The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

Follow Mike Patton aka The General as he puts his thoughts in on sports.

Farewell To The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog

The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog has been my gift to the writing world ever since it started back in July of 2010. I started as an inexperienced writer that was trying to get a voice out to everyone. And you better believe that I had no idea what my writing would turn into. But over time and practice, the writing has gotten stronger and the dynamic has been crafted through my work. And with that dynamic growing and the writing becoming stronger, I created a following of people that either liked what I was writing about or gave stiff opposition. Either way, people were starting to tune in. And as people were starting to tune in, there were people on different levels that were paying attention as well.

Over my time writing on The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog, I have had the opportunity to interview people and write for people as well. People like ESPN Radio’s Freddie Coleman and Warren Moon have been gracious enough to allow me to interview them. And I also had the opportunity to write for Free (106 And Park fame) and having the opportunity to write for City Sports Report and my writing friend Derrel Johnson. And with Derrel, I was afforded the opportunity to cover the Christmas Day Knicks game versus the Washington Wizards in 2014. I remember covering that game and being able to go into the locker rooms and see the reactions and the way everyone conducted interviews around us. I also remember having the opportunity to see how things are done on the big stage of media. These experiences have proven to be invaluable to me as I have grown as a writer and expanded my media presence.

I have thoroughly enjoyed running The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog over the 5 and a half years it has been up. But the time has come for change to happen. And that change is The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog coming to an end. I have enjoyed all of you that have visited, commented and shared my work in the many places that it has popped up. But I just feel that it is time for this site to come to an end. But never fear, I could pop up again when you least expect it. Maybe in another form or fashion. But as of right now, this is the last time this guy will appear here on this site. The run is over for this one. Time to move on to the next phase. Turn off the lights. The party is over.

Signing Off,

 

Mike Patton

The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog

The General’s Top Three Teams In The Joe Johnson Sweepstakes

(photo courtesy of www.fansided.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.fansided.com)

The trade deadline has come and gone and some players that could affect teams were moved. One notable one is now-Pistons forward Tobias Harris. But after that, is the season where veteran players get to pick the team they want to go to. Yep, buyout season is upon us now and after the trade deadline is usually when it happens. Of course, some players get traded and get bought out with no one to pick them up. But there are some that are coveted but not coveted at the pricetag they were being paid at. Joe Johnson was getting paid 21.9 million this season for the Brooklyn Nets. Plenty of teams were interested in him, but the pricetag was just too high for them. Many teams were hoping instead of trading for him, that the Nets would reach a buyout with him eventually. It may not have happened when many expected it to, but now Joe Johnson is a free agent on the open market. The Nets and Johnson agreed to a buyout of his contract on Thursday. And assuming he will clear waivers, Johnson will be able to pick where he wants to go. More than likely, a contender will take a chance and bring him in for the rest of the season and the playoffs. But the question is which team will he choose? The answer to that question is still up in the air, but here are the three teams (in no particular order) that are expected to make a run at the 34 year old veteran.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been better under the leadership of Tyronn Lue. The teams seems to be more in tune defensively and Kevin Love is more involved offensively. Even with some of the struggles that they have had this season, they are still the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. But even with that, there seems to be an issue with the shooting they have coming in off the bench. Channing Frye was acquired to add to the shooting off the Cleveland bench, but anytime you have Richard Jefferson coming in off your bench to backup LeBron James, then there is an issue. Johnson is not a small forward, but at 6’7”, he can play the small forward position. He and Iman Shumpert coming in off the bench would be a solid duo because they both have length and size defensively and offensively Joe could balance out the inconsistent shooting that comes from Shumpert and some of the backup guards. Johnson would be a shot in the arm for the backup crew in Cleveland and could also run with starting crew sometimes with LeBron James. And with LeBron’s propensity to break down defenses, Johnson could spot up and nail the three (Johnson is a career 37% three-point shooter). He essentially would help create even more lanes and space for LeBron, especially if they go to the small lineup with LeBron at the power forward position. And more importantly for Johnson, he could play on a team that could potentially get him to the NBA Finals for the first time.

Johnson could definitely help the Cavaliers’ bench, but he could also help the Thunder whether it be off the bench or in the starting lineup. The Thunder have been carried all season long by their superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But what they have had all season is a hole at their shooting guard spot. They filled it earlier in the season with Andre Roberson. The young wing player is in the mold of former Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha in that he is a defensive player and can spot up offensively and can occasionally hit the open shot. But in a playoff series, he helps other teams play four on five. His offensive game is not respected and that causes things to be harder for Durant and Westbrook in crunch time. The other shooting guard the Thunder have is Dion Waiters. The young guard out of Syracuse has been inconsistent at best for his entire career and you never know what you will get out of him, whether it be off the bench or starting. Johnson would give them a career 17 point per game scorer that is feared scoring the ball and could help some of the playmaking pressures off Durant and Westbrook in the playoffs. If he decides to go with that team, that gives them a veteran presence that could conceivably give them enough to challenge for the Western Conference crown.

Johnson would be heading West, but there is another team that should take a look at him. That team: the San Antonio Spurs. Many will probably wonder why he would fit that team. They are pretty deep as it stands right now. But Joe would fit in seamlessly on that team. Manu Ginobli will be back momentarily with this team and they have the energetic Jonathan Simmons coming in off the bench as well. But Johnson adds something that they miss when they look down the bench. Johnson can play the small forward position off the bench in San Antonio and give them some much-needed shooting there. And he can also play the backup shooting guard position as well if Ginobli does not make it back like they expect him to. There will not be huge minutes for Johnson to be had there, but he would be on one of the best teams in the West and a team that some think can knock off the Golden State Warriors. Having a guy like this coming in off your bench is never back for a team that covets guys that can shoot and move the basketball. Joe can become a Black Hole at times with the ball, but I’m sure he could adapt to the play in San Antonio pretty easy.

This decision for Joe Johnson is a huge one for him. It could be the difference between winning a title and going home earlier than expected. Johnson may not have this type of opportunity again in his career, so he may want to examine his fit to each team before making his choice. He brings some good things to all three of these teams and it will be interesting to see which one he chooses, whether it be one of these three or another wildcard team.

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The CBA Is Becoming A Huge Factor In Professional Basketball

The NBA is a dream for a lot of people. They work and work their whole lives to try to hear their names being broadcast on the television as they are called to the stage to get the hat of their new team and shake the commissioner’s hand. But not everyone can make it to the NBA. There are some that don’t get that opportunity. And along with those that don’t get the opportunity, there are some that don’t last as long as they would like. In that instance, some players make the decision to quit playing the game. At that point, their second career starts quicker than they wanted it to. But for others, the decision to go overseas still is there. With that being said, it seems like the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is starting to become a place where former NBA players and college stars tend to land. And because of that, the CBA has become better and better. And with the NBA becoming a place that not everyone can play in, the CBA is becoming a place where players go.

“People love basketball in China,” says former NBA and CBA basketball player David Harrison. “The national sport is ping pong, but every game I played in was sold out.” Harrison was drafted in the first round (29th overall) by the Indiana Pacers in the 2004 NBA Draft. He played a total of four seasons in the NBA with the Pacers, never averaging more than six points per game. At the end of his fourth year, the Pacers and the rest of the NBA decided to not give him a shot in the NBA anymore. He was out of a job and looking for work. And then came the CBA. David played a total of three years in China and had great production over there for the Beijing Ducks and the Guangdong Southern Tigers, even having a season where he averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds. He was able to extend his career and play somewhere that allowed him to get as many minutes as he could. We have seen some revive their careers to an extent over there, but when asked is it a league to revive you career, Harrison said “I’m not sure about reviving your career to return to the NBA. But it is a viable option. There are millions to be made there for sure.”

But with any league, there has to be some adjustments that have to be made. Besides the language barrier, there is one rule that is very interesting that may still be in play over there. “If you are American, you can only play three quarters of a game. So in that instance, the game became a strategic one as to who you play when.” says Harrison. Another interesting thing over there is the cities that are played in. Some cities are big and there is not much of an adjustment. But in some of the smaller cities, Harrison describes them by saying they are “as bad a third world countries”. And if you’re hoping for good officiating over there, then think again. When asked about the officiating, Harrison said “it is horrible and it makes you definitely appreciate the NBA officiating.” Like Harrison said earlier, there are millions to be made over there in China, but they are given at a smaller rate than in the NBA. The average NBA salary is roughly five million. The highest average salary per season over there is not even over $3 million. To give you an idea, former NBA player Andray Blatche just signed the richest contract in the CBA, making a guaranteed $7.5 million over three years (which the CBA used to only offer one-year deals). The CBA is growing and making some leaps in their history and from Harrison’s thoughts, the league is a legit league.

The CBA will only become a bigger product as more collegiate stars and players who are not in the NBA continue to go over there and make the league better. Guys like Willie Warren (former Oklahoma Sooners guard), Marshon Brooks (former 1st round pick of the Boston Celtics), Dominique Jones (former 1st round pick of the Dallas Mavericks) and Michael Beasley (former #2 overall pick) are just a few of the names that are making serious waves over in China, putting up insane scoring numbers provided they only play three quarters. The next step for China is to get their games broadcast over here in the United States. And with more and more players from the United States going there, the CBA could be coming to a television near you. It isn’t a matter of “when” but “if”. The CBA is here and is becoming the most prominent league outside of the NBA. If you don’t believe they are becoming a factor, read what Harrison said about the CBA: “The CBA has more viewers than the NBA.”

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Remember Andray Blatche?

(photo courtesy of The Philippine Star)

(photo courtesy of The Philippine Star)

The NBA season is heading towards the playoffs and many teams are still looking for help. Some teams out there are hoping veteran players like the Nets’ Joe Johnson and the Timberwolves’ Kevin Martin get bought out by their current teams. But another option people are looking at is the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). The CBA consists of some former NBA players along with some local Chinese players. And every now and then, there is an NBA player that revives his career overseas. One player that seems to be doing so is Michael Beasley. Currently he is averaging 32 points and 13 rebounds for the Shandong Lions. And even though he is halfway across the world, many NBA front offices have been keeping tabs on how he is doing. Their belief is that Beasley will continue to show his worth and they want to be the team to take a chance on him to make it work. And because of his talent, he will more than likely yet another shot to make the NBA. But one guy that many have seemingly forgotten about is currently playing overseas as well. His name is Aundray Blatche.

Plenty still remember when Blatche came into the NBA. He entered the NBA Draft out of high school in 2005 and fancied himself a first-round pick. But instead of being selected as early as he thought, he was selected with the 49th overall pick in the draft. His selection late meant that he was not assured to make the team and that there would be no big-time money given out to him to sign his rookie contract. He had to play himself onto the roster in Washington that season and he did. He seldom played his rookie season, but he eventually worked his way into being a player that the Wizards were looking to in their future. He was signed to an extension in 2010 that was going to pay him $35 million over the next five years. There was some thinking that he had turned the corner when he signed that deal. But unfortunately, he did not live up to that deal. The first season after signing the big deal, he did average 17 points per game and eight rebounds. But the following season (2011-2012), he suffered a setback in his progress, dropping down to nine points per game and getting in some trouble along with showing up out of shape. The Wizards decided to move on and they did so using the amnesty clause, cutting bait and going as far as to say Blatche was not in their future plans. Blatche would end up playing two seasons for the Brooklyn Nets at a discounted price (he was still getting his paychecks from the Washington Wizards per the amnesty agreement while in Brooklyn). Those two years reinvigorated his career. He was in double-figures despite not playing more than 25 minutes a night and it was thought that he would be highly sought after in the free agent market in 2014. But instead, Blatche went a different route.

Blatche declined his $1.43 million player option in Brooklyn and tested the free agent market. But that test ended up landing him in China. And from there, he has never come back. Blatche signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal in China that season and many thought he was going to come back to the NBA after that time. Instead of coming back, Blatche stayed away, deciding to sign a three-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui team in China worth $7.5 million. And the contract he signed included no opt out to come back to the NBA. He has decided that his second chapter will stay away from America (for now) and that he will try to make his career elsewhere at this point. So far he is averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds over in China this year and he seems to be happy there. Beasley is the guy many talk about taking a look at, but Blatche could probably help a team more than him (provided he is in shape). The versatile big man can handle the basketball, shoot and has vision on the court to hit the open man. As far as Beasley, he can score but there is not much else he can do besides that. Beasley has always been a liability in his career and that is something that has hindered him, along with the other off-the-court issues. Blatche may fit in great, but he does not want to fit into the NBA anymore. He instead chooses to go the path less traveled, and take his talents overseas to make a living.

Beasley may be the name many are talking about, but Blatche is the guy that could help teams more right now. But as the years go by, his name will fade more and more from the NBA. Plenty will remember him for his flounders in Washington with he and JaVale McGhee beside each other. But many will forget that he righted himself in Brooklyn only to leave the NBA and not return. Now we will only see Blatche from a distance as he continues his career in China. It would have been interesting to see what he could have been if he signed to play in the NBA again. But we will probably never get to see that one happen again.

Here are some highlights from Blatche in China last season:

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Pass Rusher For Hire

(photo courtesy of Scott Terna/Icon Sportswire)

(photo courtesy of Scott Terna/Icon Sportswire)

Mario Williams was supposed to be a monster when he entered the NFL. He had the size, speed and skills that had many believing he could be one of the best ever. He was taken first overall in the 2006 NFL Draft out of North Carolina State by the Houston Texans. And immediately, the expectations were heaped upon him. Honestly, there was no way that he was going to live up to what people expected of him. He did have a few good years in Houston, but ultimately, they did not believe he was worth keeping around and opted to build their defense around defensive lineman JJ Watt (which ended up being an excellent decision). Williams signed a huge deal in Buffalo (six years and $96 million with $31.4 million guaranteed) and the buzz was that he was going to return to the form he had in his second and third years in the NFL. His sack totals grew each of the first three years he was there, climbing from 10 sacks the first year to 14.5 sacks in 2014. But this past season he regressed to five sacks in Rex Ryan’s first year as head coach. The lack of production along with the rumblings of him being unhappy in Buffalo under Ryan will lead to him being officially released very soon. But what are his options and how will he be viewed on the open market.

Williams is a beast of a man lining up at defensive end. Standing at 6’6” and weighing in at 292 pounds, he strikes fear in a lot of offensive linemen. But unfortunately, he does not play like a guy that strikes fear in offensive linemen all the time. He has been known over his career to take some time off on the field and disappear in games like he did this past season. If you are going to sign him, then you have to take a chance that he may disappear again. And with the need for pass rushers in the NFL, someone is going to pay him big money once again. But along with the inconsistency his career has shown, you also have to think about his age. Williams is no spring chicken anymore. He will be entering his 11th season next year (31 years old heading into next season) and there are no guarantees that he can get to the heights that he was at in his first three years in Buffalo. The place where he lands will have to be a 4-3 defense because he is best when he has his hand on the ground rushing off the edge. If he decides to play and show that he still has it, then he could be a steal for a team looking to get any pressure off the edge. Or worst case scenario, he has the potential to be a stain on the salary cap of the team he chooses to sign with. Essentially, an ideal situation would be for him to go to a team that has multiple pass rushers to take some pressure off him with a younger pass rusher to spell him from time to time. But the reality is that he will end up more than likely going to a team that is in desperate need for a pass rush. So with that being said, where are some ideal spots for him?

Williams could be taking his game out West. With defensive end Justin Tuck announcing his retirement, there is a need for Williams in Oakland. Their offense is up and coming, but the defense needs some help. The Raiders would probably prefer to sign a defensive back to help their ailing secondary, but having a pass rush combo of linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack and Williams would be terribly tough to handle for the rest of the league (provided Williams shows up every week). The team also could pay him an astronomical salary that he would want. That team with the offensive talent they have just needs a defense and they could make some noise and eventually the playoffs. Another team that is up and coming is the Jacksonville Jaguars. They, just like the Raiders, have some budding stars offensively. And just like the Raiders, the Jaguars need defensive help. They play in a division where the Texas (with how bad they were) won the division and the Colts aren’t exactly the most solid-looking team these days. Williams could come in there and lift that defense up if he plays up to his potential. Adding Williams and a cornerback would be huge for Jacksonville in their attempt to get back to relevance. But the last and final team that would fit Williams the best are the Giants. New York missed the playoffs last season and part of that reason was their inability to create a pass rush. With Williams, that problem could be solved. And with the rumblings that the Giants are going to sign back Jason Pierre-Paul, he would take some of the pressure off him to be the main pass rusher for the team. With adding him and maybe some health in the secondary (along with some good pickups there), the Giants could remake their defense to support their offense. And in the NFC East, the Giants have as good a chance as anyone to win that division, especially with the only quarterback currently in the division that has won a title. And of the three teams mentioned, they have the best shot to win the title.

Mario Williams is likely about to sign his last big contract once he is officially released from the Buffalo Bills. And where he signs, there will be pressure on him to perform and win. Time is running out on his career and the next place he signs, he has to be present and not disappear like he did in this past season. It will be interesting to see where he lands and what they give him to come there.

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Return To Sender

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

It was the chance for a fresh start and a new city. Donatas Motiejunas, Macus Thornton and Joel Anthony were getting ready to play for their new teams (Joel Anthony was traded to the Sixers with a second round pick after he was traded to the Rockets). It was going to be interesting to see how each piece fit where they ended up. But unfortunately, all three of these players will be returning to their former teams. The trade that was going to further shape the Pistons fell through once Motiejunas was not able to pass a physical due to his continued recovery from back surgery. The 7’ power forward had back surgery this past offseason and has had multiple setbacks trying to recover. Needless to say, he has not been on the court much at all this season. And the likelihood is he will not see the court at all this year either.

Joel Anthony will be returning to a team that will have a chance to make the playoffs this year. The Pistons still made one solid trade in getting forward Tobias Harris and it will be interesting to see if they can integrate him into what they do. The result of that trade getting voided is that Anthony goes back to ninth in the Eastern Conference instead of the last place team in the NBA. But you have to wonder what he feels like going back to the Pistons. After all, he has to look in the face of the guy who tried to trade him for the rest of the season potentially. There has to be some uneasy tension there. Many will say that Anthony has to be professional about it, but privately he has to wonder why he has to stay somewhere that the coach/president of basketball operations does not want him. Whether he thinks that or not, Anthony really has survived in the NBA longer than many thought he would. And to be truthful, there were a ton of people that forgot he was in the NBA anymore. After he was no longer a member of the Miami Heat, it seemed like his career went into oblivion. But there he stands and there he is, still getting a game check from the Pistons each time he is there on the bench or in uniform. And for that, he has to be thankful.

As far as Motiejunas, he has to feel some sort of way. He is a productive player when he is healthy, but he was given up despite the potential he has. He is still very young and is a very skilled young big man. So he has to be keeping his focus on getting healthy for either the rest of the season or the offseason. After all, the cap is going up and someone will take a chance on him provided he can pass a physical the next time. But one thing he and Thornton have to go back to is something they probably dread. The feeling in that locker room has to be uncomfortable. With the firing of head coach Kevin McHale early in the season and the team’s stars reportedly both trying to get each other traded, that has to be something that feels more like a circus than a basketball team. In Detroit, at least the feeling there was that they were building something. Motiejunas and Thornton would have been very good pieces on a Pistons team that was going to look like the 2008-2009 Orlando Magic team. But alas, all that is now a dream that Thornton and Motiejunas will have to just imagine for now. They are stuck in Houston for right now. And they both probably realize that the toxic environment there could lead to an interesting offseason. An offseason that could end up with both of them gone anyway.

Anthony is probably the more relieved of the bunch. He gets to stay with a team that could be on the rise. While Motiejunas and Thornton go back to somewhere they would probably like to escape. And meanwhile, that protected 2016 1st round pick the Rockets received in this trade gets returned to its sender. The reshaping of the team in Houston fell flat on its face as the Rockets were not able to move anyone via trade at all. And the NBA’s greatest drama team will continue to go on like an episode of The Haves and Have Nots, with Howard and Harden as the leading actors.

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The Next Chapter For Matt Forte

(photo courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.huffingtonpost.com)

Matt Forte has been a mainstay in the backfield of the Chicago Bears. Ever since he was drafted in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Bears out of Tulane, he has been giving opposing defenses fits. And the 6’2”, 218 pound back is not only a threat on the ground, but through the air as well. He has been doing his thing in Chicago for eight season, but 2015 was his last season as a Chicago Bear. The organization has decided to go in a different direction and will not be retaining his services. Forte said his goodbyes to the fans on social media and thus begins his search for a new home next season. Plenty have speculated on where he will land next year and what kind of team fits his style. But in all honesty, there are a few things that will effect what he wants to do next. Some of that falls at the feet of Forte. But then there are also some teams that have to address where they are at this point in time.

Forte is a veteran player at this point in his career. He has reached 30 years old and that is deadly for a running back. At that age, running backs usually have the wear and tear catch up to them. You tend to see guys getting banged up more and missing more games. Forte has been very durable over his career, but he did miss the second-most games in his career last season and had the lowest single-season rushing total he has had in his entire career. If he is to go somewhere, he will have to split carries with someone. For a guy that is used to carrying the load, that will definitely be an adjustment for him. The question will be is he ready to do that or not? If he is, he better be ready to take a paycut (made $9.2 million last season). Running backs are not as valued as they once were in the NFL. More teams are going to a rotation system at that position and also are going with cheaper options to run the football. Forte may be looking for that last payday, but that last one will probably not be as much as he wants. If he accepts less money to play, it will more than likely be to play for a contender. During his time in Chicago, he has not really been blessed to play with a contender.

Now that we have gotten the particulars in what Forte is at this point, what he may be looking for and what he may get on the free agent market, it is time to get some teams to mind that may be able to use his services. One team that could use him would be New England. The Patriots are big in using the short passing game and Forte would be a perfect fit for them there. They do have Dion Lewis coming back next season, but the Patriots have not been any stranger to adding veteran backs. And ultimately, the Patriots would give Forte a chance to win that elusive ring. Another team that could use his talents would be the Seattle Seahawks. Of course they would have to get him on a tremendous discount due to the money they have to pay all the players they have. But if they were to get him, then they would have insurance in case of Thomas Rawls not repeating his performance next season. And they would also have a guy that could play all three downs for them with ease as a backup also. And third on the list comes the Dallas Cowboys. Even though the Cowboys may not be the contender the Seahawks and Patriots are, they could make some noise offensively provided everyone is healthy. But one thing that would scare me about that team is that Tony Romo has broken his clavicle multiple times. And at Romo’s age, clavicles don’t heal up and maintain themselves like they may have if he was younger.

Forte is nearing the end of his career. Money will be the motive, but so will the chance to win a ring. The veteran running back has to balance getting paid along with going to the best fit for him to win or be effective. On the flipside, teams checking Forte may want to make sure and sign him as a luxury and not an essential piece. Signing a 30 year old running back to be the feature back is not good business at all. It will be interesting to see how things turn out for Forte. He has had one heck of a career up to this point and could help some teams.

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An Offseason Mistake That Is Costing The Oklahoma City Thunder

(photo courtesy of Chuck Burton/AP)

(photo courtesy of Chuck Burton/AP)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been trying to get Dion Waiters involved as a part of their team. They tried him in a few different roles last season when they acquired him from Cleveland at the trade deadline. The results were sporadic at best and he did not help them as much as they thought he would. This offseason, the Thunder made a coaching change and also were thinking of signing Waiters to an extension. Both sides were unable to agree on a deal however. But the Thunder expected as Waiters got more comfortable beside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, that he would produce better numbers. He was put in the Sixth Man role and recently has been starting for the Thunder. And even with more familiarity with Westbrook and Durant, he is still get the same type of numbers while playing some lackadaisical basketball still. Add what he is producing with the starter for most of the season at shooting guard, Andre Roberson, and the Thunder still have that hole at the shooting guard position. But if they actually looked down the bench some last season, they may have had the answer right there with them.

Jeremy Lamb has had a career in the NBA that has been known more for who he was traded for them what he has done. For those that may have forgot, Lamb was a player that was included in the trade Houston made for the services of James Harden. When he was acquired in Oklahoma City, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he was going to eventually be the starting shooting guard for them. Well, that never materialized in OKC and he was eventually buried on the bench there. Even though he was a guy that shot the ball relatively well and could defend his position, there seemed to be a short leash with him in OKC under the coaching of Scott Brooks. In games where Durant, Westbrook or both would be out, Lamb would have some good shooting games and others where he would go missing. But even with that, he was still competitive on the defensive end more than Waiters was and gave the Thunder more there. But because of the trade that was made for Waiters, it seemed like OKC was going to force Waiters upon that team to justify trading for him. As a result, this offseason Lamb was traded to the Charlotte Hornets for the services of veteran point guard Luke Ridnour (who was consequently waived by OKC soon after the trade) and a 2016 second round pick.

The trade to Charlotte was a now-or-never trade for Lamb. He landed on a team that needed him to play well on the offensive end. And since he has been a member of the Hornets organization, he has definitely done so. Lamb is averaging a career-high 10.8 points per game off the bench in 21 minutes per game. He is shooting 47% from the field, including 32% from the three-point line, and he is getting 5 rebounds a game. Lamb and Jeremy Lin (who combine to make the highest scoring bench duo in the NBA) have helped Charlotte make it to the seventh spot currently in East. He is making the most of his opportunity and will more than likely be getting paid next season because of it. Taking a look at his numbers, he has actually performed better than Waiters in less minutes. Waiters is averaging 9.7 points per game while shooting under 40% and committing 2 turnovers a game. That isn’t exactly what the Thunder were looking for off the bench this year. And despite the success the Thunder have had this year, they could use a consistent shot in the arm off the bench. And Waiters has yet to provide that consistently. The Thunder thought they were getting that from Dion, but they have not got that one just yet at all.

Looking back at it, the Thunder really did not give Lamb a fair shot at all. If the organization would have stayed with him through the growing pains, he would have been the starting shooting guard for them right now. But instead of doing that, they thought Waiters was the answer. And with that, the search for a starting guard beside Durant and Westbrook still goes on. Oklahoma City has been known for grooming and growing players, but they dropped the ball on this move and it could cost them. Lamb would give them a shooter they need instead of a player they cannot trust.

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The Reasons There Will Truly Be March Madness In College Basketball This Season

(photo courtesy of www.cutcabletoday.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.cutcabletoday.com)

Every year college basketball starts to pick up around this time. Teams are closing out their season and conference tournaments are getting ready to start. And along with that, many are starting to think on who their favorites will be heading into March Madness. Plenty are probably even scouting teams to see who they will pick to win it all. Usually by this time, there are a few teams that many are sold on in regards to having a good chance to win the title. Last year, there were really high hopes for the University of Kentucky and Duke was also a team many thought of as winning the title. Duke was able to do so and prove many right about them. And while Kentucky did not win the title, they made it all the way to the Final Four before being upset by Wisconsin. Coming into this year’s tournament, there is not that much certainty on who could win the tournament. There are some nights that there are apparently obvious teams that could win it all. And the next game, that same team comes out and lays an egg. So why so much parity in college basketball this year you ask?

The mass exodus to the NBA from programs has caught up to college programs, especially the top ones. Teams like Kentucky, who lost seven players, and Duke, which lost four (five if you want to count the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon), had a lot to replace coming into this season. And unlike the previous times when they were able to just reload and still be the same team, this year has been different. Duke, which has not exactly been the deepest team over the years, is really short this year with depth. And with senior forward Amile Jefferson missing most of the season with a foot injury, the Blue Devils were even more depleted. They have essentially been playing one big man all year (Marshall Plumlee) to go along with what they have. And because of that, they have been up and down all year long. Duke replaced their talent with more talent this year, but the magnitude of players they lost compared to what they have now is not even close. As far as Kentucky, they have been solid this season, but have not lived up to the hype they have had each and every season. They replaced the seven players they lost last season with the #1 recruiting class in the nation. And even though they brought in talent to replace talent, they have not been the same or played to the same level. They are starting to play well, but they have been up and down all season long. They sorely miss some of the guys they had last year and they are definitely not as deep a team. The fear they put into teams last season is not there in regards to this team and the effect they have on their opponents. And along with the fear they put into each opponent, some of the composure and experience walked right to the professional level.

But other than losing players, there are just some imbalanced teams that are out there this year. Some teams have good inside play and shaky guard play while others have good guard play and nothing inside. Teams like North Carolina and Oklahoma come to mind as imbalanced. North Carolina has been strong inside all year. Senior forward Brice Johnson has been the man inside, giving the Tar Heels 16 double-doubles all year long. And when the Tar Heels attack the basket as a whole, they can overwhelm you. But the make or break thing about them is their three-point shooting. When teams force them to shoot the basketball more, there can be an issue. For example, in their most recent loss to their rival, the Duke Blue Devils, the Tar Heels went ice cold from three-point range. They shot 1/13 from behind the stripe and they froze out Johnson essentially in the last 15 minutes. This deficiency in their game is one thing that has cost them time and time again (along with some games where they come out in a malaise). As far as Oklahoma, they were better than some thought they would be at the start of the season. Behind senior guard Buddy Hield, the Sooners have been shooting the lights out for most of the season. But when they lose, more times than not it is because they depend so heavily on their perimeter game. They do not have one player that can really get it going inside when they are missing the three-pointers. And since they have gotten into conference play, they have not been as sharp with the jumpers and threes they take. The result has been a few losses this year in the conference and people are starting to cool on them. The reliance on jumpers and threes can be something that could harm this team in a one-game scenario and could ultimately lead to their downfall.

 

The collective inexperience across the county with teams along with the imbalanced teams have led to the current climate we have going into the tournament. And what this has created is a tournament that is wide open. Anyone that can pick which teams make the Finals Four with 100% accuracy needs to play the lottery immediately. I hope everyone is ready to be entertained. This college basketball season is going to have an exciting finish.

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The Clippers And Grizzlies Traded Bad For Inconsistent

The trade deadline has not been kind to fans of the Memphis Grizzlies. They saw their best shooter get traded to the Charlotte Hornets and all they got in return was forward PJ Hairston (who has been inconsistent at best), veteran center Chris “Birdman” Andersen (he has been missing in action all season) and four second-round picks that probably will not amount to much. But just when you thought it could not get any worse for the Grizzlies, they made another trade that makes you scratch your head. The Grizzlies traded forward Jeff Green to the Los Angeles Clippers for the services of guard Lance Stephenson and a 2019 protected pick. And with that, the Grizzlies now have lost yet another offensive weapon while taking on another player that is still trying to find himself. All while the Clippers will get to see what they can do with Jeff Green more than likely being their starting small forward eventually. But in reality, what both really did is swap inconsistent (Green) for bad (Stephenson). And in the end, both could end up not being a factor for their respective teams.

In Memphis, the main ballhandler has always been Mike Conley Jr., The dynamic point guard has been the best perimeter player for the Grizzlies for a while now. What the Grizzlies have always lacked is that scoring ability and consistency from the small forward position. They honestly have not had great production from that position since they had the services of Rudy Gay. In Green, they had someone that was at least giving them a pulse at that position. But with him gone, the pulse again goes to a flatline as they try to audition people for that position. And in Courtney Lee’s spot, they will now audition Lance Stephenson potentially. In Stephenson, the Grizzlies get a guy that can play tough defense. But for the Grizzlies, they already have a tough defender in Tony Allen. Offensively, Lance will make them even worse. He has not learned how to play without the basketball yet and the only way he can help this team on the offensive end is if he gets the ball in his hands. If Coach Dave Joerger can allow Stephenson to control the ball some, then maybe they will get some more out of him offensively. If not, then you are looking at another guy on the Grizzlies that cannot knock down an open shot and looks lost off the ball on the offensive end. That will make the Grizzlies even uglier offensively, especially without big man Marc Gasol for a while.

The Clippers are essentially being hailed as the winners in this trade. With what they were getting at the small forward position with Paul Pierce, Stephenson and whoever they threw out there, is nothing compared to what they could potentially get from Green. The veteran forward is averaging 12.5 points per game this season. He can hit the open jump shot, take the ball to the basket and he can play solid defense. And to add to that, he has played for Doc Rivers before (played for Doc in Boston) and he can play the power forward position and you have a player that could help this team. You would think that this would be a move to solidify what they have going on this year. But if you have taken a look at the career of Jeff Green, it can be summed up in one word: inconsistency. Green can come out and have a great game where he scores 20 points and then come out the next week and score two points. And it is that kind of inconsistency that has driven the fans of teams he has played for crazy. With the Clippers, he will be counted on to shoulder some of the offensive load, especially with Blake out for an undisclosed amount of time. It will be interesting to see if he can find some kind of consistency with the Clippers, but he more than likely will not. And that kind of inconsistent play will make Clippers fans loathe him. But fortunate for him, he can hide a little come playoff time because of Blake Griffin being back.

Both Stephenson and Green have not exactly got the best feelings out of fans of the teams they have played for. Stephenson was banished from Charlotte after his play was awful and he has not been the same since he left the Indiana Pacers in free agency. And he more than likely will have Grizzlies’ fans throwing things at their television sets. As for Green, he has been a tease for his entire career. And he will definitely be one for the Clippers. It is only a matter of “when” and not “if”. The trade has being spoken of as a win for the Clippers, but they just traded bad for inconsistent. And there is no telling how that will turn out.

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