Thursday, February 24, 2011

And The EARL Goes To......

I'm addicted to basketball.  That's no secret.  Trying to keep me away from watching games is like trying to keep Gucci Mane away from crazy.  (Seriously, you have a Baskin-Robbins cone on your face!)

Usually after getting home from work, before I even get my shirt and tie off, I've got some kind of game on the TV.  It's a disease, I am aware.

However, if there is one area that can distract me from my sports obsession, it's my love of pop-culture.

I know what you're probably thinking, you're a 26-year-old man who is just really starting your career, there must be more productive ways to spend your time than reading TMZ and watching E!  That's probably true, but here is my defense.

I live a pretty laid back life.  I am usually too exhausted from work to do much else after and really only go out when I am back home with my friends in Michigan.  Therefore, I live vicariously through the exciting, chaotic, more-or-less disturbing lives of Hollywood's elite.  To be honest, it doesn't embarrass me one bit.

Hi Halle : )
With that said, I am pretty excited about the Oscars this weekend.  I don't really care who wins the awards,  (for the record, King's Speech is going to dominate), but enjoy watching the red carpet, opening act, and show as a whole.

When  I was growing up, my mom decided against getting cable.  She wanted me to read and go out and play sports.  Pretty good parenting if you ask me.  But one of the few nights we'd sit in front of the TV was for the Oscars. She'd pop popcorn, get me in my dinosaur pajamas, let me stay up late and we'd both guess who we thought would win.  It was one of those mother-son moments that are pretty special to me. (Insert your, aww, single tear of joy, here)  So I've always had a special place in my heart for the Oscars.

In honor of one of my now not so secret favorite nights of the year, I'm giving out my own awards for the best in the NBA.

Before I start passing out the honors, let me explain what the award looks like.

I think the actual Oscar is a bit boring.  Iconic, yes, but boring.  He is just standing there doing nothing.  I'd change it to the 'Dude' sitting in his robe or Emilio Estevez on the 'Mighty Ducks' poster. Those are stances that portray winners.  The current one seems more fitting for the winner of a staring contest than best actor.

My trophy will have some character, some pizzaz.

If you have read this blog in the past (all six of you), then you know my sports hero is Earl Boykins.  To recognize the 5'5 guard from Eastern Michigan and now the Milwaukee Bucks, I will name my trophies Earls.   They will be life sized.  Who wants a trophy that you can just pick up?  I think it would be very hard for me to be a loser at the Oscars (or fellow nominees as they are always called) and not try to snag someone else's award.  I can't have that kind of controversy at the Earls.  It would be a classy event, the anti-Source Awards.

Each winner will receive a 5'5, 138 pound gold statue of Earl Boykins in this pose.  That way, when you tell people you've won an Earl, you know you've won something big.  So big, that a forklift will be needed to take it from the stage and it could serve a dual purpose as a small pillar in a home or playhouse.

Now that our winners know what to expect for their achievements, let's get on to passing out the hardware.

The Earl for Best Performance by a Leading Player goes to....

LeBron James

Ahh Damn It!  This award show is already off to a bad start.  I despise LeBron and his South Beach talents, but I also can't deny that he is the best player in the NBA.  His triple-double in the All-Star game is a pretty outstanding accomplishment and it was a grown mans triple-double with 29-points, 12-rebounds, 10-assists.  DANNNNNG!   He is only the second player to hit double-digits in three categories during an All-Star game, joining the game's greatest Michael Jordan.

Bron also is the two-time reigning MVP and is well on his way to a third.  This season he is averaging 26-7-7 and his team is battling for the top spot in the East.  As much I struggle to admit it, LeBron is the best player in the game, hands down.  There is no GM in the league who wouldn't pick him first to start a franchise.

I've bagged on Bron Bron all season, but so far, he has responded with another outstanding regular season.

He is like the ex-girlfriend you can't stand and wish would just get fat and ugly but every time you see her she looks even finer than before.  It sucks, but you have to give credit where credit is due.

Even with my biases, I can't deny LeBron an Earl...congrats.

P.S. Don't blow it in the playoffs, Earls can be revoked.

The Earl for Best Performance in a Supporting Role goes to...

Russell Westbrook

Leading up the the 2008 NBA Draft, the knock on Westbrook was that he was a solid athlete but no one knew if he was a point guard who can't really handle the ball or a shooting guard who can't really shoot.  So when the then Seattle Supersonics took him with the fourth pick, there was a a whole lot of "wait, huh, why?" reactions.

His UCLA teammate Kevin Love was still on the board, so too were Eric Gordon and DJ Augustine who were both studs in college and played similar positions.

To their credit, the now Oklahoma City Thunder saw something in Westbrook the majority of the rest of us didn't.

He is now an All-Star and playing a great second fiddle alongside Kevin Durant.  There is no doubt Durant is face of the franchise, but the Thunder aren't the team no one wants to face in the playoffs without Russell.

He is averaging 23-points (one less than Durant), eight-dimes, and five-rebounds.  Scary numbers for a guy who is still "learning" the position.

Westbrook is as athletic of a point guard as there is in the league.  He plays defense, has a mid-range jumper, and is unfairly explosive around the rim.  His development has forced teams to throw added defenders his way and when that happens that means less attention on Durant.  When Durant is open, it's bad news for opposing defenses.

Westbrook was seen as a gamble at first, but now seems like a sure bet to take Oklahoma City to the championship level.

And because of that, he earns an Earl.

The Earl for Best Director goes to....

Chicago Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau

He's no Phil Jackson, but the first year head coach in the Windy City is doing an incredible job.  On paper, the Bulls are OK.  Derrick Rose is on the shortlist of MVP candidates and they have two outstanding big men in their primes in Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.  But, Noah and Boozer have both missed significant time with injuries and haven't really been on the floor together.

Besides those three, Chicago's roster is not overwhelmingly impressive.  Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer are nice pieces, but aren't anything special.  Nonetheless, Thibodeau has figured out a way to keep his team motivated and winning.

The Bulls are atop the Central Division and sit third in the East. They also now appear to be healthy and if they gel in time for the postseason, Chicago may end up knocking off Boston or Miami.

For a guy coaching in the shadows of the league's most decorated head coach, in his first year, and still getting  the job done, Tom Thibodeau wins himself an Earl.

The Earl for Best Producer goes to...

Knicks President Donnie Walsh.

It almost has to doesn't it?  I know Pat Riley hit the free agency jackpot this season, but the assembly of Miami's Big Three seemed more coordinated by the players than Big Daddy Pat.  Walsh has resurrected the basketball Mecca, New York City.  He got the 2010 Free Agent Class' boobie prize in Amar'e Stoudemire who has exceeded expectations, drafted Landry Fields who has been arguably the best Eastern Conference rookie, and then made his big splash trading for Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.

The Knicks are now a team to watch.  As much as people hate New York teams, it's still more fun when they are competitive.  Donnie Walsh made that happen.  He gets an Earl.

The Earl for Best Ensemble Cast goes to...

A tie between the San Antonio Spurs and the Boston Celtics

These teams are both old.  They are both sometimes incredibly boring to watch.  They both win.

The Spurs and Celtics are built with winners.  Their coaches are winners, their franchises are winners, their players are proven winners.

In an era where teams are wheeling and dealing to try to win immediately with no regards for the future, the Spurs and Celtics are the exception.

Sure, they've both had luck on their side with San Antonio getting Tim Duncan courtesy of a fortunate bounce of the draft lottery balls and the Celtics striking it rich acquiring KG and Ray Allen for a bag of non-magic beans, but the two teams have also added players around their stars that will help the franchises win in the future.

The respective front offices have done amazing jobs drafting, whether it was Boston grabbing an overlooked point guard from Kentucky or San Antonio going international for guys like Parker and Ginobli.   The two teams have put together an ideal formula for success in the NBA.

They are the perfect examples of team play and, for that, take home Earls.

Those are the main categories, the awards that are actually given out on TV, but here is a list of Earl winners in the other categories, and a brief synopsis of why they won.

Best Animated Feature

Chris "Birdman" Andersen

Look at the hair and tattoos on this guy!   There hasn't been a better cartoon since Darkwing Duck.  He doesn't even have to get in the game to be entertaining.  He wins an Earl.

Best Performance by a Foreign Player

Steve Nash

Canada, as far as I know, is still not considered the 51st state.  The Canadian point guard for the Suns is still having a solid year (23-points and 11-assists per game!) on a team that threw away all of its other good players.  Plus, he is actually a very good actor.  Win.

Best Score

Blake Griffin

I am aware that Best Score is a category for music, but I'm going to modify it for best individual baskets.  Griffin's dunks against the Knicks earlier this season were two of the best I've ever since in a game.  If they were music, they would convey the sweet sha-la-la's of angels playing the harp.  Heavenly jams.  Earl Winner.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Earl Boykins

Obviously I am not going to snub the man who the award was named after.  That's like the NBA not putting Jerry West in the Hall-of-Fame, or not giving Ron Jeremy his own wing at the Bunny Ranch.  It's just expected.

At 34, Earl is still averaging eight-points a game and busted out for 26 against Dallas and 23 against Memphis in December.  He's still got it.

No, he might not be a George Clooney A-lister anymore, but Earl isn't exactly celebrity rehab low, either.  He is like Al Pacino.  He might not be putting out classics like Scarface anymore, but he's still got a few 'Scent of a Woman' 's left.

Earl, no doubt, deserves an Earl.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Carmelo Trade Another Flagrant Foul on NBA's Small Markets

When I was 13, 14, and 15 years old, I spent my summer days on the basketball court at Groves High School in Birmingham, Michigan.  I would literally spend hours there playing pickup games.  I was 4'8, 85 pounds, but feared no one.   However, my tenacity couldn't overshadow my meager stature.  When it came time to pick teams, I was usually one of the last ones selected.  They'd look at me and the kid with one-arm, wearing an eye patch, and drooling, and say "Eh, I'll take either one, doesn't matter.  I guess we'll take the little fella."  That was me.

Over time my game earned respect and I turned myself into a mid-round pick.

D.D and Earl
(True story:  One of the first times someone asked to play with me was Derrick Dial, former San Antonio Spurs guard and Eastern Michigan standout.  We were on the sidelines together waiting for a game to end and I went up to him and said "you didn't bring Earl?" As in Earl Boykins his teammate at EMU and my favorite player of all time.   Dial looked at me shocked that I knew who he was and was said "naw man, haha."  I then rattled off his career stats, including his exact point total when the Eagles upset Duke in the NCAA tournament in 1996.  He said, and I quote, "That's what's up!  You can run with us."  For about three hours I played with Derrick Dial and his family, throwing lobs like I was Baron Davis and he was Blake Griffin.  That was probably the greatest night of my streetball career.)

My connection with D-D, as I call him, was fun but never catapulted me into a Groves court superstar.  I was the NBA equivalent of a sixth or seventh man.  I could run the point, dish out assists, have an occasional 20-point night, but for the most part was a role player.  Teams would likely sign me to the mid-level exception, or if I'm lucky, some bottom feeder would overpay me based on potential.

I'd probably end up on the Nuggets, Bobcats, or Hornets.

Carmelo Anthony can't relate.  He's a stud.   He's the guy who shows up to the bar an hour before it closes, has drinks waiting for him when he walks in the door, and by the time he leaves, has women clinging to his arms as if he were the central piece in a game of monkeying-around.

He's a superstar and in the NBA, superstars reign supreme and get what they want, where they want.

It's no secret that I criticize LeBron James and his decision to bolt to Miami as much as anyone.  I think he handled the situation without class and did so because he didn't want the pressure of carrying a franchise, and city, on his own in Cleveland.

But, as much as this pains me to say, I have to admit, Bron's decision has made the league more interesting.  Every team  wants to copy whats going on in South Beach by recruiting several of the top players, surround them with Klemet's (ahem, I mean role players) and set the franchice up for a decade of title runs.

The Celtics already used this formula successfully with their Big Three, coupled with hitting the jackpot with a point guard who fits perfectly into the system.  So too did the Lakers when they robbed Pau Gasol from Memphis.  The Bulls have a similar formula with Rose, Boozer, and Noah.  The Knicks are the latest to join the ranks of teams with a superstar tandem of Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. (And they will probably add Chris Paul next year.)

Star studded teams are nothing new to the league.  Some of the best rosters of all-time comprised of combinations of Hall-of-Famers.  The Lakers, Pistons, Celtics, and Bulls in the late 80s and early 90s were loaded with players on the NBA's 50 Greatest list.  The Sixers of the early 80s with Moses Malone and Dr. J brought joy and a title to the 'City of Brotherly Love.'  And, Lew Alcinder and Oscar Robertson helped Milwaukee, yes Milwaukee, win a title in 1971.

This is when the league was its most competitive and arguably the most entertaining.  The NBA is getting back to that level, but at the risk of disenfranchising most of its teams and fan bases.

I personally don't have a problem with players dictating where they want to play.  If a franchise is willing to bend backwards to make it happen for them, why not?

The problem is there aren't a whole lot of superstars that want to blossom in the mountains of Utah and Denver, the tumbleweeds of Oklahoma City, or the heat of Minnesota.

They want the bright lights and media circuses of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami.

With superstars flexing their influence, it puts small market teams at a major disadvantage.

How can the Timberwolves and Thunder expect to keep their young, talented pieces when their contracts expire when teams in big cities can promise them more publicity and better teammates.

They can't.

The NBA has a serious problem.

I am excited to watch the playoffs this year, which will essentially be All-Star games.  One thing that is true of superstars is that they always want to show they are better than the rest.  This will lead to a more intense postseason atmosphere with titles and pride on the line.

But, for the next decade it will likely be the same teams going back and forth.  Sure there will be the occassional '04 Pistons or '94-'95 Rockets, but for the most part, teams in the NBA don't go from futile to fertile unless they have superstars. 

With a lockout looming, the NBA needs to re-evaluate how to give smaller market teams relevance.  It needs to set up a system that does even more to reward longevity with one franchise and deter its stars from jumping ship.

If it doesn't, all but about eight teams in the league will be just like teenage Sam, sitting on the sideline hoping to get into the game, but not being given a chance to so.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Moore is Always Enough

Statistically, E’Twaun Moore will end his Purdue career as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever.

But, stats don’t tell the whole story. What puts Moore in the same league as Rick Mount, Joe Barry Carroll, and Glenn Robinson is that he plays his best when the most is on the line.

Moore wrote another chapter in his story of clutch performances, Sunday, against third-ranked Ohio State.

“To beat a great team like Ohio State, somebody has to be special and tonight that was E’Twaun Moore,” said Purdue head coach Matt Painter.

Moore scored a career-high 38-points, including seven three-pointers, which ties his best.

There was a four minute stretch late in the first half when he scored 13-straight Boilermaker points.

Moore, who started off slow, caught fire 16-minutes into the game. He knocked down three triples and a miracle up-and-under that bounced off the back rim and fell through causing the Purdue student section to erupt. The Boilermakers road Moore’s outburst to a 37-33 halftime lead.

“[I] was just playing within the offense, and being ready to play, and being aggressive,” said Moore.

The break didn’t slow Moore down. He started the second half drilling a contested three and then intercepted a pass, led a fast break, and dropped a pinpoint, behind-the-back pass to Terone Johnson who finished with a layup.

Purdue’s senior guard was everywhere and the Buckeyes couldn’t match the energy he generated.

“I think that was the best [college] game I played today,” he said. “It was definitely at a great time. We are playing the number three team in the country and we needed the win to stay in the Big Ten race. So, it was definitely huge.”

The usually stoic senior showed subtle signs of emotion throughout the game. He held up three fingers after knocking down a triple in the first half and clapped his hand emphatically after defensive stops down the stretch.

But what let Moore’s teammate Lewis Jackson know it was a special night, was the look on his face.
“Once he smiles, you know he’s got it going,” said Jackson. “He rarely smiles and once he smiles, he’s in a zone and probably won’t stop him.”

Moore is already Purdue’s all-time leader in games started and minute. He also is in the top five for three-point field goals made and games played. Sunday, he made another step in moving up the ranks in Purdue lure.

Moore became just the fifth Boilermaker to eclipse 2,000 points and the fourth player in Big Ten history with 2,000-points, 500 rebounds, and 350 assists.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment when you think of all the great players than have came through the Big Ten,” said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. “He has done a great job winning here as well.”

Moore admits he may one day sit back and reflect on his personal accomplishments, but right now his focus is on winning a conference title, and what he hopes is his first trip to the Final Four.

“Right now it’s just numbers to me. I’ve still got to play, still have a career and we still have games to play, “he said. “But later I might look back on it and really say ‘dang that was wild.’”

Friday, February 18, 2011

NBA Drops the Ball on Miller Snub

Let me start this post first with some congratulations to Dennis Rodman, Chris Mullen, and Tex Winter.  They are three of the finalists named today for the NBA Hall-of-Fame.

Rodman, as mentioned in previous posts, is one of my favorite players of all time.  He was one of the most tenacious rebounders ever in the league and his hustle was unmatched.  So was his sense of fashion.

Mullin and the 'top
I will never understand why Chris Mullin was on the original Dream Team over Isaiah Thomas (except for that Jordan didn't want Zeek on the roster), but nonetheless, he was one of the best scorers people don't remember. His flattop is more popular then his offensive game, and that's a major oversite.  Mullin was a pure assassin and deserves a spot in the Hall.

Tex Winter deserves as much credit for the Bulls titles in the 90's as Jordan, Pippen, and Phil Jackson.  Maybe even more than Bill Wennington.  He was also instrumental in the Lakers championships in the early part of this century.  Winter's innovative triangle offense transformed the game. His offensive genius also should be rewarded with some space in Springfield, Massachusetts.

With these three, the NBA got it right.

But, now let me pull out my cardboard C'Mon Son sign.

How does the league not put Reggie Miller on the list of finalists?!

This should cause a Wisconsin state workers type uproar.

I don't care that it was his first year of eligibility.  I don't care that he played as much defense as Lindsey Lohan's conscious when deciding whether or not to do another bump in the bathroom.   I don't care that his sister may have been able to light him up one-on-one.

Reggie Miller is no doubt a Hall-of-Famer.  He took Indiana to six Eastern Conference finals, a trip to the NBA finals, was a five-time All Star, and an Olympic Gold medalist.  That's a Hall-of-Fame resume.

You don't leave unquestioned Hallers off just the finalists ballot.

Reggie represents a lost art in the league, pure jump shooters.  There are few guys today who can dominate simply from the outside.  LeBron and Wade can take over a game attacking the rim.  Carmelo can knock down shots from 15-17 feet and Earl Boykins' presence alone forces opponents to fold (Favorite player name drop).  With the exception of Ray Allen, no one else in the league now can do what Miller did for the Pacers.

Ask Spike.

Reggie's heroic performances at the Garden and his killer instinct are in a league of their own.   I understand the knock on him that he never won a title.  But, neither did Karl Malone or John Stockton.  No one questions their Hall of Fame credentials.

Until a week ago, no player had ever made more three point shots than Miller.  How soon we forget.  That is not an easy task.  You have to be great for a long time to make 2,560 triples.

Miller could be annoying to fans of opposing teams.  He often taunted and mocked his opponents.  So do LeBron and KG.  When its their time, they will make it to the final round of Hall-of-Fame voting.

I personally think Reggie Miller is a first ballot Hall-of-Famer.  Maybe I am in the minority.  But for voters to not even put him on the ballot as a finalist, is a colossal travesty.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

LeBron's Star Dim Entering All-Star Weekend

This week has not started off well.

I woke up early around 12:45 Tuesday morning to people screaming and loud banging noises.  I thought it was gunshots.  Insert your "you know when you're from the Detroit area when..." jokes here.

My neighbor's car
It turns out there was a fire in the carport of my apartment.  Sadly, my dear friend Senor Cobalt was one of the 12 wounded.  He is now fighting for his life in the body shop, but nonetheless, it was not the start of the week I wanted.

I am going to take the glass is half full approach and say things can only get better.  In fact, I know they will because waiting for me Saturday and Sunday are the NBA All-Star festivities.  It is undoubtedly one of my favorite weekends of the year.

The game is always fun.  No defense. High scoring.  One player getting an assist and points all on the same play.  It's a more refined version of the And 1 Mixtapes, minus the sweet nicknames like 'Bad Santa' and 'Sick Wit It.'

The highlight of the weekend is Saturday night.

It starts with the D-League All-Star game and NBA rookie-sophomore challenge, which are both only really excuses for people to play the "where did he go to college?" drinking game.  Then come the skills competitions which are historically phenomenal.  Whether its Larry Bird lighting up the Three Point Contest or  Steve Nash's flawless ball handling exhibition, it's just fun to sit back and watch some of the best athletes in the world make difficult skills look effortless.

But, the dunk contest really makes the night.

If you excuse Nate Robinson's attempt versus actual finish ratio of 50 to 1, the contest has been pretty strong the last few years.

Harold Minor
No not Jordan and 'Nique, Vince, or Harold Minor good, but Dwight Howard, Robinson, and Josh Smith have recently sparked some life into the competition after several years that, let's be honest, were 'Glitter' bad.

This year, there is some extra buzz with Rim Raper (I want royalties if this catches on) Blake Griffin in the field of dunkers.  I have a feeling he is going to provide a few -  yes, oh god yes, Meg Ryan "I'll have what she's having," yes, that was amazing - type moments at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

It's the perfect stage for the league's most exciting up and comer.  Griffin will be on his home floor which will be filled with the who's-who of Hollywood and millions....and MILLIONS...watching at home.  It will be his official coming out party.  The most anticipated coming out party since Lance Bass.

Joey Fat One
(I really hope N*SYNC reunites when I'm 40 and have guest appearances from O'town, a special version of 'God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You' for the lead singer of LFO who died, and then the finale is Joey Fatone announcing a solo career after singing "It's Gunna Be Me." )

As excited as I am to watch my biracial brother, Blake, put on a show, the contest needs one more piece, LeBron James.

Not only is LeBron the most athletic player in the league, but he also is its biggest star.  The NBA would benefit a ton by having him in the contest, but it's LeBron who stands to gain the most.

I don't miss All-Star weekend.   I schedule around it.  Is this pathetic? Sure. Do I care? No.  I consider myself a bit of an expert on the festivities.  And one thing is true above all else, the game's greats become legends during the weekend.

Jordan, Dr. J, Dominique, Larry and Magic have all had their memorable All-Star moment.  MJ and Dominique's jam sessions were one of the key reasons the NBA hit its peak in the late 80s and early 90s.

LeBron needs his moment, too.  He needs it now more than ever.

Since his terrible "decision" the "Chosen One" has been the most hated man in the league.  I personally can't stand him, but also acknowledge he is the most talented all-around player in the game.

LeBron has the ability to become one of the all time best, but choosing not to participate in the dunk contest is just another example of him lacking true champion fortitude.

I sat and listened with great excitement last year when he told Cheryl Miller he is entering his name into the dunk contest.  Immediately, I checked the date for All-Star weekend 2011.

Who wouldn't want to see the game's most exciting player participate in its most exciting event?  It could have been magical.

The other participants, alongside Griffin, are DeMar DeRozen, Javale McGee, and Serge Ibaka.  No offense fellas, but you three are like going on a date with a person from who has no profile picture.  You MAY surprise us all and provide a night of thrills, but it's more likely to end up disappointing  and lead to suppressing thoughts of "ugg, I got suckered into this."

As he has his entire career, LeBron is again shying away from competition.

The dunk contest could have been his night of redemption.

If there is one thing universally true of sports fans, it's that we have short memories.  Guys we can't stand one minute are our favorites the next.  There is not one fan out there that isn't somewhat bipolar.

Prime examples, Mike Vick and Ron Artest.

LeBron should have capitalized on this.  A memorable performance in the dunk contest could have helped gain back a lot of the luster he's lost.

All eyes would be on him.  If he puts on a Jordanesque or Dwight Howard type show, he'd get more love than Antonio Cromartie at a fertility clinic.

I could see it now.  LeBron does some kind of off the backboard, 360, around the back dunk and Kenny Smith almost soils himself in excitement while yelling "hahaha, It's over.  It's OVER.   Charles I don't care, I've never seen anything like this, Oh my god."

Dyan Cannon
Simultaneously, the Staples Center crowd looses its mind.   Denzel's got that sly "Training Day" grin going, Bieber is jumping up and down like an above-average sized munchkin, Snoop and Diddy erupt on the floor and start poppin' bottles of Ciroc, and Dyan Cannon attempts to smile, but that plastic surgery allows her only to make a face of constipation, yet you still know she's pumped.

This excitement could all come to fruition if Bron Bron would follow through on his promise to get in the the contest.  There lies the problem.

LeBron doesn't like situations where he could fail.   He's in Miami because it's the easiest way to win a title.  If the Heat do fizzle out in the playoffs, LeBron may get most of the blame, but it will also spread to Wade and Bosh.

LeBron is somewhat protected.

There is no protection in a dunk contest.  If you suck, it's on you and only you.  But if you are great, your legend can grow to almost god-like proportions.  LeBron's personality has proven he is not man enough to take on that challenge.  The potential of failure is too overwhelming for him.

Chauncey Billups once said, "If it ain't rough, it ain't right."   LeBron should take note.  The greatest accomplishments in life are the ones that you fight and claw to achieve, even if it means you aren't great all the time. 

Los Angeles is the city of stars, especially this Saturday and Sunday.  LeBron could have left the weekend as the brightest of them all, but by backing out on his promise to join the dunk contest, he is proving, yet again, he's just another speck in the sky.

Lew Jack of All Trades

Purdue’s Lewis Jackson is the smallest man on the floor 99-percent of the time. The 5’7 junior isn’t blessed with the gift of height, but his team is blessed with his gifts.

Jackson has provided an added spark to a team with two potential All-Americans - JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. He is asked to run the offense, defend the other team’s best perimeter player, and at the same time be a floor leader.

He was at his finest in Purdue’s biggest game of the season.

Purdue’s point guard was everywhere in Wednesday’s 70-62 win over Wisconsin.

“I had to be special,” said Jackson. “It just all came together tonight.”

Jackson helped the Boilermakers overcome a slow start, but finally got going offensively when Jackson led two first half fast breaks that resulted in open three’s for D.J Byrd and Moore.

“Once we got those rebounds and really pushed it out…it just really gave us that momentum, “ he said.
Jackson finished with five-assists and no turnovers.

He also made the normally stout Wisconsin defense look porous by creating his own shots in the paint and around the arc. He was efficient going six-of-nine from the floor for 18-points.

“When he let’s the game come to him, he is one of the best guards in the country,” said Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter.

Jackson also hit three clutch free throws down the stretch to help Purdue seal its 21st win.

“That’s just hard work in the summer, “ Jackson said. “Really going up there and knowing these guys have the confidence, and Coach Painter and the rest of the coaching staff, has confidence in me, really just allows me to get up there and be calm.”

Jackson’s most impressive work may have come on the defensive end of the floor.

Saturday, then top-ranked Ohio State dropped their first game of the season after Jordan Taylor carved them up for 27-points. The Buckeyes had no answer for him.

Lewis Jackson made sure Purdue did.

Jackson was assigned to Taylor. He harassed him from baseline to baseline and never let Wisconsin’s second leading scorer get on track.

Taylor was held to 15 points, which is three below his season average.

“Jordan Taylor had a good game, but he didn’t have that big time game when he scores 30 and just dominates, “said Painter. “It’s very demanding how we defend and (Jackson) has to go up and guard the basketball and it takes a lot out of you.”

Jackson will have another tough assignment guarding Ohio State’s backcourt when Purdue hosts the Buckeyes, Sunday.

Just one more challenge for a player who continues to take his game to another level.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Valentine's Day, Sports, Let's Get Busy!

"Love is the most important word in the English language" - John Wooden.

Well, who am I to argue with the greatest mind in sports.

In honor of the day of love, Valentine's Day, I've decided to give a little love to some of my favorite things in sports.

As an adult, I really have come to hate this day.  Not because I have anything against showing affection or the color pink, but because I think its sad that it's turned more into a message of "show your love by buying this $500 necklace" or "she'll know you care when you get her a Tiffany's bracelet."  Uggg.

Sidenote: If I see one more of those stupid "He went to Jared" commercials, I am going to pull a Kill Bill eye attack on myself.

Moving on..

I like my Valentine's Day with a little more creativeness and less expensive.  The best was in grade school when you would get a Ninja Turtles Valentine's Day card or one with Topanga from Boy Meets World on it, that said something to the effect of "Be my Corey Matthews."   It was extra special if instead of being signed "from whoever" it said "love whoever."  That's when you knew the crush was on and it was time to start putting your mack down on the playground.

That was Valentine's Day in its truest form.

Sports is the same way.

For all the hype and attention some athletes get, there is still a lot left to be desired.  Sports often loses its purity by focusing on what is put on the highlights but not the end results.  Getting paid is more important than getting wins.  My sports Valentines go only to the purest things in the game starting with....

Obviously the Detroit Pistons.

As a team this year, the Stones are pretty awful. A few bright spots with Monroe and McGrady, but the Karen Davidson selling the team mess, and the fact that they have nine small forwards doesn't give me much to get excited about.  Until last week.

The team announced it would retire Dennis Rodman's number 10 and for that they deserve some love.

Rodman is now a nut job. That's almost indisputable.  But in the late 80s and early 90s, you couldn't find a guy who played with more passion and effort.  He was often overshadowed by Hall of Famers like Isaiah and Joe D, but Rodman's presence was just as important.  His tenacity and rebounds helped mold the Bad Boys image that, to this day, has not been duplicated.  The fact that he went off the deep end makes people forget how amazing he was as a pure hustle basketball player.

He is the greatest rebounder, pound for pound, in league history and deserves the recognition 100-percent.

To the Worm and the Pistons, Happy Valentine's Day.

Valentines #2....Blake Griffin

Dear sweet heavenly dunk gods, this guy is incredible.  I am convinced at some point this year a police officer will arrest Griffin in the tunnel of the Staples Center for a Chris Brown type beating he has put on rims.    He throws down on the hoop like it owes him money.

I love it.

Griffin has been called the second coming of Shawn Kemp.  Umm no.  One, Kemp didn't have the handles or mid range jumper Blake Superior has and two, Griffin, as far as I know, has not produced nine kids with eight women.   Now, he is only technically a rookie, so I guess he could still make that happen.  He is in L.A.  Shout out to Charlie Sheen!

Griffin gets love not only for his monster dunks, but because he has done something no other player since Ron Harper has been able to do, make the Clippers watchable.  Sportscenter leads with Clippers highlights, which is a change from the usual lowlights title the team has carried for decades.  Kids buy Griffin jerseys.  And I've watched an entire Clippers game for the first time, possibly, in my life.

Blake has resurrected a franchise.  That deserves some chocolate and roses.

Valentines #3  .... trash talk.

Well, well, well  look who is drunk texting the sports world, telling it how much it misses being around.  I don't know if its the economy, the unrest in the Middle East, or maybe the steroids working overtime, but athletes have gotten a little chippy lately.  And I love it.

Soft spoken Kevin Durant calling Chris Bosh a "fake tough guy."  Octodad Cromartie calling Tom Brady an "A Hole" and hockey goalies fighting twice in a week.  This is great stuff.

As I mentioned earlier, I love the tenacity of Dennis Rodman, pre-Carmen Electra.  He signified everything that was right with sports.  Guys wanted to show they were tough.  Elbows were thrown and blood gushed regularly.  Beautiful.

Then guys went soft.  Leagues cracked down on extra curricular activities and it robbed sports of a level of intensity that sparked emotion.

Lately, it seems all bets are off.  Maybe it's twitter or players realizing that an extra verbal shot can get them front page headlines.  Either way, its awesome and carrying over onto the floor.

The Celtics and Heat are pushing each other, literally.  NFL smack talks makes you wonder on every play, is some guy going to get so ticked off he will actually decapitate another guy.  Maybe this is a bit barbaric, but I love this kind of action and glad its making a comeback.

Trash talk...will you accept this rose?

Valentines #4...the best in the Biz

Jason Whitlock and Dan Patrick.  Two of the best at what they do.  I struggle to get through my days when I don't read or listen to them.  In an era of journalist that kiss up to players in fear of losing their connections, these guys tell it like it is. I love that.

Honorary mentions to Scott Van Pelt, Ryan Russillo, and Tom Rinaldi.

Valentines #5...being a fan.

There are few things in life you can truly trust.  America's divorce rate is at 50-percent, promiscuity is encouraged on every  TV show (many of which I love, so yes, I acknowledge I'm being hypocritical), and our attention spans are that of an orangutan.  But, one thing that remains in its purest form, is fan loyalty.

Being a fan is like being in a marriage.  You have to go through good and bad times, but watching your team spring from insignificant to champion is the greatest feeling ever.

Sports unites cities like New Orleans, creates new heroes like Aaron Rodgers, and teams like the 2004 Pistons represent the people who cheer for them allowing the tough, hard working Detroiters to continue to believe that attaining their own personal goals is still possible.

As convoluted as sports sometimes are, they always seem to find a way to spark emotion and passion, like a true love.

The best of the rest of my Valentines.

DeSean Jackson for stepping up.

Ray Allen becoming the three point King.

Tim Bograkos' letter

Packers Celebration Dances, BJ Raji and Aaron Rodgers

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hope Trumps Reality on Signing Day

 As much as this pains me to say, I was never a great high school athlete.  *Sigh* Admitting is the first step, right Charlie Sheen?

The highlight of my not so notable athletic career at Brother Rice was getting a garbage minute free-throw, up ten, against one of our biggest rivals, U of D.

It was my Rudy moment.

Put in the dwarf, whose jersey is ten sizes too big and let the crowd go crazy, make mothers cry with pride, and slap the other team in the face by saying, "we are beating you so bad, even this kid is getting minutes."

So, I can not honestly say I relate to the 150-kids who got the red carpet treatment, Wednesday, for College Football's National Signing Day.

I would have loved to have a press conference where I've got my mom to my left, my dad to my right, a flock of cheerleaders behind me, and ESPN cameras in front of me all to hear where I am going to play college football.

*Ahem* I mean, pursue my degree while dabbling in some football on the side.

The closest  I've ever come to this type of moment was making a phone call to my parents declaring, "I'm taking my journalism talents to West Lafayette."  Sadly, Jim Gray wasn't there to share this announcement.

I think it's great that these Blue Chip athletes get to have a day like this.  It's exciting for them, their families, and college football fans everywhere.

The problem is what happens next.

Again, speaking from no personal experience only observation, the ego of a high school superstar athlete is like Keenan Cahill.  The head is too big for the body, and we are talking about some big bodies.

How can it not be?

These 18-year-old kids are on the cover of sports magazines, getting interviewed by major TV networks, and being told in four years they will be millionaires.

This of course comes after getting the Jesus Shuttlesworth treatment on every recruiting trip for the last two-years.

Any athlete immune from developing Big Head syndrome after all of this is likely not human.

The process of Signing Day sets these young men up for failure.  It's safe to say a large percentage of them will not make it to the NFL and for the few who are lucky enough to get to the next level, only a minute percentage will have a solid career.

Two prime examples coincidentally popped up on Wednesday.  Former all-world quarterback Mitch Mustain, who was one of the most sought after high school prospects ever, was arrested for trying to sell Adderall to an undercover officer in Los Angeles. 

I'm guessing here, but this doesn't sound like a one time mess-up, it sounds like a case of a once-great athlete falling hard.  The former USC backup likely won't get drafted and the millions and playboy lifestyle he was promised as an 18-year-old are now fading.  The only way to get that kind of cash is on that "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" hustle.  Tragic.

The other case is that of Ohio State recruit Chris Carter.  The 6'5, 350 pound lineman was arrested for fondling underage girls by posing as a JROTC recruitment officer and pretending to fit them for uniforms.

Chris Carter
This very well could be a situation of someone that is just a full on pervert, but I think it's a little deeper than that.  This is a guy who has had the world thrown at him by every coach and university in the country.   They stroked his ego in recruitment letters, phone calls, and trips to campus.  He was given the impression he could do no wrong, so he did whatever he wanted, and gave no thought to the potential consequences.

It's hard to grasp reality as an 18-year-old when schools mask your imperfections with a facade of immortality only to get you on their field.

The story that isn't told is the one about the kid who blows out his knee the first week of practice, ending his career.  Or the one about the player who is stuck behind better talent and never gets above third on the depth chart.

Signing day is just another example of how conferences, schools, and TV networks use these kids for profit. These soon-to-be college athletes are pawns for the sport's big wig kings.

It's a day, less than a month after the season ends, to keep the sport relevant during the "off"season.  It helps sell tickets based on expectations.  "Go stand on that corner (or podium), smile, and make daddy (BCS) some money."

 I hope these kids enjoyed the lovefest, Wednesday, because it might not last long.

The minute the prized quarterback throws that critical red-zone interception, or the five-star linebacker misses the key tackle, or the all-world running back simply struggles to understand blocking assignments, those same people that were singing your praises will be the first to turn their backs on you.

Why?  Because next year there is going to be a fresh batch of talent, ready to replace you, sitting in front of the same cameras that lit you up like a star just a moment ago.

It's easier to sell hope and potential than it is reality.