Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

Go ahead, Ibaka. Step to him. I DARE you.

It was announced Tuesday that Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace would be suspended for 7 games for the elbow he threw that knocked Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden out of Sunday’s game. The incident has been all over the world of sports news since it happened, and has managed to overshadow an otherwise captivating game that saw the Lakers come from 18 down to win in double overtime. World Peace will miss Thursday’s season finale with the Sacramento Kings, and the next 6 games the Lakers play – presuming the Lakers advance past the 1st round of the playoffs, that could mean into the 2nd round.

People have been talking about this non-stop. Before we go further, let’s first take a look at said play:

Pretty bad, right? Yeah – I don’t think anyone can defend that play. I think you’re delusional if you think he didn’t deserve a suspension for that. That’s not even up for debate to me. But you know what is?

The reactions and words of certain talking heads and fans.

I had a number of people overreacting saying “He should be banned for life!” Or “He should be done for the year!” One friend swore he was done for good – I told him there was no chance in hell. First off, the NBAPA wouldn’t allow it. Secondly, NBA history – if you know it (which most fans seemingly don’t) – dictated exactly what type of punishment he should’ve gotten. Most elbows in games get between 1-3 games for an offender; being someone who has had controversial incidents in the past, I predicted 5 games was likely, with a max of 10. But the other stuff?

Please.

Look – I don’t care that so many of you reading this may be caught up in the spin that ESPN and other entities peddle out nightly. I watch ESPN too – and I know when they’re reporting a story, and when they’re FRAMING one. And they’ve done that all too often. Yes, he knocked Harden out, and thankfully, Harden seems to be okay. But stop acting like what happened was more than what it was – a cheap, in-game play that was excessive and deserved punishment. He got punished. I think 7 games is a lot, but given the history – I think commissioner David Stern was fair and didn’t bow to the public and media hyperbole. No one’s going to argue the punishment is too much. But spare me the “he got off light” sentiment.

World Peace’s rep is well-known, and I get it – people view him in a certain light. But since he’s come to the Lakers, he’s actually been thrown out of as many games as Kobe Bryant. In fact – the guys on the team with the most ejections in recent years would be Matt Barnes and Andrew Bynum. The so-called “Malice In The Palace” happened 8 years ago – and he’s been on his best behavior since then. Of course, ESPN couldn’t wait to play clips of it and say that this incident “immediately conjures up thoughts of the Indiana-Detroit brawl”. No it didn’t. But awesome job planting that in your viewers’ heads to further the storyline you hope to create to make this worse than it already was.

And let’s really take a look at that incident. No, seriously – watch that event again:

How many actual punches does (then) Ron Artest throw at anyone? I count 1 definite punch – after he had gone in the stands, a fan ran up on him back on the court, and he swung on him. I said it back then, I’ll say it now – if you’re stupid enough to swing at that man, no matter WHO you are – good luck. This is the same guy that Shaq had trouble backing down. I don’t excuse that incident, but the revisionist history on it is laughable – Artest/World Peace took the fall as a scapegoat when the actions of Ben Wallace, Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson were actually worse. Wallace started that whole fiasco. No one will ever convince me otherwise. But Artest did fan the flames, and he served his punishment.

My point is – get over it. The man did his best to reform, has pretty much kept himself out of trouble (with a few techs here and there over the years) on the court, and even got professional help. In all the slanted talk, has everyone forgotten that he won the NBA’s J.Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award – LAST YEAR?!?

Yup – LAST YEAR.

I’m not buying any of the “do away with him” garbage. I’m not buying into the “thug” crap. There’s racial undertones many times when bringing up him and other NBA “troublemakers” that seems to forget/excuse the history of players like Kevin McHale, Bill Laimbeer and Brad Miller. Not saying this case is a racial thing at all – just saying, there’s often an undertone when certain players are talked about.

And please – don’t come at me like someone did calling that the worst play of the season. Really? How about the wrap-up around clothesline Phoenix’s Robin Lopez gave to Blake Griffin just a week ago??

How about New Orleans’ Jason Smith hitting the “truck” button on Griffin a few weeks ago?

Don’t even GET me started on worse plays last year or in previous years that got lesser reactions and punishments. I find it hilarious watching Charles Barkely, Shaq and Bruce Bowen pursing their lips to say ANYTHING about World Peace.

World Peace got the appropriate punishment – 7 games, no pay. Miss me with the crying about him being some Legion Of Doom-esque super villain who must be stopped at all costs. My thought on all the overreaction? Get a grip. At least the man has legitimately tried to change his life and actions around.

In the heat of a game, he lost it. Hell, some would argue (myself included) that Harden was trying to set World Peace off by running up on him right as he was celebrating (oh, I know – we’re supposed to ignore that Harden doesn’t guard World Peace, and that World Peace didn’t have the ball- he was running to get back on defense – so there was no legitimate reason for him to run right up on him like that). Well, you (Harden) set him off. This is supposition, but Harden (if you watch as him regularly) likes to try to get under the skin of opponents. He wanted to, in my opinion, get under World Peaces’ skin by running up on him and make him do something stupid. Guess what? He did something stupid. Except Harden got hurt.

Doesn’t excuse it. Doesn’t remotely make it alright.

I’m just saying let’s keep this entire thing in perspective. The NBA, in my opinion, handled this correctly.

It’s been 8 years. Give World Peace a chance.

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Mike D'Antoni failed the New York Knicks - which actually shouldn't surprise anyone.

So here we are – in the aftermath of the resignation of Mike D’Antoni, the now former coach of the New York Knicks. I’ve pretty much railed against the man and his “coaching” for years, especially after the Knicks hired him. I have a great many Knicks fans that I know, so it’s been interesting to watch most of them go from excited when he was first hired to fed up leading up to him quitting this week (while I shouldn’t say I told you so, every thing I said would happen when this guy took over DID happen…so to some of my friends reading this, I TOLD YOU SO).

But the D’Antoni fiasco highlights exactly how important having a good coach is in the NBA. Because, as much as some people may think teams like the Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets stink – it really comes down to coaching moreso than personnel. Because – and I think people in all sports forget this – these people are pros. They are, for the most part, the best of the best at what they do. Which is why a guy like Shannon Brown can go from not ever playing in Charlotte to being a major contributor to a championship team in L.A. – system and coaching.

Oh, don’t get it twisted. There ARE players who are crappier than others in this league. And it’s true, a coach will have a hard time showing how good he is with crappier players to work with (look at Avery Johnson in New Jersey). But the D’Antoni situation in particular just goes to show how many people really don’t understand the NBA game at all, in my opinion. Because this season, I’ve read everything from the Knicks have too much talent (there’s no such thing, people), to it’s all Carmelo Anthony’s fault (hardly), to Jeremy Lin can’t handle the pressure any more (Oh? But he inexplicably could for a full month and then got scared when Deron Williams came back to town??) to it’s all J.R. Smith/Amar’e Stoudemire’s fault for not playing better defense (um – when did either one of those guys present themselves as lockdown defenders? EVER??).

I’m sorry – all those excuses are just lazy thinking. Especially in terms of blaming the players – that’s the laziest thing I see fans do. Team loses or isn’t doing good, it’s the players’ fault. Especially the star. Look – there are indeed times when it’s a star’s fault (LeChoke’s performance in the 4th quarters of the last 3 games of the NBA Finals last year comes to mind). But I’m sorry – it’s simply NOT on Lamar Odom for why the Dallas Mavericks aren’t playing that well. It’s not on Rajon Rondo or Kevin Garnett for the reasons the Boston Celtics are struggling (it’s not Doc Rivers’ fault either – I’m looking at you, Danny Ainge).

Even the usually affable Derek Fisher had tuned coach Mike Brown out at times this season in L.A.

Coaching plays a major part. For example – I’ve been crying all season about Mike Brown’s “coaching” of the Los Angeles Lakers. The situation in L.A. is just as bad as NY, but one thing masks everything – the Lakers are winning. This is in large part due to a half-mutiny Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher had orchestrated there. Which, if people had been paying attention (which most haven’t), has the support of all the players.

Granted, I probably watch sports and follow the ins and outs better than most people who don’t actually work at ESPN or something similar – but the info is readily available. The players holding meetings to figure out how to deal with the coaching staff. The veterans running the triangle (at different points) for most of the first part of the season, even though the current coach and his staff have no triangle plays in their book. The frequent disinterest of certain players in huddles on nationally televised games. Players going to Kobe Bryant to know what to do on offense. And the kicker – the worst thing I’ve seen in years – the star player (Bryant) brazenly admitting  in an on-court interview after beating the Celtics recently that he literally vetoed the called play by the coach and called his own play for center Andrew Bynum.

And Bynum excitedly talking about it for 2 days after the fact, all in the sports media.

Now, you can blame Kobe and the players for this lack of respect. But just know – in the entire history of the Lakers since I’ve been watching, I’ve never heard of these things. Not from Kobe. Not from Shaq. Not from Kareem. Not from anyone, no matter what shenanigans were going on. No matter WHO the coach was. And, taking a look at Mike Brown’s coaching history…this is actually par for the course. The same type of things went on in Cleveland. It’s just happened quicker than I thought in L.A.

In both cases, Brown won tons of games. Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni are prime examples of bad coaches who have players that mask their inability to be good head coaches. Both are good at what they do – Brown at instilling defensive principles, D’Antoni on the offensive end – but they’re both no better than assistant coaches. Head coaches? Nope.

The opposite of guys like Brown and D’Antoni? Monty Williams and Rick Adelman. Both guys have lesser rosters, and have to squeeze out the absolute best of their players. In Williams’ case, the NBA (in particular David Stern) has completely hamstrung the team in terms of talent and being competitive. Yet, even though they’re the third-worst team in the league, missing their biggest scoring option in Eric Gordon – they play hard, and boast victories over a number of good teams. There is no surprise in watching them beat a team with a winning record.

Adelman has taken a supposedly awful Minnesota Timberwolves team and put them in contention for a playoff spot, with 2 rookies (Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams) being incorporated into the mix. I actually wish my Lakers had hired Adelman. The man can win with almost any roster. He won’t be at the top of the standings, because roster limitations DO have an effect – but he won’t ever be at the very bottom, either.

In fact – let me give you a list of who I think are good coaches: Adelman, Williams, Jerry Sloan (currently not coaching), Rick Carlisle, George Karl, Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, Greg Popovich, Doug Collins, Lionel Hollins, Frank Vogel, Kevin McHale, Scott Brooks, Alvin Gentry and Erik Spoelstra. Yes, THAT Erik Spoelstra. The one people like to throw under the bus any time the Miami Heat lose. I definitely contend he’s a good coach. Not the best – but good? Yes.

That’s a lot of coaches. And not everyone I named are on the same level (no one on that list matches Popovich to me). But what of the coaches I didn’t

Stan Van Gundy is yet another coach with a good record and reputation - but is completely overrated (in my opinion).

name? That means, in my opinion – they’re either average or less than average. That includes a guy like Stan Van Gundy, who always has teams that win, but in terms of coaching? Put it this way – when he has talent, the guy will always get you a good regular season record. In the playoffs? I can almost always predict how he will lose and how he will be out-coached. Seriously. Any time he goes up against a good coach with a healthy team, he’s gonna get knocked out in the playoffs.

Now a coach like that is good if your team simply wants to sell tickets and put out the facade of being a top-notch team. But as Shaquille O’Neal once stated, Van Gundy is “the master of panic”. Put him in a rough spot – the Magic are going down. His adjustments – or lack thereof – are pathetic. I’ll take his brother Jeff Van Gundy any day of the week over him (Jeff is a bit of an imbecile on TV, but he’s a hell of a coach).

What it comes down to – a good coach is not always in control of a winning record. And a bad coach can win with the right talent. Don’t forget – Mike D’Antoni was once Coach of The Year. Yet he was run out of Phoenix, and quit on NY. And even good coaches can be run out of town – look at Phil Jackson in Chicago. I guess what I’m trying to say, one needs to really play attention to a team, it’s issues, it’s players – and how it’s growing or faltering. Because many times in this league, it truly does come down to the coaching.

That’s not to say it’s always the coach’s fault. I don’t put the blame for Cleveland’s struggles on Byron Scott at all. On the other side, I don’t think Vinnie Del Negro is an upper echelon coach simply because the NBA gave him Chris Paul. To be honest, I think both of those men are average coaches of the same level. Management is a big part of the overall picture, and they need to be in sync with any coach. In this regard, you really can’t completely fault D’Antoni in New York – he was never in sync with Knicks management (who essentially forced Carmelo Anthony on the man).

Still – with a roster of Lin, ‘Melo, Amar’e, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and tons of great role players – there’s no excuse for failing this badly. The silly excuse some have used of “too many stars” or the “hard to mesh” excuse fails when you look at the Lakers winning a championship after adding Pau Gasol midseason; the Boston Celtics having FOUR all-star players and winning, the Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs – all teams with tons of stars that made it work pretty easily. And what do all of those teams have in common?

You guessed it – good coaching.

I actually think the Knicks will make the playoffs with Mike Woodson taking over as interim coach. Is he good coach? Not in my opinion. But he’s average, and I believe the players will respect and respond to him better than they did D’Antoni. And no, I don’t believe the players had anything to do with getting him out of there – please remember, he resigned. The man quit. So that’s on him and his failures, and I’m hearing it was more of an issue with him and management for the decision to come at this point.

All one has to do is look at Portland game the day of the resignation. NY beat the brakes off that team under Woodson. They looked great. The beating was so bad, the next day Portland fired their coach, Nate McMillan. And what’s the first thing Woodson did behind closed doors? Tell the team he was changing the offense to accentuate Stoudemire and ‘Melo. Not implementing an offense they need to adjust to and fit into – but implementing one that plays to their strengths.

Coaching.

As always, most will really notice the difference in coaching when the playoffs come around. With the trade of Derek Fisher to Houston, I suspect we’ll see many of Mike Brown’s flaws blatantly come out in the playoffs when he has to match up with a top coach and their adjustments. He won’t have the on-floor leadership he’s had most of the year to get through adversity, and to be honest – as good of a leader as Kobe is, he loses patience with sub-par play and isn’t one to suffer fools. Brown starts doing his normal lack of adjusting and countering, Kobe’s liable to go rogue and tear the team in half – or take them with him (more likely). And before anyone puts that on Kobe, let me point out you’re missing the point – I wouldn’t even be talking about that if Kobe had a good coach who wouldn’t tolerate that.

D’Antoni is said to have quit because he was unwilling to reign in the half of the team who had turned against him. Brown is unwilling to reign in Kobe. And, as is the case yearly, the teams that will succeed when it matters will do so not just because of their stars and talent – they’ll win (or lose) based on coaching to a large degree.

Not every game is won or lost due to coaching, this is true. But I can’t remember a single NBA title that was won by a bad coach – or even an average one. That accentuates the point I’m trying to make.

As of this posting, the questions surrounding if Kobe Bryant would play or not after suffering a broken nose and concussion at this year’s NBA All-Star game have been answered. Bryant returned against the Minnesota Timberwolves and dropped 31 points, along with almost getting a triple-double – all while wearing a Richard Hamilton-esque protective mask. He continues to play at a high level this season, currently tied with 2 other players for the most 30-point games in the league this year (14).

Kobe Bryant is really a cybernetic killer sent from the future to kill the dreams of rising NBA stars...

Kobe’s not human in the traditional sense of what we’re used to in the NBA. The injuries and afflictions he’s played through are the stuff of legend, so few (if any) thought there was a chance he’d miss this game. Personally, I knew of another reason why he wouldn’t miss the game – it was reported that during the All-Star festivities in Orlando, young rookie sensation Ricky Rubio had the intestinal fortitude (read: guts) to talk trash to Kobe about his team’s upcoming game with L.A. (the majority of media outlets missed a golden opportunity to add to the storyline by not including that nugget of info that was mentioned on TNT). Knowing that, I knew Kobe was going to be on that court no matter what. And I knew he was going to have a high performance. Kobe doesn’t take well to unproven young bucks talking trash to him – especially when he’s spanked that young pup before (Rubio was on the Spanish national team that Kobe obliterated to win gold in the last Olympics).

But there’s something currently happening that I really don’t think people have taken stock of (which made it the perfect topic for me to write about). And that is…

People are no longer scared of Kobe Bryant.

Let me be clear – no one was ever scared of him the way they were a Charles Oakley, younger Ron Artest, Detroit Bad Boys, etc. But Kobe has the reputation of an assassin and a cold-blooded killer on the court, and rightfully so. He’s made a career of taking down players, teams, organizations, etc. – with a ruthless drive only matched by his idol, Michael Jordan. His reel of game-winning shots is crazy. The amount of players – current and former – who have been schooled by the man is extensive. And, regardless of what any detractors say – even right now, the only guy who can shut Kobe down is Kobe himself.

But the years have caught up with The Mamba.

This isn’t saying I agree with the foolish narrative that he’s “lost it” or that he’s old and on the way out – because common sense and a working pair of eyes will clearly tell you different. But Bryant himself will tell you he’s not as fast as he once was (the man was an absolute blur on a fastbreak during the Lakers’ three-peat). His game has been modified the same way Jordan modified his during his 2nd three-peat – he now works to get himself enough space to get off a good shot, not to drive to the basket for a dunk or acrobatic layup. Oh, he can still drive – and dunk – but 16 years of wear and tear behooves him to not do so for 82 games AND playoffs.

And if he makes 1st team All-NBA Defense this year, it would be criminal.

Last year, he played on knees with very little cartilage left in them, and on a bad ankle. He was still able to be one of the Top 5 players in the league, but his limitations were really exposed against the New Orleans Hornets in the playoffs. With the Lakers point guards getting killed by Chris Paul, Kobe took it upon himself to stop the diminutive megastar. Only a funny thing happened – Kobe couldn’t stop him. At all. True, his injuries were a big factor in this – but for 7 games, Kobe was as hapless as his teammates to stop CP3. Which had never happened.

It was all over once Rocky saw that Drago was cut. Kobe - take notes.

It’s not like this was some awakening for the rest of the players in the league. But what it actually was, moreso, was an indication of what has transpired in the mindset of the league’s other star guards and small forwards – he can be touched. He’s not invincible. It’s the equivalent of when Rocky cut Ivan Drago in Rocky IV…his corner famously told him as they looked across the ring at the bleeding Russian “You see?? You see?!? He’s not a machine, he’s a man! He’s A MAN!!!” The same with Kobe. His peers respect him, and even still marvel at him. Make no mistake about it – every player younger than Bryant looks at him the way he himself looked at Jordan. But, just as Kobe wanted to BEAT Jordan, and went all out to do so at every opportunity – the younger stars in the league want to do the same to him.

Because Bryant is the standard of excellence in the league. And everyone wants to measure themselves by beating that standard. And there’s the sense that it’s possible now. Not that it’s able to be done by anyone – it’s still easier said than done – but just that’s it’s possible. Before last year, I get the sense that the only player in the league who truly thought he was just as good if not better than Kobe was Dwayne Wade. He’s always carried himself the same way Kobe does – “Ain’t nobody f’n with me on this court”. Which is why Kobe has always respected him – D.Wade’s coming out party as a star was against Kobe. The first Lakers-Heat matchup after the Shaq trade, on Christmas day…the game was billed as Shaq vs. Kobe, but what actually happened was Kobe vs. D.Wade. Mano y mano, blow for blow, unstoppable force vs. unstoppable force – both men jawing in each other’s faces, neither backing down, but Wade inexplicably being able to actually DO it – go toe to toe with Bryant. Miami got the win, and the world’s eyes locked on Wade and have been on him as a star ever since. Before then…he was what Kyrie Irving is now – a great star that NBA heads know about, but not a mainstream, megastar. Irving is Wade before the Kobe Christmas game.

Wade, of course, is the reason Bryant was doing his best Phantom Of The Opera impersonation against the T-Wolves. While I buy that he wasn’t trying to hurt Bryant, the attention given to the foul isn’t unwarranted. As many Lakers players have said, it was an all-star game – Wade’s excuse that Kobe had fouled him twice prior doesn’t fly. B-ball heads will recognize Wade’s foul as the same hard foul that’s given to send a message. And that message is “you won’t be just getting any easy dunks or layups”. With the softer rules and fact that players are much more buddy-buddy now, you don’t see it from as many players or even as frequently. But you DO see it. Especially from bigger men and those with an old school mentality. Kevin Garnett, Kurt Thomas, Juwan Howard, Kendrick Perkins, Raja Bell, Ron Artest, Matt Barnes – these are all players who will give that foul in a regular season game to a guy. And in the playoffs, many players will do it – Bryant himself famously threw Dwight Howard to the floor in the NBA Finals.

But not in an all-star game. But again – this stems from the desire to beat Bryant and not be subject to his dominance. Kobe had been eating Wade up to that point, and talking junk to boot. The play itself – Kobe juiced Wade, and was certainly going to go up for a 2-hand dunk. Look again:

Wade, though not trying to hurt Kobe, doesn’t do that to any other star. Guaranteed. No, it’s my opinion the competitive spirit within was just about sick of Kobe scoring and then letting him hear about it. Add some intense defense on Wade – you get, as Reggie Miller said, “the first flagrant foul in all-star history”.

Now just look over the course of this season. Jeremy Lin had his career high against who? Kobe’s Lakers. James Harden was seen talking smack to Kobe for a good chunk of the 4th quarter in the Lakers’ recent loss to the OKC Thunder (until Metta World Peace entered the picture and literally pushed him away – no non-big man is stupid enough to mess with Metta). Though not a single expert, analyst or even NBA insider is picking the Lakers to win the championship this year – every team seems to get up and get excited at the prospect of playing them. They don’t get anywhere near as excited for playing the champs, the Dallas Mavericks. Or for playing the Celtics, or the Thunder, or the Chicago Bulls. The only teams that match the excitement drawn by the Lakers – the NY Knicks and Miami Heat. Why? Their stars.

And best believe, no one gets up to play L.A. if Kobe isn’t playing. No one is geeked to beat Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Sorry.

Kobe has made the transition from invincible star and idol to marked man. The same way people went at Jordan late in his career – including Kobe. Remember that all-star game where Kobe tried to go at Jordan, and Jordan SCHOOLED the young pup?

Yeah. It was BAD. But you know what happened when Kobe got the chance to pay MJ when he was a Wizard? He made sure to have big games. In fact – in Michael Jordan’s last trip to L.A., Kobe stole the show by scoring 55 points. I’ll never forget it, because my boy Dre knew Kobe did that on purpose. And so did everyone watching. He wanted to make his mark against the best. He wanted to show Jordan was the best – and that at that point, he was NOW the best.

This is what’s currently happening to Kobe in the league – he’s a marked man. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Deron Williams – virtually any star you can name wants a piece of both Kobe and his Lakers. No one goes at Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan like that – even though they’re from the same generation and are all-time greats themselves. Which makes Kobe’s performance this year all that more impressive – even though the hunter has become the hunted, the old hunter is still leading the league as THE apex predator of the NBA.

There are a lot of potential contenders for the throne. But make no mistake – while the “best of” debate for the younger players shifts from Durant to Rose to Wade to LeBron on any given week, those players themselves are gunning for the top dog – Kobe. And all of Kobe’s talking, preparation, modifications, etc. is to fight off both Father Time and the young pups nipping at his heels for the undisputed title of best on the planet.

Because as long as he’s still playing at a high level, leading the league, dominating all-star votes, garnering not only America’s attention but the entire global basketball community’s – none of them can claim King of The Hill. It was like when Muhammad Ali was fighting – no one could truly claim to be “The Man” until he was permanently out of the picture.

The problem is – Kobe’s not ready to give it up. Not yet. And while he’s more vulnerable than he’s ever been – that doesn’t mean he’s ripe to be knocked off his perch. He’s lost a step, and beats people more on b-ball IQ than athleticism – but Jordan did the same thing his entire 2nd three-peat. As long as he stays healthy, I think Kobe could play at a top ten level for another 2-3 years.

Whether Kobe will get his desired 6th championship ring before retiring is anybody’s guess. But one thing’s for sure – Kobe knows that all these players who have idolized him now want to beat him – and some want to be him. And similar to his idol, Jordan – Kobe intends to keep them from taking his spot as long as possible.

How long can he do this? Your guess is as good as mine. But it will be enjoyable watching to see them attempt to topple the current Lord Of The Rings.

Yes - even your favorite Marvel superheroes want a piece of The Black Mamba.

Well…it’s here. The Super Bowl! Most watched television event in the world. And being that I write a sports blog, of course people have inquired as to who I’m picking. Well…

  • At the beginning of the season, I predicted either the Atlanta Falcons or New Orleans Saints would face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Depending on which of those teams they played, I predicted a win or a loss for the ol’ Pats. Well – neither of my predicted choices from the NFC came true. Instead, we all know the NY Giantsare the opponent. So…who wins? 

    I'm picking Victor Ortiz and the NY Giants to win this year's Super Bowl.

     

    I’m going with the G-Men.Even though it’s a revenge game, and the Patriots have been rolling along smoothly – I almost always pick the better defense to win a Super Bowl (the exception being when I sided with the Indianapolis Colts to win against the Chicago Bears). The Giants are sound, confident, and fierce – and Eli Manning can literally prove his “I’m as good as Tom Brady” statement right by facing the man himself. Tom Coughlin is one of the better coaches in the league, and I just think they pull it out in the end. I’m thinking both teams may score in the 30s…but I give the nod to Eli & company.

  • Some won’t admit it, but I’m not a hater – so I have no problem doing so. LeBron James?? Yeah – that dude currently has the MVP trophy ON LOCK. He’s playing so out of this world, I don’t think most fans are even noticing how easily he’s getting his numbers – and that’s on a team with 2 other all-stars and Olympians!! He still ain’t spit in the 4th quarter – but I ain’t hearing NO ONE as a better MVP candidate currently.
  • Kenyon Martin agreed to sign with the L.A. Clippers. Talk about the rich getting richer…what was that about the big city teams being too strong, David Stern??
  • Caroline Wozniacki is no longer ranked #1 in the world for tennis. This makes me sad – she’s my favorite player…
  • Damn – so many people are just waiting for Tiger Woods to return to dominance…how many times is he going to get close to winning, just to LeBron it in the end??
  • Floyd Mayweather is going to kill Miguel Cotto. Count me as someone who may not even bother to watch. Ditto for whomever Pac-Man fights. These two and their shenanigans tire me.
  • The best college basketball coach not named Krzyzewski or Boeheim is apparently taking a break from the game
  • How come no one is talking about the NHL’s collective bargaining fight that’s looming? Never mind – the question was rhetorical…
  • So you really want to be the guy who cut the greatest QB in franchise history, huh Jim Irsay? Ego is a hell of a drug.
  • I’d love to see the city of Buffalo stop being a bunch of thin-skinned wussies and stop crying that Tom Brady doesn’t like their hotels. I’ve got news for you, Buffalo – I’m FROM Buffalo and I agree the hotels here don’t compare to good hotels in major cities. Stop crying about the truth.
  • Syracuse is getting center Fab Melo back this Saturday. That sound you heard was Orange fans rushing to book accommodations for the 2012 Final Four

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Enjoy your weekends, and enjoy The Super Bowl Sunday! Oh – and please don’t ask me what my favorite commercial was. I actually watch The Super Bowl for the game, not the ads. Commercials mean time to go use the bathroom or grab some food for me. Lolz…

Until next time…Shoot, Pass, Quibble!

Well, we’re about 20 games into the abbreviated post-2011 lockout season of the NBA. Thus far, ratings are up, excitement is evident and injuries are building up (they always DO after a lockout). Outside of the obvious big storylines (Miami Heat as the favorites, Lakers vs. Clippers is relevant now, where is Dwight Howard going), I figured I’d look at 10 things you may or may not have noticed, considered or thought about.

 

The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference this season.

1. Atlanta, Indiana & Philadelphia are surprise power teams in the Eastern Conference (so far) – It’s true. Take a look at the top 5 spots in the East – these team occupy spots 3-5. And if you’re telling me you thought that would be the case before the season began and you’re NOT a fan of any of those teams, I’m calling you a liar. The obvious retort anyone can offer – it’s the Eastern Conference. It’s been weak for well over a decade. This is true, but you have to still play your schedule, and thus far, these teams are winning. Atlanta has even beat Chicago, Miami and Portland; and Indiana boasts wins over the Lakers and Chicago (Philly has been beating up on weaker teams). Just under one-third of the season has been played, so there’s still time for things to getter better or worse for all 3 squads – but the fact they’re all currently doing better than New York, Boston and Orlando has to be noticed and applauded.

 

2. Kobe Bryant truly may not be human – No, really. Forget the fact that regardless of the same doubters and haters who come out the woodwork yearly, this guy proves himself to be amongst the absolute best in the game. Forget that he’s killing the league in his 16th season. I don’t think people understand how insane it is that he’s playing with his wrist injury. And doing it well. By comparison, Rajon Rondo hasn’t been able to play in 5 games, and can’t even shoot or dribble consistently. And he doesn’t have torn ligaments that should require surgery. Luol Deng has an injury like Kobe’s, but not as severe – on his left hand. His non-shooting hand. He requires surgery (as Kobe was supposed to get), and he’s been missing games too.

Kobe hasn’t missed a single game. Compare this to the injuries he’s played through over the years – he once separated his shoulder and shot left-handed for a number of games, to good effect at that – and the only thing I can come up with is this dude is one of those mutants we see in the X-Men universe. That’s the only explanation for a guy who routinely plays with injuries that sideline every other NBA player for weeks and months.

 

The common denominator in terms of all the problems with the Knicks' play? Mike D'Antoni.

3. Mike D’Antoni SUCKS – I’ve gotten to the point in sports where hearing certain opinions about things lets me know the difference between people who really watch the sport and those who let ESPN tell them how things are. The “Knicks/’Melo/Amar’e sucks!” opinions are an example of this. No, there’s nothing wrong with any of those players on that team. They are who they are, and WHAT they are. In particular, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler were all extremely successful for their previous teams – you’re telling me they got together and just became terrible? That they inexplicably have no idea how to play together?

All of those guys knew how to play during Olympic try-outs and on those squads. Every other superstar pairing over the past few years doesn’t seem to have issues working out the gate – Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Clippers this year, etc. What gives? It’s the coach.

It would take me too long to spell it all out – that’s an article in and of itself. If you’re interested in understanding how it’s the coach, there’s a pretty good article I’ve read that echoes what I’ve thought for a long time about D’Antoni here. But it’s NOT the players – a good coach would have this team near the top of the East, easy. And non-knowledgeable Knicks fans are running out of excuses – you can’t even say Denver is winning with the Knicks’ old players, because 2 of those players are already gone from the team (Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler), one gets limited minutes (Timofey Mozgov) and the other is putting up Carmelo-esque numbers at times ever since he began playing for a good coach (George Karl).

And for anyone who was riding the “It’s ‘Melo’s fault” train – remind me – how have the Knicks been doing without Mr. Anthony??

Oh.

Place the blame where it belongs – coaching and inept management.

 

4. Chris Bosh and Kevin Love are under-the-radar BEASTS – Yup. They sure are. Look at their numbers – Kevin Love gives you 25 points, 14 rebounds and a steal and is shooting 41% from three – and he’s a power forward. Bosh’s numbers are 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, a block, 55% overall from the field and 33% from three – again, at the power forward position. Those numbers increased when Dwayne Wade was been out of the Heat lineup – he averaged 27 points without his all-star 2-guard.

Neither man is flashy nor do they consistently provide the ESPN Top Ten highlights casual viewers crave. They suffer from Tim Duncan syndrome – they provide steady, consistent production, and are huge assets – but get overshadowed by the highlight-driven, guard-led highlight packages. But make no mistake about it – they are playing out of this world, and are they keys to their teams success. That’s right – I just called Bosh the key to Miami’s success over LeBron AND Wade. Because if he’s a totally unstoppable beast in the playoffs with those guys doing their thing?? Who gon’ stop them?? Well – it’s possible. But not highly likely…

 

5. David Stern is completely full of hot, steaming CACA – Okay, you already knew this. I’m sure I’m surprising exactly no one with that declaration. However, I’m specifically referring to a little something the little bastard said after he traded Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul to the Clippers…wait – what’s that, you say? Chauncey Billups was picked up in free agency, not in a trade? Uh-huh – sure. YOU believe that if you want. Most NBA insiders certainly don’t – and Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski referenced the shadiness all the way back in December (read that article here).

Back to what The Runt Who Would Be King said: “Tonight’s transaction is better

David Stern - or as Laker fans like to call him - @#$%^&*!!!

for the Hornets than the transaction that I did not sign off on four days ago.” Really? Okay – let’s look at the facts. The New Orleans Hornets are currently fighting the Charlotte Bobcats to see who can be the absolute worst team in the league. You’re telling me that the pieces they got in that trade are better than Kevin Martin (currently averaging 20 points per game), 6th Man Of The Year Lamar Odom, Luis Scola (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Goran Dragic?? In fairness, SG Eric Gordon has been hurt – but Gordon IS injury-prone. So you know that going in.

And to add to what a farce this trade was – the Hornets are currently shopping center Chris Kaman (whom was one of the players acquired) for a trade. He’s not even playing any longer.

No one who knows ball could rationally  compare the pieces in those trades and think the Hornets did better with the second one. Oh, they got the Minnesota Timberwolves’ unprotected #1 pick as well too, right? That should be worth something – except the T-Wolves are flirting with a .500 record. Oops – that supposedly valuable pick might not even wind up being a lottery pick. So Houston’s 1st round draft pick might wind up being only a few spots away from that pick. Essentially, they have the same value.

Yup. Stern is a shiester. And the excuse of not wanting Chris Paul to go to a big market – um, he still winded up in L.A., as I’ve pointed out before. That was jealous owners (Michael Jordan, Dan Gilbert and Mark Cuban, amongst others) not wanting him to go to the Lakers. And that’s just wackness. But make no mistake – Stern is full of more manure than even you possibly could imagine. He’s the Dung Beetle of sports commissioners. And that’s saying a lot.

 

Being the greatest NBA player of all time hasn't helped Jordan when it comes to running a team. At all.

6. The Charlotte Bobcats SUCK, and I love it – No offense to my North Carolina readers. But after being one of the biggest reasons FOR the lockout happening and the length of it, in addition to crying like a little b***h when the Lakers made the (rescinded) trade for Chris Paul, I’m very happy to see Michael Jordan have to watch his team stink it up every night. He had 2 top draft picks, and they’re doing absolutely nothing in terms of stopping the suckitude in Charlotte. Stephen Jackson, Emeka Okafor, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace are just some of the good players that His Douchey-ness Airness couldn’t figure out how to get wins with. I’ve never really liked the guy as a person, but of course I respect him as the game’s greatest player. But after his crabbiness in the past few months…I will take great joy in seeing things he’s involved with FAIL. As I’m currently doing – happily.

 

7. Ricky Rubio Is The Real Deal – we were all waiting to see if he could live up to the hype, and most of us figured “no”. Um…have you watched this kid play?? 11 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and steals – off the bench?? Wow. And the questions about whether he can shoot – he sure looks like he’s shooting on an NBA level to me, seeing as his 3-point percentage is at 35% and overall FG% is 37. And he can still improve.

This kid has Steve Nash Jr. written all over him.

 

8. Injuries Are Piling Up – So far this year, Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowtizki, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Al Horford, Zach Randolph, Deron Williams and Stephen Curry have all missed significant time due to injuries. And that’s just the superstars’ whose names came to me off the top of the head – there’s a gazillion non-superstar players with injuries.

The lockout, outside of being completely unnecessary and idiotic, is killing players in the injury department. Nice job, owners. Putzes.

 

9. The West Is Still The Best – Don’t believe me? 10 out of 16 teams in the Western Conference have records over .500. In the East? That number dips to just 6 teams. And in the East, pretty much everyone acknowledges it comes down to Chicago and Miami for who comes out of the conference. The West? Claim can be made for OKC, San Antonio, Dallas, Portland, Denver and both L.A. teams. That’s a lot of options, and a lot of competition.

I have no idea when The East will rise again. But it hasn’t been the better conference since the 90s – and even if you go back then, both conferences were really competitive. So I actually can’t even remember when the East was demonstratively better than the West…if you’re only comparing teams and not Finals wins.

News of the Boston Celtics' demise has been greatly exaggerated.

10. The Boston Celtics can beat The Miami Heat in a 7-game playoff series – I’m just saying. I figured I’d put this here so I can be held to that…as I’ve said it and been told I’m crazy to think so. Boston got out to a slow start, but look at them lately…they’re gelling, and looking pretty damned competitive. Dare I say it – they’re starting to look good. And this isn’t a team meant to get an impressive regular season record – this is a team made to make a run in the playoffs. And that’s all they want to do – make the playoffs. When I look at the players, matchups, coaching, etc. – call it a hunch, call it intuition – I just see Boston being able to pull the upset off. I know people will disagree and call them old, etc. – remember. Boston 2 years ago made LeBron James crawl in a shell and completely give up.

All I’m saying – I can see an upset happening if a healthy Boston team faces Miami. Remember I said it.

As always, feedback is highly encouraged and sought out. What do you think? Agree or disagree? Things to add? I’d love to see it. And don’t forget to spread the word – have your friends and family add the blog on Facebook and subscribe to get e-mail updates for new posts when they go up.

As always…Shoot, Pass, Quibble!

Interesting few days of sports…

  • So, Tim Tebow does it again. No need for me to recount what happened – turn on any Sports TV or radio show if you somehow missed it. AND, the Denver Broncos won becauseof his passing. Another chapter added to the great story that is the Broncos’ 2011-2012 season.I find it funny, though – Tebow haters still can’t give him any type of credit, regardless of what occurred in front of everyone’s eyes. I give props to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith for humbly admitting he was wrong – something a lot of blowhards on the network simply can never bring themselves to ever say (I’m looking at you Tedy Bruschi, Merril Hoge and Skip Bayless). The popular excuse that people want to latch on to…”Pittsburgh had injuries.”

    Um…SO?!?

    Let’s be clear – EVERY TEAM has injuries. I’ll remind people – the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl last year with tons of injuries. The NY Giants and Houston Texans won their divisions and 1st round playoff games with numerous injuries all year. One of the typical people I deal with who doesn’t necessarily think about these things – they just regurgitate whatever becomes a popular, repeated point – said to me “Pittsburgh didn’t have their defensive leader or their top running back.” I replied “Neither did Denver”. Yeah – he had forgotten Brian Dawkins and Knowshon Moreno were Denver’s injured starters who were out. Oops.

    Plain and simple – the better teams step up and get through injuries. Sure, there are major injuries some teams can’t recover from – the Indianapolis Colts can attest to this – but most good teams can and do. And seeing as coach Mike Tomlin isn’t using that as an excuse, and Pittsburgh was favored to win – I don’t find it any sort of coincidence that every human being I’ve heard who is using the injury excuse is also anti-Tebow.

    Get over it. As I tell people all the time – you not liking someone or something doesn’t change reality. Hell, I don’t like LeBron James particularly – you’ll never hear me discredit him if he’s had a phenomenal game or literally caused his team to win. Then again, I don’t get upset and have to change reality if someone I don’t cheer for wins or proves me wrong. ***kanyeshrug***

  • Everyone is talking about the Lakers, Thunder, Bulls, Heat, Knicks, etc. for different reasons in the NBA this season…anyone notice that the Portland Trailblazers might quite possibly be the best complete team in the league right now? Because I definitely have.
  • Eli Manning said at the beginning of the season he was just as elite of a QB as Tom Brady. People laughed…looking at his season, I don’t think the kid was lying. Is he better? No. But he’s in the elite class, no doubt.
  • Anyone notice that ratings and attendance are up in the NBA after the lockout? I honestly didn’t see that coming. But apparently, the NBA had the same result after it’s lockout that the NFL did – people complained and b***hed so much, when it returned, they were all eyes. Conspiracy theorists might even say both leagues knew this would be the result. I for one am a bit shocked that both leagues saw no negative effects to revenue and ratings…
  • Very quietly, a storm is brewing in the NHL. No one is noticing, because – quite frankly – Americans could care less about hockey in general. But when the NHL announced conference realignment, the NHLPAtook that as an opportunity to assert their power as a union again. The issue is currently in flux, because the players haven’t agreed. This isn’t about them having a problem with it – it’s about them (the NHLPA) trying to re-establish themselves after getting massacred by the owners during their collective bargaining battle and subsequent lockout in 2004-2005.I’m not as deeply knowledgeable about hockey as I am other sports – but this doesn’t look like a good sign for the next labor negotiations. The union will be looking to wrest back some power and control after their massacre (which was decidedly worse than the loss the NBA players just took).
  • Quick – name a good, current heavyweight boxer not named Klitschko. Yeah – I can’t either.
  • You think money doesn’t talk? It was announced last week Floyd “Money” Mayweather will not start his jail term until AFTER he participates in his next fight, presumably on May 5th. Wow – that’s a hell of a bribe.
  • Someone complained on former player and fellow Syracuse alum Derrick Coleman’s Facebook page that they felt the Syracuse Orange are being “disrespected” because they’ve been #1 for 5 weeks and haven’t been on national TV a lot. Silly argument – SU hasn’t played any team outside of Marquette (this past Saturday) that was even projected to be a decent game. Most channels and networks decided on what games they’ll air well ahead of time, and the Orange have been playing a weak part of their schedule for the past few weeks. But it’s not a bias thing – the people making that complaint probably never notice how many times they find out that #1 (at the time they were ranked that high) Ohio State, Duke, Kentucky, etc. have lost in a game that wasn’t on national TV.Syracuse will be on national TV a lot more when they get into the real meat of the Big East schedule…
  • Ricky Rubio is the real deal.
  • I still don’t care about the BCS National Championship tonight. I’ll check it out…but if it ain’t good by halftime, I’ll watch the highlights on “Sportscenter”.
  • Jorge Posada is going to retire after 17 years with the NY Yankees. With 5 World Series titles under his belt, I’m thinking he can leave with his head high. Props, Mr. Posada.

 

That’s all for now. Interested as always in your feedback. Make sure you spread the word on the blog – sign up for email updates to new posts, and have your friends add the page on Facebook.

Until next time…Shoot, Pass, Quibble!

Hello, everyone. Happy New Year to all who have read or kept up with Shoot, Pass, Quibble! since this blog’s inception. Admittedly, in the waning weeks and months of 2011, my writing trailed off due to becoming increasingly busy in life, and not really wanting to keep up with things as much as I’d like in terms of daily writing. However, if you were on Facebook and had added the SPQ page, you know that I often posted various sports articles, news bits, blogs and updates – and provided commentary and opinion on those things posted.

I thank you all for keeping up with SPQ, and hope to be able to offer articles and insight on a more regular basis in 2012. Having a blog is indeed like having a second job – but I do enjoy it.

I won’t rehash stories and subjects that have obviously been dealt with, written about, and talked about – but here are my thoughts on a few things:

  • It’s been so gratifying to see Cam Newton break all types of rookie records and be one of the biggest stars in the NFL this season. I LOVE that all these chumps had to shut their mouths since about week 5 about him when they had written the book about him. I also love the shine Tim Tebow got, although it’s very clear – he has a lot to learn at the QB position. Still, I love the kid’s moxie and leadership.
  • Good offensive coordinator. BAD coach.

    I find it inexplicable that I know a handful of people who actually think Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey is good at his job. Like…it’s not even close. And if you look back, I SAID what would hurt the Bills in the long run would be coaching. I don’t want to hear they had injuries – EVERY team had injuries. The NY Giants lost almost their entire starting defense, and lost their TE, starting RB, and both starting WRs at different points this season. They won the NFC East. No, Chan sucks. No qualifier.

    Any time you put together consecutive loss streaks of at least 7 games in back-to-back seasons? Only a delusional person can defend that, in my opinion.

  • Now that the NBA is back, don’t believe the hype that the older teams will all suck and the teams with younger players will dominate. It will be hard, but if they can avoid injuries – the veteran-heavy teams will be able to maintain.
  • You’re a complete fool if you’re one of the people who subscribes to the belief that Kobe Bryant has “lost it”. Not a single NBA coach or GM would agree with you.
  • I don’t care about the BCS title game. At all. That may sound crazy to some, but I truly have no desire to see a LSU-Alabama rematch. I stopped watching the first game at halftime.
  • Though some might call me biased because it’s my alma mater…if you haven’t had a chance to see #1 Syracuse play basketball, you need to. They are by far the best team in the country. This may be the best complete squad Jim Boeheim has ever had. And that says A LOT – because he’s had some killer squads.
  • Color me tickled that people argued with me that both Tiki Barber and Terrell Owens would be on NFL rosters this season – when I said before the season began there was no chance…
  • The Oakland Raiders collapse to give up the AFC West was truly horrible. I’m hoping coach Hue Jackson cleans house on defense, which was horrible all year long.
  • It’s not true sports, but rather “sports entertainment…but the few times The Rock has appeared in WWE in the past year HAS  to have been the most entertaining moments for the company in years. Dude is just fantastic in front of a camera…and his feud with wrestler John Cenahas provided some of the best comedy in years…
  • The Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant issue will pop up again at some point this season. Count on it. Westbrook just doesn’t get it.
  • I don’t know how Time Warner can possibly justify dropping MSG, when it plays Knicks, Rangers and Sabres games. People are NOT happy about that. Luckily, I have DirecTV – so I not only get MSG, I get multiple MSG channels. But that really stinks for fans of those teams if they have Time Warner.

Well, there you have it – first post of 2012. Like I said – I hope to post more regularly. It’s good to be back – I’m looking forward to the year. As always, feedback is welcome.

Until next time…Shoot, Pass, Quibble.