Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Keep Up the Pace

After a domineering performance on Monday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Indiana Pacers are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history.  The physical play of the defensive-minded Pacers has completely shut down the offensive rhythm of their opponents this season.  Not only is Indiana’s 7’2’’ center Roy Hibbert leading the NBA with 4.38 blocks per game (Serge Ibaka led the league last year with 3.03 blocks per game), but the NBA’s only remaining undefeated team also ranks #1 in points against. 

The Pacers are holding their opponents to a meager 84.5 points per game, and even though it would be nearly impossible to maintain a sub-85 points against average for an entire season, Indiana’s defense appears to be the league’s most dominant for the second year in a row.  Even more impressive is the fact that the Pacers are outscoring their opponents by an average of over 10 points, while holding opponents to a league-low .389 field goal percentage.

As a result, the Pacers are finally getting some much-deserved attention from the sports media world. After a grueling and heartbreaking seven game series against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals last summer, it would be a mistake to call Indiana’s early eight game winning streak a fluke.  This team plays incredibly hard and they are hungry for success.  Especially Paul George, their 23-year-old leading scorer and a freak of nature who has rapidly improved in each of his four seasons in the NBA. 

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nerlens Noel Will Miss Entire Season

The Philadelphia 76ers are reportedly prepared to bench first-round draft pick Nerlens Noel for the entire 2013-2014 season.  Noel is still recovering from a torn ACL last February that prematurely ended his freshman campaign at Kentucky. 

The 76ers are no strangers to big man knee injuries.  Last season they found themselves on the wrong end of Andrew Bynum’s contract when they acquired the veteran center in a four-team deal.  They traded away their longtime leader Andre Iguodala, a first round pick, and several other pieces for Bynum in the same trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers.

However Bynum never even touched the court in Philly.  Despite his reputation as one of the most talented big men, Bynum’s only season in Philadelphia was characterized by perpetual knee issues, bowling injuries and strange haircuts.  So with 2/3 of those traits already seemingly accomplished, Noel might cause a riot if he walks into any Philadelphia bowling alleys this season. 

Read more after the jump...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 5 Truths and Myths

We had some major Truths and Myths to kick off the 2013 NFL Season.  They have all been quite accurate thus far, but now we are in Week 5 and most football fans have a much stronger sense of where teams currently stand… or do they?

Myth #1: The Bills Should Sign Josh Freeman

Prior to Thursday night’s surprisingly exciting matchup between Buffalo and Cleveland, Bills’ quarterback EJ Manuel was making a strong case as this year’s top rookie quarterback.  With Manuel under center, the Bills had managed a 2-2 record including a Week 2 come from behind victory against Carolina and a major upset against the reigning champion Baltimore Ravens last Sunday.

But then Manuel suffered a sprained LCL while running for a first down on Thursday.  The Bills would have emerged with a 3-2 record and high hopes for the rest of their season.  Instead, undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, Manuel’s backup, handed Cleveland their third victory. 

Manuel, the 23-year-old former Florida State star, will miss the next four-to-eight weeks to rehab his knee.  Some are saying that the Bills lucked out because the Buccaneers just released their starting quarterback Josh Freeman.  Hopefully the Bills’ management knows better.

Freeman has been the face of an underperforming Buccaneers franchise since 2009 and has shown little-to-no individual improvement.  The talent is there but the drive is not.  Despite starting for virtually his entire five year career, Freeman has been released early in the Buccaneers 2013 season "in the best interests of both Josh and the Buccaneers," according to Bucs GM Mark Dominik. 

Signing Freeman would be the wrong move for the Bills.  Manuel was their first round pick in the draft and he is their quarterback for the future.  Once he returns, designating a career-long starter like Freeman to the bench could create internal issues and unnecessary off-the-field headaches.  Freeman is much better suited to play full-time for another below-average team that needs a starting quarterback immediately and not just a stop gap for a promising rookie.  Perhaps Oakland or Jacksonville.

Read more after the jump...

Monday, September 30, 2013

NBA Will Return to 2-2-1-1-1 Finals Format

Some good news for NBA fans yesterday.  The league is on the verge of returning to a 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format.  The NBA’s competition committee proposed the idea on Sunday to ditch the 2-3-2 format that has been in place since 1985.  The current format minimized transportation costs, as traveling had become tedious and inefficient for the recurring Boston vs. Los Angeles championship matchups during the 1980s. 

However now that teams all fly their own charters, travel inefficiencies are much less of a concern and the quality of the NBA Finals can finally be improved.  The traditional 2-2-1-1-1 maximizes the likelihood of a Game 7, which is crucial to ratings and the business ventures of the NBA.  

More importantly, the traditional format fully restores home-court advantage.  With the 2-3-2 system, the “road team” played three consecutive games at home and could easily gain a significant advantage by stealing just one of the first two games. 

Even though the home team has won 22 of 29 matchups with the 2-3-2 format, I am thrilled with the change.  The coming years will savagely test the patience of NBA fans as Adam Silver takes over as NBA Commissioner.  With all the disturbing rumors about ads and nicknames appearing on jerseys in the near future, it is nice to finally hear some good news about a return to something more traditional.  The classic finals format is expected to be restored for the upcoming season.

The last few games of the NBA season should be as captivating and intriguing as possible and that setting is compromised when games 6 and 7 are played in the same arena.  The 2-2-1-1-1 format is how the Finals were originally envisioned and long-distance travel is not as inefficient as it was in 1985.  It is time to fully restore the integrity of the NBA Finals to allow storylines to be more dramatic and emotions to run higher as the last two games of the season are played in opposing arenas.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Jeter’s Season Ends Painfully

After being sent to the DL for the fourth time this year, Derek Jeter’s season is “effectively over” according to Brian Cashman.  The New York Yankees finally decided to shut down their longtime captain’s 2013 campaign after the shortstop aggravated his surgically repaired ankle in a September 7 loss against the Boston Red Sox.  This is no easy pill to swallow.  Yankees’ fans already know that this season will be the last for Mariano Rivera.  Could this also be the end for Jeter?

The 39-year-old future Hall of Famer has been the face of the most historic franchise in baseball for eighteen years.  During that span, he has accumulated five World Series Championships as well as countless personal accolades which he rarely acknowledges.  Jeter is not just the face of a team – he is the face of a sport – an icon, a class act, a team-player, and a champion that nearly two decades of little leaguers have admired and aspired to become.  While losing Jeter might not stop the Yankees from earning a wildcard berth, it probably erases all remaining hope of a successful postseason. 

Read more after the jump...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

NFL 2013: Week 1 Truths and Myths

The 2013 NFL Season kicks off tonight when the reigning champion Baltimore Ravens face off against the Denver Broncos.  That means it is also time to kick off our weekly NFL Truths and Myths segment for the season.

Truth #1: Tom Brady is on a Mission

After losing his top five receiving targets from last season to injuries, free agency, and prison, Tom Brady came into training camp, worked his ass off, and quickly got comfortable with his new receivers.  Brady has found success year after year while notoriously maximizing the potential of his supporting cast.  While he may not set any new passing records without Pro Bowl receivers at his side, Brady will likely continue to turn adequate receivers into renowned household names
During the preseason, rookie wideout Kenbrell Thompkins caught more passes than anybody in the league.  Things will only get easier for Brady once Rob Gronkowski return from his injury.  If Brady won Super Bowls throwing to guys like Troy Brown, Deion Branch and David Patten, then I don’t expect Brady to miss a beat as he develops a rapport with his new supporting cast.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Big Changes for the Chiefs

Twenty years have passed since the Kansas City Chiefs’ last playoff victory.  They have won just nine games over the past two seasons, finishing last year with an NFL-worst 2-14 record.  When you hit rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. 

Season after disappointing season, Chiefs’ fans have watched potential stars like Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe underperform in an unbearably stagnant offense.  They watched the Romeo Crennel experiments fail to produce results despite a plethora of talent on the roster.  Last season they even witnessed a murder-suicide by linebacker Jovan Belcher. 

But now both Crennel and GM Scott Pioli are gone and the team is rebuilding.  It is uninspired play and injuries that have come to characterize the Kansas City franchise that has achieved minimal success over the past two decades.   It is no secret that Chiefs’ fans have not had much to cheer about recently.  That is, until now.

Read more after the jump...