Have the Warriors lost their sauce without Curry?

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

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Flickr User Roco

It’s been a very interesting year for the reigning NBA champs.

For much of the season, the Golden State Warriors seemed sluggish, almost as if they could not care less about the regular season. Then injuries began to pile up. The team’s big four all sat out multiple games at once.

In a sense, this didn’t really matter, as NBA analysts all agreed that if the team could be ready come playoff time, they’d have nothing to worry about. On March 23, all of that changed. Steph Curry made his return from his ankle sprain, and late in the third quarter, Javale McGee awkwardly fell into Curry’s right knee. Curry immediately limped away, grimacing in pain. After a couple of days, the team diagnosed their starting guard with a grade 2 MCL sprain, an injury that could keep him out three to four weeks.

What Curry brings to the floor for his team is incomparable. He’s able to spread out the opposition’s defense to not only create opportunities for himself but his teammates, too. Still, without their main man, the Warriors were still in good shape. Having Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is as good as a trio as anyone’s — at least, that’s what was thought. Since Curry went out again, the team has been a lackluster 4-6. Three of those four wins came against the bottom-feeders of the league.

Their one win that helped keep fans’ hopes alive was against a rival Oklahoma City Thunder team, an opponent that was constructed to tear down the Warriors. In their first two meetings, it looked like the Thunder could do it. OKC crushed Golden State with an average margin of victory of 18.5 points. In the third meeting, the Warriors used a third quarter run to bully their way to a win.

However, even with that win on their resume, things didn’t change. They continued to lose to teams that they shouldn’t such as the Pacers by 20, and even a 40-point beat-down by the Utah Jazz.

To many, it just doesn’t add up. The Warriors have the second-best player in the league, one of the best defenders and a top-two shooter. Along with this, the Warriors have found a valuable piece in Quinn Cook, who has stepped up in a tremendous fashion in Curry’s absence.

Last year, similar circumstances hit. Durant went out with an injury to his leg, but the exact opposite happened. Golden State used it as motivation to go on its longest winning streak of the season. So why hasn’t the same thing happened this year?

Stephen A. Smith and other NBA anaylsts have called out Durant to show up and take the lead.

“If [you’re] KD, nobody else should be a problem outside of Houston,” Smith said on ESPN.

It’s not just the reporters, though. Fans agree, too.

Hamptonian Cameron Austin said, “KD can’t be the best player in the world if he can’t carry his team. LeBron has been doing it for years now.”

Austin continued, “I think this all but solidifies the argument of who the best player in the world is.”

What’s crazy is, things have seemed to work out for Golden State. Out of all the teams they could have played in the first round, they ended up facing the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs, a team they can easily sweep. You can’t ever count out any team coached by Gregg Popovich, but at the end of the day, the Warriors are the overwhelming favorite.

A four-game sweep would mean a lot to the Bay area team. They wouldn’t just build momentum, they’d also get much needed rest before facing either the Pelicans or Trail Blazers, two noteworthy opponents.

Either way, they’ll most likely need Curry for the semifinals, and definitely for the conference finals. The Rockets look to be unstoppable, and there is absolutely no way the Warriors can take out Houston without their most important player.

So the question that has arisen now is: How long can the Warriors survive without Curry?

Championship slips from the Lady Pirates’ hands

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

There has been a lot of drama between Hampton University and the MEAC of late. The Pirates’ announced leave has left a bad taste in the conference’s mouth. HU is headed for the Big South.

March 10, that was set aside. Instead, the drama was on the court.

The Lady Pirates entered the MEAC women’s basketball championship game in Norfolk having won seven contests in a row and were facing North Carolina A&T.

A month earlier, HU had handed the Aggies their only conference loss.

In the MEAC title game, the Aggies handed the Pirates a devastating defeat.

Jephany Brown scored a game-high 22 points, and Mikayla Sale made a tying layup with seven seconds left in regulation, but HU fell 72-65 in overtime.

It didn’t seem it would go that way at first, though. The Aggies began slowly, not scoring a point for the first five minutes. In the second quarter, Hampton led 21-12. But the Aggies closed out the half strong with a 10-2 run, ultimately leading to a much more manageable 29-23 deficit.

Things took a turn for the worst in the second half for Hampton. In the third quarter, the Lady Pirates only made one field goal in the entire 10 minutes of play. Other than that shot, all of the other points were free throws.

A&T was executing both on offense and defense. The Aggies were able to flip Hampton’s six turnovers into easy buckets along with getting key players such as Ashley Bates into foul trouble. The momentum of the game had clearly changed toward the Aggies, and they used it to outscore the Lady Pirates 19-8 in the third period.

It was now up to Hampton to redeem themselves for giving up their first-half lead, but things weren’t going smoothly. Every time the Lady Pirates inched closer toward the Aggies’ lead, A&T would create just enough separation to feel safe.

With less than 5 minutes to play, North Carolina A&T held a 10-point lead. Hampton wasn’t ready to give up easy. The Lady Pirates went on an 8-0 run, led by Brown and Sayle, to cut the deficit to 2.

The next few possessions were a free throw game. If A&T could manage to hit all of their shots at the charity stripe, they’d certainly win. If they couldn’t, Hampton had a chance.

Kala Green stood at the line and could have pushed the lead to 3 for A&T, but she went 1-for-2.

Sale knotted matters with a layup. The Lady Pirates stole the ball with six seconds left in regulation and were able to get a shot up just before the buzzer sounded.

Unfortunately, it did not fall. In overtime, the Lady Pirates and the Aggies appeared to be in a tug-of-war standstill. Each team hit clutch shots down the wire up until the one-minute mark.

This is where the Aggies began to separate themselves. In one possession A&T was able to grab three offensive rebounds off three missed shots which eventually led to a made jumper. A turnover on Hampton’s next possession forced the Lady Pirates to foul.

Green once again could ice the game at the line, but just like before, she went 1-of-2.

This time, though, the Aggies grabbed the offensive rebound and, soon after, the MEAC championship.

Hampton nearly gave coach David Six a seventh tourney title despite 24 turnovers.

The Lady Pirates ended the season 18-14 and the MEAC runner-up.

As they look toward next year, they will need players to step up and fill the void left by four seniors – Monnazjea Finney-Smith, Allina Starr, Brown and Sayle.

Hampton lacrosse hopeful for the 2018 season

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

Being the first HBCU to have a Division I lacrosse program is a big deal for Hampton University. Still, it’s safe to say the team has struggled since the program began in 2016. The Pirates have won just a single game in their first 13 matches.

However, this is not a talent issue. Hampton has gone out of state to recruit all sorts of different players. Stellar athletes include Kier Johnson, Jonathan Napier and, most recently, Carter Boone.

In their first year, the team struggled both offensively and defensively. On the offensive side, they failed to score more than five goals in every game of the year, while also giving up 15 or more on defense.

To better suit the defense, the coaching staff went out and recruited standout goalie Kevin Mondy. The following year, things got better on both sides of the ball.

“I’ve always used lacrosse as a therapeutic getaway from the world…but last year, sometimes, I got lost in that,” Mondy said about how the defense struggled. “We didn’t communicate or trust each other the way we should have, and it showed in the scoreboard.”

In their only W, the Pirates’ energy was completely different than it had been in past games. They faced adversity after being down 3-0 in the first quarter.

“In those moments, it’s so important to keep faith and really just move on from your mistakes,” the Pirates’ Preston Randolph said.

Randolph was winner of Most Improved Player of the Year last year and said, “Winning will start when we begin to become a complete team, when people pick each other up and when we follow the game plan that is given to us.”

After their game against the Firebirds, the Pirates have 11 games left. Five will be at home.

When asked what Hampton fans can expect from the games, Mondy’s response was straight to the point. “We went out and recruited some very fresh talent,” he said. “So I expect us to have a more competitive spirit and to find that drive to win.”

Randolph chimed in as well, saying, “No one wants to come to the game and watch us lose. It’s not fun for anyone involved except the opposing team.”

With more practice and more bonding, the team is sure that not only will they get better, but they will produce more W’s in 2018.

The rivalry renewed: HU vs. HU

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

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Twitter | @PeteDPirate

It’s officially that time of the year, rivalry week is upon us. Universities across the entire country face off against their arch nemesis.

One of the matches that is frequently overlooked is Hampton University vs. Howard University.

As you can see, both teams have the exact same “HU” initials. This has sparked a rivalry between the schools.

Ever since Hampton was renamed from “Hampton Institute” to “Hampton University,” bad blood has been boiling between the two schools in reference to who the “real HU” is.

Regarding football, Hampton is undoubtedly the “Real HU.”

The Pirates lead the series 51-41-1, so in order for Howard to catch up, it’s going to take an entire decade.

That streak could start this weekend.

The Bison are second in the MEAC conference with a record of 6-1 in league play and 7-3 overall.

Howard made headlines earlier this year after beating UNLV in the biggest upset in college football history.

A week after that, they only lost to Kent State University by a mere seven points.
Leading this Bison team is Caylin Newton, the little brother of the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback Cam Newton.

Since the loss to the Golden Flashes, Howard has been 6-2, and are currently on a five game win streak.

Meanwhile at Hampton, things haven’t been going so well. Just three weeks ago, the Pirates were under North Carolina A&T in the conference standings with an overall record of 5-2.

Since then, the season seems to have collapsed, as the Pirates have lost three games straight.

Hampton sophomore Kimand Albright says, “It seems like the team just got complacent with where they were. [However,] down the stretch the play-calling has been questionable along with the execution of the plays.”

Albright isn’t the only one that feels that way.

Hampton student Juwan Williams agrees, saying, “The team may need to try new athletes in at different positions to get a better feel of where they stand, maybe even at quarterback.”

Brendan Greene, a player for the Pirates, says, “It’s easy to blame play-calling when we’re losing. Honestly, it comes down to execution.

“We need to come out ready so that we can finish the season strong.”

For Hampton, there isn’t much on the line other than the basics.

If they win, they finish the season with a winning record; if not, they’ll finish 5-6.

On the opposite end, the Bison have higher stakes. If North Carolina A&T loses and the Bison come out on top, they will share the conference championship.

A victory in this game would be Howard’s first time winning the MEAC title since 1993.

Rivalries are always tense, but the energy for this year’s “Battle of the Real HU” will likely be at an all-time high.

Beckham’s ankle and Giant contract hopes are fractured

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

The Giants and NFL fans have suffered a gigantic loss.

New York Giants superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was declared out for the rest of the season after breaking his left ankle on Oct. 8, according to The Associated Press.

In Week 5, Beckham went down in an awkward position as he was hit by a defender. Immediately after, he laid on the field grimacing in pain. Tears streamed down his face when his helmet was removed. Beckham was then carted off the field.

At that point, the Giants’ season was a complete disaster. Analysts and fans alike both thought that coming into the year, the sky was the limit for New York. Then the Giants started 0-5. To make matters worse, they also lost their three top receivers.

Many fans have given up hope and merely want this football season to fly by so that they can restart in the next one. For Beckham, though, something else is going to loom in the air for a while: his contract. In the off-season, Beckham stated that he would like to be the NFL’s highest-paid player. Currently, the person who holds that title is Matthew Stafford, who recently signed a five-year, $135 million deal.

OBJ is one of the NFL’s most recognizable stars. Whether it be his amazing one-handed catches, his flashy hair or flamboyant celebrations, fans love him. Beckham told Uninterrupted.com that the reason he should be the NFL’s highest-paid player is because he puts his “heart, soul, body, mind, spirit … everything” into this game. No one can question his passion. Beckham has broken almost every three-year receiving record in the league. It’s undeniable that the talent is there, too.

However, Beckham isn’t without his faults.

He came up short in the biggest game of his career during a 38-13 playoff loss to the Packers in January. He had three drops, and one would have been a touchdown.

That’s not all, though. OBJ’s passion can sometimes result in anger. The world has watched him get multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, rage on the sidelines and even slam his head against walls in the locker room after losses.

Beckham is compared the most to Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. Brown, who is the league’s highest-paid receiver, is making $68 million over four years. Jones rakes in $71 million over five years.

So how much is Beckham worth?

The quarterback is normally the highest-paid position in football, but at least one defensive foe sides with OBJ. And not just any random player – Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, arguably the best defensive player in the NFL.

“The type of impact he has on the globe, the type of viewers he brings in … he’s a once in a lifetime player,” Miller told NFL reporters.

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith disagreed.

“At the wide receiver position, no matter how great you are, there’s a potential to be neutralized,” Smith said on air. “And when that potential exists, you can’t be the highest-paid player in the game.”

Opinions about Beckham vary.

“There are plenty of other players that have a bigger impact than him,” Hampton sophomore Juwan Williams said. “He’s also not the best at the position.”

The Giants likely will discuss a contract extension once the season concludes. With Beckham’s fractured ankle, though, the team could be hesitant to give him the pay increase he wants.

There is a sufficient amount of time before meetings between OBJ and his team begin. With no playoff wins, an iffy ankle and Beckham not playing the quarterback position, the future of his contract remains up in the air.

 

Lost in translation in a “united” nation

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

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ESPN

Colin Kaepernick’s name over the past year has remained a frequent subject of discussion when it comes to the NFL. His protest over the racial inequality and social injustice has heard plenty of praise but also a significant amount of disapproval as well.

The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback aimed to spread awareness of the topics by kneeling during the national anthem last season.

“Kaepernick [was] not trying to disrespect fallen soldiers that have fought to protect the country for what it is today,” Hampton University sophomore Preston Randolph said this week. “He only wants equality and fairness.”

A week after the media frenzy began, Kaepernick’s jersey sales skyrocketed to the top, making him at the time the No. 1-selling jersey in the NFL. Time passed, and talk of protesting the league until he stood began.

The ratings of NFL games dropped 8 percent in January, according to Rolling Stone magazine. Many owners across the league believed this was due to the protests started by the onetime Super Bowl quarterback.

Kaepernick was released in March, and he has yet to be signed. The word “blackball” was mentioned often. Celebrities such as rapper and producer J. Cole, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley are just a few notable names in a sea full of people who say NFL owners have ostracized Kaepernick. Others believe that since his former team has not been producing, there is no reason to sign him.

President Donald Trump in March gave his own explanation on why Kaepernick remained unsigned. Trump’s reasoning was that “NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet.”

Six months later, the president’s attack was more personal than ever. Trump attended an Alabama rally in support of Luther Strange on Sept. 23 and said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of [an expletive] off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

The comment was extremely unexpected. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was one of the first to respond the following day, saying, “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL.” From there, an array of responses occurred from players and celebrities.

This was Saturday, though, and when Sunday came, the whole world waited to see how NFL teams would react as organizations. Division was the result. Teams kneeled together. Teams locked arms. Three teams stayed in the locker room. Some teams were split in between standing and taking a knee. Trump, however, did not back down, and instead sent another load of tweets reiterating his point that everyone should stand.

A day passed, and then the Dallas Cowboys were the center of attention. Jerry Jones, owner of “America’s Team,” was also a point of focus. This was due to his avid support of Trump over the past two years in his run as a politician, even donating $1 million. The team knelt and locked arms, all while being booed by the crowd.

People who did not agree with protests during the anthem began using the hashtag “I Stand” on social media and also discussed boycotting the NFL until the players stand. The NFL was already being boycotted by some American citizens for Kaepernick’s unemployment.

So two sides who oppose each other are now doing the same thing to try to cripple the nation’s most popular sport.

“I feel because of Trump’s comments towards the NFL [that] people are now missing the point of why the knee was taken in the first place,” Hampton student Kevin Monday said.

Has America become lost in Trump’s comments? Is the U.S. forgetting the purpose of the original protest? Although there are individual players such as Bennett, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and more who have remained kneeling for the original cause, there is a discrepancy.

Since teams in Week 3 took a knee following Trump’s comments, the impression was conveyed that they are kneeling out of humiliation by the president.

A humiliation that was met without a response would have been an embarrassment. To avoid this, the league responded accordingly.