Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day everyone! Hope you had a good day celebrating a man that would back down from nothing to stand up for what he believed was right. If you think about everything that Martin Luther King Jr. has done for this country it is phenomenal. I look up to him because of his strength, leadership and compassion for people. He has helped make this country better for people of all ages. Thank you Dr. King for all your well doings and happy birthday! On such a special day, I had a phone interview with J.R. Inman to ask him about how feels about Dr. King and of course, basketball! Read below for my Q&A session with J.R. Inman. As always, I welcome your comments.
Mike: Well, today, being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, how did Martin Luther King affect you?
JR: Well, I think that Dr. King not only affected me, and obviously the other minority people of color, he affected our whole society -- people from various cultural backgrounds, that have different upbringings and come from different ways of life. More than anything, I think that Dr. King represented unity. I believe that as a nation, as a country, and as a people --because of people like Dr. King-- we’ve been able to be a stronger nation, we’ve been able to get many things accomplished, and it speaks volumes about the type of person that he was. His message of nonviolence in a time of civil disobedience is something that I not only respect, but I use that as motivation for all of my endeavors, because in the 1960s, there were a lot of things going on in our country. What he was able to accomplish was incredible. So, certainly given the roadblocks that he had, if he can make those accomplishments during his life in the 60s, certainly we should be able follow him and do the same thing in 2014.
Mike: How would you characterize your experience in the D-League so far?
JR: It’s been quite an experience. I have had the opportunity to play with, and against, current and former NBA players. So, you know, they talk about the Developmental League being a farm-seeded link, some even say a direct link, between amateur basketball and basketball at the highest level, the NBA. Personally, it has given me the opportunity to play in front of NBA scouts every night and to build some relationships and networking opportunities with some of the biggest people in the business.
Mike: I see that in 6 games you averaged a double-double with 11.5 PPG and 10.0 RPG. How long do you think you can keep up this level of play?
JR: Well now, that statistic was dating back, but now I’ve played around 15 games. Right now I am actually currently inactive, which means I am still practicing with the team, I’m still on the roster, but I am not playing in the actual games. For instance, we have a game today that I will not be playing. We have about 12 or 13 guys on the roster currently, and for game day situations you can only play or suit up 10 guys, so it is a situation where I would hope to get back on the floor as soon as possible.
Mike: To date, what would you say would be your highlight of the season?
JR: My highlight of the season? I can only speak on the best statistical game I had where we played against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and I had 18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 assists. I was scoring in multiple ways, inside, outside, really showing my full skillset and it was an exciting game. It was a pleasant experience because it was so far, and my signature game that I had, in terms of efficiency.
Mike: There have been various times this season where you have been moved to the center position and you have had to play against bigger and stronger guys but you have been able to contain them. What gives you the momentum to go up against these bigger and stronger guys and being able to stop them?
JR: I think that my experience playing in the Big East basketball conference, combined with my professional experiences abroad, have equipped me with the skills and the knowledge to be able to play against big guys. If you look at the NBA all-time defensive centers, like Ben Wallace, who at 6’9” was the defensive player of the year at the center position, being able to guard guys like Shaq and you say how does he do that? Defense is about desire and discipline, but it is also about technique and leverage. If you can simply get lower than your man, and you can hit him first to initiate contact, even if he is bigger and stronger than you, you can counter balance his strength with your technique. It’s science. Basketball, more than anything is a science, and that is why I have been able to do what I do when I play against guys who are bigger and stronger than me. I use my speed and I use my leverage to try to get lower, and I also initiate contact to push him out of the paint so he doesn’t have easy post position.
Mike: You have started 14 of your 16 games this season, and have really made an impact on the court. Your efficiency rating has been at +11.62, which is the third highest on your team. How are you keeping yourself so consistent?
JR: Overall, I am just trying to find my game. A lot of times, especially on this level, when guys are trying to make the NBA, sometimes people are overly aggressive and they try to do things that they are not overly comfortable with to try to impress scouts. In reality, a scout that is looking at you is either going to like your game or not. And at this level, if they are even looking at you, they have some interest in you. It does add some pressure but I just go out and play my game and not worry about trying to impress anybody, but it is actually very interesting that you just told me that stat that I had the third highest efficiency rating in the team. There are so many aspects and there are so many variables that go into each and every game, each and every player being out on the floor that, no, it is not always the best guy, it is not always the most team-oriented guy on the court. There are so many factors that can determine the outcome of the game, the outcome of a team, and its construct. It is just important not to focus on those factors and just to focus on readiness and being prepared and waiting for your opportunity.
Mike: That is all I got. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
JR: I would like to say that we have been struggling in terms of win/loss however, this is an experience that I will never forget. I am appreciative, but you know, I came a long way, I was the 8th round draft pick in the D-League draft. I went from being the 8th round pick to starting 14 of my 16 games. Most players that we drafted are not even on our team anymore. In fact, we only have four players currently, from the original training camp roster, that are still with us. So, the fact that I was able to defy the odds by going from an 8th round pick to becoming a starter in just a month span, it speaks volumes of my work ethic and I just think that is something in itself and an example for young children to understand. Some kids, especially in the high school level, they may say, "Oh coach doesn’t like me because I don’t get much playing time" but where you are at today has nothing to do with where you will be at tomorrow or the next day. As long as you put your best foot forward each and every day, you can continue to work hard to reach your goals and aspirations. I believe there is a saying that the crane always rises to the top and that is what happened with me and the 87ers.
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The weather wasn’t the only thing cold in New York last week. The Miami Heat lost their steam in the Big Apple against both the Knicks and the Nets, which both had great games against the Heat. The Knicks capped off their four-in- a-row winning streak last night in Philadelphia, winning against the 76ers, 102-92. While that was a great win, nothing is as sweet as beating LeBron and company. So, let’s take a closer look at Miami’s northern freeze by summing these games up.
First, the Heat against the Knicks on Thursday, January 9th: The whole game was a LeBron-Anthony show. LeBron does a dunk and Carmelo pops a three. It was so fun to watch. At the end of the half, the Heat led by 5. The Heat had momentum, but the Knicks had more. By the end of third, the Knicks regained the lead to make it 75-71. In true New York style, the Knicks sent chills down the backs of Miami fans as their team was toppled 102-90. LeBron ended up with 32 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. He also had 6 turnovers. Wade had 23 points. However, he had a plus-minus of -14 and went 0-6 from the free throw line. The Knicks had a much better stat line. Carmelo Anthony had 29 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and only 2 turnovers.
Next, the Heat headed over to Brooklyn on Friday, January 10th. The Nets-Heat game went into double-overtime and was exciting from start to finish. At the end of the first half, the Nets were up, 53-45. The Heat were still not doing good as the Nets took a 12 point lead at the end of the third, making the score 76-64. The Heat began to warm up a little to tie it at 89, extending the game into its first overtime.
LeBron failed in the clutch again when he tried to tie the game at 93-91 but charged into Shaun Livingston instead, which fouled him out of the game. This was LeBron’s first time fouling out since April 2nd, 2008 against Charlotte in the regular season, which I think is absolutely ridiculous and the refs should open their eyes when it comes to LeBron and fouls but I will save that for another blog. Anyway, Norris Cole hit a jumpshot to tie it up so they went into their second overtime period. The Nets then outscored them 11-2 to finish them off with a 104-95 victory. The Nets’ plus-minus were incredible as Paul Pierce had a +21 plus-minus with 23 points, Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett both had a plus-minus of +18, Shaun Livingston had a +11, and Alan Anderson had a +10. Johnson had 32 points, Garnett had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and my player of the game, Shaun Livingston had 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists while playing 51 minutes. Great job by both teams getting W’s while to cool off the Miami Heat.
While the temps were certainly tough for New Yorkers, it was a great week to be a Knicks or Nets fan. I thought both teams played well and I was very happy. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think. Please comment.
Okay, I admit it. It’s been pretty hard to write about the NY Knicks lately, even for a diehard fan. But last night provided a flicker of hope for Knicks fans, even if it doesn’t last long. The Knicks Iman Shumpert let loose last night after a season-long slump held him down. He scored a career-high 27 points and went six for eight from the three point line! To cap off the night, he jumped higher than the rim to tip in Melo’s missed three with absolute finesse to help secure the win.
I was happy for Shumpert, who has not been much of a factor for the Knicks. This night belonged to him and it was a sweet victory in an otherwise sour season for Knicks fans. Thinking about this season, I started to feel bad for the Knick players and thought about what I would say to them if I could give them a pep talk about this season.
My advice to the Knicks and every other player in the NBA is to remember they’ve already won. They have the best job in the world. Whether they win or lose each game, they’re already are all winners. They are living the dream of so many people, a dream most will never have come true because they may not have the talent, the strength, the height, or maybe even the luck that is needed. But they did! I would tell each player to think back to when they were 12 and what the game meant to them at that time. I would tell them to hold on to that feeling and never let it go. I would tell them to enjoy every day they are on the court and to give it their best shot each and every game. I would tell them to live in the moment. And I would remind them that nothing lasts forever and that seasons change.
Just ask Iman Shumpert.
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My name is Mike V. I am an enormous basketball fan. I also am a die-hard Knicks fan. After graduating 5th grade, I started writing this blog at the age of 10 in the summer of 2012.