Friday, February 27, 2009

NFL Free Agency

... began today at 12:01 a.m.

Here are some of the notable names in this year's free agent market.

- Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals. The stats don't lie. Yeah, he did have Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston to throw to... but the guy still led the Arizona Cardinals... yes, the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl. That's a feat in and of itself. Not to mention he owns the record for three best passing performances in a Super Bowl.

- T.J. "Whosyoumomma?" Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals. Aside from having a great name, he's also got good hands. He's one of the better receivers in the league, and will make some QB happy next season.

- Ray Lewis, LB, Ravens. Arguably one of the best defensive players of the era. He's been the cornerstone of the Ravens' vaunted defense for a decade. He's getting older, but he's still a beast in the middle of the field.

- Albert Haynesworth, DT, Titans. The big man is coming off the best season of his career, with 44 tackles and 8.5 sacks. He knows how to plug the middle and just takeover the line of scrimmage... and as we all know, the battle in football begins in the trenches.

- Derrick Ward, RB, Giants. The best RB available this offseason. He had over 1,000 yards while splitting time with Brandon Jacobs. Could be the next in the line of backup RBs making big names for themselves as starters (Michael Turner... maybe Darren Sproles soon?).

Got any comments on where you think these guys, or other free agents, might end up, let me know.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Oscar" Greats

With the 81st Academy Awards show on tonight, I thought it would be neat to take a look at some of the great Oscars in sports, who have put on some pretty impressive performances of their own. So without further ado:

4) Oscar De La Hoya, "The Golden Boy." De La Hoya, in his professional career, accumulated 39 wins and 6 losses in his boxing career, including 30 wins by KO. He also won the United States' only gold medal in boxing at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He has defeated 17 world champions and has won 10 world titles in six different weight classes. Oh, he also generated more money in his career than any other boxer in history. I think that's enough to earn him a spot on this list.

3) Oscar Pistorius, "The Blade Runner." This South African sprinter made headlines this past year when he was ruled ineligible for the Olympics because of his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs. He appealed and was granted eligibility. Unfortunately he was left off the South African track team because his time of 46.25 seconds in the 400 meter sprint didn't meet the Olympic-qualifying time of 45.55. Pistorious is still the double-amputee world record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 meter sprints, and won gold medals at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in those events.

So that's why they call him the Blade Runner!

2) Oscar Charleston. A center fielder and manager for baseball's Negro League from 1915 to 1945. He had a career batting average of .353 and regularly finished among the league leaders in home runs and stolen bases. Charleston was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976 and in 1999 he was ranked 67th on The Sporting News list of 100 Greatest Baseball Players. He was also nominated as a finalist for MLB's All-Century Team.

1) Oscar Robertson, "The Big O." One of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players and the only player in NBA history to average... yes, average a triple-double for an entire season. Soak that in for a minute, folks. During the 1961-62 season, just his second season in the league, Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game. That is simply unheard of, and that is why he is the number one Oscar in sports.

Any Oscars I left off this list that you think deserve to be here? Let me know.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

D-Wade is Great, His Team Isn't

That's the impression the whole nation got from today's game between the Heat and the Magic.

Dwyane Wade scored a career-high 50 points on 17-30 shots and went 14-15 at the free throw line. He also dropped five assists and had five rebounds. The rest of the Heat combined scored 49.

The Heat lost 122-99. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 32 points and 17 rebounds and six other Magic players scored in double figures in a game where the Heat didn't come withing single digits after the first few minutes.

It really was a waste of a career-high scoring night for Wade, which makes me wonder what the record is for most points in a game for a player whose team got blown out.

Oh well, the fact of the matter is that Wade is a beast, and was having his way with the Orlando defense, including a posterizing dunk on Rashard Lewis in the second quarter. But as good as Wade is, his teammates need to do more if this team wants a chance in the playoffs.

I know it's only one game, and every team has nights where they shoot poorly, but take out Wade and the rest of the team was only 20-59 from the field. That's a shade under 34 percent on the night. The rest of the team went 4-14 from beyond the arc, compared to Orlando's 17-32. Take away Wade, and the Heat only had five free throws on the night, though they did make all five of them.

I'm not one that's big on moral victories, but at least tonight the Heat can hang their heads on Wade's scoring night. Even though we've all known that he could have his way with any defense, so I guess there isn't really a moral victory tonight.

Oh well, I guess they just need to forget about tonight as soon as possible and try to stay focused for the next game, and the rest of the stretch run this season.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Welcome Back, Chuck!

Charles Barkley returned to TNT tonight after his suspension following a DUI.

During the pregame show, Barkley gave a heart-felt apology to his colleagues, the NBA, his friends and his fans. He owned up to his mistake and took full blame for what he did.
He also offered advice to everyone listening: DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE.

Barkley thanked everyone that showed support for him, gave him advice and was there for him during his suspension.

He then went on to say he never trusted the "big wigs" at TNT 110 percent even though he loves working there and working with Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith. Barkley said that it meant a lot to him that they stuck by him throughout this whole ordeal and said he now trusts the people at TNT 100 percent.

That being said: Welcome Back, Chuck! The NBA on TNT just had it's watchability and entertainment value rise because of your return.

Welcome Back, Kotter Chuck!

LeBron Dodges a Bullet

Rumor earlier today, before the 3 p.m. trade deadline, was that the Cleveland Cavaliers were trying to spark a deal with the Phoenix Suns for Shaquille O'Neal.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the proposed trade would have given the Suns Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic in exchange for Shaq. Rumor was that the Suns tried to get the Cavs to put Wally Szczerbiak's large expiring contract into the mix instead of Wallace.

Regardless, this deal did not happen, and luckily for LeBron James might I add.

The addition of Shaq could have put Cleveland over the hump and elevated them to the NBA title this season. Nothing against Shaq, as I've said before, he's my second favorite NBA personality behind Charles Barkley, but does LeBron really want to win his first title like that?

Think about it. If Shaq was shipped to the Cavs and they won the title this season, the three best players in the league (and the faces of the league), Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron would have all won their rings with the help of Shaq.

We all know Kobe has been striving to win that first title without Shaq to distinguish himself and elevate him to that truly elite level. Dwyane Wade is currently going through a resurrection where he is proving to everyone just how good he is coming back from a disappointing season last year that was cut short by knee surgery. Wade surely wants to win that second title, this time perhaps with another O'Neal in the post.

Would a title won with Shaq cement LeBron's place as arguably the best player in the league, or would it just cement Shaq's spot as one of the Most. Dominant. Ever. with his fifth ring with three different teams? Surely a title together would do more for Shaq's legacy than LeBron's.

I'm sure LeBron wants to win that first title, and of course the whole organization wants to get him that title in Cleveland before he becomes a free agent and bolts for another team (New York?). But does he want that title to be won through his own doing, or through the addition of Shaq?

If you ask me, LeBron, or rather, his legacy dodged a bullet by not having Shaq traded to the Cavs.

Because It Was The Right Thing To Do

I know I'm a day late on this story, which I've now seen all over the Web and on ESPN's Around the Horn and Mike and Mike In the Morning, and I just wanted to put my two cents in on it.

In short, Johntell Franklin, a senior at Milwaukee Madison High School and captain of the basketball team, lost his mother, Carlitha Franklin, to cervical cancer on Feb. 7. That night, his team had a game against DeKalb, Ill., High School.

The team considered cancelling the game, but Franklin told them to go on with it. He decided to show up and support his teammates in the second quarter and asked to suit up. One problem, his name wasn't written in the score book, so the refs assessed a technical foul and awarded DeKalb two free throws.

Darius McNeal, a senior for DeKalb volunteered for the free throws and what happened next is possibly the greatest sportsmanship story I've heard of in sports in a long time.

McNeal shot the ball only a couple of feet and it rolled down the lane. Then the ref gave him the ball for the second shot, and he did it again.

McNeal said after the game that it was the right thing to do.

It's great to see this sort of sportsmanship, especially from a teenager. To show that maturity, sportsmanship and respect for a hurting opponent is a phenomenal thing. It's great to read about, especially when there are so many stories today of athletes cheating the game, showing unsportsmanlike characteristics and other high school kids brawling on the court and in the stands.

I understand that the refs are there to enforce rules, even though I think an exception should be made for extenuating circumstances, especially when the team that's awarded the free throws argues that the technical shouldn't have been called.

But McNeal was right, what he did was the right thing to do. It was respectful, honorable, sportsmanlike, compassionate and above all, it was HUMAN.

Missing those free throws won't bring Franklin's mother back, nor will it take away the unfathomable pain that he must be going through, but one thing that it did do was let him know that there are people there that care about him. That he has friends, both on the court and off and that they will be there to support him through all of this.

And missing those free throws let me know that there is still good out there in a sports world that is too often depicted in the media as being corrupted by cheating, scandals and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A-Roid's Press Conference

Just a couple of quick thoughts on A-Rod's press conference today.

- "I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs...": ummm didn't he say he was injected with the substances and did not take them orally? Is it just me, or did he contradict himself here? Perhaps it was just a really bad analogy.

- The Unnamed Cousin: Does anyone really believe that A-Rod got the steroids from an unnamed cousin? Or is this just a "brilliant" ploy to throw the media off of his scent and send them on a wild goose chase searching for this cousin of his?

- Stumped!: Anyone else notice when A-Rod got stumped after one of the reporters basically asked him, "if you didn't think you were doing something wrong, then why did you do it in secret and in the Dominican Republic," or something along those lines?

- The label didn't say, "Steroids...": A-Rod also said he didn't think that what he was taking was steroids. Hmmm, that's why he went to the DR and did it in secret instead of consulting his trainers in the US.

And by far my favorite part of the presser was when one reporter asked A-Rod if he considered what he did as cheating. His response: "That's not for me to judge."

Well, excuse me Alex, but I do believe that you are to judge on that one, the question was addressed to you. As for the real answer, yes, A-Rod, you cheated. You cheated the game of baseball, your fans and your teammates for at least three seasons. Who's to say you haven't done it at other times?

I mean, come on, A-Rod was even asked if he would have come forward and admitted to doping and answered that he isn't sure. Translation: "No, I wouldn't have. I lied to Katie Couric, why wouldn't I lie to the rest of you all. I wasn't losing any sleep over it for the past eight years and if it wasn't for someone opening their mouth then I wouldn't be here in this situation in front of all of you today."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shaq-awockeez?

By far the highlight of this year's All-Star Game, as it usually is, was Shaq. The guy has got to be one of the most loveable figures in sports. His one-liners never cease to amaze, nor do his coined phrases, such as "Shaqtus," "The Big Aristotle," and of course, the Scrabble favorite: "Shaqtastic."

This season, in his 15th All-Star appearance (2nd all-time) he won his third (2nd and a half?) game MVP award, sharing it with Kobe Bryant in the duo's first game together since June of 2004.

While Shaq's 17-point performance included some great highlights, like clowning Dwight Howard on a give-and-go, the moment of the night had to be during the player introductions. After all of the other Western Conference reserves were introduced, Shaq came out with America's Best Dance Crew season one winners, the Jabbawockeez and broke it down with them.

Now, all loyal NBA fans know Shaq can bust a move, as we all saw during a 2007 all-star practice dance-off between him, Howard and LeBron. But Shaq took it to another level with his introduction with the Jabbawockeez.


People of that stature should not be able to move like that. It's just not fair.

Like I mentioned in my earlier post, one of my favorite parts of All-Star weekend is the showmanship, and no player has done so more in his career, as far as I know, than Shaq. He admitted after the game that this was possibly his last All-Star game, at 37, which is a shame because he certainly brings up the entertainment value of the events... not just during this weekend, but anywhere he goes really.

I think that once Shaq no longer resides as the king of All-Star festivities, that the torch will likely be passed to Howard, because he, like Shaq enjoys being a clown, as well as breaking it down and is a fan-favorite (he did get a record 3,000,000+ votes this season). But until that torch is officially passed, let's enjoy the All-Star antics of the newly anointed "Big Legendary."

Thoughts About All-Star Saturday Night

-First, I've got to start by mentioning my hometown representative for the night: Daequan Cook. What a comeback that was in the final rack of the 2nd round for him to force overtime. An all-Florida overtime event, I might add. Cook certainly put on for his city, and for the second time in three years the Miami Heat have the reigning three-point shootout champion.

-The Phoenix Shooting Stars team, on the other hand, does not put on for their city. In the final of their event, they began by hitting their first five shots in under 20 seconds. They then needed to only hit the sixth and final shot from just inside half court. You would think that one of the three could hit that shot in the next 40 seconds. Obviously, you would think wrong, because they certainly did not put on for their city... which happens to be the host city of this weekend's festivities.

-Could the Playstation Skills Competition have been any more lackluster this year? In past year's we would see some of the NBA's best guards putting up times in the high 20-second marks... this year, none of the four broke the 30-second mark. Congrats to rookie Derrick Rose though for nonchalantly smoking the rest of the field. For the record, wasn't Nate Robinson's first dunk of the night the same one Rose threw down at the end of his obstacle course run?

-As for the night's premiere event, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest: I liked the showmanship more than some of the dunks. Without a doubt, Dwight Howard bringing in another basket with a fork lift and dunking the ball at 12 feet was impressive, as was his off-the-side-of-the-backboard dunk in the final round. Robinson's dunk over Howard was also pretty remarkable, considering Robinson is 5'8" on a good day and Howard is nearly 7-feet tall. However, when Robinson stepped off of his fellow player's back, it clearly marked the lowpoint of the event. I mean, some of my friends could do that at the gym. Robinson being Howard's kryptonite (or rather, kryptoNATE) during the contest was a great touch on the evening though. Again, bringing the showmanship back into this competition makes for great t.v., even if the dunks didn't live up to the hype.

-Clearly, dunk contests are no longer bourgeois, as LeBron James "preliminarily" entered his name into next season's dunk contest. This will hopefully make for one hell of a contest next year, and hopefully one of the most memorable ones ever, if LeBron could live up to the immense hype that will inevitably build over the next year.

To whet your appetite --- because I know you are salivating just thinking of King James in the dunk contest --- I will leave you all with some highlights of the last time that LeBron participated in a dunk contest.

P.S. I wonder if LeBron will use Damon Jones as a prop again for the contest.

Skip ahead to about the 2:05-mark for LeBron's dunks.


He double-clutched! That is so bourgeois!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Return of Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley is set to return to TNT from his suspension for DUI following this weekend's All-Star festivities. However, he made his triumphant return to my television tonight during the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge.

The clip seems to have been on YouTube for just over a week. I'm not sure if it has aired before, but it's the first I've seen of it.



Does this mean that T-Mobile has decided to bring back the Round Mound of Rebound? They pulled all ads with him following his arrest and said they would reevaluate the situation later on.

I hope this means T-mobile has reinstated Chuck, because all of his commercials with Dwyane Wade have been priceless. This new one, featuring Dwight Howard along with Wade and Chuck is another classic.

I know Barkley screwed up, and I know he's no role model. He has said it himself: "I'm no role model. Just because I play basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids."

He paid the price and served his suspension time. TNT is bringing him back this week, and I hope that this commercial means that T-Mobile is doing the same, and that this wasn't just one that they shot before his DUI and decided to air... because that would just be "turrible."

Well, That Was Quite a Final Play in a Heat Uniform...

Shawn Marion (and Marcus Banks) have been traded to the Toronto Raptors for Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon.

At least Marion had quite a final lasting image in our minds after last night's game-winning dunk on the Chicago Bulls. If you're going to get shipped off, at least make your last play for your former team count, and Marion did just that.

The initial reaction from this trade has got to be that the Heat made a slight improvement. O'neal, when healthy, is a legitimate post player, and that's something the Heat have been wanting/needing since they traded Shaq.

Also, it seems that this trade will take Miami out of the running for Carlos Boozer this offseason, because rumors have been swirling since this past offseason about Miami making a run at him. But by picking up O'Neal's $23 million, it appears the Heat won't be making any big signings this offseason.

That also means that come 2010, when O'Neal's contract expires (not to mention Dwyane Wade's) that the Heat will have a ridiculous amount of salary cap space to try to keep Wade and lure in another big name free agent.

This move should make the Heat a more legitimate playoff team this season than they would have been with Marion and Banks. Moon is a solid role player, and a rotation of Wade, O'Neal, Michael Beasley, Daequan Cook, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Moon should take the Heat beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dear Jodie Meeks

That was NOT cool of you last night. Nick Calathes got a piece of that shot, you had to double-pump and release on your way down... yet it still some how goes in? Not cool, Jodie Meeks, not cool.

Not sure which you and your Kentucky fans are luckier for: that shot, or the fact that Calathes missed those free throws in the final second. Regardless, beware when you visit Gainesville next month, because revenge will be on the menu.

Signed,
The Florida Faithful

A-Fraud and the Steroid Era

Okay, so here's my take on the whole Alex Rodriguez, steroid thing.

Obviously, I think it was smart of A-Rod to take the Andy Pettitte route and come clean (even though he only came clean after he was exposed). From a PR standpoint, it was the best thing he could do, you know, other than to have never taken performance enhancers.

The real question though: do we believe A-Rod only took steroids from 2001-2003. He told Peter Gammons that that period was pretty much correct. Why not just say, yeah, only those years?

How can A-Rod say he felt immense pressure in Texas, a market that isn't in the spotlight of the press that much, and do steroids then, but he doesn't feel the same pressure, if not more now that he's playing in New York? That reasoning just doesn't sound legitimate to me.

Now the great debate begins: does A-Rod still make it to Cooperstown when his career is over? He sure hopes he can. But how can we take any stats from many of these players over the last 15 years that seriously? Should baseball acknowledge these records that players are putting up now, or should they all be asterisked and we honor the players from the 80's and before as the real record holders?

Only time will tell.

Friday, February 6, 2009

1K: The Highest Summitt in College Basketball

Just wanted to give the ultimate tip of the cap to Pat Summitt, head coach of the Lady Vols basketball team. Tonight she earned her 1,000th win as a head coach, a feat that is just hard to fathom. In 35 seasons she racked up 1,000 wins... that's the most among any college coach, ever.

While I secretly wished for her team to lose tonight (just because the next game for the Lady Vols would have been here in Gainesville against the Gators and it would've been quite exciting to be there for this special moment), I do congratulate her for the feat.

I'm not going to sit here and pretend like I follow women's basketball like I do with men's basketball or football, but I know a legend when I see one. Summitt is already in the Hall of Fame, and the court at Tennessee carries her namesake. But Summitt truly deserves to be in a class of her own. She sits at the top, right up there with basketball names like Lenny Wilkins, Pat Riley, Don Nelson, Jerry Sloan and Larry Brown, who have all eclipsed the 1,000-win mark in the NBA.

With her eight national championships she's mentioned in the same breath as names like John Wooden, who has 10 titles, and Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach, who each have nine NBA titles.

It seems pretty evident that Summitt is not only the greatest women's coach of all-time, but she is up there with the greatest basketball coaches of all-time... and for that, I tip my cap to her and give her a standing ovation. I hope everyone else does, too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tomorrow is National Signing Day!

Tomorrow, February 4th, is a day that many college football fanatics anticipate from the moment the BCS title game ended. It essentially marks the beginning of the new season, and is the one time for the next two months (until the spring games take place) that college football is in the national spotlight.

I'd love to be able to say that I follow the recruiting trail year-round like many other diehard fans do, but I don't. I'm casually aware of what goes on with the national recruiting scene, but there's something about religiously following a high school player's every move and decision and analyzing every second of his highlight reel that irks me. It just doesn't seem right to be scrutinizing, evaluating and hoping that these high school kids will be the answer to your team's problems and be the savior of the football program.

I prefer to wait until these kids actually hit the field to fully evaluate their potential and what kind of impact they could have as freshmen, or what kind of impact they will have for their team down the road. That being said, I'm still looking forward to tuning in tomorrow, wherever, and checking out the group of undoubtedly freaky fast athletes that my school has put together... but I'll wait until the spring, or better yet, the season opener, to completely evaluate their potential on the roster.