June 17, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Justin Rose wins U.S. Open: Justin Rose capped off a spectacular Sunday of golf winning the U.S. Open (+1) for his first major championship. He became the first British golfer to win the title since 1970 when Tony Jacklin did it. Just as big of a story was Phil Mickelson finishing as the bridesmaid yet again, as he finished in a tie for second at +3 with Jason Day. Mickelson’s eighth 2nd place finish ties him with Sam Snead, Greg Norman, and Tom Watson for the third most runner-ups in majors history. Jack Nicklaus leads the way in that category with 19.

Alex Ovechkin was the winner of this year's Hart Trophy over the weekend.

San Antonio Spurs take 3-2 series lead over Miami Heat: The San Antonio Spurs took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat by way of their Game 5 win on Sunday night. That puts the Spurs in position to win a fifth ring for future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan … but it won’t be easy. San Antonio still needs to win one out of two games in Miami and the Heat just don’t lose very much at home. And with an NBA title on the line, you can bet the fans won’t be easy on the road team.

Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins tied 1-1 in Stanley Cup Finals: The NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals are tied at a game apiece with two exciting contests thus far. Andrew Shaw scored a goal in the third overtime of the Game 1 thriller to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win. The Bruins won Game 2 in overtime behind Daniel Paille’s third goal. Even if you’re not a good hockey fan, two overtime games already should make you want to watch the rest of the series.

Chad Ochocinco Johnson heads to jail: Chad Johnson caught a break in his no-contest plea to battery charges against his then-wife when a court was ready to give him a community service/counseling deal to avoid jail time. But when Johnson smacked the butt of his attorney at excitement over the deal … well, let’s just say the judge wasn’t impressed. Judge Kathleen McHugh told Johnson it wasn’t a joke and promptly rejected his plea deal, sentencing him to 30 days in jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Seriously, though – what was Johnson thinking? I can understand being happy at the prospect of not heading to the clink, but he clearly should have showed a bit more restraint until he got out of the court.

Alex Ovechkin wins Hart Trophy: The Washington CapitalsAlex Ovechkin took home his third Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP over the weekend. The winger is only the eighth player in league history to win that many. Other players such as John Tavares and Sidney Crosby were also deserving, but Ovechin led the league with 32 goals and did so in a season where he moved to wing.

Tim Tebow signed by Patriots: The New England Patriots made a bit of a splash last week when they announced the signing of quarterback Tim Tebow. I don’t question that coaching guru Bill Belichick can find a way to utilize him in some way. What is surprising is that New England would bring him in with what should be a minimal impact. Unlike in New York, Tebow isn’t being brought in to challenge starter Tom Brady. So unless Brady goes down with an injury, Tebow’s impact at the position would be small. The talk is already about making Tebow a receiver or part of offensive packages as a skill player, but will he really be such an offensive difference-maker that it will make it worth all of the added attention and scrutiny of the team? Not likely.

Jason Kidd hired as Nets’ head coach: Last week I mentioned the possibility of the recently retired Jason Kidd becoming the Brooklyn Nets new coach. The Nets, who hadn’t previously had Kidd in mind, were convinced after his agent reached out to them and Kidd was hired last week. My opinion hasn’t really changed on this – a team with expectations so high shouldn’t be hiring a rookie head coach. He was a great player, but other greats such as Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, and Wes Unseld didn’t exactly make a successful transition from player to coach.

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul teammates?: ESPN reported last week that free agents Dwight Howard and Chris Paul may be exploring options to end up on the same team together. This move, of course, isn’t unprecedented with several players doing this in the past, including the Miami Heat’s ‘Big Three’ of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Howard and Paul are rumored to desire to play for the Los Angeles Clippers, but that would require a few things to happen. The team doesn’t have the cap space to sign Howard, so they’d need to do a sign and trade for him. And chances are that Blake Griffin would need to be included in such a deal.

Hall of Famer Lem Barney says football will soon end: Speaking at a football academy, Pro Football Hall of Famer Lem Barney declared that the game of football will end in 10-20 years because it is too dangerous. Barney’s not the only one to voice such an opinion with all of the talk of concussions lately, but I’m not sure the game ends anytime soon. After all – a sport like boxing where athletes take repeated shots to the head still exists. And when you consider that football is the most popular sport in the country, the guess here is that football continues to implement more safety measures rather than shut down entirely.

May 28, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tony Kanaan wins Indy 500: After years of frustration, veteran racer Tony Kanaan finally won the prize of his life with a win in this weekend’s Indianapolis 500. For Kanaan it was his first victory at the historic race. With only three laps to go after a green flag, Kanaan quickly took the lead. It was a good thing, too, because defending champion Dario Franchitti crashed further back from the front and the race finished under caution with Kanaan in the lead. Rookie Carlos Munoz finished in second place.

Brian Urlacher retired from the NFL after 13 years with the Chicago Bears.

Brian Urlacher retires: After not re-signing with the Chicago Bears and becoming a free agent, Brian Urlacher figured he’d be playing again in 2014. But Urlacher surprised a few folks last week when he announced his retirement. Having played 13 seasons, it’s not as if his career is being cut short but he likely still has something left in the tank. Urlacher is believed to have reached out to every team in the league, but in the end, decided he’d had enough. There’s little doubt that he’ll be on his way to the Hall of Fame at some point.

San Francisco and Houston awarded 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls: NFL owners approved the cities of San Francisco and Houston as hosts of the 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls respectively. Both edged out Miami, which was also vying for the games. San Francisco will host the historic 50th Super Bowl, which will be played in Levi’s Stadium, expected to be complete in 2014. For Miami, the biggest negative was the franchise not securing funding for improvements to their stadium. That likely cost them a bid and they may not see another one until either the team or the city forks over some money for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium.

Lebron James and Kobe Bryant headline All NBA First Team: The All NBA teams were named last week and among first-teamers were Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Others included Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, and Chris Paul. Left off was the scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony. Duncan had a great season, but I’m not sure I would have given him the nod over Anthony.

Cleveland wins NBA Draft lottery: Cleveland had a miserable season, but wound up with a pretty good consolation prize when they won the top spot in the NBA’s Draft lottery selection on Tuesday. It’s the second time in three seasons they’ll have had the No. 1 selection and, should they keep it, could pair a big man such as Nerlens Noel along with Kyrie Irving. In a year where there isn’t considered a dominant player at the top, trading the pick could be an option. But when you consider that they have four selections in the top 33 picks, they may need to get a proven player or two in return instead of more picks. And for what it’s worth, Cleveland’s general manager Chris Grant has said he’s willing to consider dealing the selection.

NFL Draft moving to May: Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed in the NFL’s spring meetings last week that the league’s draft will move to May in 2014. The main reason for the switch? Radio City Music Hall will be booked during the regularly scheduled time in April.

Mike Trout becomes youngest AL player to hit for cycle: Anaheim Angels phenom Mike Trout already has an amazing track record in his short time in the big leagues. But he added another honor on Tuesday when he became the youngest AL player to hit for the cycle. Trout picked up five RBI in a 12-0 win over Seattle to accomplish the feat.

Michael Crabtree tears Achilles: The 49ers received some great news when it was announced San Francisco would host the 2016 Super Bowl. But things evened out a bit with the news that star wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, tore his Achilles and is expected to miss six months. Crabtree, who had gotten off to a modest start with the 49ers, had a breakout season last year with 85 catches, more than 1,100 yards, and nine touchdowns. The good news for San Francisco is that the team has some depth in the passing game with newly-signed Anquan Boldin, draft pick Quinton Patton, tight end Vernon Davis, and Mario Manningham.

Mike Krzyzewski will remain coach of Team USA: It was widely believed that Coach K would step down from his role as head of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team, but he’s apparently had a change of heart and will return. In a nutshell, that’s nothing but great news for the program. Since taking over in 2005, Team USA has had nothing but success, winning gold medals in 2008 and 2012. The players have responded well to him and there’s also something to be said for consistency in the program.

St. Louis Rams sign 400-pounder: The St. Louis Rams made a big splash, literally and figuratively, last week. The team signed Ole Miss’ Terrell Brown as a free agent. If you’re not familiar with Brown, that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal … at least until you get to the part that he’s 403 pounds. And oh yeah, he’s 6’10”, too. Brown didn’t play much during his time at Ole Miss and is considered at best to be a project. He was mostly on the defensive line in college, but will shift to the offensive line in the NFL. It may sound like an interesting story, but if coaches couldn’t find a way to use him against smaller, slower players in college, the chances that he’ll be able to compete against the best players in the world are slim.

May 31, 2012

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Do the San Antonio Spurs Have Another Title in Them?

By: Matt Bowen

The San Antonio Spurs have been nothing short of an NBA dynasty over the past 13 years. Four titles with a fifth on the way is proof of that. Heading into the 2011-12 NBA season, fans knew the Spurs were good, but thought of them as “over the hill”. After all, their last title was in 2007 and their core players are over the age of 30. Just when everyone thought the Spurs had seen better days, they won 50 games in a lockout shortened season that only offered 66.

The Spurs are now in the middle of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team who’s supposed to become the best in the West.  The Spurs are showing them who is boss though and look like the league’s top team. In fact, the Spurs are a perfect 10-0 in the playoffs thus far.

Can the Thunder, or anyone, derail the Spurs on their way to another NBA Championship?

The Thunder are much younger, with stars like the great Kevin Durant, 23 years old, Russell Westbrook, 23, and James Harden, 22. It’s hard to believe that Tim Duncan, 36, Manu Ginobili, 34, and Tony Parker, 30, can still hang with the youth movement of the NBA.

What allows the Spurs to do so is their smarts. Gregg Popovich is quietly the best coach in the NBA. It’s no surprise that the Spurs’ fortune changed when the first move Popovich made as head coach was draft Duncan in 1997.

Duncan himself has quietly become one of the best NBA basketball players to every grace the game. Shaquille O’Neal’s nickname for Duncan is “The Big Fundamental”, which pretty much explains it all. He just does everything right. You’ve never heard a bad word about him, staying put in San Antonio for his entire career makes him a class act and he’s fun to watch because he makes looking insanely good look so boring.

So, as the Spurs keep rollin’ on their way to the fifth NBA Championship in the Duncan era, be thankful that you were able to watch Duncan dominate for so long. He’s played 14 NBA seasons and has a career average of 20.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game. That’s simply ridiculous in today’s competitive NBA.

Now, Duncan may be playing the last couple of weeks in his NBA career. Don’t expect an ESPN special when he decides to retire because he’ll simply ride off into the sunset quietly. In the end, fans won’t begin to realize just how good he was until a decade from now.

As you watch the Spurs continue their tear in the playoffs, keep an eye on Duncan as it may be the last time he ever plays the game. Regardless, he’ll leave a champion.

November 28, 2011

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NBA’s Top Ten Storylines for 2011-12

By: Anson Whaley

What, the NBA lockout’s over? Seriously?

Well, sort of. There are still some ‘I’s to be dotted and ‘T’s to be crossed, but for all intents and purposes, there should be NBA basketball this year. And not only that, but the plan is to play 66 games, meaning it’s practically a full season.

With college football winding down, that’s good news indeed. So what can we look for this year in the NBA?

10. Will any guys stay overseas? A good number of NBA players dabbled in the international game, playing in various leagues overseas. It’s not likely we’ll see major stars remain over there, and ones with contracts will have to come back, but what about free agents? Could some of them stay and make a bit more money than they could here? I think it’s possible, but don’t expect it to become a trend … especially this year. With the possibility of a shortened training camp, we could see plenty of guys come in out of shape and even a few more injuries than normal. There should be lots of opportunities for free agents to come in and play right away, and NBA teams will be looking to persuade them to play in the States.

9. Can the Mavs repeat? This question gets asked of the NBA champion every year. Can they? Sure. Will they? Eh, who knows? One thing we do know, though, is that repeating in any professional sport is difficult. Add playing in the difficult Western Conference, and the chances are good that Dallas might not even get back to the NBA Finals.

One of the big questions this year is whether or not the Mavs can repeat as NBA Champions.

8. How much noise will the Knicks make? New York has the sport’s newest trio of superstars with Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Amare Stoudamire. Having acquired Anthony in the middle of last season, this will be the first full year with all three players. Playing in the Eastern Conference will help, and it’s hard not to see this team right up there with the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic, and Boston Celtics. The Knicks should at least contend for the conference title.

7. Which rookies will create a stir? The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving and Minnesota Timberwolves’ Derrick Williams will almost assuredly have decent seasons. But the most intriguing prospect to me is the Washington Wizards’ Jan Vesely, who was taken sixth in this year’s NBA Draft. At 21, he’s got the equivalent of three seasons worth of college experience playing overseas, so he should be a bit more polished than one-and-done players. He also was arguably the top international player in the Draft and one of the most athletic players as well. He’s known as a good defender and should be able to step in and contribute right away.

6. Are the Bulls for real? Last season, no one outside of Chicago expected the Bulls to come away with the NBA’s top record. But that’s exactly what happened as Derrick Rose led them to 62 wins. We know the Bulls should be good this season, but how far can their defense-first approach carry them in the playoffs? Time will tell.

5. Is Kevin Durant the NBA’s best player? Having won the last two scoring titles, it’s easy to make an argument that Durant is the most prolific offensive talent in the NBA. But best overall player is an entirely different category, and, until he at least gets to a Finals as Lebron and Kobe have, I’ll lean towards saying no.

4. What effect will the lockout have on the season? As I said earlier, I think we could see some out of shape and rusty players early on this NBA season. But more importantly, the lockout probably favors the veteran teams a bit. Cutting 16 games off of the NBA schedule is a big deal and veterans such as Tim Duncan and Steve Nash will probably be grateful for the extra rest they’ve had. Those teams could have more gas in the tank than usual come playoff time.

3. Can Kobe win another ring? The Lakers were ousted unceremoniously by the Dallas Mavericks last year. With Kobe and Los Angeles a year older, do they still have another title run in them? I think so. Pau Gasol is still pretty young, and with Kobe, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, and Ron Artest Metta World Peace, there’s plenty of firepower on that team.

2. Is the nation ready to embrace LeBron? The Heat played one of the biggest heel roles since some guy named Darth ran around in a cape using the Force to choke the living daylights out of people. But a year later, will the hatred be gone? I’m guessing not. Folks were critical about how Bron Bron left Cleveland, and Miami’s triumvirate of stars are likely to still hear about it when the Heat are playing on the road (especially those games in Cleveland). I imagine things would have been even worse if the Heat had won the title this Spring, but I believe many NBA fans are just not ready to forgive yet. Which leads us to…

1. Can the Heat win the title? In a word, yes. They were close last year, reaching the NBA Finals after struggling early in the season. The Heat do have an advantage in the East where the competition top to bottom isn’t as strong as out West. The talent’s there, and having reached the NBA Finals last year, so is the experience. All they’ve got to do is put it all together.

If only it were that easy.

June 21, 2011

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Mock NBA Draft

By: Joe Williams

Cleveland

Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke

Ever since the Cavs won the draft lottery, the talk has been either Irving or Derrick Williams with the first pick. It has been reported that Cleveland has decided on Irving.

Nick Gilbert won the lottery, securing the #1 NBA draft pick for the Cavaliers

Minnesota

Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona

The Timberwolves need all the help they can get. Williams and Irving are the consensus top two players in this NBA draft.

Utah
Enes Kanter, C, Turkey
With two picks in the top 12, the Jazz have options. The Irving and Williams are pretty locked in as the top two picks, so the wheeling and dealing could start here. Utah stays put and takes a 7-footer, hoping he can become one of the few legitimate big men in the NBA.

Cleveland
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
With Irving on board, the Cavs look to get some help inside. If they can hit on these two picks, it will go a long way towards moving on from the Lebron James era.
 
Toronto
Jan Vesely, SF, Czech Republic
The Raptors have a history of drafting international players. Why stop now?
 
Washington
Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas
The Wizards have plenty of young guns in the backcourt. Picking up Thompson would give them some help on the glass.
 
Sacramento
Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky
The Kings go for another Wildcat to join DeMarcus Cousins. Adding Knight to run the point will allow Tyreke Evans to move to the two-guard.
 
Detroit
Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas
After all the trouble in Detroit with Rip Hamilton last year, nobody would expect the Pistons to draft another Hamilton. Wrong.
 
Charlotte
Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
The Bobcats need another scorer. Michael Jordan and company hope Walker can be that guy.
 
Milwaukee
Alec Burks, SG, Colorado
Milwaukee is set at point guard and center. The Bucks need more firepower.
 
Golden State
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State
The Warriors need someone who will crash the boards and provide some toughness.
 
Utah
Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU
If Jimmer is still on the board here, Utah has to take him. Don’t they? The fan base will go bonkers if the Jazz pass on the Jimmer.
 
Phoenix
Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas
The Suns ought to be looking for a big man who can rebound.
 
Houston
Nikola Vucevic, C, USC
Yao Ming may need to be replaced. If Ming does return, the Rockets would be wise to have some insurance in case he gets hurt again.
 
Indiana
Bismack Biyombo, PF, Spain
The Pacers could use another big man to rebound.
 
Philadelphia
Tobias Harris, PF, Tennessee
The Sixers have plenty of young talent in the backcourt so they look to get some help for Elton Brand on the inside.
 
New York
Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State
The Knicks add a shooter to help spread the floor with Anthony and Stoudemire.
 
Washington
Nikola Mirotic, SF, Serbia
The Wizards hope the Serbian can develop into a key contributor.
 
Charlotte
Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
There is a good chance Charlotte will not pick here on NBA draft night, but if they do they will go for the best player on their board.

Minnesota
Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuiana
Minnesota shocks everyone by not taking a point guard.

Portland
Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas
The Blazers should let the team doctor make this pick and bring in the healthiest player on the board.

Denver
Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence
Good luck finding the next Carmelo Anthony at this point. Denver has lots of free agents so they could take any position. Might as well take a guy who scored more than 24 points a game.
 
Houston
Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
The Rockets add another big man.
 
Oklahoma City
JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue
The Thunder could use a low post scorer to take some pressure off of Kevin Durant.

Boston
Jeremy Tyler, PF
Is Kendrick Perkins available?
 
Dallas
Norris Cole, PG, Cleveland State
The NBA champions will try to find a point guard to take over when Jason Kidd retires.
 
New Jersey
Justin Harper, PF, Richmond
The Nets need to get Deron Williams another scorer.
 
Chicago Bulls
Shelvin Mack, SG, Butler
A shooting guard who can score would really help Derrick Rose.
 
San Antonio
Jon Leuer, PF, Wisconsin
Tim Duncan is not the man he once was.
 
Chicago Bulls
Travis Leslie, SG, Georgia
Why not take a pair of two guards and hope one becomes the missing piece?