January 10, 2013

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What I’ll Remember About 2012 – Part 1

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

January 1 – Matt Flynn and Matthew Stafford combine for 971 net passing yards in 45-41 Green Bay win.

January 8 – The Denver Broncos make short work of the new NFL overtime rules, scoring an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers 29-23 in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

January 9 Alabama actually scored a touchdown in its rematch with LSU in the BCS Championship Game, winning 21-0.

January 14 Tom Brady shredded the Denver Broncos for five touchdown passes in the first half and another in the third quarter to tie the postseason single-game record in a 45-10 win.

January 14 – The 49ers and Saints combine for 34 points in the fourth quarter and four lead changes in the final five minutes as the 49ers outlasted New Orleans 36-32 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

January 22 – Joe Paterno passed away.

January 22 – The Baltimore Ravens had a dropped pass in the end zone that prevented them from winning the AFC Championship Game in New England and then missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

January 22 – The New York Giants advanced to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 overtime win against the 49ers after a fumbled punt set up the game-winning field goal.

February 4Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere and led the New York Knicks to a win with 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in the first of an incredible 13-game stretch in which he averaged 22.3 points and 7.4 assists. His heroics were celebrated worldwide and he ended up on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated and one of the biggest celebrities in the league.

Jeremy Lin was one of the biggest stories of 2012.

February 5 – The New York Giants beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in another Super Bowl, 21-17, led by Eli Manning and another fourth-quarter comeback.

February 5 – Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, gets caught on camera blaming Patriot receivers for New England’s Super Bowl loss, saying that her husband cannot throw and catch the ball at the same time.

March 8 – The Indianapolis Colts announced that they will release future hall-of-fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.

March 13 – The First Four was worth watching on this night. First, Western Kentucky rallied from a 16-point deficit with 4:51 to go and beat Mississippi Valley State 59-58. Then BYU followed that up by erasing a 25-point deficit and beat Iona 78-72.

March 16Duke and Missouri, both No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, go down on the same day. Norfolk State upset a 30-win Missouri team 86-84 and then later that night Lehigh defeated the Blue Devils 75-70. Only four No. 15 seeds have ever knocked off a No. 2 seed in history before it happened twice that day.

March 20 – Peyton Manning picks the Denver Broncos.

March 21NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid down the law on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty scandal, effectively ending the Saints season before it ever got started. This story never went away due to the continuous appeals of the suspensions.

March 26 – The Denver Broncos trade Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.

March 11 – Tiger Woods withdrew from the final round of the WGC Cadillac Championship with an injury. The blimp that was covering the golf tournament then followed Tiger as he left the golf course, a scene usually reserved for a high-speed chase.

April 1 – I.K. Kim takes the honor for worst golf shot of the year after she missed an 18-inch putt that would have won the LPGA’s first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She ended up losing in a playoff.

April 2 – John Calipari and his Kentucky squad that consisted of six future NBA players wins the national title, beating Kansas 67-59.

April 3Baylor completed a perfect season at 40-0 and won the women’s national title, beating Notre Dame 80-61.

April 8 – Bubba Watson hits one of the greatest shots in Masters history; a miracle 40-yard hook shot out of the pine straw on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Two putts for par later and Watson was wearing the green jacket.

April 21Phil Humber pitches a perfect game at Seattle, striking out nine in the White Sox 4-0 win.

April 26Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are drafted by the Colts and Redskins.

May 8 Josh Hamilton hit four home runs and had eight RBI against the Baltimore Orioles.

June 3 – Tiger Woods hit an incredible flop shot from behind the green on 16 that trickled into the hole on his way to winning the Memorial Tournament.

June 7 – LeBron James overwhelms the Boston Celtics with a 45 point and 15 rebound performance in a 98-79 win over Boston on the road to force a Game 7 in South Beach.

June 7 – Novak Djokovic outlasted Rafael Nadal in a grueling marathon in the Australian Open final (5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5) in a match that took five hours and 53 minutes and didn’t end until 1:37 a.m.

June 11 – The Los Angeles Kings win their first Stanley Cup in 45 years after barely squeaking into the final playoff spot in the West and going on one of the greatest runs in playoff history.

June 13Matt Cain pitched a perfect game in a 10-0 San Francisco win over the Astros.

June 21 – LeBron James and the Miami Heat win the NBA championship after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in game five.

June 27 – A four-team college football playoff was formally approved to begin in 2014.

June 30 – The third round of the AT&T National was played with no spectators on the golf course because of safety concerns after a powerful wind storm left trees uprooted all over the golf course.

May 7, 2012

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Injuries Should Pave Way for Miami Heat to Reach Finals

By: Anson Whaley

Despite assembling a trio of some of the league’s biggest stars last year, the Miami Heat were unable to win the NBA championship, falling to the Dallas Mavericks. They received a bit of a pass since it was their first season together, but that won’t be the case if Miami fails to bring home the franchise’s second title this year.

The Heat may not have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this year, but there’s little doubt they are the favorites to advance to the Finals because of the huge rash of injuries to key players.

Miami’s already on the brink of disposing of the New York Knicks, leading their series 3-1 in the first round. The Knicks might have been in better shape against LeBron & Company if they were a bit healthier. New York was already without rookie sensation Jeremy Lin (knee injury) since late March. But then came Iman Shumpert’s torn ACL and a bizarre hand injury to starter Amare Stoudemire, who somehow thought punching a fire extinguisher case out of frustration after the team’s Game 2 loss was a good idea. After sitting out the third game, Stoudemire returned for Game 4. But missing Lin and Shumpert has definitely hurt the team in this series.

The Chicago Bulls, perhaps the best team in the entire league with a 50-16 record, were dealt a cruel blow in their first round series. With only a little over a minute to play in their first playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers, star point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL and, just like that, his season was over. Rose was the team’s leader in scoring and assists and without him, the Bulls have been a shell of their former selves. Chicago won that first game, but has fallen short in the past three without Rose. And as if that weren’t enough of a hurdle to overcome, the Bulls lost center Joakim Noah in Game 4 to an ankle sprain. Even if they can somehow fight back and make it a series against Philly, there’s little chance they could do much more in the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic were another team expected to contend for the title. That all changed, though, once star center Dwight Howard went down with a back injury late in the season. Power forward Glen Davis has stepped up in his absence, scoring 20 points a game in the playoffs and pulling in nearly ten rebounds. But the team clearly misses Howard, who was their regular season leader in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals. Howard’s defensive impact is just as important as the one he makes on offense and the Magic are a weaker team on both ends without him.

There are also the aging Boston Celtics. The Celtics have been relatively healthy, but shooting guard Ray Allen missed the first two games of their opening series against the Atlanta Hawks. He’d been out for the past month with bone spurs in his foot, and even though he’s back, is still trying to get back into game shape.

Miami isn’t a lock to win the East by any stretch of the imagination. The Indiana Pacers are having a strong season and as one of the league’s best rebounding teams, could give the Heat some trouble. And the Atlanta Hawks’ sixth-ranked defense might be able to challenge Miami’s explosive offense as well. The Heat are a combined 6-2 against those two teams in the regular season, but in the playoffs, the intensity will be ratcheted up significantly. Despite all that, though, it’s clear that with all of the injuries to the Eastern Conference this season, Miami has a clear shot at reaching the Finals again.

March 12, 2012

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NBA Trade Deadline Fast Approaching

By: Anson Whaley

With the NBA’s trade deadline coming up this week, a number of teams will have their eye on some heavily coveted players. Who knows what this year’s deadline will hold, but here are some key players that could be wearing different uniforms come next week.

Dwight Howard – The Dwight Howard fiasco has been one that’s dominated headlines all season long and even dates back to last summer. The Lakers have been the team most linked to Howard and their ability to land him will depend on how much they want to give up. A package of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum would almost certainly get the trade done, but I have serious doubts that trading two All-Stars for Howard would improve Los Angeles all that much. The Chicago Bulls have also been linked to talks concerning Howard and his addition would give point guard Derrick Rose another offensive weapon. Stay tuned.

Rajon Rondo – The Celtics claim that they aren’t actively pursuing offers for Rondo, but his name has been linked to so much speculation since the season began that it’s difficult to believe he’s untouchable. The young point guard just turned 26 and likely hasn’t hit his prime yet. Boston will probably consider trading him, but I expect it will take a considerable haul for any team to land him.

Could Rajon Rondo be the point guard somewhere other than Boston this season?

Pau Gasol – If the Lakers don’t go for Howard, a trade of Gasol probably isn’t all that likely, but it is possible. Gasol and Kobe Bryant have been put off by all of the trade talk concerning the power forward and the team may feel as if they need to deal him at this point. If Gasol does get traded, the Lakers will almost certainly demand a star in return since they are a legitimate championship contender with him.

Andrew Bogut – Bogut is one name starting to surface in some reports, which isn’t surprising since the Bucks haven’t made a great deal of progress during his time with the franchise. He’s not a star, but as a 27-year old 7’0” starting center, he’s certainly a valuable commodity. One thing that might hold up any deal for him, though, is the fact that he’s sat out since late January with an ankle injury. Another thing to consider is that the center is owed nearly $30 million over the next two seasons. For a player averaging a modest 11 points and eight rebounds this season, that amount could scare teams away. Even so, there will be teams willing to gamble on him if the price tag is right.

Jeremy Lin – Okay, just checking to see if you’re paying attention.

Chris Kaman – For any team in need of a center, but unable to land Bogut, Chris Kaman could be another viable option. Kaman has put up eerily similar numbers compared to Bogut this season and is only about two years older. Like the Bucks’ center, Kaman isn’t a star. But he’s a solid starting center in the league and should have several more quality seasons ahead.

Josh Smith – The Hawks forward is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. Smith fills up the box score nearly every night, but is apparently growing frustrated in Atlanta, and reportedly asked to be traded. The Hawks have been a good team with him, but haven’t reached the heights of some of the top teams in the eastern conference. If the Hawks do decide to trade him, they’ll likely need to pick up a power forward in return as they’ll be particularly thin at that spot.

Lamar Odom – I don’t expect Odom to be traded, but there’s no doubt the Mavericks have been disappointed with what he’s brought to the team. Odom clearly didn’t want to be traded out of Los Angeles and it’s shown. This year in Dallas, he’s averaging career lows in points, rebounds, and assists and has been absent for various reasons, missing several games this season. Still, Odom being moved during his first season there may be a longshot. Not only are the Mavericks not likely to give up on him already, but with his disappointing season, getting a good return for him would be extremely difficult.

February 28, 2012

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NBA Fantasy Trades You Should Make

By: Joe Williams

The NBA trade deadline is two weeks away. The trade deadline in your fantasy league is probably even closer. Now is the time to look over your roster and make the deal that will get you into the playoffs. Fortunately for me, I am leading my league, so I am just looking at what will help me when the playoffs start. But if you’re team is in the middle of the pack or worse, you need to make a move. I’ve got a few suggestions.

Jeremy Lin for Kyrie Irving

If you were the first in your league to buy into the “Linsanity” in New York, you were rewarded with some huge games. If you can deal him now for Kyrie Irving, you may be rewarded again. Lin has been getting all the headlines so this could be the perfect time to offer him in a trade. And if you do, Kyrie Irving is your guy. Lin and Irving are putting up very similar numbers over the last 30 days, but Irving has a couple advantages over Lin in the second half of the season. Lin and the Knicks have just 31 games remaining. Irving and the Cavs have 35. An extra four games of production could be the difference between the playoffs and the consolation bracket. Lin is also going to be dealing with some lineup changes with the return of Carmelo Anthony and the signing of J.R. Smith. You can count on those two taking away some of the opportunities Lin had over the last few weeks.

The return of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks lineup impacts a couple of our suggested trades.

Amar’e Stoudemire for David Lee

Here’s another Knick with only 31 games left on the schedule. Meanwhile, David Lee will be playing 36 games for the Warriors. Like Lin, Stoudemire will have to adjust to Anthony returning and the addition of Smith. Combine that with five extra games and Stoudemire being much more of a household name, and maybe you will find someone willing to give up a guy averaging 20 points, 9 rebounds, and shooting over 50 percent in the last 30 days.

Carlos Boozer for DeAndre Jordan

This is another trade I would try to make featuring a guy with a bigger name who only has 31 games left and a history of missing time (Boozer), for a guy that is lesser known but putting up similar numbers and has 35 games left to play (Jordan). Just 13 of the Bulls 31 remaining games are in Chicago, and Boozer is putting up three fewer points per game on the road.

Dwight Howard for Al Jefferson

Every team in the NBA would jump at the chance to get Dwight Howard. Some guys in your fantasy league will too. Hopefully one of them has Al Jefferson. The Jazz have 34 games left, which is three more than Howard is currently scheduled to play. Of course, currently is the key word here. If I have Howard, who is surrounded with question marks about where he will finish the season and kills me in free throw percentage, I am willing to part with the big man for someone like Jefferson, who doesn’t have the superstar appeal but does put up nearly 20-10 on average and shoots well from the floor and the charity stripe.

February 22, 2012

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NBA’s 25 and Under All-Excitement Team

By: Matt Bowen

The NBA’s future is bright because of a handful of young stars that stuff the stat sheets on a nightly basis.  It’s hard to believe but each player on this list is under the age of 25.

Whether it’s dishing the rock, banging the boards or shooting the lights out, these players consistently leave crowds in awe. All of these players will be present at the upcoming NBA All-Star game where their playground-like basketball skills will be on display.

Four of these five kids will make the 2012 USA Olympic Basketball Team as they are now the embodiment of the “Dream Team.”

If a naysayer were to see these guys take the court, their opinion of the modern-day NBA would change in an instant. These players are fun to watch and they make it look easy.

Here is the NBA’s 25 and Under All-Excitement Team:

Derrick Rose: This kid is only 23 years old and has already won an NBA MVP Award.

Being that Rose is a member of the Chicago Bulls, he has the biggest shoes to fill and has done a marvelous job thus far. Right now the Bulls have a 26-8 record and look to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Rose is a master on the court who knows how to handle every situation. He can turn the game upside down in a heartbeat and leave the fans thirsting for more. Knowing that Rose will dominate the game for the next decade leaves NBA die-hards with a smile on their faces.

Derrick Rose is one of the many young players making the NBA "must-see" TV.

Jeremy Lin: Three weeks ago, no one knew who Jeremy Lin was. Now, the 23-year-old is the hottest thing since sliced bread. Lin’s meteoric rise to fame has been justified by his stats. Since becoming a starter on February 4, Lin has scored 20-plus points in 9-of-10 games.

Most importantly, he brought the New York Knicks back from the dead and has made New York City a basketball city. Anyone who can single-handedly make the Knicks relevant again deserves all the credit in the world.

“Linsanity” continues to sweep the nation as we speak. The upcoming All-Star game will only bring more notoriety his way.

Kevin Durant: What’s not to love about this guy? He’s the all-around most exciting player to watch in the NBA night-in and night-out.

Durant is capable of a triple-double at the drop of a hat and his recent 51 point performance is proof that he’s “must-see TV.”

This year he’s averaging 27.7 points per game to go along with 8.2 rebounds. He’s the new-age NBA prototype—6’9” with superior ball-handling skills and deadly range. Wow.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a future first-ballot Hall of Famer on their hands.

Blake Griffin: Just when sports fans thought the days of the innovative slam-dunk were over, Blake Griffin changed our minds. The Los Angeles Clippers youngster is like nothing the NBA has ever seen before.

His dunks are like violent poetry—so graceful yet so explosive—a true stroke of genius.

What he’s capable of next is almost unfathomable. Fans can only hold their breath as they wait for the rooftop to blow.

Besides his rim-rocking jams Griffin is a great basketball player. This season, like last, he’s averaging a double-double. In today’s game that feat is rarely accomplished.

Expect Griffin’s Fatheads to be plastered on the walls of children and art collectors alike for years to come.

Kevin Love: If anything, he deserves some more love. The Minnesota Timberwolves big man is the most underrated player in the entire NBA.

He’s capable of filling the box score with 20 points and 20 rebounds on any given night. A pure rebounder is hard to come by in today’s NBA and Love’s picture should be in the dictionary under the word “rebound.”

Love gives his team a chance to win on a nightly basis with his 25.5 points/game and 14.2 rebounds. His most ridiculous stat is that he’s only gone two games this season without a double-double.

Make sure to keep your eye on Love this weekend at the All-Star game—he’s worth it.