June 3, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Grant Hill retires: In a somewhat expected move, forward Grant Hill retired from the NBA last season. For many, Hill will be remembered for the injuries that ate up much of his career. Injuries again kept him down this year as the forward appeared in only 29 games all season with the Los Angeles Clippers, and at 40, it’s clear he should have retired. But Hill should never be forgotten. He was the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year and a seven-time All-Star. Hill wasn’t always healthy, but when he was, he was one of the NBA’s best forwards earlier in his career.

The Kansas City Royals hired George Brett to be their Hitting Coach.

Rangers coach John Tortorella fired: Shortly after being ousted by the Boston Bruins in the NHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals, the New York Rangers dumped head coach John Tortorella. The Rangers had hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup finals this season, but actually regressed after making the Eastern Conference finals last year. Tortorella had some success in New York, but was rumored to have rubbed some of his players the wrong way. After not advancing past the first round in each of his first three seasons with the Rangers, Tortorella had done better each of the past two seasons. It wasn’t enough to keep his job, but as a former Stanley Cup winning coach in Tampa Bay, he should get another chance down the line.

Steve Smith (the other one) retires: New York Giants receiver Steve Smith (not to be confused with the Carolina PanthersSteve Smith) has decided to hang up his cleats. Smith was a former Pro Bowler and just signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. He was always a bit underrated as a receiver and finishes with seven 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. He nearly had another in 2009 when he finished with 982 yards and there’s little doubt he had something left in the tank. Smith had nearly 2,600 receiving yards over the past two seasons with 11 touchdowns. At 34, he probably still has some football left in him. It will be interesting to see if he changes his mind when training camp rolls around.

Phoenix Suns hire Jeff Hornacek as head coach: Jeff Hornacek, a former shooting guard in the NBA, will head back to Phoenix to serve as the team’s new head coach. Hornacek played for the Suns from 1986 – 1992 and also had stints with the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. He helped the Jazz to two trips to the NBA Finals alongside Karl Malone and John Stockton. After retiring, he became an instructor with the Jazz and then an assistant. Hornacek will come in somewhat unproven with only a few years of experience as an assistant. And considering the mess that is the Phoenix Suns right now, that will make it even harder to succeed.

Everett Golson suspended for 2013: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was suspended by the team due to ‘poor academic judgment.’ There hasn’t yet been confirmation on what exactly that means, but one thing is for certain – he won’t be suiting up for the Irish this fall. It’s a blow to a team that went to the BCS Championship with him at the helm last year. Notre Dame must now turn to another option – most likely senior Tommy Rees. But Malik Zaire could have an outside shot at the job as he comes in as a highly touted freshman this year. But without Golson, the team’s stock is taking a significant hit.

Kansas City Royals hire George Brett as hitting coach: Stuck in the middle of a long losing streak, the Kansas City Royals have turned to perhaps the best player in the history of their franchise – George Brett. Brett will assume duties as the team’s new hitting coach. Let’s face it – giving the job to a franchise icon who just happens to be one of the best hitters in the last 50 years isn’t a bad idea. But stars generally have a difficult time coaching and often, aren’t able to teach others how to play the game as well as they could. Still, for just taking a shot in the dark on a midseason hire, the Royals could have done worse.

Floyd Mayweather to fight Saul Alvarez: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. recently announced that he would fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 14th. The match will pit a pair of unbeatens as Mayweather is 44-0-0 while Alvarez is 42-0-1. While this is a big deal and surely a fight that Mayweather will trumpet, Alvarez isn’t Manny Pacquiao - the fighter many would like to see battle Mayweather. In the announcement on (where else) Twitter, Mayweather made sure to tell us that he’s ‘giving the fans what they want’ by participating in the fight. Thanks, I guess?

NCAA Golfer penalized for car washing: Yep, you heard that one correctly. The NCAA penalized an unidentified women’s golfer for washing her own car. The reason? She reportedly used water on the campus that technically belonged to the university and was forced to pay the school $20.00 – the approximate value of the water and hose that was estimated by the organization. I’m all for following the rules and I think the NCAA gets a bad rap sometimes. They’ve got a difficult job in trying to police schools and student athletes, and I get that letting smaller things go can easily escalate into bigger problems. But seriously, can’t we have a common sense clause that allows for a warning in some instances?

April 1, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Final Four set: The NCAA Tournament will conclude next week and the Final Four has been set. Like many years, the top seeds have disappointed for the most part. Included in the Final Four are No. 4 seeds Syracuse and Michigan, and No. 9 upstart Wichita StateLouisville was the lone No. 1 seed to get into the elite club. My bracket is completely busted at this point, but since I had the Cardinals to win it all, I can still finish respectably. And after two weeks of NCAA Tournament action, I’ve got to say Louisville is looking like the nation’s best team.

Kobe Bryant is now 4th on the all-time scoring list.

Opening Day is here: With Spring Training over, Major League Baseball officially got its season underway on Sunday night with a game featuring the Texas Rangers and new AL West team, the Houston Astros. As always, there are plenty of questions heading into this season. Will Stephen Strasburg continue his dominance after surgery? Can the Yankees overcome all of their injuries? Will the Angels’ additions of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton the past two years pay off? If you forced me to make an early season World Series pick, I’ll go with the Nationals vs. Angels, but don’t take that too seriously.

Dallas Cowboys all in with Tony Romo: The Dallas Cowboys have shown plenty of confidence in starting quarterback Tony Romo over the years. After another disappointing season, Romo was rewarded with a six-year $108 million extension. The deal could take Romo, who turns 33 this month, to the end of his NFL career. The $55 million guaranteed money he will get even topped the deal Super Bowl quarterback Joe Flacco recently got with the Baltimore Ravens. Many Cowboys fans likely aren’t all that thrilled with the new deal for a quarterback who hasn’t gotten them to a Super Bowl since he’s been with the team. But finding a franchise quarterback isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do and the Cowboys think they’ve got their man in Romo.

Kobe Bryant passes Wilt Chamberlain on all-time scoring list: Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant passed legend Wilt Chamberlain this past weekend for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list when he tallied point number 31,421. Statistics aren’t valued in basketball as much as they are in baseball, but Kobe’s achievement is still a big deal. Next up for the Mamba is none other than Michael Jordan, whose 32,292 points are third on the list. Bryant should easily pass up Jordan next season, but getting into the top two could be quite a feat. Karl Malone is second at 36,928 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tops the list at 38,387. Bryant will likely need to play at least four more seasons to have a shot at catching Malone, so Jordan could be the last person he passes on the list. But if there’s anything Kobe has proven over the years, it’s that he shouldn’t be doubted.

Good news and bad news for Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pittsburgh Penguins experienced some highs and lows last week. The team traded for star winger Jarome Iginla earlier in the week in a move that may put the team over the top to win the Stanley Cup. But on Saturday, Pittsburgh lost captain Sidney Crosby to a broken jaw after he was hit in the mouth with a puck during a game. Crosby underwent surgery on Sunday and is now out indefinitely. The Penguins are still in pretty good shape, but losing Crosby to injury yet again has to be frustrating for the team. Crosby is regarded by many as the league’s top player but has dealt with setback after setback in the league.

Miami Heat winning streak ends: The Miami Heat’s long winning streak ended with a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, 101-97. Even though the Heat’s streak was snapped at 27 games, Miami still put together one of the most impressive stretches the league has ever seen. Plus, while the loss meant they fell short of the Los Angeles Lakers historic 33-game streak back in 1971-72, the Heat’s real target is another NBA title. The goal here is to keep everyone healthy for a long playoff run.

December 7, 2012

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What 30,000 Points Means For Kobe Bryant

By: Tyler Vespa

Amidst an unordinary season in Los Angeles involving a coaching change and the Lakers first 0-3 start since 1978, Kobe Bryant still found his way on a billboard. This time it was a career milestone. Ironically, the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft came into the night needing 13 points to reach it.  On Wednesday night against the New Orleans Hornets, Bryant scored 29 points and led the Lakers to a 103-87 victory.

Kobe Bryant became the youngest player ever to reach 30,000 points in his NBA career.

But it wasn’t the performance that led to the win that was of note, it was the basket he made with 1:15 left in the 2nd quarter. Just another signature slashing drive to the basket with an incredible finish gave Bryant 30,000 points for his career. This is what the 30,000 point plateau means for Kobe Bryant:

1. Youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points.

2. 5th player in NBA history to score 30,000 points.

3. The Hall-of-Fame is all but assured considering the 4 others in this club were all inducted: “Cap” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “the Mailman” Karl Malone, Michael “Air” Jordan, and Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain

4. 5,640 of his points so far have come in the NBA Playoffs, which already puts him at 3rd all-time.

5. The only one in the 30,000-point club to not play college basketball

Although Kobe needed more games to reach the 30,000 mark, I don’t think it’s wise to hold that against him. What is going to happen when somebody like Lebron James hits the 30,000-point club? Are we going to downplay his achievement? The answer is no. Kobe at 34 has played an incredible 16 NBA seasons. By only his fifth NBA season he was dropping 28.5 points per game. I would say he adjusted pretty well.

Even after a knee surgery, Bryant still looks ageless. There will come a time when it is no longer easy to score. That time is a far cry from the present for the man they call “The Black Mamba”.

August 13, 2012

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Dwight Howard Trade Brings Positives and Negatives to Lakers

By: Anson Whaley

Last month, it was Steve Nash. Last week, Dwight Howard.

The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t satisfied with only the addition of Nash and last week, traded for Orlando Magic star, Dwight Howard. As part of the deal, the Lakers dealt away its most talented young player, center Andrew Bynum.

After adding Dwight Howard, are the Lakers now the favorite to win the NBA title?

On the surface, the Lakers have the look of perhaps the best team in the NBA. But haven’t we seen this movie before?

Nearly a decade ago in 2003, Los Angeles bulked up adding future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton to their pair of veteran stars, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Forget merely winning the NBA title – the Lakers were supposed to be unstoppable and seriously threaten the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record for wins in a season. Instead, Los Angeles won a somewhat modest (by their standards, anyway) 56 games, and while they reached the finals, they lost in 5 games to the Detroit Pistons.

In other words, the last time Los Angeles loaded up on a steady diet of star power, things didn’t exactly work out.

The other thing of note is that Howard might be gone almost as quickly as he arrived. He’s due to become a free agent at the end of the season and made no known guarantees to the team that he’s sticking around for more than one year. Los Angeles had the same issue with Bynum since his current deal is set to expire after this season as well. But by most accounts, Bynum would have been more willing to stay with the franchise than Howard might be.

There’s also Howard’s increasingly swelled attitude to deal with. He was, to put it politely, not the easiest person for the Magic to deal with over the past year. There was even the incredibly uncomfortable situation of him having to play for head coach Stan Van Gundy, who he reportedly tried to have fired by the team’s management. Superman’s ego isn’t out of control on a Terrell Owens level just yet, but his attitude in L.A. will definitely be something to monitor.

Despite all of that, though, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about the Lakers for fans of the franchise. At 26, Howard is the league’s best center without question. He not only has the potential to be a Hall of Famer, but depending on how many rings he wins, he can be considered an all-time great at the position. Whenever you have the opportunity to acquire such a talent, most of the time you have to go for it.

The team was also able to hold onto All-star power forward Pau Gasol. When rumors of the deal gained steam last week, Gasol was mentioned as a player potentially on the move. But in keeping him, the Lakers assured themselves of having one of the top frontcourts in the league. That’s important because with an older backcourt of Bryant and Nash, Los Angeles will need adequate defenders in the paint to keep opposing guards out. In Howard and Gasol, they have that.

The Lakers arguably go from merely being a contender for the title to the team everyone will be chasing. That doesn’t mean the City of Angels is guaranteed to be holding yet another parade celebration next June, but Los Angeles is surely in a better position than they were a year ago.

February 15, 2011

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NBA All-Star Weekend Needs a Makeover

By: Joe Williams

The year was 1999. The world was preparing for Y2K. The NBA All-Star Weekend was canceled because of a lockout-shortened season and Keanu Reeves starred in the Matrix.

Since 1999, Reeves has been making movies like Thumbsucker and The Lake House while the NBA All-Star Weekend has lost some of its excitement as well. Reeves’ career and the All-Star Weekend are both in need of a makeover. I’ve got some suggestions for the NBA (sorry Keanu, you are on your own).

Maybe the NBA should follow the NHL example. The NHL just held an All-Star Game with two team captains picking teams in a live draft. This is a great idea. The NBA should take it a step further.

Instead of having current players as the team captains, I say David Stern should bring in two NBA legends to coach/captain the teams. Nothing against Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich, but I would much rather see the teams led by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. We see Rivers, Popovich and Phil Jackson on TV all season. Why not change things up?

This weekend’s all-star game will be in Los Angeles. The Lakers and Celtics met in the NBA Finals last season. Both teams are among the favorites to reach the Finals this season. Why not keep the rivalry going? Imagine Larry Bird taking Kobe Bryant with the first pick, putting Kobe on the visiting team in his own building and playing against Magic Johnson’s team. Magic could counter with LeBron James as his first pick and then draft a couple of the four Boston Celtics who are in the game.

The NBA could create some great matchups with this system. I would love to see John Stockton lead a team against fellow Utah Jazz Hall of Famer, Karl Malone. How about a Reggie Miller and Spike Lee matchup? Anyone for Charles Barkley against Michael Jordan? The matchups are endless.

I also believe the NBA should take the all-star game back to the cities that no longer have an NBA franchise. When places like Vancouver and Seattle lose their team to another city, the NBA ought to keep in touch with those fans. They deserve an all-star game.

My next suggestion would be to have a HORSE competition with some of the NBA greats. I’d like to see Michael Jordan and Larry Bird play for a Big Mac like they did in a Super Bowl commercial in 1993. There are some great possible matchups for this too. I suggest a Dennis Rodman (58.4% free throw shooter) and Shaq (52.8% free throw shooter) in a free throw showdown. Of course, for the sake of time, they may have to shorten a game of HORSE to a game of H.

The last thing I would like to see change for the NBA All-Star game is the voting process. Currently, the fans vote in the starters for the game and that’s how it should be. But when a guy (Yao Ming) is voted as an all-star starter despite only playing in five games all season, something needs to change. Nothing against Yao, but he should not be on the ballot if he can’t play. That spot should go to someone who has earned it with a great first half of the season.

I would love to see these things happen but I’m sure there is someone smarter than me at the NBA headquarters who has a whole list of reasons why these ideas won’t work. I’d just love to see it happen.