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.

January 22, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

San Francisco 49ers to meet Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl: The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens advanced to the Super Bowl after wins over the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, respectively. Both teams have played well this season, but it is a bit interesting that each road team won since home field advantage is so important. The game now sets up, of course, the Harbaugh Bowl as 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh will square off against his brother John, the coach of the Ravens. Be prepared to hear this particular angle played out ad nauseam over the next two weeks.

The Baltimore Ravens will play the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Earl Weaver pass away: Baseball lost two Hall of Famers last week when Stan Musial and Earl Weaver both passed away. At 82, Weaver died while on a cruise (a cause of death wasn’t immediately known). He went to four World Series and won one in 1970. Musial also died over the weekend at his home at the age of 92. Stan the Man was a Hall of Famer, but you could actually argue that he was a bit underrated when it came to his pecking order on the list of the sport’s all-time best players. Often overlooked for flashier names, Musial won three MVP awards, three World Series and racked up more than 3,600 hits and nearly 500 home runs. He wasn’t just a Hall of Famer or the face of a franchise, but an absolute icon.

Lance Armstrong confesses to doping: In an interview with Oprah last week, Lance Armstrong finally confessed to what many had accused him of over his career – doping during his races. Regardless of what you think about Armstrong, it was a sad day for cycling. The number of clean cyclists decreased by one and Armstrong was the biggest name in the history of the sport. The fact that he cheated isn’t what likely has most steaming – some fans could forgive him for that. Armstrong’s biggest problem is that he was so adamant about not cheating for such a long time.

Manti Te’o involved in girlfriend hoax … or not: Ever since the regular season ended, Manti Te’o has had a rough time of things. His Notre Dame team was rolled up by Alabama in the BCS Championship and he didn’t have a strong game. But last week, things got markedly more embarrassing for the star linebacker as he was involved in a strange situation. By now you’ve likely seen the report, but the gist of the story is that Te’o either made up a story about a girlfriend dying or was the victim of a hoax. We may never know the true story, but one thing’s for certain – Manti’s draft status is sinking like a rock. Some team will take a chance on him, but with a poor national championship game and girlfriend-gate, his stock is falling.

NBA All-Star starters named: The NBA’s starters for the All-Star game were named and Kobe Bryant was voted as one for the 15th straight time – a league record. If you needed any more proof that a handful of teams dominate the fans’ consciousness, look no farther than the two rosters. Four of the league’s premier teams, the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, and Boston Celtics each had two players. Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks and Kevin Durant of the Thunder were the other two players to make it. As far as snubs go, Paul Pierce or Chris Bosh probably deserved to start ahead of Kevin Garnett. But all in all, the fans did a reasonably good job.

The NHL is back: The NHL got underway with a slate of games over the weekend. The highlight was seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, two favorites to reach the Stanley Cup finals, square off on Opening Day. It wasn’t the crispest of games and the play was a bit sloppy, but the players will quickly round into shape. The important thing is that with the football season winding down, hockey is getting underway just in time to give sports fans another option.

Mayor injures himself before Ray Lewis dance (seriously): Denver mayor Michael Hancock, having lost a bet to Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, had to pay up. After the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the Denver Broncos, Hancock was forced to do Ray Lewis’ famed warm-up dance. An original report stated that he injured himself actually practicing for the performance. Later, it was reported that he injured himself at a western stock show of all places. Either way, the mayoral bets are a bit ridiculous and we’d all be better off if they just went away. But as for the origins of the injury (which, by the way, is so severe that Hancock can’t actually perform the dance to pay off the bet), I’m going with the first report – it just makes for a better story.

No. 1 Louisville dethroned: For the second time in as many weeks, we’ll have a new No. 1 in college basketball after the Louisville Cardinals were upset by Syracuse on Saturday, 70-68. Duke is once again the #1 team in men’s college basketball. The bigger question is for how long?

June 26, 2012

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Dishing out NBA Postseason Awards

By: Anson Whaley

The NBA doled out its regular season awards earlier this year. But with the postseason recently concluded, here’s a look at some awards I’d hand out based solely on the playoffs.

The NBA playoffs now over, it is time to give out the postseason awards.

Most Valuable Player: Lebron James

After a few disappointing postseasons, James finally put it all together and grabbed his first ring. Make no mistake about it – he had plenty of help along the way, particular from Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Mike Miller. But James made big play after big play and really was the best player in the postseason. James not only led the league in scoring in the playoffs, but also topped his team in rebounds and assists. Even though he got some assistance, there’s virtually no chance Miami wins the title without him. James was the regular season MVP and carried that over into the postseason.

Top Rookie: Kenneth Faried

A vote could be given to the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, who finished second in scoring and rebounding. But Faried gets the nod here because, well, he was first in each category. Leonard’s team went deeper, but Faried was the only rookie to average a double-double with 10.4 points and 10.0 rebounds a game in the Denver Nuggets’ sole series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets almost pulled off a first-round upset, forcing the Lakers to seven games and Faried was clearly a big part of that, giving Los Angeles fits inside.

Top Sixth Man: James Harden

Harden was the runaway Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA’s regular season and he’s also my pick for the best Sixth Man in the postseason. Harden, ironically, was one of the reasons the Thunder couldn’t keep up with the Heat in the Finals as his offensive numbers dipped dramatically. But if you take his entire body of work into account (16.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game), he’s a pretty easy selection here. Harden reached the 20-point mark five times and had 19 points on three additional occasions. The simple fact is he would start for nearly every other team in the league.

Top Coach: Erik Spoelstra

Don’t misunderstand – I don’t think Spoelstra is the best coach that was in the playoffs. But he did something that he wasn’t able to do last year … motivate the Heat to win the title. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Scotty Brooks could have been given this award as well, but in the end, he fell just short. There’s no doubt that the Miami Heat are a more experienced and, quite simply, a better team. But guess what? They also were last year and failed to close the deal. Spoelstra’s team also had to deal with some adversity along the way. Star forward Chris Bosh missed several games due to injury and despite owning home-court advantage, the Heat also trailed in series against the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics. Regardless of what you think about Spoelstra, he pressed the right buttons this year and deserves to get some recognition.

Biggest Disappointment: Ray Allen

I could easily go with Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough here since the forward had a dismal pair of series against the Heat and Orlando Magic. Hansbrough not only saw his minutes shrink, but his scoring was cut by more than half. He also rebounded less and shot worse than he did in the regular season. But my vote goes to Allen simply because more is expected of him as a former All-Star. He had some great games, but also had plenty of stinkers, including a 5-14 stretch over three games against the Philadelphia 76ers where he scored a grand total of 13 points.  In particular, Allen’s three-point shot was missing. He shot 45% from that distance in the regular season, but made only 30% in the playoffs. Allen also scored just over ten points in the postseason this year and that simply wasn’t enough – even for an aging veteran.

June 29, 2011

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Top NBA Free Agents

By: Rick Jarrell

NBA Playoffs are over. The draft has been completed. What now? Free agency!

The looming collective bargaining agreement, set to expire June 30, is more than likely going to hinder the beginning of the free agency period. Hopefully the owners and players can hash out their differences in a relatively short time span, but we’re still going to be forced to talk about offseason moves, even though they can’t happen yet, slightly longer this year.

The 2011 NBA free agent class is nowhere near as heralded as last year’s barrage of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, and David Lee. But there’s interesting players out, a few sure to sign max contracts.

Nene Hilario

Every team can use another frontcourt bruiser, and at 28 years old, Nene will surely garner at least a four year contract. Left behind in the midseason trade of Carmelo Anthony as the only remaining building block, Nene’s performance in the second half helped lead the team to the playoffs. Putting up 14 points and 7 rebounds a game, plus a block and a steal, could turn into a solid double-double provider night in night out on the right team. Plus at 6-11, 250 pounds, the man can play both the 4 and 5 positions.

The downside, which I actually see as an upside in some respect, is how Nene makes an impact. He’s a glass man – gets rebounds, tips balls to his teammates, and cleans up the mess. Running plays designed for him consistently is not likely to pay off. But his willingness to do the dirty work outweighs, and a backdoor layup is right up his alley.

Tyson Chandler

What a difference a year makes. A season ago, Tyson Chandler was deemed expendable by the Charlotte Bobcats after his worst statistical year and burgeoning knee problems. But the Dallas Mavericks took a chance that paid off. Chandler provided a key force near the rim during the finals, limiting the impact of Miami’s Big Three.

Chandler has a similar problem to Nene, to a greater degree, in that he is not offensive minded. Aside from rebounds and put backs, his value is on the defensive end. Blocks, steals, help defense, the whole lot. Chandler has readily admitted he likes defense, that’s where he belongs. Plus, even though it feels like he’s been in the ABA merged into the NBA, he’s only 28 years old. The knee may cause some concern, but someone (possibly the Mavericks), will take another chance.

Marc Gasol

The Memphis Grizzlies have stated they intend to resign their rising star. But after paying Rudy Gay and Mike Conley last summer and Zach Randolph a couple months ago, and uncertainty regarding salary cap rules, they may not have the funds left to make a deal. Gasol will surely have a high price tag. His sweet mid-range jumper (for which he does not jump) helped power the Grizzlies past the number one seed Spurs in the first round. Rebounding and defense come in the package, as well. But despite his size, don’t expect him to post up anyone on the block and back them down. Gasol is more effective on the move, using his mid-range shot and a variety of “trick” shots, in addition to put backs.

He’s the kind of player you’d love to see on your team. No one would have ever thought the “Pau Gasol trade,” where the Lakers and Griz swapped brothers years ago, would look like a decent move Memphis.

David West

A late addition to the bunch, and another front court player! West said this week he would test the NBA free agent market this summer, likely because of the constant rumors swirling around Chris Paul’s longevity in New Orleans (more Decision fallout!). Averaging a quiet 19 points and 7.5 rebounds for another season, West suffered a potentially career-threatening ACL injury before the playoffs. If healthy, he’s arguably at the top of this group (Gasol could be, too). But a serious knee injury for a 30 year old big man causes concern. He’ll probably get a decent sized contract, assuming he passes a physical, but the tail end of his contract may become an issue.

June 16, 2011

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NBA Offseason Stories

By: Rick Jarrell

Alas, one of the better NBA seasons in recent memory has come to an exciting end. The Dallas Mavericks took the crown as unlikely champions, overpowering the surprisingly ineffective big three of the Miami Heat. Much has been said about each team since the series ended Sunday, positive and negative – who came through, who didn’t, potential offseason roster move – all a strong precursor to another summer of rumors and mayhem for the NBA. Here’s what I’m watching.

What Will the Champs Do?

The Dallas Mavericks, who used their deep bench to push past the Heat in the NBA finals, have a lot of important players up for free agency. Most notably is America’s new sub six foot hero, J.J. Barea, who provided a scoring spark off the bench and eventually, as a starter. Tyson Chandler, the rugged, dirty work center is also free to go as he pleases. Outspoken owner Mark Cuban, for which money has never been an issue with his players, has stated he will resign the two. But will that be enough to seriously contend next year? Rumors are swirling about a play for 2012 free agents Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Derron Williams… but these are considered long shots… nothing more than entertainment until the next season begins.

Can Miami Add Another Piece?

Maybe the question should be, do they need another piece? The big three, although the NBA finals didn’t go as well as they hoped, began to mold together toward the end of the season. Another season together, with a healthy Udonis Haslem, may be all they need. But it won’t shock me to see Pat Riley try to pull off some moves, so look for them to upgrade their front court and perimeter shooters. They don’t have a lot of pieces to give back in a trade, but you never know – if you would have told me a year ago LeBron James and Chris Bosh would join Dwayne Wade in Miami, I would have laughed in your face, simultaneously making a fool out of myself.

What About the Rising Two

The Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder made strong strides to become arguably two of the top four teams in the league. Carried on the shoulders of their young stars in Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant respectively, fans are looking for each team to make the leap to the NBA finals next season. Will these two young teams wait for their talent to grow internally and hope that’s enough, or will they go after a free agent or seek an impact trade?

The Bulls need to upgrade the shooting guard position, so look for them to package some of their younger players for a capable scorer. They were also exposed by LeBron James, who shut down Rose in the conference finals, as a one trick pony on offense. The upgrade at the two would help, but more production out of the frontcourt – in some manner – would help, as well.

The Thunder have a stronger core of young talent than the Bulls. If Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka can continue to development at this pace, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. But General Manager Sam Presti is one of the savviest front office men in the league, and I expect him to do something. Whether it is obviously impactful this year, or next, is another question.

The Draft

Although the 2011 draft class is less stellar than many in years past, the excitement surrounding the potential of these college kids and international players still exists. As a Cleveland fan, I’m especially interested in what the Cavs do with the first and fourth pick. Duke point guard Kyrie Irving will be the first pick, barring a severe change of mind, but the fourth is a question. They may trade up for Minnesota’s pick to take Derrick Williams with the second pick. They may trade down for the Piston’s eight pick. Who knows.

The Lockout

I’ve avoided this word for the latter part of the season. It’s sad. It’s depressing. I just want basketball to come back in November. So instead of monitoring the daily updates regarding the collective bargaining agreement, I’m going to wait until the contract is actually signed to figure out the implications. I’m already lost now that the season is over; I don’t want to think I’ll still be lost in November.