Syracuse Basketball: The Truth About the 2014 Syracuse Orange

The No. 7 Syracuse Orange put a little air in its flat tire with a Sunday afternoon dismantling of the Florida State Seminoles, 74-58.

Syracuse (27-4, 14-4 ACC) used its superior athleticism to outrebound Florida State (18-12, 9-9) by a 43-24 margin and close out the regular season with a road win in an attempt to make losing four of its last five games a distant memory.

The Orange will enter the ACC tournament as a No. 2 seed, which means they will receive a double bye and play their next game on Friday, Mar. 14, in Greensboro, N.C.

After looking like a lock for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a 25-0 start, the then-No. 1 Orange faltered with losses to Boston College and Duke, squeaked by Maryland and then fell to Virginia and Georgia Tech.

In what could be called an offensive breakthrough for Syracuse, the Orange scored over 70 points for only the second time since Jan. 7 and are hopeful that this game indicates a righting of the ship.

Three weeks ago, the Florida State game looked like a blip on the radar on the way to an Orange ACC title, but then Syracuse lost its scoring touch and a little of its magic. In victories against the likes of Duke, Pittsburgh and North Carolina State, the Orange kept their cool under pressure and pulled away with close and sometimes miraculous wins.

Over the past two weeks, the Orange used the final minutes of their games to erase the good work of the previous three months of games.

That luck changed at the 11:27 mark of the second half on Sunday. Florida State brought the Seminoles to within one point off an Okaro White jumper and made the score 47-46. That sinking feeling of the Orange letting another inferior opponent stay close began to creep in, but two straight three-pointers by Trevor Cooney put Syracuse up seven to keep the game at a safe distance.

This begs the question: Which is the real Syracuse? Is it the team that handed Villanova its first loss on Dec. 28? Is it the team that beat Duke in an instant classic in overtime at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 1?

Or is it the team that crumbled when Virginia stepped on the gas just over a week ago?

There is no easy answer, but the facts say the Orange are both.

With a healthy Jerami Grant, a Trevor Cooney who is making his threes and a team that plays inspired defense, Syracuse can play with any team in the country.

But when Cooney’s shots aren’t falling and Tyler Ennis makes ill-advised passes and the defense is out of position, among other things, Syracuse can be had teams that are not even on the same level.

This is the problem with Syracuse: It too often plays to the level of its opponent. The Orange expect to win every time and allow teams to dictate pace and slow down the game. This allows opponents to play the percentages with Syracuse and helps hot-shooting teams stay close.

The Orange are the same team that they were when they started the season 25-0 and they’re the same team that lost to Boston College. Some nights they have it and some nights they don’t.

Syracuse needs success in a handful of areas of their game to be victorious. They need their perimeter shooting to fall to keep defenders honest and keep the lanes free of traffic. They have to rebound well. They have to stay out of foul trouble and, most importantly, they have to remain healthy.

On the other side of the coin, Syracuse has immense talent and also needs a handful of areas of their game to go wrong in order to lose games. Syracuse can survive bad shooting nights because their defense is excellent. They can survive foul trouble even with an inexperienced bench because they have the length and ability to fill holes when need be.

Above all, Syracuse can rely on its hot hand. When Fair gets going, he gets fed the ball. When Cooney and Ennis are hot, they make their impact felt often. And when shots aren’t falling from anyone, Grant can come up with impossible putbacks.

The point is that every one of those four players can and has put the team on his shoulders. Syracuse is not a scoring juggernaut, but for the most part, it hasn’t had to be. It has only needed to be opportunistic, which is exactly the ability of the team. None are superstars every night, but each can star when the moment comes.

It would be easy to write that we will find out what type of team Syracuse is when it starts the ACC tournament, but that would be lazy. The Orange will play a 7 p.m. game against North Carolina State, Miami or Virginia Tech on Mar. 14. Whether the Orange win or lose, we already know everything we need to know.

Back in November, I predicted this team of youth and talent either had the ability to get right back to the Final Four or the ability to get bounced around and end up in the NIT.

A very unsatisfying but optimistic look at the season, I know, but that is exactly the Orange of 2014.

Unsatisfying, yet optimistic.


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Magic Johnson Says Lakers ‘Don’t Like When I Tell the Truth’

Magic Johnson didn’t take any direct shots at the Los Angeles Lakers when he was a guest on The Arsenio Hall Show, but he managed to lob a subtle dig nonetheless.

Shocking, right?

Per Mark Medina of The LA Daily News, Johnson said, “They don’t like when I tell the truth. It’s been a tough year.”

That response was a reference to Johnson’s Twitter pledge to lay off his former team:

Recently, the media mogul—who once owned a stake in the franchise—had been critical of the Lakers, taking aim at everything from their porous interior defense to their hiring of Mike D’Antoni.

Johnson also buried owner Jim Buss, via Mike James of the Los Angeles Times:

This is what happens when you make the wrong decisions, two coaching wrong decisions, giving Steve Nash that deal, it’s backfired. The biggest problem they’re going to have right now … you’ve got to get a guy like Jerry West to be the face of the team. …

You’ve got to have someone helping Jim. He’s got to quit trying to prove a point to everybody that he can do it on his own, get his ego out of it, and just say, ‘Let me get someone beside me to help achieve the goals I want.’

Those shots drew the attention of critics everywhere, including B/R’s Kevin Ding:

His uneducated, shallow, fleeting assessments indicate he’s a bandwagon guy who mainly wants to make clear, in a trap a lot of older people tend to fall into, that the past was better. Jerry Buss was his benefactor, Jerry West was great, blah blah blah.

Here’s the problem, though: Magic’s “truth” keeps changing.

It wasn’t so long ago that he praised D’Antoni‘s coaching:

And we can’t forget the way Johnson was once so enamored with Buss’ moves. Remember, Magic said the following to Buss after Dwight Howard arrived in LA, per T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times:

I love it. Jim, you look like your father; I’m proud of you. He’s definitely the guy now to win the NBA executive-of-the-year award. My compliments to Jim and Mitch Kupchak; they had the knowledge and fortitude to hang in there and get it done. They now deserve a great vacation and the appreciation of Laker fans, and really, basketball fans everywhere.

By now, we’ve all become accustomed to Johnson’s fascination with the obvious. His Twitter account reads like a seventh-grader’s diary. He offers up only the most vanilla observations from his daily life and generally punctuates his insubstantial statements with exclamation points.

Trenchant stuff, Magic.

In that sense, Johnson always tells the truth. It’s hard to lie when all you’re doing is regurgitating what you’re seeing or hearing.

Magic’s truth is fluid. It changes without regard to what he believed was true weeks or months ago. It’s too bad he seems so unaware of how silly that makes him look.

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The Truth About Kobe Bryant by Jonathan Asaad

Kobe Bryant is a man who has found the respect of his peers through his work ethic, dedication, and commitment to the game of basketball. No one questions his heart or desire to thrive as the best basketball player that he can possibly be. As a former league and Finals MVP, Kobe Bryant, a five-time World Champion, is one of the greatest players this generation has ever witnessed. Though he’s been plagued with multiple career-threatening injuries throughout his career (including broken bones, torn ligaments, back spasms, etc.), Kobe’s ability to focus and play through grueling injuries is a testament to his compelling will power. Phil Jackson reminisces about the night of the 2000 NBA Finals in his recent book, 11 Rings The Soul of Success, when he first witnessed how unaffected Kobe was by injuries. Comparing Kobe to the best basketball player who has ever lived, Phil wrote, “This was the first time I saw how impervious he was to excruciating pain. He wasn’t going to let anything st…

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Paul Pierce: Top 5 Reasons the Boston Celtics Should Hang on to the Truth

The Boston Celtics are done licking their wounds from a relatively embarrassing series loss to the Knicks that practically produced a role reversal of the 2011 sweep. Now, Danny Ainge is forced to contemplate whether or not to put the franchise into the hands of Jeff Green, who saved the team time and time again this past season while putting up 20.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in the playoffs.

If so, Paul Pierce would find himself in another team’s jersey for the first time since joining the Celtics in 1998, back when “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” was considered a hot new single.

A lot has happened since then for Pierce, including a NBA Finals MVP in 2008 when the Celtics raised banner No. 17 after picking up Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

Of course, a lot has happened since then, too.

The Celtics are coming off their worst season since 2007, as they conceded the Atlantic Division to the Knicks and got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

Where they spend their money next year will be important, and many are convinced Pierce will not be worth $15.3 million next season.

Here’s why they’re wrong.

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Have We Seen the End of KG and “The Truth” in Celtics Green?

            A little more than a week ago I made a prediction on the outcome of the Knicks Celtics series. This prediction was made not by an objective sportswriter as I should be but rather by a life-long Celtics fan hoping to see one more miraculous moment in what could very well be the end of an era. Unfortunately, that miraculous moment would not come in the form of a first round playoff victory over my least favorite basketball team, the New York Knicks. However, to say that the series was not miraculous in its own way would be an insult to Celtics and basketball fans alike. Battling from three down to force a decisive game six in which they made a 20-point run to keep the game in reach is truly a miraculous accomplishment especially when considering the circumstances in which this series was played. Beginning back in January, the Celtics saw season ending injuries take both Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger. One had worked himself into the starting rotation, utilizing his offens…

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NBA Rumors: Finding 5 Nuggets of Truth

Whether in work settings or in a classroom, we’ve all played the classic icebreaker game, “two truths and a lie.” Well, in the always-fluid NBA rumor mill, it seems like we’re always playing a game of one truth and a hundred lies.

That’s obviously not to say reporters are fabricating stories. They’re not. It’s just that there is so much information being bandied about regarding possible trades, signings, hirings and firings that it would be impossible for all to come to fruition. 

If all of the rumored moves eventually happened, we’d essentially be playing a real-life version of NBA 2K13. And while that sounds fun in theory, no one wants real life to imitate a video game.

That’s why it’s our job to sift through the rumors and figure out which ones actually bear some semblance of truth. They obviously aren’t all going to happen, but finding those kernels of sensible speculation is what helps us know what to truly focus on in the interim.

Which current rumors make the most sense? Here is a breakdown of a few rumors we’re buying from around the Association. 

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One Ugly Truth We’ve Learned About Every AP Top 25 Team

While the 25 teams that comprise the AP Poll have certainly showed their strengths during this non-conference season, many of their weaknesses have yet to be exposed. At some point throughout their tumultuous league schedules, these flaws will be exposed.

Their reactions to the rough patches they will all experience at some point will prove their worth come March Madness. The 25 teams highlighted in this slideshow have combined for only 28 combined losses, including four unscathed squads.

The ugly truth about each particular team isn’t in any way to take away from what they have accomplished within the season’s first month and a half, but rather to give a glimpse of an area that could be a cause for concern at some point in the future. 

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Boston Celtics: 3 Ways KG and the Truth Will Guide the C’s into the Playoffs

NBA tipoff is seven weeks away, and Boston Celtics fans can’t wait. 

That’s because the Green have reloaded after a tough Game 7 Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat, and they now look as talented and deep as any Celtics team since 2008-09 (except maybe the 2010 team that came within four points of a championship).  

They’ve added youth and athleticism to their bench.  They’ve added scoring and depth in the backcourt. They may even enjoy some addition by subtraction from the departure of the set-slowing SG Ray Allen, who relied too heavily on screens and left the offense stagnant.

They’ve still got PG Rajon Rondo, one of the best floor generals in the league.

Most importantly, they return their best defender and scorer in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

With KG and Pierce rested after last season’s run (and Pierce’s sprained MCL fully healed), the Celtics are poised to make a run at one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference.

Let’s take a look at how KG, Pierce, and the Cs look heading into next season.

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Big Ten Basketball: The Ugly Truth About Each Big Ten Team

The Big Ten is arguably the strongest conference heading into the 2012-13 college basketball season.

Indiana will likely be No. 1 in the nation to start the year, Ohio State returns key contributors from its Final Four team, Michigan has its strongest roster since the days of the Fab Five and Michigan State still has Tom Izzo.

But every team, no matter how strong, has concerns heading into a new campaign. The squads that make up the Big Ten are no different.

Here is one thing that each fanbase should be concerned about entering the 2012-13 season.

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Ugly Truth About Every Top 25 Team

The college basketball offseason is a time for fans and analysts alike to reflect on the season that was and prepare for the season to come.

During these roughly seven-and-a-half months, we have the time to nit-pick and scrutinize each Top 25 team for minor flaws or problems.

Sometimes these aren’t problems that can be swept under the rug. Sometimes they get ugly.

From huge questions to minor discrepancies, this is the potentially ugly truth for every team in the preseason Top 25.

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