The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

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

Archive for the month “May, 2011”

The Everyday Mailbag- 5/31/11

Sports are just like time. They keep going on and on and on. And just like sports, they’re are sports questions that America wants to know. Let’s see what America wants to know!

Q: ‎​Do you think the Chicago Bulls will try and land the three time defensive player of the year Dwight Howard?
-James R., Nashville, TN

A: I think there’s a very small chance that Dwight Howard is wearing a Bulls uniform next season. But, there is a chance. Depends on what Orlando asks for and what the Bulls are willing to give up. I’ve heard that if the trade does happen, the Magic will ask for Deng and Noah and that’s a trade I don’t think the Bulls make.

Q: What are your thoughts on Tressel resigning?
-Mike D., Waldorf, MD

A: I thought when he lied about knowing anything in TattooGate he was done. And I also think that its interesting that he is resigning, yet he talked the suspended players into coming back and taking responsibilities for their actions and not taking the easy way out.

Q: What’s up with the NFL lockout?
-T.J, Memphis, TN

A: Still in a standstill man. Owners don’t want to give any and they still aren’t getting it. The two sides are still far apart. Doesn’t look good, but the June court date could change things.

Q: If you were the Lakers and you really wanted to trade for Dwight Howard, who would you give up?
-Kareem H., Nashville, TN

A: I’ve said before that the only way Andrew Bynum should be traded is if the trade includes Dwight Howard, so he would be one piece that’s included. As far as the other pieces, I would try to get Orlando to take Luke Walton, Matt Barnes or Steve Blake, but in all actuality, the only other player that has trade value for LA besides Bynum is Lamar Odom. That would be a huge deal if he’s traded, but LA would have to part with him as well to get Howard in my opinion.

Q: Since Tressel basically made his players that were suspended promise to come back for this upcoming year, do you think those guys really live up to that promise now that the coach is done?
-Jabbar L., Nashville, TN

A: I think that they live up to the promise. Reason being is that I don’t think most of the players who stayed will really command a compensation pick in the NFL supplemental draft.

Q: Is it time for NCAA players to get paid?
-Bobby C., Sacramento, CA

A: That’s a double-edged sword there. I feel they should get some kind of compensation for playing, but at what costs would that happen though? The negative about that is Pandora’s box would be opened on how much for certain teams and players would get and also, how would that be regulated?

Q: Do you think Lord Stanley finally goes back to Canada? Or can Boston find a way?
-Jabbar L., Nashville, TN

A: ‎​I think Canada will be taking the cup. I think Vancouver is clicking at the right time and playing good hockey.

Q: Being that the Mavs are out-manned on the wings, how much zone do you believe they will play defensively & will it be effective?
-Ken L., Silver Valley, NC

A: I think they will mix in the zone, but I don’t think they will exclusively play it. It will be used probably 30% of the time. Just to throw the Heat off a little bit.

Thanks to all who participated in the mailbag this week. And for those who have sports questions, I have answers. Every question gets answered.

Good Deeds, Good People

Gerald McRath is a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, but he is trying to become more than just a linebacker. This weekend, McRath took one step towards that when he hosted an event to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee. But he didn’t stop at just hosting the event. I personally witnessed him mingling with the crowd and made himself available and open to everyone. You don’t see that very often these days and it was refreshing to see an athlete who is playing at the top level of football in the world caring about more than just himself.

A lot of the time, we never hear about all the great things that athletes do. We usually hear about the things they’ve done wrong and their missteps. I applaud the effort and time that McRath put into something that is a worthy cause. As a society, we need to learn to celebrate the positives that athletes do more so than accentuating the negatives.

I know that Gerald McRath isn’t the only athlete doing great things in his community. But I do know that more of these great acts have to spotlighted. I would personally like to tell people that you don’t have to be a professional athlete to do these things. All you have to do is care about your community and take it upon yourself to make a conscious effort to make change. I’d like to challenge everyone to take it upon yourself to be of service to your community and make positive change. Follow McRath’s example. Each one teach one. Its only when a community functions as a family that things begin to get better.

The Everyday Man’s NBA Finals Preview

The moment is finally here. Its NBA Finals time. The Miami Heat come in riding an emotional high after finishing the Chicago Bulls in five games while the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki come in with nightmares of the 2006 NBA Finals still haunting them. Will those thoughts fuel Dirk this series? That’s a question that everyone wants an answer to.

The Heat present matchup issues for the Mavs because of SF LeBron James and SG Dwyane Wade. SF Shawn Marion still has good quickness and can matchup alright with LeBron, but other than that, the Mavs are an older team and aren’t quick enough to keep up with the Heat defensively. That’s why I expect seldom-used SF Corey Brewer to be a factor. No offense to Deshawn Stevenson, but he is the only player that the Mavs have besides Marion that has the quickness and height to even try and keep up with D Wade or LeBron. They must do their best to keep these two superstars out of the paint and force jump shots, which will be a tall order.

Another thing the Mavs may do is play a zone. Every now and then they have broke that out against teams and they must do something to slow the Heat attack down. Now the zone won’t be effective if the Heat are knocking down jumpers, but the Mavs have to at least try it once to break any kind of rhythm the Heat may get. The zone could also help the Mavs slow down the pace of the game.

A key matchup defensively for the series will be Mavs C Tyson Chandler vs. Heat F Chris Bosh. Bosh has began to be a steady force in the paint. Well, this series, he will be going up against more length in Chandler. Chandler is 7-foot tall with a huge wingspan. He must stay out of foul trouble and make things difficult for Bosh all series.

The Mavs must also rebound well. The Heat have been one of the best rebounding teams in the playoffs, which has allowed them to get out and run more. The Mavs must make sure they block out guys like C Joel Anthony and PF Udonis Haslem on the defensive end of the court. The Mavs must also have Chandler have some effect on the offensive boards. The rebounding advantage will go a long way to telling who will win this series.

Dirk Nowitzki has been on a mission to get back to the NBA Finals this year. For the Heat to have a good chance, they must make things difficult on Dirk. I expect the Heat to guard Dirk with Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, Chris Bosh and even LeBron James at times. Where the chess match comes into play will be if the Heat decide to double-team Dirk or not. If they do, shooters like SF Peja Stojakovic may come into play. The Mavs are a three-point shooting team primarily and if those are going, then the Heat have problems.

The Mavs have one of the best sixth men in the league in G Jason Terry, along with Peja Stojakovic and JJ Barea. The Heat must at least try and match their scoring punch off the bench with Mike Miler and Udonis Haslem. These two guys, along with a little Mario Chalmers sprinkled in, helped neutralize the Bulls bench last series and will be call on this series to do the same thing.

LeBron James is on the big stage again. Will he continue to be the cold-blooded assassin he’s been or will he crumble under the pressure? My thinking is that James is a different player now than he was his whole time in Cleveland. He came to Miami with one mission in mind: to win championships. His jump shot has been automatic and he’s been doing all the things that championship players do. I expect him to continue to play well as he will be matched up with guys like DeShawn Stevenson and Corey Brewer all game long.

This series will ultimately come down to the will of Dirk vs the will of LeBron. I think Dirk is locked in and I would like to see him avenge his 2006 NBA Finals loss, but LeBron is on a whole different level right now then he’s ever been in his career. The doubters have fueled him and this Heat team and they’re now complete with Haslem and Miller picking up the slack. The Heat fulfill their promise this year and hoist the trophy.

Prediction: Miami wins series in 7

The Heat Prevail And Head To The NBA Finals

Going into this series, most people expected a slugfest. The Heat with their Big Three and the Bulls with MVP Derrick Rose and crew. Well, it didn’t exactly pan out that way. The Heat turned it on after the blunder that was Game One and became the team most thought they would be this year.

I, for one, thought the Bulls would win this series because of their advantages in rebounding, defense and their bench. But, Miami showed that they were tough enough to rebound, more physical on defense and with SF Mike Miller and PF Udonis Haslem, the Heat evened out the advantage the Bulls thought they had on the bench.

For the Bulls, no one can say they saw this remarkable season coming. Behind the spectacular play of MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls charged out to the best record in the NBA and they looked to be flying high heading into the playoffs. But, as the playoffs went on, the Bulls and their major flaw was exposed. The Bulls are in need of another playmaker. Derrick Rose is indeed a difference-maker, but he can’t carry the team on his back all the time. He needs someone to shoulder the burden for him at times. I would look for the Bulls to go after a play-making guard to pair with D Rose and make them even better. The Bulls are just getting started on their ascent back to the top.

For Miami, they were the team that everyone picked to win the title as soon as Lebron James announced he was going to Miami on “The Decision”. As soon as he did that, the bullseye was squarely on them. The Heat looked to not be able to take the pressure at the beginning of the year as they stumbled to a 9-8 record to start the season. Some doubted if the Heat would ever get it together in time. Well, not only did they get it together, they are now where everyone thought they would be, the NBA Finals. The biggest difference is this team has been LeBron James. He was been a cold-blooded assassin in the playoffs as he has hit big shot after big shot. James has often been criticized over his career for not coming through in the clutch, but now what do you say about him? He’s been Mr. Reliable in the fourth quarter. I believe the biggest thing that has changed about him since he went to Miami is his mental toughness. He seems more driven, determined and focused to me and its translating to his play on the court. But with all that being said, their mission isn’t over. When this team was assembled, they were assembled to win championships. I salute them for their victory over the Bulls and making it to the NBA Finals, but there’s still one more round to go.

Looking forward, I expect a good series between the Heat and the Mavericks. The game should be physical and excitement should be everywhere as Dirk tries to avenge the Mavericks’ 2006 loss in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat.

Russell Westbrook Experiencing Growing Pains

The Oklahoma City Thunder lost in Game 5 against a veteran Dallas Mavericks team. The Mavs were just the better team in my opinion. They had the more assertive star and they also had more consistency down the stretch. The Thunder didn’t play their best all series, especially Russell Westbrook. He did have a lot of turnovers and was hunting his shot a lot, but do I think he will grow and learn from this year’s playoffs? Yes I do.

Russell Westbrook has been known to play a little out of control as he fearlessly attacks the basket and takes tough shots at inopportune times. But for Westbrook, he is still discovering himself. Westbrook hasn’t been a PG for all that long in his career, let alone his life. Before being drafted by the Thunder, he played PG for only a short stretch during his sophomore year. He was much more of a combo guard. So, I understand his struggles to make decisions. I’m not trying to excuse them, I just understand what he’s going through.

A lot of people have recently told me that he could be a SG in the NBA. That’s not a good accessment. He’s only 6’3″, which is short for a SG. Imagine if he had to go against guys the size of Hawks SG Joe Johnson every night. Johnson would take him in the post and shoot over the top of him and overpower him at will. His advantages of size, explosiveness and speed as a PG would negated if he were a full-time SG. Westbrook’s a PG and he will be a PG. That’s just it.

When people compare him to Derrick Rose, that’s not an accurate assessment. Rose scores a lot of points and is the leading scorer on his team, but if you ask Rose, he just says he does what he has to do to win. This year is the first year that Rose has taken as many shots as this and that’s because he’s the main playmaker and scorer on the Bulls team. The difference is, if Rose had a player the caliber of Durant playing alongside him, he would probably average a double-figure assists for the year. Rose has played PG his whole life, so he understands when to pick his spots a little more than Westbrook does right now.

For those detractors for Westbrook, I understand your disdain for the way he goes about things sometimes, but what you fail to realize is that he is still a work in progress. As time goes by and he continues to understand the position that he is in, I believe he will be a great PG in this league, but for now, we will continue to see him experience growing pains as he adjusts to life as an NBA PG.

The Everyday Mailbag- 5/24/11

The intensity is heightening. The anticipation growing. No, I’m not talking about the playoffs. I’m talking about the Everyday Mailbag! Let’s see what America wants to know!

Q: So what do u think about the Bulls possibly hiring a offensive minded assistant? I would live to have former Warriors coach Keith smart in Chicago.
-Brandon S., Chicago, IL

A: I think that the issue isn’t about adding an offensive coach. The issue is that another playmaker needs to be added to change the dynamic of the team and ease some of the pressure off Derrick Rose. That’s all. The Bulls run pretty good offense.

Q: Who do you think the Cavs should take with the 1st and 4th picks?
-Kareem H., Nashville, TN

A: I think they should take F Derrick Williams out of Arizona with the 1st pick and then take Turkish big man Enes Kanter with the 4th pick. They need help at the SF and C position in a huge way. More than they need another G or PG.

Q: Will the Miami Heat be over the salary cap next year ? If so will they be able to pay there role players?
-James R., Nashville, TN

A: Well, that depends on the new CBA when that happens. If the NBA goes to a hard cap, then the Heat and New York may be in serious cap trouble because they will not have enough money to keep everyone. If the cap stays the way it is, then the Heat and the Knicks will be able to add role players around their stars.

Q: What do you think about the Bulls defensive scheme against the Heat? Any changes needed?
-Mike D., Waldorf, Maryland

A: I think the defensive scheme is fine. The execution of the defensive scheme leaves a lot to be desired though. I think that Boozer has to rotate better in help defense and that Noah has to play better on the defensive end against Chris Bosh.

Q: Do you think Lebron James plays better without the pressure of being a leader of his team or the “man”?
-James R., Nashville, TN

A: I think that LeBron is playing better, but he actually has more pressure on him now than he ever has because of the expectations of championship or bust. I don’t think the thoughts of him not being the “man” or pressures of being the “man” have affected him in the playoffs. In fact, he has been the “man” this post-season. He has been the closer that most thought he could be.

Thanks to all who participated in this week’s mailbag. And remember, if you have any sports questions, I have answers!

Its A Case Of Youth Versus Experience In Mavs Game Four Win

The Thunder was rolling in Oklahoma City. Thunder F Kevin Durant hit a huge shot for what he thought was the dagger in the game. He then began to celebrate as if he were Packers QB Aaron Rodgers when he put that imaginary championship belt around his waist. The Thunder went up 15 and there was only about 5 minutes left in the game. Well, someone forgot to tell Dirk and the Dallas Mavericks that.

The Dallas Mavericks went on a 17-2 run down the stretch to tie the game and send it into overtime, where the Mavericks pulled out the win 112-105. The Mavs were assisted by the turnovers by the Thunder’s youngsters and by their inability to manage the shot clock. A lot of people will point the finger at PG Russell Westbrook, but as the star of the team, Durant has to take some blame as well. He had 9 of their 26 turnovers. This team is a team that is still young and learning. And if they stay together and keep learning and building, they will eventually be the team to beat in the West. They just don’t have the experience as of yet.

The Mavericks are the opposite of the Thunder. They are a veteran team that stays cool under pressure. The Mavs looked at the seemingly insurmountable lead and found a way to win. Maverick teams of the past would have wilted in this situation, but the veteran leadership and the fact that most of these guys have been around the NBA for a while helped pull them through. The Mavs are a team that realize that tomorrow isn’t promised and that they have to take advantage of every opportunity given to them because time is running short. Dirk and Jason Terry know that especially. They were on the 2006 Mavs team that made the NBA Finals versus the Miami Heat. The Mavs lost that series, but people were really sure they would be back again next year. Well, that goes to show you that nothing is set in stone and you have to make the most of your moment.

More than likely, this series is over. The Thunder will ponder on this loss and who knows, it could be a motivating factor for them. But as far as this season, the Thunder have shown that their youth can be a great strength at times, but it can also be a hindrance. As for the Mavs, their resolve carried them to another big-time win as they try to fight off the sounds of that clock ticking ever so faintly in their ears.

The Chicago Bulls In A Ugly Dilemma After Their Game Three Loss

Before this series, I picked the Bulls to win and go to the NBA Finals. They play good defense, have a better bench and rebound better. But through three games, three key things are killing the Bulls. And of the three issues, two of them the Bulls can correct fast enough.

Carlos Boozer has played well in two of the three games on the offensive end of the court. But for as much as he has brought on the offensive end, he has hurt the Bulls mightily on the defensive end. Boozer guards either Joel Anthony or Udonis Haslem on defense. Being that he guards these two guys, he has to play better help-side defense. The problem is, he hasn’t been there. Everytime Bosh makes a move to the basket and beats Noah, Boozer isn’t there to help and Bosh gets all the way to the basket. He has been a big part of why the Bulls have struggled at times defensively. Taj Gibson is better defensively, but he has been trending downward since Game 1 when he played out of his mind. For the Bulls, they need to either change their defensive strategy or just succumb to the fact that Boozer’s going to give up as many points as he scores.

Another issue with the Bulls this series is shooting. The Bulls haven’t exactly been shooting the lights out, but Korver has been their best shooter. The issue with him is that for as much as he can potentially give you offensively with his shooting, he is a liability on the defensive end. But his replacements, Bogans and Brewer, can’t shoot as well but can play better defense. In order for the Bulls to have any sort of chance, they must find the formula of how to mix Korver in with the defense of Brewer and Bogans.

The biggest issue that has been plaguing the Bulls is there offensive execution. They have Derrick Rose, the 2011 MVP, and it seems that the Bulls depend on him so much down the stretch that they become stagnant down the stretch. They must continue to move the ball like they have all year. If they run their motion offense, that helps get more people involved and also helps take some of the pressure off D Rose. If no motion is created, then the Heat can focus in on Rose and shut he and the Bulls down.

For the Bulls to come back or have any shot, it starts on the defensive end with getting back to crisp rotations, rebounding and all-out hustle. On the offensive end, more guys must get involved and help D Rose. You’re down 2-1 so its time to play with some desperation. After all, its win or go home in the playoffs.

The Zen Master Calls It A Career

Phil Jackson is a name that catches your attention. He was considered by a lot of people to be the best coach to ever do it in NBA basketball. Some say that he only won because of the great talent of his team, but he was a coach that was much more than just his talented players.

Lexi Knoch, an avid Lakers fan, explains what her feelings are on Phil Jackson and his legacy as a coach of players and a teacher of men and his impact.

Here’s what Lexi said:

“I’m gonna miss you Phil, and this is truly the end of an era. Your era. 
 

The best coach of all time in any sport, and I challenge anyone to disagree. Sure, he had great players, but he taught them how to be teammates. This is the man that taught teams how to mediate, look inside themselves on and off the court and taught them that it wasn’t always about basketball, it was about themselves. He taught Kobe how to grow up and be a facilitator, not just a scorer. He believed in a 17 year old 7 foot kid named Andrew Bynum that barely played his senior year of high school. He took a chance on one of the craziest men in the league, Ron Artest. Just by sitting on the bench, with his hands folded and a slight smile on his face, he exuded leadership, and how being quiet and calm can get you so much further in life. He understood that people are different, and each player needed to be treated differently. He could read his players so well, because he knew them as people, not as basketball players. ”

Now Phil Jackson didn’t just coach the Lakers and Kobe, but he led Shaq, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to glory. The thing that people miss is that these players all had individual success, but they never won anything until Phil stepped in.

Michael was a supremely talented player who would do it all by himself rather than using his teammates. Enter Phil Jackson. Under Phil’s tutelage, Michael became a more trusting teammate, allowing Scottie Pippen to blossom into the star he became. He learned how to push his teammates to the finish line instead of trying to do it all himself.

Shaq had never won anything in the NBA and he was floundering in Los Angeles with Kobe. Insert Phil Jackson and he somehow gets these two megastars to get on the same page and learn that they need each other to win. He also taught them that leadership is the key to a good team.

Now I will say that the claim of Phil Jackson being the best coach in any sport is questionable, but he is definitely in the conversation. After all, no one coach can say they won championships without a great player. Look at what Celtic great Red Auerbach did with C Bill Russell. Look at what Vince Lombardi did with star QB Bart Starr.

Great players are great before coaches, but the players don’t become legends without great leadership. Jackson was the perfect picture of great leadership and basketball will miss him. Some people discredit his greatness as a coach, but his leadership was undeniable. His quiet strength was admired by many.

My Thoughts On The Thunder vs The Mavericks: Game 2

The Dallas Mavericks had a virtuoso performance from Dirk in the first game of the series. Some expected the Mavs to keep rolling this game. Well, somebody forgot to tell the Thunder that the Mavs were supposed to win this game too. The Thunder went into Dallas and won 106-100 in front of a frenzied crowd. Two key points stood out this game.

Dirk was guarded almost exclusively by Serge Ibaka last game and he torched the Thunder. This game, the Thunder gave Dirk different looks. They fronted him, brought late double-teams when Dirk put the ball on the floor and they also played him straight up at times. Dirk still hit 10-17 and scored 29 points, but the Thunder made him work harder tonight. He also had more turnovers this game as well.

The Mavs bench was supposed to be the dominant bench in this game. Well, James Harden and the Thunder bench decided that they would show up this game. Harden, PG Eric Maynor, SG Dequan Cook and PF Nick Collison were great for the Thunder and provided a great lift while shutting the PG JJ Barea, PG/SG Jason Terry and crew tonight. The Mavs were a +31 from their bench the first game. This game, they were a -21. The Thunder are going to need this kind of effort every game to win this series.

Just like adjustments were made leading into this game, there will be more changes coming. The Thunder played like a desperate team and the Mavs couldn’t match their energy. If I’m the Thunder, I’m confident heading back home to a raucous crowd and having taken over the home-court advantage. For the Mavs, Dirk’s look after the game ended had the story of the game. He was feeling frustration because he knows he gave up a golden chance to put a stranglehold on the series. Should be interesting what happens in Game 3.

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