Paul George – Road to Recovery

For Paul George, the team U.S.A scrimmage in Las Vegas was just another game. The Indiana three stepped on to the hardwood going through his pre-game routines as usual: knocking down threes, going through plays, stretching out – the standard pre-game stuff. Looking streaky in the shoot-around, George aimed to take this can’t miss attitude and momentum into the game with him. From the tip-off the Indiana small-forward was rolling off the pick and roll, looking to create space for open jumpers. After a few misses, including a wild shot off the top of the backboard, it quickly became apparent that the red-hot shooting performance we saw in the pre-game shoot-around was not going to carry over into the game itself – with George missing all four of his attempted field goals in the first half. The two U.S sides came out of the break very much the same – all-out offense with very little defence anywhere to be seen; akin to an All-Star game. George looked to jack up a few sighters, trying to shoot his way out of the slump he had gotten himself into – but it came to no avail. Despite a period of outstanding defence that led to two steals and a couple of assists – George was quite shockingly yet to make a field-goal: making 0 from 7 attempts throughout the game.

Entering the third quarter it was clear that George was looking to produce something big in order to put his previous misfires behind him. Three minutes into the fourth a steal from Paul George’s opposite number, James Harden, saw the bearded shooting-guard freight train to the rack with defenders trailing behind. George was first to react and immediately set-off behind Harden trying to stop the Houston Rockets guard getting a quick and easy bucket. Running at full-tilt the small-forward jumped to block the impending lay-up, leaping to swat the ball in to the stands George hurtled past the backboard before crashing awkwardly into the stanchion a few metres behind the hoop. In an instant, the rowdy Vegas crowd gasped in a simultaneous feeling of fear and the players all rushed over to the defender with looks of sheer horror and anguish. Attempting to salvage his performance Paul George’s right leg had collided with the stanchion that holds the hoop in place – instantly snapping his lower right leg in half. Along with the crowd, George gasped knowing his career could be over.

“I looked down to see my legs and I saw my bone. The second I saw that, I lost it” George sheepishly explained to the Bleacher Report/Ball Motivation YouTube channel. When colliding with the stanchion George suffered a compound fracture, breaking both the tibia and fibula in his right leg. The horrific injury brought back the painful memories of Kevin Ware’s similar compound fracture that occurred in 2013; the college freshman was left side-lined for a year and a half after falling awkwardly out of a jump-shot. Although the injuries were different in the way that they occurred, the sheer gruesome sight of a compound fracture reminded us basketball fans of what can sadly happen on occasion. When talking to Bleacher Report/Ball Motivation YouTube channel George hesitantly explained what was going through his mind in the following moments after the injury: “Everything just slowed down. Like I could hear every individual in the arena talking”, the star then went on to describe the pain: “It was tough, as soon as the air hit the bone and where the open wound was it just shot through my whole body. I tried to lift back up to take another look but the OKC trainer um rushed over and held me down, pinned me down so I couldn’t lift back up. He told me ‘Man, you’ve broke your leg, you’ll get through this but it’s broke’ – that was a tough point right there.”

As timing of injuries go, this leg-break was up there with the worst of them. Coming in not only the off-season – meaning that George would miss the entirety of next season – it also came prior to the FIBA World Cup. The tournament that saw Team U.S.A, led by Kyrie Irving’s MVP performance, travel to Spain and win the tournament – leaving Paul George medal-less and wondering what could have been. Additionally, the injury also came after what was really a break-out season for the small-forward who not only averaged 21.7 PPG (points per game) and 6.8 RPG (rebounds per game) but also placed top 5 in the regular season and post-season’s standings for SPG (steals per game) – highlighting the defensive prowess of George. The injury will hinder the progress that the guard made over the season – but he wasn’t to be left alone.

Within moments of the injury the basketball universe united on social media, sending Paul George’s social media accounts into meltdown with heartfelt messages, George goes on to explain: “It was overload, from celebrities reaching out to me to the casual fans. Every time I updated it, there were hundreds and hundreds of comments. It made me feel like I wasn’t in it alone.” Even global boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather paid a visit, George mentions “I had a lot of visitors on the day of the injury, then the next day Floyd came by and that was like my first time telling everyone I was alright through social media.” The image of Mayweather posing next to the bed-stricken star soon went viral, along with the hashtag ‘#PrayForPaulGeorge’ – it was clear to see that the basketball fandom was behind him.

14 months later Paul George stepped onto the hardwood again, after a gruelling road to recovery the guard was welcomed back rapturously by the Indiana faithful. A standing ovation would follow, as would the chants of “PG! PG! PG!” and with a smile beaming from cheek to cheek George acknowledged the fans that had stuck by him every step of the way. He was back.

 

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GAME REVIEW – NBA 2K15 [20/02/2015]

To put it in to words that basketball fans like me and you would understand: NBA 2K15 is as sweet as Steph Curry’s jump-shot.

Last year’s title set a pretty sturdy marker in the ground for this year’s instalment, gaining an average score of 85 from video game websites and magazines alike and after playing NBA 2K15,  it’s obvious that the devs at 2K Sports knew this. By setting such a solid platform the year previous, the American developers have been able to concentrate their efforts towards fine tuning and improving rather than reconstructing and changing – and my oh my, have they done just that.

The core game-play has taken a mammoth step forward, with grand improvements in ball physics. The user can now handle the ball more intuitively than ever before, making intricate dribble moves with the right stick all the more useful and satisfying. 2K have also made changes to the shooting mechanic, introducing a power bar that makes for easier shot selection and timing – a welcome fix that has left many fans reeling with excitement.

Additionally, the guys at 2K have treated us button-mashers to thousands of new player animations – ranging from Derrick Rose’s signature size-up move to Klay Thompson’s sugar sweet jump-shot. Motion-capture technology and the enhanced power of the new generation consoles have combined to create a game that doesn’t lack in the player likenesses department.

With that being said 2K15, like any game, does still have some noticeable flaws. Since release the game has suffered with severe problems with it’s face-scanning: a concept that, in theory, would allow gamers to program their actual faces into the game. As well as that, the intelligence of the CPU is seriously lacking, with easy-to-read offensive sets even on the hardest of difficulties. Such predictable plays and tactics from your opponents can lead to mundane encounters when playing offline.

With such improvements and only a few issues, NBA 2K15 is definitely one to look out for and if they can lift the game to an even higher level next year  it’ll definitely be worth buying again.

 

5 FACT FACTFILE:

1. Ray Allen is the most used 3-pt shooter on NBA 2K15.

2. Pharrell Williams curated the soundtrack for the game.

3. There have been over 100 million alley-oops in the MyPark game mode.

4. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the most used NBA team in Online head-to-head.

5. The reward for gaining 99 domination stars in the MyTeam game mode is Sapphire Nate Archibald.

 

 

 

 

 

LIVERPOOL LATEST – End of an era [12/01/2015]

Steven Gerrard celebrating

Credit terceroinf fmiralcamp with CC License CC BY-SA 2.0.

Former England midfielder and current Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has announced that he will be leaving his boyhood club at the end of the Premier League season to join American champions LA Galaxy.

Although eventually inevitable, the news has shocked football fans across the globe, with many believing that Gerrard would start and finish his career at Liverpool. The midfield dynamo has been an integral part of Liverpool’s recent history, often single-handedly dragging his team-mates over the finishing line.

His performance in the 2005-06 FA Cup final being a prime example, often referred to as the ‘Gerrard final’ the skipper assisted one before scoring two top-drawer goals – including a mind-blowing injury time equaliser from 40 yards out to send the game in to penalties, where Liverpool prevailed.

The year previous the Liverpool captain this time inspired his team towards Champions League glory, heading in the first of three 6 minute goals to come from behind to beat AC Milan in one of the most dramatic football matches the world has ever seen. It’s these countless moments of indescribable genius and passion that have made Gerrard simply irreplaceable.

Here’s some ups and downs of the skipper’s career:

Even at the age wily old age of 34 and playing in an unfamiliar anchor role Gerrard is still undoubtedly Liverpool’s star man in midfield with the Liverpool manager holding him in high regard:

‘There are not many who can do what he can do, which is be one of the best attacking midfield players in Europe and then switch to be the best controlling player.’ – Brendan Rodgers

His ability to break down play and dictate the tempo of games from deep earned him a spot in the Premier League team of the year. Even in the more defensive role he still managed to notch 13 goals, including 10 vital penalties that played an intrinsic role in Liverpool’s title challenge.

His presence in the Liverpool midfield has also crucially aided the development of Jordan Henderson, who often received flak for underachieving since his arrival from Sunderland, with Henderson saying in an interview with BBC show Football Focus: “I think I’ve improved over the last few years and a lot of it is down to him [Gerrard]. He’s a role model for all of us and it’s a massive loss for us as a team”.

Playing alongside Gerrard has furthered Henderson’s game significantly, turning him not only into one of Liverpool’s top players but also vice-captain. We are now seeing a Henderson that isn’t afraid to thread a ball through a defence or get in the faces of the opposition. Although Gerrard can’t go on his marauding runs through opposition defenders nowadays; it is still apparent that he can have a huge impact on the players around him. Which begs the question: why are we letting him go?

LIVERPOOL LATEST – Balotelli, a scapegoat? [12/11/2014]

Photo of Mario Balotelli celebrating a goal

Credit Nazionale Calcio with CC License CC BY-SA.2.0.

Amidst Liverpool’s dire start to the season a lot of criticism has been hurled towards summer signing Mario Balotelli. The hot-headed striker has failed to score in any of his Premier League starts and has been criticised for his lackadaisical approach. But is his form – or lack of it – distracting us from a far larger problem currently looming over Anfield?

It would be extremely easy to point fingers at Balotelli, by simply taking a look at the Italian’s non-existent goal tally  in the Premier League (0 goals in 7 starts) you can come to that conclusion. With many an open goal missed and many a counter attack destroyed by his shoot-first mentality; it is fair to say that the striker has hardly set the world alight since his return to England. But before we jump on to the anti-Mario bandwagon there are a few factors that we should take into account.

Rodgers initial plans were to play Balotelli and Sturridge together in a front two; we saw glimpses of what the pairing can do together in the 3-0 drubbing of Tottenham Hotspur early in the year at White Hart Lane – Liverpool’s finest collective performance of the season so far.

Liverpool line-up against Tottenham

How Liverpool lined up against Tottenham

The unfortunate injury to Liverpool’s talismanic striker Daniel Sturridge earlier in the campaign has left Balotelli on his own upfront – a role that is not suited to the Italian’s style of play or Liverpool’s for the matter. Last year saw the Reds press teams relentlessly, not giving their opposition any time or space on the ball.

The 2013-14 season saw a front two of Suarez and Sturridge harassing defenders – the opportunistic Uruguayan being known for his work-rate since his early days at Dutch club Ajax. Daniel Sturridge on the other hand had been blasted by Chelsea and Manchester City fans alike over the years for his lazy and often selfish approach to the game, which left Liverpool fans wondering if they had signed the right man. However, these murmurs were quickly dismissed as Kopites were treated to a new-found work-rate from the England striker, enhancing his game significantly. Which prompts the question: can the England striker’s newly adopted mentality rub off on the problematic Italian or will his maverick attitude be too much too handle?

Due to the departure of last year’s Premier League player of the year and phantom biter Luis Suarez, Liverpool have had to look elsewhere for their goals. Disregarding the poor form of the Italian in question, the Merseysiders haven’t scored enough from elsewhere on the pitch – just six goals from midfield in 11 games. This mainly being down to the fact that Liverpool simply don’t have an outright goal-scoring midfielder; your Frank Lampard’s or your Paul Scholes’s – box to box players that will get you 10+ goals a season from deep. Until Liverpool start scoring more goals from all over the pitch, Balotelli will continue to take the flak.

For now, Liverpool fans can only hope to see more of this from the Italian: