have some guys who don’t know if they’re going to play, or if they are going to play and it’s hurting our rhythm a little bit.”
10. Kyrie Irving sitting out so soon after returning doesn’t help the uncertainty of the rotation, but that’s a product of Irving not playing in back to backs right now. It will likely happen again Tuesday because Irving is expected to sit at Denver on the second night of another back to back.
11. The Cavs have strung together three consecutive lousy games offensively. There is no flow to what they’re doing. Blatt thought they had a lot of good looks against the Warriors and just missed them. He wasn’t as pleased with the shot selection against the Blazers.
12. “We didn’t take particularly good shots in the first half. We took a lot of hurried shots,” Blatt said. “We got behind fast and we tried to make it all up at one time and that forced us to play out of any kind of rhythm. We really didn’t do anything right in the first half. Nothing.”
VIDEO: Recap — Cavaliers vs. Blazers
No. 3: ‘Melo anything but after Knicks meltdown — Take away their quicksilver 21-6 start and the New York Knicks got outscored 111-77 in what was left of their game at Atlanta Saturday. That had Carmelo Anthony sounding more like a peeved coach than a pampered superstar, and the New York Post’s Marc Berman, as usual, monitored and relayed the meltdown:
Returning from his left ankle sprain Anthony said the team needs to “want it more,” said the club wasn’t ready for Atlanta’s second-half adjustments and believes too many breakdowns are happening in allowing opponent guards into the lane.
Anthony might have been calling out teammates more than coach Derek Fisher when he said the Knicks weren’t “prepared’’ to start the third quarter.
“That third quarter, 27-12, I don’t want to say not ready, but not being prepared for the adjustment they were going to make,’’ Anthony said. “It was a tale of two halves. We started out the game pretty well. Coming out the third quarter, we didn’t start the game well. That one quarter hurt us.’’
Asked if he was referring to a need for strategic maneuvers, Anthony said he wasn’t really talking about X’s and O’s.
“We got to do a better job adjusting to their adjustments,’’ Anthony said. “Coming out in the third quarter, we knew they were going to apply pressure, get up in the passing lanes, try to make it difficult to run our offense. They sped us up in the third quarter, which led to 27-to-12.’’
It was painful, bloody loss too. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis suffered a swollen right index finger that needed X-rays after the game that were negative, but seemed to effect his evening (nine points, 3-of-10 shooting, two rebounds, two turnovers). A bleeding Robin Lopez needed six stitches above his left eyebrow after a collision with Atlanta’s Kyle Korver.
Both are expected to play Sunday night in Boston.
Committing 23 turnovers in the game and failing to get back in transition, the Knicks were outscored 57-35 in the final two periods by the Hawks (20-12), who have won six straight.
“It starts up top,’’ Anthony said of the defense. “We got to do a better job of keeping guys out of the paint, not just the guards.’’
No. 4: Phoenix fails vs. Philly — Maybe it was the presence of Jerry Colangelo as Philadelphia’s new chairman of basketball ops and Mike D’Antoni as the Sixers’ new associated head coach, Phoenix’s former chief executive and high-octane head coach, that boosted the visitors past the Suns Saturday. In winning for only the second time since late March, though, Philadelphia hasn’t earned it way into polite NBA conversations, so rather than celebrate the Sixers, let’s scrutinize the Suns. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic did not like what he saw, including both the insult to Phoenix fans of losing to the league’s doormats and the sprain injury of Suns guard Eric Bledsoe:
The Suns’ preseason bluster about being a playoff team now seems silly, and keeping the Suns in the playoff contention conversation because of how other Western Conference teams were faltering now seems like false hope.
The Suns hit rock bottom like a ton of bricked shots Saturday night when they became only the second team to lose to the Philadelphia 76ers this season and lost guard Eric Bledsoe to a left knee sprain in the process.
The Suns (12-20) did not lose their 20th game of the season until Jan. 25 last season but did it Saturday in the most embarrassing of ways. After a two-day rest and at home, the Suns were horrid against a team that had only beaten the Los Angeles Lakers this season and started a point guard, former Suns player Ish Smith, after he just joined the team in the afternoon.
The Suns were not booed enough for such a miserable loss, showing how much a 5-15 stretch of basketball has created apathy after five non-playoff seasons. The Suns are on a four-game losing streak for the third time since Nov. 22. Each of the four losses have come to a team with a losing record and at least one starter out. For Philadelphia (2-30), leading scorer and rebounder Jahlil Okafor sat out for precautionary reasons with knee pain.
“Obviously, it’s probably a low point for us,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “… Now the confidence is lacking.”
The knee pain of concern for the Suns was with Bledsoe, who suffered a non-contact left knee sprain in the second quarter. He sat calmly on the floor before being carried off. It was not believed to be an ACL tear to Bledsoe’s left knee, but a MRI would reveal any potential meniscus damage.
The day started with Suns icon Jerry Colangelo delivering a morning shootaround speech to the Sixers for the first time since he joined them three weeks ago as chairman of basketball operations. The night ended with the 76ers winning a road game for the first time since March 29 while holding the Suns to 38.6 percent shooting. Phoenix was coming off 41.4 percent and 39.2 percent shooting games.
“Pretty embarrassing, point blank, period,” Suns forward P.J. Tucker said. “… If something doesn’t change quick, it could get really ugly, really fast.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Charlotte’s Nic Batum has been doing everything for the Hornets, including what Lance Stephenson was supposed to have done. … Dwyane Wade as Miami’s Mariano Rivera does it again. … Utah’s Alec Burks had a remarkable slam dunk followed soon thereafter by an alarming crash to the court. … Dwight Howard became the fourth youngest to reach 15,000 points and 10,000 rebounds but his Houston coach, J.B. Bickerstaff, wasn’t into the individual stuff Saturday. … Minnesota pays Kevin Martin handsomely to just sit and, er, sit. … Despite their last-minute failures, the Chicago Bulls found positives in Dallas. … The year 2015 was a time for sad goodbyes to many NBA family members.