NBA Finals Preview

The stage has been set; the Cleveland Cavaliers will face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.  This is without a doubt the matchup everyone wanted to see and the one that the NBA league office(s) were rooting for.  The two most hyped teams throughout these playoffs are going meet and it has a good chance of going down as one of the best Finals in recent memory.

Cavaliers

Lebron James and the Cavs are going into the Finals as the underdogs; although they did dispatch the number one seeded Atlanta Hawks in four games.  However, given all that injuries have unfortunately plagued them throughout the playoffs; and the health of Kyrie Irving will have a huge impact on the outcome of this series.  If healthy, Irving could provide a significant offensive spark, not to mention a difficult matchup for Warriors point guard, Steph Curry.

James’ contributions throughout the playoffs have superb although he hasn’t been nearly as efficient as he’s been in years past.  He’s shooting well under 50% from the field and has played more of an isolation type of offense, something we haven’t seen since his last run in Cleveland five years ago.  There’s no denying that he’s going to be the best player on the floor in every game, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to be able to carry them to a championship.  Now, he’s done an excellent job so far this postseason, but this team has yet to face a team as talented as the Warriors.

Warriors

NBA MVP Steph Curry and the Warriors have been the hottest team in the league all season and are the clear favorites to win the title.  Besides Curry, they’re surrounded with talent at every position.  Their bench depth has been a key to their success with players like Iguodala and Barbosa helping them all season long.  The only real concern for them heading into this matchup is the health of Clay Thompson following the concussion he suffered in game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.  If he can come into the series healthy, the Warriors have an excellent shot a winning the title.

The big advantage that the Warriors have over the Cavs is coaching.  Steve Kerr (who should’ve won Coach of the Year) has been tremendous as a first year head coach and has silenced all the doubters.  He’s made a really talented team arguably one of the greatest offensive shows we’ve ever seen.  He’s also coached this team up to being the best defensive team in the league; which has been overshadowed given their offensive output.

David Blatt has done a great job with the Cavs as well, but the question all season has been; who’s really coaching this team?  There have been plenty of pundits/analysts who believe the James has been the real coach and Blatt has just been along for the ride.  The [almost] crucial mistake of calling a timeout (when they didn’t have one) in a pivotal game 4 has left many to believe that Blatt is in way over his head and might be fired at the end of the season.  Again, he’s first year head coach [like Kerr] and has coached his team to the NBA Finals, so I’m not trying to take anything away from his accomplishments.  However, with that being said, I just don’t think he has shown to have the mental makeup and basketball prowess that Kerr has shown so far in his career.

Result

I believe the Warriors are the better team with a superior coach and will beat the Cavs in 5 games.  While James is the best player in the world, he’s going up against the league MVP and one of the best rosters in the NBA.  Even with a relatively healthy Kyrie Irving, I just don’t think the Cavs have what it takes to beat the Warriors over a 7 game series.  Leading up to these finals, the Warriors have had tougher matchups which I think have tested their resolve in a way that the Cavs haven’t been tested.

So in closing, I have the Warriors in 5 and Steph Curry will be named Finals MVP.

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Clippers Epic Collapse Falls on Rivers

The Los Angeles Clippers squandered a 3-1 series lead and recorded one of the most epic collapses in NBA history.  As the dust began to settle following the Clippers humiliating choke-job, the media and fans began pointing fingers as to who’s responsible for this outcome.  Most of the blame has been circulated between Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Doc Rivers.  There’s no reason for blame to be split amongst the three of them; after all, only one of them deserves it.

Doc Rivers has been heralded as one of the two best coaches in the league (the other being Greg Popovich) but has had limited success in the playoffs.  During his sixteen year tenure as a head coach (with Orlando, Boston, & Los Angeles) he has one championship and two NBA Finals appearances. There’s nothing wrong with having that on a resume; however, that shouldn’t warrant someone the title of an “elite coach” in the association.

Rivers is a great leader and motivator for [some of] his players but that doesn’t make him a great coach.  He’s great at whining to the officials after every call that goes against his team and he’s even better at making excuses for why his team didn’t live up to expectations; again not something that equates to being a great coach.

His teams have a tendency not to live up to expectations, especially in the playoffs.  He’s the first [and only] coach in NBA history to squander two separate 3-1 leads in a playoff series; the most recent occurring on Sunday.

Following their Game 1 win against the Rockets last week, the Clippers were considered to be the favorite to win the title.  After they annihilated the Rockets in Game 4, it was a foregone conclusion that they would move on to the Western Conference Finals and play the Warriors.  Obviously that wasn’t the case and once again Rivers’ team is on the outside looking in.

Outside of Rivers’ coaching, part of the problem with the Clippers (as a team) was their bench depth.  Besides Jamal Crawford and [occasionally] Austin Rivers (Doc’s son), the Clippers didn’t have anyone on the bench to turn to.  That issue falls on the lap of General Manager Doc Rivers who traded away depth on the roster for inexplicable reasons (some believe it was so he could acquire his son).

When Rivers took over coaching for the [unjustly] fired Vinny Del Negro, he inherited a 56 win team that had a future Hall of Fame point guard (Paul), an All-Star power forward (Griffin), and one of the best defensive big men in the game (DeAndre Jordan); all in their prime.  Understanding all of that, it makes it really difficult to respect Rivers as a GM [and a coach] when it makes statements like this following their Game 7 loss Sunday;

“I want to win. That’s why I came here.  I knew when I came here that roster-wise it was going to be very difficult…” (ESPN.com).

How ridiculous is that?  He inherits one of the best rosters in the league and he wants sympathy after choking a 3-1 series lead to an inferior team?  Can someone say desperate?  The sad part is, the media (who loves him) let him get away with it.  There were a few NBA analysts and pundits who called him out for those comments, but not many.

So because the media likes Rivers he can get away with not bringing the team any farther in the postseason than his predecessor, who was fired and ridiculed for not being able to bring this [same] team to the next level.

Let’s recap one more time.  Rivers’ team had a 3-1 series lead against the Rockets who had practically quite during their loss in Game 4.  The Clippers mailed in Game 5 so they could end the series in Los Angeles.  Going into the fourth quarter of Game 6, the Clippers led by 19 points, which they ended up squandering and lost that game by 12.  And of course they lost Game 7, but the series was lost following the conclusion of Game 6.

The great coach who is praised for the way he’s able to motivate and relate to his players couldn’t find a way to get them to close out a 19 point lead; but yet there’s crickets regarding his job or even his status in the league.  There have plenty of coaches who done far less and have been scrutinized and torched by the media following a playoff defeat.  But don’t forget that this wasn’t just a playoff defeat; this was an all-time, epic collapse.

Rivers is a good coach, but he’s not great and it’s about time he’s recognized that way.  The media likes to decide who should and shouldn’t be like and/or who should be thought of as “great”.  The love affair and admiration for Rivers needs to end.  He keeps showing everyone time and time again that he’s not as good as advertised.

Deflategate

The biggest sports headline over the past two weeks has been Tom Brady and “Deflategate”.  For those who haven’t been following this story (which is you’re a sports fan, it would impossible), the NFL levied their punishment on Monday against Brady and the Patriots organization.  Brady has been suspended for the first four games of the season and the Patriots are fined one million dollars and have lost a first round draft pick in 2016 & a fourth rounder in 2017.

I’ve taken my time and tried to be as objective as I can in developing my opinion on this subject as a whole.  I wanted to wait to see how the NFL was going to punish those involved before writing anything.  The best way to look at this story is in three parts; Deflategate (as a whole), Tom Brady and the New England Patriots organization.

Deflategate

The actual deflation of the footballs isn’t something that truly bothers me in regards to Brady’s legacy.  Brady showed in the second half of the Colts game and again in the Super Bowl that he can be great regardless of the PSI level in a football.  What’s bothersome is the completive advantage it can give other positions on the field.

Running backs for example, gain an advantage with having a “softer” football to maintain a strong grip throughout contact.  If you’re not convinced, here’s a stat that might change your mind.  Benjarvus Green-Ellis played 4 seasons with the Patriots form 2008-2011 and signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012.  Throughout his career in New England, Green-Ellis never fumbled the football; 510 rushing attempts and 0 fumbles.  In his first season with the Bengals he fumbled the ball 3 times out of 278 rushing attempts (in total, he has 5 fumbles in 2 seasons).  Now I’m not saying that there’s a direct correlation between Deflate-Gate and Green-Eliis’ numbers, I just think it’s worth mentioning.

So as a team I believe that the Patriots might have gained an advantage overall by using deflated footballs, but I don’t think Brady should be looked at any less [as a quarterback] because he’s shown his greatness on the field time and time again.

Brady

Brady couldn’t have handled this situation any worse.  He’s been coy, arrogant and defiant throughout this process.  All the Brady supporters have been screaming innocence since day one, but if you step back and really think about it, Brady hasn’t acted like a falsely accused victim; rather, he’s acted like someone who’s trying like hell to uphold his “golden boy” image and flawless career resume.

He has yet to come out and defiantly say that all these accusations are false and that he’s innocent.  Instead he’s hid behind his lawyer(s), agent, and parents; while they’re left to defend him and label the investigation as a “witch hunt”.

He was asked point blank if he felt as though he was a cheater by a reporter following the AFC Championship game and his response was, “I don’t think so.”

How the hell do you not know whether or not you cheat in order to gain a competitive advantage?

If he was as innocent as he claims and for the sake of preventing his legacy from being tarnished or tainted, why wouldn’t he come out immediately and contest these accusations?  Or better yet, why would he stonewall an investigation by refusing to release the text messages and e-mails in question? Most innocent individuals come out immediately screaming from the mountain tops declaring their innocence, not hiding in the shadows behind an entourage.

Patriots 

I like many other sports fans (who don’t root for the Pats) have zero sympathy for Patriots and the punishment that they’ve received.  For years they’ve been accused of playing “fast and loose” with the rules and have continued to get away with it.  Following Spy-Gate, the Commissioner did the Patriots a favor by destroying those tapes but warned them that further infractions would severely cost them.  Being the arrogant franchise that they are and with owner Bob Kraft’s friendship with Goodell, they believed that no one could touch them.

For those who love to hail Kraft and this “great man” and owner really need to take a step back and reevaluate that opinion.  Before the investigation took place, Kraft strongly supported Ted Wells being appointed to oversee the investigation however, once his findings weren’t in favor of Kraft or his team, he started bashing Wells and his report; claiming that it wasn’t “impartial” or “fair”.  Not to mention this was the same owner who claimed that the NFL was going to owe the organization and his quarterback an apology following the investigation.

This was a long time coming and I think most will agree that the Patriots (as a whole) got what they deserved.

Conclusion

Brady knew what was happening and lied to cover it up.  He was (and still is) afraid that by admitting guilt it would tarnish his impeccable reputation and standing within the league.  I think that Brady’s attitude towards this whole process has damaged his public image.  His arrogance and self-righteous attitude have turned many people off and the public perception of “who he is” is taking a big hit.

There are those biased few who are claiming Brady wouldn’t do this and “justice” will prevail.  To those people I say this; the only way Brady will be exonerated in the court of public opinion is if he takes this matter to court (not NFL court) and is proven innocent.  The problem with that is if Brady goes to court, he’s going to have to release those text messages and emails that he refused to release to Ted Wells during Wells’ investigation; and if Brady has nothing to hide, it makes no sense why he would stonewall an investigation that would’ve come out in his favor.

This story isn’t over; it’s just beginning, which is sad when you think about it.  Brady is unquestionably one of the greatest ever, but his arrogance and ego have prevented him from making smart decisions regarding this matter; which in turn has irrevocably damaged his image and possibly his legacy.

Curry: The Right Choice for MVP

The end of the NBA regular season was full of interest and intrigue with the hotly contested MVP race. The two frontrunners were Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors) and James Harden (Houston Rockets) with Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Lebron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) as honorable mention. On Monday morning the MVP award was announced and like every award in the sports world, it came with an endless debate about if the right man won.

Steph Curry won the NBA MVP award; and handily at that, receiving 100 of the 130 first place votes (4 times the number received by James Harden). Curry helped lead the Warriors to a league best 67 wins and the number one seed throughout the playoffs. Curry’s stats for the season were the following; 23.8 ppg (point per game), 7 assists and 4 rebounds. He shot 44.3 % from three and a blistering 91% from the free throw line.

James Harden (who came in 2nd with 25 first place votes) was visibly upset during an interview Monday leading up to the Rockets first game of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers.   His response to an ESPN reporter regarding losing out on the MVP to Curry; “That’s tough, but we’re in the second round of the playoffs and I got better things to worry about and that’s the Clippers.” (ESPN.com) Harden’s statistics for the season were; 27.4 ppg, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. He shot 37% from three and 86% from the charity stripe.  

There’s no doubt in my mind that the right man won the MVP award. Not only was/is Curry the best player on the best team, but he’s been the catalyst driving them all season long. Now, those who believe Harden should be MVP will make that same case for him; stating that he (Harden) carried his team to a number 2 seed in the extremely competitive Western Conference while Dwight Howard was sidelined with an injury. I can’t argue that point; however Harden’s team finished 11 games behind Curry’s when the regular season concluded.

Unlike Curry who plays two-way basketball (meaning offense & defense), Harden is strictly an offensive minded player. He’s one of the worst defenders in the league and has been criticized in the past by NBA analysts for his lack of effort on the defensive end. It’s much easier to average 27.4 ppg when you’re only exerting yourself on one-half of the court. Curry on the other hand, has been praised for his defensive effort and his 2.0 spg (steals per game) are a testament to that.

Curry has become the most exciting player to watch and could (sooner than later) become the best player in the game. He’s by far the best pure shooter I’ve ever seen and has a chance to go down as the greatest jump shooter of all-time. This was his first of (what I believe to be) many MVP seasons and I look forward to watching his career progress.

Mayweather/Pacquiao: Good vs. Evil

For as long as I’ve been a sports fan, I can’t think of a busier week in sports. NHL + NBA playoffs, NFL Draft, The Kentucky Derby and the Floyd Mayweather v. Manny Pacquiao fight. You know it’s a busy week in sports when the NFL Draft isn’t dominating the headlines; those [the headlines] are being used for the fight, five years in the waiting (no not making, waiting; Mayweather was afraid to fight Pacquiao in his prime).

Just like every big sporting event, there’s a bevy of storylines to keep everyone interested until the day of the fight. The one storyline that’s garnered the most attention involves Mayweather and his relationship with women.

Mayweather is by far one of the most reprehensible human beings to ever walk this earth. He’s abused women numerous times and while he’s “paid his debt to society” he was never truly punished for his crimes. Some of that has to do with the fact that boxing doesn’t have a commissioner to hand out suspensions, and that boxing isn’t a team sport so Mayweather isn’t representing anyone except himself. I believe the real culprit to his [Mayweather’s] lack of “punishment” is from the same group that is now dubbing him a criminal; the media.

Boxing has been a dying sport since the early 90’s. Outside of Mayweather and Pacquiao, can you name another professional boxer? Mayweather has been the star of the sport for over a decade, the one person who had kept this dying sport somewhat relevant. So when he was accused several times for domestic violence and served two months in jail after pleading guilty to “misdemeanor battery domestic violence and harassment” of an ex-girlfriend and the mother of three of his children; no one really batted an eye (Yahoo Sports).

The outrage that has been strung up by the media this week is laughable. Where the hell were they a few years ago (2012) when the Nevada Athletic Gaming Commission allowed Mayweather to fight after he was sentenced to 90 days in jail for the previously mentioned charge? There was no “breaking news” story on any of the major news networks, and ESPN/SportsCenter wasn’t sending Stephen A. Smith to do an all access interview with Mayweather regarding his actions. Instead the media (particularly the sports media) kept quiet, not wanting to incriminate the only star in otherwise meaningless sport.

I’m not saying that the media would have had the power to enforce the Nevada Athletic Gaming Commission to suspend Mayweather for a fight, but they could have shed some light on his deplorable actions. The amount of coverage Mayweather’s past is NOW getting is just a joke. It’s gotten to the point where any sensible person has to question the validity of these “major news networks” claiming that they’re catering to the people. Like every other company in America, three years ago this wouldn’t have given them the ratings that they’re receiving this week; in other words, we [the media] don’t care about certain news stories (or we’ll shelve them until the perfect time) unless it’s going to make us money.

The Fight:

Is there anyone who is actually rooting for Mayweather to win? What self-respecting person is honestly going to root for that man? Picking him to win the fight is one thing, but actually cheering him on is something completely different.

With that being said I believe that Mayweather is going to win the fight, although I’ll be rooting like hell for Pacquiao. I think Mayweather agreed to fight Pacquiao because he knows he has an advantage over him. Now, if they fought five years earlier, the scenario would be very different (Pacquiao would’ve destroyed him); which is why Mayweather is coward and a punk for waiting all this time to fight finally him.

There will be a true “Good vs. Evil” battle going on Saturday night, hopefully this time good will prevail.