RAMBLINGS OF A MAD BLOGGER PT 1

NBA AND IT’S RELATED ROUNDBALL TOPICS

In the time since my last blog post a lot has happened in the sports world. So to make up for lost time I’ll hit on a number of topics in each sport until my conscience is clear or I get carpal tunnel syndrome..

I should preface this post by talking about how the season ended. LeBron James led the Heat to their first title of the Big 3 era, in spectacular fashion. He defeated the the Pacers without Bosh and half of Dwayne Wade and had that amazing 45 point game against Boston to keep the Hear alive in the Conference finals.
Then with a healthy Bosh and a resurgent Wade (and role players) the Heat went on to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games. James won Finals MVP after a triple-double in the close out game, gets the monkey off his back and all is right in the basketball world.

Meanwhile….

Dwight Howard is lurking somewhere in the state of Florida awaiting his turn to own the headlines. Then suddenly, Superman turns into Bizarro and does the most villainous thing possible. Howard asks for another trade after signing the extension last season, which opens up the “where will Dwight land” conversation for everyone to chime in.
Dwight was traded to the Nets via Sports Center at least twice, once in a four team deal, before teams realized only the Nets and Magic would benefit from the deal. As it stands now the teams making a real push for the NBA’s premier big man — that’s right Dwight Howard is better than Andrew Bynum and it’s not even close – are Houston and the Lakers. If either of those teams lands Dwight it could be a huge game changer in the west. Let’s face it a healthy Dwight Howard will dominate any other big man he faces. Put him with Pau Gasol and he could do serious damage. Put him in Houston and you could build a solid team around him. The determining factor is will he stay beyond one year. Dwight was rumored to only want to play in Brooklyn, which is why a deal has yet to be made, but could warm up to LA.

Brooklyn has been making some headlines of their own. They resigned point guard Deron Williams (using an iPad, which is pretty awesome by itself) and made a trade for my second favorite shooting guard, Joe Johnson (cool story bro). They inexplicable and very foolishly over paid to keep Brook Lopez for 60 million dollars — real money, not monopoly money — for sticking around during the Dwight saga. A noble move for team in a cut throat business, but still bad business. It appears though that the Russian Bruce Wayne, Mikhail Prokhorov will spend whatever he has to in order to be the best team in NY.

Which brings us to the ever puzzling, always entertaining, NY Knicks.

The Knicks have had an eventful off-season with what they’ve done and haven’t done. They have signed 39 year old point guard Jason Kidd, 38 year old center Marcus Camby and traded for former point guard Raymond Felton and center Kurt Thomas.

However, they are making headlines for willingly letting Jeremy “Linsanity” Lin sign with the Houston Rockets. Lin, a restricted free agent, was originally given a verbal contract from Houston worth about $20 million with the third year being worth about $9 million, prompting someone in the Knicks’ organization to say they would “match up to $1 billion”. The Rockets then upped the offer to $25 million with the third year being worth almost $15 million to try and scare the Knicks away. It worked. The Knicks weren’t sure if Lin was good enough to make top 10 money and also didn’t want to pay luxury tax penalties that could go as high as $40 million.

Money aside, it seems like the Knicks (James Dolan specifically) felt betrayed by Lin. Linsanity may have started with how Lin played on the court, but the frenzy was created by the NY Knicks’ marketing department. The shirts, the signs, and everything else, was created by the marketing team. And to be fair, they squeezed every dollar they could out of it. Lin doesn’t owe NY anything and the Knicks had the right to not match.

From a basketball standpoint Lin had some very good games – with and without the other two best offensive players Melo and Amare – and proved to everyone he could play. The Knicks needed his spark to help them get out of the funk they were in last year and as I fan I would have loved to see him back in the blue and orange.

One thing that seems to be overlooked is Linsanity didn’t win the Knicks a championship. All it did was make people who didn’t care about basketball, care a little bit more than usual.

Die hard Knick fans who have taken all the disappointment they the Knicks have dished out in the past 10 years alone shouldn’t been to hurt. The future is actually brighter than some people are forecasting. Raymond Felton was on a team that people seem to forget was doing as well as the Linsanity team was doing prior to the trade for Carmelo Anthony. He was averaging 17 points and 9 assists with a bruised wrist. Last season he fell way off, but in 2010 he was playing with the heart and passion that old school Knicks fans loved to see. If he comes in ready to play like he did back then and Carmelo, Amare and Tyson are committed to doing their jobs consistently, the Knicks won’t miss Lin at all. Sure they’ll lose a couple of bandwagon fans, but they can make up for that by just getting back to winning basketball.

Speaking of bandwagon fans, the Lakers pulled off the one of the bigger moves of the offseason, by pairing Steve Nash with Kobe Bryant. The Lakers send four future draft picks to Phoenix and in return they get a hall of fame player to run the show. The move has its risks though.

Nash is 39 years old, and usually lies on his back by the bench when he’s not in the game. You could also throw in that Kobe isn’t the best example of how to share the spotlight. I won’t go as far as to say Kobe is a bad teammate, but he hasn’t had the best track record i.e. Shaq, talking smack about Gasol through the media and about the beating spain in the Olympics, Phil Jackson..Did I mention Shaq? I digress. Kobe is an all-time great, Nash is an all-time great, Mike Brown is a good head coach and the Lakers have a very solid team, but they have to win now. The window is closing very quickly and adding a guy nearing 40 means you want results ASAP. Can they get past OKC with that roster and then overcome LeBron and the Heat? Nash hasn’t always been the best defender and those two teams are young and hungry to be at the top.

Miami pulled their own surprise move by landing Jesus Shuttlesworth, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, which bolsters their bench. Both players are deadly from three-point range and Rashard Lewis has the size to cause match-up problems for a lot of teams, including their rival the Boston Celtics. I must say I was surprised to see Ray Allen leave New England, especially for the Heat. I was even more surprised to hear there was a rift between Rondo and Allen. The Heat still look like the favorites to win the title next year just by virtue of having the best player, but the two moves they made make it even more likely.

You know who else has the best player, 1992 Dream Team (Michael Jordan, duh). So I would have to pick them to beat this year’s team in a match-up of the two teams. Partially because this team doesn’t have all of the best players in the NBA on it and also because I don’t think everyone on this team cares that much. LeBron, Kobe and Durant would have something to prove, maybe Chris Paul and Deron Williams as well, but I think the rest of the guys are just happy to be there. Now a team with Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, a healthy Blake Griffin, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh might be able to take it. But this team looks like it may have to fight to win the gold medal – especially since Pau Gasol wants to Kobe to leave him alone. Poor Gasol.

Stay tuned for part’s two and three of this series, which will cover NFL and MLB storylines.

WHAT WERE YOU LOOKING AT?

“Are you serious? Did that really just happen?” Those were the words that came out of my mouth when I heard the words “And the New…” come out of the mouth of Michael Buffer. How is it that Manny Pacquiao, who has been a champion in eight different weight divisions, and is regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, just lost to an up and coming, but relatively unknown Timothy Bradley? It made no sense to anyone watching. Not the fans in the stadium, the announcers broadcasting, or the analysts and writers who know the sport very well.

Naturally, after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I called the biggest boxing fan I know; my father. He taught me everything I know about the sport and he’s followed it almost all of his life. Surely he could explain to me what I just saw..right? No dice. He was as “dumbfounded” as Emmanel Steward. He couldn’t believe he saw a man clearly control a fight and get robbed by a spit decision. “We couldn’t have been watching the same thing,” he said. My thoughts exactly.

Pacman sticks Bradley with a jab, but Bradley scores the upset win.So I went back and watched the highlights and looked at the stats. They both show Pacquiao in control for the entire match. More total punches landed, more power punches landed, more rounds won on the scorecard’s of  HBO sports, ESPN.com and Bradley’s manager! Bradley himself said during the post fight interview that “I have to go home and see the tape to see who won.”

Then came the boo’s from the crowd and the negative comments from upset fans about boxing on every social network. My father in all his boxing wisdom could only come up with one logical explanation. “It had to be fixed,” he said. “Somebody got paid off.” As much as I would hate for that to be true, there was nothing else that made more sense than that. As he explained it, what better way to force Manny to fight Floyd Mayweather under Floyd’s terms than to make Manny appear to be the lesser fighter? The Pacquiao camp would have to take whatever the “Money Team” offered because Mayweather is still an undefeated fighter. At that point I would believe anything. If a man could lose a fight that he clearly dominated then anything was possible.

Bradley said in his post-fight interview that he would do a rematch with Pacquiao on November 10 and Manny obviously agreed. But as a fan I can’t say I’m excited to watch it. As my friend said while we watched the post-fight decision, “that has to be the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life as a sports fan.” Granted he’s only 23 years old, but you would be hard pressed to find a sports fan 40 years or older who would disagree.

Pacman stunned at the judges decision

Whether the fight was rigged or not we may never know, but I do know boxing lost a lot of casual fans around midnight on June 10th.

The outcry from disappointed fans was furiously loud, but the silence that could follow in the coming months will speak more volumes.

GREATEST?

During the 2007 NFL regular season The New England Patriots were undefeated until they faced the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. That year many thought the Patriots were the greatest team of all time because of their immaculate record and dominant performances. This year the Green Bay Packers tried to stake their claim as the NFL’s greatest. With a regular season record of 15-1 the Pack stormed through the regular season only to be upended by… the New York Giants. Interesting. Is it possible that the 2011 Giants are the greatest team of all-time? Sounds ridiculous, I know, but consider how they got to where they are.

Big Blue won its second Super Bowl in four seasons, coincidentally against the Patriots again. The Giants fought their way into the playoffs by beating the Jets and Cowboys in their last two regular season games and finished 9-7. That’s ties the worst record for any team to ever make the Super Bowl — the 79 L.A. Rams and 09 Arizona Cardinals are the others. New York won its first playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons at home and then went on the road to beat the 1 seeded Packers and the 2 seeded 49ers. Keep in mind this a team that lost four starting defensive players to injuries before the season started. The same team that lost four straight games in the middle of their season to the top three seeds in the NFC.

You might be asking yourself how that makes them great or even good for that matter. Many skeptics say the Giants were lucky or “got hot at the right time”. Wrong. The Giants overcame adversity in nearly every game they played this year. They had six comeback wins in the regular season and one in the NFC Championship game. Their fourth quarter comebacks were symbolic of their season. Some call that getting hot at the right time, but the fact is they were just better than the teams they played when it mattered.

Go ahead and call me crazy. Say I’m a homer. Say I know nothing about sports. I still say that the Giants 2011 season was arguably the greatest season of all-time. They didn’t go undefeated; they just came back. Again and again. They were the Rocky Balboa’s of the NFL. Their greatness lies in the fact that they never gave up and came back when no one saw coming. And everybody loves a comeback.

NUTTIN’ BUT LOVE

Tim Tebow

I have a confession. I like Tim Tebow. Not in a man crush kind of way. But purely as a football player — notice I said football player, but we’ll get to that.

Let’s go back in the story first. I used to hate Tim Tebow. Praying after every touchdown, always smiling winning championships with jump passed. In my head I would think “I hope somebody really hits this guy”. And they did, but he just got back up and kept playing and winning. Which made me even more angry! It definitely didn’t help when he made “The Speech“. To top it off he’s playing in the SEC which people seem to think is the NFL of college football. In my eyes Tebow was overrated and lucky, but he just kept winning.

Then comes the NFL combine process. After a terrible showing is the senior bowl Tebow is being told he has to learn to throw the football all over again. A two-time National championship winning quarterback, who also has a Heisman trophy has to learn how to throw? Pathetic. I actually felt sorry for him. But, Tebow did it anyway. He worked hard on his mechanics and threw at his pro-day. While some thought it was a great improvement, others said he delivery was still too long. Me? Well I was just trying figure out why his Pro-day was on TV.

Then in a surprise move he goes to Denver in the first round. (I’m purposely skipping over the hair cut, although it did bother me that people jumped to give him praise for being a team player) Then he sits on the bench and nobody really hears anything about him for a while. But on December 19, 2010 he gets his first start at quarterback against the Raiders. He puts up modest numbers, but the Broncos lose. His next is a 17 point comeback win over the Texans, scrambling into the endzone to tie the game.

It was respectable, but I still didn’t like the guy. Then came the lockout. This is where my disdain turned to the Roger Goodell NFL and it’s owners. All that time with no football made me appreciate the game much more. And on that glorious day when the NFL opened it’s doors to players who else shows up first to Broncos training camp? Tim freakin Tebow. Rumors where swirling that Kyle Orton was going to be traded and there was Tim Tebow was waltzing in trying to a head start on learning the new offense.

Unfortunately Orton wasn’t traded, which set up a QB battle. Eventually Tebow got his chance to prove it on the field, but lost out to Orton in a head to head battle. But the fans wanted Tebow. The fans knew what many including me didn’t want to admit: This guy can win.

Fast forward to the fourth quarter against Miami. The Dolphins are up 15-0 thinking the game is in the bag, and then it happens. Tebow throws two touchdown passes and scores on the tw0-point conversion to in the last 2 minutes to tie the game. The Bronco’s go on to win it in overtime. Wow! But it’s the Dolphins so how much can you read into it..right?

Well after a 35 point drubbing to the Lions the Broncos do it again. After a win over the Raiders and Chiefs, Tebow single handedly wills his team to a win over the Jets in the 4th quarter. Now I’m really starting to pay attention. Four wins, two which were fourth quarter comebacks with Tebow as a starter. And Only one interception at that point. Ridiculous.

Three fourth quarter comebacks later — two which came in overtime — Tebow has the Broncos in first place, John Elway looking foolish for not believing in him and John Fox looking like the coach of the year.

How can I hate a guy like that? Any player that good deserves to be loved by everybody. Forget whether he’s a devout christian or a Bible Belt-way Republican or a missionary who build churches with his bare hands and then hand writes Bibles for the whole village. None of that factors into him playing football. And if it does than more power to him.

Bottom line is Tebow wins games. Sure the Defense and running game help. It’s football. Football is a team sport. But the Defense and running game weren’t getting the team spectacular comeback wins in the beginning of the season. It’s Tebow. I can’t explain how he does it. Some of his passes are way off and he has a lot to improve on as a passer. But when you need a score he has Tom Brady’s arm and Peyton Manning’s accuracy.

Maybe he is just a flash in the pan. Maybe defenses will catch up to him in the future. It happens. As far as right now. All I see is a guy who puts it all out there and wins.

And it’s hard not to like a guy like that.

THE NUMBERS GAME

Lockout continues as the NBA cancels regular season games

There have been a lot of numbers thrown around as far as the NBA lockout goes, but as of Monday night the most important number is two. That is the number of weeks in the regular season that Commissioner David Stern has canceled after the league and players union left the negotiating table with no deal.
The next number fans will probably see is 103, which is the number of days the players have been locked out as of Tuesday. The two sides have yet to come to an agreement on issues regarding the salary split, luxury taxes and contract lengths. Stern told reporters he believed what was being proposed was fair and he is sad to see that both sides cannot agree. Union head Billy Hunter doesn’t see it that way at all.
“I’m convinced that this is all just part of the plan,” Hunter told reporters on Monday. “I think everybody’s waiting for the players to cave. They figure that once a player misses a check or two, it’s all over. I’m saying … that would be a horrible mistake if they think that’s going to happen, because it’s not going to happen. The players are all going to hang in.”
With the two sides significantly apart from each other in negotiations and no signs of an end in sight players are starting to put their eggs in other baskets. Several European born players like Rudy Fernandez (Spain) and Danilo Gallinari (Italy) have already signed up to play for their home countries. All-star point guard Tony Parker made headlines signing with a French team for less than $2000 a month. Deron Williams made his stunning announcement earlier this year by deciding to play in Turkey.
Meanwhile players stateside are keeping busy doing celebrity basketball tournaments for fans. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were just a few of the big names to play in the latest charity basketball game in Miami. But everyone involved, including the fans, knows that these are only temporary distractions. If the “significant gap” that has kept the players and owners from making a deal doesn’t close soon the next number we will see is 2012 as in the next time we will see NBA basketball.

 

Information from an ESPN.com report was used in this story.

Photo credit: Getty Images

SWAG ME OUT!

LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are two of the more stylish players in the NBA. When they decided to join forces apparently they had it written into their contracts that they would only do press conferences together.

LeBron and Wade during the season.

Now press conferences are like the red carpet and these two compete every night to be the “Bell of the Ball”. Here are some of their most recent appearances:

Shortly after game one of the NBA Finals.

James sporting his Liverpool jacket..(He owns a part of the soccer club)

 

J. Cole’s Baseball Tonight Remix

Click the picture..

J. Cole make s a dope remix to ESPN’s Baseball Tonight theme song