April 1, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Final Four set: The NCAA Tournament will conclude next week and the Final Four has been set. Like many years, the top seeds have disappointed for the most part. Included in the Final Four are No. 4 seeds Syracuse and Michigan, and No. 9 upstart Wichita StateLouisville was the lone No. 1 seed to get into the elite club. My bracket is completely busted at this point, but since I had the Cardinals to win it all, I can still finish respectably. And after two weeks of NCAA Tournament action, I’ve got to say Louisville is looking like the nation’s best team.

Kobe Bryant is now 4th on the all-time scoring list.

Opening Day is here: With Spring Training over, Major League Baseball officially got its season underway on Sunday night with a game featuring the Texas Rangers and new AL West team, the Houston Astros. As always, there are plenty of questions heading into this season. Will Stephen Strasburg continue his dominance after surgery? Can the Yankees overcome all of their injuries? Will the Angels’ additions of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton the past two years pay off? If you forced me to make an early season World Series pick, I’ll go with the Nationals vs. Angels, but don’t take that too seriously.

Dallas Cowboys all in with Tony Romo: The Dallas Cowboys have shown plenty of confidence in starting quarterback Tony Romo over the years. After another disappointing season, Romo was rewarded with a six-year $108 million extension. The deal could take Romo, who turns 33 this month, to the end of his NFL career. The $55 million guaranteed money he will get even topped the deal Super Bowl quarterback Joe Flacco recently got with the Baltimore Ravens. Many Cowboys fans likely aren’t all that thrilled with the new deal for a quarterback who hasn’t gotten them to a Super Bowl since he’s been with the team. But finding a franchise quarterback isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do and the Cowboys think they’ve got their man in Romo.

Kobe Bryant passes Wilt Chamberlain on all-time scoring list: Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant passed legend Wilt Chamberlain this past weekend for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list when he tallied point number 31,421. Statistics aren’t valued in basketball as much as they are in baseball, but Kobe’s achievement is still a big deal. Next up for the Mamba is none other than Michael Jordan, whose 32,292 points are third on the list. Bryant should easily pass up Jordan next season, but getting into the top two could be quite a feat. Karl Malone is second at 36,928 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tops the list at 38,387. Bryant will likely need to play at least four more seasons to have a shot at catching Malone, so Jordan could be the last person he passes on the list. But if there’s anything Kobe has proven over the years, it’s that he shouldn’t be doubted.

Good news and bad news for Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pittsburgh Penguins experienced some highs and lows last week. The team traded for star winger Jarome Iginla earlier in the week in a move that may put the team over the top to win the Stanley Cup. But on Saturday, Pittsburgh lost captain Sidney Crosby to a broken jaw after he was hit in the mouth with a puck during a game. Crosby underwent surgery on Sunday and is now out indefinitely. The Penguins are still in pretty good shape, but losing Crosby to injury yet again has to be frustrating for the team. Crosby is regarded by many as the league’s top player but has dealt with setback after setback in the league.

Miami Heat winning streak ends: The Miami Heat’s long winning streak ended with a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, 101-97. Even though the Heat’s streak was snapped at 27 games, Miami still put together one of the most impressive stretches the league has ever seen. Plus, while the loss meant they fell short of the Los Angeles Lakers historic 33-game streak back in 1971-72, the Heat’s real target is another NBA title. The goal here is to keep everyone healthy for a long playoff run.

February 21, 2013

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NBA Trade Deadline Deals

By: Joe Williams

It happens every year in the NBA. There are a lot of discussions, a lot of rumors, a lot of hype, and not very many deals. At least not the deals that have been getting the headlines for the last few weeks.

Dwight Howard is not going anywhere. Pau Gasol is not going anywhere. Kevin Garnett is not going anywhere. Neither is Josh Smith. Ok, Smith is the one guy who may get moved.

Should the Celtics trade Rondo before the Trade Deadline?

But if it was up to me, just about all of these guys would be changing zip codes. The question is – where should they go?

The Lakers will be taking a huge risk when they don’t trade Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol. Without an injured Gasol, the Lakers are poised to miss the playoffs this season and have no guarantee that Howard will stay in L.A. next year. And even if they convince the big man to re-sign, there is no evidence that he can play nice with Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol. And even if they do all come together…they will all be another year older and didn’t Kobe make headlines already this year saying the team is too old? They need to trade Gasol and go all-in this season or trade Howard and re-load for next season.

If it is all about winning a title, the Atlanta Hawks should give Josh Smith what he wants to stay and then use him to recruit Dwight Howard in the summer.

Howard may not like playing with Kobe, but one would think he would enjoy playing in his hometown of Atlanta with one of his best friends in Smith.

Several teams are after Smith and if he ends up with the Nets, they could challenge Miami in the East.

With Rajon Rondo out for the year, Boston needs to do something. We all thought they were done without Rondo, but the team has gotten hot without him and will give anybody in the East a tough time in the playoffs. Since Kevin Garnett has made it clear he isn’t going to accept a trade, they need to get him some help this year. How many more times can Boston give it one more run with Paul Pierce and Garnett? That’s why I would try to trade Rondo. The Celtics could get help now and future picks for the injured all-star.

Everybody knows the Orlando Magic are looking to unload J.J. Redick. And if the reports on Derrick Rose looking good in practice and being ready to go sometime soon, the Bulls should do this deal. Chicago tried to get him a couple years back and couldn’t. But now they can and if they can add a great shooter and a healthy Rose to a team that is only 2.5 games out of the No. 2 seed in the East, they are legitimate contender.

Other deals:

The Clippers should keep Eric Bledsoe until Chris Paul has re-signed.

The Jazz should keep Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.

The Raptors should trade Andrea Bargnani.

The Bobcats should trade Ben Gordon.

The Heat should trade for anyone who can rebound.

August 6, 2012

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NBA Schedule Full Of Intriguing Matchups (Part 2)

By: Anson Whaley

The 2012-13 NBA schedule was released recently and, as always, there are plenty of interesting matchups on the slate. Last week, we took a look at some of the intriguing matchups from the first half of the season. This week, we’re back with some of the highlights from the second half after the All-Star break.

Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers (February 20th) – This matchup is one of the first games after the NBA’s All-Star break. The Lakers and Celtics are still viable title contenders, but have shrinking windows of opportunity with aging stars. The Lakers, so far, anyway, are relying largely on Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash. The Celtics, meanwhile, are anchored by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The teams do have some key pieces a bit younger such as Rajon Rondo and Andrew Bynum, but the two franchises are both considered older teams. Time is running out for each of them and this game will be a good barometer to decide which of the two has the better chance to compete for another championship.

Rajon Rondo provides the Celtics with some much needed youth.

Chicago Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (February 24th) – If both teams stay healthy, this has the potential to be an NBA Finals preview. The game features two of the best point guards in the league in Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. The two teams have opposite styles of play as the Bulls are more defensive-oriented and the Thunder like to score points. Lots of them. This is a true matchup of offense vs. defense and could be a sign of things to come in the playoffs if the two happen to meet.

New York Knicks vs. Denver Nuggets (March 13th) – Believe it or not, but this will be Carmelo Anthony’s first trip back to Denver since he was traded to the Knicks in the 2010-2011 season. He was dealt in the middle of the season and the team had already played against New York at home by that time. And with the strike-shortened season last year, Melo never had a chance to suit up on the road in Denver. Anthony will finally make his long-awaited return to Colorado to face the team that drafted him, and don’t look for him to get a particularly warm welcome. He reportedly asked to be traded out of Denver and while some fans might cheer him, you can bet that most won’t be as cordial.

Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics (March 18th) – If the Boston Celtics want a statement game late in the year, here’s their chance. Boston will host Miami in this contest in March and should get the Heat at full strength, barring injuries to key players. The game is late enough in the season where teams will be playing hard, but not too late for them to be resting players for the playoffs. The Celtics couldn’t defeat the Heat in this year’s playoffs, and while a regular season loss at home in this game wouldn’t be the end of the world, it would be a setback. Boston can talk themselves into saying the regular season doesn’t mean all that much, but if Miami is able to defeat them on the road it will be a bit of a confidence booster for the Heat. And if that’s not enough to get excited about, future Hall of Famer Ray Allen will make a trip back to Boston after spending several seasons with the Celtics.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers (April 7th) – Last year when the Clippers traded for star point guard Chris Paul, it was with the hope that he would again make the franchise relevant. With Blake Griffin on board as well, that mission has been accomplished. The Clippers still aren’t top dog in the City of Angels, but they are a viable threat to do some damage in the Western Conference. Hosting the Lakers, they can make a statement with a win late in the year as they will likely be battling for playoff seeding.

May 7, 2012

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Injuries Should Pave Way for Miami Heat to Reach Finals

By: Anson Whaley

Despite assembling a trio of some of the league’s biggest stars last year, the Miami Heat were unable to win the NBA championship, falling to the Dallas Mavericks. They received a bit of a pass since it was their first season together, but that won’t be the case if Miami fails to bring home the franchise’s second title this year.

The Heat may not have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this year, but there’s little doubt they are the favorites to advance to the Finals because of the huge rash of injuries to key players.

Miami’s already on the brink of disposing of the New York Knicks, leading their series 3-1 in the first round. The Knicks might have been in better shape against LeBron & Company if they were a bit healthier. New York was already without rookie sensation Jeremy Lin (knee injury) since late March. But then came Iman Shumpert’s torn ACL and a bizarre hand injury to starter Amare Stoudemire, who somehow thought punching a fire extinguisher case out of frustration after the team’s Game 2 loss was a good idea. After sitting out the third game, Stoudemire returned for Game 4. But missing Lin and Shumpert has definitely hurt the team in this series.

The Chicago Bulls, perhaps the best team in the entire league with a 50-16 record, were dealt a cruel blow in their first round series. With only a little over a minute to play in their first playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers, star point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL and, just like that, his season was over. Rose was the team’s leader in scoring and assists and without him, the Bulls have been a shell of their former selves. Chicago won that first game, but has fallen short in the past three without Rose. And as if that weren’t enough of a hurdle to overcome, the Bulls lost center Joakim Noah in Game 4 to an ankle sprain. Even if they can somehow fight back and make it a series against Philly, there’s little chance they could do much more in the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic were another team expected to contend for the title. That all changed, though, once star center Dwight Howard went down with a back injury late in the season. Power forward Glen Davis has stepped up in his absence, scoring 20 points a game in the playoffs and pulling in nearly ten rebounds. But the team clearly misses Howard, who was their regular season leader in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals. Howard’s defensive impact is just as important as the one he makes on offense and the Magic are a weaker team on both ends without him.

There are also the aging Boston Celtics. The Celtics have been relatively healthy, but shooting guard Ray Allen missed the first two games of their opening series against the Atlanta Hawks. He’d been out for the past month with bone spurs in his foot, and even though he’s back, is still trying to get back into game shape.

Miami isn’t a lock to win the East by any stretch of the imagination. The Indiana Pacers are having a strong season and as one of the league’s best rebounding teams, could give the Heat some trouble. And the Atlanta Hawks’ sixth-ranked defense might be able to challenge Miami’s explosive offense as well. The Heat are a combined 6-2 against those two teams in the regular season, but in the playoffs, the intensity will be ratcheted up significantly. Despite all that, though, it’s clear that with all of the injuries to the Eastern Conference this season, Miami has a clear shot at reaching the Finals again.

April 6, 2012

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Weekend Viewing Schedule

By: Junior

It has been a while since I wrote a weekend sports schedule, but with the NHL and NBA heading into the homestretch before the playoffs, the MLB season getting under way and The Masters going on this weekend, it may be hard to prioritize which games are “must-see”. Have no fear, I have looked over all of the games and events happening this weekend and these are the games you MUST watch.

Friday

Cardinals @ Brewers – MLB – 4:10pm ET

We normally don’t start the schedule this early, but with many people taking today off to celebrate Opening Day (or to recover from the celebrating the night before), I figure many of you have some time to watch some games. This is Opening Day for Brewers fans, and what better way to kickoff the season then against their hated division rival the Cardinals. This game should have all of the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day with the passion of a mid-season ballgame. A great way to start the weekend.

Another Opening Day game will kickoff what is sure to be an exciting sports weekend.

Suns @ Nuggets – NBA – 9:00pm ET

If the game above didn’t have enough of a playoff atmosphere for you, this game should take care of that and then some. The Suns are currently 9th in the Western Conference, only one game behind the 8th seed. Who are they trailing? The Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets won the last matchup, but the Suns were without Steve Nash. Denver would love to put a little more cushion between themselves and the Suns, but Nash will be trying to make one more playoff push in what many assume will be his last season with the Suns.

Saturday
Chicago @ Detroit – NHL – 1:00pm ET

We pickup Saturday afternoon right where we left off on Friday. Detroit and Chicago are 5th and 6th , respectively, in the standings. Only separated by 2 points, there will be no love lost during this heated game between division rivals.  The Red Wings can still land the 4th spot in the playoffs, while the Blackhawks can leapfrog Detroit if they win in regulation. This game has a lot riding on it for both teams, and will be a very physical, entertaining game.

Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh- NHL – 4:00pm ET

This game has no bearing on playoff seeding, but when two in-state, division rivals play, it doesn’t disappoint. That is the case as the Flyers and Penguins meet on Saturday. The Flyers are 4-1 against the Penguins this season, yet are still ranked only 5th in the standing, one spot below the Penguins. The Flyers will look to end the season with a win and enter the playoffs on a strong note.

Sunday

Bulls @ Knicks – NBA – 1:00pm ET

The seeds get further apart in this matchup, but the importance is just as great. The Knicks are fighting to keep themselves in the playoffs, only 1.5 games ahead of the 9th seed. They will face the #1 seed Chicago Bulls, who will likely be the Knicks first round playoff matchup. This could be a preview of what we can expect in the fast approaching NBA playoffs, and the Knicks can’t afford to lose many more games. The Bulls will look to dishearten the Knicks, who could build some confidence with an impressive showing at home.

The Masters – PGA – 2:00pm ET

The Masters starts at 2, but when the game above ends, we should be joining right around the back 9. The Masters is one of the PGA’s premiere events and always provides great action. Rory McIlroy is looking to avenge his monumental collapse last year and is in contention midway through Friday’s action. A lot could change from now until then, which is what makes The Masters a great watch, even if you aren’t a big golf fan.

White Sox @ Rangers – NBA – 8:00pm ET

Once The Masters ends, we have one more game of baseball before we call this weekend over. The Rangers are the defending AL Champions for the past two seasons and hope this will be the year they finally win the World Series. The White Sox, on the other hand, are in more of a rebuilding stage, with a lot of turnover from last season. Regardless, baseball season is back and this early in the season, every team is a contender.