Sunday, May 31, 2009

King James is a Sore Loser

The NBA doesn't get that Kobe-LeBron Finals they wanted. That happens. I wouldn't say that the Cavaliers choked away a golden opportunity for their first championship since I firmly believe the Orlando Magic were just better. If you watched these two battle during the regular season, you would have felt the same way too.

The most shocking moment on Saturday night was LeBron James storming off the court and not even congratulating the Magic on their victory. After every playoff series ... even ones that are hotly contested and chippy ... we end with the combatants shaking hands and exchanging hugs. Part of athletics is the spirit of competition and the acknowledgement of someone else's good deeds.

You didn't lose. You were beaten.

James also decided to skip that whole media thing and duck out of Amway Arena. Again, another classy move, King. I understand he's upset and all, but take some time to calm down and then go out there and give your interviews. It surprised me since James has always seemed to be engaging to the media no matter what. This just stunk of sore loser.

It really makes me see LeBron in a new light. It's cool for him to spend all season mocking other teams by doing that whole camera thing, the baby powder thing and slapping fives with Jay-Z but when a better team eliminates him from the Eastern Conference Playoffs, he can't give his opponent their just due. Maybe LeBron isn't the leader we all seemed to be told he was. Maybe he's not ready yet.

The problem is that no one in Cleveland will tell him he's wrong. They've been handling him with gloves for the past two years so he doesn't feel like he needs to leave in the summer of 2010.

We have been just been witness to a big baby.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stanley Cup Begins Its Stupid Finals Schedule Tonight

The NHL is desperate for eyes. So much so that they are ruining one of the greatest events in sports.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals will be played tonight. Game 2 will be played tomorrow. Yep, the NHL needs to be on NBC so badly that they are willing to have Cup Finals games on consecutive nights.

The Red Wings are obviously bent about this since they walk in the more hobbled team. Not having the off day doesn't allow their broken Wings extra time to heal. All this because Gary Bettman wants to capitalize using NBC's 'Musn't See Sunday". With Game 3 on Thursday, that means they Pens and Wings will play three games in four days ... including a travel day. What is this, the World Series?

Not just that, but the Finals weren't supposed to star until late next week. However, since the Penguins swept the Hurricanes and the Red Wings ousted the Blackhawks in five games, there would have been a huge gap before the Finals. We all get that, but they sold out their players (and possibly better play) by rushing it up nine days and giving both teams just a few days before the Finals.

It makes all the more sense if you look at the remaining schedule. It will be the customary off day before Games 3, 4 and 5. But if it goes further, Game 6 will be three days later. Game 7? Another three days.

The NBA has done some boneheaded postseason scheduling but nothing like this. The NHL wants their premiere event on network TV so badly that it is willing to give the extra fans who may watch inferior hockey.

Friday, May 29, 2009

SDSU's Stephen Strasburg Loses First Game of the Season

San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who will likely be the top pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft, lost his first game of the season in the Aztecs' 5-1 loss to Virginia.

Strasburg had been 13-0 during the season, but lost SDSU's first game in the NCAA regionals. He gave up a first-inning home run and the team couldn't recover. He did a heck of a job regardless, striking out 15 in seven innings and allowing just two runs (that did jack up his 1.24 ERA a bit).

This is the Aztecs' first appearance in the tournament in 18 years. This loss is huge since Strasburg cannot start every game and their manager, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, can't go out and hit. San Diego State will play the loser of between Fresno State and the host UC-Irvine.

If SDSU loses that game, the next time you will see Strasburg, he will be most likely be pitching in the Washington 'Natinals' organization.

The Rarity of a Red Wings-Penguins Rematch

We get to see something we normally don't get to see: a rematch in a championship game. You usually have to go to tennis or something to see two competitors face off for the whole ball of wax two years in a row.

OILERS-ISLANDERS (1983, 1984): The Islanders won the last of their four straight Cups in '83. The Oilers began their magical run of 5 Cups in 7 years by winning in '84. Prior to this, the NHL had seen a lot of repeat matchups since there were just six teams in the league.

BULLS-JAZZ (1997, 1998): We all remember those epic Bulls-Jazz NBA Finals. The weird thing about revisionist history is that many people lump both series together. I can't distinguished which series was which aside from Jordan's jumper that ended the '98 series. There hasn't been a rematch since, but there were several rematches prior. You, of course, had those Lakers-Pistons (1988, 1989), Lakers-Celtics Finals (1985, 1986, 1987), Sonics-Bullets (1978, 1979), Lakers-Knicks (1972, 1973) as well as those Lakers-Celtics Finals during the 1960s.

COWBOYS-BILLS (1993, 1994): I always point to these games when people spout that crap about "they've been there before". Really? Buffalo was in its third straight Super Bowl while the Dallas Cowboys hadn't gone deep in the playoffs for several years. So it is a given that the Bills would lose 52-17, right? This is the only repeat rematch in Super Bowl history.

YANKEES-DODGERS (1977, 1978): The two glamor teams meet up yet again. The last time that two MLB teams met in back-to-back World Series was the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955 and 1956.

CINCINNATI-OHIO STATE (1961, 1962): You have to go back nearly 50 years to find the last time we had a rematch in the NCAA Tournament Final. Yeah, we've had tournament rematches (such as UNLV beating Duke for the '90 title; then Duke beating UNLV in '91 Final Four), but it has only happened in the championship game this time. It makes sense, since there is so much turnover in college sports.

Mike Polk Takes on TNT's 'Inside the NBA'

Comedian Mike Polk is a Cleveland native who has put some hilarious clips on YouTube. One of which was a Cleveland Tourism video which deadpans all of the great reasons to visit the city.

Well, Polk took the challenge of making a video of TNT's "Inside the NBA" crew of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller. It is awesome and the guys over at TNT felt the same way. So enjoy!

'Rocky IV' Still Rocks

Back when I was a tweenager, I knew every word of dialogue of 'Rocky IV'. It was 1985 and people remember when LeBron/Kobe was actually USA/USSR. Two superpowers with completely different ideologies who were sporting elitists as well.

'Rocky IV' came with the best Cold War hook. Rocky Balboa, that lovable underdog in the first three Rocky films, gets to avenge his friend's death by fighting the man who killed him, the Soviet machine of Ivan Drago.

The movie has all the Rocky and 1980s staples. Of course no Rocky movie featured any kind of defense during the fight. All fighters seemed to connect on 90% of their punches ... so much so that it would short out the Compubox. It also had two outstanding and legendary montages. There is "No Easy Way Out" playing as Rocky is driving by himself as images of the previous three Rocky movies (as well as the Drago-Creed fight that happened earlier in the film) flash on the screen. And then there is "Burning Heart" thumping as both Balboa and Drago train for their climatic fight.

It had "you can't win!". It had "he is not a killer!" It had "I must break you." It had "if he dies, he dies." It had James Brown singing "Living in America." And it had Rocky's "change" speech at the end.

Is it a great movie? Of course not. It is filled with cheese and a Survivor song. It has the weird relationship between Paulie and that robot. And it relies heavily on the previous films. But it is one of the most financially successful sports movies of all time and it still is one of my favorites.

It is on ION right now (I never heard of the channel before just now) and watching it as if I was a 10-year old again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Keep the Spelling Bee ... And Keep It Off My TV

I get it. The Scripps spelling bee is a big deal to some people. I'm sure that the kids who compete in it are excited (they should be). It's something cool for those kids who rarely have the word "cool" attached to them.

Still, that doesn't mean it needs to be on TV. At least TV that I actually watch.

I don't need SportsCenter to move to ESPNNews because ESPN decides to show a spelling bee. I don't need ABC to wipe away their array of reality shows to show it, either. Put it on CSPAN or Oxygen or Nickelodeon or any place that it may belong.

I mean, how exciting is it to watch a freaking spelling bee? When I was in school, spelling bees were the most boring thing we did. Again, kudos to those who put a ton of time and effort into getting to the Scripps finals, but it isn't good theater. I mean, I get to sit down and watch a 13-year old kid sweat over a word that I've never heard and no one would ever use! And the word is spelled right there in front of me on the telecast so I can't even play along (it's the same concept of watching the $64,000 Pyramid). I get to hear the kid ask for the word's origin and how it is used in a sentence! Wowsers!

I'm not saying that Spelling Bees are some big nerd-o-rama event that should be mocked. Again, it is quite an accomplishment and those kids bust their tails to get there. But please keep it off the channels that is also showing NBA Conference championship events.

The 2009 champion correctly spelled "laodicean". I mean, that's a word I used almost daily. They should have just had the finalists just spell their own names: Kansas' Kavya Shivashankar, Virginia's Tim Ruiter and Illinois' Aishwarya Pastapur. That may have been more interesting.

Wednesday Was a Bad Day For Kentucky

Yesterday, Wednesday May 27th, 2009, was a bad day for the University of Kentucky basketball program. Nothing that ground-shattering that would put the program in dire straits, but it was a bad day of public relations.

Obviously at the top of the list is the NCAA charging the University of Memphis with fraud. Apparently someone else took Derrick Rose's SAT to get into college and there was some money spent on some clingers-on. This will probably not get to Kentucky, but does anyone really, really, really, really think that this was the only time that one of Calipari's players got this kind of treatment.

It stains Calipari as he will most likely have TWO Final Four appearances removed from the record books.

Next up is Billy Gillispie's wrongful termination lawsuit against the University. Now, I'm far from a law scholar so I'm not going to attempt to figure out the validity of it. Gillispie is going after $6 million he feels he's owed by the school for firing him without just cause. I'm sure we will see more on this.

So UK recruit John Wall picked a good day to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of breaking and entering. Wall will get delayed prosecution where he will have to perform 75 hours of community service and a six month probationary period. If he does all that, then the charges will be cleared from his record.

All this shadows Calipari's treatment of the lower end players on his team. Walk-on Landon Slone is leaving Kentucky because Calipari shut him out. As we all know, Calipari has more players than scholarships and said he will pare it down by "working itself out." I guess that means ignoring the guys who you don't want around anymore. Slone claims that he made numerous attempts to meet with Calipari about his future at the school and the new coach met with him ... let's see ... zero times. Calipari admitted this himself on his Twitter account.

Slone joins Jared Carter (who isn't going to take his medical redshirt season), A. Stewart and Donald Williams as cast-offs. Stewart and Williams plan to transfer.

Again, none of this should affect anything other than the perception that Kentucky will be the new UNLV (or Miami Hurricanes). Also, if Calipari can get to a Final Four, don't be so sure that it won't be taken away a few years down the road. After all, John Wall still has to take his SATs.

For Kentucky fans, this is what people meant when they said that you sold your soul to the devil.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memphis Charged With Major Violations During Calipari/Rose Season

The NCAA has charged the Memphis basketball program with major violations. It stems from some SAT scores of a player who only played at Memphis for the 2007-2008 season. The speculation is that it was Derrick Rose.

That could mean that Memphis' 2007-2008 season will be thrown out. Those 38 victories? Gone. The Final Four appearance? History.

That would mean that John Calipari would have TWO Final Four appearances vacated. Remember that UMass' 1996 Final Four was taken away after it was discovered that Marcus Camby got a few nice gifts while he was there.

Remember that Calipari broke out from UMass after that season and became the head coach of the New Jersey Nets. Something like him breaking out of Memphis for Kentucky last month. Word is that Calipari informed Kentucky about all this stuff and, I guess, the university was cool with it.

Aside from the 2007-2008 season being tossed, there doesn't seem to be any more penalties being levied. So while Kentucky fans can rest a bit that Calipari won't get in too much trouble, be worried if he starts itching to leave. Maybe there's an investigation going on.

There Is No Such Thing as 'Conference Championship Trophy Curse'

There are no such things as curses. None.

So I'm glad that Sidney Crosby decided to buck the trend and actually hold the conference championship trophy after the Penguins sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The superstition is that if you touch the conference championship trophy, you won't win the Stanley Cup. What a stack of bull. There is no magical spirit out there that creates fates of professional sports teams because of dumb superstitions. How many mamas have broken their backs because their kids stepped on a crack?

If neither team touches the conference championship trophy, who wins the Cup? And if both teams touch the trophy, can either win the Cup?

In Pens lore, the two times the captain held the trophy, they went on the win the Stanley Cup. The one time they didn't (last year), they lost in the Finals. So how is that a curse?

During the Final Four, the buzz was that nobody who used the Detriot Lions locker room in the last year won a game. The Lions lost every game of their season and several hoops teams that used the locker room lost their games. It is just a neat stat and has nothing to do with anything. I mean, the Lions blew so of course they lost every game they suited up for. Michigan State lost to North Carolina in December because ... well ... UNC was a great team. So great that the Tar Heels used the locker room in the NCAA Championship game and bulldozed past the Spartans.

I hope that the Red Wings pick up the trophy when they clinch against the Hawks ... just like they did when they won their Cups in the 1990s.

There is No Such Thing as 'Clutch Free Throws'

I get into a little debate today at work. I told this guy that LeBron James came up lame during last night's game. King James turned the ball over 7 times during the fourth quarter and overtime including some very costly mistakes in the extra period.

He countered with "how could you say that after he hit those huge free throws with 0.5 seconds remaining?" Are you serious?

There is no such thing as clutch free throws. None. Yeah, some are big just because you cannot afford to miss them. But a free throw shot in the first minute is the same as a free throw in the last minute. It is the same 10-foot shot with no defenders and the opportunity to go through a consistent routine. It's the same shot no matter what level you play basketball.

It is the same shot in junior high, high school, college and the NBA. If you shot 80% from the line in high school ... you will probably hit 80% of them in college and 80% in the NBA. It's the same stinking shot. Michael Jordan shot it with his eyes closed at time just to prove that it is all about the routine and focus.

LeBron James shot that 10-foot shot 18 times last night. What other shot do you get to shoot exactly the same 18 times in a game? With 0.5 seconds left, LeBron should have that shot pretty much down cold, right?

This season, LeBron has shot that shot at least 900 times. Again, how many other shots did LeBron take 900 times this year? A shot from the exact same distance from the basket with no defenders? That's why they call them free throws.

So, my opponent decides to say "well, free throws at the end of the game have more pressure on them. If I said you had to hit this free throw for $1 million it would be harder than if you shot it for nothing." Pressure is a state of mind. It causes you to lose focus. That focus allows guys to view the free throw in the moment as nothing more than the shot. Kobe Bryant goes to the line and thrives on hitting those freebies. So do guys like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller and countless other cats. Why? They don't feel pressure. It doesn't exist. Does it affect some people? Sure but that is more of a sign of weakness than anything.

My point is that there is no difference in the weight of any free throw. They all count the same amount of points, they all are shot from the same distance on the floor, it is undefended and the time of the game when the shots are taking doesn't matter to a hill of beans.

Why Carmelo Anthony Wasn't Called for a Clear Path Foul Against Trevor Ariza

I know this is a bit late, but there has been a lot of buzz about Game 3 of the Lakers-Nuggets series. The call in question was when Trevor Ariza was fouled by Carmelo Anthony and there wasn't a clear path foul called. Lakers fans were angry and confused about the rule as it would have give the Lakers two free throws and the ball.

It was the right call.

First off, Trevor Ariza never stole the ball. Yeah, he was about to steal it but it never was officially a steal. He tapped the ball ahead and was probably the only one who was going to gain possession ... but he hadn't when the foul was called.

Secondly, because of that it was deemed a loose ball foul. Loose ball fouls are pretty self explainatory since they happen when the ball is loose.

Third of all, if you really believe that Ariza stole the ball and all that ... he didn't gain possession in the backcourt. They don't call clear path fouls when the possession changes in the frontcourt.

While there have been plenty of bad calls during these playoffs, this wasn't one of them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kobe-Carmelo May Be Better Than Kobe-LeBron

Boy, we sure can't wait to see those NBA Finals ... can we?

After all, LeBron James is averaging 49 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals and Kobe Bryant is averaging 37.7 in the Western Finals. Both are showing why they are the best two players in the league.

But does that really mean that they will give us a great NBA Finals? Judging by their two meeting this season -- no.

In two games against the Lakers this year, LeBron has averaged 19.5 points, missed 31 of his 45 shots, missed 10 of his 13 three-pointers and missed half of his free throws.

Against Cleveland, Kobe averaged just 19.5 points, missed 22 of his 39 shots, missed 6 of his 7 three-pointers and only shot six free throws combined in the two games.

Sometimes their greatness and competitive nature negate each other to the point that neither can get anything going. In those two regular season games, they hounded each other into bad shots and made the ones that did go in a lot harder than they usually are.

We all hope it will be like the Kobe-Carmelo clash. While Kobe is averaging nearly 38 ppg, Carmelo is at 31 ppg (and that includes his foul troubled Game 3 total of 21 points). Both players have been nearly unstoppable for tremendous stretches during this series.

We all hope/think that a Kobe-LeBron Finals would be the same way. Judging by what has already happened this year ... I'm not so sure.

Everyone Needs To Enjoy These Conference Championships!!!!

When about a few weeks remained in the regular season, NBA fans and talking heads were basically in a holding pattern until we got to a Kobe-LeBron Finals. The rest of the postseason was just fodder (especially once the Celtics lost Kevin Garnett) and everyone had that "come on with it, already" attitude.

If that was your committment to the NBA Playoffs ... then you have missed out, brother!

Just take these Conference Finals. We've had five outstanding games with every one of them coming down to the wire. Aside from last night's six-point Lakers victory, every game has been decided by three points or less.

In the Magic-Cavaliers series, both games have come down the the final shot. In Game 1, both teams hit huge shots down the stretch, capped off by Rashard Lewis' three to take the lead for good (Delonte West and Mo Williams would miss as time ran out). In Game 2 ... well you have heard about LeBron's shot, haven't you?

The odd thing is that Cleveland ran out to huge first half leads in both games while Orlando just caught fire in the third quarter to close the gap. Amazing swings of emotions.

In the Lakers-Nuggets series, the team that gets off first has lost. The Nuggets led most of Games 1 and 3 ... but ended up losing both. The Lakers got off to a big lead in Game 2, which they lost. That series has hit the chippy section already as technical fouls were flying all over the Pepsi Center last night. Nothing out of hand, but there still was some chippiness.

Unlike the Eastern Finals, the West hasn't seen too many game winners at the buzzer. Oh, there have been some dagger shots so far ... but the story of this series is the mistakes being made late. Twice ... TWICE!!! .... the Nuggets threw a late inbounds pass to Trevor Ariza (he's a Laker) that all but sealed the win for Los Angeles. In Denver's win, Ariza turned the ball over after a jump ball that helped dig the Lakers' grave. Amazing swings of emotions.

With this going on and the Celtics-Bulls, Magic-Celtics, Lakers-Rockets and even Nuggets-Mavericks series being buzzworthy, we should embrace the journey to the NBA Finals. These are the greatest athletes in sport competiting for everything. Three of the four teams remaining have never won an NBA Championship. Only a few of the players left have gotten a ring.

Yeah, I'd love to see a Kobe-LeBron Finals as much as the next guy ... but the reason is to see some great basketball by some great players.

If you haven't been paying attention, you are missing out on some great basketball by some great players.

Indy 500 Needs to Re-Embrace the Coca Cola 600

Today is one of the biggest days for racecar fans. The Indianapolis 500, the premiere auto race in the country, and the Coca Cola 600, NASCAR's longest race, pop off today.

Now, I'm not a gear head. But I flip over to the Indy 500 every once in a while to see what's going on. I'm also interested in the Coca Cola 600 since it is in my hometown of Charlotte. I enjoy the pageantry that comes with both events.

I just wish the Indy 500 went back to the old days where they began their race at noon. That way, some of those double-duty drivers could race in the Indy 500 in the afternoon and the Coca Cola 600 in the evening. That would help bring some star power back to Indianapolis.

The Indy drivers used to be the racing stars. Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser and Bobby Rahal were very well known. And while there will be an Andretti and a Rahal competing in today's 500, there aren't too many stars out there anymore. Oh, there's Danica Patrick who is known more for her ads than actually winning anything. And you have Helio Castroneves, who is more known now for Dancing With the Stars and getting off on tax evasion. After that, no one knows these cats.

But we know Tony Stewart. He used to race in the Indy 500, get immediately on a plane heading to Charlotte, land and take a helicopter to Lowe's Motor Speedway in time for the Coca Cola 600.

Because of Indy's decision to start their race later, there is no way that Stewart can compete in both events. And that is a shame. While the Indy 500 holds more prestige, the Sprint Cup Points are just so much more valuable to Stewart.

NASCAR has star power now. Dale Earnhardt Jr is the face of the sport even though he isn't winning that much. People know who Jeff Gordon is. Who Jimmie Johnson is. Wouldn't allowing those Sprint Cup guys the ability to compete in the Indy 500 be beneficial?

I know it didn't happen a lot, but I loved the double-dippers. Not only did is show their ability to drive two different types of cars in two very different kinds of races, it also showed some of the most interesting feats in sport. How can a man sit in a tiny Indy car for three hours, then sit on a plane for about two hours, then a helicopter for a spell before sitting in a stock car for another three hours. Don't give me that crap about "all they do is sit down and steer" when driving one of those cars takes it out on you -- physically and mentally. I love it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cleveland Finally Gets Their Own "The Shot"

Cleveland sports fans, as we know, have had a hard time over the past four decades. No titles to speak of and some of the most heartbreaking dismissals in postseason history.

They've watched John Elway perform "The Drive" on them in the AFC Championship game. They've also watched the very next year "The Fumble" by Earnest Byner. They've had "The Blown Save" in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. And they famously have "The Shot" by Michael Jordan that happened just 20 years ago which, some Cavs fans believe, ended any possible run at their own dynasty.

But the Cleveland fans got theirs last night. LeBron's amazing three from the top of the arc all but saved the Cavs championship thoughts. If it rimmed out, the Cavs would be down 0-2 to the Magic. That meant that Cleveland would have to win 4 of the remaining 5 games with three of them being played in Disneytown.

There ya go Cavs fans!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Please Make Interleague Play Go Away

I've said it before on this blog and I guess with Interleague play starting back up today that I need to say it again. I'm not a huge fan of Interleague Play. It sucks.

With the rumblings that the majority of players hate it too, shouldn't baseball listen up? Well, of course they won't since the almighty dollar says it is a success!

I'm all for the rivalries. Keep the Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox, Dodgers-Angels, A's-Giants and so on and so forth. In fact, if you love Interleague play so much, why not have it every day???

Yeah, I want the MLB to move the Arizona Diamondbacks from the NL to the AL. Then move the Houston Astros to the NL West. There we have all six divisions with five teams in them. Of course, that will mean that both leagues will have 15 teams and that one of those teams will have to play an Interleague series.

I like it on so many levels. First off, it lets the rest of the country in on these regional rivalries. Everyone goes ga-ga over the Yankees-Mets, Dodgers-Angels and Cubs-White Sox series. So much so that it drowns out the Cards-Royals, Reds-Indians and Nationals-Orioles.

It isn't perfect, but these should be the only Interleague series:

Phillies-Blue Jays
Braves-Red Sox

Cubs-White Sox

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Could OKC Thunder Trade For the No. 1 Pick?

The Ft Worth Star-Telegram is putting a rumor out there that the Oklahoma City Thunder may try to move up to the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Currently, the Thunder hold the No. 3 pick. It is obvious that Blake Griffin ... who is from Oklahoma City and played at Oklahoma ... would be a huge marketing boom for the franchise.

But what would it take to land that pick? Obviously their No. 3 selection. Probably one of the young talents they currently have (Jeff Green? Russell Westbrook?). And probably one of those bad contracts the Clippers, owner of the top pick, has. Zach Randolph, Baron Davis and Chris Kaman all have horrible contracts that are mucking up the roster. If the Clips make the deal, then it would most likely wait until after the draft to see what they can get at No. 3 to complete the deal. If it's Ricky Rubio, I think Baron Davis gets traded back to OKC. If it is Hasheem Thabeet, then I think Kaman goes.

Of course, this assumes that the Clippers are even interested. Judging by their celebratory nature and near comfirmation that Griffin is their guy, I don't see them being very seriously interested. But if you are a good GM, you will listen to offers even if you are set in what you want to do.

I'm Glad to See Big Papi Finally Hit One Out

I don't really like the Boston Red Sox. I don't hate them either, but contrary to what people think, not everyone has to like either the Red Sox or Yankees.

That being said, I was glad to see David Ortiz finally connect and hit his first home run since last September 22. Ortiz is one of the good people in baseball and many people were hoping he could snap out of his slump.

While Ortiz was rounding the bases, the crowd at Fenway Park gave him a boisterous standing ovation. When Ortiz got to the dugout, his Red Sox teammates just sat there as if nothing happened ... then attacked Big Papi with hugs and pats on the back. It was quite a site to see.

Orlando's Win Is Bigger Than You Think

Orlando's Game 1 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers was huge. Here's why.

Cleveland lost just two games at home all season long. One of those games was the season finale against the 76ers when LeBron James, among others, didn't play. The other was against the LA Lakers. The fact that Orlando just went into Cleveland and stole a game and gain the homecourt advantage is huge.

Also, it ends the Cavs' invincibility. People were running around saying "fo-fo-fo" to the Finals. It still could be a "fo-fo-five", but this wasn't supposed to happen like this. The Cavs won all of their previous eight playoff games by at least 10 points.

Orlando knows they can beat Cleveland in Florida. The Magic won 99-88 and 116-87 in their two tussles in Orlando.

First off, forget this stat. In NBA playoff history, the winner of the first game of a best-of-seven series goes on to win 79% of the series. To me, that stat goes right up with the "teams that run the football more win games". In the NBA, the winner of Game 1 is usually the home team and the reason the team is playing at home is because they are the better squad. If the road team wins, they have the ability to win the two games in their building and own a 3-1 series lead.

As for the rushing thing, of course most teams that are winning late just run the football to kill clock.

Now, this could get like a fight where the bully gets hit in the mouth one good time before just demolishing their opponent. Still, Orlando knows they can get a punch in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NFL Should Let Michael Vick Play

Michael Vick was released from prison today to re-start his life. He will finish off the remainder of his sentence confined in his Virginia home. During this time, Vick will try to both build his life back up as well as take the steps needed to try to change it.

One of the things on Vick's mind will be trying to get back into the NFL. There will be a few teams that will take a chance on him whenever he's available. Commish Roger Goodell has been noncommital to what he will do about Vick. Will he suspend him once he's available? If so, for how long?

I think that no suspension should be in order. It's odd for me to say that since I like Goodell's stance on suspending guys who have off-field issues ... and no one in Goodell's era has had a worse off-field issue than Vick. Everything points to a suspension.

But the man has been out of the league for two full seasons, lost all his money and his earning power. To suspend him is only to delay his ability to get on with his life.

Trust me, I detest what Vick did. I am a dog lover and to think that anyone could possibly do that to dogs just sickens me. It really sickens me. But the man was punished and is fullfilling his sentence and paying his debt to society. And while his sentence will end soon, his punishment will continue as he will have to deal with the hatred that will come his way -- on or off the field. The man won't get a break on that for a long, long time and he will forever be tainted.

But he deserves a chance to make his new life as quickly as he can. The man has been completely broken and ... I agree with Goodell on this ... if he shows during his house confinement that he is working on being a better citizen and trying to right his wrongs then I don't see why Goodell wouldn't bring him back.

I just hope that Vick is truly sorry and willing to continue to change his life.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NBA Draft Lottery: Who Will Get to Be (Wrongly) Pressured to Take Blake Griffin No. 1

Everyone will be watching the NBA Draft Lottery tonight and whomever gets the No. 1 pick will be deemed the big winner of the night.

I disagree.

To me, the big winner will be the team picking No. 2. That team will be probably picking Ricky Rubio as their point guard of the future. I've been a Rubio guy for a couple years now (hat tip to SLAM Magazine for that). He's impressed the NBA guys he went up against and played with during the Olympics. He has a high basketball IQ, is big for a point guard and could be a Jason Kidd type guy.

The team picking No. 1 will be selecting Oklahoma's Blake Griffin. They have to. Everyone expects Griffin to be the top pick since he was the top player in college last year. He has an NBA-ready body and can contribute right away with his toughness and rebounding. I think Griffin will have a long career that won't be filled with frills.

All that may be attractive, but Rubio could be special.

All this harkens back two years ago when the Portland Trail Blazers had the top pick. They had to pick Greg Oden with the No. 1 pick because ... well ... everyone had his as the No. 1 pick in the previous two drafts if he was eligible. You couldn't be the idiot that passed on Oden? Right??

Going into that draft, most people felt that Kevin Durant was the best player in the draft. I was one of those. If I was Portland, I would have done the unpopular thing and draft Durant (trust me, this isn't hindsight at all). I thought that Oden could help out immediately with his defense and rebounding but Durant will be the more special player down the road. Right now, it seems that way.

Look, I understand taking the safe pick. It looks good to your fans and, in hindsight, you could say that any other team picking in that spot would have done the same thing. And ... more times than not ... it has worked out just fine. The outside-of-the-box No. 1 picks of Kwame Brown and Andres Bargnani haven't worked out as well.

John Wall Settles For Kentucky

John Wall is coming to Kentucky. Not only did I see this on ESPN this morning, several of my Kentucky lovin' friends decided to text me that bit of info. My response back has been "congrats, but all you did was beat out Miami-FL for him. So as a UNC fan ... thanks!"

Seriously. While we get to see Kentucky sometime early in the season, at least Wall isn't going to Miami or Duke and could actually affect our season. Now Duke is left without a true point guard and left looking a little bad for going after a guy that a lot of schools weren't sure was controversy-free.

Despite Wall being a diehard Tar Heel fan who lives in nearby Durham, Roy Williams wanted nothing to do with him. See, Wall has "handlers" who you have to talk to before you can get to Wall. He isn't the only prep player to have that, but Wall's are looking long-term. Most of those handlers are expecting to get compensated in a year when Wall bolts Kentucky for the NBA.

He also had that mild breaking and entering thing that happened a month ago. While it wasn't anything major, it really turned off several schools ... including North Carolina. Wall famously called Roy Williams to find out why they weren't recruiting him. The answer was that Williams deals with your high school coach and your parents -- not handlers. The B&E all but slammed the blue door. While I don't know if it's absolute, it does give Tar Heels that high-and-mighty position of "we didn't want him anyways." I'm gonna use it too!

Williams and the returning Heels started to pimp up supposed starting point guard Larry Drew II. Even Ty Lawson says that UNC will be more than fine with Drew running things. I hope they are right because this could be what keeps us from returning to a championship contender.

Please don't read that as me saying that we are better off without Wall. If UNC decided to bend their morals and recruit Wall, he'd be in Chapel Hill right now and the Heels would be a serious contender to repeat as champions.

As for the schools in the Wall Sweepstakes ...

KENTUCKY: Congrats. At least he isn't in the ACC!!! This is what the Wildcats faithful wanted we they hired John Calipari. This will be a program that is about winning over anything else. Unlike Roy Williams, Calipari doesn't have an issue bringing in guys with checkered pasts. He could make Kentucky the ol' Miami Football Canes of the hoops world.

MIAMI: Word was that Wall informally committed to Miami last week. So this is quite a downer. Still, you gotta love what Frank Haith and Miami are trying to do. They took an opportunity (Wall listed Miami but never really considered them until after he made his visit) and made the best of it. It didn't work right now, but it shows the commitment this program has to become elite in the ACC.

DUKE: They are the biggest losers in all of this. Duke really felt they had a chance at Wall. So much so that Coach K went against his usual stance of not going after those checkered players and not going after those one-and-dones. The fact that K swung and missed on this hurts because it bent the program's morals as well as letting another high profile recruit get away (and recently their second to Kentucky). Getting Wall in to Duke would have made the Blue Devils a title contender (especially if Gerald Henderson comes back).

Todd Helton Gets His 2,000th Hit ... Uh ... Maybe?

Todd Helton ripped a line drive past Yunel Escobar to get his 2,000th hit. Maybe. We're not sure yet.

That's because the official scorer in Atlanta ruled it an error on Escobar. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle plans on discussing the matter with the scorer and seeing if he can get it changed. That will mean Helton will get his 2,000th hit nearly an entire day after he swung the bat.

No one but the official scorer seems to think it was an error. The ball was just laced to short and one-hopped past Escobar and into center field. If Escobar made the play, it would have been extraordinary. The play was far from routine as Escobar never even touched the ball as it went past him.

Thanks, baseball, for another great moment just ruined.

I'm Not Feeling the New Monday Night Football Team

I like Jon Gruden and I think he may be the next coach at Notre Dame (if Urban Meyer doesn't get there first). I just don't like the idea of him being on the Monday Night Football crew.

Gruden will replace Tony Kornheiser on ESPN's broadcast on MNF. Kornheiser's fear of flying has all of the sudden become a major factor and he is stepping down. He was mocked more than pretty much everyone that has ever done MNF games ... with the exception of Dennis Miller. I didn't hate him like many of the other bloggers and fans, but I don't think I'll miss him either.

On to Gruden.

Gruden makes this a football nerd booth. Mike Tirico is very knowledgeable and does a great job calling the action. I love Ron Jaworski on the broadcast team. No one breaks down game film better than Jaws and his knowledge about what is actually going on out on the field is really a learning experience. I hesitate to place him in the same sentence as Hubie Brown (who can break down a basketball game better than anyone ever has) but Jaws is in the same area.

The good thing about Gruden is that it adds the element of what a coach is thinking. Gruden will be able to let us in on what a coach is looking at and planning. He also can be surprisingly engaging.

The bad thing is that he's not done this before, yet is going into one of the biggest jobs in sports television. His addition also means we will have more of a football analyzing crew instead of one that is entertaining to Joe Averagefan. Also, this could be just a one-year gig if Gruden finds a head coaching job somewhere.

I'm willing to give Gruden a chance. I reserve most of my judgement until I see the dynamic of the trio.

Baseball's Record Books Don't See Eye-to-Eye With Hall Of Fame

I'm one of those people that don't think the steroid players should be in the Hall Of Fame. Most should be there, but I think this is proper punishment for these cheaters.

So the baseball Hall Of Fame will be without some of the biggest names in history. Think about it.

The all-time hit king ... Pete Rose ... isn't in the Hall Of Fame because he bet on baseball. The all-time and single season home run king ... Barry Bonds ... is suspected of using steroids. Sammy Sosa, sixth all-time in home runs, is also suspected (so is Mark McGwire, the 8th place guy).

Rafael Palmeiro (10th), Alex Rodriguez (12th) and Manny Ramirez (17th) have been caught using roids. Bonds also is the all-time leader in walks.

Here is also an interesting note. The greatest single season home run seasons will be from guys who won't be in the Hall Of Fame. Bonds (73) has that roid scandal as well as McGwire (70, 65). Sammy Sosa (66, 64, 63) is suspected of using steroids, though there hasn't been any direct proof. So the best non-steroid aided season is still Roger Maris' 61 he hit in 1961. Remember that Maris isn't in the Hall.

Roger Clemens, who struck out more batter as an American League pitcher than anyone in history and who has two of the only three 20-strikeout games, is under federal investigation for lying about his use of steroids.

It is amazing to see how the two most important things to baseball may not coexist. The record books will say one thing while the Hall Of Fame will deem it fake.

Sportz NBA Conference Championship Picks

Okay. I got the Lakers vs Nuggets right. I also had the Cavs here. Little problem with the Celtics. But no worries, the series went 7 games, as I said.

On to the conference championships.

CAVALIERS OVER MAGIC (5 games): Cleveland has far and away been the best team in the postseason. They've played eight games and won them all by double-figures. LeBron James has been all by unstoppable. Orlando struggled a bit against the Sixers in the first round and were on the ropes against the Celtics. Despite being down 3-2 at one point, Orlando dominated that series. If they could actually finish games, this series would have started earlier. I still like Cleveland to win, but I see the steamroller running out of gas.

LAKERS OVER NUGGETS (7 games): Many people have fallen off the Lakers bandwagon and on the Nuggets. The Nuggets, in a series most noted for the crap going on outside the lines, ousted the Mavericks in five games. The Lakers just couldn't shake the pesky and injury-riddled Rockets. I'm not completely confident in this, but I'm going Lakers in 7. This series just reeks of going the distance. I think the Rockets may have helped LA learn a little about themselves. Let's see if the lesson carries over.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nick Hundley Ends 16th Inning Game and Allows Me to Sleep

Nick Hundley hit a two-out home run in the bottom of the 16th inning to give the San Diego Padres a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. And now I may sleep.

See, here in Cincinnati, it was 3:20 a.m. when the final run was scored. Thank God tomorrow is Sunday and I can sleep in.

It wasn't like I needed to watch the end of this game. But after rolling with it for all this time, you just had to keep watching. Especially once the Padres came back from being down 5-2 by scoring in the 7th and 8th and there were several times both teams had guys in scoring position.

The Reds were rolling until starter Edinson Volquez left mid-batter with back spasms in the 6th inning.

That's the thing about baseball and playoff hockey ... or any game my wife watches. You never know when you are going to be stuck with one that just keeps on going, and going, and going, and going ....

Friday, May 15, 2009

Red Sox Bench Big Papi

The Boston Red Sox are giving Big Papi a much needed break. The team has benched the one-time slugger for tonight's game against the Seattle Mariners. J.D. Drew moved up to the No. 3 spot in the order and Rocco Baldelli took the designated hitter assignment.

David Ortiz is having a horrendous season. It is mid-May and Big Papi is still looking for his first home run of the season. He is batting a paltry .208 with a .318 OPS.

Yesterday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County and California, Ortiz went 0-for-7 and left an astouding 12 runners on base (that was more than any team left on base on Thursday). He hasn't hit a home run since last September 22nd -- 144 at-bats ago.

This is a good move for the Red Sox and Ortiz. People around the team say that Ortiz is pressing. He's been getting a lot of heat, locally, as well as questions coming from the national media. There also has been some bubbling that the crackdown of steroids and PEDs may have caused this slump (I don't believe that).

Ortiz needs to get away for a game or two, and doing so way out in Seattle is the best time to do so. It won't get as much notice as it would at home or, really, against any team on the east coast. I hope Papi can get his stuff together and turn around this ugly slump.

Court Rules That Redskins Can Keep Their Trademark

The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Washington Redskins keeping their trademark. The appeals is just another part of a battle between the NFL team and a group of Native Americans that began in 1992.

The Redskins' defense is basically that they've spent gazillions of dollars on their trademark and would lose a ton of money if they were forced to change.

The judge made no mention about the use of the "Redskins" name or anything about using Native Americans as trademarks. The judge did say that the plaintiffs waited too long to file the challenge against the trademark that was issued in 1967. The plaintiffs have another case pending.

ACC Doesn't Care About NCAA's Fight Against the Confederate Flag

The NCAA will not place any of its post season events in the state of South Carolina. The state's capitol building has the Confederate flag waving above it and the NCAA has deemed that it won't place events in states that honor that flag.

That has meant that no NCAA Tournament pods, no bowl games, no other kinds of NCAA tournament events will take place in South Carolina. The NCAA has asked that the individual conferences follow their lead by not placing any of their events in the state, either.

The ACC has just said, "screw dat!"

The ACC has awarded the 2011, 2012 and 2013 baseball tournaments to Myrtle Beach. Their belief is that it is in the best interest for the conference as well as honoring the NCAAs wishes without punishing the entire state.

If you go to Myrtle Beach, you won't find those flags waving at the baseball stadium nor is it atop any of the city's government buildings. Myrtle Beach should be a very enticing site for ACC baseball fans to make the pilgrimage to and should help eliminate any kind of "home field advantage" for any team. The next two tournaments will be held in Durham and Greensboro, which will give the North Carolina teams a huge advantage.

The SEC did have their women's basketball tournament in Greenville, SC a few years back. But that was after Atlanta pulled out as a planned site.

Obviously, this has made a few people mad. Lonnie Randolph, South Carolina's president of the NAACP, says he will contact the ACC's offices to see why they came to this decision. I understand his concern, but it isn't like these NCAA bans have done anything to make removal of the hideous flag a reality.

In fact, what the ACC has done is bring this back to the forefront. Most people forgot that the NCAA had this ban and ... aside from local groups ... no one has put any pressure on the state. With the ACC tournament digging this back up, it could motivate more people to get outraged enough to demand the flag be taken down. It's giving them a taste of what the big life is if you went ahead and crossed out the flag.

Now THAT Is How You Have Some Game 7s!!!

The NHL disappointed on Wednesday night. With the evening all too itself, the Washington Ovechkins and Pittsburgh Crosbys had their sudden-death duel to see who moves on and whose season ends. We all knew that it was going to be great theatre.

Until the Pens went up 5-0 before closing out the game 6-2.

That sucks. But all we had to do was wait one more night to get that satisfaction. The Red Wings beat the Anaheim Ducks in a Game 7 when a goal was scored with just over 3 minutes remaining. The Ducks had just scored two unanswered goals to tie the game and nearly put this game into overtime. But the Daniel Cleary goal ended all that talk.

But that wasn't the best of the night. The Carolina Hurricanes, who once held a 3-1 series lead over the Boston Bruins, scored a goal with just over a minute left in overtime to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. What made this exciting was the way the final goal was scored. Just like everyone fears, a mistake made on a seemingly meaningless play allowed Scott Walker to poke in the game winner in front of a stunned Boston crowd.

So now we get a very interesting Final Four. The Cardiac Canes will take on the starry Penguins while the favored Red Wings take on their rival Blackhawks.

Let's hope both go seven!

Wayman Tisdale (1964 - 2009)

Former Oklahoma Sooner and NBAer Wayman Tisdale died today in Tulsa. Tisdale was just 44 years old and had lost his right leg last year after cancer was found in his bone. They only found it when Tisdale fell and broke his leg.

Some of you may be too young to remember how dominant Tisdale was at Oklahoma. He averaged 25.6 pts and 10.1 rbs during this three years in Norman and became the first freshman to be named to the All-American first team.

His NBA career wasn't as dynamic. He played 12 seasons for the Pacers, Kings and Suns before retiring retiring to concentrate on his music career.

As a Laker fan, I remember having to deal with Tisdale when he was with the Kings. He was a silky smooth as his jazz music.

Lakers Lack Heart Of a Champion

Fourteen years ago, then-Rockets (and future Lakers) head coach Rudy Tomjanovic reminded us to never underestimate the heart of a champion. Well, the 2009 Lakers won't be champions because they lack the heart.

For about a week, I've heard all the crap about the Lakers not having that killer instinct to win the title. How they couldn't stomp out a team when they were down.

I would then point back to the 2000 Lakers. They were trying to get their first championship and they had the same exact rap. They led the Sacramento Kings 2-0 in their first round series (then a best-of-five). The Kings handily beat the Lakers twice in Sacto only to get blown out of the gym in Game 5 by 27 points.

In the second round, the Lakers got a 3-0 lead on the Phoenix Suns. Then the Suns won Game 4 by 19 points. The Lakers would go on to end the series the very next game by winning by 22.

In the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers held a 3-1 series advantage over the Portland Trail Blazers. That's nearly impossible for Portland to overcome once you remember that the Lakers still had two home games. Yet, they choked away Games 5 and 6 ... and nearly Game 7. If not for a furious fourth-quarter comeback, Portland would have advanced to the Finals.

Even in the Finals, the Lakers struggled to finish off the Indiana Pacers. Holding a 3-1 lead in the Finals, the Lakers were blown out by 33 points in Game 5. The Lakers would come back home and finish the series off.

That Lakers team was 4-6 in games that they could eliminate their opponent. Think about that. They lost 6 times when they had the chance to end the series right then and there. Yet they still won a title.

The difference between then and 2009 is that I don't see this Lakers team having the hunger nor the heart to win a title. How in the heck does a Rockets team without Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady blow out the Lakers twice and force a Game 7? How? How?

The Chewbacca defense. It doesn't make sense. I love the Lakers, but the loss tonight to the Houston Rockets felt like the end of the series. LA still has a chance to go home on Sunday, win and advance to play the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. But does anyone have any faith that they will win?

I firmly believe that the Lakers will beat Houston on Sunday ... and the Rockets will have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. But how can you with any confidence believe that the Lakers can beat the blazing-hot Denver Nuggets in a seven game series?

It is ridiculous that this series has gotten this far. So, to me it is ridiculous to believe that the Lakers can beat the Nuggets ... let alone the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Remembering the 1985 Western Conference Finals (Nuggets-Lakers)

The Denver Nuggets have gotten to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1985. In that series, they lost to the LA Lakers, 4-1.

G1: Lakers 139-122
G2: Nuggets 136-114
G3: Lakers 136-118

G4: Lakers 120-116
G5: Lakers 153-109

As you can see, this series was high scoring and filled with blowouts.

Remember those Nuggets teams as those runnin' gunnin' freaks of nature. Just two years prior to their WCF showing, they (along with the Pistons) set the record for most points in a game. Doug Moe (UNC guy) wanted his team to push the ball, move the ball and shoot the ball as much as possible. His thinking was that the pace would wear out the opposition in the thin, Mile-High air.

McNichols Sports Arena was a bees nest. Alex English, Fat Lever, Bill Hanzlik, T.R. Dunn, Dan Issel, Calvin Natt and Danny Schayes. I still love those old Nuggets jerseys. The rainbow mountians backed by yellow numbers! Still the best jerseys in their history.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yay, NHL! We Get Three Game 7s!

Tonight we will be treated to the first of three Game 7s in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Of the four conference semifinals, only Chicago avoided this fate.

Tonight gets its own stage as Alex Ovechkin's Washington Capitals host Sidney Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins. The game's two biggest stars face off in a winner-take-all (well, winner-advances) contest. This is what the league wanted, maybe a round earlier than totally desired, and it has lived up to the hype.

Tomorrow night, we get two of these babies. The favored Red Wings get to face the 8th-seeded Anaheim Ducks in a Game 7. Again, the Wings are the heavy favorites to bring home the cup so a loss tomorrow would be a huge upset. Anaheim isn't scared of this at all. The Ducks already toppled the playoffs' top seed, San Jose Sharks.

Also, we get the less talked about Boston Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Bruins, despite all the Caps-Pens hype, are the East's top seed. And they've fought back from a 3-1 Canes series lead to get to this Game 7. It will be interesting to see how the Canes handle a must-win game.

Oh, yeah. We saw it in the last round when Carolina surprised the Devils in New Jersey with two late goals and the Game 7 win.

People Who Just Need to Go Away: Roger Clemens

Dear Roger,

Please go away. Just because you aren't relevant for the first time in over two decades, it doesn't mean you should just call into a radio show and start blasting on a book that no one had any idea was coming out.

There is a place where old roided players go. That place is wherever Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro went. They live in seclusion away from the game while we try to act like you never existed.

The thing is, Roger, we've all made our mind up about you. Unless there is some new, jaw-dropping evidence one way or the other, we all either think you did or didn't use steroids/P.E.Ds. Again, only concrete evidence that you didn't do anything will change my mind. I does no good to come out from the wilderness to reiterate that you didn't do anything wrong.

I will say one thing: you are persistent. Many fans and media say, "if I was called out for using steroids and I didn't do it ... I'd be telling everyone who would listen that it is completely false!" You are actually doing that, Rog. It's nearly Pete Rose-esque.

Good luck with that.

-Sportz Assassin

How the ACC Should Create 18-Game Schedule

Hey ... there's a dead horse here that I'm about to beat.

Okay, if the ACC is going to an 18-game schedule then here is how I'd like it to be. Right now, each ACC team has two dance partners that they play twice each year. Under the 18-game format, each team should have three partners. Below are who I believe the partners should be (the first two are current; the last one is my guess):

Boston College: Miami, Va Tech ... Florida St
Clemson: Georgia Tech, Florida St ... Virginia
Duke: UNC, Maryland ... NC State
Florida State: Miami, Clemson ... Boston College
Georgia Tech: Clemson, Wake Forest ... Miami
Maryland: Duke, Virginia ... Va Tech
Miami: Boston College, Florida St ... Georgia Tech
North Carolina: Duke, NC State ... Wake Forest
NC State: UNC, Wake Forest ... Duke
Virginia: Va Tech, Maryland ... Clemson
Virginia Tech: Virginia, Boston College ... Maryland
Wake Forest: NC State, Georgia Tech ... UNC

Tim Floyd - $1,000 = O.J. Mayo

The story that USC head basketball coach Tim Floyd loves to tell is how O.J. Mayo came to Los Angeles. Little ol' Timmy was just sitting in his office when Mayo calls and tells him he doesn't want to be part of tradition at one of those big schools; he wants to forge his own at a non-basketball power.

Well, now it seems that Mayo might have been nudged towards USC when Floyd paid Mayo's handler $1,000.
Louis Johnson, the former associate of Mayo's, told the Web site that Rodney Guillory told him that Floyd had given Guillory "a grand." Johnson said he was able to view $100 bills inside an envelope Guillory had.
The story goes that Johnson drove Guillory to a cafe to meet Floyd. When Johnson came back to pick him up, Guillory showed him the money.

If this is true, then that is a major rules violation. From what the buzz is, the NCAA is ready to drop the hammer on the Trojans. They have already been investigating the whole Reggie Bush thing and they've been looking at this Mayo stuff since the NBA season began.

Of course, who knows if any of this is true. When dealing with seedy things like this, you are having to figure out which of the seedy characters you can actually believe. But if there is any fire behind this smoke, look out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ACC Doesn't Need Basketball Divisions

I'm kind of on the fence about the ACC expanding to an 18-game hoops season. I'm not on the fence about the ACC going into a divisional format.

I hate the idea.

The ACC was perfect five years ago. Then, we had nine teams that all played each other twice. The ACC tournament was flawless (aside from the crappy No. 8 vs No. 9 game on Thursday night and the NCAA knew exactly how the conference's hierarchy lied. There wasn't any guessing if the 5th place team really was better than the 6th.

But we are stuck with what we have now. The ACC is a 12-team league with an unbalanced schedule and a crappy football championship game.

But going to a divisional format in basketball is just plain stupid. The Big XII did away with it very quickly. So did the Atlantic 10 and Big East. The SEC should. I only think it works in smaller conferences where there are travel issues. The ACC, aside from BC and Miami, is really quick compacted. I mean, quite a few games are traveled by a bus.

First off, how would a divisional format be set up? Like the football divisions? Unless it is football season, I still couldn't tell you who was in the Atlantic and Coastal divisions. I'm a sports nut and I have no idea. Setting it up like that would be silly.

Also, it would put UNC and Duke in the same division. That would almost kill off the hopes of anyone else in the division since those two have dominated for so long. It would also give the other division a great chance to make something out of their seasons by by-passing the Heels and Blue Devils.

If you put those two in seperate divisions, then you set up a whole new set of problems. One, the divisions for football and basketball would be different unless they realigned football. That's confusing as hell and wouldn't help anything. Television partners (and fans) would demand that UNC and Duke play twice each year which would be unfair to UNC and Duke. Why should they have a tougher schedule than the teams in their division? You still didn't solve the unbalanced schedule.

And there is no way in heck that anyone will accept only one UNC-Duke game. That's the bread and butter of the ACC and to kill that off would kill off much of the league's identity.

To the people who make these decisions ... we don't like it. Sure, we didn't like expansion either but we understood the point. We don't understand this one.

To me, if you are going to expand to an 18-game schedule, then you should have every team have three "dance partners". Right now UNC has Duke and NC State in which they play twice each year. Add in Wake Forest. For the remaining 12 games, you play half of the rest of the league twice (4 teams) and the other half once (4 teams). Then rotate them from year to year.

Other than that ... stop screwing with our league!!!

We Need More UNC and Duke! ACC May Go to 18-Game Schedule

The ACC is looking at going to an 18-game basketball schedule. To be honest, I don't know how I feel about it.

For one, there is already too much change going on in the conference. The additions of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College has been good for basketball but it took away the coveted round robin effect of the regular season. Now and ACC team plays two opponents twice every year, three opponents twice in a three year rotation and the other six teams they play just once.

All the 18-game season will do to help that (which I sort-of like) is add two more round robin games so that only four teams you will play just once.

Still, this all kind of stinks. The ACC season already seems like a grind. It has been a 16-game slate since 1991 and it was easy to keep track of. Now with the league expanding from Boston to Miami (instead of Washington DC to Tallahassee), the league seems packed.

The ACC and the television partners want this because of what I call the "UNC/Duke factor". Any conference game that UNC or Duke plays ... regardless of the opponent ... gets good ratings. Pretty much all conference games that they don't play in fall well short. That's true on ESPN, CBS, ABC or even local affiliates.

With an 18-game season, the conference is getting two more UNC games and two more Duke games. Yeah, they are also getting 20 more games from other teams ... but all that does is help extend the TV package another week.

One big cry by coaches is that it will kill the non-conference schedule. I don't really believe it. Yes, it could affect UNC and Duke and how they schedule a smidge ... but will it really hurt the non-con skeddies of Clemson, Virginia Tech or NC State (three schools who notoriously pad their non conference schedules with cupcakes)?

I guess I'll like it. At the very least, I'll be forced to like it.

"Big Baby" Is Up Against a Big Baby

You have all seen it by now. The Boston Celtics Glen "Big Baby" Davis hit a game-winning shot against the Orlando Magic and in his follow-thru/celebration, he bumped into a kid standing baseline.

Now the dad of the kid (by the way, the dad didn't see it as it happened) demands an apology from the Celtics and Davis.

Who's the big baby?

This was Glen Davis' biggest shot in his young career. Before that shot, Davis' most remembered career moment was him crying on the bench after Kevin Garnett reemed him. Davis, on a team with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, just hit a shot that pretty much kept Boston's season realistically alive. A 2-2 series is a lot different than a 1-3 series.

The kid was standing courtside. Not sitting. The kid was less than a foot away from the field of play. Sometimes people get bumped, stepped on or even run over. Remember those funny moments when Shaq stumbles into the stands as he dives for a loose ball? Or Kobe Bryant giving high fives to fans after he hits a big shot.

The dad is wrong in this situation. You and your kid paid for those tickets because you wanted to be so close to the action that you could touch it. You got up out of your seats (despite the fact that you were in the first row and didn't need to do so) waving towels. He's lucky that Davis didn't just bowl over his kid instead of nudging him.

Colin Cowherd said something during his radio show this morning. This dad may screw you over. Because of this complaint, NBA teams may actually consider moving the stands away from the court. Some arenas (I remember the old Charlotte Coliseum did so) have the "front row" behind the benches. Of course, teams don't want to do this because it costs them money, but they will look at it if this complaint goes any further.

I don't think it will. For one thing, the dad even said he didn't want to incite this. Another is the fact that I haven't seen anyone actually agree with his stance. Other fans have even said that having courtside seats comes with the responsibility and the understanding that the white lines aren't magical boundaries that create a forcefield between you and the court. Just like a foul ball or stray puck going into the stands (or even broken glass and bats), basketball fans must know that the basketball and the players fighting for it will sometimes wonder into your domain.

Hopefully Davis will defuse the situation by sending the kid an autographed jersey, ball or something that will say "my bad." But he doesn't owe them anything.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

'LandShark Stadium' Is Just a One-Year Thing

If you remember, earlier this month I touched on the Miami Dolphins selling the naming rights to their stadium to Land Shark Lager. The brew, partly owned by Jimmy Buffett, is getting its name on the big stage.

The only thing is that this is just a one-year thing. The "Dolphins' LandShark Stadium" will last through the regular season and playoffs. The deal ends just before the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl ... which are to be held in the stadium.

This is either brilliant or stupid. I'm leaning towards the latter. Just because you name your arena/stadium something doesn't guarantee that everyone will know it. Quick! Name the arena the Boston Celtics play in? Most of you do as I do and refer to it as the Boston Garden. Doing one year deals will confuse everyone even more and will actually decrease the value of any stadium rights.

The buzz is that the Phins cannot secure a long-term partner for the naming rights due to the tough economic times. Aside from the official naming of the stadium, everyone will refer to it as Dolphin Stadium.

The buzz also is that the Phins may be doing this to cater to Buffett. Buffett will perform several shows at the newly renamed stadium and they would like to bring him on as a minority owner.

Of course, it could be quite a trend setter. With the economy like it is, it might be best just to make deals in the short term. After all, how many stadium names have changed due to bankruptcies and takeovers? How'd that Enron deal work out in Houston? Or the First Union ... I mean Wachovia ... or is it Wells Fargo Spectrum in Philly?

I look at it like the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl will always be the Rose Bowl. But they sell some of the naming rights by saying "Rose Bowl presented by AT&T". Maybe we will see that elsewhere. Maybe we will have Cowboys Stadium presented by Nike.

Yeah, that will hurt any long term deals but it could make the short term ones a bit more lucrative.

This will be closely watched but, ultimately, just a flash in the pan. I don't see this catching on.

Sportz Off-Topic: My Favorite "In Living Color" Characters

Another blog got me wondering what my favorite characters from "In Living Color" were.

1-Grandpa Jack: Pork and beans!!!

2-The Brothers Bros.: From their song to their quirks, I don't give a gosh darn do-hickey if you don't agree!

3-Men On Film: One of the best reacurring skits. I loved the way Damon Wayans pushed the envelope each time.

4-Wanda: The first several appearances were awesome (though it did get a little played when they were banking on it). The blind date is my favorite.

5-Frenchie: Au contraire, mon derrierre!

6-Dirty Dozens Contestants: Whether it was Jamie Foxx or Tommy Davidson telling me about my teeth looking like the extract from a domesticated bovine, the Dozens was improved and mostly funny.

7-Obnoxious Gay Guy: Jim Carrey played the guy who just had to tell everyone he was gay. Well, until another gay man approached him. Only two sketches (party and fast food joint) but it did feature Carrey saying "alright-y then!"

8-Mike Tyson: This was the one that I lived for during the early years. His appearance on the Tonight Show as well as Love Connection were classic.

9-Kurt Swanson: Who? That environmentalist that Jim Carrey played. I'm so mad that I can scratch your eyes out!

10-Tiny: Not so much a character that skits were based on, but David Alan Grier's dumb convict who likes "big breasteses" always made me laugh.

11-Clavelle and Howard Tibbs III: All you need to know is BAM!!! The "Oh Knats" skit was awesome.

12-Anton Jackson: I just loved his vulgarness and still use the "pick your seat" joke from time to time.

13-Hey Mon!: Our favorite Jamaican family with 304 jobs.

14-Vera de Milo: Sometimes disgusting, always hilarious. Gotta get a buff-neck!

15-Dickie Peterson: Woodchuck to Grey Squirrel. I'm comin' home!

Hat tip:

NBA's Refs Are Getting Out of Hand

The story of the 2009 NBA Playoffs hasn't been LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. It's been Stu Jackson and the referees.

If it isn't retroactive flagrant fouls or premature ejections, now they are flat out missing game-deciding calls. Today, the Dallas Mavericks got hosed when the refs decided not to blow the whistle when the Mavs were intentionally trying to foul Carmelo Anthony. Melo promptly nailed a game winning three which set the Mavs in a frenzy.

The NBA decided to say that the refs missed this one. Well, I'm pretty sure that will make Mark Cuban and his Maverick players a little happier, eh?

This comes after the refs have been prematurely tossing players out of games. When Ron Artest gets thrown out not once ... but twice ... when he shouldn't have, we have problems. Artest got ran after confronting Kobe Bryant after the infamous elbow (more on that later) in Game 2 and then for a bogus flagrant 2 foul in Game 3.

The NBA downgraded Artest's foul from a flagrant 2 to a flagrant 1. Again, that doesn't get Artest back on the floor for the remainder of Game 3.

And while we are speaking about elbows, the NBA has been full of them. And they've all gotten different answers. Dwight Howard got suspended for his elbow to Samuel Dalembert's head. Kendrick Perkins will not be suspended for doing the same thing to Mickael Pietrus. Kobe wasn't suspended for his elbow to Artest.

I do get why. Howard's elbow was after a play and was excessive and unnecessary. Both Perkins and Bryant did theirs during a play. Bryant was fighting for a rebound. Perkins was fighting through a pick. But then, so was Derek Fisher when he got a suspension for bowling over Luis Scola.

The playoffs have turned into Old Time Pottery. You go in there trying to find what you are looking for by praying that you don't bump into anything and break it.

Right now, I'm watching the playoffs and wondering if someone's gonna do something stupid. I'm even more scared that the refs see something stupid that isn't there. These games are too important to screw up. The Dallas Mavericks just had their heart ripped out by a missed (non) call. The Rockets don't understand why Kobe wasn't suspended, but Artest keeps getting thrown out of games. I don't understand why either, especially when nothing happened when Rajon Rondo slapped Brad Miller in the face.

Phil Jackson said what we all think. We all just want consistency. Sorry, but to me that missed call at the end of the Mavs/Nuggets game was more flagrant than any foul committed.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Who Needs Point Guards? Lakers and Magic Take Series Leads

Heading into the night, much of the chatter going around the NBA playoffs was about who wasn't going to be playing. The Lakers played without point guard Derek Fisher due to a suspension handed out after his body check of Luis Scola in Game 2. The Magic played without point guard Raefer Alston, who was suspended for this Game 2 slapping of Eddie House.

Both Los Angeles and Orlando were without their starting point guards in their respective Game 3s. So it makes perfect sense that both teams would end up winning and taking 2-1 leads in their series.

The Magic got solid contributions from fill-in starter Anthony Johnson and their stars, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. The Lakers rode another brilliant game by Kobe Bryant and fill-in starter Jordan Farmar.

Now both teams have a chance at taking control of their series with a Game 4 win on Sunday.

Friday, May 8, 2009

What to Look For In Tonight's Lakers-Rockets Game 3

Yesterday started with everyone talking about the physical Lakers-Rockets Game 2. That is until Manny Ramirez, Brett Favre, Dirk Nowitzki's fiance and the Arizona Diamondbacks pushed all that to the side.

So what about Game 3? What can we expect when these two teams meet up tonight for the first time since all the controversy?

YAO/PAU: Playoff series are filled with adjustments. The Lakers made the biggest adjustment so far by benching Andrew Bynum and starting Lamar Odom. That meant Yao Ming had to guard Pau Gasol and it obviously tired him out. Gasol has a very diverse game and it made Ming have to chase him around. I'm one of those people that believe the best way to defend Yao is to run him to death. Then he starts reaching in, getting to ballhandlers late and it seems to effect his intensity on the offensive end. Will the Rockets make a counter adjustment to this?

NO FISH-Y PLAY: After all the drama, the only person that won't be in uniform tonight is Derek Fisher. The debate is if that hit was a good or bad thing. We'll find out. The good part is that it showed Houston that the Lakers weren't backing down. The bad part is that the toughness that Fisher brings will be missing. That forces Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown to take over for Fish in dealing with the ultra-quick Aaron Brooks.

KOBE'S SHOTS FALLING: To me, a big difference between Games 1 and 2 is that Kobe Bryant's shot was falling. Shane Battier said it best when he suggested that Kobe got the exact same shots in both games but they were going in on Wednesday. One of the key stats to look at is Kobe's shots-to-points average.

THE REFEREES: One thing that you know the refs will do tonight is try to establish some peace right off the bat. They may call the game tight right off the back (eventually easing off) which could change a lot of gameplanning. Somebody is gonna pick up two or three quick ones and be forced to the bench.

RON ARTEST: I'm one of those people who though Artest got a bad rap in Game 2. He gets called for a foul when the league says Kobe flagrantly fouled him. He then gets tossed after arguing with Bryant. It will be interested to see Artest's approach tonight with his home crowd behind him. I think he will be assertive on both ends of the court. Remember the last time these two did the Texas two-step was when he and Kobe decided to chat all game long.

ROLE PLAYAS: Like always, the unknown is the role guys. The Lakers will be relying on theirs a bit more since Derek Fisher is sitting. It is widely believed that role guys play better at home, which means the Rockets should get an added boost. Someone is going to surprise and someone is going to disappear. The fun part is figuring out who that will be.

ROAD WARRIORS: The thing is that the Lakers are the NBA's best road team. LA went an amazing 29-12 ... including 2-0 in Houston.

Rick Pitino to Sacramento?

We may not get that Rick Pitino-John Calipari rivalry after all.

Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Pitino is interested in the Sacramento Kings head coaching job. The Maloofs (who own the Kings) told Yahoo! that they haven't contacted him. But the word is that Pitino may throw his hat in the ring.

Amazing. Remember that Pitino's last foray into the NBA ended with a colossal flop with the Boston Celtics. I always hate it when college coaches head to the NBA, but I understand. Much more money, no recruiting and less rules you must abide by. You coach men who you don't have to supervise 24/7.

Also remember that Pitino has been dealing with an extortion case, his son leaving Louisville for Florida and rival Kentucky landing a big fish in Calipari.

The Kings fired Reggie Theus during this past season. Theus was an assistant for Pitino at Louisville.

I hope it happens just so I can hear Pitino say, "Oscar Robertson is not walking through that door. Tiny Archibald isn't walking through that door. Doug Christie isn't coming through that door."

UPDATE: The University of Louisville has come out to say that Pitino isn't going anywhere.

Kid on Message Board Threatens to Kill Ovechkin

Pittsburgh police and the NHL are investigating a threat made against Alexander Ovechkin. A 17-year old boy posted on a Penguins fan site that "I'm killing Ovechkin. I'll go to jail. I don't care anymore."

Needless to say, Ovie has added security for the Caps-Pens Game 4 in Pittsburgh.

Apparently the threat was made the afternoon before Wednesday's Game 3. Ovechkin scored his fifth goal of the series in that game, but the Capitals lost, 3-2 in OT.

The post was made on the Penguins official site. Police are questioning a teenager from Chambersburg, PA. His name hasn't been released because he's a minor.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Brett Favre Won't Be a Viking; National Crisis Over

Let me start with this. Brett Favre may have been bent that Manny Ramirez knocked him off the front page today. So it makes sense that he made his own news by announcing that he WAS NOT returning to the NFL.

Yeah, there are reports that Favre told the Vikings that he wants to stay retired and will publically state so.

So, does this bring any finality to any of this? In a word: no.

We've been down this road before. Who's to say that this won't dust up again once training camp starts? As the last season gets further away and the upcoming season approaches, don't you think Favre won't have his name out there again?

Yes, Men Can Be Prescribed Women's Fertility Pills

Now word has come out that Manny Ramirez tested positive for human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). It is similar to clomid, which is what Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi were linked to. It is used as a women's fertility drug but is also used by steroid users to assist whatever performance enhancing drug they were taking.

So now people are wondering how a doctor could prescribe this to a man. I know. Cuz I take it.

Well, I use clomid. Clomid is also prescribed to men to boost up low testosterone levels. My wife and I are trying to have our first child and clomid ups my sperm count considerably. Yes, I knew it acts as a sort of steroid and I have some of the side effects (mainly the acne and some weight gain).

And if you knew me, you'd no that I would never use clomid as anything other than the reason I was prescribed it.

Now, this isn't to say if Manny was using this for fertility reasons or for performance enhancing reasons. Not that I'm being naive, but I can give some credence that he may have obtained it as a fertility drug. I mean, you do get it for a "personal medical reason" that is sort of embarrassing to talk about.

What makes me dismiss all of that is the fact that everyone in baseball knows that clomid is banned and that any doctor of Manny's should have warned him that this could be against the league's list of banned substances.

I just wanted to post this so people did know that things like HCG can be prescribed to men for purposes other than P.E.Ds.

Manny Ramirez Suspended 50 Games For Testing Positive For Banned Substance

Major League Baseball has suspended Manny Ramirez 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance. This is according to the LA Times.

Not much is known at this point and more should come out as the day goes on. Again, it isn't known if its steroids ... but the LA Times source says that Manny is expected to blame medication that a doctor gave him. Ya know, that old chestnut.

What is known is that this is yet another black eye for baseball. You have, arguably, the top two hitters right now caught doing banned substances. And while Manny shuffles off for a couple months, Alex Rodriguez is set to step right back in.

The only good thing about it is that the testing baseball uses can work, once.

UPDATE: Here is Man-Ram's statement to the media:

"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me," Ramirez said. "Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now.

"I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to [Dodgers owner Frank] McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, [manager Joe] Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation."

20 Years Since "Shot Over Ehlo ... Good!"

Hard to believe that it has been 20 years since Michael Jordan hit a shot over Cleveland's Craig Ehlo to win a deciding Game 5 of the first round of the 1989 playoffs.