June 25, 2013

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NBA Mock Draft

By: Joe Williams

Alright Miami, that’s enough celebrating. It’s time to start getting ready for next season…starting with Thursday’s draft. Many of the league experts are saying that this draft class is pretty weak and there aren’t any franchise altering players available. Maybe not. But some teams will get better. I just hope it’s mine.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Alex Len, C, Maryland

The Cavs must improve their defense if they are to make the playoffs next season. At 7-1 and 255lbs, Len will help clog up the middle and improve their rebounding as well. Unless of course the Cavs are able to pull off the trade that has been rumored since they won the lottery.

2. Orlando Magic – Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

What do you do when you need help at every position? Take whoever you think has the best shot to become a star.

3. Washington Wizards – Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

Porter fits the biggest hole on the roster and should be a good fit to play with John Wall.

4. Charlotte Bobcats – Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky

After having the most balls in the draft lottery, the Bobcats dropped to the fourth pick but they still get Noel – they guy they would have picked at No. 1.

5. Phoenix Suns – Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Oladipo will be a solid all-around player for Phoenix, especially defensively, where the Suns have been awful.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

I still can’t wrap my head around the switch to the Pelicans. I don’t like it. Maybe Bennett will like it. Pelicans? Really? Really?

7. Sacramento Kings – Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

Burke is probably my favorite player in this draft. The Kings get a steal here.

8. Detroit Pistons – C.J. McCollum, PG, Lehigh

Here’s another guy I really like. Detroit looks to be set inside with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond so they go with a guard who will be able to score.

Will the Pistons get a guard to go along with big men Greg Monroe (pictured) and Andre Drummond?

9. Minnesota Timberwolves – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

I can’t let the best name in the draft slip out of the top 10 can I? Besides, with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love returning, the Twolves are going to need someone who can shoot.

10. Portland Trail Blazers – Cody Zeller, PF, Indiana

LaMarcus Aldridge needs some help inside. Aldridge gets what he wants.

11. Philadelphia 76ers – Shabazz Muhammad, SG, UCLA

Why not? Muhammad is one of those guys who could go just about anywhere in this draft. He is a risk/reward pick and the Sixers take a shot.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder – Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse

What the Thunder really need is a fully healed Russell Westbrook, so they take the best player available to give Westbrook some assistance.

13. Dallas Mavericks – $$$$$$$$$$ (Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga)

Everyone knows the Mavs are looking to use this pick to acquire more cap space. We’ll say they draft pick Olynky and ship him somewhere.

14. Utah Jazz – Shane Larkin, PG, Miami

Both of Utah’s starting guards are free agents. Larkin fills one of those holes.

15. Milwaukee Bucks – Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany

Brandon Jennings, Monte Ellis and J.J. Redick are all possibly going to leave town so the Bucks all a guard to the wide open roster.

16. Boston Celtics – Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville

There are countless ways this roster could wind up by the time the season starts. Assuming Kevin Garnett isn’t back, the Celtics will need a big defender.

17. Atlanta Hawks – Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece

I’m not going to pretend like I know much about foreign players, but from what I’ve read it seems like the Hawks are interested.

18. Atlanta Hawks – Allen Crabbe, SG, California

You can never have too many shooters and the Hawks are getting one here.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers – Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

In a couple years Adams and Len could be a force inside for Cleveland. But the Cavs could use this pick in a trade for a veteran player to help them win now.

20. Chicago Bulls – Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan

The Bulls should have a healthy Derrick Rose back and someone like Hardaway could provide some scoring to make Rose’s life easier.

21. Utah Jazz – Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas

Utah will need another body if Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson leave town.

22. Brooklyn Nets – Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

Another big man behind Brook Lopez.

23. Indiana Pacers – Rudy Gobert, C, France

After giving the Heat all they wanted in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers should look to add depth to an already strong roster.

24. New York Knicks – Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego St.

With Jason Kidd moving on to the coaching ranks, the Knicks get a lot younger in the backcourt.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State

The only thing the Clippers should worry about is getting Chris Paul back. If that doesn’t happen Canaan will take his place.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves – Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia

Andrei Kirilenko may leave so they replace a Russian with a Russian.

27. Denver Nuggets – Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil

A big man who can run and block shots would fit right in with the high-tempo Nuggets.

28. San Antonio Spurs – Reggie Bullock, SF, North Carolina

This could be the guy to replace Manu Ginobili.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Ricky Ledo, SG, Providence

Here’s an inexperienced kid that would be able to develop behind a solid roster.

30. Phoenix Suns – Mike Muscala, C, Bucknell

The Suns walk away from the first round with help in the front and back courts.

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.

May 28, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tony Kanaan wins Indy 500: After years of frustration, veteran racer Tony Kanaan finally won the prize of his life with a win in this weekend’s Indianapolis 500. For Kanaan it was his first victory at the historic race. With only three laps to go after a green flag, Kanaan quickly took the lead. It was a good thing, too, because defending champion Dario Franchitti crashed further back from the front and the race finished under caution with Kanaan in the lead. Rookie Carlos Munoz finished in second place.

Brian Urlacher retired from the NFL after 13 years with the Chicago Bears.

Brian Urlacher retires: After not re-signing with the Chicago Bears and becoming a free agent, Brian Urlacher figured he’d be playing again in 2014. But Urlacher surprised a few folks last week when he announced his retirement. Having played 13 seasons, it’s not as if his career is being cut short but he likely still has something left in the tank. Urlacher is believed to have reached out to every team in the league, but in the end, decided he’d had enough. There’s little doubt that he’ll be on his way to the Hall of Fame at some point.

San Francisco and Houston awarded 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls: NFL owners approved the cities of San Francisco and Houston as hosts of the 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls respectively. Both edged out Miami, which was also vying for the games. San Francisco will host the historic 50th Super Bowl, which will be played in Levi’s Stadium, expected to be complete in 2014. For Miami, the biggest negative was the franchise not securing funding for improvements to their stadium. That likely cost them a bid and they may not see another one until either the team or the city forks over some money for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium.

Lebron James and Kobe Bryant headline All NBA First Team: The All NBA teams were named last week and among first-teamers were Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Others included Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, and Chris Paul. Left off was the scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony. Duncan had a great season, but I’m not sure I would have given him the nod over Anthony.

Cleveland wins NBA Draft lottery: Cleveland had a miserable season, but wound up with a pretty good consolation prize when they won the top spot in the NBA’s Draft lottery selection on Tuesday. It’s the second time in three seasons they’ll have had the No. 1 selection and, should they keep it, could pair a big man such as Nerlens Noel along with Kyrie Irving. In a year where there isn’t considered a dominant player at the top, trading the pick could be an option. But when you consider that they have four selections in the top 33 picks, they may need to get a proven player or two in return instead of more picks. And for what it’s worth, Cleveland’s general manager Chris Grant has said he’s willing to consider dealing the selection.

NFL Draft moving to May: Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed in the NFL’s spring meetings last week that the league’s draft will move to May in 2014. The main reason for the switch? Radio City Music Hall will be booked during the regularly scheduled time in April.

Mike Trout becomes youngest AL player to hit for cycle: Anaheim Angels phenom Mike Trout already has an amazing track record in his short time in the big leagues. But he added another honor on Tuesday when he became the youngest AL player to hit for the cycle. Trout picked up five RBI in a 12-0 win over Seattle to accomplish the feat.

Michael Crabtree tears Achilles: The 49ers received some great news when it was announced San Francisco would host the 2016 Super Bowl. But things evened out a bit with the news that star wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, tore his Achilles and is expected to miss six months. Crabtree, who had gotten off to a modest start with the 49ers, had a breakout season last year with 85 catches, more than 1,100 yards, and nine touchdowns. The good news for San Francisco is that the team has some depth in the passing game with newly-signed Anquan Boldin, draft pick Quinton Patton, tight end Vernon Davis, and Mario Manningham.

Mike Krzyzewski will remain coach of Team USA: It was widely believed that Coach K would step down from his role as head of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team, but he’s apparently had a change of heart and will return. In a nutshell, that’s nothing but great news for the program. Since taking over in 2005, Team USA has had nothing but success, winning gold medals in 2008 and 2012. The players have responded well to him and there’s also something to be said for consistency in the program.

St. Louis Rams sign 400-pounder: The St. Louis Rams made a big splash, literally and figuratively, last week. The team signed Ole Miss’ Terrell Brown as a free agent. If you’re not familiar with Brown, that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal … at least until you get to the part that he’s 403 pounds. And oh yeah, he’s 6’10”, too. Brown didn’t play much during his time at Ole Miss and is considered at best to be a project. He was mostly on the defensive line in college, but will shift to the offensive line in the NFL. It may sound like an interesting story, but if coaches couldn’t find a way to use him against smaller, slower players in college, the chances that he’ll be able to compete against the best players in the world are slim.

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.

December 27, 2011

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Clippers and Lakers Headed in Different Directions

By: Anson Whaley

For years, the Clippers have played second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Clippers were the anti-Lakers, unable to win even after years of stockpiling top draft picks. The team has had a streak of bad luck that would make the Pittsburgh Pirates envious. While the Clippers have yet to prove anything in a season that’s just underway, one thing’s for certain – their luck could be changing.

But, really, it all starts with the Lakers. Ironically, the player which caused the biggest shift in power between these two teams is the same player that was supposed to get the Lakers back to the NBA Finals. The franchise believed it had a deal in place for All-World point guard Chris Paul, but the NBA’s front office surprisingly vetoed the deal, leaving the Lakers to face a stunned Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom – players expected to be moved as part of the trade.

The Lakers have been able to convince Gasol to come back ready to play for them, but Odom was visibly shaken by the trade that almost went down. As a result, the Lakers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for their 2012 first-round draft pick. Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak could have made that move in hopes of dumping salary, to use the pick as part of a deal to acquire Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (we’ll get to that in a bit), or to simply get rid of Odom who was offended by the original would-be trade. But whatever the reason, the Lakers are now weaker than last year’s squad that reached the Western Conference Finals. In addition, trading him to one of the team’s fiercest rivals for the conference title was an ill-advised move.

Losing Odom means Kobe Bryant will shoulder more of the weight this season having one less weapon on the court.

Odom was never a player that could lead a team to a championship, but without him, it’s hard to see the Lakers winning either of their two most recent titles. Last year, he won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award after averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds per game. That kind of production is going to be hard to replace, but more than that, Odom was a big time player that often produced in the clutch. L.A. essentially traded a key cog to its success in exchange for what isn’t likely to be a very high draft pick.

Of course, if the Lakers are able to negotiate a trade for the aforementioned Howard, that changes things a bit. Howard is likely the league’s best center and pairing him with Kobe Bryant would give the Lakers the best inside outside duo in the NBA. But until that happens, the franchise has egg on its face since they’ve been unable to secure a deal for him up to this point.

Getting back to Paul, though, he is a game-changing player and perhaps the best point guard in the league. After the Lakers were unable to swing a deal for him, the Clippers swooped in and made one of the biggest moves in the franchise’s history. The team put together a package built around star guard Eric Gordon and a 2012 first-round draft pick for him. While Gordon is considered one of the best young shooting guards in the league, trading him for a player of Paul’s caliber can’t be argued. Paul was brought in to not only get the Clippers to the playoffs, but to lead them to a deep run. It’s safe to say that his addition makes that a strong possibility.

The Clippers, though, aren’t a one-man team. Paul is joined by last season’s Rookie of the Year, Blake Griffin, and former All-Stars Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler. They not only have star power, but they have a veteran starting lineup that has plenty of experience.

It’s not as if the Lakers are done, though. They still have one of the game’s best players in Kobe Bryant and with Gasol, center Andrew Bynum, and forward Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), there’s still plenty of talent to get the Lakers to the playoffs. In a seven-game series, I’d still favor them over the Clippers. But with Paul on board, the rivalry has gotten a much-needed jumpstart.