The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

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Archive for the month “May, 2015”

The Seahawks Now Have Contract Extension Issues With Russell Wilson And Bobby Wagner

Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner highlighted the 2012 Seattle draft class (photo courtesy of www.seahawks.com)

Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner highlighted the 2012 Seattle draft class (photo courtesy of http://www.seahawks.com)

The Seattle Seahawks have had a lot of success over the last two seasons. They have made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and they will come into this season as a serious contender to make the Super Bowl again. The biggest factor in the team making the run they have so far is the 2012 NFL Draft class. That draft class was said by some to not be the greatest at all by some. In fact, NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rated the class as a C- at the time. But little did he know that draft class would bring the Seahawks four starters. And along with four starters, it would also bring them a couple guys that would become their quarterbacks on both sides of the ball. Russell Wilson was drafted in the 3rd round (75th overall) by the Seahawks that season. Of course everyone knows his story and how he has become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But before him in the second round, the Seahawks also drafted linebacker Bobby Wagner. The former Utah State linebacker was drafted 47th overall and he was plugged in the middle of the Seahawks defense right away. And with the rise of the Seahawks, he has definitely been at the forefront. Both Wilson and Wagner are up for contract extensions. Wagner and Wilson are coming to the end of their contracts with the Seahawks and could potentially enter free agency next offseason. But with both of them looking to cash in, what decision will the Seahawks make?

Even though running back Marshawn Lynch is the engine of the Seattle offense, Wilson is the face of it. He has made big plays ever since he entered the NFL and has captured the Seahawks fans’ hearts with his thankfulness and his charity work he does within the area. But all that he has accomplished on the field eventually has a pricetag. The Seahawks have been very fortunate that they found their starting quarterback in the 3rd round. Because of that, they were able to pay him the rookie salary while adding pieces on their team that were a little more expensive. They knew eventually it would catch up to them and they would have to pay Wilson, but they just were not sure what they were getting into. Rumors are circulating that both Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks are not very close on a new deal. In fact, it has been said that the Seahawks are willing to let him finish this year without a deal in place. The plan is to place the franchise tag on him potentially in back-back years. To some that may be crazy to do, but for Seattle it makes a lot of sense. Wilson is reportedly asking for a deal that would pay him $20 million per season. The Seahawks are obviously not willing to pay that and would rather opt for a franchise tag. By doing that, Seattle may save tying up their salary cap more than they want to while Wilson can get paid near or at what he wants. But the offset of the franchise tag is it cannot be spread out over years. The hope for the team is that he agrees to an extension that is reasonable for the team and Wilson. That would allow the team to load the contract on the back end potentially and have more cap room free.

But along with Wilson, the Seahawks also have to think about the case of Bobby Wagner. If they franchise tag Russell Wilson, then they must hope they have enough money to keep Wagner aboard. Players like defensive end Michael Bennett, safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman get the credit for the Seattle defense being as dominant as they have been. But quietly, Wagner is the engine behind what they have accomplished. His angles he takes when stopping the run are precise and perfect. And despite being a smallish linebacker in height (six feet tall), Wagner just finds a way to make things happen. When he was out of the lineup with a toe injury, the Seahawks definitely felt his absence. Of the five games that Wagner missed, the Seahawks defense gave up at least 20 points three times. But when Wagner returned from the injury, it seemed as if the defense picked up. Seattle would end the season giving up more than seven points only once and they seemed to be back on track with their defensive quarterback. Wagner was in Seattle recently and he was throwing out the first pitch at the Seattle Mariners game. During that appearance, he definitely had some thoughts in regards to an extension in Seattle. He has made no bones about wanting an extension and wanting to be paid accordingly. But up to this point, it seems as if Seattle is not willing to give him what he wants and risks losing him. The young middle linebacker may be looking at a potential payday outside Seattle if the team does not think he is worthy. Add this one to the decisions to watch in the Pacific Northwest.

The Seattle Seahawks thought they had one contract issue on their hands but now they have two. And the reality is that they cannot keep everyone and they may have to choose between one or the other. Do you keep the quarterback of your offense, who is also the face of your team? Of do you keep the quarterback of your defense that has made a huge impact? The choice is in Seattle’s hands as all the guys they found in the draft have now made it to contract extension time. The draft class of 2012 paid Seattle and now it is time for Seattle to make a decision to which they will pay going forward. Without a doubt, a decision has to be made.

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The Los Angeles Clippers Were Tragically Flawed From The Beginning

Doc, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin having a meeting of the minds. (photo courtesy of www.rappler.com)

Doc, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin having a meeting of the minds. (photo courtesy of http://www.rappler.com)

The Los Angeles Clippers were one game away from heading to their first Western Conference Finals. The task was going to be tough though. The Clippers, after giving up a 3-1 series lead to the Rockets, had to travel to Houston to win a Game 7. You would have thought that the Clippers would have brought one of their best games with the season on the line. But after watching them fall in Game 7 to the Rockets 113-100, the Clippers just seemed to lack that energy to get the job done. The hope they had of making history was gone just like that and the Clippers are joining all the other teams that have lost in the playoffs in the offseason. Plenty are already assessing the blame of this loss on players like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. And others are blaming Clippers head coach Doc Rivers for the loss as well. But if you really take a look at this team, there were flaws with them from the beginning of the season. The team could have played better in Game 7 and that is understood. There were expectations that were there, but there were also many holes in this team and they were never really addressed by general manager and president Doc Rivers.

Looking at the Clippers, they had arguably the best point guard in the NBA. Chris Paul has been dazzling all of us with his play for his entire career. But in the playoffs, success has seemed to escape him. This year was the year that the pressure was mounting on him. Plenty felt he was going to make that jump as well with this current Clipper team. But if you take a look at their starting lineup, there has been an issue from the jump. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were solid at the power forward, point guard and center positions. JJ Reddick was solid this season at the shooting guard position, even though he was somewhat limited in terms of all the things he could do. But when it comes to the small forward position, the Clippers were sorely lacking there. The team trotted out veteran wing player Matt Barnes as their starter this season. And although he had his moments starting for them, he was and is not a starter at this point in his career. The best thing for him to do is be a sub off the bench. In that position, he can come in and give energy, defend and make open shots. Moving him to the bench and bringing in a starting small forward would have been the ideal thing to do for the Clippers this season instead of depending on veterans like Hedo Turkoglu to be a backup off the bench. If you notice in this season, Hedo has not been the best coming in off the bench and he honestly is a guy that should not even be suiting up at this point. Barnes was severely exposed this series versus the Houston Rockets. His first game was great for the Clippers when he put up 20 points, but the rest of the series he was not very good. The veteran forward did not even crack double-figures the entire rest of the series and finished this series by not even scoring in the biggest game of the season. His counterpart on the Rockets, forward Trevor Ariza, had a way better series than he did. Ariza was in double-figures every single game and averaged 16.7 points. He was the perfect third scorer for the Rockets and he actually showed up in the big Game 7, scoring 22 big points and helping complete a big comeback versus the Clippers. The Clippers could have only hoped to have that type of production from Barnes, but they knew they could not depend on it at all.

Barnes starting at small forward was not the only issue the Clippers had. If you look at championship teams, everyone that comes off their bench brings something to the table. Even the teams with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade had pieces like Mike Miller coming in and shooting big shots along with other pieces as well. But if you look at the Clippers, it seems they did not have that piece at all besides Jamal Crawford. Crawford is instant offense, but he also has to put up a lot of shots to get his points. He shot under 40% for the series. But other than Crawford, the Clippers had absolutely no one they could count on consistently all season. Doc Rivers’ son, Austin Rivers, had some good games in the playoffs, but in the last few games down the stretch, he disappeared as well. And behind DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers really had no one to come in and make some plays for them. Doc Rivers barely played his free-agent acquisition, Spencer Hawes, when it came to this series and the previous series. And other than him, there was only Glen “Big Baby” Davis that was there to backup Jordan. On a championship team, these three are not enough to get it done. And in this series, they proved to be not enough. If you flip over to the team that they played on Sunday, the Rockets got contributions from every area off their bench actually. They got something from rookie big man Clint Capella, forward Terrance Jones, forward Corey Brewer and veteran point guard Pablo Prigioni. And this Houston team would have been even deeper if they had their starting point guard, Patrick Beverly, and their other big man, Donatas Montiejunas. The construction of that team was way better than that of the Clippers. And there were other teams that had better constructions of a team and bench than the Clippers, but they are the most recent to show their bench up. The bench really hurt the Clippers and it showed even more in Game 7. Over the season, they have been able to overcome the issues they had there, but it eventually caught up to them and it bit them bad at the wrong time.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the Clippers rebound from this loss. Center DeAndre Jordan is a free agent this summer and there is a possibility that he may not come back(even though he probably will be back in Los Angeles). Chris Paul just turned 30 and is not getting any younger. And Blake Griffin, who had been playing to an MVP level in the playoffs, decided that he would not come out with all his energy in Game 7. One solution to making the Clippers better may be to bring back Barnes and move him to the bench while finding a starting small forward. And while they are at it, the Clippers may want to take a look at sending JJ Reddick to the bench as well. He had a great season, but to expect him to duplicate that is asking a lot. Moving him to the bench while adding a bigger shooting guard (Reddick is 6’4” as listed) will make them a better defensive team and also will give their bench more pop. Doc Rivers will be on the clock for making this team better this offseason and he is definitely going to catching some heat for what he created in this team and this bench. Some say the Clippers may want to blow it up, but that may not be the case here. Some changes need to be made, but tearing this team up is not the answer. Making this team younger and more athletic at the shooting guard and small forward position along with making the bench better should yield better results for the Clippers. But as far as this team, they were tragically flawed and the hope in them went as far as their best players. But it died when you looked at the performances of their role players, which are needed to win a championship.

The Los Angeles Clippers Versus The Houston Rockets: The Battle Of The Inconsistents In Game 7

Dwight Howard will have to step up for the Rockets to win. Can he match Blake Griffin in production? (photo courtesy David J. Phillip from the Associated Press)

Dwight Howard will have to step up for the Rockets to win. Can he match Blake Griffin in production? (photo courtesy David J. Phillip from the Associated Press)

It was all good heading into the fourth quarter Thursday night for the Los Angeles Clippers. The team who had never been to the Conference Finals before only stood 12 minutes away from team history. All they had to do was hold to the lead they had worked so hard to build up. But unfortunately, the Clippers became the usual Clippers again. They were outscored 40-15 in the fourth quarter and ultimately lost the game. The scene went from pure joy in the third to frustration in at the end of the game. The faces of the team and the fans of the team were long from the frustration of losing a game they had in the palms of their hands. And along with the fall of the team in a series-clinching game, the Clippers now have to travel to Houston to take on a Rockets team that has a ton of confidence. The play of forward Josh Smith was outstanding in the fourth quarter and what was so amazing is they did this with their best player, guard James Harden, on the bench. As a result, the Clippers and Rockets will face each other one last time. The Clippers will face yet another Game 7 but this time against the Houston Rockets. Of course the blame game has been played with this team ever since the loss. Some are blaming Doc Rivers for not calling a timeout to slow down the Rockets’ momentum while others are blaming the team’s stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, for not restoring order when the lead was quickly disappearing. But at this point, it does not matter who is to blame. The Clippers have to get ready for Game 7 on the road and there is nothing they can do about the results of Game 6 anymore. But which Clippers team will show up in Houston?

The Rockets, on the other hand, are getting it going at the right time. Ever since Rockets head coach Kevin McHale put Josh Smith in the starting lineup over Terrance Jones they have gone 2-0. Jones outperformed him coming off the bench in Game 5, but Smith was the catalyst in the Game 6 comeback, netting 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. But the Rockets have not been the most consistent team this series at all. They were outplayed in Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Clippers and they would have lost Game 2 of this series if they wouldn’t have got it going late in the game. They were very fortunate to not be down by two games just that quick. Other than the last two games, it seems as if the Rockets have not been playing that well at all. Their MVP candidate, James Harden, has been putting up numbers (25 points and 8 assists per game), but has struggled from distance in the last two games (just 3/14). And along with that, he was in a funk in Game 6 and only shot 5/20 that game. But Harden has been nowhere near as inconsistent as Dwight Howard. The big man has been dominant in some games and non-existent in others. The foul shooting from him has been awful this series (38%), but that was to be expected. What some may have expected is for him to be better defensively this series. The Clippers are an excellent offensive team, but he was supposed to be the equalizer for them on the backline. Well, that has not happened as much and even though his numbers look good to the eye, those that have watched the game have been disappointed yet again in what they have seen. Dwight has been making the usual plays that make you scratch your head and he still cannot make two solid post moves in a row. But even with that, the Rockets don’t use him right anyway. They should put him in pick and roll situations that limit the post moves he has to make, but yet he camps out down low, looking to try and recreate himself at the wrong times. We shall see if Howard, Harden, Josh Smith and the rest of the Rockets show up in Game 7 or if they falter in front of their home crowd on the big stage.

Both teams are trying to go to a new level while searching for consistency during the playoffs. And they both are looking to take that next step that many said was not possible when the year began. But in order for them to do so, there needs to be someone step up and be consistent for this huge game. For Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, this game would be the biggest game in their career. They would be a part of making Clippers history. And for James Harden and Dwight Howard, this would be a chance for both to get one step closer to a return trip to the NBA Finals. It will be interesting to see which team rises to the occasion. Will the Clippers pay for letting Game 6 get away from them or will the Rockets wilt under the pressure of a Game 7? Only time will tell, but it will definitely be fun to watch who can be the more consistent team of the two.

The Thibs Era Is Assuredly Over In Chicago. What’s Next For Thibs And The Chicago Bulls?

Tom Thibodeau may be going to a new place to coach after this postseason performance. (photo courtesy of www.washingtonpost.com)

Tom Thibodeau may be going to a new place to coach after this postseason performance. (photo courtesy of http://www.washingtonpost.com)

The Chicago Bulls had high expectations heading into this season. They hoped for a healthy Derrick Rose and with the addition of big man Pau Gasol, the Bulls looked to take that next step towards returning to their first NBA Finals since Michael Jordan donned his customer number 23 jersey for Chicago. The team had some high points as guard Jimmy Butler begin to come into his own this season and rookie big man Nikola Mirotic had a great month of March to garner Rookie Of the Month honors, but in the end, they could not come through. The Bulls were looked at as the only team that could take down the Cleveland Cavaliers this years as LeBron James returned back home. But instead of putting up a fight, the Bulls limped to the finish line and lost in six game to a Cavaliers team that was without an injured Kevin Love and also had a hobbled Kyrie Irving the entire series. But not only did they lose the game, they lost it in embarrassing fashion, failing to hit more than 40% of their shots. And just like that, the hope that was once there disappeared into the Chicago night.

The loss was a symptom of what has happened the last few years in Chicago. They overachieve in the regular season and get to the postseason and run out of gas. Of course, the last couple of years Derrick Rose has not been there to join them in the playoffs due to injuries, but the result was still the same this season with him out there. The team was obviously based on defense and that was not by accident. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau came to the Bulls after being a defensive mastermind his entire career as an assistant coach. And when he first came to Chicago, he inherited a team that was just barely getting into the playoffs. But with Derrick Rose having an MVP season in his first year as coach, the Bulls took over the number one spot in the East and were the pick of many to make it out of the East that season. But in the Conference Finals, they fell to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat in five grueling games. The Bulls never reached that type of success under Thibodeau again. Part of that was due to Rose being injured during those times, but some of that was because Thibs, as his players call him, would focus so much on defense that he would not put as much into the offensive side of the ball. The result was the Bulls would be at or near the bottom of the NBA in offense. And ultimately, that would be the thing that would do them in. This season there had been even louder rumblings that he was at odds with ownership over a few things. Maybe it was because of the minutes he played his main players each game or the style of coaching he had, but there was definitely some friction. And with the Bulls being done, it is expected that Thibs will not be back next year despite having two years left on his current contract. The question now is where does Thibs land next? There has been mention of New Orleans or Orlando wanting his services and he could definitely pick where he wants to go. But in the end in Chicago, it seemed like as the season and postseason went on he had ran his course in the Windy City and a new voice needed to be heard.

As far as the Bulls, the expected exit of Thibs leaves them with a question at the head coaching spot. Thibs made them a tough-as-nails team, but they are also a team that still has some limitations offensively. They got a great season out of veteran Pau Gasol, but they must know that they cannot expect Gasol to turn back the clock again next season. The prevailing thought is there will be changes on the roster, but those changes could be affected by who the Bulls name as their new head coach. There has been mention of names like Iowa State’s head coach Fred Hoiberg and even some mention of former Golden State head coach Mark Jackson. But the one coach that may be the answer to what the Bulls need may be an assistant coach on the Warriors staff presently under Steve Kerr. Alvin Gentry is not a name that many talk about as a hot name in the head coaching circles right now, but he should be. Gentry was brought in to be the offensive assidtant coach for Kerr this season and he has made them an even more efficient offense. Of course, with MVP Steph Curry at the controls and Klay Thompson as his running mate, it would be easy to make that offense look better. But the thing he has done is use the pieces he had and use them more efficiently. For example, look at a guy like Marreese Speights. He was not a guy that many could say factored into the Warriors team last season. But in this season he went from 6.4 points per game to 10.4 points per game. And what is so amazing about that is he made that leap despite only playing three more minutes than he did the previous year. The Warriors, despite some that say their offense is too perimeter-oriented, have proven the naysayers wrong time and time again due to the great ball movement and attacking style of their perimeter guys. Looking at who could potentially be in Chicago, his ball movement/attacking style would fit. Chicago would have to get better shooting, but provided Jimmy Butler re-signs in Chicago and Rose can stay relatively healthy, the Bulls would have a dangerous backcourt that teams would have to reckon with. And in Pau, the Bulls would have that one big man that could be their facilitator like Andrew Bogut is for the Warriors. A few other tweaks in terms of the bench and then the Bulls could make the improvement offensively that they need. The only question that would come is what would their defense look like under Gentry? None will have that answer, but as long as Butler is still on the perimeter defending and Noah can play solid on the backline (provided he does not play like a shell of himself again next season), the base will be set for a solid defense. All in all, the Bulls would more than likely sacrifice some defense for offense and that could help them take a different direction for the betterment of the team in the postseason.

There are many questions that surround the Bulls going into next season. More than likely one big man will be traded and the Bulls have decisions to make on restricted free-agent Jimmy Butler and wing player Mike Dunleavy, Jr. Along with that, the Bulls have to makeover some of their bench pieces. But let’s not forget the job that Thibs did. He made the Bulls respectable again. Unfortunately, he was not able to get the Bulls where many fans would like to see them. And because of the disagreements between Thibs and management, the end is here. Farewell to the season Chicago, you just were not good enough at the right time of the season. And while the Bulls fall, the atomic bomb could drop to change the dynamic and look of this team. Change is coming in Chicago.

PSA: Say No To Homerism

Patriots fans made it pretty clear what they thought this recent incident was about. (photo courtesy of www.blacksportsonline.com)

Patriots fans made it pretty clear what they thought this recent incident was about. (photo courtesy of http://www.blacksportsonline.com)

The passion for sports seems to stir at the very core of all sports fans. You have to love when a fantastic play happens and when a fantastic finish makes goosebumps pop up on your skin. And what makes those moments even better is when your favorite team is on the positive end of that moment. The pride you have for the team you root for goes to another level. And there are some that talk trash before, during and after the great moment that happened. But along with that, there is also the sports fan that takes it too far. We all know that one sports fan that can never recognize when his/her team or a player on his/her does anything wrong. We call this homerism. And it seems to run rampant at times when a supporter of a team does not know when to recognize things. Unfortunately, there is no talking to this type of fan because in their world, the thought that the team they support did something wrong is insane to them. And in the end, they will never believe you. Honestly, if a homer is reading this piece, they probably will not know it’s talking about them, but maybe they will recognize some of the examples here like the everyday sports fan does.

The New England Patriots fans are passionate about their team. New England has been a successful team ever since quarterback Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe. The pairing of Brady with head coach Bill Belichick has led to great success and multiple Super Bowl rings. But this pairing is not without its criticism. Back in 2007, the Patriots were found guilty of taping the New York Jets signals. Now videotaping things is legal in the NFL, but only within certain parameters. The Patriots violated those parameters and it ended up costing them a 1st round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft(31st overall) and the NFL fined Bill Belichick $500,000. In that instance, there were many Patriots fans that felt the NFL was out to get them. And there were even some that were giving off the vibe that there was nothing wrong with what the Patriots did and the NFL was picking on them. Well, if the NFL was picking on them, would the Patriots be as successful as they were as a franchise? I don’t believe they would if the NFL was deliberately sabotaging them and their success. And in the most recent issue, Deflategate, the same feelings have come about again. The feelings of the league is out to come get them despite the commissioner being chummy with the owner of the Patriots for all these years is something that can be laughable at times. And what is even more laughable is the defense of Brady in this one. Brady could be innocent in this matter and he did answer all questions from the NFL investigators. But when he was asked for information from his cellphone, he refused to do so. Ted Wells, the independent investigator on this investigation, even said that he would not take his phone and only take copies of the texts he asked for. Brady and his representation still refused to do so. Instead of viewing that as an act to cover up things, many that are Patriots fans are viewing Brady as right to not do so. Honestly, if it were someone else that was not a Patriot player, then the Patriots fans would not be reacting the way that they are. They would be reacting with the rest of us in this matter. But alas, the homerism has thrown a glaze over their eyes at this point. And in this matter, the team over everything has become the mantra. This instance even has some Patriots fans throwing out there how the suspension is unfair and judging what Brady did on the field to instances where players got in trouble off the field. Newsflash: each case is a separate entity. Not one of these cases has the same premise. You may not like how they are handled by the NFL, but they do not have one thing that is common about them all. But in the end, there will continue to be those that continue to try an tell us that the Patriots are the “woe is me” team and that “the NFL is picking on them” despite being one of the most successful franchises over the last decade.

But this isn’t the only instance where homerism took over the scene. In Cleveland, emotions are high as LeBron James has returned home and brought with him championship aspirations. And when LeBron-led teams face the Chicago Bulls, it seems that tensions always run high. Earlier in Game 3, there was an instance of words between James and Bulls big man Joakim Noah. That began to rise some of the tension in this series. But in Game 5, the game took another turn late in the fourth quarter. Bulls forward Taj Gibson was thrown out of the game after it was perceived, at first glance, that he kicked Cavaliers backup guard Matthew Dellavedova after those two getting into it a little bit down the stretch of the game. But after further glance, it was noticed that Dellavedova actually locked Gibson’s leg where he could not disengage from him. The result was Gibson violently pulling his foot from Dellavedova’s grasp. Looking around social media, there were plenty that were calling Gibson a few choice words and saying that he deserved to be kicked out of the game. But many of those that were yelling that were fans that did not see the entire incident and also there were many that were Cavs fans. Of course the instigator did not get caught in this instance initially and with replay, he should have been caught. But unfortunately, he was not assessed a technical foul until after the game and that absolutely does nothing for Gibson. And with Gibson kicked out of the game, the Bulls could have used him to maybe secure that big rebound or get a big putback in the game. Instead, he was in the locker room and Dellavedova was out on the court helping his team win. But leave it to some Cleveland fans their player’s actions and focus on the opposing team’s action. And even after seeing the video of the instance, some even were still able to put all the blame on Gibson and none of Dellavedova. Now could Gibson have handled that one better? Yes he could have. But that does not excuse the mess that Dellavedova helped cause and instigate. And if you know any of his history from college, you will know Dellavedova has a history of being an instigator. Apparently, that instigator in him has not changed a bit. But leave it to some Cavaliers fans to say he was a saint on that play.

Both are examples of blind faith and belief that some have in their teams. And unfortunately, this is just a small sample of homerism in the sports world. The unfortunate part is this happens tons of times and these are some of the mild instances where it rears its ugly head. It’s all good cheering for your favorite team. But sometimes you have to take the tint of your team off your glasses so you can see things clearly. If you don’t, homerism has taken over your sports perspective. And that disease could be one that you could potentially not recover from as a fan of sports. This is a PSA for homerism. Don’t do it. It can be a plague on your sports life.

Tom Brady Made His Bed. Now He Has To Lie In It

Tom Brady's reaction was probably like this when he heard the suspension news.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady’s reaction was probably like this when he heard the suspension news. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The verdict that many were waiting on has finally come out. Many were wondering if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would have the guts to suspend Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Well, to those that thought he would not do it, he actually made a decision. Brady will be suspended for his role in Deflategate four games along with the Patriots being fined $1 million as an organization and the team also had to give up their 2016 1st round pick along with their 4th round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Although some expected a fine and potentially a loss of a draft pick or two, there were split factions on what the punishment would be. Some believed that he would get a slap on the wrist, while others believed he would get a double-digit game punishment. There were even some that thought he would not get anything at all because of Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s friendship with the Goodell. The suspension is viewed as one that could be reduced and from the looks of things, the NFLPA will be representing Brady in this matter versus the NFL. And for Patriots fans, they are hoping they don’t have to go the entire four games without their megastar quarterback. They would rather have him start the season than to depend on inexperienced 2nd year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If the organization had their way, they probably wouldn’t want to see Jimmy this early even though they believe in his style. There seems to be a wide array of feelings across the board, but all in all, the Brady punishment is actually appropriate.

0ne reason this case only got four games for Brady was due to what you can do with an under-inflated football. Many tend to say the air in the football has no bearing on a game. Of course when they thumped the Colts in Foxboro, the air in the football could not make a 38 point difference. Indy was just not prepared for what the Patriots had in store. But if it is a close game, the slight deflation could be something that affects a game. For example, the ball becomes softer with less air in it. The air that was taken out of the football was not enough to make it hard to throw the football, but it was enough to help a player grip the football easier, especially in cold weather. The grip of the football could be the difference in throwing an interception and the game-winning touchdown. Another way the under-inflated football could affect the game would be with the running backs. Like quarterbacks, running backs need to have excellent grip as well. One big fumble could cost the team a game, so why not let a little air out so it will be harder to fumble the football. While there is no evidence as to how long deflating of footballs has been doing on in New England, there is a statistic that suggests it may have been going on for a while. In 2010, the average plays per fumble lost was 105 across the NFL. But when you look at the Patriots rate in this regard, it is a total of 182 plays per fumble. Something about that does not sound right because they are so far and away ahead of the curve in this regard. But even with this stat, you never know when this began or when it ended or if it will pick up again at some time. Brady, along with two Patriots equipment people, tried to create an advantage for themselves to enhance the performance of the team. Whether it worked or not, it was something that affected the performance on the field and it could essentially be looked at the same as a performance-enhancing drugs would be viewed. Both are different in their nature and how they happen, but both can affect the performance of a team on the field.

Another reason for this punishment lies within the evidence. The Wells Report went over text messages and things like that. And based off that, the agent for Brady said that the punishment was in no way correct at all. It is understandable where he is coming from, but Brady’s agent did fail to mention something when he talked about the fate of the Brady after this case. Tom Brady was asked to give to the NFL text messages and things like that in regards to this case. Anyone that is trying to clear their name of anything would more than likely turn over the evidence if asked for it so that would prove their innocence correct? Well, in this instance Brady did not turn over the evidence at all. It was stated that he was cooperative with the NFL and their investigation, but that is totally inaccurate. He may have answered some questions when they asked him, but when it came to evidence he lied by omission. For those that are not familiar with that, lying by omission means that you purposely leave out something to almost skew the vision of those that are looking over the case. In this case, Tom Brady purposely did not give up potential evidence he could have had in his phone. And for that reason and not the actually infraction that was committed, he received the initial four-game suspension instead of maybe a slap on the wrist. In the court of law, when you do this, you don’t get praise at all. You actually get in more trouble for doing so. This isn’t the court of law, but the NFL had to do something when they were not being given all the evidence by Brady. With what they had, it was evident they had some dirt on him. But if Brady truly felt he was innocent, he did not do himself any favors by withholding information.

In the end, Brady is going to see some punishment. There is no way around it. Those that hope his punishment goes away after an appeal are not being realistic. Punishments don’t get turned over a ton in the NFL but they do tend to get reduced though. Brady is still one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and that cannot be taken away from him. But what can be added is a little smudge on his otherwise silver-plattered career in the NFL so far. He has made his bed and now he has to lie in it. The question now is how long will he have to lie.

Mike Conley Jr: The Man Behind The Mask And The Two Consecutive Wins Over The Warriors

Mike Conley Jr. has been critical for the Grizzlies versus the Golden State Warriors(photo courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Mike Conley Jr. has been critical for the Grizzlies versus the Golden State Warriors(photo courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

The Memphis Grizzlies looked bad when they faced the Golden State Warriors in the 1st game of their playoff series. They just seemed like they were playing catchup all game long. And as a result, they were blown out and Golden State controlled the whole game. It was obvious that they were missing Mike Conley, Jr, their lead guard. The point guard out of Ohio State was hit in the face during their 1st round series win against the Portland Trailblazers in Game 3. Conley had to have surgery and have plates inserted in his face for the multiple fractures he suffered. And looking at him after the surgery, it looked like he may not be able to make it back to the team when they needed him. With the way they got beatdown versus Golden State and their leader down and no timetable for him to return, the outlook was bleak for the Grizzlies after Game 1. The longer they had to go without Conley, the scarier the situation was for Memphis. But Conley, who had not played in three games and a little over a week, had a breakthrough in regards to the swelling going down on his face. He would have to wear a mask to protect his face, but it seemed like a small price to pay for him to be able to join his team. And the first test was in Game 2 of the Memphis/Golden State series. Conley came out and played well in Game 2 and Game 3 and the series has now flipped in favor of the Memphis Grizzlies. Game 4 is on Monday and Memphis now has a chance to put a stranglehold on this series over the overwhelming favorite in the Western Conference. But what has made this masked man so important to this team?

Conley came into the NBA as a guy that many did not think would develop into what he is. But because of hard work and the trust of then-coach Lionel Hollins, Conley grew up and became one of the most underrated point guards in the NBA. And more than anything, he has become the leader of that team. When a leader of a team is taken off the court, some teams cannot recover or function the same. That was true for the Grizzlies as they played in Game 1 versus the Warriors. The offense seemed to have no flow without Conley on the court. Nick Calathes and Beno Udrih were doing the best they could, but they were just not as efficient on the court. As a result, the Grizzlies did not have that calm influence on the court to get them into their sets and get the basketball to their big men in the correct positions. With Conley on the court, the Grizzlies offense returned to a rhythm and pace. It seems like every pick-and-roll was ran with perfection as Conley made the correct decision. And because of his efficiency running the offense, he has been able to make the Grizzlies a better functioning offense and he has also been able to slow the pace to what the Grizzlies like to do. By slowing down the pace, the Grizzlies have made the Warriors more of a halfcourt team. And when that happens, the Warriors are not nearly as effective, as evidence by their struggles offensively the last two games of the series.

Conley runs a smooth ship at the point guard slot, but he is also a threat offensively. Udrih is a good midrange scorer and a good changeup off the bench, but we know he cannot run the offense full-time. And as far as Calathes, it seems as if he is just trying to survive on the court when he gets playing time. When Conley is out there, he puts more pressure on the opposing defenses than his replacements do. He can hit the midrange jumper, the three-pointer and he also has a wide array of moves when attacking the basket. He can finish with either hand going to the rim and he can also shoot floaters as well. That bag of offensive tricks helped Conley Jr. come up with 22 points in 27 minutes while donning the mask for the first time in Game 2. And although he did not have a great offensive game in Game 3 versus the Warriors, he was still respected as a threat and that helped open things up offensively for the Grizzlies. The biggest thing he has done since coming back is provided someone that Steph Curry has to guard and spend energy guarding. The more energy he has to spend offensively, the less energy he has to expend on the offensive end of the court. Notice the last two games, Curry has not been as effective as he usually is down the stretch. That could be explained by the effect of one person: Mike Conley Jr. And if he is able to keep this up, he could best Curry this series and throw his name into the point guard comparisons.

The Grizzlies were done and out after the first game of this series and many were doubting if they could come back. They needed something or someone to save them from the same fate again. And just like Batman, Conley heard their call and decided it was time for him to come in and save the team like a superhero. So far, so good for Conley and the Grizzlies taking on the Golden State Warriors. And as far as the Warriors, it’s time for them to make like The Riddler and see if they can solve Mike Conley Jr and the Memphis Grizzlies before it’s too late.

Doc Rivers’ Labor Of Love Helping Propel The Los Angeles Clippers

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of www.espn.com)

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of http://www.espn.com)

Doc Rivers had a decision to make this season. Plenty in the Clippers organization felt it would not be a bad idea for him to trade for his son, but Doc had to think about it. He did not want it to appear like he was doing something to hurt his team. He thought about it decided to make the deal. After Austin Rivers was traded to the Celtics around the trade deadline, Doc made the move to get his son on his team. The Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics made a trade that brought together Austin Rivers with his dad and new coach, making NBA history being the first father to coach his son in the NBA. But this move was not met with the open arms and great, warm feelings that some thought it may have been. Doc was looked at as a man that had too much power with the organization by some. After all, he is the big basketball decision-maker in the Clippers organization and he was taking a chance on his son, who was a struggling guard that had not found his niche in the NBA. Many could not get over the fact that Doc did not make a move for a small forward the Clippers needed. But Doc made the decision to help his son and maybe save his NBA career.

Austin Rivers was a dynamite guard out of the Duke University when he was a freshman. Plenty looked at his ability to make plays and score the basketball and assumed he would be a good player in the NBA immediately. The then-New Orleans Hornets were one of the teams that were sold on his skills and they took him with the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. But instead of a great scorer or contributor, the Hornets got a guy who was inconsistent with his play on the court and his shooting. And at 6’4”, the Hornets felt he was a tweener on the basketball court. They just could not find a way to use him consistently on the court. And the numbers of the younger Rivers reflected the inconsistencies. He would never average over 10 points per game with the Hornets/Pelicans and he would also never live up to the promise some thought he had coming out of Duke. He needed a lifeline and a fresh start to his career. And that lifeline came in the form of his father, watching his son from a distance. The opportunity came about for Doc to revive his career and he took it. When Austin arrived in Los Angeles, many wondered how he would be. Would he come out of his shell and go back to the guy everyone saw as a freshman at Duke or would he continue to falter in his NBA career? At first, he seemed timid and would not shoot the basketball as much. It seemed like he was trying to fit in more from a distance than just playing basketball. At times, it seemed like Doc’s love for his son had conflicted his decision as a coach. And as the Clippers were doing well, it seemed he like he was still trying to figure out who he was as an NBA player. But little did we know that we would be in store for a coming out party for Austin Rivers in the playoffs.

Plenty had wondered not only what Chris Paul would do in the playoffs, but what would happen if he went to the bench during the game. There were not many players that were sold on the fact that Austin Rivers was the backup. There were concerns about his play and what he could do out there. But the younger Rivers put that to bed in the 1st round of the playoffs. Rivers had been solid for the Clippers when Paul went to the bench, but in Game 4 he definitely stepped up. The Clippers entered that game down 2-1 to the San Antonio Spurs and needed a win in the worst way. They needed someone to step up and play big and unexpectedly Austin Rivers showed up. The young guard from Duke had 16 points on 7/8 shooting and hit both free throws he attempted. It was evident that he was not ready to go home and he was ready to announce he could play in the NBA to the world. Ever since that game, it seemed like the hate and jokes that Austin Rivers received has started to fade away. And now he is not just known as Doc Rivers’ son, but as a basketball player trying to make his mark in the NBA. He cemented that he was a guy to look out for in Game 3 versus the Rockets Friday night when he spearheaded a great run by the Clippers. Rivers had 25 points and was on fire. His numbers have been getting better by the series. He only had two games of double-figures versus the Spurs in the 1st round and in this round, he has been averaging 17 points per game off the bench for the Clippers versus the Rockets. Undoubtedly he has been the shot in the arm that Los Angeles has needed and could be one of the big keys to them heading to the Western Conference Finals perhaps. Who would have thought what looked like a labor of love by Doc Rivers towards his son would be a move that could help propel the Clippers even further? Austin Rivers has finally arrived ladies and gentlemen. And the potential that all saw when he came out of college is finally getting tapped into. All it took was the words and coaching of his dad and the confidence of his teammates in his abilities.

The Good And Bad Of The Hack-A-Shaq Potentially Going Away

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Dwight Howard may not have to worry about intentionally being fouled pretty soon. (photo courtesy of http://www.bleacherreport.com)

The NBA is a game of competition and strategy. And when you get into the playoffs, it seems like all teams get even deeper into the strategic portions of the game. One of those strategies that everyone has seen for a while is the intentional foul rule. This rule, nicknamed the “Hack-A-Shaq” after notoriously bad free throw shooter Shaquille O’Neal, allows teams to foul a player intentional away from the ball to send them to the free throw line. The thinking is the opposing team can inch their way back into games by having a bad free throw shooter go to the line and miss while they come back and hit their shots. The strategy was actually implemented before Shaq against Dennis Rodman. Dallas coach Don Nelson used to have him intentionally fouled during the games and would send him to the line. But it grew to fame when the superstar center was in Los Angeles. Over the years, the Hack-A-Shaq has had some tweaks to it along with some different players involved as well. The new characters are now Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard. Both are atrocious free throw shooters that could build a home with the amount of bricks they put up at the free throw line. They are now facing each other in a series and needless to say, going to the free throw line is an adventure for both of them. But for the fans, the thought of them intentionally being fouled is like nails to a chalkboard. So, the NBA is having some thoughts of banishing the rule forever or putting stiffer penalties on this intentional foul. But is this giving players the easy way out?

Growing up playing basketball, the basic things you are taught is how to shoot, pass and dribble. In fact, over time those skills can get better if you put in the practice. But along with working on the basics, free throws are something that most should also work to be able to make with ease. After all, they are the only shot that no one is guarding you when you take them, unless you are playing against a non-existent defense. But it seems that some ignore the free throw line and as time goes on, those few become bad free throw shooters. Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan could be those two guys that never practiced the free throw shot. And because of that, they are intentionally sent to the free throw line and banked on to miss by opposing teams. By taking this rule away, it is taking away the accountability of Howard, Jordan and others to do something that should be easier for them: hit free throws. These two should be ashamed of themselves not being able to shoot free throws. And because of that, now they are going to potentially change a rule due to players not being to hit free throws? It seems like this rule is something that will be letting them off the hook instead of actually inspiring them to shoot more free throws in the offseason.

The rule would be something that would let bad free throw shooters off the hook, but it would also be something that could help the fans enjoy their experience as well. Over the years, sports fans have wanted games to be less lengthy and more compact. Baseball is looking at things to make the games speed up more and football is looking at a few things as well. But with basketball, they have not delved into that arena as of yet. But with the discussion of the intentional foul rule coming up, there is great possibility that most fans will get what they want. And in getting what they want, that means no more of the Hack-A-Whoever and more punishment if this tactic is used at any time. The result, presumably, would be a technical foul shot and possession of the ball. But to make it punish a team even more, you could add an additional free throw shot and have the coach pick any free throw shooter on his team to shoot them. That punishment could really cripple a team if done at the wrong time. But the main thing the NBA is about doing is creating the best product on the court to entertain the fans. And many fans are starting to tire of the games grinding to a halt with the intentional fouling. It may be a strategy that many implement to come back on teams, but it is also a strategy that takes away television views. And that is what it is all about for the NBA.

One way or another, there is going to be something happen with the intentional foul rule. There are good things about it for the fans, but there are things that help the players that shoot free throws bad escape as well. Honestly, the players could control this one more than anything. But leave it to the NBA to seek action on this one instead of holding the players accountable here. The rule will make the game more enjoyable if it is changed, but then that means another thing will become the focus of fans not to like and that could be a slippery slope as well. Only time will tell what happens, but it looks like the intentional fouling away from the ball is about to go by the wayside.

The Hypocrisy Of Sports Fans

Floyd is a great boxer and a polarizing figure (AP Photo courtesy of Isaac Brekken)

Floyd is a great boxer and a polarizing figure (AP Photo courtesy of Isaac Brekken)

The whole sports world was captivated with the supposed “Fight of The Century” in Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend. The hated Floyd “Money” Mayweather versus Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao. The boxing match was perceived by many as good (Pacquiao) versus evil (Mayweather) in a lot of people’s eyes. There were a lot of boxing fans and casual fans that wanted Mayweather to be knocked out and quite frankly did not care for him in any aspect. Mayweather can be a pretty unlikeable guy to some because of his cocky attitude and the way he throws his money around like it’s nothing. But that was not the main reason that many despise him. Over the years, Mayweather has had a history of domestic violence situations. He even went to jail in 2012 and served 60 days of a 90 day sentence after pleading guilty to domestic violence charges against a former girlfriend. His issues with women have been well-documented and many will never forgive him for that no matter what he has done. And it is because of that, some people want him to fail so bad and some will not even recognize how great of a boxer he is. Domestic violence is wrong and should not be tolerated, but what also should not be tolerated is hypocrisy. The thing that follows fandom a lot these days is hypocritical thinking. For those that don’t pay attention, there are plenty of situations where hypocritical views are used.

The view of sports can be skewed by what others perceive or the morals that a person may feel they have. But often times, those moral clauses in someone are used when they are convenient for them to use them. Let’s take the case of Ben Roethlisberger. He has been highly successful as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers and he is a multiple Super Bowl winner. But Big Ben was not exactly the picture of perfect character when off the field. In fact, you could say there was a little too much aggression used by him off the field. Roethlisberger has been named in two rape allegations. In the first allegation, Roethlisberger allegedly got one of the hosts at Harrah’s Casino Resort in Lake Tahoe to come to his room because he allegedly claimed that his television was broken. And things reportedly got out of control. While Roethlisberger was never charged for the crime, he did pay a sum of money to settle the case out of court. And with that, he also had the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s lawyer sign a confidentiality agreement to not discuss the matter. Now if you did not do something in that instance, why would you be paying a person a sum after a settlement and why would you have a confidentiality agreement signed by the plaintiff and her representation? It honestly makes it look like Roethlisberger did something and the woman took the money to help make it go away. In the second instance, Roethlisberger was in a club in Georgia and a 20 year-old college student accused him of raping her. Unlike the other one, this one was settled before anything ever really happened. In both instances, it seemed as if Big Ben had done something but he just was not convicted of it. And if you look him, there no one coming at him yelling about his past to him at all. In fact, many seem to have selective memory and forget the trouble that he was even involved in over his career. He is cheered by fans, men and women, and it is like everyone forgot what happened in his past. It is amazing what some can remember when they want to. But Big Ben is not the only one that this happens with.

Michael Jordan was one of the greatest players of all-time. Some even consider him the best player of all-time. Jordan had all his fans in the palm of his hand with each great performance. Jordan won six championships in his career via two separate three-peats. He could do no wrong at all. And in Chicago, there is a statue of Jordan outside the United Center in Chicago. But along with the great things that Jordan did on the court, he also was pretty active off the court. Jordan was married with kids and a wife and seemed to have the perfect family life. It would seem that he would be content with the family he had and the life he had playing basketball in Chicago. But Jordan was actually kicking while he was married. He reportedly cheated on his wife numerous times and made deals to pay these women in “hush money”. Let’s face it: Jordan wasn’t the great role model that he was portrayed to be at all. He was just a great basketball player that had a great marketing touch. And with that he pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes in regards to who he really was. There have been many stories told about his escapades off the court, the money he has lost gambling(reportedly even hours before gametime of a playoff game versus the New York Knicks) and the things he has done like say nothing about all the violence that happens when he releases his shoes retroactively at early times. But what is amazing about all the things that he has done away from the court, many can look past that and still recognize that he is one of the greatest players the world has ever seen and people were cheering for him regardless. And every single time, people line up to buy his shoes and are camping out for someone that has shown not to care about them at all and more about money. But let them tell it, his personal life does not mean that he is the greatest of all time to some. That has no effect on that thought process to them.

Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Jordan are just two examples of players that are great on the field and have ran into some things off of it. But in the instance of both of these, people are able to look past them to still recognize their greatness. And there are both male and female fans that cheered for the things both do and did in their respective sports while looking over their past transgressions. So if this is possible for these two, then why is it not possible for people to recognize that Floyd Mayweather is a great boxer but has issues off of it? It seems like it is said a lot that people don’t cheer for him to win because of his domestic violence past. But these same people are cheering for guys like Big Ben and cheered for Michael Jordan despite doing things that they did not agree with at all. And whether many want to recognize it or not, they are probably cheering for a guy on their favorite teams that has done some things that they would consider reprehensible. Ask some Ravens, Patriots and Redskins fans if they cheered for Donte Stallworth when he played for their teams. Most of them will tell you that they did cheer for him. And most of them will also tell you they know about his past, where he hit and killed a man while drunk driving. Many athletes have done things we don’t agree with, but if we can separate their personal issues, cheer for those players and recognize them as players when they do something good on the field, then why can’t people recognize that Floyd is a great boxer and separate that from his past issues? Honestly, if you are the ones doing this, then that makes you hypocritical. But you are not alone. There are many that are hypocritical as well. And even worse, there are some that have done some things that are similar or worse that are now downing people that have done the same things. There is no excuse for anything any of these athletes have done and there is no condoning it either. But the hypocrisy has to stop. We all get that Floyd is hard to like because of his cockiness and that domestic violence is deplorable. But we all should recognize that he is one of the greats in boxing as well.

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