April 22, 2014

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NBA Playoff Observations

By: Joe Williams

The NBA Playoffs have just begun, yet already so much is evident. We have compiled our findings on the young postseason below.

Nobody thinks the Mavericks can beat the Spurs. After Game 1’s collapse, the Mavericks probably don’t even think they can beat the Spurs. Dallas has lost 10 straight games against the Spurs. Now they’ve got to win four of the next six? It’s not going to happen. They had a shot to make this a series and blew it by getting outscored 17-4 in the final seven minutes to lose 90-85. You can’t do that against the Spurs. Just ask the 2013 Warriors.

Tayshaun Prince

Are the Grizzlies getting hot at just the right time?

The Thunder have an extremely difficult road to the title. What is their reward for winning 59 games and the second-best record in the NBA? How about a first-round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies who finished the season going 32-13. And if Oklahoma City gets to round two they could be looking at Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and then the Spurs and then the Heat. They will definitely have to earn it to win the title.

Stephen Curry has got to get back on track when the series shifts to the Warriors’ home floor. He struggled at the end of Game 1 and didn’t get going in Game 2 until the Warriors were down by 30 points. We’ll know after Game 3 if the Warriors are going to make this a series. How will a 40-point loss in Game 2 affect them?

The Rockets are in must-win mode for Game two. They cannot leave Houston down 0-2 and expect to win the series. They will get the calls they need to even the series at 1-1. After losing in overtime and the NBA admitting that the referees blew a critical call that probably led to the Rockets loss, you can bet that a meaningful whistle will go Houston’s way in Game 2.

Speaking of must-win mode, the Pacers are a Tuesday night loss away from disaster. Indiana is a mess right now and dropping the first two games at home to the No. 8 seed, 38-win, Atlanta Hawks could cause riots in Indiana. Part of me wonders if the Pacers would even show up for Game 3 in Atlanta or just forfeit the series and settle their differences in a WWE-style battle royal.

Can the Heat get any more luck? Year after year, someone that stands in their path to a title goes down with an injury. The Bobcats really didn’t have a shot in the series anyway without an injury to LeBron, but now Al Jefferson is in a walking boot. He can really hurt the Heat and make the games competitive, but not anymore. Can you say sweep?

The Raptors and Bulls both lost Game 1 at home. Game 2 is tonight. They both desperately need to win tonight, along with Indiana. It’s must-win Tuesday night. I’m hoping they all get it done so we will have a couple more six or seven game series.

June 17, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Justin Rose wins U.S. Open: Justin Rose capped off a spectacular Sunday of golf winning the U.S. Open (+1) for his first major championship. He became the first British golfer to win the title since 1970 when Tony Jacklin did it. Just as big of a story was Phil Mickelson finishing as the bridesmaid yet again, as he finished in a tie for second at +3 with Jason Day. Mickelson’s eighth 2nd place finish ties him with Sam Snead, Greg Norman, and Tom Watson for the third most runner-ups in majors history. Jack Nicklaus leads the way in that category with 19.

Alex Ovechkin was the winner of this year's Hart Trophy over the weekend.

San Antonio Spurs take 3-2 series lead over Miami Heat: The San Antonio Spurs took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat by way of their Game 5 win on Sunday night. That puts the Spurs in position to win a fifth ring for future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan … but it won’t be easy. San Antonio still needs to win one out of two games in Miami and the Heat just don’t lose very much at home. And with an NBA title on the line, you can bet the fans won’t be easy on the road team.

Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins tied 1-1 in Stanley Cup Finals: The NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals are tied at a game apiece with two exciting contests thus far. Andrew Shaw scored a goal in the third overtime of the Game 1 thriller to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win. The Bruins won Game 2 in overtime behind Daniel Paille’s third goal. Even if you’re not a good hockey fan, two overtime games already should make you want to watch the rest of the series.

Chad Ochocinco Johnson heads to jail: Chad Johnson caught a break in his no-contest plea to battery charges against his then-wife when a court was ready to give him a community service/counseling deal to avoid jail time. But when Johnson smacked the butt of his attorney at excitement over the deal … well, let’s just say the judge wasn’t impressed. Judge Kathleen McHugh told Johnson it wasn’t a joke and promptly rejected his plea deal, sentencing him to 30 days in jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Seriously, though – what was Johnson thinking? I can understand being happy at the prospect of not heading to the clink, but he clearly should have showed a bit more restraint until he got out of the court.

Alex Ovechkin wins Hart Trophy: The Washington CapitalsAlex Ovechkin took home his third Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP over the weekend. The winger is only the eighth player in league history to win that many. Other players such as John Tavares and Sidney Crosby were also deserving, but Ovechin led the league with 32 goals and did so in a season where he moved to wing.

Tim Tebow signed by Patriots: The New England Patriots made a bit of a splash last week when they announced the signing of quarterback Tim Tebow. I don’t question that coaching guru Bill Belichick can find a way to utilize him in some way. What is surprising is that New England would bring him in with what should be a minimal impact. Unlike in New York, Tebow isn’t being brought in to challenge starter Tom Brady. So unless Brady goes down with an injury, Tebow’s impact at the position would be small. The talk is already about making Tebow a receiver or part of offensive packages as a skill player, but will he really be such an offensive difference-maker that it will make it worth all of the added attention and scrutiny of the team? Not likely.

Jason Kidd hired as Nets’ head coach: Last week I mentioned the possibility of the recently retired Jason Kidd becoming the Brooklyn Nets new coach. The Nets, who hadn’t previously had Kidd in mind, were convinced after his agent reached out to them and Kidd was hired last week. My opinion hasn’t really changed on this – a team with expectations so high shouldn’t be hiring a rookie head coach. He was a great player, but other greats such as Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, and Wes Unseld didn’t exactly make a successful transition from player to coach.

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul teammates?: ESPN reported last week that free agents Dwight Howard and Chris Paul may be exploring options to end up on the same team together. This move, of course, isn’t unprecedented with several players doing this in the past, including the Miami Heat’s ‘Big Three’ of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Howard and Paul are rumored to desire to play for the Los Angeles Clippers, but that would require a few things to happen. The team doesn’t have the cap space to sign Howard, so they’d need to do a sign and trade for him. And chances are that Blake Griffin would need to be included in such a deal.

Hall of Famer Lem Barney says football will soon end: Speaking at a football academy, Pro Football Hall of Famer Lem Barney declared that the game of football will end in 10-20 years because it is too dangerous. Barney’s not the only one to voice such an opinion with all of the talk of concussions lately, but I’m not sure the game ends anytime soon. After all – a sport like boxing where athletes take repeated shots to the head still exists. And when you consider that football is the most popular sport in the country, the guess here is that football continues to implement more safety measures rather than shut down entirely.

February 14, 2013

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NBA All-Star Saturday Lineup Changes

By: Joe Williams

The NBA does a nice job of hyping up all the festivities for All-Star Weekend. It also does a nice job of failing to live up to the hype and the biggest reason is we don’t get to see the guys we want to see. Here’s what I wish we had coming up next this weekend:

Let’s start by saying that I would not make any changes to the Rising Stars Challenge, Shooting Stars Competition or the Skills Challenge. Those are fine as they are. But the Three-Point Shootout and Slam Dunk Contest could do better.

It would be great to see Blake Griffin add to some of his memorable Dunk Contest moments.

The Three-Point Shootout field for Saturday night is: Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Steve Novak, Ryan Anderson, Matt Bonner and Stephen Curry. I would increase the field from six to eight and keep Curry, Novak and Irving. Sorry Bonner, Anderson and George but I think we can do better. There are 30 players shooting over 40 percent from three while Anderson and George aren’t. And I don’t even know who Bonner is.

I’ll take Kyle Korver – who leads the league in three-point percentage, Ray Allen – the guy who has made more threes than anybody in history and Jimmer Fredette – a personal favorite. That leaves two more spots.

One of them goes to an NBA legend and one of the greatest shooters of all time who hasn’t been away from the game for too long….Reggie Miller. We all know he can still shoot the rock.

You know who else can shoot the rock? Lots of people. I’ve hit 10 or 12 straight before. Why not get the fans involved? There should be a three-point shooting contest for people in the Houston area with the winner getting a spot to shoot with the big boys on All-Star Saturday night.

My ultimate Three-Point Shootout field: Kyrie Irving, Steve Novak, Stephen Curry, Kyle Korver, Ray Allen, Jimmer Fredette, Reggie Miller and a hometown hero.

Now for the Slam Dunk Contest Field. This year it will be Gerald Green, Terrence Ross, James White, Eric Bledsoe, Jeremy Evans and Kenneth Faried.

Without cheating, can you name what team these guys play for? Didn’t think so.

I only got two. Where is the star power?

Again, I say let’s take this from six guys to eight. I’ll keep Eric Bledsoe and Kenneth Faried in the field because I can actually remember seeing them on the floor in an NBA game. And the defending champ should always be invited back to keep Jeremy Evans and that leaves five more spots.

The first one goes to LeBron. Everyone wants to see what he would do and he knows it. It’s been a will he or won’t he story for years and now it looks like he’s never going to do it. But it would be great for the fans if he would show up to face off with my second pick…Blake Griffin. He’s already dunked over a car. I want to see him try to top that. And he’s got the best dunk of the season so far according to NBA.com’s dunkladder. Give me Kevin Durant while you’re at it. He’s neck-and-neck with LeBron for best player in the game. They met in the NBA Finals last season and that could easily happen again. Paul George is my next pick. A lot of people think he should have won last year. He deserves another shot…especially if Evans is in the field. The final spot goes to a guy who is a major wild card. Google JaVale McGee, watch a few videos and tell me you don’t want him in the dunk contest.

My ultimate Slam Dunk Contest field: Eric Bledsoe, Kenneth Faried, Jeremy Evans, LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Paul George and JaVale McGee.

February 22, 2012

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NBA’s 25 and Under All-Excitement Team

By: Matt Bowen

The NBA’s future is bright because of a handful of young stars that stuff the stat sheets on a nightly basis.  It’s hard to believe but each player on this list is under the age of 25.

Whether it’s dishing the rock, banging the boards or shooting the lights out, these players consistently leave crowds in awe. All of these players will be present at the upcoming NBA All-Star game where their playground-like basketball skills will be on display.

Four of these five kids will make the 2012 USA Olympic Basketball Team as they are now the embodiment of the “Dream Team.”

If a naysayer were to see these guys take the court, their opinion of the modern-day NBA would change in an instant. These players are fun to watch and they make it look easy.

Here is the NBA’s 25 and Under All-Excitement Team:

Derrick Rose: This kid is only 23 years old and has already won an NBA MVP Award.

Being that Rose is a member of the Chicago Bulls, he has the biggest shoes to fill and has done a marvelous job thus far. Right now the Bulls have a 26-8 record and look to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Rose is a master on the court who knows how to handle every situation. He can turn the game upside down in a heartbeat and leave the fans thirsting for more. Knowing that Rose will dominate the game for the next decade leaves NBA die-hards with a smile on their faces.

Derrick Rose is one of the many young players making the NBA "must-see" TV.

Jeremy Lin: Three weeks ago, no one knew who Jeremy Lin was. Now, the 23-year-old is the hottest thing since sliced bread. Lin’s meteoric rise to fame has been justified by his stats. Since becoming a starter on February 4, Lin has scored 20-plus points in 9-of-10 games.

Most importantly, he brought the New York Knicks back from the dead and has made New York City a basketball city. Anyone who can single-handedly make the Knicks relevant again deserves all the credit in the world.

“Linsanity” continues to sweep the nation as we speak. The upcoming All-Star game will only bring more notoriety his way.

Kevin Durant: What’s not to love about this guy? He’s the all-around most exciting player to watch in the NBA night-in and night-out.

Durant is capable of a triple-double at the drop of a hat and his recent 51 point performance is proof that he’s “must-see TV.”

This year he’s averaging 27.7 points per game to go along with 8.2 rebounds. He’s the new-age NBA prototype—6’9” with superior ball-handling skills and deadly range. Wow.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a future first-ballot Hall of Famer on their hands.

Blake Griffin: Just when sports fans thought the days of the innovative slam-dunk were over, Blake Griffin changed our minds. The Los Angeles Clippers youngster is like nothing the NBA has ever seen before.

His dunks are like violent poetry—so graceful yet so explosive—a true stroke of genius.

What he’s capable of next is almost unfathomable. Fans can only hold their breath as they wait for the rooftop to blow.

Besides his rim-rocking jams Griffin is a great basketball player. This season, like last, he’s averaging a double-double. In today’s game that feat is rarely accomplished.

Expect Griffin’s Fatheads to be plastered on the walls of children and art collectors alike for years to come.

Kevin Love: If anything, he deserves some more love. The Minnesota Timberwolves big man is the most underrated player in the entire NBA.

He’s capable of filling the box score with 20 points and 20 rebounds on any given night. A pure rebounder is hard to come by in today’s NBA and Love’s picture should be in the dictionary under the word “rebound.”

Love gives his team a chance to win on a nightly basis with his 25.5 points/game and 14.2 rebounds. His most ridiculous stat is that he’s only gone two games this season without a double-double.

Make sure to keep your eye on Love this weekend at the All-Star game—he’s worth it.

July 7, 2011

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NBA Lockout Lowdown

By: Rick Jarrell

This remainder of the summer will not be kind to NBA and NFL sports fans. Instead of words like “free agency” and “training camp” being tossed around to arouse our appetites, we hear “lockout” and “if and when the season starts.” It’s tough on us fans and doesn’t seem fair – without us, the players and owners would be out of work anyways, right? But sports are not just a hobby, but a business. So what do the players and owners disagree on that allowed the collective bargaining agreement to expire last week? Here’s a few of the key topics.

Hard Cap vs. Soft Cap

The most previous CBA had a soft cap, meaning teams could go over the salary cap but pay a luxury tax as a penalty. This created more revenue coming back from the teams to the leagues, but also hurts competitive balance. Small market teams, like Oklahoma City, find it hard to compete with big market teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers, even with revenue sharing.

The owners are pushing for a hard cap, partly to foster higher competitive balance, but also to prevent teams from over spending beyond their financial abilities. The question many have in mind is how teams that are well over the former salary cap, like the Lakers and Orlando Magic, will be affected by a hard cap.

The League is Losing Money

Despite the NBA being at arguably it’s height of popularity, the league claims they lost $340 million for the 2009-2010 season. The players, however, maintain the number is well below that. There’s no way for the public to know for sure what the true losses are, and a decent amount of people don’t care, but it seems certain that the league is incurring losses either way.

One of the methods to fix this issue – which is most likely the biggest issue – is lowering the revenue share between the owners and players. But the players believe they deserve an increase in revenue share, and as the most charismatic and personable players in professional sports, I can’t blame them. The NBA’s adoption of new media, i.e. social media and online videos, is far and above the NFL and MLB, largely due to the player’s willingness to buy in.

Guaranteed Contracts

Under the former CBA, the majority of player contracts were guaranteed. All-Stars, role players, rookies, veterans, other than a few exceptions (like 10-day contract), would either live out the remainder of their contract or be bought out by the team. This created an interested dynamic unseen in other sports, where at the end of their contract, players would become more valuable. Not because of their skills on the court, but for their expiring contract. Teams would use it to free up cap space or just save money.

I won’t pretend to know what happens here, but a nice compromise would be a hybrid guaranteed contract, where the first half of a contract is ensured, with an option to renegotiate once it becomes unguaranteed. But I have no idea where this issue would stand, but it seems like an opportunity to save money for the owners.

No matter what the result is, I hope it comes soon. It’s early on, and there’s no need to worry unless this fiasco goes on into September, but there is a possibility we lose part of the season. It happened a decade ago, and even though I was in my sub teenage years, I remember it well. It felt like the league would never come to an agreement. The most recent professional lockout, in the NHL, was even worse, to the point people were proposing a new league formation. This idea scares me more than any non-lethal event should. I just want to watch basketball. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Blake Griffin need to be on my television every night. Even no LeBron to see makes me sad.

Just get a deal done guys – for the fans, the kids, whoever. Let’s just ball.