January 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates with guard Klay Thompson (11) against the Toronto Raptors during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Raptors 126-105. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

January 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates with guard Klay Thompson (11) against the Toronto Raptors during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Raptors 126-105. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

The 2015 NBA Playoffs start Saturday. Who’s moving on to the next round and who’s going fishing?

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis will win the league’s MVP trophy in the near future. He will surely win Defensive Player of the Year some day as well, but MVP favorite Stephen Curry and the Golden States Warriors is too big of a fish for the Pelicans to swallow.

The Splash Bros, Curry and Klay Thompson, ranked first and second respectively(286, 239), in made 3-point field goals. Davis won’t be enough to block or stop all the long balls by Curry and Co., but he’ll show the world why he’s considered the best young big man in the league.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

James Harden’s performance has been un-beard-lievable this season for the Rockets. He averaged a career-high of 27.4 ppg, catapulting himself into the MVP conversation, which is also impressive in the absence of Dwight Howard.

Harden has been bounced at the playoffs in six games the past two seasons. Although, a first-round matchup against a Mavericks team still figuring out its identity since acquiring combative point guard Rajon Rondo, is a sigh of release for Harden.

The Rockets three-game wining streak at the end the season was vital in dodging the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Harden and the Rockets will advance.

Prediction: Rockets in 6

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are not your typical 6th seed. San Antonio is the defending champions and have reached the Finals in back-to-back seasons. The veteran trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, as well as the soon-to-be leader of the team in Kawhi Leonard, have one goal in mind, another champion

This is a defining series for Clippers guard Chris Paul. He’s undoubtedly a superstar point guard, but he has yet to reach the Finals or Conference Finals during his nine-year career. Paul needs this series win for his legacy and to not fall into the category of one of the greats to never capture a ring.

But those talks will start after this series.

Prediction: Spurs in 6

(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (5) Portland Trailblazers

Both teams struggled down the stretch. The Grizzlies lost two of its last three and squeaked by the lowly Utah Jazz in an 89-88 victory. The Trailblazers were banged up losing Nicolas Batum and C.J. McCollum to injury. Both are listed day-to-day.

But the Grizzlies are still the better team and has dominated the Blazers in recent years.

Since the 2012 season, Memphis has bullied Portland, winning nine of 11 games. The Grizzlies swept Portland in the regular season 4-0. The City of Blues will send Portland home on a sad note.

Prediction: Grizzlies in 5

 Eastern Conference

(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

At one point during the season, the Nets were 12-31 and thinking about if they would have the opportunity to select Jahlil Okafor or Karl Anthony-Towns in the NBA draft. Now, everyone knows ‘where Brooklyn at,’ and that’s in the playoffs.

But it won’t last long. The Hawks have ran the table since the beginning of the season, including a franchise record 19-game winning steak. Brooklyn is barely a road block in Atlanta’s path.

Prediction: Hawks in 4

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics

I’ll keep this brief and simple: the Cavaliers have LeBron James, 4-time regular season MVP and 2-times Finals MVP. Not to mention a superstar in the making in Kyrie Irving.

According to ESPN Stast&Info, James has played 158 playoff games. The entire Celtics roster has played 139.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 4

(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks

Kudos to Jason Kidd and Bucks’ GM John Hammond for guiding the baby Bucks to the playoffs.

Milwaukee has played stellar defense over the second half of the season, but locking down the raucous crowd in the United Center as they cheer on the resurgent Derrick Rose and the Bulls, will be too much for the Bucks.

Speaking of Rose, the matchup between he and Milwaukee’s Michael Carter-Williams is an intriguing bout.

Prediction: Bulls in 6

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards

This series is going to take a Game 7. This is by far the best series in the opening round of the Eastern Conference. John Wall averaged the first double-double of his career (17.6 ppg, 10 ast) and averaged 19 points and nine assist in the three game against the Raptors this season.

The Raptors have won seven of its last 10 games and won all three games versus the Wizards this season.

Bradley Beal has been in-and-out of the lineup all season with nagging injuries, but if he can stay healthy during this series he and Wall can elevate themselves as one of the top backcourts in the league.

And they will.

Prediction: Wizards in 7

Sarah Thomas courtesy: abcnews

Sarah Thomas courtesy: abcnews

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

Link to the column at The Hutchinson News: Brooks was here

Expect a litany of unsportsmanlike conduct from the National Football League this season.

And it won’t be from Sarah Thomas, the NFL’s first full-time female referee.

The blind side blows, cheap shots and unnecessary jabs will flail out of the mouths of players and perhaps coaches, if Thomas laughably screws up a call or fails to throw the yellow flag in an obvious moment.

The same type of comical or game-altering mistake any other official would make, but because Thomas is a woman, criticism will be harsher and fines will be dished out like it’s on a paper route.

Feb. 7, the National Basketball Association fined Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul $25,000 for his comments about Lauren Holtkamp after she called a technical foul.

“The tech that I get right there was ridiculous. I don’t care what nobody says, I don’t care what she says; that’s terrible. There’s no way that can be a tech. … That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case, this might not be for her,” Paul told reporters after the game.

Players criticizing referees is routine in any league, but Paul’s comments gained more traction because it was towards Holtkamp, a female referee.

Several slights and barbs have already slithered off the tongue of fans, saying, “She doesn’t belong on a football field” or “she’ll think twice when a 250-pound linebacker barrels over her in live game action.”

But, like Holtkamp, Thomas, 41, has an extensive background and pedigree as an official

Thomas was hired as a line judge for the 2015-2016 NFL season, and is among seven other officials announced by the NFL Wednesday. Thomas was in the league’s officiating development program in 2013 and 2014 and worked some team minicamps last year.

According to multiple media reports, she was the first woman to work college games in 2007. She was the first female official on the FBS level and the first to officiate a bowl game, the 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

She began officiating college games when she was hired by Conference USA as a line judge and head linesman. She also has worked the Senior Bowl, the Fight Hunger Bowl, the Medal of Honor Bowl and the Conference USA championship game in 2010 and 2014.

There are 250-pound linebackers on the collegiate level. Unless the collision was brutal, Thomas will stand up and dust herself off if she is run over by a player. She’ll be just fine.

Thomas has earned her black and white stripes.

If the NFL farm program of officiating felt her performance during training was superb, then there is no need for backlash from any level of the league. When a player, coach or whoever hurls parting shots to officials, the NFL hands down punishment.

At times, criticism is justified if the call is grossly incorrect, but insults just because Thomas will be a woman on the football field, is something the NFL won’t tolerate.

My only concern is if the NFL becomes overly protective of Thomas and hand out unfair fines to the players. Treat her like Ed Hochuli, Mike Carey or any other referee.

Thomas wouldn’t want it any other way, she said it herself.

“I am a female, but I don’t look at myself as just a female,” Thomas told reporters June 2014 while working a Cleveland Browns minicamp.

“I look at myself as an official.”

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils watches "One Shining Moment" with his players Grayson Allen #3, Quinn Cook and Justise Winslow #12 after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils watches “One Shining Moment” with his players Grayson Allen #3, Quinn Cook and Justise Winslow #12 after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

By: Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

Coach K wins 5th John Wooden Trophy

Kentucky wasn’t able to etch its name in history, but Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is (as if he already wasn’t) one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history after capturing his 5th John Wooden Trophy after his Blue Devils defeated Wisconsin 68-63 Monday night.

Krzyzewski is ranked 2nd All-time in national champions with five, only behind Wooden himself with 10. Before entering Monday’s matchup of No. 1 seeds, Coach K was 0-3 against No. 1 seeds in the National Championship game and 4-1 against all others.

Two moments made Coach K’s 5th title a bit more special than the others, 1) Krzyzewski became the first coach in Division I men’s basketball history to eclipse 1,000 wins after defeating St. John 77-68 Jan. 25.

And 2), he was highly-criticized for his inability to coach top recruits, or “one-and-done” players.

Freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Justice Winslow are all but gone to the NBA, and the jury is still out on Tyus Jones’ decision to declare for the draft.

But it was his one-and-done freshmen that spearheaded Duke in the second half. Four of Duke’s freshmen combined for 60 points, an NCAA Championship record. Wisconsin’s four seniors combined for 28.

Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan went on a post-game rant, and displayed poor sportsmanship as he criticized the refs and said Wisconsin doesn’t “rent a player.” It was the epitome of the phrase, “sore loser.” If you’re the spokesperson for a senior led program, Ryan, then show some class and teach the youth how to handle defeat.

Ryan’s full quote:

“All the seniors that I’ve had — hard to say the word. But every player that’s played through the program, okay, we don’t do a rent-a-player. You know what I mean? Try to take a fifth-year guy. That’s okay. If other people do that, that’s okay. I like trying to build from within. It’s just the way I am. And to see these guys grow over the years and to be here last year and lose a tough game, boom, they came back.”

Coach K responded to Ryan quote earlier today during an interview with CBS.

 “Duke doesn’t rent a player,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.”We have one of the great schools in the world, and when we recruit a young man, we recruit a young man because of three things: One, he has the academic potential to do well at Duke; two, he has the talent to do well; and three, he has great character. All the guys on my team fit that description 100 percent.”

Maybe Ryan should take a page or five, from Coach K.

Joe Thomas says teammates “lost trust” in Johnny Manziel during the season

The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and Cleveland Browns 22nd overall pick may have already hit rock bottom entering his second season in the NFL.

Johnny Manziel checked himself into a drug rehab facility shortly after the Super Bowl to put a stop to career and life-threatening habit.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Manziel is “likely to be discharged soon, possibly even next week.” Those words were confirmed by Browns head coach Mike Pettine made at the owners’ meetings in Phoenix two weeks ago, when he said he expects Manziel to participate in offseason workouts, which begin April 20.

But if the 22-year-old is expecting a warm embrace when he returns, teammate and Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas has a message for Manziel.

“I think he’s going to have to prove to the team that football is important and being ‘the man,’ being the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, is important, it is his goal, his single goal in his life,” Brown told Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland 850. “You know, I think he lost probably a lot of trust among the guys on the team last year by the way he handled himself once he became the starter. And I think he had a lot of time to reflect, I’m guessing, after the season was over by the comments he made in the media and by his actions, checking himself into rehab. … I think those were really positive steps. I’m hoping when we come back in April, we see a new Johnny and everybody’s blown away with his commitment. And I think he’s got the talent, so it’s just a matter of if he commits himself to it, we can have a really good quarterback on our hands.”

Kudos for Thomas, who is the leader of the team, to say what needs to be said to a promising player, but misguided player. Manziel was drafted 22nd overall for a reason, to lead a franchise in desperate need of success and rejuvenation. Checking himself into rehab was another stepping stone to get Manziel’s life on and off the field, back on track.

Like Thomas so eloquently stated, Manziel has to prove to the team that football is his No. 1 priority when he returns from rehab.

There is nothing but truth in Thomas’ words. Prove to your team and the franchise that you’re not just another player that will squander a golden opportunity to play at the highest level of football, Manziel.

Race For 8th in the NBA

Multiple teams in each conference are jockeying for the final playoff spots with a little over a week left in the season.

In Western Conference, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder is leading Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans by half of game. OKC is currently 42-35 and the Pelicans are 41-35.

Remaining games for the Thunder:

Tue, Apr 7 vs San Antonio; Fri, Apr 10 vs Sacramento; Sun, Apr 12 @ Indiana; Mon, Apr 13 vs Portland; Wed, Apr 15 @ Minnesota

Remaining games for the Pelicans:

Tue, Apr 7 vs Golden State; Wed, Apr 8 @ Memphis; Fri, Apr 10 vs Phoenix; Sun, Apr 12 @ Houston; Mon, Apr 13 @ Minnesota; Wed, Apr 15 vs San Antonio

Predictions:

What Russell Westbrook has been doing is simply mind-boggling. If it wasn’t for the legitimate MVP candidate, the Thunder would be a lottery team at this juncture, especially after the news of teammate and reigning MVP Kevin Durant, shut down for the season after three surgeries on his foot.

Westbrook recorded his third 40-point triple-double of the season in a loss to James Harden and the Houston Rockets Sunday. The Thunder are asking a lot from Westbrook as he singlehandedly carries the team on his back in Durant’s absence.

If you look at the schedule, San Antonio and Portland are the only two teams left on the schedule that posses any real threat to OKC.

As gifted as Anthony Davis is, and arguably the second best player in the league, the only team remaining on their schedule that doesn’t have a winning record is the Minnesota Timberwolves. Unless Golden State rest its players, I can’t see the Pelicans knocking of MVP favorite Stephen Curry and the Warriors tonight.

Memphis has been inconsistent as of late, but they are still favored over New Orleans. Every team except for the Timberwolves are vying for a playoff position. The Phoenix Suns are three games back from the 8th spot, but unless both the Pelicans and the Thunder lose the rest of their games, the Suns won’t make the playoffs.

The Thunder will hold off the Pelicans for the final spot in the West.

The competitiveness in the Eastern Conference stops at the 5 seed. Seeds 6 through 9 all have losing records. The hottest team among that group is the 7th-seed Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have a record of 36 and 41, but won 8 of its last 10 games.

The 8th seed in the East is down to a three horse race between the Boston Celtics (35-42), Indiana Pacers (34-43) and the Miami Heat (34-43). Horrid records for either of those teams that will back its way into the postseason.

The Heat seemed like a lock to make it weeks ago, but Miami is currently on a 4-game skid, dropping from 7th to 10th.

Miami is still the better team between the three of them. So until April 15 says otherwise, I’m still picking the Heat to claim the final spot in the East.

Kentucky coach John Calipari

Kentucky coach John Calipari

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

Hutchinson News Column

The Kentucky Wildcats became the first team to go 36-0 in men’s D-I college basketball history on Sunday.

And I want it to stay that way, for the Wildcats to finish the NCAA Tournament with an unblemished 40-0 record.

Winning the first 36 games of the season only to come up two rounds short of the Promised Land of capturing the Wooden NCAA National Championship Trophy leaves an empty feeling that a “better luck next time” and pat on the back will never fill.

In the grand scheme of things, a melancholy ink blot of a single loss behind 36 or 39 wins is meaningless, unless that loss came in the regular season.

In the next 10 to 20 years, when you’re scrolling through the archives of past NCAA championships, are you really going to point at the 2015 winner and say, “Well, man, I tell ya, the championship team was good, but that 30-something-and-1 Kentucky team was something special.”

Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball coach John Ontjes wanted to go undefeated after going 36-0 but lost in the game that matters most in back-to-back seasons.

“Most definitely. I wanted to see our team complete the journey of the possibility of going undefeated, especially after the effort and hard work they put into the year,” Ontjes said.

However, he did point out not to dismiss the journey it took to climb the undefeated ranks.

“It’s never any less meaningful (to go undefeated in the season and lose), but I think to go undefeated and lose in that game, you have to look back at the positives that occurred throughout the season,” Ontjes said.

And as for as what’s channeling through the mind of Kentucky coach John Calipari as he leads his team to uncharted territory, Ontjes said, “I think he’s not focused on going undefeated. He is focused on his next opponent and what they need to do to advance.”

To go 72-2 over the past two seasons is nothing to scoff at for Ontjes and Hutchinson, but 74-0 would have firmly cemented Ontjes and his team on an elevated pedestal in history.

Calipari won’t openly say his goal is to go undefeated, but his actions are screaming louder than the 20,000 raucous fans at Rupp Arena. After Kentucky eased through the SEC Tournament, the Wildcats oddly chose not to cut down the nets.

“We all forgot,” Calipari said after the win over Arkansas.

I’m not buying that if I had $1 million in the bank. Calipari knows what they have done thus far won’t mean a thing unless they’re cutting down the nets in Indianapolis on April 6.

And we’re fortunate to be witnessing history in the making right now with Kentucky. To survive the regular season and the gauntlet single-elimination tournament undefeated, that is a one-of-a-kind special that may never be duplicated.

Kentucky would sit all alone on the throne as the most prolific team in college basketball history.

Give me something that could last a lifetime. Give me something that can withstand the test of time without the slightest of trembling. Give me something that when I look at it, I think, “That may never be done again.”

On March 2, 1962, NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Kobe Bryant came somewhat close when he compiled an unworldly 81 points on the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006, but 100 points in a single game is a record that won’t perish.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated in a season (14-0) and win the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and the Patriots went 16-0 in the 2007 NFL regular season only to lose to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

And what do you remember about that game? The Patriots going 18-1, or the impeccable grab by David Tyree known as “The Helmet Catch?”

Or how about 1,406 career stolen bases by Hall of Fame leftfielder Rickey Henderson? Henderson has 468 more stolen bases than Lou Brock, who is second all-time.

The only way a player will catch Henderson is if they literally catch him jogging around the warning track of O.co Coliseum in Oakland and ask him how the heck did he steal more than 90 bases four times in his career, including 132 swipes in 1982?

LeBron James won’t be dropping 100 points in Quicken Loans Arena. Brady failed, and neither Peyton Manning nor Aaron Rodgers will lead their teams to a 19-0 season. And Billy Hamilton is about as close from the moon to the sun of Henderson’s stolen base record.

Not in this lifetime or the next, those records won’t be broken. A 40-0 season would rival those all-time, immovable marks in the record books.

I understand the essence of “March Madness,” too. Everyone is instantly smitten with the tourney David when the team seems poised to make an unforeseen run and flattens Goliath.

But this is history in the making. Kentucky has the chance to crown itself as not one of the greatest, but the greatest team in college basketball history.

We’re witnessing history.

Kelton Brooks is a writer for The Hutchinson News. Email: kbrooks@hutchnews.com.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 01:  LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles speaks at the podium during a press conference for the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year in the Super Bowl XLVI Media Center at the J.W. Marriott Indianapolis on February 1, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – FEBRUARY 01: LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles speaks at the podium during a press conference for the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year in the Super Bowl XLVI Media Center at the J.W. Marriott Indianapolis on February 1, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

It’s getting Shady in Buffalo; the Eagles coach is missing a Chip off his block

Five days after the Philadelphia Eagles traded 26-year-old, All Pro running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso, Buffalo signed McCoy to a 5-year, $40 million contract that includes $26.5 million in guarantees. The deal will be finalized today.

Alonso finished his rookie season with 159 combined tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, four interceptions, and 11 pass deflections. That was a prolific season for a rookie.

But that was in 2013. Alonso missed all of 2014 after he tore his ACL training in Oregon, the city of his former University where he played under his new head coach, Chip Kelly.

McCoy had the highest percentage of the Eagles yards from scrimmage last season with 22 percent, according to ESPN Stats&Info. Since joining the league in 2009, McCoy ranks third in total rushing yards (6,792) and fourth in touchdowns (44). He led the NFL with 1,607 rushing yards in 2013.

The Eagles, I mean Kelly, traded a legitimate top-5 running back in the NFL for a player coming off a torn ACL. And honestly, he traded for Alonso because he played at Oregon. Kelly now has nine former Oregon Ducks on his roster. He is a year removed from trading away DeSean Jackson because of alleged “gang ties” that went unproven.

And on Sunday, now ex-Eagle Jeremy Maclin reunited with former coach Andy Reid and has singed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The McCoy trade screams arrogance. It screams “I am Chip Kelly and you’re not.”  Kelly has immense trust and faith in his system and believes you can plug in players and still have success. This is the NFL where talent triumphs. Some sort of power struggle is spilling over in the city of Brotherly Love, and Kelly is the one who tipped over the cup.

Kelly is either a genius or insanely arrogant. I’m leaning towards the latter.

The masked triple-doubler

Remember when rumors were circulating of a possible trade for Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook?

Not only has the thunderous guard catapulted himself into MVP conversations, he’s arguably the best player on his team over Kevin Durant, and Westbrook is unquestionably playing at the highest level of any player in the NBA right now.

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook wearing a face-protection shield.

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook wearing a face-protection shield.

In Westbrook’s last 10 games without the injured and reigning MVP Kevin Durant, Westbrook is averaging 34.5 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 11.3 AST per game, a triple-double.

Let me put this into perspective: In the last 50 years, the only players to average 33 PPG, 10 REB, and 10 AST over a 10-game span in a season are Michael Jordan and Russell Westbrook, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

How about one more for good measure? In Sunday’s 108-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors, Westbrook compiled an unworldly 30 points, 11 rebounds and 17 assists.  He became the first player with 30+ points, 11+ rebounds and 17+ assist in a game since Magic Johnson in 1988 (32-11-20).

Without Westbrook, the Thunder would be a lottery team at this juncture of the season. Instead, he has them clinging on to the eighth seed in the Western Conference, clinging on to a one game lead over Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Westbrook has the tenacity and aggressiveness to take the Thunder further in the playoffs than Durant could.

If I’m Steph Curry and the No. 1 seeded Golden State Warriors, I’d want no part of Westbrook in the first round.

Not-so Sexy Rexy

Speaking of LeSean McCoy earlier, newly hired Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan acquired one of the most gifted running backs in the NFL. The acquisition of McCoy allows Ryan to revert back to the ground-and-pound days that brought him immediate success during his first two seasons as the New York Jets head coach, including an AFC Championship appearance in his second year.

Rex Ryan has big plans for the Bills. (Getty Images)

Rex Ryan has big plans for the Bills. (Getty Images)

Ryan also formed a stingy and formidable defense during his tenure as the Jets coach. He has inherited a more-talented and versatile defense in Buffalo headlined by Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Stephon Gilmore. McCoy and the Bills’ defense matches the blueprint of Ryan’s DNA.

But like in New York, Ryan is missing the centerpiece of a beautifully prepared roster, a quarterback. You can’t have a proper Thanksgiving feast with only dressing, you need the prized turkey.

During Ryan’s time as a head coach in the NFL, the following are the quarterbacks he has started under center: Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Matt Simms, an aged Michael Vick, Greg McElroy and last but not least, Tim Tebow.

That list looks a lot more like bologna than a Thanksgiving turkey.

And who does Ryan have playing quarterback in Buffalo? A regressing former first-round pick in E.J. Manuel who was benched in favor of journeyman Kyle Orton. The Bills flirted with signing Josh McCown who failed miserably last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but opted to sign Matt Cassell.

Nothin about that list of names sounds enticing either.

Rex, we’ve tasted this recipe before and it left a sour taste in the mouths of the fans and the organization. I’ll be the first to sign my name in the Shady McCoy fan club, but he’s not going to deliver you a clutch first down pass on 3rd-and-8 with a 1:22 left to go in the fourth quarter.

You need a viable option at quarterback, and it’s not Cassell or Manuel.

Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston throwing a pass at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston throwing a pass at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

The NFL Scouting Combine, the exact science that’s not so exact, has again come and gone.

It’s the annual football Olympics that surfaces every year on the speed-friendly turf in Indianapolis, Indiana. The spectacle is technically the first football-related interview for college football players with dreams of performing on the big stage that is the National Football League.

The “Road to the Pros,” as some calls it.

Executives, coaches, scouts, and doctors from all 32 NFL teams sat high in the press or coach’s box and glared down with binoculars or glued randomly in the stands as each participant pushed it to the max in the shuttle run, 3-cone-drill, broad and vertical jump, bench press and the critically-acclaimed 40-yard dash.

And I love it all.

But honestly, it doesn’t matter if a 340 pound lineman runs a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, or a 5.7. Linemen are measured on quick burst, lateral quickness and strength. It doesn’t matter if a wide receiver runs a 4.35 in the 40, or a 4.75.

Compare the careers of former 1st-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, who ran a scorching 4.30 flat in the 2009 Combine, and Anquan Boldin, a 2nd-rounder who ran a pedestrian 4.71 in the 2003 Combine.

Heyward-Bey is a bust considering his lofty 7th overall pick selection by the Oakland Raiders in 2009, playing on three team in six seasons and never eclipsing a 1,000 yards in a single year.

Boldin, on the other hand, is a Super Bowl champion with a borderline Hall of Fame career.

But I’m not here to compare oranges to apples and explain how sprinting down the sidelines can get you a couple extra million dollars or how lifting 225 pounds on the bench press 15 or 50 times will determine how many tackles in a game.

I’m here for two reasons.

One, to briefly give kudos to the top five quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL Draft according to NFL Draft guru Mike Mayock, for opting to lay out all their skills on the table after it has been widely publicized that this year’s crop of quarterback is “weak” and “less desirable.”

That group consist of (in order) former 2013 Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston, 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley of UCLA, and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson.

And second, the NFL Combine is also a buster of stereotypes.

In 2013, the Arizona Cardinals selected former Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope with the 174th overall pick in the sixth round. Swope ran an unprecedented 4.34 in the 40-yard dash.

That’s fast, but nothing close to running back Chris Johnson’s Combine record of 4.24 in 2008. But I’ll let Swope explain why his 40 time was “unprecedented.”

“I think a lot of people were pretty shocked,” Swope said in a 2013 interview. “You don’t see that every day, a white guy running a 4.3.”

Remember is 1992 when Woody Harrelson proved to Wesley Snipes that, in fact, white men can jump? Well, Swope showed NFL scouts that white men can run, too.

But sadly, the 24-year-old’s career ended before he took his first snap. He announced his retirement July of 2013 during Organized Teams Activities because of reoccurring concussions.

But the most recognized player for reasons off and on the field, is shattering the mold, Winston.

The stereotype around black quarterbacks on any level of football is he is “always” mobile, always athletic, and always looking to run first. But the worst and most undermining stereotype is that black quarterbacks can’t “digest the playbook,” meaning they don’t have the IQ to learn the playbook.

Winston was, of course, seen as a mobile and an athletic quarterback. Well, Winston clocked in at a 4.97 on his first attempt and a 4.99 in his second in the 40-yard dash, ranking 10th and out of 13 participating quarterbacks.

“He tuck and ran a lot during the season!”

Jameis Winston rushed for 65 yards for the entire year.

Winston is head and shoulders above every quarterback as a passer in this year’s draft. Winston is a quarterback that can extend plays from the pocket. Winston is a quarterback that can run if he has to, not a, per say, running quarterback.

And as far as the IQ insult, according to NBC’s Pro Football Talk, Winston’s knowledge of the game has reportedly caught the attention of numerous club officials who met with him during the NFL Scouting Combine.

Reportedly, an unnamed evaluator raved about Winston’s football IQ saying, “I think he’s (Winston) probably the smartest player I’ve ever interviewed” and even went out on a limb comparing him to Peyton Manning on sheer football IQ.

I don’t see Peyton Manning in Winston, but more of the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and former NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

But I also see a quarterback that’s not falling into the stereotype.

Hopefully more guys like Swope and Winston come along to break loose any stereotype chained to any players of any position in any sport.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22).

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22).

By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)

Most Valuable Player: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors

It just feels right.

Stephen-Curry-shooting

Steph Curry (30).

Curry is the best player, on the best team, in the best conference. The three-point sniper put on a show in the NBA All-star three-point contest knocking down a contest record-score of 27. He drained 13 straight shots in the second round of the contest, which is second longest streak behind Craig Hodges’ 1991 streak of 19 straight.

The 5th-year man out of Davidson has developed into an all around player and true point guard ranking in the top-10 in scoring (23.6; tied for 7th), three-pointers made (161; tied for 1st), assists (7.9; tied for 5th) and steals (2.16; 1st).

In the Warriors 42 wins, Curry has averaged 24 points and 8 assist. This is Curry’s season, this is Curry’s year, this is his time to win an MVP trophy and to lead his team to a Finals appearance in the dog-eat-dog Western Conference.

Rookie of the Year: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

andrew-wiggins-george-hill-nba-preseason-minnesota-timberwolves-indiana-pacers2-850x560

Wiggins (22).

This race was over when Jabari Parker was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Heck, all of top heavy talent in this past prized rookie class fell victim to injury. Wiggins’ former University of Kansas teammate Joel Embiid won’t suit up this season as he’s recovering from foot surgery. Former Kentucky standout Julius Randle broke his leg on the opening night of the season. Magic forward Aaron Gordon had foot surgery nine games into the season, but has since returned. And Celtics guard Marcus Smart missed a period of time with an ankle injury.

I’m not saying Wiggins won the race by default, but it wasn’t much of a competition. Wiggins is undoubtedly a rising two-way star in this league and has increased his scoring total every month of the season. The ROY hardware already has Wiggins’ name engraved.

Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

In two to three years, Davis will be an MVP candidate and will likely take home the prestigious award. Davis is a ball magnet and can defend every single position on the court. He’s long enough to block shots on centers and power forwards, the strength and speed to stay on the hip of a small forward, and lateral quickness to hang with guards.

Davis (23), blocks Robin Lopez.

Davis (23), blocks Robin Lopez.

Davis is leading the NBA in blocks with 2.74, blocks per foul with 1.33, and altered hundreds of shots. Davis has endured a few nagging injuries as of late, but if he can remain healthy in the second half of the season, I believe Davis will have a strong chance to come away with the award.

 

 

Most Improved Player: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

Butler is becoming one of the best two-way players in the NBA. The elevation of his play only turns the Bulls into a scarier foe. Butler was only known for his ability to clamp down on defense and regularly guard the best player on opposing teams.

But now Butler is a threat on the offensive side of the ball averaging a career high in

Butler (21).

Butler (21).

points per game, 20.4, rebounds per game, 5.8, and assist per game, 3.6. His game has transformed completely. Butler has become a better outside shooter, developed a growing post-game and has transitioned well playing off the ball in the return of Derrick Rose.

Butler is the epitome of the word improved.

 

 

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

Lou Williams (23).

Lou Williams (23).

The No. 2 seed Toronto Raptors wouldn’t be where they are without Williams. He provides a spark off the bench and instant offense for a team already loaded with fire power all across the board. Coming off the bench, Williams is third on the team in player efficiency, third on the team in scoring, third on the team in field goals made per game, and has the second highest free throw percentage.

When the Raptors need points, Williams is the answer.

 

Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks

Steve Kerr is doing a phenomenal job with the Warriors in Golden State, but with the talent on that roster, a coach could sleep walk into 45 wins.

Oct 17, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer calls a play in the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 17, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer calls a play in the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

But no one saw the Hawks leading the Eastern Conference with a 43-11 record at the All-star break, no one. This is an easy decision.

If you did foresee this happening, I want proof.

The Hawks went on a scorching franchise record with 19 straight wins from Dec. 26 to Feb. 2. Atlanta won those 19 games by an average of 11.4 points and went 17-0 in the month of January. They became the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in January.

The Hawks are unselfish and depend on each other to do their job. Atlanta’s starting five are all averaging double figures and point guard Jeff Teague has taken his game to another level. Not to mention lethal shooter Kyle Korver who’s on an historic pace for three-point shooting.

Budenholzer has the recipe for winning after spending 18 seasons as an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio. He knows how to manage his collection of talent. The players have completely bought in to his philosophy and doing what takes to win night in and night out.