NBA Playoffs > One Big Step for Miami & One Bigger Step for LeBron James

 

~ One big step for the Miami Heat and one bigger step for LeBron James. For this one night watching the Miami Heat, we “can’t knock da hustle”. The Heat eliminated the Boston Celtics from the playoffs to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. They will now await the winner of the Atlanta Hawks-Chicago Bulls series. For the Heat, it was a dramatic ending to a series they needed to win for a number of  reasons that go beyond just advancing to the next round. It wasn’t Dywane Wade closing the show out for the Heat though, it was the man most love to hate … LeBron Raymone James. 

Before I even go any further with this post though, congrats to the Boston Celtics. They went out like champions which is unlike how the defending champion Lakers bowed out to Dallas over in the west. The Celtics were badly outmanned, and had to face a team that was just as hungry however had younger legs than them. This series saw Rajon Rondo give everything he had despite dislocating his elbow. It also saw the possible end of Shaquille O’Neal’s great NBA career. The mind and heart may have wanted to give more, the body just would not allow it though. This was very much like a heavyweight fight and Boston being the old, savy, and crafty veterans were not going to go down easily. Their legacy is implanted firmly though as the original “Big 3” and a championship team.

The way Miami finished Boston off was a script made for Hollywood. A 16-0 run to close out a game they trailed most of. The last 10 points scored by LeBron James. That stat alone is as strong a sub-plot as there has been this season in the NBA. As Miami went through their struggles to gel together as a team, James was dealing with adversity over not being able to close out a game. The irony now to see James not only close out the game for Miami, he also puts the dagger in the Boston Celtics run in the playoffs. It was as fitting a closure to the last 12 months for James as one can possibly get. The journey is not over for him and Miami, they still are 8 wins away from the ultimate goal, a championship. However, they deserve the moment right now.

 

Dywane Wade realized he needed help in Miami this year if he was going to get out of the first round. James realized he needed help that Cleveland didn’t have to get past the Celtics. After years of barely making the playoffs in Toronto, Chris Bosh realized he needed LeBron James and Dywane Wade. We all don’t have to like how this all went about coming together in South Beach. There will always be criticism to eqaul whatever acheivments they accomplish. At the end of the day, the bottom line is what matters. For the Miami Heat and LeBron James, the bottom line was:

  • Becoming a Basketball Team and not just a collection of NBA talent and the 2 best players in the world.

 

  • Defeating the Boston Celtics. It would not have the same effect, had it been the Knicks, or the Magic … it had to be Boston.

 

  • Winning an NBA Championship.

 

They took the first two steps and now all that’s left is that one last one.

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Media > Gus Johnson Reportedly Moving From CBS To FOX

~ Gus Johnson is moving on. The very popular NFL and NCAA men’s basketball play by play announcer could not come to terms on a new contract with CBS and is now reported to be headed to the FOX network.Johnson has become a household name in recent years with fans of March Madness because of his high energy style of broadcasting basketball games.

The New York Daily News recently reported that some within CBS “were not thrilled with Johnson’s rise to March Madness’ most popular voice.” The number 1 play by play man there right now is Jim Nantz.

Nantz is “The Voice” of the college tournament and is also the lead announcer on the NFL coverage for CBS. It was becoming obvious that Johnson’s stock was indeed going up though and that may have meant his price tag was going up as well.

Johnson most recently did play by play for the Pacquiao-Mosley fight on Showtime / PPV. It remains to be seen what will happen with Johnson’s coverage of boxing. My prediction is that somewhere down the line a spot is going to open up for Johnson to be a lead announcer for one of these networks. He has been gaining momentum every year. For now though, FOX is getting a good one for it’s football coverage.

Boxing > Pacquiao Dominates Again, Mosley Disappoints Again, Fans Wait For Mayweather … Again.

 

 ~ I debated long and hard before ordering the Shane Mosley-Manny Pacquiao fight. It was one of those deals where  you know what the outcome is going to be, yet you still want to see if an upset occurs. Well, the upset didn’t occur. However what did occur was the necessary. Manny Pacquiao completely dismantled Sugar Shane in  route to a 12 round decision. Boxing fans worldwide are now left wondering again if they’ll ever see Pac-Man take on Floyd Mayweather. One thing is for sure and that’s Mosley’s once great boxing career is now at it’s end. At least it should be.

It was a methodical beating and sometimes when that occurs, it’s better to just hope for the knockout to take place. Pac-Man didn’t get the knockout, he did however get a 3rd round knockdown that started the punishment for Mosley. After that knockdown, Mosley wanted no part of trading punches with the powerful Pacquiao. After the fight, he told reporters it was the hardest he’s been hit in a long time. His biggest moment on this night came when referee Kenny Bayless mistakenly ruled that Mosley knocked Pacquiao down in the 10th round when he hadn’t even hit him with a punch. All that did was make Manny mad and even though Mosley may never admit it, he must have known at that point that he was going to lose the fight. The bottom line is Manny was the agressive one throughout the fight, attacking like a hungry fighter. Mosley was in defense mode from the opening bell and as it got worst for him, defense mode turned into panic mode.

I was looking to see if Mosley might surprise the crowd and his critics, instead he gave them exactly what they expected of him. None of us know what was going on in Sugar Shane’s mind during the fight. He may have indeed been game to stand toe to toe with Pac-Man. The mind may have wanted to and the body just would not allow it. The way boxing has been going lately, the case could be made that it was the other way around. Mosley came into the fight appearing to look in great physical condition. Boxing is just as mental as it is physical though and reality may have hit him while getting up from that 3rd round knockdown.

While Mosley goes back to the drawing board to figure out what’s next (retirement hopefully), what’s next for Manny Pacquiao? It has to be Floyd Mayweather.

 

 Showtime’s James Brown said it best during the post fight wrap up … It has to happen. It’s the only logical fight that makes sense right now.

At 34 years old and only 2 fights in the last 2 years, Mayweather’s clock has to be ticking as well. He does not come off as the type of fighter to compete well past his prime. He’s business savy enough to know that if the major payday with Pacquiao is to happen, it has to happen sooner than later. Time will tell. The boxing world needs it now more than ever. As good as Pacquiao has been for the sport, he’s simply out of top tier opponents to face him. It’s time to get the deal done.

NBA > (Video) Derrick Rose Named MVP

~ The case could’ve been made that Derrick Rose should’ve been handed the MVP award at the All-Star Break. At that point, it was pretty much a conclusion that Rose would become the first Chicago Bull to win the award since the great #23. The NBA made us all wait though until after the season to officially name him the Most Valuable Player. Rose is the youngest to ever win the award at 22 years of age. He also became the 2nd player in history to win the award while playing for his hometown team. Wilt Chamberlain did it in Philedelphia.


For all of the highlights that Rose provided in the regular season, his acceptance speech for the award has to go up there as one of the great acceptance speeches in recent history. It was a personal and emotional thank you to his mother for the sacrifices she made to help him.


At only 22 years old, Rose wining the MVP is truly a remarkable accomplishment. He is only going to get better which is scary for the rest of the league.

Images by: Getty

Video: ThaMagicalNegro

NFL > Steelers Rashard Mendenhall Provides Clarity on Contoversial Bin Laden Comments

 

~ Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall has found himself in the news thanks to controversial remarks that came from his twitter account about the recent current events regarding Osama Bin Laden and 9/11.

On skepticism regarding the notion that hijacked planes took down the World Trade Center, Mendenhall’s twitter gave this tweet:

 “We’ll never know what really happened.  I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”

 That tweet has since been removed from Mendenhall’s twitter and the Steelers have released a statement on their team website which seperates their organization from the comments Mendenhall has made.

“I have not spoken with Rashard so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments, The entire Steelers’ organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon.” … Art Rooney II, Steelers President

The Steelers did what they had to do by distancing themselves from Mendenhall’s comments. It’s not any of our place to pass judgement on him. He’s entitled to his opinion. However, it is another example of professional athletes putting themselves in difficult situations with the use of social networks.

Mendenhall did take a step forward recently by posting comments onto his blog titled “Clarification” where he apologized to anyone he offended.

To view the blog post you can CLICK HERE

 The public backlash came quickly once news of the tweets became a headline. Mendenhall could very well have put his job in jeopardy. I’ve seen some make the case of Freedom of Speech and the Ben Rothlisberger’s legal problems and valid points were made when it comes to those points. Hopefully Mendenhall can learn from this and move forward. I don’t think his comments were made to offend, however perception can indeed be reality. Especially when the media gets a hold of it.

 Mendenhall also put his teammates in a awkward position as well as the fact that his team is located in one of the states where lives were lost on 9/11. As a professional, he has to know better and these athletes must do a better job of handling these social networks. They have to realize that every word they tweet or post is going to be put under a microscope by someone. It’s either that or risk losing their careers or prestige with their fans.

Image by: Getty Images

Additional Information: Pro Football Talk

Memphis-OKC / NBA Playoffs > Why The Memphis Grizzlies Could Win The West

 

~ While watching Game 1 of the 2nd round series between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder, I came away with this conclusion… the Grizzlies are the real deal. This isn’t exactly news anymore to basketball fans. They took it to the top seeded San Antonio Spurs in round 1, taking them out in 6 games. This is the 8th seeded team in the west doing this. Every now and then in the NBA Playoffs, a low seeded team will come along and steal a 1st round series and some headlines. I’m always curious to see how they come out to play in the next round. I look to see if that team comes out flat after riding the high of a 1st round victory that some didn’t think they’d get. Quite frankly, the Grizzlies came out against the Thunder ready to play and  punched them right in the mouth. This isn’t just a 8th seeded team that is making a little noise in the playoffs. The way things are shaping up this year, Memphis could find themselves playing in June for an NBA Championship.

 Many considered what the Grizzlies did to the Spurs as an upset. I didn’t share that same thought process. Memphis wanted the Spurs in the 1st round, they knew how well they matched up with them. The Spurs were just an example of why you can’t really hold stock in regular season win-loss records. What we are also seeing right now is that if you look at the Grizzlies as a team, they are built for a strong playoff run. They matched up well with the Spurs and they match up just as well with the Thunder. It’s an old school Eastern Conference Playoff team playing in the west. Defense and big time play from the go-to guys wins championships. They beat you with big time play in the frontcourt with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. They get leadership from players like Tony Allen and Shane Battier. OJ Mayo is maturing before our eyes and they almost traded him away this year. This is not the team you want to lose Game 1 to on your home court.

A sub plot has emerged in the playoff run of the Thunder and that is the inconsistent play of Russell Westbrook at the point guard position. His shot selection and decision making throughout the post season so far has been borderline at best. What is even more troublesome is Westbrook’s dominating of the ball has come at the expense of more shots for Kevin Durant. Westbrook is an explosive offensive weapon for OKC and the 1-2 punch with Durant is why the Thunder are strong contenders for the Finals this year. However Westbrook is also the point guard. Durant is the franchise player and Westbrook has to do a better job of making that clear on the court. The reality is that if Durant is option 1, Westbrook is option 1A, and it remains to be seen if Westbrook is really okay with that. While the Thunder continue to build their playoff resume’s, it will be a point of interest to see if the Durant-Westbrook combo becomes just as good or better as Stocton-Malone of Utah. It has the potential to also become Marbury-Garnett of Minnesota. That would be a major problem for the Thunder.

 Charles Barkley recently made a great point on the overall outlook of the Grizzlies. They are a deep team. Denver became a deep team after the Carmelo Anthony trade. However they didn’t have a go-to closer and that cost them in the playoffs. The Grizzlies are a deep team … with a closer. Randolph is playing the best ball of his career right now and the Gizzlies in the frontcourt are having their way in these games.

 It’s also hurting the Thunder that they don’t have that third scorer right now. There is no Jeff Green this year and maybe that has contributed to the Westbrook’s poor shot selection at times. It might be a good time to get Nate Robinson involved in this series. Robinson may provide that extra shot of energy that might be missing from the Thunder right now. What is apparent right now though is that major adjustments will have to be made by OKC to beat the Grizzlies in Game 2. It’s a statement game in every sense of the word for the Thunder if they want to win this series. 

NFL Draft > Cam Newton Goes #1 To Carolina, Movers & Shakers

 

~ The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft was more exciting than many had thought it would be. The uncertainty around the draft due to the NFL Lockout left many thinking (myself included) that this draft would not have a lot of pop to it this year. There was quite a few surprises and a lot of that was also due to the Lockout. It may have also been due to the fact that there wasn’t a clear cut pick to bank on in this year’s draft. What the fans did see mostly (except for Atlanta and Minnesota) was their teams making the logical picks and trying not to gamble due to where the labor situation currently stands with the league.

Cam Newton Goes #1 To Carolina

The Carolina Panthers did what they had to do with this pick. Cam Newton is bringing star power behind his name. He’s bringing talent. Quite possibly cut in the Michael Vick mold as far as potential. Newton could also be a work in progress and eyes will be on him to see how he handles the big spotlight that comes with being the franchise player. However, for a team that has struggled on and off the field the fan base of the Panthers needed a shot in the arm. Newton had two things working for him here. He’s a quarterback and he was the biggest name in the draft. Carolina had to find a way to get fans in the building and the buzz Newton will bring is a big step forward.

Patrick Peterson Goes To Arizona at Number 5

I thought this was a good pick by the Cardnials because it shows they are focused on getting back to the level they were at that made them a Super Bowl team a couple of years ago. Everyone knows they need a quarterback and had Peterson beat the odds and went number 1, it would’ve been interesting to see what Arizona would’ve done to get a shot at Cam Newton. This team is looking to win now though and they play in the NFC West which is there to be taken. Patrick Peterson was the best cornerback on the board and was rated number 1 on many draft boards.  He give the Cardnials a potential “shutdown” corner and allows for them to look for a quarterback on the free agent market. It wouldn’t be surprising either to see Arizona look towards the future and perhaps look for a quarterback in the 2nd round of the draft.

Atlanta Falcons Trade The Ranch For WR Julio Jones

The Falcons were one of two teams in the draft that made a bold enough move to make you just stare at the television with the “Ricky Ricardo Confused Face”. The first trade of the draft was a doozy. Atlanta traded up from number 27 to the Cleveland Browns number 6 slot to grab Wide Receiver Julio Jones of Alabama. It was what the Falcons gave up to the Browns that had everyone scratching their heads. The Falcons sent their first-round, second-round, and fourth-round picks in 2011, along with a first-round and fourth-round pick in 2012 to the Browns. Great move if you’re a Browns fan. They get more opportunities to improve their team.

As for the Falcons, they clearly went after the best Wide Receiver left on the board after the Bengals took AJ Green at number 4. It gives QB Matt Ryan a dangerous passing attack with Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez. The flip side of that is they basically gave up their draft this year to get Jones. The pressure will be on him early to step up and be a high impact player for a team  that went all out to to take the next step.

The Minnesota Vikings Take … Christian Ponder … Who??

This will be a name we remember for only one of two reasons. He’ll either turn out to be very good and be the shocker of the draft or he’ll be very bad and cost a few people in the Vikings upper management their jobs for taking him with the 12th pick in the 1st round. Christian Ponder out of Florida State has the chance to be the quarterback who replaces Brett Favre in Minnesota. Ponder was viewed by many to be a 2nd round pick at best. How did he end up going in top 15 of the 1st round then?

If you were to look at the draft board and how things played out, it put the Vikings in a very difficult spot. The 49ers were expected to take a quarterback at number 7 … they didn’t. That left Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert still on the board as the two next best quarterbacks available after Newton was picked earlier by Carolina.

The Titans then took Locker at number 8 which closed the door on the Vince Young era. This left Gabbert for the Vikings to hope that he falls to them at 12 … he didn’t make it past 10. The Jaguars surprisingly stepped in and took Gabbert at 10 and this is where the Vikings were going to have to roll the dice.

The top 3 quarterbacks are off the board, there is a wild card still available though. Ryan Mallet was projected by many to have 1st round potential. He’s also had some off the field issues that made teams back off him. The Vikings decide to go with Ponder and no team was more thankful probably than the Detroit Lions who took the best defensive lineman still available, Nick Fairley of Auburn.

Clearly the Vikings loved Ponder during the scouting process to take him so high. They could have addressed another need on the team and picked Ponder up later in the draft. It’s also alarming to Ryan Mallet’s camp that he’d get passed on in a obvious landing spot for him. This was the gamble of the draft because if Ponder ends up being a 1st round bust, it may set the Vikings back for seasons to come.

Notable Winners

The New Orleans Saints wowed everyone in the 1st round of the draft as they came away with 2 great picks. Cameron Jordan on defense at number 24 and Mark Ingram on offense at number 28. The Ingram pick was an aggresive one by the Saints, as they had to trade back into the 1st round with New England to grab the running back. Ingram was my sleeper pick in the draft and it was unfortunate that he fell so far in the 1st round. I thought he would have been a great fit with the Giants, Patriots or even the defending champion Packers. New Orleans will get a motivated former Heisman Award winner. It also creates a sub plot for the Saints, what will now happen to running back and former top pick Reggie Bush?

 

My hometown teams madeout pretty well in the first round as well. The Giants and Jets both addressed needs on defense. The Giants took cornerback Prince Amukamara and from everything mentioned about him, he has “shutdown” potential. The Jets made what I thought was the most logical pick of the draft so far. They grabbed Muhammad Wilkerson at number 30. Wilkerson gives the Jets much needed help on the defensive line.

What To Look For In Round 2?

Where does Ryan Mallet Go? The quarterback many project to have 1st round talent is still on the board. I’m looking for the Bengals to make a move for either Mallet or Andy Dalton. They already took the best receiver on the board in AJ Green. They still don’t know what will happen with Carson Palmer and they are in need of a quarterback.

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