Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

The young Washington Wizards take on the perennial playoff contenders in the Chicago Bulls

The young Washington Wizards take on the perennial playoff contenders in the Chicago Bulls

 

Only three times in the modern era has a team three-peated: theMichael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1993 and again in 1998, and the tandem of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002. Since the NBA/ABA merger, two teams, the 1982-85 Los Angeles Lakers and the 1984-87 Boston Celtics, have made it to the finals four consecutive seasons.

The Miami Heat have the chance to etch their place in history by checking off both of these task. Or will the MVP favorite Kevin Durant lead his Oklahoma City Thunder to the Finals and capture his first NBA title.

We will all find out in June, but for now, let’s see who gets out of round one of the 2013-14 NBA playoffs.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS

(1) Indiana Pacers vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks
Regular season series tied (2-2)

Despite the Atlanta Hawks backing their way into the playoffs with a 38-44 record, they have won seven of their last 10 games, albeit following a six game losing streak. The scoring backcourt of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver–and swingman Louis Williams coming off the bench, who could drop 20 on any given night–could pose a legitimate threat to the No. 1 seed Indian Pacers who have developed an allergy to scoring points.

All-star center Roy Hibbert has either been in witness protection or on missing posters with his disappearance in games as of late. In the month of April, Hibbert has averaged 5.3 ppg and 3.2 reb/g–unacceptable for a 7-footer. If the Pacers plan to book a ticket to the NBA Finals, Paul George is going to have to elevate his play to a superstar level.
Regardless, the Hawks are 38-44 for a reason. Look for Indiana to exploit the Hawks inexperience by locking down on defense. Pacers in 6.

(4) Chicago Bulls vs. (5) Washington Wizards
Regular season series (Wizards 2-1)

I’ll admit, this series has me torn. On one hand, the growth of John Wall has placed himself as realistic top-5 point guard in the NBA today. He’s arguably the fastest player in the league in the open court, athletic and fearless going to the basket–not to mention second year guard Bradley Beal has stepped into his own averaging 17.2 ppg. But on the other hand, the NBA playoffs forces a team to play traditional half court-styled basketball, the Chicago Bulls forte.

Joakim Noah is the frontrunner in my eyes for Defensive Player of the Year, and 2011 Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau is a mastermind on the defensive side of the ball as the Bulls are first in points allowed giving up 91.8 ppg on the season. The Wizards are young, but talented, well-coached and they deserve to play on this stage. Wizards in 7.

Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets
Regular season series tied (2-2)

The Brooklyn Nets are made for the playoffs. They are a veteran led team with leadership, versatility, depth and have an identity. Since the All-Star break, the Nets are 33-13. I completely wrote them off at the beginning of the season. If Brooklyn can remain healthy and not look pass the Raptors (winner faces the Miami Heat; Nets swept Heat in regular season), they can take this series in five games.

But a winner of 48 games this season, the Raptors are no pushovers. Leading scorer and should-be-most-improved-player-candidate, DeMar Derozan and Terrance Ross both had 50 point games this season, showing off their depth on offense. But who makes this team go is the scrappy barely 6-foot point guard Kyle Lowry. The seven year guard out of Villanova is having a career year averaging 17.9 ppg and 7.4 ast. He won’t let Toronto go down without a fight, but Brooklyn’s experience and savvy will prove too much for the Raptors who last made the playoffs in the 2007-08 season. Nets in 6.

(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Charlotte Bobcats
Regular season series (Heat 4-0)

Remember on March 3 when LeBron James scored 61 points, grabbed seven rebounds and still managed to dish out five assist? The Bobcats are still having nightmares.

Since 2010-11, the Heat are 15-0 against the Bobcats, who’ve never won a postseason game. I don’t see any reason why this series will be any different. The Heat haven’t been themselves lately struggling in stretches and trying to get oft-injured/rested Dwayne Wade back into the flow. Bobcats center Al Jefferson will give Miami a fit, but the two-time defending champs will adjust. The Heat will need all the rest they can get if they face Brooklyn in the next round.

Congrats to the Bobcats for making the postseason, but the celebration will quickly come to an end. Heat in 4.

WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Dallas Mavericks

 Regular season series (Spurs 4-0)

The Dallas Mavericks would be the 3 seed in the East. The West is that good and the East is that bad. But the Mavericks are facing the defending Western Conference champs. The Spurs are hands down the best overall team in the NBA right now with the capabilities of beating a team in an offensive shootout, or a defensive struggle. Every year the Spurs are written off: too old, their time is up, they won’t do it again, but the keep finding away to come away with the best record in the league. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and coach Grep Popovich, they’ve been here before and ready to rid that bitter taste left in their mouth by the Heat in last year’s Finals.

Dirk Nowitzki and Co. are a speed bump in the way of the Spurs. Spurs in 5

(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Portland Trail Blazers

Regular season series (Rockets 3-1)

The Rockets have enough talent on their roster to make a run at the title, but they should have more than enough with the $88 million center in Dwight Howard. Howard hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectation placed upon him after his fallout with the Lakers. Averaging a double-double (18.3 ppg and 12.2reb/g) is nothing to dismiss, but a player of his caliber should dominant night in and night out. Luckily, James Harden who launched to stardom as one of the premier players in the league. Although, Howard has elevated his place against Portland in their four regular season matchups averaging (2.5 ppg and 13.5 reb/g).

In their four meetings, each team scored over 100 points with the Rockets taking the last meeting between the two 118-113. Both teams average over 100 points a game, but also give up 100 points a game. Houston does possess the prowess on defense, especially with 3-time defensive player of the year in Howard, but they can be baited in shootouts. I love the combination of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damien Lillard. That is a tandem to reckon with for years to come. Aldridge is the second best power forward in the game behind Anthony Davis. If Portland is to sneak pass Houston, Aldridge will be the reason.

But I don’t see Portland winning this series. Rockets in 6.

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) Golden State Warriors

Regular season series tied (2-2)

In the words of Terrell Owens, get ya’ popcorn ready.

Easily the most entertaining playoff matchup, these two teams have the makings of putting on an all-time great series. Star point guards going head-to-head in the surgical Chris Paul and the sharp shooting Steph Curry is a basketball lover dream. But the Clippers have too many options on offense (i.e. Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Darren Collison) and arguably have two of the best players in the NBA right now in Paul and Blake Griffin–who I would put third in the MVP race behind Durant and LeBron. Griffin is having a career year in scoring averaging 24.1 ppg. He has also snagged 9.5 reb/g on the season.

The Warriors too have weapons in Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and David Lee, but they are missing one big piece. Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who’s out with a back injury, would be kryptonite to Griffin’s high flying Superman act, but without Bogut in the middle, Griffin is free to roam the skies. This game may eventually come down to coaching as Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson make adjust from shifting in an put of smaller lineups and who will have the responsibility of slowing down the each team’s stars.

The Curry-effect could push this series to seven, but I’m banking on Doc. Clippers in 6.

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies

Regular season series (Thunder 3-1)

This is redemption for Kevin Durant and the Thunder. After winning the first game in the 2013 Conference Semifinal against the Grizzlies, they lost four straight to lose the series in five games. That was a bitter pill to swallow for Durant, but Memphis will be the ones taking pills this time getting sick of all Durant’s made jumpers. Durant is the first player since Michael Jordan to lead the league in scoring in five straight seasons, and he broke a Jordan record earlier this season scoring 25+ points in 41 straight games (Jordan’s record was 40 games). It’s also important to note that Russell Westbrook miss last year’s series.

Although, the Thunder seem to bring the best out of the Grizzlies. Memphis’ third-ranked defense has the attitude to slow down the Thunder. Marc Gasol’s ability to contain pick-and-rolls and patrol the paint is a vital key in this series.  Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen will interchange taking their chance at bottling up Durant and the underrated Mike Conley can go step for step with Westbrook. Some don’t see a Memphis coming out of the series as winner as a surprise, but it would sure surprise me. Thunder in 6.

Both the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have been struggling as of late. Which team will grab the No. 1 seed? (Pacers small forward Paul George pictured above)

Both the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have been struggling as of late. Which team will grab the No. 1 seed? (Pacers small forward Paul George pictured above)

The Eastern Conference Finals has been predetermined since the opening tip-off of the NBA season.  The Indiana Pacers versus the Miami Heat. Point, blank, period.

Barring a major setback, this predestined matchup will come into fruition. However, that doesn’t mean the two heavyweights won’t endure their share of season stumbles. Both teams are in the midst struggles as their two major components have faltered lately.

With the Pacers, their once impenetrable defense has been reduced to wet tissue in recent weeks. For Miami, ever since LeBron James’ shooting clinic scoring 61 points on 22 made fields goals, he has fallen into a seemingly unshakeable slump. Indiana is currently on a four game losing streak and Miami is on a three game slide. The Pacers have one game and a half lead on Miami, but neither team is seizing the opportunity to gain control of the top seed with their recent struggles.

Indiana leads the NBA in points allowed giving up only 92 points game. On their current losing streak, they have given up 424 points in four games, that’s an average of 106 points over that stretch. The worst lost of the last four losses was against the Charlotte Bobcats who scored 109 points on the Pacers. Charlotte came into the game ranked 26th in point per game at 95.4. Indiana depends on its defensive prowess, especially with 7-footer Roy Hibbert in the middle, but his play on both sides of the ball has been pedestrian as of late. They are not a high scoring team. If they keep up with their losing ways, they are practically handing the No. 1 seed over to Miami. They need home court advantage in a seven games series against the Heat. Without it, they can kiss the Finals goodbye.

But Miami doesn’t seem to want the top seed either.

And honestly, a large part of the blame falls on LeBron.

The sports world was treated to an unconscious performance by King James as he connected on eight 3-pointers in a row, shot 22 of 33 from the field, 9-12 from the free throw line and 66 percent from the field scoring a career-high 61 points against the Bobcats a week ago.

After that game, LeBron said It felt like I had a golf ball, throwing it into the ocean. On Miami’s three game losing streak, it looks like LeBron is throwing a beach ball into golf hole. Since his 61-point game, LeBron is shooting 39 percent from the field. His season average is 58 percent. Outside the paint, he is averaging a pitiful 11 percent. His season average for scoring outside the paint is 38 percent.

Make no mistake, LeBron is the best player on the planet, but he is the main cause of the Heat’s losing streak. His game has never been predicated on knocking down outside shots. When dared to shoot by opposing teams who heckle him saying he can’t shoot, he’ll knock ‘em down. But not now.

LeBron is still living in the moment of his 61-point clinic. It’s time he snaps out of that daze. He even stooped so low as to blame his shooting woes on the half sleeved jerseys. Really? Really, LeBron?

Regardless, Miami is playing catch up for the rest of the season as the Pacers have 19 games left to Miams’s 22. I don’t believe either team could beat the other on its home court in a game 7. Capturing the No. 1 seed in the East is vital for both teams.

Few NFL Quick Hits

The words “inquired” and “interest” are on the verge of being banned as they have loosely been tossed around in recent weeks as free agency period has begun.

Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has been linked to the New York Jets. That would be a great move by the Jets if they sign him. The Jets are not too far off from a being a playoff team. They have a stellar defense and run game. All they are lacking is a top wide receiver and consistency from the quarterback position. After sitting through four miserable years behind Mark Sanchez, I’d imagine Geno Smith is on a short leash after just his rookie season throwing 21 interceptions. Vick would turn the Jets into a playoff team in one season.

The 26 yeold free agent wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said he’d be a dangerous weapon playing alongside Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) or Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers). In short, he wants to play for a contender and prove he’s one of the top receivers in the league again.

From a talent perspective, he is among the top receivers. Nicks has strong hands, physical, one of the best receivers when it comes to catching the ball in traffic and just plucks it right out the air. He is a legitimate No. 1 receiver when he’s on the field, but that’s the problem. Nicks has never played a full 16 game season in his career. Availability is just as important as ability. No use of having all that talent is you can’t put it on the filed.

Yet still, wouldn’t mind seeing Nicks paired with Luck.

While Nicks is looking to extend his football career at a young age, another player is calling it quits at a young age. Rashard Mendenhall is retiring at the age of 26. The former first-round running back from Illinois played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the bulk of his career before playing his last season for the Arizona Cardinals. He battled a series of injuries the past three years. Here is why he retired at 26. 

March 18, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference at the annual NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

March 18, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference at the annual NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Football fans eyes have been glued to the ‘Underwear Olympics’, or better known as the NFL Scouting Combine where household names like the freakish former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was clocked at an official 4.53 at 6-feet-5 and 260 pounds, former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel ran an official 4.68, and former Clemson star receiver Sammy Watkins’ best unofficial time was a 4.34, later adjusted to 4.43.

While scouts pry, twist and pull every prospect’s height, weight, speed, agility, hand size, how many times they can do a backflip on one leg after spinning in a circle or whatever else to determine their draft status, other news have also garnered headlines.

The Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins

After signing a 10-day contract Sunday, nearly 10 months after his announcement on April 29, Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in the four major U.S. professional sports leagues.

Excuse me, but, Woopty-Do.

Both Collins and Michael Sam don’t want the be known as the gay basketball player or the gay football player, but unless they produce on the field, quite frankly, that’s all they will be remembered by, not their actions on the field or court. I’m not judging them on their sexual orientation, in my previous column my only issue with Sam was people calling him a hero. He produced on the college level as the 2013 co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 1st-team All-American, was 7th in the NCAA with 12 sacks, but 1st in the SEC. He was originally slated as a mid-round pick, but after a 4.91 official 40 time, and listed as an undersized defensive end and not possessing the skillset as an every down linebacker, his stock may have dipped more.

If we’re strictly talking about sports, unlike Sam, Collins hasn’t produced on any level. After playing in only 11 minutes grabbing two rebounds receiving 5 fouls, I honestly believe the Nets put him in the game as a charity gesture.

After playing for six different teams in 12 years, his career stats are 3.6 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game. As a 7-footer, snagging 3.8 rebounds per game in your career is embarrassing. Off the court, it’s not my business what he does, but on the court, he’s 35-year-old center that signed a 10-day contract who has never been any good in the NBA. Period.

Greg Oden starting his first game since 2009 after multiple reconstructive knee surgeries was a bigger story to me.

Congrats to him.

Policing the N-Word

In the offseason, the NFL has grown accustomed to implementing a new rule that raises a lot of chatter. With the racial tension that has been going on in the Miami Dolphins locker room and the Riley Cooper incident that happened in June, the NFL is taking a stance.  Last year it was the Crown-of-the-helmet rule, this year it’s “policing the N-Word” on the field.

According to an article by CBS Sports NFL Insider, Jason La Canfora, John Wooten, head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that monitors diversity in the NFL, said he expects the league’s competition committee to enact a rule at the owner’s meeting next month making it an automatic 15-yard penalty if a player uses the N-word on the field, with a second infraction meriting an ejection.

Good luck with that one.

I’m not by any means condoning the use of the N-Word, but born and raised in Memphis, Tenn. in an all black neighborhood, high school, hearing it in college, hearing it while walking down the street, hearing it while pumping gas and hearing it from my closest friends, and even I have used it, and that doesn’t make it right at all, but I just don’t see this happening.

I’ll personally admit that I stopped using the N-Word a while ago when I began to hear younger children saying it. That was enough for me and it’s a bad look on their parents who allow this. Education on what this word means and its ugly connotation should spread through all races.

I applaud the NFL for what they are trying to do in the bigger picture, but in the midst of an NFL game, in the heat of the battle with tempers flaring, the refs might as well leave their flag on the field the entire game. It was an incident this past season of a referee using the N-Word towards a player, and in 2009 in a game with the Patriots and Ravens, a referee called a player “boy.” The N-Word should no longer exist, but people are going to say what they want, when they want, on or off  the field.

The NFL already has an “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” penalty. Will this fall under that, or will “Use Of Foul Language” stand as the new standard penalty? Are those same people who want to rid of the N-Word will negate profanity, too? They won’t. If that’s the case, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan should be banned from the league after every other word was a curse word when the Jets were featured on the HBO special Hard Knocks.

Not only just the N-Word, but what about a list of other racial slurs? Again, I get what the NFL is doing, but no matter how big the NFL think it is, this is larger than the league itself.

I just don’t see this rule taking place. But imagine this: what if the league doesn’t accept this proposed ruling? Do you see the message they are sending? “It’s OK to use the N-Word.” It’s a PR move. This is bigger than the NFL.

The only way this will stop on the field is if the NFLPA and the players themselves agree to eradicate the use of the N-Word on the field.

NBA Rambles

I’m just rambling here. The Thunder are 0-2 since Russell Westbrook has returned to the lineup Coincidence? I think not. Kevin Durant is trying to ease his co-superstar back into the flow while reverting back to his “servant” ways.

“The Servant” for a nickname? Really?

And Serge Ibaka might’ve saved Durant’s MVP case by breaking LeBron James’ nose.

Carmelo Anthony is a top-3 scorer in the NBA, but I’m not sure if he’s a top-5 player. It doesn’t even phase me that he easily puts up seemingly 40 points a night (Melo is averaging 27.9 PPG). All he does is score. That’s it. The Knicks are 2-3 when Melo scores over 40. His New York Knicks are 21-36. If he stays in New York, he’s not committed to winning. Truthfully, he hasn’t been about winning his whole career. Melo has gotten passed the first round of the playoffs only twice in his career, he was swept three times in his career and defeated in five games four times in his career in the postseason.

Aside from the Miami Heat and Indian Pacers and maybe the Toronto Raptors, the Eastern Conference is horrible. The Memphis Grizzlies  are two games back of the 8th seed in the West at 31-24, which means they are not currently in playoff position. In the East, the Grizzlies would be the 3 seed. Toronto is the 3 seed in the East at 31-25.

The 8th in the East are the Atlanta Hawks at 26-29. The 8th seed in the West are the Phoenix Suns and they are 33-22. The Hawks would be eight games back of the 8th seed in the West. Out of the playoffs. Every seed from 3rd to 8th in the Eastern Conference wouldn’t be in the playoffs in the Western Conference.

Catch my drift? The West is ultra competitive and the East is ridiculously awful. Just fast forward to the Eastern Conference Finals of the Heat and Pacers come playoff time in the East.

Who is this year's MVP, LeBron James (left) or Kevin Durant (right)?

Who is this year’s MVP, LeBron James (left) or Kevin Durant (right)?

Now at the midway point of the season, with the 2013-2014 All-star weekend in New Orleans set to begin Feb. 14, let me tell you who I think is deserving of the NBA’s coveted awards.

Sixth Man of the Year

Rodney Stuckey, SG, Detroit Pistons

It’s honestly a toss up with this one. Jamal Crawford would get the nod as he regularly provides a spark off the bench, but he’s basically been a starter this season with J.J. Reddick recently returning to the line-up after sitting out six weeks due to torn ligaments in his wrist. My next choice would be New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans, who is playing well averaging 15.8 ppg in Pelican’s wins this season, but they likely won’t make the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, which would eliminate him, as well as missing a few games due to injury. After signing a 4-year $44 million contract in the offseason, why is Evans coming off the bench anyway?

Eliminating Evans and Crawford has led me to the combo guard in Stuckey. The sixth year guard is currently third on the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) and shooting 83 percent from the free-throw line. Unlike the Pelicans, who have a 16-25 record in the West, Stuckey and the Piston’s are a game and a half back of the eighth seed in the East with a 17-25 record.  The Eastern Conference is horrific aside from Miami and Indiana, but if the Detroit can swindle its way into the playoffs, a piece of the credit goes to Stuckey.

Most Improved Player

DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors

The athletic swingman and former McDonald’s All-American is having a breakout year averaging career highs in points (21.8), minutes per game (38.0), 3-point percentage (.296), rebounds per game (4.6), and assist per game at 3.7.  The Raptors leading scorer has become the vocal point of the offense, fresh off a 40-point performance against the Dallas Mavericks.

Toronto is currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and that doesn’t look to change barring any major setback, per se, DeRozan was injured. But let’s not wish that on anyone, especially not this underrated star.

Defensive Player of The Year

Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers

The immovable object that anchors the No. 1 defense in the NBA is Roy Hibbert. Teams are shooting a meager  40.9 percent at the rim against Hibbert, and the Pacers are giving up a league’s best 89.2 points per game. Hibbert is also second in the league in blocks, averaging a hair under three block per game. It shouldn’t come of any surprise that the league’s top defense is also the top seed in the East leading LeBron James and the Heat by 3 1/2 games.

Rookie of the Year

Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Philadelphia 76ers

The long and rangy point guard took the league by storm in the 76ers opening game of the season against the Heat as he was one steal shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 12 assist and 9 steals. He is the rookie leader in scoring, assists, rebounds and steals, but his play has slowed a bit as of late, dealing with fatigue as he leads all rookies in minutes per game at 34.6. Philadelphia depends on the rookie guard day in and day out, but with a 14-28 record, and a need to improve his perimeter shooting, his team is going no where this season.

Coach of the Year

Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers

It’s no clear cut favorite to me. After a rocky start to the season and the infamous Spillgate, the Nets have won 8 of its last 10 games behind player-to-coach in one year in Jason Kidd. If Brooklyn steadily escalate in the seeding, he will garner strong consideration. Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has done more with less with their prized acquisition on Eric Bledsoe, who is out with a torn meniscus. The Suns are currently the 7th seed in the West with a 24-17 record, and fresh off giving a 24-point beat down to the Pacers.

But, I’m giving this award to the coach whose team has the best record in the NBA (33-8), the most hungriest team in the NBA who was one game away from reaching the Final last season, and perhaps a darkhorse in the MVP race in Paul George.

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

We are all a witness to one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history. “KD” or the “Slim Reaper” as others like to call him, has scored over 30 points in nine straight games, and gone over 45 points in the month of January. In January alone, he’s averaging a staggering 37 points per game. It was only a week ago when Durant bombed 54 points on Golden State. It’s no stopping the runaway favorite right now, well, that’s unless LeBron James (who’s shooting close to 60 percent from the field by the way) has something to say about this. But, Durant’s historic run has to come to an end sometime, right? By the way he’s shooting, that day doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon.

Is another drama-filled season looming for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins?

Is another drama-filled season looming for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins?

Most football fans, or perhaps everyone all across America, are gearing up for the respective conference championships this weekend as San Francisco travel to Seattle and New England set sail to Omaha, I mean Denver, to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

I too will take pleasure in watching the two contrasting games as the NFC will feature bruising defensive play and the AFC will feature high scoring offenses as two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks go head-to-head.

But that’s a story in itself that I will expand upon tomorrow in my predictions.

Anywho, allow me to briefly share with you what has caught my attention lately.

Coaching Carousel

As of now, there have been six newly named head coaches in the NFL: Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been hired as the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach; Detroit Lions have hired former Baltimore Ravens offensive and former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell; Tennessee Titans have hired Ken Whisenhunt as HC, former San Diego Chargers OC and Arizona Cardinal HC; Washington Redskins have hired Jay Gruden, former Bengals offensive coordinator; the Houston Texans dipped in the college ranks and hired former Penn State HC Bill O’Brie and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were smitten with former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith.

My favorite hires: Jay Gruden to Washington and Jim Caldwell to Detroit.

Gruden to the Redskins is a welcoming and fresh sight for Robert Griffin III. No more “I am Mike Shanahan and you are not.” No more it’s my way or the highway from an egotistical, future Hall of Fame coach who has lost his touch. Gruden has already named Griffin as the starter, which shouldn’t be a surprise, but it already shows he supports his quarterback.

I’ll speak on Griffin in a minute.

Detroit Lions new head coach Jim Caldwell (middle)

Detroit Lions new head coach Jim Caldwell (middle)

Caldwell to the Lions is exactly what this undisciplined and rambunctious team needs. The Lions were ninth in the NFL with 110 penalties this season, and after starting the season 6-3, leading the NFC North, they faltered down the stretch going 2-6 inevitably missing the playoffs. Caldwell reportedly broke down passes by Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford during the interview, an example of his commitment to excellence.

(R)eaction-G3

Now, back to Griffin. He had a porous sophomore campaign to say the least. Battling back from a lingering ACL injury, internal issues with his father in the locker room, teammates calling him out, and benched for the last three games of the season.

Griffin was focused on the brand of RG3 itself this offseason, instead of being fully committed on the field. 1377125871000-AP-Steelers-Redskins-Football-001Operation Patience? I get it, it was to inspire the fans, lift the organization and hint for an explosive comeback, but he let it all go to his head, and the heckling fans got into his head as well.

This is what Griffin posted on his Facebook account:

I usually don’t do this because everyone will have an opinion on what you do or don’t do. But to answer your question.
I wear a sleeve because….well the same reason Pierre Garcon wears a fang mouthpiece-S. Moss wears a hand warmer when it’s 70 degrees-Will Montgomery wears elbow pads-Alfred Morris wears shin guards-London Fletcher doesn’t wear sleeves in below freezing weather-Adam Carriker does bicep curls and tricep extensions before a game-Chris Baker dances before every game in the locker room-Logan Paulsen does 2 handed spikes when he celebrates touchdowns-Chris Chester does ninja spins to block people-Some guys wear sleeves & some don’t-Some guys wear wristbands & some don’t-Etc Etc
You see WE do these things because they make us comfortable. Not to be different. Been wearing a sleeve and glove for 10 years.
You see WE are a team.
You think I want it to be national news that I visit a beach? Or shop at Walmart? Or wore red shoes instead if green yesterday? Well I don’t. I’m “striving” for greatness just like my fellow teammates do. The “attention” that comes with being a QB in the league is what you are referring to. All the press conferences and talking to the media? Mandated by the league to have a press conference every week during the season and during team activities during the off-season.
Oh wait, you must be talking about the Commercials? Right? Oh ok so what was the deal with those in 2012? WE won the division. So in 2013 when WE get knocked down, and finish last it’s because of the commercials? If that is your reasoning I have nothing more to say. WE will get back up. That is what matters. I hope I answered your question well enough.
And that you keep supporting the team.
HTTR!!!

The fact that he even went out his way to respond to the criticism shows his inability to block out the noise and rise above the negativity. Griffin has to be more assertive with his actions on the field and not his words.

ACL/Knee Injury comeback

Getty Images

Getty Images

What a sight it was to see the former 2007 No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden, who has battled multiple knee surgeries, back on the court last night. His last played game was in 2009.

Albeit it was only 6 points and 2 rebounds in 8 minutes in an inexplicable loss to the Washington Wizards for crying out loud, his mere presence on the court was truly a feel good story. The case still remains how affective he will be for the duration of the season.

Boston Celtics point guard, Rajon Rondo mentioned on Twitter his return to the NBA after he tore his ACL in late January in 2013.

In other words, tomorrow (Friday) against the Toronto Raptors.

In a bit if hush news, Nerlens Noel, who was sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the New Orleans 102613_nerlens-noel_600 Pelicans, who ultimately traded to the 76ers, was cleared for basketball activities by Dr. James Andrews. It’s still uncertain when he will return to live game action, but this is a positive sign for the talented rookie from Kentucky who has the potential to mesh with the favorite for Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams.

Jameis-Winston-Florida-State

Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles during their game at BB&T Field on Nov. 9, 2013 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Getty Images

It’s never a boring week in the sporting world.

The hiring and firing of coaches–Gary Kubiak receiving the boot from the Texans and USC hiring former Washington coach Steve Sarkisian–dramatic late game finishes, Robinson Cano signing a contract of 10 years and $250 million to switch his Yankee pinstripes to sign with the Seattle Mariners, and head-scratching events that make you wonder …(press play)

I couldn’t have said it myself, but let me share a few quick hits with you.

*Famous Jameis

I couldn’t express the relief I felt for Jameis Winston not being charged. I must admit I was growing weary of the Winston rape allegation case. Even though Winston’s accuser reportedly had a memory that was “very broken” and a toxicology report showed the accuser had “minuscule amounts of alcohol in her system and that there was no evidence of so-called date rape drugs”, how many times have we seen incidents like this turn sour?

Remember Brian Banks? A  former star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California  who verbally agreed to attend USC on a four-year scholarship, but dreams were swept away from a rape charger that was ultimately thrown out in court in 2012 after he spent more than five years in prison? He’ll never get those years back. Banks was signed and released by both the Seahawks and Falcons.

Winston could’ve shared this same faith, but hats off to the judicial system for diligently expediting the process. While I praise Winton’s maturation on the field and his levelheadedness to rise above the distraction and focus on the game of football, the rape allegation will hang over his head like a dark cloud. He was the victim, not the accuser. His name was tarnished and his charterer was put into question, not the accuser.

But alas, hopefully this case will no longer be acknowledge down the road. Winston will win the Heisman Trophy and is  future no. 1 overall draft choice.

*Brooklyn “Nots”

Carmelo Anthony said his Knicks are the laughing stock of the NBA, but after a two game winning streak, their Brooklyn counterparts dawns the sad title.

The Russian billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, invested $102 million into the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets (5-14),  have lost 12 of 15 and could possibly be the worst team in the East, maybe even the worst team in the NBA. Kevin Garnett is a has-been at age 37 and is more bite than bark, Paul Pierce, 36,  has a non-displaced fracture in his right hand and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks, but he’s only averaging 12.4 points per game, and Jason Terry, 36, has yet to play a meaningful minutes since Nov. 18, and has missed every game since because of a knee injury.

Not to mention Brooklyn’s best player in point guard Deron Williams, who is also out with an injury, has been a shell of himself since he’s been a Net. Williams was arguably the best PG in the league in his Utah days averaging a double-double from 2007-10. I don’t even recognize him when he’s even healthy on the court.

Jason Kidd’s first year as a coach is disastrous thus far only a year removed from being a player himself. Demoting assistant coach Lawrence Frank, who some deemed as a good move so Kidd could singlehandedly run the sidelines and not be undermined. And what about Spill-gate?

What Kidd needs to Hit is a reset button on the season.

*Two Horse Race In The East

The Pacers and the Heat, that’s it. With Miami, it’s about the playoffs and championships now that dwyane-wade-kneesthey have tasted success with back-to-back titles and three consecutive NBA Finals appearances. The NBA is about superstars, and Heat has the no. 1 superstar on the planet in LeBron James, but you mean to tell me with Dwayne Wade’s ailing knees and the hopes of using the reclamation process in Greg Oden is Miami’s answer to halt the incoming Pacers? No.

With Wade missing games, the Heat should expand the roll of Chris Bosh who is more than capable of averaging 20 (pts) and 10 (rebs) a game. see Toronto Raptors years.

The Pacers are for real. Period. It’s still early in the season, but at 17-2, if Indiana claims the no. 1 seed in the East. LeBron will need the best playoff run of his career to beat Indiana at home in a game 7, if it even gets to a game 7.

*Mike Tomlin’s fine

Mike-Tomlin-InterferenceYou put your right foot in, you put your right foot out; You put your right foot in, and you shake it all about.

The $100,000 fine is hokey pokey  if you ask me, but I get it. He interfered on a live play and possibly prevented a touchdown.

But along with the fine, Dec. 4, the NFL will consider a modification of forfeiture of the team’s 2014 draft choices.

Did I miss the play? Did Tomlin receive a 15-yard penalty for an illegal, invisible horse collar tackle? This situation should not warrant the loss of a draft pick. I ultimately don’t think it will come to that, but if it does, it will be another black eye on the NFL, along with all the questionable penalties.

Will Mark Sanchez win the quarterback competition against Geno Smith?

Will Mark Sanchez win the quarterback competition against Geno Smith?

As we all anxiously await the start of NFL training camps, the annual tease that anoints the start of the regular season, or the pre-season for that matter, we stand in the midst of the MLB All-Star break and the churning events of the NBA offseason.

Well, that’s about all I have to say to that, enjoy.

New York Embraces World Peace

Well, sort of.

The artist formerly known as Ron Artest decided to stay in the NBA after all as he has reached an agreement to sign a deal worth $3.2 million over two years (he has a player option in the second year) with the New York Knicks. This news come only days after the Los Angeles Lakers exercised their amnesty clause on the eccentric wing man.

Before agreeing to a deal with his hometown team, he flirted with the idea of joining the Arena Football League and playing overseas in China for a team coached by Yao Ming.

With World Peace, his decision to leave or stay had little to nothing to do with money. According to the amnesty provision of the current collective bargaining agreement, the Lakers will owe World Peace $7.3 million in the coming season.

“The thing was, y’all know I like to be adventurous. I have no filter and I have no filter in my creativity. Very bold. I changed my name. So the thing with the Arena Football League was really appealing to me. That was something I mentioned to everybody. And I’m pushing kids to play multiple sports, like Bo Jackson did back in the days. So playing arena football, who knows if I would have been good or not? But it was a way to inspire something that’s always in my mind

-Metta World Peace

And in typical Artest/World Peace fashion, he’s already having a little fun with the division-rival Nets.

Knee surgery for Knicks guard J.R. Smith

The reining Sixth of the Year has had patellar tendon surgery and an arthroscopy for a tear in the lateral meniscus of his left knee. The time table for his recovery is three to four months, which could make him available between near the start of the 2013-14 season ( Oct. 15 and Nov. 15).  Smith averaged career highs in points with  18.1, rebounds with 5.3 and minutes totaling 33.5 in 80 games off the bench last season.

This is a big time blow for a team who signed Smith to a four-year, $24.7 million contract.

However, Smith’s temporary absent gives the Knicks first round pick and former Michigan Wolverine, Tim Hardaway Jr., a chance to prove he deserves valuable time during the regular season. Hardaway Jr. scored a team-high 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting. He also had five rebounds, three assists and one steal in his first summer league game.

Ironically the versatile sharp-shooter suffered a bruised wrist in the Knicks second summer league game. He’s listed day-to-day.

Unheralded Homerun Derby champ

Yoenis Cepedes became the first player left out of the All-Star Game to ever win the Homerun Derby. The left-field slugger from the Oakland Athletics out-hit the more powerful and popular Bryce Harper 9-8  in the final round at reconfigured Citi Field.

He also has the third most HR in a single Homerun Derby in the history of the event, 32. Bobby Abrau has the most in a single HR Derby with 41 in 2005, Josh Hamilton is second, hitting a total of 35 in 2008, Cepedes is third with 32.

In Cespedes second season, he is batting only .225 with 15 home runs.

This trophy will motivate me so that things continue to go well for me, and I just want to thank the people that believed in me, that thought I could play at this level

-Yoenis Cepedes

The New York Jets quarterback competition

Honestly, it shouldn’t even be a competition. After the Jets reached the AFC Championship game in Rex Ryan’s first two seasons, in spite of Sanchez, they have missed the playoffs in the past two. Sanchez has committed 26 turnovers in 15 games last year and has a career completion rate of 55.1 percent. He has a total of 49 combined turnovers in the past two seasons, the most in the NFL.

Do I even have to mention the infamous “butt-fumble”

Sanchez can’t even show up at a New York Knicks game without being booed. 

Where is Sanchez finding all of this confidence from saying “I will absolutely start?” And you know what, he probably will, but not for long.

The Jets rookie second round pick, QB Geno Smith out of West Virginia, created a stir opting not to attend Sanchez’s annual “Jets West” camp.

And I don’t blame him. While he and Sanchez are downplaying the decision, Smith left a loud and clear message that this is a full out competition and he plans to win the job by any means necessary. It’s Smith’s job to win.  He has the arm and the athleticism to electrify the offense, but the usual question surrounds every rookie QB entering the NFL. Is he ready? Can he lead? Can he learn the offense? Is he mentally ready to handle adversity?

I’m taking this competition very seriously, preparing myself to be a starter as I’ve said all along. And I think the media, they’re doing their jobs. They gotta create a hot story, they gotta keep the fans interested, so they’re going to put whatever they want out there.

-Geno Smith

Does the addition of Dwight Howard make the Rockets a legitimate championship contender?

Does the addition of Dwight Howard make the Rockets a legitimate championship contender?

How many times did the 3-time DPOY change his mind? Not 1… Not 2… Not 3…

You get it, right?

The all-star center decided to jump ship from the illustrious and historical franchise that proudly holds 16 Larry O’Brien trophies for the Houston Rockets who have won only two championships in the last 20 years. He left a franchise whose jerseys have been worn by Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, James Worthy, and the sky hook innovator,  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. A franchise that was led by the late great Jerry Buss and one of the most successful head coaches in NBA history in Phil Jackson.

But the indecisive Howard didn’t leave those Lakers. He left a team that Kobe Bryant called “old and slow”. Bryant himself is coming back from an Achilles tendon tear at the tender age of 34. The 39-year-old Steve Nash is one hard sneeze away from blowing out his back, and head coach Mike D’Antoni simply doesn’t have the personnel around him to run his style of offense.

How can you blame Howard for wanting to join a budding superstar in James Harden and the NBA version of Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin.2463-3  From a basketball standpoint, Houston was the best destination for Howard to choose if he wants to win a ring of his own. It’s almost comical to think that a team who entered the playoffs as a no. 8 seed is a favorite to win the title next season. And I say almost because the self acclaimed Superman is more than capable of leading his team to the Finals.

Howard and Harden has the potential to become a lethal combination next season. The bearded guard showed he could suppress his ego playing along side Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook while coming off the bench in Oklahoma City. This past season, Harden dominated the ball attempting the fifth most shots in the league. Now, with Howard alleviating some of that pressure as a dangerous pick-and-roll option as well as posting up, these two new running mates could at least lead the Rockets to a top-4 seed.