Posts Tagged ‘Akron’

Morning shootaround — Aug. 15


VIDEO: LeBron helping out kids in Akron

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron supports 4 years in college | Mixed messages from Team USA | Bad form in Rivers’ self-challenge | Kobe schools D’Angelo (smiley face)

No. 1: LeBron supports 4 years in college — OK, our headline is a little bit of a tease. The idea that LeBron James, arguably the greatest preps-to-pros NBA player ever, might be advocating for young prospects to attain their college degrees could make for an interesting sports story. In this case, though, it makes for a fascinating story, period, because James’ focus is not on future NBA performers – it’s on regular kids from his hometown of Akron, Ohio, who otherwise not attend college at all. We’ll assume he’s getting a volume discount and not paying retail, per this piece on ESPN.com:

The NBA star has partnered with the University of Akron to provide a guaranteed four-year scholarship to the school for students in James’ I Promise program who qualify.

The scholarship will cover tuition and the university’s general service fee — currently $9,500 per year.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, as many as 2,300 children could potentially benefit from the scholarships.

It’s the latest example of James, who often refers to himself “as just a kid from Akron,” giving back to a community that helped raise him.

“It’s the reason I do what I do,” said James, who announced the program Thursday while hosting an event for students at Cedar Point Amusement Park. “These students have big dreams, and I’m happy to do everything I can to help them get there. They’re going to have to earn it, but I’m excited to see what these kids can accomplish knowing that college is in their futures.”

The university and the LeBron James Family Foundation are still finalizing the criteria for the scholarships. The students will have to graduate from high school within Akron’s public school system, achieve standard testing requirements, and fulfill a community service obligation.

James has had a long-standing relationship with the university. As his celebrity soared in high school, James played many game on the school’s campus, and the four-time MVP deepened his connection with Akron soon after he turned professional.

“It means so much because, as a kid growing up in the inner city and a lot of African-American kids, you don’t really think past high school,” said James, who bypassed college to jump to the NBA. “You don’t really know your future. You hear high school all the time, and you graduate high school, and then you never think past that because either it’s not possible or your family’s not financially stable to even be able to support a kid going to college.”

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No. 2: Mixed messages from Team USA — There’s no denying that USA Basketball has come up with a formula for success, built by managing director Jerry Colangelo and men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski and driven by the commitments it requires from the NBA’s best players. But there were several mixed messages put out by the time this week’s mini-camp and intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas were completed. “Everyone hoping to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics had to attend” … except maybe not Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose. “Some players will be permitted not to play in the scrimmage Thursday” … except then participation was made voluntary and so many guys opted out – 20 of the 34 on this week’s roster – that organizers had to truck in four more NBA players just to flesh out the Blue and White squads to nine men each. There seems to be some slippage going on in what words like “mandatory” and “commitment” mean, as kicked around in this CBSSports.com report, and it opens the door for other players to test the program’s vaunted culture in the future:

Earlier this week, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said that because Derrick Rose chose not to attend minicamp this week in Las Vegas, the Bulls star would not be considered for Team USA’s Olympics squad for Rio 2016. In the same interview session where he revealed that he’s interested in Kobe Bryant returning for a final run with the team (despite Bryant also missing the minicamp), all of a sudden, Colangelo says he’s open to it.

“I always said you never shut the door entirely on anyone. I mean, why? To prove what? Was I disappointed Derrick [Rose] wasn’t here? Sure. Because, we want the best for him. We want the best for him. We want him to get back to the level that he once was. So let’s just see how things go in the future.”

OK, this doesn’t seem cool. Colangelo made a big deal to everyone saying how in order to be considered for Rio in 2016 you have to attend this minicamp. It was mandatory. So a bunch of players dropped what they were doing and shuffled out to Las Vegas in the middle of their offseason to run some drills and have some meetings. Most were happy to do it, and that’s a testament to the culture that Colangelo has helped build.

At the same time, many did so because Colangelo made it clear that attendance was mandatory. Now, on top of him saying that he’s not going to hold minicamp next year and that instead the team will simply be chosen, all 12 spots, it turns out that the players didn’t actually need to attend anyway. Rose didn’t attend, and he can get in if he stays healthy this year. Bryant didn’t attend, same deal.

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No. 3: Bad form in Rivers’ self-challenge — We’ve all come to understand the role that confidence and even ego play in how far a person can take some natural ability and hard-earned prowess. The days of athletes – or artists or innovators or anyone else, frankly – having to hew the “Aw, shucks” line of false modesty are long over. We get it when someone says he or she aspires to be the “GOAT” (greatest of all time), that’s it a highly effective method of motivating oneself. But what even the most brash among us need to remember is that it remains bad form to call out or put down others while issuing such self-challenges. That’s a line L.A. Clippers guard Austin Rivers crossed on Twitter the other night. Fueled apparently by seeing the “extras” who were summoned to help out at the Team USA “Showcase” scrimmage — Arron Afflalo, Terrance Jones, Amir Johnson and Elfrid Payton, with C.J. Watson listed initially but scratched — Rivers’ comment as framed by SheridanHoops.com veered into arrogance:

It’s quite possible that Rivers’ eyes lit up when he saw C.J. Watson on the roster. Kidding aside, it’s tough to see where Rivers is coming from as far as saying he’s better than many on the roster, given that he hasn’t shown a whole lot during his first three years in the league (bare in mind, he’s not comparing himself to superstars like Stephen Curry and James Harden, who weren’t a part of the showcase).

To be fair, he was never quite enabled by Monty Williams – the only coach he has ever played for before being traded to the Clippers last year by his father Doc Rivers. Under his father, Rivers shot a career-high 42.7 percent from the field and had some shockingly good performances in the playoffs that actually made you wonder if you’ve had it all wrong about the guy.

Objectively, Rivers probably isn’t better than most on the roster from Thursday as of right now. Still, if that’s what he wants to believe, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, particularly if it drives him to want to become better (that clearly is the case if he wants to become MIP).

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No. 4: Kobe schools D’Angelo (smiley face) — This one is pretty self-explanatory, a moment or two between new teammates Kobe Bryant and No. 2 draft pick D’Angelo Russell played out in social media. Apparently inspired after watching some of former NBA All-Star and scoring champ Tracy McGrady‘s exploits, Russell lavished some Twitter praise on the former Orlando and Houston star. Bryant then reined in Russell’s enthusiasm a bit:

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Michael Jordan’s name and image are worth millions, and yet a bootleg grocery ad didn’t sell much meat with it. … Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins probably has been working out harder than you. … If you’re still digesting the massive NBA schedule served up all at once Wednesday, here’s a primer on the best of the best that might help. … Clippers forward Blake Griffin, not bad as a power forward and a commercial pitch man, talks about yet another role: Web site story editor. … Griffin, in case you missed it, also had some of the most interesting thoughts among the Team USA players who talked about the relative appeal of Olympic gold medals vs. NBA championship rings. …

MVP Ladder: The Evolution Of LeBron



VIDEO: LeBron James is making the race for the KIA MVP trophy more interesting by the day

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —  His fingerprints are all over the trophies from the past two years, just the way LeBron James planned it all those years ago in Akron, Ohio when he was dreaming of being the global superstar he has become.

His connection to Northeast Ohio, damaged after “The Decision,” is stronger than ever (hence the “Come Home LeBron” campaign). For the folks who have watched LeBron’s evolution from the start, it makes perfect sense even if it doesn’t for the rest of us.

They are the same people who can’t make sense of his placement anywhere other than the very top of the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder, never mind that we’re just a month into the marathon.

Chris Paul still owns the No. 1 spot this week but there isn’t much separation between the Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard and the pack of Kevin Durant, James, Paul George, and Tony Parker in the top five.

Dive in here for more of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

LeBron, Heat Keep Moving Forward

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If you ask LeBron James, 2011 seems so … two days ago.

Longer than that, actually, for the most publicly prosecuted player in the NBA, someone who endured constant fan abuse despite not committing a crime or being a menace to society. Plenty has happened since, all for the good according to LeBron, who ushered in the New Year by announcing his engagement to his long-time girlfriend, Savannah Brinson. The couple has two children together.

Of course, even this will bring out the skeptics as Israel Gutierrez of the Miami Herald mentions. Such is life for LeBron in the wake of “The Decision” and a few other public stumbles. Anything he does, even if it seems heartfelt, will be dismissed as a staged production by someone desperate to make the public think he’s a changed man, if only to get more endorsements in his pocket and the boos off his back.

His commercials with State Farm and McDonald’s and even Nike have a community relations flavor to them, where LeBron is seen helping kids or stressing education. He’s pushing his charitable foundation and making contributions to other causes. It’s all part of LeBron getting back to his “old self” as he said, all part of LeBron living up to his preseason pledge, when he said:

“For me personally, I’m a totally different person than last year. I’m just back to loving the game of basketball, not taking too much for granted, playing with a smile on my face and just understanding I’m just a kid from Akron, Ohio, in the NBA. I lost that last year.”

(more…)

Still The King Of Akron?

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — LeBron James is 2-for-2 this summer in public relations disasters.

The ill-conceived and horribly executed “The Decision” was first, enraging an entire fan base and region of Ohio while also uniting fans of 29 other NBA teams against the Miami Heat and their new trio of superstars.

Now comes a letter from James, serenading his hometown of Akron, Ohio — while curiously ignoring the word Cleveland — for helping raise him and supporting him the last 25 years:

“To My Family, Friends and Fans in Akron:

“For all my life, I have lived in Akron — and for that, I am truly a lucky man.

“It was here where I first learned how to play basketball, and where I met the people who would become my lifelong friends and mentors. Their guidance, encouragement and support will always be with me.

“Akron is my home, and the central focus of my life. It’s where I started, and it’s where I will always come back to. You can be sure that I will continue to do everything I can for this city, which is so important to my family and me. Thank you for your love and support. You mean everything to me.”

Of course, this letter (which ran in the Beacon-Journal in Akron) comes days  two days after fellow Heat (and former Cavaliers star) Zydrunas Ilgauskas took out an ad in the Plain Dealer thanking Cavaliers fans for their support over the years.

Naturally, there are fans buzzing about a starting a campaign to retire Big Z’s number in Cleveland.

But for James, well … at least they still love him in Akron.

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Winners And Losers

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Sifting through the wreckage that was “The Decision,” the 60-minute ESPN spectacle that saw LeBron James declare his intentions to join the All-Star party in Miami, has left us with very few real winners but oh so many losers.

Sure, the Heat vault to the top of the list of title contenders in the Eastern Conference on star power alone, sending their fans and folks in and around south Florida into their own hoop dream that ends with parades up and down Ocean Drive. And James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all checking their ring sizes in anticipation of the hardware they will chase for the next five seasons, and possibly beyond.

But there is little else to celebrate today, with frayed feelings everywhere else.

Nowhere is that empty feeling greater than it is in Northeast Ohio, and especially Cleveland and Akron, where James has lived, worked and played his entire life prior to Thursday’s night’s stunning departure. And if you need proof, just take a look at the number of people in Cleveland that watched the show Thursday night compared to the number of folks in Miami.

Their rage remains palpable, not only with James but with any and everyone that doesn’t share their anger about the way this all went down.

Still, the Hang Time crew had been charged with handing out awards for the winners and demerits for the losers. And no matter what, we have to do the job. So without further ado:

WINNERS — Miami, South Beach and business owners all over South Florida

Every single restaurant, club, condo and boutique hotel and shop owner in Miami should start planning to clear out more space and expand their facilities, because if James’ arrival there has a similar impact to what he had in Cleveland, business is about to get really, really good. Already one of the world’s finest party hot-spots, Miami and South Beach get the added boost of being the epicenter of the NBA universe for at least the next year. And if the Heat actually lives up to the immense hype that surrounds this groundbreaking compilation of stars, Will Smith might want to find his way to the studio for his 1997 hit, beinvenido a Miami!

LOSERS — Jim Gray, LeBron James and Dan Gilbert

Both James and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert will spend plenty of time as punching bags for folks that don’t agree with how they have handled themselves during this process, and rightfully so. The entire broadcast was a classic example of how not to handle something like this, as both Richard Sandomir of The New York Times and Buzz Bissinger of Vanity Fair made abundantly clear in these must-read accounts of what went down Thursday night. But the man we’d most like to bounce on his head here at the hideout is Jim Gray. Not only did he drive us wacky playing 21 questions (fine, he asked 18 before getting to the only one anyone cared about), he did it in such a smug manner that even James appeared to be annoyed with the silly banter. Even worse is the news that Gray was possibly behind this entire debacle, per CNBC’s sports business guru Darren Rovell. We waited 30 minutes for James to give us what we came for and we’re putting that last 30 on Gray and his useless interviewing scheme. This wasn’t fair to the fans in Cleveland or anywhere else to drag out the decision the way they did.

WINNERS — Dennis Scott and the rest of the media working the story

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard and former ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith are both being credited with breaking the Miami Big 3 story, deserving plaudits for two guys that turned out to be spot on in their reporting and analysis. Broussard scooped his own network a day early. But he and Smith were not the first pundits to float the idea of a Justice League-style conglomeration in Miami. That honor belongs to NBA TV’s very own Dennis Scott, who suggested Miami as destination paradise for the elite members of the free agent class of 2010 on this special edition of the Hang Time Podcast … over a month ago! 3D detailed exactly how Pat Riley could get it done and everything.

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LOSERS — Mike Brown and Danny Ferry, the ousted brain trust

Former coach Mike Brown and former GM Danny Ferry were both ushered out of town in the aftermath of the Cavaliers’ playoff flame out last season. Brown was fired, while Ferry chose to depart rather than spend his time dealing with the foolishness that he must have known was in store in free agency. Both men were scapegoats for failures that deserves to spread out among many more, including James and Gilbert. Brown departed as the most successful coach in franchise history and really a pawn in a game far more sinister than he probably imagined. Ferry got out ahead of the craziness. And good for him. They’ll both resurface elsewhere and the hideout crew wishes them the best.

WINNER — Tom Izzo, the Cavs-coach-that-wasn’t

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo knew better than to dip his toes into the NBA waters in Cleveland, whether LeBron James was on board or not. Kudos to Izzo for smelling the stench ahead of time and avoiding being a casualty in this high-stakes hoops-opera that would only have served to tarnish his legacy as one of college basketball’s best coaches. Izzo resisted the intense and lucrative recruiting pitch of another MSU Spartan, Gilbert, who clearly isn’t ready to turn the operation over to anyone else, not even Izzo. If he watched Thursday night’s show, and there was no reason for Izzo to bother, we bet he was relieved that he hadn’t jumped at Gilbert’s offer when he heard the words “South” and “Beach” roll of James’ lips.

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LOSERS — Cavs coach Byron Scott and the team and fans James left behind

Cavaliers coach Byron Scott remains a fantastic choice to lead the Cavaliers into this most uncertain future. But he could have kept his analyst job with ESPN if he’d known he would be coaching a team with Mo Williams as its first option. Scott was rumored to be the next in line for the Los Angeles Lakers if Phil Jackson left, he didn’t. So you go from almost coaching a team led by Kobe Bryant to almost coaching led by James to coaching a team led by Anderson Varejao? That’s just not right. We’re rooting for the Cavs, who still have some room to maneuver and add star power of some sort with nearly $12 million in available cap space, once they renounce their rights to James. But Scott will have to work some magic to save this season for the Cavaliers and a fan base that’s been cut to the bone by yet another disappointing sports moment.

WINNERS — The team that upends the Miami 3 on their way to a title

There are about 20 teams that would love to ruin the fairy tale ending Wade, James and Bosh have in mind. The NBA history books are littered with super teams that were put together with multiple championships in mind, the most recent group being the Shaquille O’Neal-Bryant, Karl MaloneGary Payton Lakers of 2003-04. They made it all to the NBA Finals before being dispatched in five games by a then superstar-free Detroit team, whose legacy in Pistons’ lore was cemented by their dethroning of Hall of Fame Foursome the Lakers assembled. This Miami 3 already have a target on their chests and plenty of teams are aiming for them, including Stephen Jackson and the Charlotte Bobcats and Magic GM Otis Smith, who added fuel to the Southeast Division and Sunshine State rivalry by stating publicly that he thought James was “more of a competitor.”

LOSERS — All the teams that didn’t land James, Wade or Bosh

James never did name a runner-up for his services or a pecking order for the six teams he considered. So we’ll throw them all in here since the Heat snagged the top three free agents on the market. The Knicks, however, lead the pack of the biggest losers. After spending the last two years doing whatever they could to create hype for James coming to Madison Square Garden and saving a basketball-mad city, so losing out to former Knicks coach Riley has to sting for the Knick faithful, yes that includes you Spike Lee. Amar’e Stoudemire is not an adequate consolation prize, we don’t care how many different ways the Knicks try to sell it. Waiting another year for Carmelo Anthony or some other member of the free agent class of 2011 isn’t going to cut it either. The Bulls, Nets, Cavaliers and even the Clippers have foundations to work with. Meanwhile, the Knicks are back to chasing ghosts.

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