Traded, you are: Is the Dwight Howard Saga finally over?

According to ‘sources’ on ESPN.com a four-team trade deal is in place that will send Dwight Howard to none other than the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the deal, Howard will go to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala will go to the Denver Nuggets, the Philadelphia 76ers will receive Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson and finally the Orlando Magic will acquire Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington,Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless along with ‘protected’ first round picks from each of the three other teams. Um. Exqueeze me? The Magic will get 671417 (a.k.a three in addition to their own) first round picks over the next couple of years is what you’re telling me? Is that even legal? Talk about complex. Next time a man gives me flack about women being complicated I’m just gonna pull up the Laker roster and point at Dwight Howard.

Is it me, or was this completely anti-climactic? Anyone else want to see Howard have to stay in Orlando and begrudgingly play out the season before becoming a free agent? I didn’t not want to see that, I can tell you that much.

So the story is over? Ha, if only. Allow me to venture the next chapter in the saga… the debate. You’ve got Kobe, Nash and Howard- the latter two trapped in their own version of Lord of the Rings trying to capture that first ring to no avail so far, making up the new Big Three in LA. Then, you’ve got LBJ, DWade, Bosheraptor and Jesus Shuttlesworth himself becoming the Big Four in Miami. Just resign yourselves to the fact the NBA championship will be the Lakers and the Heat in the Finals this year… and the next… and probably the next after that.

Now Howard has said already that if he were traded to the Lakers he would sign a long-term deal. He is still ultimately a free-agent after this season. He did have an interest in going to the Dallas Mavericks, and according to the article on ESPN the Mavs are waiting on him. But you have to think after playing with Kobe and Nash, nothing else is going to compare. At the end of the day, while Howard wants that money- I think he wants those rings more.

I now have to wonder if this is ultimately good for the league? If this predictability will hurt ratings and revenue? Granted, growing up I thought the B in NBA stood for Bulls because I thought it was their league and the Finals were made up of teams competing to play them. Come to think of it, that wasn’t really that far off base. I loved that era. It’s still talked about today as not only the Bulls’ golden years, but the league’s as well. That’s how I viewed it anyway. But now that the tables are turned and two teams who aren’t my home town team are the new age dynasties, I’m starting to understand how Celtics fans must have felt.

Advertisements

19-Year-Old Draft Picks and Bulging D*cks

David Stern’s NBA. You never disappoint. I couldn’t have made that up if I tried. For those of you who haven’t heard, during last night’s NBA Draft, Andy Katz was trying to refer to Jared Sullinger’s ‘bulging disks’ in his back but instead comes up with an epic Freudian slip. If you haven’t watched it on YouTube I suggest you do it. Now.

But that is really not here nor there. Not surprisingly, with the first pick of the 2012 draft the New Orleans Hornets selected Unibrow Davis.. er.. Anthony Davis out of Kentucky. Chicago kid HEYYY.

I wanted to analyze this a bit. Does this automatically make the Hornets a championship contender? Does one guy really make a difference? Sure, he averaged 10.4 rebounds and 14.2 points a game. Sure, his FG percentage is .623. Sure, he’s a 6’10 19-year old big man with a unibrow that rivals the marketing capabilities of The Harden Beard. But will he have an immediate impact? Can a boy born in 1993 have an immediate impact? Yes, that stat was intended to make you feel old.

Even my Bulls took 19-year old Marquis Teague with the 29th overall pick, also from Kentucky. This boy played one year in college. He was high school class of 2011. Now he’s supposedly ready for the big show?

Why is it that in the NBA only one year of college is required? I get that not too long ago, no college was required (see: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James) but shouldn’t we push the envelope a little more? With the amount of money that is being thrown at these kids is it really a responsible thing to allow them to declare just one year after they said goodbye to mommy and daddy’s house? As Jay-Z puts it “Younger get younger every year.”

I don’t really know the answer and I’m not sure how to arrive at one. There’s no consistency with players that entered the NBA with minimal or no years of college development. You have legends like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson who developed their skills in college during an age where it wasn’t required. And you have players like Kobe, LeBron, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitski, Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemaire who opted out of the college experience and went straight to the league. But then you have players like Chris Washburn, Mateen Cleeves and Adam Morrison. I know you’re all going jigga who? Exactly. These are guys that had stellar college careers only to flop majorly on the NBA stage.

So how can you tell? My answer is I can’t. I will tell you though that I think Anthony Davis will be successful. *Prediction Alert*. Although he still needs more development, the kid has been through just about every experience a college player needs to go through from a purely basketball perspective. He led the Kentucky Wildcats to a championship title. You can handle that kind of pressure at 19 years old, you can handle just about anything the NBA throws at you. It’s life in general that’ll get ya.

I think I am going to start a mailbag-like feature via Twitter and Facebook. I’d love to hear more of your comments as well as questions or concerns you’d want me to tackle. Also! Sorry, sorry and sorry again this post is coming to you so delayed. I have been traveling the East Coast all week and finding time between video poker in Atlantic City and screaming at cab drivers in New York traffic is taxing. Back on my game now though. Thanks for reading.

What Happened to the Nice Guys?

After my latest post about the Miami Heat winning the NBA Championship I was having a conversation with my father and we honed in on one particular subject: dynasties. His argument was that dynasties are a thing of the past, they don’t exist anymore for one simple yet powerful reason: money.

I have to say I see his point. Players these days go where the money takes them. As if the contracts themselves aren’t big enough, some of them have even been smart enough to realize while they can sign big time deals to play the sport they love, they can sign even bigger deals in endorsements. Endorsement deals are where the big money hides. A player could make $15 million/year playing but conceivably make $150 million in endorsement/advertising deals

That is just plain insane.

This realization prompted me to ask my father what Jordan made as far as his NBA salary went. His response? Enough. Huh? You mean Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, made… enough?

His Airness was the original one to be smart enough to realize opportunities outside of his playing career. He was a pioneer who paved the way for modern day player endorsements and he is still reaping the benefits. But it’s gotten out of hand- because major professional sports contracts have gotten outta hand, especially in the NBA and NFL.

Where did this ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ (not Kardashians) mentality within the professional community come from? Well John Wall is making this much and Kobe is making this much, so I should be making this much. Or I’m the franchise quarterback- pay me and kick that no name dude off the team #Kanyeshrug.

Shouldn’t the fact that these players CAN make up so much money in endorsements afford them the opportunity to stay where they are for lesser pay and betterment of the overall team? Therefore, making dynasties more prominent and likely? Have these players become so greedy that the game really is all about the benjamins for them?

From a PR standpoint- taking a pay cut to remain with your team is solid gold. It would go SO far with regards to loyalty, reputation and overall likeability. So much so that endorsement deals would come flooding in. Everyone wants the nice guy because in theory, the nice guy doesn’t exist. I don’t gotta tell my lady readers twice.

I’ll give you an example: Peyton Manning. Who doesn’t like Peyton Manning? He’s taken on this nice guy persona quite well. Here’s a guy who once offered to cut his own salary in order to better the overall team. A guy who still writes handwritten notes to the legends of the game thanking them for their contributions to the sport he loves so dearly. Now think of Peyton Manning’s endorsements… See my point?

But Manning is rare. Too rare. What happened to the nice guys? Are they all weeded out by the combine? Or does it start earlier than that? In college, perhaps?

Want my advice athletes? You get the opportunity to stay with the team who has molded you, who’s fans adore you, who has given you the support you need and paid you all they can afford- you take it. Make up the money with the hoards of endorsements thrown your way, and trust me there will be hoards. Be the nice guy. The game needs it.

The Time I Was at the Bar as Miami Won the Championship and No One Cheered

The End.

Just kidding. I was trying to decide what angle to take writing about the Miami Heat winning- no, winning’s not the right word- demanding the NBA championship. That wasn’t just a win that was, as LeBron put it, an “ABOUT DAMN TIME.”

I believe part of loving the game and being a good sports fan is knowing when to concede your opinion for the purposes of giving respect, which is what I’m going to do. As much as I didn’t want to see LeBron get that ‘elusive ring’ (who is he, Frodo?), I can’t deny that he, and the Miami Heat deserved it after that performance. I mean, that was ridiculous. LeBron averaged 30 points in the playoffs. He single handedly gave the Miami Heat their legs against Boston by scoring 45. I don’t necessarily agree he deserved league MVP, but he absolutely deserved Finals/Postseason MVP.

However, he is still far from ‘shutting all his haters up.’ Just because he won one championship doesn’t make him the greatest to ever play the game. His legacy has yet to be determined. I believe his most crucial year now is next season. How he responds to his first championship will be what makes or breaks his position as one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game.

I hate the comparison of him to Jordan. Oh well LeBron won his first championship at a younger age. Yes, but LeBron went straight into the NBA instead of going to college, therefore was in the league longer than Jordan before he won his first. Jordan won all of his championships with the team that drafted him, he didn’t need to change teams. Yes, but Jordan had a support system of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman most years, LeBron needed to leave in order to get that same support system in D Wade and the Dinosaur. For every conditional for Jordan, there’s another for LeBron. There are so many reasons Jordan was special. A fair comparison can never be made. Period. Unless of course Jordan comes out of retirement… *crosses fingers*?

As for the Thunder, as I said in my post when they first made the Finals, there is no way there isn’t a dynasty budding there. They are led by three guys ages 23, 23 and 22. They will be a force to be reckoned with again next year and I quite frankly am not looking forward to my Bulls meeting them in the Finals… ya see what I did there?

Congratulations to the Miami Heat, you won it fair and square.

Image

Rootin for Rose

Inspired by this ESPN Chicago article on Derrick Rose and his ACL rehab I decided to be ambitious and write another post. Especially with Chicago sports season at its ‘slimmest’ time of year, here’s something to celebrate about our beloved Derrick Rose. According to the article he’s ‘ahead of schedule’ regarding his recovery time.

When he- and subsequently the entire Chicago Bulls 2011-2012 season- went down,  I was disappointed and saddened, but I was not panicked. If anyone is coming back from a torn ACL, it’s him. He’s Derrick Rose and those my friends, are the rules.

I want to take this opportunity to examine some other notable players who have come back to some of the best years of their playing careers after suffering torn ACL’s. Here are my Top 5 (in no particular order):

1. Jerry Rice– We all know Jerry. Tore his ACL in 1997, returned the following season in 1998 to record 82 receptions for a total of 1157 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also returned to the Pro-Bowl that year. Did I mention he was 34 at the time? He would have two more 1100+ yard seasons before his eventual retirement. He’s now sittin pretty in the HOF. Yup, he good.

2. Tom Brady– While it pains me to put him on this list as I’m not his biggest fan, he serves as a great example of an athlete who has come back just fine. Lord knows those UGGs aren’t providing any support. Brady suffered his injury in 2008. Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, no less. Not only did he suffer a torn ACL, but also a torn MCL, complicating the surgery. While Cassel held down the fort and avoided a complete meltdown by the Patriots, much to my chagrin, Brady recovered, returned in 2009 and has been going strong ever since. Dammit.

3. Andrew Brunette, Chicago Blackhawks– Now he may not be on your well-known list but this Hawk sure makes mine. While playing for the Minnesota Wild in 2008, Brunette suffered what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL. I say later because the dude KEPT PLAYING. Not only the rest of the game… but the rest of 2008-2009 season before he had surgery on it. He then went on to tally 25 goals and 36 assists for the Wild the very next season. All at the age of 37 years old. If that isn’t resilience people, I don’t know what is.

4. Tiger, Tiger Woods y’all– You knew this was coming. While it can be argued his best years of golf were pre-2008, it remains to be seen. But he didn’t take a ‘leave of absence’ from golf due to his physical indiscretions- I mean injuries… oops 😉

5. Derrick Rose– I’m putting him on here because I have absolute and total faith he will come back, strong as ever. Bring on the 2012-2013 season. The Bulls, and Rose, are comin for that title.

Westbroke

I would like to start by first reiterating something very important. This is an opinion blog with sprinkles of analysis thrown in. These are my thoughts and my thoughts only. I am not affiliated with any teams currently and am therefore taking advantage of my hiatus by freely stating my own, absolutely biased opinions. I am not trying to be objective. I am not trying to be politically correct. I am just expressing my views. Everybody on board? Good. Great. FANTASTIC.

Moving on. Ahh Game 4. I had such high hopes for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Game 3 was ugly. I’ll admit it, they didn’t play with as much heart as the Miami Heat. Kevin Durant was useless in the fourth and James Harden committed the fatal foul to solidify the Heat victory. Ok fine, first game in Miami is a tough one, they’ll learn… right?

Wrong.

I found myself screaming at the end of Game 4- WHY WESTBROOK WHY?! similar to my WHY HARDEN WHY?! the previous game. Russell Westbrook puts up 43 points- nearly half of the team total- and then down three, FOULS as the Heat inbound the ball with 20 odd seconds left thinking the shot clock had reset. Newsflash Westbrook, it hadn’t. Stupid, stupid, STUPID.

Not to mention, James Harden seemed to lose his confidence come the fourth quarter. Never have I seen him lose confidence ever. I was there for his ASU career, working in the media relations department. I have seen some great comebacks with him as our leader. The guy is clutch. He’s been a solid 6th man the entire season for the Thunder, including the postseason. Why now? Like Jalen Rose suggested James, cut the beard- maybe that will provide enough of a distraction for you guys to catch up. Maybe.

With the knowledge that Durant was rendered ineffective in Game 3, where were the adjustments to get him open in the fourth quarter, Brooks? You can’t have Russell Westbrook be the one putting up 43 points. Those are KD’s shots to take.

The series’ leading up to this OKC had managed to banish the criticisms of being too young and too inexperienced. They had shut all the critics up. Was it too good to be true? They make it to the Finals, demolishing teams that had taken the title 11 of the past 13 years only to look like an AAU team against the Heat. What. Happened.

Is it perhaps that the Big Three have learned to close? Is this really their year? And if it is? If LeBron finally gets a ring? What does that change?

In my mind, nothing. Sure the jokes of LeBron having no rings will die, but in reality he will only have one ring. He still won’t be up in the category with the likes of Kobe and Jordan. It will be one measly ring. Not six, not seven, not eight. One.

Will this series go back to OKC? The odds are probably against it. And in all honesty, it would likely only prolong the inevitable agony, giving Thunder fans hope they can pull through. If there was ever a time for an NBA ‘miracle’, it would be now. Too bad it’s not Herb Brooks coaching the Thunder.

Image

Thunder doesn’t do ‘quietly’

Not like the Miami Heat does quietly either. I purposely waited til after the second game to voice my opinion to avoid people that have overreacted one way or the other. Oklahoma City has been dominant at home the entire season- winning the first game did not set anything in stone. Sure enough, the Heat come back with a vengeance and claim game 2- the first team to win on the road against the Thunder the entire 2012 postseason.

You can bet OKC has something to prove now.

As usual there is controversy over the Heat win. Fourth quarter Durant seemed like a different player- playing through the foul trouble he’d had all game. He’s driving in the paint, posting LBJ up, coupled with Westbrook for a couple clutch threes and just like that the Thunder are within two. LeBron goes for a selfish three with 12.3 seconds left and suddenly the Thunder have a shot. KD goes up for the fadeaway jumper, misses, but gets fouled. It’s on now right? Wrong. Lo and behold- the ref doesn’t blow the whistle.

It comes down to this though. The game is not won on one (trying saying that three times fast) possession alone. The foul trouble for Durant, Westbrook missing easy opportunities, and all but taking Harden out in the second half were all factors. Those three need to play together in order to beat this Heat defense. This one on one clearly doesn’t cut it. Especially when the Heat are on their game offensively.

And what did Kevin Durant do post-game speaking to reporters? In true KD fashion, when asked if he was angry about the no call he simply says ‘I missed the shot.’ Taking full responsibility. Realizing the game didn’t have to come down to that had the team played more cohesively. Another commendation KD, what a stand up guy.

Unlike game one, Miami found themselves a bit more. Not only did we see DWade and LBJ driving the lane and scoring in the paint, when that didn’t work, Shane Battier was there to back ’em up, knockin down three’s like it’s his job- oh wait, it is his job. LBJ was fired up though. We all know he’s a great player, he’s got super star talent, but to finally see him emotional, with a sense of urgency, that was the difference. Moral of the story Thunder: Never let LeBron get emotional. When he does, the Heat actually close.

Better believe the Thunder are going into Miami with a chip on their shoulder. Like I said before, this is the first time they have lost at home all postseason. They will not go quietly.