Hopes Arise For The Jazz And Pelicans

Hopes Arise For The Jazz And Pelicans

After successful playoff runs, Utah and New Orleans are a couple moves away from being great
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Tuesday night, both the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz got bounced from the second round of the NBA playoffs with each exceeding even the most optimistic preseason projections by besting their respective first-round foes.

Beyond each team sharing the Jazz moniker at one point or another (I've never been to Utah, but I have a hard time imagining it's "jazzy." Thanks, team relocations!) the Jazz and Pelicans had a lot in common. Each team was expected to dwell in the lottery at one point or another after losing key stars (Gordon Hayward in free agency for Utah, Demarcus Cousins to injury for New Orleans).

The four primary stars for each team -- Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday for New Orleans, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell for Utah -- each fulfill similar roles for their respective teams while leaving behind clear holes.

Utah looked great in their series against both the Thunder and the Rockets. They simply out-maneuvered the Thunder, taking advantage of OKC's sloppy-aggressive style and bricky shot-taking. In the Houston series, despite being severely out-manned, there was never a feeling that they were out of the game.

Donovan Mitchell, the hidden gem of the 2017 draft, never looked the part of a rookie as he kept a steely resolve and showed he is a top 30 player in the league right now (that may seem like a small feat, but try to name the top 30 players. Mitchell is going to be in the Paul George and Deandre Jordan territory. Pretty remarkable for a player his age.).

Rudy Gobert was the big disappoint of the series. Gobert’s limits got exploited time and time again by the Rockets, which may have been partly due to his injury from earlier in the season. His lateral quickness on the perimeter was lacking, as Chris Paul routinely got to the rim in the deciding Game 6. Gobert (age 25) is still young enough to learn new skills, but unlike many of the bigs in today’s game, he’s not likely to develop an outside shot.

For most big men, this would be an issue, but Gobert is such an elite rim protector that he can get away with not having an above average jumper. He’s already better defensively than Tyson Chandler was for the Mavericks in 2011, but Chandler was a much better rim-runner on offense, as well as possessing a more polished post game. Chandler also had the advantage of having a great shooter, Dirk Nowitzki, next to him in the frontcourt that helped lead them to a title.

Gobert has no such luxury. Acquiring Jae Crowder in a mid-season trade was a step in the right direction, but Crowder has not been the same as when he was in Boston. I am a big fan of Joe Ingles (he keeps my hopes alive of having a random growth spurt and playing in the NBA myself). While Ingles makes a good complimentary wing with his shooting ability, a bonafide star that could play small forward while switching up to being a small ball power forward would take this team to a new level.

Making a trade for Kawhi Leonard or signing Paul George could be in the cards. Looking around at the rest of the league’s available wings (Otto Porter Jr., Tobias Harris, Andrew Wiggins) would make a lot of sense while not breaking up Utah’s core players.

New Orleans, similarly, had their lack of wing depth exposed in their series against the Golden State Warriors. Jrue Holiday (6’4”) was stuck guarding Kevin Durant (6’10”). Holiday is a great defender, but anyone giving up six inches is a major disadvantage. Realistically, Holiday should be defending guards, and his defense on Steph Curry or Klay Thompson likely could have made them a non-factor. Stretch forward Nikola Mirotic is much better suited at power forward, where his lack of speed is not exposed as much.

Anthony Davis guarded Kevin Durant admirably, but ultimately, he needs to be sitting in the paint guarding the rim, not running around the arc guarding a shooter. Therefore, the Pelicans simply do not have enough wings to adequately space the floor and defend opposing wings. Any of the aforementioned Jazz free agent targets would fit the bill, and the Pelicans will have cap room if they let Demarcus Cousins walk.

Donovan Mitchell is on his rookie contract. Anthony Davis is a free agent as early as 2020. The clock is ticking on both of these franchises. The playoffs infused much needed hope for both teams, but if their moves this offseason don’t address their weakness, the star power in both of these cities may soon dry up.

Cover Image Credit: Hill Air Force Base

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Everything The Student Athlete Loses When They Move On From Sports

Enjoy it while it lasts.

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We used to call it "flipping the switch." You would go through eight hours of school (somehow) and then your mentality would automatically change. The worries and stress from the school day would dwindle as you put on your cleats and begin to warm up. Anything that was going on in your life didn't matter when you hit the dirt. You create lifelong friendships with the girls you spent every day with for months at a time. Teammates who see you susceptible after a bad game and on cloud nine after one of your bests.

You develop a routine and superstitions. Hitting your bat on the inside of your cleat before you hit, chewing a certain type of gum on the volleyball court, how many times you spin the ball before you shoot a free throw, whatever your quirk was, you 100% believed it would make you play better. You practice in your free time with your dad, devote three to five months of your school year to a team, and play all summer long with your travel team as you live off hotel breakfast. Then one day, it's all over.

It is a feeling that nobody can prepare you for. They say enjoy it while it lasts but you never really understand what you'll be walking away from when you play your last game and hang it up for good. You lose a part of yourself when you're no longer an athlete. I forgot what it feels like to be competitive and be a part of something that is bigger than myself. It has been two years since I've played my last softball game and not a day goes by when I don't miss it. I didn't play because I wanted to go pro or even to the collegiate level, but I played because it was an escape and helped me become who I am.

You begin to forget what it felt like to hit the sweet spot on a bat, what it sounded like to have an audience cheer for you as you stand alone on second base and see your family in the stands, to hear the metal spikes of your cleats on concrete when walking in the dugout. It's simple things about the game you love that brought you pure joy and an escape from the world and the thoughts in your head. Batting practice was always mine. Focusing on nothing but the next pitch and how hard I could hit it.

When you have to watch the game from the other side of the fence, you realize how much pressure you put on yourself when you played. It's just a game. Make as many memories as you can and enjoy every inning because when you leave sports behind you have to find your inner athlete in other things. Create a workout routine, joining a club sport or intramurals, or even becoming a coach. As much as I miss the sport, I am thankful for everything it brought me. It taught me how to be a good friend, respect others around me, and to push myself to discover what I was capable of.

So, enjoy it while it lasts.

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The First Time My Mistakes No Longer Controlled My Life

Mistakes suck, and though I've conquered a few, I'm still learning.

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The whistle blows as the team cheers on.

My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent or I will fail. Fear.

In his first inaugural speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Such a statement proves powerful to the matured minds of society; however, in the minds of some adolescents, this declaration appears somewhat foolish, as numerous "threats" ignite fear, thus causing teens to grow anxious.

A major cause for fear in the rising generation takes form in failure. In the eyes of these people, making a simple mistake paves the way towards absolute failure; therefore, perfectionists constantly walk on eggshells attempting to do the impossible: avoid human error. This mentality gives way to constant stress and overall disappointment, as perfection does not apply to human beings. If one can come to the realization that not one person can attain perfection, they can choose to live life in ease, for they no longer have to apply constant pressure upon themselves to master excellence. The fear of failure will no longer encumber their existence, and they can overcome situations that initially brought great anxiety. I too once put great pressure on myself to maintain perfection, and as a result, felt constantly burdened by my mistakes. However, when I realized the inevitability of those mistakes, it opened the door for great opportunities. The first time I recognized that failure serves as a tool for growth allowed me to no longer fear my mistakes, and instead utilize them for my own personal growth.

The whistle blows as the team cheers on. My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment, and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent. As hard as I try, I fail; as the ball flies straight into the net and thuds obnoxiously onto the gym floor, so does my confidence. I feel utter defeat, as I know my fate. My eyes water as my coach immediately pulls me from the game, sits me on the bench, and tells me to "get my head into the game" instead of dwindling on past errors. From then on I rarely step foot on the court, and instead, ride the bench for the remainder of the season. I feel defeated. However, life does not end, and much to my surprise, this mistake does not cause failure in every aspect of my life. Over time, I gradually realize that life does not end just because of failure. Instead, mistakes and failure pave the way toward emotional development and allows one to build character. In recognizing that simple slip-ups do not lead to utter failure, I gain perspective: one's single mistake does not cause their final downfall. Thus, this epiphany allowed for my mental growth and led me to overcome once challenging obstacles.

Instead of viewing mistakes as burdens, one should utilize them as motivation for future endeavors. The lesson proves simple: all can learn from their mistakes. However, it is a matter of choosing to learn from these mistakes that decide one's future growth. Instead of pushing faults away, I now acknowledge them in order to progress. Before coming to such a realization, I constantly "played it safe" in sports, fearing that giving my best effort would lead to greater error. I did not try, and as a result, I rarely failed.

Although such a mentality brought forth limited loss in terms of overall team success, it also brought forth limited, individual success. Today, fear of failure no longer controls life on the court. I use my mistakes as motivation to get better; instead of dwindling on an error made five minutes prior, I focus on the form needed to correct it. As a result, skills will constantly improve, instead of regress. Thus, errors serve as blessings, as it is through these errors in which one can possess the motivation to better themselves.

For some, fear acts as an ever-present force that controls every aspect of life. In particular, the fear of failure encumbers perfectionists, as the mere thought of failing causes great anxieties. In the past, I have fell victim to the fear of committing a mistake, and as a result, could not go through life without feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat. However, in a moment of what appeared to be a great failure, I finally recognized that life does not end due to one mistake, let alone one million. Instead, mistakes pave the way toward personal development and provide essential motivation to succeed in everyday life. Without mistakes, it proves difficult to grow in character. One must first learn to accept their faults before they can appreciate their best qualities. Thus, the fear of failure inhibits the growth of an individual; therefore, all must come to the realization that essentialness of mistakes, as they allow for the further development of overall character.

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