Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mike D'Antoni Could Be ... BACK As Lakers Coach?

I read this report yesterday and was a bit floored.  For the last two months, it was nearly assumed that D'Antoni was as good as fired from the Lakers (editors note: I am a Lakers fan) when the season ended.  Heck, D'Antoni was even flirting with the Marshall University head coaching gig!

Now there is buzz that D'Antoni will be back?


The Lakers just went through their worst season since moving to California.  A team that won the second of back-to-back NBA titles five years ago finished with a 27-55 mark.  The Lakers will be in the lottery for just the 3rd time ever (Eddie Jones and Andrew Bynum were their lottery picks).  The last head coach, Mike Brown, was fired just five games into the 2012-13 season after getting off to an 0-5 start.  Yet D'Antoni could keep his job?

In D'Antoni's defense, he was left with basically nothing to work with since he's taken over the Lakers.  When he took over for Brown in 2012, he inherited a roster that wasn't built for his style of play and was completely different than the style Brown employed during his 87 games at the helm.  He took over that Lakers team (again, that started 0-5) and got them into the playoffs as a No. 7 seed, where they were quickly exterminated by the San Antonio Spurs.

Remember that towards to end of that season, Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles.  That injury limited him to just six very poor games this past season.  That, plus injuries all over the roster really hindered D'Antoni from anything close to a fair shot.  Steve Nash essentially missed the entire season.  Pau Gasol, Nic Young, Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry and Steve Blake all missed significant time with injuries.  Wesley Johnson led the team in games played with 79.

Plus you need to factor in that this was sort of a lame duck season for the Lakers anyway.  They were pointing to this year's (and possibly next year's) free agent and draft class as a way to infuse talent into their roster.  The Lakers were one of the worst cap offenders and with the penalties added in to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Lakers had to get their financial house in order.  That led to a roster filled with draft busts, D-League players and guys who could be had on the cheap.  The hope was that Kobe could come back at some point, Nash would be serviceable and Gasol figured out his role in D'Antoni's offense and could make a run.  If not?  Well, this was a cheap roster with short-term contracts anyway and they were trying to go after a LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love or Chris Bosh via free agency and draft a Julius Randle or Andrew Wiggins with a high draft pick.  While it wasn't a complete roster upheaval like the Boston Celtics did, it wasn't really fair to D'Antoni's job status.

To be honest, D'Antoni really didn't do that bad of a job with the Lakers.  Wesley Johnson, a guy who hadn't done much of anything in his short time in the NBA, started 62 games for the Lakers.  Yeah.  Jodie Meeks led the Lakers with 70 starts.  Kendall Marshall, who was trolling around the D-League at the beginning of the season after being dumped after his first year in the NBA, started 45 games for the Lakers at point guard.  Jordan Hill (32), Ryan Kelly (25), Kent Bazemore (15),  Robert Sacre (13) and Chris Kaman (13) all started a bunch.  That led to very inadequate starting lineups as well as pretty much a different starting lineup each game.  Sixteen different players started for the Lakers this season.

With all of that and finishing with 27 wins in that awesome Western Conference is quite impressive if you think about it.  The Utah Jazz were the only team to finish with a worse record in the conference and they have a better roster.

Of course, that's really giving D'Antoni a break.

The dark side has the Lakers fanbase, who never really liked the hiring back in 2012, pretty upset with the direction of a franchise that is being led by the rather unpopular Jim Buss.  Laker fans understood that this was the lame duck season and that the summer of '14 was being pointed to as the time when the Lakers reloaded.  Since that doesn't look like it will be the case (right now, it looks as if the plan is to snag Kevin Love in the summer of 2015), the Laker fans may not really be interested in shelling out more big money for another season of D-League All-Stars, even if Kobe Bryant does return.

And what will return?  Kobe has a two year contract that keeps him as the League's highest paid player and he seems not to be interested in wasting another one as a bottom feeder.  Steve Nash maybe should retire with his horrible legs, but probably won't.  Pau Gasol is a free agent who could be receptive to re-signing, but makes no secret of his dislike of D'Antoni.  Nearly everyone else's contract expires and the roster will be overhauled again with one-year deals.

Seriously.  This roster next season is made up of an old Kobe Bryant coming off an Achilles injury, an old Steve Nash (he's the NBA's oldest active player) who is coming off two seasons of injury, Kendall Marshall, Robert Sacre and the 6th pick in the NBA Draft.  Nic Young has a player option and could be back, as could last year's 2nd round pick Ryan Kelly.

If this was nearly any other franchise, this makes sense as the Lakers will most likely head into another season of "tank mode" in trying to clear up cap space and stay out of the luxury tax jail they've been in for several years.  In doing so, it would make sense to hang on to the coach you are already paying instead of trying to find a new one (while you're paying the old one) to take over an unknown roster.

D'Antoni coaches this year and whatever happens, happens.  The team is good, bad, whatever.  They will have a season of Kobe Bryant coming back and getting playing time for that high draft pick.  Steve Nash's contract is off the books in 2015 and, if Kobe Bryant thinks he's had enough of this, could retire at the end of the season leaving more cap space.  The Lakers can then do what they have to and rebuild the roster then find the guy they want to coach it.

Yeah, that's a lot of unknown for a franchise that has historically been able to just trade for (Kareem Abdul Jabbar), sign (Shaquille O'Neal) or draft (Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kobe Bryant) their next superstar whenever they need it to happen.

Golden State Warriors Could Get A Name Change

When the team moves to San Francisco,
should the name change as well?
The Golden State Warriors may be the latest NBA team to have a name change.  We had the New Orleans Hornets turn into the New Orleans Pelicans this season.  Next year, we will see the Charlotte Bobcats turn into the Charlotte Hornets.

The Warriors are contemplating their own name change.  Except they will keep the Warriors nickname.

With the upcoming move to a state-of-the-art arena in San Francisco for the 2018-19 season, the Warriors are toying with the idea of renaming themselves the San Francisco Warriors.

That was the team's name from 1962 to 1971 when the franchise moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco.  During that time, the Warriors bounced around to various arenas in the Bay Area before settling into their current arena in 1971.  With that, the team was renamed the Golden State Warriors.  It has been that name since, and while I prefer the name "Bay Area Warriors", the Golden State moniker is one of the most unique in sports.  Changing it to San Francisco Warriors could be risky.

Should this happen?  I say no.

Two things about the name: one is that it is kind of cool.  Usually you have a city name like most teams have.  If not, usually the state is the way to go (like Colorado Rockies, Utah Jazz, Arizona Diamondbacks, etc).  Even more rare is a geographical identity.

Among the four major sports leagues, you have the New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Golden State Warriors.  It is different and, like those other names, allows for pride for an entire region.  Even if the team moves to another city in the Bay, it is still the region's team.

On the other side, you don't want to change the name because it may peeve off your fan base.  The team's move to San Francisco is actually an unpopular one.  The team has resided in Oakland for over 40 years and the citizens feel like the team is abandoning them.  Though it will still be in the Bay Area, the Warriors will be in an entirely different city.  This is big for Oaklanders who could also see their Raiders and Athletics teams move soon from their horrible stadium.

Leaving the city of Oakland is one thing, but abandoning them with a name change to San Francisco over Golden State would really sting.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Blake Griffin Should Be Suspended For Water Incident

To me, this is unreal. Yeah, it is partially funny just because it would be cool to do that to a buddy or something and we've all had that feeling about someone bugging you.  But for an NBA player ... playing at home ... to act like that is quite shocking.

Blake Griffin should be suspended.

If Griffin confronted a fan and pushed him, he'd be suspended.  If he threw a towel at a fan, he'd be suspended.  Well, he dumped water all over the fan and then flipped the cup directly at him.

It was definitely on purpose.  Not only did he size up the fan, he dumped water all over him and then tosses the cup at him.  Not even bothering to look in the cup to see if it had anything in it.

Suspend him.

Hack-a-Howard? Fouling Up Three? We Just Saw Both Strategies Work

Every NBA playoff series has had their first game done and we've seen five road teams win that game.  That may be the lead on the postseason thus far, but underneath it all is two unpopular strategies showing that they really work.

The first one is Hack-a-Bad-Foul-Shooter.  In this instance, it is Dwight Howard who got the treatment.  The Portland Trail Blazers trailed by 10 points with 4:30 left in the 4th quarter when they decided to Hack-a-Howard.  For the uninitiated, that means they just go ahead and foul Howard with the sole purpose to send him to the free throw line instead of having the Rockets run any offense.  Howard made his first two shots before missing his next four.  Eventually head coach Kevin McHale sat Howard to keep the Blazers from employing the strategy which means that the Rockets took one of their best players off the floor in crunch time.

The Blazers would go on an 11-0 run and send the game into overtime ... then eventually win the game.

In the postgame presser, Howard said that it "wasn't the reason [the Blazers] won the game."  Uh, yes it was.  It totally changed the game.  Not only did it nearly guarantee the Rockets suffered empty possessions, it kept the ball out of James Harden's hands, it disrupted all of Houston's offensive rhythm, it allowed the Blazers to rest a bit and plan their offensive attack and it eventually led the Rockets to put Howard on the bench.

It worked.  I know coaches don't like to do that and it is really bad for fans to watch but it worked.  Right now the Blazers stole a game in Houston and has the home court advantage.

Over in Los Angeles, another one of those coaching conundrums happened in the Clippers' loss to the Warriors.  The Warriors were up three points with mere seconds left in the game and the Clips with the ball.  Golden State head coach Mark Jackson elected to intentionally foul Chris Paul, making him shoot two free throws and denying him a chance at shooting a three pointer to tie the game.

Paul missed both free throws.  Even if he did hit both, the Warriors would still have the lead and the ball.

Golden State would hold on for the win.

I know coaches don't like to do either ploy.  They want to believe that playing defense and making the other team beat you is the way to go.  Well, your job is to win playoff games and they are so precious that no matter how you get them, you do it.

Ranking My Favorite Pro Sports Franchise That Lack The "S"

I'm not a big fan of pro sports nicknames that don't end in an "s".  I don't like those spiffy names like the MLS does and have the Crew, Fire, Impact, Galaxy and several others.  I can work in college (Fighting Irish, Orange, Minutemen, Wolfpack) but I'm just not a fan of it in my major pro sports.

There are nine teams who fall under this umbrella in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL.  The NFL actually has zero teams who don't have an "s" ending their name (only the Providence Steam Roller of the 1920s qualify) but the NBA has four.  Let me rank which ones bother me the most and the ones I actually like.


There are several reasons why I hate this.  First off, thunder isn't scary.  Yes, it is loud and can scare you in a "boo" kind of way, but there isn't much more to it.  Plus, when the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and turned into the Thunder, it took away one of the best nicknames in sports and replaced it with a rushed one (the logo is equally bad).  I know that the Thunder team is good and Kevin Durant is the cat's pajamas but that doesn't exempt their team from having a bad nickname.  The "Thunderbirds" would have been a better option.


More weather naming.  At least lightning is pretty scary and Tampa is the lightning capital of the world, I guess.  Still, it is a really bad name when you try to nickname the nickname.  The "Ning"?  Really?  The Bolts?  Well, that makes me think of the San Diego Chargers which does the whole lightning thing better.  Their blue lightning logo isn't horrible, but it isn't that great either.


Let's get this out of the way: the Utah Jazz sounds funny because you don't think of jazz in Utah very often.  We all know that the New Orleans Jazz (sounds great) moved to Salt Lake City and kept the nickname.  That has happened a lot and why we have Los Angeles Lakers and the like.  Who cares.  But the Jazz nickname is snazzy although misplaced.  The best thing about the Jazz was their old school logo with the J being a note.  I would have liked if when the New Orleans Hornets turned into the Pelicans that we would have had a big time nickname change where the Jazz went back to N'Awlins and Memphis lost their nickname to Utah.  Yeah, the Utah Grizzlies sounds nice.  Let Memphis name their team the Blues or something and we're all set.


This name really sits on the fence with me.  The Orlando Magic rolls off the tongue pretty well.  There is an obvious connection with Disney on this one.  Magic can be used to make all kinds of entertainment options to the franchise.  On the down side, it just sits there and doesn't really have a point.  What is magic?  Also, the Disney thing is neat but also seems like a bad corporate shill ... which Disney already has across the country with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.  It could've been worse.  We could be calling this team the Orlando Juice.


I will say that the Miami Heat logo, font and color scheme are (ironically) cool.  In a league where we have the Phoenix Suns, we need to make sure the Heat is known as being bad.  It rolls off the tongue but it is quite a weird name.  Heat?  Heat is also subjective.  It doesn't mean desert heat or a heat wave ... it could be just a hot day or the heat that comes off a candle flame.  At least the Miami Floridians didn't win out.


Here is a horse of a different color.  It sounds like it has an "s" at the end and in reality should have an "s" on the end but it doesn't  The White Sox (like a team ranked ahead of them) is an media version of the White Stockings name they originally had.  Sox was better for the papers to print, you see.  Sure, if you think about it white socks aren't very scary.  In fact it is amazing to have white socks when you're playing a game on grass ... and the fact that virtually every team in the majors wears white socks.  I will say that the White Sox have some great nick-nicknames like the ChiSox, the Pale Hose and the notorious Black Sox.


Like the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Colorado Avalanche are a franchise that moved and decided to change their name.  If you think the Utah Jazz is bad, then the Colorado Nordiques would have been worse.  The Aves is a great name.  Not only does it tie into Colorado's mountainous region but there isn't much more devastating than an avalanche.  The fact they throw in a yeti footprint and the cool swooshing snow in their logo makes it all the more awesome.


A lot of what I said with the White Sox can be rewritten here.  The BoSox .. or Sawks ... are one of the premiere franchises in all of sports.  What makes them a bit better is the fact that the name just seems to fit the area.  Again, "sawks" is a great use of the Boston accent.


Admittedly, on its own the "Wild" isn't the greatest nickname.  But unlike most on this list, it actually does mean something and it means something menacing.  The wild is everything.  The woods, the lakes and rivers, the outdoors.  That's Minnesota in all its beauty.  Then you check out that logo and you realize that it is one of the best in sports.  On the surface, it is a wild animal that could be anything.  A wolf?  Some sort of wildcat?  Bear?  Then you see the sun, trees, the north star as the eye and the river forming the mouth and it is one of the most stunning logos in sports.  Unlike many logos nowadays, this one actually makes the nickname so much better.

"Bad Boys" Documentary Should Shock NBA Fans Now

The 1980s-90s Pistons always had a way with
ticking off their opponents
Just got done watching ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary "Bad Boys", which follows the rise of the Detroit Pistons of the 1980s and early 1990s.  This was a particular interesting doc for me due to the fact that this is the era of NBA basketball I grew up in.

I am a Lakers fan and the Detroit Pistons have a big "bad" spot in my heart.  Not only were they the antagonist for the Lakers in probably the best NBA Finals I ever watched in 1988, their quick dismissal of the Lakers in 1989 ended an era that took a decade to reclaim.

I'm not going to go into what the documentary was about word for word, but my feelings of when it happened.  As a Lakers fan, we hated the Celtics.  So watching the Pistons knock off Boston was a sight to behold.  Figuring the Lakers were a star-studded team and the Pistons were pretty much just Isiah Thomas, a just past his prime Adrian Dantley and a bunch of role players no one had ever really heard of, this should be easy.  The Pistons were either an Isiah ankle injury or a tough call away from winning the 1988 title.

The rematch in 1989 was supposed to be just as epic.  The Lakers came into the Finals winning every playoff game in the West (the previous season saw the Lakers go the distance of 7 games in the conference semifinals and finals).  However, Byron Scott's hamstring injury knocked him out of the Finals before it started.  In Game 2, Magic Johnson also suffered a hamstring injury and played just a few more minutes before he shut it down for the series.

That's my memory as a Lakers fan.

As a basketball fan, the Pistons truly were an anomaly.  That era was a Golden Age since it was when Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan all were in the league together.  Three of the greatest players ever winning championships and defining what a champion was.  Beautiful offensive wizardry.  Yet the Pistons had that two year hiccup where a team that just dominated with defense and tough, gritty play snuck in and won some championships.  It was like that during a run when the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls won 14 of 19 championships, the Pistons just didn't belong.

But they did.

The Pistons had three Hall Of Famers on that team with Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman.  Adrian Dantley also is a Hall Of Famer, though he was traded during the Pistons first championship season of 1988-1989.

In hindsight, the Pistons were a stacked team as well, unlike teams we see winning titles today.  Their starting lineup was Thomas, Dumars and Rodman ... all HOFers ... as well as Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer.  Mahorn and Laimbeer were tough as nails and may be the last guys who were that tough and mean in the NBA.  On the bench, they had Mark Aguirre (a former No. 1 overall pick), Vinnie Johnson (the Microwave), John Salley and James Edwards playing huge minutes and none of them were slouches.

As much as I hated them, I don't think they get the credit they deserve.  It's like the Bad Boys image was some gimmick they used to sneak in a few titles while we weren't looking.  I don't see it like that.  They could score and they used defense to win titles.  I don't see the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl in 2000 as something gimmicky.  They were tough teams that used it to their advantage to win a ring.

What can be debated is how the league has changed since then.  In watching the doc, you are reminded that the NBA was a pretty rough league.  Punches were thrown and there would be nothing more than a foul called.  There were no flagrant fouls until the Pistons title seasons.  Guys in the NBA today couldn't handle that.  I think in the middle.  There is too much soft stuff in the NBA (I saw the officials review a "love tap" from Robin Lopez in the Portland-Houston playoff game to see if it was a flagrant foul.  TNT's Chris Webber even joked that Laimbeer would be falling out of his chair over that.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

College Players Should Get Paid, But Maybe Not Directly From Schools

If you've ever read my site, you know that I'm not a fan of the NCAA as an "organization" and I think players should be able to make money.  I've wrote this idea for a decade now and it is as hot a debate as ever.

Of course, most people see that and say, "the NCAA and the schools should pay the players for sacrificing their bodies, time and schooling so these universities can make bazillions of dollars while they make nothing."  I'm not totally in that mind.  Yes, the players sacrifice a lot of time and they cannot concentrate on their studies like a normal student due to their commitments to their sport.  Sure, students are using the sport to get an education that is worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  However, the time spent on the sport really hurts their ability to pour their studies.

That can be debated elsewhere and I see both sides of that argument.

But these kids are getting a semi-free ride to a college education.  The schools are using the sports to cash in off of television contracts.  That's where the argument seems to stay.

I don't see it totally like that.  While I'm happy that the football players at Northwestern were successful in their bid to attempt to form a union, I actually hope it doesn't happen.  I don't like thinking that college athletes would be able to collective bargain for money from the school.  It could open up a huge can of worms like ending all the progress of Title IX to causing schools to shut down entire athletic departments.  Yeah, that may be extreme, but it could be a slippery slope.

I've been more of a let-the-players-make-money kind of guy.  Forget all the rules.  Let them get theirs.  Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins reportedly has a contract from Nike waiting for him when he announces he's "going pro".  Why can't he have that now?  Why can't he make that money now?  Why does he have to wait?  Why can the University of Kansas make money off of Wiggins' name but Wiggins can't?  Why can't any player be able to receive endorsements?

That would be my first idea for change.  Would that open up some shady dealings?  Of course.  But who cares?  I mean, what is shady dealings?  Some booster slipping a guy some money under the table?  Well, let's make it over the table.  If some car dealership in Columbus wants to give an Ohio State running back some money so he goes to their school or just stays another season ... let him!

Look at the money.  It is there.  The school isn't spending it ... those "friends of the university" are.  All those compliance rules are nearly ripped up and thrown away.  Sure, you still have to make sure the university isn't cheating like giving false grades or any normal academic scandals.  Make sure we don't have any gambling issues like point shaving or throwing games.  Maybe that gets a little harder to manage if the money is flowing a bit more ... but compliance departments will have more time to monitor that when they aren't worried that a basketball player got a tablespoon more cream cheese than he was permitted to have.

Let the agents at these guys.  Let them fall over these kids like the college coaches have to.  Let them wine and dine them.  Let them throw lavish parties and the players have a good time.

Is it the clean cut act that we've tried to convince ourselves college sports is?  No.  But it rarely ever was.

Ways To Make College Basketball On TV Better

College basketball season is over, but it still is bubbling in my blood.  You still have the recruiting circuit going on with those All-Star games, late signing recruits and transfers.  You also have the early entry announcements for the NBA Draft as well as a few coaching changes and other tidying up.

But it is also a good time to look back and see what just took place.  It is also a good time to see what could be done better.  Run The Floor has a great post about making the college basketball television experience better ... whether it is during the regular season or the tournament.   I'd like to chime in on their proposed improvements.

ESPNEWS found something innovative when it brought a “film room” concept to the 2014 BCS National Championship Game between Auburn and Florida State. This concept took fans inside the layers and details of a sport’s mechanics. This is exactly where sports television can and should go in the future. There’s no reason the networks in charge of covering college basketball can’t introduce such a concept to the NCAA tournament
I love this idea.  One of the things that I hate is when people said of this NCAA title game "if Kentucky made their free throws, they would've won".  Maybe.  But it wasn't like Kentucky was some great FT shooting team before this game or that they didn't have some struggles during their run.  No, a key move was UConn's use of screens and pick and rolls to force Kentucky's bigs away from the basket and in bad matchups.  It was glossed over a bit, but it should've been shown more in depth to allow fans ... especially the casual ones that join the bandwagons along the way ... an opportunity to understand what is happening.

CBS and Turner have their own vision for the Final Four, but it seems like a waste of air time. Viewers clamor for Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery to work a Final Four. Wouldn’t it make sense for Turner to have Verne and Raft work the TNT alternate telecast on Semifinal Saturday? TruTV could become the film-room game, or perhaps a game covered in an untraditional manner.
I feel the exact same way.  While I got the whole idea behind having the "teamcast" for both schools, I didn't find too many people that were very interested in it.  I live in Northern Kentucky and most of the Kentucky fans I talked to prior to the Final Four just didn't seem to care about a Kentucky teamcast of the game.

Maybe have TNT show a different version of the game.  A different camera angle.  A game with limited replays.  Something different than just the announcing team.  I know in the article, it is mentioned to assign Verne Lundguist and Bill Raftery to the Final Four, and that's fine.  But I'd like to be able to have two TVs where I can see something different.

College Gameday has so many more options in basketball compared to football. The weekend-only nature of football demands a consistent presence at big games. College hoops is quite different. There are so many good teams in so many corners of the country that a focus on the sport’s charming underdogs and out-of-the-way success stories represents a way to tell a sport’s full story.
I'm with this.  I liked when ESPN went and did the Gonzaga-Butler game a few years back.  I love it when they go the Philly for a Big Five game.  I'd love it for them to go to those out-of-the-norm places that have their own quirks.  The article mentioned going to Mercer.  Go to The Pit in New Mexico.  I wouldn't mind if there were two crews for Gameday.  The main one of Reece Davis, Jalen Rose and Jay Bilas in the bigger arena and a second crew that also gets screen time

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Chick-fil-A Bowl Renaming Is Just Peach-y To Me

The Chick-fil-A Bowl is changing their name again.  It will be ... the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl!  Okay, while that isn't entirely new, it is refreshing to see that name again.

See, the Peach Bowl has been played since 1968 and was known as such until 1997.  That year, Chick-fil-A bought the sponsorship rights and the game was named the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.  In 2006, they scrapped the Peach and kept the company name.

People like me were a bit miffed.  While I get the point of all these sponsorship named bowls, I don't like that we ditched traditional names altogether.  We have the Fiesta, Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls ... not the Tostitos, Vizio, Allstate or Discover Bowls.  Yeah, there are the GoDaddy, Outback, Belk and Russell Athletic Bowls ... but none of them really had a historic name that preceded it.

This isn't the first time this has happened.  The Sun Bowl in El Paso has been going on since 1935.  However, their title sponsor at the time, John Hancock, took over the name and became the John Hancock Bowl from 1989 to 1993.  After that, the Sun Bowl was reinstated with a variety of sponsors headlining.

I like that as a compromise.  Sure we can have the John Hancock Sun, Norwest Sun, Wells Fargo Sun, Vitalis Sun, Brut Sun or, now, the Hyundai Sun Bowls from year to year ... but let it have a name.

This may happen more than you think.  With the new college football playoff format, it was wanted for the Peach Bowl to get their name back to be in sync with the Rose, Fiesta, Cotton, Orange and Sugar Bowls so it will be in the rotation of semifinal games.  Yeah, money was the motivator to get the Peach Bowl name back ... but it could help in other cities as well.

How about bringing the Copper Bowl back instead of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl?  The Motor City Bowl is back instead of the Little Caesar's Bowl?  The Hall-of-Fame Bowl instead of the Outback Bowl?

And the big one:  the Citrus Bowl coming back and ditching the Capital One Bowl.

Let's make the Texas Bowl in Houston the Bluebonnet Bowl again?  Or give the sponsorship bowls a chance to add a name to it.  I'm fine with every bowl with a sponsor.  It's money, I get it!  But let's at least have something that doesn't sound as cheap.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sportz' First Round NBA Predictions

It is NBA Playoffs time once again and ... well ... uh ... uh ... my beloved Lakers aren't in it.  Not even close.  And it feels weird, although very expected.

For 16 teams, however, the playoffs are an exciting time.  For teams like the Heat, Spurs and Thunder, it is what they've waited all year for -- a shot to get back to the Finals.  For teams like the Pacers, Rockets and Clippers it is their chance to get it all together and make an outside run for a title.  For others like the Wizards, Raptors and Bobcats, it is a exciting time for their cities as they return to the playoffs.

There is no Lakers, as I've said.  No Celtics.  No Knicks.  No Pistons.  No Sixers.  The 1980s youngster that lives in me cannot believe that.  But let's look at all eight series to see who I got advancing.


1-INDIANA PACERS vs 8-ATLANTA HAWKS:  While the Pacers are the top seed in the East, it isn't like they've just rolled into it.  The Pacers are struggling a bit.  Maybe the wear and tear of the season?  Maybe a bit of "let's get this thing going" set in?  Whatever it is, it needs to go away.  The Hawks aren't a bad team at all and can give Indy some troubles, as they split during the regular season with Atlanta winning their last two meetings.  Still, I think Indiana may get it together as their focus on winning a title becomes bigger than whatever their issues are.  By the way, the NBA still doesn't give the Pacers any respect as two of their scheduled five games will be on NBATV and not on TNT or ESPN/ABC.  Pacers in six

2-MIAMI HEAT vs 7-CHARLOTTE BOBCATS:  The Miami Heat have been in that same "ick" feeling that the Chicago Bulls of 1993 or 1998 and the Lakers of 2002 were in: defending two-time champions just trying to slosh through the season so they can get to the playoffs and three-peat.  I don't blame them.  On the other side, the Bobcats (soon to be Hornets) are having a great season.  This was a team that won 28 games over the last two seasons combined.  They surprisingly won 43 this year and are making only their 2nd trip to the postseason.  House money all around here.  Even with a loss in this series, they will have an offseason filled with promise of a good, young team that should get better along with the very popular rebranding of the franchise as the Hornets.  Miami has owned Charlotte this year and it will be the same again.  Heat in four.

3-TORONTO RAPTORS vs 6-BROOKLYN NETS:  I'm sure everyone had the Raptors pegged as the Atlantic Division champs when the season started, right?  No?  The Dinos get the Nets, who were the popular preseason pick for the division in the first round.  Despite most people's disinterest, the Raptors are playing at a high level right now and have won 9 or 12 entering the playoffs.  The Nets closed out pretty lame, but have really recovered from a hellish 10-21 start that saw a lot of rumor buzzing around the club.  That means BK rolled off a 34-17 streak since then and seem to be responding the Jason Kidd's coaching.  I'm going to go with the 90% of people who continue to disrespect the Raptors by picking the Nets in this one just because I'd like to see a Heat-Nets conference semifinal matchup.  Nets in six.  

4-CHICAGO BULLS vs 5-WASHINGTON WIZARDS:   Who had Washington as the 5th best team in the East?  The Wizards are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 back in the Gilbert Arenas/Antawn Jamison days.  They haven't won a playoff series since 2005 when they beat ... the Chicago Bulls.  Give the Bulls a lot of credit.  They finished as a 4th seed despite losing Derrick Rose again early on in the season.  Their defensive effort has gotten them here along with an MVP-type season from Joakim Noah.  That makes this series with the high-flying Zards all the more interesting.  What wins?  Slick offense or punishing defense?  I pick defense this time due to Chicago's experience and the fact that defense isn't as streaky as shooting is.  Bulls in six.  


1-SAN ANTONIO SPURS vs 8-DALLAS MAVERICKS:  Welcome to the Western Conference!  This is where a matchup like this can happen.  A 49-win team is the 8th seed (for a comparison, the Mavs would have been the 3rd seed in the Eastern hierarchy).  The Spurs have that single-mindedness of letting a championship slip away from them last season.  Unlike Miami or even Indiana, they haven't suffered a we're-going-through-the-motions-because-we-are-just-waiting-for-the-playoffs sluggishness.  They've secured home court for the entire postseason and know that Game 7 will be on their home floor.  The Mavericks are back in the playoffs with Dirk Nowitzki showing why he's a first ballot Hall Of Famer.  Both teams are rather old so it should be an old fashioned slug-fest.  Still, I think the Spurs are on a mission.  Spurs in five.

2-OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER vs 7-MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES:  Kevin Durant is the league's MVP, no doubt.  He carried this team to this point in the brutal Western Conference.  Waiting there is a Memphis squad that has really come around after dealing with a weird coaching change and injury issues.  Remember that it was these Grizzlies that were in the Western Conference Finals last year --- not the Thunder -- after their conference semifinals series last year.  This should be an awesome series just like a season ago.  Still, I'm putting my money on KD, even if Russell Westbrook isn't 100%.  Thunder in six.

3-LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS vs 6-GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS:  This series should be an 11-game set with no off days.  Two passionate fan bases that are hoping for big things after looooong waits.  SoCal vs NoCal.  Both young teams with dynamic point guards and high flyers surrounding them.  Shot blockers, gunners who are both coached by former NBA point guards.  SportsCenter highlights all over the place.  To me, the basic line will be if the Clips can hold their own on the perimeter against the Warriors need to keep Lob City from stomping on them.  I'm leaning on the Clippers to pull through.  Blake Griffin has been pretty special this season and may be too much for the Warriors to handle.  Clippers in (hopefully) 7.

4-HOUSTON ROCKETS vs 5-PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS:  Here are two teams that were on everyone's lips when the season first started but kind of went by the wayside when the calendar turned to 2014.  The Rockets were the new "it team" when Dwight Howard joined up with James Harden and were a Finals favorite.  The Blazers flew out to a 24-5 record which shocked everyone.  Since then the Rockets' story wasn't as interesting and they settled in their rightful place behind Western stalwarts Spurs, Thunder and Clippers.  The Blazers followed that blazing start by going 30-23 the rest of the way including a stretch where they went just 21-22.  This will be a three point shooting frenzy both ways but I think the Rockets are built better for this series.  Rockets in six.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

UConn Joins The College Basketball Elite

UConn beat Kentucky for the NCAA Championship which places the Huskies in some elite company.  As you can see below, they've had quite the run.  Well, it is really time to look at UConn a little closer and maybe put them with those "blue bloods" we always hear about.

*UConn won their 4th title.  Only UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina and Indiana has won more.  

UConn is up there in championships.  They now have the same total of titles as Duke.  They have one more than Kansas and Louisville.  Yet when we typically think of the "blue bloods" it is Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Duke as well as red-blooded Indiana and Louisville.  UConn deserves their spot in that company.

*UConn's four title have all come since 1999.  In that time span, only North Carolina, Duke and Florida have won multiple titles ... and all of them won exactly two apiece.

Really think about that.  That's pretty remarkable.  Among the other blue bloods, that holds up very well.  UCLA, of course, won 10 titles in 12 years from 1964 to 1976.  Kentucky won four titles in 11 years (1948-1958).  Duke won their four titles in a 20 year span (1991-2010).  That's pretty much it.

Indiana won three titles in 12 years (1976-1987) and their closest four was from 1953-1987 (35 years).  North Carolina's closest title haul was three in 17 seasons (1993-2009) and they had four in 28 years (1982-2009).  

*UConn's head coach Kevin Ollie won the title in his first NCAA tournament as coach.  That hasn't happened since Steve Fisher did it with Michigan in 1989.

That is sort of remarkable in one aspect.  I mean, to get your first head coaching gig and then two years later you are in the tournament and then winning it?  Amazing.  If you've noticed over the past few decades, big time schools are scooping up most of the titles.  Those schools rarely hire first time coaches.  John Calipari won a title in his 3rd year at Kentucky, but he was a head coach for a long time before that.  So was Roy Williams, who won in his 2nd season at North Carolina.  Tubby Smith won in his first season at Kentucky, but he was already an established coach elsewhere.

*Ollie became the first head coach to win a title at his alma mater since North Carolina's Roy Williams in 2009.  

That's always a cool story.

*Ollie is the third straight NCAA championship head coach (and fourth in five years) whose last name ends with a vowel.  Ollie joins Rick Pitino and John Calipari in the streak, with Mike Krzyzewski winning in 2010.  UConn's old coach, Jim Calhoun, is the odd ball of the last five years.  

It really is rare.  Except that Krzyzewski has four titles.  Notable vowel-ending coaches with titles are Izzo, Massamino, Valvano, McGuire (Al and Frank), Heathcote and Iba.

*UConn won last night in Arlington, TX.  They've also won titles in San Antonio and Houston.

It is quite a neat feat, but it has been done before.  UCLA won three titles in California (twice in Los Angeles, one in San Diego).   UCLA also won twice in Kentucky (both in Louisville) and twice in Missouri (Kansas City and St. Louis).  Duke has split their four titles ... two in Indiana (Indianapolis) and Minnesota (Minneapolis).  Indiana won two titles in Missouri (Kansas City) and two in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).  North Carolina has won two titles in Louisiana (both New Orleans).

Kentucky has won eight titles in eight different states.

*As a No. 7 seed, UConn was the 2nd worst seed to win the NCAA tournament.  Only No. 8 seed Villanova in 1985 had a worse seed.  

Villanova beat Georgetown in one of the most memorable upsets in tournament history.  This game doesn't come close to that because Kentucky was actually a worse seed than UConn.  Yeah, UConn was the "home" team for this game due to their better seed.

*The UConn-Kentucky title game was the first championship game that didn't involve a No. 1, 2 or 3 seed.

It was the worst combined seeding (15) in title game history.  It beats out UConn's last title, when they were a No. 3 seed and beat No. 8 seed Butler for the title.

*UConn wins the tournament as a member of the inaugural season for The American Athletic Conference.  Louisville, who was also a member of the AAC in 2013-2014, won the title last season as a member of the Big East.  Next year, they will be a member of the ACC.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Impact on UNC: James Michael McAdoo To Go Pro

McAdoo will leave UNC with a rather mixed opinion
of his career in baby blue.
Junior forward James Michael McAdoo has announced he is entering the NBA draft.  It has caught a lot of people off guard because he seemed to be using "we" a lot when discussing next year's Tar Heels squad and ... well ... if hadn't left for the 2012 or 2013 drafts when his stock was a lot higher, why would he do it in this stacked draft where he isn't projected as a first round pick.

Let's get that question out of the way first.  Remember that he has the ability to test the draft waters once during his collegiate career, provided he doesn't sign with an agent.  That way he could work out for teams and attend certain pre-draft camps and see what he needs to work on.  Again, provided he hadn't signed with an agent, he can come back to Carolina and play his senior season.  Since he would be a senior next season, he may as well use this option this spring since he will have to go pro after the next college season anyway.  

That was something that Danny Green did as a junior back in 2008.  Green came back to school, became a starter and helped lead the Tar Heels to the 2009 National Championship.  Now Green is a starter for the NBA's best team, the San Antonio Spurs.  

McAdoo could be doing that.  He won't say so because that would let NBA teams know he isn't seriously in the draft and they won't waste their time on working him out or scouting him.  So he could come back.  But from how everyone is acting and saying around the program, McAdoo is gone.

What are McAdoo's prospects?  Not great.  While he did improve slightly from his sophomore season, it wasn't like he took the world by storm.  Ask any Tar Heels fan and they'll tell you he was as frustrating a player they've seen come through Chapel Hill.  He could have games where he looked dominant.  He could carry the Heels for stretches with great mid-range shooting or (sometimes) attacking the basket.

Or he'll have games like he did against Florida State late in the season where he failed to score a point.  He spent countless games in foul trouble due to bad plays.  He lacks a back to the basket game for a power forward but struggled at times in the small forward role.  He's a poor free throw shooter who doesn't have a tremendous range.

He'll be a classic tweener.  Someone will take a chance on him ... probably in the 2nd round ... because of his pedigree and his size.  From there, it will all be on him.

Where does that leave North Carolina?  Everyone thought he'd be back next season and now he (presumably) won't.

Actually, UNC has it covered.  Right now, the starting lineup is most likely Nate Britt, Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto and Kennedy Meeks with McAdoo's spot open.  Bryce Johnson most likely gets the nod.  Johnson has been referred to by some NBA scouts as the Tar Heels' top prospect last season.

It will also clear out some space for the Heels in the frontcourt where they are actually deep.  They have Meeks, Desmond Hubert and Joel James as the main centers.  Johnson, Isiah Hicks and Jackson Simmons will be the main power forwards.  Plus the Heels have wing guys like Tokoto as well as incoming freshmen Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson.  There's plenty of talent.  Granted, McAdoo coming back would make this team better, but it would stunt the growth of others.

Like Reggie Bullock last season, who many questioned his decision to enter the draft after his junior season, it may work out better than people thought.  I hope so.  McAdoo will always be a Tar Heel and I wish him nothing but the best.