Monthly Archives: May 2012

NBA Draft Lottery: The David Stern Conspiracy Continues

It’s been a rough year for David Stern’s PR team. As the NBA commissioner, much of the blame of the lockout fell on his shoulders. The refusal of the owners, which he represented, to concede to the demands of the Players Union elongated the process and resulted in missed games and a truncated regular season.

Then came the Chris Paul debacle. Shortly after the league-owned New Orleans Hornets agreed to trade their superstar point guard to the Los Angeles Lakers, the league announced that Stern had shot down the deal for “basketball reasons.”

This set a pack of rabid Laker fans on Stern, and their complaints made some sense.

Jack Nicholson and a hoard of crazed Lakers fans protested David Stern’s decision to cancel the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers.

It seemed to be a conflict of interest that NBA commissioner was the owner of a franchise that was controlling the fate of two other franchises (the Houston Rockets would have gotten Pau Gasol in the trade).

Matters only grew worse when Paul was instead traded to LA’s other team, the Clippers, to team up with the NBA’s newest superstar in Blake Griffin. While the trade with the Clippers did land the Hornets some younger pieces to build around than the Lakers/Houston deal, things just smelt a tad fishy.

New Orleans better be ready for this handsome mug on their billboards.

Fast forward five months and Stern and the Hornets are in the news again. New Orleans won tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery, or better known as the Unibrow Sweepstakes as the Hornets will undoubtedly select Kentucky’s Anthony David first overall.

The league recently sold the Hornets to New Orleans Saints’ owner Tom Benson, and I’m sure Stern wishes the  deal wasn’t struck until after tonight’s results, as the addition of Davis will significantly boost the team’s value. But Stern and the league technically are still the team’s owners while the deal with Benson is finalized and approved by the other NBA owners.

After last year’s lottery went to Cleveland, allowing them to replace their lost superstar with

Vince McMahon might just be the perfect choice to replace David Stern as commissioner, given his background in WWE and their honest and not-rigged wrestling.

a new one in Kyrie Irving, it just so happens that this year’s lottery winner also lost their former franchise player. Conspiracy? Who knows, but if these types of “coincidences” keep happening, Vince McMahon might need to take Stern’s job.

Other story lines from the Draft Lottery:

  • The Bobcats fell to No. 2 in the draft, continuing to hold onto the unlucky claim to be one of just two teams (the other being the Phoenix Suns) to never have won the draft lottery. This news will be especially hard to swallow this year, coming off the worst season in NBA history based on winning percentage and drafting second in a draft with just one elite player.
  • The Brooklyn Nets did not move into the top three, meaning their pick at No. 6 will go to the Portland Trailblazers as part of the Gerald Wallace deal. Again, a tough break for a team that could have used extra help with the return of Deron Williams in doubt and the chances of acquiring Dwight Howard having disappeared. You can’t sympathize too much, though, because this was just a poor trade. The trade for Wallace could have been completed for a much lower pick, so even if the Nets only liked the draft’s top three players (their reasoning for only placing top-3 protection on the pick) they could have traded the No. 6 pick for a useful player to entice Williams to stay.
  • The Warriors, on the other hand, were able to keep their pick, which was top-7 protected, thanks to a terrific tanking job to end their season (they went 5-22 to finish the season, moving from the 10th worst team to the 7th over that span and securing the No. 7 pick). There have been rumblings in Golden State that trading the pick is a possibility, with Andre Iguodala’s name popping up frequently, but given Philadelphia’s admirable performance getting deep into the second round of the playoffs, it seems unlikely they would trade away a key player for a chance to draft an unproven rookie. Golden State will have four picks in the draft, though, so it is likely at least one of those will be traded away.

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12 NBA Players And How They Chose Their Jersey Number

6 8 23 9 37 0 7 3 85 45…To me and you, these are just numbers. To athletes, one of these numbers might just be their jersey number, and that “number” is never just a number.

How do athletes pick this “number”? For many, it means more than just their birthday, or their favorite month, their number holds a special meaning to them.

Here are some NBA players, and why they picked their jersey number: 

Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards (‘03 –‘10), #0

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Gilbert Arenas, also known as “Agent Zero”, wore his jersey number like a chip on his shoulder.

At the University of Arizona, Arenas wasn’t able to pick number 25, his high school number, because it was retired. So to prove his doubters wrong, Arenas’ picked number zero and it was his number until he left Washington.

“Zero is the number of minutes people predicted I would play my freshman year at Arizona,” said Arenas…“I decided to go with it because I love proving people wrong.”

Arenas’ averaged 32.1 minutes per game as a freshman at Arizona.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder, #0

Westbrook on why he wears number zero,

You go with the zero when you’ve been through something and you are looking to get a new beginning. It helps you get going again. It helps you get the swag back.”

In high school, Westbrook’s only offer from a top tier school was UCLA. Aside from that, his main offers were from Creighton, San Diego, and Kent State. Westbrook never forgot that disrespect, eventually taking UCLA and the NBA by storm.

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers, #3

Chris Paul wears the number three because his dad and his brother, who have the same initials CP, were CP1 and CP2, so he wanted to be CP3.

Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat, #3

Wade, who is deeply Christian, chose number three because the Trinity, a principle of Christianity, has three parts.

Lebron James, Miami Heat, #6

Lebron James took No. 6 in honor of Julius Erving.

James on why he chose the number six,

“My second-favorite player was Julius Erving, and he wore No. 6,” James said. “I wore 32 in high school because Dr. J wore it at first. My first child was born on Oct. 6, it’s my Olympic number, and my second child was born in June.”

While in Cleveland, James wore number 23 because of his favorite player, Michael Jordan. Here’s why he switched,

“I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I’m starting a petition, and I’ve got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I’m not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it.”

*Note to Lebron James: Just because you’re not going to do something, it doesn’t mean everybody else shouldn’t do it either. I mean if that were true, then nobody would have any NBA Championships.

Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, #12

Howard chose the number 12 as a reversal of his idol Kevin Garnett, who wore 21 during the prime of his career in Minnesota. It must have been tough for Howard to get punched by his idol though.

Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz, #20 Hayward chose the number 20 in part because of Manu Ginobili, who wears the same number. Hayward on his idol,

“He’s one of those guys I looked up to when I was growing up,” Hayward said…  “I tried to emulate some of the stuff that he did and put it into my game because he’s a great player.”

Shawn Marion, Phoenix Suns (’99 –’08), #31

Marion grew up as a fan of the Reggie Miller, and chose his number because of him. It’s ironic how Marion, who has one of the worst shooting strokes in the NBA, looked up to Reggie Miller, who has one of the best shooting strokes in league history.

Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers, #33

Here’s what Granger tweeted on why he wears number 33,

“It’s because when I was 9 or so Scottie Pippen reached up and touched my hand at a bulls game. Been #33 since.”

Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers (’09 –’10), #37

While wearing #37, Artest helped the Lakers to the NBA Title in his first season with the team.

Artest chose number 37 to honor Michael Jackson whose album, “Thriller”, spent 37 weeks atop the pop charts.

Derek Fisher, Oklahoma City Thunder, #37

Derek Fisher on his number switch, from #2 with the Lakers to #37 with the Thunder,

“(My age) seemed to be a negative thing for so long, especially this season. It was a negative thing I was 37….I figured since everybody likes to throw my age around in negative conversations, I’d just go put it out there and let everybody know from the beginning, I am 37, but I think I can do some great things to help this team,” Fisher said.

Throwback Edition: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, #23

Jordan idolized his older brother, Larry, who wore number 45. But when Jordan got to high school, his brother had already taken number 45. So he halved it to 22.5 and rounded up to 23.

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Why Albert Pujols Isn’t Worth Losing Sleep Over

This past offseason, first baseman Albert Pujols signed a 10-year deal with the Angels worth $240 million dollars.

In the early goings of his adjustment to a new city, a new media market and a new league, his production fell off and he is currently batting an anemic .234.

“The Machine” failed to hit a home run in April for the first time in his 12-year career and is not feared nearly as much by opposing pitchers, only earning three intentional walks through 48 games.  In his 2009 MVP campaign, Pujols received 44 intentional free passes.

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Coined in a “This is SportsCenter” commercial, “The Machine” is fitting for a man who has left the yard 452 times in only 12 years.

Many experts now fear that the nine-time All-Star is on the decline after the 2011 season marked the first time he failed to hit .300 and obtain 100 RBI’s in his MLB career.

Here’s what the sensationalists fail to recognize: Pujols hit .299, knocked in 99 runs, led the Cardinals to their second World Series title in seven years and was fifth in the National League MVP voting.

Sure, he’s off to the slowest start in his career.  Even Pujols would agree that a .190 batting average on May 8th is not deserving of $24 million dollars a year—few statistics are.

After all the criticisms of his sudden lack of power numbers, Pujols has seven home runs in the month of May.  Extrapolating that total over the remaining four months of the season puts him at 35 on the year, well over his career minimum of 32 from 2007.

Making the adjustment to a new team is difficult for any player.  Instead of being followed in the lineup by a force like Matt Holliday, Pujols has now been thrust in between Maicer Izturis, a player whose batting average is only slightly better than Pujols’ and Kendrys Morales, who is slowly returning to form after missing nearly two seasons due to a broken leg.

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Morales missed most of 2010 and all of 2011 following a walk-off celebration that left him with a broken leg.

Even something as simple as location can make a difference.  Beyond the centerfield wall of St. Louis’ Busch Field is a pasture of green grass and a dark green wall 100 feet further back.  In contrast, Angels Stadium flaunts a light brown rock structure in left-center that can act as a distraction for new and visiting hitters.

It is small changes like these, in addition to the constant media pressure of Los Angeles, that often prevent aspiring West coast superstars from reaching their same level of production.

Pujols, however, is already a superstar and does not need a major media market to make himself known to the rest of the league.  And he certainly doesn’t feel the need to use the excuses associated with big city slumps.

“El Hombre” is a solid June away from having jokes of his needing an AARP membership completely disappearing.  Reading the box scores every day should let the rest of the league know Pujols’ confidence is slowly building—a nightmare for American League pitching.

If the Angels want to chase down the Texas Rangers and make the postseason, they are going to need to rely on Pujols’ bat and experience.  Judging from their recent six-game win streak, it is clear that a change is already brewing.

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Celtics-Heat Preview: What to Watch For

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The Celtics and the Heat, the past two Eastern Conference champions, will face each other in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Rajon Rondo defied logic in the final minutes of Boston’s 85-75 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday which earned them a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. Rondo, well known as perhaps the league’s worst-shooting point guard (He shot 23% from three and 60% from the line this season; for a point of reference, Sacramento’s sweet shooting Chuck Hayes is a career 61% foul shooter), had been struggling with inconsistent focus the entire game, but up 3 with 2:10 left, Rondo swished through a three-pointer from a good two feet behind the line to seal the deal for the Celtics.

Now heading into a series with the Miami Heat, a team featuring the two hottest players this postseason in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Rondo and the Celtics may need some more of that magic in what could be the aging squad’s final shot at another title. But from the Heat’s side, Boston is no pushover themselves, with a rejuvenated Kevin Garnett leading the way. Here are a few key topics that could decide who will represent the East in the NBA Finals.

1. Dealing with injuries

The Heat are prepared to play this series without the help of power forward Chris Bosh, who is out indefinitely with a strained abdominal muscle. His absence clearly complicates things for Miami, particularly on defense.

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Chri Bosh’s injury could set up Kevin Garnett for a monster series.

Garnett has been playing like a man possessed this postseason and is putting up numbers reminiscent of his T-Wolves years, averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds. So with Bosh out, Miami has to decide who to guard KG.

One option is shifting LeBron to Power Forward, as they initially did when Bosh went down. James, however, claimed banging in the post was too heavy a workload for him. Having James, arguably the league’s best perimeter defender, on Garnett would also leave the task of guarding Paul Pierce up to a weaker defender. Ultimately, Miami will likely keep LeBron on Pierce and hope Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, and Ronny Turiaf can keep KG in check.

Boston has an injury problem of their own which, while not as major a concern as Miami’s, coud still have an impact on the series. Avery Bradley, the Celtic’s top perimeter defender who would likely have guarded Wade, will miss the remainder of the postseason after having surgery on his shoulder.

Ray Allen will have to pick up Bradley’s duties, and while Allen did a decent defensive job against Philadelphia, the Heat have a much more potent offense than the 76ers.

2. Star power

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After scoring 41 points on 68% shooting to close out the Pacers, Dwyane Wade is entering the series against the Celtics red hot.

The Big 3 vs. The Heatles. The Boston 3 Party vs. The Miami Thrice. The 3 Amigos vs. The Super Friends. This series will have about as much star power and terrible nicknames as is possible.

While the Celtics’ “Big Three” get the title, Rondo has really become the team’s top player, especially in the playoffs where he has 9 career triple-doubles. His performance to close out the Philadelphia series (7 straight points in the last four minutes) exemplifies how much of an impact he can make.

Even with Bosh’s return questionable, the tandem of James and Wade quite possibly trumps all four of the top Celtics combined. Even with his 2-13, 5 point dud in game 3, Wade still managed to average 26 points a game throughout the series with the Pacers. James, meanwhile, managed to top that averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.

3. Defense wins championships

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KG and the Celtics face an uphill battle if they hope to relive their 2008 glory.

Despite the offensive skill and marquee names on both teams, don’t expect many high scoring games. The Celtics and Heat are numbers 1 and 2 respectively in the points allowed category during the playoffs, both giving up less than 86 points a game. This series won’t be won by who scores the most points, but by who gives up the least.

Prediction: Miami in 6.

Wade and James are just too athletic for the older Celtics to keep up with and are coming into the series on such a hot streak that they’ll be tough to stop. The Celtics’ defense and experience will give them a chance though. As Kevin Garnett said, “Anything is possible.”

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Spurs-Thunder Preview: Three Things to Watch

As the seconds ticked down in Monday night’s Game 5 between the Lakers and the Thunder, it seemed to signal more than the end of a game or a series.

It resembled the end of an era. The Lakers’ last half-decade of dominance crumbled under the youth and poise of the talented Thunder.

The veterans, not the youngsters, blew fourth quarter leads of 7 and 13. It was Kevin Durant draining crunch time shots, not Kobe Bryant. But now this unstoppable force meets an unmovable object in the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs are on an 18 game winning streak dating back to the regular season. Their average margin of victory over this stretch has been almost 16 points.

This clash of the titans seems destined to be one of the best conference finals matchup in the last decade. Here are three things to watch for in this series:

1. Which point guard will play better: Russell Westbrook vs. Tony Parker?

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Russell Westbrook, a former UCLA standout, may need to take a break from watching film on the Spurs, to go shopping.

Westbrook torched the Lakers to the tune of almost 26 points per game in all-NBA like performance. His ability to knock down jumpers and get in the lane was pivotal in opening up the Thunder’s shooters. Parker, on the other hand, has played like an MVP candidate this season. With Ginobili missing half the season, Parker led the Spurs to a tie for the NBA’s best record. Whichever team’s point guard can outplay the other will likely have the edge.

2. Can Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins wear down Tim Duncan?

Duncan will have to battle down low with two of the NBA’s best low-post defenders in Ibaka and Perkins. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum wilted away under their physical defense as that series progessed. At age 36, Duncan’s body may not be able to handle the wear and tear as the series goes on.

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Serge “Iblaka” doing what he does best

3. Whose sixth man will play better, Manu Ginobili or James Harden?

Ginobili, the former sixth man of the year, will face off against the current sixth man of the year, James Harden. Both play a similar style in creating plays off the dribble and knocking down the three ball. Ginobili though has been hobbled by injuries all season, and is averaging his lowest points per game since his rookie season.

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James Harden, known for his “Old man game”, will need to bring his “A” game for the Thunder to advance.

Prediction: Spurs in 7

Though Oklahoma City’s big three of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden look primed to outplay San Antonio’s big three in Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili, the Spurs’ supporting cast is much better than the Thunders’. San Antonio has ten players who average more than 9 points a game, giving them the deepest team in the league. Homecourt advantage and playoff experience also play in the Spurs favor.

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Reeves Nelson vs. SI

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Tips for a Panicked Lakers Front Office

Well, here you have it Lakers fans.  Your team is once again out of the playoffs and the Western Conference Semifinals are quickly becoming your kryptonite.

It seems as though next season there are only two certainties with the team—that Kobe Bryant will continue to be the centerpiece and that Jack Nicholson will be courtside.

Andrew Bynum consistently showed his All-Star ability but always remains an injury risk.

An absent Pau Gasol appears at the moment to be an immovable piece with not too many teams having the financial means to take on the 19-million dollar contract of a man who appeared to be taking a vacation from boxing out and dunking.

Ramon Sessions flashed potential at the point guard position but is unsigned beyond the 2012-2013 season.

Los Angeles is a basketball city with a rich tradition that refuses to accept mediocrity.  To quote Saturday Night Live’s “Bob and Bill Schwersky’s Superfans,” the expectation is generally a “minimum eight-peat.”

Since the snow-covered moving vans pulled into the Forum back in 1960, the Lakers have reigned as the crown jewel (sorry, LA Kings) of the city.  In order to prevent the Lake Show from being cast aside in favor of a younger, livelier Lob City brand, I have devised a few guidelines the Lakers should consider.

1. Give Mike Brown a couple of years– Sure, his hiring went unrecognized by Kobe for nearly a month and his team failed to mesh down the stretch but Phil Jackson’s last hurrah against the Dallas Mavericks will go down as one of the most notorious playoff beat-downs in NBA history.  In 2007, Brown coached LeBron James and the Nonexistent Supporting Cast (my future band name) to the NBA Finals and there is no reason he can’t do the same with the Lakers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers: Practicing bench dance moves since 2003.

2. Make things right with Derek Fisher– Everyone knows Derek Fisher is not the point guard he once was and has never been a piece to build a team around, but his trade gave the Lakers a black eye that they certainly didn’t need in mid-May.  If the season ends and he decides to hang up the sneakers, Lakers management needs to do the right thing and reach out to Fisher to silence all the rabble-rousers.

No. 2 doesn’t have to hang from the rafters any time soon, but the two sides need to reconcile their differences.

3. Sign Dwight Howard and put him in couples therapy with Kobe- If only NBA signings came with a test drive.  On paper, a Kobe Bryant-Dwight Howard dynamic duo (if Dwight even wants to make the trip out West) is a match made in heaven, but personality-wise it has the makings of a battle between two divas.  Whatever changes the Lakers decide to make (and they will make changes), they need to be sure to receive an affirmative Kobe face before putting pen to paper.

Lakers fans haven’t seen this Blue Steel-esque look in over two years.

4. Relax! Didn’t you just come off of back-to-back titles?- Amidst all this post-elimination turmoil, the Lakers are still just two seasons removed from Kobe’s fifth NBA title and one offseason move away from once again hoisting the trophy.  No Kobe-led squad will ever imitate the Bobcats.  If all else fails, Magic Johnson can just buy the team.

Wouldn’t it be easier if everything was owned by Magic?

 

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