January 2011 Archives
So I'm watching the Lakers and Celtics on Sunday afternoon and what I saw is what I have been suspecting for a little while. Firstly, I'll admit that I am a Lakers sympathizer. L.A. has been my team since the late 1990′s when I first started really getting into sports as a pre-teen. In the cases where I can get away with it, I'll find myself sticking up for Kobe and the rest of the Lakers cast. But this Sunday afternoon (And numerous other times this year) during the 109-96 loss to Boston, I couldn't ignore what was right in front of me. The Lakers looked like they've lost an edge. I'm not really sure if I can pin down a specific reason why, but I just don't feel the same about this team that I have in the past. Granted, regular season 'winter wins' only mean so much in the lifespan of a full season, including playoffs, but the loss to Boston serves as a microcosm of the overall state of the Lakers this year. Kobe needs more self-awareness on offense. Although he shot a good percentage from the floor, the other Lakers need to be engaged. Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum shouldn't feel awkward or out-of-place taking initiative trying to score the ball on offense. Odom, Gasol and Bynum are the Lakers 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best players on that team, and somehow Kobe's shot total surpassed all three of those players combined. At the same time, Kobe put O's in the assists, steals and block category. Bryant should be taking the most shots, but not to Sunday's extreme. The numbers clearly support the claim. The Lakers are 3-7 when Kobe takes 40% of the shots on offense. Inversely, L.A. is 23-5 when he shoots 35% or less of the shots. This season the Black Mamba has scored 34 or more 5 times, and the Lakers are just 1-4 in those games. When Phil Jackson was asked after the game about Kobe taking too many shots, he said that the Lakers supporting cast wasn't fully engaged or ready to score. I respectfully have to disagree, due to the fact that I've seen Gasol and Odom kill offensively. Shoot, both guys are All-Stars! So what's different about yesterday? I may be off on this psychological breakdown, but the other Lakers seem to almost walk on eggshells around Kobe. They don't want to upset him or let him down when he's 'going off'. When Kobe is extra aggressive on offense, these guys tend to play the position of 'Kobe watcher' and 60% of every possession involves #24. This is the same old song and dance though. Yesterday's Laker offense looked similar to the 2006/07 season, when Kobe dominated the ball, the scoring column and the loss column. Meanwhile, the Celtics seemed to play more fluid. Paul Pierce had 32 points while only shooting the ball 18 times. Ray Ray and Garnett each had 12 shot attempts. Boston had six players in double figures, with four players having 13 or more. Boston is gearing up for another championship run, and if I had to pick a mid-season favorite, the Celtics would be it. Toughness was always a strong suit of Boston, and they seem to be tougher than ever, especially with the return of Perkins. Check the frontcourt depth of (Assuming they're healthy come playoffs) Perkins, KG, Jermain O'Neal, "Big Baby" Glen Davis and Shaq. That's 30 fouls worth. Playoffs are still a while away. Boston looks strong, but can the veteran squad stay that effective for months at a time? L.A. surely has the tools to win a third straight championship, but they need to find that chip that used to sit on their shoulder. Get back to thinking of Kobe as a commodity, not a crutch. Get back the toughness inside that helped hang two straight banners. If the 'Lake Show' thinks they can advance in the playoffs without making the proper changes, they'll never earn the chance to play in June.
Kevin Durant called Chris Bosh a 'fake tough guy' after the Thunder lost to the Heat Sunday, 108-103. Apparently Durant was speaking to his teamate when Bosh came in and said something to him. Whatever was said had to piss 'Durantula' off enough to talk about it after the game to the press. "He's on a good team now, so he thinks he can talk a bit. There's a lot of fake tough guys in this league and he's one of them." You never really see Durant show those kind of colors, which leads me to believe that Bosh was actually being a punk. I'm not sure why Bosh thinks he could run smack to arguably the best player in the league. It wasn't too long ago Bosh was in Toronto, by himself, on a losing team and still wasn't coming close to the numbers Durant is posting. Oh and by the way, the Thunder had the game won with under a minute to go. If Eddie House doesn't drain that 3, we'd be talking about how LeBron passed up yet another game winner. House hadn't scored all game and this man LeBron passed up a wide open game-winner to give him the ball. Hmmmm. Interesting. LeBron owes Eddie House a Bentley or something. I still want to see Durant and Bosh in a cage.
It's one of the biggest weekends of the year! The Pro Bowl! I shouldn't have to point out the sarcasm, but surely someone would challenge me on the comment board. Is it just me, or is the Pro Bowl the most irrelevant game ever? The game, in terms of interest, is certainly in last place compared to the other major sports 'All-Star' games. There's a few reasons why. Firstly, the other sports (Basketball, Baseball, Hockey) hold their respective 'All-Star' games in the middle of the season. I find this marginally better because the interest in the players and the seasons they're having are still relevant. It's a midway point where the league takes a deep breath and puts on a festival of sorts. The Pro Bowl feels more like a consolation game. The energy at the event is different from the other sports as well. Specifically in Baseball and Basketball, 'All-Star' weekend feels like a larger than life event. Baseball has those celebrity softball games, along with the home run derby, which brings the biggest slugging stars to the stage to put on a show. Sure, it's a gimmick event, but there's a reason why they still do it. It's a raging success. We can all name specific home run derby moments for a reason. Can you name, off-hand, 5 memorable Pro Bowl moments? (That don't involve Sean Taylor purposely trying to kill Punter Brian Moorman). How about basketballs 'All Star' weekend? The 3-point shootout, the dunk contest, the skills competition, the celebrity game, the Rookie-Sophomore game and the actual All-Star game itself. I remember when Jordan came back with the Wizards and hit a game tying shot to go into overtime. How about when T-Mac tossed it off the glass to himself? The dunk contest memories themselves carry more weight than the entire history of the Pro Bowl. Hell, even Hockey has a decent skills competition and the game that garners some interest. Think about it: It's our nation's most popular sport by far, with some of the biggest stars in all of sports in the same place, playing in the same game, and somehow it's an afterthought. Literally, "after" everything. As in the season. As in the interest of the fans and players. You think these guys are still mentally 'checked in'? Most of the Pro Bowler's seasons have ended weeks ago and they've since been lying on a beach somewhere drinking Patron. Granted, I'll hand it to the NFL. Making the game one week before the Super Bowl does help a bit. But not enough for me to sit down and watch the whole thing (Unless I bet the over, 64 lol). I'm not sure if moving the game to mid-season is a real option or not, but at least throw me a bone on some interesting skills competitions. See which QB throws the farthest long ball from their knees. Pass, punt, kick competition? Punter accuracy contest? (OK, maybe not a punter contest) But I'll take anything other than what we've got now. Oh, and this year the NFL has assigned two college coaches from Japan to assist Patriots Bill Belichick and Falcons Mike Smith in hopes of expanding interest to Asia. LOL. I wonder what 'suprise attacks' they'll bring on offense? (70 year old digs are still on the table, lol, but I'm kidding). Anyway, enjoy your Pro Bowl Sunday night. And if you don't, you're probably in good company.
I try not to bring my own personal friendships into the fold too much because I would end up writing about my buddies who still play hoops all the time. But this, this I cannot ignore. My good friend and former teammate Steve Dagostino has been doing big things. Dude is a former 1st team DII All-American and Northeast 10 (The Big East of DII) player of the year, twice, while playing at The College of Saint Rose in Albany. Dags is over in England playing professionally, and his squad, the Sheffield Sharks, made it to the BBL Cup, one of the most highly regarded championships in England. Not only was the NIA arena sold out, but the Sharks were playing the first place team and favorites, the Mersey Tigers. My boy went out and had the spotlight in a choke hold as he hit a championship record 8 freaking 3-pointers, and netted another championship record, 35 points. 2 records, one championship, and one MVP award. He deserves this praise because 1) I know he won't tell you personally (unless he's had a drink), and 2) I know how hard he's worked to get there. So shout out to my boy "Daggie" for killing those pinky raising, crumpet eating, tea drinking 'Brits' and bringing home the Cup and some hardware.
Jimmer freaking Fredette went off yet again! This man never pulls a 'no show'. In the biggest game in the history of the Mountain West conference, Jimmer again managed to hold the spotlight hostage as he poured in 43 points in a 71-58 win over the #4 team in the nation, San Diego State. I'm not sure if there's another player in this entire country, whether it's Sullinger from Ohio State or Kemba Walker from UConn, that could make you forget about a first round draft pick on the opposing team who put up a monster double double. San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard was absolutely sick in his own right. The super-sophomore had 22 points and 15 rebounds, getting his points in a variety of ways from putbacks to three pointers. But sharing the court with Jimmer, Kawhi's performance is somehow forgettable. I'm not sure if the 24 NBA scouts that were there caught the same vibe that I did, but it was almost like every time Jimmer caught the ball, I held my breath. What would he do this possession? Pull from 35? Make the D play him 40 feet away from the cup only to blow right by them? Or would he put a crossover dribble on his defender that would make Allen Iverson wish for his younger days? Seriously though, the one cross he pulled on the perimeter for the step back 3 pointer was shockingly similar to Stephen Curry. This kid is doing it against opposing teams top defenders who have structured entire game plans in order to slow him down. Dude is averaging 35 ppg in conference play, more than 10 points higher than any other player in the country in their respective conference games. You have got to be doing something absurd to have Kevin Durant, after his 47 point game (tying the NBA's highest scoring outburst this season), hopping on Twitter and saying "Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the world." WOW. Even Durant is a 'Jimmer Junkie'. Now I've heard the criticism that his handle isn't as tight as it needs to be for the next level…maybe so. But if you think that his ball handling still isn't one of the top in the nation, your wrong. Period. His body control is also wayyy above average. I'd compare the way he uses his frame to seal off his more athletic defender to a guy like Paul Pierce. Both Jimmer and Pierce don't out-jump people when they score, but somehow finish layups and jumpshots alike by using their body as a shield to create space between the ball and the defender. (To the knuckleheads: I'm not saying Jimmer is Paul Pierce). So what is the knock on Jimmer that has doubters/haters from saying he is a lottery pick? Just one year ago I found myself and one other teammate of mine arguing the point against 10 other guys that Jimmer would even be in the NBA! 6 months later, it's not whether he'll be in the league, but if he'll get drafted in the first round. Currently it's not whether so much he's a first rounder, but if he's a lottery pick. Who needs to say it to make you believe? Jay Bilas? Jay Williams? Phil Jackson? Try making the decision for yourself. Like it or not, Jimmer is making the case for not only the best player in college basketball, but is thrusting himself into the conversation of the great college seasons of all time. Sound sacreligious? If it does I don't blame you because it feels a bit bizarre even typing it, but why not? Isn't Stephen Curry in that conversation? (Last time I checked Stephon Curry's jersey is hanging in the basketball hall of fame in Springfield for his memorable senior season) J.J. Redick? Adam Morrison? Tell me what they did that he's not doing? Jimmer has his BYU team, who would be getting zero national attention without him, ranked in the top 10, while leading the nation in scoring! Dude has gone for 40 plus in 3 of his last 4 games! Why are we still hedging our bet? Because there aren't even a handful of 6 foot 2 inch, white skinned, curly-haired guards in the league? Forget what you think you know, seeing is believing. Jimmer will be invited to the NBA draft and will be sitting at one of those rounds tables with his family getting his name called in the first round. Let me also jump the gun and say in one year he'll be playing in the NBA's rookie/sophomore game. He's shattered every ceiling you or I put on him, why would he stop?
It's a crazy thought that the matchup Wednesday night between #4 San Diego State (20-0) and #9 BYU (19-1) is said by some to be the game of the year, to date, in college basketball. I say 'crazy thought' because neither team is accustomed to that type of label. There's a few factors here that make it, if not the most anticipated game thus far, near the top of that conversation. For starters, both squads have a combined record of 39-1. Detractors will say that the level of game-to-game competition in the Mountain West conference isn't what it would be in other elite conferences, and you'd be right. Surely playing TCU, Utah and the Air Force's of the world is light years away from playing in the ACC, Big East or Big 10. But while the combined records and national rankings are certainly important in deserving this hype, they are only 2 components of the match-up. There's also legitimate human interest. Consider San Diego State. No history. No past player's names who roll off the tongue. Head coach Steve Fisher got the job in 1999 when the team had won 5 games the year before. Coach Fisher told ESPN's First Take this week that he used to literally pass out tickets on campus because the student interest level was non-existent. Fast forward to the present day and San Diego State has reached 20 wins the past 5 seasons and they're the first team in the nation with 20 wins this season. Oh, and coach Fisher doesn't have to pass out tickets anymore, as SDSU has sold out their 12,000+ capacity arena for the rest of the home schedule. Then there's BYU, a school with more of a history, a few more noteball alumni, but still doesn't sit at the "cool table" with the top dogs of college basketball. But here we are. And how could I get this far into a post without mentioning the player of the year candidate…..wait for it….Kawhi Leonard! LOL. While BYU's Jimmer Fredette has hogged SportsCenter (for good reason), Leonard has quietly become mentioned as a top 5 player in the nation alongside Fredette. This beast of a Sophmore has 13 double-doubles in 20 games and has a large hand in the fact that San Diego State has the 7th highest field goal percentage in division 1 basketball (Over 350 teams!). Rarely do we have a showdown of two top 10 teams, each having a top 5 player. Although someone can make an argument as to why Kawhi Leonard isn't a 'top-5′ guy, the same can't be said for his counterpart at BYU. Fredette has taken the nation by storm due to to his freakish scoring outbursts. To say Jimmer Fredette has been hot would almost be a backhanded compliment. The 'slow white guy' has scored 110 points in his last 3 games!! It's clear that Jimmer's personal success and BYU's success go hand-in-hand. And while Fredette has absolutely torched defenses this season, all of his highest scoring outputs came on the road (47 @ Utah, 42 @ Colorado State, 39 @ UNLV, 34 @ Buffalo). Please believe BYU will need Jimmer to put up points at home in Provo, Utah if they plan on knocking off the 4th ranked team in the nation. On Tuesday Jimmer was interviwed on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption and called Wednesday night's game against San Diego State one of the biggest in the history of the Mountain West Conference. Being that Fredette has yet to disappoint in a big-game situation, I'm expecting the unexpected…which with Jimmer is becoming, well…expected.
Somehow with a below average performance and a loss, Jay Cutler is still managing to steal headlines. After suffering an injury to his knee late in the second quarter and exiting the game in the third, Chicago's prized QB is being blasted by both analysts and players, past and present alike, for not being 'tough enough' to gut out the game. It's the Green Bay Packers though that deserve the attention. I know the talk has been that the Jets may have been a team of destiny. What about the cheese heads? Lets not forget that it was the Pack who had to win their final two regular season games against the Giants and the Bears to earn the right to play in these playoffs. To pile on to that, they went on the road in the first round to beat a tough Eagles team that some predicted would make noise in the post season. Then going to Atlanta and beating arguably the toughest home field advantage in the league, only to hit the road again and beat Chicago for the second time this month! Three straight playoff road victories to put them in the Super Bowl spells destiny to me. Despite an overall sloppy game where Aaron Rodgers clearly didn't play his best football, Green Bay found a way to win. I wondered in the weekend preview whether the Bears passing defense would be able to contain Greg Jennings, and that question was answered with a definitive 'No' as he went for the most receptions he's had all year (8) and tallied his 4th highest yard total (130). One could make an argument that the best player for Chicago in the second half was third string QB Caleb Hanie. Hanie stepped in for Todd Collins and marched the Bears down the field for a touchdown and actually had a chance to tie the score, but not before making a typical third string mistake and throwing the seed into the fat mitts of B.J. Raji, who then pleasured us by waddling into the end zone. Apparently this dude calls himself 'The Freezer', a rebuttal to Chicago's old William Perry, formally known as 'the Fridge'. By the looks of it, Raji makes a habit of emptying both refrigerators and freezers daily. The guy is an oversized human meatball. Raji went prime time before and after he scored, first holding the ball out showboating as he crossed the goal line (which almost backfired), then broke into a 'harlem shake' type dance, followed by signaling he had the championship belt around his waist. I was a sponge for those 20 seconds just soaking it all in. It was plays like Raji's, as well as rookie Sam Shields' (seen left) sack and two picks that can be looked back to as game changers. In order of importance, finally, is Jay Cutler. As far as people jumping him for not playing, I'm not sure if that's fair. Maybe he was truly ineffective and shouldn't have been on the field. Only he knows. But I'll tell you this: the guy doesn't help his case when he looked, for the most part, disinterested on the sideline. I've had a knee injury within the last year that required surgery and I can't tell you that minutes after the injury occurred I'd be trying to ride the bike. As the camera's panned to the backup Hanie looking at the playbook trying to go over things, Cutler sat roughly two feet away, looking like an unhelpful zombie. At least look like you give a damn whether your team goes to the freaking Super Bowl! I understand his frustration, but it's attributes like these that make it hard for me to like Jay Cutler.
Talk about a tale of two halves in the Jets/Steelers game. I'm not sure if anyone was expecting the Steelers to come out and just bully New York the way they did for the first 30 minutes. Minus the New England 45-3 loss, the first half stretch Sunday may have been the worst for gang green all season. Bad time to lay an egg (It's nature). The real cause for concern was not only getting out played as far as schemes and play calling, but the Jets simply couldn't tackle. Not usually an issue for a hard-nosed Rex Ryan team. Blame it on the cold weather or just give the credit to Rashard Mendenhall's legs that refused to stop moving. Either way, Pittsburgh managed to lumber its way up and down the field the entire first half with little to no resistance, highlighted in the 66 yard opening drive that last nine minutes long. But if you would have told me before the game that Ben Roethlisberger would have a passer rating of 35.5, Mark Sanchez would throw two TD's with no interceptions, and we would go entire quarters without hearing Troy Polamalu's name, I would have assumed those damn Jets did it again. And much credit to New York for making a game out of the AFC championship. Leave it to the Jets to come out of the locker room and hold Pittsburgh scoreless in the second half and make an offensive run of their own. Too little too late though. It's worth mentioning that as bad as Sanchez can seem at times, there's other moments, like that one legged, 45-yard bomb to Santanio Holmes, where he looks brilliant. As much as I've dogged Rex Ryan and the Jets this season, I'll admit that they have a certain likeability to them. If you ask me, I'd say that the Super Bowl may have even been a more interesting place with the Jets (Certainly the two weeks leading up to it at the very least). But interesting doesn't cut it. Instead we'll talk about the same Steelers team for the next two weeks. The same team that's in the Super Bowl for the third time in six seasons. The same Steelers squad that doesn't rely on just one player, even Big Ben (I know you didn't forget they went 3-1 to start the season without Roethlisberger). Did the 'Steel Curtain' from the 1970′s possess the Steelers Defense yesterday or was that just me? The Jets had a first and goal from roughly the 3-yard line and got stuffed time and again, like Snookie when she's had too much to drink. Another key play came on 3rd down and 6 yards to go in the 4th quarter with under two minutes to play. If Pittsburgh doesn't convert, the Jets get the ball back with a chance to win. Ben scrambled right and made the clutch pass for the first down to run out the clock. At that point Rex was peeling his headset off and smashing it. Much like the NFC championship game, this one wasn't always pretty. But it's football. Just get it done. Like it or not, if the Steelers win another one, they leave us no choice but to start mentioning them in the conversation of great teams we've seen in the last 25 years. It's a showdown in Dallas… "Can't Wait!"
What could I possibly tell you the weekend of the AFC/NFC Championship games that you haven't heard all day, every day, for the last week? Both games are monster matchups. We've been hearing just how historic the Bears/Packers rivalry really is. Am I the only one that wasn't aware that this was the "best rivalry in the NFL"? Raise your hand if you've ever seen the two teams play in the playoffs. It's a tough label since they haven't played a post-season game since the early 1940′s. The variables in this game are endless. How much of an involvement will Matt Forte have in the Bears offense? Will the Bears pass defense (ranked 20th in the league) put the clamps on Greg Jennings who caught for 3 yards shy of 100 in the week 17 win over the Bears? Who will win the turnover battle? To me, the matchup will come down to the quarterback position. Sure, that sounds redundant, but things become redundant for a reason. Both QB's are riding at an all-time high. Last week Jay Cutler threw for 274 yards while rushing for another two touchdowns. (Only the 2nd QB in NFL history to throw for two TD's and rush for two TD's in a post-season game). Aaron Rodgers is coming off one of the best quarterback performances I've seen in recent memory in his win in Atlanta last week, throwing for 366 yds, hitting 31 of his 36 attempts. The week before in the wild card round, Rodgers tossed 3 touchdowns as well, and in the last nine games has thrown for 22 TD's while only throwing two picks. Most people are picking against the Bears, and while I'd love to go against the grain, I have to also side with Rodgers and the Packers in a nail biter.
The Jets/Steelers matchup raises just as many questions that I won't pretend to know the answers to. How could I? Last week I honestly would have bet my mother's soul that the Patriots would have wiped the floor with the gang green. I can't run from it. Furthermore, I picked Manning and the Colts the week before that. I thought it made sense on paper. On game day, 'on paper' doesn't count. Grown, motivated professional athletes don't put much stock into pre-game picks. I always mention the quote from Mike Greenberg from 'Mike and Mike' when he says "I don't know the outcomes of these games. If I did, I'd be living in a mansion in Vegas." Obviously, I'm no different. To date, the Jets have still only beaten a handful of winning teams. Does that matter? My logic says it does, but when I've watched the Jets the last two weeks, it doesn't seem to. I'm one Jets win away from fully hopping on the Rex Ryan bandwagon. The guy seems larger than life, which in New York is something worth mentioning. Rex's adopted son, Mark Sanchez, according to the national media, "has his swagger back", and I can't argue. Hell, dude has beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back to back weeks, why not Big Ben? I'm not sure what I want 'The Sanchize' to do for me to make me a believer, but for whatever reason I'm not there yet. I'm sorry New York fans. Leading up to last week I said if the Jets beat the Pats, I'd download the Fireman Ed app on my phone. I did. What a waste of $1.99. The App is horrible! In the spirit of my anger, I'll continue to pick against the Jets this week. Both defenses are stingy, but I think it will be the Steelers offense that gets it done Sunday. But what do I know.
You know it's 2011 when one of the leading stories on ESPN.com Wednesday is head coach of Kentucky's mens basketball team, John Calipari (seen left), apologizes for 'cursing out' his freshman Terence Jones during a 68-66 loss to Alabama Tuesday. Calipari said that although it's not an excuse, he "got caught up in the emotion of the game." OK, where do I begin? I'll preface this commentary by mentioning coach 'Cali' is not my favorite. For whatever reason (Scandel, lies) he doesn't rub me the right way. I don't hate him, I'm just not in love. That being said, I think it's kind of sad that he has to give a double dose of public apology on his facebook and twitter for what he did. The reality of the situation is that Terence Jones, who I'm sure is under the impression he is the next John Wall (Possibly because Calipari told him he would be, lol im mostly kidding), was thought by HIS COACH to be playing selfishly. Apparently, Calipari called Jones a "selfish mother f*****." Jones also attempted the final shot of the game when, in fact, coach Calipari had drawn up/designed a last shot for fellow freshman Doron Lamb. So what we have is the 12th ranked team in the nation in Kentucky, playing on the road at Alabama, in a one possession game as time is expiring. You have a freshman who has been playing the game selfishly in the coach's eyes (the only pair that matter), and he abandons the coach's designed play to win the game by taking a potential game winner himself. The head coach in a maximum pressure situation yells at him (not for missing the shot, but for not playing the 'right way' and going outside the game plan) and uses profanity. Where's the issue? Isn't that sports? At least the sports that I know. Ever seen coach K fired up? Not pleasant. How about Bob Knight (seen right)? The best current example I can think of is Frank Martin (seen below left), the head coach at Kansas State. This guy looks like he's going to blow a vessel in his head and neck every time he lays into a kid. And I'm no expert at reading lips, but I promise they keep the long boom microphone away from his huddles for a reason. Since when did we as a culture get so soft? The head coach of a team has to publicly apologize for cursing at a freshman when he undermined the coach's game plan with his own agenda? Granted, he shouldn't have used the term "mother f*****", but sometimes a shocking statement like that will shake a guy and his ego. It's flat-out humbling. I can recall being cursed at by both my high school coach, and my college coach, both men I hold in the highest regard. For god's sake I literally remember my modified coach cursing up a storm under his breath. I remember at certain times being offended at these situations, but I assure you whatever point was being made, got across. I'm not condoning getting nose to nose with a 18-year old and calling his mother names. But I am saying that emphasizing the urgency and importance of a highlighted subject with a curse, certainly a subject that Terence Jones didn't understand, may warrant an apology to Jones, but not to the public.
Blake Griffin. That should be my whole post. The mere mention of his name gets NBA fans excited. As it should. The Los Angeles Clipper's rookie poured in 47 points Monday night to go with his 14 rebounds in a 115-107 win over the Indiana Pacers. The numbers are offensive. Not only is the point total obviously his career high, but it's also the most any player has scored in a game this season! There's been over 500 games played in the league this season that include the likes of Kobe, LeBron, Durant, Melo, Wade and every other big time scorer, and it's Big Blake that has the 2010/2011 high. The kid is doing things that come once a decade; on the actual court and in the box score. Of course Griffin is a dunking highlight reel waiting to happen, but he's more than that. On Monday, Blake scored with offensive rebound/putbacks, jump shots, hook shots, bank shots, and foul shots. The only other players in NBA history, 21 years of age or younger, to post 47 points and yank 14 rebounds are basketball gods Michael Jordan and Rick Barry. Heard of 'em? Forget age and the word 'rookie', Blake Griffin is creeping toward the title of 'top 10′ player in the league. Oh, it's true. Dude is #12 in the league in scoring! No other rookie is even in the top 65! One dimensional? Save it. Blake is the freaking 4th best rebounder in the L. No other rookie is in the top 20. Blake has an astronomical 33 double doubles in just 40 games! On a nightly basis dude uses opposing defenses as toilet paper. He's a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year, but it may be time we transition the topic to one of the best rookies in the history of this game. With the exception of the earlier era's of basketball, when lopsided competition would allow a guy like Wilt Chamberlain as a rookie to average 37 points and 27 rebounds, Blake's performance stacks up to anyone. Even sensational rookie seasons such as Kevin Durant's (20 pts, 4 reb), LeBron James' (20 pts, 5.5 reb), and Dwight Howard's (12 pts, 10 reb) weren't as impressive. I put Blake's rookie season with the likes of Shaq's (23 pts, 13 reb) or Michael Jordan's (28pts, 6.5 reb). Where you rank Blake is debatable, but the point is he's in that conversation. Oh, and by the way, Blake has single-handedly made the Clippers relevant again. In the past week they've beaten the Pacers, Lakers and Heat (All playoff teams). Ever since the Clippers horrible 1-13 start, Griffin has averaged a 'fantasy friendly' 25.6 points and 14 rebounds. Not once has the rookie scored single digits this season. Blake's 'worst' performance in the last 26 games was 13 points and 11 rebounds. To put it in perspective, those numbers are bit better than Tim Duncan's season averages. Blake Griffin has a motor on him like Kevin Love, the power in his game like Dwight Howard, and the athleticism of Dominique Wilkins. Am I on his jock a bit? Yup. Should you be? Yup. Hate it or love it, the barely-legal-to-drink Griffin is the future of this game. The bandwagon is here, get on or get off. You know where I stand.
For your viewing pleasure, check the highlights from Monday's game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0ikcLWYzfo
It became real to me when Shonn Green pretended to use the pigskin as a pillow and figuratively put the Patriots to sleep. Before that moment, I still believed that New England would somehow find a loophole, somehow through a monumental Jets mistake that they would come back and win. The word 'unlikely' doesn't seem to do it justice. New York seemed to be firing on all cylinders throughout the 28-21 win, while New England had a dazed and confused look on their face. Mike Tyson once said that everyone has a plan coming into a fight until they get punched in the face. I thought about that quote when Tom Brady was on the receiving end of one of five sacks Sunday. This wasn't one of those games where the better team 'loses' the game, the Jets took it. The combination of Jets pressure on Brady and the lock down pass defense helped slow a Pats offense that were used to looking like AFC pro-bowl starters. Not on Sunday. And it wasn't just the defense but also the offense (which at points this year looked like a JV team) that would step up in the white-hot spotlight. Mark Sanchez tossed in three TD's while equally importantly putting a fat zero in the turnover column. With LT and Shonn Green combining for over 100 yards on the ground, the balanced offense seemed to march over the pats. You could see that New York clearly bothered New England. Drops on fourth down, botched fake punts, and running the ball in the 4th quarter when trailing are all things usually left off the Patriots calling card. They seemed rattled. I've been of the belief that the Rex Ryan sideshow and all that trash talk, is the furthest thing from what actually happens on the field. But now I can't be so sure. Rex Ryan has as much to do with this win as any of the Jets players. It's like a child who is continuously told that they're ugly and soon believe it. Rex pounds that swagger in their heads in the locker room. He pounds it in the media, so when the Jets players drive in their cars or watch SportsCenter, they hear about it. Be sure all friends and family over-talk it. The Jets players defend it, embrace it, and believe it. Hearing him in the press conference after the game, it was hard for me not to be a little happy for coach Ryan, a guy who I usually find annoying. He makes it easy to see why his players would run through a wall for him. Ryan is dynamic and not short on charisma. He's more than a football coach, he's a leader of men. Sure, these are professionals and don't need an ounce of extra motivation to play hard, especially in the playoffs, but how else can you explain it? Back to back years now in the AFC championship. In both years defying what makes sense 'on paper'. It's perfect though, because sports often times don't make sense. Add will power and momentum and anything is possible. That combo makes Super Bowl champions like the Saints fall to teams with losing records and sends football gods like Brady and Belichick home early, scratching their heads with confusion. You can hate their trash talk, their coach, their foot stories and the way they celebrated the win, but you have to take your hats off to the Jets. As promised, the Fireman Ed app has been downloaded to annoy me for the next seven days, no different really from what the Jets have done to me all year. Annoy, win, repeat.
I can honestly say I could not have asked for a more fun and smooth experience hosting Brian Sinkoff's show on ESPN radio for the last two days. It was a tremendous success. The topics, the callers, the producers; everything seemed to be on point. Thanks to everyone; friends and family for tuning in. I definitely want to double back and hit a few things from the two shows. Firstly, from Thursday's show talking about Brandi Favre (Bret's sissy) and her Meth den getting raided, I was listing signs that someone may be addicted to Meth. I think what I forgot to say was I was reading those 'signs and signals' from a medical website…instead I think it came off that I was just rambling on about crystal meth lol (Which after watching intervention, I will do from time to time). The 'Sink or Swim' from Friday's show on which football matchup from this weekend is the most interesting was like trying to pick who I like better, my brother or my sister. Coke or Pepsi. Magic or Bird. I love them all, and to pick one is tough, but I clearly made the right decision. The Ravens/Steelers matchup makes what little hair I have on my arms stand up. I equated the game to two bullies in school, stuffing Chess-club kids (The Browns and Bengals of the world) into lockers, until one fine day they bump shoulders in the cafeteria and decide to bang it out after school. Heavyweights. Smashmouth. Slobber-Knocker. Hard nose. I can't freaking wait. If the Jets end up beating the Pats, I'll download the fireman Ed app onto my phone and have that pycho scream J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS every time I get a call for a whole week…which for a Bills fan is the equivalent of downloading the audio of your own Mother in labor. Pierces the ear drum. I hope everyone understands that this weekend is a holiday for red-blooded American's. Divisionals man! After this weekend we're looking at three more games and 'POOF' it's over. Enjoy the taste while it lasts. Don't gulp it. Swish it around and savor the taste, because once it's gone…
The Cleveland Cavaliers are crashing and burning. The crash is their season. The burning is from their L.T.D. (LeBron Transmitted Disease). The loss on Tuesday night to the Lakers, 112-57, is the culmination of what has been an abomination of a season in C-Town. We all knew the Cavs wouldn't be the same without LeBron, but the recent performance is something that would make even the Clippers feel like the 72-win Bulls. It's not so much the fact that they're losing that makes this latest run so unique, but how they're doing it. Firstly, the point total of 57 is the lowest in franchise history. That's just over 14 points a quarter. These guys are NBA players, right? The Cavs have lost 8 straight, and out of their last 22 games played, they've lost 21. Does everyone now understand why LeBron left? This is his squad folks. The same squad he led to the 2007 finals. Granted a few guys, including Anderson Varejao, are hurt and that's a huge hit considering how hard he plays and what he means to that team, but c'mon. I dare you to take a peek at the box score from last night (make sure you have a barf bag nearby). Not one starter finished in double figures! Manny Harris finished with 8 points and played 41 minutes! LOL. Wait…Who's Manny Harris? And how is he starting for a NBA team? And he, by Cleveland standards, played well! He was the 3rd leading scorer. The big dog from the Cavs last night was Alonzo Gee, the leading scorer and rebounder with 12 and 8. The starting five combined for 23 points. Inversely, the Lakers had 7 players in double digits. I feel legitimately bad for Cav's coach Byron Scott, who took the Cleveland job under the impression LeBron may stay in town, and was left with the worst end of a deal since the Native Americans sold Manhattan for some beads and trinkets in the 1600′s. During the 4th quarter last night, Bron Bron hopped on his twitter and banged out this message: "Crazy. Karma is a b****. It's not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything." Whoaa, LeBreezy getting a little spiritual. Karma and God? Well blessed be. Obviously this was a direct shot at Cav's owner Dan Gilbert who has been media-beefing with LeBron since "The Breakup." The Heat are also in L.A. to play the Clippers, so both teams were supposed to share the same hotel in the city of Angels, but the Cavs (I'm sure under orders of Gilbert) switched to another. Were they afraid to run into LeBron and his two new BFF's in the hallway or at the continental breakfast? Were they going to get jammed up at the only waffle maker? I'm not sure, but to me that move shows weakness. LeBron broke up with Cleveland, got a new date that's smoking hot…so it only makes sense the original date wouldn't want to run into their ex. Mo Williams tweeted after the game: "I feel like I can't even show my face in Cleve." That might be better off Mo. Stay inside that Motel 6 you guys are staying at (They'll leave the light on for you). Where's all that brash toughness we heard from Dan Gilbert? All that jive-talk and promises? Turns out, the only thing Cleveland is promised is a high draft pick.
Notes: Just want to give a heads up to everyone that within the last 2 to 3 weeks I've been in contact with the capital region's affiliate for ESPN radio. They called me, I interviewed, and eventually was offered the position of alternate for both "Sound off with Sinkoff" and "The Noe Show." Whenever they are sick or on vacation, I'll be doing the majority of those shows, starting this Thursday, January 13th and Friday the 14th for Sinkoff from 3-7 pm. Check it out on 104.5 FM 'The Team', ESPN radio.
What in the name of Seahawks do we have here? The game to me that clearly stands out from an action packed Wild Card weekend was Seattle de-throning the world champion New Orleans Saints 41-36. After a week of grumblings in the media that a 7-9 team shouldn't be allowed in the playoffs, the Seahawks made their ultimate point. What's more shocking is the way Seattle did it, virtually beating New Orleans at their own game. How could this have happened? The Saints came into the game favored by 10 points! That's a huge number by regular season standards, let alone playoffs. (In 30 for 30 voice) "What if I told you", the day before the game with Seattle, that New Orleans would finish with 13 more first downs, 22 more total plays, a better percentage on 3rd down conversions, would have a 10-0 lead in the first half, over 100 more yards passing, and Drew Brees would have over 400 yards passing with no interceptions, AND LOSE? You would probably suspect that I just took a hit of the same crack that hooked DMX. But somehow the piss-test is negative and the Seahawks are moving on in the playoffs, while the Saints travel back to a confetti-less New Orleans. Out of all things, it was the run game that propelled the Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch finished with 131 yards, including a video-game type run late in the second half that broke the back of the Saints. Dude was just shredding the defense with cutbacks, and one serious out of nowhere stiff arm that would have made Inspector Gadget proud. The play set the record for longest rush in Seattle's post-season history, and promises to be looped continuously on playoff highlights forevermore. (Lynch, seen left, also set the record for ugliest human ever). Check this out, the Seahawks this season were 31st in the league in rushing. 31st! (Reminder: there's only 32 teams). Couple that with the fact they're 19th in the league passing, on paper this shouldn't even have been a contest. Seattle now has a 8-9 overall record. 8 freaking wins. New Orleans had 11 wins before kickoff (and after I guess). Chew on this: Seattle will have to win the damn Super Bowl to reach 11 wins! LOL Unreal. And what do you know, this week they play the Chicago Bears who are currently favored by….wait for it…..10! Can lightning strike twice? You can bet the Seahawks are walking around with long metal rods just in case.
If your a Miami Heat hater, turn away now. The Heat took down Portland in overtime Sunday night 107-100, snapping Portlands 8-game home winning streak. Miami's streak of 13 straight road victories is much more impressive. They're 3 wins away from 1971-72 mark set by the Lakers. Lebron went off for 44 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals, and led Miami down the stretch with two huge 3′s and free throws to seal the victory. This Heat team is scary. This is the team that Jeff Van Gundy was referring to this summer when he claimed they would break win records set by Jordan's Bulls and never lose back-to-back games. Although that won't happen, the point has been proved. The Heat are taking high percentage shots and it's paying off. Last night Miami shot 56% from the field. You can't beat that. Miami has learned to push the ball in transition and take advantage of their athleticism. This is a team that should total between 20-30 fast break points a night. Last night they had 23. Over the course of a season shots will go in and out, but when your taking 1/3 of your shots in the paint, logic says those percentages will stay strong. Last night the 'Big 3′ of Bosh, LeBreezy, and Wade combined for 96 of the 107 points. Boston, Orlando, and Chicago should be looking over their shoulders.
It gets better folks…Miami extended Tony Sporano's contract two more years. There's no way Sporano, the fans, or the players can be cool with this. Sporano, of course is offended for the way the Dolphins tried to figuratively 'wack' him. The fans are pissed because for one, their team/organization has been the leagues punchline for the last week. Secondly, the fans are stuck with the coach that their favorite players don't want to play for. The Dolphins dropped their last three games of the season, including mailing in the final week against the Pats (38-7). The players are likely disappointed to see that same thick mustash return for another 17 weeks next season. Certain players including Ricky Williams voiced their concerns with Sporano after the last week of the season. The main indication that the players aren't interested in Sporano's services is how they gave up in their last contest against New England. When a coach is on the hot seat, and your last game of the regular season means nothing, your play can be boiled down to pride and loyalty. For instance, if the Dolphins players gave a damn whether their coach returned next season, the level of commitment and effort would be there because that's their guy. Sporano is obviously not. Basically the Dolphins cast their line and tried to catch a big fish in Harbaugh, came up empty, and hit Long John Silvers on the way home.
The Pheonix Suns were assaulted and mugged Friday night by the New York Knicks 121-96, as Amare Stoudemire returned to his former home in the dessert. I just want to bring to light a few thoughts I have from this game. Firstly, Steve Nash needs to demand a trade, and it will benefit everyone in return. Phoenix needs new young pieces to rebuild around. Lets face it, the Suns are bad. How bad? They've lost 7 of their last 8 type bad. The Suns were a regular guests in the playoffs for the better part of the last decade (I say guest because they could never stick around ). But as Bob Dylan famously said, "The times they are a changin". And changed they have. No longer are the days of Amare, Shawn Marion, and Joe Johnson. Instead they have Vince Carter, who's experation date has passed and is begining to taste sour. Sure Grant Hill can still ball, but should be nowhere near a second option on a legit team. How does Josh Childress start and only play 12 minutes? The Suns are over! Steve Nash, at this point in his career needs to play for something besides a paycheck. Nash: Get out of Pheonix!!
ENJOY YOUR NFL GAMES THIS WEEKEND!! SEE YOU MONDAY!!!
The Miami Dolphin's Owner and General Manager have traveled West to whisper 'sweet nothings' into the ear of Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, in hopes of landing him as their new head coach. I can't stand this story for a few reasons and if you bear with me for the next 3 minutes, I'll tell you why. First, and foremost, the Miami Dolphins are acting unprofessional (And it has nothing to do with the negligence of losing their mascot, "Snowflake"). Plain and simple. They currently have a head coach in Tony Sparano. I know everyone knows that, but I don't want to lose sight of what's really happening here. The Dolphins brass is, to me, showing signs of weakness. Are you really courting a guy for a position you already have filled? Not only is it disrespectful to Sparano, but in my opinion it's rude to Harbaugh as well. What if Harbaugh really does want this position? Miami is putting Harbaugh in a bad spot, and basically forcing his hand of indirectly undercutting Sparano. The 'Fins know full well that Sparano is not their guy, so why not do like the 49ers and fire him? Even if they fired him today it still wouldn't make what they've done any better. Look at it like this, say you meet a beautiful girl, and she seems great. She lets you know she wants you. You're pumped. Come to find out she's still in a relationship with her boyfriend and is cheating on him with you. If and when you commit to her, she'll then break up with him. A bit bizarre? I think so. What would make you so different, that if you stopped pleasing her, she'd go and do the same thing to you?! You have to think the same thought has crossed Harbaugh's mind. It's also an unwritten rule among professionals that you don't express public interest in a job that is currently filled. It's just ugly all around. Here's another thought: Is the fact that these teams are 'ga-ga' over Harbaugh warranted? Great coach? Yes. Great guy and ex-NFL QB? Sure. But he hasn't coached one game in the Pro's! I'm not saying that he won't be fantastic, but to anoint him as the leagues highest paid coach?!?! Your spoon-feeding a guy, but your unsure if he can chew. It seems like these owners and GM's go after the hottest thing out there, but not every coach is a thermos and can stay warm. How about Nick Saban? Miami gave him the keys to the city in 2005 after his run's with LSU…how did that turn out? Pete Carroll couldn't cut it in the NFL either with the Patriots in the late 90′s, and he went back and dominated college football. Now he's back fighting to be .500. Inversely, look at a guy like Jim Caldwell or Mike Tomlin. Neither of the two were brought into town on a white horse with hype, a bowl championship or a stack of money. Both have proved to be great hires. Although these are isolated examples, you see my point. Next season there will likely be a new Harbaugh that will hypothetically save a franchise. If it's possible to have the right thought, but the wrong thought process, Miami would fit that description. Good luck to a soon-to-be unemployed Tony Sparano on finding a job. I heard there may be an opening at Stanford.
I had a great feeling about Stanford last night giving the 4 points to Virginia Tech, but I didn't think it would be that messy for the Hokies. 40-12? Damn. What was my favorite part of the game besides pocketing some cash at the expense of Marcus Vick's alma mater? Was it Stanford's Andrew Luck slinging the ball all over the field, picking apart the VTech defense? A pleasure to watch, but no. Was it Stanford's creative sense of humor by out-rushing Virginia Tech 247-66? LOL close, but no. It wasn't even Luck's interview after the game: speaking so proper, nervously blinking uncontrollably, and reminding me of the kid from 'Leave it to Beaver'. My favorite part of the game came after the horn went off, and the microphones got turned on. As we all know Stanford coach Jim Harbough and quarterback Andrew Luck are both rumored to be making the jump to the pro's. In the heat of the moment after winning the Orange Bowl, an ESPN reporter (Michelle Tafoya) on the field immediately asked Luck if he was leaving college. Luck said he needed to talk to his parents and he would make a decision in the coming weeks. When officials called the team up on the podium 30 seconds later to accept the trophy, and Luck accepted it, he was again asked by an ESPN employee if he was staying at Stanford. As if Luck changed his mind in the 30 seconds from one interview to the next, but Luck responded politely and repeated the words that had just rolled off his tongue. Jim Harbough on the other hand had the right idea. Tafoya grabbed coach Harbough seconds after the game and was surely going to get around to asking 'The Question', but good ol' Jimbo didn't even give her the chance! He waved another player over, ignored her question, and said "the credit goes to our players" and proceeded to, literally, run away. The look on the face of Tafoya was as if she was just kicked in her Uterus. On the podium accepting the trophy, like Luck, Harbough was asked again about his future. His response was "respect the game", as in the one that was just played, as in the very reason he's up on the podium in the first place. Directly after the ceremony in the press conference, some cheesy reporter asked the same damn question! This time Harbough was a little more irritated, and said things like "give me a break" and "respect these players". Thank god. Don't you think we all want to know where he'll be next season? Do these reporters think for even one millisecond that in the moments after the Orange Bowl Jim Harbough is going to announce his decision? That it will be their question that breaks the story? What are you expecting him to say? "Hell yea guy I'm glad you asked, I want to coach the 49ers! If they're booked up I wanna take a shot in Denver, but I hate the cold." I heard Colin Cowherd saying on his show how he respects the reporter for asking the tough question. I couldn't disagree more. These guys have to use discretion. Take into consideration he just won the biggest game of his career. Consider that he's just been asked the same question 3 times in the last 90 seconds. Why would the fourth question get a different response? Sure, media is a competitive business, so set yourself apart! Props to Harbough for making the win about the team who won.
Finally, the once highly anticipated regular season has come to an end. Some of these games in the last few weeks were like sitting in the Dentist's chair. I was just waiting for the Novocain that is the NFL playoffs to kick in. And if Novocain is the playoffs, then the Patriots have to be some sort of large drill. You can't spin any other team to me other than the Pats as the Super Bowl favorite. It's hard to say where this New England team stacks up against the other great Patriots teams from this past decade, but it's safe to say they're as focused as they've ever been. Weren't they supposed to rest players yesterday against the Dolphins? Brady wound up playing in the third quarter en route to a 34-7 victory. The 27 point blowout was merely par for the course for a New England team that has basically pounded teams for the last 16 weeks. They've outscored opponents this season 518-313. The Pats could have started this season 200 points in the hole and still outscored opponents as a whole. It's unthinkable. We're talking about a guy in Tom Brady who, without hall-of-famer Randy Moss, has gone 11 straight games without an interception. 11 freaking games! Even crazier is that he only has 4 on the entire season! To put it in perspective, Eli Manning has over 5 times that amount (25). To pile on the stats, Brady has continued to tally his NFL record of 335 straight passes without a pick. Let's not look past the fact that this is a passing offense, on a winning team. A 14-2 team that has a first round bye and home field advantage through the AFC playoffs. (Oh, and the Pats just happens to have another current NFL record of 28 consecutive wins at home). Brady will deservingly be voted the league's most valuable player, but don't expect a song and dance when he does. Brady this past week said: "My feeling, as always, is most valuable player in a team sport, to me, that doesn't make a lot of sense." I'm not surprised by the response from the star QB. Countless athletes would give that generic humble response, but Brady's words have validity to them. The focus in his words match the Patriots focus on the field. No wonder his New England Patriots are the favorites to raise their fourth Vince Lombardi trophy.