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Lee is Number One in Bruins Family

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By Steve Finley, Special to the BVN –

This years’ edition of the UCLA men’s basketball team is a family affair.

Each week a different player steps up and leads the team. One week it’s Tyler Honeycutt. The next week it’s Reeves Nelson the next week it’s Joshua Smith. As in all families there is usually one sibling that emerges as the leader of the pack. Malcolm Lee is emerging as the leader of this Bruins’ team.

Last week Lee led the Bruins in scoring in both of their victories. He had 25 points against Oregon on Thursday and scored 19 points against Oregon State on Saturday and fouled out of the game with nearly 6 minutes remaining.

Lee is soft spoken and quiet. He leads his team by example. “He brings it every night,” said head coach Ben Howland after the Oregon game. “I could not be happier for an individual than I am for Malcolm when he has success.

He is such a great kid and he is so much fun to coach. He works so hard and all of his teammates love him.”

The Bruins are 18-7 overall and 9-3 in the conference which is good enough for second place behind 20- 4; 9-2 Arizona. The Bruins have bounced backed from last years’ losing record, their first in 40 years.

UCLA improved the team instantly by recruiting a true point guard in Lazeric Jones and junior guard Jerime Anderson has also played well at the point guard position.

Last season Lee had to play point guard which is not his natural position.

Now he can play shooting guard and small forward which helps the overall production of the team. “We are fortunate to have two good point guards,” said Lee. “Now I can slide over to the swing position and that puts me in position to help my teammates offensively and defensively. Last year we were younger. This year we have more experience. We have learned from last years’ mistakes.”

Smith, a 6”5’ junior guard from Riverside’s John W. North high school. says the Bruins are also more athletic this year. “Last year we were forced to play a two-three zone defense which is not the way UCLA plays,” says Lee. “This season we can also get out and run which puts pressure on the other opponent’s defense.”

It’s hard to compare Lee’s game to other players. He has his own style.

“Growing up I was a Kobe (Bryant) fan,” said Lee “ But now people tell me I play like Jamal Crawford (Atlanta Hawks).”

Whoever Lee looks like or plays like he knows he will need to keep playing at an ever increasing level to get the Bruins into the NCAA tournament. “This is definitely not the level I want to play at,” said Lee. “I feel I need to improve on every aspect of my game. I feel like I haven’t peaked yet.”

This week the Bruins travel north to play Stanford on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and California on Sunday at 7 p.m. If UCLA continues to win they will be back in the NCAA tournament.

“This team is capable of surprising the nation, “said Lee. “Coming off a losing season we are always the underdog and we have to put that on our backs and use that as a motivating factor.”

“Last year we felt bad because we felt like we let John Wooden down on his last year on earth,” said Lee. “This year we want to shock the world and win the Pac-10 title and after that everything else will take care of itself.”

Steve Finley is a UCLA Alum and special contributor to the Black Voice News – he can be reached at sfinley50@aol.com

Spurs win third in a row on 'Rodeo Road'

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(Reuters) - The San Antonio Spurs are riding high on their grueling "Rodeo Road Trip" after a 100-89 triumph over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday gave the NBA's top team their third consecutive win.

The Spurs, playing the fourth contest of a grueling nine-game road trip while a rodeo occupies their home arena, got 19 points from Tony Parker while DeJuan Blair added 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The win improved their NBA-best record and made them the first team to begin a season 43-8 or better since 1996-97 NBA champions Chicago, who stormed out of the gate with a 45-6 record.

"We can get a lot better," second-year post player Blair told reporters.

"Once all of our players get healthy we'll be where we want at the end of the year. (The road trip) allows us to get serious about the second-half of the season."

San Antonio led 80-78 midway through the fourth quarter before a 9-2 run let them pull away down the stretch.

The Spurs made a trio of three-pointers during the spurt, two from Manu Ginobili and one from Matt Bonner, and finished with 10 on the night to keep the Pistons at bay.

"We had good shots. We were moving the ball very well," Parker said. "Everybody was being aggressive. We had open shots and everybody was making them."

Detroit (19-33) reserve Will Bynum led the home team with 21 points but the Pistons' loss snapped a string of successive victories. Rookie Greg Monroe tallied 14 points and 13 rebounds for Detroit in the losing effort.

Richard Hamilton, who has been at odds with head coach John Kuester, sat out with a sore groin. The veteran guard had played on Saturday for the first time since January 10.

(Editing by Frank Pingue and Peter Rutherford)

ESPN: Exploring Race Relations

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By Leland Stein III –

Thanks to Stevie Wonder and many others we just concluded the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King Day, and, in recognition of ESPN’s remembrance of that special day it recently concluded a noteworthy survey of sports fans on race in sports.

The conclusion of the detailed report notes that while American society has made huge strides in terms of racial equality over the past half century, the survey clearly denotes that we still have a long way to go. The perception of racial equality in white and black fans is hugely different.

A Hart Research Associates survey pooled sports fans (1,213 white, 435 African- American) and unfortunately the results were predictable and could have been implemented in the 1930’s and we would have gotten the same results.

The white surveyed data base overwhelmingly held the perception and belief that racial equality is happening now, while African Americans surveyed feel strongly that equality has not been achieved in all of American society and equality has not been reached in sports. African-Americans noted that they have fewer opportunities for positions of power in sports and equality beyond the playing field still have many miles to traverse.

The fact of the matter is African Americans empowered as owners of a pro sports franchise, athletic directors at a major Division I universities, NFL head coaches and head coaches at a major BCS schools is dismal and does not reflect their participation numbers on the fields of play.

One of the main themes in ESPN’s television narrative was do sports unite or divide? The input was much better in this category as 72 percent believe sports do more to unite people across racial lines.

That I’d have to agree with as I covered Olympic Games, Super Bowls. NBA Finals, Final Fours and many other championship sporting events, and, I’ve seen nations, countries, states, cities and county areas galvanize in unprecedented terms behind teams. Players from one’s neighborhood and local universities and professional teams can and have driven people to a joyful frenzy no matter the color of none’s skin.

One disappointing result for me was how blacks and whites viewed the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview, not hire, one minority candidates for senior operating posts and coaching positions. The survey noted that 57 percent of African-American fans think the rule will be needed for years to come, while 20 percent of white fans think it is unnecessary no matter the facts.

The biggest and most disconcerting gap manifests itself in how blacks and whites viewed media bias in its treatment of black athletes versus white athletes.

Overwhelmingly African- Americans believe the media is biased and unfair in its treatment and presentation of African-Americans. Whites surveyed believe there is no media bias. Wow!!!!

I can truly exclaim that while it is not always rooted in racism, there is an inability of different races (reporters) to view life through anything but their own prism. Now I understand that all this does not apply to every black or white person, because there are some genuine individuals that live life and view life through a non-jaundiced human microscope.

However in relation to the masses it unfortunately seems we are getting more polarized than ever. Two third of whites would bury Mike Vick in quick sand if they could. Many have also put LeBron James in the same hate me category because he exercised his earned right to be a free agent.

No matter that James has never been busted for drugs, beat up any old ladies or young, and never missed a plane.

Indeed it has been was 46 years since Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, spoke passionately about his dreams and hopes for equality in the United States.

Without a doubt sports has broken the rock solid barrier of racism long before education institutions, housing, government and neighborhoods did.

When Jack Johnson won the heavyweight title in the early 1900’s he was firmly put in the cross hairs of racism as they changed laws to get him arrested for marrying a white woman. Thirty years later Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in America’s Pastime (Major League Baseball) and Jesse Owens claimed three gold medals in the 1936 Olympic Games with Hitler watching in serious pain. Meanwhile King and other future Civil Rights leaders were just babies. Indeed I would have to project that the progress of race relations in this hostile America for too many . . . for too long was pushed forward by the blood, sweat and tears of many African Americans on the playing fields long before they were even granted the right to vote. Indeed I know there have always been many men and women pushing the race debate, however they did not have the and media attention of Detroit boxer Joe Louis who fought in Yankee Stadium before 70,000 people and millions more via radio in the 1930’s.

Leland Stein III can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com

Clippers Have a Keeper in Griffin

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By Gary Montgomery –

If you are one of those Angeleno’s who felt the ground shaking under their feet last Saturday evening, I am here to put you at ease. It was not a precursor to the Big One. Nor was it any other impending danger. It was the Clippers young star Blake ‘The Quake’ Griffin doing what the Clippers Nation has come to expect from its young superstar. After a relatively quiet first quarter turning in 8 routine points and 6 rebounds, the young man finally got an opportunity to give the Staples Center crowd of 19,373 Clippers’ faithful what they came to see, Griffin rising high above the rim and pounding down one of his thunderous dunks.

The young man made them wait a while but in the end, didn’t disappoint. Early in the third quarter, Griffin dashed down the right side of the court, streaking past the defense while receiving a near perfect toss from Eric Gordon and throwing it down over his left shoulder. His dunk brought the Staples Center crowd to its feet.

Griffin possesses an amazing blend of pure athleticism, skill and basketball acumen that is seldom seen in such a young player. Of all the great talent that has donned the Clippers’ uniform, Griffin is arguably the most electric player ever drafted by the team. Technically, a rookie this season, Griffin is in his second year as a pro after spending all of last season on injured reserve after knee surgery.

The Clippers made Griffin their number 1 pick in the 2009 draft out of Oklahoma. After two years as a Sooner, Griffin was averaging 22.5 points per game and had won nearly ever honor available to him when he declared for the NBA early entry draft. Griffins first season ended before it ever got started. During the final preseason game of the 2009-10 season, Griffin hurt his knee, landing awkwardly after a dunk. The original diagnosis was a stress fracture that would require several weeks to heal.

Later, it was revised, the team announced that Griffin’s knee cap would require surgery and he would miss the entire season. It was fear that team had been ‘Clipped’ by lightning once again. Long time Clippers’ fans couldn’t help but recall a near identical scenario nearly two decades ago with another prized number one pick.

In 1988, the Clippers made Danny Manning, the NCAA Player of the Year their first pick. Manning had just led the Kansas Jayhawks to a national championship and was expected to change the team’s fortunes forever. But, after just 26 games into his rookie campaign, Manning was injured and diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and would require arthroscopic knee surgery and missed the entire season. Manning would return in the 1989-90 season, peaking slowly toward his best season as a Clipper in the 1992-93 season when he averaged 22 points per game. But, Manning was traded to Atlanta the following year. He would go on to play for six other teams before retiring in 2003.

Sadly, this and similar stories chronicle the 41 year history of Clippers’ basketball. So, long time fans although loving every minute Griffin is on the court have more than ample reason to temper their enthusiasm . The weight of Clippers’ history is always on their minds. Injury or early departure has always been inevitable for Clippers’ fans.

Something seems to always go wrong and prevent the team from coalescing around their young stars and getting to the NBA’s top echelon. Clippers history reads like a who’s who of the NBA. Bob McAdoo, Adrian Dantly, Byron Scott, David Thompson, Tom Chambers, and Lamar Odom all went on to success with other teams.

The Clippers Nation is hoping that Blake ‘Quake’ Griffin won’t be the next one to join that list.

G.Montgomery can be reached at sports@blackvoicenews.com

Jets' Holmes Eager for a Pittsburgh Payback

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(Reuters) - New York wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who was traded by Pittsburgh to the Jets before the season for a cut-rate price, said winning a Super Bowl would be proper payback to his former team.

Holmes, the Super Bowl MVP for the Steelers when they won the NFL title in 2009, was traded last April for a fifth-round draft pick given off-field problems and a four-game suspension for violating substance abuse rules.

He will face his former team when New York visit Pittsburgh on Sunday in the AFC Championship game with the winner moving on to the Super Bowl in Dallas on February 6.

"This game is about getting to the Super Bowl. I don't care about the Steelers right now," Holmes told reporters at the Jets practice facility on Wednesday when asked if this week's game against his old team was "personal" for him.

"If we win the Super Bowl, then everything is personal. That's a slap right back in those guys' face for trading me. But right now, it's not a focus of mine."

Holmes, a first-round draft pick for Pittsburgh out of Ohio State in 2006, made an acrobatic, game-winning catch to clinch the Lombardi Trophy against the Arizona Cardinals.

He singled out one Steelers player as a potential obstacle to the Jets landing a Super Bowl berth.

"I honestly think Troy Polamalu is probably the greatest player I've ever played with or ever seen play in person," Holmes said about the bushy-haired Steelers safety.

"The things that he (does to) disrupt a team. He's jumping over the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball. He's tackling runners in the backfield. He's jumping up, intercepting the ball one-handed.

"He's returning it for touchdowns. He's doing numerous things."

Polamalu, who is of Samoan descent, did not play in last month's 22-17 Jets victory over the Steelers due to injury, and Holmes said New York must pay special attention to him.

"Just having him keyed in and keeping the ball away from him, playing sound football and not turning it over and giving him any opportunities to make those type of plays can definitely keep him from disrupting our team," said Holmes, who would love to claim a Jets ring to flaunt over his old mates.

A victory would secure a matchup against the winner of Sunday's NFC Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

 

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