Bad News For The Broncos: Von Miller Suspended 6 Games

Von-Miller I really don’t remember an NFL season when so many of the Super Bowl favorites have had such big, looming questions. The Denver Broncos have become the latest team to have some bad news delivered to them. Yesterday they received word that not only would Von Miller be suspended, but the suspension was upgraded to 6 games. Von Miller had repeatedly said that he would eventually be cleared of everything. He obviously was not.

 

The bad news has been stacking for Miller. He was recently taken to jail over failing to appear over unpaid parking tickets. The charges included driving without a license and no insurance. There is absolutely no excuse for an NFL player with a multimillion dollar contract to drive without a license. He could pay for a personal driver and a limo to take him anywhere he wants. Miller has also appeared on a witness list for a murder. However, it has been said that he has no involvement at all in the murder, but it is just another incident he does not need to be involved in.

Now is word of the suspension. The suspension is for failing a drug test for marijuana. There are some really sketchy circumstances surrounding other drug tests as well. To be suspended for 6 games, Miller not only failed one drug test, but also he suspiciously spilled one drug test when he handed the tester the sample and another one was diluted so much that it could not be tested. Obviously, both were attempts by Miller to get around failing more tests. He has been moved to a stage 3 drug policy violated. This means he will be tested randomly up to 10 times a month for the rest of his career. This atrocity and boneheaded play by Miller reminds me of another bumbling pothead player, Charles Rogers:

You can watch the famous Charles Rogers video here.

It is clear that Miller believes he is above the law. He seems like a nice guy, but he clearly has a checkered lifestyle off the field. Miller is staring down a dangerous road if he does not change – not only his behavior, but also his attitude toward authority and rules. If he cannot do this, we may see a sharp decline in his career sooner than later. With so much potential, it is a shame that he is trying to throw it all away.

This is going to affect the Denver Broncos drastically. They released Elvis Dumervil because they were counting on Von Miller to be a one man wrecking crew. Now they are going to be missing Miller for six games, including four tough games against the Ravens, Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys. It is possible the Broncos drop at least a couple of those games without the anchor of their defense. Then one has to wonder how effective Miller will be for the first few games when he comes back against two playoff contenders, the Colts and Redskins.

I know the other teams in the AFC West are thrilled about this because it may give another team a chance to compete for the division. The Chiefs look to be much improved with Alex Smith taking over as quarterback. I suspect that they will have a shot to at least compete with the Broncos. I am afraid the Broncos are going to regret letting Dumervil go this season.

Another Year Without a Major – Will Tiger Ever Be “Back”?

Golf: US PGA Championship-First Round

It’s something we hear all of the time: “Tiger’s Back” or “Is Tiger Back?” What does that mean? Tiger Woods is a great golfer and is also currently ranked number one in the world. He has won a lot of tournaments over the last few years, but he has not been able to break through and win another the major. The question is now becoming not whether or not Tiger will pass Jack Nicklaus, but whether or not he will win another major. Personally, I think he will win another major or two, but that’s probably it.

Tiger is never going to be “back” because back means absolute dominance. The dominance Tiger had on the sport of golf 10 years ago was unprecedented. We will probably never see another run like that again in golf. For one, the golfers of today are simply better. There is more technology and rigorous training techniques that have become part of every pro golfer’s routine.

Tiger may be the greatest golfer in the PGA right now, but not by much. He has not won a major in 5 years. At Tiger’s prime he was probably the greatest golfer ever. He wasn’t being chased by other golfers, he was chasing history and the legends of the game. However, today he is constantly chasing the leaderboard at every major he has played in since returning from knee surgery.

Many people are still waiting for Elvis to come back. Or Tupac Shakur. People love to chase the ghosts of greatness. They lament for a time when the ghost was real and his brilliance was shown. It’s no different with Tiger. You can keep chasing the ghost, but he is never coming “back”.

Pre-Preseason NFL Power Rankings

peyton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NFL season is upon us. As I watched the NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement last night, I had on thing on my mind: FOOTBALL. I cannot wait for the Hall of Fame game tonight. Of course the excitement will be ended with the ceremonial flip of the channel after about 15 minutes or so. Every year I am shortly reminded that it is only the preseason and the games are pretty much worthless for anything other than looking for finding fantasy football sleepers and dashing teams’ hopes with injuries. However, this game is important because it officially kicks off the NFL season. So before more injuries change the direction of the 2013-2014 campaign, I am giving you my pre-preseason top 10 power rankings.

Well ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, here goes the rankings:

10. Cincinnati Bengals (Andy Dalton continues to mature and having a top 5 receiver in the NFL helps.)

9. Baltimore Ravens (The Super Bowl champs lost their leaders with the departure of Ed Reed and the retirement of Ray Lewis. Will Joe Flacco be able to duplicate his playoff run?)

8. Washington Redskins (This is all dependent upon RGIII being 90-100% for Week 1. I don’t see anyone in the division stopping the Skins.)

7. Houston Texans (They spent most of last season seeming destined for the Super Bowl. Arian Foster and J.J. Watt anchor a veteran team that keeps coming up short.)

6. Green Bay Packers (With Aaron Rodgers anything is possible. The Packers’ fate may rest in the legs of rookie RB Eddie Lacy.)

5. New England Patriots

It would be almost impossible to imagine a top 5 Power Rankings without the Pats, but I honestly considered leaving them off. It was close between the Patriots and the Packers (sorry Green Bay), but in the end I had to go with consistency. You may ask, how can the Patriots hold it together when Gronkowski is hurt, Hernandez is in prison, Welker is in Denver, and [insert sarcastic voice] Tebow is waiting in the wings to take over for Brady? Even amid turmoil, I still expect the Patriots to win the AFC East and get a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Even when the Patriots lost Tom Brady and replaced them with Matt Cassel they went 11-5 and only missed the playoffs because of a fluke year when 11-5 was not good enough to get in. Look for Danny Amendola to step up and fill the void left by Welker. As for the rest of the depleted receiving corp of the Patriots, Brady has a history of turning marginal players into important players (See Deion Branch, Troy Brown, Wes Welker, etc.). It also helps the Patriots that they play in a very weak division.

4. Seattle Seahawks

The last time we saw the Seattle Seahawks they almost pulled off a miracle win against the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Playoffs. However, Matty Ice foiled those plans with a last second drive for the win. The Seahawks did show that they are in fact for real and they will be looking to improve on last year’s performance. The Seahawks made a big splash in free agency by signing Cliff Avril (overrated), Michael Bennett (perennial under-performer), and Percy Harvin (injury prone). Unfortunately for the ‘Hawks, their free agency prize signing Percy Harvin has already gone on the PUP list with a hip injury requiring surgery. Will Harvin play at all in 2013? He will miss at least the first 3 months of the season, but with his history the Seahawks would be foolish to rush him back. Add in Bruce Irvin’s 4 game PED suspension and the Seahawks are going to have a difficult start to the season. I do believe that the defense and Russell Wilson’s pocket presence will be enough to land them at number 4.

3. San Francisco 49ers

Many people will have the 49ers as 2nd in their power rankings, but I have many reasons for putting them third. First of all they lost Alex Smith. Their back up QB is Scott Tolzien. Who??? Exactly. With Kaepernick’s style of play, the Niners will be in bad shape if anything happens to their star QB. Secondly, their secondary has taken some hits. Nickelback Chris Culliver is lost for the season as so is the Niners’ depth at CB. Also, former starting FS Dashon Goldson signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs. Thirdly and most importantly, Michael Crabtree will miss at least most of the season with a torn ACL. There is also a chance he will miss the whole season. Why is this important? Counting the playoffs, Kaepernick had 8 TDs and 1 Int when targeting Crabtree. Kaepernick had 1 TD and 4 Int when targeting other wide receivers (Source: http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/100513/go-to-guy-michael-crabtree-by-the-numbers). That is a very scary stat for 49ers fans. The addition of Anquan Boldin should help move Kap along (and they still have TE Vernon Davis).

2. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons were 10 yards from the Super Bowl last year; with zero running game. Michael “The Burner” Turner turned into Michael “Burnt-out” Turner last season. This was the main reason that the Falcons had such a hard time holding onto leads. They just could not grind out the clock when they needed to. The addition of Steven Jackson may be the biggest pick up of the entire off season (NFL.com writer Adam Schein agrees: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000213610/article/atlanta-falcons-steven-jackson-signing-tops-offseason-moves). The loss of John Abraham is negated by the signing of Osi Umenyiora. The Falcons defense is still suspect, but promising rookie CBs Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant are making waves at Falcons training camp. If the Falcons can sure up the CB position and get pressure on the QB from the defensive line they will be unstoppable. Look for another NFC Championship in the Georgia Dome.

1. Denver Broncos

The addition of Wes Welker will take the offense of the Denver Broncos to the next level … and that is a scary thought. The emergence of Demaryius Thomas as one of the NFL’s brightest up and coming receivers last year spelled trouble for opposing defenses. He should continue to get better. The Broncos only have two questions that they bring into the 2013-2014 campaign: 1) Can Peyton get it done in the playoffs? & 2) Will Monte Ball be able to replace Willis McGahee? As for Peyton winning in the playoffs, obviously this is a big concern. But remember, it was not the offense that let them down in Denver against the Baltimore Ravens; it was the defense. The defense got burnt by Joe Flacco. If it was not for one botched play, Peyton may have been hoisting up the Lombardi trophy instead of the Ravens. If Monte Ball can step up and becoming a prominent running back (see last year’s rookie RBs for proof it can be done), the Broncos offense will be dominant. They will also benefit from an AFC that seems to be somewhat down this year.

 

Gamechangers: Preaseason Injuries

Harvin

It happens every year. Teams and fan bases alike go into every season believing that this season is “their year.” I know as a football fan I am certainly guilty of this. Sometimes a team has high expectations and it just doesn’t seem to translate to the field (see 2011 & 2012 Philadelphia Eagles). For whatever reason, the team just is not able to form the chemistry that it takes to make the playoffs or the Super Bowl. This does not feel good for fans, but they just have to start preparing for next year and off season changes. For other fans though, the year seems to be one of “what-might-have-been.” I’m of course speaking of the teams bitten by the injury bug.

The beginning of this season has already yielded some huge injuries that have crippled teams. WR Jeremy Maclin for the Philadelphia Eagles has torn his ACL and is done for the season. With a Chip Kelly offense built around speed, missing Maclin will be huge. One of the centerpieces in the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl run is also done for the year with a fractured hip; TE Dennis Pita. This will be a huge loss for the Ravens who have already lost Anquan Bolden in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. Other big injuries include WR Michael Crabtree of the Niners, WR Percy Harvin of the Seattle Seahawks, and C Dan Koppen of the Denver Broncos. The losses to the Niners, Seahawks, and Broncos are huge because they are all favorites to reach the Super Bowl.

I know how much these injuries can hurt teams and fans. I remember my high hopes following the Atlanta Falcons 2002 playoff run led by Mike Vick. I will never forget the Saturday morning when I walked past a newspaper stand and saw the front page of the local paper. Mike Vick had broken his leg during a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. It ruined the Falcons entire season (it wouldn’t be the last time Mike Vick did that to the Falcons). I went from ecstatic that the Falcons had a chance to move further in the playoffs to feeling like my heart had been ripped out.

While none of the injuries so far this season will have that type of impact on these teams, it certainly does hurt their chances. I believe the biggest out of all of the injuries is Michael Crabtree. Colin Kaepernick’s stats throwing to Crabtree were great. Colin Kaepernick’s stats throwing to anyone else were actually terrible. This is going to force Vernon Davis and newly acquired Anquan Bolden to really step up. It looked like Seattle was in prime position to take the reins of the division until their blue chip of the off season, Percy Harvin, was knocked out. The timetable for his return is unknown, but it certainly sounds like he will miss at least half of the season (Percy Harvin, hurt? …. Never saw that coming …..). By the end of the season all NFL teams will have their fair share of injuries, the question will be who has the depth to cover up the curse of the injury bug?

Written by Ben Armstrong @frontpageticket

PAYDAY – Falcons Lock Up Matt Ryan for $103.75M Over 5 Years

Written by Ben Armstrong

@frontpageticket

Matt Ryan

Let me tell you a few things that I like:

  • Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese
  • ESPN Fantasy Football app on my phone
  • The first day of football season
  • The colors black and red
  • My Atlanta Falcons season tickets
  • When my quarterback gets locked up for another 5 years
  • When my franchise knows the value of said quarterback

Since Arthur Blank took over the Falcons in 2002, the Falcons have now had two “100 Million Dollar Men”. The first of course was Mike Vick. He came to Atlanta and raised the expectations of Falcons fans. We were excited to actually have a player and a team that could compete week in and week out. Mike Vick led the Falcons to the playoffs twice and had some great playoff moments (beating Favre and Green Bay in the snow comes to mind). However, Vick not only failed to take the Falcons to the Promised Land, but he also single-handedly decimated the franchise when his secret love affair with dog fighting came to the light. As Vick was hauled off to prison, it seemed as if all the work that Arthur Blank put into the Falcons was all for nothing. A team and city demoralized. Season ticket sales dropped. Attendance dropped. No one gave the Falcons a chance.

Enter Matt Ryan. I remember watching a preseason game during his rookie season well before he was announced as starter. He made throws in that game that I had never seen Mike Vick make. I thought maybe all the Falcons needed was a traditional drop back passer. It’s not as exciting, but then again, there is nothing more exciting than winning. I was at Matt Ryan’s first game. His first pass ever as a pro was a 60 yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins. From that first pass all the way to his last pass in the NFC Championship Game last season, Ryan has proven to be a winner. Yes, he has had some struggles in the playoffs, but overall any true Falcons fan would choose him over the flash of Mike Vick any day of the week.

Today, the Falcons rewarded “Matty Ice” by giving him a 5 year 103.75 Million dollar contract without any rumbling, grumbling, complaining, or threats of a hold out (maybe Drew Brees and the Saints take note from the way it should be done). This places him among the ranks of Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers, and Flacco. If we were to play the old, “Which One Of These Does Not Belong” game, it quickly would become apparent that Matt Ryan is the only one of these quarterbacks without a ring. As the Falcons reward Ryan, it now is time for Ryan to reward the Falcons, Falcons fans, and the city of Atlanta with its first Super Bowl Championship. He has already helped the city to turn the page on Mike Vick; now it is time to help Atlanta turn the page on it’s history of losing.

Ryan Braun: The Lance Armstrong of Baseball

Written by Ben Armstrong

@frontpageticket

Today Ryan Braun  of the Milwaukee Brewers was suspended for the rest of the MLB season. This was an unprecedented move because it did not fit into one of the standard amount of games for a PED suspension (50 games, 100 games, & lifetime ban). Ryan Braun worked out a deal with MLB officials where he would sit out the rest of the season without pay. In return for only a 60 game suspension, Ryan Braun will not fight the charges at all. When an initial suspension is 50 games, it begs the question, “How much dirt did MLB have on Braun to contemplate skipping the first level suspension?”

Ryan Braun is everything that is still wrong with baseball. He will now forever be known as the “Lance Armstrong” of baseball. Remember when he went after the poor courier who carried his original dirty sample? He threw that guy under the bus and made him look incompetent. He carried this lie and dragged the courier through the mud. In reality, the courier did nothing wrong. Braun was just trying to cover up his mistakes and run from responsibility.

Now that Braun is backed into a corner, he admits his mistakes. The feeling I get is that now he is trying to come off as noble because he is admitting the mistakes that we all know he is guilty of now. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him now? I know I certainly don’t. I’m a forgiving person and I am quick to accept someone asking for a second chance. However, I’m not okay with the way he attacked the courier’s credibility. I will look at forgiving him and giving him a second chance when he admits that he was wrong to do that and apologizes to the courier personally. I also believe he should give up his MVP award from 2011. Everyone knows he was dirty at that point. It’s time to stop talking about your mistakes and spend the rest of the season making up for them.

Read more about this story from ESPN: http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/9500252/ryan-braun-milwaukee-brewers-suspended-remainder-2013-season

What you’ve missed in Free Agency so far, oh and happy 4th of July!

Colby Smithwick
Twitter: @FrontPageHoops

Doc Rivers is the new head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers also have traded Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe to the Suns, and J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley have been dealt to the Clippers. Redick is expected to sign a four-year, $27 million deal.

The Bucks will receive two second-round picks in the trade, one from the Clippers and one from the Suns.

This move was great for the Clippers, who got rid of Caron Butler who was overpaid for what he was being asked to do. While losing Bledsoe was rough, they knew he couldn’t keep on playing him behind CP3, plus it will be better, hopefully, for his career to be a starter on a rebuilding team. The Bucks come out as losers in the end, because they basically gave up Redick for nothin, and they already lost Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. Phoenix gets a high caliber player in Bledsoe, but Dragic and him are a weird back court. The Clippers definitely came out the best, though, by adding Dudley (great defender and shooter) and Redick (great shooter, smart decision maker on offense). To me, they’re contenders now. I believe that after all these off season moves they’re the 2nd best team in the west. Doc, CP3, youth, defense, perimeter shooting, and tons of athleticism… how could you not think this teams gonna be a force?

Free-agent swingman Kevin Martin is leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Minnesota Timberwolves and reportedly will sign a four-year deal with the Wolves in the $30 million range later this month.

Teams and players can only reach verbal agreements until the league’s annual moratorium on signings and trades is lifted July 10, but apparently Martin was swayed to leave OKC to reunite with Wolves coach Rick Adelman. Martin played for Adelman in Sacramento and Houston.

The Timberwolves also agreed to a three-year, $16 million deal that includes a player option for the final season with Chase Budinger, the 25 year old sharp-shooting forward. Martin and Budinger, who was injured most of last season, will be great complimentary players to Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love. If they can manage to re-sign forward Andrei Kirilenko and center Nikola Pekovic, they have the pieces and potential to cause some commotion in the west.

The San Antonio Spurs signed Tiago Splitter to a 5 year, 45 million dollar contract Wednesday morning. The young center has been improving more and more on the offensive end, and his defense is already formidable. He can come out and give you a solid 30-35 minutes a game, and he plays well alongside Tim Duncan. He also knows Pop’s system, which is another plus. If Pop likes and trusts him, then he clearly deserves the money. Manu Ginobili tweeted Wednesday that he will also remain with the San Antonio Spurs. Ginobili, who has spent his entire 11-year NBA career with San Antonio, tweeted that he has agreed to a two-year deal with the Spurs: Yahoo! Sports reported that Ginobili will receive $7 million in each year of his new contract, which would be a significant  pay cut from the $14.1 million he made last season as the Spurs’ highest-paid player. He turns 36 this month and is coming off his worst season of his career, but with the emergence of Kawhi Leonard and the continuous improvement of Tony Parker, they can live with him losing a step. This was a good move because the Spurs get to keep one of their most popular players of the franchises history, and it also allows Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker a shot at redemption. UPDATE AS OF 4:00 EASTERN TIME: Marco Belinelli signed a 2 year deal with the Spurs. This adds another 3 point shooter to their arsenal, making the Spurs even better.

 

Kyle Korver has came to terms on a four-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks worth an estimated $24 million. Korver was thought to leave, after being courted by San Antonio (which would have been horrifying) and Milwaukee, as well as the Nets. He chose to take the money, though, and sign with Atlanta. We were surprised because no one thought Korver was going to get that much money from the Hawks. This is a solid pick up for Atlanta, because the Hawk’s new coach (Mike Budenholzer, long time assistant in San Antonio under Pop) will run a system similar to Popovich’s in San Antonio. I’d expect Korver to be more efficient next season, but it depends on how the free agency ends for Atlanta.

 

Former NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans is frustrated by the state of his negotiations with the Sacramento Kings as a restricted free agent, and wants to leave the organization and plans to sign an offer sheet with the New Orleans Pelicans on the first allowable day. If the Kings aren’t idiots, they’ll match for Evans and work out a sign-and-trade with NOLA. Then again, they rescinded their 4 year, 52 million dollar offer to Andre Iguodala  after he didn’t accept after 4 hours so… who knows with them. Speculation is that they’ll match for Evans and sign-and-trade for the solid true point guard Greivis Vasquez, who is more expendable now due to the acquisition of Philadelphia’s All Start PG Jrue Holiday for center Nerlens Noel. Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Anthony Davis would be 4 of their starters, throw in the bench presence of Austin Rivers (if he ever develops) Al-Farouq Aminu (an extremely athletic and energetic forward), and Ryan Anderson (top 5 3 point shooter in the league), we could be looking at a future contender, but a current 6th-8th seed at best. AS OF 1:00 PM EASTERN TIME: Kings, Pelicans and Blazers are working on a sign-and-trade deal of Evans to the Pelicans, Robin Lopez to the Blazers and Greivis Vasquez to the Kings.

The New York Knicks finalized a trade for former number-1-overall-pick power forward Andrea Bargnani. The Knicks will send Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, a 2016 first-round pick and second-round picks in 2014 and 2017 to the Toronto Raptors for Bargniani. New York and J.R. Smith have also agreed to terms on a four-year, $24.7 million contract, the guard’s agent, Leon Rose, said Thursday morning. Smith’s deal contains a player option in the fourth and final year. The Knicks were also reportedly looking to sign former All-Star forward Elton Brand. While Novak and Richardson are both excellent shooters and Camby is still a great defensive center, they had health problems all of last season (except for Richardson who was only signed by NY this off season). Given Amare Stoudemire’s chronic knee injury and Tyson Chandler getting older, this move kinda makes sense. Bargnani can be a stretch-5 and Melo can play the 4, which would make the Iso-Melo play pretty deadly. Brand adds size and range, as well as experience and is younger than Camby… but it all comes down to health. The East is still kinda weak, so I’d expect this Knicks team to still be a top-4 seed, if everything goes well. UPDATE: Knicks have agreed to sign PG Pablo Prigioni according to sources. He’ll be needed much more than last season to fill the void of Jason Kidd.

Dwight Howard has yet to indicate in any way who he plans on signing with. The Lakers main pitch was their legacy and ability to market Dwight, as well as give him 30 million dollars more than any other team can. The Mavericks main pitch was that he’d be the face of the franchise and the go-to guy for them. Dirk signed a contract for less money and also openly expressed his willingness to take a lesser role for Howard to be happy. The Rockets main pitch as been Slim Thug tweeting at him (seriously go look at his twitter it’s hilarious). No but really, there’s been talks that if Howard chooses Houston then they will try to trade for Hawks All-Star and close personal friend of D12 Josh Smith. Since the Portland Trailblazers took Thomas Robinson in a trade from Houston for basically nothing except clearing cap room so Houston can sign Howard, it seems as if Houston would be the best place for him. Even if Josh Smith isn’t brought in, a lineup of Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard and role players (Houston waived Carlos Delfino and is expected to let Omer Asik walk if they do sign Howard) with hall-of-famer Kevin McHale coaching, they’d be a hell of a lot better than the 8th seed. The Warriors are also trying to pull him, but word is that it would have to be from a sign-and-trade with the Lakers. Golden State could potentially have to give up Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson, but Howard and the return of Brandon Rush could possibly make up for that. All in all I’m damn near ready for Howard to just make his decision and shut the media up. The year before his back injury, the only player who had a higher PER than him was LeBron James. Last season, though, 22 big men had a more efficient year. All the coach killer talk, trade demanding, and the open criticism of D’Antoni and Kobe have definitely made people forget how dominant he can be. I’ll give you this video to remind you that wherever he goes, it won’t take long for that team to be a contender.

 

The Indiana Pacers signed David West to a 3 year, 36 million dollar contract. This seems like a bit too much, but he’s proven to be extremely useful in Indiana by not only being a reliable option on offense, but by also providing solid defense in the playoffs and serving as a mentor to Roy Hibbert. Indiana let Tyler Hansbrough become an unrestricted free agent, and they already have depth problems… so West is a much needed asset. Hopefully Danny Granger comes back and can produce, because they’ll need every bit of help they can get. Also, Larry Bird is back with the origination as head of basketball operations after a year off. Bird took over after the notorious Pistons-Pacers brawl and fallout, and turned the team into the eastern conference power house it is today. With Bird back, Indiana’s future keeps ooking brighter and brighter.

Chicago Bulls signed Mike Dunleavy JR, whos a big threat from the 3 point line, and also a likeable veteran. After waiving Rip Hamilton, they’ll need someone to fill the void of instant offense off the bench. A seemingly dumb move the Bulls made, though, was letting go Tom Thibodeau’s favorite assistant coach Ron Adams. This made Thib’s kinda angry, as well as a lot of Bulls fans. Luckily, though, Derrick Rose is coming back, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler are improving, and Noah, Deng and Boozer are still there so… OH WAIT CANT FORGET NATE ROBINSON… so I’d say the Bulls are gonna come back hitting hard in the east next season.

The Brooklyn Nets have a pending blockbuster trade that would send Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Paul Pierce to join Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez. Three 1st round picks, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and 3 others players will be going to Boston. Andray Blatch has also agreed to re-sign with the Nets on a one-year, $1.4 million deal, providing the team with a proven backup to Garnett and Lopez. Realistically, this version of the Nets has a maximum two-year window to win an NBA championship, and it’s even shorter if one of their main players gets injured. With the addition of Lawrence Frank as a head assistant coach to Kidd this team could finish a top 5 seed behind Miami, New York, Indiana and Chicago. I don’t see them being better than any of those teams, though. Well, maybe New York because they’ve made risky moves, but it’s still a long shot.

The Boston Celtics hired 36-year-old Brad Stevens from Butler as their next head coach Wednesday. A source close to the Celtics confirmed that Stevens’ deal is for six years and $22 million. Yahoo! Sports earlier reported terms of the contract. Phil Jackson congratulated Danny Ainge on the move on twitter and said “He has the demeanor of a composed leader. Hope he he’s got the hide of a rhino for the NBA grind”. ESPN reports that the Celtics love his basketball mind, character and ability to relate to players. The source said the Celtics wanted to go for a coach who was highly respected. Stevens had spent the past six years coaching Butler, leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and ’11. He has a career winning percentage of .772 and never won fewer than 22 games in a season. Word around the fans is that they think this will lead to the departure of Rajon Rondo, but I’ve seen others with more Boston knowledge disagree. They believe Rondo’s attitude might make it difficult for him to be coached, but if Boston’s intentions are to rebuild the right way, they’ll figure out how to work through it.

The Charlotte Bobcats have agreed to sign former Jazz and Celtics center Al Jefferson to a 3-year deal worth an estimated 41 million dollars. I mean, I guess this is better than nothing. The Bobcats are apparently trying to win now, and after drafting Cody Zeller they’re at least slowly making progress. They could possibly make the playoffs if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker continue to develop well, because the east is weak… but who knows, because, well… they’re the Bobcats.

The Memphis Grizzlies have re-signed Mr. Grit and Grind Tony Allen to a 4 year, 20 million dollar deal. Allen is well known for his leadership, he’s one of if not the best perimeter defenders, and has a vast understanding of the overall game. Long time assistant Dave Joerger was hired to replace Lionel Hollins as the head coach, and Austin Daye and Ed Davis are two young players with potential to be solid bench contributors, so I expect Memphis to still be a playoff team. Zach Randolph needs to be as productive as he was last year for them, though, if they want to be taken as seriously as they were when before they were swept in the Western Conference Finals.

IN OTHER NEWS: Coaches George Karl and Lionel Hollins are still jobless (which is absurd). The Denver Nuggets hired former Lakers and Pacers assistant Brian Shaw to replace Karl (which is a great choice for a replacement). Shaw has long been considered the next quality coach in the league, and his presence in Denver should make them as big of a threat as they were last season, especially since Danilo Gallinari will be coming back from his ACL injury. Earl Clark, former Laker and Phoenix Sun, is rumored to be heavily pursued by the Cleveland Cavaliers. If this signing happens, it will only add to the Cav’s already talented young squad. Clark can guard the 3-5 positions on defense, and can play adequately on the offensive side. If he ever gets his jump shot to start falling consistently, he’ll be a perfect addition.

For a complete list of free agents, you can check this link out here http://www.cbssports.com/nba/transactions/free-agents

So this is turning out to be a real interesting off season so far, to say the least. Keep in mind that none of these signings can technically happen until after July 10th, so these aren’t all 100 percent happening… (I.E Hedo Turkoglu agreeing to sign with the Blazers in 2009 and then changing is mind and signing with the Toronto Raptors). For a list of free agents ranked 1-10 at each position, check out this link http://www.cbssports.com/nba/blog/eye-on-basketball/22561775/nba-free-agency-ranking-the-top-10-at-each-position

All my information came from ESPN, Yahoo, Sports Bloggers on Twitter and Basketball-Reference.com

I’ll update this as more transactions happen. OH, and shout out to Joey Chestnut for eating 69 hotdogs in the Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest. That’s 7 straight titles. TRUE American right there.

 

Pirates Still Play Baseball?

Mike Fabber

I know a month or two down the road I will regret writing this because somehow the powers- to- be will make sure Pittsburgh Baseball ends early. I mean really early, like a premature receding hair line or the end of happy hour, before many of us are ready for it. But the Pirates once again have given me a reason to love this time a year even though it’s the most boring time for sports (like grass growing or paint drying or Alex from “tha Riot” on “blogradio.com”, (check it out)).
Pirates (52-31) are the best in baseball and finding ways to win games with a bunch of flag waving misfits. The team that hasn’t had a winning season since 1992 is writing a new history. The clubs 52 wins are 1 over the total amount they had in the whole season in 1917, that right, the total wins. I can do without all the bandwagon fans (including myself, Mets all day baby, so what -we suck), eye patches, and weird arrrgghhh sounds I hear on sport center every night now but this team could be special. They make us believe in the underdog, the little man, the ones who life kicked in the backside and left for the vultures. They represent much more than a game, or even a city but a group of people that many of us can relate too, the down and outers. The ones that weren’t supposed to get the girl, or the job, or the fancy house or car, they are us!
I hope they can keep this up and prove all the nay- sayers wrong but even if they don’t for a short period they made us all believe in more. So when you are down and out and feel like you can’t get this thing called “life” right, remember that if a one eye sea creature can win in baseball, why can’t we win in life. They represent the greatness in sports and in life, with one swing of the bat there is a chance for greatness. Last time Pittsburgh did something like this, Boys 2 Men’s hit “To the End of the Road” was number one, I hear they are doing a reunion tour, Why not?

Boys 2 Men Got it Right

Mike Fabber

This is a tough day for the truest of sports fans out there, including myself. The end of an era has finally come and we are burying it in the back yard like a family pet your dad wasn’t fond of (or that’s at least how my dad did it). I am not talking about Serena’s streak being snapped to early or the days in a row an NFL player was arrested for a crime that leaves us all saying “what the hell is wrong with him”.
I am speaking of one of the conferences in college sports with the richest tradition and some of the best rivalries one could ever find. Especially for the hard wood junkies like me out there that would sell their born or unborn babies to get a front row seat to anyone of these marquee matchups. I am talking about the Big East as we know it. Today is the day that Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh depart for the ACC. Some stay in the new conference and the others are deciding for themselves. The point where greed has beaten fan hood with a stick (not the smaller then a wrist kind either). Where we lost the sense of history, importance, and a little bit of the bitter hatred towards that common foe we play year in and year out. We miss out on the rocking Madison Square Garden in March, the UConn runs, Gerry McNamara magic, and the Georgetown boo birds. These are the memories that no super conference or amount of money can take from us but unfortunately we won’t have any more of them.
There are many adjustments we make in life, sometimes we move on or change directions. Many of us have done this with sports, from playing to watching (or in my case writing and talking about them), single life to marriage (one month and counting), and barely taking care of yourself, to having a family. Those transitions are all things we were raised to be prepared for but this is not one of those. A piece of the sporting world has been lost. I was lucky enough to grow up through the 80’s and 90’s, great music, better hair, and the best sports had to offer but I missed one message. Boys 2 Men was right, it is hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

2012-2013: A NBA Season in Review

FINALS

Ugh. I’m actually depressed writing this. I mean, it’s not just the end of a season…. It’s the end of an ACTUAL 82 game season, something we weren’t blessed enough to watch last season (thanks, Stern).

We witnessed a dazzling post season, even though we were robbed of the presence of Kobe Bryant, a healthy Steve Nash (He was hurt so I’m counting him), Rajon Rondo, Russel Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Danilo Gallinari, Danny Granger and many others due to the injuries.

LeBron James finally got his 2nd ring with a game 7 win over the Spurs. That’s also Bosh’s 2nd ring, and Wade’s 3rd. We were shown just how far working your ass off and brilliant coaching can really take you by Popovich and the Spurs, who were only a few made free throws away from taking home the title. FOUR finals MVP’s (Parker, Duncan, LeBron and Wade) battled it out, but in a way we haven’t seen in a long time. These 2 teams respected each other. Not 1 technical foul was given to a player or coach the ENTIRE series. Out of 7 games, ZERO technical fouls. That’s something.

Danny Green (former Cavalier teammate of LeBron) almost single handedly proved just how big of a b$%*& karma could be by breaking Ray Allen’s 3 point final’s record through only 5 games, while at the same time ALMOST completely killing the Big 3′s (Mainly LeBron’s) hopes and dreams of the 2nd title. But, for some reason the basketball God’s came in and said “Nahh”, and we saw the Heat make Danny Green forget how to exist in game 6 and 7, and just to put the nail in the coffin… Ray Allen got Green back for breaking that record by hitting the game tying/season saving 3 to force overtime. Chris Andersen, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier provided the energy the Big 3 needed to win at different, but multiple, times throughout this series. The Heat eventually won game 6, and then 7. So, Heat fans… didn’t ever think you’d love Ray Allen this much, did you?

LeBron not only grabbed that 2nd ring of his, but he also took an AK-47 and blasted away the ridiculous talk of every nay-Sayer (you don’t even know how happy I am I got to use that) that tried to say LeBron isn’t the best player since Jordan. He finished the Spurs off in game 7 with 35 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 12 rebounds and only 2 turnovers… in 45 minutes. He hit 5 threes (a shot he’s not supposed to have), he hit a 20 foot pull-up to put them ahead for good (another shot he’s not supposed to have), made all 8 of his free throws (something he’s supposed to choke on), and played phenomenal in the games before that where his back was up against the wall (the first 3 games he didn’t score over 18 points, the last 4 games his least-scoring tota was 25 points). Anyone else wanna talk about how he “isn’t clutch”? Or how he “isn’t a winner”? No? Okay, good. Keep it that way. Those days are behind us. If Wilt Chamberlain can be considered one of the greats after only winning 2 championships even though he’s notorious for being one of the worst teammates in the history of the league (seriously look that up) then LeBron has officially answered any of the previous questions about him and his legacy. Oh, btw guys… he’s only 28.

Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili gave it one last go. It was amazing. The precision, the finesse, the fundamentals… everything about the San Antonio Spur’s playoff run was amazing. There really isn’t any other way to describe it. Sure, Tracy McGrady didn’t get that ring… but it’s okay. Popovich has tons to work with for the future with Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal, Danny Green, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and their cap room going into the off season. Ginobili put on a performance to remember for the San Antonio home crowd in game 5, which will probably be his last game (he’s been contemplating retiring for a while now). Tim Duncan solidified his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time by putting up astounding numbers. He logged playing time’s of 44:26 and 43:10 in back-to-back games in which he put up lines of 30-17 and 24-12 on 21-of-39 shooting from the floor combined. He also shot 12-of-13 from the line in a pair of games we should not forget when retelling the legend of The Big Fundamental. Had it not been for the hamstring injury of Parker disrupting the Spur’s pick-and-roll game, this series would have only been better. A Game 7 was the only way to go out. It’s not really that crazy to say the Spurs could be back in the finals next season. Parker is having a very Steve Nash-ish career by getting better as he ages, Duncan can stay healthy and still be productive, Leonard is getting better and better every day, Popovich is Popovich, and not to mention they have money to make moves in free agency. With all the young teams up and coming it’s hard to picture a rematch of the Spurs and Heat, but knowing that Popovich, Duncan, and Parker will all be there next year… don’t count them out.

While the Finals were marvelous, we unfortunately can’t get hung up on them. Let’s see… we covered LeBron shutting everyone up, The Spurs being the ideal franchise, injuries almost ruining everything, Ray Allen and Danny Green being daggers to each other, hmm… alright I think we got everything there is to talk about for the finals. So now what?

PLAYOFFS

Finals aside, what did we see/learn from the 2013 playoffs? We learned that Scott Brooks isn’t the coach we thought he was. Tom Thibodeau is an even better coach than we though he was. We learned just how valuable of a player Russel Westbrook is. Legends like the Lakers have a lot more problems than we originally thought, and the Celtic’s championship days are over because they’re officially entering rebuilding mode. We learned that despite huge success, a coaching job is never safe (the firing of George Karl and Lionel Hollins). We learned teams with young talent like the Warriors, Nuggets, Rockets, Pacers, Grizzlies and the Bulls are the next “teams to beat” in the NBA, and will be for the next few seasons. We learned that James Harden, Steph Curry, Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Kenneth Faried and Kawhi Leonard are potentially stars in the making. We learned that the best season ever for the Clippers and the worst season ever for the Lakers both end with a 1st round loss… which is both sad and comical. We learned the Hawks are cutting ties with the Woodson era, and are rebuilding around Horford, Teague, a long time assistant of Popovich (New head coach Budenhozer) and a good bit of cap room. We learned that Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony have leadership problems. The most important thing we learned, though? WE WON’T MISS YOU DAVID STERN. WE WON’T MISS YOU OR YOUR GOD AWFUL REFS WHO WE HOPE ADAM SILVER FIRES AS HIS FIRST ACTION AS COMMISSIONER.

REGULAR SEASON

Oh, the 2012-2013 regular season. I think what I’m gonna do here is highlight the pros and cons of each team. I’m gonna start with a few teams in the West. I’ll have to break this up into 2 articles…. so this is

 

PART 1

LAKERS: It’s already been a year ago that the Phoenix Suns traded Steve Nash to the Lakers for… nothing, and it was only a few weeks after that Dwight Howard was traded there, too. The media already was calling Kobe, Nash and Howard The Western Conference Champs, the Spurs were yesterday’s news. As a diehard Suns fan, this was rough for me. I had to come to the realization that my idol had just went to a team I grew to have nothing but pure hatred for. The Suns were nobodies now, they weren’t going to be on TV anymore… and the Lakers were. At least I had that. I would get to watch Nash experience success in a way I hoped he never would. What did we figure out, though? The Lakers learned HOW HARD IT IS TO DO WHAT THE HEAT HAVE DONE FOR 3 YEARS STRAIGHT. The Lakers fired Mike Brown after a shaky start. Steve Nash broke his leg, the worst injury of his career. LA Hired Mike D’Antoni, who implemented a completely new offense to the team. Kobe didn’t like not scoring. Dwight didn’t like not scoring. Nash was fine with changing his game, and is an effective spot up shooter as well as the best free throw shooter of all time. Pau Gasol couldn’t fit in. Earl Clark could be okay. Mike D’Antoni is a stubborn coach. This season was rough for the Lakers, but it still ended in a playoff outing. Take away the injuries, and who knows what this team could have been. They were fun to watch rather it was the play making of Pau and Howard, or the throwback performances of Kobe, or the publicized fighting between Howard and Kobe.

The pros: Mike D’Antoni figured out how to win at the end of the season. They went 28-12 under him to end the season, and won 10 straight at one point. This, of course, was when everyone was healthy. Despite next season looking bleak, they do have a TON of cap room going into the 2014 season. If the Lakers are down, they won’t be there for long. Howard could possibly still sign, Nash will come back healthy, and we could even see Kobe come back. Depending on how this team’s managed over the next few months, they could add some younger players and we could see LA turn around and make the playoffs… and lost in the 2nd round at best. But like I said, they won’t be down for long. After all, you do know LeBron is a free agent in 2014, right?

The cons: Dwight Howard doesn’t like Mike D’Antoni, or any coach, probably. They don’t have young players. They don’t have draft picks. They don’t have cap room to sign anyone. They have a still-injury-bothered Gasol, and Kobe’s still hurt. Next season really is a hit-or-miss year for them. I’m going with… bunt. They’ll make the playoffs, but won’t be a factor.

ROCKETS- Pros: James Harden’s emergence as a star. The dude is a machine. Jeremy Lin is an adequate point guard, but he is overpaid. Chandler Parsons can shoot the lights out of the ball. They were the 2nd best scoring team in the league, the 6th best rebounding team, and they 7th best assisting team in the league. With Kevin McHale proving to be a solid head coach, Asik being a perfect fit at center, they’re not too far from being a big threat in the west. Not to mention, they have enough cap room to sign Dwight Howard…

Cons: Defense. They were 28th in the league in points allowed last season. So yeah, defense.

WARRIORS- Pros: Andrew Bogut is still Andrew Bogut, so that’s awesome for this team. If they can keep him and Steph Curry healthy, Harrison Barnes doesn’t have a sophomore slump, and David Lee keeps it up on offense… Mark Jackson is coaching a top 4 seed in the west for the next few seasons. And they’re a really, really fun team, too. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry…. definitely the best shooting back court in the game

Cons: INJURIES. Steph Curry’s ankles are glass, Boguts knees could just fall off at any point, and Brandon Rush is still recovering from his ACL tear. One injury could derail this team’s playoffs hopes and dreams. But don’t worry…. JARRET JACK AND ANDRES BIENDRIS ARE THINGS.

GRIZZLIES- Pros: Marc Gasol, Mike Conley JR, Austin Daye, Ed Davis… that’s a ton of young, cheap talent. If Zach Randolph is as productive as he was last season, and they make the right moves in free agency… Memphis will contend next season just like they did this year.

Cons:
Lionel Hollins is gone… for some reason… and their future really depends on who they hire. And the consistency on the offensive end of Z-Bo and Mike Conley JR.

CLIPPERS-Pros: Chris Paul will more than likely stay, and there’s even talks of bringing in Dwight Howard. Even if they don’t, and CP3 leaves… Eric Bledsoe and Blake Griffin with the rest of their team is still not bad. And if CP3 leaves they’ll have cap room. And if they pick a solid coach who Paul enjoys playing for, we could see this Clippers team finally reach their potential. ESPECIALLY if Blake Griffin develops more of an all-around game

Cons: Well, one of their biggest cons WAS Vinny Del Negro’s coaching style. They didn’t really have a set plan other than “Hey Chris Paul run a pick and roll”. Another con is there’s talk going around that CP3 may not stay… but I’m saying that he does. Their success really depends on who they hire as a coach…. and CP3 I GUESS.
Speaking of L.A….
Check out what one of the head guys at our site has to say about his favorite play of the season.
Ben: “As a huge Lakers fan, this season did not have a lot of highlights; just a lot of disappointment. It is hard to believe just how bad the Lakers were. Also being a Lakers fan makes the following statement extremely painful: my favorite moment of the year is from a Clipper. That’s right. Who would have thought a few years ago that a highlight from a Clipper was even possible. My favorite moment was DeAndre Jordan’s dunk over Brandon Knight of the Clippers on March 10th. It was a ferocious monster dunk that seemed to suck the life out of Brandon Knight as he fell to the floor in a heap. The dunk had such a lasting effect that Brandon Knight on the floor became a popular meme. It was intense. Now here is to hoping that next year the highlights will include Kobe Bryant’s comeback!”

What a Lakers fan…

NUGGETS- Pros: They’re young, quick, in shape, and play great at home. They’re coming off their best season as a franchise… and they just fired their coach. If Gallinari comes back healthy and they hire the right person to fill George Karl’s shoes (Lionel Hollins maybe?) then they’ll be fine. They led the league in scoring, were top 5 in rebounds and assists. So, they can move the ball and put numbers up… again, they just need a solid coach to replace Karl.

Cons: Their best player, Gal, tore is ACL and they just fired their coach. And they were 23rd in the league in points allowed. This could be because they’re young and Karl isn’t notorious for his defense, but Gal won’t be back until January or February. Depending on how well Wilson Chandler plays, and stays healthy, they could be alright. I don’t see them sliding TOO much, but they do need to work on their play on the road.

SPURS- Pros: They’re coming off their 12th straight 50+ win season, they made it all the way to the finals, and took the best team in the league to a game 7 that actually lived up to the hype. Popovich is sill there, Tony Parker seems to be getting better and better, and they have a good bit of cap room going into the off season. With the growing of Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Gary Neal and so on… we should expect nothing but excellence and precision from San Antonio next season, just like we’ve all been accustomed to

Cons: Age. Manu Ginobili will probably retire. Tim Duncan is about to be 38. Tony Parker will be turning 31 next year… so their big 3 is starting to look “Lakers-big-3ish”, but Popovich knows what he’s doing. I’m sure him and the rest of the Spur’s organization will figure out how to continue to play at a high, competitive level.

THUNDER- Pros: They have this person called Kevin Durant. Ya know, only the 2nd best player in the league. Oh, and they have Russel Westbrook, too. He isn’t TOO bad. Given that we were robbed of the opportunity to see what the Thunder team could do in the post season due to Westbrooks injury in the first round, I don’t really see how they could get worst. Westbrook and Durant will do their thing, Ibaka and Sefolosha will still play great defense… they’ll be as competitive as they were last season, especially if they pick up some pieces to make up for the lack of Harden.

Cons: Scott Brooks may not be the coach we thought he was, and he showed that with the way he handled Westbrook’s injury. I know it’s a small sample, but great coaches (I.e Thibodeau) figure out how to push through. Brooks didn’t, and we saw him become pretty 1-dimensional. I’m sure they’ll be fine, though, given they do something useful with the waste of space that is Kendrick Perkins and fill in some gaps on their roster.

Check out the rest of my article in the next week! I’ll go over the rest of the West after the draft, and finish the East later on. Thanks for reading