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

kobe1

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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Dodger That: Los Angeles setting the MLB on Fire

Philadelphia Phillies v Los Angeles Dodgers

In Los Angeles, most sports fans only bleed one color, purple and gold. The Lakers have won the most championships and attracted the most media attention. The celebrities want to be seen at StaplesCenter. People sometimes ask the Laker fans for autographs. However, times are changing in La La Land. The Los Angeles Dodgers are taking LA and the rest of Major League Baseball by storm. After a slow start, they are flaming hot and seem to be winning almost every game they play.

The Dodgers are not only really good, but they are very fun and exciting to watch. They are even making Vin Scully feel young again. Since June 22, they are 46-10 and an outstanding 26-5 since the All-Star break (as of August 24). Those numbers are remarkable when you realize a team plays 162 games in a season. All they do is win. You cannot pinpoint one reason, but let’s examine a couple why the Dodgers have been playing like the 1920s New York Yankees.

Fresh Blood. If you had to pick one player for this turnaround, the choice is easy – it’s Yasiel Puig. He was called up in June, and soon thereafter, the Dodgers began their unprecedented streak. Puig, an electric player from Cuba, has more spark than a road flare on the field. He has speed, power and charisma. His attitude seems to carry the team like Ray Lewis did for the Ravens. His presence rejuvenated the team and gave it a shot to the heart for a team that looked poised for an underachieving season (See the Los Angeles Angels). Puig has the “juice,” the pizzazz that motivates his players and inspires the fans.

For years, Clayton Kershaw has been the bonafide ace of the Dodgers, and arguably the best pitcher in baseball. This year, he finally has some help. Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu has made an international splash to the team similar to what Hideo Nomo did in the mid-‘90s. Zack Greinke, who slightly underachieved in Milwaukee, has regained his form and is pitching like he did when he was a perennial Cy Young candidate in Kansas City. Greinke also brings some fire to the club. Earlier in the year, he ignited a brawl with Carlos Quentin and the Padres, and as a result, suffered a broken collarbone. He missed six weeks, but it looks like it has taken a positive effect on the time in the long haul. They traded for Miami’s Ricky Nolasco, who on any given night can pitch a shutout. And left-hander Chris Capuano is a legitimate No. 5 starter for this squad.

They start the game with studs and end the game with studs. The bullpen is relentless, collecting many strikeouts and broken bats. Kenley Jansen is emerging as the next Eric Gagne, minus the goofy goggles. Bottom line is they have the best pitching in baseball and their staff seems very similar to the Phillies and Giants teams that won three of the last five World Series. Their hitting is potent, but in October, good pitching beats good hitting. If they run into an ace, the Dodgers are more than capable of winning a 2-1 ballgame. It would not surprise me if you see Kershaw as the World Series MVP when it’s all said and done.

Every great team has a player that is a having a comeback season. Well the Dodgers have two, Juan Uribe and Hanley Ramirez. These two are hitting like champs and clutching up through this entire hot streak. People forget Uribe helped the Giants win a World Series in 2010, and now he is positioning himself to provide the same accolades this postseason. Sure, his effort might be up for debate and he is susceptible to the hidden ball trick, but thankfully for him, this is not The Rookie of the Year. I pray for his sake that he does not fall for that again. Ramirez might be runner-up to Puig as most important Dodger during this run. He is hitting for average and power, and loves turning a sharp double play. He has that swagger that like Puig. In fact, maybe he was the one that taught Puig some of his antics. Hanleywood is making the Dodgers front office look very intelligent. He had some subpar years with the Marlins, and the Dodgers bought low. Now his stock is sky high, and the only thing the Dodgers are selling now are season tickets.

Lost in the mix has been Matt Kemp. Kemp has been Kershaw’s counterpart on the offensive end for the Dodgers. While Kemp has spent a large part of the season on the disabled list, it hasn’t mattered. The Dodgers lineup still features Puig, Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.       It is scary to think of a lineup with Kemp sandwiched in it. I pity all opposing pitchers. You throw in role players like A.J. and Mark Ellis and Skip Schumaker, the only breather comes when the pitcher is up at the plate. Oh wait, all Dodger pitchers can hit. Yikes. This is starting to make sense now.

When the Dodgers struggled in the early season, people in Los Angeles were calling for Don Mattingly’s job. The perception was that the inmates were running the asylum and Donny Baseball was not a good fit for this team. He stayed the course and weathered the storm (these clichés are truly applicable here). No one really knows what impact he has had on this team during this hot streak, but credit must be given to the manager of a comeback of this nature. His moustache may be gone, but his job as Dodgers skipper is very much still there.

Overall, the Dodgers are clearly the best team in baseball right now. They have the pitching, the hitting and the winning attitude. After working out the early chinks in the armor, they are playing on a level now that is hard to fathom in this modern age. They just win, plain and simple. If they can stay healthy and carry this momentum into October, they will be tough to beat once, yet alone in a series.

The people in Los Angeles are buzzing about their new favorite toy. And with the Lakers looking prime for another disappointing season, the Dodgers might be here to stay. Even Magic Johnson has shifted his loyalties now that he is one of the owners of the team. Maybe Kobe will come in and pinch hit. He will probably want to soon enough. We might never see a winning streak and run like this ever in our lifetime. It’s time for all of us to appreciate this Dodger team and Think Blue.

How Westbrook Broke the West

It had been talked about too much amongst  NBA announcers and your friends. Whenever people keep bringing something up, things always seemed to get jinxed. But this streak wouldn’t end. With 394 straight regular season games played, 45 playoff games, and inhuman athleticism, Russell Westbrook’s streak seemed it could go on forever. The guy hasn’t missed a game since high school but will sit out indefinitely, 2 games up on the Rockets, in the first round of the 2013 Playoffs. After losing to the Heat in last year’s Finals, Westbrook will not be lining up against them again this season.  I’d be willing to bet everything that Westbrook would rather have lost his streak months ago then  have it taken away from him now.

The news that Russell Westbrook will undergo surgery to have his meniscus repaired is as bad for the NBA and Thunder as Westbrook’s fashion. Westbrook is a top 10 player in the NBA and arguably the best point guard. Westbrook’s speed, athleticism, and skill set force opposing to teams to focus on him and attempt to contain him. Patrick Beverly hit the superhuman point guard with some kryptonite in Game 2 of the series tearing his lateral meniscus. The injury leaves Thunder fans wishing that Westbrook’s punch on the scorer’s table after the injury had gone into Beverly’s face, and hoping that the Thunder can somehow persevere.

Westbrook averaged 7.4 assists, 23.2 points, 1.8 steals, and 5.2 rebounds per game. The Thunder will miss every single one of those statistics. There’s no James Harden to take over the point anymore, Eric Maynor was traded to save a few dollars, so Reggie Jackson will now be lining up in Westbrook’s slot. And if you’re saying the Thunder are stupid for making those moves months ago- shut up now. Shoulda, woulda, and coulda don’t win championships and the Thunder secured the number 1 seed in the West just fine. Bad luck got them in this situation, not bad management. Let’s not kid ourselves though, the team won’t rely on Reggie Jackson or need him to play at Westbrook’s level. We have no idea how the Thunder will play without Russell Westbrook because it hasn’t happened in 5 seasons. We do know that Kevin Durant will have to raise his game to a new level to keep his team alive. The scariest thing is that he’s entirely capable.

If you doubt that the Thunder can make it back to the NBA Finals, you are seriously underestimating Kevin Durant. While Durant may not be the best player in the NBA, he’s the second best basketball player on the planet. In case you forgot, Durant just became the youngest player to join the 50-40-90 Fraternity. He shot 51% from the field, 41% from three and 90% from the free throw line. I don’t know of a much harder pledge process than needing those numbers. A pregnant Kim Kardashian has a better chance of getting in her old jeans than someone does of getting into the 50-40-90 club. So, if you give Durant 10-12 more shots a game at his scary efficiency, its not unlikely for him to average 40 points a game. Durant’s 4.6 assists per game alongside only 3.5 turnovers per game prove he knows how to handle the ball. The team will miss Westbrook, but Durant and company can still get to the Finals. If the Durant and D-Wade Gatorade commercial is true, Durant’s going to give everything he has to get back into the Finals. It won’t be easy for them, but it’s not impossible. The Thunder may be down right now, but they aren’t out.

While the Thunder took a major hit in the defense of their western conference crown, the rest of the Western teams chances to make it to the Finals greatly improved. The Thunder entered the playoffs as the favorites to come out of the west, but Westbrook’s injury has evened up the race. The San Antonio Spurs are rolling over the Lakers behind a Tim Duncan who’s proving himself as the best power forward of all time. If anyone can be considered the new favorites it has to be them. The Warriors and Nuggets are lighting the scoreboard, despite both teams having suffered massive injuries themselves (Danillo Gallinari and David Lee).  The winner of the Clippers-Grizzlies series (who would play the Thunder if they go on to win next round) suddenly seems like a contender to take the west. Everything is up the air and an argument can be made for every team- besides the Lakers and Rockets. At the beginning of the NBA season it seemed destined to end with the Lakers, Thunder, or Heat as champions. The Lakers are all but done, the Thunder have fallen into the pack, and only the Heat remain the favorites. If Westbrook’s injury has shown us anything, don’t count your chips before their cashed. Everything can change on any given play.

The Betting Corner: Round , Day 2

 

Bracket

1 p.m EST on TNT

Atlanta Hawks @ Indiana Pacers

Series 0-0

 

5:30 p.m. EST on ABC

Los Angeles Lakers @ San Antonio Spurs

Series 0-0

 

7 p.m. EST on TNT

Milwaukee Bucks @ Miami Heat

Series 0-0

 

9:30 p.m. EST on TNT

Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder

Series 0-0

 

Pacers/Hawks

At 1p.m. EsT we have the sixth-seeded Atlanta Hawks featuring Josh Smith and Jeff Teague visiting the  third-seeded Indiana Pacers with Paul George and David West. Indiana is trying to build on its great season despite missing star Danny Granger. The Pacers are 30-11 at home while the Hawks are 19-22  on the road.

 

11/7/12 Indiana @ Atlanta 86-89

12/29/12 Indiana @ Atlanta 100-109

2/5/13 Atlanta @ Indiana 103-114

3/25/13 Atlanta @ Indiana 94-100

 

As you can see the matchups these two teams have had in the regular season, home court advantage is HUGE and can determine the momentum of the series. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but the NBA playoffs are all about defense and limiting turnovers is a huge key to winning games. The Pacers and Hawks are similar in that category, with the Pacers committing 1227 turnovers while the Hawks committed 1219 for the whole season. While the Hawks are not known for their three-point prowess they rank 7th in the league in three-point percentage at 37.1 percent while the Pacers converted 34.7 of their three-point attempts. Whichever team can take care of the ball and limiting 3’s from the opposing team will win the game. But I do see this game going over the total 185.5

 

Key(s) to winning:Limiting turnovers and three-point percentage

 

1 Unit (Total over 185.5)

 

Lakers/Spurs

At 3:30PM EST comes one of the most exciting matchups we have in the West. The seventh-seeded Mamba-less Los Angeles Lakers visit the playoff experienced second-seeded San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are 35-6 at home while the Lakers are an ugly 16-25 away from Staples Center.

 

11/13/12 San Antonio @ Los Angeles 84-82

1/9/13 Los Angeles @ San Antonio 105-108

4/14/13 San Antonio @ Los Angeles 86-91

 

With and without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have managed to keep all three regular season meetings close. Both teams know each other very well and without a doubt the key players for this game will be Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard versus Tony Parker and Tim Duncan., Ever since the All-Star break and the passing of Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss, the Lakers have found a sense of urgency and have clawed themselves back into the playoff picture. The Spurs however have been well… the Spurs, despite several injuries throughout the season, with the  managed playing times of his star players, Gregg Popovich has a full squad ready for another championship run. It will be a close game and even though the final score will not show, free-throw percentage will determine the outcome of the game as the Spurs shoot .791 while the Lakers shoot a disastrous .692 from the charity stripe.

 

Key(s) to winning- Free-throw percentage along with  the Gasol/Howard versus Parker/Duncan matchup

 

1 Unit (Lakers +9)

 

 

Heat Bucks

 

Interesting matchup coming in at 7 p.m. EST, the top-seeded defending champions Miami Heat host the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat are 37-4 at home and the Bucks are 17-24 away from home.

 

11/21/12 Milwaukee @ Miami 106-113 OT

12/29/12 Miami @ Milwaukee 85-104

3/15/13 Miami @ Milwaukee 107-94

4/9/13 Milwaukee @ Miami 83-94

 

First questions that comes into mind, how many eightseeds have upset the No. 1 seed to move on to the second round? The answer is five.

 

  • The Denver Nuggets defeated the Seattle Supersonics 3-2 in 1994.
  • The New York Knicks defeated the Miami Heat in 1999, 3-2.
  • The Golden State Warriors defeated the Dallas Mavericks in 2007, 4-2.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the San Antonio Spurs in 2011, 4-2.
  • The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Chicago Bulls in 2012, 4-2

 

Both teams will be healthy to start their playoff run, and as I’ve highlighted in red above, we have had upsets in the past twp years in a row where an eight seed knocked off a oneseed. Will Miami share the same fate or will it be the Thunder that will be a part of history? Opening games are always hard to predict even more so for this matchup, but 13 is just too much in a playoff game to be favorite by even when you’re the Heat.

 

Key(s) to winning- Big 3 of Miami Heat versus the entire Milwaukee Bucks

 

1 Unit (Milwaukee +13)

 

Thunder/Rockets

No hard feelings?  At 9:30PM EST we have another great matchup between the eighth-seeded Houston Rockets visiting the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are 34-7 at home while the Rockets are 16-25 away from Toyota Center.

 

 

11/28/12 Houston @ OKC 98-120

12/29/12 OKC @ Houston 124-94

2/20/13 OKC @ Houston 119-122

 

If you’re looking for an up-tempo/transition type of game and you absolute HATE defense, look no further, we bring you Houston at Oklahoma City. Why no defense? The Houston Rockets are an atrocious 28th in the league at holding their opponents to 102.5 points per game while the Thunder sit 9th at 96.5 points per game allowed. Knowing that the Rockets can’t play defense, offense will be key to winning this game as the Rockets rank second in the league with 106 points per game and the Thunder just slightly behind at third with 105.7 points per game. Will The Thunder feel the effects of missing James Harden in the playoffs and be the sixth team to lose to an eighth seed? Or will  Harden finally get his revenge on his former team?

 

Key(s) to winning- First team to 100 wins.

 

1 Unit (Total over 213)

 

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Heat, Lakers & Quarterbacks, Oh My!

Lebron/Melo

Can anyone in the Eastern Conference knock off the almighty Miami Heat?

Sammy: Only one team can. And only one team will. And that is the red-hot New York Carmelos!

Tye: Carmelo’s playing great but he’s not LeBron. Melo can score but he can’t compare to LeBron on the defensive end. And JR Smith is nowhere near D-Wade’s level. The Knicks are like a poor man’s Heat.

LISound: The Heat will not be stopped, especially by a team in the Eastern Conference. LeBron has developed a killer instinct, and will stop at nothing to embarrass all of his critics from the last 10 years. Wade has been playing extremely well this season, but it has been overshadowed by LeBron’s dominance.

Sammy: No question LeBron is not a real human being. But the power inside game of the Knicks — especially the presence of Tyson Chandler — can (and will) cause problems for the driving game of James and Wade. Plus, it could come down to who makes more threes.

Tye: There’s no way in hell I bet against the Heat. LeBron had demonstrated he can do whatever is needed to win this year. The Knicks won 12 in a row. Miami more than doubled that with 27.

Long Island Sound: It will be hard for be Knicks’ inside game to be a problem when they get 5-10 shots a game. I don’t see a heat Eastern Conference playoff series going past six games.

Sammy: I’m more cognizant of the inside PRESENCE of Chandler on the defensive end. If he stays healthy he is a force, he will help with all the driving Lebron and Wade do.

Tye: He’ll help but it’s not going to be enough. If he tries to compete with LeBron and Wade driving, he’s going to pick up fouls early and be a quick out.

Long Island Sound: Gents, these are details that need to go right in a best-of-seven series. They won’t. Heat are going to roll the East.

Kobe

What is next for Kobe and the Lakers?

LISound: Bad time for all sports fans to lose such a star before the playoffs, but a positive of this would be for Dwight Howard to thrive and pave a future in LA.

Sammy: This is simultaneously a time for Laker fans to mourn the loss of a superstar and embrace a new one. Kobe’s injury, as a Laker fan, is incredibly tough to stomach. But can the inside-out approach of a Dwight-led Lakers work?

Tye: I personally like the idea of amnestying Kobe next year. The Lakers save big money and possibly improve the team. Kobe still gets paid and has the year off to recover, and then can come back on a cheap contract with a good roster to go for six.

LISound: No way Kobe will allow the Lakers to do that. What is best for the Lakers now is to start their identity with Dwight Howard. It’s needed for success now and in the future.

Sammy: And if Dwight bombs and the Spurs sweep the Lakers? Is his heart really into being “the man” in LA? Only the off-season will tell, but Kobe could conceivably be back by next season’s start. Is Dwight risking another hellish season? It starts (and ends) with Dwight, or else this is a team starting over.

Tye: If Kobe comes back next season then yes, using the amnesty won’t work. I think the team will be fine going through Dwight though. Diva Dwight gets his touches and the Lakers can still get good assets by trading Pau Gasol if they need more depth.

LISound: This entire Laker team looked good on NBA2K, but in reality their styles, especially with this coach, do not mesh well. As they near towards a first-round show down with the Spurs, not getting swept would be a positive at this point.

Sammy: The Lakers need to find a way to get some good young talent. They never do poorly enough to get a good draft pick and they rely heavily on free agency. It’s eventually going to stop being a good system.

Tye: I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded Pau to get a shooting guard and big man. The Lakers are one of the favorite free agent destinations and they’ll always be able sign players.

Quarterbacks

Would you draft a quarterback in the first round this year?

Sammy: This year, there is only one quarterback who I’d draft in the first round: Geno Smith. But only late in the first. Similar to how the Packers handled Mr. Rodgers.

Tye: Geno is worth a first rounder but if it was my team I wouldn’t want them to use it on him. There’s not a ton of separation between QB prospects and I’d be just as happy with a Matt Barkley or EJ Manuel along with using my first rounder for a different team need.

LISound: All the teams that need a QB are in the portion of the draft where it could be too much of a reach to pull the trigger, but if able to trade back; Geno Smith is well worth rolling the dice on. I view him very similar to Donovan McNabb. QB capable of running, but wants to throw.

Sammy: Are we sleeping on Matt Barkley? As a Raiders fan, I know to be wary of USC QBs (See Palmer, Carson and Leinart, Matt). But Barkley was a solid prospect before his injury and performance this year.

Tye: He was the unanimous number 1 pick before this year but he’s been pushed down to the second round by most teams. I watched him since I was a freshman at SC until now and I think that the team who gets him is getting a franchise QB for a steal.

LISound: Jake Locker was a steal too, right? Barkley needs to be drafted into a West Coast system and time to develop. USC QBs come in from college where they had a plethora of talent at that level, and are now looked to succeed throwing to a mix of talent at skill positions and less than 10 bubble screens a game. I’m not sleeping on Barkley, just napping until the third round.

Tye: Locker went eighth overall while Barkley is looking at the second round. A much safer pick for a team to take a risk on. I wouldn’t use my first rounder on him but I think a team in need of a quarterback that uses their first rounder for another need then drafts Barkley in the second could do much worse.

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Lakers, Warrior Uniforms, Manti Te’o & Oscar Pistorius

The Cover 4 is bringing you a different approach to today’s major sports topics.

Will the Lakers make the playoffs?

lakers

Sammy: I firmly believe there is a chance the Lakers will make the playoffs. With great energy from Dwight Howard, Kobe’s efficiency and HUSTLE defense, they can pull it out.

Tye: The Lakers are three games back with only 24 games left. They’re 10-19 on the road and 12 of those games are away. It’s not happening.

James: Although I chose the Lakers as preseason favorites, I don’t see it. Houston has the fourth-easiest schedule from here on out. James Harden is playing on a MVP level.

Sammy: This team is just now starting to jell. It finally has continuity and the veterans have settled into their roles. They need help, but the Lakers will be doing their part in the race.

Tye: It’s taken 58 games to jell? It’s a sub-.500 team and only 6-4 in its last 10 games. The Lakers aren’t suddenly going to dominate the league and roll past Houston.

James: The Lakers have shown that this group of players can’t get it done. Dwight doesn’t work in this offense, Nash isn’t the same, they have no bench and Kobe can’t do it all

Sammy: To get to a 45-win season, the Lakers need to go 17-7 in the final 24 games. It’s highly possible that Houston or Utah goes 14-10 in that stretch and the Lakers sneak in.

Tye: If Utah had traded Millsap or Jefferson I’d say they might slip, but not now. And Houston just beat a top western team in OKC showing it’s here to stay.

James: 17-7 the rest of the way? I see at least 10 losses on the remaining schedule. Final three games: GS, SAS, HOU. They will flop at the end. Kobe can’t do it himself.

Are the Warrior Sleeve Unis Legit? 

Sleeves

James: Absolutely! 26 percent lighter, trendy, stretchy, 360 rotation. Did I mention the $115 price tag? Soon all teams will rock these jerseys and money will be made on sales.

Sammy: They can make shirts that have all the pros you just mentioned WITHOUT sleeves. Lookout Christmas sweaters, here come “ugly jersey” parties.

Tye: The Warriors broke into Lance Armstrong’s closet and stole all his yellow jerseys. They beat the Spurs because he had sweated PEDs into all of them.

James: Haha. Nicely done boys, but the sleeves are here to stay; the kids are gonna love it. Now you can put those guns away and rock the sleeves with your jersey.

Sammy: Honestly what are they thinking? It makes them look like little boys playing against the other teams, which look like beasts. They need to dominate to make a statement like that, not just win.

Tye: Going from short shorts to regular shorts was a good move back in the day, but the NBA jersey is something timeless. Some things shouldn’t be changed.

James: You guys are missing the point! This is about money. The almighty dollar reigns supreme as this is another selling tool for the NBA. Wait until every team wears them.

Sammy: It doesn’t matter about money. The NBA isn’t hurting for cash. What happened to tradition? Basketball holds on to tradition better than any of the major sports. It’s a damn shame.

Tye: I agree that the new jerseys will sell. Hell, NBA players wearing rimless glasses made them popular and sell. It doesn’t mean that the product looks good or makes sense though.

Is Manti Te’o worth a first-round selection?

teo

Tye: With his performance against Alabama and his 4.8 40 time, Teo’s chances of being taken in the first round are about as real as his girlfriend.

Sammy: I have trouble believing that a spotty performance in the National Championship game and the combine can affect a Heisman candidate that much.

James: Sometimes too much emphasis is on combine numbers. He’s a first-round talent but my problem is with how guys will react to him in the locker room. Definitely worth a mid-late first.

Tye: You really want to use a first rounder on a player who can’t be an every-down linebacker? The 4.8 shows he’s not going to be able to keep up with NFL receivers.

Sammy: AT THE COMBINE, Scouts compared him to Lance Briggs. Briggs is an elite LB on an elite defense without elite speed. Ball speed is different than running in a straight line, which he won’t be called upon to do.

James: Plain and simple Teo makes plays. Before the hoax we were talking about him being the first true defensive Heisman winner. Alabama showed some weaknesses but he’s still playmaker.

Tye: I see him going late first, early second. When you perform poorly against the best talent, it creates doubt at what you can do at the next level.

Sammy: Not enough doubt that he drops that far. He could go in the middle of the first to Tampa Bay or someone that could use the LB boost, or he could take over for Ray Lewis. Regardless, he’s a definite first rounder.

James: Reading Kiper’s mock draft, Sammy? The guy is a first rounder but only in the right situation. He needs to go to a team with strong leadership. Letting him slip may help.

If Olympian Oscar Pistorius doesn’t get charged with the murder of his girlfriend, is it safe to say that athletes get preferential treatment?

debate

Sammy: Pistorius, Lewis, OJ Simpson, Donte Stallworth…what do they have in common? All have been involved in a murder in some way, and all might be off without any major punishment, if any punishment at all.

James: Without a doubt athletes get preferred treatment in these situations. If Pistorius gets away with this it will be a travesty. He has a history of violence!

Tye: Do athletes get preferential treatment? Of course, but it’s up to the attorneys and juries to come out with the right verdict. So who is giving them the treatment?

Sammy: There have to be back alley type plea deals or behind the scenes agreements. There’s no other explanation. The process is corrupt, unfair and it goes against everything a government should stand for.

James: Pistorius’ camp is making all the right moves to get him off the hook. He committed a crime, was taking steroids and has a history of violence. He better go to jail.

Tye: Did you ever consider that his fame could lead to him being made an example of and increasing punishment? We shouldn’t automatically assume guilt either.

Sammy: This argument is based on the assumption he is guilty and not charged. And yes, I’ve considered fame. But that is the same boat the other athletes have been in. Fame has let others off the hook. It has to stop.

James: Guilty until proven innocent is the new system. At the end of the day, Pistorius is a local hero and will get away with murder. It’s terrible and pathetic.

Tye: Guilty until proven innocent is pathetic. Look how many people have been exonerated by DNA after people assumed they were guilty. Though if he’s found guilty, he’ll do time.

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James Kaikis, Tye Masters & Sammy Scherr
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Lake Show vs. Lob City

la

When you think of basketball in Los Angeles, you think of the purple and gold. The championships. Kareem and Magic. Kobe and Shaq. The glitz and the glamour. Jack Nicholson sitting courtside. Conventional wisdom indicates that there is just one basketball team that dominates the headlines in L.A. If you asked most natives, UCLA would probably be the second-most popular answer if you were playing Family Feud. However, for the first time since, well, ever, L.A. has two sheriffs in town now, with the rise of the L.A. Clippers.

The Los Angeles Clippers have been the laughing stock of the NBA for years, epitomizing how not to run a franchise. Conversely, the Lakers have been a model of excellence. No matter the year the motto is “championship or bust.” However, this year, it has become more and more evident that the tides are turning in Tinseltown.

Let’s first focus on each team’s players. The Lakers have superstars, but all are arguably past their prime. Kobe is still Kobe, but he has racked up more minutes than Andy Rooney with his fantastic career nearing its end. Dwight Howard has brought nothing but drama in his first year with the Lakers and his back injury raises major question marks for the future. Pau Gasol recently suffered a foot injury, which does not bode well for any 7-footer’s career, even if he is well connected to Dr. Scholls. Steve Nash missed the first part of the year with a leg injury, and seems to be a shell of himself in a Laker uniform. The only thing Nash can do to play defense these days is hope that his awful haircut will distract the league’s top point guards. Even with the former Ron Artest on the team, the Lakers season and future can be called anything but peaceful.

As for the Clippers, they have arguably the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul. He not only walks the walk on the court, but off the court he talks the talk. He is a leader, and he makes the players around him better.  Blake Griffin is the co-star for the Clips and he is the most exciting player in basketball. His dunks even make cops jealous. Jamal Crawford is easily the sixth man of the year, a bona-fide stud who brings an element of street ball to the court when he is in the game. Veterans such as Grant Hill, Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups have chosen to play for this team because they thought it as their best opportunity to win a title. In years past, it would be like someone wanting to move to Seattle to get a better tan. Now the Clippers represent a team on the rise, full of promise for the future and a threat to take over as the new basketball team of Los Angeles.

In years past, the Clippers organization had to call businesses and fans for sponsorship and attendance. They practically had to rely on the league’s best opponents to help put butts in the seats for Clipper home games. These days, fans and sponsors are flocking to the Staples Center to be a part of the Clipper Magic. The Clipper stock is rising and everybody wants to buy a share. The Clippers have a better record, better team chemistry, and a better shot to win the title than the Lakers. However, it remains to be seen if they can win over the fans who look at L.A. as Laker Land.

The Lakers and Clippers play their home games in the same arena similar to two brothers who grow up living together in the same house. The Clippers have always been that younger brother who never gets any attention, while the Lakers have been the pride and joy of the Los Angeles family. The Lakers have all the awards, historic teams and players, and accolades to boot. The Clippers on the other hand don’t really have much to show in their trophy case.  However, it looks like the little brother is finally growing up.

The Lakers beat the Mavericks on Sunday and acted as if they had advanced to the NBA Finals. The Mavericks are under .500 and are in danger of not making the playoffs, much like the Lakers. Sad, but times are changing as well as the standards. The Lakers never used to celebrate moral victories. The Lakers never used to make news when they went on a three-game winning streak. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are making the Clippers a force to be reckoned with and they are not going away anytime soon. Lob City has arrived and they are the closest thing to Showtime since Magic Johnson ran the point. They are a better team and a more viable contender for a championship. Is this a sign for things to come? We will have to see. Whether this becomes true, it still will take a huge effort surpass the Lakers as the pulse of Los Angeles. The fact that this is even a discussion now represents a new era in and of itself.

 

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Paul Culley
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The Sad State of Los Angeles

los-angeles

 

The arrival of 2013 was supposed to bring a new dawn for Los Angeles. There were expectations for Los Angeles in all four of the major sports. The Lakers are a perennial powerhouse, the Clippers aren’t fully “believable” yet, the Dodgers and Angels have risen to the top of the baseball world in both payroll and potential, the Kings were last year’s Stanley Cup champions,and there is major talk of an NFL team moving to the City of Angels. However, one could argue that 2013 has not been kind to Los Angeles so far, despite apparent success, and that there is potential for disaster for the entire year as a whole.
To begin with, let’s talk about what everyone in the WORLD is talking about, the Los Angeles Lakers. A team that regularly plays well into the playoffs retooled this year, adding one of the best passing guards in the history of the game (Steve Nash) and the game’s most dominant center (Dwight Howard) since that Shaq character. This roster shift happened for two reasons. First, the Lakers needed more of a veteran presence while simultaneously getting younger; this way the franchise could ride out the amazing Kobe Bryant era while building around a new powerful piece in Howard. Also, Kobe and company needed to desperately make moves to not get left behind by the fast-paced and star-studded Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant and LeBron James are now the stars of the National Basketball Association,and have pushed the Lakers to the brink of irrelevance. The Lakers needed to do something to keep up and adding Howard and Nash without losing major pieces seemed like the steal of the offseason. Who wouldn’t want to parlay a disinterested Andrew Bynum and Ramon Sessions into the premiere big man in the game and the most efficient passer around?
Still, there is trouble in Lakerland. Fast point guards continue to cause problems for a team that now has the top-ranked defender in the league in Howard. Nash simply cannot keep up and the other point guards struggle offensively, creating an uneven balance of skill-set. Kobe is having one of his best shooting seasons ever, leading the league in shooting at the “young” age of 34, but when he is double and even triple-teamed, no one is there to pick up the offensive slack. Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, two beyond-the-arc assassins, seem to have been assassinated. When Laker Nation is most excited about the play of Earl Clark, a throw-in in the Howard trade, the problems have effectively put the second-winningest franchise at rock bottom, and the unthinkable possibility of the Lakers missing out on the post-season with this team has become a borderline foreseeable reality.
Fortunately for Los Angeles sports fans, the Clippers are still in town, and the play of Chris Paul has the Clippers leading the NBA in wins. And the scariest part of the Clippers is their depth. When Chris Paul was down with an injury, both Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford “put the team on their backs” Greg Jennings-style and the team didn’t miss a beat. Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan have developed into consistent scoring threats while Lob City’s plethora of shooters in Matt Barnes, Willie Green and Caron Butler makes them a threat to score from beyond the arc on any possession.
Even with their success, they are not viewed nationally (or even locally) as a legitimate title contender. They are still “the Clippers”, an underachieving group of misfits who will never amount to anything in the post-season. In the world of basketball, despite the success of the Clippers so far this season, no one sees an NBA championship coming to Los Angeles.
Where the championship is to be found appears to be in America’s pastime, with the Dodgers and the Angels. Heading into spring training, there is widespread optimism in Los Angeles for both money-blowing squads based on their free agent acquisitions, and there is even talk about a World Series solely in LA, between the two monetary powerhouses. The Dodgers have added all-star caliber firepower in Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Zack Greinke and Ryu Hyun-jin since the management changed to the Magic Johnson consortium. Likewise, the Angels have landed that Albert Pujols guy, CJ Wilson, and now Josh Hamilton, this year’s prize free agent. So why is everything not beautiful and sunny in downtown Los Angeles?
Compatibility. Comfort. The ability to mesh with new teammates. And the pressure of performing in a major market. Look at the slump Pujols had to start the 2012 campaign. That slump, combined with the unpredictable start by the rest of the team, was enough to keep the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim out of the playoffs. They still finished with an 89 win-season, which was good for only THIRD place in a suddenly talent-filled American League West. And for the Dodgers, they now face the same problem. With unlimited money comes unlimited possibilities,and unlimited potential for disaster. For the Dodgers and the Angels for that matter, any result short of the World Series (maybe the league championship series) will be looked upon as a travesty. Los Angeles is a city that expects to bring a championship home every year and if the Dodgers and/or Angels don’t make that vision a reality THIS season, 2013 will have been a failure as a season. A fast start is mandatory and a strong finish is equally necessary.
Interestingly enough, the lone success story of 2012 for the city of Los Angeles was the Kings, a bunch of scrappy fighters that no one could have predicted would rise up to become Stanley Cup champions. After serving as on-the-road warriors throughout the NHL playoffs, the 8th seeded LA Kings brought home the trophy, much to the delight of the city craving a championship. There, finally, was something to smile about last year. But then came the NHL lockout, because the NHL had to be just like the NBA and the NFL and shorten the season only to find that the sides would reconcile their differences after ruining the off-season. And now, with a 48 game schedule, the Kings have a small window to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. The Kings rode a roller coaster of momentum into the postseason and in turn stunned the world with their postseason run. Now with the off-season being spent on figuring out a new player’s association instead of practicing power plays and defense, the playing field has been leveled, as all NHL teams are not fully prepared for this season. For the Kings, a slow start could also mean missing the playoffs, adding to the demise of the city’s sports fans.
Now there will be people who would disagree, and be blindly optimistic about the state of Los Angeles sports. But the sports fans of today are fans of instant gratification. The Lakers haven’t won a title since (gulp) 2009-2010. The Dodgers haven’t won a title since 1988. The Clippers have never won a title. The Angels haven’t won a title since 2002. And the Kings just won the title, raising expectations for a franchise that is undergoing the same trauma as all of the other teams that have experienced the lockout. As a Los Angeles sports fan, I hope to every God that I am wrong with my gut feeling. But as a writer and an objective observer, I can’t help but notice that it is a sad state for the Los Angeles sports teams. Hopefully Magic Johnson can work his namesake in all four of the major sports.

 

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Sammy Scherr
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Thunder Storming

Westbrooke & KD are both playing lights out!

Westbrook & KD are both playing lights out!

The Thunder’s season ended last year after game 5 of the NBA Finals. Anyone who watched that series immediately knew two things. First, Lebron James is the most dominant player in the NBA and the current king of basketball and secondly, the Thunder would be right back in the finals for years to come.  The tears and frustration that came with losing would fuel the Thunder to continue their growth. Every fan of any team in the Western Conference kissed their dreams of a Finals appearance good-bye (except stubborn Lakers fans with their newly assembled super-team). With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the Thunder just had too much potential. They had three all-stars under the age of 25, including the best scorer in the league. Then came the Harden trade and everyone who was not a Lakers or Heat fan collectively sighed, as it seemed obvious that one of those two teams would win the 2012 title.

In the age of the super teams, the idea of trading away an all-star seems like it belongs in one of those AT&T commercials involving spastic little kids asking if three is better than two. Three all-stars must be better than two! Who was going to take over for Westbrook when he went through his shooting funk? Who would come off the bench to keep the scoring going? How would the Thunder compete against the super teams of the league? The Thunder have answered all of these questions through their play this year and are looking like one of the most complete teams in the league. If you look at any power rankings on any site, odds are the Thunder are in the top spot and if not, find a new site.

The Thunder are off to a NBA-best 30-8 start while putting up a second-best 105.11 points per game. Most impressive about their team play is that they have a league-leading +9.16 point differential per game. Not only are they beating teams, they’re dominating them. So how is an offense that loses one of its main offensive threats doing this? It involves multiple reasons but it starts with Durant. While Kevin Durant is not leading the league in scoring at the moment with 28.9PPG, his shooting percentages are 52/40/90. A shooter can’t get more offensively efficient than being part of the 50/40/90 club. If Durant can keep this efficiency up, he will join Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller and Dirk Nowitzki in this exclusive fraternity of sharpshooters.

While everyone knows that Durant can score, he’s spent a good deal of time improving other facets of his game this year. Durant is currently averaging career highs in assists (4.2) and blocks (1.7), while grabbing a solid 7.6 rebounds per game. It’s scary to think of the level Durant can reach. In the past year, Durant has played in the finals, improved his game immensely the following season, and even starred in the feature film Thunderstruck! He’s having an MVP campaign and the ceiling seems non-existent. However, Durant is not doing everything by himself.  Westbrook is putting up a stellar 2012 campaign as well. Against the Phoenix Suns on Monday, the duo combined for 77 points and Durant introduced Marcin Gortat to Perkins and Mozgov in the ‘Embarrassed/Posterized 7-Footers Club’.

Westbrook is having one of the best seasons of his career and has really stepped up in the absence of Harden. Not only has he stopped going into those funks where everyone yells “Westbrook! What are you doing?!”, but he is averaging career highs in multiple categories. Westbrook is logging career highs in minutes (36.1), 3- point attempts (4.1), 3-point percentage (35.7%), rebounds (5.3), assists (8.4) and steals (2.1). While we all know Westbrook can put up 30-plus points on any given night, with his improved ability to get surrounding teammates, he can contribute immensely even when his shot goes cold. Critics of Westbrook won’t be able to find a problem with his current game, but at least they’ll always have his wardrobe.

The entire Thunder team’s improvement cannot be denied. With the departure of Harden has come the emergence of Serge Ibaka. While Ibaka has long been recognized for his blocked shots, even been referred to as ‘Iblocka’, he has evolved into a top power forward. He’s shooting a career-high 56% from the field along with 79% from the line. Throw this in next to career-high 8.4 rebounds and 14.3 points per game and it’s evident that Air Congo has taken off. What is most impressive is that he’s done all this while being the fourth option behind Durant, Westbrook and Kevin Martin. By improving both defensively and offensively and transitioning into a versatile power forward, the Thunder still have three elite players under 25 despite losing Harden.

One of the biggest reasons we have not seen a fall off from the loss of Harden has been the smooth transition of Martin into the Thunder offense. It can even be argued that the loss of Harden and introduction of Martin improves the Thunder offense. Martin is averaging 14.9 points per game, but more importantly is the role he plays in the offense. Martin is a catch-and-shoot player, he doesn’t demand the ball like Harden. If Martin doesn’t have the shot, he dishes it back to either Westbrook or Durant. One of the most frustrating moments for Thunder fans is when Durant doesn’t have the ball in his hands when he clearly should. By removing a player with a style of play that demands the ball and introducing one who simply catches and shoots at a consistent rate with solid production, the ball goes to Durant more. And with Durant playing at the efficient level he is, you want the ball in Durant’s hands.

I think we can safely say that every member of the Thunder, from the coach to the players, are doing everything in their power to ensure they’re smiling instead of crying when the confetti falls in the NBA finals this year. They seem to have taken the slogan ‘Thunder Up!’ to heart, as entire team has upped both its production and expectations. The Thunder are young, fast, talented, and hungry and expect nothing less than an NBA championship. Astraphobia is the fear of thunder, and every NBA team should develop it. Only halfway through the season the Thunder look like a championship team, and expect to see them back in the Finals.

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Tye Masters
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You’re Doing It Wrong

The Phoenix Suns top players are nothing to brag about.

The Phoenix Suns top players are nothing to brag about.

 

In an era when NBA franchises have realized they need at least two or three superstars to compete for championships, the Phoenix Suns, for several reasons, have taken an unconventional approach, and are dearly paying the price.

 

The Suns sit second-to-last in the Western Conference (only ahead of New Orleans) and hold the fifth-worst record in the entire NBA at 12-25 after losing a close game to the Boston Celtics Wednesday night. Last season the team pushed to make the playoffs in what fans knew would likely (and later proved to be) Steve Nash’s final year with the franchise, but the team came up short. This was the beginning of a string of bad decisions coupled with poor luck. Due to their average record, they did not get a high pick in the lottery and settled for North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall, who proved to be a project and has only seen minutes during garbage time this season. The team then attempted to sign Eric Gordon away from New Orleans over the summer, but the Hornets matched the Suns max contract offer and retained their star.

 

It was at this point the team decided to dump fan-favorite Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade with the Lakers, and proceed without a superstar for the 2012-2013 season. They claimed Luis Scola after he was amnestied from Houston, and signed Goran Dragic to run the point with the departure of Nash. Although Dragic and Scola have proven themselves to be solid NBA players, they are nowhere close to the level of the Nash-Amare’ Stoudamire tandem the team relied on for much of the 2000s.

 

Simply put, this is the problem for the Suns: they have several good players that would be valuable second or third options on many teams. However, they lack a proven superstar to turn to late in games that will pull them through in the clutch. Looking at the main players other than Dragic and Scola, an average NBA fan will recognize the names: Sebastian Telfair, Marcin Gortat, Jermaine O’Neal, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris.

 

The franchise tried to sell fans on the concept of balance and teamwork, and they have held to that philosophy with five players averaging in double figure scoring, but none of those five are even averaging 15 points per game. The team has played many close games against top-level opponents, but lacks that killer-instinct player teams like the Heat, Thunder and Clippers possess. The team’s listed attendance on a given night will range around 14,000, but anyone watching the game sees the empty seats. Even people who have already paid for seats don’t want to come watch a team without a face. Ownership went to the extent of a bizarre “have fun at the game or get your money back” promotion to try to get fans to come watch the team. To their credit, they do play hard every night, they rarely get blown out even on the road, and at times play an up-tempo style that is fun to watch, they simply aren’t good enough to win, the only thing that truly matters to fans.

 

After constructing a championship-level team in the 2004-2005 season that many around the league saw as favorites to win it all before Joe Johnson broke his face against the Mavericks in the Conference Semifinals, Suns management has made awful personnel decisions at every turn. That team’s key pieces were Nash, Stoudemire, Johnson, and Shawn Marion, playing in a Mike D’Antoni system perfectly suited for their talents, locals knew them as “The Run-N-Gun Suns.” Following that season, Johnson was traded after owner Robert Sarver refused to pay him top-level money. Marion was traded a couple years later, and Stoudemire was let go during free agency due to long-term health concerns. The reasons for letting go of Stoudemire were completely valid, but what the team tried to do to replace him was idiotic at best, signing Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye to long-term big money deals (Frye is the only one still with the team, sitting out this season due to injury). The team has gone from four all-stars to none in a span of eight years. For anyone who thinks the future is promised to successful teams with young talent, think again. Win when you can, the future isn’t guaranteed.

 

For fans, there isn’t even a player on this team who excites you. New Orleans may be the worst team in the West, but fans there can look at Gordon, Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers and see hope for the future. Markieff Morris is a good option off the bench for the Suns, but not a player who shows any signs of becoming a superstar down the road. One would imagine opponents don’t know how to defend the Suns coming into a game not because they are so stacked it’s scary, but because no one on the roster demands a double-team. An optimist will say, “Anyone could go off on their team and lead if they get hot on a given night.” A realist will say, “No one on that team is good enough to lead them, even if they do get hot.”

 

Suns fans can look at the team and say at least they are tanking it badly enough to get a good spot in the lottery. Other teams can also look at them as a viable trading partner for solid pieces to add down the stretch of the season without having to make a substantial financial move, with Dragic as the team’s highest-paid player at $7.5 million this season. Few of the Suns players are signed past this year, so there will be flexibility in the off-season as the team tries to rebuild. They also have the benefit of an additional first-round pick acquired from the Lakers in the Nash trade, a pick that would be in the lottery if the season ended today.

 

For now, there is nothing exciting about the Suns. Parents raising their kids will emphasize the value of teamwork over individual talent, but even the best of parents realize the teams with the best players will win as long as those players can co-exist (take a look at the aforementioned Lakers for an example of talent that can’t co-exist). The Suns players work very well together, they just aren’t very good individuals. Teams need superstars. Superstars put butts in seats, get cities excited and proud to be supporting their home-town team, but most importantly, they win games. When you put multiple superstars together, you win championships. The Suns have no superstars, no chance of winning a championship, and practically no hope.

 

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David Oleson
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