June 24, 2013
Miami Heat repeat as NBA Champs: The Miami Heat won Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs and, in the process, brought home their second consecutive title. The Heat didn’t always play well this postseason, but when all the chips were down, they stepped up and denied the Spurs a fifth championship. LeBron James won the MVP Award of the Finals and rightfully so. He started the series slowly, scoring less than 20 points in each of the first three games. But he saved his best performance for the end, averaging 34.5 points, 11 rebounds, and 7.5 assists over the last two games. Winning three titles in a row won’t be easy but if there’s one player that can do it, it’s James – the best player in the league.
Carlos Lee retires: Carlos Lee quietly retired from Major League Baseball after sitting out since the end of last year. Seeking a multi-year contract when his current deal expired last season, Lee didn’t get one and has officially left the game last week. Lee never quite reached superstardom as other players in his era, but he was a legitimate power threat for more than a decade. From 2000 – 2010, Lee had at least 24 home runs every season and was one of the game’s feared power hitters. He finished his career with 358 bombs and unlike other home run hitters, never struck out 100 times in a season. While he won’t make the Hall of Fame, the three-time All-Star was a very good player for a long time.
Introduction of Deacon Jones Award: The NFL reached into its past to honor the deceased defensive end, Deacon Jones. The NFL’s league leaders in sacks will be given the new award. Jones, long regarded as one of the league’s best in that category despite it not becoming an official statistic until after he retired, passed away earlier this month.
Francisco Rodriguez picks up 300th career save: Milwaukee Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez earned his 300th career save over the weekend. He nearly didn’t get the chance, though. After a 2-7 record and an ERA well over 4.00, K-Rod was released by the Brewers after last season and was out of baseball for a little while. But Milwaukee gave him another chance and Rodriguez has been perfect in save opportunities this season. And at only 31 with an ERA under 1.00, he could still have plenty left in the tank.
Johnny Manziel ‘can’t wait to leave’ Texas A&M: Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel tweeted last week that he couldn’t wait to leave Texas A&M after an apparent incident. The reason for his displeasure wasn’t known, but Manziel quickly deleted the tweet, later saying he loved the school. Far too much was made of the initial tweet by fans criticizing him. Manziel is a college sophomore with a much higher profile than he had before. There are going to be times when he’s frustrated by … whatever. Almost all college kids think they could be in a better situation at some point in their time in school and that applies to athletes, too.
Colin Kaepernick ready for majors?: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a bright future in the NFL. After taking over as the team’s starting quarterback, he led the team to their first Super Bowl in nearly 20 years this past season. But on Friday night, the young player showed off his skills. On a baseball field. Kaepernick, a late-round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs a few years ago, hit 87 miles per hour throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the San Francisco Giants’ game against the Miami Marlins. That’s pretty impressive and to say he’s got a cannon for an arm would be an understatement. But (and yeah, I’m playing the heel role here) man, was that pitch wild. Kaepernick’s fortunate the catcher snared that ball since it wasn’t all that far from a completely relaxed cameraman. My guess is that he shouldn’t quit his day job.
Doc Rivers to Clippers: After an on-again/off-again status, the Los Angeles Clippers’ attempts to hire coach Doc Rivers away from the Celtics appear to have finally been successful. Rivers is under contract with the Celtics, but will reportedly leave the franchise for a first-round draft pick. Boston didn’t want to just give away their head coach, but in the end, the Celtics were better served by letting Doc walk and taking any compensation they can get for him. Even if they don’t think they’re getting enough in return, few things could be worse than having a coach around that doesn’t want to be there. Rivers could have decided not to return and opted for retirement, but then Boston wouldn’t get anything in exchange. A ‘trade’ was the Celtics’ best option for the franchise.
June 10, 2013
NBA Finals tied up 1-1: After a close loss at home on Thursday, the Miami Heat rebounded for a 103-84 blowout win in Game 2 over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals on Sunday. The Heat still find themselves without home court advantage, but now have a fighting chance to win the series. Another loss would have put the team in an 0-2 hole facing three straight games in San Antonio under the 2-3-2 Finals format. And against the experienced Spurs, that may have been too big a deficit to overcome.
French Open concludes: Tennis’ French Open wrapped up with a couple of the game’s biggest stars finishing on top. For the men, Rafael Nadal won a record eighth French Open title, defeating David Ferrer this weekend. Nadal won easily in straight sets and his eighth title at the French is the most of any man at any Grand Slam tournament. On the women’s side, Serena Williams won her 2nd French title, also in straight sets, over the defending champ Maria Sharapova. For Williams, it was her 16th major championship.
Major League Baseball/Biogenesis scandal: Major League Baseball is reportedly trying to suspend a group of 20 players linked to the Biogenesis/PED scandal. The alleged list includes some big names such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, and Bartolo Colon. If the suspensions happen, some teams could find themselves in a bind. Players like Nelson Cruz, and Jhonny Peralta are parts of teams (the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, respectively) in playoff races. Because of that, it will be interesting to see what types of moves that clubs make in advance of any potential suspensions.
Coach Jason Kidd?: The recently retired Jason Kidd doesn’t want to spend a season without basketball. ESPN reports that the former point guard is interested in coaching – specifically, he wants the Brooklyn Nets’ job. A few years ago, that may not have been a half bad idea. But the Nets have a lot invested in this team and if I’m GM Billy King, there’s no way I’m taking a call from a player with no coaching experience in college or the pros.
The ‘Average’ Lebron: Dennis Rodman made headlines again when he said LeBron James would be an average player in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The comments were made when comparing James and Michael Jordan. James may not be as great as Jordan, but average? It’s hard to envision the 6’8” freak of nature as just an average player in any era. Rodman made a good point in that the game may not be as physical as it once was, but James does so much more other than score. He’s a tremendous rebounder and passer and there’s no question he would still be a star in that era … or any other, for that matter.
Marc-Andre Fleury to return as Pens’ starter: The Pittsburgh Penguins, Stanley Cup favorites after, were unceremoniously swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. In the process, starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, was replaced by backup Tomas Vokoun who played well in the series. But head coach Dan Bylsma said afterwards that Fleury is a franchise goalie and will return as the team’s No. 1 starter – and that’s probably the right move. Fleury is only 28 years old and helped the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances only a few years ago. And with two years and $10 million left on his current contract, the Pens have little choice but to at least give him another shot if they are against trading him away.
Tommy Rees chosen as Notre Dame starting QB: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly recently lost his starting quarterback Everett Golson to an academic-related suspension. As expected, Kelly announced that he will turn to Tommy Rees as the starter in 2013, per mlive.com. That’s no surprise as he’s the most experienced player of the other options, Andrew Hendrix and newcomer Malik Zaire. The Irish are fortunate to have Rees as few teams have two quarterbacks with as much experience as he and Golson. Instead of turning to an inexperienced backup, Notre Dame has Rees, who started nearly every game in 2011 and has played in 33 career games.
Brett Favre takes blame in parting with Packers: Quarterback Brett Favre accepted some of the blame for his ugly divorce from the Green Bay Packers in a recent radio show interview. That’s good news for the two since Favre will always be recognized as a Packer even though he also played briefly with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. The Packers will want his participation in team-related events for the rest of his life, and it’d be much better if the two sides can reconcile and get along since Favre has been such a big part of the organization.
January 2, 2013
Adrian Peterson barely misses Eric Dickerson’s record: I’ll admit that I was among the doubters not believing that Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson could break Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. But Peterson shocked me (and probably a lot of other people) in rushing for 199 yards, coming much closer than expected. In the end, he fell only nine yards short of the goal and despite the happy face he may put on this week, it’s hard to imagine he’s not at least a bit disappointed. Peterson still should have a few more productive seasons ahead of him, but reaching the rarefied air that he did this year may never happen again. Even if it doesn’t, though, congratulations are in order for an MVP-type season and one of the best ever for a running back. Plus, the win over the Packers gave the Vikings a playoff berth and ultimately, that’s a pretty nice consolation prize for Peterson.
Avery Johnson fired as coach of Nets: The Brooklyn Nets made a fairly surprising move by firing head coach Avery Johnson. Assistant P.J. Carlesimo is leading the way for now, but the franchise also has an eye on Phil Jackson. For Johnson, it was a tale of two months. The former NBA guard had the Nets out to an 11-4 start in November and looking like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. But then came a 3-10 stretch in December and that ultimately cost him his job. Part of the reason for that downfall can be attributed to the loss of star center Brook Lopez, who missed six games due to injury. But with so much talent, more was expected of the team at this point in the season. Johnson should get another opportunity with a different team down the line, though. Before serving as the Nets’ coach, he led the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs in each of his four years with the franchise and also took them to the NBA Finals in 2006.
Hideki Matsui retires: Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui ended his long career by officially announcing his retirement last week. Matsui spent a total of 20 seasons playing Japanese and American baseball and in ten major league seasons, he hit 175 home runs and batted .282 with the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, and Oakland Athletics. Even factoring in his 332 home runs in Japan, Matsui still isn’t a likely Hall of Famer. But he was certainly an above-average major leaguer. Matsui finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2003, was a two-time All-Star, and won a World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
Three Rookie quarterbacks make playoffs: When a rookie quarterback leads a team to the NFL playoffs, it’s a big accomplishment. When three do it in the same year, it’s probably time to call the Mayans for another apocalyptic prediction. That’s what happened this year as the Colts’ Andrew Luck, the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, and the Seahawks‘ Russell Wilson led their franchises to the postseason. The amazing thing is that none were just along for the ride, either. Luck broke the rookie passing record, throwing for more than 4,100 yards this season, while Griffin had the NFL’s second-best passer rating and Wilson tallied 26 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards.
Kevin Ollie named permanent UConn head coach: Ollie, a former player, was named as UConn’s permanent head men’s basketball coach with a reported five-year deal. Following the retirement of Jim Calhoun, Ollie was given the job on a sort of trial run with only a one-year deal. But so far this season, he’s steered the Huskies to a 9-2 record and convinced the administration that he was capable of leading the program. Replacing Calhoun is a tough task and Ollie will have his work cut out for him if he wants to achieve as much as the former coach did. The key here is that the new deal will make things much easier for him on recruiting. Instead of telling prospective players that he hopes to still be on the job next year, he can now virtually assure them that he will.
Brandon Roy hopes to continue comeback bid: Just a few years ago, Brandon Roy was one of the top young guards in the NBA. In his first four seasons with the Portland Trailblazers, Roy averaged nearly 20 points a game and made three All-Star teams. But knee issues forced him to suddenly retire after a disappointing 2010-11 season. Roy made a comeback this year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but is still suffering with the condition and has only appeared in a few games so far this year. Roy has weighed another retirement, but is hoping to get back on the court after dealing with the chronic knee pain. The decision has to be difficult for him. He’s still young enough that he could have several seasons in front of him if the pain can be treated. But at some point, the conditioning day in and day out to be able to play has to be a burden.
December 27, 2011
For years, the Clippers have played second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Clippers were the anti-Lakers, unable to win even after years of stockpiling top draft picks. The team has had a streak of bad luck that would make the Pittsburgh Pirates envious. While the Clippers have yet to prove anything in a season that’s just underway, one thing’s for certain – their luck could be changing.
But, really, it all starts with the Lakers. Ironically, the player which caused the biggest shift in power between these two teams is the same player that was supposed to get the Lakers back to the NBA Finals. The franchise believed it had a deal in place for All-World point guard Chris Paul, but the NBA’s front office surprisingly vetoed the deal, leaving the Lakers to face a stunned Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom – players expected to be moved as part of the trade.
The Lakers have been able to convince Gasol to come back ready to play for them, but Odom was visibly shaken by the trade that almost went down. As a result, the Lakers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for their 2012 first-round draft pick. Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak could have made that move in hopes of dumping salary, to use the pick as part of a deal to acquire Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (we’ll get to that in a bit), or to simply get rid of Odom who was offended by the original would-be trade. But whatever the reason, the Lakers are now weaker than last year’s squad that reached the Western Conference Finals. In addition, trading him to one of the team’s fiercest rivals for the conference title was an ill-advised move.
Odom was never a player that could lead a team to a championship, but without him, it’s hard to see the Lakers winning either of their two most recent titles. Last year, he won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award after averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds per game. That kind of production is going to be hard to replace, but more than that, Odom was a big time player that often produced in the clutch. L.A. essentially traded a key cog to its success in exchange for what isn’t likely to be a very high draft pick.
Of course, if the Lakers are able to negotiate a trade for the aforementioned Howard, that changes things a bit. Howard is likely the league’s best center and pairing him with Kobe Bryant would give the Lakers the best inside outside duo in the NBA. But until that happens, the franchise has egg on its face since they’ve been unable to secure a deal for him up to this point.
Getting back to Paul, though, he is a game-changing player and perhaps the best point guard in the league. After the Lakers were unable to swing a deal for him, the Clippers swooped in and made one of the biggest moves in the franchise’s history. The team put together a package built around star guard Eric Gordon and a 2012 first-round draft pick for him. While Gordon is considered one of the best young shooting guards in the league, trading him for a player of Paul’s caliber can’t be argued. Paul was brought in to not only get the Clippers to the playoffs, but to lead them to a deep run. It’s safe to say that his addition makes that a strong possibility.
The Clippers, though, aren’t a one-man team. Paul is joined by last season’s Rookie of the Year, Blake Griffin, and former All-Stars Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler. They not only have star power, but they have a veteran starting lineup that has plenty of experience.
It’s not as if the Lakers are done, though. They still have one of the game’s best players in Kobe Bryant and with Gasol, center Andrew Bynum, and forward Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), there’s still plenty of talent to get the Lakers to the playoffs. In a seven-game series, I’d still favor them over the Clippers. But with Paul on board, the rivalry has gotten a much-needed jumpstart.
December 23, 2011
Boston at New York
The weekend starts off with Boston traveling to New York to face the team they swept out of the playoffs last year. New York has a bad taste in its mouth from that exit, and has retooled their team a bit since then. The Celtics kept their core group and will look to get off to a quick start to combat some fatigue that could set in down the stretch for their aging group. New York would love to start the season off by avenging their losses last year, but I don’t think they win this one. New teammates mixed with a veteran opponent don’t sound like a good combination. I think Boston capitalizes on early mistakes by New York and start their season with a win.
Miami at Dallas
Forget first round rematches, the second game on the schedule goes right to last year’s NBA Finals. Dallas will still be in celebration mode as they receive their rings and raise the championship banner, and it will only fuel the Heat’s fire having to be there to watch it. Miami knows how costly it can be to get off to a bad start and they will be dialed in from the opening tip. Dallas picked up Vince Carter and Lamar Odom in the offseason, while Miami added defensive specialist Shane Battier. This is a hard game to pick, because Miami’s starters match up well against Dallas, but Dallas has a deeper bench. My gut says Miami takes this game and starts the season off strong.
Chicago at Los Angeles Lakers
Two more teams that shook it up this offseason, Chicago and Los Angeles are both hoping their offseason moves help them get into the Finals. Chicago added SG Richard Hamilton from Detroit, hoping to add another scoring threat to free up PG Derrick Rose. The Lakers traded SF Lamar Odom in a move that could be associated with their efforts to get C Dwight Howard from Orlando. On top of that, Kobe Bryant has a torn ligament in his wrist, which could affect him in the game. Even without Odom, the Lakers frontcourt could be trouble for the Bulls. However, I still think Chicago comes away with this game. Look for a high scoring game that stays close, but Chicago pulls away in the end.
Orlando at Oklahoma City Thunder
Speaking of high scoring, this game should be a shootout. Oklahoma City has a pair of stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that will keep the tempo at a solid pace. While the Thunder had a relatively quiet offseason, Orlando has been all over the trade rumors. Star C Dwight Howard has asked for a trade and while he hasn’t gotten it yet, the thought has to be on the minds of his teammates. Thunder C Kendrick Perkins will have his hands full with Howard, but I think the young backcourt of Oklahoma City will be too much for the Magic. The Thunder get the W in this game.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State
The only game featuring teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year is one of the more anticipated ones. The new look Clippers are the talk of the NBA since they landed Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade. Now, everyone will look to see if Paul and Blake Griffin can lead the Clippers to the playoffs. The Warriors have a young team as well, led by Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. The tempo in this game should make the previous game look like a snail’s pace. Golden State has pushed the ball for years, and with a backcourt of Paul and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers might look to do the same. The Clippers are going to have to adjust, having so many new starters playing together for the first time in the regular season. The Clippers want to make a statement with this game though, and I think they will put on a show and start their season off with a 1-0 record.