February 14, 2013

By GARY GRAVES Associated Press

 

Kentucky received the news it dreaded Wednesday when freshman forward Nerlens Noel was declared out for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee.

Noel tore his ACL on Tuesday night when No. 25 Kentucky lost at Florida. An MRI revealed the injury, and the 6-foot-10 forward will have surgery in the next two or three weeks.

The projected recovery period is six to eight months.

Noel's injury deals a serious postseason blow for the defending national champions, who had appeared to be gaining some footing after struggling earlier this season while trying to blend in four freshmen. Leading the way defensively for the Wildcats was Noel, who began Tuesday first in the nation with 4.5 blocks per game.

The rookie took a positive approach to the diagnosis, posting on Twitter, "Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback! I love you all and can't thank y'all enough for the prayers."

Noel was hurt with 8 minutes left in the Wildcats' 69-52 loss to the seventh-ranked Gators. He ran into the basket support after blocking a layup from behind. Noel landed awkwardly, dropped to the floor and started screaming while clutching his knee.

Noel had eight points, six rebounds and three blocks before the injury.

"I've been coaching for 22 years and this is the first injury we've had of this kind during the season, which makes it even more devastating," Kentucky coach John Calipari said in a statement.

"I met with Nerlens earlier today. The meeting was really positive, and I loved his attitude. The way he is already dealing with this injury lets me know that he is going to come back stronger than ever. ... Obviously this is not a career-ending injury and it's one that athletes bounce back from all the time."

The question is if Kentucky (17-7, 8-3 Southeastern Conference) can bounce back from the devastating loss.

With Noel out, 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein now must man the post for Kentucky after spending most of the season as Noel's backup. Cauley-Stein missed four games last month after having a procedure on his left knee, an absence that meant even more minutes for Noel.

The Everett, Mass., native clearly relished the extra work, which gave him a chance to display an array of skills. Besides his shot-blocking prowess, Noel was averaging 10.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game, with the latter two statistics both ranking 26th nationally.

He entered the game with three consecutive double-doubles and on a four-week run as the conference's top freshman. In his previous five games, Noel had blocked 26 shots.

Projected as an NBA lottery pick by some scouting services if he were to leave after the season, Noel's draft stock seemed unaffected by his injury. Several blogs still consider him a top-five selection, with others projecting him as a first-rounder.

While Kentucky has lacked a bona fide team leader, there was no doubt that the Wildcats seemed to feed off of Noel's intensity and athleticism. Calipari's wish has been for other players to display those some traits.

Now, the Wildcats have to rework the rotation without their biggest star. Kentucky's tallest player besides Cauley-Stein is 6-10 sophomore Kyle Wiltjer, whose game had recently blossomed along with Noel's.

Former Wildcats center Sam Bowie believes the injury might initially affect the team's psyche, especially with so many young players.

"His teammates will start to second-guess themselves, and that's just human nature," Bowie said. "You always say, 'We'll regroup; people have to step up and take their games to another level,' and that's been the politically correct thing to say, but realistically speaking it will affect the team mentally."

Considered the nation's top recruit last season, Noel led a four-man freshman class also including Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress that was expected to pick up where last year's championship team left off. Noel has often been compared to national player of the year Anthony Davis because of his size and shot-blocking ability.

While Noel downplayed the comparison, he made clear his pursuit of breaking Davis' single-season school record of 186 blocks set last year. A Kentucky-record 12 blocks during an 87-74 victory at Mississippi on Jan. 29 put him slightly ahead of Davis' pace, which was set over 40 games.

More importantly, Kentucky's victory over the then-No. 16 Rebels helped re-establish its credentials as an NCAA tournament team. Their first win over a ranked opponent was part of a season-best five-game winning streak that helped put the Wildcats back in the Top 25 on Monday for the first time since falling out Dec. 3 following consecutive losses to Notre Dame and Baylor.

Tuesday's game against Florida was supposed to be another big test, but Kentucky trailed by as many as 19 points before Noel's injury. The Wildcats seemed even more shaken afterward, and their winning streak vanished.

Kentucky visits Tennessee on Saturday before returning home next Wednesday against Vanderbilt, providing the Wildcats chances to sweep season series against both schools and stay in the SEC race.

Bowie believes Calipari is capable of motivating the Wildcats to overcome Noel's absence, band together as a team and return to the postseason — suggesting that urgency sometimes brings out the best performances.

"I still feel like they'll make the tournament," Bowie said, "but whether they have a legitimate chance of making a serious run, that will be determined. With Cal as coach, and I think they have plenty of personnel, they have a chance to be one of the 65 teams invited to the tournament."

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February 14, 2013

By Kenneth Miller

LAWT Staff Writer

 

The National Basketball Association’s annual pause for cause, or All Star break will take on a more significant meaning when it is staged in Houston on Sunday Feb. 17 at the Toyota Center.

Traditionally it is a time of the year to celebrate its stars from past and present, reflecting on games gone by during the current season, but also introduce the next highflying dunk king.

It’s a basketball ritual that has unfolded for the past 61 years and is more of an entertainment exhibition than anything else, but the ultimate stars of stars seem to always allow their competitive juices to flow.

The list of those whose rite of passage has been to perform in the NBA All Star game multiple times include a galaxy of stars such as; Kareem Abdul Jabbar (19), Kobe Bryant (15), Kevin Garnett (15), Shaquille O’Neal (15), Tim Duncan (14), Karl Malone (14), Jerry West (14), Wilt Chamberlain (13), Bob Cousy (13), John Havlicek (13), Larry Bird (12), Elvin Hayes (12), Magic Johnson (12), Moses Malone (12), Hakeem Olajuwon (12), Bill Russell (12), Isaiah Thomas (12), Oscar Robinson (12), Charles Barkley (11), Julius Erving (11), Elgin Baylor (11), Julius Erving (11), Paul Pierce (10), John Stockton (10), Clyde Drexler (10), Hal Greer (10), Jason Kidd (10)Dominique Wilkins (9), Dwayne Wade (9) and LeBron James (9).

I could name them all, but why bother when there is only one omission from the aforementioned list whose accomplishments in the game of basketball on and off the court justifiably single him out as the greatest EVER!

He took the slam-dunk contest to an orbit where Julius Erving could not! His half dozen NBA titles elevated the Chicago Bulls to a stratosphere that it will never reach again and meant an estimated $1 trillion to the windy city’s economy during his playing days.

The high flying, leg kicking, tongue wagging, bald baller we affectionately know as MJ, but whose birth name is Michael Jordan will celebrate his 50th birthday on the same day of the NBA All Star Game Feb. 17.

This current generation of hot shot hoopsters may not fully understand the magnitude of the Air Jordan, but millions of Blacks have convinced their parents to pay through the roof to wear his Jordan Brand sneakers produced by Nike.

When Jordan was a rookie in the NBA All Star game veterans such as Isaiah Thomas collectively froze him out and refused to pass him the basketball, but 14 All Star game appearances later he was the MVP in the event three times.

Jordan did his real work when the stakes were at their climax, a 63 point outburst against the Celtics in 1986 prompted Bird to hail him as "God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Lakers great Magic Johnson put it in a more earthly tone; "There's Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us."

Even to this day his astronomical achievements are bronzed statuettes which are symbolic of a standard left for those behind him to only dream about; Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2009, 2 Olympic gold medals – 1984, 1992, 6-time NBA Champion, 6-time NBA Finals MVP, 5-time NBA MVP, 10 NBA Scoring Titles, 3 time steals leader, 3 time minutes leader, 14 NBA All-Star Selections, 3 time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 11 All-NBA Selections, 9 All-Defensive First Team Selections, 2 time NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion – 1987, 1988, NBA Rookie of the Year – 1984–85 NBA Defensive Player of the Year – 1987–88.

While Lakers icon Jerry West is the symbol of the NBA uniforms, Jordan’s stamp on the game itself is revolutionary from the bent rim asphalt playgrounds of New York where he was born to the humid indoor courts of Los Angeles and beyond throughout the International hemisphere, Jordan is a in a Space Jam of his own.

The Portland Trailblazers have the dubious distinction of passing over Jordan in the in the 1984 draft in favor of Sam Bowie at senior center from Kentucky, while Houston took Nigerian born Hakeem Olajuwon with the first selection.

The third pick in that draft, Jordan owns the NBA Finals record of averaging 41 points per game in 1993, a career scoring record of 30 points per game, a consecutive game record of 866 games of scoring 10 points or more, a record of 5, 987 points in playoff games and oh by the way he owns the scoring record for NBA All Star games for a career with 262.

The mystery surrounding the bizarre disappearance and murder of his father James in 1993 prompted him to retire from basketball and play professional baseball a passion that he’s had since childhood.

However, many had questions of whether or not his father’s murder had anything to do with gambling debts that Jordan acknowledged he had, but nothing had proven that to be the case.

James Jordan’s body was found floating in a South Carolina creek on Aug. 3.  The cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the chest, a result of robbery.

Jordan, 57, had been missing for three weeks and the family had not filed a missing persons report. Police said that the family did not seem concerned about his absence, and they apparently did not realize that he was missing, since he traveled extensively on business.

Jordan mourned his father by escaping from basketball in 1994 playing for the minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox Birmingham Soul garnering meager stats before returning to the NBA.

After losing in the second round of the playoffs following his return in the 1994-95 season, he returned with a vengeance the following year leading the Bulls to the best record in NBA history going 72-10 and leading Chicago to the first title during their second three-peat.

Jordan played in sold out arenas in practically every game he played in, at home and away. His jersey sets retired in the rafters at both North Carolina and in Chicago where the only statute outside the United Center is one of MJ.

Now, as an owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, the only Black owner in the NBA, Jordan is destined to prove that he can turn around the most hapless franchise in league history.

Worth in excess of $500 million, a proven entrepreneur in business, a father to three grown children and recently engaged, Jordan gave us everything he’s had in the sport of basketball.

He owes us nothing more, but there is something about his ultra competitive drive that leads me to believe that he will not stop until he proves to us he can successfully lead an NBA franchise from the owner’s box.

Whether he does or not, matters least because he has already proven that in the game of basketball he has No Air Apparent!

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February 07, 2013

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Venus Williams has withdrawn from next week’s Qatar Open due to an ongoing lower back injury.

The 23rd-ranked Williams has been hampered by back problems since the Australian Open. She missed the Open GDF Suez tournament and will skip the upcoming Fed Cup match against Italy because of the injury.

Andrea Hlavackova will replace Williams in the Qatar tournament.

Williams lost in straight sets to Maria Sharapova in the third round of the Australian Open, and then lost in the quarterfinals of the doubles alongside younger sister Serena.

Serena Williams, who complained of back pain during her Australian Open quarterfinals loss to American Sloane Stephens, is scheduled to play at Qatar, as is top-ranked Victoria Azarenka.

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February 07, 2013

By Michael Dean

Special to the NNP A from Arizona Informant

 

Before there was Sifford, or Rhodes or Spiller or Elder, there was John Brooks Dendy, the self-made golfer from North Carolina who made a name for himself in the 1930s.

Dendy grew up in Asheville and fell in love with the game of golf at an early age.  He had scuffled around and found some discarded club heads with no shafts. He whittled down broom sticks, fitted them in the heads and began playing whenever he could.  He also began caddying at Asheville Country Club and by his early teens had developed a game that was hard to beat.  Some of the members of the club took notice and quietly encouraged him.

At 18, Dendy had completed high school and was preparing to head to Paine College in Augusta, Ga. to play football.  Because of his golfing prowess, a few members of the country club extended Dendy the financial assistance to enter the Southern Open at Lincoln G &CC in Atlanta and to the chagrin of homegrown heroes Howard Wheeler and Hugh Smith, Dendy won.  During the awards ceremony, Dendy relinquished his amateur status and accepted the $50 prize money for first place.

Excited by his good fortune, his family encouraged him to compete in the 1932 United Golfer’s Association – Negro National Open in Indian­apolis.  Dendy had never been that far away from home before and was only comfortable on the golf course.  The virtual unknown whipped his competitors with ease earning the trophy and the $100 prize money.

In the pre-tournament “Calcutta,” Dendy had been purchased for $400 and the bettor won big so he gave his man a $500 bonus for winning, five times the amount of the winner’s check.  On his long trip home, Dendy never slept for fear that someone may attempt to rob him. He would go on the win National Open in 1936 and successfully defended in 1937.  He also won the Southern Open again in 1934 and 1936 after breaking through in 1932.

One of the most legendary stories told about John Brooks Dendy occurred in Jacksonville, Fla. in 1933.  He had been invited to participate in an 18-hole exhibition and was pressed for time because the bus that he was on developed problems along the way.  He arrived at the course, went to the first tee, and without warming up, cut the dogleg with his drive on the 342 yard opening hole.  When he got to the green, he found his ball in the cup for a 1. He then played the next three holes 2-3-4, all of them birdies and finished the day with a score of 59.  The 1-2-3-4, six-under par start, made Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

By 1940, Dendy hadn’t made any headway financially playing golf, so he opted to take a job as a locker room attendant at Asheville CC and later worked at Biltmore Forest CC where he served until he retired in 1980.  He didn’t play much golf in his later years and died in 1985.  Throughout his storied career Dendy won 52 tournaments, including three National and three Southern Open Championships.  He was also a friend of heavyweight champion Joe Louis and the two often partnered successfully in money matches in Chicago and across the country.  “Lest’ We Forget.”

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February 07, 2013

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took home two NAACP Image Awards tonight for “Best Documentary” for his film “On the Shoulders of Giants – The Story of the Greatest Team You’ve Never Heard Of” and the award for “Best Children’s Book” for “What Color is My World? – the lost history of African American inventors” authored by the legendary sports figure and Raymond Obstfeld. The film was nominated in the Best Doc­umentary category and the book was nominated for Best Literary Work – Children’s category.  Both were awarded in a pre-show gala awards ceremony held in Los Angeles.

The NAACP Image Award is one of the highest accolades presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People which honors outstanding people of color in film, television, music and literature.  Similar to other awards like the Oscars and the Grammys, the 40 categories of the Image Awards are voted on by the award organization’s members. The 2013 NAACP Image Awards aired on NBC Television live from the Shrine Auditorium. 

On the Shoulders of Giants is a 75-minute feature-length documentary currently airing on Showtime. The film honors a group of sports pioneers who have been all but forgotten over time.  The story finds its footing in the rhythms of jazz, its roots in the Harlem Renaissance and its voice in a group of basketball players much too talented to be ignored.  It was produced and directed by Deborah Morales on behalf of Abdul-Jabbar in association with Iconomy Multi-media & Entertain­ment.  Oscar winning actor Jamie Foxx did the honors of voice over throughout the documentary with notable appearances by Dr. Maya Angelou, Spike Lee, Bill Russell, Dr. J., Herbie Hancock, Chuck D, Dr. Cornell West, Charles Barkley, Jerry West as well as many other legendary celebrities and sports figures.

“Who would have thought that an African-American basketball hero from New York and a white Jewish girl from Boston would be working together let alone win an NAACP Image Award,” said Deborah Morales, a well-known entertainment business manager. "I am so thrilled to receive this award not only because it justifies the very poignant message both Kareem and I set out to send as we began this journey but because the NAACP’s continued pursuit of civil rights is very important to both of us.

Abdul-Jabbar’s children’s book “What Color Is My World? –the lost history of African American inventors”  children’s book was penned by  the NBA legend and New York times best-selling author Abdul-Jabbar and his co-writer Raymond Obstfeld and offers an upbeat history lesson within a fictional narrative framework. Siblings Ella and Herbie, whose story unfolds within the pages of the book is taught by an eccentric handyman named Mr. Mital who  teaches them about the contributions made by African-American inventors through their own adventures and their fixer-upper house. The book was illustrated by A.G. Ford, Ben Boos and published by Candlewick Press.

“It is a distinguished honor to be recognized by the NAACP in such an extraordinary way. To win two NAACP Image Awards is a remarkable moment for me ” said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “ I have spent much of my life working towards the recognition and understanding of African-Americans in all fields and am extremely proud to know that this award stands profoundly for the fight for social justice for all Americans.”

For more information on “On The Shoulders of Giants – The Greatest Story of the Team You’ve Never Heard Of” and “What Color is My World? – The Lost History of African American Inventors www.kareemabduljabbar. com or www.iconomy.com.

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