Blog Archives

Jim Buss FINALLY Gets it Right with Byron Scott

200px-LA_Lakers_logo.svgLet me take a moment to stand up and give Los Angeles Lakers owner Jim Buss a round of applause.

Buss and the Lakers’ brass made a good coaching move for a change and hired Byron Scott – a former Lakers great – to coach the team.  This was a lot better than the last coaching hires he made: Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni.

More importantly, Buss hired a man that Kobe Bryant WANTED.  Remember when the Lakers brought in Brown?  That was because Buss (and to be fair, his late father Jerry) clashed with former coach Phil Jackson and forced Jackson’s resignation after getting swept by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks out of the second round of the 2011 Western Conference playoffs.

And how did Brown work out?  He got fired five games (FIVE!) into the 2012-2013 season because he basically could not coach offense.

And remember that D’Antoni hire?  That was because he was chosen over the idea of bringing Jackson back to coach, which by the way was not only an idea that Jackson was open to but was also something Bryant WANTED (again).  Even with a healthy Bryant, the Lakers underachieved under D’Antoni.

So if you are keeping score, Buss rebuffed Bryant’s wishes TWICE before wising up in bringing in someone he wanted and respected.  Only this time, Buss may have finally listened.

Bryant idolized Scott because of the role he played on those great Laker teams in the ’80s.  Bryant also idolized Scott because he was a winner.  The fact that Bryant respects and loves Scott should bode well for the Lakers, even if they are not expected to make the playoffs.

Let’s look at Scott’s track record before that disaster in LeBron-less Cleveland.  He led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals.  He led the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) to a memorable playoff run that ended in a Game 7 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2008 Western Conference playoffs.

I think Scott is a good hire for the Lakers.  Again, it may not translate into a playoff spot for the Lakers (look at the Lakers’ roster aside from Bryant.  Jeremy Lin?  An amnestied Carlos Boozer?  Swaggy P?  Really?), but at least Buss finally have his Lakers headed in the right direction.

And it’s about damn time.

Two Games Are Not Enough for Ray Rice

404px-Baltimore_Ravens_logo.svgI had the two feelings upon hearing about the “punishment” Ray Rice received for assaulting his then-fiancée.

Disgust and shame.

I was (and still am) disgusted that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed Rice what I felt was a light punishment – a slap on the wrist no less.  I was (and still am) disgusted that violence against women is not taken as as seriously as violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

And I do not care if Josh Gordon was a repeat offender in the substance abuse department – he didn’t knock out any women along the way.

And by the way, I am also disgusted that this young sister decided to become Rice’s wife.  What message will that send to their child?  That it’s ok for a man to strike a woman when engaged in a quarrel?  That it’s ok for a woman to accept abuse from a man acting strictly on cowardice?

I felt shame for being an rabid fan of a league that is run by a commissioner who obviously could give two damns about violence against women.  I felt shame for being a fan of a team (the Steelers) whose starting quarterback has a history of sexual assault against women, though he has never been charged.

And while the uproar over that “punishment” is growing louder, there are people out there – mainly men – who have come to Rice’s defense.

I’ve heard the tired chorus: “we didn’t know what happened on the elevator.”  Another gem I’ve heard was “maybe she provoked him by hitting him first”.

Those folks needed to be drug-tested, plain and simple.

What if that young lady was a sister or daughter of theirs’?  Would those same morons still cling to those same stupid-ass arguments?  I’m guessing that would not be the case.

There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that justifies a man putting his hands on a woman.  Even if Rice’s fiancée at the time was throwing haymakers at him, that still does not give him – or any man – the right to strike a woman.

There were many ways that Rice could have prevented the situation from escalating (and yes, the responsibility lies on the man to be the bigger person).  Talk it out.  Listen to her.  Once she starts swinging grab her arms and wrap her up.  Last I checked, dude is an NFL player who takes punishment from defenders for a living.  There was no way in hell a girl that slight in frame could get out of his arms if he wrapped her up.

I am concerned that there are some powerful men in this league who did not send the proper message to Rice for his actions.  Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh, while saying mostly the right things in his press conference concerning Rice, clumsily said that Rice is “one heck of a guy.”  Really coach?

And why haven’t Ravens ownership stepped in where Goodell failed by adding more games to the suspension followed by a hefty fine to be donated to women’s shelters in the Baltimore area?  The team is allowed to suspend a player up to four games per the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Maybe they will, though I am not holding my breath.

And speaking of Goodell, he had a chance to make a strong statement to the players and society at large: that the NFL does – and will always – take violence against women seriously.  If he is as serious as he lead on concerning growing a female fan base, he may have embarked on pissing away that opportunity.

And that in and of itself is a damn shame.

Indiana Will Miss Stephenson

220px-Indiana_Pacers.svgThe Indiana Pacers made a big mistake in letting crazy-ass Lance Stephenson go to the Charlotte Hornets.

I know the Pacers had some chemistry problems and Stephenson may have had a lot to do with that.  I know that his antics in the playoffs – especially vs. the Miami Heat – were a major distraction.  As I wrote before, there is no reason why a grown man should be blowing into another man’s ear.

His teammates were eventually tired of his act.  Hell Larry Bird, an ardent Stephenson supporter, called him out for that foolishness.

However Stephenson was the only Pacer (outside of David West) who have the Pacers their heart.  He led the NBA in triple-doubles.  He can create his own shot, leading to instant offense when needed.

In short, Stephenson’s departure made Indiana’s lack of offense worse, while making the Hornets’ better.

Anyone who watched the Hornets last year noticed the following: 1) they were inexplicably called the Bobcats; 2) while they were one of the better defensive teams, they couldn’t score on their on wives.  Stephenson gives Charlotte the scorer it sorely lacked last season.  You think Al Jefferson will be glad to have another teammate who could create his own shot?

Stephenson also gives them something that Indiana lacked: heart.

Say what you want about him (crazy as hell and reckless come to mind), but Stephenson was not afraid of ANYONE.  Check out what he did during the Miami playoff series.  I realize anyone who challenges LeBron James and Dwyane Wade may be nothing short of “stuck on stupid”.  But count me as a person who rather have fearless cats as teammates than cowardly lions.

Look, I don’t know if Stephenson will be able to keep it together in Charlotte next season – let alone the next three years on his contract.  But this is a good inexpensive gamble by Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets.

MLB Mid-Season Checkpoint…

mlbHow about that All-Star Game last night?  By that I mean, how about Major League Baseball and Fox forgetting to honor the late Tony Gwynn during that Derek Jeter love-fest last night?

Be that as it may, the first half of the 2014 MLB regular season had a few surprises (Milwaukee in first place, defending champion Boston in last place).  This “checkpoint” is a litmus test of sorts against my predictions before the season.  And while the season is not over, this checkpoint kinda helps determine whether I should stay out of the MLB prediction business.

Let’s go…

American League

East Division

Predicted Finish

  1. Boston Red Sox (98-64)
  2. New York Yankees-* (95-67)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays-* (93-69)
  4. Baltimore Orioles (88-74)
  5. Toronto Blue Jays (80-82)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Orioles (52-42)
  2. Blue Jays (49-47)
  3. Yankees (47-47)
  4. Rays (44-53)
  5. Red Sox (43-52)

Analysis:  It wasn’t a big shock to see the Orioles playing well – I did predict them to finish over .500.  It’s seeing Boston, who are virtually the same team that won last year’s World Series, hit bottom that is more shocking.  Good to see the talent in Toronto finally becoming productive.  As for my Yankees, it’s shocking to see them so competitive, with no pitching and hitting to speak of.

Central Division

Predicted Finish

  1. Detroit Tigers (96-66)
  2. Cleveland Indians (90-72)
  3. Kansas City Royals (88-74)
  4. Minnesota Twins (74-88)
  5. Chicago White Sox (72-90)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Tigers (53-38)
  2. Royals (48-46)
  3. Indians (47-47)
  4. White Sox (45-51)
  5. Twins (44-50)

Analysis:  No real surprises here.  The top three teams of this division are competitive as I predicted.  I am good at my job!!!

West Division

Predicted Finish

  1. Texas Rangers (93-69)
  2. Oakland Athletics (92-70)
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim near El Segundo south of Hollywood (81-81)
  4. Seattle Mariners (78-84)
  5. Houston Astros (60-102)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Athletics (59-36)
  2. Angels (57-37)
  3. Mariners (51-44)
  4. Rangers (40-56)
  5. Astros (38-57)

Analysis:  The big miss here was on the Rangers.  Talk about the bottom falling completely out…

National League

East Division

Predicted Finish

  1. Washington Nationals (94-68)
  2. Atlanta Braves (90-72)
  3. Philadephia Phillies (87-75)
  4. New York Mets (70-92)
  5. Miami Marlins (60-102)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Nationals (51-42)
  2. Braves (52-43)
  3. Mets (45-50)
  4. Marlins (44-50)
  5. Phillies (42-53)

Analysis:  Washington and Atlanta are at the top of the division, no shock there.  I thought too much of the Phillies though.  How Philly’s general manager Ruben Amaro still has a job is a mystery to me…

Central Division

Predicted Finish

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates-* (94-68)
  3. Cincinnati Reds-* (93-69)
  4. Chicago Cubs (75-87)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers (70-92)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Brewers (53-43)
  2. Cardinals (52-44)
  3. Reds (51-44)
  4. Pirates (49-46)
  5. Cubs (40-54)

Analysis:  I correctly predicted that this division will be the most competitive in baseball.  I’m shocked as hell to see Milwaukee on top.  Props to Ryan Braun, I guess…

West Division

Predicted Division

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69)
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72)
  3. San Francisco Giants (85-77)
  4. Colorado Rockies (81-81)
  5. San Diego Padres (65-97)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Dodgers (54-43)
  2. Giants (52-43)
  3. Padres (41-54)
  4. Rockies (40-55)
  5. Diamondbacks (40-56)

Analysis:  Dodgers are on top of the division after a rough start – yay me.  And while the Giants are in the thick of it as I predicted, I didn’t think the D’Backs would suck THAT bad.

Melo Should Have Chosen Bulls Over Knicks

ny-knicks-logoI wish I was as shocked over Carmelo Anthony choosing to return to my beloved New York Knicks as much as I was over LeBron James leaving South Beach for Cleveland.  However, I had a feeling that Melo would return to the Knicks when it was all said and done.

In fact, Melo had over 120 million reasons to do so.

Thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams that currently employ soon-to-be free agents could offer those players the most money.  In this case, the Knicks could offer Melo the max, which was a five-year contract worth $125 million dollars.  The most that other teams such as the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers could offer him was four years and $88 million.  Let’s face it, there was no way in hell that Melo would leave a year and over $30 million on the table.

And let’s focus on the Lakers for a minute.  If Melo felt like a one-man band in New York, how bad would it have been in L.A. with a hobbling, aging Kobe Bryant.  And we all know how Kobe likes the get down.  He could have a wooden leg with a kickstand and STILL want to be the man.  As much as Melo loves Kobe (and as much as Kobe wanted Melo), it would not have been a good fit.

As for Chicago, even though Melo would have taken less to go there I still thought it was the right spot for him.  The Bulls simply have better personnel than the Knicks.  The Bulls have Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy and a healthy Derrick Rose gives Melo a better chance to win.  I just don’t see a Knicks team the employs Amare Stoudamire, J.R. Smith, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert making any noise next season.

Yeah I know, Rose may not be 100% ever again.  But if you watched how Chicago competed the last two seasons (and postseasons) without Rose, you’d know that the Bulls were a dynamic scorer away from advancing in this year’s and last year’s playoffs.

Alas, Melo chose money and comfort over a better chance to win – and I am not mad at him.  His wife loves it in NYC, and his son attends school there and probably made some good friends.

As a Knicks fan, I am happy as hell Melo is staying in New York.  I just don’t need to hear him say “I just want to win” when it was clearly about him getting paid.

LeBron’s Move Back to Cavs Makes Sense

254px-NBA_Logo.svg_I have NEVER been so wrong about anything in my life.

I could have sworn that LeBron James would remain a member of the Miami Heat.  I thought to myself “why would LeBron leave the Heat, where he would have several opportunities to compete for championships in the weak-ass Eastern Conference?”  More so, “why in the hell would LeBron ever, EVER, play for owner Dan Gilbert after that childish scathing letter he wrote after LeBron’s departure?”

I guess I had it wrong.  In fact, I had LeBron’s thought process wrong as well.

But that doesn’t mean I do not understand where LeBron is coming from.

If we step back for a minute to survey everything, we’d realize that the Heat were in worse shape than we’d all imagine.  That curb-stomping administered by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals taught us a lot about Miami.  It is not deep and worst of all, OLD.  Miami’s bench was virtually non-existent against San Antonio.

Basically the Heat – beyond LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – are simply not that good.  And Wade’s health is once-again suspect.  LeBron had to have figured, if the Heat is in such bad shape, why stick around on an older beat-up team instead of going a place where the personnel are younger, talented – and dare I say HUNGRIER?

Enter the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs are younger, talented and deeper than the Heat.  Kyrie Irving is a stud.  Dion Waiters is a talented marksman.  LeBron is going to help get those two young brothers on the same page.  Oh, and Andrew Wiggins is going to be a star.

Granted Cleveland just hired a coach who hasn’t coached an NBA game (hell anyone is an upgrade over Mike Brown), but he is respected in international basketball.  What helps is LeBron also respects him and should help guide the Cavs to the promised land.

Plus given what LeBron said about his old-stomping grounds in an Sports Illustrated article, he longed to come back:

“I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.”

LeBron returns to Cleveland a better player, a better leader – and a better man.  I clowned him in the past for running away to join another superstar and win titles elsewhere, but I understood his reasoning for leaving Cleveland the first time around:

“When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”

As for playing for Gilbert again, I guess LeBron has truly forgiven him and turned the page.  LeBron is a better man than me.  There was no way in hell I would play for an asshole who did me like that while walking out the door.

At any rate, good for LeBron, good for Cleveland – and perhaps good for the NBA…

Soccer Has Staying Power in the U.S.

719px-WC-2014-Brasil.svgFirst, let’s give props to the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team for its performance in the 2014 World Cup.

To those anti-soccer folks, sure the Americans lost to Belgium in the first stage of the Knockout Round.  Sure the Americans finished with a 1-2-1 record.  I get that all of that.

HOWEVER (channeling my inner Stephen A. Smith), those folks have to realize that the Americans were not expected to do but so well at the World Cup.  Hell, they weren’t even supposed to advance past the Group Stage.

I mean, the U.S. was stuck in Group G with Germany (a finalist who just curb-stomped host Brazil), Portugal (with Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best players in the world) and nemesis Ghana (who eliminated the Americans from the last two World Cups).  Fans and the media dubbed that group “The Group of Death” for a reason.

But thanks to gritty play and excellent leadership from coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the Americans not only played well – they advanced and nearly won their group in the process.

Now that the U.S. has been eliminated from the World Cup, what now?  Will people in the U.S. still watch the World Cup in record numbers?  Will Americans give two damns about soccer?

Before I continue, let me first say that I had long been an anti-soccer dude.  I have gone out of my way in the past to discredit soccer, dismissing it by saying “it’s not a sport, but an excuse to riot”.  I even bagged on soccer fans for being so damn deranged and crazy (in the RHOA sense). And while I still think some soccer fans are WAY too passionate for my comfort, I have to give soccer its due.

I think that not only soccer has caught on with the American public, but I think the sport has staying power.

Let me first acknowledge that soccer is still a niche sport in this country.  I get that.  It will never be football (NFL nor college), basketball, baseball nor even golf.

However, I do think that it’s almost as big as NASCAR and has done laps around hockey in this country.

If the ratings from the World Cup has taught us anything (Google it), it’s that soccer has caught on in this country from an interest standpoint.  There were HUGE watch parties around the nation tuning into the USMNT’s matches.  Even casual fans were watching World Cup matches not involving the U.S.

Now that soccer has officially caught on in the U.S., here is how it could have any more staying power.  It first has to develop big name talent.

Sports fans tune in to see the big names.  Check out the ratings the English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga pull in this country.  Casual soccer fans such as myself want to watch stars such as Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, serial biter Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi do their thing on the soccer pitch.  If this country produces big name talent to go along with the likes of stud goalkeeper Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, more Americans will care.

Another thing that needs to happen is that Major League Soccer has to improve – a lot.

Let’s be honest here, the MLS is at best AAA minor league baseball compared to the European Leagues.  Washed-up European stars play in the MLS.  You couldn’t pay soccer purists in this country to watch it.

Now I know there are some MLS teams that draw well (the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy lead the MLS in attendance), and that’s good for the league.  It’s just that the American public does not tune into minor-league shit.

The last thing I think needs to happen is that the MLS needs to somehow convince UEFA (governing body of the Premier League, La Liga, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A, French Ligue 1 and Dutch Eredivisie) to allow regular season matches (and more friendlies) between its teams and UEFA’s.  It’s a long shot to be sure, but with the right power brokers in this country (tycoons including some NFL, NBA, and MLB owners could have a stake in this) things could happen.  After all, they say “money talks” for a reason.

Even if my second idea does not come to fruition, soccer still has further ingratiated itself with the American sports fan.  More kids are playing it, and the older generations of naysayers are slowly dying out.

Move over Europe and South America!  North America has entered the soccer club.


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