March 10, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Lakers Suffer Worst Loss in Franchise History: The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, but with a slew of injuries, the team is sinking to new lows this year. Another ‘benchmark’ was set as the team suffered a demoralizing 142-94 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last week. After the Lakers were dominated 44-13 in the second quarter, the rout was on. With a roster featuring an aging Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and not much else, the franchise is desperately in need of a roster upgrade in the offseason. Unfortunately, Gasol is one of the few real assets they have to trade and having failed to find a suitable deal to this point for the big man, the Lakers just don’t have many options heading into next season.

Kobe Bryant

Can the Lakers turn their season around before it's too late?

Doug McDermott Joins 3,000-point Club: Creighton star Doug McDermott joined the NCAA’s 3,000-point club with a 45-point performance in an 88-73 win over Providence. In the process, McDermott vaulted himself to the seventh-leading scorer in Division I basketball, passing Oscar Robertson and Hersey Hawkins. McDermott is having an incredible season and recently also passed Larry Bird, Danny Manning, and Elvin Hayes on the list. What makes his year even more special, though, is Creighton’s season as a team. The Bluejays finished 24-6 on the year in the regular season and are ranked among the nation’s top 15 teams.

Tommy John Surgeon Dies: Dr. Frank Jobe who pioneered the famous Tommy John surgery died last week at the age of 88. Jobe performed the initial surgery on pitcher Tommy John, replacing a torn ligament in John’s arm with a tendon from his forearm. Then a breakthrough surgery, hundreds of pitchers have since had the procedure and there’s no doubt that Jobe extended many careers in the process. John himself went on to pitch another 14 years following the procedure and there’s no telling how many pitchers’ careers would have been cut short without the revolutionary surgery.

Mike Modano Number Retired: Mike Modano’s No. 9 was retired by the Dallas Stars last week in a legendary ceremony. Not only were 20 members from the 1999 championship team present wearing jerseys with No. 9 patches, but other Dallas-area stars in other sports such as the MavericksDirk Nowitzki, and Dallas Cowboys Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, were all present on the ice as well to celebrate the achievement. Modano, who finished his career with more goals and points than any other American-born NHL player, was surely deserving.

Shaq Video Game: Former basketball star/current millionaire Shaquille O’Neal and a video game developer not only want to create a video game, but apparently want fans to help invest in it. Seems legit.

Tie Hockey Game Results in Co-champions: Two high school hockey teams stood tied after an amazing seven overtime periods and decided to call it quits in an Ohio state championship game. Both teams, Sylvania Northview and Cleveland St. Ignatius, citing fatigue, agreed to a 1-1 tie and were declared co-champions. Calling the game early was probably the safe thing to do if both teams were literally too tired to continue. However, it underscores the need for a revised format – after all, why not have a shootout after three overtimes and declare a true champion?

It’s the Sleeves, Man: NBA star Lebron James had an off night last week in the San Antonio Spurs’ 111-87 rout of the Miami Heat. It wasn’t the recently broken nose that was the problem in his 6-18 shooting night, though. James said after the game that he wasn’t a fan of the sleeved jerseys the Heat and other teams were wearing this season. For the record, he didn’t want to use that as the official excuse, but James, like others, does think it’s affecting shots. On the surface it might sound petty, but James makes a good point in that there is little margin for error on a player’s jump shot. It’s easy to see that something as restrictive as a sleeved jersey could cause problems for certain players.

Harvard Kicks off March Madness: March Madness is officially here and Harvard was the first team to usher it in. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament got its first participant as Harvard knocked off Yale, 70-58, to win the Ivy League Championship and gain an automatic berth. Many more teams will shortly punch their ticket to the Big Dance with conference titles in the upcoming week.

Hat Trick Shenanigans: Hat tricks in hockey generally elicit baseball caps being thrown onto the ice. In Dallas? Cowboy hats.

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.

February 26, 2013

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NBA Playoff Races To Watch

By: Joe Williams

With about 25 games to go in the NBA regular season, we’ve got a pretty clear picture of the teams that will make the playoffs and the ones that will be in the lottery. What we don’t know is who will face who once the playoffs get started. And that will go a long way toward determining what happens in the NBA playoffs. Here are a few races I’ll be keeping my eye on as we inch towards the final game of the regular season.

Will the Lakers make the NBA Playoffs?

The Heat will be the top seed in the East. We know that. But the second and third seeds could go to Indiana, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago or Atlanta. These teams ought to be desperate to finish second or third. That will get them home-court advantage in the first round, but that doesn’t really matter too much. The important thing for these teams is to get on the other side of the bracket and avoid a second round meeting with the Heat. You don’t want to face the defending champs any sooner than you have to.

Speaking of avoiding the Heat…Boston and Milwaukee shouldn’t be too worried about anyone below them stealing a playoff spot. But they will be battling to get the seventh seed and avoid the Heat in the first round.

In the West, the final playoff spot is getting all the attention. Can the Lakers squeak into the playoffs? That’s what all the talk is about, but I’m not counting out Dallas or Portland yet. All three teams are tied with 30 losses at the moment and are going to have to get red-hot to catch Houston or Utah. On second thought, after looking at the Blazers schedule, I’m counting them out. Their final 16 games are against teams in the playoff race. If they find a way to get in, nobody will be able to say they didn’t earn it.

Of course, whoever does get that final spot is going to be facing the team with the best record in the NBA, San Antonio. It would be quite the series if the Lakers do end up as the eighth seed.

The Clippers and Memphis must keep winning to stay in the top four and get home-court in round one. With so many good teams in the West, home-court will be important.

One more race that is a little bit interesting will be to see which team finishes with the worst record and gets the most ping pong balls in the lottery. It looks like this will come down to Charlotte and Orlando.

May 15, 2012

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NBA Playoff Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

The first round of the NBA playoffs became survival of the fittest with player after player going down with an injury. The list looks like an all-star roster. The Bulls, Hawks, Magic and even Knicks could all blame injuries for their first round exits. As the conference semi-finals get underway, the playoff picture is much different than I expected with the 50-win Bulls and everybody’s “sleeper” team (Memphis) eliminated. Time to reassess and rank the eight teams still standing.

The Thunder have been very convincing during the NBA playoffs, already eliminating the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.

No. 8   Philadelphia 76ers

This young team took advantage of an injury-riddled Bulls team and became the fifth No. 8 seed to advance to the second round. They have stolen home-court advantage against the Celtics with a game two win and showed that they will make Boston earn a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

No. 7   Los Angeles Clippers

The jam-packed NBA schedule has been tough on players and coaches but the group that may be the most exhausted by the whole thing is Clipper fans. These people are usually in wait-till-next-year mode by New Years and here they are in round two after a thrilling seven-game series against Memphis. How much more can they take?

No. 6   Los Angeles Lakers

This team looks like a championship contender. But only about once a week. They should be better than that with Kobe Bryant and two 7-footers. That was an embarrassing loss in Oklahoma City. It’s only one game, but the Lakers are in trouble.

No. 5   Indiana Pacers

Indiana has quietly been one of the best teams all season. Only four teams had more regular season victories than the Pacers. But they don’t seem to get much respect. Here’s their chance to change that. The Dwight Howard-less Magic didn’t give them any trouble in the first round. Can they challenge the Heat?

No. 4   Boston Celtics

It’s now or never for the Celtics. They caught a break with the Bulls going down after the Derrick Rose injury. They ought to be able to use their championship experience to get by the up-and-coming 76ers and likely have one more showdown with Miami. They know this is probably their last shot as a group. The question is how much is left in the tank?

No. 3   Miami Heat

Miami leads the Pacers 1-0 but it looks like the big three is down to a big two with Chris Bosh out “indefinitely.” Without Bosh, the Heat could be in trouble against Indiana. They are still the favorites but it may take six or seven games. They won’t win the NBA championship without a healthy Bosh back in the lineup.

No. 2   San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have home court advantage as long as they are in the playoffs. It seems like they have had about two weeks off after the sweep of the Utah Jazz. A lot of people expected them to have a tough matchup with the Grizzlies after losing to them in the playoffs last season. But instead they get Chris Paul and the Clippers. This should be a good series.

No. 1   Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City has the look of a champion. Trailing by double-digits in game four against the defending world champion Mavericks, the Thunder could have easily let that game go and finished off the Mavs in another game. But Durant and company would have none of that and finished off the sweep. Then they absolutely destroyed the Lakers in game one. They look like they are on a mission.

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.