October 15, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Baseball playoffs continue: The League Championship series are set and underway. In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals hold a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the American League, the Detroit Tigers are tied with the Boston Red Sox at a game apiece. As expected, home field has given teams quite the advantage in each series as the road team has won only one game so far. The Tigers nearly took a 2-0 lead back home but David Ortiz’ eighth-inning grand slam on Sunday helped the Red Sox to a 6-5 win. The NLCS now moves to L.A. while the ALCS heads to Detroit.

David Ortiz's game-tying Grand Slam helped the Red Sox even up the ALCS series at 1-1.

All the injuries: There are always several injuries from each NFL weekend, but this past Sunday appeared to be one of the worst in recent memory when it came to stars being forced to the sidelines. Among the wounded were Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (more on this later), Packers wide receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones, Cowboys stars DeMarcus Ware and Demarco Murray, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola, and Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, among others. In other words, there should be a lot of activity on Fantasy Football waiver wires this week.

SEC sets poll record: The SEC continued their dominance of college football by placing a record eight teams in the AP Top 25 poll this weekend. Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, and Auburn all made the cut. Defending national champion Bama still holds the top spot and it’s hard to make an argument that the SEC isn’t the best conference in the nation. The ACC isn’t quite there but is making a pretty good case as a top conference with three teams in the top ten, including Florida State and Clemson in the top five.

A new form of skateboarding: Yeah, I think I’ll pass on this.

Adrian Peterson loses son: Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson has had a difficult year so far. On the field, Peterson has fallen well short of the expectations he set for himself when he said he wanted to break Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record for most yards in a season. Thus far, the running back is on pace for a good, but not a jaw-dropping season (approximately 1,350 yards), and his Vikings are 1-4. Off the field, things have been far, far worse as Peterson tragically lost his two-year old son who was reportedly beaten to death. Despite the horrific loss, Peterson still played, but was largely ineffective with only 62 yards as their opponent, the Carolina Panthers, led the entire game.

Greg Oden preparing for NBA preseason: NBA center Greg Oden is making his return to the court for the first time in approximately four years. The former Trailblazers center was signed to a two-year deal this offseason by the Miami Heat and is preparing for his return to the league. ESPN reported last week that he is getting ready for 5-on-5 drills this week and could play in Miami’s late preseason games. Anything the Heat get out of him would be a bonus and the situation is an ideal one for Oden. He will only make the league minimum this season but has a player option for the second year of his deal. If he’s able to stay healthy and prove his worth, he can void that second year and pursue a bigger deal. Also, in joining the defending champions, Miami doesn’t have to rely on him for much on the court.

Matt Schaub falls on hard times: Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub once appeared on the fast track to stardom. Teaming up with wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster, the Texans had one of the most potent offenses in the league. Schaub, though, has struggled mightily this year with only 1,366 yards through six games this season to go along with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. Things got even worse this past weekend when Schaub injured his ankle and some fans in Houston cheered his exit from the game. Fans thinking backup T.J. Yates will be the answer are in for a rude awakening, though. Yates completed 12 of his 17 passes after taking over for Schaub in the game, but also threw two interceptions. Instead of hoping Schaub is too injured to play, Houston’s fans would be better off hoping Schaub improves as he’s their best hope for a winning season this year.

Corey Maggette could retire: Corey Maggette was flying high in the NBA only a few short years ago, averaging about 20 points a game from 2007 – 2010. Things have gone downhill, though, and Maggette’s career has been in jeopardy ever since. In 2011-12, Maggette was still averaging 15 points a game for Charlotte, but was making only 37% of his shots. Last year in Detroit, he played sparingly (suiting up in only 18 games), averaging 5.3 points per game while connecting on a meager 35% of his attempts. Maggette’s been given another shot with the San Antonio Spurs, but he says if he doesn’t make the team, he will retire.

August 5, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts seven: Pro football held its annual Hall of Fame induction this weekend with several former greats enshrined including Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Larry Allen, Bill Parcells, Curley Culp, and Dave Robinson. Carter was the headliner and despite finishing his career as the second leading receiver behind only Jerry Rice, it took him six years to get the call to the Hall of Fame.

Jets fans weren't too kind to Mark Sanchez during Training Camp.

MLB Baseball Trade Deadline comes and goes: As expected, a flurry of baseball trades were made in the days leading up to the non-waiver deadline at the end of July. Key players that were dealt in the closing weeks included Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza, and Jake Peavy. There weren’t as many trades as expected, but don’t expect those to be the final deals. Moves can still be made up until August 31st with the only caveat being that players have to clear waivers first before they can be traded.

Tiger wins: Behind a second-round 61, Tiger Woods got back on the winning track with a victory at the Bridgestone Invitational this weekend. For the event, Woods finished 15-under and easily won the tournament by seven strokes over Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson. Tiger’s major tournament drought continues, but with his 79th career victory, Woods moves only three behind Sam Snead’s record of 82 wins.

Greg Oden joins Miami Heat: Injury-prone center Greg Oden will get another crack at an NBA career as it was recently announced that he has joined the Miami Heat. Oden, a former top pick in the NBA Draft, hasn’t played in the league since the 2009-10 season. The center has missed a significant amount of time with knee injuries, but is still only 25. The amount he can contribute is unclear. However, joining a team like the Heat was likely his best option. Miami has enough good players on its roster that Oden won’t be needed to make the team a success. He’ll be in a low-pressure situation and can be brought along slowly.

Percy Harvin undergoes hip surgery: Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin won’t be starting the NFL season on time due to a hip injury. He had surgery on it last week and his loss is just one of the latest in a string of injuries to star players with training camps opening up. The surgery is expected to cost Harvin at least the first three to four months of the season. His addition this offseason was expected to give second-year quarterback Russell Wilson a deep threat, but he won’t be able to help the team until late in the season with the injury.

Adrian Peterson targets Emmitt Smith: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been known to make some pretty outlandish claims in the past. Despite the fact that Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards has lasted about 30 years, Peterson has said he wants to rush for 2,500 in 2013. But recently, the running back made a similarly incredible prediction as he expects to top Emmitt Smith’s career yardage mark of 18,335 yards by the end of 2017. Assuming he stays healthy (which is a grand assumption for a running back), Peterson could have a chance to break the record. To do it by 2017, however, would mean an average of about 120 yards a game for the next five years. There’s simply no way to predict what will happen in the NFL next year let alone five years. Peterson’s best course of action is to merely let his play do his talking.

Steve Nash the soccer player: Lakers point guard Steve Nash became a soccer player … for a day, anyway. Officially it was called a tryout, but Nash joining Italian soccer club Inter Milan recently was more like a practice. Even though he played soccer as a kid and his father played professionally in the sport, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be giving up his day job as an NBA guard too soon.

Commence booing: It’s only training camp, but if you think that is stopping NFL fans from getting in on the action, think again. Despite no actual games being played just yet, New York Jets fans weren’t too happy with the performance of Mark Sanchez and let the quarterback hear about it by booing him at a recent practice. It’s customary to allow fans to watch training camp but the action rarely results in widespread booing of a player. Such is life, though, for Sanchez. He was on a short leash last year with Tim Tebow in town and things will be no different this season with fans clamoring for draft pick Geno Smith to take over.

Luis Scola traded to Pacers: In need of quality guards, Indiana seems to be on a mission to acquire the best frontcourt in the game. Already deep with Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers added forward Luis Scola in a trade with the Phoenix Suns for Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, and a lottery-protected first round NBA Draft pick. Scola, who has averaged nearly 15 points per game over his career and was previously a starter, likely will head to the bench as a backup.

January 14, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NFL Conference Championships set: The NFL’s conference championship games are set. The San Francisco 49ers will face the Atlanta Falcons while the New England Patriots square off against the Baltimore Ravens. You could make plenty of good cases for each to win the Super Bowl at this point, but in picks sure to go wrong, my guess is that we’ll see the Niners take on the Patriots in the big game. San Francisco may have unlocked a hidden gem with the scrambling of Colin Kaepernick who set an NFL postseason record for a quarterback, rushing for more than 181 yards. You can bet that the Falcons will play more zone coverage in the hopes of limiting his scrambling, but Kaepernick has also proven to be a serviceable passer and should be able to make enough plays to lead the way. In the AFC, I give you two words: Tom Brady.

It is hard to go against Tom Brady in the NFL Playoffs.

No. 1 Duke ‘upset’ by North Carolina State: Duke suffered their first loss of the season when they fell to North Carolina State over the weekend. Whenever the top team in the nation loses, it’s a big deal. But while it may technically be an upset, losing to a top 20 team on the road is hardly a once-in-a-lifetime thing. With so much parity in college sports these days, any side can come out on top on any given night – particularly when both teams are good. The bigger story in all of this isn’t that Duke lost – rather, it’s the emergence of the Wolfpack. North Carolina State had two losses entering the game to Michigan and Oklahoma State. The Wolverines are a top five squad and the Cowboys are a quality team as well. After the win against Duke, more people should be paying attention to NC State.

No players inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame: For only the second time in 40 years, no player was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last week. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa were tainted by the steroid issue and based on past voting trends, it wasn’t a surprise they didn’t receive the necessary 75%. But for guys not generally linked to the steroid controversy such as Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza, the news had to be a bit disappointing. Biggio had more than 3,000 career hits and Piazza was perhaps the best offensive catcher of all time, slugging 427 home runs and batting over .300. I understand the statement that some voters want to make against alleged steroid users, but to punish other players in the same era isn’t right. But in the end, Biggio and Piazza should eventually get in, so there’s still time to right the wrong.

Brian Kelly returns to Notre Dame: After being manhandled by the Alabama Crimson Tide earlier last week in the BCS National Championship game, the Fighting Irish got some good news when head coach Brian Kelly spurned the NFL and decided to remain at Notre Dame. Kelly reportedly interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but chose to stay in the college ranks. Things couldn’t have worked out better for Notre Dame. They were soundly defeated by Alabama in the title game, but Kelly has the Irish on the right track. Notre Dame won eight games in 2010 and 2011 and this past year, had an undefeated regular season. There’s no reason to think the program will be slowing down anytime soon under Kelly.

Greg Oden hoping to come back to NBA: Sidelined by injuries, Greg Oden hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2010-11 season. He’s only played in 82 career games since he was drafted as the top overall pick in 2007. Heck, Oden hasn’t merely been bitten by the injury bug, he’s been eaten alive by it. But word is that he wants back in the league and teams are already lining up to give him a look. That may sound comical, but in reality, they should be. Signing the once-promising big man to a deal around the NBA minimum wouldn’t be the biggest risk in the world and it could even pay off handsomely. Why not take a flyer on a 24-year old seven footer with potential through the roof? And just as important is that while Oden hasn’t been a great player, he’s been serviceable when healthy, averaging nearly a double double with 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. If he stays on the court, there’s no reason to think he can’t significantly contribute.

March 19, 2012

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Greg Oden’s Career at a Crossroads

By: Anson Whaley

The expected move by the Portland Trailblazers to waive Greg Oden hardly comes as a surprise. Still, it marked the end of a significant chapter in the franchise’s history.

The Trailblazers provided the perfect example of why teams should select players based more on talent and less on position. Portland’s major faux pas occurred when they believed it was more important to draft a center with potential than take an established scoring threat in TexasKevin Durant. Durant ended up going to Seattle (now Oklahoma City) and while the Thunder are competing for a potential conference crown behind the former scoring champion, Portland hasn’t been able to make up much ground in catching the West’s elite teams.

Greg Oden will forever be linked to Kevin Durant, after they were the #1 and #2 overall picks in the NBA Draft.

Where did it all go wrong for Oden? Injuries, obviously. In five years in Portland, Oden hasn’t been able to stay healthy, battling knee injuries throughout his career. Thus far, he’s played only the equivalent of one full NBA season.

Ouch. Literally.

The frustrating thing about Oden’s situation is that while he’s not a dominant player, he’s certainly a solid center when healthy. That’s rare, of course, but he boasts surprising career numbers of more than nine points and seven rebounds while shooting nearly 60% from the field. No one will mistake him for Shaquille O’Neal anytime soon, but in averaging nearly a double double, many teams could do worse with him as their center.

And lately, he seemed as if he were putting it all together. Going up against the juggernaut Miami Heat in his next to last game before his latest setback in December, he had 13 points, 20 rebounds, and four blocks. And in the preceding month of November, Oden was averaging nearly 13 points and eight rebounds, surpassing his career totals. No one knows if he could have kept up that pace, but by providing a glimpse of what he was capable of, he gave fans a reason to be optimistic.

There’s a bright side to this sad tale, though. Oden just turned 24 in January and isn’t even likely to reach his prime for another few seasons. His injury history isn’t promising, but if he can somehow put it all together, Oden could still have a long, productive NBA career. With what Durant has accomplished in a short time frame, barring a lopsided total in championship rings, Oden won’t be able to convince most fans that he was worth selecting first. But I believe that a healthy Oden could be a valuable piece on a good team.

A career without setbacks, however, is far from a guarantee. Oden’s issues have been with his knees – a troublesome area for a seven-footer that needs to be able to run up and down the court on a nightly basis. He could defy the odds and become pain-free after his latest round of operations, but with all of the trouble he’s had to date, that seems far-fetched.

So will another franchise make the plunge and roll the dice on Oden? Almost assuredly. He’s a young, legitimate center and when healthy, has proven he has some skill. The potential is simply too great for another team not to gamble at least a small amount. Oden isn’t expected to be ready to play again until well into next season, but at a relatively tidy (and recently re-negotiated) $1.5 million salary for the remainder of this year, he could be worth a waiver claim. And with little production in five seasons, he should be signable at a moderate cost for future years.

Oden hasn’t come close to living up to the enormous hype surrounding him coming out of Ohio State, but there’s plenty of time for him to right the ship and turn things around.

July 28, 2008

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Real Time Espy’s Blog

By: realbigfathead

BY JD BUTTERS

Well, the Oscars of the sporting world, the Espys, came off last Friday night in LA. In the galaxy of the Espys, the worlds of entertainment and sports collide in a manner that isn’t duplicated at any other event. For us residents of LA, it brings in athletes from all corners of the sports world. In fact, I ran into Greg Oden at the mall on Saturday! Of course, for once in my life, I didn’t have my camera on me. But I digress. Like many of the Oscar pundits and analysts who watch with pen and pad in hand, I thought I would do the same, and give my analysis of this year’s broadcast. Check it out – be sure to write in and let me know what YOUR favorite moments of this year’s excellent show were!

9:05 – Already, I can tell Justin Timberlake is going to do an excellent job. JT is the entertainment equivalent of a five-tool player, and he handled his opening remarks with aplomb, showing excellent comedic timing. And for all you chumps who’ll say some junk like “you lose your man privileges for fawning over JT like that,” I will simply say, game recognizes game.

9:10 – OK, what in tarnation is Danica Patrick WEARING?? I don’t even know what to describe it as! Is it a onesy? Is it a pantsuit with shorts? Beach wear?

9:33 – I don’t know if it’s purposeful, but Greg Oden is really getting a lot of mileage, and some good imaging, out of what appears to be a good sense of humor and a fun-loving, self-deprecating attitude. Look for him to help fill that gap when Shaq retires. Without the rapping, hopefully.

9:49 – Wow, Posh can actually crease that dour mug of hers into a smile. FASCINATING! How did a cat that seems as cool as Becks end up with THIS Cruella DeVille?

9:52 – I don’t care if she deserves to win for Best Breakthrough Athlete, but I hope she does just so I can see more Ana Ivanovic!

9:53 – DAMN that Adrian Peterson!!!

9:54 – OK, this Host Auditions Part I with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly is one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year. Their list of demands is both ridiculous and sublime!

10:02 – Steve Nash is super dapper in his grey 3-pc. suit. He’d BETTER be dapper, with that hair.

10:12 – John Carlos and Tommie Smith winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was one of those great moments that demonstrates how sports can transcend sport.

10:31 – I don’t know if he’s gonna win for Best Play, but Rick Nash looked like Harry Houdini on this goal. That was the hockey equivalent of breaking someone’s ankles!!

10:32 – From the look on his face, Nash was expecting to win.

10:33 – Wow, Eli Manning was actually glib during the acceptance speech. In other news, the forecast in hell is calling for heavy snow.

10:38 – OK, Host Auditions Part II are, again, HIGH-larious. I mean, who would have ever thought we would hear Joba Chamberlain sing Luther. And Greg Oden’s stone-faced “people tell me I’m hilarious. I’m like ‘yeah. . . .cool” is the comedic highlight of the entire broadcast.

11:18 – How weird. Just like the last Sopranos episode, my TV cut out right before they announced the winner of the Best Team award. Probably wasn’t anybody good anyway.