Archive for the ‘ Basketball ’ Category

Olbermann vs. The State of Indiana

 

This morning I came across this video laying out the situation in Indiana with their newly passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. How I did not hear about this (probably because it Indiana) blows my mind. But this is ridiculous. How a state in 2015 thinks that they have the right to protect expression of religion, by allowing businesses to refuse sservice to another person based on religious grounds is absurd. This seems eerily close to the Jim Crow laws of over 50 years ago.

But more importantly, Olbermann and even Charles Barkley, have said that the NFL, NBA and NCAA need to vacate the state of Indiana. This would include events such as the NFL Combine, this years NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four and next years NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four. But the real issue is, will the respective heads of the major leagues in sports including the NCAA make the powerful move to boycott the legislation. Last year the NFL made a great step by standing up to the state of Arizona when they were poised to do something similar. So now all of these leagues are forced with a decision. BOYCOTT NOW! No human being should ever be discriminated for what their religion, skin color, general beliefs or appearance. It is 2015, we all at some point need to realize that the world we live in is evolving and that while traditional beliefs are what got us to this point, but at some point those beliefs evolved just like we as humans have.

Your move NFL, NBA, and NCAA. I am watching closely. It may be too late for this year’s Final Four. But a serious stance can be made going forward. Make the right decision.

Quick Guide to March Madness

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You may have heard about this thing called March Madness. The prelude aired last week with Championship week. Different schools around the country, many you haven’t heard of, and many you have. There is a team in search of a 40-0 season (Kentucky) and even a team with a losing record (Hampton).

Quick recap of what happened. Arizona won the Pac-12 Regular Season and Conference Title. Its first conference title since 2003. Notre Dame won its first conference title, EVER. They never won the Big East title in 18 years in the conference, but somehow pulled off the feat their second year in the ACC. The Big East was won by Villanova, their first in years, yet nobody respects them and their 30 wins. The Big 12 and the B1G (Big Ten) were both up and down, yet have a good representation in the tournament with 7 teams each. But just because a conference has either 7 or 2. It depends on the quality. The toughest teams to beat in this tourney will be from the ACC and Pac-12. Look for a team from each of those conferences into the final four.

But let’s get to brass tax. Will Kentucky run the table? They are the first team since Bob Knight’s Indiana to enter the tournament undefeated. Is it time we start talking about John Calipari as the BEST recruiter ever? Despite losing players to the NBA Draft year after year. He reloads and this may be his best achievement yet. Let’s just see how they stack up in the tournament after falling short last year. The tough question is, who can compete with them?

It seems every year lately one of the favorites gets knocked out before the end of the 2nd weekend. Not making it to the Final Four. Even more recently, having mid-majors making deep runs. We have even seen those teams who are forced into a play in game, winning 3 games before the weekend is over (I’m looking at you Ole Miss this year).

Every year, we wonder, who is this year’s cinderella? What moments will we get this year. WIll my favorite team actually make a run? Let’s get to the games to find out!

The King Returns & The Fallout

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Today, the everything in the sports world was put on the back burner. Four years after leaving Cleveland, LeBron James announced he would be returning back to his hometown Cavaliers. How crazy is this?!?! But more importanty, what does this really mean.

LeBron James becomes the first player to go to 4 straight NBA Finals, and leave in free agency. He returns home to his beloved Cleveland, to right the wrongs of what happened 4 years ago and play for his hometown Cavaliers. He also seems to want to right the wrongs for what happened 4 years before when he bolted for South Beach.

So what does this mean for the remainder of the artists formally known as the “Heatles.” Originally Chris Bosh was headed to Houston to sign a 4 year/$88 million dollar deal, but a few days later, it seems as if Bosh will return to Miami to be the man. As for Wade, his fate seemed to be the fame. He flirted with returning to his home state, and then ended up staying in Miami on a 2 year deal, similar to the one LeBron signed.

Carmelo Anthony however, made a completely different proclamation. He was presented with the most options. He could have chosen Chicago, which would have given him the best chance to win now. Headed to Houston to team up with Dwight Howard and James Harden in Houston to form a dynamic trio, only problem is that it would be in the loaded Western Conference. He spurned Los Angeles, after there had been reports that the Lakers were serious contenders in the Carmelo sweepstakes. But in the end, he decided to return to New York, to make it work in the town he forced a trade to just 3 short years ago. Carmelo gets a chance to be the man, in a fresh start with a new young coach (Derek Fisher) and a GM with a knack for making any situation a winning one (Phil Jackson).

***

LeBron left 4 years ago ‘To take his talents to South Beach’ and it ripped the heart out of everyone in Cleveland. Even I was one of those people who was bashing him, calling him names and even saying I hate him. But 4 years later, I get it. Yes, I understand why Lebron left and so should everyone else.

LeBron has been Cleveland’s great hope since his days at St. Vincent- St. Mary High School. He was drafted number 1 overall in 2003 by his hometown Cavs, and he never had a chance to grow as an individual outside of Cleveland. Not just from an NBA standpoint but his global brand and his NBA resume. At the time, the Cavaliers could not give King James the ring he so desperately chased. So like any businessman, he ‘took his talents’ elsewhere to get what he wanted. After 4 years, and 4 straight NBA Finals appearances, LeBron returns to his roots, but this time, as a 2-Time Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, and one of the biggest stars in the world.

But don’t get too excited. LeBron only signed a 2 year deal. He will get paid handsomely for those 2 years, but you have to wonder why he signed such a short deal. One word, Leverage. The NBA salary cap is set to increase in 2 years, and if the Cavs haven’t materialized into a contender by then, LeBron can take more money elsewhere to chase more rings. LeBron really wants to make this work in Cleveland, but you can tell he isn’t ready to forgive Dan Gilbert just yet.

But in the short term, the Cavaliers will be an exciting team to watch. We can see Kyrie Irving develop, playing alongside the best player in the world. Andrew Wiggins hasn’t even played a game in the NBA, and now it seems like this kids ceiling has risen even further. With what he is already doing in the summer league, it is safe to say I am excited to watch the Cavs play, or even play with them in this years NBA 2k15. Let’s just hope this team can develop, because if not, the summer of 2016 will be a very interesting one with the likes of Kevin Durant also being a free agent.

The Madness is Upon Us!

It’s that time of the year once again. The weather is getting a little warmer (allegedly), St. Patrick’s Day is in our rear view mirror, next thing on the checklist is for Spring to come. But in between all of that, March Madness is here! Tomorrow, the first day 2nd Round begins. The 64 team field will quickly drop 48 of those teams in a matter of 96 hours, and one of them could be yours!

So before all the Madness begins, here is a quick guide to get you going, Region by Region.

Let’s start out West, where my favorite team has been given a number 1 seed for the first time under Coach Sean Miller. This Arizona team is talented, but will the loss of Brandon Ashley hurt them in the long run? We all know March Madness is a wonderful time, but all it does year end and year out is disappoint the fans of 67 teams. Arizona got a favorable draw, potentially facing Gonzaga/Oklahoma State in the 2nd Round 3rd Round of the tournament and then potentially San Diego State in the Sweet 16 (whom they have already beaten this season in San Diego). The potential rematch between these 2 would be in Anaheim, which normally would be a pseudo-home game for San Diego, but many Arizona alumni reside in Southern California, so you can’t help but pick the Wildcats in this scenario. In the bottom half of this bracket, you see a bunch of over-seeded teams as well as under-seeded teams. Somehow Bo Ryan’s Buzzcuts managed a 2 seed, even though they finished the season 10-7 and a #12 ranking. Look for this team to get upset early in the tournament by a hungrier, grittier lower seed. This Bo Ryan team is good, but they are not a typical defensive stopper as they have been in the past, and potentially facing teams like Oregon, Baylor or Creighton on the way to the Elite Eight should pose for some problems. Ultimately, I have Creighton meeting with Arizona in the Elite Eight, with Arizona coming out of this bracket. Their defense is too good, and they will make just enough shots to get by. Plus, Arizona has the size and skill in the front court to matchup with the bigs of Creighton, even Doug McDermott. Look for Arizona to make it to Arlington, Texas.

 

Moving across the country, we have Wichita State leading the way in the Midwest bracket with their 34-0 record. But that is honestly where the fun is going to end for this “Cinderella” story. Hard to call them a Cinderella story considering they went to the Final Four last year and this year have proceeded to go 34-0 to silence the critics. But to shut up all the haters across the country, they would have to go on a remarkable run to make it back to the Final Four, doable, but unlikely. The first test will come against either Kentucky or Kansas State, both very talented teams but also VERY inconsistent and underachieved this season. After a potentially grueling 2nd Round 3rd Round game, they have to deal with the likes of St. Louis/NC State or Louisville who was vastly under-seeded. Funny what one year can do for 2 different teams. Louisville knocked out Wichita State last year in the final four, and since then their paths have been very different. The Shockers have shocked the nation by winning 34 straight, while the Louisville Cardinal won the National title, but then suffered through an up and down season since then. They won the competitive Big East American Athletic Conference, but somehow managed only a 4 seed in the toughest bracket. But don’t sleep on the Manhattan Jaspers, Louisville’s first opponent. They are a tough, and talented team who could easily challenged the Cardinal in the first game. Down in the lower half of the bracket, the heavyweights are sitting and waiting. We start with the UMass vs. Play-In Game of Iowa vs. Tennessee. Regardless of who wins this game, I am picking them to beat the Minutemen despite their lower seed and so-so seasons. Iowa was a powerhouse most of the season before losing 6 out of their last 7 games. If they can get it together and win the first game, look for them to make life hard for UMass who hasn’t played a tournament game in a while. On the other hand, Tennessee could easily play their way to a win over Iowa and then UMass, based on the way they ended their season. They played mostly inconsistent ball the 2nd half of the season before getting it together in the SEC tournament, only to lose to overall top seed Florida. Next in the bracket is a no brainer. Duke will cruise by Mercer, with Jabari Parker showing everyone why he will be a future NBA star. I’m looking back at the careers of current NBA stars back in college and 2 players will come to mind for comparisons. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant had a monster season at Texas, but was subject to a 19 point blowout in the 2nd round of the tournament. The comparison with Kyrie Irving may be a stretch, but with Irving, Duke was a talented team, but just could not get over that hump and were beaten by a hungrier team. I feel like Parker will have the same fate and like the aforementioned, he will bolt for the NBA despite a less than stellar tournament run. I do see Duke reaching the Sweet 16, but their run will stop there. Why? The Michigan Wolverines. Even though they played Duke earlier this season, even with Mitch McGary, they were nowhere near the team that they are today. I just think in a rematch, on a neutral court, with Michigan playing better basketball, the Wolverines will advance to play Louisville for the right to go to the Final Four. Oh wait, another rematch of last year’s Final Four? But this time, it’s a rematch of the National Title Game. Advantage Louisville, but only slightly. This game is a complete toss-up, but don’t be surprised if the Canadian superstar Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III come up huge and lead the Wolverines to back to back Final Fours.

 

From the group of death to by far one of the easiest groups, we look at the East Region. Top seed Virginia got its number 1 seed after doing exactly what Miami did the previous season, win the ACC outright and then the ACC Tournament. But as Miami found out last season, just by winning the ACC regular season and tournament titles, doest not mean you will make the Final Four. Although this Virginia team is talented, they will ultimately fall short of their goals. They should cruise to the Sweet 16 before ultimately losing to a Michigan State team destined for that Final Four run. This will keep Tom Izzo’s streak alive of every class he has coached making the Final Four. Shoot maybe I should have played basketball at Michigan State. In the lower half of the bracket, there are a lot of prospects for upsets. There could be Providence over North Carolina in the 6 vs. 11 matchup or even the NC Central over Iowa State matchup in the same city. Both favorites have been playing some inconsistent basketball as of late, but are talented enough to make the Elite Eight in the same regard. Look for UNC to get to the Elite Eight before losing to a Connecticut team that catches fire. One thing we all need to remember, these guys still have some champions on the squad remaining from Kemba’s magical run in 2011. Never count out champions, they know how to win a few games in the tournament. Final verdict, Michigan State is en route to Arlington.

 

Over in the South region, we come across top seeded Florida, their first time getting that since winning the National title 7 years ago. Florida faces the same prospect that Arizona has, a potential tough second round game with talented, but inconsistent teams who could piece together a few wins tin the tournament. Where would Colorado be with Spencer Dwindiddie? Or what if the wheels didn’t fall off for Pitt multiple times late in games? Tyler Ennis’ buzzer beater being the hardest to deal with. But none of it is real, so Florida should Steam roll to at least the Elite Eight before facing a tough opponent. I know UCLA won the Pac-12 tournament, but let’s get real. They aren’t legit yet, and I do have them in the Sweet 16, but they have no chance against Florida. In the bottom half of the region, I can finally rejoice. Ohio State is in a potential first round second round upset! But even if they do get out of that matchup with Dayton alive, they will most likely lose to a much better Syracuse team. But Syracuse themselves will be delaying the inevitable as they will lose to an ideally a Kansas team featuring ailing Joel Embiid. As we have learned with Mitch McGary of Michigan, bad backs for young players can be draft stock killers. So for Embiid’s sake, hope his back heals because his team Kansas is going to need him to get to the Final Four. Final verdict, this back heals and Kansas makes it to Texas.

 

Now the Final Four will definitely feature a couple of nice games. Michigan State vs. Kansas and Arizona facing Louisville. I can honestly say that any of these teams facing each other in the National title game would be amazing, but I hope its Arizona vs. Kansas. No need to try and persuade through stats and facts, just putting it out there, and hoping the gods respond. March Madness is a cruel mistress. Good luck and let the Madness begin!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

The Bright Lights of New York City

What is it about playing in New York City?

It is the stage where players can make a name for themselves. Ever heard of Linsanity? Just ask Kemba Walker. Reggie Miller, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James were all established stars who had their brightest, non-championship moments in New York City. Do you know who Mr. October or November is? Let’s revisit some of the highlights of greatness in New York City.

Today February 28th, marks the 1 year anniversary of the latest star to make a splash here in the Big Apple. Stephen Curry last year lit up the Knickerbockers for 54 points, hitting a Madison Square Garden record 11 3-pointers. It may not have been the record for points for the Garden, nor did the Warriors win the game, but it brought Stephen Curry out into the limelight. It showed the rest of the world why Dub Nation likes to call him Steph “Wet” Curry. Just check the video below if you don’t believe me.

Lighting up the Garden is no new thing. As recent as 2 years ago, Jeremy Lin went from no name back-up, to sending “The City that never sleeps” into a frenzy. Since then, Lin has parlayed that into a hefty multi-million dollar contract and become an inspiration for Asian-American athletes. Heck, he even is coming out with a movie!

But before Lin-sanity and before Stephen Curry lit up the Garden, other stars have broken out here. Whether it was Kobe Bryant and LeBron James lighting up the Garden within 3 days back in 2009. Kobe dropping 61, which was a Garden record until this year, and then James dropping 50+ and getting a Triple-Double (which was later overturned, but who cares). What also we forget to talk about that week, is the defending World Champion Boston Celtics were in town. There just wasn’t a noteworthy breakout performance there.

Obviously, Madison Square Garden has had its fair share of moments. We can also reference the days with Michael Jordan tormenting the Knicks or the Reggie Miller vs. Spike Lee saga. But when we broaden the spectrum of what New York means on a larger scale, we can look at baseball moments.

There is Josh Hamilton lighting up the Bronx for Home Run Derby the last season of the old Yankee Stadium. Hamilton had recently returned to baseball, after years away battling drug addiction, and that summer night in the Bronx was his definite coming out party. He hit 28 first round home runs en route to the victory in the 2008 Home Run Derby.

Rewind 5 years before, Josh Beckett turns in a performance for the ages in game 6 of the World Series. Not only was this a David vs. Goliath performance, but it also was in the WORLD SERIES. Since then, Beckett has won a second title, that time with the Red Sox, but it was this game and that series that truly put him on a bigger scale.

See the recurring theme? It’s not about being an athlete who plays for one of the storied New York franchises (with the exception of Jeremy Lin). It’s really about not being afraid to step your game up when under the bright lights. We see players come to New York, chasing the money and big contract or for the glitz and glamour of playing in the Big Apple. But why not play somewhere else? Focus on the trip to New York and use it as a coming out party on the big stage. Obviously breakout performances come here and there. And usually they are never planned, but just food for thought. Pressure as a visiting player in New York is never anywhere close to what it is as a anyone who dons the NY on their jersey. So maybe, just maybe we can use that as a barometer of where future breakouts may come.

 

Mike D’antoni, not Phil Jackson, hired in Hollywood

Mike D’Antoni was hired this morning as the next Lakers coach

What just happened? I thought it was going to be “Phil Jackson and the Lakers” part 3. This morning the Lakers announced that Mike D’Antoni would become the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The jury is still out on how I feel about this new signing. But as a Lakers fan, I have to assume that the Lakers brass made the right decision. There were many rumors over the weekend about the head coaching vacancy being “Phil Jackson’s to turn down.” Maybe it was the fact that Phil was asking for too much control of the team, but was this the right decision?

While many disagree with the hiring, I think it could be the boost that this Lakers team needs. D’Antoni features a explosive offensive attack, something that can boost the Lakers, because this offense has the talent to dominate the Western Conference. I think Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant’s familiarity with Coach D’Antoni will pay dividends.

But there are drawbacks. D’Antoni is a proven winner in the Regular Season, but hasn’t been past the Conference Finals. Getting elminited there during his peak while coaching the Suns. Another huge flaw, is that he doesn’t preach defense. But with all the talent on this squad, they can possibly get away with an average defense, with Dwight Howard protecting the paint.

It is still early in the season and the change to D’Antoni’s system should be seamless. But will it be enough to put the Lakers over the top in the Western Conference? The first game is tomorrow night against the San Antonio Spurs, a good immediate test for the Lake Show.

Mike Brown FIRED!

Later Mike Brown.

Today it was announced that Mike Brown was fired as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Surprised? I sure am not. There was much speculation last season with the tumultuous relationship between Mike Brown and Kobe Bryant on whether or not he would be a long term option in LA. He didn’t do himself any favors this season by guiding the Lakers to a 1-4 start, along with a winless preseason.

But wait, the Lakers made some huge roster moves this offseason so there is always the possibility that the team has not gelled together yet. Brown also changed the offense, trying to get the team to buy into this “Princeton Offense,” which emphasizes constant motion, passing, back-door cuts, picks on and off the ball, and disciplined teamwork. Well apparently Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash & Company never got the memo. An 0-8 preseason, followed by a 1-4 start to the regular season ultimately spelled his demise.

Was this the stare that got Mike Brown fired?

As a Lakers fan, this season has been very frustrating to watch. Well, at least what I have seen so far. I missed the 1st 2 games due to Hurricane Sandy, and was forced to watch the Lakers/Clippers matchup on my laptop because the cable wasn’t back. From what I saw in the first 3 games, I was not impressed.

I generally thought the Princeton Offense would never be a fit for the Lakers, primarily because it would change roles of the majority of the Lakers players, roles which won them all sorts of accolades, including multiple MVP’s, All-Star appearances, Defensive Player of the Year and even NBA Titles. While I think Mike Brown is a good guy and not a terrible coach, he just wasn’t the man for the job. He crashed and burned in Cleveland with Lebron James, did the same with the Lakers.

Here’s an excerpt from an article written by Chris Bernucca via Chris Sheridan:

“At its roots, the Princeton offense uses several basic tenets. It de-emphasizes the notion of true positions such as point guard and small forward. It opens the area beneath the basket by using a high post player who should be a good passer. It relies on constant movement, off-the-ball screens and back cuts, ideally breaking down defenses with patience and precision. Think about the overwhelming personnel on the Lakers and ask yourself if this sounds like a good fit.

“It de-emphasizes the notion of true positions such as point guard. Nash has won two MVP awards – one more than Bryant, by the way – as a true point guard. At 38, he remains one of the most effective playmakers in the game because his dominance of the basketball is belied by his selfless willingness to surrender it at the ideal time.

“Nash also is one of the best pure shooters in the game, making him virtually unguardable in the pick-and-roll. And with the Lakers, he can have twice the fun in Howard and Pau Gasol, both of whom are strong pick-and-roll big men in their own ways. But Jordan’s offense calls for an overt sharing of the ball, which minimizes Nash’s effectiveness.

“It opens the area beneath the basket by using a high post player who should be a good passer. Gasol is an ideal fit for this role; he is among the most intelligent and best-passing 7-footers in NBA history. He also is a threat to knock down an elbow jumper.

“The Lakers also have Howard, generally regarded as the most dominant low-post player in the game. The offense moves him away from where he is most lethal – providing unexpected relief to opposing defenses – and puts him at the high post, where his effectiveness is somewhat limited to the initiation of the pick-and-roll. And while years of facing double-teams has made Howard an acceptable passer, no one would ever confuse him for a good passer, which also makes things easier for opposing defenses.

It relies on constant movement, off-the-ball screens and back cuts. Does constant movement sound like a good idea for a lineup with four players 32 or older? Should Bryant only be getting the ball after a precision back cut? Should clearly defined positional players such as Nash and Howard be screening away for Metta World Peace, who stops the ball as often as he moves it?

Where do the Lakers go from here? Do they try and hire one of the big names off the Free Agent coaching board? Names like Mike D’Antonio, Rick Adelman, and Jerry Sloan are a few that are out there. But the real question is, will the Lakers reach out to Phil Jackson for Round 3 with the Zen Master? The triangle offense would do wonders with this team and a veteran coach would be perfect for this veteran squad. If that fails, the other man who could run the triangle, Brian Shaw, was allowed to leave by Lakers management before last season. Who knows. All I know is that something needs to happen soon. I’m not looking for any repeats of 2004 when the Lakers assembled a great veteran squad only to lose in the Finals to the Pistons. Get it together fellas!