Tag Archives: boston celtics

No Need To Panic In Boston

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For all of those worried Celtics fans out there about the team’s lackluster 0-3 start… Calm down, you’ve seen this before. As a matter of fact you’ve seen it twice this year already.

For the entire sports scene in Boston slow starts have been the norm all year long.

It started in April with the Red Sox who after a headline stealing off season jumped off to a horrendous 2-10 start to the season. However, the Sox recovered to have the best record in baseball all summer before they imploded in September.

The Bruins had an obvious Stanley Cup hangover as they found themselves in last place in the Northeast division with only three wins after the month of October. Now the Bruins sit in first place of the entire Eastern Conference heading into the new year.

Now it’s the Celtics turn.

Let’s be honest, the C’s are old and in a shortened compacted season like this one age may play a huge factor integer success.

Kevin Garnett has been hot and cold, Ray Allen has been, well, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce has been M.I.A. due to an injured heel. The best performers so far have been an ultra motivated Rajon Rondo who has responded well to off season trade rumors, and Brandon Bass has been the inside presence that the Celtics have been lacking since trading Kendrick Perkins.

The Celtics are not a full team right now. Besides missing Pierce they are without Jeff Green for the season due to a heart ailment and newly acquired guard Mickael Pietrus is still injured and not scheduled to return until mid-January. Head coach Doc Rivers has had to rely on heavy doses of Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels to fill in for those roles and so far it’s led to mixed results.

However, people should realize that it’s only three games. With 63 games left and Pierce returning to action in the next game or two the Celtics have more than enough time to right the ship.

Even though a season like this favors a young team with fresh legs this Celtics team has won too many games to not make the proper adjustments to stay in contention.

A turnaround is eminent with this team and it starts with a fairly easy schedule for the next few games. Their next four have them playing the Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets and they play the Washington Wizards twice. By this time next week the Celtics could easily be 4-3 and getting back into the swing of things.

So for the worried fans of Boston who are ready to slam the panic button, relax. There’s plenty of time left in the season to turn things around and get back in track.

The Red Sox & Bruins had early season troubles and both recovered now it’s the Celtics turn to do so.

Since history repeats itself then the C’s should be sitting on top of the Atlantic division very shortly. However, if they do recover hopefully their season, and the Bruins for that matter doesn’t mirror the Red Sox season exactly. That would be too much for the fans of Beantown to handle.


A Shaq For All Seasons

Shaquille O' Neal retired today after 19 seasons in the NBA.

What was Shaquille O’ Neal? Was he one of the greatest centers of all-time? A 4-time champion and 3-time MVP of the NBA Finals? A 15-time all-star, number 5 all-time scorer with 28,596 points?

 

Was he the most dominant big man that this generation had ever seen?

 

From the time that he stepped on the floor as the number one pick of the 1992 NBA Draft Shaq was a man amongst boys. He decimated foes in the paint with his size; he got to anywhere he wanted in the paint. No man on this earth could guard him (hence the Superman moniker), nor could they stop him, unless they fouled him. Once both of his size 22’s were in the paint it was senseless to try and stop him, the two points were his, just take it like a man and walk off.

 

Was he the most unbelievable big man that we ever saw?

 

As big as he was and as powerful as he was he had amazing finesse skills. He was this generation’s best passer able to suck in double teams and kick it out to any open shooter in his sightline. He had great footwork, which he learned after the greatest fleet-footed big man Hakeem Olajuwon schooled him in the 1995 Finals. He had a great spin move to get to the hole, an excellent jump hook that came from plenty of time put in his early years in L.A. however, his power dominated all especially when he brought rims down without even trying during his first few years in the league.

 

Ever since he came into the league Shaq has been the center of attention.

Was he the game’s best entertainer?

 

On and off of the court you couldn’t keep your eyes off of Shaq. When he wasn’t dunking on poor and helpless centers he was selling Pepsi without a hitch. When he wasn’t winning titles he was recording platinum rap albums and making hits with the Notorious B.I.G. a.k.a. Biggie Smalls. He starred in movies and extended his brand in a way that could’ve rivaled Michael Jordan. Shaq was never just a basketball player he was the first entertainer of the sport. When you see other athletes crossover to TV and film and music that’s because Shaq laid that blueprint down before anyone else. Shaq could do anything and he definitely did try.

 

Was he the biggest kid that the game has ever seen?

 

His playfulness was his best attribute. Shaq was a player who had no problem making a fool of himself. True, he was a hulking 7’1” and 325 pounds and an intimidating man if there ever was one. However, just look at some footage of Shaq break dancing at the all-star game, acting a fool on the bus at the Olympics, playing a living statue at Harvard or leading the Boston Pops. He had fun and made everyone laugh.

 

(Side note: the best bit of Shaq acting a fool was his short lived reality TV show “Shaq Vs.” he challenged athletes to contests in their own sport and went through it all with the same ridiculous over the top mannerisms that he has whenever there was a camera on him before or after games. It was athletic competition that he never took seriously and it was pure comedy.)

 

How great of a winner was he?

 

4 rings, 6 appearances with three teams. The funny yet sad thing about the Shaq era is that he only has one MVP in his 19 years in the league… ONE!!! Then when you look at some of the names that he lost out to (Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Michael Jordan) you go, “Damn. That’s why.” However, MVP’s don’t truly make up who Shaq was as a player. In Game 7 versus Portland he with help from Kobe Bryant led the Lakers back from 15 down to reach the Finals. He dominated each of the Lakers title series in there three-peat years and continuously punished the Sacramento Kings and prevented from reaching a plateau than where they finished.

 

Shaq always had a fun side.

Could he have been better though?

 

To say that a man that scored over 28,000 points could’ve done better sounds silly, but he could’ve easily pushed past 30,000 if he wasn’t such a poor free throw shooter… and had stayed in shape.

 

The problem with Shaq in the second half of his career was his constant refusal to stay in shape. He missed 12 or more games in 8 of the 10 seasons after his first title and missed 20 or more games in 5 of those seasons. Truth is that Shaq got lazy and only focused on the second half of the season up until the playoffs. If he would’ve stayed healthy he could’ve been even more incredible as far as stats go.

 

Did he love drama?

 

Ask Penny Hardaway. Ask Dwyane Wade. Ask Kobe Bryant. Ask the cities of Orlando, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami and Cleveland about the departures of Shaquille O’ Neal and they wont have nice things to say. Shaq was a stubborn man, in his mind he knew what he was worth as a person and a player and wouldn’t settle for less. He wouldn’t let Kobe or Penny take his spotlight; he wouldn’t accept his playing time in Miami (or play with Chris Quinn as he once said). It was his greatest fault as a player and it cost him more love than what he already accumulated.

 

(Back to Kobe Bryant for a second. We’ve circled this wagon more than enough times in my lifetime than I would care to discuss. But imagine if they had put their differences aside and worked together more than they did.  They could’ve been greater than Jordan and Pippen, Gretzky and Messier and any other great tandem in the history of sports. When they were on the same page the Lakers were unstoppable. It was the perfect inside-outside tandem and they screwed it up. If there is any regret that Shaq should have in his career it’s the fact that if he and Kobe stayed together they could’ve won 8 championships together and people wouldn’t put Tim Duncan ahead of him as this generations best big man.)

 

What was he overall?

 

To me? The third best center of all-time (1. Bill Russell. 2. Wilt Chamberlain), the most dominant at his position in the last 30 years. The most immoveable object in the game. The most gentle of gentle giants who, if irked enough, could take Brad Miller’s head off with one swing, but would’ve rather helped out the police force in any city he played in and helped protect the law.

 

What much greater could his legacy have been if he and Kobe put aside their differences?

To me Shaq was more than a basketball player. He was a great role model with his charitable services to the community whether it be handing out toys or making public arrests. He was an educated man that made it a point to go back to LSU and receive his bachelor’s degree years after bolting for the NBA and then following that up with a Master’s Degree from the University of Phoenix.

 

He was a hell of a quote (favorite: “we’re not afraid of the Sacramento Queens.” OOOOOOOOHHHHHH SNAP!!!), whenever there was a microphone in front of him he always had something to say.

 

He was as imaginative and as playful as he was devastating in the paint. He always had a new nickname that made you laugh and was always in a playful mood.

 

He was just as special off of the court as he was on it. However, the court was his domain. There was never a player like Shaq before his arrival and there won’t be one now that he’s gone.

 

There wont be a center like him to roam the paint ever again. No one will have a combination of his size, strength and agility. No one will take over a game like he did, carry a team to three straight titles like he did and have the game in the palm of his hands like him.

 

Today is a sad day for me because I loved Shaq. I has his Dunkman Reebok shirt when he first came into the league and followed him every step of the way from Orlando to L.A. and everywhere else. He was one of a kind in everyway possible.

 

Thanks for the memories and you will be missed Shaq, Diesel, Wilt Chamberneezy, Superman, The Big Shaqtus, The Big Aristotle or whatever the heck else you call yourself.


The Rangers And Knicks Are Killing Themselves

Henrik Lundquist cant believe how these playoffs have played out so far for the Rangers

Jared Jeffries’s turnover, Marian Gaborik’s tip away, Ray Allen’s three, Alex Semin’s Goal, two blown halftime leads, two blown leads late in the third period… the last week in New York playoff sports have been a nightmare (and don’t get me started on the Yankees pitching woes either.).

This has been about as depressing as it gets. Watching the Rangers and Knicks blow leads to two teams that they’re not better than, but had outplayed in the majority of the games that they played.

The Rangers should be up 3-1, the Knicks should be up 2-0, and the reasons that they’re not are maddening.

First the Rangers ills have been not being able to close out an opponent (much like how they weren’t able to close out a playoff spot in the regular season). In game 1 against the Capitals they led 1-0 late in the third thanks to great goaltending by Henrik Lundquist and the defensive work of Marc Stall and company. Then in an instant Alex Ovechkin ties the game thanks to a fluke tip in where Derek Stepan, Staal, and Lundquist all couldn’t get a stick on the puck even though it was there in front of them.

The overtime goal was even worse as Staal seemed to nonchalantly make a clearing pass out of the zone that ended up on Jason Arnott’s stick, then Semin’s, then the back of the net. Defeat from the jaws of victory.

Then came last night. Not even 24 hours after the Los Angeles Kings blew a 4-0 lead in two periods, the Rangers upped them by doing it in ten minutes. After two periods of Rangers domination where the Rangers and the crowd was bullying the Capitals (last time Bruce Boudreau ever comments about crowd noise), the crowd stood in shock as Semin knocked in a loose puck that Lundquist lost track of, then after Marcus Johansson scored on a tip-in to make it 3-2 he scored on a lucky bounce off of a Karl Alzner slap shot to make it 3 all.

The worst of all came in double OT as Jason Chimera had his shot blocked and it looked like Lundquist was going to cover it up for a faceoff in his zone. For some reason Gaborik decided to knock the puck away from Lundquist right as he reached for it and it landed right on Chimera’s stick and the comeback was complete.

Carmelo and the Knicks are on the brink thanks to lackluster play from his teammates.

Three fluke goals, three to one deficit, the Rangers have redefined the stomach punch loss.

(Side note: Marian Gaborik has been a disaster the second half of this year. That boneheaded play combined with his lackluster offensive production has me and other Rangers fans doubting where his head is right now. If he can’t score goals and is causing some to go in then why is he on the ice? Last night the Rangers went 0-7 on the power play and are 1-234 in the series. Actual stat. That is Gaborik’s bread and butter and he’s not delivering. If this keeps up then next year he’ll be with Wade Redden in Connecticut.)

If that wasn’t enough, it came after the New York Knicks snatched defeat from victory in two straight games.

The Knicks had outplayed the Celtics and were in prime position to win both games even with Carmelo Anthony playing poorly in game one and without Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups in game 2.

In game 1 the Knicks led by 12 at the half and Stoudemire was destroying Kevin Garnett and company on the inside. Then somehow in the last 5 minutes of the game he doesn’t get one touch. Yeah Melo went 1-11 in the second half but the fact that Amar’e doesn’t get the ball that late in the game when he had dominated throughout was horrible.

The shot selection by Melo, Toney Douglas and others was typical Mike D’Antoni offense. If Amar’e gets the ball the Knicks win by 10, since he didn’t, and D’Antoni didn’t stress that in the huddle, the Knicks lost.

Game 2 may have been the nail in the coffin though. After losing Amar’e to back spasms Anthony took all of New York on his back with his 42 point, 17 rebound, 6 assist performance where he was the only Knick to shoot anywhere near 50% as Bill Walker shot 0-11 and Douglas went 5-16 (two things on Douglas real quick. 1. There is no way that Douglas should ever be allowed to take 16 shots in a playoff game, EVER. 2. Douglas ‘s poor shot selection at times is the reason that the Knicks need to actively look for a point guard this offseason. He’s not capable of carrying a second unit and keeping the Knicks in front or in the game.).

Marian Gaborik hasnt been helping the Rangers much this postseason.

With 12 seconds left Melo got an inbounds past where he was immediately double-teamed and Melo through a strike to a cutting Jeffries who had a good look at the rim… if he would’ve turned in the right direction and not directly into Kevin Garnett. Melo got criticized for passing the ball in that situation but that was his best option. He couldn’t hoist a bad three over two defenders and his pass to Jeffries was on point. The real issue was that Jeffries made a bad play on the ball (really Jared Jeffries? No.) and couldn’t finish.

The Knicks main issue is there lack of reliable role players. Walker, Douglas and Jeffries aren’t able to play big in these situations and that, combined with the lack of big men, are the reason that they’re down 2-0.

With the Knicks heading home in a rut down in a series they enter the a depressed Madison Square Garden after the Rangers put themselves on the brink with a terrible game 4 loss.

After this weekend both teams will be done. Both the Rangers and Knicks are a year away from being serious contenders and it couldn’t be more apparent.

The Rangers need to learn how to close, the Knicks need the players to close. The Rangers need to get better offensively, the Knicks need to get better defensively. Both teams’ big time players need to play big, and both teams need to learn how to protect leads.

It’s been a frustrating week for New York fans in the Garden watching these two teams fall apart fortunately it’ll all be over sooner than later.


The Heat’s Latest Surge Still Doesn’t Make Them Contenders

Chris Bosh is finally stepping up, but the Heat are still a long way from being title ready.

THE HEAT ARE BACK!!!! Calm down people.

Yes the Miami Heat have won three and in impressive fashion. It started with a 94-88 win over the red-hot L.A. Lakers, then came a 118-85 blowout of playoff contender Memphis and then tonight might have been the most impressive of them all, a 110-80 whipping of the San Antonio Spurs.

This comes two weeks after the Heat went to Texas and got it handed to them by that same margin.

What’s changed you ask, mainly it had been the resurgence of Chris Bosh. The much maligned, overpaid power forward has been on a tear he’s averaging a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds while shooting over 60% from the field. He has finally begun to the look like the premier power forward that he has been hyped up to be as he has dominated the post against the Lakers big men, Zach Randolph and tonight against Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess.

In addition to Bosh, the Heat defense has clamped down instead of lapsing in key moments like it did the previous two weeks against the Bulls, Knicks and Magic. They’ve allowed an average of only 84 points per game in the last three and have limited the scoring outputs of Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili and Randolph.

In a span of two weeks the Heat went from looking like a team that could fall to a four seed instead of the Eastern Conference contender that they have resembled in the last 5 days.

Now for the bad news straight from the mouth of Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, “”They needed the game more than us.”

You’re probably wondering so what, Manu’s probably just mad that the Spurs got taken to the woodshed, think again.

The Spurs and Lakers are pretty much in the clubhouse at the top of the Western Conference. While neither team looked good in Miami they really don’t need to.

Their standing in the playoffs is a given, for Miami it’s still a dogfight. Miami is still chasing Boston and Chicago for a top 2 seed in the East while the Spurs and Lakers are trying to get some rest before the playoffs. Even the Grizzlies are sitting pretty at the 8 spot with Utah and Phoenix fading fast.

Miami has finally proven that they can hang with the big dogs, but it might be too little too late.

They only play Boston one more time before the playoffs and that’s the 80th game of the year when they are in rest mode. After Oklahoma City on Wednesday they have a cakewalk to the finish line and are still an unfinished product.

These three wins are an aberration. I still think that they are the third best team in the East with Chicago and Boston standing in front of them and both of those teams are more complete products.

So while the Heat enjoy their recent morale boost it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still not in proper shape to contend in the East. Though finally beating the big dogs does raise awareness as to how good they can be.


The Heat Are Not Elite

The Heat are good, but not on the celtics level

Did you know that the Miami Heat are only 1-6 versus the top five teams in the NBA this season?

Funny stat huh? Especially when everyone and there mom is sitting around discussing how much the Lakers need a big time win and how they struggle against stiffer competition.

After Sunday’s loss at Boston isn’t about time that we give them the same treatment?

Their 85-82 loss showed once again that “The Heatles,” as glamorous as they may seem, are not the top tier team that we think they are. Never mind their Christmas day win in L.A.; the Lakers could care less about those types of games. Kobe and company are biding their time until the postseason when it actually matters to have statement wins. The Lakers can go about their business like that because they are defending Champs.

The Heat on the other hand don’t have the same luxury due to their lack of Jewelry and Mt. Everest sized hype.

Ever since LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh stood together in July they were crowned the best team in the league. They would win 70 games, they would be unstoppable… if that’s the case then how do you lose for the third time to the best team in the Eastern Conference and this time when they are as healthy Big Pun?

The Celtics were without two big men yesterday (Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal), Marquise Daniels and Paul Pierce was closer to 10% than 100%. They trotted out little used Von Wafer for 14 minutes and only went 7 deep in their rotation. They put Rajon Rondo on LeBron James in spurts in the third quarter… how the hell did the Heat lose this game? Easy answer, they’re better than the Heat, more in-depth answer… they’re tougher than the Heat.

Wafer scored more points in those 14 minutes that the entire Heat bench did all game; Big Baby Davis was huge in spelling Kendrick Perkins who is coming back from knee surgery. Davis in 30 minutes scored 16 points off of the bench and helped outmuscle Miami’s weak front line.

Yet the biggest advantage came in the mental department. The Celtics got in the Heat’s head yesterday. The Rondo ploy on LeBron was stupid brilliant. It was stupid because if LeBron wanted to he could’ve backed Rondo down all game long, but it was brilliant because somehow Rondo put a ton of pressure on the ball and James couldn’t make the plays he normally does.

Putting Rondo on James was so silly, yet so effective.

The Celtic toughness was on full display yesterday. When the shots weren’t falling the defense turned its game up. They forced 15 turnovers including 6 by Wade who had another horrible outing against Boston this year. They turned up the physicality forcing Wade into a stupid flagrant foul on Kevin Garnett in the third after KG floored Mike Miller with a vicious pick. After the foul was assessed you saw Rondo poking around the Heat huddle like a little kid nosing around the refrigerator and didn’t stop even though four players pushed him away.

The C’s showed that no matter how shorthanded they are the best team in the league resides in Boston and that as hyped as the Heat are they’re not title ready just yet.

The Heat’s flaws were on full display. They’re too dependent on their Big 3; they have no considerable depth, no big men inside and no consistent point guard play. The Big 3 rarely complete games together unless it’s to lesser competition and (eerie music please) none of these guys seem to want to take the big shot.

Why in the world was Bosh away from the ball, Wade setting a pick and James inbounding the ball while Mike Miller took the potential game tying three? Shouldn’t that be a shot designed for your best players? It wasn’t the first time either. Guys like Mario Chalmers and Eddie House have taken game tying or winning shots while the 3 musketeers stood and watched. That can’t happen. You have to take that shot if you’re the supposed main guy. Kobe wouldn’t pass, Melo wouldn’t and these guys shouldn’t.

The Heat to me are all bark and no bite, all flash and no grit. They have no killer instinct; no want to step on the other guys’ throat. The Celtics have that. When the game got tough the C’s flexed their muscles and beat up the Heat. Their experience in these situations and toughness carried them where the Heat looked dazed and confused trying to muster up some sort of retaliation but to no avail.

At some point the Heat have to figure Boston out.

Looking ahead for the Heat, they have 28 games left to figure out how to get that mental toughness and beat a worthy opponent when it matters. They have to go to Chicago and face D-Rose later this month and next month things get really interesting with games against San Antonio, the Lakers coming to Miami, and Oklahoma City and Orlando as well.

They have one more game versus Boston in December too but it’ll be the 80th game of the season and both teams may rest their starters.

Not that it matters though. What we learned yesterday is something we should’ve known since day one; Boston is the better team than Miami. It doesn’t matter if they’re at full strength or not, Boston gets the job done and belongs among the elite in the league.

The Heat however, are still a work in progress.


Are The Yankees The Next Empire To Fall

Was the Soriano deal a sign of a possible downturn for the New York Yankees?

Did you notice a trend that has happened in sports in the last ten years?

The death of the traditional power.

Think about this for a second; how many traditional sports powers took hits to their pride and luster in the last 10-15 years?

In college football Notre Dame still thinks that they will wake up the echoes in a matter if time and Michigan still considers itself to be the gold standard even when no when, I mean no one, wanted its head coaching job after the ousting of Rich Rod. Throw in Miami and Florida State and four of the games premier programs are in the middle of the pack as far as relevance .

In college basketball its Kentucky who still prides itself on being an elite program but hasn’t made a final four since Tubby Smith’s first year. Arizona, though they have an excuse, and recently UCLA, which is stunning especially after the run they had at the beginning of Ben Howland’s regime, have all fallen to the middle of the pack in recent years.

In hockey its been the Maple Leafs and Canadiens. Did you know once upon a time in the 90’s that the Habs had the same number of championships (24) as the Yankees? Ever since their last cup in 1993 the franchise has been plagued by unfortunate injuries (the Saku Koivu cancer cancer scare), lackluster performances (have they had a player in the top 20 in scoring in the last 20 years?), and scandal (hi Kostitsyn twins). Oh yeah don’t forget the whole Patrick Roy asking out of Montreal fiasco that has probably led to a curse on the team. Not that we’re counting or anything.

Dont get me started on the Maple Leafs. They havent won a title in over 40 years and in the last 10 they’ve resembled the Toronto Raptors more than the franchise that has the second most cups (13) to the Habs.

(Side note: Shouldn’t Gary Bettman step in and help fix this team. The NHL needs to Leafs to be good just like the NBA needs the Lakers, or baseball needs the Dodgers to be important. This is one of the leagues flagship franchises in the country’s capital. The hockey hall of fame is there for goodness sakes. The fact that the Leafs haven’t made the playoffs in seven years and haven’t been relevant since their last division title in 2000 is a little more concerning than the fledgling Phoenix Coyotes, who should still be in Winnipeg. Yep, Bettman is back on my bad side.)

There haven't been many good times in Toronto for awhile.

In the NFL its been the Cowboys, Redskins and Raiders. All of these franchises have slid to mediocrity due in part to their ridiculous owners and their bad habits of spending money while letting the football side of things slip through their grasp.

The Redskins haven’t won a division title since their Super Bowl run in 1991 and have been a running joke since Daniel Snyder took over. They’ve made the playoffs three times with only one win to show for it. However, what’s defined them is their penchant for over paying players well past their prime. Bruce smith, Deion Sanders, Mark Brunell, Jason Taylor, and that’s for starters. Throw in their horrible coaching history lately (hi Jim Zorn, and Steve Spurring) and you wonder why fans want Dan Snyder’s head on a stake a la MacBETH.

For the Cowboys its a combination of Jerry Jones overbearing style and the lack of productivity on the field that has hindered them.

In the 90’s Dallas owned football with three titles and a high-powered offense anchored by three hall-of-farmers. Then after their last Super Bowl win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl 30, the team hasn’t seen a playoff victory.

They’be been plagued by bad QB play, poor decision making by Jones, which includes firing Bill Parcells and trading two number one picks for Roy Williams (I’m sure the Lions still can’t believe that one) and not getting much from heralded draft picks (Mike Jenkins that’s you). Be honest, what do you know about the Cowboys now, a franchise with a rich history from Roger Staubach to Troy Amman, or their ridiculously expensive stadium with a 80 yard flatscreen in the middle of it?

As far as the Raiders go… let’s put it like this; they haven’t been over .500 since getting smoked by the Bucs in Super Bowl 37 over 8 years ago. If you want to know why then take a look at Hue Jackson’s press conference to introduce him as the team’s new coach this past week. Owner Al Davis, looking as decrepit as ever, sat at the table and ranted about Tom Cable’s personal life, comparisons of Jason Campbell to Cam Newton, and seemed more out of his mind than normal.

This is the guy who blew up Lane Kiffin at a press conference years ago, fined Cable for not executing a game plan he wrote out, drafted JaMarcus Russell, and has made so many horrible personnel decisions that no coach or player should come near Oakland. Poor Hue Jackson, I don’t think he knows what he’s getting into.

Before the Boston Celtics climbed back into contention in the NBA they had grown into a punch line. Gone were the days of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and in were Dino Radja and Antoine Walker.

Their most memorable moment during that time came during a Rick Pitino news conference after another loss where he told the media and essentially the fans to get over themselves and that “Larry Bird ain’t walking through that door.” Right he was, though fans would’ve rather had a near 50 Bird than Ron Mercer.

So in essence every sport has seen its top franchise go through the motions and fall from grace in a haze of greed, nativity, or ignorance. Well everyone except baseball.

In the last 15 years the top tier teams in the sport have stayed on top without much static.

Sure past champions like Kansas City, Toronto and Oakland have seen their share of bad times, but their history is nothing like the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers.

(You’re probably wondering what about the Cubs? Flagship franchise? Yes. However, they haven’t won a damn thing in 109 years so they don’t count. Sorry Cubs fans.)

These were the bad times in Boston.

Baseball has largely protected its top franchises by not introducing a salary cap, which allows the Braves, Phillies and Angels to out spend every other team in the league and stay where they are.Sure these teams haven’t made the playoffs every year, but they always bounce back from lackluster seasons.

The Red Sox will be favorites this year after finishing third in the AL East last year in part to overspending for Carl Crawford and giving away the farm for Adrian Gonzalez.

It’s hard for any of these teams fall off of their perch and fall victim to the same plague that’s infiltrated each league over the past 15 years. Or is it?

Last week the New York Yankees announced the signing of former Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano to be the 8th inning setup man for closer Mariano Rivera and eventually replace him.

No big deal, just the Yankees spending their endless funds to fix a problem like not having an eighth inning stopper.

However, GM Brian Cashman didn’t want to spend the money on Soriano and wanted to keep either Joba Chamberlain in the setup role or David Robertson. Owner Hal Steinbrenner overruled Cashman and handled the negotiations himself while Cashman sat in the corner and pouted.

Both sides say everything is fine but I’m not buying it.

Cashman is the game’s best GM and built a dynasty in the 90’s while the young Steinbrenners sat back and watched from The Boss’s luxury box. Cashman knows what he’s doing and what to do to keep the Yankees successful.

What Steinbrenner did was undermine Cashman and used his power to make a decision that may or may not work and also costs the Yankees a first round draft pick. That’s the kind of decision you would see Al Davis make. Uh oh.

Ok so that’s one little thing so what? Well, look at the Yankees future for a second if you will; the Yankees have been able to stay competitive after their dynasty years in the late 90’s and 2000 thanks to their huge budget and the ability to get whoever they want for any price. While they haven’t been winning championships at the rate that they would like, the Yankees are still the class of the AL East and remain the team to beat.

However, look at the current contract situations that the Yankees have:

Mark Teixiera- 8 years/180 million dollars, signed til he’s 37
A.J. Burnett – 5/82.5, signed til he’s 39
C.C. Sabathia- 7/161, signed til he’s 37
Alex Rodriguez- 10/275, signed til he’s 43
Derek Jeter- 3/51, signed til he’s 40
Jorge Posada- 4/52, signed til he’s 41
Mariano Rivera- 2/30, signed til he’s 43

In other words half of the Yankees main players on their roster are all signed well into their late 30’s or 40’s and are owed a boat load of money.

Guys like Rodriguez, Jeter and Posada are already on the downside of their careers and aren’t worth the money.

Not to mention there is the possiblility at other long term deals for Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes looming, which will add more money to their books.

The Yankees are used to shelling out lots of cash but right now there’s too much tied up in players that won’t help them contend in three years and could lead to the Yankees becoming baseball’s Cowboys.

As great as they've been, the deals given to A-Rod and Jeter could lead to the Yankees downfall.

There is no balance with them right now. There’s lots of old guys and not enough youth. Sound like Dan Snyder to you?

Another problem are the deals that the Yankees have made, which cost them two viable parts that they could use right now and both could’ve added some much needed youth to their everyday roster.

Last year they traded Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy for Curtis Granderson essentially in a three team deal. Jackson and Granderson play the same position and Jackson hit for a higher average, stole more bases and had a higher in-base percentage than Granderson. Not to mention he’s five years younger and the perfect leadoff hitter that the Yankees so desperately need.
Kennedy went 9-10 last year for the Diamondbacks with a 3.80 ERA. While his numbers don’t seem too impressive Kennedy got stronger and stronger towards the end of the year. He’s currently penciled in as their third starter while the Yankees have no viable options in their rotation past Sabathia, Hughes, and Burnett. I’ve seen the Leafs give up on a few young guys in the past few years haven’t you?

Lastly the Yankee luster isn’t what it used to be. Guys now a days grow up hating the Yankees instead of idolizing them. No one fawns over Jeter the way they did Mickey Mantle, there’s no appreciation for Posada like there was for Yogi Berry. In the 60’s if a guy like Zach Greinke was on the market he would’ve been a pinstripe in a heartbeat, same for Cliff Lee. Now, they’d rather be a Brewer or a Phillie.

Still, the Yankees can out bid whoever they want to get their man. However, they also set the bar for other teams with just as deep of pockets to follow. How do you think the Sox got Carl Crawford or the Nats (yes, the Nats) got Jayson Werth? It’s the Yankee model; overpay for them and dare someone to leap up and get them.

So now its no longer about the pinstripes and the aura of the stadium and the pressure of the media. If you were Werth wouldn’t you rather take 126 million to play in a small market and not have the pressure of facing 1000 media faces a week wondering what’s wrong with you?

Maybe I’m going crazy, or maybe I see the writings on the wall. I know the Yankees have had to good a run of gluttony and capitalist pleasure to not have it come to a screeching hault. We’ve toed the line of smart and senseless way too long to not have it blow up in our face and I feel were getting to that point.

If the Yankees don’t solve their spending problems and incorporate some youth and practice patience then they may resemble the Celtics of the late 90’s or the Raiders of right now. They run the risk of losing their luster like Notre Dame and could become a legendary afterthought like the Habs.

Call me crazy, but Soriano deal might be the first in a long line of problems for top to bottom from the Yankees. I might be wrong, but I’ve seen it all before.


Dark Days In Miami (NBA Preview)

Lebron James... welcome to the darkside.

So… anything interesting happen in the NBA since last June?

Unless you’ve been under a rock then you know about the Miami Heat trying to buy their way to a championship. Sorry if I sound a little bit bitter while writing this. Keep in mind I live in Ohio now and in case you haven’t been attention again these people aint happy LeBron James dipped out on them to Miami. Of course I didn’t care about it much, I’m a Knicks fan WE GOT AMARE STOUDEMIRE IN THE GREAT SUMMER OF 2010… (Crickets chirp).

Back to James and Cleveland and everything in between. The controversy surrounding the decision and what was said in the aftermath I have already covered, the funny thing about it is how it continues to linger as Miami rises to the top of everyone’s list and Cleveland is in the running for Harrison Barnes in next year’s draft.

Cleveland number one has to get over it. It’s happened, there’s nothing you can do about it. LeBron is the new Art Modell a get that, but LeBron didn’t do anything for you all other than block some shots, dunks some balls and have a puppet. He hit one game-winning shot in his entire career and that was against mighty Golden State. In other words you had the new age Dominique Wilkins playing for you. I know the Q won’t be the same on game nights but you gotta let this go.

As for LeBron… well… he needs a new PR guy. I think I’ve learned that LeBron, the attention hog that he is really isn’t that smart when it comes to the media. The GQ interview where he stated that no one in Akron like Cleveland, fail. The reposting of hateful tweets, fail. The promise that he’s taking mental notes and it’s pushing him harder than before (until he gets to the playoffs and fizzles again), fail. I can’t believe this but we’ve actually found a sensitive athlete who cares more about perception of himself than anything to replace Alex Rodriguez.

First off this whole monster was his creation. From not being honest about free agency from the jump, to The Decision, to that interesting commercial that was just released where he goes off on everyone and says he won’t be what you want him to be. I’m sorry LeBron that all we wanted you to be was the media hyped sensation that you created by taking Jordan’s number, calling yourself “The Chosen One” and then fleeing to Miami with a big middle finger to the 216. See the bitterness is still there and I’m not even a Cavs fan.

(Side note: LeBron’s “Rise” commercial, and Tiger Woods’s commercial after his return from the incident that he still refuses to discuss were the most uneasy, uncomfortable and biggest ego stroking moments of two athletes who aint too well liked right now. What’s next? The Ben Roethlisberger commercial where he confesses some of his missteps in the last year? Nike, just sell some damn shoes.)

Sick of them yet? I am.

LeBron isn’t the only star than played a city, While Chris Bosh has about as much affiliation with Toronto as I do with Baltimore the way he put on a dog and pony show in front of them reeks of discrepancy. It’s not like Bosh ever won anything either, Bosh is a mid-level star who just so happened to be in the same draft as his two new teammates James and Wade. Bosh couldn’t carry the Raptors to the playoffs let alone carry himself to elite status so he decided to join forces and be Ringo to James and Wade’s Paul and Lennon. The whole thing was plotted ever since they won gold in the Olympics and the last two years they’ve been doing things to hide the scent of their obvious trail. The scenario wreaks of jealousy, greed, sloth and lust…ITS EVIL I TELLS YA!!

I actually had a Facebook status about this awhile ago just as a joke, think about this for a second; three men sign 6 year deals…. To play for the Heat… leave two cities in destruction… all for their own greed and purpose…get it? 3 guys, 3 headed monster, 6 year deals 666? Heat, hell fire? Greed? Destruction? IT’S THE TEAM OF SATAN!!!!

Ok not really but you have to think someone’s not happy about and already the Heat have injury problems from Wade’s hammy to Mike Miller’s injury that has him out until January. So the “Yes We Did” machine has slowed considerably in Miami.

Yet the NBA championship is still the main goal of this team. While they have some competition for the crown, it aint much. The NBA has turned into a 5 team league  with a bunch of exciting players that will wither be like LeBron and join forces with another player to build a contender, or do it the Kevin Durant way, do it yourself like all of the legends did.

While everyone is so excited about the start of the season I could honestly care less. The league isn’t anything special until after the all-star break. Except for LeBron’s return to Cleveland in December I could care less about this season. it’s like my feelings on La Liga, I have to be interested in more than two teams to care about a league, and in the NBA there’s only 5 teams out of 30 that matter, Orlando, Miami, Oklahoma City, Boston and the Lakers (apologies to Dallas but you’re not their yet). While to some it makes for appealing basketball I’m more into the middle tier of teams Chicago, Milwaukee, Portland and the Clippers… yes Clippers I said it.

Come on Blake Griffin is back from injury, Eric Gordon is looking to continue his momentum from a great World Championships  and the team looks like it can be competitive enough to make the playoffs. The Gordon-Griffin combo is especially exciting to watch because of the possibilities  of what could become of these two, just keep in mind, these are the Clippers, anything can happen.

I’m also intrigued by Sacramento with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins leading a young team that could be the next Oklahoma City. There is a ton of young talent in the league in places that they can build up to challenge some of the guard within the next few years. There are some special things brewing in Milwaukee as Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut lead a team that would be a Eastern Conference contender if not for the constant attention given to Miami.

Another team that looks intriguing is Minnesota. Granted they won’t come near the playoffs but they’ll be interesting with a new up tempo style of play and do it all wingman Wesley Johnson flying all over the place.

Kobe aint the only reason to watch games at staples this year

Yeah it sounds nice to give the little guy some pub, but  it is all about the Heat and since Satan’s squad is getting all of the pub here are some angels that could rescue the NBA from the on court Armageddon.

DWIGHT HOWARD

In case you haven’t noticed the Heat have no inside presence at all. Bosh can’t guard any athletic big men, let alone the best center in the game. This has to be the year where Howard stops being so nice and turns into an animal. Even Superman knew when it was time to stop being a Good Samaritan and beat some ass. This is Howard’s time. Florida has been his state for the last three years and he and the Magic are on the verge of being overtaken. If Howard’s offseason workouts were really serious and he did get better then the Magic could make a run back to the finals.

KEVIN DURANT AND OKLAHOMA CITY

I really, really want them to take it to L.A. this year but they are still one year away. Durant is the real deal beyond a shadow of a doubt. He’s the guy that really wants to be the man in the big situation and doesn’t shy away from attention. It doesn’t hurt that he has Russell Westbrook breaking ankles at every turn and Jeff Green doing everything at both ends. With the King settling for becoming a prince Durant is now the man to beat for MVP and the next in line for the title of best in the league.

BOSTON’S BIG THREE

Don’t tell me that they don’t want a shot at Miami’s big 3. Boston might be old but the old legs still have life in them as well as Rajon Rondo running the point. If they stay healthy they get to finals due to their depth, if they break down then Danny Ainge may want to start the rebuilding process.

CARMELO ANTHONY

Did you hear Carmelo wants out of Denver? If you saw what that team was like you would too. Carmelo desperately wants to be a Knick along side of Amare with the possibility of Chris Paul joining them. Now that’s a big three.

But back to Melo for a minute. In that class of 03 with Wade, James and Bosh, Melo always seems to be the forgotten man. He’s t he best pure scorer in the league who whopped LeBron in Cleveland last year with a game winner at the buzzer. Carmelo has the potential of being the best in the league but he needs help more than anyone else. If he becomes a Knick with that much talent and possibly Paul following him than Carmelo may be the man to beat for the next few years.

DERRICK ROSE AND JOAKIM NOAH

Not Batman and Robin, just two dudes who back down from nothing. Come playoff time they’ll bruise the Heat inside and out.

KOBE BRYANT

Yeah, um, I'm still here incase you forgot.

 

Yeah… him… he’s still walking around. Injured or healthy there’s no one better that will bring it night in and out. Who would’ve thought five years ago we’d be talking about Kobe in a better light than LeBron. Kobe is the old-school player that we all admire. He wants the ball late, he plays the best offensive player on the floor, and he fears nothing. He’s also one ring away from matching the man that we all compare him to, Jordan. He knows this. He knows that his time is limited for as long as he’s played and the injuries that are piling up. You also know that none of this mattered as soon as he saw James, Wade and Bosh standing together and saw the entire world claim them as title favorites.

Kobe is a monster. He never forgets anything, ask Shaq. His motivation right is winning a title and if the Heat get in the way then destroy them. Kobe is still the best player in the league no matter who is walking around be it Durant, CP3 or Prince James. He’s also got (in no particular order) Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and a cast of shooters and role players that once again make the Lakers the real team to beat. Betting against Kobe is not smart, no matter whom Miami just acquired.

So sorry Miami for all of your hype, antics, controversies and other offseason craziness you’ve built up you won’t win the NBA title this year. That will once again go to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers will save the NBA from Satan’s minions and keep the promise of good basketball alive for another year. However, you know evil never sleeps and anything can happen. I just hope it doesn’t involve the Heat in any way possible, they bring the anger out of me as a writer. Guess they’re doing Satan’s work well.

ATLANTIC- BOSTON

CENTRAL- CHICAGO

SOUTHEAST-MIAMI

PLAYOFFS- ORLANDO, ATLANTA, MILWAUKEE, NEW YORK, INDIANA

NORTHWEST- OKLAHOMA CITY

SOUTHWEST- DALLAS

PACIFIC- L.A. LAKERS

PLAYOFFS- UTAH, PORTLAND, CLIPPERS, SAN ANTONIO, HOUSTON

ECF- MIAMI VS. ORLANDO

WCF- LAKERS VS. OKLAHOMA CITY

FINALS- LAKERS VS. ORLANDO

MVP-KEVIN DURANT

6TH MAN- TY LAWSON

DPOY- JOAKIM NOAH

MOST IMPROVED- JRUE HOLIDAY

ROY- BLAKE GRIFFIN

COACH OF THE YEAR- TOM THIBODEAUX