Back For Round 2

It’s been almost two years since the start of The Ragu Tribune and boy do I miss my time in Europe. Barcelona was the time of my life and it has become a mission of mine to one day get back there. When I did get back home it took a while for me to adjust and unfortunately I let my blog suffer. However life is back on track now and I realize how much I missed voicing my opinions and analysis. So after 16 months I decided the time was right and in the words of “His Airness”….. I’m Back.

 

Cover of Sports Illustrated after Jordan announced his return to basketball following a 16 month baseball career.

 

A lot has changed since my last check in. I am officially a college graduate from Quinnipiac University. Majored in broadcast journalism and minored in both pre-law and of course, sports studies. I was able to find a job during these tough economic times and was I lucky. I am a production assistant for Madison Square Garden Network and you can best believe I am loving every second of it (even the 5am shifts). I currently work on The Boomer & Carton show which airs on WFAN 660 (as well as worldwide on MSG) every morning from 6-10 am.  What a wonderful time to join the “Garden Family” as the Knicks almost seem like a lock for the playoffs this year, the Rangers should make it as well, and St. Johns basketball is relevant again (not to mention the Liberty came within minutes of a trip to the WNBA Finals, I know many of you were wondering).  In order to be closer to all the action, I just recently moved to Astoria, New York in Queens. I love my new surroundings and I’m ready for my next chapter.

2011 should be a fantastic year for sports and I’m anxious to get started. NFL playoffs, Melo/the NBA trade deadline, and March Madness are right around the corner and will make for some great early entries. I will also be giving out tips/advice for fantasy sports periodically mostly sticking with basketball, baseball, and football. Be sure to check back and keep up all year with the Ragu Tribune…

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Quest for C….Championship

Now that the season is officially over, we have the seedings and schedule for NBA Playoffs which kick off this Saturday. First, the biggest news of the day coming out of Boston, is the possibility of Kevin Garnett missing the Celtics title defense. Coach Doc Rivers exact words were “It’s not official he’s out for the entire playoffs, but it’s official as far as I’m concerned. I just don’t see how. I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it.”

Garnett might have to do all his celebrating from the sidelines this postseason.

Garnett might have to do all his celebrating from the sidelines this postseason.

Not the words fans in Boston wanted to wake up to today, but unfortunately could be the cruel reality. Now right off the back, it needs to be said that Boston isn’t totally screwed. They’ve been a great home team since the “Big 3” arrived and having that advantage for at least the first two rounds will be huge. Even without Garnett, Boston should make it past a young rolling Bulls team. Boston was successful last postseason because of the team defense and although Garnett was a temendous part of that, as long as Derrick Rose is held in check and isn’t able to produce March Madness tournament numbers the Celtics should be able to get by Chicago. Any further, remains to be seen. Garnett was able to come back and play in 4 games since injurying his knee back on February 19, but never logged more than 18 minutes. But who knows, maybe the theatrics will play out and one night in the TD Garden Garnett will triumph heroicly just like on his quest for the Holy G. I mean Boston does have a history of superstars coming back from an injury and performing in the playoffs…..And Garnett was supposed to come back to play in the final two games of the regular season, then final, and then he didn’t show up, but I don’t know I just get this feeling it isn’t a good idea to count out Garnett.

So what about the rest of the Eastern Conference? Well I think the Cavs are in a good position as the number 1 seed to easily knock off the 8th seeded Pistons. These are not the Pistons of the past and just are not in sync right now. Sure having Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rodney Stuckey sound great on paper, but we are going to see a messy team already thinking about this summer.

The 76ers were able to keep the Cavs from tying the best home record in a season from beating the backups last night and grabbed the 6th seed. That just gives them an invitation to travel to Disney World and take on the Orlando Magic. If the Magic get a somewhat healthy Hedo and Lewis, they should be focused and ready to en dour their title hunt. The 76ers have a year of playoff experience and pulled a game 1 upset last year, but Stan Van Gundy has prepared this team all year, and they must be salivating at the thought of not having to match up against Garnett in the second round.

How far can Wade will his team in the playoffs?

How far can Wade will his team in the playoffs?

The most intriguing match up out of the East has to be the 4/5  series between the Hawks and Heat. Just the individual match up of all stars Dwayne Wade and Joe Johnson going at it should make for a great series. Although the Hawks gained playoff experience taking Boston to a game 7 last year and despite having the home court advantage, I’m putting my money on Dwayne Wade. Maybe the second best player in the league, Wade has been waiting to get back to the playoffs and perform. The 2006 Finals MVP will be able to get his team into the second round and if we thought this match up was nice how bout the possibility of Wade vs. LeBron in round 2?  Unfortunately the Cavs are too good of a home team and LeBron has a better supporting cast this year, that it’s very unlikely Wade will be able to extend his heroics to get the Heat any further.

Back to the Celtics though, assuming they and the Magic advance, do they have enough down low minus Garnett to stop Dwight? Doc Rivers is no rookie coach though, he should create some defensive match ups and try to exploit Orlando’s lack of depth at the guard position. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put Rondo, House/Marbury, Allen, and Pierce out all on the same line and try to run off Orlando’s missed field goals. Orlando however will out rebound Boston so badly without Garnett that Boston won’t be able to go run. I think without Garnett the match up swings tremendously in Orlando’s favor and they should move on to take on King James and Cleveland. Magic vs. Cavaliers would be another awesome series and although my heart lies with Orlando, the Cavs have been too good of a home team that when the series comes down to the seventh game LeBron won’t let them lose. He’s been to the finals before, elevated his game this year, has a better team and is poised for a championship…

Over in the Western conference things are not as clear. Teams 2-8 are seperated by a total of 6 games! Starting off with the top seed, the Lakers have an interesting match up against the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are a playoff experienced team getting healthy towards the right time. They always serve a challenge to the Lakers and I expect them to grab a couple games. But the Lakers are healthy now with Bynum back and will just score to much for the Jazz to keep up.

How will Carmelo and Chauncey pair up for the playoffs?

How will Chauncey and Carmelo pair up for the playoffs?

The Nuggets were able to clinch the northwest division but just barely. It doesn’t get any easier either with a tough first round test against New Orleans. I’m anxious to see what Chauncey and ‘Melo can do in the playoffs together, ‘Melo is still one of the best scorers in the league and Billups was brought in for this time of the year. That bench can certainly score points, and somehow the tandem of K-Mart and Nene were able to stay healthy this year (keep those fingers crossed). But unfortunately I think too much Chris Paul might be the difference. The Hornets are experienced as one of the best teams last year and they too are getting everyone back and healthy at the right time. Chris Paul is an MYP caliber player and a winner.

The 3 vs. 6 match up reminds us of a possible Western Conference finals series a few years ago. The Spurs and Mavericks are two veteran teams in the West and should make for a good series. Dallas had to fight just to make the playoffs but have been on a roll lately. Still, the Spurs are a defensive team that should be able to slow down Dallas. Popovich is a wise coach who has 4 championship rings already and hungry for a 5th. I expect them to force Dirk and the Mavs into some tough shooting nights and San Antonio moves onto the next round. Portland vs. Houston is yet another great 4 vs. 5 series. Houston into the playoffs again, and again they are not healthy. T-Mac is done for the year but Yao has Ron Artest this year. I think Houston will be more of a defensive team in the playoffs then we saw in the regular season as Battier and Artest are expected to tally 35 minutes a night.  But Portland is a young team that has plenty of talented players all throughout the roster. Even if Aldridge or Outlaw don’t get going theres offense to bring off the bench. Brandon Roy is a star and Greg Oden finally seems comfortable. I expect the Blazers to live up to some of the big expectations in the beginning of the year and advance past Rockets onto the Lakers, a team they have beaten twice already this year…But the playoffs are a different story and Roy and his Blazers will learn this the hardway. Kobe will dispose of Portland as the Lakers will be lookin to finish what they couldn’t last year.

Revenge could be sweet for Paul and the Hornets this year against San Antonio.

Revenge could be sweet for Paul and the Hornets this year against San Antonio.

The Hornets would play the Spurs again in a rematch of the Western Conference semi’s from last year. The Spurs got the better of the Hornets last year but with Ginobili‘s  bad ankle we will see if they can do it again. I think Paul and West realize what they have to take advantage of this year and abuse the age of the Spurs and slow down Duncan. No Ginobili means a Roger Mason or Michael Finley needs to step up and i don’t know if they are up for the task. I hate to go against San Antonio because all they ever do is prove the haters wrong, but the Hornets proved they were an elite team last year and even though have struggled at times this year the post season is a whole other season and i believe the Hornets get revenge this year. If it all goes down like this, Kobe and the Lakers would surely have a tougher time in the Western Finals than they did last year. The Hornets match up pretty well with the Lakers, they don’t exactly have the height but Fisher will have a hard time keeping up with Paul. Peja would be a key x factor having the most experience for New Orleans and needs to be a shooting star all series. At the end though, I believe the Hornets might lose another heartbreaking game 7 and the season ends similar to how it did last season. Kobe goes back to the finals and only LeBron stands in his way of a title.

Many had hoped for a Celtics vs. Lakers rematch of last years finals but unfortunately because of the injury to Garnett I can’t see that happening (unless KG has a surprise for us all). That’s fine though, it’s not like having LeBron there will make it any less of a series. Last time Cleveland found themselves in the finals, they played a pesky defensive Spurs team and LeBron couldn’t do it all by himself. This year he’s better, would be going up against a weaker defensive team, and has a better overall team. And all this is not good news for Mr. Bryant who yet again cannot find a way to win it all without Shaq. I believe the Lakers don’t shoot like the Lakers all year but the Lakers in last years finals. Mike Brown has preached defense all year and they will be able to do a lot of the things Doc Rivers had his guys do to stop LA last year. LeBron gets his first championship and is praised as the new God in Cleveland. But a championship still doesn’t make the summer of 2010 anymore easier….

The King could really be on top by the end of this season.

The King could really be on top by the end of this season.

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And The Award Goes To…

On the final day of the 2008-2009 NBA regular season we take a look back on the year that was. A year that saw many important (meaning the off-season salary moves/) trades including all star caliber players like Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, Shawn Marion, Jermaine O’Neal, ect. A year where NBA coaches were swatted like flies (and should lead to an interesting summer coaching carousel). A year where we saw Shaq break it down with the Jabbawockeez at the all star game.

Rose is sure to win ROY honors.

Rose is sure to win ROY honors.

But before we look ahead to the 2009 postseason and see if a Lakers vs. Celtics rematch is brewing for June, lets give a quick look to the regular season awards and who are the most deserving candidates. We had another great class of rookies this year and the NBA is ever changing and becoming younger as we have seen more and more players in recent years coming right into the league and making an impact as rookies. Kevin Love and Brook Lopez were double double machines, Eric Gordon had a better rookie season than his freshman year and O.J. Mayo has finally given Memphis fans hope as becoming a legitimate playoff team next season. But I can comfortably say this years rookie of the year, WILL be Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls. The number one pick in last years draft have certainly lived up to expectations and has gotten better and more comfortable as the year has gone on. He’s averaging 16.8 ppg (second amongst rookies) to go along with 3.9 rpg and 6.3 apg which leads all rookies. But out of all the positions the transition from college to the pro’s is toughest on point guards. Being able to run a college team and then in a couple months have to switch to a professional team is almost an impossible task. Not only was Rose able to do this, but he has his team in the playoffs something no other top candidate can say.

Many people feel Danny Granger deserves the Most Improved player award, and after the year the All Star forward has had it would be pretty tough to argue. However, if you follow basketball the whole year through you would have come to expect that of Granger after the second half he had last season. He was supposed to make the all star team as he is unquestionably one of the best players in the league today. In fact, I don’t necessarily even count him as a candidate. So I’m giving the Most Improved award to another all star but one that most people would not have picked to start the season. When Devin Harris came over to the Nets last year for Jason Kidd, we knew long term the trade would be more beneficial to the Nets as Harris was a young upcoming point guard in the league. But he quickly made the jump to all star and almost found a way to get a young inexperience New Jersey team into the playoffs. He averaged 21.3 ppg, 3.3 bpg, 6.9 apg, and 1.6 spg all career highs and all improved since last year. New Jersey should be in good shape moving forward with or without Vince Carter.

Terry will try and advance Dallas past the 1st round of the playoffs for the first time in 2 years.

Terry will try and advance Dallas past the 1st round of the playoffs for the first time in 2 years.

Nate Robinson and Lamar Odom made great cases as candidates for 6th man of the year but Robinson was on a non contender and Odom did a lot of his damage as a starter while Andrew Bynum was out. Either way, the easy choice has to be Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks. Terry effective throughout his career off the bench or as a starter, averaged just under 20 ppg (19.6) this year to lead all bench players. He still plays 30 plus minutes a night and will be key in determining of Dallas can make it out of the first round this year. Coach of the year should be another easy one. With the Cavaliers having a shot to go 40-1 at home and tie the best home record in the history of the game, coach Mike Brown owes this award to LeBron James. Giving credit where credit is due however, Brown did get his team to play defense this year, something that is going to have to come in handy if Cleveland is to make it back to the finals again.

Superman might have lost the slam dunk competition but he should get the defensive player of the year nod. Dwight Howard led the league in blocks, rebounds, and was second in defensive rebounds. He recorded 5 or more blocks in 15 games this season and was the most dominant force on the defensive end all year. Dwayne Wade also deserves some major consideration as he became the first player in NBA history to be 6″4 or shorter and record over 100 blocks in a season. He was also second in the league in steals. He also unfortunately comes in second for me in MVP too despite leading the association this year in points per game (ppg) with 30.2 .  The rediculous numbers continue as he combines that with 5 rbp, 7.5 apg (8th), 2.2 spg (2nd), and 1.34 bpg (16th), now thats your five tool player. So who could possibly top the Flash? Well the King of course. LeBron took his game to a new level this year and his team finished with the best record. He tied career bests in assists and blocks and his other numbers were just shy of career bests but the most telling stat, his minutes per game, went down to 37.7 mpg which is the lowest of his career! Somebody ought to be fresh for the playoffs and it could be smooth sailing as the team with the best at home this season (39-1) will be home team all the way to the finals…

LeBron should win his 1st MVP award.

LeBron should win his 1st MVP award.

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Let The Madness Begin

It’s been a rough week here in Barcelona, and with this past Sunday being Selection Sunday, it was known that a crazy week was coming. Before I could even look at a bracket I had to get my work done (which if interested included a midterm, a paper, a group project, and an individual project), when I finally finished somebody upstairs was still not satisfied and decided to take my Internet from me. In America this is an urgent problem and gets fixed right away, in Spain however, we are on day number three currently and there’s no sign of the technician in site. It’s all gravy though, I was able to rush to the lab and get this post out before the games start which happens to be in less than 3 hours….

My initial thoughts looking at this years bracket was “Wow the committee actually did a good job.” It’s not often we can say that, in fact i’m not sure if they ever did a better job selecting the 65 teams. Some people will argue that Creighton or St. Mary’s deserved a shot but honestly if they want a shot to play with the big boys then do just that. Congrats to Creighton you won 26 games and only one of those wins came against an opponent ranked inside the top 50. That’s unacceptable, people have been growing tired of these mid majors stealing bids, hoping maybe another one will turn out like the George Mason we all remember a few years back. The committee is making it a point that if you want to play in this tournament you need to be well tested. Look at mid majors like Siena and Davidson (unfortunately for the world and Davidson they did not make the tournament and we don’t get to see Stephen Curry tear up March again), they went out and played good teams and had a strong schedule, how else do you explain a 9 seed out of a team coming from the MAAC?

No Curry this tournament

No Curry this tournament

There’s no shortage of battle tested teams from major conferences including 7 from both the Big East and ACC. Now as far as seeding goes, this is where the committee left room for improvement. Start right at the top, 3 Big East teams get number 1 seeds, really? Apparently UNC had one spot on lock no matter what happened in the ACC tournament, and Louisville punched in their ticket winning the Big East tournament. UConn makes it difficult because although they beat Louisville, Syracuse, Michigan, Gonzaga and a ton of other tournament teams not just in the Big East. So i can see how the committee selected them but with losses to Pitt twice and Georgetown they were no sure bet. Once UConn was selected how can Pitt not be a number one seed they beat UConn twice as well as Louisville the other two number 1 seeds. So what does this ultimately boil down to….No love for teams that actually handled their business and win there respected tournament. Memphis went undefeated in conference play and compiled a 31-3 record on the season, with wins against Tennessee & Gonzaga and losses to two big east teams. Once again I’m sure the argument will arise about strength of schedule and to that i say this. What about the team with the highest RPI and wins the second if not toughest conference championship? The Duke Blue Devils has had one of the toughest schedules in the nation, cracked the number 1 spot for a week or two, and by the way won the ACC tournament not UNC. So where’s the love? At the very latest the committee should have only had two big east teams to go with two ACC teams. If selecting between UConn and Pitt is too tough just go with Memphis and make Louisville the only number 1 seed from the Big East since they were clearly the best from the Big East.

Upset Alert:

There’s no secret we all love March Madness because it’s a chance to root for the underdog and try to pull off upsets. But what really is considered an upset, I mean a 9 seed beating an 8 seed isn’t really an upset just because it is a lower seeded team. In my opinion a true upset is when an 11 seed goes on to beat a 6 seed. We also have been starting to see more upsets in the later rounds than normal over the past few years and I expect this trend to continue. We also historically speaking see a number 12 seed upset a 5 seed, so lets start there with my picks:

The high flying white guy will surprise the world once again.

The high flying white guy will surprise the world once again.

-I’m taking Chase and the underachieving Wildcats to finally get on track and pull off the upset over #5 Utah. Just imagine what Arizona might have been able to accomplish this March had Brandon Jennings not left for Europe or Jerryd Bayless stayed one more year

-Also taking Western Kentucky over Illinois in another12-5 upset, remember what Courtney Lee and Western Kentucky did last year pulling off the upset, Lee may be gone but the experience is still there

-I think Eric Maynor is going to make people remember what he did to Duke a few years back with an 11 seed and VCU upsets #6 UCLA this year with better guard play

-My big sleeper in the tourny however is Utah St. pulling off not one but two upsets beating Marquette and then dealing the same fate to Missouri, this is an experienced team that finds ways to win games and taking a 30 win season into the tournament should give them some momentum

Players To Watch:

Maybe more fun than watching all the upsets, is watching players take their game to a level never thought possible. We’ve seen over the years, players that have amazing tournaments and put the team on their back will help their draft stock go up dramatically; think Tyrus Thomas, Sean May, Mike Conley, Joakim Noah, DeJuan Blair (might be a bit early for Blair but can’t you see Pitt making the final four and the undersized, no real position Blair somehow becomes a top 10 pick?) players who probably get drafted too high because of what they do this month. This is also the time to spot the next Stephen Curry and see how far he can take his team through this journey.

maynor1

Eric Maynor PG, VCU, SR: Now a senior this is Maynor’s last chance to show everyone why he is one of the best point guards in the nation. Playing in a weak conference his whole career he hasn’t had the opportunity to shine in the spotlight, so here it is. As a sophomore he took advantage and led the upset of the Blue Devils and a couple tournament games. He takes care of the ball and his shooting range has extended over the years. If he can start hot against a good defensive UCLA team, watch out!

Johnny Flynn PG, Syracuse, SO: If the Big East tournament was any indication, we could be in for a real treat in the next few weeks. Flynn is a young, undersized point guard but a fierce competitor with the ability to carry the team and would love to take the final shot. He’s a quick little guy that’s always been a fan favorite. He’ll be a scout favorite at the end of the month if he is able to get Syracuse advancing for a tournament run. Flynn has the ability to be this year’s heroic Mario Chalmers.

Jeff Pendergraph PF, Arizona St., SR & James Harden SG Arizona St., SO: This is not only the two keys to the inside out game of Arizona St. but also the heart. Pendergraph is a senior and this is his last shot so you can expect him to come ready to play. He faces a good Temple team and will have to match the leadership of senior Dionte Christmas (who probably should have his own section here; if he pulls off the upset here Christmas has the ability to become this years Curry). Harden is one of the better scorers in the country and we get the hint that a great tournament and he might leave to join his buddy Pendergraph in the draft. I expect a great offensive showdown between him and Christmas, Temple’s shooting star.

-DeMar DeRozan G/F, USC, FR: DeRozan might need a great tournament more than most of these players due to the tremendous amount of expectations coming into this season. He was supposed to be this years freshman phenom much like Beasley, Rose, and Mayo were last year. He has been bringing it as of late and a good Pac 10 tournament (in which he outplayed James Harden) may have set the stage. His shooting has been streaky all season but his strength and explosiveness means he can blossom at any second. Either way he has terrific raw NBA skills and a tremendous athlete. This guy could be the most athletic upside pick in the draft (as far as wings go) and will be an exciting NBA player wherever he ends up. However, a quick exit and we might see him back at USC next year.

Depaul Connecticut Basketball

Hasheem Thabeet C, UConn, JR: Most already have Blake Griffin written off as the number one pick in this years draft, but we cannot forget about Thabeet. At 7″3 and one of the games best shot blockers, a long tournament run ending in a National Championship might be all the doctor ordered to turn Thabeet into this years Derrick Rose (as far as establishing himself as the #1 pick). His improvement since joining Calhoun’s squad is impressive and is not a stiff center. He has above average athleticism and will continue to work and develop his raw skills as he plays, but already has what it takes to rebound and shot block in the NBA.

Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke, JR: Henderson is already one of the best defenders in the country and will need to be the leader of the Blue Devils if they are able to reach the Final Four and ultimately a national championship. But what he really needs to do, is find a consistent offensive game and be the number two scorer Duke needs behind Singler. Henderson has underachieved up to this point, but this is his chance to change all that. Duke is a jump shooting team and will live and die by the 3. There’s no team in the country they can’t beat, but if they have one bad shooting night the season could end earlier than expected. Henderson needs to keep the team focus and if his shot isn’t falling he must find other ways to be effective because Duke’s season relies on him.

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Talk is Cheap

Last week the NBA trade deadline came and passed as teams were looking to either shape up their rosters for a playoffs run or more likely try and dump salary to get under David Stern’s new luxury tax. After last season’s deadline deals of Shaq, Kidd, and Pau the biggest name on the market this year was Amare Stoudemire. Phoenix seemed almost certain to trade the all-star center before the break, but then after the firing of Terry Porter and the change of style with new coach Alvin Gentry (not to mention scoring 140 plus points 2 games in a row against the LA team that doesn’t matter,) trading Stoudemire seemed as smart as Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Well isn’t hindsight 20/20, a day later we learn that Amare will be out at least 8 weeks after having surgery to repair a partially detached retina. I bet all those offers are looking pretty promising right now. But with all the hype, Phoenix didn’t do anything. Shaq stayed put and Steve Kerr wasn’t able to clear any cap space.

Why would the playoff bound Hornets seperate these two?

Why would the playoff bound Hornets separate these two?

Yet the Suns weren’t the only losers at the trade deadline. New Orleans was another team scared by the new taxes Stern imposed and try to get under the cap as well. In fact, it seemed as if they were more focused on doing just that, than doing what was best for the team. They initially sent there prized defensive minded, Tyson Chandler to the Oklahoma City Thunder, for the expiring contracts of Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith. The move would have given the Thunder the low post presence they have been searching for (and wasting draft picks on) since the departure of Shawn Kemp. The young lineup  of Durant, Westbrook, Green, and now Chandler would ensure a promising future. However, the trade was rescinded because the Thunder doctors didn’t pass Chandler on his physical. Chandler has been battling turf toe all season and we are lead to believe that is the reason Oklahoma City made a double take. For a team that was going nowhere this year and already in rebuilding mode, why wouldn’t you use your assets (2 expiring contracts) and go get a piece to help for the future? Chandler’s injury is by no means career threatening and even if he were not to play the rest of the season, it would do nothing but ensure a higher lottery pick for the Thunder. If Chandler can do anything for New Orleans the next two years, we know at least one organization that will be very regretful. As if not pulling the trigger was bad enough, lets talk about the mess of the deal they did make. Malik Rose for Chris Wilcox? Wilcox is still a young player with talent and plenty of upside. Not to mention a proven rebounder in the league, whereas Rose is old and probably won’t even have a job in the league next year. The only positive for the Thunder after last week was the acquisition of Thabo Sefolosha from the bulls. The 2-guard is a young athletic defender, who should finally be given the playing time he deserves in Oklahoma and could be an important player down the road for the organization.

LaFrentz was one of the most sought after trade pieces this deadline.

LaFrentz was one of the most sought after trade pieces this deadline.

However, the biggest loser at the deadline were the Portland Trail Blazers. After losing out on 9 million to spend on this upcoming off season because of the Daruis Miles debacle, the Blazers needed to make their splash at the deadline. With all the young talent they’ve accumulated over the years guys like Travis Outlaw, Sergio Rodriguez, Channing Frye, and Martell Webster and maybe the best trade piece in Raef LaFrentz $12.75 million expiring contract, Portland had the pieces to make something happen. But didn’t. The Suns never wanted to trade Amare to Portland or any other western team, but Portland had other options. They should have landed either a solid starting point guard (,maybe a Raymond Felton or try and grab Nate Robinson from the Knicks) or a small forward (, like a Vince Carter or Richard Jefferson) to help try and strengthen their playoff run and make something happen. But they did nothing, and had the most pieces and options to work with making them the biggest loser at the deadline.

I really like the moves the Knicks made, although none of them cleared cap space for the free agent signings of 2010 with LeBron & Co. none of them hurt the cap either. They traded guys like Rose and Anthony Roberson, both of whom played minimal minutes along with Tim Thomas who they just received back in getting rid of Zach Randolph for players that will actually make an impact on the remainder of the season. Wilcox is much needed depth down low to help out David Lee and Larry Hughes is a veteran who’ll add more scoring on the wing. Both players will be reasons if the Knicks are to make a run for the playoffs.

Let us not forget about the Marion/ O’Neal trade that went down a week prior to the deadline. This deal is going to give Miami the low post presence they’ve been missing both offensively and defensively, and now gives them a chance to compete with some of the best in the league deep into the playoffs. Toronto is going to allow Marion to run up and down in a tempo he was more used to in Phoenix. They’re hoping to get the most out of him for the rest of the season as he is a free agent and playing for a contract this summer. With him, and a healthy duo of Calderon and Bosh if Toronto should somehow make the playoffs, they could make things very interesting for one of the top teams in the East.

onealmarion1Some of the minor trades before i go:

– The Magic got suckered into losing a 1st round pick for Rafer Alston, but with Nelson’s season done this finally gives them a starting point guard for the playoffs

– The Bulls fixed some needs but adding Salmons and Miller doesn’t necessarily make them a threat. They did however dump Nocioni’s bad salary. On the opposite side the Kings have cleared room for the future, we will see what Francisco Garcia, Rashard McCants, Donte Green, Jason Thompson, and Spencer Hawes can really do

– The Grizzlies picked up a 1st round pick for Kyle Lowry, which is nice but now what was once a strength at the beginning of the season with Crittenton, Lowry, and Conley leaves them with just Conley

– The Timberwolves lose McCants and get Shelden Williams? Houston lets a point gaurd go to just grab another? How far can a team that just lost McGrady for the year go in the western conference?

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Greatest Weekend in Sports???

The major story in sports over the past weekend was the NBA All Star Weekend at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. This is always one of the most entertaining weekends in all of sports. Events like the 3 Point Shootout and the Slam Dunk Competition are skills competition to showcase the individual talents in the NBA for fan amusement. Other events include the Skills Challenge,  which is a times obstacle course focusing on the players ability to shoot, dribble, and pass, and the Shooting Stars Competition, which takes a retired and current player from a team and put them with a WNBA player from that same city to compete in a shooting competition. This year, they added the classic playground game of H-O-R-S-E. For those who don’t know, H-O-R-S-E is a shooting game where the players try and imitate a made shot and if they can’t they receive a letter. The last to spell H-O-R-S-E wins. They chose 3 players to participate: Kevin Durant (OKC), O.J. Mayo (Memphis), and Joe Johnson (ATL)

Durant came back and defeated Mayo in the finals to win the 1st ever H-O-R-S-E competition. I realize this was a recent addition to the weekend but i mean they were able to find a sponsor fast enough in GEICO can they do a better job of finding a trophy to give the winner. Poor Durant looked like a fool holding up this toy “My Little Pony” sized trophy. If the Shooting Star Competition winner gets a real silver basketball, then there’s no excuse for the H-O-R-S-E competition. I realize this was new but I think many people enjoyed it and i hope they keep it for years to follow. Although outside is more challenging, they should move the competition inside and fit it in after the Shooting Stars and before the Skills Challenge. Having it earlier in the day will not draw the audience it could if it moves to Saturday night. Also environmental factors such as sun and wind can effect the event and not give all the players the same playing field. They should use retired players as well, wouldn’t it be awesome to watch guys like Bird, Michael, or Reggie going at it?  It would make the competition more interesting and keep us remembering the history of the NBA and some of the greats. The perfect combination of old school being show cased during the new school’s weekend. Move it inside and get a real trophy and I think David Stern might have a winner here.

The biggest event of the weekend was undoubtedly the Slam Dunk Contest. After the show, Dwight “Superman” Howard put on last year this was a highly anticipated event and it would live up to the hype. Nate Robinson did his thing and thanks to Howard (for agreeing to let Nate dunk over him), won his 2nd Slam Dunk title. In my opinion, even though Dwight’s last dunk stepped in from the foul line there should have been co-winners. Dwight put up a hell of an encore getting the fans into anything he did, and his creativity was awesome not just bringing out a telephone booth and changing in it, but bringing out a 12ft hoop and the one off the side of the backboard was ridiculous. Never have we seen a big man with ups like Howard he’s a freak of nature. However, he lost to another freak of nature on the opposite side of the spectrum, who also brought back creativity to the contest. KyptoNATE was able to out-duel Superman changing outfits as well and his last dunk was the highlight of the night.

The part that upset me about the dunk contest was not the controversial fan voting but the actual judging itself. The question i have for David Stern, is why is he having former point guards judging the contest? Get former winners and players who have actually participated in a contest judge, they have the experience and realize what a player put into his dunk and how to grade it. Rudy Fernandez get robbed bad. It was obvious they were holding a bias against him either because he was the last dunker voted in by the fans or because he’s an international player from Spain, but either way there was no reason for it. His 1st dunk was sick and because it went so fast i don’t believe the judges saw it properly. Did they realize the pass off the backboard was behind his back? He threw it with his right hand going behind the back to hit the opposite side of the backboard and slam it down with one hand….and received a 42. In fact i dont think they even paid attention to his 2nd dunk because they just gave him the same score. He did struggle many times before he actually got it down and your score should be lowered because of that i agree. He also didn’t have a teammate pass to him and instead used Pau Gasol (another international Spainish player), maybe the judges didn’t like that move either. Whatever the reason, his dunk was I thought one of the best of the night. Very very similar to Andre Iguodala’s dunk in the 2006 competition, where he too struggled a few times at first but then eventually nailed it, Fernandez completed his off the back of the backboard dunk with one hand.

How come one dunk received a 50 and the other received a 42? Now im not saying Fernandez was going to win the competition or even advance to the finals, but the judges were throwing 50’s at whatever Dwight did the first round and this kid got no love. Seeing it in Spain from the other side of the spectrum, and realizing how excited these people were to have a player of there own participating in not only the NBA All Star Weekend but the Slam Dunk Competition, it was very disappointing. But i haven’t heard much complaining saying how bad Rudy was robbed or how horrible TNT bashed the whole country and made fun of Rudy for not having another Trail Blazer assist him on his dunk, nope i haven’t heard any negativity. Just people excited and grateful for the chance to be a part of the event and how proud they were of both Rudy and Marc Gasol both of whom participated in the Rookie vs. Sophomore game Friday night, and especially how proud they were of their All Star Pau.

Sunday nights game was a great end to the festivities. I couldn’t remember the last time i saw defensive being played in an All Star Game in the 1st quarter. These guys came out focused and ready to really play for the fans. Duncan was blocking shots early and players were getting stripped left and right. It wasn’t the showboating, T-Mac, Vinsanity games i remember from the past, where the objective was to shoot and make a highlight, in order to rack up the best stats possible for MVP. Now it wouldn’t have been an All Star Game if somebody didn’t come out and start firing randomly and in the early goings of this game it was Kobe (he was 2 shots shy of a new record for most shots in a quarter).  The East got off to a great start and Iverson left yet another great memory we wont soon forget and neither will Yao. But it soon became Shaq’s show and his pregame dancing was just setting the stage for what was about to come. 17 points couple really nice assists and the man who this time last year everyone was questioning when he’d retire wins co-MVP awards with former teammate Kobe. Speaking of these two, it’s a shame we will never know how many titles they could have won, because there were maybe the most dangerous combo ever. Who knows if there friends now or if Shaq is going to rip Kobe another new one in a freestyle this summer, but at least the differences were put aside for one weekend and created a nice reunion between the two of them and Phil Jackson.

Before i get out of here, i do need to shout out Kevin Durant. The man broke a new scoring record in the Rookie vs. Sophomore game scoring 46 points earning himself MVP honors. The next day he goes out and wins the H-O-R-S-E competition and he should have been playing Sunday. By the end of the year, i think he can be a top 10 player in this league. He has grown so much in a year offensively it’s scary and he is developing quite a defensive game as well. Like Danny Granger had last year watch out for Durant in the second half. Also need to shout out Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls. The number 1 pick in last years draft, has had a hell of a season, and this weekend he won the Skills Challenge. Going up against well established point guards like Mo Williams and Devin Harris and winning with ease, the sky is the limit for Rose and luckily for Chicago that means them as well….

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Now I’m Sorry…….

alexrodriguez2

Alex made his MLB debut July 8th, 1994 at Fenway Park in Boston.

Dear A-Rod,

Your sincere apology has inspired me to write a confession of my own, but to you…..

I’m sorry i allowed myself to let you have an influence on who would be my favorite ball club for the rest of my life, maybe “i was young, i was stupid, i was naive.”

I’m sorry my Little League Coach bought a motion replica of your 30th career home run and told me to watch your stance and imitate your swing.

I’m sorry about all the fights i’ve gotten into with my friends, family, and all Yankee fans arguing that they’ve moved the best short stop to ever step on the field over to third base and how it was bullshit.

I’m sorry for the sponsors who invested in you thinking they were supporting a certain someone and getting another.

I’m sorry for the Boys & Girls Club and all the children who want to be like you and look up to you as a role model.

And most of all i’m sorry you have to live the rest of your life wondering what could have been if you did it right…

Former loyal fan since 1994,

Michael Mancuso

Now that i got that out of the way it’s time to look at this situation from a non-biased point of view.  Alex Rodriguez took steroids, that is now a fact. No more turning a cold shoulder and blaming Barry, when the man we all hoped would break Bonds record is guilty himself. I’ve spoken to a few Yankee fans since Sports Illustrated delivered their report, and all of them have been saying the same thing,

“well at least A-Rod admitted it…..”

Umm i’m sorry, i thought his name was on a list saying he failed a drug test got caught and instead of trying to get out of it and test how powerful and accurate the media really was like Bonds did (and most of us would too) he saw what happened to Bonds and Clemens for lying and decided to take the other approach. The Yankee approach i like to call it. Does anyone else find it odd, that Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte came out with apologies and people forgave and forgot them. Yet, Tejada was back in court again this week, the leading home run hitter of all time still can’t find a job, and not even Houston wants Clemens at this point. What the hell is the difference? If they all took steroids they all cheated period(.) How does it make it better that because he apologized after the fact he took them (and lets not forget after the fact they where caught)? Either steroids are the evil demons people have been making them out to be and everyone is condemned to a life of hell, or we really don’t care and realize scandals unfortunately are a part of sports whether we want them there or not.

Back to A-Rod though, do people really believe this guy? I believe that he didn’t start until 2001, not because of the pressure though, probably because you’ve seen all these other guys getting away with it and say “hey why not?” Everyone else is getting an edge and improving imagine what it could do for arguably the greatest of all time. I’m not buying however that he coincidentally woke up one day and decided he know longer needed them. Then we find out years later that it was awfully close to the date that he fails a test. Really you stopped right then? The pressure was so great in Arlington, Texas that the next season you go and play under the toughest fans in the world in New York, trying to rekindle recent glory and win a ring and now you don’t need them. Uh huh whatever you say Alex, i pray for your sake reports don’t come out that you took them with the Yankees, because if they do another apology won’t work, even if you think your recent report with Peter Gammons did. I think Alex still realizes he’s  stuck in the biggest contract of baseball history and has to play in New York for at least 8 more years, and wanted to set the record straight that he was clean and an angel in pinstripes. Blame it all on the Rangers, they’ve had a history of players using steroids and it’s not like he’s going back there to play. As long as your cool in New York though that’s what matters, make sure you don’t have Federal Grand Jury headlines like Bonds.

Bonds was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

Bonds was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

Major League Baseball has another problem however waiting in a California appellate court. Lets not forgot Alex was just 1 of 104 names on “The List”. There were 103 other names of players that failed for steroids along with A-Rod how come only one name came out. How coincidental that out of the 104 names the one that comes out just happens to be one of the Greatest of All Time. It’s not fair that only one person is taking the fall, when 104 of them are guilty. I hope the courts realize that this is the steroid era in baseball no doubt about it. Hitters or pitchers it don’t matter a lot of players were on them and we all need to deal with that. These players must be judged differently and if they have a list they have no right to keep it from the public now. Not when the name people wondered and questioned about was called. Again what goes for one must go for all. They let out the names from the Mitchell Report, so we better learn these names soon……

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