• Jordan Spieth continues to shine, Nicklaus still adding to resume

    Over the holidays, golfers spent time competing at the Australian Open.  With part of the Open redesigned by Jack Nicklaus and, also, a rule change played the course as a par-71 for the first time, some golfers could've been distactraced.        

    However, the changes did not hinder former UT golfer, Jordan Spieth.  Spieth has already impressed on the PGA Tour and Ryder Cup play but showed even more at this tournament. 

    In the final round, Spieth finished with a score of 8-under-par 63 and a total of 13-under-par 271, becoming the first American to win the Australian Open since Brad Faxon in 1993.  

    Adam Scott, an Australian native, finished in fifth place and nine strokes behind while defending champion, Rory McIlroy, finished with 2-over and fifteen strokes behind Spieth.  With McIlroy’s great ending to last season to be golf’s number 1 player, he is struggling to get back in the swing. 

    Three Australians, Rod Pampling, Greg Chalmers, and Brett Rumford, earned spots for next July’s Open Championship.  The Australian Open is the first qualifying tournament for the 2015 Open Championship as it offers three spots to the top finishers who are not already exempt.     

    Jack Nicklaus added his own spark to the tournament redesigning the course.  As he continues course designs and is remembered for his 18 titles, Nicklaus is about to receive one more award. 

    Nicklaus is set to receive Congress’ civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal after legalization for the award was cleared late Monday night and waiting to be signed by President Barack Obama. 

    Nicklaus won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  By earning the Congressional Gold Medal, he and Arnold Palmer are the only golfers to win both awards.  Other recipients of this award include Rosa Parks, Robert Frost, Joe Louis and Neil Armstrong.   

  • San Antonio Spurs rolling but Austin Spurs are real bright spot

    The San Antonio Spurs are one of the hottest teams in the NBA as of late. Winners of 11 of their last 13 games, the Spurs look to be once again one of the powerhouses in the league, and, a championship contender.

    While most of the focus recently has been on this San Antonio team, basketball enthusiasts should actually be putting their attention on the Spurs D-League affiliate, the Austin Spurs.

    Since the San Antonio Spurs purchased the D-League franchise, the Austin based team has become a model for other NBA teams on how to successfully operate what is essentially a minor league basketball team.

    While under the San Antonio Spurs ownership for the past seven, going on eight seasons, the Austin Spurs have posted a winning percentage greater than .600 five times. The franchise has also won one D-League title during that time span.

    The amazing part is that all this winning has not completely been a function of players just wanting to come to play for a team run by the San Antonio Spurs. It’s also the willingness of players from the parent team to come up to Austin to develop their game.

    Four players on the San Antonio’s current roster have had D-League experience, Kyle Anderson Austin Daye, Danny Green, and Cory Joseph. Two of those players, Green and Joseph, are playing significant roles for the team. One of those, Green, is in the starting five.

    The work San Antonio has done to integrate the D-League franchise into their organization has been fantastic. They have been able to get everyone in the organization to buy in on how valuable a tool the Austin team is.

    In fact, last season, Cory Joseph actually asked San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich to be assigned to the D-League team.

    “Can I go back to the D-League?” Joseph told nba.com.

    The request was odd, especially considering most NBA players experience negative emotions and thoughts when asked to serve in the minor league for basketball.

    Players never want to be sent down, nonetheless ask to. Even Popovich was surprised by the decision.

    “You don’t get that kind of a request,” Popovich said.

    Nevertheless Popovich agreed and the run in the D-League seems to be doing wonders for Joseph’s NBA career.

    Getting the players on-board is just one side of the equation though. The other side, and often equally ignored, is understanding the rules of the D-League and how assignments work.

    What makes the Austin team so special is that San Antonio has a mastery on the rules of the D-League and knows how to put it to good use.

    This offseason, San Antonio brought in five players on non-guaranteed contracts into training camp. They ended up waiving all five, which was not surprising considering the team already had 15 players under guaranteed contract.

    While a move to bring in those five players when they were going to be waived may seem perplexing to the casual fan, to the San Antonio organization it is regarded as a smart move.

    By waiving those five players before the start of the season, San Antonio was allowed to assign three of those players to their Austin franchise.

    That understanding of the D-League is so valuable, especially in a league where the talent gap is small and any little advantage can make the world of a difference.

    These two points are not the only things that make this Austin Spurs team so special. There are numerous reasons that serve evidence as to why this franchise is so great such as the team having former NBA players as coaches, former NBA front office men handling the team’s basketball operations, and much more.

    The San Antonio Spurs are having another great season and they have the Austin Spurs to thank for quite a bit of that success. The Austin team has put a big stamp on this NBA organization from developing players to having some of their front office guys move up to San Antonio.

    San Antonio might be rolling right now, but, the biggest bright spot of this organization just might be their D-League affiliate.

  • Thunder just getting started in the NBA

    Dec. 6th, a little less than a quarter of the season has passed, and the Thunder finally have all 15 players healthy. Coach Scott Brooks finally has an empty injury report. Let the thunder storm begin.

    Currently, the reigning number one seed in the always competitive west, sit at 5-13, leaving them five and a half games back of the eighth and final spot for playoff contention. Media all across the country are beginning to wonder if the Thunder’s surge is too late into the season. They have a tremendous uphill battle to even be considered for the eighth spot in the Western conference.

    But with reigning MVP Kevin Durant back from foot surgery and superstar Russell Westbrook back in the lineup this dynamic duo has a tough task ahead of them. With the window of error so small, the Oklahoma City must be dominant for the rest of the season.

    Analysts, writers, and fans are slowly beginning to write off the Thunder for making the playoffs. But why? If you ask me, this team is just getting started. Durant and Westbrook are arguably the best duo in the league. Role players, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams were forced to step up due to the absence of the team’s two leading scorers. With these role players coming into form, and the stars finally healthy, the time is now for the Thunder to start winning and winning a lot.

    As it stands now, the Phoenix Suns hold the 8th seed in the West. They are a very young team who love to run up and down but play very little defense. With very little veteran leadership on that team, odds are they can’t keep pace with the western conference playoff race. As for the other teams standing in the way, none are legit contenders. The Sacramento Kings have been a great story with early season success, but same holds true as the Suns. The Kings are without a go to player that can carry this team come later March. The Pelicans arguably have the second best player in the league with in Anthony Davis but his time will come later. So what really is stopping the Oklahoma City Thunder from finding their way back into the playoffs?

    The answer is simple; themselves. When healthy, they are a force to be reckoned with. The duo along with emerging star Serge Ibaka make this Thunder team one of the league’s best team. But one simple injury to one of their big three will derail their season for good. Another major factor is chemistry. It will be difficult to send the role players back to the bench and integrate Durant and Westbrook, along with Anthony Morrow and Mitch McGary who are also returning from injury, into the lineup. Say, it takes them about 10 games to get into their groove and go a mere 5-5. That will put them into a bigger hole to dig out of. But their upcoming schedule is pretty friendly so they shouldn’t have trouble getting back into form.

    I don't know about y’all, but I’m not betting my money against Kevin durant and company to make the playoffs.