February 21, 2013

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NBA Trade Deadline Deals

By: Joe Williams

It happens every year in the NBA. There are a lot of discussions, a lot of rumors, a lot of hype, and not very many deals. At least not the deals that have been getting the headlines for the last few weeks.

Dwight Howard is not going anywhere. Pau Gasol is not going anywhere. Kevin Garnett is not going anywhere. Neither is Josh Smith. Ok, Smith is the one guy who may get moved.

Should the Celtics trade Rondo before the Trade Deadline?

But if it was up to me, just about all of these guys would be changing zip codes. The question is – where should they go?

The Lakers will be taking a huge risk when they don’t trade Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol. Without an injured Gasol, the Lakers are poised to miss the playoffs this season and have no guarantee that Howard will stay in L.A. next year. And even if they convince the big man to re-sign, there is no evidence that he can play nice with Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol. And even if they do all come together…they will all be another year older and didn’t Kobe make headlines already this year saying the team is too old? They need to trade Gasol and go all-in this season or trade Howard and re-load for next season.

If it is all about winning a title, the Atlanta Hawks should give Josh Smith what he wants to stay and then use him to recruit Dwight Howard in the summer.

Howard may not like playing with Kobe, but one would think he would enjoy playing in his hometown of Atlanta with one of his best friends in Smith.

Several teams are after Smith and if he ends up with the Nets, they could challenge Miami in the East.

With Rajon Rondo out for the year, Boston needs to do something. We all thought they were done without Rondo, but the team has gotten hot without him and will give anybody in the East a tough time in the playoffs. Since Kevin Garnett has made it clear he isn’t going to accept a trade, they need to get him some help this year. How many more times can Boston give it one more run with Paul Pierce and Garnett? That’s why I would try to trade Rondo. The Celtics could get help now and future picks for the injured all-star.

Everybody knows the Orlando Magic are looking to unload J.J. Redick. And if the reports on Derrick Rose looking good in practice and being ready to go sometime soon, the Bulls should do this deal. Chicago tried to get him a couple years back and couldn’t. But now they can and if they can add a great shooter and a healthy Rose to a team that is only 2.5 games out of the No. 2 seed in the East, they are legitimate contender.

Other deals:

The Clippers should keep Eric Bledsoe until Chris Paul has re-signed.

The Jazz should keep Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.

The Raptors should trade Andrea Bargnani.

The Bobcats should trade Ben Gordon.

The Heat should trade for anyone who can rebound.

January 15, 2013

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What I Will Remember About 2012 – Part 2

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.

To read part one, click here.

July 23 – Penn State became the first school to receive NCAA sanctions because of criminal matters that did not directly deal with breaking NCAA rules. The penalties included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play, a reduction of scholarships for the next four years and the vacating of all victories from 1998-2011.

July 31 – Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.

July 31 – The Fierce Five, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, won gold at the London Olympic Games.

August 2 – Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around competition.

August 5 – Andy Murray bounces back from losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final to beat Federer and win the gold medal in front of his home country. He broke through again a month later, winning his first major title at the U.S. Open.

Miguel Cabrera winning baseball's Triple Crown is one of the biggest stories of 2012.

August 9 – Usain Bolt made his claim as the greatest sprinter ever by becoming the first man ever to defend his golds in both the 100m and 200m races.

August 9 – Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and the U.S. women’s soccer team won Olympic gold after a controversial semifinal against Canada and then getting revenge against Japan in the final after the shootout that ended the Women’s World Cup in 2011.

August 10 – The “Dwightmare” finally came to an end when Dwight Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers after months and months of indecision about where he wanted to play and who he wanted to play with.

August 12 – Rory McIlroy wins the PGA Championship. He would follow that with two more wins heading into the Tour Championship and cement himself as the top player in the game.

August 15 – Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Rays and the Mariners won 1-0.

September 7 – In the midst of a pennant race and against his wishes, the Washington Nationals shut down their superstar pitcher Stephan Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings. The Nationals would go on to win the NL East and then lose in the NLDS in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

September 15 – The NHL labor dispute officially becomes a lockout.

September 24 – The Replacement refs fiasco came to a head on the final play of the Green Bay/Seattle Monday Night Football game. When the officials turned what sure looked to be an interception and a Green Bay win into a touchdown and a Seattle win, the NFL had no choice to settle the dispute with the regular officials.

September 30 – Team U.S.A. chokes the Ryder Cup away, blowing a 10-6 lead on the final day at Medinah. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter led the charge for Europe while Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk dropped critical 1-Up matches. The comeback almost didn’t happen when Rory McIlroy looked at his tee time in Eastern Time instead of Central time and needed a police escort to arrive at the course with just 10 minutes to spare.

October 3 – Miguel Cabrera goes 0-2 in the Detroit Tigers’ 1-0 win over Kansas City in the regular season finale but still manages to be the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, finishing the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He would be name the American League MVP.

October 10 – New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulls Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS. Raul Ibanez took A-Rod’s place and homered to send the game to extra innings. Ibanez did it again in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees the win.

October 13 – Notre Dame comes up with a goal-line stand, stopping Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor on fourth-and-goal and then survives a controversial replay review to beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime to remain undefeated.

October 13 – The St. Louis Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals and advance to the NLCS.

October 15 – Trailing 24-0 at halftime in San Diego and staring a 2-4 record in the face, the Denver Broncos score 35 unanswered second-half points to beat the Chargers 35-24 and improve to 3-3. They would not lose again in the regular season and finish with the best record in the AFC.

October 25 – Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series on his way to earning the World Series MVP award.

October 28 – The San Francisco Giants completed an improbable run to a second World Series win in two years and did it after trailing 2-0 in a best-of-5 series against Cincinnati and then falling behind 3-1 to St. Louis in the NLCS

November 10 – Texas A&M upsets No. 1 Alabama 29-24, led by its redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. It was a springboard for Manziel as he led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC, a win in the Cotton Bowl and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

November 17 – Undefeated Kansas State and Oregon both go down and lose their shot to play for the BCS National Championship. Baylor beat the Wildcats 52-24 and Stanford knocked off the Ducks 17-14 in overtime.

November 21 – Jack Taylor, guard at Grinnell College (Division III), scored an NCAA-record 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College.

November 22 – Two words…Butt Fumble.

December 1 – Georgia came up five yards short of scoring the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama hung on for a 32-28 win and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

December 8 – Appalachian State’s Brian Okam quickly became known for the worst free throw ever after a video of his miss went viral.

December 16 – Tom Brady leads the Patriots on a furious rally after falling behind 31-3 against the 49ers. After the game was tied at 34, San Francisco retook the lead and won 41-34.

December 30 – Adrian Peterson runs for 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers after already eclipsing 200 yards twice this season, but he came up a mere nine yards short of the single-season rushing record.

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.

July 3, 2012

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NBA Draft Winners & Losers – 2009

By: Joe Williams

The New Orleans Hornets just became championship contenders in 2016. The Houston Rockets crashed and burned in their attempt to trade for Dwight Howard. The Brooklyn Nets screwed up big-time when they traded their pick for Gerald Wallace, who is about to leave as a free agent. At least that’s what all the analysts were saying after last week’s NBA draft. Of course, we all know things will look much different a couple years from now. So let’s go back to 2009 and see who really won and lost on draft night.

Winners

Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers took Blake Griffin with the first pick in the draft. He has become one of the biggest stars in the NBA with his reckless style of play and ferocious dunks and according to reports he has just informed the team that he plans to sign a five-year extension.

Blake Griffin has helped turn around the Los Angeles Clippers franchise.

Oklahoma City Thunder
With the third pick, the Thunder grabbed James Harden. He has turned into the NBA’s best sixth-man and one of the key players for a team that has been to the conference finals and NBA Finals in the last two seasons. Now they have to figure out how to keep him long-term to play alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Other winners

Sacramento KingsTyreke Evans

Golden State WarriorsStephen Curry

Milwaukee BucksBrandon Jennings

Philadelphia 76ersJrue Holiday

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Losers

Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies had two first round picks and walked away with Hasheem Thabeet as the second pick in the draft and DeMarre Carroll at No. 27. Both players were sent down to the NBA Developmental League and eventually traded to Houston. Memphis has still managed to become one of the better teams in the league but it didn’t happen on draft night in 2009.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Nobody made more picks than the T-Wolves. With six picks they came up with a point guard who didn’t join the team until 2011 and then tore his ACL (Ricky Rubio), a point guard who had a promising rookie campaign but has only started nine games since and is now on his third team (Jonny Flynn),  a point guard (noticing a pattern here?) that was traded to Denver for a future draft pick (Ty Lawson), a guard who has started just 12 games and averages six points a game (Wayne Ellington),  a guard who was traded to Dallas and has never played in the NBA (Nick Calathes), and a forward (apparently there were no more guards on the board) who has never played in the NBA.

Other losers

Orlando Magic – No picks

Houston  Rockets – No picks

June 4, 2012

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Will Phil Jackson Return To Coaching?

By: Anson Whaley

It would have been the perfect ending. Phil Jackson was supposed to guide the Los Angeles Lakers to another three-peat and with that, would have ridden off into the sunset with a tidy 12 World Championships – all of the back-to-back-to-back variety. Things didn’t exactly work out as the Dallas Mavericks went on to win the title last season and Jackson was forced to settle for ‘only’ 11 rings.

Could we see Kobe Bryant reunited with Phil Jackson in the future?

That was supposed to be it for the Zen Master, but apparently, Jackson may be getting the itch to get back into the NBA again. The most recent example of this was his recent flirtation with the Orlando Magic for a front-office job. He eventually pulled his name out of the running, but the fact that he was even mentioned as a strong candidate means he may not be done with the league … or coaching. His girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, added fuel to the fire last week saying that Phil’s not doing all that well coping with retirement.

So with that said, would he consider a return to the NBA?

For starters, while Jackson’s primary motivator may not be money, it’s always a big priority. Any team that wants his services will have to make sure he’s well paid. Another factor for Jackson is that the chances are slim of him coaching a rebuilding team. If he’s going to go through the trouble of traveling with some aches and pains (in addition to hip issues, he also just underwent knee surgery), it’s not going to be with a team stacked with rookies trying to find its way. Once you’ve coached MJ and the Mamba, it’s pretty hard to settle for a young or struggling roster.

There aren’t many contending teams looking for new coaches, but one jumps to mind – the Los Angeles Lakers. If Jackson is evaluating his options, would he indeed consider a return to the Lakers?

Los Angeles hired Mike Brown and suffered a second-round exit this season despite having a talented team. What’s more, the Lakers barely got out of the first round, going seven games with the Denver Nuggets. One thing to remember is that the franchise hired Brown without consulting their star – Kobe Bryant. Kobe appeared to get along with Brown this season, but he’s made it clear that playing for Jackson has always been his preference in the past.

Most intriguing is the fact that the Lakers underwent a similar scenario in 2004. When Jackson retired at the end of 2003-04, Los Angeles struggled under head coaches Rudy Tomjanovich and Frank Hamblen. The result? Jackson returned the following season. The Lakers floundered a bit upon his return, but later went on to win two more titles under the head coach.

Personally, I don’t expect the Lakers to bring Jackson back next season. First, I’m not thoroughly convinced he’s sure he wants to return. Missing the league and camaraderie is one thing, but the NBA season is a long and taxing one. At Phil’s age, he may decide he’s had enough. The Lakers also would need to not only pay Phil handsomely (something the two sides have butted heads about a bit in the past), but also need to fork over several millions of dollars to Mike Brown for a few more seasons. For an organization that’s been trying to save money, it’s hard to envision such a scenario.

In the end, Jackson coming back to the Lakers seems like a great story. Given the long-term relationship between the franchise and the coach, I’d even say it’s possible. Still, don’t expect it to happen this season. Jackson returning to another team is an entirely different story, though. If another contender (say the Miami Heat if they’re unable to win it all this season) steps up with some money and Jackson feels his health will hold up, a return to the NBA could be just around the corner.