Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Groovy Man

Last night marked the 85th MLB All-Star Game and just for maybe the 10th time in MLB history, people cared about the game. But people didn't really care about the game, they cared about the player. Derek Jeter of course. It would be his final mid summers not so classic and everybody and anybody who called themselves a fan of baseball tuned in to tip their cap to the captain in what should be renamed the 2014 Derek Jeter game.

Let's be honest though, Jeter didn't necessarily deserve a spot in the game this year after his performance for the first half. He isn't in the top five in any statistical category with his fellow short stops except for hits in which he is ranked third. Still, third is pretty impressive for a 40 year old if you ask me. Either way, the fans did him justice for his career body of work and contribution to the game and booked him his 14th trip to the game.

American League Manager John Farrell also did him the justice he deserved by slotting him in his natural lead-off spot even though he probably should have been batting ninth, if that.

With Jeter batting first it didn't take long for the ceremonies to begin. Jeter walked to the plate with a rousing ovation from the crowd and after an brief exchange with catcher Jonathan Lucroy, in which he asked what Adam Wainwright would throw to him, he looked up to see Wainwright joining in the ovation. The best part was Wainwright had removed his glove and placed it on the ground to ensure Jeter got the ovation he deserved. As much as Jeter appreciated the moment all he wanted to do was play as you can see him in a replay yell out, with a huge smile I might add, "Let's go!" to Wainwright

This is when things start to get a little sticky and really the only part of the game I want to address. Wainwright pitched Jeter three straight fastballs that even Kirk Gibson, with two bad knees, could have slapped through a gap for a single. Jeter did better though and took the third pitch for a double.


Wainwright ended up conceding three runs in the inning and was eventually pulled from the game. In an interview after getting pulled Wainwright, in a  joking demeanor mind you, said that he "grooved" his pitches to Jeter. Also known as, I threw him what was basically a beach ball.

Now for some odd reason, people got very upset with this and started saying that it took away from Jeter's moment and his night. I'm sorry did you really think Wainwright was going to gas one in there at 95 and then follow it up with a filthy slider? It is the All-Star game. The ONLY reason 90 percent of the people are watching the game is for the man at the plate, not the man on the mound and I am pretty sure Wainwright knew this. It is the same thing Chan Ho Park knew when Cal Ripken Jr. stepped up to the plate in his last All-Star game. You really think Ripken Jr. could have hit that home run without a little help?

It isn't just baseball either. When a player has contributed so much to a specific sport and is about to retire, the All-Star game is the place to do the most honorable thing for them, which is give them one last moment on top. Wayne Gretzky put in two goals and had two assists in his final All-Star Game. The NBA brought Magic Johnson back for the All-Star game after he had to retire prior to the start of the season. Magic had fantastic one-on-one showdowns with Jordan and Isaiah in which he bested the both of them (I bet neither gave 100 percent on defense against him) and then he drained a money three from Guam with 14 seconds left in the game and you know what they did? They ended the game. Fourteen seconds left and they called a quits because there couldn't have been a better way to end it. Even in the NFL things are done. Jeff Saturday, arguably one of the best centers of all time, announced his last game would be the 2013 Pro Bowl (a game he also didn't necessarily deserve to be in also). Saturday was repping the NFC in the game and what did the NFL do for him? They had him switch teams at the very end of the game so he could take one last snap from his partner in crime Peyton Manning.

It is what we as fans love. Yes it is kind of like when all the women of the world found out The Hills and Laguna Beach were scripted. Yeah I'm sure it was disappointing, but there is a reason reruns are still played all the time.

The best thing is, if Jeter is a little upset that he had a little help in his final All-Star game, he will always have his 3,000th hit. You know David Price wasn't taking it easy on his division rival.



A few quick last points. First off, if instant replay was not instituted into the game of baseball, there is a 100 percent chance Andrew McCutchen is out at first after Jeter's first inning web gem. If you ask me that would have been a way more Jeter esq moment too. Dumb ump should have called him out and nobody would have said boo.

How long until somebody like Yasiel Puig comes out and says that Wainwright should not have grooved the pitch because the game means so much now. If it is Puig who says it I think the guy should look at himself for the issue though, 0-3 with 3k's, not to mention no bombs in the derby. HA.

Fox and the MLB messed up big time for not including some sort of tribute to either Don Zimmerman, a man who spent 10 years with Jeter, or Tony Gwynn. A major mental lapse on the two conglomerates. At least the MLB had patches for Zimmerman and some players honored Gwynn with initialed caps. For the MLB themselves not to do anything for the man with the second most all time all star appearances in a downright travesty. Could there be a more perfect time to honor the man?

Lastly, the night was so Jeter oriented, that you could hear some ass clown chanting out "overrated" when Jeter came to the plate the first time. That chant has since been removed from the highlight reel on the MLB website.

#RE2PECT

Friday, 20 June 2014

Best team ever? Who cares, time for more LeBron.

In reality, we all may have just witnessed the greatest TEAM ever to grace the floor of a basketball court in NBA history and five days after the San Antonio Spurs absolutely dismantled the Miami Heat, all we can talk about is what LeBron is going to do next. It is sickening.

Tim Duncan, the greatest PF of all time and arguably in the top five of greatest players of all time, is on the brink of retiring and yet all we can talk about is free agency. This a a legend that may never step foot on the court again and there are absolutely zero stories regarding what he may or may not do next year. All we have heard is a quote from Tony Parker saying he expects Duncan to return.

Well I am changing all of that right now. I am going to give credit where credit is do and put the spotlight on the team and players that really deserve it, the San Antonio Spurs. The team that built their way to a championship using pawns as opposed to buying "kings."

Just like last season, before this season, all the "experts" picked the Heat to make the finals again. Who would they play? Well obviously not the team that took them to seven games the year before and who should have won the finals. No way. They are too old. Just like they were before last season when absolutely nobody picked them to make the finals. Let's all pick the Thunder again. A team that still struggles to find its identity in the crunch moments and has a starting point guard that plays off pure emotion and would probably be a better fit playing the two guard. Let's ignore the fact that the Spurs have three future hall of famers and the best coach in the NBA, they are still too old. Did you hear Manu took the whole summer off from playing international ball to focus on this upcoming season? Yeah, but, uh, did you hear the Thunder signed Caron Butler?!?!?! He is like a fat unproven Manu. Thunder vs Heat. That's what everyone was saying before the season started. Once the season stared though, it all changed oh so quickly.

Everybody jumped on the Trailblazers bandwagon because obviously a ridiculously young team with no playoff experience is bound to usurp the likes of the Spurs and Thunder. The Trailblazers eventually came back down to earth and people realized their youth was a problem so they looked to the Clippers.

The Clippers arguably have the best team on paper and the second or third best coach in the NBA, they must be doing big things. All season long it was all about how the Spurs weren't as good and all the new western guns. I mean the Spurs kept losing to the top teams in the league, I think 0-9 vs the top ten teams at some point, so let's just count them out. All over ESPN and other sports networks the experts were saying how the Spurs just aren't athletic enough to play with the top tier teams. When are people going to realize the Pop doesn't play his best basketball in the regular season? Especially against the top teams? He knows they are going to make the playoffs so why show your hand in the regular season?

Fast forward through a 19 game win streak, which ultimately meant nothing to the experts because it was stopped by OKC, and we get to the playoffs. Of all the match-ups the Spurs could have drawn, they got their nightmare. The Dallas Mavericks. The in-state rival who are is too familiar with the Spurs. The Mavericks are one of those sub-par teams that Pop really doesn't need to hide anything from when playing during the regular season and as seen in the first round, that hurt them. The Mavs figured out the proper counter attack and they played great basketball keeping every single game close. Until game seven.

Game seven in the first round was a bit of a turning point for the Spurs. They knew they were good enough to get back to the finals and that if they wanted to get there, they were going to have to play Spurs basketball from there on out and by god they did it in emphatic passion.

The Spurs went on to finish the rest of the playoffs with a 12-4 record. Of those 12 wins, 11 of them came by at least fifteen points and in total averaged each win by 20 points. The one win that did not come by 15 or more was an overtime close out game vs the Thunder. A game in which Tony Parker didn't play the second half. In fact Tony Parker, regarded as the best player on the Spurs, was a complete non-factor in every close out game after the Mavs series. Against the Blazers and Thunder Parker didn't even play in the second half and against the Heat, in a game that was over by the start of the 4th, Parker was 1-11 until that fourth quarter. Let's see the Heat win any of their close-out games if LeBron doesn't show up. It doesn't happen, you know why? The Heat aren't nearly as good a TEAM.

Do the Heat fans chant M-V-P for anyone other than LeBron? No? The Spurs fans were heard chanting M-V-P for FIVE different players in their closeout game. Ginobili, Parker, Duncan, Diaw and Leonard all heard the chants from the crowd at some point during the game. Borris Diaw didn't even average double-digits in any statistical category in the playoffs yet he led the finals in PER rating.

The things that most annoys me is when all the people were saying, "What can the Heat do better? How are the Heat beating themselves?" NOTHING. The answer was NOTHING. In all actuality, if not for missed free-throws in game two, the Spurs should have swept this series. The Spurs won three games in the series and lost one. The Heat did not win a game and they didn't lose a game. You put any of the best teams in basketball history up against this Spurs team and I think the Spurs could beat them.

For the record, I am strictly talking about this years Spurs team in particular. The Bulls with Jordan were unstoppable for years and are easily the best dynasty of all time, but you take the 96  or 91 Bulls and put them in a seven games series against this Spurs team and you will have one hell of a barn burner for a series. Unfortunately it is an argument that can never be solved. Sure this years Spurs team was the most dominant in NBA Finals history statistically, but stats can only prove so much. We will never know for sure unless we can harbor the ability of time travel. In the meantime though, here are some stats to prove just how good the 2013-2014 Spurs were and how good Tim Duncan is. The best team of this generation and possibly all time and the best power forward of all time.

Stats

  • It was the Spurs 16th season of 50+ wins (15th straight season_
    • In the Duncan 17 years era the Spurs have not won 50 games once
      • It was a lockout year and they won the championship
  • Tim Duncan became the 2nd player in NBA history to win a championship in three separate decades
    • John Salley is the only other player to do so and you only know who he is if you LOVE basketball or grew up watching Celtics Post-game
  • Tim Duncan now holds the record for most playoff minutes (8,901) and most playoff double-doubles (158)
  • Tim Duncan has now made the playoffs in all 17 years of his career
    • Jordan went 16/18, Kobe is 15/18, Bill Russell was also perfect going 13/13
  • Duncan has 3 finals MVPs
    • Equal with Magic, one more than Bird and Kareem
  • The Spurs 52.8% field goal percentage was largest in finals history
    • In game three they set a record for 71 first half points and 75.8% shooting, both highest in NBA Finals history
  • Tony Parker averaged 17.4 points per game in the Finals, the lowest of a leading scorer in finals history. A true team effort. 
  • In a Finals that highlighted the Spurs scoring ability, not one Spur scored 30 or more points
    • The team has had five 30 point scorers in six Finals appearances
      • Shaq alone had six 30 point games in the 2001 finals
  • Four Spurs players averaged 14 points or more
  • The 70 point differential the Spurs posted is highest in finals history
  • In games three and four the Spurs beat the Heat by a combined 40 points on the Heats home courts. The largest two game defeat on an opponents floor in NBA history
Listen, I could go on, and on, and on about all the statistical record this Spurs team set but there are just too many to go through. The last thing I will throw out there is that the Spurs were first in total defense in the playoffs and second in total defense. They were first in assists and first in bench scoring by an astronomical amount. So please, stop talking about free agency for five minutes and SOMEBODY give this team some damn love. If any team deserves some of the spotlight for once, it is the Spurs. Even though you know, none of them want it. 

GO SPURS GO!




Thursday, 12 June 2014

Has the obsession gone too far?


Sports is everywhere you go. In television ads, in commercial ads and in particular for these next few weeks, it might as well be on every single television channel you try to put on. Starting today the sporting world has four incredible sports feats all happening at the same time. We have the NBA and NHL finals, the US Open tees off today and of course, the holy grail of them all, the World Cup gets crackin today as well.

So what does all this mean? Well for starters it means that people like me will pretty much be incommunicado for a little while. It means that even if you do try to communicate with people like me, the response will most likely be sent back in some sort of sports reference.

"Hey, what are you doing in 4 days?"

"Uhhh, well, Michael Bradley wears the number four and I like him as a player so I could probably free up some time for Michael Bradley's sake."

"That reasoning doesn't even make sense."

And it's true it doesn't, but it is how we think when sports are so prevalent in our lives. Why is that though? Why are we so obsessed with professional athletes? Ever since we were little kids on the playground we have been like this. Playing basketball on the fisher price hoops and taking the persona of your favorite player at the time.

"I get to be MJ!!"

Next thing you know you are in the jungle gym having your friend Freddie pretend stitch up your eye so you can play in the second half.

It is scary how much we know about sports too. Current events? Eh who needs them, I'm curious as to who is going to win the Nascar race at Dover this weekend. Name all 44 U.S. presidents? Nahhhh, name the top 10 left handed point guards with 5 or more letters in their first name? Game on. It's stupid, it really is, but it makes sports that much more enjoyable.

It is so bad that you even start measuring time based on sports. Somebody could tell you a tv show named Johnathan Creek has been going on for the last 17 years and your initial thought is, woahh that is Tim Duncan's entire career. You mean to tell me that this was going on back when Avery Johnson was running the point? It continued through the Robert Horry time? Michael Finley came and went and the Spurs swept the Cavs and all this was still happening? They lost in the Finals to the Heat came back and are a midst another series against them and the show is still going on?!?! That's a long time for a magic show in general, let alone a magic show nobody has even heard of.

I remember my Mom always used to say to me, "If you knew half as much about school work as you do sports, you would be a genius." It is probably true, but it just is not as interesting. Sports almost acts as an escape for us. We vicariously live through these athletes and share the same exuberance with a win and anguish with a loss as they do.

It makes us terrible people as well. Johnny Damon was one of the most beloved Red Sox players ever, the caveman, they called him. Then he made his way to the "Evil Empire" (that's right, we gave a team a nickname that we gave to the Soviet Union in 1983 because that's how much we dislike them) and became the most hated man in Boston. He could easily be the nicest man and the world, but if a Red Sox fan saw him in the streets of Boston after that, I wouldn't be surprised if he threw something at him or just berated him with a plethora of 4 letter insults.

It isn't until our teams lose a big game or don't make the playoffs that we finally settle back down to earth. You always here stories of people missing dates, forgetting important dates, missing meetings, being negligent towards a friend and all these other things all for the sake of one game, and why? You don't want to miss out. You don't want to be the person walking to a restaurant in Key West when Auburn is returning a missed field goal 99 yards all because somebody told you "Nothing is going to happen with one second left, we are late, let's go."

Once the dust settles though, you look back at that moment where you may have blown something or somebody off just to watch those thirty seconds only to have your team lose. You realize how stupid you were. It was just a game. That's what we always hear people say, and it is true it is just a game, but for some reason it means so much more than that.

There is no rhyme or reason to it and it cannot be explained. Sports will always be just a game, but to a large portion of people it will always be a passion that can't be avoided. I love sports and always will. I will argue a point with friends of mine endlessly. My friends and I have admitted on numerous occasions that we will continue to argue a point, even if we have already been proven wrong.

Basically, we are all just stupid  fans who are blinded by our own allegiances and beliefs to let anything anybody does or says change our passion in anyway and I love it. So bring on the World Cup, bring on game four of the NBA finals and five of the NHL Stanley Cup finals and give me a list of tee times because I am ready to take it all on regardless of what people think.


......I may or may not have put every world cup game in my calendar on my phone and I may or may not have set double reminders for the games I really want to see. We are all America Outlaws though, I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The World is Watching (most of the world at least)

Every four years, for two weeks, the most incredible sporting tournament in the WORLD causes the WORLD to pretty much shut down. Everyone except for the U.S. that is. The World Cup only happens every four years and it is kinda a big deal. There are certain countries that will have national holidays on the days in which their team is playing to ensure that everybody can have a seat in front of their television or radio or laptop or tablet or smartphone or smoke signals so they can tune in and show pride for their nation. For gods sake there are children being born in Brazil everyday being named Neymar just because it is World Cup time.

For some reason though, our very prideful country, just tosses this incredible spectacle to the side like it is the fourth game of the MLB season. Heck the fourth game of the MLB season might get more attention in some parts of the country than the World Cup. It is a travesty that people in our country don't respect or care for the game of soccer. I have been playing my whole life, so I am a little biased on the matter, but still if you sit down with an open mind and watch the beauty of everything you will not be disappointed. The main argument is that the game is boring and slow. Uhmmmm excuse me? "America's Pastime" is probably the most boring and slow game ever created. Did you know that in the average three and a half hour baseball game there is only about 12 minutes of in-play action? That's right. America's game is 12 minutes of balls and strikes with a hit here and there and one diving catch a game that will surely be on sportscenters top ten the next day. Along with seven other plays that look EXACTLY the same. The other three hours and eighteen minutes are shots of managers chewing gum, players spitting in the dirt and Nomar Garciapperra fixing his damn batting gloves while Jerry Remy and Don Orsillio talk about the guy in row 18 eating a footlong hotdog.

I know it may seem like I am just trashing baseball, which I kinda need to do to make my point, but I like baseball. I thoroughly enjoy watching it. I just can't help but think while watching it, how can people think soccer is boring and find this exciting? It doesn't make sense. Hell three commercial breaks in baseball add up to more time than actual baseball action. Do you know how many commercial breaks there are in soccer? Probably two to three and those don't occur until after 45 minutes of non-stop soccer, which is followed by another 45 minutes of non-stop soccer.

People's main argument about soccer is that everybody flops. "Oh why would I want to watch a bunch of dumb Europeans prance around until somebody taps their shin and cries for five minutes before getting up and sprinting like nothing happened" Valid point. However, I find that aspect hilarious. I can't wait for them to flip up the replay to guess how bad of a flop it is. It is normally really, really bad and pretty damn funny.

Basically, what I am saying is, if you don't like soccer, fine don't watch the premier league and all that jazz. But if you aren't watching the World Cup, I don't respect you as a sports fan. Wars have ceased in the past because the World Cup was happening. Tell me the last time any fiasco in the U.S. stopped because the Yankees and Red Sox were playing a game 7 in the ALCS.

There is not unity there. I studied abroad in Australia and almost every U.S. kid loved the fact that they were from from the states. The Australian's would have their own Aussie chants and the U.S. kids would interrupt chanting "USA, USA, USA." We love ourselves and our country but can't support it on the biggest sports stage known to man kind? I put it above the Olympics for the sheer fact that most people plan their day around the World Cup. With the Olympics you just kinda put it on when you have the time and hope to god it won't be ribbon dancing between Belgium and Russia (which will be an incredible soccer game in the group stages fyi). This has been heralded as the best team that we have had in years and it is time it gets some recognition and support.

To prove my point about soccer actually being exciting and fun to watch, go look up our game versus Algeria from the last cup. Watch it, in its entirety, and then try to tell me soccer is boring. Then, if you STILL aren't convinced and don't want to watch the World Cup, let your USA pride get you to watch with motivation from this: I BELIEVEEEE.....



....In all honesty though we are in the group of death and will probably lose in the group stages so you really won't have to watch much. But come onnnnnn, watch at least one game for the country you love!


Friday, 16 May 2014

It's the Conference Finals! dun na na naaaa dun naa na na naaaa

The title of this was a reference to "The Final Countdown" in case you didn't catch that. Go back and read it to the rhythm of the song, it's funny.

It is now the best time of any playoff series, the semi-finals. Am I the only one that thinks the semi-finals always seems to be better games than the championships themselves? So many times I just feel like I watch an incredible conference championship or semi-final game and get so hyped for the championship only to have it be very anti-climactic. For example Seattle and San Francisco came down to the final play in the NFC Championship and then the Superbowl will be remembered for the party, not the game. But I digress.

The NBA Conference finals features, what do you know? The two conference finals predicted before the season even started. The first one I will address is the east.

In the east we have the 1.5 time defending champion Miami Heat. I say 1.5 because we all know the Spurs should have won last year so I am only going to give the Heat credit for winning half a championship. The other half was given to them with an edible arrangement. The Heat will face off against their eastern conference foe Indiana Pacers who have looked more like the New York Knicks as of late. Winning one game convincingly and then getting blown out by 25 on their home court the next night. This is the match-up they wanted though. The team that beat them in seven last year in a series where they probably should have gone up 3-1 at one point. It is an interesting showdown because both teams really haven't looked like themselves this playoffs.

 The Hornets (who are the Bobcats?) played the Heat pretty good, better than anybody thought they would if you ask me and probably would have taken at least one game had Big Al not gotten hurt. In the next round the Heat played the Brooklyn "We don't really have a structured offense" Nets and actually trailed late in the fourth in 3 of the 5 games in the series. Brooklyn managed to hold onto the lead in one of those games, but in the other two they showed how old and awful they really were. The Heat didn't necessarily outplay the Nets, the Nets outplayed themselves. How do you not at least get a shot off when your backs are against the wall and 4 seconds away from elimination? Kick the ball at the hoop for all I care. What I am saying is the Heat have not really looked like the Heat. This year, in the first two rounds, the Heat outscored the Hornets and Nets by 66 total points. In the previous two years, over the first two rounds, the Heat outscored their opponents by a whopping 122 (2012-13) and 121 (2011-2012). That's not even close. Well those two numbers are close, but they aren't close to this years. You know what I mean.

Now let's look at the Pacers. A team that in February everybody thought was a shoe-in to not only make the eastern conference finals, but to beat the Heat and make it to the NBA Championship. Then they got too big headed though. Paul George threw down a ridiculously nasty 360 windmill dunk and the Pacers were on top of the world. Oh how quickly they fell. I like to think that dunk got them thinking "Wow, we are so good nobody can or will beat us." They scraped, clawed and fought the rest of the year to get the number one overall seed and stumbled into the playoffs. Boy did it show. The Atlanta Hawks, a team that didn't even want to make the playoffs so they could be in the lottery, took the Pacers to 7 games. Next, bring on the Washington Wizards, a young team with not a lot of playoff experience outside of Andre Miller and Drew Gooden. Let's be honest though, Miller has been in the league 65 years so he better have some experience and Gooden has played for every single team in the NBA so he definitely has some. The Wizards took game one of that series making the Pacers look like garbage. Then the Pacers looked great and the Wizards looked young. Then the Pacers looked like garbage. Then the Pacers looked decent and closed out the series.

So what are we looking at? Two teams who really can't find their old skool identities, which will only make for an incredible series. Let's look at the match-ups.

Mario Chalmers vs George Hill
Advantage: Push

These are two very similar point guards. Both aren't really the best passers on the floor, but both can shoot the lights out if need be. Hill has experience playing under Pop so you have to think he will be a little smarter than Chalmers, but Chalmers has two championships under his belt and a guy named LeBron to pass the ball to. It should be a great match-up, but won't get much love because of a bigger match-up coming up later. I'll give you 3 guesses as to what it is and the first 3 guesses don't count.

Dwayne Wade vs Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson
Advantage: Wade

A lot of people are going to disagree with me on this, but hear me out. Stephenson is going to be a star in this league. Going to be. Right now he is still young and still jumping in the air and throwing passes right into Bradley Beals chest under his own basket with under a minute left up 5. He is versatile and young and will probably run circles around Wade, but Wade is Wade. He has bad knees and isn't the same flash as back in 06, but he has the experience and smarts to outplay Stephenson in more ways than pure athleticism.

LeBron James vs Paul George
Advantage: Too easy

Has anyone even heard of these two players? Listen, I love Paul George as much as the next guy. Although, a lot of people don't really like George, so I probably love him more than the next guy. The only problem is he is going up against the best all-around player in the NBA. If George can step up and take it to the level he was playing to start the year when he was an MVP candidate than this will be an INCREDIBLE showdown between two freak athletes. If he plays as he has been, then it won't even be close and he may, MAY, play LeBron well for one or two games if he is lucky.

Dinosaur vs David West
Advantage: West

West had his best offensive game of the playoffs at a perfect time. An elimination game right before squaring off against the Heat. West will bring Bosh down low and make him wish he was still the same ol post player he used to be in Toronto. West has the versatility to play Bosh outside of the paint, which Bosh has yet to experience this playoffs, and West is smart enough to force Bosh into taking lots of outside three's. Sure Bosh will hit one or two, but he is too inconsistent for West to pressure him out there all game. He just better make sure he has him on lock towards the end of the game because if there is one thing Bosh can do, it's hit the three in the clutch oddly enough.

Any other Heat big man vs Hibbert
Advantage: Hibbert (so longs as he doesn't throw up donuts)

Hibbert has been a perfect example of what the Pacers have been this playoffs. Up-and-down quicker than Vince Wilfork and Rick Ross on a see-saw (so long as it doesn't break). In last years series vs the Heat Hibbert was a monster. I said after the series ended that Hibbert could bring back the old bruiser style down low play that has long been forgotten in the NBA. Then this year happened. Hibbert has the ability to dominate the paint vs the Heat bigs and if he does it will be the reason this series goes 7. If Hibbert does not show up though, don't expect this series to go past 5 games.

Bench
Advantage: Heat

Ray Allen. Nuff said. If you have this guys coming off your bench there is a pretty good chance you will win the game so long as the ball ends up in his hands for the final shot. Since 96-97 Ray Allen has shot 10-16 in game tying/winning three point shots, which is the best since that time. The next closest is Derek Fisher who has shot 3-5, then Big Shot Bob (or Rob whichever you prefer) at 3-6 and then it was Reggie Time at 6-13.

Prediction: The Pacers have just been far too inconsistent and that will doom them. Unfortunately, I don't see this game going 7 and think the Heat will take it in 6. If it does get to 7, look out Miami because the Fieldhouse will be absolutely rocking and the Pacers will do the knocking. Heat in 6, if it goes 7 give it to the Pace.




Tuesday, 13 May 2014

2014 MLB Team Slogans

We are about one quarter of the way through the baseball season and I don't know about anyone else, but it already feels like it has been a full season. The baseball season seems to take longer than a toddler trying to read Game of Thrones. So to create some excitement and to amuse myself I have decided to come up with new slogans for each MLB teams to try and get fans to actually be interested this early in the season. Without further to do, here we go:


AL EAST:
Baltimore Orioles: We still have one of the prettiest parks in baseball and hey, we are in first place!....for now.

Boston Red Sox: Free hot dogs for life for anyone that can free-climb the Green Monster!

New York Yankees: Your favorite fare-well tour team! Come see Derek Jeter sacrifice bunt one more time!

Toronto Blue Jays: As the best .500 team is baseball we can guarantee there is a 50 percent chance we will win!

Tampa Bay Rays: Our stadium is so empty you can probably sit anywhere!

AL CENTRAL:
Detroit Tigers: As long as Verlander is on the roster Kate Upton might be at our home games!

Kansas City Royals: We are in second place! Don't believe it? Come see for yourself!

Chicago White Sox: Would you rather go watch the cubs?

Cleveland Indians: Johnny Football will probably throw out all of our opening pitches since he can't throw a football!

Minnesota Twins: If you can name 5 players on the roster you can win a car!

AL WEST:
Oakland Athletics: Now playing Moneyball on the big screen at all games!

Seattle Mariners: We didn't spend more money than you will make in your life on Robinson Cano for nothing!

Los Angeles Angles: Don't forget we actually play in Anaheim.

Texas Rangers: Come race Prince Fielder around the bases! If you win, free tickets for life!*

*He gets a two base head start

Houston Astros: Didn't we change divisions?

NL EAST
Atlanta Braves: We have a tomahawk chant at all our games, but still aren't as racist as the Redskins!

Washington Nationals: If Strasburg DOESN'T give up a first inning run we will refund half your ticket!

Miami Marlins: So our name change didn't go as well Tampa, but at least we aren't in Tampa.

New York Mets: We got nothing.

Philadelphia Phillies: Forever vicariously living through our 2008 World Series Championship!

NL Central:
Milwaukee Brewers: Maybe you guys could figure out why we are doing so well because we have no idea!

St. Louis Cardinals: Come on, we are good every year.

Cincinnati Reds: Take a gamble on us! Pete Rose did.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Remember when we made the playoffs last year?

Chicago Cubs: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

NL West:
San Fransisco Giants: We are finally done paying Barry Zito millions of dollars to pitch mediocre baseball!

Colorado Rockies: It looks like we are doing good this year and hey, it's easier to get drunk in the higher altitudes!

Los Angeles Dodgers: At least we aren't owned by Donald Sterling!

San Diego Padres: We still have those cool camouflage uniforms!

Arizona Diamondbacks: We beat the Yankees in the World Series once!

All kidding aside, I do enjoy baseball, I just can't invest into this early in the season. I will say however, that if the season continues on the trend it is now we could have one of the most exciting second halves in MLB history. As of right now 19 of the 30 teams are withing four games of .500 on the plus and minus side. The largest division lead on second place is 5.5 games. In the AL East every team except the Blue Jays have a negative run differential. The Jays are plus 15 and sitting in fourth. I can't make sense of anything. These slogans may help with the first half, but if things stay this tight there will be no need to convince people to tune into the second half. Until then though, let's just be glad Game of Thrones is on every Sunday night so we don't have to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates vs the St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Kevin Durant to the Wizards?

Kevin Durant is Oklahoma City. He started the franchise, you can credit him for bringing them to where they are today and the city loves him for than Blake Griffin and Brad Pitt combined (both are from the city). The city would go to the end of the world for him and for some reason, you get the idea he would go to the end of the world for the city. Why is he going to the Wizards in free agency then?

Wait what? You just talked about how much OKC loved him and he loved OKC and then you just jump into him leaving in free agency. You realize that makes no sense right? Have you ever written anything before?

Listen. KD is probably the most loyal player in the NBA and what he has done for the city of Oklahoma cannot be measured, but his true loyalty remains in the city of Seat Pleasant, Maryland. The city where he grew up. The city that he has devoted a whole back tattoo to. The city that erected a billboard congratulating him on his MVP before OKC did anything for him. Did you know the KD and John Wall are incredible friends and talk on the reg? Since getting to the league Wall has done nothing but talk about how much he can't wait until they play together in DC. It is obviously some good ribbing between a couple of chums, but you know there is a little truth behind it. Did you know that when RGIII was drafted KD was still voted the 2nd most popular person in DC behind somebody named Barack Obama?

I think I am in the minority in this belief, but I just think there are too many variables at play to not at least explore the option. The west is such a good conference and the east is so atrocious. Think about what a player like Kevin Love might be thinking, "Damn, if I was just on one of the playoff teams in the East I could be the player that would carry that team to the eastern conference finals. That's how much every other team sucks." The only star that can't think like that is Carmelo Anthony, he just thinks "Damn, why am I never going to be as good a teammate as every other superstar in the NBA." Sorry, I have to get at least on dig in on him every now and then.

If you add KD to the Washington Wizards you might as well pencil them into the Eastern Conference Finals talk for every year with the Pacers and Heat. Sure you can say that now with OKC in the west, but you could make a case for every western playoff team to make it to the conference finals. I'll go on a hunt for a leprechauns pot of gold if somebody can convince me the Atlanta Hawks are serious contenders for next year. Heck, you could make a better case for the Suns to make it to the western conference finals next year than the Hawks to make the eastern conference finals. There is just too much of a discrepancy between the elite teams in the east and the shit ones.

Obviously only time will tell as KD still has 2 years left on his contract and a lot can change in that time. The only thing I can think of that would actually guarantee KD's stay in OKC is if they don't win a championship before that time is up. He cares too much about the city of Oklahoma to not leave them with at least one championship. So if I were Thunder fan I would root for them to make the finals and lose for the next couple of years and then resign KD forever once that contract is up. If I'm a Washington fan I would keep donating money for billboards and maybe slide some under the table to the OKC papers to keep posting stupid headlines like "Mr. Unreliable."

The one thing we do know for sure is that KD is such a nice and humble guy that his free agency period will be the POLAR OPPOSITE of LeBron's. My guess it will be a two team list and the decision will be made in private and you know the first person to know of that decision will be his Mom. Until then all we can do is speculate and enjoy this years incredible NBA Playoffs.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Reunited and it feels so good

Chris Johnson is somewhat of an enigma. Drafted in 2008 with the 24th overall pick by the Tennessee Titans, Johnson literally burst onto the scene. I had a friend approach me before the draft asking me whether I had heard about this kid out of East Carolina. I had to be honest with him, "Has anyone ever heard of a kid coming out of East Carolina?" I had a very delicious piece of humble pie for that one. In Johnson's rookie season he rushed for 1,228 yards, good enough for 8th in the league. The next year was incredible. Johnson became one of six (now seven including AP) players to eclipse the 2,000 yard mark. Only two of those six managed to do it in fewer carries than him. Johnson also amassed 503 receiving yards, which was enough to beat Marshall Faulk's single-season yard from scrimmage record.

After that season Johnson people feel that he fell off, "He's just gone the way of Shaun Alexander and Larry Johnson." Yes his numbers dropped every year, but he still did okay. Having earned the nickname CJ2K and proclaiming he would break Dickerson's (we should all know his first name, let's be honest) rushing record, people had high hopes for CJ2K in the 2010 season. He didn't quite live up to expectations having only totaled 1,364 rushing yards by seasons end. Thirteen hundred yards is nothing to shake a stick at, but after coming within 99 yards of the great Dickerson, people started asking questions. Which, to be honest, were not really merited at all and for the cherry on top, head coach Jeff Fisher was canned.

Since that "down" season, Johnson has still managed to get 1,000 yards every season since, but for some reason people think he is no longer "good." The Titans don't think he is bad, but they certainly aren't willing to pay him $8 million.

His releasing could be a blessing in disguise. There is a team out there who has a big bruiser back and could really benefit from home run hitter in the back field. Johnson's best years came with LenDale White splitting carries with him, smash and dash they called it. Johnson also had his best three years under Fisher who is now the head coach of that team.

The St. Louis Rams are a young team with a young offense. Bringing in a six-year veteran back could help that offense a whole lot. People are saying Johnson needs to go somewhere with a veteran core that could motivate him to work hard. I think he needs to go to the coach who HAD him motivated to work hard. Give him a one-year show me what ya got contract and see what Fisher can do with him. A healthy Sam Bradford and a consistent running game is what is keeping the Rams from taking it to the next level in a competitive NFC West.

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Road Worth Traveling

video


The Panthers Are Ready to Pounce
By Chris Crawford


Wintrop University broke the hearts of High Point University when they ended the teams promising basketball season. Twice. Both teams. 


While it may not have been the ending both the men's and women's teams were looking for, both teams are poised to do big things for years to come.


The Fall From Grace


The initial shot to the heart came in the men's conference tournament opening round, when Andre Smith of Winthrop hit a miracle three pointer in the final seconds. The women's team managed to get all the way to the championship before Withrop delivered the second devastating blow when they trounced and bounced the Panthers out in a 33 point win.


"That one really left a bad taste. To work so hard and get so far only to basically not show up when it really mattered," says women's head coach DeUnna Hendrix.


These were tough losses for both teams as each entered its respected tournament as the one seed having finished first in the conference at the end of the regular season. Having that best record in conference play earned each team a trip to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), which meant that no matter what happened in the conference tournament, the Panthers were heading to the post season. 


"We may have come in a little too calm cause we knew we were going to the NIT. I think it gives us motivation for next year though. I know I will remember that game come next season," explains Latrice Phelps, starting forward for the Lady Panthers. 


Granted a trip to the NIT is nice, a trip to the NCAA March Madness tournament would have been a little better. Especially because the teams were the favorites to win the conference tournament. None the less though, this is a step in the right direction for a basketball program on the rise.


"Last year was the CIT, this year we were in the NIT. There is only one more to go (March Madness) and I think we have the pieces to do it," men's Coach Scott Cherry explains. 


The Hoover-Hendrix Connection


The women's team success could be seen developing back in the 2010-2011 when the school brought in Jennifer Hoover as the new head coach. In her first year as head coach she guided the Panthers to their second 20 win season in school history and also their second NIT. 


That first year was enough for Wake Forest to steal Hoover away and leave High Point with a decision of either hiring from within, or looking elsewhere for a new coach. After some reassurance from Hoover, the school decided to promote from within tagging her assistant DeUnna Hendrix as the next head coach. 


In her inaugural season they did not perform as well as the prior year with Hoover, but that is expected with a rookie head coach. It wasn't even a bad season by any means either. The team finished with a 17-13 record overall and an 11-7 record in the conference. 


Like most teams on the rise the Lady Panthers improved this year with a very impressive 22-11 overall record and a 16-4 record in the conference. These second year efforts did not go unnoticed as Hendrix was awarded with the Coach of the Year award in the Big South. 


"That was unexpected. All it says though is that I am surrounded by an incredible supporting staff. I have a great group of girls that are coachable." Hendrix states, "I think it says more about where our program is going and its character."


It is incredibly impressive for a coach to go out and win coach of the year in just their second year, but add the fact that Hendrix also had the Big South Freshman of the year Kaylah Keys on her roster and you have yourself a very dynamic duo for three more years. Coach Hendrix thinks Keys is the key.


"You are going to see a lot from that kid. You could see her name leading the nation in scoring in three years time. It's gonna depend on what she wants to do and how much work she wants to put in, but she could definitely get there."


The Cherry on Top


The men's program has been in the works for a little longer. In 2009 High Point decided to part ways with Bary Lundy, who in the 2006-2007 season coached the team to a 22-10 record, but fell off quickly as the team only managed to win nine games overall and four in the conference in his final year.


Scott Cherry, a man who played under the great Dean Smith, was brought in as the next head coach and after a rough first three years, the culture of High Point Men's basketball started to change. Before the 2012-2013 season Scott Cherry made a splash landing four-star recruit Allan Chaney


Chaney, a graduate student, had heart issues that made him unable to play at University of Florida, but after surgery and a few years off Chaney came back to the game giving High Point University their first ever top 100 recruit. 


If that didn't generate enough buzz before the 2012 season the athleticism of red shirt freshman John Brown would. Standing at lanky 6-feet 6-inches, Brown could jump out of the building and would throw down dunks that would not only bring the Millis Center to their feet, but would also get a feature on the Sportscenter top ten the next day. 


The team started to really get people talking around campus when it finished the year with a 17-14 overall record and a 12-4 conference record, which earned the Panthers a trip to the College Insiders Tournament. The new found success, paired with the excitement of Brown and Chaney, was enough to put High Point on the map.


Prior to this coming season there was more excitement than ever surrounding the team once the schedules came out. As Cherry points out it featured games against some of the most daunting opponents the young program has ever faced.


"Stepahn F. Austin, Wofford and Syracuse all played in the tournament. Georgetown and Arkansas played in the NIT. It was a schedule full of teams that were really good and really talented."


As a program on the rise, getting to face these first class opponents is the epitome of a win-win-win situation. 


First, it gives the school exposure and, in most cases, the school will get some sort of compensation from the big school for making the trip. 


Second, the team gets valuable experience against top-tier opponents, which will only help when they play the smaller schools in conference play.


Lastly, when a school like HPU travels and plays the likes of Syracuse, nobody expects the Panthers to come out on top. So if by some chance the team manages to pull off the upset, it is monumental for the program. 


"It is great for our exposure," Cherry explains, "We got the Georgetown game on Fox Sports 1, we got on ESPN U a couple times, it's is great for our program and it is great for our kids."


After a season like this the Panthers are poised to make some noise and Phelps is trying to petition the crowd, "People should be talking about us. We have the potential to be great."


With both teams expecting the majority of their starting line-ups back she isn't wrong either. Look for the Panthers to be dancing in 2014.



Coverage on the rise:

  • From 2009-2013 the women's team had zero games nationally televised
  • In the 2013-2014 season the team had four
  • From 2009-2013 the men's team had three games nationally televised
  • In the 2013-2014 season the team had nine
  • For the program as a whole, three total from 2009-2013 and 13 in the 2013-2014 season alone
Those leaving and staying:
  • The women's team will have two people not returning next year
    • Only one of them is a starter
    • They combine to average 16.2 points per game
      • The leading scorer, Kaylah Keys, averages 17.4 points per game and she is returning
      • Latrice Phelps averages just under 10 points per game and is also returning
      • The team as a whole will retain 78% of its scoring average from the previous year
      • Taylor Tremblay will return after sitting out the majority of the 2013-2014 season
        • She was averaging 13.4 points per game before getting injured
          • Only Kaylah Keys averaged more points per game
  • The men's team will have three players not returning
    • One is Allan Chaney, who missed the second half of the year with heart issues
    • Derrell Edwards and Dejuan McGaughy are the other two
      • Edwards started and averaged 3.4 points per game
      • McGaughy came off the bench averaging 4.8 points per game
      • The two of them make up only 11% of the Panthers scoring
      • The leading scorer, John Brown, averages 19.5 points per game and he is returning
      • The top 4 scorers from the past year will all be returning next season