After a quick turnaround from the NBA playoffs in the Orlando bubble, they are here once again but with some new exciting teams in the mix. The Eastern Conference is led by the Philadelphia 76ers (49-23), the Brooklyn Nets (48-24), and the Milwaukee Bucks (46-26). On the Western Conference side, there are three strong contenders in the Utah Jazz (52-20), the Phoenix Suns (51-21), and the Denver Nuggets (47-25).
The Brooklyn Nets
One of the most exciting teams to keep an eye out for is the Brooklyn Nets. What makes them so exciting? One add on this season sticks out and his name is James Harden. The Brooklyn Nets have added Harden to join the talented Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving during the 2021 regular season in hopes of winning an NBA title. Despite “the big three” playing in limited games together due to injuries, they have showed dominance when all are healthy and prove to be a championship contender.
Joel Embid has played a huge role as to why the 76ers are atop of the Eastern Conference going into the NBA playoffs. With an “MVP like” season, Embid has been one of the most dominant players in the league. Averaging 28.5 ppg, Embid is making a powerful case to lead the 76ers to a deep playoff and NBA championship run.
The Utah Jazz are another team to be considered a legitimate championship contender. Not only did they have the longest win streak (11) of the season, but also finished with the best regular season record among all the NBA teams. Two key players to watch during their playoff run include, PG Jordan Clarkson and C Rudy Gobert.
NBA Play-In Tournament
The race for a consecutive NBA championship is looking a little shaky for the Los Angeles Lakers as they are set to battle Stephen Curry and the Warriors in Game 4 of the play-in tournament. Stephen Curry has been playing up to an MVP caliber as he claimed the regular season scoring title (32.0) over Bradley Beal. On the flip side, with one tall task at hand, the Warriors are looking for a way to slow down superstars, Anthony Davis and LeBron James as they try and regain the NBA Championship crown.
It’s been a year like no other for college basketball players, coaches, and fans. After going through a March/April without March Madness last year, the hype has been through the roof for this year’s tournament…and it has not disappointed. On the men’s side, the most unexpected teams have knocked off favorable championship teams. We are heading into the Sweet 16 with the highest average seed in the history of the men’s tournament…unreal! The women’s tournament has been nothing short of entertaining as well. The #1 seeds continue to dominate and live up to their expectations, but there are definitely some teams that could threaten their chances of reaching the Final Four. The Big 10 women and the Pac 12 men are representing with 4 teams from each conference in the Sweet 16. History is being made in both tournaments, so let’s reflect on some of the best moments thus far.
GAME WINNER!!!! The Texas A&M women continue their tournament run after sophomore guard, Jordan Nixon, went coast to coast at the buzzer to win the game. Nixon has showed out for the NCAA tournament, leading the team to two victories. She dropped 21 points in their first win against Troy, followed by 35 points and 7 assists in their win over Iowa State.
Oral Roberts makes a name for themselves. Some might call them the Cinderella team of the tournament, but this team has arguably the best duo in college basketball right now. Together, Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor have averaged 56.5 points per game in the NCAA tournament to lead the Eagles to the Sweet 16. It has not been easy by any means. Oral Roberts took down the #2 seed, Ohio State, and preceded to initiate a comeback win against the #7 seed, Florida. Can this 15 seed keep it going?
Sister Jean and Loyola embark on another historic NCAA Tournament run…and this one took knocking off the #1 seed, Illinois. Forward Cameron Krutwig had to go up against one of the top Center’s in the nation, but it surely did not phase him. Krutwig got it done on both ends of the floor with 19 points, 4 assists, and 4 steals. This isn’t the first time the Ramblers have been down this route either. They are hoping to build upon their historic 2018 tournament run to the Final Four.
Michigan women reach their first-ever Sweet 16! This team has had an incredible year, but they were unable to secure a win during the BIG 10 Tournament. The Wolverines have taken this to heart, and the momentum has gotten them to the Sweet 16. Statement wins over Florida Gulf Coast and Tennessee boosted Michigan to reach this achievement.
Gonzaga reaches its 6th-straight Sweet 16. With the goal of finishing out this season with an undefeated record, Gonzaga has not lost a game since February 22, 2020. That’s over one year ago. Gonzaga is the most consistent team in college basketball right now, and very few teams have even come close to threatening their undefeated year. The Bulldogs have so many weapons with 4 players averaging double digits. Corey Kispert and Drew Timme lead the way with 19.2 and 18.8 PPG, respectively.
2020 has been a crazy year…I bet you’ve heard that statement hundreds of times.
Who knew face masks could become a fashion statement? Amidst the colorful and sometimes humorous masks, it has become more difficult to recognize acquaintances in crowded stores. So, often we find it easier to avoid them. Reading people’s emotions and communicating through a mask creates frustration. Maybe your kid is just starting college, and they have been forced to stay home and attend classes though a computer screen. Our front line workers have been spending countless exhausting hours trying to get this virus under control, and the most that we can do to help them is stay home. Often we may feel helpless, and it is hard to picture a world where everything goes back to normal. Amidst all of the uncertainty and change, sports give us a glimpse of normalcy.
For the first time ever, the NBA created a Bubble to finish out the remainder of the 2019-20 season. Playing sports amidst a global pandemic may have seemed impossible early this year, but the collaboration between researchers, scientists, engineers, and politicians to distribute tests and create a safe environment allowed this to happen for the NBA within months.
Following the NBA’s Bubble, other professional sports leagues returned to play. The amount of testing facilitated within teams created a safer environment, despite the fact that Bubble’s were no longer being used. Although there were some bumps in the road, whether it be postponements, certain players having to quarantine, or total cancellations, safety has always remained a priority. In the NFL, for instance, all of the quarterbacks for the Denver Broncos were forced to quarantine, resulting in a wide receiver from the practice team stepping into the position. Kendall Hinton will surely remember this moment for years to come.
College athletes may have been impacted the most by the pandemic. Not only were many seasons cancelled or postponed, but the social aspect of the college experience was no longer. Most in-person classes were pushed to remote learning, and large group gatherings were prohibited. With last year’s March Madness being cancelled for the first time ever, the NCAA has made an effort to safely give these athletes an opportunity to compete during the 2020-21 season. Despite the lack of fans in the gyms, technology has created a normal experience for fans watching from home. The background noises of fans cheering sometimes makes us forget about what’s going on in the world as we are so focused on the game. College football is coming close to completing its first season during a pandemic. Again, there have been some difficulties along the way, but the proper actions were taken with each circumstance. Similar to the instance within the Denver Broncos, the Vanderbilt football team lost all of its kickers due to quarantines. For the first time ever, a girl named Sarah Fuller from the Vanderbilt soccer team played in a college football game.
Although 2020 has been filled with changes, we have found ways to adapt to them. It has been a year of fear, anxiety, and anger, yet sports have allowed us to escape those emotions and experience some normalcy. Some of the most unique and unthought-of situations occurred in sports this year, and these stories will be told for generations to come. Once COVID-19 has passed, one thing is clear: we will cherish the times we get to spend with loved ones, going to restaurants and bars while conversing with an old friend, traveling the world to experience different cultures, and being in an atmosphere where you are surrounded by thousands of people to watch your favorite sports team.
Orlando, FL – Amidst the global pandemic that has compelled daily routine changes, rescheduled trips, and cancellations of major sporting events, the NBA prepared a safe and efficient way to finish out the 2019-20 season. Strict protocols were set in place for the restart, which set to begin on July 30, 2020 in Orlando, FL. As players began entering the NBA bubble, a strict quarantine along with testing requirements were enforced before practices were held. During a time where everything seemed to come to a halt, the NBA organization successfully produced a safe environment for the players, coaches, and referees to bring basketball back into our everyday lives—during a time we needed it most.
Horner Floors in the Bubble
As the NBA planned practice schedules that would eliminate contact between teams, a total of 15 practice floors and 3 broadcast floors were initially installed in the NBA Bubble. Horner Flooring contributed to the NBA Restart by providing 4 practice floors; all of which were previously used by NBA teams and shipped to Orlando. In addition, Horner Flooring manufactured all 3 of the new broadcast floors along with the NBA Finals floor. Following weeks of practices and scrimmages, the 2019-20 NBA season finally resumed on July 30, 2020.
Biggest Moments in the Bubble
Phoenix Suns go undefeated in the Bubble, not enough to qualify for the playoffs.One of the most-talked about teams early on in the NBA Bubble was the Suns. Going into the Bubble, the Suns had a 10,000/1 chance of winning the NBA Championship. In order to even make the playoffs, they had to go undefeated while banking on other teams to lose. The Suns were able to accomplish an undefeated Bubble performance led by Devin Booker, but the Cinderella story was cut short following a 1-point win by the Trail-Blazers over the Nets.
First-ever play-in tournament to determine the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.Because the #8 and #9 seeds in the West were within 4 games from each other, they were the first to participate in a play-in tournament. The #8 seed was the Portland Trail Blazers, and the #9 seed was the Memphis Grizzlies. The Trail Blazers, being the lower seed, had to win one game to clinch a spot in the Playoffs, where the Grizzlies had to win two in a row. Portland took the win after a close, hard-fought game to advance to the Playoffs.
Miami Heat upset Milwaukee Bucks in a short 5-game series. Perhaps the Cinderella story could be carried on by the #5 seed in the West: the Miami Heat. The young Heat team was led by veteran Jimmy Butler, who propelled the team to accomplishing a major upset against the #1 overall seed in the NBA: The Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks was awarded Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, but his team came up short in adding an NBA Championship to that list.
Lebron James passes Derek Fisher for most NBA Playoff wins of all time. On September 8, 2020, the LA Lakers produced an impressive 112-102 win over the Houston Rockets, which indicated a historical moment in the NBA. Lebron James passed the NBA Playoff win record of 161 wins – previously held by Derek Fisher – with a 36 point performance.
NBA Finals: Miami Heat vs. LA Lakers. After more than a month of playoff basketball, the Los Angeles Lakers claimed the NBA Title for the 17th time in franchise history. The NBA Finals MVP award was earned by Lebron James, as he pulled off his fourth NBA Title and fourth Finals MVP award. The Lakers celebrated a 106-93 victory over the Miami Heat during Game 6 of the series. October 11, 2020 marked a special day for Lakers fans, but the Championship meant more than just that. Many players, staff, and fans of the NBA made a tribute to Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant, who passed away in January of this year. Kobe made a lasting impact on the Lakers organization not just because of the five championships he won and the stats he produced, but because he truly demonstrated good character and hard work with his Mamba Mentality. The 2019-20 NBA season will go down in history as the most unique one yet, with a special ending.
For years, Horner Flooring has been trusted by the NBA to manufacture quality floors that fit design requirements. This means providing NBA floors for major special events such as: the NBA All-Star game for 36 consecutive years, NBA Summer League, NBA G League, Jr. NBA, and the NBA Draft Combine. Horner Flooring puts a major emphasis on injury prevention as we manufacture our flooring systems. The NBA Bubble presented a new environment, where games were played on Horner floors just about every day. Horner Flooring’s lasting relationship with the NBA organization has shown that the highest-caliber organization trusts that our floors are produced with the athlete’s best interest in mind.
Throughout Blake Griffin’s basketball career, he has endured countless injuries which have impacted his ability to stay on the court. It all started during his first year at the University of Oklahoma. As a freshman, Griffin averaged 14.7 PPG and 9.1 RPG while spraining both knees throughout the season. However, Griffin’s sophomore year of college showed much promise as he earned National Player of the Year Awards. These two years proved to be extremely impactful on the remainder of Blake Griffin’s basketball career.
After two years at the University of Oklahoma, Griffin decided to enter the 2009 NBA Draft. He was selected as the first round pick by the Clippers, where he spent 9 years before being traded to the Pistons. After being drafted by the Clippers, Griffin was named the 2009 Summer League MVP. Could this have been the beginning of a legacy? After an injury during the final preseason game in 2009 requiring surgery to the left knee, Griffin was forced to miss ~what would have been~ his Rookie Season. However, his comeback the following year granted him the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and All NBA Second Team Honors. Griffin’s path from here on looked bright, until additional injuries limited his time on the floor. He went on to suffer a torn left quadricep, right knee surgery, a toe injury, an MCL sprain, an ankle bone bruise, and another left knee surgery.
Griffin Family Performance Center
So, given Blake Griffin’s track record with sport-related injuries, he wanted to make a difference by preventing his experience from happening to others. In August of 2018, Blake Griffin and his family opened the Griffin Family Performance Center at the University of Oklahoma’s campus.
Blake Griffin made a statement saying “College is a critical time in an athlete’s playing career, and it’s my honor to help give the men’s and women’s teams the resources and technology that will give them the best opportunity to succeed.” Horner Flooring was part of Griffin’s plan.
Injuries can make or break an athletes career. Not only do they cause physical distress on the body, but the mental aspect is almost just as detrimental to the athlete’s health. According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, the injury ratings during college basketball games for men and women are 8.9% and 7.7% respectively. During practice, injury rates are lower at 4.3% for men and 4.0% for women. Considering the large number of college basketball players today, thousands are affected by injuries. Blake Griffin was one of these athletes, and his efforts to minimize preventable injuries revolve around the equipment available to college teams along with the training.
A Look Inside
Free weights and indoor turf
Headington Recovery Room
Horner Flooring’s Contribution
Horner Flooring manufactured two small courts with built-in impact sensors used to track player performance. Aligned with Blake Griffin’s goal of preventing injury, the Zenith flooring system contains all of the qualities necessary to reduce stress on the body during impact. The innovative technology instilled in the Zenith flooring has proven it to be the most trusted sports flooring system for athletes of any age.
The Zenith System
The Zenith System utilizes the latest computer aided design technology to achieve and surpass the MFMA’s PUR standard. The Zenith’s attributes include:
Computer-designed Dual-Stage Resilience
Highest performance with maximum dimensional stability
Beginning on August 6, over 350 of the top 13- and 14-year old boys and girls will participate in the Jr. NBA Global Championship. The United States will be represented by 8 boys teams and 8 girls teams who won their Regional Tournament. In addition, 8 boys and 8 girls international teams will compete from all over the world.
The Jr. NBA is an incredible opportunity for young boys and girls to play against the top competition in the world in front of some NBA and WNBA players who will be in attendance. This experience allows them to not only improve their basketball skills, but it could be the stepping stone for something big. Players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Miles Bridges, Draymond Green, Candice Wiggins, Chiney Ogwumike, and many more could attest to that, as they are all alumni of the U.S. teams.
The Jr. NBA Global Championship will take place in Orlando, Florida from August 6 to August 11. A list of teams by region can be found below:
U.S Jr. NBA Teams by Region
International Jr. NBA Boys and Girls Teams
A quote from Dwayne Wade:
“I attended last year’s Jr. NBA Global Championship and it was incredible to witness the talent and passion displayed by boys and girls from around the world. This event offers a unique opportunity for young players to learn about different cultures while bonding through their love of the game.”
The NBA free-agency period has been full of surprises, and the results have fans eagerly anticipating the upcoming seasons. Many of the top players in the NBA have signed with different teams, making the power rankings unlike previous years. Teams like the Clippers, Lakers, and Rockets are expected to be some the top contenders in the league due to recent additions. Some of the best players in the NBA have joined forces to pursue a championship title, so which dynamic duo is most capable?
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to Clippers
The Clippers had an unforeseen successful 2018-19 season, where they made the playoffs and even won a couple of games against the Warriors in the first round. In what seemed like the longest, most anticipated decision, Kawhi Leonard announced that he will be joining the Clippers, and former Oklahoma City Thunder star, Paul George, will accompany him. The addition of Kawhi Leonard, the Finals MVP who averaged 26.6 PPG, and Paul George, a talented small forward/shooting guard who averaged 28 PPG last season, is just what the Clippers need. Not only can Leonard and George produce offensively, but they have proved themselves to being some of the best defensive players in the league. The two superstars are returning to their hometown in hopes of bringing a championship to their city, but do they have enough to knock off the team next door?
Anthony Davis joins Lebron James in L.A.
During Lebron’s first year with the L.A. Lakers, they failed to make the playoffs and finished in the bottom half of the Western Conference. However, with the addition of Anthony Davis for the 2019-20 season, it may be just what Lebron needs to find success in L.A. Through Davis’s 7 years spent in New Orleans, he received 3 NBA First-Team selections along with various All-Defensive team honors. If James and Davis learn how to play with each other while continuing to perform at the highest level, they have the capability to work their way to the top of the conference. These two number 1 draft picks are coming together to win a championship, and they have guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Kyle Kuzma to help.
Westbrook joins Harden in Houston
After Paul George left Oklahoma City for the Clippers, there was talk about Russell Westbrook leaving as well. As of July 11, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and a few first round picks. Now, Westbrook is reunited with James Harden. The last time these two stars played together was during the years of 2009-2012, where they appeared in the NBA Finals during their last year alongside Kevin Durant. During the 2018-19 season, Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double in points, rebounds, and assists. In addition, James Harden is one of the best scorers in the league, where he averaged 36.1 PPG last season. Will these two superstars be able to coexist next season?
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Nets
Kevin Durant announced his departure from arguably one of the best teams the NBA has ever seen, leaving Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green for the Brooklyn Nets. During his time with the Warriors, Durant secured 2 NBA championships and 2 NBA Finals MVP awards in just three years. However, his unfortunate Achilles injury during the 2019 NBA Playoffs will restrict him from playing in the upcoming season with point guard Kyrie Irving. Durant may be leaving the 2 time MVP point guard, Steph Curry, but this new point guard/forward duo seems unstoppable. Unfortunately, we will have to wait another year to watch it unfold. Until then, the Nets are still capable of finding success this year with the additions of Irving and DeAndre Jordan.
With the announcement of the 2019 NBA awards, there was one common factor between nearly all major award recipients; international players. The game of basketball is not only growing worldwide, but the level of play is expanding as well. During the 2018-19 NBA season, roughly 25% of players in the league were foreign-born, ranging from 42 different countries. Not only is this trend rising, but the players coming in are making a significant impact on the franchise’s they join. Four out of the five major NBA award recipients were foreign-born, and the Toronto Raptors, the only non-American team in the league, just won their first ever NBA Championship.
The league is becoming more and more competitive, and a lot of this can be attributed to the global advancements in the game of basketball. The following foreign-born award recipients played crucial roles on their teams during the 2018-19 season.
Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis, commonly referred to as “The Greek Freak,” was born in Athens, Greece. He began his professional basketball career in Greece, until the Milwaukee Bucks drafted him in 2013 as the 15th overall pick. With his first MVP selection this year, he averaged 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 5.9 APG, all while being one of the best defensive players in the league. He lead the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001.
Rookie of the Year: Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks
Luka Dončić was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia. In 2015, at the age of 16, he began his professional career with Real Madrid. Needless to say, he found success in the EuroLeaugue as he earned the EuroLeague MVP award in 2018 at 19 years old. He was then drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2018 as the 3rd overall pick and traded to the Dallas Mavericks, where he made his NBA debut. During his first year, Dončić averaged 21.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 6.0 APG, earning him Rookie of the Year honors.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert was born in Saint-Quentin, France. His professional career started in 2010 with Cholet Basket, a French junior team. Gobert was drafted in 2013 by the Denver Nuggets as the 27th pick and traded to the Utah Jazz. During the 2018-19 season, he averaged 12.9 RPG and 2.3 blocks to earn him the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Most Improved Player: Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Pascal Siakam, originally from Douala, Cameroon, played a pivotal role in the Toronto Raptors NBA Title. He played college basketball at New Mexico State University (2013-2016) until he was drafted as the number 27th pick by the Toronto Raptors in 2016. During the 2017-18 season, Siakam averaged just 7.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 20.7 MPG. To earn himself the Most Improved Player award, he bumped those stats up to 16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 31.9 MPG during the 2018-19 season.
June 13 is a day that Toronto Raptors players, coaches, and fans will remember for a long time. On this day, the Raptors left a mark in NBA championship history by beating off the most dominant team in the past 5 years—the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have practically controlled the league for the past 5 years, appearing in 5 consecutive NBA finals with 3 championships.
So how did the Raptors knock off this NBA powerhouse to clinch their first Championship?
Twitter / Raptors
Depth. One of the most evident differences between the teams was depth, and it was especially noticeable when Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were out during Game 6. Fred Vanvleet and Serge Ibaka contributed significant minutes for the Raptors coming off the bench, averaging 32.5 and 19.3 MPG, respectively. With Durant out for most of the series, there was a significant drop off between the starters and bench players in terms of productivity for the Warriors. The bottom line is that Toronto had more weapons than Golden State. The Raptors had 6 players averaging double digits throughout the series, whereas the Warriors only had 3: Curry, Thompson, and Green.
Kawhi Leonard. Throughout each game of the NBA Finals, Kawhi Leonard was the key for Toronto’s success. He averaged 28.5 PPG and 9.8 RPG in the 6 game series, scoring over 20 points every game. The consistency he displayed during the series was vital for the Raptors to knock off the defending champs, and it led him to earning his second NBA Finals MVP award. Now, the big question is…with Kawhi approaching free agency, where will he go? Will he stay in Toronto or sign with a new team?
Men’s college basketball courts will have a new look in the upcoming seasons! The NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee and the Playing Rules Oversight Panel has decided to increase the length of the 3-point line for NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball during the upcoming season (2019-20). This rule will go into effect for NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball during the 2020-21 season.
Dimensions: The 3-point line will be extended roughly 1′ 5.” The new distance for the 2019-20 season will be 22′ 1 ¾” at the top of the key and 21′ 7 7/8″ in the corners. Now, NCAA Men’s Division I, FIBA, and the WNBA will use the same dimensions for their 3-point lines.
Why is the 3-point line being extended? The game of basketball has shifted its focus to behind-the-arc play now more than ever. With this, players are becoming reliant on the 3-point shot, and, in a way, some aspects of the game have been taken away. Players are constantly looking for ways to advance their game due to the competitive recruiting environment, resulting in an increase in 3-point attempts and percentage throughout college basketball.
The extension of the 3-point line will not only make the shot more challenging for players, but it will also open up driving lanes due to increased spacing. The extension will present an added dimension that could slightly alter the way the game is played.
What about NCAA Women’s Basketball? The women’s 3-point line will remain the same for all levels during the 2019-20 season, and there are no current plans to expand it.
To learn about the changes in NCAA Women’s Basketball: