April 15, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Adam Scott wins first Masters in dramatic fashion: Golf’s biggest event was front and center this weekend and there were plenty of theatrics. First, there was 14-year old Tianlang Guan taking the world by storm by not only making the cut, but finishing as the youngest low amateur in the history of the tournament. Then, there was Tiger-gate, when Tiger Woods took an illegal drop that caused many to question if he should remain in the event. Finally, Adam Scott walked away with his first ever Masters win after defeating Angel Cabrera in a playoff with a birdie on the second hole. Say what you will about golf, but there are few things in the world of sports that can compare to Sunday at the Masters.

How far can the Lakers go without Kobe Bryant?

Kobe Bryant tears Achilles tendon – out for season: The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled all season with a star-studded lineup, but they may have been dealt a death blow last week. Star guard Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of this season. So how did the Lakers respond to losing their best player? By promptly beating what could be the best team in the Western Conference – the San Antonio Spurs. Los Angeles’ win on Sunday proved there is still life within the team. While the backcourt is in shambles (especially with Steve Nash who has missed several games), the frontcourt can still be one of the best in the league with center Dwight Howard and forwards Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, and Antawn Jamison. The Lakers may have a more difficult time keeping up with the younger Oklahoma City Thunder, but you’ve got to give them a fighting chance against the Spurs if they meet in the playoffs.

Louisville defeated Michigan for the NCAA championship: A week later and it seems like old news by now, but the Louisville Cardinals won their first title under Rick Pitino with an 82-76 win over the Michigan Wolverines last Monday. Pitino became the first coach to win NCAA championships with two different teams. The Cardinals went on a tear late in the season and became the trendy pick to win the title. Nearly as important as winning the championship was that they allowed folks like me to finish respectably in their bracket pools despite a plethora of other questionable picks.

Jeff Garcia to New York Jets – ditch Tim Tebow: Former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia had some interesting comments about young quarterback Tim Tebow in a USA Today interview. Speaking about Tebow, Garcia said he just brings distraction and that having him on the Jets doesn’t add anything positive. He then went on to say that starting quarterback Mark Sanchez’ main competition will come from aging veteran David Garrard or little-used Greg McElroy. I won’t totally disagree with Garcia that Tebow is a major distraction, but I’m not so sure he still can’t contribute to the team if used effectively. I’m not of the opinion that he’s an ideal starting quarterback, but there are certain packages where he can be used infrequently and make plays with his legs. Is that more valuable than what Garrard or McElroy can add? Unless one of them unseats Sanchez or plays considerably as a backup, I’d say yes.

Wrigley Field to get updated look: The Chicago Cubs announced that historic Wrigley Field will get some upgrades as part of a $500 million renovation. That will include the Field’s first electronic video board. Typically I hate stuff like this, but sometimes upgrades are needed to remain competitive. And as long as there’s no plan to make sweeping changes to one of the most recognizable stadiums in baseball, it’s hard to complain too loudly.

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.

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 2, 2012

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NBA Draft Surprises

By: Anson Whaley

The NBA Draft was held on Thursday and it was a fairly standard affair. That said, there were a few surprises from the evening that were notable.

Lack of Star Trades – With big names out there on the trading block, it almost seemed expected that an All-Star would be dealt. But Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and a few others all stayed put. Other than the trade deadline when teams are looking to improve their playoff position or dump salary, the draft is the premier time to make moves. Teams can package picks along with players to acquire a star while others can rebuild with addition draft selections. This wasn’t the case on Thursday, though, as it was a relatively quiet night in terms of trades.

With NBA stars like Dwight Howard thought to be on the trading block, the lack of blockbuster trades on draft night was surprising.

The fall of Perry Jones – Jones didn’t put up gigantic numbers for Baylor this season, but was still projected to go as high as a late lottery pick. Instead, he nearly fell out of the first round, sliding all the way to No. 28 when he was mercifully picked up by the Oklahoma City Thunder. There have been questions about Jones’ energy level and the health of one of his knees, but even taking those things into consideration, it was hard to envision him falling so far. Adding insult to injury is that Jones almost assuredly would have been a lottery pick had he left school last season. When it comes to poor draft decisions, the cautionary tales are generally about players coming out too early. But as the case of Jones proved, staying in school can actually hurt players as well.

Things go New Orleans’ way – Several mock drafts had the New Orleans Hornets landing both Kentucky standout Anthony Davis and Duke star Austin Rivers with the No. 1 and No. 10 picks respectively. With the top pick, they controlled their own destiny when it came to landing Davis. But on a night when so many things can go awry, to actually land Rivers at No. 10 was about as good as the Hornets could have hoped for. If everything works out, New Orleans has effectively rebuilt their franchise in one night with their point guard and center of the future. It’s one thing to predict how a draft will turn out ahead of time, but things often don’t work out that way. In the Hornets’ case, though, things worked out just the way they wanted.

Mo Harkless becomes Maurice Harkless – Seriously, when did this happen?

West Virginia’s Kevin Jones not selected – There are always snubs in any draft and this one was no exception. You can take your pick when it comes to players that were projected to be scooped up – Iona’s Scott Machado and Texas’ J’Covan Brown are a couple that come to mind. But I’ll go with West Virginia’s Kevin Jones as the biggest surprise. Jones was believed to be a shoo-in to be drafted and his agent said earlier in the week that he even had a guarantee from a team in the first round that promised to select him if he fell to them. Not only did that not come to pass, but Jones wasn’t even taken in the second round. He was perhaps the best player in the Big East this past season and had to be a bit surprised when he didn’t hear his name called.

Teams Forget Dion Waiters and Miles Plumlee are Dion Waiters and Miles Plumlee – Perry Jones was an example of a player who slipped farther than expected, but things couldn’t have worked out better for Waiters and Plumlee. Both were taken ahead of most projections and the picks raised more than a few eyebrows. Each is a serviceable player, but Waiters (drafted No. 4 overall) couldn’t even crack his own team’s starting rotation. Plumlee, who went No. 26 overall, also was taken a bit earlier than expected despite modest numbers of approximately seven points and seven rebounds per contest as a college senior. Both players probably fared better than they imagined.

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.