Tag Archives: Sports

South Shore Ave’s Four Down Journey

Welcome to the Week 6 version of the Four Down Journey, where we still don’t know if Gronk is available, where we know for sure Julio Jones & the Falcons are done, where Eli Manning & I are tied for NFL victories this season, where Andrew Luck plays in his 1st Monday night game, & whether or not this is the week my 49ers take back the division (or at least tie it with the Seagulls Seahawks). Lets start things off by getting into the hottest team in the league right now, the Jacksonville Jaguars!

First Down: Jacksonville. Smh

Has anyone been keeping watch on Maurice Jones-Drew? Seriously, because he can’t be of sound mind right now. I’m stunned that he hasn’t maimed or shanked anyone of his teammates yet. Before I bring up the debacle/train wreck that is this season (0-5 as of this post), let’s take a quick look at MJD since 2007, when the best QB’s he’s ever played with was when Byron Leftwich and David Gerrard were on the team.

2007: 11-5, lost in divisional playoff to New England 31-20

2008: 5-11, missed the playoffs

2009: 7-9, missed the playoffs

2010: 8-8, missed the playoffs

2011: 5-11, missed the playoffs

2012: 2-14, do I have to say it again?

Not exactly positive is it?  He’s one of the best RB’s in the league (even winning the rushing title in 2011) playing with one of the worst teams on offense the league may ever see.  They just traded their best O-Linemen, Eugene Munroe for basically nothing, then lost their top draft pick OL Luke Joeckel for the season.  Then they have two QB’s in Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, neither of who strike fear into a BCS team, much less an NFL one.  Fans don’t come to the games & the Jaguars’ management started trying “Semi-Pro” tactics to get fans to come and fill the seats; and they have played so reprehensibly that their own local TV station issued out an apology to its viewers for showing the game on TV.  In my previous post, I thought there was no question in my mind that the Raiders would be the worst team the NFL would have, but I owe them an apology.  This Jaguar team may not even win a game this season. Look at the remaining schedule:

Oct 13 vs Broncos (we’ll get to this one later)

Oct 20 vs Chargers

Oct 27 vs 49ers

Nov 3 Bye week

Nov 17 vs Cardinals

Nov 24 vs Texans

Dec 1 vs Browns

Dec 5 vs Texans

Dec 15 vs Bills

Dec 22 vs Titans

Dece 29 vs Colts

Outside of possibly the Chargers who always seem to choke and blow winnable games at the right time, I honestly don’t see a game these guys can win.  I can’t see the addition of Justin Blackman, fresh off his 4-game suspension adding a win to this roster, except for his Fantasy Owners (#garbagetimepoints).  The only way they’ll become more successful on offensive is through their QB play, which wasn’t happening for these three reasons:

  • The O-line which wasn’t good to begin with, just got worse through trade and injury.
  • The Starting QB, Gabbert, is horrendous.  His stats this season, 42-86 for 481 yards, 1TD/7INT’s, Win-Loss ratio for his career (including this season)? 5-22. 5 AND 22. You’re telling me they couldn’t put in a bid to sign Josh Freeman???
  • Their QB’s name is Blaine Gabbert.  Does that name sound like a name that would win games for you?  Can you see a fanbase take in a game with their team down by a touchdown saying, “Don’t worry, Gabbert will lead us!”  Or “Aight man, Blaine’s got this one in the bag”? Don’t wanna come off as an asshole or anything, but let’s face it, his name sounds closer to someone who should be managing an Auto Parts warehouse or selling sorcery and wizard sticks at the Annual Comic Con convention, not winning playoff games and Super Bowls.  No disrespect to the good people who do manage an Auto Parts warehouse and sell sorcery and wizard sticks at Comic Con Events.  Okay, maybe a little disrespect to the sorcery guy.

Now if you were Jones Drew, would you sign back with this team, even with the threat that they may possibly move to his hometown of Los Angeles?  I wouldn’t sign with Jacksonville, and I wouldn’t even want to know someone with the name “Jackson”, and/or “Ville” in it, and if I already do, I’d cut them off immediately.

Second Down: What About Schaub???

Man, has things flipped quickly for Matt Schaub. Just 10 months ago, he was leading a Super Bowl contender with an 11-2 record. Since then, he has gone 4-7. The last two games, he has clearly hit rock bottom. Week 4 vs. the Seahawks, he threw one of the worst INTs that we’ve seen in a long time, throwing a fadeaway fade route in triple coverage to Garrett Graham & with Richard Sherman waiting. By the time Sherman crossed the goal line (with one shoe on no less) Schaub had thrown his third Pick-6 in as many games, ending in a 23-20 loss. Then this past Sunday vs. the Niners, he follows it up by throwing another Pick-6 on his first pass on the game, setting an NFL record for most games in a row with an INT/TD. This team is built to win now & it can ill afford to take these losses that they’re taking if they’re trying to get to New York in February. Judging by the look on Schaub’s face, as well as the rest of the team since halfway through the 4th quarter of that Seahawks game (especially J.J. Watt) this team looks dejected. Schaub has a lot of work to do, & quickly if he wants to restore his teammates confidence in him.

Meanwhile, the team that they didn’t think would be competing with them, the Indianapolis Colts, are now 4-1 & are starting to run away with the division. The Coach-QB combo is rock solid for now & the future with Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck, they got solid WR core led by Reggie Wayne & T.Y. Hilton, a good if not great running game led by Trent Richardson (although he may be slightly overrated but still), & a shockingly strong defense. Outside of Denver, I can easily see this team getting out of the conference, they are legit. Shit, they beat the 49ers & Seahawks in back-to-back weeks. If Houston comes back in this division and in the playoff hunt, they will have to go back to basics and lean heavily on Arian Foster & their defense, and make Schaub shift to full-time game manager mode. He’s gonna have to be coached up again, cuz at this stage, they’ve invested too much time & years into him. If they turn to T.J. Yates, they will lose Schaub I think mentally & psychologically for good. Gonna be an interesting few weeks in Houston.

Third Down: QB’s get paid

As discussed previously, with the situations regarding Greg Schiano, Josh Freeman, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as Matt Flynn, both of these troubled QB’s have one thing in common: they continue to get that money! After the news leaked about Freeman being in Stage One of the NFL Drug Program (Freeman had to clarify that HE voluntarily entered the program due to the medication he takes for Attention Deficit Disorder) not only did we know that this marriage was going to end horribly, but Tampa Bay for some foolish reason, tried to severely undercut his value. This is on top of not allowing Freeman to be on the sidelines during their 13-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, barring him from the team facilities & then alluding to his teammates that he decided not to show for practice the following week. (I’ll say it again, this is something a coach or organization does when you’re coaching college kids & not grown men. I’m starting to really believe Schiano won’t make it past Week 8, if they’re still winless by then.) How does that story end for Freeman & the Bucs? Instead of trying to get a late round draft pick or a player for him, they end up waiving Freeman, still having to pay him his $5.9M to sit on the waiver wire for four days before the Minnesota Vikings pick him up and signed him for $3M for 12 games of work. If you’re counting, he has translated that fiasco into $8.9M, and as hard as it is to believe, he might be in a better situation than the one he’s left. Meanwhile, the Raiders cut Matt Flynn after his disastrous performances vs. Washington’s football team during Week 4, when Terrell Pryor was out with a concussion. This was followed up by being demoted to the 3rd string QB spot last week vs. San Diego. So for leaving Green Bay two years ago, he started all of one game, was pushed to the side by two younger QB’s, & walked away $14M richer. I mean….wow. There is no one this year in football that has gotten paid more for doing less this season like these two dudes. Congratulations.

Fourth Down: Awards List

After Week 5, this is how my awards list is looking so far:

MVP: Peyton Manning

Offensive Player of the Year: Peyton Manning 

Defensive Player of the Year: Joe Haden 

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Giovanni Bernard 

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kiko Alonso 

Coach of the Year: Peyton Manning Andy Ried 

Most Surprising Team: Cleveland Browns 

Most Disappointing Team: New York Giants

Game of the Week

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) vs. Denver Broncos (5-0)

Are there better games on schedule this week? Of course! But when do you normally get a chance to watch history? Look at this fact: The Jags have scored 4 TD’s all season. The Broncos have not scored less than 4 TD’s in each game. This may end up like one of those NCAA games where you Alabama plays Maine in Week One of the season and beats them like 55-3, & they end the game 5 minutes early. When will you see a predetermined blowout like this again in the NFL? Also, to all fantasy owners, start all your Broncos for this one! Including John Fox & John Elway.

Sideline Notes

There are three things in life that you can depend on: Death, taxes, and the Atlanta Braves losing in the 1st round of the playoffs. Outside of the success they have had since 1991, they only have one World Series ring to show for it. Aren’t they a little overrated at this stage now? For Braves fans, this is like having sex for 22 years straight & only having one orgasm….. Andrew Wiggins hasn’t played a minute yet in an NCAA game and he’s already on the cover of Sports Illustrated being passed the KU torch from the legacies of Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning. Man, I really hope this kid pans out….. I know it’s almost been a week, but Derrick Rose looks real good out there on the floor, even with the rust. In watching that pre-season game vs. Indiana, I really forgot how fast he is. On two consecutive fast breaks, he took the outlet pass & just outran everyone else down the floor for back-to-back layups. I don’t care how stacked Indiana is, Chicago will be the 2nd best team in the East for this simple fact: As good as Paul George is & his new $90M deal that pays him like a superstar, Derrick Rose IS a real superstar. Even in that preseason game, no one can match his skillset, mentality, & killer instinct on Indiana. You’ll see….. Hol’ up, hold my phone! Maw*****s never loved us (Dun know)! Remember???….. Sorry, where was I….. Ok MJ, we know you’re the best ever. Can you stop talking now & just settle on being an average owner please & thank you…. Kanye may think he’s a genius, and people may think he’s crazy, but no one should ever question his passion and drive for life, and that is what makes him great at his craft….. To all my Canadian peoples, have a safe & Happy Thanksgiving. Until the next post…..

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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South Shore Ave’s Four Down Journey

Week 4 is upon us ya’ll, so here’s my quick rundown leading up to Week 4… you know, just before you sit down on the couch for the next 11 hours watching every game under the sun & managing your multiple fantasy teams with your smartphones & laptops attached to you like a kidney…..

FIRST DOWN: Is Kansas City for real?

They could be actually. With Andy Reid & Alex Smith manning the two most important positions, it was a significant upgrade for a team that had to go through the Scott Pioli regime. He in turn had the excellent hires of Todd Haley (who by the end of his term, had players turning on him left and right); and Romeo Cronnel (who in one game last year, forgot to get touches to his best player Jamaal Charles & couldn’t explain why). There was also their run of QBs: Matt Cassel, Tyler Thigpen, Some backup QB with the last name Zlasko, Brady Quinn, etc. I mean, take a look at the lineup again. Can you imagine being a fan of this team? It’s no surprise they only won 2 games, but even with that they still sent 5 defensive players to the Pro Bowl. Which leads me to this: it’s on this side of the ball where they have made their greatest impact during their 3-0 start, not on offense. They’ve been averaging just over 11 points per game for the season. They kept Dallas in Week 2 to only 1 TD & made the fastest, most explosive offense in the league last week to turn over the ball to them 5 times. Thus far, they are a top 5 defense, & judging by their schedule, it may stay that way. Outside  of playing Denver twice, they have one of the easiest schedules in the league. I thought going into the season, they would win 8 games, but now, I can see that number going as high as 11. We all know Smith has a ceiling as a game manager, but he’s probably the best game manager in the league. This team has NO turnovers since the season started. He may not throw deep passes and get explosive plays (I feel sorry for you Dwayne Bowe) but he moves the chains & protects the football. Since 2011, he has gone 22-5-1 in games he has started. Between Smith & Reid, they provided stability that hasn’t been seen in Kansas City since Priest Holmes was running wild out of the backfield. For the past 10 years, watching the Chiefs has been like watching a girl who’s been dating nothing but thugs, drug dealers, drug users, & chronic fornicators who cheat on her relentlessly. Now she found a man with a good job, a good home, has a good head on his shoulders, has no outside kids as far as she knows, and who wants to have a family with her one day down the line. She finally has something stable, and right now, that’s all she needs. She doesn’t need to focus on getting married, but just enjoying the first positive relationship she’s had in years. Chiefs fans don’t need to worry about anything else other than the playoffs, which is where they seemed headed this season. We’ll talk about making the Super Bowl (marriage) later.

SECOND DOWN: Is New Orleans the best team in the NFC?

New Orleans you say? But what about Seattle??? Well for starters, I’m still slightly annoyed about  Week 2 drubbing the Seahawks dealt my 49ers in Seattle (just remember Seahawk fans, you come to our house Dec 8th), but I really believe now that the Saints will finish with the best record in the conference. Their defense has been more than getting it done. They have allowed 38 points in 3 games & is fourth overall in total defense. Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan’s 4-3 defense is getting everything out of its young defensive roster, particularly Cameron Jordan. According to Peter King on his MMQB website, Jordan has 17 QB disruptions (sacks, knockdowns & pressures) which is 3 more that J.J. Watt. It’s a small sample size, but it speaks to the 180-degree changes of mentality  it’s made on this side of the ball. It doesn’t need to be on Seattle’s defensive level, but if it can stay in the top 10 and still keep its explosive nature on offense (the Saints haven’t kicked it into 3rd gear yet & Jimmy Graham has already had a monster start to the year), they will be extremely hard to beat. The remaining playoff contenders on the schedule (Chicago, New England, San Fran, & Seattle) are slightly easier than what Seattle will go through (Houston & Indy the next 2 weeks, solid Tennessee team, then 5 more games vs. their division including the aforementioned San Fran game) so it sets them up to get home field advantage. However, they’re flying under the radar in comparison to Seattle & San Fran, & I’d never thought I’d see that happen to a team with Drew Brees on it.

THIRD DOWN: Upside Down & Round & Round…….

Kansas City is undefeated. So is Miami who’s tied with New England for the division lead. The Jets trail them by one game. Chicago has a 2-game lead on Green Bay, & until Thursday night, so did Seattle on the rest of the NFC West.. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Washington, & Giants are a combined 0-12. Pittsburgh and Minnesota play in London on Sunday so someone has to come back across the Atlantic a winner I guess. The teams I’m looking at that I’m not sure can bounce back from their start are both Washington & the New York Giants.  Robert Griffin III brought much hype to his team and had everyone thinking he will have another Adrian Peterson-type production coming off of knee surgery, but not only has that not happened, but the defense are giving up points & yards like it’s an album leak. They are 30th or worse in almost every major defensive category, they can’t stop the run (turning Joique Bell into a fantasy stud last week) or the pass, but the positive is that their offense sucks too. They can’t seem to get any momentum until the second half of games. The Read option is useless unless Griffin gets full confidence back in his legs, which I don’t think will happen until closer to midway point of the season. The good thing though, is that Mike Shanahan did the right thing this time and protected Griffin for the future. They mortgaged their first round picks for him, so they will continue to build around their talents. However, the same cannot be said about the Giants. With all the mistakes that the defense has made & the disastrous play of their O-Line (providing Carolina with 6 sacks in the first 17 mins of the game & only had 25 combined yards at halftime), here’s when I knew this may be a lost season. In preparing for the Panthers last week, Tom Coughlin’s brother passed away. Normally when an important person on the team loses someone close to them, the team usually rallies behind that person & will play hard for their grieving teammate or coach. In fact, I would have bet anything that they would have beat up the Panthers. So for them to get blown out the way they did tells me this team isn’t as tight-knit as years past for whatever reason. Now they head to Kansas City. If they get blown out again this week, Couglin’s job this time may be on shaky ground for fear that he may be getting tuned out.

FOURTH DOWN: Greg Schiano vs. Josh Freeman

Well, looks like Schiano won this round. By benching Freeman & starting the rookie Mike Glennon, it looks like the Freeman era is over before it got rolling. By all accounts, it looks like Freeman has lost the locker room by his lack of work ethics, being late to meetings, etc., which is a no-no if you’re supposed to be a QB and leader of an NFL team. So I’m in no way excusing Freeman for his transgressions, but Schiano shouldn’t get a pass either for how he’s handled this situation.  The reports of him fixing the captaincy process (which he’s denied), to throwing Freeman under the bus to the media for being late to the team photo shoot, to bum-rushing the V-formations last season that pissed off many teams alike.  He resembles a coach who should still be coaching in the NCAAs, not the men in this league. I can’t see him lasting longer than next season presuming he’s not canned before this one. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t see that locker room supporting his style & ways while they continue to collect Ls.

PERSON TO WATCH: Leslie Frazier; Coach, Minnesota Vikings

There’s a few coaches on the hot seat for sure early this season, but don’t underestimate Frazier’s ground on the team. A defensive coach whose team can’t defend (they gave up 33 points to the Cleveland Browns for goodness sakes!), their QB Christian Ponder is inconsistent at best (kiss those endorsement deals goodbye Greg Jennings!), and teams are loading up on Adrian Peterson.  They made the playoffs just sneaking in on the back of Peterson, but I believe if not for his exploits, that team would have won 7 games at best and he’s be out of a job now. If they come back from London 0-4 which is a strong possibility, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he’s at home on the couch watching Family Feud, and The Young & the Restless past the bye week. Even if that doesn’t happen, he’s not making it to next season if they win 5 games or less. (Note: Now it looks like Matt Cassell will start vs Pittsburgh. Yup, the smell of desperation has come. Get the pink slips ready.)

Sideline Notes

OK, can we put the “San Francisco is in trouble and their season is over” viewpoint to rest now??? They’ll be fine….. you wanna know what’s the most underrated factor of this whole Ravens party with Jacoby Jones getting his head busted open by a hostess/stripper Sweet Pea? The involvement of Bryan McKinnie. Seems like every time he’s involved with a big gathering after midnight, the police are eventually involved. If you remember the last time anything like this happened with his named attached, the words “party”, “boat”, “Lake Minnetoka”, “Cunnilingus”, & “Boat captain mortified beyond belief” were involved….. Also, if this situation doesn’t drum even more business and street credibility for Sweet Pea and the good wholesome people of the King of Diamonds establishment, I don’t know what will. Her request should go up anywhere between 50% to 175% I would think….. Why hasn’t Jacksonville traded for Josh Freeman yet? Like what they have behind center is any better??? Give up two 5th round picks & get this over with already….. Am I the only one who likes the Calvin & Johnson commercials?….. Looks like Drake put himself in the mega-superstar level now with his new album “Nothing Was The Same”. Where Kanye & Jay-Z missed out on in terms of capitalizing on the Best Album of the year title, it looks like Drake will clean up. Not 100% sure what his numbers will be once Soundscan calculates it up on Tuesday, but I’m expecting at least north of 600K sold for 1st week sales. He’s the best and the biggest artist that the Cash Money/Young Money team has on their roster. Lil’ Wayne included….. finally, Tim Lieweke has already started showing you the impact that he will have in Toronto as he has secured the NBA All Star Weekend. I think it’s waaaaay overdue, but in 2016, this city will be the Winterized version of Caribana weekend on HGH & the Clear. In the illustrious words of my friend Headley: “To all American groupies, get your passports ready”.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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South Shore Ave’s NFL Week 1 Questions

The NFL season as usual, began with a bang in Week 1. Peyton Manning throws for 7 TDs, Reggie Bush puts on his best Marshall Faulk impersonation, the Eagles play their first game of the season like their fast forward button was stuck, Colin Kaepernick found another way to stick it to the Packers, the Steelers & the Jaguars forget how to score, and the San Diego Chargers find yet another way to choke a late game lead. Throughout the season,  I’ll be given you a rundown of the week’s games in question form. For this session, it’ll be less of a recap and more of the questions that I had before the season started that I still feel needed to be answered even after week one was done. Let’s start first with the biggest star from Week 1….. 

Is Peyton Manning the best regular season QB ever?

I had this debate with my friend during last week’s game vs. Baltimore, but I do believe Peyton is the best QB in NFL history…..during the regular season. Think about it for a second: He’s won 68% of his games for his career; his stats per season over his career, 4000 yds/30 TDs/13 INTs; 4 MVPs which is the most in NFL history (almost won 5 if not for Adrian Peterson last year); 12-time Pro Bowler, 6-time All-Pro. Plus having him under center is a guaranteed 11 wins, a spot in the playoffs, & in most cases, a Super Bowl contender. He dominates teams during the season like some sort of android. I’ll never say the best ever because, well, he is 9-11 in the playoffs, so even though he won a Super Bowl, you can make the argument that his teams sometimes plays playoff games with two hands around their necks. Also, I’m biased because I’m a 49er fan since I was little so I’ll always say Joe Montana is the greatest ever. Dominated the 80s, won 4 Super Bowls, never lost a Super Bowl game he played in, & unlike another 4x Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw, he was THE MAN for all four of those championships teams. Basing this strictly off regular seasons, it’s hard to argue against Manning who’s been playing at this elite lever for 14 of 16 seasons (omitting his rookie year and the 2011 season he missed from his four neck surgeries). On the other side of the spectrum…

Will Tim Tebow Play in the NFL Again???

God I hope not. As much as the NFL want to hitch their star to this wagon, the dude simply can’t throw.  He can’t make accurate passes, which is kind of important for a QB in the NFL.  It’s absolutely astounding that he’s lasted this long.  What makes me laugh is hearing everyone pushing him towards the CFL.  Yes, the league is a minor league in comparison the NFL, but the CFL is a passing league too.  Have they seen the size of the field?  The end zone itself is like 30 yards long, and it’s a 3-down league. If he has problems with accuracy, Tebow’s not going to survive there either.  He should probably take a year off and just work on his mechanics.  He can start by throwing the ball in the ocean at first, then get down to smaller targets; like throwing the ball between two trees; then hitting only one of the trees; then through a hula hoop; then an archery board, while backing up the distances to throw from.  Then, and only then, should he get a shot at the NFL again, and not a moment sooner. 

Will AP Run for 2000 Yards in back-to-back seasons?

Can’t say that will happen. He had possibly the most amazing season a running back can ever have considering the injury he had just 9 months before last season started. Once he got his groove going, it was nothing to watch him break off 70-yard runs, while receiving a text from one of your friends saying, “Are you watching AP??? He’s got 160 yards & the 3rd Q just started!!!” By the time the season ended — he had 2,097 yards, just 8 yards shy of breaking Dickerson’s all time record – and all the awards and accolades were won, you can almost understand in this day & age why you heard rumblings of testing for HGH when his name was mentioned (which I’ll mention I don’t think he’s on by the way…or hope). But out of all the RB’s that ran for more than 2,000 yards in a season, no one has even come close the following season to that number. Only Barry Sanders came the closest & he finished just shy of 1,500 yards (1,497) the next year in 1998, before abruptly retiring after that season. Think about this, we’ve been calling Chris Johnson CJ2K since 2009 when he ran for 2,006 yards, & he’s never been the same since. I almost feel like it takes something out of you physically, like it’s the ultimate sacrifice an RB can make in his career. Only Dickerson still had enough tread on his tires to kick out 1,821 in 1986 with the L.A. Rams & 1,659 in 1988, his first full season with the Indianapolis Colts. Look at the list of the 5 RB’s here who ran for 2,000 yards, followed by their stats the next season:

O. Simpson – 1973, 14G, 332/2,003/12 TDS; next season: 14G, 270/1125/3

E. Dickerson – 1984, 16G, 379/2,105/14; next season: 14G, 292/1,234/12

B. Sanders – 1997, 16G, 335/2,053/11; next season: 16G, 343/1,491/4

T. Davis – 1998, 16G, 392/2,008/21; next season: 4G, 67/211/2

C. Johnson – 2009, 16G, 358/2,006/14; next season: 16G, 316/1,364/11

A. Peterson – 2012, 16G, 348/2,097/12: next season: ???

I think Peterson is a freak of nature, but between the wear and tear, defences loading up 8 in a box every time until J.P. Losman Rob Johnson Casey Printers Christian Ponder proves he can be a consistent threat in the pocket or to at least keep defences honest enough, I can see him surpassing Barry’s total & coming closest to 2,000 on that list above this season: 16G, 302/1650/12. Still a successful season, but still not close enough. Judging from Week 1, he only had 15 yards on 17 carries after breaking that 78 yard TD run on his 1st carry, I’m thinking teams will contain him better than they did last year. Now, if he runs for 200+ this weekend vs. the Bears… we may have to revisit this section.

Will Buffalo make the playoffs this season?

Lol… come on now. Stop it. I will say this: they do have some good pieces in place. Between C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson, rookie QB, E.J. Manuel, a solid O-Line, and guys like Leonis McKelvin, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Stephon Gilmore, Jarius Byrd (if he ends his contract holdout) on defence, they’re about a year away from sniffing a playoff spot. They should finish the season as the 2nd best team in the AFC East, which may mean nothing as this is THE worst division in the NFL, but still, you gotta strive for something Bills fans!

How bad will the Raiders be?

Terrell Pyror’s admission that up until this season, he didn’t know how to throw a football, I mean….what more is there to say? The funny thing is, he actually gives them the best chance to win. Mind you, he didn’t have a bad game vs. the Colts last week (19-29, 217 yards, 112 yards rushing, 70.6 QBR) & will have to depend on his legs as much as his arm to move the chains down the field, but he is pretty raw. This isn’t even Cam Newton-lite, this is a extremely poor man’s Cam. Even if Darren McFadden can stay healthy for 16 games (unlikely, but still), teams will ultimately stick 8 & 9 guys in the box & force them to depend on Pryor. And with no weapons to speak of on both sides of the ball, I just can’t see this team winning more than two games. They will stink so bad they’ll be eligible for both the JaDaveon Clowney sweepstakes and the Andrew Wiggins lottery. Yes, their stench will cross into other sports. Speaking of stinking….

Should Matt Flynn have just stayed in Green Bay as a backup QB?

Since he left Green Bay to try to run his own team, he lost his starting spot in training camp to a 3rd rounder in last year’s draft that may very well be one of the top 5 QBs in the next 2 years (Russell Wilson), to then get traded to a new situation in Oakland where he couldn’t beat out a guy who was drafted in the 3rd round….of the 2011 Supplemental draft. When given a chance to legitimately run your own team as a QB, you have to take it if you have any competitive spirit as an athlete, but considering that he no longer has a shot at the starting QB spot for the Raiders (at least right now), maybe holding a clipboard for Aaron Rodgers might be a better situation at this point. At least you’re holding it for a superstar, at least there’s some pride in that….right???

Will the Saints reincarnate the spirit of the 2007 Patriots?

After last year’s Bountygate fiasco & disappointing 8-8 finish, the Saints got back their head coach Sean Payton, after taking the fall and being suspended for the full season. They may not have protested it publicly (not including Johnathan Vilma of course), but they felt like the punishment was excessive, and it definitely affected their play calling on the field, giving up the most yards for a defence (7,092) in NFL history. I sense a very strong revenge factor this season playing with a massive chip on their shoulders (already beating their rivals Atlanta Falcons in Week 1) and then running up the score every chance they get, especially in their division. Now if Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan can get the defence to be at least the middle of the pack in comparison with the rest of the league, they will win 13 games this season & reclaim their spot not only at the top of the NFC South, but will be right there with San Francisco and Seattle as the elite SB Contenders from this conference. With that in place, it will allow Drew Brees to win his 1st NFL MVP. I’m predicting his 3rd straight 5,000+ yd season, with 49 TDs and 10 INT’s max. Am I saying this because I have him on my fantasy team? Absolutely! But I also think he’s about due for one. Out of the super elite QB group we have in the league right now (Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Brees), only Brees hasn’t won one MVP yet. This year, it’ll be his turn.

Can Larry Fitzgerald have a bounce-back season?

Considering his O-Line has improved a bit, finally getting a competent QB (Carson Palmer) throwing him the ball again, and looking at the stats that he is coming off of from last season, the worst since his rookie year I might add (71/798/4 TDs), he’s going to bounce back in a major way. He’s slowly coming out of the back end of his prime years as a WR, but he will float back into the discussion with the top 3 receivers in this game again. I see him putting up somewhere around 97/1305/11 in 2013. Whoever has him on their fantasy team, rejoice!

Over/Under: Danny Amendola plays 12 games this year.

UNDER!! Not only was he already hurt going into the regular season, but now he’s not even playing tonight. Including Sunday’s game, Amendola has played a combined 13 games in two years and has a combined 7 TD for his entire career. Now he’s just supposed to replace Wes Welker as if that job can be done by just about anyone??? Listen, say what you want about the Patriots Way and their systems, but Welker has been the best slot WR since 2007, and not only that, but he’s been incredibly durable too, missing 3 out of a possible 96 games during that period. I don’t care if Welker’s in Denver, he’s going to put up similar stats on that team. New England took him for granted, and they will miss his steady presence this season. They will still win the division because as I mentioned, it’s the shittiest division in the NFL, but unless Amendola stays healthy and as productive as Welker; and Rob Gronkowski plays like he did in 2011, they don’t win a playoff game.

Predictions:

MVP – QB Drew Brees, New Orleans

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Peyton Manning, Denver

Defensive Player of the Year: CB Richard Sherman, Seattle

Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Manti T’eo LB Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland

Coach of the Year: Sean Payton, New Orleans

Comeback Player of the Year: WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

AFC Playoff Teams: 1. Denver 2. Houston 3. Cincinnati 4. New England 5. Indianapolis 6. Baltimore

NFC Playoff Teams: 1. New Orleans 2. San Francisco 3. Chicago 4. Washington 5. Seattle 6. Green Bay

Conference Championships – AFC: Denver over Houston; NFC: San Francisco over New Orleans

Super Bowl Prediction: San Francisco over Denver

Game of the Week

San Francisco @ Seattle. Sun 8:15PM

This could turn out to be the game of the year, even this early in the season. Two Super Bowl contending teams out of the NFC West who can’t stand each other, two coaches who have had beef since they were both coaching in college a few years ago, both teams are led by young, franchise changing QB’s, supported by dynamic running games with smash-mouth defences to match. I may be biased, but I think the 49ers take this one in a very, very, VERY close game that goes down to the last two minutes. I’m anticipating lots of hitting, lots of trash talking, lots of skirmishes & possibly one player to be carried off to the locker room. Most importantly, I can’t wait to see the match-up between Colin Kaepernick & Russell Wilson again, who I think will be the two best QB’s in the league by 2015. My runner up game of the week is tonight’s game with the Jets @ Patriots. Ok, I don’t really believe that, but I just wanted an excuse to show these…..

God Bless the Jets.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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#TheOffseason

The Offseason.

A time when the future of fresh rookies and free agents are up in the air.  A time when GMs make boneheaded moves that sets the franchise back (i.e. Philly with Bynum Debacle 2012), and the GM’s whose genius-like decisions sets the team up for the next decade (i.e. The Heat in 2010).  Where players use the time to improve their craft to better themselves for the following season.  Me?  I like all the drama that comes with the players falling and rising in the draft, the blockbuster trades, and the discussions of rumors of different free agents, and to see who will make an owner fall all over themselves recruiting them like they‘re High School All-Americans.  With a draft expected to be one of the weakest in years, maybe ever, and a free agency period that took a big hit once Chris Paul took his name out of the running for free agency, it was entertaining enough that we had to do a wrap up of my favorite moves of the offseason thus far.

Anthony Bennett #1

The Cleveland Cavaliers went with the perceived unconventional choice and selected Andrew Bennett with the #1 overall pick in the draft.  Unconventional in the sense that most mock drafts and talking heads had a big man (Nerlens Noel or Alex Len) being selected to the Cavs in that spot. The Cavs GM, Chris Grant’s track record with the past drafts, shows he isn’t afraid to go against the grain from what most people would think.  Picking up PF Tristan Thompson 4th overall (and fellow Brampton native) in 2011, then selecting Dion Waiters at 4th overall again when most mock drafts had him pegged later in the lottery.  In following this pattern once again, he helped to make history by making Bennett the 1st Canadian player to be selected #1.  I’m fine with this & not just because of the historical significance. The fact that there was no surefire player to pick means you can take a chance on a need or potential.  In this case, they chose both. Bennett has the upside to be the best player out of this draft with the strength/post game to play the 4 yet the skillset/shooting/scoring touch to play the 3.  As Greg Anthony put it after the draft, “he’s not a tweener, he’s a hybrid, and there’s a difference between the two.” Unlike Ben McLemore, you don’t have to question if he’s going to be invisible on the floor, he brings that dog mentality on the offensive side of the floor, which is something the Cavs have been missing from their frontcourt position since LeBron left.  In addition, the beauty of him going to this team is that he’ll develop at the right pace with Kyrie Irving, being the face of the franchise and can also lean on Mike Brown & his coaching staff who has routinely cultivated one of the best defensive units in the league when he’s coaching. He can play on that rugged frontline with Thompson, Anderson Varajaeo, & now Andrew Bynum (if he can stay healthy during his short-term incentive-laden contract).  I like this team moving forward. With two Torontonian players on the roster, what are the chances they can get Irving to incorporate “Guy”, “Doggy”, and “Arms” into his slang vernacular?  25% – 30%?  I guess we’ll find out in the near future. Stay tuned……still.

Mike George

How good is his life right now? After enjoying success with his CIA Bounce AAU program in Toronto (starring Bennett and consensus #1 pick of 2014 NBA Draft Andrew Wiggins), he becomes an NBA agent to one of the most successful NBA Agency Firms, and then his client gets the #1 overall pick in his first draft???  I’d say that’s not a bad starting point to have on your résumé.

Brooklyn Nets/Boston Celtics Blockbuster Trade

Remember when I said that the Brooklyn Nets are missing some of that swagger? Problem solved with that trade! So many positives to this trade…

–  Adding Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, & Jason Terry to this team that was viewed as soft, has heavily infused the Nets with mental toughness.  More importantly, it will rub off on Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, & Joe Johnson, especially in close games and playoff encounters.

–  Between the new vets on the team, they’ll also help everyone fall in line with Jason Kidd’s coaching philosophy.  KG/Pierce/Jet have history with him through the All Star games, Olympic runs (KG/Kidd in 2000 Sydney Olympics) & NBA Titles (Kidd/Terry with Mavs in 2011), and they will do all that they can to help him succeed as much as possible.

–  Moves them into the Indiana Pacers/Chicago Bulls category of the Eastern Conference contending teams, just one tier below Miami. Arguably having a starting five of future Hall of Famers and current All Stars could give Miami fits, especially given that 2/5ths of the lineup already have bad blood for the Heat.  A new rivalry can possibly emerge here.  I still don’t think they’ll beat Miami in a 7-game series, but if they were to meet in the playoffs, it would be an entertaining 6 or 7-game series at the very least.

–  Intensifies local rivalry that much more. The Nets have pushed past the New York Knicks as the best team in the city, and it didn’t help that the Knicks traded for Andrea Bargnani, a player who at one point in the season was available for two $50 Wal-Mart gift cards and a medium Cherry Slushie from 7-Eleven, and still no one took. Just wait Knick fans for when he goes into those spells where he’ll have 6 pts, 2 rebs, and guys blowing past him like they came off the starting blocks.  On the bright side, you might see Spike Lee on the sidelines do this every time Bargs hits a three:

I won’t even get into the Honey Nut Cheerio scandal that might now add more chapters to the story if KG is riled up enough.

–  Falls in line with Mikhail Prokorov’s five year plan that he set in 2010 to win an NBA Title.  Clearly he’s going all in with this move, not only feeling that this move will put him over the top, but is willing to eat up to $82M in luxury taxes to make it happen. Read that again. $82M! When you’re worth $13B, $82M is small change….but damn, that’s still $82M!!! To the players and other owners (outside of Paul Allen), paying this luxury tax with no regard, I’m telling you, this is the sports owner’s equivalent of a penis enhancer. The same way it is when a guy has a shiny big body Benz & pulls up in front of the club when everyone’s leaving with the windows down and a smirk that says, “Yes baby, it is that expensive….. and my dick is that big.  You coming?”  If he’s still making it rain when their cap space clears in a few years, players will be running to him like strip….um…..yeah, there’s no good way to finish that joke. Let’s just say that players will try to get caught in that rainstorm.

–  The idea of Kris Humphries and Rajon Rondo having that first conversation during the preseason. That may be awkward and priceless at the same time.

The Los Angeles Lakers, Part I. Smh.

Probably my second favorite moment of the offseason.  A franchise with the stature of the Lakers having to beg & plead approach Dwight Howard like an 80s R&B singer.  Watching them stoop to this level for a player that more than likely didn’t want to even be there in the first place was comical.  Hanging billboards across the city, and hanging a building size jersey covering a condo, to the whole #StayD12 thing. This was almost a disservice to how they do business over their franchise’s existence.  I mean, these are the Lakers!  They don’t go this route begging their free agents to stay, they expect them to stay & carry themselves in accordance to this. It was like watching someone you know who’s married and never shows any affection to his wife all of a sudden, on the threat that she might leave, starts buying her flowers, singing to her in restaurants, and posts only pictures of themselves on Facebook….. But you know it’s probably too late and he’s wasting his energy trying to keep her.  Just a sad, desperate state of affairs. Let’s come back to the Lakers in a moment.

Clipper Nation

The Los Angeles Clippers foundation got a lot stronger by adding Doc Rivers as head coach and in exchange for a 2015 first round pick, marking the first time in the team’s history that they actually paid top dollar for a head coach, while at the same time further stabilizing their culture, locking in Chris Paul to a long-term max contract, using Eric Bledsoe’s trade asset to fill some needs, and acquire, JJ Redick, Jared Dudley, & then signing/resigning Darren Collison, Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins respectively.  It’s probably the 1st time since the first two years after Magic retired, where the Clippers have a better team on paper and on the floor than the Lakers. It now becomes a potential haven where veteran free agents and buyout guys land to make a run to the title.  Now as long as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can get something out of their post games & add some consistent, go-to low post moves, this team will be set up to challenge for the NBA title for the next decade easily. Paul & Griffin now have the shooters and playmakers around them to give them even more room to operate, and with Rivers now at the helm, they will get a higher level of play calling that never took place with Vinny Del Negro there. If they can add another big man to their roster depth, it will make them that much better prepared for the postseason. With their past history, I can’t even believe I typed out this last paragraph about the Los Angeles Clippers, even if I’m sitting in the VIP Section of the Clipper Bandwagon. Every time they seemed like they were going to build off their success (Danny Manning led teams from 1991-1993, Elton Brand – Lamar Odom – Darius Miles teams from 2001-2003, and later Brand – Sam Cassell team from 2005-06 season), management would find a way to completely screw things up. Now they look like they’re going to be a factor for the foreseeable future. Will they be able to take over Los Angeles for real in the next few years? Depending on what Laker do in the next season or two, it’s actually possible.

Los Angeles Lakers, Part 2

My favorite part of the offseason so far: the official meeting between themselves and Howard, where Kobe Bryant advised Howard that if he stays, “he will be able to teach him to win championships.” Extending my marriage analogy even further, if the Lakers’ courting him was the, “I love you, let’s stay together….” stage, the Kobe Challenge was the equivalent of saying, “….but just so you know, I’m still drinking with the fellas every Saturday night. I’m not changing that for shit!” I don’t care how indecisive, clownish & immature Howard has been these last two years, if you were him, would you wanna stay after hearing that?!  It was understood that if Howard stayed, the goal is championship or bust every season. It goes without saying….but no superstar in their prime years wants to be told they will be an apprentice to winning. Shoot, even Kobe himself nine years before, didn’t want to be a sidekick anymore to Shaq during his free agency situation, and he came fresh off his 4th Finals appearance and 3 titles in a 5 year span. Now he expects Howard, who by all accounts, wasn’t crazy about playing with Kobe in the first place – during a phone conversation before the 2012 trade deadline, and there was talk of Orlando trading Howard to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum, Kobe told him he would only be the third option on offense, which of course, turned Dwight right off – to now fall in line to learn how to win titles for possibly as long as the next three years (according to Kobe’s desire to now play 3 more years)? It’s almost as if he wanted him gone & tried to scare him off with that comment. The funny thing is, I don’t even blame Kobe for doing this.

All year long he’s had courtside seats into Howard’s psyche, & judging from what he’s seen he has to know that Dwight cannot handle the media pressures, and handle the responsibility that comes with being the face of a franchise in a major media market. This may have been his way of testing him, to see how bad he really wanted to stay with the Lakers, but he had to know at the same time, by him offering up that challenge, Howard was not coming back. Even he himself would have walked away if someone told him that a few years ago, even if he never won anything. At the end of it all, Dwight going to Houston was the right move for all parties involved. Dwight ends up playing with a younger foundation of talent and a younger superstar in James Harden, and the Lakers don’t commit close to $120M to a guy that is more than likely isn’t improving more than what he already is at this point. Laker fans can take shots at him all he wants but trust me, you were not coming close to winning a title next year with this roster and Howard as your leading man.  Even next year as well with the whole roster cleared outside of Steve Nash’s contract in 2014, unless LeBron decides to leave Miami, which I can’t see him doing regardless if they Three-Peat next season, or not.

The good thing is, it does force the Lakers management to look at themselves in the mirror a little bit, and wonder why did they lose the first free agent superstar on their roster in their team’s history. They have to clean up their situation in house and figure out if someone like Jim Buss should really be running the franchise.  Dr. Jerry Buss did the right thing in passing the team off to his child, but you really have to wonder again if he gave it to the right one.  Jeannie Buss could have been the first female CEO in league history, and with her resume of working so closely with this team, I would like to think that she would not have screwed this up. Laker fans may have to wait a while for Jimmy to grow into this role as it stands right now, but in doing so, a few years might be wasted in the process than can set the franchise back for years to come.

Sideline Notes

First N.W.A., then Common, and now D12?  Ice Cube takes an intermission break during the Kings of the Mic Tour last week to share his thoughts here (warning: explicit content). Also, Kareem had some parting shots as well on the subject….. I understand the Kevin McHale perspective, he’s one of the best low post players who has ever lived as well as Dwight’s head coach who will be around him 24/7, but all of this Hakeem-Olajuwon-will-guide-his post-game talk, will he be doing this pro bono or something?  Or will he give Howard the hometown discount?  Last I checked, he wasn’t doing this these low post clinics for free…..

Last point on D12: I feel like this legendary big man mentoring thing is a little overblown for Howard. I think they can definitely share tips that will benefit him on both sides of the ball. Offensively, I’m not sold that McHale and Olajuwon will make his offensive game jump by leaps and bounds.  Here why: Both of these former players had something that Dwight never had, which is superior footwork AND a soft touch around and away from the basket that opened up so much areas for their offensive games. That’s very hard to teach. I’d be comfortable if he was getting these lessons heading into year 2, 3 and/or 4, not heading into year 10.  Is Howard going to add that touch now after playing more than 730+ games in the league? I’m going to say no….. Right now in the City of Toronto, there is no hotter region right now in the GTA than Brampton for world class talent.  First, the NBA showed love by drafting Thompson & Bennett in the top five in two of the last three drafts, and now Hov blesses Brampton???  On his new LP “Magna Carta Holy Grail” (which was expected to sell upwards of 525K in 1st week sales, not including the Samsung Deal that netted Jay-Z $5M), the song “Crown” was produced by Ebony “Wundergirl” Oshunrinde, the first female producer to be listed on a Jay-Z album.  In hip hop, Jigga has that golden touch almost similar to Oprah Winfrey, so I say from now congrats to her as her life will forever be changed….  It’s July, basketball/hockey season is over & we are about to get into the dog days of baseball. It can only mean one thing: Fantasy Football Prepwork season!  I’m sure it has already started in the league that I’m in.  Here’s my question: After losing 5 receivers from last season, one TE to multiple surgeries in the offseason and another TE who apparently has been living his life like Bishop from Juice off the field, where the hell do you draft Tom Brady? 5th? 6th??? Let me know your thoughts….. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Trayvon Martin.  For almost 17 months they have waited for some sort of justice in regards to their son being killed by neighborhood watchdog George Zimmerman.  To see that not only did Zimmerman – the only one with a weapon during the confrontation – become free of this crime, and also awarded his gun back, is not only disheartening to the Martin family and anyone who believes in the law, but says everything about the gun culture that resides in the USA. This situation might be worse that the Rodney King beatings because as heinous as that was, at least Rodney (an adult) lived to see another day.  Meanwhile someone killed an unarmed child and walks with no time served. It’s another chilling reminder to show just how far we still have to go as a society. #TrayvonMartin

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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The Tunnel & The Light

Wow!

Incredible!

My stomach’s queasy.

My head hurts.

I need a drink…..

These are the things that were rattling through my mind after watching the epic Game 6 nail biter between the Miami Heat & the San Antonio Spurs, the first truly great game of a weirdly played series. This is probably the weirdest NBA Finals that I can remember watching.  This NBA Finals resembles one of the Rocky boxing scenes where Rocky throws continuous flurries of jabs, and haymakers that all land because the boxer during the exchange forgets to try to defend any of the punches coming his way.  Only to then have it happen to him minutes later in the scene when it’s his turn to drop the gloves, and his opponent starts wailing on him.  The only thing that’s missing right now is Adrianne crying uncontrollably on Miami’s courtside seats beside the white haired woman.  The repeated blowouts, the lapses of concentration from both teams, the flurries of runs from both teams from game to game, if you didn’t know any better, you would think this pattern of win one-lose one is as choreographed and staged as those Rocky scenes before the director says cut.  Outside of Game 1, this has been an odd series to follow and watch… until Tuesday night.  With the stakes being high and everything on the line for both teams: from the way San Antonio controlled the game for three quarters, to the frantic Miami comeback and finish, it will go down as the best game of the year as well as one of the best NBA Finals game ever, as it’s destined to be replayed over and over again on NBA TV.  As we go into Game 7, here are a few things to recap:

THE SPURS BLEW A WASTED OPPORTUNITY.   More importantly, they wasted an absolute throwback game from Tim Duncan.  Back in his prime, around the time when he was collecting back to back MVPs & winning titles every other year, he would drop the hammer down during elimination games when his team needed it most.  As he gets older, there are only so many games like this that this 37-year old great has left in the reserves.  Sensing that he was so close to winning his 5th ring in his career, he came out and put on a clinic on the Heat as if he were going after his 1st, scoring 25 points in the first half alone.  The most he has scored in any half in his whole playoff career.  He raised the energy of his teammates, while killing the spirit of the Heat players and sucking the life out of the arena.  By the end of the 3rd quarter, it looked as if Miami was dazed and defeated.  Then in the 4th, Miami turned up the defence, and the Spurs were giving them back the ball like an undercooked Rib Eye to a waiter at a steakhouse. Before you knew it, the game was tied and it became a dogfight until the final buzzer of OT.  This was the time where the Spurs players were supposed to help Duncan out.  If they even took care of the ball half as bad as they did and made their free throws, we would be talking about how incredible Timmy’s Game 6 performance was, and trying to figure out where to rank it in historical context of the NBA Finals history.  If San Antonio loses this game tonight, this throwback game gets tossed on the closet floor like an old T-shirt & no one will remember it, which is a damn shame.  Duncan was supposed to leave American Airlines Arena early Wednesday morning with the Larry O’Brien trophy and possibly his 4th NBA Finals MVP.  Instead, they face the task of being the first team since the 1978 Washington Bullets to win a Game 7 NBA Finals on the road.  I’m still shaking my head here….

LEBRON’S BAD/GREAT GAME.   Years from now we’ll look at the stats of the game & say, “Wow, LeBron really came through with that triple double”, or “King James really owned that game”, but anyone watching that game was wondering if he was slowly becoming undone by the pressure of having their backs against the wall.  Taking bad shots and still looking to distribute the ball even when the Spurs had their foot on his team’s throat, it took his headband getting knocked off for him to unleash all of his athletic talents on the floor.  Taking over the 4th quarter with 18 points and imposing his effort and will on the game, the Heat completed their maniacal comeback and had a 3 point lead with less than 90 seconds to play……then Tony Parker drained that 3 in his face to tie the game.  All of a sudden, LeBron made two critical mistakes, Parker capitalized, & the Spurs were up by five.  Had it not been for Ray Allen’s beautiful 3 of his own to tie the game at 95, this would have haunted LeBron’s offseason as much as when he lost to the Mavericks two years ago.  If you compared him to Duncan through three quarters, Duncan was leaving everything on the floor while LeBron looked like he was coasting through a game vs. the Bobcats in January.  When someone is as good as he is, shouldn’t we know it at all times?  This is the 3rd time in 4 years that he looked as if his brain was subconsciously checking out during an elimination game where his team was down in the series.  Call me spoiled by the Bird/Magic/Jordan era that I grew up in, but I’d like to never question the mindset of the best player in the league during one of his biggest moments.  Once you enter those prime years as the best player in the league, those moments cannot be wasted by these things.  Not when you’re staking your claim alongside the all-time greats.  Even if he’s missing shots, we should be leaving the game saying, “Man, he was really off tonight”, instead of thinking, “Is he checking out again”???  Having a conversation with my friend Les last night, he said it best:  “It’s almost as if LeBron needs the perfect circumstances around him to get the optimal performance out of himself”.  Right opponent, right situation depending on where they are in the series, he will dominate & almost eclipse that game itself like the sun.  If his team is down in an elimination game and the supreme pressure is on him, you can see that weary signature look on his face. When the pressure hits like it did late in Game 6, you can almost see the wires frying in his head.   It’s a harsh reality for him (almost unfair), but when you win 4 MVP’s and you’re in the prime of your career surrounded by two All Stars in Wade & Bosh, that expectation comes with the territory.

WHY CRAWFORD?  The NBA for years have been fighting the image of them fixing games or having conspiracy-like overtones surrounding their playoff games, with everything coming to an apex when the Tim Donahy scandal happened.  So why would the NBA assign Joey Crawford, the NBA referee with the most negative personal history against the Spurs to ref such a pivotal game?  Why even entertain the thought of putting him out there?  I mean, it’s not exactly a secret that the Spurs have past issues with Crawford.  I don’t care if he’s in the Finals rotation, I’m almost positive they could have gotten another competent referee to ref Game 6.  I’m not saying he affected the outcome of the game & I don’t blame him for the Spurs giving up the victory Tuesday night, but by doing this, you understand why the conspiracy theorists continue to come out the woodworks.  Anyhow he refs Game 7…..

SIDELINE NOTES

The funny thing about this series is that after the excitement of Game 6, and the generating buzz of a Finals Game 7, it might not even match the buzz created by Jay-Z & Samsung during Game 5, taking over the whole commercial block between the end of the 2nd Quarter and the Halftime show.  The announcement of his new LP, Magna Carta Holy Grailwas in short, an incredible marketing ploy for both parties.  Samsung found an innovative way to promote their phones, tablets, and apps, while Hov started an innovative buzz on his new LP, while at the same time going platinum before his LP touched a shelf or an online store.  Between this & his simmering takeover of the Sports Agency world, he is redefining the game on how to do business in music and sports.  You can read about the Samsung deal here…..  8 game winning streak huh?  Can the Blue Jays come back to take one of the wild card spots?  It’s June, it’s not too late, but they have to continue to play as well on the field as they apparently did in the offseason…..  I like the move of Jason Kidd becoming a head coach.  I think he has a great basketball mind as one of the best point guards to ever play in the NBA.  As long as he has the right assistant coaches surrounding him, he can definitely make this work to his favor…. if he was coaching The Raptors.  For a playoff team with title aspirations in the next two to three years in Brooklyn, this was the wrong move.  Lionel Hollins or George Karl gets hired to coach this team?  I’m fine with this. I feel like this was a splashy move to appease the owner as well as the media, but they should only be worried about getting wins, not making publicity wins in the New York market…..

My Game 7 prediction I’ll stick with my original prediction & say the Heat win tonight, and by 10+ points.  I don’t see how the Spurs come back & take Game 7 after what happened on Tuesday, no matter how much it bucks the trend that no team has won 2 straight games. It’s extremely hard to win a Finals Game 7 on the road. IF by miracle or prayer Tim Duncan repeats his Game 6 performance, then it will be a much closer game. The crowd’s energy & the calls will be on the Heat’s side, & by midnight, they should be popping bottles. Hopefully, we don’t get another version of this.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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NBA Finals Breakdown (Part 2)

CLICK HERE TO READ PART ONE.

In Part 2 of today’s post, I’m going to give a quick breakdown of the positional matchups in the NBA Finals series between the San Antonio Spurs and The Miami Heat with a boxing-style score count. Yes, inventive I know!

POINT GUARD

Mario Chalmers vs. Tony Parker

2013 Playoff Stats: 

Chalmers: 8.9 PPG // 2.1 RPG // 3.5 APG // 77.5% FT // 30% 3P // 9.62 EFF Rating

Parker     : 23 PPG // 3.9 RPG // 7.2 ASG // 86.7% FT // 37.5% 3P // 21.8 EFF

Doesn’t seem fair does it?

Chalmers is going up against a point guard that Charles Barkley refers to as the best PG in the NBA.  I’m not 100% sure I agree with it, but by far he is the most underappreciated.  Most people don’t have him ranked in their top 5 PG list much less the top 3 (where he should be ranked). He’s the best player on the best team in the West and has been for at least the last two seasons, officially taking the reins from Tim Duncan & Manu Ginobili.  Chalmers & Norris Cole will take turns (as well as LeBron for small stretches) trying to corral Parker, as well as trying to make open jumpers & threes to offset the damage Parker will do to them on the other end of the floor.  This matchup can really hurt the Heat here, they might need to throw constant double teams (& possibly holy water) & hope he turns the ball over.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 8 

SHOOTING GUARD

Dwyane Wade vs. Danny Green 

Wade: 14.1 PPG // 4.9 RPG // 4.9 APG // 44% FG // 74% FT // 25% 3P

Green:  9.6 PPG // 4.1 RPG // 1.9 APG // 45% FG // 71% FT // 43% 3P

** Disclaimer – This comparison is about Wade, the player in this playoffs, not the normal, healthier version. **

In most cases, Wade would dominate this matchup on a “Hakeem on Robinson” type level, but with his knees betraying him, playoff inconsistency, & struggling to fully embrace the Robin costume (let’s face it, they don’t even talk about Wade anymore when the Heat’s name comes up, & he ran Miami for years.  He’s only 31, but he’s slowly coming out of his prime.  It’s a hard adjustment).  This matchup is a little closer than you think.  Green’s not going to match up with him scoring wise, but defensively he’s going to pester Wade for stretches at a time.  The key to this matchup is for Wade to keep moving without the ball, make quick decisions, and be aggressively smart to get Green & his teammates in foul trouble. But will we even see the old Wade this series?  If so, then this series might be done a lot faster than most imagined.  The SG spot may be the most important matchup in the next two weeks to be honest, especially when a well-rested Manu Ginobili enters the game.  I actually can’t wait for him to go against Wade for seven games, in all their elite level, Euro-stepping glory.  I’m going to lean towards Wade here, “barely”, but I think he might have just enough impactful moments to win this matchup here…Just enough.

Score: Heat 10, Spurs 9

SMALL FORWARD

LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard 

James: 26.2 PPG // 7.3 RPG // 6.4 ASG // 51.4% FG // 77.2% FT // 38.7% 3P

Leonard: 13 PPG // 8 RPG // 1.1 ASG // 56.5% FG // 59.4% FT // 41.7% 3P

Nothing to see here, keep it moving and please use the side exits…..

……..I like Leonard,  I think he is a really solid player with a bright future.  However, asking someone to guard a 4-time MVP in the prime of his career, carving out his legacy along the very best players in NBA history, while also giving up 30+ pounds to the most physically imposing, small forward the game has ever seen, is too much to ask of anyone much less a second year player. NEXT! 

Score: Heat 10, Miami 7

POWER FORWARD

Chris Bosh vs Tim Duncan 

Bosh: 12.3 PPG // 6.6 RPG // 1.2 APG // 45.7% FG // 73.3% FT // 48.4% 3P

Duncan: 17.8 PPG // 9.2 RPG // 2.1 APG // 46% FG // 79.7% FT // 1.7 BPG

As much as people like to kill Bosh for his photo-bombing awareness, his ability to get clowned relentlessly for being himself, and everything else in between, he’s still an 8-time All Star who is very likely on the path to the Hall of Fame (sorry, it’s true), especially if he can add two more rings &/or 2-3 more All Star bids to his resume.  However, he is entering the series in a slump, averaging less than 10 points in the last 4 straight games. What’s the worst way to try to break a slump?  Facing off against Tim Duncan in a seven game series.  His focus on taking away the things that you love to do – like he did against Zach Randolph in the Western Conference Finals – is almost unprecedented.  We know the old story: he’s boring to watch, his game puts people to sleep, but the consistency of his greatness is almost unmatched.  I can throw all the stats out at you, but this may be my favorite one yet:  in his rookie year at age 21, he made the All-NBA First Team.  Sixteen years later at age 37, he made the All-NBA First Team.  Has that even happened before???? He sees the end coming soon, but with the way Roy Hibbert look like Mikan, Wilt, & Bill Russell all rolled into one against Miami, I can’t see how he doesn’t do similar damage to them.  He’s as smart mentally as Hibbert is physically imposing. I expect to see him at the line a lot, getting the Heat’s big men to use up most of their 6 fouls each.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 9

CENTER

Udonis Haslem vs. Tiago Splitter 

Haslem: 6.3 PPG // 3.9 RPG // 0.9 SPG // 61% FG // 53.8% FT

Splitter: 6.8 PPG // 3.7 RPG // 1.8BPG // 68.2% FG // 78.3% FT

Both Haslem and Splitter are role playing big men, who make their bones playing off of their superstar teammates by collecting garbage points, finishing dump off passes, setting solid screens off the pick and roll, and playing tough defense.  They do it with slightly different styles, but both get the job done.  It’s an even matchup but I give the slight edge to Haslem.  Playing in his 4th Finals will make him more well-adjusted to the whole experience then a young player like Splitter, I’m expecting him to make less mistakes as the series prolongs.

Score: Heat 10, Spurs 9

BENCH

Both teams have a pretty solid bench, Miami: Allen, Birdman, Battier, Miller, Cole, Anthony; Spurs: Ginobilli, Diaw, Bonner, Neal, Cory Joseph. For Miami, Allen, Battier, & Miller MUST make their open shots here.  They struggled the whole Pacer series, and versus a team who averaged the 5th most bench points in the league, they will quickly fall behind if this happens again.  The Spurs have been more consistent out of the two teams throughout the playoffs, so the needle tilts to their side on this one.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 9

COACHING

Both coaching staff in my opinion are the best in the game today.  Eric Spoelstra doesn’t get enough credit for coaching the team this season.  27–game winning streaks doesn’t just happen because you roll out the balls to your great players, then sit back, & enjoy the show.  A lot of it involves having your players dedicated to the system, while keeping them motivated for perfection in every game.  He built the system around the unique talents of his best player while making sure Wade & Bosh were having a major impact.  He brought a guy off the street (Birdman) and blended him in almost seamlessly. But this will be his biggest test, matching Xs & Os with Gregg Popovich, a legendary coach who’s 4-0 in the NBA Finals…… who has now had 10 days to plan for this series.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 9

PREDICTION

Game 1 is probably the most critical; a team that rests this long against the Spurs usually comes out rusty.  While a team like the Heat coming off of a grueling series, will still be in game-time rhythm.  If the Spurs can shake off the rust & steal this game, it can potentially be a big blow to the Heat, as the Spurs will only get sharper as the series progresses.  Ultimately, I’m going with the Heat in 7 because they have the trump card in James, who as I mentioned before, is by far the best player in the NBA playing at his absolute peak, and in basketball, that counts for a lot. His game almost has no flaws right now, and having that specimen on your team is like having a universal key that can open any door in the building.  As long as he’s constantly attacking this defense and causing problems in the paint with his scoring and playmaking, it will eventually wear the Spurs down…. even if they only wear down in Game 7.

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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Game 7 & Finals Breakdown

After a long, grueling, NBA playoff season that had all the impact-changing injuries (ie. Patrick Beverley on Russell Westbrook), heroic moments, choke jobs, reputations elevated (ie. Steph Curry, Paul George) and devalued (Hello Dwight & Blake!), we finally come down to the NBA Finals starting tonight between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, where as much as seven potential Hall of Famers will battle it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Before I give out the breakdown of the Finals boxing-match style, I feel like we have to address what happened earlier this week first. Mainly…..

……what the hell happened to the Indiana Pacers in Game 7?! First, let’s give credit to the Heat for the phenomenal defense they played, specifically in the second quarter, when they went on a 33 – 16 run to change the course of the game and choke the life out of the Pacers at that point. Now, I understand that Miami, when their “Big 3” are playing aggressively, are the best team rolling in the NBA, so the viewpoint of the Pacers losing to a better team isn’t lost on me. To add to that, Indiana doesn’t have that player right now that can put a team on his back & rally from a 15-point deficit. But Game 7 isn’t just about talent alone. More than anything, it’s about imposing your will on another team, giving your best effort & leaving your heart & soul in between the lines. The Pacers showed these traits in the first six games of this series, basically battling Miami to a standstill. When Game 7 came around however, they left all of those on the team plane. After dominating the boards the entire series, they were out-rebounded by Miami 43-36 (15-8 on the offensive boards), who made more free throws (33) than Indiana attempted (20), while turning over the ball 21 times before losing 99 – 76. The way they ended off the series left you strangely bitter, almost like the first time you watched The Departed. Great movie, kept you riveted the entire time before they mailed in the last 20 minutes & you ended up leaving the theater wanting to punch something.

As far the Pacers future is concerned, their future seems pretty bright. As long as they can resign David West (which by all accounts, wants to come back), George & Roy Hibbert can keep developing & improving on their talents, either sign a legitimate point guard or send George Hill & D.J. Augustin to a Five-Star like summer camp to learn how to handle the ball in tight situations, they should be able to contend again. Here’s the thing though: the future isn’t guaranteed. Everyone feels like Miami is going to break up the team in 2014, and they might. But what if they find a loophole that keeps them contending for the rest of LeBron’s prime years? Don’t forget, Derrick Rose is coming back and adding him alone makes Chicago 15 wins better at least. Depending on the coach they hire (especially with George Karl now on the market), Brooklyn might find that edge to compete with the contenders and start to mirror the city’s swagger. If Atlanta does the unthinkable, and lands Chris Paul and Dwight Howard with their cap space to put alongside Al Horford, that will change the landscape of the Eastern conference. We just don’t know what the future holds. Everyone thought Shaq & Penny would control the rest of the 90’s in the East; they also thought the same thing about Gary Payton & Shawn Kemp in Seattle. We also thought once that Vince & TMac would rule the NBA from Toronto together, or Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson’s futures would be bright in Milwaukee; or Jermaine O’Neal/Ron Artest-led Pacers, or 50 Cent, the Game & the rest of G-Unit (just making sure you’re paying attention), and every other young squad with a ton of potential who we thought would eventually win for years and win a title. We just don’t know for sure, & that’s why when Game 7’s comes along, you have to leave everything on the floor. Because when you do & the game happens to be close, you just never know. Let’s hope Indiana doesn’t look back at this game in a few years and wonder what might have been, and hopefully they’ll use this last series as motivation to get over the hump.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2.

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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