Posts Tagged ‘ Basketball ’

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.

 

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Updates from Day 2

It doesn’t matter what this kid is doing, this March Madness has been wild.

Yesterday there were upsets everywhere. As of 6pm today, I have 15 out of 22 picks correct.

Recap. (Original Pick on left, actual result at end).

Midwest Region

#1 Lousiville over # 16 NC A&T: Like I said, right to get blown out. Louisville won.

#9 Mizzou over #8 Colorado State: This kid’s face is killing me, along with his team winning. Mizzou Lost.

#12 Oregon over #5 Oklahoma State: Stop sleeping on the Pac-12 people! Oregon’s grossly under-seeded. Oregon won.

 #4 Saint Louis over #13 New Mexico State: Apparently the A-10 is good! St. Louis won.

#11 St. Mary’s over #6 Memphis: Of course I picked the Bay Area team to win. Dellavedova almost proved me right. St. Mary’s Lost.

#3 Michigan State over #14 Valparaiso: I don’t care that Bryce Drew is their coach, no upset here. Michigan State won.

#10 Cincinnati over #7 Creighton: In progress. Creighton is good and Cincinnati is physical. But I have too much Big East faith apparently. Cincinnati Lost.

#2 Duke over #15 Albany: Yeah right. Duke coasts. Duke won.

5-3 in this region. Bad Losses too. Not a good sign.

West

#1 Gonzaga over #16 Southern: Will a 16 seed ever win? Gonzaga almost let it happen. Gonzaga won.

#8 Pittsburgh over #9 Wichita State: Hey Pitt, remember when playing in the Big East made you a tough basketball team? Oh yeah, the conference is going bye-bye along with my faith in you. Pittsburgh Lost.

#12 Ole Miss over #5 Wisconsin: Marshall Henderson is just trying to make a name for himself. I’ll give him this one. Ole Miss won.

#4 Kansas State over #13 La Salle: Down big early, but came roaring back. Terrible final possession. Kansas State Loses.

#6 Arizona over #11 Belmont: Another Pac-12 school seeded too low. Act like I would ever bet against them in this situation. Arizona won

#3 New Mexico over # 14 Harvard: I didn’t care that New Mexico was a Final Four pick, I just didn’t believe Harvard would win. Should have listened to Jeremy LinNew Mexico Lost.

#7 Notre Dame over #10 Iowa State: Once again, putting faith in a lower level Big East team. Game Later.

#2 Ohio State over #15 Iona: Yeah right. Ohio State should mop them. Game Later.

3 correct, 3 incorrect so far. Wow.

 

South Region. VCU and Michigan are only teams to have played so far.

#1 Kansas over #16 W. Kentucky: I can’t believe I am wasting my time typing this. B-L-O-W-O-U-T! 

#8 North Carolina over #9 Villanova: PJ Hairston went H.A.M. in the ACC tourney. Give them one tourney win.

#5 VCU over #12 Akron: Of course I am on the Shaka Smart bandwagon now. VCU won.

#4 Michigan over #13 South Dakota State: Too much talent. What conference is SDSU even in? Michigan won.

#6 UCLA over #11 Minnesota: Umm. Pac-12. Shabazz Muhammed. Just hope this seeding isn’t based on Justin Adams breaking his foot.

#3 Florida over #14 Northwestern State: Same situation as Michigan. Never heard of Northwestern State.

#7 San Diego State over #10 Oklahoma: Still drinking that California school kool-aid.

#2 Georgetown over #15 Florida Gulf Coast U.: I think you already know. But Georgetown looked shaky in the Big East tourney.

2-0 so far. But no upsets picked could be a problem.

East Region

#1 Indiana over #16 James Madison: Blowout. 20 point lead at Halftime.

#8 N.C. State over #9 Temple: N.C. State almost came back to win. But they let Temple control the tempo early which killed it. N.C. State Lost.

#12 California over #5 UNLV: Cal is essentially played a home game in San Jose. Also it’s the most local team to where I grew up. Bias? Of course! Cal won.

Ouch! Don’t be a sore loser!

#4 Syracuse over #13 Montana: It was over within 5 minutes. Syracuse won by 47! Syracuse won.

#6 Butler over #11 Bucknell: Better have faith in these cinderella’s before they bust your bracket! Butler won.

#3 Marquette over #14 Davidson: Big East faith paid off. But that’s because Marquette was a Co-Champion. Davidson allowing them to comeback also helped. Terrible defense on last possession. Marquette won.

Great play or bad defense?

#7 Illinois over #10 Colorado: Pac-12 love of course, just need the Buffs to get hot. They are down

#2 Miami over #15 Pacific: Some of these matchups are ugly. This is another case. Miami won.

5-1 so far. Good games so far.

 

One thing I have been doing during these games, along with my many streams, is to tune into Grantland Live. Hilarious conversations between Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons and 2 other Journalists. Check it out. It’s hilarious. Here’s a sample of one of the videos, courtesy of Grantland.

 

Olympic Aftermath

So soon? Just like that, the 2012 London Olympics have came and went with a blur, along with great excitement along with a some heartfelt moments. We don’t have to look far to see that the host nation of Great Britain produced some amazing moments, with Andy Murray winning gold over Roger Federer who had just beat him a month prior in Wimbeldon, Jessica Ennis winning the Heptathlon or Mo Farah wowing us all with his mid-distance brilliance. It was a pretty incredible night for Great Britain, a night when Jessica Ennis took home the gold, Mo Farah won the 10k final, and Greg Rutherford won the men’s long jump. This will probably go down as the greatest night in British track and field history. Not to mention the amazing opening and closing ceremonies they put on. But there was a lot that amazed me during these Olympics. There was the obvious exploits of the great Michael Phelps and equally amazing Usain Bolt but there was more.

Haha I just won my 18th gold! How many do you have?

Starting with Phelps, all he did was become the most decorated Olympian ever. Winning his 18th gold and 22nd overall, Phelps assured himself retiring off into the sunset would be a smooth transition. There were the doubts, especially after in his first race he didn’t even medal, although it was an event he had previously stated he would not race it ever again before the Olympics. But Phelps, despite the rumors about how he might not show up these Olympics, proved everyone wrong. He may have started slow, but those Subway sandwiches he has been eating the past few years seemed to give him enough fuel to still come away with 6 medals this olympics, 4 golds and 2 silvers. Proving to everyone, despite the lack of motivation rumors and pot smoking scandal, he could be as great as he wanted to be and still perform at the highest level.

Shhhhh. You know I’m the best sprinter. EVER.

Not to be outdone, Usain St. Leo Bolt put on an insane performance of his own. After completely blowing away the competition in Beijing in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m, we all wondered what he would do for an encore. All he did was impress with a dominant performance, setting the world record in the 100m (actually running the whole 100m this time) and another world record in the 4x100m relay. He also dominated in the 200m final as well, though he didn’t set a world record this time, he set the 3rd best time in history, let us mention that Bolt owns the top 2 times in the 200m as well. The craziest part about each 100m race he ran this olympics, the 100m final and the 4x100m final, they were equal with him for the first 50m of the race and then Bolt turned it on the last half blowing away the competition. In the 200m final, Bolt was off to the races from the get go, with only his teammate and training partner Asafa Powell within striking distance. So where does this leave him after these olympics, having been the first olympian to ever repeat in the 100m and 200m in consecutive Olympics, not to mention also repeating in the 4x100m. Bolt cemented his status as a legend by doing this. He told everyone he wanted everyone to turn their televisions off after and say wow, well he did. Usain St. Leo Bolt, you amazed me, along with the rest of the world. Congratulations sir, you did it.

First double amputee to compete in the Olympics. Inspiration to all of us most definitely

Staying in the theme of Track & Field, there is the inspirational story of Oscar Pistorius, a man who was born without a fibula in both legs and had them both amputated as a young child. He became the first double amputee to not only compete in the olympics, but he reached the final in both the 400m and the 4x400m. While he was not able to medal in either competition, he served as inspiration to all of us. He showed us all that the best olympic stories do not have to come from people winning medals.

US Women’s Soccer captured it’s 3rd straight Gold Medal this Olympics

Looking at women’s sports as a whole, they seemed to dominate this Olympics for the United States. The women’s hoops team took the gold medal for the 5th consecutive Olympic games, seriously does anyone want to take note to the fact that this team is consistently more dominant than any of its competition. Take note to the fact they blew out France by 36 points in the final. On to the women’s soccer team, who in their own way have been dominant as well. They just won their 3rd consecutive gold in women’s soccer. Unlike the hoops team, their road to the final was a little bumpier, with Alex Morgan providing some late game heroics to get the US to the final against Japan, the team who beat them in the World Cup last year.

Looking at track & field, the women for the United States impressed here as well. After a botched handoff in the semifinal in Beijing, the US women’s relay team won the 4x100m relay in world record time, emphatically finished with Carmelita Jeter pointing at the clock as she passed the finish line. One of the women in that relay team, Allyson Felix, was trying to exercise some demons of her own this Olympics. She had finished with silver in each of the previous 2 Olympics in the 200m, but this Olympics she would not be denied. She won gold in the 200m and 4x400m relay along with the gold she won in the 4x100m. One of Felix’s teammates on the 4x400m relay team Sanya Richards-Ross, was looking for gold in the 400m, after getting bronze at the 400m. Like her other teammates, she was able to overcome her previous struggles and earn the gold.

Over in gymnastics, the US women surprised us all during the Olympics. The team won gold in the all around competition, along with Aly Raisman winning the first US gold on the floor exercise and then Gabby Douglas becoming the first African-American to take home gold in the individual all around. On a lighter, somewhat disappointing note, McKayla Maroney took home the silver in the vault final. While this was disappointing, it sparked up a revolution on the internet known as McKayla is not impressed, after the look she gave on the podium. We all know she might have been upset, but we cannot help but laugh at the new internet sensation, one which she even participated in.

Not to be forgotten, the 2 team beast of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings won gold, AGAIN. Not only did they win gold, but they did it without losing a set, in the whole Olympics. Not this Olympics, not the Beijing Olympics, and also not in the Athens Olympics in 2004.

See the reoccuring theme here? Why couldn’t the US men achieve this kind of excellence at the Olympics. Whatever the case may be, I could not be happier for the US women as a whole, considering they carried us through the Olympics.

But besides the fact the women stole the show, the Olympics as a whole were entertaining. There were many triumphs, and many heartbreaks. It’s unfortunate that they only come around every 4 years, but at the same it is what makes them so amazing. Your move Rio. We cannot wait til 2016.

Olympic Thoughts

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London 2012

After the first few weekend of the Olympics has wrapped, here are a few thoughts about what has happened in the first few days.

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Ryan Lochte sporting his Gold Medal and Grill after winning his first competition during the 2012 London Olympics

In probably the most anticipated rivalry between teammates, Ryan Lochte won the gold medal in the 400m Individual Medley in swimming and Michael Phelps finished 4th. It wasn’t a huge shock that Michael Phelps didn’t win this event, especially considering he had previously stated he never wanted to compete in that even again. After slipping into the final with the 8th position, Phelps didn’t seem to have a good swim and was beaten by his teammate by more than 4 seconds to finish 4th, his first finish without a medal since the Sydney games of 2000.

In what turned out to be a surprise, but not really the result we expected, the French upset both the defending gold medalists United States and the world favorite Australians. This was billed as the sequel to the epic race in 2008, in which Jason Lezak of the USA overcame a body length deficit to not only set a world record by 4 seconds but also shock the French who during the last leg held a commanding lead. Unfortunately the United States couldn’t bring back any of that magic and were beaten by the French. Even more surprising is the 4 swimmers who swam in the morning, including Lezak, were replaced with Cullen Jones, Nathan Adrian, Phelps, and Lochte.

Over to Soccer, in which the US men somehow didn’t qualify, the women are clear through the group stages after a great start. They beat France 4-2 in their opening game, and then had a 3-0 victory over Columbia. The US women are a soccer, football in this case, super power and are favored to make it all the way to the medal round. The American’s play DPR Korea in their final group game before they make their way towards the gold.

On the Men’s side, the super power that is La Roja aka Spain, was recently just eliminated from the Olympic competition after losing to Japan 1-0 in the opener and then 1-0 to Honduras in their second game. This comes as a shock considering Spain just won the Euro Cup just a month ago. While it’s not the same squad, this Spanish team does have some of the same stars the team that won the Euros does. Players like Juan Mata, Jordi Alba, and Javi Martinez. This Spanish team just never got going, failing to score in the first 2 games and now has one game left this tournament and somehow has to salvage some ounce of pride since they do not have much else left to play for.

Finally in Men’s Basketball, while they have been joking with each other and flooding instagram with hilarious photos (see below), have been all business on the court beating France 98-71 in their opening game. The real test will come once they get through their group stage, which will likely pit them against Spain at some point, who no doubtedly is their biggest competition.

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US Men’s Basketball on Segways #segwayswag

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Is Carmelo smiling because King James was caught sleeping or is it because he stole Lebron’s headband?

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Kevin Love is the winner of the #GotEm game. Anthony Davis cuddled up like a baby, Chris Paul drooling on his pillow, and even Coach K!

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Deron Williams and Lolo Jones acting silly during the Opening Ceremony

As of today, the US is still behind China in olympic medals, but with strong showings in sports such as swimming, volleyball, track & field and basketball, the United States should be able to overtake the Chinese in the standings and show us all why we are super powers at the Olympics.

The Calm Before the Storm that is NBA Free Agency

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It’s been 2 year since Lebron took his talents to South Beach, and around a week before that free agency period began there were a flurry of deals rumored, which all came to fruition a week later. Well 2 years later, just as much madness is going down. While no player is planning a free agency announcement special, some big names are bouncing around and even one huge superstar is rumored to be on his way out of town, but where will he go?

With the NBA Draft in the rear view mirror and the beginning of the NBA Free Agency period set to begin, let’s re-visit some of the rumblings and bumblings that have taken place so far. What is more interesting is the NBA’s free agency period isn’t supposed to start until July 11th, but many big name stars are already rumored to be changing uniforms through new deals or through trades.

In what so far is the biggest move of the offseason, Joe Johnson (who might I add recently signed a max deal for $126 million) was traded to the Brooklyn Nets for Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow and Jordan Williams along with DeShawn Stevenson (via sign-and-trade) and a future first first-round pick (lottery-protected in 2013 via Houston) to Atlanta. This trade is the beginning of the revamping of the team formerly known as the New Jersey Nets who already seem to be using their New York influence to pull off trades and entice free agents to come to Brooklyn. Even though Johnson is owed $90 million left on his contract, this helps turn Brooklyn into a bonafide contender, adding a scorer to Deron Williams, who recently stated he would be resigning with the Nets as well. The Nets were somehow able to even resign Gerald Wallace who had opted out of his contract at the end of the season. Now the tables are set for the Nets to make one more big splash and try and acquire Superman. But do they have the remaining pieces to pull off a deal for Dwight Howard? He has said he would sign an extension in Brooklyn, but will this deal happen remains to be seen. But like 2 years ago, will we now see a new flurry of Brooklyn bandwagon fans like we saw with the Heat 2 summers ago?

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Speaking of Dwight Howard, it seems Hollywood might still be in the cards for him. The Lakers, via sign and trade with the Phoenix Suns, acquired Steve Nash for 2 future first round picks and 2 future second round picks. The picks alternate each of the next 4 years, first rounder in 2013, second round in 2014, and so on. A first glance you say Nash? To LA? He’s 38 years old! But he also averaged a double double last season and led the NBA in assists, oldest man to do it 3 years running. He instantly makes that team much better since they haven’t had a point guard this good since, EVER. Now that they have a point guard, could the Lakers re-engage the Magic in talks for a Andrew Bynum for Howard swap? We know the Lakers are in a win now situation by acquiring Nash, and acquiring a big man like Howard is a once ina  generational thing. Plus he would fall in the line of the next great Laker centers behind Shaq, Wilt, Kareem. But do the Lakers really want to give up on Bynum? It’s all about a long term standpoint. Once Kobe retires, who would they rather have as the face of the team? And there is deinfinite specualtion that Howard wants to go to Hollywood, which would make him a true celebrity and give him the best chance at winning a title. Who knows. It could definitely happen.

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It other smaller, but still noteworthy moves. It appears Lin-sanity is headed to Houston. He is rumored to be signing a huge offer sheet with the Houston Rockets. A back-loaded deal which should pay him around $28 million over the life of the contract. Huge for this kid who this time last year barely had a position on an NBA team. Shows you what a month of balling in the NBA gets you along with hard-work and perseverance. Good luck to the kid in the future! Lin’s former team, the Knicks meanwhile added Jason Kidd. Great idea, love where their head is at, but Kidd is aging fast and yes they need a point guard to dish to Chandler and Carmelo, but couldn’t they find a better option. I just have a hard time figuring out how they have such a hard time attracting free agents. Its NEW YORK CITY! Maybe just the fact they are cursed and haven’t won a title in so long or the fact that management is so wishy-washy over the years. Who knows but the appeal of that arena is one of a kind. Jason Terry, one of Kidd’s former teammates is headed to Boston on a 3 year pact, looking to add some shooting firepower to the Celtics who look to be losing Ray Allen. But the Celtics should be fine, considering they are getting back Garnett for a few years along with the return of Jeff Green who is recovering from heart surgery.

Free agency begins next Wednesday July 11th, will there be more madness? Dwight Howard is rumored to go many places but will it actually happen or is it all talk. Who knows. All I know is I will be ready when it happens, however it happens, just to enjoy the entertainment that is NBA Free Agency.

Draft Rewind

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Last night was the NBA Draft, and for anyone who does not pay attention to college basketball, the nba draft preview or whatever the case may be, we all knew that Anthony “The Uni-Blocker” Davis, out of the University of Kentucky was selected first in the draft. It’s been a crazy week for the kid, especially after he came out and TRADEMARKED his Uni-brow. Yes you heard it here, the kid trademarked his uni-brow. Smart business deal or is this just over blown? His next order of business is to definitely get some braces, with all the money he is about to make, I’m sure he can afford to. Like Dwight Howard, Davis will be a star at the next level and I think some people would be a little hard-pressed to plaster this look everywhere.

Okay Okay, got off topic for a bit. With the 2nd pick in the draft, His airness’ Bobcats team selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from Kentucky as well. Making him and Davis the first pair of teammates to go 1-2 in the draft ever. Also these two were freshman! What is even more suprising is the fact that Jordan actually made a great pick! MKG as I will call him, is probably the hardest working player in the draft, someone who plays every game like it is Game 7 of the Finals. He is the type of player anyone would like to build a franchise around. Especially more suprising with Jordan’s history of picks, Kwame Brown comes to mind, Adam Morrison, and the countless trades he made which doomed the franchise. When I heard MKG’s name called, I almost fell out of my chair because this kid is a stud. Yes he only played one season at UK, but he will definitely be a perennial all-star for years in the league, assuming the Bobcats can build a team around him. Wait is that an oxymoron?

Washington drafted Florida’s Bradley Beal next, a great shooter with “high-character” and is a “complete basketball player” as dubbed by the trillest man in America, Jay Bilas. Cleveland had the 4th pick and decided to take Syracuse 6th Man Dion Waiters. Wait, you pass up on Thomas Robinson? Oh yeah, they selected Tristan Thompson last year, a poor man’s Robinson, who doesn’t had nearly the same drive. Not a knock on Thompson, but Robinson has the potential to be a very special player. Lucky for the Kings, he dropped to the 5th spot and they were able to swoop him up. Looks like him and Boogie Cousins are going to average 25 boards a game. Things look promising in Sacramento, assuming they actually stay there. Portland, by virtue of the Nets plain and simple getting shafted in the Gerald Wallace trade, because he opted out recently, and gave the Blazers a gift of a lottery pick. With this pick, they decided to draft Damian Lillard out of Weber State, who hails from Oakland. Not a big name player, but someone who developed later and improved every year, eventually becoming a leader of some sorts on a little known Weber State team. I think Lillard is a sleeper, well as much as you can be at that spot. Not many people saw him play College ball, but he put up the stats and should benefit from the years he spent in college (Very rare these days). At 7, my hometown Warriors took Harrison Barnes from UNC. I for one was very very suprised he fell this far and that the Warriors actually took him! Good player who will definitely improve at the next level. Should be exciting to see him develop in the NBA.

The rest of the draft after that point wasn’t too crazy, other than the fact that Austin Rivers was selected 10th by the Hornets. So wait, they are banking on Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers leading that team into the future? WOW. Or even the fact the Rockets were able to draft an all-star team of selections. They first got Jeremy Lamb out of UConn at 12, then picked up Royce White from Iowa St at 16, and then swooped up Terrence Jones at 18. Seriously? All these guys were studs in college, obviously not lottery picks this year but Lamb and Jones both won a National title in their 2 years in college and Royce White is a point forward with a lot of upside. I’m not sure if the Rockets are trying to package together a Dwight Howard deal but their team looks nice moving forward, as long as they can develop the talent. In another suprising move, Boston swooped up Jared Sullinger of Ohio St. and Fab Melo of Syracuse at 21 and 22 respectively. I guess Boston wasn’t scared of the “bulging dicks discs” which Andy Katz misspoke on live TV.

All in all, 6 players from Kentucky and 4 from UNC were drafted in the first 46 picks. Seriously?!?! In a great story, Robbie Hummel, who tore his ACL twice in college was swooped up with the 58th pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The kid has a great work ethic and obviously a hell of a lot of determination to come back from 2 devastating knee injuries and subsequently get drafted. Hats off to him. Also, I would like to tip my hat to Bernard James from Florida State. He was drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who actually traded him to Dallas. But he spent 6 years in the Air Force from 2003-2008. He went through 3 tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Qatar before returning to Florida State. He was welcomed to a standing ovation, in the 2nd round, and chants of USA-USA-USA. What a moment for the NBA, especially with David Stern basically getting boo’ed off the stage every time he came up to announce a pick.

It should be interesting to see in the future how these picks develop and to see if and who turns into All-Stars and Superstars. Is it better than the drafts of ’85 or of 2003? Only time will tell, but I can sure say this will be an exciting NBA season coming up and I for one, cannot wait!

 

 

The NBA Finals impressing, but at the same time disappointing all of our expectations.

Watching the Miami Heat take a 3-1 series lead in last nights pivotal game 4 was a very in between feeling for me. I have more and more became a “fan of the game”, more than stick with my allegiances and not really enjoy the amazing game for what it is worth. While I am a Lakers fan and they have enjoyed their success recently (5 titles in 12 years, playoffs in every season but one) I have learned, due to other teams winning which I have in the past proclaimed to hate. Well hate is such a strong word so I think in this case I will stick to dislike. But last night took me to another place.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are a very exciting team to watch, as noted as the way they bounced the defending champs in Dallas, my Kobe led Los Angeles Lakers, and the seemingly unbeatable San Antonio Spurs (who had won 20 in a row, including the first 2 of the series before losing 4 straight to bow out of the Western Conference Finals). The Thunder have impressed. While they may not boast the huge salaried or highly hyped Big 3 that many other teams may have such as Boston, Miami, or LA, they have an exciting core of players who are all home grown and have gelled together very very quickly. You can’t help but root for these guys. They are young, hungry, haven’t hit that egotistical age in the NBA, and day by day and round by round they are impressing. Before the playoffs, many stated that if the Thunder can get through the prospective uphill battle of Dallas, Los Angeles, & San Antonio (which if you were counting at home, were the Western Conference Champs the last 12 years) they would be a legitimate title contender and would have, so to speak, arrived. Well now that it has happened, we have seen another Thunder team. After going up 1-0 in the Finals, Kevin Durant who led the league in scoring this season has somewhat taken a backseat to Russell Westbrook on the court (and in fashion). But haven’t we seen this before? Countless times I have turned on Sportscenter or ESPN First Take and have heard commentators talking about how Westbrook, the POINT GUARD, taking too many shots which in turn takes shots away from Durant, who by the way averaged 28.0 ppg this season and an equally impressive 28.3 this postseason. What I don’t mind is when Westbrook drives to the hole and takes layups. He has demonstrated all playoffs and especially last night, that he can get to the rim at will due to the fact he is a mismatch with anyone who tries to guard him. But when he sits back and takes jump shots, it kills the team. He averages about 23 ppg this postseason, yet he takes about 20 shots per game. Now Durant averages 28 on 19 shots and averages 28.3, is there a problem here? Maybe that’s not the main issue. While Durant and Westbrook had 70 of their teams 98 points last night we have to ask the question, where was James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and the rest of the team. With their backs against the wall what kind of performance can we expect out of them. They shot right out of the gates last night and after the first quarter was over I fully expected them to even up the series at 2 apiece, but after shooting 60% in the first quarter they stumbled and despite Lebron’s cramps (more on that later) they couldn’t get a defensive stop in the fourth quarter and could not hit the key shots. The mental toughness of this team will definitely be tested come tomorrow night, not only is this an elimination game, but this is a statement game for the Thunder moving forward. Do they have the will to win?

Now on to the Heat, who surprisingly have awaken in these playoffs. I have to admit I fully expected them to lose each of the last 2 series before the Finals. They were down 2-1 on the road to a talented Indiana team, came back to win. Then against a tough veteran Boston team, lost 3 in a row after winning the opening 2 games, only to come back and steal the series and send Boston home. Despite Rajon Rondo playing out of his mind during the series including a game where he dropped 43 points and almost having a triple double in a losing effort. Currently in the Finals, we have seen it all. First the Heat lose game 1 to the Thunder blowing a big lead in the process, and then since have been rock solid, winning each of the last 3 games. Game 4 was probably the most impressive. The Thunder, who were in a must win situation, stormed out the gates and held a 17 point lead in the first quarter, only for the Heat to come back and make it a game by half time. Call it exhaustion or over-exertion this playoffs, but Lebron finally showed he was human in the fourth quarter by going down with what was called a leg cramp. He then came back onto the court, hit a huge 3 and then limped back down the court. Was this Lebron’s defining moment a la Jordan’s flu game? Not even close, while it did show some of the hunger and resiliency we have been lacking from Lebron in the playoffs, it was almost a little too dramatic. It’s good to finally see him not act like some entitled punk and prove to everyone why he is the chosen one and the best player on the planet.

What was even more suprising was the fact he sat on the bench the last minute of the game. Maybe for precautions, maybe because the game was out of reach at that point or whatever, but it was suprising to see him out during crunch time. Something I thought I would never see until later in his career.

Well here it is coming up, the MOST important game of his career coming up. Game 5, his first NBA Finals closeout game. Will he come up big or fizzle out like in the past? We have all seen the mouthpiece with the XVI, maybe this should have been seen as the first sign that he is hungry for the title.

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But if they end up closing out the Thunder in game 5, I can’t help but think, what kind of ridiculous press conference or statement will Lebron make after winning the title. Will he pull a Pat Riley?

Or will he pull out some statement about the haters and detractors and once again, alienate himself like last year. We will find out within the week! Stay tuned!

 

 

Oh, props to ABC on their 7 second delay fail, not once but twice. First with Lebron’s injury and second when Wade was giving Chalmers his new nickname.