April 2, 2014

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NBA Playoff Match-ups We Want

By: Joe Williams

Finally, the playoffs are almost here. With only about seven games left for each team, we can start to see who will face off when the championship run begins. A lot can change between now and then, but here’s what I hope to see come playoff time. We’ll start in the East:

1 Indiana Pacers vs 8 New York Knicks

All season, it has been almost a given that we would get Pacers-Heat III in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now it’s not looking like a sure thing. The Pacers are in a big-time slump and the Knicks have suddenly got it going and are just a game out of the last playoff spot. The Pacers against a red-hot Knicks team would be much more interesting that the Pacers taking on a faltering Atlanta Hawks squad.

Carmelo Anthony

If the Knicks make the playoffs, could they be a problem for the Pacers?

2 Miami Heat vs 7 Charlotte Bobcats
Unfortunately, this is as close as we will get to Lebron James vs Michael Jordan. I hope we see it happen. Miami swept the regular season meetings 4-0, but one game was decided by just one point and another went to overtime. If Dwayne Wade isn’t at full strength, Al Jefferson and the Bobcats could give the Heat a first-round battle. Maybe MJ will even decide to suit up.

3 Chicago Bulls vs 6 Washington Wizards
It will be nice to see a up-and-coming team take on a veteran club that just keeps winning no matter who they have dressed in street clothes. It could be a bad match-up for the Bulls (they are 0-2 against the Wizards this season), but I think their experience will be a big advantage. And if the Bulls can grab the three seed, that could set up another “Chicago Street Fight” with the Heat in round two.

4 Toronto Raptors vs 5 Brooklyn Nets
So that leaves us with another team looking to finally get a taste of playoff action against a team full of players that are used to playing in multiple playoff series every year. Do the old guys in Brooklyn have one more run left? Or will the Raptors be a newcomer making some noise?

As for the West: 

1 San Antonio Spurs vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies
Any chance history could repeat itself? Three years ago the eight-seeded Grizzlies made history and took down the top-seeded Spurs. Both rosters have a lot of the same players. After struggling early in the season, the Grizzlies have become one of the hottest teams in the West and the Spurs are currently riding an 18-game win streak.

2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 7 Dallas Mavericks
The Thunder are one of the favorites to win the title. Kevin Durant is the favorite to win the MVP award. That usually means a fairly easy win in the first round. Maybe not this year though. The Mavs have beaten the Thunder twice in the last couple weeks. Let’s see if they can beat them again when it really counts.

3. L.A. Clippers vs 6 Golden State Warriors
I love rivalries. A playoff series between the Clippers and Warriors could lead to a great one for the next few years. These teams already have the building blocks in place after beginning the season with feisty affair that led to the teams refusing to attend chapel together and Blake Griffin calling the Warriors cowardly when they met in December. This series needs to happen.

4. Houston Rockets vs 5 Portland Trailblazers

Dwight Howard vs LaMarcus Aldridge. Damian Lillard vs James Harden. Neither teams feels the need to play defense. In their four meetings this season, each team scored at least 111 three times. At the time of year when the game slows down and defense is at a premium, a series like this will be a nice change of pace.

October 29, 2013

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NBA Season Preview

By: Joe Williams

The 2013-14 NBA season begins tonight when the Pacers host the Magic, the Bulls visit the Heat and the Lakers and Clippers battle for bragging rights in LA. Will Miami win a third straight title? Can Derrick Rose return to being Derrick Rose? How many teams will be tanking for a better spot in next summer’s draft? I’m going with NO, YES, and 7. What else might happen?

Will this be the year Durant and the Thunder win the NBA Championship?

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will get the most attention…but not for their play on the court. We won’t get to celebrate Christmas without first hearing a constant barrage of trade rumors and free agency speculation surrounding them both.

Dwight Howard will feel left out and mention to reporters that he’s not sure he should have picked Houston. He goes on to say that James Harden’s beard is a distraction for the team and tells Jeremy Lin to feed him the ball more often.

Despite all of the rumors, Rajon Rondo will not be traded. Neither will Pau Gasol.

Jason Collins will eventually be picked up. A Tebow style circus will follow that team for the rest of the year.

On more than one occasion, Michael Jordan will say that he’s still good enough to start for the Bobcats. After checking the standings in the Southeast division, nobody will argue with him.

Jimmer Fredette will be traded to the Utah Jazz.

Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson switches shooting hands and has success with the change.

With their eye on the first pick in the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers coaching staff asks everyone on the roster to do the same saying that they will be unguardable by 2015 if they make the change now.

Kobe Bryant makes his season debut on Christmas when the Lakers host LeBron James and the Miami Heat. He will help the Lakers win games, but won’t be the superstar we are used to seeing until the regular season is nearly over.

David Stern will once again fine Mark Cuban. But this time it will be for flopping after Cuban drops to the ground (on the sidelines) in disbelief of a foul call that costs his Mavericks a win.

The NBA will announce drastic changes to the All-Star Weekend. This will be the final season of the slam dunk contest.

The media will tell us that Kevin Durant and Dwayne Wade have an intense rivalry over Durant’s comments that James Harden is better than Dwayne Wade. It will never play out on the court. The same can’t be said for Miami and Brooklyn. Those games will be heated and lead to the suspensions of multiple players.

New Orleans and Detroit will return to the playoffs. The Lakers and Celtics will not.

Divison winners: Atlantic-Brooklyn Nets, Central-Chicago Bulls, Southeast-Miami Heat, Pacific-Golden State Warriors, Southwest-Houston Rockets, Northwest-Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant wins his first MVP award.

Oklahoma City wins the NBA title.

May 20, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NBA’s Conference Finals underway: With the NBA Playoffs nearing an end, the conference finals are now set. The Spurs and Grizzlies advanced to the NBA’s Western Conference finals last week. San Antonio has the upper hand with a 105-83 win in Game 1 on Sunday behind 20 points from Tony Parker. But despite the slow start, don’t sleep on Memphis just yet. The Grizzlies have lost the first game in their two previous series and still managed to advance each time. And with the NBA’s best defense this season, Memphis can definitely give the Spurs a run. Meanwhile, in the east, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers reached the finals with series wins over the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, respectively. The two teams will play their Game 1 on Wednesday.

Phil Jackson compares Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan in his new book.

Phil Jackson says MJ > Kobe: Phil Jackson’s got a new book due out soon and in it, he says what most people already believe – that Michael Jordan was a better player than Kobe Bryant. Among the reasons given by Phil included MJ’s superior defense and leadership skills. That won’t come as a surprise to many who share the same sentiments, but what is a bit interesting is that Jackson has been willing to make the statements right now. Even though he’s out of coaching, a return to the game and even to the Lakers isn’t all that far-fetched. That’s not to say that Kobe wouldn’t be willing to suit up for Phil again – after all, Jackson’s previous book “The Last Season” was even more critical of Bryant. But it’s easy to see how the guard could be a bit offended by the comments … particularly those downplaying his leadership abilities.

Maurice Clarett trying to play rugby: It’s been a long while since former Ohio State Buckeyes star Maurice Clarett has been in the news. But the former running back caused a minor stir last week when it was reported he was attempting to play rugby. Clarett’s not only making a run at the sport, but wants to compete at a high level. He’ll be playing for the Columbus affiliate of Tiger Rugby – the developmental program for the team representing Team USA in the 2016 Olympics. He clearly has had a rocky past and never even reached the NFL, but he’s also still young enough that finding a new career may not be all that far-fetched.

ACC targeting Madison Square Garden or Barclays for conference tournament: ACC Commissioner John Swofford hinted at last week’s conference meetings that the ACC basketball tournament could be played at Madison Square Garden or the Barclays in the future. It’s far from a done deal, but the ACC at least has shown some interest. With Syracuse and Pitt headed to the conference this season along with Louisville next season, the ACC will clearly be the nation’s premier basketball league. And what better place for the conference tournament than basketball’s biggest stage of MSG?

Dick Trickle commits suicide: Former racing great Dick Trickle died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last week. His brother says he was in immense physical pain and was having a tough time dealing with it. Just an incredibly sad story made even worse in that he leaves a wife and three children behind. Trickle was known for winning short track races and finished in the top ten in 78 NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races. He was named as the NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year at the age of 48 back in 1989.

Skydiving for … bathrooms? In one of the weirder news stories from last week, Eastern Michigan head football coach Ron English is willing to help improve his football team’s facilities by skydiving. The coach has agreed to the stunt if the school can raise at least $60,000 in an upcoming golf outing. The money will go towards fixing up, of all things, the bathrooms in the locker room. If the school raises at least $30,000, several assistant coaches have agreed to make the plunge. That’s an honorable move and will surely give the program some much-needed publicity. But with a 2-10 record last season, I’m thinking fans will care a lot more about on-field success.

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.

October 30, 2012

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NBA Preview and Predictions

By: Tyler Vespa

With the NBA regular season set to begin tomorrow, the landscape of the league has changed very little. The Lakers, who are always a threat to win the title, actually got better with the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The defending world-champion Miami Heat followed suit with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

Will teaming Kobe Bryant with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard make the Lakers NBA Champions?

The Knicks also added some veterans with the additions of Rasheed Wallace and Jason Kidd. Boston went out and added Jason Terry and Courtney Lee.

Other than that, almost nothing has changed. Miami and Boston are still two of the top teams in the East. The Lakers, Thunder, and Spurs still rule in the West.

With that, I give you my predictions for the 2012-13 season, starting with the divisions.

In the Atlantic Division:                               

  1. Boston Celtics   – Pierce, Garnett and Rondo know how it’s done.
  2. New York Knicks – Amare’ is the key. He must play well.

In the Pacific Division:

  1. Los Angeles Lakers  – With Dwight and Nash, they’re dominant.
  2. Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers are good, but their depth doesn’t match Lakers.

In the Central Division:

  1. Chicago Bulls- Even without Rose, the Bulls will be good enough.
  2. Indiana Pacers- Granger will need more help from the Pacers‘ bench.

In the Southwest Division:

  1. San Antonio Spurs- Ginobli, Parker and Duncan have been there before.
  2. Dallas Mavericks- Dallas has good starters, but no bench.

In the Southeast Division:

  1. Miami Heat- Lebron, Wade and Bosh with Ray Allen make the Heat seemingly unbeatable.
  2. Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks will not be close to the Heat, even with Devin Harris.

In the Northwest Division:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder- Durant and Westbrook will create a new Harden in Oklahoma City.
  2. Utah Jazz- Milsap and Jefferson are the Jazz’s X-Factors.

Now for the Conference Standings:

Eastern:

  1. Miami Heat
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Chicago Bulls

Western:

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Eastern Final: Heat over Celtics.

Western Final: Lakers over Spurs.

The Finals: Lakers over Heat- Nash and Howard will help Lakers overpower Lebron & Co.