The In-Jury’s Out: Kobe Bryant & Derrick Rose

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Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose are two of the most exciting players the NBA has to offer. Kobe has been the face of the NBA for years, especially  after  Michael Jordan retired. Rose is a rising star in the place where Jordan made basketball relevant,  Chicago. However, these stars have been dealt tough obstacles to overcome in their careers with brutal injuries. Kobe, on the back end of his career, suffered a torn  Achilles injury at the end of last season. Rose, whose career is blossoming, tore his ACL in a playoff game two seasons ago and had to miss the entire 2012-13 season. Without these superstars, their teams are helpless and irrelevant. Without these superstars, the NBA is without two key franchises to its growing brand.

Two seasons ago Rose and the Bulls were positioned to challenge the Miami Heat when Rose injured himself in the first round of the playoffs against the 76ers. Last year, to the dismay of all NBA and Bulls fans, Rose sat out the entire year including the playoffs. The team still had Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, but no one ever could take it  seriously as a contender. The Bulls  even matched up against the Heat in the playoffs and stole Game 1 in Miami, before they proceeded to be eliminated. You know you have come to desperate measures when the most exciting guy on your team is 5 foot 7 and that’s being generous. Nate Robinson provided a spark for the Bulls, but a spark that size is not a good recipe for success.

With Rose returning this year, the excitement and expectations are back in Chicago. Through ten games, they are 6-4 and have handed the Pacers their only loss of the season. However, Rose has struggled a bit and seems rusty. This is nothing surprising, given the injury he endured, and he should become stronger as the season progresses along. Rose wasn’t built in a day. He has hit a game winning shot against the Knicks and made some explosive plays that would make Wyle E. Coyote say, “Wow! That’s explosive.” His athleticism is unprecedented for a point guard and his ability to attack the hoop is a spectacle to watch. The Heat and Pacers should take notice.rose2

Bryant tore his Achilles tendon last year, and then tore all hope from every Laker fan. Since the Kobe-Shaq era ended, there has arguably been no player more important to his team’s success then Bryant. He is the brains, heart and courage of the team as he leads his players down the purple and yellow brick road. Just like the Bulls last year, the Lakers — barely — made the playoffs, but no one could even consider picking them to advance without the Black Mamba. The San Antonio Spurs swept the Lakers like a pushbroom after a garage sale.  Dwight Howard is no Kobe, not even close.

Even with Dwight, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, the Lakers looked like a lottery team without Kobe. We all know how determined Kobe is to return quickly this year. He has been able to overcome injuries throughout his career like he was a Terminator Machine. Entering his 18th season, Kobe faces his most serious injury ever, and many experts out there are saying he is done and will never be the same. Maybe this is a reality Laker fans must face. Maybe not. The Laker organization has money saved up to rake in some top free agents next season.  Names like LeBron and Carmelo Anthony come to mind. Before this bridge gets crossed, it must be seen how Kobe plays when he returns. And his team desperately needs him.

The Lakers version of Robinson this year has been Steve Blake. Or as they call him, the “White Mamba.” The White Mamba has hit a game-winning three pointer on the road against theRockets this year, but more often than not, the Lakers have been mediocre and inconsistent. They have indeed shown glimpses of greatness from a bunch of young talent, but they seem to only play like this against lowly teams. Their leading scorer is averaging 13 points a game. Kobe can put that up in a quarter, maybe half a quarter.

The Los Angeles Lakers are very important to the NBA. Having won 16 titles, the NBA does well when the Lakers are doing well. The Lakers cannot do well without Kobe. It’s like watching the Dark Knight without seeing Batman in any of the movie. It is like trying to win in chess without your queen. Having a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich is not the same without the Peanut Butter. And the Lakers as just a jelly sandwich are going nowhere. Soggy. Kobe’s team needs him, and he needs his team. The Lakers and the NBA anxiously anticipate the Mamba’s return, and hope he can overcome the toughest injury out there to flourish again on the court.

Kobe BryantThe Lakers and Bulls are more than capable of challenging for a championship this year. Most would agree that Bulls roster is more primed for a playoff run, but if Lakers can get healthy, you never know. The West is very much up for grabs. The success of the Bulls and Lakers fortunately and unfortunately is highly dependent on one player. With  Rose, the Bulls have shown this year that they are a force to be reckoned with even a matador would be scared of. Without him, there is no optimism or chance in Chicago. In LA, a new era of mediocrity is moving in quickly, with Kobe  as the last hope to restore some order to Staples Center. The Lakers without Kobe are only a contender for a lottery pick.

It remains to be seen if the Bulls and Rose bloom throughout the year, prepping for a playoff run to challenge the Heat and Pacers. If Rose does not return to form, it will  surely be only a two-team race to the NBA Finals. The Lakers need to hang in there until Kobe gets back. Even at this stage of his career, I am very confident Kobe can resume playing at a high level. How high? This is the most important question of the year. The Lakers, the NBA and this NBA fan are hoping the Black Mamba has some venom left.

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Paul Culley
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THE “NEW” QB CONTROVERSY (PART 1, ALEX)

doubleqb

The Cover 4.com presents you with THE “NEW” QB CONTROVERSY (PART 1, ALEX)! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

An uneducated 49ers fan thinks that the team should have kept Alex Smith because they believe he’s a better quarterback and one that wins games. This same fan has the idea that Colin Kaepernick sucks and his success last year was a fluke.

An unrealistic 49ers fan thinks the opposite ─ although Kaepernick hasn’t looked all that great this year, Smith contributed nothing to the 49ers.

These two schools of though sum up what some 49ers fans believe about the current quarterback situation.  Both of these statements couldn’t be further from reality.

The 

Slow (and painful) Rise

Smith had not lived up to the expectations of being a No. 1 overall draft pick, at least not up until a couple years ago.  In 2011, he began to play more like a first-round pick.  He took the Niners to the 2011 NFC Championship. While San Francisco eventually lost to the Giants in the NFC Championship, the 49ers got to that game after a last-minute scoring drive against the Saints in the week before. That drive, and the ones before it in that crazy fourth quarter, was orchestrated by none other than Smith.  He did his best ‘Joe Cool” impression in that game and in many other games that season.  He was 50 percent  of the way to bound-to-be historic “The Catch 3.″

Jim Harbaugh turned Smith into the quarterback he is today, but Smith still had to become conformable in his role.  There is no arguing that he is a game manager.  This particular game manager led his team to multiple victories in the Harbaugh era.  He won a number of games for the Red and Gold.  He never gave up on the organization or the fanbase that gave him so much hatred at times.

To the Bench He Goes

In 2012, Smith looked primed to manage his team all the way to the Super Bowl.  The team started out great with him at the helm.  They were winning games and Smith was doing what he had to do to win.  Then injury struck Smith in the middle of the season and then Kaepernick made his mark.  The infamous “hot-hand” Harbaugh debacle began.

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Though Smith was healthy after a couple weeks, Kaepnerick obviously had the “hot-hand”.  Whether this was simply an opportunity for Harbaugh to make Kaepnerick the new starter or Harbaugh truly believed he was going to go back to Smith eventually, Kaepernick took over the starting spot.

Some fans that already disliked Smith, and many did, including me, (though I did start to like him a lot more during the 2011 season) were pumped that Kaepnerick was the new starter.  He possessed so much of the big play ability that the Niners have lacked in a quarterback since Jeff Garcia (Wow, did I just credit Garcia?)  Kaepnerick was more exciting than Smith, he seemed to have a better upside, and hell, he was a fresh face.

Because of the unwritten rule that no one should lose a starting position due to injury, you would think

that Smith would be extremely bitter and unresponsive to the coaches and players.  That was not the case at all.

Smith was one of the most helpful coaches that Kaepnerick had during his run to the Super Bowl.  If you look at old game film from last year, Smith was constantly talking with Kaepnerick.  He was pointing out coverages and shifts, helping him with plays and getting him to properly read the defense.  Smith was the reason Kaepnerick grew into the quarterback that he became.  Harbaugh knew it and acknowledged it, and so has Kaepnerick.

Many players would have turned a cold shoulder.  Smith kept preaching that winning is what matters, and Kaepnerick has the tools to add to the win column.

For this reason alone, I have to say that Smith showed so much class.  He helped the 49ers and Kaepernick get to the Super Bowl.  He showed a ton of respect for the organization and Harbaugh’s decision to place him on the bench.  We all know the rest of the story.  Smith is a Chief now, and Kaepnerick isn’t looking like a top-five quarterback this year.

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Final Note

Smith gave it 100 percent in his time with the 49ers.  He never gave up and he always tried to make the team better.  He took all the flak from the fans and still remained positive.  Then when his time was up, he respectfully and enthusiastically helped Kaepernick in his transition to become a starting NFL quarterback.

Now that he is gone, 49ers fans should have no true reason to hate Smith.  He always tried to make his team and himself better, even when he had no support.  He helped the 49ers win the games they won, period.

For that reason, the hate toward Smith is completely unwarranted now that he is the quarterback of the past for the Niners. I wish him good luck with the Chiefs, unless of course they make it to the Super Bowl against the Niners.

p.s. If the Chiefs win eight or more games, the Niners get a second round pick, so it is a good thing they are winning.

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Decker Cady
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Projecting the USMNT 23-Man Roster for WC 2014

USMNT Lineup vs Mexico on September 10. Will all 11 be on the squad for Brazil 2014?

lineup pre-mexico game

The Cover 4.com presents you with the Projecting the USMNT 23-Man Roster for WC 2014! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

The World Cup is still many months away, with more than half of the field of 32 yet to be finalized. The United States, however, is one of the few teams who have cemented their place in Brazil next summer. Now that qualification is assured, the guessing game begins: Who will be on Jürgen Klinsmann’s 23-man roster when the World Cup rolls around next June?

            Predictions and projections this far in advance may be difficult, with changes in form and injuries forcing adjustments, but The Cover 4 is committed to keeping you up to date on who we believe are the best 23 players available and eligible to wear a United States jersey for the World’s greatest spectacle. From now until June, we will regularly predict that final roster and update you, our beloved readers, on who is tearing it up overseas that you may not know about, as well as any injury news that could create a spot for potential fringe players. In addition to this, we will highlight each positional battle equipping you with as much knowledge as possible leading up to Klinsmann’s final announcement next May.

            So without further delay, here is the first Cover 4 roster prediction for the United States Men’s National Team leading up to the 2014 World Cup:

 

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/England), Tim Howard (Everton/England), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake/MLS)

Outside Defenders (4): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/Mexico), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana/Mexico), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96/Germany), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC/MLS)

Center Defenders (5): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City/MLS), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Omar González (Los Angeles Galaxy/MLS), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes/MLS)

Outside Midfielders (3): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/France), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/Germany), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City/MLS)

Center Midfielders (4): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake/MLS), Michael Bradley (AS Roma/Italy), Jermaine Jones (Schalke/Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/Belgium)

Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/England), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC/MLS), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy/MLS), Aron Jóhannsson (AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands)

            A couple notes for clarification before defending the selections: Geoff Cameron is listed as a center defender but has also been used in center midfield and right back, so consider him under all three of those positions. Fabian Johnson has also played outside defender but Klinsmann’s preference is to play him as a left wing so that’s where we put him. Similarly with DaMarcus Beasley who has been a regular at left back for Klinsmann but plays left wing for Puebla in Mexico, we went with where he plays most for the National team. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are listed as forwards, though one or the other could line up behind Altidore while the other moves to the right wing as we have seen when Klinsmann shifts to a 4-4-2.

Now to the real business of explaining some selections, the first thing to address: Steve Cherundolo is projected in this lineup under the assumption he will finally be healthy by next June. He has struggled with injuries for the past several months and is currently sidelined following another knee surgery. However, since no one has stepped up and solidified themselves in his place, he will remain the projected starter at right back. Brad Evans has been the best of the replacements, but a change in form could see the likes of Timothy Chandler or Michael Parkhurst step up and take a spot.

            German-American sensation John Brooks may also surprise some with his inclusion here as a center defender given his age and lack of international experience. With as much as Klinsmann has fought for him to commit his future to the US, it would be a crime for Klinsmann to leave him out this time around. Don’t be surprised to see Brooks on the field in one of the next two World Cup Qualifying matches that would permanently cap-tie him to the US, assuming he’s healthy, after leaving a recent match for his club early due to injury. He is also the top-rated defender on his team according to one reliable German football site that tracks and evaluates Bundesliga players, so expect to see him next summer in Brazil.

            Some of you may also wonder where Mix Diskerud and Jose Torres are on this list, who were regulars for Klinsmann this summer during the Gold Cup. Both of those players deserve to be on the team, especially given Diskerud’s performance as a substitute against Mexico, but there are only so many places. Sacha Kljestan is on this team right now because he has been absolutely on fire for Anderlecht in Belgium scoring goals at an incredible rate, so he gets the nod over Diskerud, though he has been in good form for Rosenborg in Norway as well. However, we saw Kyle Beckerman effectively used as a replacement for Michael Bradley in the Mexico game, and that performance combined with Klinsmann’s confidence in him give him preference over Diskerud or Torres, while Kljestan’s ability to score goals gives him the edge in the final spot there.

            Few would argue with Alejandro Bedoya, Fabian Johnson, and Graham Zusi on the wings. Bedoya has been a regular starter for Nantes and played well when he got his chance against Mexico, while Zusi has proven himself more than capable in prior World Cup Qualifiers despite struggling against Costa Rica. Brek Shea is currently on the shelf for Stoke City after picking up an ugly leg injury during a preseason friendly, and was not overly impressive during the Gold Cup, though he could challenge for a spot when healthy and at his best.

            The final tough decision came at forward. Both Terrence Boyd and Aron Jóhannsson are unstoppable right now for their club teams. Boyd has been attracting serious attention playing for Rapid Vienna in Austria, scoring 22 goals in 51 appearances since joining the club last year, and has teams like Lazio (Italy) and West Ham (England) hungry to add him during the January transfer period. Jóhannsson has been equally impressive with nine goals in 12 games so far this season for his club including a hat trick in the team’s Domestic Cup game this week to lead AZ Alkmaar to victory in extra time.

            For the first time in recent memory, the United States has a good problem to have: They have several quality players to choose from and depth at numerous positions. As the year goes on, it will be important to track who is getting healthy and who is playing well at the right time. A player on a hot streak is extremely dangerous in tournaments, especially when it is the World Cup, so an in-form player may get chosen over a more talented player that is out of form.

Be sure to check back with the Cover 4 as we continually update this squad list and analyze the positional battles over the coming weeks and months, and leave comments on who you feel we left off the list that should be on, as well as who you think should not be on the team that we have projected a spot to, and begin to catch World Cup fever with us!

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David Oleson
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The Cover 4 Fantasy Football: Time to win your league

070831015358_Fantasy Football

Here at The Cover 4 we pride ourselves on the fact our primary goal isn’t to provide readers with a daily update on the underwear Tim Tebow has decided to roll with that particular day.  Nor do we spend time focusing on the recession of LeBron’s hairline.  We don’t care that Brett Favre texted a picture of his man region to an attractive lady reporter, in fact I think I speak for everyone here at The Cover 4 when I say I hope it worked out for him (it didn’t).  It is my honor to apply this philosophy to fantasy sports.  I’m from Boston, I promise to work “wicked hahd.”

With the start of the 2013 NFL season, fantasy owners everywhere are discussing projections and draft strategies religiously.  At this point drafts are taking place and it’s the perfect time.  The third weekend of preseason games is prime for draft day.  Imagine if you drafted before the first game of the preseason and wound up with Danario Alexander, an exciting sleeper option at WR a few weeks ago, only to learn he suffered an ACL tear and his season is over.

We promise not to list 200 players and call it a day.  Instead we’d like to offer a more in-depth approach to preparing for your draft.  You can expect round-by-round pointers and analysis as well as a very important undervalued and overvalued player portion ensuring you fully understand what you’re paying for and whether it’s worth it.  Each player you add to your team costs a draft pick, so spend wisely fellas. (To all female fantasy football owners, we love you, but you are a precious few.  Call me.)

                I want to quickly touch on scoring settings.  Please don’t get cute and go with two QB leagues or have passing TDs earn you six points each.  The traditional PPR (point per reception) scoring settings are in place for a reason.  They offer the most realistic experience possible.  Fantasy owners have full reign over their respective teams.  You are Jerry Jones or Bill Belichick to your team.  When you win, you get the credit. When you lose, you are to blame.  At least have it be as real as possible.  Fantasy football has become a way of life, a hobby to some, an investment to others.  Six points per passing TD makes Drew Brees a fire-breathing dragon who needs be the first overall pick in every draft, whereas four points levels the playing field considering QBs touch the ball on every offensive play. These “cute” leagues as I have become accustomed to calling them are the Miller Lite or Natural Ice of fantasy football.  They’re light, cheap, and no matter what anyone says, they are not enjoyable.  The traditional PPR is your craft beer. It’s full bodied, packs a punch, just a beautiful thing.  It only takes one to have you hooked.  Your taste is altered, your perception is changed.  Everything not is not that simply falls short. Take my word for it and give in to the temptation.  You’ll probably lose your marriage over it.  It’s perfect.

                In the weeks leading up to your draft you are a man on a mission.  This season you’re winning the money, the bragging rights, the shiva, whatever the prize may be, this is the year you are taking it.  During the season each week brings the latest story, a tragic injury placing you a RB short of two full-time starters or a welcomed injury where all of a sudden a RB who hasn’t left your bench all year is now the guy getting all the carries on his team.  Players come out of nowhere and it’s a race to the waiver wire to bid on an undrafted free agent.  Maybe your backup QB is facing the worst passing defense in the league and you’re pondering starting him over your mainstay who’s been great for you all year.  So many possible circumstances, so many possible outcomes, you don’t want to be kicking yourself after the draft or after you started a WR who didn’t end up playing.

Cover 4 will have you feeling confident going into your draft and sure of your weekly lineup adjustments.  That’s why we’re here.  That’s why a lot of services are here.  So far no one has separated themselves from the pack.  It’s all the same.  There isn’t a website that has truly broken down the draft process and showed you recommended strategies bringing you maximum values with all your picks.  We refuse to rank players and not explain why.  We refuse to tell you a player is a sleeper and have him cost you a fourth-round pick.  You will not be wasting your third pick on a “sleeper.”  You want to score more points than the other guy, and you want to do it every week.  We’re the PPR league, we’re the craft beer.  Cover 4 is going to level the playing field.  We’re going to change your perception.  The 2013 NFL season is here gentlemen, another year of epic fantasy football action. Let’s go.

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Christian Stinchfield
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August 26, 2013

The Cover 4 presents you another installment of The Sound Off by Long Island Sound…

Let us know what you think!

 

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