Monday, April 30, 2012

The essence of LeBron James


LeBron James might be the most talented player to ever touch a basketball… So why do so many people hate him?
by Chris Cappella
There was something about game one of the Heat-Knicks game that made me as unbearably mad as I’ve ever been watching a sport. Of course I am a Knicks fan, and watching a 32-2 run against your team in the playoffs gets to be as unwatchable as ever, but it wasn’t just how the Heat did it, it was who did it.

It felt like LeBron James scored every single point during that run. Fade away with a hand in his face? No problem. Corner three? No problem. An and-one from 20 feet out? And bank it? It was too easy! The burn of James spurning the Knicks still runs deep. He didn’t just reject the Knicks, he rejected the Garden, the history, and most importantly, one of, if not the, best and most knowledgeable fan bases in all of sports. Look at how Jeremy Lin took the city and sports world by storm, LBJ could have had that for TWO years now.

When it comes to James you either love him or hate him and there is no in-between. Everyone in the world has an opinion on him, but why? Why is LeBron James one of the most polarizing figure in all of sports?

James played high school ball at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio where he won Mr. Basketball at the ages of 16, 17, and 18 years old. James could have gone to college wherever he wanted but instead entered his name into the 2003 NBA draft (this is an important fact for later). The story got better when his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the unluckiest franchises in all of sports, were awarded the first pick of that draft and got one of the most talented, physically gifted players to ever come into the NBA.
Lebron James was treated like a God in Cleveland.

The 6’8, 250 pound James had enormous success with Cleveland despite the fact that the front office did an awful job surrounding him with legitimate talent. James was 2003 Rookie of the Year, two-time MVP, and NBA scoring champion, and has been on the All-Defensive and All-NBA first team nearly every year of his career. LeBron took the Cavs took the 2007 finals where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

James now has the knock of not being clutch, which can be very unfair. In his playoff debut he threw down 32 against the Wizards in the process of getting a triple double, becoming only the third player in NBA history to have a triple-double in their playoff debut. Through the 2003-2009 seasons, he had the most game-winning shots made at 17, more than Kobe, Dirk, Wade, and others.

In 2010 though, it all changed. LeBron, despite being the most talented player on planet Earth, had never won the big one and now had the label (whether it is fair or not) of being “un-clutch”. In all of his years on the Cavs he really had no supporting cast. The likes of Mo Williams, Antwan Jamison, Ben Wallace, and Shaquille O’Neal all played but not at high enough levels.

So in 2010 James became a free agent and left, something he really shouldn’t have been criticized for except for the fact that he did a one hour ESPN special to rip the hearts out of everyone from Cleveland and teamed up with his buddies Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, all Olympic caliber players.

Unfortunately it doesn’t end there. After Wade, James, and Bosh were officially all teammates Miami held a… parade of sorts. The purpose was to rally the fans and introduce them to the “Big 3”. Between a Sportscenter special and a parade before the season, not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, and not seven million people hated LeBron but just about everyone outside Miami did. This is where I believe not going to college really hurt him. Was LeBron recruited? Yea, he definitely was, but when most people are sure you’re going pro it’s just different. He let all the wooing and love from coaches and executives in the NBA get to him because he never really had that before. This is no different than the Dwight Howard situation now. It was too much, and his PR crew handled it awful.

So Lebron, who so desperately wants to be loved by everyone, is now the villain. In Cleveland he was more than loved, had fun, and was the man on that team. Now, everyone outside of Miami wants him to fail and there are really no excuses. The talent around him is unreal. Year one was considered a failure because of a loss in the championship, what will year two bring? For the sake of LeBron, it better be a championship.

James is 27 and has been in the league for eight years. There are many different sects between NBA fans, but none are probably larger then LeBron hater or defender. Defenders will correctly note that it took Michael Jordan, the NBA’s greatest player, six years to win a ring and he needed the likes of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman to do so, guys James never had the luxury of playing with. Year one of the Big 3 was mostly about feeling each other out and everyone getting roles. It was an incomplete team that lacked a point guard and a center, which are obviously very critical for a team’s success.

But I’ll tell you what just really irks me about LeBron, something I realized now more than ever. He is easily the most talented player in the world, but still has to go team up with his super-talented friends to try and win one, something the likes of Jordan, Bird, Thomas, Malone, and Ewing NEVER did. When it is smooth sailing for Miami, LeBron is throwing down dunks, knocking down shots, and pounding his chest like a madman. But you and I both know he wants nothing to do with the big moment. He deferred taking the last shot in the All-Star game for goodness sake! When he was knocking down everything! Even Kobe couldn’t help but laugh.

Stuff like that is what compelled me to write this article. One of the most talented athletes the NBA has ever seen had to “take his talents” to South Beach with his friends and still can’t get it done. Worse than that, he doesn’t look like he wants to anyway. James might dominate my Knicks, average 30 and 10 for the series and move on to a different test. I won’t be surprised at all. I also won’t be surprised when he shy’s away from the big moment.

And that’s what makes me most mad.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

NFL Draft Day 3 and Conference Outlook


by Chris Cappella

Look for Nick Toon to make an immediate impact in New Orleans offense.
Ah, day three of the NFL Draft. For every Tom Brady or Marques Colston your team takes there are 30 and 40 Patrick Henry’s.  And that’s the beauty of the last day of the draft, rounds four through seven:  most of the times it’s a pure guess. If these guys can come in and make an impact on special teams that’s great and if they can eventually be a starter for your team that’s even better.

I’m definitely no Mel Kiper Jr. or Todd McShay, but I’ll try to highlight some notable names and picks I liked on Saturday plus give you my favorite drafts per team in each division.

There was tons of talent in round four, but the man who I think you hear of the most in his rookie season is Nick Toon, wide receiver from Wisconsin and son of Jet great Al Toon (What? You didn’t think you were going to get a Jets reference?). Toon will try and go about replacing Robert Meachem who is now a San Diego Charger. Chris Givens, a wide receiver from Wake Forrest, was the first pick of round four by the St. Louis Rams. Givens is a shade under 6’0’’ and runs a solid 4.4 40. Once he beefs up in the NFL he could really be a steal and I think the combination of Quick and Givens makes Sam Bradford a happy man.

RTG300, not RGIII
I think Florida State offensive lineman Zebrie Sanders could potentially start for Buffalo at tackle if given the opportunity, which definitely is a possibility given their situation at that position. George Iloka, the safety out of Boise State, could be a solid starter for Cincinnati sometime down the road and would have started right away if it wasn’t for Reggie Nelson resigning this offseason. 

The Jets took Robert Griffin from Baylor in the sixth round, which is weird and funny. Griffin is a 300 pound guard and will now be called RTG300 for the rest of his career as far as I’m concerned. Mr. Irrelevant (the last pick of the draft) was Chandler Harnish, a quarterback out of Northern Illinois. Check out this incredibly awkward video of the pick and try and convince me this kid will be in the league for more than two years.
No one can dispute that Kellen Moore is a winner

I’ve been getting me a lot of questions about Kellen Moore not getting drafted. Am I surprised he didn’t get drafted? Yea, a little. John David Booty got drafted. Brooks Bollinger and Matt Cassel got drafted. Heck, Cassel never started at USC and is still a good pro. I would have thought someone would take a flyer on the kid just because he wins. But, I can also see why he wasn’t. When Shane P. Hallam of draftcountdown.com did an interview on our radio show he said there were CFL teams that were concerned about him. He’s not 6’0’’ let alone 6’2’’ (considered to be the cutoff point for most quarterbacks) and looks like he's never hit a weight room in his life. There are some things you can and can’t measure in a guy, and I guess NFL teams felt like it just wasn’t worth it. Best of luck to Moore in the NFL, who will get a chance to learn from Matthew Stafford.

Vontaze Burfcict, the linebacker out of Arizona State went from first rounder to undrafted in two months, something I don’t ever remember seeing before. Chris Polk, running back out of Washington University also went undrafted, which shocked me after he put up a pretty impressive senior bowl. Congratulations to Central York High School and Temple guard Wayne Trubue, who got signed by the Denver Broncos, which I believe makes him the first player from our high school alma mater to be on an NFL squad.

AFC outlook: I do think the Cincinnati Bengals had the best draft in the AFC North, with the Steelers falling a close second. The Bengals nailed picks like Dre Kirkpatrick, Mohamed Sanu, Devon Still (once thought to be a top-20 talent, just needs to be more consistent), Orson Charles (the best tight end in the draft) and George Iloka.

The jets took some risky players with their first two picks, selecting Quinton Coples and Stephen Hill. If they produce like many think they’re capable, it’ll be an awesome draft and if not it’ll be the end of the Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan Era. I liked that Buffalo and Miami attacked their needs (though I’m not sure I like the players themselves) but I think New England probably had the best pick in the AFC East going defense, defense, and more defense.

I LOVE the Luck-to-Fleener connection Indy set up, I’m already seeing flashbacks of Manning-to-Clark. I was hoping we were going to see a more offensive-orientated draft for the Kansas City Chiefs, I just don’t know if they have enough talent on that side of the ball to win a division with Peyton Manning in it.

NFC Outlook: Awesome job by the Eagles to identify their needs (the front seven) and go after them. I think they absolutely nailed their picks of Cox, Kendricks, and Curry. Sticking in the East, I’m more confused than I am concerned with Washington’s pick of Kirk Cousins. When you traded away a boatload of picks to get Griffin, wouldn’t you want to surround him with position players instead of a back-up quarterback? I do not think this turns into a problem because competition is never a bad thing.

Poor Jay Cutler, hope he enjoys the turf again this year.
I doubt Jay Cutler is looking forward to another year of getting pounded behind a very sub-par offensive line in Chicago... Green Bay didn’t pick an offensive player until the seventh round, so somebody is going to have to help their league-worst defense.

The Rams had a top-5 draft in my opinion, but it’s hard not to when you’re that bad. I look forward to seeing whether the Arizona Cardinals or Seattle Seahawks make the jump. I really liked what the Cardinals did, especially in adding quarterback Ryan Lindley out of San Diego State, who I think starts for them in the future (and if Kolb gets injured, maybe this year).

Friday, April 27, 2012

NFL Draft Day Two Quick Thoughts


by Chris Cappella

Thursday may be the most exciting time for NFL fans when it comes to the draft, but Friday is easily the most fun. There are a ton of starters for picking in day two, the pace of the draft is much better, and these are the rounds where first round talent falls because of character concerns; will your team take a chance? Because I like lists I’ll go off and what I liked and what I didn’t like over rounds two and three.

What I liked

Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Adams (left) and Philadelphia Eagle Vinny Curry (right).
1.      The PA teams: Maybe I’m just a complete geek but I LOVE when teams draft lots of offensive lineman, and that’s what the Steelers have done the past two years. In the second round, Pittsburgh took Ohio State lineman Mike Adams and is building a solid core to protect Ben Roethlisberger. I also believe Philadelphia has done an awesome job identifying their needs, taking violent ILB Mychael Kendricks and Marshall DE Vinny Curry, who is maybe the most underrated pass rusher in this class.

2.      Courtney Upshaw is a Baltimore Raven. Be afraid football fans, be very afraid.

3.      I think the St. Louis Rams are currently having the best draft out of anybody and there a few reasons why. Brian Quick is a physical specimen who can step in and be a much needed playmaker for quarterback Sam Bradford. I think Quick is a more complete receiver than for Georgia Tech and current Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill, taken ten picks later. Isiah Pead is a great number two option at running back and can spell one of the greats in the NFL and Janoris Jenkins is a top ten talent who wouldn’t been taken if Jeff Fisher didn’t do his homework. On a side not, third round pick Trumaine Johnson from Montana I think will become a safety at the next level.

4.      Brock Osweiler gets to learn from Peyton Manning. That’s always a good thing.

What I didn’t like

1.      The Jacksonville Jaguars took a punter in the THIRD ROUND. In the words of Chris Paul, “WoW.”

2.      I liked the Bills trying to identify their needs, but drafting wide receiver T.J Graham out of North Carolina State is a big reach. According to draftcountdown.com, Graham is the number 31 ranked wide receiver prospect and Mike Mayock from the NFL Network said he would have waited until the seventh round to take Graham. Good thought, but a big reach for Buffalo.

3.      The Oakland Raiders have had just one pick in the entire draft, and it was the last one of the day… How does that even happen? (By the way, they took tackle Tony Bergstrom from Utah)

4.      What annoys me about the San Francisco 49ers isn’t even their fault. The team virtually has no holes except at the quarterback position, and everyone know they aren’t going to trade up for an elite quarterback prospect. If they lose in the NFC Championship game again, when do they just say “screw it” and trade the house for a top ten quarterback talent? Should be sooner rather than later in my opinion.

Day One Reactions and more


By Chris Cappella

There was definitely some normalcy last night, the first night of the NFL Draft. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III went one and two as anticipated, Roger Goodell was booed (again), and I received plenty of texts from friends and family alike criticizing the Jets first round draft pick (thoughts coming later).

But in another way, Thursday was as crazy as it has ever been. There were eight trades in the first round, four more than last year and plenty of surprises.

A few minutes before the draft began, the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns swapped picks. Cleveland moved up to three to assure themselves of Trent Richardson and Minnesota still got their man in Matt Kalil plus collected a 4th, 5th, and 7th round pick. This was a good move for both teams for a few reasons. Cleveland assured themselves of the guy they definitely wanted and still have five picks in the top 100. Minnesota’s front office deserves a tip of the cap for more than likely bluffing interest in other teams legitimately trading up to three and snagging Richardson. Not only did they get the guy they wanted in USC OT Matt Kalil, but they collected some valuable mid-round picks too. I think Kalil is going to be a pro-bowler for a long time (assuming the pro bowl is, you know, still around) especially once you add some weight to his fame. Kalil is very lean but I think 20 pounds could be beneficial when facing bigger defensive ends.

I’m still not sure what to make of the Buccaneers maneuver to trade back with Jacksonville (who took Justin Blackmon at five) and then miss out on Mo Claiborne, who they reportedly loved. I don’t believe anybody predicted Dallas moving all the way from fifteen to six to nab Claiborne in front of Tampa, but that’s the risk you take when trading back: you may miss out on your guy. Tampa ended up taking Alabama Safety Mark Barron, a good safety, but a reach in my opinion. Claiborne to Dallas instantly improves their secondary, but casts a shadow of doubt on the future of Michael Jenkins, who all of the sudden is buried on the depth chart behind Brandon Carr and Claiborne.

Good for the Dolphins for grabbing their guy and finally taking a chance on a quarterback. While I’m not a big Ryan Tannehill fan (a “project” quarterback in the top-10?) at least they’re going for it. I expect them to take at least two receivers in the next two days.

Sticking on the topic of quarterbacks, the Browns taking Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden was very surprising to me. By all reports, Cleveland had no intentions of taking a quarterback yesterday and went as far to tell Colt McCoy that. With that being said, I think it’s a good move. While I am a McCoy fan, right now I’d take Weeden as my starter and if you’re the Browns right now getting a starting wide receiver opposite Greg Little is essential.

A few other notes on day one: Seattle taking West Virginia OLB Bruce Irvin at 15 is ridiculous. I don’t think he was ever a full time starter there. Wednesday I tweeted that if both Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples were on the board at 16 for the Jets, take Coples. Too much talent to pass up on. Not a fan of New England trading up for Chandler Jones (just ten CAREER sacks at Syracuse) but trading up for Dont’a Hightower is a great move for their defense. Guard David DeCastro to Pittsburgh is awesome for that franchise. Everyone saw how that team played when Roethlisberger was injured. DeCastro is there to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Day two notes: I honestly can’t believe Alabama stud OLB Courtney Upshaw fell out of the first round. Upshaw was defensive MVP of the National championship game for goodness sakes! If you’re ok with Northern Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins character issues, then you’re getting a guy with a high first round grade talent wise. Cordy Glenn from Georgia is a guy I really like because of his versatility. He can play both guard and tackle immediately (did you hear that New York Jets?). There is actually a lot of very good o-lineman still available for choosing: Ohio State tackle Mike Adams, Wisconsin center Peter Konz, Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin, Ole Miss tackle Bobbie Massie, and the aforementioned Glenn can all step in and make an impact right away.

Rounds 2-3 of the draft begin at 7 p.m. Friday.

NBA playoff Predictions

Finally. After the tumultuous offseason constricted by the lockout, a late start to the regular season, and then the fast paced nonstop schedule the NBA has reached the playoffs. It's the best time of year for hoops fans and over the next month plus, the best basketball players in the world will chase their goal and go head to head for all the marbles. 

Can the Heat and LeBron get that elusive title? Or will Carmelo Anthony take a huge step in his career and pull the first round upset over the Big 3. Can the young Thunder take out the veteran Spurs and Lakers and win their first of hopefully many titles is the KD era. Who is this year’s Memphis? The fun starts Saturday at 1pm EST on TNT in the Windy City as the Sixers visit the Bulls in a very compelling series.

Here are my picks. 

EAST:

Chicago over Philly in 6-- Young Sixers run with the Bulls, but D-Rose and Chicago take care of business. 

Miami over New York in 6-- Melo wins a game r two but just to much talent for the Heat. Amare has to dominate Bosh if the Knicks want a chance to pull the big upset.

Indiana over Orlando in 4-- The Magic are ready for this season to end. No Howard = no chance. The Pacers have new life and are one f the more underrated teams in the league. Roy Hibbert should dominate all series long. Look for Paul George to be a breakout star in these 2012 playoffs. 

Boston over Atlanta in 5-- This will be a great series but Rondo will be too much for the Hawks. Josh Smith will have to play out of his mind for Atlanta to pull this series out, and I just don't see that happening against the veteran C's.

2nd Rd---

Chicago over Boston in 6-- D-Rose should be healthy and in form by this point in the playoffs and will be able to neutralize Rondo. The Bulls defense and depth will prove to be too much for the Celtics. This will be a low scoring series, but would be an entertaining one.

Indiana over Miami in 6-- My upset of the playoffs. The Pacers have size, athleticism, and a few guys who are primed to breakout on the national scene like Hibbert, George, and Granger. David West will neutralize Bosh and Indiana's depth in the backcourt will prove to be too much for King James, Wade and the Heat.

Eastern Conference Finals---

Chicago over Indiana in 5-- The Pacers will struggle to matchup with Chicago after a tough fought win over Miami. Noah will control Hibbert, and Deng and the rest of that Chicago perimeter can lock down the Indiana guards. The Pacers really don't have anyone to guard Rose, who will be back in MVP form by this point in the postseason.  

WEST:

San Antonio over Utah in 5—The Spurs have a point to prove this season. They are healthy and want to prove last year’s collapse in the first round was just a fluke. Too much Parker in this series,

Oklahoma City over Dallas in 4-- These aren't the same Mavs. They don't play D, Dirk is their only legit scorer, and they are old. Young Thunder move on with ease.

LAL over Denver in 6-- The Nuggets are a deep team but do not have the size to hang with the bigger Lakers. Bynum and Gasol should dominate. That Kobe guy is capable of doing some things as well.

Memphis over LAC in 7-- The Clippers are going to regret not holding down home court. This series was destined to go 7, and now that Memphis, n the last day of the season grabbed the 4 seed and homecourt advantage, they should move on.

2nd Rd---

San Antonio over Memphis in 7-- Last week I wrote the Spurs would lose in the 2nd Rd to the Clippers. If LA beats Memphis I will stick to that prediction, but with the Clips losing homecourt and Chris Paul having hammy problems, I think the Grizz will move on and play SAS in Rd 2. The Spurs will get a bit of payback and move n to the West finals in what will be a great 7 game series with the home team winning every game.

LAL over OKC in 6-- Too. Much. Kobe. Mr. Bryant will outshine KD in what will be an excellent series. The Lakers will steal a game in OKA and protect their homecourt at Staples. Bynum and Gasol will once again shine, but this will come down to the Black Mamba having one of those series in which he climbs closer to Jordan in terms of legacy. 

Western Conference Finals---

LAL over San Antonio in 6-- This series will be more about the Lakers twin towers than #24. Bynum will have a field day in this series (much like him 30 rebound game) and Gasol won't be far behind him. The Lakers size, along with Kobe will prove to be too much for the smaller, older Spurs. 

NBA FINALS---

Chicago Bulls over the Los Angeles Lakers in 7-- A Finals to remember. Kobe and Rose go at it and steal the headlines, but its Joakim Noah and his ability to stifle the Lakers big’s that proves to be the deciding factor. The Bulls bench is deep and talented. Players like Gibson, Korver, Watson are just too much for the Lakers 2nd unit and that gives Chicago enough to get the cities first title for Derrick Rose, and first title since the Jordan days.
MVP Derrick Rose.


(With D-Rose going down to a torn ACL, my picks have drastically changed. I'll take the Celtics to beat the Bulls Rd 2 in 6 and then Boston over Indiana in 6. That would mean Lakers vs Celtics in the Finals, and I'll take LA over Boston in 6.)

--Lee Kunkel

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Don't Forget! Notes to Remember for Tomorrow's Draft


by Chris Cappella

Tomorrow night at aproximetly 8 p.m. eastern time, NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell will announce Andrew Luck as the first overall pick in the NFL draft. A few short minutes later, he will come back up to the podium and announce Robert Griffin III as the second overall pick to the Washington Redskins.

After that, no one really seems to know what will happen next. Tomorrow the average football fan will hear a bunch of people’s names they have never heard before. The likes of Luke Kuechly, Matt Kalil, Stephon Gilmore, and others will have their names called, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay will diagnose their games, and that will be that.

The build-up to the draft is well known. Prospects have the combine, school pro-days, personal workouts, analysts write up scouting reports and create mock drafts, and fans aimlessly wonder who their team will be selecting. While all of these things are certainly entertaining (I know I waste hours upon hours reading these things), there are a few things to keep in mind. As Pete Prisco, a writer for cbssports.com put, “The more I talk to coaches, scouts, and GM’s, I believe they could find fault with the bodies of swimsuit models. Are any players good?”

So yes, while some of the information brought to light by scouts and analysts alike are viable information, we seem to stress and nitpick over small things. Scouting reports said Aaron Rodgers didn’t “possess athletic ability” and “didn’t have prototypical size.” How did that work out? The goal of this article is to point out some of the rather obvious things that may get lost in the shuffle of scouting reports and analysts critiques.

Remember him? That's Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw.
  • Courtney Upshaw is a beast: Remember him? Alabama national champion outside linebacker? Defensive MVP of the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME! Upshaw had 95 tackles and 7 sacks his senior year, yet for the last month his stock is falling. This brings me to my next point…
  • Really good, pure, football players in college generally turn out to be really good NFL pro’s too: What do I mean by this? I’ll tell you by giving an example. I watched Sean Lee play his entire Penn State foball career, and while Lee was never the biggest, fastest, or strongest player on the field, Sean Lee was always where the ball was. He was just a football player. So when Lee went in the third round to Dallas a few years ago, I laughed. Don’t let the measurements fool you: If your player doesn’t run a 4.4 40, get 35 reps on the bench press, and scores low on the wonderlic test, don’t flip out, he’s there for a reason.
  • Talk to the fans: I was reading a conversation on twitter between two fellow Jets fans (who also have a rooting interest for Syracuse football) about Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones. The gist of the conversation? Chandler Jones was someone who they barely knew about. To me, that’s as worrisome as any scouting report. So what’s the point? If your team drafts a player from say, Ohio State. Seek out Ohio State fans and see what they think. If you get a so-so response, well, maybe panic a little bit.
  • Left Tackle is always the most important position on the offense, besides quarterback: So when Minnesota passes over stud USC Tackle Matt Kalil for Mo Claiborne, I’ll be the first one to say “I told you so” when injury-prone Christian Ponder is stuck on his back all 2012.
  • Trading up usually works out: Especially when your a team ready to contend. Always take that crisp dollar bill over four quarters.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NBA Point Guards

Over the past season there has been a hot debate over who are the best point guards in the NBA. Point guard is one of the most important positions in all of sports. Without a man running the team it's hard to win. There are two ways of ranking PG's, who are the best right now, meaning who will help you this season, and who you would build around for the next 7-10 years. The guy that seems to cause the most discussion is Russell Westbrook. I personally do not like his style of play. He plays like Derrick Rose. One problem, D-Rose had to be THE MAN for the Bulls to win in past years. Russ does not. His team would be better if he passed way more. I hear the argument about KD being his only help. It’s a load of crap. James Harden can be a 20-25 ppg guy, Ibaka could use a few more shots, and the Thunder have some of the better role players in the league. Quite frankly the guy who should be getting more attempts is Kevin Durant. He is the best scorer in the NBA. I believe a PG's job is to make his team better. At times Westbrook hurts his team more than helps. It's not every game, heck it is probably less than 10% of games. But those 10% seem to be in HUGE games (see Sunday vs. LAL or last year in West Finals). In my opinion Russ takes too many shots. He has attempted 1233 shots, and 191 threes this season! In comparison Tony Parker has 890 and 61 three pt attempts. I know they are different players, and Russ has played 4 more games than Parker but that is a huge difference! Again not saying Russ is a bad player, I just don’t think he is a top 5 PG, and I think he will hold the Thunder back from winning the West if he does not facilitate more. Now onto the rankings.

Top 5 Point Guard Right now! You really cannot go wrong with any of these guys, and the order is not set in stone. All have great arguments.

1) Chris Paul--If Westbrook played like him he would be on this list. Looks to make teammates better, but knows when to take over a game and get buckets.

2) Rajon Rondo-- One of the most improved players in NBA over the past few years. Can dominate a game and not score a bucket on you. Some of his stat lines this year have been insane. Aside from Paul/Nash, he is the best passer in NBA. Does it all.

3) Derrick Rose-- Hopefully Rose will get healthy and get back to his MVP play in the playoffs. Great scorer but knows when to pass. His scoring has dropped a bit but there is a reason for this. Has more help than in years past, and trusts his teammates more. His assist are up, and he has played like a pure point a lot this year.

4) Deron Williams-- Many forget how good this guy is. He plays for an AWFUL team and still got 21 and 9 this year. Next season expect a lot more talent around him, and expect him a lot higher on this list. The Nets have the power to kill careers, but D-Will looks like he will survive.

5) Tony Parker-- Most underrated player in NBA. Most important player on the league’s best team. Runs the offense to perfection, and can still take a game over. There is a reason he will finish top 5 in MVP voting.

Just missed

6) Steve Nash-- Suns have nothing and yet Nash still does his thing. 10 assist per game, and if the NBA counted "Hockey assists" he would blow the league out. A true definition of a PURE point guard.

6b) Russell Westbrook-- I have him tied with Nash. A much better scorer and an above average defender, but needs to play like a PG more. Too often he turns into a SG. I often wonder if the Thunder would be better if a guy like Nash or Parker ran the show.

Top 5 to build around next 7-10 years.

1) Paul/ D-Will-- Can't go wrong with either going forward.

2) Rose-- I want to see what he does with more talent around him. I'm a bit scared that Bulls played so well with him out, but that’s only reason I put him behind Cp3 and D-Will.

3) Kyrie Irving-- He is 20 years old, and will only get better.19 ppg and 6 assist playing for the Cavs is incredible. There isn’t a lot of talent around him, and that will change over the next few seasons. Every night the best perimeter defender is on him and he still leads all rookies in scoring. This guy has stud written all over him. Will be the next elite PG.

4) Rondo-- Love him, but I think Kyrie will be a better overall player in 3 years.

5) Russell Westbrook-- With age and failure in post season, he will learn to pass more. Plus KD and Harden are only going to get better and they will demand ball more as time goes on, as they should.

6) John Wall-- Has to develop a Jumper and make better decisions but those will come with time. Wouldn’t hurt the Wiz to put more talent around him and surround him with better attitudes. Trading Nick Young was huge for him going forward. Now Jordan Crawford needs to stop slowing his progression.

Let the debate begin.

--Lee Kunkel


MLB 10 Quick Thoughts



by Chris Cappella
With most teams being 16 games into this young season, there have been a few things I have picked up on. Enjoy this ten pack of thoughts to celebrate being 10% of the way through the season.


Pablo Sandoval (left) and Buster Posey (right) are
off to encouraging starts this season.
  1. The San Francisco Giants young sluggers, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, seem just fine to me. Posey, who is coming back from a serious leg injury, is hitting .375 with two homers while Sandoval has tied Willie Mays for the club record of consecutive games to get a hit to start a season (16).
  2. The Boston Red Sox are in serious trouble in my opinion. Their rotation is a mess, and there may be some animosity in the clubhouse after new coach Bobby Valentine called out fan favorite Kevin Youkilis and then got called out by second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The team will definitely be better with the return of Carl Crawford (at least I think so) and Jacoby Ellsbury (eventually). The man who gets too much of a pass for this whole situation is current Cubs executive Theo Epstein, who veered off from his true values and has left the Sox in shambles at the moment.
  3. Texas looks like the best team in the American League, again. You literally could not find a hole in their balanced line-up and are very solid on defense. The only worry is lack of a stud pitcher that could win them that one big game, but we can cross that road when needed.
  4. The Philadelphia Phillies are really struggling. Without their two best power hitters (Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, out indefinitely) a 3-0 defecit feels like 10-0. The pitching staff is very good, but I think myself and others get the feeling that the window in Philly is closing, and fast.
  5. Ranking the worst five teams in order, from worst to worst-er: Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros (this is considered a success for them at the moment), Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, and the Kansas City Royals (weren’t they supposed to be a little good this year?).
  6. Five best teams, from bottom to top: LA Dodgers (can’t fault them for who was on their schedule), New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, and the Texas Rangers.
  7. Matt Kemp is far and away the best player in baseball right now. He is hitting a ridiculous .460 and already has NINE home runs. He’s young, a five tool player, and looks unstoppable right now.
  8. Time for some New York love: Derek Jeter must have dipped into the fountain of youth this off-season. Entering his 18th full season as Yankees shortstop, the captain is hitting a whopping .411 and has multi-hit performances in nine of 16 games. When it comes to the Mets, RE-SIGN DAVID WRIGHT. Please and thank you.
  9. Stephen Strasburgh is really, really good. It isn’t often that a 23 year old throws as hard as he does with good command and has nasty off-speed.
  10. Texas has a lot of notable names, but don’t sleep on Mike Napoli or Daniel Murphy sneaking into the AL MVP race. Both can handle the stick and are as important as anyone on that team. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Who has the best shot to win it all?


NBA Power Rankings: Best title chances?

(Note: These are not your typical power rankings. I am ranking who I believe has the best shot to win an NBA title, not necessarily who is best right now. For example I think the Miami Heat are the best team in the league, but I do not think they have the best shot to win the title.)


1) Chicago Bulls: A few weeks ago I said the Bulls had the best overall chance to win a title if Derrick Rose could prove to me he was healthy and ready to go. I believe now that he is, and all this rest he has been getting will be very beneficial to the Bulls. The Bulls look like they will finish with the 1 seed in the east, and have been able to rest a lot of guys down the stretch. Rose will be able to get back in the swing of things in the first round and should be fully healthy and back in game shape by round two. As long as he is healthy for the potential Miami series, the Bulls will be in good shape.
Key Player: Derrick Rose
Toughest Potential Matchup: Miami Heat


2)  Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant is back, and looks to be rested after missing a stretch of games in which it looked like the other Lakers were able to prove to Mr. Bryant they could shoulder some of the load off his back, and contribute down the stretch. With Dwight Howard out for the playoffs, Andrew Bynum is the best big man left playing, and along with Kobe and the upstart Metta World Peace (although his looming suspension will be something to keep an eye on) the Lakers have a veteran team that has the fire power to keep up out west. Sunday’s comeback win over the Thunder will provide the team with great momentum going into the playoffs. I love the Lakers going into the playoffs, but one thing the team needs is Andrew Bynum to dominate.
Key Player: Andrew Bynum
Toughest Potential Matchup: San Antonio Spurs


3) Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder have the best team equipped to win the title right now. Depth, talent, size, youth, and just enough experience to cause tons of problems for the veteran teams out west.  The biggest problem may be confidence. The team is faltering at the wrong time. I d think they would have beaten LA Sunday had James Harden stayed in the game, but that loss could be one that comes back and really hurts OKC.  Russell Westbrook really struggled and so did Kevin Durant. The team may not get home court and even worse may have to play the Lakers round two. This team needs to get its confidence back quickly, and its PG needs to get back to his all star form he had a few weeks back.
Key Player: James Harden (Health) Russell Westbrook
Toughest Potential Matchup: LA Lakers


4) Miami Heat: The Heat have more pressure than any team in the league to win this title. If LeBron James wins the MVP as expected, and does not win a championship he will be the first 3 time MVP to not win a title. We know the expectations for Miami will be high, the question is, are the Heat healthy enough to get the job done? Dwayne Wade is banged up, and a few of the role players are also battling injuries. The Heat, unlike the above contenders could have a tough series right off the bat with the potential matchup with the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony on the horizon. After that could be Indiana, a team that is great at home and would likely push Miami to at least a 6 game series if not 7. I believe Miami will have a tougher battle than last season and a big shakeup could happen this off season if the team does not get the job done.
Key Player: LeBron James
Toughest Potential Matchup: Chicago Bulls


5)  Los Angeles Clippers: Lob City. Excitement. Man the Clippers are a fun team to watch and with the potential series vs. the Grizz looming first round they will be pushed right off the bat. I think Chris Paul will be a difference maker and push the Clippers into the second round where they will be put into a perfect situation to pull the upset over the Spurs. This team is young and doesn’t have a lot of playoff experience, but with a guy like Paul leading the way I believe the Clipps will embrace this new opportunity. If you’re following me you can see what I see on the horizon. Battle of Los Angeles for the right to play in the NBA finals. The Clippers will need Blake Griffin to provide more than just a few highlight dunks but I believe he can deliver.
Key Player: Blake Griffin
Toughest Potential Matchup: Memphis Grizzlies

6) Boston Celtics: This team needs to get healthy, but as long as Rajon Rondo is at the helm they have a solid shot of making some noise in the East. The team should cruise by the Hawks first round and that would setup a potential matchup with the Bulls. I think Chicago would be too much for the C’s, but with Rondo you never know. KG looks like the guy the C’s got from Minnesota a few years back and Paul Pierce is still one of the best closers in the game. The Celtics have a lot of weapons, and are certainly on Miami and Chicago’s radar.
Key Player: Kevin Garnett
Toughest Potential Matchup: Miami Heat

7) San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs may get the number one overall seed in the NBA. Tony Parker could be a sleeper for the MVP. They are healthy, and Gregg Popovich has been able to rest his players. In a typical power ranking I may have the Spurs top 3. So why are the Spurs so low on this list? I just don’t see this old team getting by the Memphis/LAC winner. Both those teams’ posses’ very athletic deep rosters and I believe the Spurs could be in a lot of trouble round two. Tony Parker will have to continue his excellence and someone other than Manu Ginobili will have to score. If the Spurs can get by that round two matchup, they do have the tools to get by LAL or OKC.
Key Player: Tony Parker
Toughest Potential Matchup: LAC/Mem winner


 Other Potential teams: I don’t think any of these teams will win the title, but they do have an outside shot. Memphis just missed being on this list. I like their team a lot, but having to take out the Clippers and then the Spurs and finally the Lakers or OKC just to get to the finals is a huge task. Not having home court in any of those matchups could prove costly. At time of publish they still did have a shot at 4 seed and home court 1st Rd. They are one game back of LAC. The Knicks are a team a lot of people like, but there is no way they get by Miami and Chicago. Carmelo just doesn’t have enough help, and this team lacks the type of consistent D that a team needs t have in the playoffs. Indiana is a team I love in the East, but with D-Rose back and the fact the Pacers would have to beat Miami in Rd two and then the Bulls, I just don’t see it happening. If D-Rose remains banged up they are a sleeper in the East. They play great at home and always play Miami tough.

(Note) The Mavs are not the same team they were last season. They just don’t have it this year, and other than Dirk, there isn’t anyone on this roster that scares teams. I don’t see Dallas getting out of round 1.

My finals picks as of now (subject to change before the playoffs start Saturday) Are the Bulls over the Lakers in 7.

--Lee Kunkel

Contender or Pretender


by Chris Cappella

There have been more than a few surprises early in this MLB season, and with that raises questions. Can the Nationals keep up their hot start? Who are the contenders in the AL East? Time to break down some of these teams in the season’s first edition of extremely premature contender or pretender!

Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are off to a very impressive 9-6 start while getting next to nothing from superstar slugger Jose Bautista. Edwin Encarnacion, coming off a career year, is hitting everything in sight and leading the team in nearly all offensive categories. The one thing to worry about is the pitching. While the staff is 6th in the AL in bating average, they’re in the second half of other categories like ERA and quality starts… Does that ever catch up to them? Overall, the Blue Jays are going to be able to mash (especially when Bautista gets going) but they’ll need everyone in the pitching staff to step up. Even in a super tough AL East, I’ll label the Blue Jays as Contenders.

Chicago White Sox: Remember last year when the Sox were preseason favorites to win the Central? Expectations aren’t quite there yet in the windy city, but with a nice 9-6 start, there is some hope. Robin Ventura might just be the new voice this franchise needs after seven years of Ozzie Guillen, and the rotation suddenly looks four deep. If Gordon Beckham can live up to even a fraction of his hype and they can get anything from Adam Dunn, their line-up is very formidable. Judgment: Detroit is the best team in the division, and I don’t see the line-up producing enough to get them anywhere. Contenders

Washington Nationals: Last year’s third place team in the NL east is off to a flying start, with a record of 12-4. Looking at the numbers, it’d be easy to be confused on exactly how the Nats are playing so well. Little Ian Desmond is leading the team in homeruns (with 2) and Jayson Werth is leading the team in batting average at .322 (career .265 hitter). If you want to dig deeper into the Nats success, look no further then the pitching staff, led by stud Stephen Strasburgh. Starsburgh. A former number one overall pick, Strasburgh has filthy stuff and rare control for his secondary pitches for a guy who’s 23. The bullpen has looked pretty solid thus far, slugger Michael Morse will eventually be back from a DL stint, and the Nats have a deep bench, making them a Contender.

Chicago Cubs: Kidding. 


Los Angeles Dodgers: Despite the financial situations, LA didn’t have too bad of a season last year. There are some bright spots on the roster, with the most obvious being centerfielder Matt Kemp, the best player in the game right now. The pitching staff, led by last year’s Cy Young Clayton Kershaw, is pretty solid. Not only is Kershaw pitching well, but Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly both look un-hittable. Analysis: LA is 12-4, but I’m not sold. Their schedule has been very favorable (2 series against San Diego, one against the Pirates and Astros), and the infield hasn’t shown any signs of producing offensively. I’d say they finish right around .500, much like last year. Pretenders

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mock Draft

by Chris Cappella

We're six days away from the first round of the NFL Draft, and I thought I'd give my try on all 32 picks of the first round. Enjoy!

  1. Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford. Luck is considered the best quarterback prospect since the man he’s replacing in Peyton Manning.
  2. Washington Redskins- Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor. Washington has longed for consistency at that position, and the dynamic Griffin does that for them.
  3. Minnesota Vikings- Matt Kalil, OT, USC. Minnesota just spent a high pick last year on Christian Ponder, now get someone who will keep him upright.
  4. Cleveland Browns- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. Cleveland needs to replace Peyton Hillis and surround Colt McCoy with talent.
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. Claiborne is drawing rare reviews from his workout and Tampa apparently loves him.
  6. St. Louis Rams- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. I think new coach Jeff Fisher identifies the need to surround his franchise quarterback with appropriate playmakers. I still think Michael Floyd is better.
  7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. Could the Jaguars disinterest in Melvin Ingram be a smoke screen? I don’t think so, and I have them taking the freakishly athletic and uber-talented Coples.
  8. Miami Dolphins- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. Miami has been longing for a quarterback since the Marino days.
  9. Carolina Panthers- Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State. After allowing 130 yards per game on the ground last year, Carolina needs to beef up their D-Line.
  10. Buffalo Bills- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa. Won’t be the most popular pick (Michael Floyd would be) but this solidifies a big need for Buffalo.
  11. Kansas City Chiefs- David DeCastro, OG, Stanford. Top 7 prospect for good value at a pressing need.
  12. Seattle Seahawks- Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina. Seattle wants a pass rusher and they could get a difference maker in Ingram.
  13. Arizona Cardinals- Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia. Everyone knows Arizona wants a tackle, it’s just a matter of who will be on the board.
  14. Dallas Cowboys- Mark Barron, S, Alabama. Rob Ryan’s secondary needs a bona fide playmaker and the best safety in the draft for his inconsistent defense.
  15. Philadelphia Eagles- Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College. Philly’s weakness last year was up the middle, and Kuechly is a future pro-bowler tackling machine.
  16. New York Jets- Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama. Jets have made OLB a priority in this years draft, and despite Upshaw’s stock falling as of late, I still think the Jets make him the third ‘Bama player taken.
  17. Cincinnati Bengals- Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina. Would be an instant boost to a cornerback group that could use an upgrade.
  18. San Diego Chargers- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Chargers can’t help themselves from taking wide receiving playmaker after the departure of Vincent Jackson.
  19. Chicago Bears- Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford. Did you watch a Bears game last year? Their O-Line is pitiful.
  20. Tennessee Titans- Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse. Titans have been bringing in a host of Defensive End’s, and Jones athletic frame is the best available.
  21. Cincinnati Bengals- Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. Wright and Green could make for some duo for years to come.
  22. Cleveland Browns- Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State. Adams can help a shaky Cleveland line.
  23. Detroit Lions- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. The Lions face Cutler and Rodgers twice a year, and need ammunition to match those offenses. Kirkpatrick has the build to be able to face the Calvin Johnson’s of the league.
  24. Pittsburgh SteelersDontari Poe, NT, Memphis. Poe’s massive size and need for a nose tackle makes sense. It’s only a matter if Poe falls this far.
  25. Denver Broncos- Michael Brockers, DL, LSU. Brockers is an athletic freak of nature who could probably play all positions on the D-Line. Denver already lost one starter but could reload with Brockers.
  26. Houston Texans-Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama. Right now Houston has Darryl Sharpton as their starting ILB. Don’t know who that is? Neither do I.
  27. New England Patriots- Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State. New England could also        go Whitney Mercilus or Nick Perry but ultimately go with the explosive McClellin.
  1. Green Bay Packers- Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC. Green Bay needs some depth on their D-Line and Perry is as good as an athlete anyone in the draft
  2. Baltimore Ravens- Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin. GM Ozzie Newsome is as good as anyone in the business at filling needs before it’s a problem, which is what he would do here with an aging Matt Birk.
  3. San Francisco 49ers- Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford. San Fran has no gaping holes on defense, signed a plethora of receivers, and having another all-around tight end can only be a good thing.
  4. New England Patriots- Lamar Miller, RB, Miami. New England needs someone to replace BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the versatile, do-it-all running back can step right in.
  5. New York Giants- Jerel Worthy, DL, Michigan State. Worthy can play all positions on the D-Line and is pretty solid in all areas. Sounds like he’ll fit right in.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Breaking: Tennessee Head Coach Pat Summitt steps down


by Chris Cappella

            Legendary Tennessee women’s head coach Pat Summitt has announced she is stepping down form her post as head coach and will be the “head coach emeritus.”
            Summitt, who has been the head coach for the Volunteers for 38 years, turns 60 this June and was diagnosed with early onsets of dementia last year. Summitt will still have a role with the basketball program, mentoring students and coaches, and will help recruiting. Holly Warlick, a three-time Volunteer All-American and assistant on the staff for 27 seasons, will take over coaching duties.
"I've loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role. I want to help ensure the stability of the program going forward. I would like to emphasize that I fully intend to continue working as head coach emeritus, mentoring and teaching life skills to our players, and I will continue my active role as a spokesperson in the fight against Alzheimer's through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund,” said Summit.
            Summitt is the all-time leader in wins in collegiate basketball (both men’s and women’s) with 1098. She won the SEC coach of the year eight times and NCAA coach of the year seven. Summitt was named Naismith coach of the century and won eight national championships.