December 30, 2013
NFL Playoffs: The NFL Playoffs will begin next weekend and the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos have both clinched home field advantage throughout in their respective conferences. Both teams are the likely favorites but neither can really be considered invincible. Even though each has lost only a single game at home all year, anything can happen in a one-game situation. Still, if I’m picking two teams to reach the Super Bowl, it’s Seattle and Denver.
Bill O’Brien/Texans Talk Contract: The Houston Texans have had a dismal season and have already fired head coach Gary Kubiak. Next up for the franchise could be Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. On Saturday, news broke that the two sides were already discussing a contract and if he leaves the school, it would be yet another blow to the Nittany Lions. With the program reeling a few seasons ago from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, O’Brien rescued Penn State to a degree and put together a couple of decent seasons. The school is still on probation for a couple of more years, but he has them headed in the right direction. The one thing in Penn State’s favor, however, is that the program is in far better shape than it was when O’Brien took over. There’s still work to be done, but landing a qualified head coach shouldn’t be too taxing this time around since Penn State is in a better situation.
LeBron James and Serena Williams AP Athletes of the Year: NBA star LeBron James and tennis great Serena Williams were named the Male and Female Athletes of the Year by the Associated Press for 2013. Both were clearly deserving as James helped his team to their second consecutive Finals win and Williams won 11 titles, including two majors this year.
Paul Blair Dies: Former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Paul Blair collapsed at a celebrity bowling event and died last week – he was 69. Blair played in six World Series, winning four of them with the O’s and New York Yankees. He was a reasonable hitter, but more known for his defense as he won eight Gold Gloves as a centerfielder. Blair batted .250 and hit 134 home runs over his career, and was a two-time All-Star.
Andrew Bynum on way out in Cleveland: Just two years ago, Andrew Bynum was fresh off his best year in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. But after a trade to Philadelphia as part of a four-team deal that involved Dwight Howard, his career has taken a nosedive. Bynum missed all of the 2012-13 season and then signed with Cleveland this year, where he’s struggled to be a consistent player. So far this year, he had been averaging less than half of the points and rebounds he was in that final year in L.A. and on Saturday, the Cavs suspended him indefinitely for unknown reasons. It’s looking more and more like Bynum will soon be on the open market as the team may simply release him. At only 26, Bynum still has time to turn his career around if he wants to, but right now he’s a far cry from the player he was with the Lakers.
Soccer is fun: Hey look – a Turkish League soccer player managed to miss a goal despite being only few feet away and having an open net. No, really.
Russell Westbrook is Injured. Again.: Sadly, the Oklahoma City Thunder know this tune. Similar to the Derrick Rose symphony, this one ends in predictable disaster. The Thunder have again lost guard Russell Westbrook to a knee injury and he’ll reportedly be out through the All-Star break after having surgery. At this point, OKC just can’t catch a break. They’ve got Kevin Durant, one of the league’s best players and with Westbrook, the team is clearly a contender for the title. Without him, though, as we saw in last year’s playoffs, they probably can’t even win the Western Conference. The good news is that the Thunder should get him back in plenty of time for the playoffs. The bad news? He’s got an injury history longer than the list of teams with losing records in the Eastern Conference. If you’re Oklahoma City, you just can’t feel good about him being healthy for the postseason.
Nnamdi Asomugha retires: In 2011, Nnamdi Asomugha was one of the top cover cornerbacks in the NFL and had just signed a five year, $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. A little more than two years later and the three-time Pro Bowler has officially announced his retirement. Asomugha’s decline is the perfect example of how quickly skills can diminish when playing in the NFL. The Eagles cut him, finding him to be a liability after two years, and he failed to stick with the San Francisco 49ers, playing in only a few games this year.
June 25, 2013
Alright Miami, that’s enough celebrating. It’s time to start getting ready for next season…starting with Thursday’s draft. Many of the league experts are saying that this draft class is pretty weak and there aren’t any franchise altering players available. Maybe not. But some teams will get better. I just hope it’s mine.
The Cavs must improve their defense if they are to make the playoffs next season. At 7-1 and 255lbs, Len will help clog up the middle and improve their rebounding as well. Unless of course the Cavs are able to pull off the trade that has been rumored since they won the lottery.
What do you do when you need help at every position? Take whoever you think has the best shot to become a star.
Porter fits the biggest hole on the roster and should be a good fit to play with John Wall.
After having the most balls in the draft lottery, the Bobcats dropped to the fourth pick but they still get Noel – they guy they would have picked at No. 1.
Oladipo will be a solid all-around player for Phoenix, especially defensively, where the Suns have been awful.
I still can’t wrap my head around the switch to the Pelicans. I don’t like it. Maybe Bennett will like it. Pelicans? Really? Really?
Burke is probably my favorite player in this draft. The Kings get a steal here.
Here’s another guy I really like. Detroit looks to be set inside with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond so they go with a guard who will be able to score.
10. Portland Trail Blazers – Cody Zeller, PF, Indiana
LaMarcus Aldridge needs some help inside. Aldridge gets what he wants.
Why not? Muhammad is one of those guys who could go just about anywhere in this draft. He is a risk/reward pick and the Sixers take a shot.
What the Thunder really need is a fully healed Russell Westbrook, so they take the best player available to give Westbrook some assistance.
Everyone knows the Mavs are looking to use this pick to acquire more cap space. We’ll say they draft pick Olynky and ship him somewhere.
Both of Utah’s starting guards are free agents. Larkin fills one of those holes.
15. Milwaukee Bucks – Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
There are countless ways this roster could wind up by the time the season starts. Assuming Kevin Garnett isn’t back, the Celtics will need a big defender.
17. Atlanta Hawks – Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece
I’m not going to pretend like I know much about foreign players, but from what I’ve read it seems like the Hawks are interested.
18. Atlanta Hawks – Allen Crabbe, SG, California
You can never have too many shooters and the Hawks are getting one here.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers – Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
In a couple years Adams and Len could be a force inside for Cleveland. But the Cavs could use this pick in a trade for a veteran player to help them win now.
20. Chicago Bulls – Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
The Bulls should have a healthy Derrick Rose back and someone like Hardaway could provide some scoring to make Rose’s life easier.
21. Utah Jazz – Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
22. Brooklyn Nets – Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Another big man behind Brook Lopez.
23. Indiana Pacers – Rudy Gobert, C, France
After giving the Heat all they wanted in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers should look to add depth to an already strong roster.
With Jason Kidd moving on to the coaching ranks, the Knicks get a lot younger in the backcourt.
The only thing the Clippers should worry about is getting Chris Paul back. If that doesn’t happen Canaan will take his place.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves – Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
Andrei Kirilenko may leave so they replace a Russian with a Russian.
27. Denver Nuggets – Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
A big man who can run and block shots would fit right in with the high-tempo Nuggets.
This could be the guy to replace Manu Ginobili.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Ricky Ledo, SG, Providence
Here’s an inexperienced kid that would be able to develop behind a solid roster.
30. Phoenix Suns – Mike Muscala, C, Bucknell
The Suns walk away from the first round with help in the front and back courts.
April 29, 2013
NFL Draft: The popular NFL Draft was held over the weekend and it was, as usual, a big attraction. The true popularity of the league was on display as millions and millions tuned in over the three-day event. The NFL not only has the most popular on-field product in American sports, but has managed to nearly turn its draft into a national holiday. One of the big surprises was West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith falling to the second round. Smith, once considered a potential No. 1 overall pick fell and fell … and fell. But when it was all said and done, he landed in a pretty good spot with the New York Jets. Starter Mark Sanchez has fallen out of favor for a couple of years now and backup Tim Tebow is rumored to be released. Smith should have a chance to not only play in 2013, but win the starting job.
Russell Westbrook out for NBA Playoffs: The Oklahoma City Thunder caught an unbelievably tough break when starting guard Russell Westbrook went down with an injury in Game 2. He suffered a tear in his knee and will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on Saturday. Westbrook is often the subject of criticism for his questionable shot selection, but he still averages 23 points a game. And his seven assists and five rebounds per game make him one of the more complete point guards in the league. Once considered a team that could knock off the Miami Heat for their first NBA title, I’m not even sure OKC makes it out of the western conference now.
College football sets playoff system: College football and the BCS announced their plan for the new playoff system set to begin in 2015. Six bowl games will rotate sharing semifinal games – The Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Chick-fil-A, and Cotton. Each year, two of those bowls will host the semifinal games while the other four will hold significant BCS-type games. The first title game in 2015 will be held in Cowboys Stadium. The real winner in all of this? The fans. Not only will there be a four-team playoff, but there will be two additional big time games. Currently, there are the four major bowl games and the BCS Championship. But now, there will be a total of seven major matchups. And in addition, the two semifinal games and the remaining four contests will be held during New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Two tripleheaders over the holiday should give you plenty of reasons not to leave your couch.
Rick Pitino gets tattoo: Yes, this is real news … just go with it. Rick Pitino promised his Louisville Cardinals team he’d man up and get a tattoo if they could win the National Championship. That happened and Pitino didn’t back down. Here’s a picture of it. Not great, but not horrible, I suppose. And props to the coach for not going with a small one-inch tattoo on his ankle or something.
Aaron Rodgers signs new deal with Green Bay Packers: In a move that could keep their star quarterback in a Packers’ uniform for the rest of his career, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension to remain with the franchise. If he plays out that contract, he would remain in Green Bay for the next seven seasons, through 2019. That would keep him in a Packers jersey until he’s 38. He could play longer, of course, but if nothing else, the bulk of his playing career should be in Green Bay.
UNLV plans Jerry Tarkanian statue: The Las Vegas Sun reported that UNLV is planning a statue for former head basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian. Tarkanian, recently elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and the school have been on the outs for a while with the relationship mending a bit in recent years. And the coach had long been targeted by the NCAA for a variety of issues involving his teams. But wherever you come out on Tark, the one thing that can’t be debated is his ability as a head coach. He won more than 80% of his games and led UNLV to the 1990 National Championship.
June 16, 2011
Alas, one of the better NBA seasons in recent memory has come to an exciting end. The Dallas Mavericks took the crown as unlikely champions, overpowering the surprisingly ineffective big three of the Miami Heat. Much has been said about each team since the series ended Sunday, positive and negative – who came through, who didn’t, potential offseason roster move – all a strong precursor to another summer of rumors and mayhem for the NBA. Here’s what I’m watching.
What Will the Champs Do?
The Dallas Mavericks, who used their deep bench to push past the Heat in the NBA finals, have a lot of important players up for free agency. Most notably is America’s new sub six foot hero, J.J. Barea, who provided a scoring spark off the bench and eventually, as a starter. Tyson Chandler, the rugged, dirty work center is also free to go as he pleases. Outspoken owner Mark Cuban, for which money has never been an issue with his players, has stated he will resign the two. But will that be enough to seriously contend next year? Rumors are swirling about a play for 2012 free agents Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Derron Williams… but these are considered long shots… nothing more than entertainment until the next season begins.
Can Miami Add Another Piece?
Maybe the question should be, do they need another piece? The big three, although the NBA finals didn’t go as well as they hoped, began to mold together toward the end of the season. Another season together, with a healthy Udonis Haslem, may be all they need. But it won’t shock me to see Pat Riley try to pull off some moves, so look for them to upgrade their front court and perimeter shooters. They don’t have a lot of pieces to give back in a trade, but you never know – if you would have told me a year ago LeBron James and Chris Bosh would join Dwayne Wade in Miami, I would have laughed in your face, simultaneously making a fool out of myself.
What About the Rising Two
The Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder made strong strides to become arguably two of the top four teams in the league. Carried on the shoulders of their young stars in Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant respectively, fans are looking for each team to make the leap to the NBA finals next season. Will these two young teams wait for their talent to grow internally and hope that’s enough, or will they go after a free agent or seek an impact trade?
The Bulls need to upgrade the shooting guard position, so look for them to package some of their younger players for a capable scorer. They were also exposed by LeBron James, who shut down Rose in the conference finals, as a one trick pony on offense. The upgrade at the two would help, but more production out of the frontcourt – in some manner – would help, as well.
The Thunder have a stronger core of young talent than the Bulls. If Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka can continue to development at this pace, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. But General Manager Sam Presti is one of the savviest front office men in the league, and I expect him to do something. Whether it is obviously impactful this year, or next, is another question.
Although the 2011 draft class is less stellar than many in years past, the excitement surrounding the potential of these college kids and international players still exists. As a Cleveland fan, I’m especially interested in what the Cavs do with the first and fourth pick. Duke point guard Kyrie Irving will be the first pick, barring a severe change of mind, but the fourth is a question. They may trade up for Minnesota’s pick to take Derrick Williams with the second pick. They may trade down for the Piston’s eight pick. Who knows.
I’ve avoided this word for the latter part of the season. It’s sad. It’s depressing. I just want basketball to come back in November. So instead of monitoring the daily updates regarding the collective bargaining agreement, I’m going to wait until the contract is actually signed to figure out the implications. I’m already lost now that the season is over; I don’t want to think I’ll still be lost in November.
May 31, 2011
Five years ago, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks led the series 2-0 and Game 3 by 13 with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter. That’s when Dwyane Wade took over the series and led the Heat to four straight wins.
If it was a movie script, the Mavericks would exorcise their 2006 finals collapse demons and defeat the villainous bully that looks unstoppable. Rocky did it multiple times. Hickory won the state championship in Hoosiers. However, in the real world, we don’t always get that storybook ending. John Elway finally got his Super Bowl ring. Greg Norman never got his Green Jacket.
In this case, I believe the Mavericks will have that happy ending.
Dirk Nowitzki is a man on a mission. He knows this could be his last good chance at an NBA championship. He has been the MVP of the playoffs so far. But Miami does have LeBron James. He left Cleveland to win “not four, not five, not six…..” titles. If he is going to get to title number eight, he’s got to win the first one. These two great players cancel each other out.
In 2006 if you happened to be flipping through the channels and stopped on any of the last four games of the NBA Finals, chances are you saw Dwayne Wade at the free throw line. He scored 42, 36, 43 and 36 in those four games. Don’t expect that constant parade to the line this time around. Perhaps more than any other, that series comes up in the discussion of outcomes affected by the officials. The powers that be don’t like that. They will make sure it doesn’t happen again. And this time Dallas has DeShawn Stevenson. In two meetings during the regular season, Stevenson held Wade to just two points in 30 minutes. Dallas will need Stevenson on the floor as much as possible because when he was on the bench Wade scored 42 points in 50 minutes.
Dallas has the advantage at the center position as well. Tyson Chandler has been a big part of the Mavericks’ improvement this year. He’s added defense and a toughness in the paint that they have lacked in the past. The matchup with Joel Anthony is probably a push defensively, but Chandler adds more offensively than Anthony.
Neither NBA team has an explosive point guard like Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, but Dallas does have a future hall-of-famer in Jason Kidd. Kidd is no longer the superstar he was earlier in his career but he has improved his shooting and has been playing great defense. He’s got a ton of experience and usually makes the right play. Bibby has led a team deep into the playoffs before as well but he hasn’t done much since coming to Miami.
Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic come off the Mavs bench and can score in bunches. Brendan Haywood is a quality big man. This group is more explosive and consistent than the Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and James Jones group of Miami reserves.
The Heat have two of the best players in the league who are headed to the Hall of Fame. They also have a third all-star in Chris Bosh. The Mavericks have one superstar and a group of veterans with playoff experience that is better and deeper than the rest of the Miami roster. The Heat have more talent. Dallas is a better team. And if it comes down to coaching, I’ll take Rick Carlisle over Coach Spo.
Prediction: Dallas in 6.