Author Archives: klownboy

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

Believe It or Not, Geno Auriemma Has a Point

ncaaUConn’s women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is a lot of things to a lot of people – most of them not so good.

He comes off as an egotistical blowhard, always seemingly bloviating over how great the women’s game is (and his team, of course), as well as other topics he may seemingly no idea of what he is talking about.  And he did not improve that perception when he said that the men’s college game was “a joke”.

Here’s his quote:

“I think the game is a joke. It really is. I don’t coach it. I don’t play it, so I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it. But as a spectator, forget that I’m a coach, as a spectator, watching it, it’s a joke. There’s only like ten teams, you know, out of 25, that actually play the kind of game of basketball that you’d like to watch. Every coach will tell you that there’s 90 million reasons for it.”

The first thing that popped in my mind (and most people’s) was the following: “Who in the hell does he think HE is?  Didn’t Auriemma watch the NCAA tournament?”

I (and most people) also thought that of all the things that are a joke and unwatchable, women’s college basketball takes the cake.  I mean nothing says interesting more that one team (UConn) blowing the hell out of the rest of the field year in and year out.  Having women’s tournament games in the Sweet 16 drawing less than 3,000 spectators helps Auriemma’s cause too.

HOWEVER, if you listened more to what this blowhard had to say, you’d see that Auriemma actually has a point – and you may end up agreeing with him.  Here ya go:

“And the bottom line is that nobody can score, and they’ll tell you it’s because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of team work, nonsense, nonsense. College men’s basketball is so far behind the times it’s unbelievable. I mean women’s basketball is behind the times. Men’s basketball is even further behind the times.”

Let’s dissect Auriemma’s last quote.

First of all, scoring IS down and some games in the regular season are hard to watch.  Has anyone tried watching any Virginia Cavaliers games or almost all Big Ten (14) games?  Scoring points are at a premium, and watching those games are like paradise at the dentist’s office.

There are many ways scoring could be increased.

I believe the 3-point line should be moved further out.  That would help open up the court and encourage movement on offense.  Move movement = more scoring opportunities.

I think the shot clock should be lowered to 30 seconds.  Less time to take a shot means more offensive possessions.  And more offensive possessions increase the chances of more points being scored, unless that team’s offense flat-out sucks.

I also think that they should take decrease the number of timeouts: coaches and TV.  The college game is, unlike the NBA, a coach’s game.  Coaches get five timeouts (four 30-seconds and one 60-seconds), and if the game is broadcast on TV, radio and over the internet, four media timeouts PER HALF (at the first dead ball under 16, 12, 8 and 4 minutes remaining in each half).  Why in the hell do we have four media timeouts per half?  Do announcers need to take a piss at those moments?  I don’t see a damn port-a-potty chilling behind the baskets.

As a result of all those timeouts, coaches usually save their own timeouts to use at the end of competitive games, rendering the last 90 seconds of such games unbearable to watch.

So, as much as I loathe Auriemma from time to time, I have to say that I agree with dude 1,000%.

Again, people may hate on Auriemma for calling the men’s game “a joke”.  He may come off as a bit of a pompous-ass because of that.  But you can’t hate on the man for being on point.

Michael Sam Is Doing More Harm to His NFL Future

NFL-LogoLet me start by saying I am fan of Michael Sam.  Not only do I think Sam could play in the NFL, I want the young brother to succeed in doing so.

The problem is that he is making it harder for himself to realize that dream.

Sam recently gave a speech and Q&A session in Dallas recently when he said he was not the only gay person in the NFL. Here’s more:

“I’m just saying there is a lot of us. I respect the players that did reach out to me and had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out before I even played a down in the NFL.

“The players who have reached out to me and told me about their sexual orientation, it just means a lot. But I will never say anything about who they are, what teams they are [on]. I’m just saying there’s some famous people, and I’m not the only one.”

As far as I know, Sam probably was just answering an audience member’s question.  I’d imagine that after giving such a speech, Sam (or anyone else) would have no choice but to be candid during a Q&A session.

And to be sure, there are gay players in the NFL.  If the NFL mirrors society’s demographics, there would be quite a few such players in the NFL.  And hold on to your hats (or toupees for the balding readers), but I’m pretty sure there are coaches AND teammates who know who those gay players are – and likely do not give a damn.

I just think that there are coaches – and probably some players – who are getting a little tired Michael Sam’s act.  It’s not just because the brother is gay, it’s because teams hate, and I mean HATE, distractions.

No one wants to put up with the media circus that Sam would bring in the locker room, especially for a guy who can’t run (he clocked a 4.99 40-yard dash at the NFL veteran combine).  Far too many people in the NFL are still smarting from the Tim Tebow experience, even though most of it was through no fault of his own.

Even though Sam hoped that his sexuality was not the reason why he couldn’t stick to an NFL roster last year, I’ll take it a step further and say that his OPENNESS about his sexuality before even being drafted had a huge part in him not playing last season.   In fact, if he kept his sexuality to himself I think he would have been drafted much higher, maybe in the third or fourth round.

Do I think it’s wrong that the former SEC co-defensive player of the year has not caught onto an NFL roster?  Absolutely.

It’s not like Sam had a bad 2014 preseason with the St. Louis Rams.  He acquitted himself in the Rams’ last two preseason games, including a two-sack performance vs. the Cleveland Browns.  Word was that Sam was barely beaten out by an undrafted free agent during that preseason.

I just think that Sam should have focused his efforts on working harder on his measurables and concentrated on having a good Combine showing for teams interested in his services instead of looking to be a celebrity/activist.

As I have learned as a black man in America, sometimes one has to play the game in order to get to where he/she needs to be.  It’s not right, but it is what it is – especially in a society where he/she is in the minority.

Sam would be more effective if he were speaking out for gay rights while being firmly entrenched on an NFL roster.  The more Sam keeps speaking out on gay rights while remaining unemployed, the more radioactive he becomes.

Thoughts on the 2015 NCAA Tournament’s Opening Weekend

ncaaThere were lots to love about the first weekend of the 2015 NCAA Tournament‬: a few upsets here, a couple of shockers there (sorry Kansas).  And my bracket has officially been shot to hell (gee thanks Michigan State for eliminating my Final Four pick).

Meanwhile, I think what stands out the most is the following:

The Big 12 Conference may have been a bit overrated.

Save me the rhetoric over the conference’s high RPI rating as a whole (it’s the best).  And yeah seven of those teams made the tournament, and rightfully so based on the regular season.

But no conference worth its weight would have only two of its seven teams make it to the Sweet 16.  I mean, let’s count the ways – shall we…

  1. Kansas getting smacked by 7th seeded Wichita State in the second round*.
  2. Oklahoma State (whose presence was a bit debatable) losing to Oregon.
  3. Baylor and Iowa State being upset by two double-digit seeds (Georgia State and UAB, respectively).
  4. Texas getting spanked by Butler.

I mean after all, such a MIGHTY conference shouldn’t be losing to such teams – especially in the first round*.  Speaking of Kansas, think Bill Self and company are still looking down their noses at Wichita State?  Then again, the Jayhawks would probably be more afraid to schedule the Shockers.

The Atlantic Coast Conference may have been a bit underrated.

All I have been hearing all season is how the ACC is so damn top-heavy, that outside of the conference’s top five teams (Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, UNC and Louisville).  In fact, some of those same “experts” claimed that the sorry-ass Big Ten was more “balanced” (really?).

But as my alma mater NC State would demonstrate, teams in the second-tier of the ACC are not exactly chopped liver.  Just ask Villanova.

Besides, there is a reason why the ACC is 11-1 in the tournament, with five of its six teams in the Sweet 16.  The Big 12 nor Big 10 could make the same claim.

The so-called mid-majors represented yet again.

As with the case of prior years, the mid-majors made some noise in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.  UAB beating Big 12 tournament champ Iowa State.  Georgia State beating Baylor (sorry Big 12 fans).  My alma mater NC State beating top-seeded Villanova.  UCLA beating SMU on a “turrible” goaltending call.

While Gonzaga was not that big of a surprise per se, seeing Xavier and Wichita State in the Sweet 16 was cool to see.  The latter doing it had to be especially sweet to fans of the Shockers (see my clowning of Kansas above).

The Pac-12 Conference acquitted itself pretty well.

Three of the four teams from the Pac-12 are in the Sweet 16, which is one fewer than the so-called “tougher” Big 12 and Big 10 conferences combined.  Arizona, Utah, and UCLA are playing good basketball right now.

Speaking of UCLA, it had been intriguing to see the Bruins advance to the Sweet 16 – bad goaltending call notwithstanding.  While it is probably going to get curb-stomped by Gonzaga in their Sweet 16 matchup, UCLA is having a good tournament run nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Arizona might have something to say about Kentucky’s unbeaten streak.  It is playing in LA for the Sweet 16, which is not only a Pac-12 hotbed, but it will be a HUGE homecourt advantage for the Wildcats.  I’d be shocked if Wisconsin beats them in the Elite Eight, should both advance that far.

Never bet against Tom Izzo in the NCAA tournament.

Another year, another year Coach Izzo has his Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16.  This year has been more impressive because this year’s squad is nowhere near his best.

His Spartans beat a #2-seed Virginia team that on paper is light years better than this #7-seeded Michigan State.  The Cavaliers do what his Spartans do best, and do it better.  However, the Spartans were in control of the game from start to finish in winning what was essentially a road game in the second round*.

Once again, Izzo proved to be one of the best coaches in college basketball.  Tom Izzo is the man.  Period.

*- I do not believe the play-in games in Dayton are part of the tournament.  All four games feature mediocre teams who may have no business in the tournament, let alone advancing very far.  They do call them “play-in games” for a reason…

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