April 2, 2014
Finally, the playoffs are almost here. With only about seven games left for each team, we can start to see who will face off when the championship run begins. A lot can change between now and then, but here’s what I hope to see come playoff time. We’ll start in the East:
1 Indiana Pacers vs 8 New York Knicks
All season, it has been almost a given that we would get Pacers-Heat III in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now it’s not looking like a sure thing. The Pacers are in a big-time slump and the Knicks have suddenly got it going and are just a game out of the last playoff spot. The Pacers against a red-hot Knicks team would be much more interesting that the Pacers taking on a faltering Atlanta Hawks squad.
2 Miami Heat vs 7 Charlotte Bobcats
Unfortunately, this is as close as we will get to Lebron James vs Michael Jordan. I hope we see it happen. Miami swept the regular season meetings 4-0, but one game was decided by just one point and another went to overtime. If Dwayne Wade isn’t at full strength, Al Jefferson and the Bobcats could give the Heat a first-round battle. Maybe MJ will even decide to suit up.
3 Chicago Bulls vs 6 Washington Wizards
It will be nice to see a up-and-coming team take on a veteran club that just keeps winning no matter who they have dressed in street clothes. It could be a bad match-up for the Bulls (they are 0-2 against the Wizards this season), but I think their experience will be a big advantage. And if the Bulls can grab the three seed, that could set up another “Chicago Street Fight” with the Heat in round two.
4 Toronto Raptors vs 5 Brooklyn Nets
So that leaves us with another team looking to finally get a taste of playoff action against a team full of players that are used to playing in multiple playoff series every year. Do the old guys in Brooklyn have one more run left? Or will the Raptors be a newcomer making some noise?
As for the West:
1 San Antonio Spurs vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies
Any chance history could repeat itself? Three years ago the eight-seeded Grizzlies made history and took down the top-seeded Spurs. Both rosters have a lot of the same players. After struggling early in the season, the Grizzlies have become one of the hottest teams in the West and the Spurs are currently riding an 18-game win streak.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 7 Dallas Mavericks
The Thunder are one of the favorites to win the title. Kevin Durant is the favorite to win the MVP award. That usually means a fairly easy win in the first round. Maybe not this year though. The Mavs have beaten the Thunder twice in the last couple weeks. Let’s see if they can beat them again when it really counts.
3. L.A. Clippers vs 6 Golden State Warriors
I love rivalries. A playoff series between the Clippers and Warriors could lead to a great one for the next few years. These teams already have the building blocks in place after beginning the season with feisty affair that led to the teams refusing to attend chapel together and Blake Griffin calling the Warriors cowardly when they met in December. This series needs to happen.
4. Houston Rockets vs 5 Portland Trailblazers
Dwight Howard vs LaMarcus Aldridge. Damian Lillard vs James Harden. Neither teams feels the need to play defense. In their four meetings this season, each team scored at least 111 three times. At the time of year when the game slows down and defense is at a premium, a series like this will be a nice change of pace.
October 29, 2013
The 2013-14 NBA season begins tonight when the Pacers host the Magic, the Bulls visit the Heat and the Lakers and Clippers battle for bragging rights in LA. Will Miami win a third straight title? Can Derrick Rose return to being Derrick Rose? How many teams will be tanking for a better spot in next summer’s draft? I’m going with NO, YES, and 7. What else might happen?
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will get the most attention…but not for their play on the court. We won’t get to celebrate Christmas without first hearing a constant barrage of trade rumors and free agency speculation surrounding them both.
Dwight Howard will feel left out and mention to reporters that he’s not sure he should have picked Houston. He goes on to say that James Harden’s beard is a distraction for the team and tells Jeremy Lin to feed him the ball more often.
Jason Collins will eventually be picked up. A Tebow style circus will follow that team for the rest of the year.
On more than one occasion, Michael Jordan will say that he’s still good enough to start for the Bobcats. After checking the standings in the Southeast division, nobody will argue with him.
With their eye on the first pick in the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers coaching staff asks everyone on the roster to do the same saying that they will be unguardable by 2015 if they make the change now.
Kobe Bryant makes his season debut on Christmas when the Lakers host LeBron James and the Miami Heat. He will help the Lakers win games, but won’t be the superstar we are used to seeing until the regular season is nearly over.
David Stern will once again fine Mark Cuban. But this time it will be for flopping after Cuban drops to the ground (on the sidelines) in disbelief of a foul call that costs his Mavericks a win.
The NBA will announce drastic changes to the All-Star Weekend. This will be the final season of the slam dunk contest.
The media will tell us that Kevin Durant and Dwayne Wade have an intense rivalry over Durant’s comments that James Harden is better than Dwayne Wade. It will never play out on the court. The same can’t be said for Miami and Brooklyn. Those games will be heated and lead to the suspensions of multiple players.
Divison winners: Atlantic-Brooklyn Nets, Central-Chicago Bulls, Southeast-Miami Heat, Pacific-Golden State Warriors, Southwest-Houston Rockets, Northwest-Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant wins his first MVP award.
Oklahoma City wins the NBA title.
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 15, 2013
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.
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.
January 22, 2013
San Francisco 49ers to meet Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl: The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens advanced to the Super Bowl after wins over the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, respectively. Both teams have played well this season, but it is a bit interesting that each road team won since home field advantage is so important. The game now sets up, of course, the Harbaugh Bowl as 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh will square off against his brother John, the coach of the Ravens. Be prepared to hear this particular angle played out ad nauseam over the next two weeks.
Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Earl Weaver pass away: Baseball lost two Hall of Famers last week when Stan Musial and Earl Weaver both passed away. At 82, Weaver died while on a cruise (a cause of death wasn’t immediately known). He went to four World Series and won one in 1970. Musial also died over the weekend at his home at the age of 92. Stan the Man was a Hall of Famer, but you could actually argue that he was a bit underrated when it came to his pecking order on the list of the sport’s all-time best players. Often overlooked for flashier names, Musial won three MVP awards, three World Series and racked up more than 3,600 hits and nearly 500 home runs. He wasn’t just a Hall of Famer or the face of a franchise, but an absolute icon.
Lance Armstrong confesses to doping: In an interview with Oprah last week, Lance Armstrong finally confessed to what many had accused him of over his career – doping during his races. Regardless of what you think about Armstrong, it was a sad day for cycling. The number of clean cyclists decreased by one and Armstrong was the biggest name in the history of the sport. The fact that he cheated isn’t what likely has most steaming – some fans could forgive him for that. Armstrong’s biggest problem is that he was so adamant about not cheating for such a long time.
Manti Te’o involved in girlfriend hoax … or not: Ever since the regular season ended, Manti Te’o has had a rough time of things. His Notre Dame team was rolled up by Alabama in the BCS Championship and he didn’t have a strong game. But last week, things got markedly more embarrassing for the star linebacker as he was involved in a strange situation. By now you’ve likely seen the report, but the gist of the story is that Te’o either made up a story about a girlfriend dying or was the victim of a hoax. We may never know the true story, but one thing’s for certain – Manti’s draft status is sinking like a rock. Some team will take a chance on him, but with a poor national championship game and girlfriend-gate, his stock is falling.
NBA All-Star starters named: The NBA’s starters for the All-Star game were named and Kobe Bryant was voted as one for the 15th straight time – a league record. If you needed any more proof that a handful of teams dominate the fans’ consciousness, look no farther than the two rosters. Four of the league’s premier teams, the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, and Boston Celtics each had two players. Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks and Kevin Durant of the Thunder were the other two players to make it. As far as snubs go, Paul Pierce or Chris Bosh probably deserved to start ahead of Kevin Garnett. But all in all, the fans did a reasonably good job.
The NHL is back: The NHL got underway with a slate of games over the weekend. The highlight was seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, two favorites to reach the Stanley Cup finals, square off on Opening Day. It wasn’t the crispest of games and the play was a bit sloppy, but the players will quickly round into shape. The important thing is that with the football season winding down, hockey is getting underway just in time to give sports fans another option.
Mayor injures himself before Ray Lewis dance (seriously): Denver mayor Michael Hancock, having lost a bet to Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, had to pay up. After the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the Denver Broncos, Hancock was forced to do Ray Lewis’ famed warm-up dance. An original report stated that he injured himself actually practicing for the performance. Later, it was reported that he injured himself at a western stock show of all places. Either way, the mayoral bets are a bit ridiculous and we’d all be better off if they just went away. But as for the origins of the injury (which, by the way, is so severe that Hancock can’t actually perform the dance to pay off the bet), I’m going with the first report – it just makes for a better story.
No. 1 Louisville dethroned: For the second time in as many weeks, we’ll have a new No. 1 in college basketball after the Louisville Cardinals were upset by Syracuse on Saturday, 70-68. Duke is once again the #1 team in men’s college basketball. The bigger question is for how long?