Thursday, May 29, 2014

Paul George finds groove to help Pacers survive Game 5


Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2014

On the score sheet, Paul George's 37 points and Roy Hibbert's 13 rebounds sticks out prominently, but Lance Stephenson’s play as the proverbial fly in the ointment of the Miami Heat on Wednesday night might have been just as big in helping the Indiana Pacers survive in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Pacers 93-90 victory in final seconds kept the Pacers alive. Stephenson, who had taken a beating in the press and then on the court in Game 4, decided to keep his comments and antics to the basketball floor.

His play was credited for LeBron James picking up his fifth foul as the Pacers guard seemed to pull out all of his bag of tricks, even trying to sneak in on a conversation between Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and other Miami player on the sidelines.

“I just wanted to hear what he had to say,” Stephenson said sheepishly with a big smile on his face after the game. “Just wanted to hear about what they were about to do on offense. They were trying to run the pick-and-roll and I heard it. I was just trying to figure out what he was talking about.”

There was another incident the television cameras picked up of Stephenson blowing into James’ ear between a play. When asked what he was trying to do at that moment, C.J. Watson, whose locker is next to Stephenson’s, laughed out loud as the guard searched for an answer.

“We’re just playing basketball,” Stephenson said with a laugh. “We're just having fun.”
But there was a method to Stephenson’s madness in irritating James and other Heat players and the proof came in the razor-thin margin of victory.

“I was happy he got his fifth foul and we got the win tonight,” Stephenson said. “He was very aggressive [and] we forced some fouls on him. It definitely messed up their offense and it forced other players on their team to step up. We just locked in on defense and tried to make it hard for them.”

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he was happy with anything his players could do to slow down James.

“[Stephenson] just competed,” Vogel said. “Nobody can stop or slow down LeBron. LeBron got out of rhythm because of foul trouble. Just all of our guys, we just competed, as tough as we could, no matter who we are on. [Miami’s] shot-making was ridiculous and we were still able to prevail. So I’m very proud of our guys.”

With Stephenson doing the dirty work, it allowed George, Hibbert, David West and the rest of the Pacers to come back from a nine-point halftime deficit.

George, who had been somewhat effective all series, found his groove when Indiana needed it the most in the second half. He scored 10 points in a 33-point third quarter that erased a nine-point halftime deficit to give the Pacers a 64-57 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“I thought they had multiple opportunities to go up but we made some key plays with our hands and got some key rebounds when we needed,” said West, who scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Then when the Heat got close in the fourth quarter, George’s three-point shot with 46.7 seconds left helped give the Pacers the breathing room they needed to sustain the victory.

Hibbert collected his second double-double of the series with 10 points along with his 13 rebounds.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Indiana Pacers use aggressive team effort to trump Miami Heat in Game 1

Posted to Miami Herald on Sunday, May 18, 2014

By Clyde Hughes, Special to the Miami Herald

Indiana Pacers players have said they worked all season to get the best record in the Eastern Conference for the sole purpose to have home court advantage if they had to play the Miami Heat again in the postseason.

The effort proved to be a wise strategy Sunday afternoon as the Pacers led from start to finish in beating the two-time NBA champion Heat 107-96 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to take a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Aggressiveness seemed to be the key word in the Pacers locker room after the game, with virtually every Indiana player uttering the word from one sentence to another as their key to victory.

“We just came out aggressive from the start and [George] Hill put the pressure on those guys early,” said Indiana center Roy Hibbert, who scored 19 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in the victory.
“David West and I tried to do a good job finishing in the paint and making smart plays. We went inside-out and outside-in. We trusted each other tonight.”

Going into the game, Indiana was 3-4 at home in the playoffs against Atlanta and Washington, losing the openers in both contests.

The Pacers shook off the lackadaisical first-game performance of the previous two series to play one of their best games this postseason.

The Pacers’ balance scoring effort seemed to be a huge spark, with all five Indiana starters scoring double figures by the 7:00 mark of the third quarter as they shot 51.5 percent from the field in the game.

“I was just trying to be aggressive and make high-percentage shots,” said guard Lance Stephenson, who connected on 8 of 12 of his shots to finish with 17 points, behind Paul George’s 24, along with David West and Hibbert’s 19 each.

Hill made his first three three-point shots of the game to fire-up the loud Indiana fan base and give the Pacers an early 20-10 lead before settling for a 30-24 advantage by the end of the period.

“We were focused today,” Hill said. “They’re the champs and we have to go through them to accomplish our goals and we have to give them respect. But we’re good in this locker room also and it’s going to be a good battle game to game.”

Stephenson scored 10 points in the second quarter to help the Pacers rebuild their lead to double-digits.

During one point in the quarter, the University of Cincinnati product scored six points and rocketed a perfect pass to C.J. Watson (11 points) down low for another basket within a two-minute stretch, which allowed Indiana to maintain a six-point lead, 43-37.

His layup with 55 seconds left before halftime was the scored that elevated Indiana’s advantage to 55-45 at halftime.

The Pacers’ willingness to share allowed them to shoot nearly 60 percent from the field in the first 24 minutes.

In the third quarter, Hibbert — Miami’s tormentor from last year’s playoffs — West and Paul George combined for 25 points while the Pacers stretched their edge to 19 points twice, the latest at 81-62 late in the period.

West said, though, that the Game 1 victory will mean little for the Pacers if they drop Game 2 on Tuesday night.

“I thought we handled everything they threw at us tonight,” West said.
“Listen, we know those guys and they know us. We have to handle the details which are taking care of the basketball, handling their traps on the baseline and not getting into retreat mode.
“Our front five have dealt with them for the past three years. We know we have to consistently play at a certain level to beat a very good basketball team.”

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Diane Humetewa Confirmed as First Female Native American Federal Judge


Posted on Newsmax May 15:

Diane Humetewa made history this week as the first female Native American federal judge after the U.S. Senate confirmed her appointment Wednesday.

Humetewa, a member of the Hopi Tribe, was approved by the Senate in a 96-0 vote, The Associated Press reported. She now fills one of the six current vacancies in the District Court of Arizona. A former attorney general for the state of Arizona from 2007 to 2009, she was serving as a special advisor at Arizona State University before her confirmation.

Humetewa's appointment was a victory for Native American activists who had long pushed for American Indian representation in federal court, particularly in places like Arizona, which has a high Native American population, according to the Indian Country Today Media Network.

"Let's hope Diane's confirmation is just the start of a slew of Native American federal judges," Chris Stearns, who previously served as a counsel to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, told news network. "There is still a massive lack of representation of Indian judges in the federal courts."

As a special advisor at Arizona State, Humetewa helped university president Michael Crow with Native American affairs and acted as an aide in the university's Office of General Counsel, according to the school's website.

She also served as a professor of practice at Arizona State's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. There, Humetewa worked to establish relationships with the American Indian tribal governments and prospective and current Native American students, according to the university.

"[The National Congress of American Indians] greatly appreciates the efforts of the president and Senate in achieving this historic confirmation," the NCAI said in a statement. "There are many qualified, talented people like Diane Humetewa in Indian country who are able and willing to serve. We eagerly anticipate many more nominations of Native people to the federal bench and other offices."

"Judge Humetewa has dedicated time to serving the interests of Native peoples. She has been the appellate court judge for the Hopi Tribe, counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and special advisor to the president on American Indian Affairs at Arizona State University," the NCAI statement continued.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Guest column: Let's talk about Donald Sterling and race


Posted on: Thursday, May 1.

It seems like we are talking a lot about race lately. Whether it is a U.S. Supreme Court decision, a showdown in an open prairie in Nevada with Cliven Bundy or the NBA playoffs, race has been the top topic of discussion.

While much of this talk has come in reaction to one event or another and not proactively, it’s a conversation that must continue. Unfortunately, that likely will not happen.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to ban billionaire Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life seems to have caught the attention of the entire nation. Sterling was secretly taped by his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, making racially charged comments about her being photographed and bringing African-Americans to Clippers games.

I don’t want to get off the subject, but am I the only person who sees a problem with a long-time married man parading his girlfriend who’s old enough to be his granddaughter at Clippers games? That’s another story.

There were a lot of pats on the back Tuesday when Silver made his announcement, which included a $2.5 million fine and asking other NBA owners to force a sale of Sterling’s team. In one respect, there should be. A person with Sterling’s position and influence should have been wary, knowing that if those comments were ever made public, they would have been highly damaging to his ownership.

But Sterling’s past history of settling discrimination complaints in his real estate business should have long been a red flag. Sterling’s comments seem confusing when you square it with the fact that he hired Doc Rivers, a highly successful African-American coach, away from the Boston Celtics to coach his team this season. That, and the fact that most of players are black. That is until you hear the tape and his comments about how he “gives them” their careers.

Even the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP was prepared to give him its lifetime achievement award before the incident.

Racism comes in many forms and cannot be disguised by spotty acts of generosity. It was the point Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was trying to make in her dissent April 22 in the court’s 6-2 decision to uphold a voter-approved change to the Michigan Constitution that prevents public colleges from using race as a factor in admissions.

Justices ruled that while the case did not consider the constitutionality of affirmative action, the state’s initiative was consistent with the Constitution’s equal protection clause. Sotomayor wrote the court was na├»ve to think that the initiative provided equal protection for minorities.

“In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination,” Sotomayor wrote. “This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.”

So much of racial prejudice and discrimination happens silently and behind closed doors. The Donald Sterlings of the world know that if those views become public — as they did last week — the reaction could intense and irreversible. If it wasn’t for the tape, who would have ever believed Stiviano, even with Sterling’s past history?
What’s the best way to root out this entrenched racism that stubbornly lurks around the corner of many buildings and dark alleys? It starts with talking about it. It continues with efforts to bring people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds together and to stop being so skittish about the subject. If we miss yet another chance to bring race to the forefront, we’ll simply sit around the wait for the next Donald Sterling to pop out of the closet.