February 4, 2013
Baltimore Ravens hang on to win Super Bowl over San Francisco 49ers, 34-31: What looked to be a dud of a game early finally became interesting with the help of … a power outage. Down 28-6, the San Francisco 49ers rallied to score 17 consecutive points. The comeback came up short, though, after the two teams traded touchdowns. Baltimore added a field goal with about four minutes left in the game and after driving nearly the length of the field, the Niners were stopped inside the 10-yard line. Baltimore got the ball back and wisely took a safety with only a few seconds remaining to provide the final score.
49ers fans will focus on the non-call of what appeared to be pass interference in the end zone on that final drive, but the Ravens’ defense should be lauded for coming up big twice in the fourth quarter. In addition to the aforementioned stand, the D stopped a two-point conversion attempt by the 49ers that could have tied the game (and would have meant they would have only needed a field goal on that final drive). The Ravens allowed 31 points, but stopped San Francisco when it mattered.
Seven elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: Lost a bit in all of the Super Bowl hoopla were the Pro Football Hall of Fame elections. Coach Bill Parcells and players Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, and Larry Allen will all be inducted later this year. In addition, senior selections Curley Culp and Dave Robinson were elected as well. All were deserving, but if you’re looking for a snub, that would be former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. Bettis ranks sixth on the all-time NFL rushing list, but still couldn’t find a way into the Hall despite eight 1,000-yard seasons, six Pro Bowls, and a Super Bowl victory. He should eventually get in, but it has to be a bit disappointing that it didn’t happen this year.
Dwyane Wade tries to convince Lebron James to participate in All-Star weekend activities: The NBA has been fighting a losing battle in trying to add more excitement to their All-Star weekend. Unlike the 1980s and 1990s, the league’s biggest stars generally no longer take part in the slam dunk championship or three-point shootout. Gone are the days when players such as Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, and Larry Bird were participating, but one guy wants to change that: Dwyane Wade. Wade has been pushing for teammate Lebron James to suit up for the slam dunk and three-point contests this year. While LBJ has reportedly said he’s not interested in dunking, we could see him in the three-point shootout. I’d be all for it, to be honest. If there’s one thing that will draw more eyeballs, it’s the participation by the game’s best players. I don’t think the league should try to force its stars to join in, but the players should want to do it. The weekend is all about the fans and if there’s any way to reward them, it’s by doing more than sitting on the sidelines.
Adrian Peterson wins NFL’s MVP award: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award, beating out Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning. You can make a strong case for Manning, who came back strongly after an injury kept him out last year. But Peterson is the right choice in my opinion. Not only did he carry the Vikings on his back to the playoffs this year, but he nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record for most rushing yards in a season. Others have challenged the mark, but Peterson came the closest falling only nine yards short. Manning had one of his best seasons ever and for one of the best quarterbacks ever, that’s really saying something. But Peterson had less to work with if you look at it objectively. The Vikings passing attack was one of the worst in the NFL and the team won only three games last year when he suffered an injury. Meanwhile, Manning had a solid rushing attack and also took over a team that won a game in the playoffs last year. In other seasons, Manning could be an easy pick. But this year, the award belongs to Peterson.
Yankees may try to void Alex Rodriguez contract: As his career winds down, Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez has found himself in a number of controversies. The latest came last week when he was accused of using performance enhancing drugs. That’s nothing new as Rodriguez previously admitted to such use earlier in his career, but he has maintained that he has not done so recently. But because of the new allegations, the Yankees may be looking to void A-Rod’s expensive contract in the hopes of saving some money. That likely wouldn’t be the case if Rodriguez was in the prime of his career, but with his numbers in a steady decline, it makes sense that New York would want out of his hefty deal. Stay tuned.
Caltech ends historic streak: Chances are you’ve probably never heard of the California Institute of Technology if you live outside of the state. But their baseball team snapped a historic 228-game losing streak last week, winning their first game in nearly a decade, 9-7 over Pacifica. Even more shocking is that the school has had several other unbelievable recent streaks of futility. The men’s basketball team lost 310 straight games until winning in 2011 and the women’s volleyball team also lost 56 in a row at one point before a victory in 2012. Congratulations, I guess?
May 7, 2012
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 19, 2012
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 Texas‘ Kevin 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.
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.
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.
March 12, 2012
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.
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
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.
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.