Damion Lee good fit at Golden State, nabs 3-year deal

Damion Lee doing well in the NBA, thank you.

By Anna Lucas

Damion Lee is making a name for himself in the NBA. The former University of Louisville basketball player is receiving unprecedented playing time with the Golden State Warriors this season.

Lee has appeared in 28 games, including 15 starts, for the Warriors through January 20. The six-foot-five swingman is averaging 12.5 points and 27.4 minutes per game. He’s found a versatile niche with the team as a strong scorer off the bench and solid option at either backcourt spot or small forward.

Lee’s reassuring performance comes at a vulnerable time for Golden State. There’s no sugarcoating the lackluster showing of the Warriors this season as owners of the worst record in the NBA. The once-mighty club is battling through injuries to stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Oddschecker now pegs Golden State as the underdogs to teams they easily beat a year ago, like the Utah Jazz.

 One of the few silver linings has been the opportunity for Lee to contribute long-term in the pros, something he’s been chasing for several seasons. Lee’s path to the NBA was anything but a slam dunk as the pros who make NBA picks for a living didn’t project Lee to be drafted.

A Solid Contract for a Solid Contributor

The Warriors recently rewarded Lee with a three-year contract on January 15. His 45 days of NBA eligibility expired earlier in the month, and he was forced to miss two games.

The deal places him exclusively in the NBA for the first time and includes a partial guarantee for the 2020-21 season. Golden State waived and re-signed Marquese Chriss to a two-way contract to make room for Lee’s pact.

The 27-year-old celebrated his new career stability with a highlight night on January 16 at home against the Denver Nuggets. Lee posted 21 points, 6 assists, and 5 boards as Golden State pushed Denver into overtime before dropping the game 134-131.

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Raucous NIT crowd pushes UofL past Northern Kentucky

Darius Perry delivers the exclamation point and posterizing dunk in the fourth quarter in top photo. Below, Deng Adel collects two of his game-leading  20 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Vince Tyra, the probable athletic director at the University of Louisville, had to have mixed feelings. Smallest crowd of the 2017-18 season but probably the best one.

The crowd of 9,974 was full of fanatical Louisville fans having a great night out (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The UofL partisans among the 9,974 fans so happy to be there for the National Invitation Tournament. Thriving on watching their Louisville basketball team. As one observer remarked, the home court would be a hell hole for opponents if every game had this atmosphere.

UofL was listless, awkward and struggling early, playing without any semblance of rhythm or purpose. Looking for a while like the Cardinals might be headed for still another low point, plunging into nothingness if they couldn’t get it going. So many airballs and blown plays, UofL falling behind 30-23 at the half.

But this raucous congregation of fans, consisting of many never seen in the lower levels of the KFC Yum! Center, were not going to let them quit. They were there to see their Cardinals, enjoying the big buck seats, and they would be a factor. Time after time they willed the Cardinals back in the game, helping shake off the sluggishness, willing them back into the game, pushing them over the top.

The crescendo coming with 40 seconds to go in the third quarter, on a towering, posterizing dunk by Darius Perry. The No. 1 dunk of the year coming in the NIT. The birthday boy from Powder Springs, Georgia, coming through with the icing on the cake. From that moment on it was just a matter of time, with Louisville a good Northern Kentucky team 66-58 to advance to the next round.

Vince Tyra had to be amazed at the exuberance of the all the non season-ticket holders filling those seats in the lower bowl. In the best of all UofL worlds, the best seats would be always be occupied by the most vocal fans. 

Not that anyone is complaining about the regulars who have been there through some trying times. But crowds like the one Tuesday night are a endearing reminder of the yesteryears when economics were not such a dominating factor in college basketball.

Coach David Padgett giving this crowd much of the credit, “They gave the energy we needed to win this game,” he said.

Louisville eases up again, but survives Florida State surge

One never knows what to expect with this particular University of Louisville basketball team. Nothing assured as long the game clock is running. The opposing team, not about to roll over, knowing there will always be a chance.

Give these UofL players a decent lead, they will let up, get ahead of themselves, look ahead to the next round.  The Cardinals racing to a 23-point lead with eleven and a half minutes in the second half. Florida State not rolling over, aware of Louisville’s recent history, using the adversity as motivation.

The Seminoles would start making every shot, good, bad or indifferent, cutting the deficit to six points in the final minute. But the Cardinals would make five of their last six shots, Quentin Snider would hit both free throw attempts with 15 seconds to go. Louisville would hang on for a 82-74 win in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.

Snider, playing like time is running out on his collegiate career, playing with authority, trusting his 3-point shot, leading the way. Leading his team with 19 points, including three of seven behind the 3-point line, five rebounds and six assists. Deserving, perhaps earning a chance to play NCAA tournament ball his senior season.

Ray Spalding, missing eight minutes with two fouls in the first half, providing a steady presence beneath the basket. Playing with confidence, wanting the ball, making those little hooks look smoother and easier of late.  One wonders what if he had another season to work on them. 

Deng Adel playing a supporting role  in this game. Laying off the dizzy-whiz stuff, passing the ball, getting eight rebounds and two assists, taking what the defense gives him, winding up with 15 points.

Anas Mahmoud still missing those sure-thing, two-foot shots but blocking five Florida State shots, making six rebounds, three assists and a steal. Not bad but one still has to wonder what he would be doing had added some weight to his frame. 

Dwayne Sutton, making his case for more playing time when it counts, contributing 10 points and, notably, six rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes.

Hang on. Another Louisville-Virginia game this way comes.

UofL Student Activities Center expansion under way

Somehow we missed the groundbreaking for the $40 million expansion of the Swain Student Activities Center at the University of Louisville at the end of August.  Quite an undertaking.

The expansion will provide students more than 112,000 square feet of additional or renovated dining, office, meeting and retail space. Including one of the first ever Amazon pickup stores.

According to the Courier-Journal, funding includes nearly $10 million in university bonds, with the rest of the funding from student activities fees private donations and some University contributions.

Louisville vs. Kentucky – The great rivalry

Sports rivalries are nothing new and they’re certainly not unique to Kentucky universities. In fact, for some people, sports rivalries are part of the fun of the world of athletics in the first place. However, for the sports fans mired in the Kentucky and Louisville rivalry, things get so ugly that joy gets lost along the way.

rivalryThe rivalry between the Cardinals and the Wildcats isn’t just one of the biggest rivalries in the world of men’s college basketball. It’s one of the biggest rivalries in the entire sporting world. UofL vs. UK inspires lots of heated discussion and conflict even in the best of times.

People who live outside of Kentucky and who don’t really follow the world of sports might find the rivalry baffling. All fandom knowledge is like that to a certain extent. Some people would love to learn how stuff works at the Royal Vegas casino. Other people aren’t even aware of the Royal Vegas casino and would barely even be able to connect to the world of online gambling even if someone told them about the Royal Vegas casino in detail. However, all fandom discussions tend to be interesting from a broader societal perspective, and the Louisville vs. Kentucky rivalry is no exception.

The interest in college sports varies from state to state. However, it’s particular potent in Kentucky, which has no pro-affiliated sports teams. It’s the perfect environment for the Louisville vs. Kentucky rivalry to thrive. If these two colleges were located further apart from one another, given the size of the state of Kentucky, the rivalry might not be as bad.

However, many local individuals are going to run into each other all the time in the wake of conflicts associated with both sports teams. Local individuals feel pressured to swear strong allegiance to their most nearby university, but they’re constantly in contact with their rivals in a way that just wouldn’t happen with a lot of other pairs of competing sports teams.

The fact that both Louisville fans and Kentucky fans are about equally matched in their team loyalty and passion for their respective fandoms tends to make the rivalry even more intense. Even then, the rivalry might not be as bad if one of the teams were vastly less successful than its rival. However, almost any objective observer outside of Kentucky would probably say that the Cardinals and the Wildcats were really both teams that had a great track record.

When there’s a huge power differential between two teams, the rivalry takes on a very different character. However, this really isn’t the case with the Cardinals and the Wildcats. It’s often the proverbial close games in any activity that are the most exciting, and they tend to involve the fiercest competition. The competition between the Cardinals and the Wildcats and their dearest fans never ends.