OKC Will Rue the Day it Fired Scott Brooks

200px-Oklahoma_City_Thunder.svgScott Brooks’ time as coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder was indeed a mixed bag.

A lot of fans and pundits thought that Brooks heavily underachieved during the last portion of his tenure.  The common though is that a team led by superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should have been winning AT LEAST the Western Conference on a yearly basis.  Division titles were merely considered stepping stones.

There is also a portion of fans (and maybe a few pundits) that believe Brooks did the best that he could given the competitive nature of the Western Conference.  Besides, the Thunder did win consecutive Northwest Division titles (2009-2013) before this season.

While I am one to believe that if one does not aim high he/she might as well sit on that ass and don’t even try, I am leaning toward the latter of the aforementioned views of Brooks.

Follow me for a minute.

Before Brooks took over as the full-time head coach in 2009 (he was an interim after PJ Carlesimo got canned the season before), the Thunder finished 23-59 in its first season as the team formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics.  The 2009-2010 team finished 50-32, and the Thunder had increased their wins and prestige the following seasons before this year’s injury-marred campaign.

And while he led the Thunder to only one NBA Finals appearance in 2012, the following kept Brooks from attaining the team’s lofty goals of yearly Finals appearances:

  • OKC lost in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual NBA champion (Dallas in 2011, San Antonio last season).
  • OKC lost to Memphis in the second round of the playoffs sans Westbrook (knee injury).
  • OKC failed to qualify for the playoffs this season largely due to injuries to Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.  Durant missed damn near close to half the season.

Didn’t seem like the actions of such a horrible coach.

There is no shame to losing to the likes of Rick Carlisle (Dallas) and Gregg Popovich (San Antonio) in the playoffs, as they are two of the top three coaches in the NBA (Doc Rivers is the third of that group).  There is also no shame in not getting to the Finals out of the Western Conference because, well, it’s the Western Conference!

I think that Brooks will stay unemployed for a millisecond, as teams like the Orlando Magic would love to have a coach who could communicate with and relate to younger players the way Brooks did in OKC.  He is also an underrated developer of said young talent.

Hell, my Knicks could use Brooks’ services right about now…

Happy Earth Day!!!!!!

celebrate-earth-dayWe at “The Klown Times” want to wish you all a Happy Earth Day!

Let us all continue to do what we can to preserve our environment and make it sustainable to all who inhabit it.  After all, a dirty-ass environment produces an unhealthy one for people like you and me.  Recycle dammit, and keep hugging those trees as tight as you can – you Birkenstock wearing mutha-(truckers)…

What in Tarnation Is Going on in Philly?

Philadelphia-EaglesIt’s official: Chip Kelly has lost his damn mind.

It wasn’t enough for the Philadelphia Eagles head coach to release big-play WR DeSean Jackson last season.  It wasn’t enough for Kelly to trade away his best player in RB LeSean McCoy.  And trading for the oft-injured QB Sam Bradford was one thing, but re-signing another stiff QB in Mark Sanchez – while trading away a competent QB in Nick Foles – was a head-scratcher.

And oh yes, and the racist himself Riley Cooper is still employed by the team (while letting Jeremy Maclin go).

So one would think that Kelly would just slow his roll a little bit and focus on the upcoming draft, right?  WRONG!

For some reason, Kelly gave Tim Tebow a one-year, $3 million contract yesterday.  You read that right folks.

This was the same Tim Tebow whose QBR is the worst ever among starting QBs.  The same Tebow who was (and still is) such a polarizing figure in all of sports.  The same Tebow whose presence alone will generate a media circus that I thought had gone away for good.

And worst of all, I get to see a certain ESPN personality do THIS again…

Hey Eagles fans, I wish I could tell y’all that it’s gonna be alright and things should work itself out in the end, but I’d be lying to y’all.

I really do not know what Kelly is up to.  I don’t know if he is going to flip Bradford or another player for an extra 1st round pick (good luck with that).  I’m just scratching my bald head right now while wondering “huh?”

Look, it may be a bit admirable for Kelly do things his way in the sense that if he does fail, at least it would be with him doing things HIS way.  I’m just saying what’s the point?  Why the need for showing players on the team who’s boss at the expense of ridding yourself of your best players?

I just don’t get it.  And from the looks of things, neither do Eagles fans.

A Rather Quick 2015 NBA Playoffs Preview: First Round

254px-NBA_Logo.svg_The 2015 NBA Playoffs are FINALLY here.  And while my New York Knicks are not in it (again), there are a lot of storylines to pay attention to in the opening round.

The storylines in the Western Conference could carry interest alone.

Will the defending champion San Antonio Spurs get back to the NBA Finals as a road underdog?  Will the Los Angeles Clippers continue to underachieve in the playoffs?  Will MVP candidates Stephen Curry and James Harden lead their teams on long playoff runs?  Speaking of Curry, will the Golden State Warriors validate its historic regular season with an appearance in the Finals?

The storylines in the East are a bit more interesting than last year’s playoff showing.

Will LeBron James help take Cleveland to the promised land and deliver a title?  Will the Atlanta Hawks validate their stellar regular season with a deep playoff run of their own?  Will Derrick Rose remain healthy throughout these playoffs?  Will the sorry-ass bottom half of the playoff field go the hell away quickly?

Inquiring minds want to know.

As this preview is concerned, this will include very quick, straight-to-the-point analysis on each series.  Since I have a day job and am doing this shit for free, this won’t be but so in-depth.

So without further ado, here is how I have things shaping out in the NBA Playoff’s first round (in a rather quick fashion)…

Eastern Conference

1. Atlanta Hawks vs. 8. Brooklyn Nets

Analysis:  The Hawks had its best regular season, playing as a team with no superstar but rather as a collection of stars.  Led by coach/former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta has become “San Antonio East”.  Brooklyn is the typical underachiever, having players that should speak to a better record.  Look for the Nets to flop their asses out of the playoffs – quickly.

Prediction:  Hawks in 5

2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7. Boston Celtics

Analysis:  James, Kyrie Irving, and to a lesser extent Kevin Love are on a mission.  The Cavs have gelled together at the right time and should demolish the Celtics on their way to a second round date with the Bulls.  The Celtics will use this playoff appearance as a teachable experience.

Prediction: Cavaliers in a sweep

3. Chicago Bulls vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks

Analysis:  The Bulls have the luxury of playing at least four home playoff games.  Milwaukee is only a short drive from Chicago, and the Bucks’ fan support has been lacking to say the least.  The only thing that would prevent a Bulls’ sweep is something happening to Derrick Rose.

Prediction: Bulls in a sweep

4. Toronto Raptors vs. 5. Washington Bullets

Analysis:  In what should be the most competitive series in the East, both squads are young and talented.  The Raptors are exciting and well-coached, while the Bullets have veteran leadership (Paul Pierce, Nene, Marcin Gortat) mixed with good young talent (John Wall and Bradly Beal).  Now if Pierce’s critique of the team prevents the Bullets from moving forward, it just speaks to the team’s lack of heart.  That said, I don’t think Pierce will allow Washington to fizzle in the first round.

Prediction: Bullets in 6

Western Conference

1. Golden State Warriors vs. 8. New Orleans Pelicans

Analysis:  I am happy to have an opportunity to watch Anthony Davis in his first playoff series.  Too bad it will be a quick series.  Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Co. will make sure of that.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

2. Houston Rockets vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks

Analysis:  While he does not historically play well in the postseason, James Harden will flex his muscles and get his boys past the veteran Mavs.  While I think Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle is one of the best in the business, too much internal friction (ahem, Rajon Rondo) will be an impediment to Dallas advancing to the second round.

Prediction: Rockets in 6

3. Los Angeles Clippers vs. 6. San Antonio Spurs

Analysis:  This will be the most competitive first round series in the playoffs, period.  It will be competitive to the point that the winner of this series will represent the West in the NBA Finals (sorry Golden State).  The Spurs and Clippers are coached by the two best in the sport in Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, respectively.  While I almost NEVER like to pick against the Spurs, I’m going with the Clippers.  Not only will homecourt make a difference, I think that Chris Paul and Rivers are motivated off of their second round series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last season.  So early congrats are in order for the Clippers on making the NBA Finals (something tells me I will regret picking against Pop and the Spurs).

Prediction: Clippers in 7

4. Portland Trail Blazers vs. 5. Memphis Grizzlies*

*Grizzlies will have home-court advantage

Analysis:  As much as I like Memphis and their style of play, I must pose the following question: will ANYONE outside of both Oregon and Tennessee give a damn about this series?  I’m not saying both teams aren’t nice.  In addition to my earlier comment on Memphis, Portland has a bevy of talented cats.  I think this is a bad matchup for the Blazers, who are not ready for the Grizzlies’ physicality.

Prediction:  Grizzlies in 6

The NHL Playoffs Are Where It’s At

NHL-LogoI’ll admit this from the jump: I do not follow hockey as closely as other sports.

Hell I follow NASCAR more so than hockey, so I won’t pretend to be a know-it-all expert of the sport.  In fact, I consider myself more of a casual hockey fan.

Though being originally from Brooklyn, NY mandates that I become a New York Rangers fan (who gives a shit about the Islanders?) and keep an eye on them every now and then, I became a Carolina Hurricanes fan (of sorts) while living in Raleigh, NC.  But I’m so detached from the sport I’d usually settle for check-ins a month or two at a time.  Plus it doesn’t help that the Canes suck royally.

Having said that, one thing is for certain: I love the NHL playoffs.

Hockey is hands-down the most grueling sport in the world.  Three 20 minute periods.  Constant movement to go with vicious checking.  No wonder coaches have to utilize three to four lines per game.

And if you think the regular season is grueling, check out the NHL’s postseason.  It’s not for the faint of heart.

There is a sense of urgency that the postseasons in other pro sports cannot match.

The intensity goes up several notches.  The physicality would make a grown man suck his thumb and quiver.  And the drama would keep even the casual sports fans on the edge of their seats.

I mean what other pro sport could say that all of its opening round playoff series, all the way to the top seed going against the lowest seed, are toss ups?

Top seeds are upset in the opening rounds more than a few times.  In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings spanked the top-seed Vancouver Canucks 4-1 – and went on to win the Stanley Cup!  In 2010, the perennially underachieving Washington Capitals were upset by the Montreal Canadiens.   The Anaheim Ducks took out the San Jose Sharks in the opening round in 2009.  Don’t forget about the top-seed Detroit Red Wings falling to the Edmonton Oilers (and eventual Western Conference champs) in the first round in 2006.

So y’all get the point.

And the NHL gets it right by re-seeding its teams based on the results of the first round (note: the NFL is the other league that does this).  As late as the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, Pittsburgh and Chicago (the conferences top seeds) played the 7-seeds after the 2-seeds were upset.  If it were the NBA playoffs, the 3-seeds would play the 7-seeds and have an unfair advantage over the top seed.

And it’s never guaranteed that the most expensive or even most talented team always comes away with the Stanley Cup.  Check out some of the teams I mentioned a couple of paragraphs above.  As ESPN’s NHL honcho Barry Melrose likes to say: one cannot simply buy the Stanley Cup, ya gotta earn it.

Again, I’m only a casual hockey fan at best.  However, I am going to tune into the Stanley Cup playoffs and enjoy every minute of it.

Oh one more thing, my money is on the afore-dissed Islanders.  There is something about a team playing its last ever season in a dilapidated arena (Nassau Coliseum) and wanting to go out with a bang.

Stay tuned…

Gotta Give it Up to Coach K

duke_blue_devilsThis is going to be a hard rant for me to type up.

Growing up in Winston-Salem, NC and later becoming an alumnus of North Carolina State University (class of 1997), I have learned two important things: hating the University of North Carolina and despising Duke.  And my loathing for Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Kryzysewski has increased over time.

So pardon me when I say that I found myself between a rock in a hard place: pulling for the Atlantic Coast Conference to land the national title while having to stomach watching Duke represent the ACC in doing so.

Speaking of Coach K, it’s time to give credit where credit is due.  He is the greatest college coach of all time.  Period.

Now I’m sure there are several old-school – REALLY old-school – UCLA fans who would say I am full of shit and would argue that the late John Wooden is the mack daddy of all college basketball coaches.

Here is where I would defeat that argument.

Wooden’s Bruins was dominant over a decade (from 1964-1975).  Wooden also had the benefit in not only playing in a much weaker Pac-8 (now Pac-12) conference, the field was not but so deep as well.  Not trying to poo-poo Wooden’s legacy, but let’s call it for what it is: he won with mostly dominant players (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich) during a time where college basketball was not as strong and popular as it has been since the 1980s.

Coach K’s road to the top, on the other hand, was much rougher.

People forget that Coach K was almost fired after his third season.  His records during his first three seasons were 17-13, 10-17, and 11-17 respectively.

And while Wooden wasn’t but so success during his early years as well, Coach K had the misfortune of getting lost in the shuffle in an ACC that included Dean Smith (UNC), Terry Holland (Virginia), Jim Valvano (NC State), Bobby Cremins (Georgia Tech) and Lefty Drisell (Maryland).  The ACC was (and arguably still is) the best college basketball conference in the land and Duke fans and boosters were not having it.

Then 1984 happened.

Led by the likes of Johnny Dawkins, Jay Bilas, Dave Henderson, and Mark Alarie, Coach K took Duke to the first NCAA tournament for the first time in his career.  That started a run of 11 straight NCAA tournament berths, during with Coach K won two national titles and five Finals Fours.

The year after the season where he took off due to health reasons (back surgery and recovery from exhaustion during the 1994-1995 season), he got the Blue Devil Machine going again in leading them back to the NCAA tournament.

The most important part of Coach K’s legacy is that while Wooden had his decade of dominance, it was just that – a decade.  Coach K has been exerting his dominance for three decades and counting.  And the competition – not to mention recruiting – in college basketball has been a helluva lot more tougher than it was during the Wooden era.

All and all, Coach K’s accomplishments are the following:

  • Five-time NCAA Champion – 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015
  • Four-time Olympic Gold Medal winner – 1984, 1992 (assistant coach); 2008, 2012 (head coach)
  • Two-time FIBA World Championship Gold Medal winner – 2010, 2014
  • Three-time Naismith College Coach of the Year – 1989, 1992, 1999
  • 13-time ACC  tournament champion
  • 12-time ACC regular season champion
  • Five-time ACC Coach of the Year – 1984, 1986, 1997, 1999, 2000
  • 12 trips to the Final Four
  • Nine NCAA championship games

Again it pains me to say this (as I have before), Coach K is the greatest college coach of all time and second place is not even close.  Time for me to throw up in my mouth.

A Nice, Quick 2015 MLB Preview

mlbThe 2015 Major League Baseball season is upon us.  Lots of storylines abound for the upcoming season.

In the American League: will Alex Rodriguez bounce back?  Will the New York Yankees rebound?  Will the Boston Red Sox’ hitting take them to an AL East division title?  Will Robinson Cano lead the Seattle Mariners back to prominence?

In the National League: will the Washington Nationals FINALLY put together a successful postseason?  Ditto for the Los Angeles Dodgers?  Will someone FINALLY take out the St. Louis Cardinals, aka “Team Cockroach”?

Inquiring minds want to know.  In the meantime, on to the quick-ass preview (predicted records in parentheses)…

*-denotes wild card team

American League

AL East

  1. Baltimore Orioles (89-73)
  2. Boston Red Sox (87-75)
  3. Toronto Blue Jays (85-77)
  4. New York Yankees (81-81)
  5. Tampa Bay Rays (74-88)

(Memo to my beloved Yankees: please win!  Prove me wrong dammit!)

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers (85-77)
  2. Cleveland Indians (83-79)
  3. Kansas City Royals (80-82)
  4. Chicago White Sox (75-87)
  5. Minnesota Twins (68-94)

AL West

  1. Seattle Mariners (94-68)
  2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim below El Segundo in Orange County (90-72)*
  3. Oakland Athletics (88-74)*
  4. Texas Rangers (72-90)
  5. Houston Astros (65-97)

National League

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals (96-66)
  2. Miami Marlins (84-78)
  3. Atlanta Braves (80-82)
  4. New York Mets (76-86)
  5. Philadelphia Phillies (70-92)

(“METS” = “My Entire Team Sucks”)

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (89-73)
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates (88-74)*
  3. Chicago Cubs (86-76)
  4. Cincinnati Reds (81-81)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers (75-87)

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68)
  2. San Francisco Giants (90-72)*
  3. San Diego Padres (85-77)
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks (75-87)
  5. Colorado Rockies (69-93)

Postseason awards

AL MVP: Robinson Cano

NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen

AL Cy Young Award Winner: Felix Hernandez

NL Cy Young Award Winner: Clayton Kershaw

American League pennant winner: Mariners

National League pennant winner: Nationals

2015 World Series winner: Nationals

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