After winning the league title many pegged the Golden State Warriors to have a relatively slow start to the new NBA season. The Warriors however have had a different idea so far this year. After their comeback win last night against the Los Angeles Clippers 124-117 the Clippers have improved to 13-0 for the first time in franchise history. What has been even more impressive so far this season has been the play of reigning MVP Steph Curry. So far this season Curry has averaged an impressive 34 points per game (ppg) which tops his career average, 21 ppg, by a large amount. In the past year and a half Curry has done so much more than become such a dominate player, he has also become the leader and spark-plug for his entire team.
There has been one major player for the Warriors who has suffered a little bit of a championship hangover. Last year Klay Thompson, who was like the Robin to Curry’s Batman, enjoyed the best year of his career. So far this year he has not been bad, Thompson has just not been playing up to the level that got him the attention last year. He is shooting .445% from the field so far this year, which only stands .018% lower than last year’s .463% however since he is not taking as many shots per game, about 17 per game last year to less than 14 per game this year, he has not score as much this year. Another thing that has fallen has been his accuracy from 3 point range. Last year he was at a career high .439% while this year he has regressed to .380% on three pointers. One area that Thompson has improved on so far this year has been his rebounding. He is above his career averages so far this year in rebounds and defensive rebounds. However I believe that as the season progresses, Klay Thompson will find his shooting rhythm again and be just as productive as he was last year.
When one key player struggles it is usually difficult for a team to win games. However, in a great team someone else will step up and produce in the place of the contributor. This year through Klay Thompson’s early season struggles that player had been 4th year pro Draymond Green. The Small Forward has been having a career year thus far. He is taking about the same amount of shots from inside the arc as last year and making the same as last year. Where the offensive production has come from has been from behind the arc. So far this year Green has taken less shot from three point range than last year, 4.2 to 3.8 per game, the difference is that he is making more of his threes than last season. Green has shot .440% from behind the arc this year as opposed to .337% last season. That is the big way that Green has stepped up for the Warrior s so far this season.
What might be the most surprising thing about this run to start the season is that the Warriors are doing all of this with coach Steve Kerr not on the bench. Luke Walton was given coaching duties at the beginning of October as Kerr was recovering from offseason back surgery slower than was expected. While in the past few days Kerr has been seen in the facilities he is still out indefinitely and Luke Walton will continue to gain valuable experience as a head coach in the NBA.
On Thursday the MLB continued its slow release of award winners. Today was the announcement that many in the Washington Nationals organization were hoping for. This was because their star right fielder Bryce Harper was in line for the Most Valuable Player award for the National League (NL). Harper ended up rewriting the history books by becoming the youngest player in MLB history to win the MVP award by unanimous decision. On top of that he became the fourth youngest player to ever win the award. The only three people to win the award at a younger age than Harper’s 22 years and 353 days are Stan Musial in 1943, 22 years and 316 days, Johnny Bench in 1970, 22 years and 298 days, and Vida Blue in 1971, 22 years and 64 days. That is great company for such a young player to be in, especially when he is already starting to be looked at as one of the faces of the league.
In his first four years with the Nationals, Harper has been no stranger to personal success. His rookie year in 2012 included an appearance in the All-Star game, a 30th place finish in the MVP voting, and winning the Rookie of the Year. The next year he missed parts of due to injury and was only an All-Star in his second year. Harper’s third year featured more injuries and ended with no awards to his name for the first time in his career. This year Harper recovered the form he showed during his rookie year and then some. He had career highs in games played (153), runs (118), hits (172), doubles (38), homeruns (42), RBIs (99), walks (124), batting average (.330), on base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649). Most of these categories Harper was in the top 5 of for the NL.
As Harper moves into his fifth season next year the eyes of the entire league will be on him even more than they have ever been. Harper is going to have to prove that, despite his young age, he is mature enough not to cause trouble off the field. While he is doing that hopefully he does not lose his goofball nature that makes him an exciting player to watch.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has had many legends throughout the years. The most well known throughout the generations was the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. One of the drivers who many of the newest generation of NASCAR fans have supported is about to drive in his final race. Before the season began, Jeff Gordon announced his plans to retire after the final race of the 2015 NASCAR season. When Gordon’s final journey began in late February, few could have imagined the final race of his career would have the the importance that this Sunday’s race at Homestead Miami Speedway would have.
With a win this weekend would add a 94th win to his resume, which is the third most all time behind NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). A win Sunday would also guarantee Gordon would win his fifth NASCAR Championship which would keep him alone with the fourth most in NASCAR history. The only drivers with more are in the Hall of Fame, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with seven wins, and one active driver and a lock to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, Jimmy Johnson with six.
Another reason this championship would be significant to Gordon is because he has not won a title since the end of the 2001 season when he won his fourth title in seven years. The main significance relates more to his family life because that last championship was six years before he had kids. Winning would special for him as he would be able to share this experience with his eight year old daughter and five year old son.
For the Millennials who have grown up watching the “Rainbow Warrior” race week in and week out this will be a sad moment as Jeff Gordon drives off into the sunset assured that he will finish in the final four in his final year. Gordon was able to bring in a whole new region of fans when he proved that a California kid could compete with the best the Southern racing tradition had to offer. Without his breakthrough it is easy to think that we may not have been graced with other drivers from so called nontraditional racing areas, one being six-time Champion Jimmy Johnson who also hails from California.
Looking forward to the next chapter in NASCAR, the 24 car will once again be graced with yet another phenom of the sport in the form of the young Chase Elliott. Already the young Elliott, son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, has won a Championship in the Xfinity Series, the second tier in NASCAR, and at only 19, turns 20 in a few weeks, there is still a lot of room for him to grow into the sport. Elliott plans to race in the final Sprint Cup race of the year this Sunday which will be his sixth appearance in the series this season. Through the first five he has three top 20 finishes and will be looking to improve on that number heading into next year.