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About the Author
Doctor Matt is 1/2 of the Sports Over Served Podcast and skilled in the art of creative writing (according to his 3rd-grade English teacher). He also says he knows a thing or two about basketball, which qualifies him as our NBA Expert? Don't agree with Matt? Feel free to leave a comment!

Cowboys’ Dominant O-Line Could be an Issue in 2018

The Cowboys’ offensive line has been considered one of the best in the NFL for the past few years. Most of this is due to the outstanding play of Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. The problem is not that their play is declining or their talent is diminishing, but that their health may not be able to keep up.

Zack Martin left the second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a knee injury. The good news is that there is no ligament damage; he was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee and bone. However, knee problems and offensive lineman have never been a good mix. Martin will not play in the last two preseason games, and aims to be back for week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.

Travis Frederick had been dealing with a ‘stinger’ since August 15th. He missed the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals and has had several doctor’s appointments since then. A week later, on August 22nd he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the nerves. The Mayo Clinic says that for most people with GBS, the condition worsens for 2 weeks after the first signs and symptoms and plateaus within a month. Recovery usually lasts 6-12 months, but could take as long as three years. Jerry Jones was optimistic that Frederick would play week 1 before the diagnosis, but now Frederick says there is no timetable for his return.

The third and best of this trio, is Tyron Smith. He has looked like his future gold jacket wearing self in the first two preseason games, and says that he is “feeling great now” and is “in the best shape I’ve been in a while”. Unfortunately, that is coming from a 6’5″ 320 pound man who had bulging disk problems in 2016, and missed several games due to back, hip, groin and knee problems in 2017. If you had to think of injuries not to have as an NFL left tackle, at least 3 of those would be in the top 5. Dak Prescott would be the first to tell you Smith’s importance to the Dallas offense, considering Dak was sacked 8 times in the first game Tyron missed due to injury last year. It should be noted that 6 of those sacks were by Adrian Clayborn, the defensive end that Smith would have been responsible for blocking.

With Cameron Fleming added through free agency there is seemingly better depth at tackle than last year. He is a swing tackle that can fill in better than Chaz Green did in 2017. Second round draft pick Connor Williams will most likely be starting at left guard opposite Zack Martin (if healthy). Joe Looney started at center in the absence of Frederick against the Bengals, and looked as if he could benefit from a few more reps in the final two preseason games. La’el Collins is holding his own at the right tackle position, and seems to be feeling more comfortable with each snap.

All in all, the Cowboys offensive line is a force to be reckoned with…if healthy. But if injuries become an issue, especially with the three All-Pro lineman, Zeke will not be saying “feed me” as much and Dak will be running for his life. Jason Garrett better be praying for a healthy offensive line in 2018, or he may be finding himself getting his resume together in January.

 

 

UPDATE: La’el Collins limping with heavily taped ankle on 8/23/18. Yup, the only healthy Cowboys offensive lineman in rookie, Connor Williams.

BREAKING NEWS: LeBron James to Sign with LA Lakers

The cat is out of the bag on the first day of the NBA Free Agency Moratorium: The King will be taking his talents to Los Angeles. Klutch Sports Group, the agency that represents LeBron, released a statement on Twitter earlier today, “LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA finals MVP, fourteen time NBA All Star, and two time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to a four year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.”

This free agency was much less of a circus than the first time LeBron left Cleveland in the summer of 2010 with “The Decision”. This time there was no hour TV special with Jim Gray that sent the entire city of Cleveland into a whirlwind. This was something that LeBron obviously knew he wanted to do and there was no point in putting anyone (fans or teams) through the drama of a week long recruiting trip. Cleveland will also be much more understanding this time since LeBron delivered on his promise of bringing a championship to “The Land” with the memorable comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in 2015.

The question now is, who will be playing with LeBron? Paul George has already agreed to stay in OKC with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. There is no way LeBron made a decision to go to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011, if there were not wheels in motion to bring in All Star caliber talent like he did when he went back to Cleveland in 2014.

Could this push the Lakers to be more aggressive in trading for Kawhi Leonard by offering the Spurs something they can’t refuse? Will LeBron’s signing in LA attract any other free agents to the Lakers? Will Lonzo Ball, last year’s 2nd overall pick, be ready to play this season after tearing his meniscus?

As it stands now, the 2018 Lakers roster consists of Lonzo Ball, Thomas Bryant, Tyler Ennis, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, and a washed up Luol Deng making $18 million. That is hardly a group that LeBron looks forward to playing with at age 33. Look for the Lakers to be making some big trades and signing before the start of the season.

This is uncharted territory for The King. LeBron has never played in the Western Conference since he came into the NBA in 2003. The Eastern Conference has had, by all accounts, a much easier path to the Finals for the last 15 years, so it will be interesting to see LeBron enter a monster playoff field that should include: the reigning champion Golden State Warriors with the Hampton 5, the Houston Rockets with Chris Paul and the reigning MVP James Harden, and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Should be fun.

 

 

UPDATE: The Lakers are set to sign Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson & Rajon Rondo. The have renounced the rights to Julius Randle and may waive Luol Deng as well to spread the $36 million owed to him over the next 5 seasons to open up more salary cap space.

BREAKING NEWS: Mavs trade up for Luka Doncic

After Luka Doncic, the 19 year old Slovenian soon-to-be star, made it past the Sacramento Kings with the 2nd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks traded picks with the Atlanta Hawks. This allowed the Mavs to pickup who many believe is the 2nd best talent in this year’s draft. The Mavs will also have to give up next year’s first round pick (protected) to the Hawks, in addition to Trae Young who was selected with Dallas’ original 5th pick.

Luka Doncic is a 6’7″ wing player who was the youngest Euroleague MVP & Euroleague  Final Four MVP ever at 19 years old.

This is a breaking story. More information will follow.

Tavon Austin Traded to Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have added to their receiver arsenal by getting Tavon Austin from the Los Angeles Rams for a 6th round pick (192 overall).

Tavon had promising beginnings in his first four years with the Rams, but had a down year last year with only 13 catches for 47 yards. He did, however, have his best rushing season with 59 carries for 270 yards and a touchdown.

At 5’9″ it is doubtful that Austin will be able to replace the hole in the Cowboys’ receiving core, caused by the loss of Dez Bryant. Austin has a 1 year contract that will count $7 million against the cap.

This is a peculiar addition, to say the least, considering the Cowboys already have two slot receivers in Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer.

Jason Witten May Have Played His Last Game as a Dallas Cowboy

According to a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported around 11:15am on April 27:

The Dallas Cowboys’ future Hall of Fame tight end, Jason Witten, is planning to retire after 15 years in the NFL. He will join the Monday Night Football broadcast team as a lead analyst.

Witten has not made a final decision yet, and plans to meet with Jerry Jones before he does.

Witten is an 11 time Pro Bowler, and 4 time All Pro. He was the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012. He will retire at #4 on the NFL all-time catch list with 1,152 receptions.

Dallas Cowboys to Franchise DE Demarcus Lawrence

Adam Schefter tweeted today around noon:

“Cowboys and DE DeMarcus Lawrence will not reach a long-term deal before Tuesday’s franchise deadline, per source. Dallas has said it will place franchise tag on Lawrence if no long-term deal reached. So tag coming for Lawrence.”

This will set Lawrence up for a $17.1 million dollar year in 2018. The deadline for the franchise tag is March 6 at 4pm EST., so it will be finalized before then. Demarcus had 14.5 in 2017 (tied for 2nd in the NFL), which is over 60% of his career sack total of 23.5.

It was rumored that Lawrence was looking for “Von Miller money”, which is 6 years, $114 million with $70 million guaranteed. The Cowboys were obviously not ready to pay that price after one great year of productivity. Lawrence will need to prove himself again this year to receive a contract similar to that.

The down side of this deal is that the Cowboys have $16.4 million in cap room as it stands now. This means that they will have to move some money around in order to make room for Lawrence’s 2018 salary. If, however, Lawrence decides to sign with another team and the Cowboys do not match the deal, they will be compensated with 2 first round picks.

Dez Caught It…According to the NFL

One of the big issues on the NFL’s Competition Committee’s agenda this offseason was better defining what a catch is.

Kevin Seifert from ESPN’s NFL Nation tweeted the following this afternoon:

“The NFL competition committee appears to have unanimous agreement that controversial catch rulings involving Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson should have been ruled complete, according to Giants owner John Mara. So the committee is working on changing the rule to relax the “going to the ground” requirement.”

Pittsburgh Steelers TE, Jesse James, was not mentioned in this tweet, but one can only imagine that the AFC may have played out differently had Pittsburgh beat New England in week 15.

This does very little to soothe the pain Cowboy Nation still feels from the overturned catch in the 2014 NFC Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers. Tony Romo and the Cowboys could have been in position for their first NFC Championship appearance since the 1995-1996 season.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but ‘too little, too late’ rings more true with this ruling.

#dezcaughtit

Cleveland Cavaliers Turn Roster Upside Down at Trade Deadline

The Cavs have almost half a new team after Thursday’s shenanigans.

First, they traded away Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a protected 1st round pick to the LA Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. Clarkson is a young, quality starter who can pass and score with ease, but has some struggles on the defensive end. He is signed for the next two years at a not so cap friendly $13 million a year. Nance, on the other hand, is a show-stopping dunker, who can awe crowds with his posterizing slams.  Just ask Brook Lopez or Kevin Durant. If you haven’t seen him, wait until you see him in the dunk contest next weekend.

They weren’t done yet, no, not even close. Rodney Hood is coming to Cleveland from Utah, and George Hill is coming from Sacramento. Rodney Hood has a $3.5 million qualifying offer next season, and George Hill is under a partially guaranteed contract for the next two season. The Kings will get Joe Johnson, Iman Shumpert and a 2020 second round pick from Miami, while the Jazz will get Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose.

Finally, they traded Dwyane Wade back to the Miami Heat for a heavily protected second round pick.

To sum up….

The Cavs lost: Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose,
Dwyane Wade, and protected 1st round pick

The Cavs got: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr., Rodney Hood, and George Hill.

Every single player the Cavaliers got in this trade is signed through at least next year (or has qualifying offers). Not bad new Cavs GM, Koby Altman. Not bad at all.

The only question left to answer is, can the Cavaliers get everyone in sync in time for another playoff push? Who knows, but it will definitely be fun to watch it all unfold.

Mavs Get Doug McDermott for Devin Harris in 3 Way Deal

On the day of the NBA trade deadline the Mavericks look to get younger and bigger by trading away Devin Harris and a future second round pick to get shooting swingman Doug McDermott from the New York Knicks. Devin Harris and the second round pick will go to Denver, while the Knicks will receive PG Emmanuel Mudiay from the Nuggets.

Devin Harris was having a solid year as a backup point guard, but the Mavericks are young and deep at the PG position with Dennis Smith Jr., Yogi Ferrell, JJ Barea, and Seth Curry (season ending surgery). Harris was also a cheap expiring deal, that some may have thought could garner more than a 4th year role player.

Doug McDermott’s 39% 3 point shooting this year will help the Mavericks from long range, who are 15th in the league at 36%. McDermott has a $4.5 million qualifying offer next season. The Mavs must be looking to either pick that option up, or sign him to an long-term extension as part of the rebuild in Dallas.

 

BREAKING NEWS: Ezekiel Elliott Will NOT Play vs the Atlanta Falcons

It seems this saga has finally come to an end as Ezekiel Elliott’s brief 1 game injunction of his suspension is now over, and Zeke will begin his 6 game suspension this week. The Cowboys go to Atlanta to play the 4-4 Falcons. If all goes as planned, Zeke should be ready to join his teammates at AT&T Stadium for the game against the Seattle Seahawks on Christmas Eve.

The Dallas Cowboys will have to play without Zeke for 3 away games against the Falcons, Giants, and Raiders. They will miss him at home against the Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins.

 

TRADE DEADLINE ALERT: 7-1 Eagles May Have Got Even Stronger

While the Cowboys running game got weakened for the next 6 weeks with the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott to be enforced starting week 9 against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Philadelphia Eagles have traded away a future 4th round pick to the Miami Dolphins in return for Pro Bowl running back, Jay Ajayi.

Ajayi is in his 3rd year out of Boise State, and experienced a breakout season in 2016 with over 1,200 yards rushing. This was noted by three 200+ yard games, two of which were back to back. Ajayi, 13th leading rusher in the NFL, will most likely split carries with current starter LaGarrette Blount, who is 11th. This will definitely help an Eagles running attack, which is 5th in the league in rushing yards per game, who lost All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters for the season.

Ajayi will make the Cowboys life even tougher on November 19, when they host the Eagles at AT&T Stadium. The defense gives up 4.5 yards per attempt, which is 24th in the NFL.

4 Games In…3 Big Concerns

The first quarter of the 2017 NFL season is over; and while it’s still a very young season, there is much to be learned. These are my three largest concerns heading into week 5 of the season.

What’s going on with Dak?
His stats are actually pretty decent. Dak has 8 passing touchdowns and only 3 picks this year. I realize he only had 4 picks all of last year, but he only had 3 passing touchdowns through 4 weeks last season. I will take a 2:1 TD to INT ratio any day.
But something just isn’t right. He is having accuracy issues that he did not seem to have last year. There are times when it is difficult to decipher if Dak is throwing the ball away or actually trying to hit his target. This issue has been evident ever since he missed a wide open Dez in the season opener against the Giants. Is he losing confidence, going through a normal sophomore slump, or have we just replaced our all-time passing leader for a random 4th round pick? Time will be the ultimate judge, but it does make you wonder where would the Cowboys be today if he had the same issues last year. Would Dak be the Cowboys starting quarterback today, and would Phil Simms still have his job?
The Leary Effect
I’m completely sure Jonathan Cooper should have started over Chaz Green the first four games of the year. Cooper is simply better at left guard than Chaz Green. However, it doesn’t take a great NFL mind to notice our offensive line is not playing at the same level as last year. As sure as I am that Cooper is greater than Green, I am just as confident that Leary is greater than Cooper.
Was Leary the undervalued piece of our interior push last year? It’s hard to argue against that based off the first four games of the season. The only other change is La’el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle. Although Free brought a lot of experience to the table, Collins has handled his own against the NFL pass rushing elites.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the Defense’s Ride or Die
A significant DeMarcus Lawrence injury would provide a death blow to the Cowboys defense. Against the Rams, Goff was under pressure in different parts of the game, but Lawrence was the only Cowboy who registered a sack. DeMarcus has 7.5 sacks for the year, leaving the rest of the Cowboys with a grand total of 5.5 sacks. DeMarcus has been the only bright star on this defense outside of an injured Sean Lee. DeMarcus only needs 0.5 a sack to meet his season high sack total, and should easily have over 15 sacks this year. David Irving returns from his four week suspension against the Packers this week, and can give Lawrence a partner in crime. This will hopefully shift some of the attention on DeMarcus from offensive coordinators for the remainder of the season. Also, has anyone heard from our first round draft pick lately?

Ezekiel Elliott Gets Justice for Now with TRO…Will Play Beyond Week 1

Federal Judge Amos Mazzant has ruled in favor of Ezekiel Elliott with a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) for a preliminary injunction against the NFL. This means that Ezekiel Elliott will likely play for the entirety of the 2017 NFL season.

This timeline will be similar to Tom Brady’s ‘Deflategate’ case, in that it will likely not be decided on until after the season. Tom Brady did still serve his full 4 game suspension, mostly because of the way the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is written. Fighting and winning this injunction will be tough, but for now the Dallas Cowboys can focus solely on football.

Elliott’s 6 Game Ban Upheld for Now, But Will Play Week 1

NFL-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the league’s entire 6 game suspension of Elliott on Tuesday evening after denying his appeal, but in a strange twist of events, league officials confirmed that Elliott will be allowed to play Week 1 versus the Giants.

After Henderson’s ruling, an NFL spokesman told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that Elliott’s eligibility for Week 1 “was a question asked by the judge in court before a ruling came down. In deference, and as to not rush the judge, league attorneys agreed to permit him to play.”

Although Elliott currently remains suspended for Weeks 2 through 7, the star running back still has hope via the U.S. District Court in Sherman, Texas, where the NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit on his behalf, requesting the court vacate the suspension on grounds that the NFL’s process was unfair. At a temporary hearing today, the NFLPA requested Judge Amos Mazzant to allow a temporary restraining order (TRO) of the league’s ruling that would prevent enforcement of the suspension until the conclusion of the lawsuit.

Judge Mazzant said he will make his decision on Elliott’s temporary restraining order by Friday at 6 p.m. ET.

NFL says “Ezekiel Elliott WILL Play Week 1”

As of Tuesday, September 5th at 6:30pm CST, there has not yet been a ruling for Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal case against the NFL.  **ARTICLE UPDATE: SEE BELOW

However, regardless of the NFL’s decision, the reigning rushing king will play week 1 when the New York Giants come to AT&T Stadium.

Mike Fisher from 105.3 The Fan tweeted earlier:

ALERT courtroom source to me: Judge Mazzant just askd if is onfield for this wk, even if HH rules. Answer: YES

The game will start at 7:30 local time, and will air on NBC.

GO COWBOYS!!!

**ARTICLE UPDATE BELOW

Elliott’s 6 Game Ban Upheld for Now, But Will Play Week 1

 

Dallas Cowboys 53 Man Roster 2017

These are the 53 players to make the cut for Dallas Cowboys for the 2017 NFL Season

QB: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore

RB/FB: Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Keith Smith

WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown

TE: Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim

OL: Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, La’el Collins, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green, Joe Looney, Byron Bell

DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford Benson Mayowa, Taco Charlton, Charles Tapper

DT: Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins, Brian Price

LB: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens, Kyle Wilber, Jayrone Elliott, Justin Durant

CB: Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Bene Benwikere

S: Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier

K: Dan Bailey

P: Chris Jones

LS: LP LaDouceur

 

Suspended: David Irving (DE), Damontre Moore (DE), Randy Gregory (DE)

IR: Thomas Duke (CB), Rico Gathers

Practice Squad: Lance Lenoir (WR), Brian Brown (WR), Blake Jarwin (TE), Dan Skipper (OL), Nate Theaker (OL), Kadeem Edwards (OL), Richard Ash (DT), Lewis Neal (DT), Marquez White (CB), Jameill Showers (S)

Notable Players to Miss the Cut: Cedric Thorton (DT), Joey Ivie (DT), Marquez White (CB), Robert Blanton (S), Mark Nzeocha (LB)

Who Will Make the Cowboys 53 Man Roster?

The deadline for the NFL 53 man roster is tomorrow, Saturday September 2nd at 3pm CST. There are several players that are on the borderline of making the team, which means some very tough and a couple of interesting decisions for Jerry and Stephen. At least, the specialists seem to be an easy decision, with Dan Bailey, Chris Jones & LP LaDouceur.

Let’s start with the offense.

Quarterback: It looks as if the Cowboys will have 3 quarterbacks on the roster again, with Moore & Rush backing up Dak.

Running Back/Fullback: Zeke be on the 53 man roster while suspended, but with his status changing almost daily I am securing him a spot on the 53. Darren McFadden looks to be the clear #2 RB. Rod Smith looks to make the roster, and being able to play RB, FB, and special teams will definitely help his chances. Considering the Cowboys had 4 RBs and 2 FBs last year, it would be a jump for them to go down to 4 backs total, especially with the Zeke question mark. Look for Alfred Morris to be on the team. Unfortunately for Keith Smith, both Rod Smith and Geoff Swaim can play his position, but there still may be room for him.

Wide Receiver: There is a lot of young talent in this group and it will be difficult to pick between them. Dez, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Brice Butler are locks to make the roster. I would throw Ryan Switzer in there as well. That is the number of wide receivers that were on the roster last year, but with Jerry saying he thinks Noah Brown will make the 53, look to have the Cowboys to have 6 receivers in 2017. Andy Jones was making a case for himself, but kept dropping balls.

Tight End: Witten, Hanna, and Swaim will be on the team. I can’t see any way that Jerry let’s any team have a shot at signing Rico Gathers. With Gathers recent concussion in practice, look for Gathers to be on IR, with the possibility of coming back to the team in mid-October.

Offensive Line: All pros Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick are back, and Lael Collins look to be the starting right tackle in place of Doug Free. Left Guard is still up for grabs, but Jonathan Cooper’s ability to stay on the field may have the oft-injured Chaz Green in a backup role. Joe Looney’s versatility to play multiple positions will keep him on the team. The Cowboys will probably keep Byron Bell for some added depth.

 

Now onto the Defense

Defensive End: Demarcus Lawrence looks to reclaim the Cowboys sack leader for the year title after a down year in 2016. Benson Mayowa looks to repeat as sack leader and Taco Charlton will have something to say about that as well. David Irving is suspended for the first 4 games, but will be back for the Packers game in week 5. Damontre Moore looked great in the preseason, and may have Charles Tapper on the practice squad.

Defensive Tackle: Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins and Tyrone Crawford will be a good 3 man rotation in the middle of the defensive line. Cedric Thorton and Joey Ivie have the possibility to both make the roster, but will likely be only one of them securing a spot. Richard Ash will likely not make the team, as he was mostly signed to give rest to starters in week 17.

Linebacker: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Damien Wilson will be on the team. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys put Anthony Hitchens on the IR to open up another roster spot. Kyle Wilber and Mark Nzeocha look to make the team, but this may be a position that the Cowboys look for a trade or free agent as well.

Cornerback: No real standouts at this position, but looks to be Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis. Marquez White is a big maybe. Another position that team management could look elsewhere for talent.

Safety: Byron Jones will start, the other position is up for grabs. Will is be Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, or Xavier Woods. Robert Blanton will likely be the odd man out at the safety position.

QB: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore

RB/FB: Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Keith Smith

WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown

TE: Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim

OL: Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, La’el Collins, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green, Joe Looney, Byron Bell

DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Taco Charlton, David Irving, Damontre Moore

DT: Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Cedric Thorton, Joey Ivie

LB: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha

CB: Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis

S: Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier

K: Dan Bailey

P: Chris Jones

LS: LP LaDouceur

Takeaways from the Cowboys HOF Game

The Hall of Fame game is played  every year a week before the preseason starts, and is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. The antics going on before, during and after are more of a spectacle than game itself, and pretty much anything taken from the game should be taken with a grain of salt. Since there hasn’t been any football to watch in the past six months, let’s go ahead and do exactly that.

 

Rico Gathers

Rico Gathers showed off his athleticism and hands with 3 catches for 59 yards, including a 26 yard touchdown. Gathers was not playing against a top notch defense, but this is a big stride for him since he could barely get on the field at all last preseason. While he may not have the football acumen of the average young player (due to not playing organized football for almost a decade), his athleticism will be able to bridge some of those gaps. It may be a stretch to say he will be seeing the field a lot during the regular season, but a good preseason could earn him a spot on the 53 man roster this year. Being on that roster could do wonders for him by being able to soak up as much knowledge as possible, from Canton-bound TE Jason Witten.

 

Taco Charlton

The Cowboys’ first round draft pick this year was met with many questioning faces, not because it was a bad pick, but rather it was a surprising one. Many thought the Cowboys would go after a defensive back, but they instead took an inconsistent talent with a high upside. Taco might as well have not even showed up for this game. During the 16 snaps he was in, Taco was very rarely involved in the play, and when he was he almost always seemed to be caught out of position. I’m not going to be too quick to judge on this kid, but this pick definitely continues to be “big risk, big reward”. Let’s hope we come out on the right side of that reward.

 

Rod Smith

With both Ronnie Hillman and Darren McFadden looking awful (add that grain of salt considering the line they were playing behind), Rod Smith may be able to secure a roster spot for himself at fullback or running back. Smith got more snaps, rushes, and receptions than any other Cowboy running back for the night and looked like a competent NFL player. With Zeke’s status for the beginning of the season still in doubt due to his conduct off the field, the Cowboys will need to have a threat in the backfield with Dak. A good preseason could push Smith to as high as #2 on the depth chart, behind Zeke.

Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe has been impressive during training camp, and continued that during the HOF game. He had a pass deflection that was inches away from being an interception he likely would have taken back for a touchdown. Add two tackles and always being in position to make a play, and Chidobe had a decent showing for his first game.

 

Jason Garrett

Another blown challenge in this game for Jason Garrett. While it may have be a good time for a challenge, considering it would’ve stopped the Cardinals from putting points on the board; it was obvious that the runner was down before he fumbled, both live and on the replay. I will, however, give Garrett the benefit of the doubt since the Cardinals were rushing to the line to snap the ball. Since starting his career off 12-19 on challenges, Garrett is 8-18 on challenges in the last four seasons. Let’s hope that Garrett’s Princeton education will intervene more on his challenge decisions in 2017.

NBA Free Agency 2017: Team Additions & Losses

These are what all 30 NBA teams gained or lost during the Draft & Free Agency. I tried to include only free agents that project to be relevant in the coming NBA season (rookies are italicized).

  • Atlanta Hawks
    • Additions: John Collins, Tyler Dorsey, Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli
    • Losses: Dwight Howard, Tim Hardaway Jr., Paul Millsap, Jose Calderon, Thabo Sefalosha
  • Boston Celtics
    • Additions: Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris, Shane Larkin
    • Losses: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller
  • Brooklyn Nets
    • Additions: Timofey Mosgov, D’Angelo Russell, DeMarre Carroll, Tyler Zeller, Jarrett Allen, Aleksandar Vezenkov
    • Losses: Brook Lopez, Justin Hamilton
  • Charlotte Hornets
    • Additions: Dwight Howard, Michael Carter-Williams, Malik Monk
    • Losses: Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli
  • Chicago Bulls
    • Additions: Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday
    • Losses: Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
    • Additions: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, Cedi Osman
    • Losses: Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson
  • Dallas Mavericks
    • Additions: Dennis Smith Jr., Josh McRoberts, Jeff Withey
    • Losses:
  • Denver Nuggets
    • Additions: Paul Millsap, Richard Jefferson Tyler Lydon, Vlatko Cancar, Monte Morris
    • Losses: Danilo Gallinari, Roy Hibbert, Mike Miller
  • Detroit Pistons
    • Additions: Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard
    • Losses: Marcus Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • Golden State Warriors
    • Additions: Nick Young, Omri Casspi, Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher
    • Losses: Ian Clark
  • Houston Rockets
    • Additions: Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, Troy Williams, Zhou Qi, Isaiah Hartenstein, Cameron Oliver
    • Losses: Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker
  • Indiana Pacers
    • Additions: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner
    • Losses: Paul George, CJ Miles, Monta Ellis, Jeff Teague
  • Los Angeles Clippers
    • Additions: Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Sam Dekker, Willie Reed, Milos Teodosic, Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell, Isaiah Hicks
    • Losses: Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, JJ Reddick
  • Los Angeles Lakers
    • Additions: Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Thomas Bryant, PJ Dozier
    • Losses: D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov, Nick Young
  • Memphis Grizzlies
    • Additions: Ben McLemore, Tyreke Evans, Ivan Rabb, Dillon Brooks, Kobi Simmons
    • Losses: Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen
  • Miami Heat
    • Additions: Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, London Perrantes
    • Losses: Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Willie Reed
  • Milwaukee Bucks
    • Additions: DJ Wilson, Sterling Brown, Bronson Koenig
    • Losses: Michael Beasley
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
    • Additions: Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, Justin Patton, VJ Beachem, Charles Cooke
    • Losses: Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Omri Casspi, Shabazz Muhammad
  • New Orleans Pelicans
    • Additions: Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark, Tony Allen, Frank Jackson, Dwayne Bacon, Peter Jok
    • Losses:
  • New York Knicks
    • Additions: Tim Hardaway Jr., Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Michael Beasley, Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Ognjen Jaramaz, Nigel Hayes
    • Losses: Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
    • Additions: Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, Patrick Patterson, Terrance Ferguson
    • Losses: Victor Oladipo, Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis, Taj Gibson
  • Orlando Magic
    • Additions: Jonathon Simmons, Arron Affalo, Shelvin Mack, Jonathan Isaac, Wesley Iwundu, Derrick Walton Jr.
    • Losses: Jeff Green
  • Philadelphia 76ers
    • Additions: Markelle Fultz, JJ Reddick, Amir Johnson, Anzejs Pasecniks, Jonah Bolden, Mathias Lessort, James Blackmon Jr., Melo Trimble, Isaiah Briscoe
    • Losses: Gerald Henderson
  • Phoenix Suns
    • Additions: Josh Jackson, Davon Reed, Alec Peters
    • Losses: Leandro Barbosa
  • Portland Trail Blazers
    • Additions: Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan
    • Losses:
  • Sacramento Kings
    • Additions: De’Aaron Fox, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, Frank Mason III
    • Losses: Ben McLemore, Tyreke Evans, Rudy Gay, Arron Affalo, Darren Collison, Langston Galloway
  • San Antonio Spurs
    • Additions: Rudy Gay, Derrick White, Jaron Blossomgame
    • Losses: Jonathon Simmons
  • Toronto Raptors
    • Additions: Justin Hamilton, CJ Miles, OG Anunoby, Kennedy Meeks
    • Losses: DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph, PJ Tucker
  • Utah Jazz
    • Additions: Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefalosha, Jonas Jerebko, Donovan Mitchell, Tony Bradley, Nigel Williams-Goss
    • Losses: Gordon Hayward, George Hill, Shelvin Mack, Jeff Withey
  • Washington Wizards
    • Additions: Marcus Keene, Devin Robinson
    • Losses: Bojan Bogdanovic

NBA Draft Picks First Thoughts After Being Drafted

When getting interviewed after being selected, it is customary to be humble and politically correct on camera (unless you’re Lavar Ball). This is what the first 15 picks in the NBA Draft really wanted to say to Allison Williams in the green room.

  1. Markelle Fultz: “I’m the only consensus #1 pick who no one has ever seen play”
  2. Lonzo Ball: “This is exactly what I wanted…right Dad?”
  3. Jayson Tatum: “I’m finally done with controlling coaches. Wait, who is the Celtics coach?”
  4. Josh Jackson: “Shit, maybe I should’ve found time in my busy schedule to work out for the Celtics”
  5. De’Aaron Fox: ” Great, I’m in the only city in California that’s not by the beach”
  6. Jonathan Isaac: “I must be the MVP of the draft, because I’m going to Disney World”
  7. Lauri Markkanen: “Seriously, in Sweden Lauri is a man’s name”
  8. Frank Ntilikina: “Tony said that teammates share wives and girlfriends. Is that really true, because La La is hot!”
  9. Dennis Smith, Jr.: “My vertical isn’t the only thing that’s 48 inches”
  10. Zach Collins: “I wonder if they will let me start in the NBA”
  11. Malik Monk: “At least I don’t have to pay Coach Cal 10% since I didn’t get picked in the top 10”
  12. Luke Kennard: “I must be the first white shooting guard to go in the lottery that can’t even shoot”
  13. Donovan Mitchell: “In the NBA do we have to get our own hookers, or do the coaches still pay?”
  14. Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo: “My mom didn’t think I’d get made fun of enough for Edrice, so she stole my nickname from a cartoon baby”
  15. Justin Jackson: “Actually, its Justin, not Josh. Hey, you can still ask me questions!”

Quick Hits on Dallas Mavericks 1st Round Pick

The Dallas Mavericks had their first top 10 pick in the Mark Cuban era. With the 9th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft they selected Dennis Smith, Jr., a freshman point guard from NC State.

The Numbers:

6’2″ (6’3″ wingspan), 195 pounds, 48″ Vertical, 19 years old

18.1 PPG, 6.2 AST, 4.6 REB, 1.9 STL, 0.4 BLK, 3.4 TOV, 46% FG, 36% 3PT, 72% FT

Strengths:

Score first point guard, but also has the ability to find open teammates in drive and kick situations. His quickness and explosiveness is second in the draft, only to 5th pick De’Aaron Fox. He has a crossover that allows him to get an open jumper and get to the rim to score. His strength and frame will make sure he is not pushed around in the NBA and will allow him to finish in the paint. His athleticism and quick hands gives him the ability to be a pesky on ball defender.

Weaknesses:

Inconsistent shooter, will resort to taking bad shots when frustrated. 36% from behind the line is not a good sign, especially when the NBA moves the line 3 feet further than college. Also, 71% from the charity stripe for a point guard simply will not cut it in the NBA. Smith tends to pick up his dribble quickly when defensive pressure comes, and that forces him into turnovers. He tore his ACL in 2015 and missed his senior season of high school, but he seems to be completely healed and had no issues in college.

Rookie Season Expectations:

Smith will benefit greatly from having talented teammates and a good coach in Rick Carlisle, considering he had neither at NC State. He needs to learn how to use his athleticism to play defense and how to see the entire court as a point guard, so that he can hit open teammates instead of taking forced shots. Smith may struggle early fitting into a more complex offense, but should find his stride with the team by January. No doubt that Carlisle will have him shooting plenty of shots in practice to bring up that ugly free throw percentage. Don’t be surprised to see him in the dunk contest to show off that 48″ vertical.

Last Word:

Dennis Smith, Jr. was the biggest sleeper in the draft for many analysts, with some going so far as to say he could possibly be the best player in the draft when it is all said and done. However, while he does have a high ceiling, he does also have somewhat of a low floor. If Smith does not improve his shooting, defense and decision making, it will be very difficult for him to stay on the floor in the NBA. However, if he does improve those aspects of his game….watch out NBA.

2017 NBA Finals Snap Judgment

The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals 129-120, for their second championship in three years. This series featured an amazing amount of star power, including three of the best players in the NBA. Several aspects of the NBA are affected by this outcome, and it may change how the future of the NBA will look.

Warriors: From the outside, this team looks as if they could stay together for a long time to run the West. However, there are only three contributing players that have guaranteed contracts next year: Draymond, Klay, and McCaw. Durant has a contract for next year, but there is a player option in which he could decline it. Curry is an unrestricted free agent and has the freedom to sign with anyone. While it would be surprising to see Curry or Durant go anywhere, expect to see several different role players on the 2017-2018 Warriors. Also, Steve Kerr’s health will be a big deciding factor whether or not he is the head coach next year.

Cavaliers: The Cavs, on the other handhave guaranteed contracts with 7 of 9 contributing players. They are locked into their core, much to do with Lebron’s influence on the front office. Barring a trade, which is very likely, the Cavs roster will look eerily similar, just one year older. Ty Lue seemed to be outmatched in the coaching battle in the Finals this year, so don’t be surprised if Lebron has a new coach for the 2017-2018 season.

Lebron: Lebron is now 3-5 in the Finals. He saved face by not getting swept, but all G.O.A.T. discussions have been stopped in their tracks. While this Finals outcome may not have hurt his legacy, it definitely did not help it. Lebron seemed nonchalant throughout a good portion of the Finals, almost as if he had given in that the Cavs were not going to win. He had great series stats (averaging a triple double), but actually watching him was frustrating at times. From not stopping the ball on Warriors’ fast breaks to taking covered 3s with plenty of time left on the shot clock so as to not exert energy for that play, Lebron seemed content with losing this series. He seemed almost giddy to welcome Durant back to the Finals before game one, and to wish Kerr well before game two. He really didn’t seem locked in, and that is an ominous look for Cavs fans when Lebron can exercise his own player option after next season.

Durant: Durant was the Finals MVP, and no one in their right mind would question that. He played an unbelievable series, on both sides of the ball. Did he join a 73 win team to get a ring? Yes, but he was also the best player on that team. Would it have been more impressive to win a championship in OKC? Yes, but KD did not back his way into this championship, he went out and took it. 16-1 in the playoffs is nothing to laugh at. KD  could exercise his player option, take less money, and allow the Warriors more cap flexibility to sign Steph and role players. He could also, however unlikely this may sound, exercise his player option to leave the Warriors. For now, KD will enjoy his championship and leave those decisions to July.

Steph: Steph still does not have a Finals MVP, but it is obvious he is as important a piece to these championship teams as anyone else, if not more. Steph is an unrestricted free agent, but him leaving the Warriors for another team would be one of the most surprising decisions in NBA history. He was drafted by the Warriors in 2009, and became the franchise player shortly thereafter. Steph is still the best shooter that has ever lived, but next on his list has to be a Finals MVP trophy.

NBA: The stacked class for this year’s Draft and the abundance of players available in free agency will change the look of the league, but Adam Silver better hope for more competition. While seeing the Warriors and Cavs duke it out for three straight Finals has been entertaining, fans may check out if the playoffs are foregone conclusions with no parity. The Cavs may not have been the number one seed, but going 12-1 in the East is nothing short of a snoozefest. Missing Kawhi for the West Finals hurt the competitiveness of the Spurs, but the Warriors were undefeated through the first 15 games of the playoffs.

2017 Dallas Cowboys Draft Recap

The 2017 NFL draft is over, and it was actually one of the more exciting drafts in recent history. From several 1st round trades for quarterbacks to the best pre-selection speech ever given, by Drew Pearson. The season doesn’t start for four months, and we have to fill the football void in our lives somehow, so let’s dive into the Cowboys first 5 picks…

Round 1, Pick 28: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Image result for taco charltonTaco is a 6’6″, 277 lb defensive end, that had a decent junior season, and a good senior season. His combine numbers did not overly impress anyone, but his size did, and you can’t teach size. Taco has the God-given gifts to play in the NFL, but will need to work on his strength and quickness to become an impact player.

The 40-yard dash is not as great an indicator for a defensive lineman, but his 10 yard split was more telling than his complete 40. as the 3 cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Taco performed in the top 15 in both the 3 cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle for defensive linemen. The bench press doesn’t tell the whole story of strength for an NFL player, but Taco will definitely need to hit the weight room to make sure he does not get manhandled by NFL tackles.

The Cowboys needed a pass rush, considering they have been without one since 2014 when Demarcus Ware left for Denver. Taco will be able to control his own destiny with the Cowboys’ pass rush positions wide open due to inconsistent play and substance abuse issues. Some may have questioned taking Taco this high, but he was on draft boards anywhere from mid-1st to mid-2nd round, and the defensive back depth in this draft was much greater than the defensive line depth. Taco’s NFL career will be determined by how motivated he is to be great. Hard work should get him to the Pro Bowl, while apathy will have him frustrating teams and coaches alike.

Round 2, Pick 60: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado

Image result for chidobe awuzieMany analysts and Cowboys fans had their eyes on Kevin King or Sidney Jones in the 1st round for the Cowboys, but the Jones’ preferred the value of Chidobe Awuzie in the 2nd round. He has good size, and great speed. Back-to-back All Pac-12 teams, a nose for the football, and not being afraid to step up and put a hit on a runner makes it appear as if the Cowboys made the right choice in waiting.

At 6’0″ with a 4.43 40 time, and a 34.5″ vertical, Chidobe should be able to matchup with almost any receiver in the league athletically. He played more inside corner at the nickel position in college, but will need to learn to play outside as well. Awuzie’s willingness to deliver a hit will do well with Marinelli’s DB blitzes. While Chidobe can lay the smackdown every once in a while, he will need to learn to wrap up, since most NFL ball carriers know how to break away from lazy arm tackles he has been known to resort to at times.

The lack of depth in the Cowboys’ secondary will give fans the ability to see what Chidobe can do very early on. Week 1 will be a big test with the New York Giants and their talented receiving crew coming to Jerry’s World week 1.

Round 3, Pick 92: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan

Image result for jourdan lewis

Lewis was one of the best cover corners in the NCAA for the past two years, but his size may present an issue at the next level. Cornerbacks that are under 6 feet usually find themselves as career nickelbacks. However, this was a great value pick, since Lewis was passed over by many teams in the third round, most likely due to his pending domestic violence issue.

Jourdan is a physical corner, especially in the first five yards not letting receivers get a clean break. This skill will prove to be very important in the NFL, especially considering Lewis does not have great speed (4.54 40) at the cornerback position. He could prove to be very valuable to the Cowboys since they are often burned by good route-running receivers. Jourdan Lewis is eerily similar to former Cowboy, Pacman Jones. Let’s just hope these similarities end once he steps off the field.

Round 4, Pick 133: Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina

Image result for ryan switzer

This pick was somewhat confusing, considering this was not a big need for the Cowboys, and Switzer was probably not this high on anyone’s draft board. Switzer believes he is the best returner in the draft, which would fill another void the Cowboys have had for the past two seasons, when Dwayne Harris bolted for New York.

Switzer’s quickness was on display at the combine with the fastest 20 yard shuttle and the 2nd fastest 60 yard shuttle for wide receivers (3rd fastest overall in both). At 5’8″, one can assume that the Cowboys may be looking for a replacement for slot receiver Cole Beasley, who has 2 years left on his current contract and only a $1 million cap hit with a trade or release before the 2018 season.

Not too sure about the value of this pick, since these type of players may be dime a dozen, but only time will tell. Switzer will most likely only see playing time as a returner in his rookie season.

Round 6, Pick 191: Xavier Woods, S, Lousiana Tech

Image result for xavier woods la techThe Cowboys traded their 2018 5th round pick to grab what looks to be the best value pick of the draft for Dallas. This is another player with good quickness, that was displayed in both combine shuttle drills, as well as the 3 cone drill. Woods is a big hitting safety that can also track the football in the air to break up and intercept deep balls (5 INTs his senior year).

He does give off the look of former Denver Broncos safety, Steve Atwater, who could both cover in the pass and deliver bone-jarring hits on even the biggest of running backs. Unfortunately, sometimes the need to get a big hit got the best of Atwater, but Xavier seems very focused on disrupting passing lanes.

Woods is somewhat undersized at 5’11” at the safety position, but everything else points to him being the Cowboys’ “steal” of the 2017 draft. Also, with Barry Church and JJ Wilcox saying goodbye to Dallas this off-season, Xavier Woods could see the field more often than most 6th round picks do in their rookie season.

 

The rest of the picks were as follows:

Round 6, Pick 216: Marquez White, CB, Florida State

Round 7, Pick 228: Joey Ivie, DT, Florida

Round 7, Pick 239: Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State

Round 7, Pick 246: Jordan Carrell, DT, Colorado

The Golden State Social Justice Warriors

Less than one year from acquiring Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors have transitioned from a team that was almost impossible not to love, to a team that is almost impossible not to hate. Not because they are now becoming the ‘villains’ that superteam of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh became in Miami, but more so because they have become a group of whiny bit…babies.

Steph was the baby face of the league that every kid idolized, and now he would be more easily compared to an annoying little sibling that just learned how to tattle to mom and dad. Draymond was becoming one of the most unique and versatile players in the NBA, and now he grabs and kicks more male genitalia than a porn star during a weekend long filming. Steve Kerr was the genius coach who never had issues with any of his players, and now he is the ridiculous parent that believes their children can do no wrong. After listening to these three for more than a minute, one would start to believe that the entire universe is out to get the Warriors.

This annoyance has been building up since the tail end of the 2015-2016 season when Golden State was going for the record for most wins in a regular season. At that time, some of it was understandable from all of the daily pressure and the constant and inane questions from anyone and everyone. Where it really started to get out of control was when it seemed as if the Warriors thought that they could do no wrong, they were always right, and they should be treated special since they are the NBA’s hottest and most expensive ticket.

Neat the end of February after the All Star game, several Warriors start publicly complaining and borderline protesting for Shaq to stop making fun of JaVale McGee on his ‘Shaqtin a Fool’ bit. Kerr suggested that Shaq is picking on JaVale and making fun of him too much and it is negatively affecting JaVale. Seriously, watch this video and see if that sounds like a NBA coach talking about a NBA player, or, more like a parent in the principal’s office of an elementary school. JaVale McGee is a 29 year old man, if he wants Shaq to stop making fun of him for bonehead plays, he needs to stop playing as he is a six year old with ADHD in a church basketball league.

Less than two weeks later, the Warriors were in New York City for a game against the Knicks in which the home team was trying a new in game experience. The Knicks were going to have no in-game music or videos for the first half. Draymond called the experiment, “Pathetic”, “Ridiculous”, and “Disrespectful”. He also complained that it “changed the flow of the game”. I’m sorry Draymond, I forgot that the home team was supposed to make sure everything was hunky-dory for the visiting team. In no way should the home team ever use anything that could possibly create a, dare I say, home-court advantage. I think it was just last week that I went to go play basketball at the gym, but there was no pump up music as I brought the ball up the court or a kiss cam during long breaks. I was so appalled that I turned around and went right back home. Who do they think that I am, some degenerate that can just play a basketball without the sound of Mario collecting gold coins every time I hit a three? That honestly has to be one of the stupidest complaints I have ever heard from an athlete.

To round out the months of incessant crying, the Golden State Warriors are calling out the entire Oklahoma City Thunder organization for the way they handled Kevin Durant’s return to OKC on February 11, 2017. The Warriors were upset that their star player was “emotionally drained” after the game. They say the Thunder should have done more to ease tension before and during the game so that Durant would not have entered such a hostile environment. Really? The franchise player that an organization drafted leaves for the team that beat them in the playoffs and the Thunder are supposed to tell the fans to play nice? That’s insane! No organization or owner should act the way Dan Gilbert did when LeBron ‘took his talents to South Beach’, but they definitely do not owe former players warm welcomes when competing against them. Especially a player that did not even win a championship. The Thunder may have a warmer welcome for Durant a few years down the line, but the year after a franchise player leaves, do not expect the organization to be happy to see him coming through the doors with enemy colors on.

Kevin Durant may be the worst of all of them, constantly complaining about former players criticizing the current generation. Especially, when these players are being asked for their opinions by reporters, or are analysts themselves. This may come as a shock to KD, but even though millennials are used to getting participation trophies and being told they are the greatest thing that has ever happened to the world, that is not the job of an NBA analyst. While praise should be given out by anyone dissecting the game of basketball, so to should critique. Watching almost any sports program, it is obvious there is more positive than negative doled out from analysts, everyone wants to only focus on the negative. Maybe Kevin just wants to fit in as the new guy in town, and decides that since he has the largest media voice, he will defend everyone, no matter what, instead of looking at the situation and going back to his teammate with some constructive criticism.

All in all, the Warriors need to understand that they are just like any other team in the NBA. They are great players, great people, and extremely entertaining to watch play basketball, but hopefully the whining can decrease to a more manageable level. Pick your battles. “Disrespectful” may be an overstatement for, no music being played during the first half of a basketball. There is no special treatment, especially on the road, that the Warriors will receive for being a good. Perhaps Joe Lacob needs to invest in ‘safe spaces’ for the Warriors, so they do not get their feelings hurt on road trips.

Tony Romo’s Retirement is a Good Thing For Cowboy’s Fans

Nobody wants to see their favorite sports figure retire. These players become role models, idols, and sources of happiness (as well as sadness and anger) to the fans. Every sports fan, young or old, has a player that they feel a special connection with, even though we have never met them. We go through the ups and downs of the season with these players. We are elated when they are doing well, and frustrated when they have a down game. Not at them, for them. We want them to succeed, because they have worked hard over the off-season, and they DESERVE to win. We are in their corner no matter what. They can do no wrong in our eyes. If they throw an interception, either the receiver ran the wrong route, or the line did not cover all of their blocking assignments, or the weather would have caused anyone to throw an interception in those conditions. My personal favorite: “It’s third down, a long interception is the same as a punt”. I must have said that at least twice a season to defend bad throws. We even cry when they lose a big game in the playoffs. People ask, “How do you care so much about someone you don’t even know?”. Well, we do know them, they just don’t know us.

If you are lucky, you get to go through ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty years with this person. And when they retire, its almost as if they die. When is the best time to retire? Go out on top like John Elway with back to back Super Bowls, even if there is something left in the tank? Some may argue, if he came back he could’ve won a third. Or would it be better to hang on as long as possible, like Kobe Bryant, and be a shell of yourself on a team that is only going to the playoffs if they buy a ticket? Maybe there isn’t a right time. Michael Jordan retired three times, and is still probably considering another comeback.

For Tony Romo, it was April 4, 2017 that he decided to hang up his cleats. This was after almost three months of back and forth between being released and being traded. Every day was a new story, most of them probably false. The emotional roller coaster Romo was on, was also filled with countless fans wondering what jersey he will be wearing next season. We’ve loved him from his first completion, deep down the field to Sam Hurd. The ups and downs, the crazy plays, the injuries, and everything in between has filled our lives for the past 10+ years, and now it’s over.

As a Cowboy’s fan, and Romo fan as well, I’m glad it’s over. Not because I’m no longer a fan of Tony, I just don’t want to see him go out the same way Michael Irvin did. While it may not be 100% on Tony’s terms, this retirement is Tony’s decision. I can’t imagine watching Romo be carried off or have to hobble off a field to end his career. With no Star on his helmet, no less. This way, the last play of Romo’s career is a touchdown pass. It may have been a meaningless game, the Cowboys may have lost, but Romo got to go out on top. This also leaves the “what could’ve been” conversations, for decades to come. And nothing is more fun than wondering what would’ve happened if Romo had stayed healthy.

Am I being selfish? Should I want Romo to go to another team and compete for a Super Bowl? If I thought he could make it through a 16 game season, plus 3-4 postseason games, he would have my blessing. However, I, and anyone really looking at Romo’s health objectively, know that Tony playing in 20 NFL games is one step above impossible.

The biggest positive to Romo’s retirement from the NFL, is that we still get to see/hear him on Sunday’s. He will be the #1 color commentator on CBS, to go along with Jim Nantz. Personally, I see Romo more as a coach than a commentator (move over Jason Garrett), but I am excited to get to hear from two of my favorite Cowboy’s quarterbacks every week. Romo may not have had the most successful career compared to other Cowboy greats, but it will be hard to argue that he is not the more cherished in the hearts of Cowboy Nation.

Thanks for everything Tony, the Cowboys wouldn’t be where they are today without you.

Sports Utopia: 5 Fixes to the NFL Schedule

Sports is a way for people to escape everyday life, and immerse themselves into another world. The only problem is that sometimes this other world is not as perfect as it could be. Fixing these issues would create a Sports Utopia we all long for.

The NFL is, arguably, the greatest sports league in the world. However, there are five problems with the NFL schedule, for both the fans, the players and the league itself. This article will improve the experience for all three, so listen up Mr. Goodell.

1. Duration of the Season

The NFL will have a 18 game (20 week) regular season, beginning the Thursday before Labor Day and ending with Super Bowl Sunday the day before President’s Day.

Benefit to Fans: This will get rid of 2 preseason games. The fans hate them, and season ticket holders hate paying full price for two meaningless home games. Now there is only one home preseason game.

Benefit to Players: More rest. This will be apparent with points #3 and #4.

Benefit to NFL: Ratings boost. The NFL will be able to take advantage of 8 federal holidays (which will probably go down to 7 with point #5), instead of just 6.  When people have a day off from work, they socialize with friends and family and watch sports.

 

2. Bye Weeks

Each team will receive 2 bye weeks, one in the first 10 weeks and one in the second 10 weeks. No bye in first 2 weeks or last 2 weeks. Bye weeks must be at least 3 weeks separated from each other (i.e. If there is a bye on week 9, the other bye week would be week 12 or later).

Benefit to Fans: Not a huge benefit here for fans, other than more time for the star players of their teams to recover from injury.

Benefit to Players: More bye weeks = more rest = less injuries or more time to recover from injuries without missing games. Also, more time to spend with their families during the season.

Benefit to NFL: Less games without missing star players.

 

3. Thursday & International Games

Each team will have a maximum of one Thursday game and one International game, with a bye week coming before either of these games. There will be no Thursday game in weeks 2, 19, or 20. There will also be three other weeks with no Thursday game, two in early November (these two weeks will tie in with point #5), and the Thursday before Christmas (unless that is Christmas Eve, then it will be the week after).

Benefit to Fans: No more crap fest Thursday Night Football games.

Benefit to Players: This will get rid of one of the biggest complaints from players: increased chance of injury from not having proper time to heal after a game, when having to play 4 days later or travel halfway across the world.

Benefit to NFL: No more crap fest Thursday Night Football games. Also, less complaints from the NFLPA.

 

4. Playoffs

Playoff games will be on Saturday’s and Sunday’s at 3:00 pm EST and 7:30 pm EST.

Benefit to Fans: West Coast fans do not have to wake up early to watch a 9:00 am playoff game. Fans that go to church on Sundays do not have to decide between skipping church and missing the first half of the early game.

Benefit to Players: Players traveling on West Coast do not have to play a NFL playoff game when their body clock is at 9:00 am. Also, a benefit to the traveling team not having to get up early in the morning.

Benefit to NFL: Ratings boost. The Sunday night game is almost always the highest rated for the week. This gives at least two more games at this time slot.

 

5. Partnerships with Other Leagues

MLB Partnership: There will be no Thursday night game during the World Series, so long as there is no World Series game on a Sunday (this will take some scheduling help from the MLB).

NBA Partnership: There will be no NFL games on Christmas Day, so long as there is no NBA Game on Christmas Eve, if Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, Monday, Thursday or Saturday. There will be no NFL Pro Bowl or any other event the weekend before the Super Bowl. The NBA can use the weekend before the Super Bowl for NBA All-Star Weekend.

Benefit to Fans: Many NFL fans are also fans of other sports. This allows them not to miss big games that are occurring simultaneously. Also, the Pro Bowl sucks and nobody watches or cares about it.

Benefit to Players: Players will get to spend Christmas Day with their families. Also, the Pro Bowl sucks, and players do not want to participate (37 players declined to participate in the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl). Lastly, many NFL players are fans of other sports, and this will allow them to watch more big games.

Benefit to NFL: Ratings boost. The Sunday Night game between the Cowboys (5-1) and Eagles (4-2) in 2017 had lower ratings that World Series Game 5. The NFL’s premier team playing against a division rival in prime-time should NEVER have lower ratings than anything else on TV. Also, no need to compete with the NBA on Christmas Day, if it happens to fall on a Sunday. Just play those games on Saturday for Christmas Eve. Lastly, the Pro Bowl sucks and the NFL is trying to get rid of it anyway. This may create some type of mashup, in which NFL Pro Bowl players can maybe have an event at the NBA All Star Weekend.

Super Bowl LI Proves the Need for a New Kind of NFL Coach

Many things can be said about the game-play in Super Bowl LI, from the Falcons offense looking to be unstoppable through the first 38 minutes to Tom Brady channeling his inner GOAT to pull off what most people could only imagine as achievable theoretically. However, the biggest difference between the New England and the Atlanta was that the Patriots knew who their opponent was and the Falcons did not. The real opponent for both teams was the clock. The Falcons needed it to run as fast as possible, while the Patriots realized that each second was precious, with a 25 point deficit to overcome.

It seems strange that with all of the analytics used in sports nowadays, the degree to which each aspect of the game is individualized (I mean, there are actually separate coaches for inside linebackers and outside linebackers), and the number of times that clock management can affect the outcome of a game, that there is not a position solely dedicated to how to manage that clock.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking at the 2017 NFL playoffs, there were three close games, two of which were decided largely by late-game clock management. The first game was the Packers vs. Cowboys in the divisional round, and the second was the Super Bowl.

The clock mismanagement in divisional round was by the Cowboys, who were attempting to comeback from a 15 point 4th quarter deficit. For a two score comeback to occur, both the offense and the defense must play well, but clock management becomes crucial. The biggest misstep for the Cowboys came on their final drive. They received the ball with 93 seconds left in the game. In the final drive, two critical clock management decisions to look at are the spike on 1st and 10 from the Packers 40 yard line with 1:07 on the clock, and 2 plays later with a passing play on 3rd down with 44 seconds left. Perhaps a clock management coach looks at these situations and plays them somewhat differently. From using their final timeout or running a play on first down, so as not to ‘waste’ a down with a spike. That same coach may realize that a successful short pass and a successful run will likely have similar outcomes on 3rd down, but an incomplete pass stops the clock and a running play short of the line to gain keeps the clock running. That running clock may be just enough to make sure Aaron Rodgers does not have time to orchestrate a game-winning drive, and instead push the game to overtime.

In the Super Bowl, the clock mismanagement will be credited to the Atlanta Falcons, who needed only to hold on to a 25 point lead in the middle of the 3rd quarter. Reread that sentence, there is no typo. The Falcons had a four score lead with just over 17 minutes left in the game. There are once again two key plays that involve clock management, they may have swung the game and final score into the Falcons favor. The first was the catastrophic fumble with 8:31 left in the game, and the Falcons possessed a 16 point (two score) lead. Many will say of course you run when you know that a sack fumble is happening, but even not knowing that a pass is much riskier than a run in that situation, especially when your running back, Devonta Freeman, is averaging over 8 yards per carry at that point. The risk is way to high for a 3rd and 1 pass with a 16 point lead and 8:31 left on the clock, compared to the reward. A clock management coach realizes that and runs the ball. The second decision comes with just under 4 minutes left, again a pass play over a run, this time on second down on the New England 22. The play results in a 12 yard sack and the Patriots use a timeout. No big deal, still in field goal range to make it a two score game. 3rd down attempt #1 is a completed pass that doesn’t get a first down but gives them a better shot at a field goal, but there is a hold. Now they are out of field goal range and are forced to pass to get back into range. 3rd down attempt #2 is an incomplete pass and the Falcons are forced to punt without being able to run the clock. A clock management coach realizes that a field goal in this situation is practically just as good as a touchdown, since it pretty much guarantees that the Patriots will have to complete a successful onside kick if they score. Instead, the Patriots get the ball back with just under 4 minutes left, and Tom Brady becomes the GOAT of all GOATs.

Isn’t clock management the job of the head coach? Can’t the quarterback figure these things out? Two great questions, but in the heat of battle, having a numbers guy whose sole job is to analyze the game based on the amount of time left, could prove to be invaluable. Just ask Arthur Blank if he would’ve coughed up an extra $150k to have a clock specialist on the coaching staff.

What QB Category does Dak Prescott fall into?

From the moment he was drafted, fans, analysts, players and coaches, have tried to figure out exactly how to classify Dak Prescott as a NFL quarterback. Some call him clutch, others say he is a game manager, there are those that see another scrambling runner, some even say he is fortunate being the benefit of circumstance, and of course there are a few who merely see another rookie quarterback. Is it possible that all of these are true, while also all being false at the same time? Maybe Dak is something yet to be seen in the National Football League.

Clutch QB

This may be the easiest category to put Dak in, considering he has three game-winning drives in the last 5 minutes through his first 14 starts in the NFL. Moreover, the two games in which he did not successfully complete that game-winning drive can easily be blamed on bonehead plays by his wide receivers. In week 1, Terrance Williams does not get out of bounds to allow Dan Bailey to attempt, an albeit long, game-winning field goal. In week 14, Dez fumbles with 2:25 left on the clock on what would have been a potential game-winning or game-tying drive. Not to mention, Dak also came back from trailing Minnesota and Tampa Bay in the 4th quarter, and being down 14-0 in San Francisco.

Naysayers of Dak’s clutchness will argue that to be able to have a game winning drive, he must first dig himself into a hole. Prescott has trailed in the 4th quarter in half of his first 14 games. This does seem worrying, until finding out that finding out that the top 6 quarterbacks in NFL history in 4th quarter comebacks are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, John Elway, Joe Montana, and Brett Favre. Not too shabby of a list.

Running QB

Moving from the easiest to the hardest category, the evidence of Dak’s running ability is both apparent and sparing. Anyone that has watched this kid play can see that he can be extremely elusive in the pocket and more than able to scramble for the first down when needed. Dak is also tied with Tyrod Taylor for most rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks, with six.

Sounds like a rushing quarterback so far. But, looking deeper, Dak rushes for less than 20 yards per game, and at 4.6 yards per carry, he is not even in the top ten YPC for quarterbacks. Dak’s longest run of the season so far is 18 yards; fourteen quarterbacks have longer runs in 2016. So, is Dak a running quarterback who misses opportunities from not having his eyes down field outside of the pocket, or is he an athletic quarterback that has the ability to run when all options have been exhausted? The latter seems to be the fairer description.

Game Managing QB

One of the biggest stigmas a quarterback can carry these days is being labeled a ‘Game Manager’. Just ask 2012 Alex Smith. Being a game managing quarterback means relying on team strengths to win games, whatever that may be. If a team has the best offensive line and league-leading rusher, a HOF route-running tight end, and a high caliber slot receiver that runs underneath routes; would it not be extremely selfish to rely completely on the quarterback’s talents to win games?

One of the best comparisons to the perfect game manager would be Isaiah Thomas. Yes, NBA Hall of Fame point guard, Isaiah Thomas. He would setup his teammates the entire game, because there was a wealth of talent on those Bad Boys Detroit Pistons teams. However, when two minutes were left in the game and the Pistons needed a bucket, Isaiah came through. Sounds eerily familiar to a game on October 30th when Dak had relied on his team in the first three quarters, and became the hero in the 4th quarter and overtime to give the Cowboys another W. Is Dak a game manager? Maybe, but make sure not to view that term negatively next time it is said, because many would also call 4-time Super Bowl Champion, Terry Bradshaw, a game manager. As a matter of fact, check out this list of the Top 15 Game Managing Quarterbacks and see how many collective Super Bowl rings are worn on their fingers.

Lucky QB


What would Dak do without the best offensive line, the league-leading rusher, an All-Pro receiver and a HOF tight end? Great question, fortunately it is one that does not have to be answered, at least not now. In the same way that these questions were not answered about Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger during their rookie seasons. Is Dak in a great situation? Absolutely!

Did this all fall into his lap? Absolutely not! He worked extremely hard during the summer to be the most prepared backup quarterback to Tony Romo that he could be, and when the opportunity to be the starter presented itself, Dak was ready. Not many rookie quarterbacks would have been able to do what Dak has done so far this season. Just look at Jared Goff. He could not even earn the starting job on a terrible Los Angeles Rams team, from a mediocre quarterback, until more than halfway through the season. Perhaps Dak Prescott is a fan of author Michael Korda, who said “Luck can often mean simply taking advantage of a situation at the right moment. It is possible to make your luck by always being prepared”.

Rookie QB


Everyone heard the cries of Dak hitting a rookie wall and contemplated putting Romo back in the starting role after the second loss to the Giants. Really? 11-2 and people are complaining? Are they forgetting the back-to-back 300 yard passing feats against Pittsburgh and Baltimore? Are they forgetting that through 14 weeks, Dak has the 3rd best passer rating and 2nd best QBR in the league? December 11th against the Giants was a division road game, in freezing conditions, against the second-best team in the NFC, and the Cowboys lost by 3 with a chance to win at the end.

If only Dak could do something to quiet his critics. Maybe coming out the next week and getting a huge home win against the hottest team in the NFL, while also posting the second best completion percentage (with at least 30 attempts) since the 1970 merger will do the trick. Dak is far from a typical rookie quarterback. Does he still make rookie mistakes? Yes, but from watching his composure during games, he looks more like a 10-year veteran quarterback than a rookie.

So maybe Dak is a clutch, running, game-managing, lucky, rookie quarterback. Or maybe, he is his own type of quarterback, and one that future quarterbacks will be compared to.

One thing that no one can argue is that Dak Prescott is a WINNING quarterback in the National Football League.

The New Look 2017 NBA: Southeast Division (Part 6 of 6)

Atlanta Hawks

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Starting Five: C: Dwight Howard PF: Paul Millsap SF: Kent Bazemore SG: Kyle Korver PG: Dennis Schroder

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 4 seed; Out; Out

The Hawks lost Al Horford and Jeff Teague, and replaced them by moving Schroder from the bench to the starting lineup and signing a hometown hero, Dwight Howard. Both of these seem like downgrades to me, which will make their playoff hopes even more difficult in an improving Eastern Conference. Dwight Howard is one of the greatest physical specimens that the NBA has ever seen, but between the ears he isn’t much more than a college player on the court. Because of that immaturity, Howard requires a coach that can get him to make the best choices for the good of the team, all the while making Howard think it was his own idea. Stan Van Gundy has to be at the top of that list, since he actually accomplished that in Orlando, but I’m not sure how many other coaches could. Budenholzer will have a shot at it, and will definitely be an upgrade over any of the previous nine head coaches he has played for in his career (except Van Gundy).

Schroder is not a huge downgrade from Teague, and they have a seasoned veteran backup point guard in Jarrett Jack. Jack has been known to come up big in late game situations, just ask the Golden State Warriors, who have been on both sides of his antics. Atlanta’s biggest issue this year will be their lack of shooting. Kyle Korver’s three point shooting of 39.8% last year was almost ten percent lower than the year before. While I assume the Hawks see that stat trending back to his norm this year, they do not have anyone else on the roster that shoots over 35% from long range. What would surprise me more, the Hawks making the playoffs or Dwight Howard actually being an enjoyable teammate? Definitely the former, and that says a lot since Dwight Howard seems to be one of the toughest guys to get along with in an NBA locker room.

Charlotte Hornets

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Starting Five: C: Cody Zeller PF: Marvin Williams SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SG: Nicolas Batum PG: Kemba Walker

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 5 seed; Out; Out

The Hornets were tied for the third best record in the East and they’re a young team, of course they are going to get better this year. Not so fast, losing your second and third leading scorers in Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin, and not replacing them with anyone of significance, will not be very helpful. No, Marco Belinelli is not a player of any significance. The biggest issue this year for the Hornets will be their lack of depth. They have one of the worst second lineups in the league.

MKG will be back this year after two shoulder injuries, and will be a great counterpart to Nicolas Batum on the wing. Those four long arms will make passing through this defense very difficult. The dire playoff hopes for the Hornets are due to the front office, and there really are not any trade chips they can use to improve apart from future draft picks. I want to see Charlotte back in the postseason, especially after the exhilarating series with the Heat last year, but I see the more experienced Bulls and youthful Bucks edging them out.

Miami Heat

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Starting Five: C: Hassan Whiteside PF: Josh McRoberts SF: Justise Winslow SG: Josh Richardson PG: Goran Dragic

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 7 seed (if Bosh is healthy); Out; Out

The 2016-17 Miami Heat will be difficult to watch, think back to the 2007-08 Heat team when Wade was injured and they won 15 games. Okay, it may not be that bad, but it will be closer to that than the 48 wins they had last year. As if losing Dwyane Wade wasn’t enough, now it looks as if Chris Bosh’s career may be over. Bosh keeps saying he is not done yet, but that seems to be more wishful thinking than an actual medical opinion. Bosh is a great competitor and truly a pro’s pro, but no Heat fan (or hater) wants to see the unimaginable happen to him.

Hassan Whiteside will now get to see how it feels to get paid as a superstar, without any of the talent. Get ready for the boos and chants whenever he does not play up to that near $100 million contract. Justise Winslow will also get to find out how hard it is to play on the wing in the NBA when there is not a future Hall of Famer on the other side. There aren’t many teams I enjoy seeing suffer more than the Miami Heat, so I may DVR a few games here and there this season just to watch one of the
worst teams in the NBA lose.

Orlando Magic

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Starting Five: C: Nikola Vucevic PF: Serge Ibaka SF: Aaron Gordon SG: Evan Fournier PG: Elfrid Payton

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 8 seed; Out; Out

The Magic have a multitude of raw talent and athleticism, and if I had to start a football team with an NBA team, they would probably be my choice. Orlando will be a scary place to play this season because opposing players will feel like Monday morning NFL players the day after the game. With a frontcourt that consists of Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka, and Aaron Gordon, slighter guards may choose to pull up for a mid-range jumper more often than not.

The trade to send Oladipo to the Thunder in exchange for Serge Ibaka seemed to benefit both teams, but it was somewhat confusing when the Magic signed Bismack Biyombo two weeks later. They are essentially the same player, except Ibaka has a better jumper and Bismack is more aggressive on the offensive boards. Orlando has a good spread of talent among every position, with each position possessing complementary skills to the other, but they are very inexperienced. This may be a team that can make it to the second round of the playoffs, but not for at least two years.

Washington Wizards

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Starting Five: C: Marcin Gortat PF: Markieff Morris SF: Otto Porter Jr. SG: Bradley Beal PG: John Wall

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; Out; 5 seed

The Wizards are as dysfunctional as they are talented. It is never a good sign when your two stars can’t stand each other, on or off the court. John Wall hates to see to his counterpart in the backcourt making $10 million more per year, while missing an average of 20 games per season. That’s right, hometown DC may have lost the Durant sweepstakes, but they did find someone to give a max contract to. Beal now has 125 million reasons to stay healthy and play a full 82 for the Wizards through 2021. With Wall’s speed and Beal’s sharp shooting, they can definitely be one of the best backcourts in the NBA, but that has yet to be seen. Hopefully Scott Brooks can get them to play nice on the court, like he did with Durant and Westbrook in OKC.

The frontcourt is not void of drama either with Markieff Morris upset that his twin brother isn’t able to fill the top bunk at home. Hopefully, the Morris twins got plenty of family time in over the summer so the will be able to finish the season without an episode of separation anxiety. Ian Mahinmi was a good pickup in the offseason. While he will never be a starting center in the NBA, he is a very capable backup. The key to the Wizards making the playoffs will really depend on health. Even if they stay healthy, don’t plan on seeing them in the second round, mostly because of lack of maturity and cohesiveness.

The New Look 2017 NBA: Central Division (Part 5 of 6)

Chicago Bulls

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Starting Five: C: Robin Lopez PF: Taj Gibson SF: Jimmy Butler SG: Dwyane Wade PG: Rajon Rondo

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; out; 8 seed

Its not quite clear yet if Wade is going to Chicago to retire at home or to try to keep winning, because if he wanted to win, Chicago isn’t exactly the best option. Wade gets to play in front of family and friends while making a lot more than the Heat were willing to pay him. Since the Chicago winters are about 60 degrees colder than in Miami, he might be joining Lebron on that midseason sabbatical.

Team chemistry is going to be a huge obstacle for the 2017 Bulls. Who knows how Fred Hoiberg plans to deal with Rondo and Butler going back and forth in practice, the locker room, and games. Street gangs in Chicago will be watching games together in suites at the United Center before this group of players begins to even resemble a cohesive team. This may be the push the front
office will need to put Jimmy Butler on the trade block, where they will definitely get offers from either Minnesota or Boston.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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Starting Five: C: Tristan Thompson PF: Kevin Love SF: Lebron James SG: Iman Shumpert PG: Kyrie Irving

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 3 seed; 1 seed

The only question if the Cavs are going to be the number 1 seed in the East, is how much does Lebron want it. After six straight finals, the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics, and finally bringing home the hardware for his hometown, he may have a sense of accomplishment that battles with his competitive drive. It’s easy to come back and try to succeed after failed attempts, but after Lebron has reached his goal, it is going to be much harder to have the same determination. After the free agency move the Warriors made, to go get KD to try to beat him, Lebron may want to prove that it doesn’t matter who is put against him, Lebron will persevere.

The most interesting storyline to watch, is what will the Cavs do with Kevin Love? Kyrie is showing that he is definitely going to be a star in this league, so that really leaves three possibilities for Love. Is he going to continue to be a corner distraction, or will they find another way to integrate him into the offense? The best option would probably be a trade if they can find a trade partner. Will the Lakers go after Love in an attempt to lure Westbrook in 2018? The Cavs could use some young talent, considering Kyrie will probably be the youngest one on their 12 man roster.

Detroit Pistons

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Starting Five: C: Andre Drummond PF: Tobias Harris SF: Marcus Morris SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope PG: Reggie Jackson

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 4 seed; Out; Out

Having your best player be an exclusively low post player was the first ingredient in the recipe to be holding the Larry O’Brien trophy in June…15 years ago. Times have changed and Andre Drummond being the franchise player for Detroit pretty much guarantees the Pistons won’t be a force in the East anytime soon. Stan Van does have a very similar to the Magic team he took to the Finals with Dwight Howard in 2009, they play a 4 out 1 in type of offense. The difference between these two teams is that the East is a lot stronger today than it was in 2009, and these Pistons are more likely to miss the playoffs than make the Finals.

Unfortunately, the biggest worry for the Pistons is that Reggie Jackson thinks he’s the best player on the team, when he’s probably number three. Having your sixth man think he’s the best player on the team is usually a positive, because it will bring you extra points off the bench for 20 minutes per game. However, when your starting point guard thinks that, it turns into the pickup game at LA Fitness where the 35-year-old Uncle Rico tries to relive the glory days, and the only time anyone ever touches the ball is off a rebound. Detroit was one of only four teams with less than 20 assists per game last year. That has a lot to do with each player trying to get his, due to the fear of not getting the ball again if he passes.

Indiana Pacers

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Starting Five: C: Al Jefferson PF: Thaddeus Young SF: Paul George SG: Monta Ellis PG: Jeff Teague

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 8 seed; 3 seed

In 2011, “The Decision” made everyone absolutely sure that the ‘superteam’ the Miami Heat created with Lebron, Wade, and Bosh were shoe ins to win the NBA title. The Dallas Mavericks came in and ruined the party with Dirk being the only All-Star on the team. There are a lot of similarities between the 2011 Mavs and the 2017 Pacers.

Both teams picked up a center from Charlotte (Tyson Chandler & Al Jefferson) that came straight out of high school and had an injury issue coming to the team. Both teams have high scoring shooting guards (Jason Terry & Monta Ellis) that can take over a game at any time and have the stones to take the last shot. Both teams have a defensive-minded guard (DeShawn Stevenson & Rodney Stuckey) that has a dangerous enough 3 ball to keep opposing defenses from doubling off of them. Both teams have superstars (Dirk & Paul George) that analysts wonder if they will ever have a chance at a championship (PG13 was because of injury).

Does this mean I am picking the Pacers to sweep the Cavs in the second round (as the Mavs did to the title defending Lakers in 2011) and go on to beat the Warriors in the Finals? Not exactly, because Nate McMillan is nowhere near the level of coach that Rick Carlisle is. However, I won’t be shocked if the Pacers go to the Eastern Conference Finals, NBA Finals or even win it all. With 100:1 odds to win the NBA Finals, they may just be best value pick out there. The Pacers had the best offseason in the East by adding Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, and Jeff Teague to a team that has the 3rd best two-way player in the league in Paul George (only Lebron & Kawhi can compete with him). Myles Turner is also going to be one year better, and with his rookie season under his belt he will be a great big coming off the bench in his second season. Watch out for the 2017 Pacers.

Milwaukee Bucks

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Starting Five: C: Greg Monroe PF: Jabari Parker SF: Giannis Antetokounmpo SG: Tony Snell PG: Matthew Dellavedova

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 4 seed; Out; 7 seed

The Bucks have a great future to look towards with their two young rising stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Giannis is one of those once in a generation type talent, a 6’11” freak of an athlete that can play any position on the floor. His game is complimented perfectly by Parker, who is one step above Tim Duncan in excitement and athleticism. Parker is a very fundamental player, who has a sweet J and can post up on the block. Both need to improve their shooting from three (25%), and need to be at 80% from the charity stripe.

I also like what the Bucks did in the offseason, strengthening their bench at almost every position with Miles Plumlee, Mirza Teltovic, Steve Novak, Jason Terry. The Delly contract might be borderline insane (4 years, $38 million), but it might also be the new era of the NBA where Mike Conley has the largest contract in the league. Players were overpaid left and right this offseason, and Delly, Mr. All Heart & Hustle himself, jumped at the chance to make nearly $10 million a year. Dave Chappelle never knew how famous the POTUS was until Monica Lewinsky became a household name for doing….a thing. Well, I don’t think I ever truly knew how good Lebron was, until an Aussie that used to pass him the ball and dive at opponents ankles is making $10 million dollars a year. This contract screams JJ Barea on the T’Wolves from 2011-2014, but I’ll keep my mouth shut and watch.

This should be a decent season for the Bucks, I see about a 10-game-jump in wins, somewhere in the 42-45 range and a playoff
berth. Hopefully, they can find a trade partner to dump at least one of their big men, since they are very deep there, and could definitely use some help in the backcourt. In the playoffs, I see probably what happened to them two years ago to Chicago. Pushing a superior team more than they thought they would, butultimately falling short. The Bucks, similar to their neighbors in Minnesota, have a couple more years until they actually make some noise in the playoffs, but they will be an exciting team to watch.

The New Look 2017 NBA: Atlantic Division (Part 4 of 6)

Boston Celtics

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Starting Five: C: Al Horford PF: Amir Johnson SF: Jae Crowder SG: Avery Bradley PG: Isaiah Thomas

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 2 seed; 7 seed; 4 seed

It’s really hard to make a deep run in the playoffs without a top 20 player, and the Celtics don’t have a top 20 player. They need to make a trade to become a contender. If you’ve heard or read Bill Simmons in the past five years, you probably understand that it is a grammatical crime to create a sentence with Danny Ainge without also including the fact that he has been collecting assets. Well newsflash Bostonians, assets don’t win championships. It is time for Ainge to cash in those assets for a franchise player. Isaiah Thomas is a good player, maybe even very good, but he is a number 3 on a championship team. Maybe a number 2 if it is a very solid team, but there is no way you can hold the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the year with Isaiah Thomas as your franchise player.

Jimmy Butler may be the most likely option for a trade. Russ may have been in talks as well had he not signed the extension with OKC. The positive about getting Russ, is that you can’t overtrade for a superduperstar. No one is going to say, ‘you gave up too much for Russ’, but they may say that about Butler. Boston has the Nets first round draft pick for the next two years, and those are nothing to sneeze at. 2017 and 2018 are supposed to be high talent drafts, and the judging by the outlook in Brooklyn, those should be top 10 picks, if not top 5. They probably only have to give up one of those picks to get Butler, but they will also have to give up one or two players (Thomas, Bradley, Brown). As the Celtics are assembled right now they are probably a second round exit, but Butler could make them contenders for the Finals. The upside for Butler, is that he could be plugged into a system more easily than someone like Russ. Boston needs to take advantage of the weaker East before things change (which may be sooner than later) and cash in these ‘assets’ for a chance at a championship.

Brooklyn Nets

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Starting Five: C: Brook Lopez PF: Trevor Booker SF: Bojan Bogdanovic SG: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson PG: Jeremy Lin

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: Out; Out; Out

When you look at the Brooklyn Nets roster, only one word comes to mind…Who?.  It sounds more like a casting call for ‘The
Bachelorette’ than an NBA roster. Let’s play a game; I’m going to list 5 players on the Nets and 5 guys from this season of ‘The Bachelorette’. Let’s see how many you can get right.

1. Alex Woytkiw 2. Caris LaVert 3. Grant Kemp 4. Justin Hamilton 5. Joe Harris 6. Jordan Rodgers 7. Evan Bass 8. Greivis Vasquez 9. Chad Johnson 10. Trevor Booker.

If you got a 10 out of 10 it means one of two things. Either you watch ‘The Bachelorette’ or YOU WATCH ‘The Bachelorette’. Even the biggest of Nets fans wouldn’t know all of those players, and the last one, Trevor Booker, is a starter! For the record: 2,4,5,8,10 are Brooklyn Nets.

I can’t believe this team won 21 games last year, and I don’t see them winning that many in 2017. The biggest issue for the Nets is that they don’t even have any hope for the future. A string of ill advised trades made sure they won’t have any good draft picks until at least 2019. At least players that sign with the Nets have a nice place to live, because all the losing is sure to get them down. The only thing the Nets can hope for is a stint of Linsanity or maybe the NBA will adopt a golf like scoring system where lowest score wins. Move over Philadelphia, Brooklyn is coming in to plant their flag as the worst team in the league.

New York Knicks

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Starting Five: C: Joakim Noah PF: Kristaps Porzingis SF: Carmelo Anthony SG: Courtney Lee PG: Derrick Rose

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; Out; 6 seed

The Knicks would be contenders for the Finals in the East, but I can’t imagine a season with this roster without a significant injury or two. Seeing Noah and Rose on a team other than the Bulls will be strange, but this may be just the change of scenery both of them needed. Derrick Rose was not happy when he came back after missing the majority of 3 seasons because of
injury to find out he had to battle with Jimmy Butler for control of ‘his’ team. Now, of course, Carmelo is in New York, but Rose would rather player on Melo’s team than give up his team to Butler. For Joakim, there was not a player that hated the coaching change of Thibs for Hoiberg more than him. He saw his defensive minded team of which he was the glue, turn into a team that tried to live and die by the three ball when there were only two good long distance shooters, at best. While Jeff Hornacek was a shooter as a player and still loves the long ball, Noah is going to love his business first approach.

Melo will be in heaven with the best team, and most talent, he has ever played with. Every other time he has had a big name teammate, it was either way past their prime or they were injured for the majority of the time played with Melo. Probably his best teammate has been JR Smith, and not to take anything away from JR, but it is hard to be successful when that is your
right hand man. Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the Knickerbockers, but not quite yet. He had a great rookie season, but he needs to make sure to learn from all of the veterans around him. Hopefully, he can see that he will still be a number three option, which will allow him to work on his defense and passing game. This will help him tremendously in his career if he can take advantage of not being needed as a scorer. Most young scorers don’t get this opportunity, and are forced to ignore other aspects of their game to focus solely on scoring because of their team’s great need.

The key to the Knicks success will be resting during the regular season. Just like 2016, the 3-6 seeds in the East will most likely be interchangeable, so the Knicks need to worry less about getting a high seed and more about making it to May with a healthy roster.

Philadelphia 76ers

Starting Five: C: Nerlens Noel PF: Jahlil Okafor SF: Robert Convington SG: Gerald Henderson PG:Jerryd Bayless

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: Out; Out; Out

It’s four years, and counting, that the 76ers will not be playing their first round draft pick for at least part of the season. First Nerlens Noel, then Joel Embiid, then Jahlil Okafor, and now Ben Simmons. The bad luck is incredible. It looks like Ben Simmons is going to play it safe, and wil most likely miss the entire season. Now that Simmons is out, still look for Noel to be dealt. Why trade a big guy when they just lost a big guy to injury? Well, Simmons was also a ball handler, and if you don’t have anyone to bring the ball down the court, it makes the game a lot tougher. Also, Noel is in the last year of his rookie deal, and the 76ers will probably not want to sign him to a big deal when most of their depth is in the front court.

Joel Embiid is getting talk to be in the running for rookie of the year. Somewhat strange to win this two full seasons after being drafted, but 2016-2017 will be the first time he can actually suit up for an NBA game. The more playing time Embiid gets, the better shot he will have, so Noel leaving or staying will definitely sway votes. Noel has already proven to be a solid center in this league, but Embiid has a bigger upside, the question is whether or not he can stay on the court. The 76ers have shown over the past five years that they are risk takers, so this is another reason you can look for Noel tobe gone by the trade deadline.

The 76ers also have somewhat of a decision to make at point guard, with solid backup, Jerryd Bayless, and Sergio Rodriguez,
who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010. While Sergio may be the better PG, it may take him some time to adjust to the NBA game from playing in Europe for five years. Look for Bayless to start while that happens. With such a young team, having experience at point will payoff this year. Philly has a good shot at doubling, maybe even tripling, their wins from last year, while also becoming more of an NBA team and less of a circus sideshow. When you win 10 games, that isn’t such a huge feat, but it will be great for the 76ers for remember what winning feels like at least 25% of the time.

Toronto Raptors

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Starting Five: C: Jonas Valanciunas PF: Patrick Patterson SF: DeMarre Carroll SG: DeMar DeRozanPG: Kyle Lowry

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 5 seed; 2 seed

Jonas definitely showed his worth to the Raptors last year, when he went down in the second round. Toronto barely squeaked by a Heat team that decided it would be better to play without any big men, than start Amare Stoudemire again. Jonas will have to keep up the dominance from the playoffs, when he was the best player on the team and carried the Raptors when Lowry & DeRozan couldn’t make a shot, for the Raptors to make another deep playoff run. He will also have to up his minutes played to over 30 mpg since Bismack Biyombo went to Orlando, and the Raptors replaced him with rookie Jakob Poltl and the less-than-impressive Jared Sullinger.

Since the Raptors have lost more than they gained in the offseason, they will need to develop that young talent during the regular season, to make sure there is a reliable bench for the postseason. The East seems to be coming back to at least competitive with the West, so 2017 will be much tougher on Toronto than when they made their first conference finals in franchise history. DeRozan not being in a contract year and the East improvements will also contribute to the Toronto decrease in Wins, but they can still claim the number two seed in the East.

The New Look 2017 NBA: Pacific Division (Part 3 of 6)

Golden State Warriors

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Starting Five: C: Zaza Pachulia PF: Draymond Green SF: Kevin Durant SG: Klay Thompson PG: Steph Curry

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 3 seed; 1 seed

KD going to the Warriors is not the best chance for him to grow as a basketball player, it’s the best chance for him to get a ring. When you see a Jared’s commercial and a guy has a ring, you always see women behind him saying ‘he went to Jared’s’. Next year, when you see KD with a ring, you are going to hear current and former players saying ‘he went to the Warriors’. While this was a good move for KD personally (a single guy moving from a small town to a big, exciting city), he can no longer be seen as one of the elite superstars in this league after going to a team that has been to the Finals two straight years. It takes a special kind of person to want to be THE guy, and apparently KD does not want that. It takes nothing away from how talented he is as a player, but for someone to even be in contention for best player in the world, they need that. After his signing, its quite apparent that rings are more important to KD than being the best player. Even though it kills me as a fan of the game, because I want to see each player want more than anything to be the best and to be the fiercest competitor alive, there are some extremely talented players that do not have that desire.

As for the team, this is going to be the most beautiful offense the world has ever seen…when they find their rhythm. Just like any team, it will take time (probably 20-40 games) for them to be who we think they will be right out of the gate. Don’t be surprised if the Warriors start out 12-8 in their first 20 games. That is exactly why the Warriors over/under of 68.5 wins after the KD signing was crazy. Its not as if the Warriors are the only team that got better this offseason. Six or seven playoff contenders in the West got better as well. Also, it seems that the injury bug has avoided the Warriors in the regular season for the past two years, and it may not this year. While the Warriors did add a super-duper-star, they also lost key players from last year, in Bogut, Barnes, Barbosa, Ezeli, and Speights. That’s 37 ppg and 22 rpg, not exactly something that gets replaced easily. And the last, and most obvious, reason…there is only one ball! Steph and Klay are going to have to give up a lot of shots and pass a lot more to account for KD. This team is like a fine wine, it will get better with age. So don’t make any prejudgments about them before the All Star break, because you may be eating your words in May and June.

Los Angeles Clippers

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Starting Five: C: DeAndre Jordan PF: Blake Griffin SF: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute SG: J.J. Reddick PG: Chris Paul

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 2 seed; 5 seed; 3 seed

I can’t tell if Austin Rivers needs to thank the new salary cap or his daddy for his $11 million contract, because he sure as hell isn’t worth that. The Clippers are the only playoff team in the West that did not add at least a good player to their roster. Their biggest signings were Wesley Johnson and Marreese Speights, and Wesley Johnson may sneak into the starting lineup. I know they feel that the CP3 and Blake injuries in the playoffs are the only reason they lost to the Blazers, but honestly that was probably as far as they were getting if they didn’t get injured. It would be very difficult to find a legitimate reason why anyone thinks they would’ve gone on to beat the Warriors in a series. They can keep telling themselves that they have the 1st team All NBA center, and that is only their 3rd best player, but honestly, who is DeAndre really competing against? Chris Paul has about two more years of superstar in him before he is going to struggle mightily in the playoffs, or he is going to have to find another superstar to play with to compete for a title.

Truthfully, I hate watching this team play. They are the biggest group of whiners in the league, which I’m sure they picked up from Doc. And I’m not talking only about complaining about EVERY SINGLE foul called on them, but also complaining that others have the success they wish they could’ve had. It’s not just the whining; the offense they run is one step up from streetball. Alley oop here, isolation there, then jack up a shot when there’s three seconds left on the shot clock. They rely way too much on talent, which they have a ton of, but that will not cut it in the playoffs. NBA teams are too good and too smart to
allow streetball beat them in a seven game series.

Los Angeles Lakers

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Starting Five: C: Timofey Mozgov PF: Julius Randle SF: Luol Deng SG: Jordan Clarkson PG: D’Angelo Russell

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: Out; Out; Out

As much as I dislike the Lakers, I have to agree that the NBA is much better when they are at least relevant. They are drafting well by the look of things, but that is easy when you have the second pick two years in a row. For the Lakers to have any shot of making noise in the coming years, they are going to have to get a big name, whether that be through trade or free agency. In ‘96
when they got Kobe as a rookie, they also signed Shaq, the biggest free agent on the market. They may get lucky and find that Russ wants to come back home to LA in a couple of years, but they better not put all their chips in that basket. As much as everyone loves going home, I find it pretty difficult to see the ultra-competitor, Russell Westbrook, coming and joining a team that has won 65 games in the past three seasons combined.

Looking at the roster they have now, don’t expect that 65 mark to jump to high. I can’t imagine this team winning 30 games. The biggest upside is their coach, Luke Walton, but this is going to be night and day different than the situation he just came from in Oakland. Coming from a highly professional organization built around winners with a winning mindset and attitude and going to an organization that looks like a chicken with its head cut off. That rings even more true when you see their longest tenured veteran doing things like this:

Luke, I hope you still think this is your dream job when the Lakers are 10-30 and Swaggy P and D’Angelo Russell are more concerned with who will be picking up the tab at Avalon Hollywood than the gameplan for the second half. Brandon Ingram may grow into a great player in this league, but for now he’s almost a foot taller than me and the same number pops up when we get on the scale. He’s going to get thrown around more than two kids in the back of a station wagon when their dad is driving around on back roads because he’s ‘not lost’.

Phoenix Suns

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Starting Five: C: Tyson Chandler PF: Dragan Bender/Marquese Chriss SF: P.J. Tucker SG: Eric Bledsoe PG: Brandon Knight

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: Out; Out; Out

Dragan Bender is the brightest spot on the Suns, and that is completely by default. Phoenix seems more like the landing spot for Kentucky Wildcat mediocrity than a threat to even sniff the playoffs. Even the head coach, Earl Watson, is in over his head. From an NBA journeyman, to NBADL head coach, to assistant coach turned interim head coach in the same year, and now
is the actual head coach of the Phoenix Suns. I guess it is going to be trial by error this year in Phoenix, because Watson sure doesn’t have any experience to rely on. I would have a problem with an NBA franchise offering a position that there are only 30 of in the world to someone with 2 years coaching experience (at any level), but, honestly, Pop, Riley & Phil couldn’t get this group to the playoffs. So, the Suns might as well save money with what looks to be the lowest salary for a head coach in the NBA at $2.5 million. Yeah, players aren’t the only ones who had salary increases, apparently the coaches are seeing a bump too.

The biggest upside of the salary cap increasing for the Suns is that now the fact that they had two overpaid point guards is erased. With the new contracts coming out this year, $12 million is how much bench players are getting. Maybe the Suns front office was just ahead of their time, or at least that’s what they’re telling owner Robert Sarver in hopes that they can keep their jobs. The only hope that the Suns have of making the playoffs in the next five years is that Dragan Bender becomes more Dirk and less Darko. Or maybe they are backing up their pick with the acquisition of Marquese Chriss, who plays the same position and has been highly praised by the organization as having unlimited potential.

Sacramento Kings

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Starting Five: C: DeMarcus Cousins PF: Willie Cauley-Stein SF: Rudy Gay SG: Arron Affalo PG: Darren Collison

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 7 seed; Out; Out

DeMarcus Cousins has been in the league long enough to be a mature leader on his team. Being a part of the US Olympic team put him around his peers who are motivated winners, something he has not been around since he has been in the league. inning is a mindset, and being on that team and winning a gold medal should give Boogie that mindset for the first time as an adult. He will also be coming back to the most stable and capable team the Kings have had since Cousins was drafted. Hopefully he can get along with coach Dave Joerger better than he has with his coaches in the past. I’m still confused why Joerger
would leave Memphis for Sacramento when Boogie has been known as a coach killer and headcase his entire career, but that’s not for me to worry about.

I would have better hopes for the Kings, but they don’t have any depth. Ben McLemore has been in the league for three years and has done absolutely nothing besides disappoint a fan base that thought they would at least get some highlight dunks. He played less minutes per game in his third season than either of the first two, and with Affalo getting signed to start at the 2, Ben
will struggle to see 20 mpg this season. One thing the Kings do have going for them is the nominee for best name in the NBA with Bogdan Bogdanovic. I’m still trying to figure out if he was the youngest of 13 kids and his parents just got lazy, or if they were dyslexic James Bond fans. The name’s Bogdan, Bogdan…Ovic. Give this team one more year and they may be in the playoffs, but with a new coach let’s pump the brakes.

The New Look 2017 NBA: Northwest Division (Part 2 of 6)

Denver Nuggets

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Starting Five: C: Jusuf Nurkic PF: Kenneth Faried SF: Danilo Gallinari SG: Gary Harris PG: Emmanuel Mudiay

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 8 seed; Out; Out

Mudiay is a sight to see on the court with incredible athleticism, size, and passing at the point guard position. He better be working on his jumper this summer though, because 36/32/67 is not going to cut it in the NBA. If he keeps that up he is going to be the next Ricky Rubio,  a player that is thought to be good because there is always a highlight, when in reality its just another empty, worthless play.

Denver’s number 1 draft pick, Jamal Murray, is everything that Mudiay isn’t as a shooter. They both play the point, but Murray may work his way to more of a combo guard before the season is over. This is an VERY young team that would be hard pressed to get 30 wins if they didn’t have the thin mile high air on their side.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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Starting Five: C: Gorgui Dieng PF: Karl Anthony Townes SF: Andrew Wiggins SG: Zach LaVine PG: Ricky Rubio

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 6 seed; Out; Out

With the drafting of Chris Dunn at number 5, this may be the last year for Ricky Rubio starting for the T’Wolves. Dunn may be the best point guard that the T’Wolves have ever drafted, including when they took three PGs in the first 18 picks of the 2009 draft, two of which were taken before Steph Curry. Dunn has handles, he can take it to the hole and finish, and if he can learn from Rubio how to read a defense and get the ball to the young rising stars on the team, the T’Wolves will be a force to be reckoned with in the West (in the future).

As for this year, I would be a little surprised to see the season end for Minnesota without a losing record. KAT has all the skills to be one of the best big men in the league and Wiggins has star potential written all over him, but losing KG as the veteren in the locker room will hurt them since he was the big brother that could teach the young guns how to deal with issues faced with the long season. If they do make the playoffs, they will be an easy out for whoever plays them, but this team is all about gaining experience right now and playoff experience would be a huge step for them. From Wiggins’ spin moves, to Lavine’s acrobatics, to Rubio’s no-looks, Dunn’s crossovers, and KAT’s overall fluid game, make sure to press record on your DVR so you can watch it over and over and over.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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Starting Five: C: Steven Adams PF: Ersan Ilyasova SF: Kyle Singler SG: Victor Oladipo PG: Russell Westbrook

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 5 seed; Out; 6 seed

This team has so many question marks, its hard to even come up with a starting 5. Will Ilyasova start, or will they keep him on the bench and start Kanter? Will Donovan start Singler at the 3 to get some more length and shooting, or does he want Roberson out their to lockdown opponents’ wing positions with Oladipo? One thing that is for sure, is that Steven Adams has turned into a great big man that does all of the dirty work. It is going to be an interesting season for the Thunder, but I think they can still make some noise in the West. Can they win the title? Probably not, but they can give some headaches to teams in the playoffs.

Westbrook catches hell from some for missing the playoffs when Durant was out for most of the year in 2015. But I feel that is unfair, because Westbrook also missed 15 games that year. They won 45 games and missed the playoffs because of a tiebreaker. But Westbrook wasn’t just playing without Durant, he was also playing without $20 million worth of NBA talent. When you get rid of a superstar, you can replace that $20 million of cap space with a $10 million dollar player and two $5 million dollar layers. Russ didn’t have that, he had nothing. Also, just changing the team dynamic with no practice is crazy. A team has to relearn how to play with each other without a main piece of the puzzle. That would be like trying to take a leg away from a table and making it stand right away. One could find a way, but it would take time, and perhaps some trial and error. The Thunder and Westbrook didn’t have that time, they were thrown to the wolves to figure it out on the fly.

This year, Russ will be ready. He is in a contract year, and is ready to prove to the world that he didn’t play on KDs team, it was their team, and maybe even Russ’. He’s sick of hearing about how everyone else can do this or do that, but they don’t realize that Russ can do this AND that. Yeah, he’s not the best shooter (even if he doesn’t realize it), but when you need a bucket he will
find a way. He’s the closest thing to the Big O we may ever see, and this year his numbers will prove that. That’s right, I am expecting a triple double from Westbrook. Ok, well at least close to one. He is going to be a maniac on the court. He’s going to be the player that forgot to sign up for AAU and has to play in a church league. It’s Russ’ world this year, and he is going to be the most exciting player to watch in the NBA, hands down.

OKC made the smartest choice (and perhaps got good fortune as well) when they got Russ to sign that extension. It’s great for the Thunder because they keep a superstar on their roster. It’s great for Russ because he can become a free agent after his 10th year in the league when he can get 35% of the total salary cap instead of 30%. That will be about $6 million a year. Many thought that he would bolt for LA and become a Laker, but nobody in their right mind would go to that debacle of a team in the prime of their HOF caliber career. The Lakers have a big task, and several trades ahead of them to become Westbrook ready. Maybe being in LA in the offseason is enough for Russ, it’s not as if NBA players have a ton of time during the season anyway. Also, Westbrook does seem to have a loyalty about him that you do not see in all NBA players.

Portland Trailblazers

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Starting Five: C: Mason Plumlee PF: Al-Farouq Aminu SF: Evan Turner SG: C.J. McCollum PG: Damian Lillard

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; 8 seed; 4 seed

The Blazers in the playoffs looked like they were on the edge of taking the next step, and all they were missing was experience. The one thing I wish they would’ve done in the offseason is add one or two good veterans, but they did add Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli. That wasn’t necessarily a bad move, because it will give them depth, but maybe they will be able to get Steve Blake back for a one year vet minimum deal to add some age to the team.

One of Portland’s biggest advantages is their bench. They go two deep at every position. Festus Ezeli, Ed Davis, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, and Shabazz Napier is their second five. Not bad, not bad at all. There might even be a trade in there somewhere to get a good player on a bad team that wants to rebuild. Maybe getting Serge Ibaka from Orlando or Paul Millsap from Atlanta. Lillard is a star, and it is time for him to lead this team to a 50 win season.

Utah Jazz

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Starting Five: C: Rudy Gobert PF: Derrick Favors SF: Gordon Hayward SG: Rodney Hood PG: George Hill

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 6 seed; Out; 8 seed

Utah is set at point guard: George Hill the defensive stopper and Dante Exum the freak athlete, not to mention they still have Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto, and the second round draft pick Marcus Paige. They are going to dump one or two of these in a trade
or put them down in the D league. They’ve also got two big 6’8″ wings in Hayward & Hood that can both score and defend. Another year in and they will be that much better.

Utah is young and inexperienced, and did exactly what young and inexperienced teams need to do in the offseason, they got veteran experience. Signing George Hill, Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson will help this team tremendously. George Hill is a solid starting point guard in the league, and while Joe Johnson is on the downside of his career, he can still score in bunches when you need him to an he’s not afraid to take the shot at the end of the game. Boris Diaw has been winning with the Spurs deep into the playoffs for the past five seasons. What he will be able to bring to the youthful Jazz is priceless. These are the main
reasons Utah will sneak into the postseason in 2017.

The New Look 2017 NBA: Southwest Division (Part 1 of 6)

I feel as if I’m in the Seinfeld Bizzaro World. KD is a Warrior, DWade is a Bull, and we will see the first NBA season of the millennium without Kobe, KG, or Duncan. The increased salary cap, crazy free agent signings, and trades in the summer of 2016 gave a whole new look to the NBA. It’s almost as if Adam Silver created a franchise on NBA2K and selected random draft. It was the most exciting NBA offseason ever, with almost no team unchanged, and sets up what looks to be one of the most exciting NBA seasons ever. Let’s go through a team by team breakdown of what the NBA will look like next year, and
perhaps make some predictions as well.

Dallas Mavericks

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Starting Five: C: Andrew Bogut PF: Dirk Nowitzki SF: Harrison Barnes SG: Wesley Matthews PG: Deron Williams

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed;  8 seed; 5 seed

The Mavs were the ‘winner by default’ of the KD signing in Golden State. If KD doesn’t sign there, Barnes stays on and the Warriors have no reason to trade Bogut, and the Mavs would be left in shambles. So, as much as I hated the KD signing for the league, as a MFFL, I feel I owe KD a drink. Grabbing Barnes and Bogut, as well as resigning Dirk & Deron Williams gives the Mavs one of the best starting 5’s in the West. With Rick Carlisle still being a top 5 coach in the league, the Mavs will continue to be a team that gets the most from its players. Thankfully, this year Carlisle will have more talent to work with.

The two areas that the Mavs have weaknesses are depth & durability. Bogut & Williams have a history of various injuries and missing a big chunk of games in multiple seasons, while Matthews is still not 100% where he was before his Achilles tear. Depth will be a big factor for the Mavs with 4 of the 5 starters being in their 30s this season. Young guns Dwight Powell and Justin Anderson need to keep improving, while the Mavs will still need to rely on veterans Devin Harris & JJ Barea (although I am more impressed with JJ dating two Miss Universe contestants than anything he has done on the court since 2011). Also, look for rookie AJ Hammons to get more playing time than you might think this year. The big ‘if’ for the Mavs could be Steph’s little brother, Seth Curry. When I say he hasn’t done much in the league in his first three seasons, I mean it. He has played about half a season worth of games, with almost all of that being last season. The one positive from his play last season was that he shot 45% from 3 on 111 attempts. The best help an aging Dirk can ask for is competent shooters around him that will space the floor and allow him to launch his signature fade away jumper. All in all, let’s all pray really, really, really hard for a healthy Mavs starting rotation this year, because without that, it will be another 1st round exit for Dirk and Dallas.

Houston Rockets

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Starting Five: C: Clint Capela PF: Ryan Anderson SF: Trevor Ariza SG: Eric Gordon PG: James Harden

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 5 seed;  Out;  Out

It looks as if moving James Harden from the shooting guard to the point guard was to make room for Eric Gordon in the starting lineup. This will make the Houston starting defense even more deplorable by moving Patrick Beverly to the bench. However, that is not surprising when the head coach is Mike D’Antoni, the man who created the ‘7 seconds or less’ offense in Phoenix. It may be smart to keep Beverly in the starting lineup and keep Gordon as first man off the bench, possibly striving for 6th Man of the Year award. Gordon will give the Rockets a great scoring threat off the bench, to play alongside Terrance Jones, Nene & Corey Brewer. Not a bad bench crew, but depth is not the Rockets concern in 2017…

James Harden needs to find out what he is going to be in the league. Is he going to be a superstar that can bring his team a title or at least be in competition for one, which he has the talent to do, or is Harden more worried about ‘The flick of his wrist’ after every made basket? Harden may be the next Carmelo Anthony, always tearing up box scores, but also getting to admire the NBA playoffs from a tropical location as he makes his exit in late April/early May. James Harden is a great individual talent, but that does not always translate to team success. Let’s see if Mike D’Antoni can revive his career in Houston. But honestly, this seems more like the Lakers stint than what D’Antoni did in Phoenix.

Memphis Grizzlies

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Starting Five: C: Marc Gasol PF: Zach Randolph SF: Chandler Parsons SG: Tony Allen PG: Mike Conley

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; 8 seed; 7 seed

The self-proclaimed ‘Ultimate player GM’ who will get your team the big stars you’ve been longing for because he’s ‘bros’ with everyone, just got recruited to another team. Apparently, Mike Conley convinced Chandler Parsons to come to Memphis, and honestly, I don’t see how this helps them very much. They now own the best pump-fake in the NBA (for max money, mind you).

The Grizz also are proud owners of the highest played player in the NBA! No, they didn’t steal Lebron from the Cavs. Mike Conley, the 2013 NBA All-Defense Second Team & 2014 NBA Sportsmanship winner (yes, those are his highest NBA accolades) is the HIGHEST PAID PLAYER IN THE NBA at 5 years $153 million!!! KD, Lebron, Kawhi, Russ & Steph better get to work if they want to catch this ZERO TIME ALL STAR! The contracts given out this summer are just laughable.

Probably the weakest point for the Grizz will be the coaching. They hired lifetime assistant coach, David Fizdale, to lead this team. You know what, that isn’t completely fair, he did coach Team Shaq to a loss against Team Chuck in the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge. I’d be more impressed if he were under the tutelage of a great coach, but it has been Eric Musselman, Mike Woodson, and Erik Spoelstra. Good luck Memphis, you’re gonna need it this year!

New Orleans Pelicans

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Starting Five: C: Omer Asik PF: Anthony Davis SF: Dante Cunningham SG: Tyreke Evans/Buddy Hield PG: Jrue Holiday

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 7 seed; Out; Out

Anthony Davis must have felt like he was in hell on this Pelicans team last season. The team just isn’t good, period. There is some talent, but it doesn’t mesh. Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday do not understand that the ball needs to run through Davis, and it makes the offense unwatchable. Davis has to be frustrated, but he isn’t the type of player to make it known publicly. The Pelicans better do something to change the culture on this team, or The Big Easy is going to be exactly that when opposing teams come to play.

With the addition of 6th overall pick, Buddy Hield, the Pelicans need to look for some kind of trade to dump Evans to get a defensive, all about the team type of player. The Miami Heat may have a few trade option to try to replace some of Dwyane Wade’s (and possibly Chris Bosh’s) offense. This team will be fun to watch to see if Buddy Hield can develop into Robin to Anthony Davis’ Batman. The Pels could be a team that scares people in the future, but that is several players and several years away from happening. Until then, enjoy the crawfish, oysters, and gumbo Buddy.

San Antonio Spurs

Image result for kawhi leonard lamarcus aldridge

Starting Five: C: Pau Gasol PF: LaMarcus Aldridge SF: Kawhi Leonard SG: Danny Green PG: Tony Parker

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 5 seed; 2 seed

San Antonio just lost probably the greatest power forward the NBA has ever seen. As a Mavericks & Dirk fan, that may have been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to admit. But the numbers don’t lie. 5 rings, 3 Finals MVPs, 2 MVPs, 1 All Star MVP, 15 All Stars, 15 All NBAs, 15 All Defense NBAs. Kareem is the only other player to have 26k points, 15k rebounds and 3k blocks. Only player with 1,000 wins on one team. 2nd most playoff games played and wins (1st if you don’t count role players like Derek Fisher). He has played in more playoff games than 18 franchises, and won more playoff games than 22 franchises.

Ok, enough butt kissing. Onto the gripes. I’m pissed that the Spurs got Duncan in the first place. Having an all-time great in David Robinson go down for a year, so you bottom out, win the lottery and get another all-time great? BS. And now Duncan is retiring and the Spurs are still not going to even miss the playoffs? More BS. And can someone explain to me why Duncan is considered a PF and not a C? Just because Robinson was a center, now Duncan is considered a power forward. So instead of being just another great center, he is considered the greatest power forward ever (a much weaker all-time position). The most BS. I need a shot of whisky.

Now onto this year’s Spurs. After winning 67 games, there is not a lot you need to do, just retool a little bit. That’s exactly what they did in getting Pau Gasol. It is a good move for them, giving them a low post scorer and a capable defender. David West stopped ring chasing with the Spurs to go chase one with the Warriors, so they picked up David Lee to backup the front court. The Spurs will do what the Spurs always do, and will be looking to win another 55-60 games with Pop at the helm.

Decision 2016: Vote for Dak

The political theater this election season is certainly not short on entertainment. When she’s not deleting emails, she’s busy covering up other scandals – When he’s not “grabbing [women]”, he’s offending Hispanics.   It seems like the election this year will ultimately come down to which candidate we hate less. But for Cowboy fans, we have a more important decision to tackle… (Pun intended).

There has been a lot of controversy over the past two months whether Dak Prescott should start when Tony Romo is healthy again. Dak, a fourth round draft pick, surprised everyone with his success in the preseason. That success has continued into the regular season, after becoming the temporary starter when Romo broke his back on his 3rd play of the preseason. Slowly, but surely, those in Tony’s corner have shrunk to what is now a dwindling few, while Dak’s bandwagon is getting so crowded it looks like a Ringling Brothers’ clown car. Watching the Cowboys’ season to this point, it may sound crazy that there was even controversy. However, do not forget the undying loyalty of Romo-sexuals and the ever present Jerry Jones reminding fans and haters alike after each game that, “Tony is our quarterback”.

A lot has shifted after the Cowboys 5th win in 6 weeks, when Jerry Jones decided to flip flop by saying,”We’ve got to get Romo in a situation so that it is a situational decision. I don’t use the word ‘problem’ in this conversation. This is a great situation….all of it is a great situation. I don’t have a time frame. There is no time frame.” – Huh? So, just to be clear, there are a lot of situations, but no time frames – Thanks a lot Jerry.

Stepping back and looking at the stats somewhat more objectively, it seems very obviously that Dak should not just be an incumbent starter, but rather the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. There have been two other times in Tony Romo’s career that the Cowboys have gone 5-1: 2007 and 2014. Let’s look at Romo’s stats in those years and compare them to what Dak Prescott has done this year.

PASSING STATS 2007 Romo 2014 Romo 2016 Dak
Comp-Att 132-210 130-191 125-182
Completion % 63% 68% 69%
Yards 1,707 1,510 1,486
Yards per Attempt 8.1 7.9 8.2
Touchdowns 14 11 7
Interceptions 8 5 1
QBR 78***(estimate) 72***(estimate) 82.8
Passer Rating 94.68 100.03 103.87

 

2007 Romo 2014 Romo 2016 Dak
Rushing Attempts 13 11 20
Rushing Yards 77 33 67
Yards per Carry 5.9 3.0 3.4
Rushing Touchdowns 1 0 3
Opponents’ Record 13-22    37% 16-20    44% 13-21    38%
Rushing Attack Jones/Barber    651 Murray     785 Zeke     703
Key Receiver TO played 6 games Dez played 6 games Dez played 3 games
Defense Average Average Average

COMPLETION PERCENTAGE

Dak actually has a better completion percentage than both of Romo’s 5-1 starts, marginally better than 2014 and significantly better than 2007.
Result: Slight edge, Dak

dak-4

PASSING YARDS

Dak has less passing yards per game than both of Romo’s years, three yards less than 2014, and thirty-six yards less than 2007. Neither would prove to be a significant difference. However, Dak is getting more bang for his buck on his throws with a slightly higher yards per attempt than both of Romo’s best starts.
Result: Even

PASSING TD’S VS. INTERCEPTIONS

Getting into two of the most important stats for a quarterback, passing touchdowns and interceptions, Tony has more touchdowns, but also more interceptions. A lot can be said for a quarterback being able to score points, but many would say the same about turnovers. Many would say that these two statistics probably cancel each other out, with a fair amount of people on either side of the argument.
Result: Even

RUSHING

Neither one of these quarterbacks rushing stats jump out, but both 2007 Romo and 2016 Dak know how to use their legs when they need to fight for first downs, and even touchdowns.
Result: Slight edge, Dak

Romo Thumbs

QBR/PASSER RATING

Now to get to the extremely complicated QBR rating, and the not so complicated passer rating. The QBR rating is so complicated, only an estimated number can be given based on looking at Romo’s QBRs for each individual game for the first six games of each season. There will be 10 point wiggle room on either side for Tony. Through six games, Tony was probably a few points lower in 2007 and about 10 points lower in 2014.  Passer rating calculators are readily available, so those number are exact. Dak’s passer rating is almost 4 points higher than Tony in 2014 and over 9 points higher in 2007. Why is Tony’s passer rating higher and QBR lower in 2014? As stated before, QBR is EXTREMELY complicated and takes into account not only rushing ability of a quarterback, but also arbitrary things like pass rush and quality of receivers.
Result: Dak

TEAMMATE CONTRIBUTIONS

Looking at their teammates and what they have contributed. All three years had a great rushing attack, 2007 probably being less great than the other two. That is not completely surprising, considering the 2014 and 2016 offensive lines were better (and exactly the same now that Ronald Leary is starting due to La’el Collins’ injury). However, Romo had Terrell Owens or Dez Bryant for all six games, while Dez has been injured for three of the six games this year. All three years had very average defenses, as well.
Result: Even

OPPONENT WINNING PERCENTAGE

Lastly, lets look at the winning percentage of the teams the Cowboys faced in each year. One thing those numbers will not show, is that Romo beat the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants and lost to the AFC Champion New England Patriots in the first six games of 2007, and beat the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks in 2014. Dak still does have two wins against winning teams this year (Washington and Green Bay), but neither of those teams look like Super Bowl contenders.
Result: Romo

Looking back at these comparisons, Dak and Romo each won a category outright, with Dak also having two slight edge wins. Couple that with Dak being a healthy 23 year old and Romo being an often-injured 36 year old, and the argument starts to become even more clear. In 2007 or 2014, would anyone have suggested that another quarterback, with more credentials in his career, come and start at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys? Absolutely not! Can Tony Romo do things that Dak cannot? Yes, his deep ball is better. Can Dak do things that Romo cannot do? Yes, he has shown an ability to not turn the ball over that Tony has not. The final argument is simple, but does need to be stated: You DO NOT take out a 5-1 quarterback in the NFL under any circumstance, period.
Dak in 2016.

Dak4

The One Thing That Will Make America’s Team Great Again

There have been many theories on why “America’s Team” has been average for the past two decades. Some have blamed Jerry Jones for the drought. Others point to the general manager (also Jerry Jones) for uncalculated free agent signings, poor drafting, and trying to create a team of big name ‘stars’ instead of building an actual TEAM. There are even some naysayers that believe the problem begins and ends at the quarterback position, including the much beloved Tony Romo. All of these reasons may have played a part, but the real reason resonates throughout every season since the glory days with The Triplets. The Dallas Cowboys head coaching since 1997 has been questionable, at best. Since Barry Switzer retired after the 1997 season, the Cowboys are 148-149 in the regular season and playoffs. While some may have been worse than others (Chan Gailey and Dave Campo), not one of the head coaches were impressive.

romo-parcellsLet’s start with Bill Parcells, since the two preceding him were nothing more than placeholders. Parcells came into a situation when the cupboard was barer than any Cowboys roster since the 80’s. He had aging stars on the edge of retirement (Woodson and Allen) mixed with players that he got to perform well above their talent level (Coakley and Williams). This was Bill Parcells last head coaching job, and he treated it as such, by trying to build a team that another coach could come in and take back to the promised land. That included signing undrafted rookie Tony Romo to become the Cowboy’s first franchise quarterback since Troy Aikman. The problem was that Jerry Jones let that coordinator (Sean Payton) get away. Payton went on to become the head coach of the New Orleans Saints the year before Bill Parcells turned his job over to Wade Phillips. Wade was, and is, a great defensive coordinator, but as we’ve seen many times before, that does not always translate into being a great head coach. Wade’s job was made even harder since he most likely knew that his offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, was basically a head coach in waiting. Wade took the Cowboys to the playoffs a couple of times in his stint as head coach, but was not able to make it past the divisional round either time.

That brings us to the current head coach, Jason Garrett. He took over halfway through the 2010 season and is two games over .500 in that time. Not exactly a record that deserves the job security he seems to have with Jerry Jones. Jerry always seems to find an excuse for why Garrett failed, instead of demanding results in the face of adversity. While Garrett has a great football mind when it comes to X’s and O’s, that is where his coaching prowess ends. He possesses the skills needed to be a successful coordinator in the NFL, but falls short of those skills required to become a Super Bowl winning head coach.

jg33Let’s look at the greatest example of an NFL head coach right now, Bill Belichik, and see how Garrett compares in three different areas. First, Belichik’s delegation is second to none, and the best way to exemplify this is by his coaching tree.  He has produced seven NFL head coaches and seven NCAA Division I head coaches. One of those coaches was Nick Saban, who just so happened to be the head coach of the Miami Dolphins when Jason Garrett was the quarterbacks coach. That’s right, Belichik’s coaching tree is now so extensive, other trees are now growing off of it, and Garrett is a branch on one of those trees. While Garrett definitely has not had the tenure to grow the coaching tree Belichik has, by this time in his career Belichik had already promoted out Pat Hill to Fresno State and Nick Saban to Michigan State.

Second, Belichik’s in-game strategy makes Garrett look as if he learned how to game plan by playing Techmo Bowl. We could delve into the most specific and minute stats to see how Belichik makes more right decisions than Garrett, but the easiest is to look at how they react when their hands are tied by playing without their respective star quarterbacks. Since Brady became the starter, Belichik is 15-5 with his backup quarterback, a winning percentage only 1 percent lower than with Brady. Since Garrett took over as head coach of the Cowboys he is 7-14 without Romo as the starter, a whopping 26 percent lower winning percentage than with Romo. Basically, that means if Brady is out, the Patriots still have almost an equal shot at winning with Belichik, but if Romo is out the Cowboys are about half as likely to come away with a win with Garrett.

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Bill Belichick reacts after D'Brickashaw Ferguson #60 of the New York Jets shoved Aqib Talib #31 of the New England Patriots, who intercepted a pass, in the 4th quarter at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Finally, Belichik’s superiority over Garrett can be seen by the talent he can attract from around the league. From big free agents superstars like Darrelle Revis to proven talent in Chris Long to the Golden Boy himself, the Patriots can continually get cream of the crop talent for considerably less than they are worth on the open market. Not only do the Cowboys have to pay top dollar for free agents to come play for America’s Team, they could not even convince their All-Pro running back, Demarco Murray, to take even the slightest pay cut to stick around.

Being quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys is one of the hardest positions in sports. It’s up there with playing Shortstop for the Yankees or Center for the Lakers, but the head coach in Dallas is no stress-free job either. Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson flourished in the role, while Barry Switzer and Bill Parcells were good within their own right. These coaches were used to the bright lights that come with being the head coach of America’s Team. Jason Garrett’s resume prior to the Cowboys is less than impressive, to say the least. To say he had never been in the spotlight before is an understatement. In fact, he was so far from the spotlight he couldn’t even cast a shadow. From quarterbacking Ivy League schools – to bouncing around in lesser professional leagues – to becoming a career NFL backup – to coaching in the NFL, Jason Garrett had never been a focal point of any meaningful organization. So the next time you see a ‘deer in the headlights’ look while watching a Cowboys news conference, or the next time you cringe at Garrett’s horrible game-management ability, try to keep in mind that he’s still adjusting his vision to the bright lights at The Star. Unfortunately for Cowboy fans, he may also be the roadblock to a sixth championship ring.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to reporters during an NFL football media availability at Valley Ranch Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Why Colin Kaepernick Deserves Respect

A week ago, the image of Colin Kaepernick lounging on a bench during the national anthem was burned into the head of everyone who had turned on a television or browsed the internet. Some hated the protest, some applauded it, while others wondered if there was a better way to bring light to such a sensitive issue. One thing is certain, it grabbed the attention of a nation. And that’s what he wanted, right?

Not really. Kaepernick wanted to bring up a discussion of the oppression he sees for “black people and people of color” in the United States. What he did start a discussion on, is whether or not one should be ostracized for sitting during the national anthem. By many, it was seen as a slight to the military and completely ‘unAmerican’. Anyone that lives in this country knows that going against the military is taboo. This is not the 1960s and 1970s when people spat on, and ridiculed soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War. Not to say that people in the United States do not still have strong feelings against war or the reasons we are in them, but we have evolved to realize that it is not the young men and women who put their lives on the line that we should be angry with. While Colin did say that his sitting was not aimed at the military in any way, it was pretty hard to separate the two once it had gone viral.

Kaepernick was left at an impasse once he said he would not stand until he saw real change with the issue at hand. If he stood after that without progress, he would be viewed as just another whiny, overpaid athlete looking for attention while not really caring about the issue. On the other hand, if he continued to sit, he would be at the center of a media whirlwind, lose endorsements, be jeered at in every stadium he entered (even Levi’s Stadium), and become more of a sideshow than an NFL quarterback, starting or not.

Sep 1, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Fans hold a sign and the flag in responses to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (not pictured) during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The sign of a true man is not that he is never wrong, but rather, that he can admit his faults and strive to change and become better. Was Kaepernick wrong to protest what he sees as a social injustice in our country? Absolutely not! Could he have gone about it in a better way? I think so. Kaepernick spent 90 minutes with former Green Beret, Nate Boyer, before the 49ers final preseason game, and decided to take a knee during the national anthem instead of sitting. Wow, that was not something I expected to see. While we are supposed to stand for our anthem, taking a knee can still be seen as a sign of respect. Genuflect means to lower one’s body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect. That is what Kaepernick is doing. What Colin is saying with this action appears to be, ‘I will still continue to protest the problem I see in my country, but I do not want to disrespect those not involved. Most notably, the men and women of the U.S. military.’.

Kaepernick is not perfect, in this protest or outside of it. Wearing socks with pigs dressed in police uniforms was certainly not done in good taste. Protesting oppression, then wearing a t-shirt with one of the most oppressive modern day world leaders on the front of it almost seems oxymoron. However, I for sure am not the one to cast the first stone. If people came looking at all of my poorly thought out plans that I took action on first, I would have my foot so far in my mouth that I could kick myself in the ass simultaneously for screwing up.

All in all, while I may not see Colin Kaepernick as a respectable NFL quarterback, I definitely respect him as a person. Admitting when I’m wrong (however rare that may be) is probably one of my biggest faults, and I could definitely take a page from the book that is Colin Kaepernick. So Colin, continue your protest until you see the change that you want to see in our country. Also, I hope you will be starting on October 2nd, because my Cowboys sure could use the win.

Dak Prescott: Cowboys QB of the Future

Talk around the water cooler with any Cowboy’s fan lately has been about Dak Prescott, and with good reason. In his first two preseason games, Dak is completing over 80% of his throws and has a QB rating just under perfect. This has Cowboy homers already visualizing Dak’s bust in Canton, and Cowboy/Romo haters saying Dak should be starting September 11th. If Dak were a stock, everyone and their mama would be taking out cash advance loans to buy shares. Thankfully, for Cowboys fans near and far, Dak is a backup quarterback, not a stock; because in about two weeks, the NASDAK is going to plummet. Not because these past two games have been a fluke, and Dak is about to be a bust, but because he will soon be an afterthought.

Dak4

What these preseason games really mean:
Dak has won the position of backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. That is not nearly as glamorous a position as starting QB, where all eyes are on you and the pressure of the world is laid upon your shoulders every Sunday. Just ask Jason Garrett. Dak will be on the sidelines, with headphones in place of a helmet and a clipboard in hand. The interviews will slow, until they are almost non-existent, and Dak will start to understand how Aaron Rodgers felt for the first three years of his NFL career waiting behind a franchise quarterback for his turn to play. It’s somewhat ironic that it was Brett Favre, the quarterback who Tony Romo says he still looks up to.

favre rodgers

When will Dak start?
Barring injury to Romo (knock on wood), Dak will only be seen in blowout games for the 2016 season. After that, it becomes a lot more difficult because of the business side of the NFL. This is the first year that Romo did not restructure his deal since 2012, and Romo’s contract is astronomically high (~$25 million) for the three seasons following. Jerry Jones is going to have to get creative again, and will most likely have to sell Romo on the idea of a pay cut. How these negotiations go will definitely have an effect on Dak’s career, considering a happy Romo will mean a great mentor for Dak’s tutelage. Look to see Dak start sometime during the 2018 season.

Cowboy’s draft grade for Dak:
A+. Calm down, I’m grading on a curve. The Cowboys have to be one of the worst franchises, if not the worst, at drafting quarterbacks in the last 25 years. Stephen McGee (4th round 2009), Isaiah Stanback (4th round 2007), Quincy Carter (2nd round 2001), and Bill Musgrave (4th round 1991) are the four QBs the Cowboys have drafted since taking Troy Aikman number one overall. Dak was not just a good draft pick, but this was also good timing. As seen with the Philadelphia Eagles this year, the draft can create animosity among the quarterbacks if the current quarterback plans to be playing beyond the incoming rookie’s contract. Dak and Romo’s contracts both expire at the end of the 2019 season.

Looking Forward:
For anyone thinking that Dak is going to walk into the starting role and play the way he has in the preseason, you’re wrong. Try to remember that these are preseason games that do not matter, therefore no one is playing 100%. That also means there is not the normal stress of an NFL game, with the worries of bad plays running through the quarterback’s head for the 48 hours before kickoff. It is almost common knowledge that the hardest position to play in sports is starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. You become a reality star, constantly on national news, with them trying to decide if you lost because you suck, or if your pop star girlfriend is bad luck. The tough minded can handle it, the others flame out and are never heard from again.

COLUMBIA , MO - NOVEMBER 5: Quarterback Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs throws a touchdown pass against the Missouri Tigers in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on November 5, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Dak seems to have what it takes to be the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He led the Mississippi State Bulldogs to three straight winning seasons in the SEC, the toughest conference in college football. As a 20-year-old sophomore, he lost his mom to cancer and came back to finish off the season strong and be named MVP of a bowl game. He’s shown that perseverance is his DNA, and that is something he will need under the bright lights at Jerry’s World. So, Dak, I can’t wait to see what you can do as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. On second thought, I can, for about 2-3 years.

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The Rangers are similar to the 2006 & 2011 Mavericks, and that’s a very good thing.

[ecko_quote source=”Maya Angelou”]People won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.[/ecko_quote]

Maya Angelou was right, and often times sports are the same way. We may not remember every play or sometimes even the final score, but we always seem to remember where we were during the big games (because of the strong feelings we have at those moments). A championship game can pump you up so much that you riot into the streets as if you were invincible, but it can also bring you down so low that you have to call into work the next day. Below are my personal accounts of the feelings I’ve had with both the Mavs and the Rangers, followed by some odd similarities that may give DFW sports fans a reason to feel optimistic about November baseball.  

June 20, 2006 – Mavs lose the Championship: After Game 6, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat accept the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the American Airlines Center. My body-painted jersey begins to fade as I watch in disgust from the lower level. That championship was ours for the taking, and we let it slip through our fingers. The shock slowly sets in as I begin to realize the Mavs will have to start over at square one next year.

June 12, 2011 – Mavs’ Redemption: Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks payback the favor to Miami, as the Mavs are crowned NBA Champs after Game 6 in the American Airlines Arena. I watch the game at a friends’ ‘Man Cave’, where Phil (the other half of the SOS podcast) and I both brought multiple bottles of champagne as if we would be celebrating with the team afterwards. Complete hysteria ensues; the party begins; 2006 is forgotten.

October 27, 2011 – Rangers lose the championship: I am the only Rangers fan in the bar, on the north side of Chicago. Several beers and shots in, I may or may not have been talking trash to the sea of St. Louis Cardinals fans, in both the 9th and 10th innings. I feel like a toddler in timeout, as I sit in my corner booth, after David Freese hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. Many of the aforementioned Cardinals fans walk by with some choice words for my premature celebrations. The next day, I sneak away to the doctor’s lounge during my on-call OB night shift, to watch yet another DFW major sports championship slip away as the Cardinals pulled off an easy 6-2 win in game 7.

November, 2016 – Rangers’ Redemption?: Currently, the Texas Rangers sit atop of the American League with their eyes set on November Baseball. But will they get there? The similarities between these franchises seems to point towards the Rangers righting the wrongs of five years ago, just as the Dallas Mavericks did in 2011. Let’s take a look…

same crew

THE STARTERS

For starters (pun intended), both the 2016 Rangers and 2011 Mavs are returning about 15-20% of their roster from five years before. This shows that both teams did have strong cores in their previous championship run, but trying to make a run with the same team five years later will not work. Jon Daniels and Donnie Nelson both made the necessary moves to keep their teams in contention. Dirk and Jason ‘The Jet’ Terry returned for the Mavs, while the Rangers held onto Beltre, Mitch Moreland, Colby Lewis, Elvis Andrus, and Derek Holland. Jon Daniels could’ve gone the way of the Marlins after both the 1997 and 2003 World Series wins and completely blown up the roster for a rebuild. Instead, he chose to keep a good core while letting go of a few expensive luxuries, so that he could retool the Rangers into a team that could make another run in October.

In both the 2010-11 NBA season and the 2016 MLB season, there was a team in the other conference/league that was getting all of the headlines. The 2010-11 Miami Heat “Big-three” of Wade, Bosh, and Lebron made a hater out of everyone, and had them tuning in just hoping they would lose every night. While the MLB doesn’t have a team with quite that star power, they do have the Chicago Cubs who started out the season an incredible 24-6 pacing them to win 130 (which would’ve blown their own record of 116 wins out of the water). Now its mid-August, and the Cubs have cooled, but they still lead the majors in wins and are on pace for over 100 wins.

injury

THE INJURIES

Both teams also lost what was thought to be an integral piece to a championship run mid-season, and would never see that player in their team’s uniform again. The Mavs lost starting wing, Caron Butler, to a season-ending knee injury and he signed with the Clippers the following year. This forced the Mavs to bring defensive-minded Deshawn Stevenson into the starting lineup, who added a toughness to a team usually thought of as ‘soft’. Stevenson was usually ignored on the offensive side of the floor, but could always nail a three when his man sagged off a little too much. JJ Barea is probably the player who gained the most from Butler’s injury, since he grabbed a boatload of quality minutes in the playoffs that earned him a 4 year/$19 million contract from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Rangers, on the other hand, just recently lost starting 1st baseman/DH, Prince Fielder, to a career-ending neck injury. While Prince was not having a very good year for himself, he was still a dangerous bat that opposing pitchers would fear in tight ballgames. The recent loss of Shin Soo Choo could be added to this injury issue, as well, although he may be available very late in the postseason.

trade

THE TRADES

Personnel trades are always a big part of championship runs, and 2011 and 2016 were no different. The Mavs pretty much stole candy from the baby when they swapped Erick Dampier for the Bobcats’ Tyson Chandler. Chandler turned out to be the most important player on the Mavericks, not named Dirk. His presence, both on the defensive end of the floor and in the locker room, changed the Mavs into a driven, determined force to be reckoned with. Put Dampier back on the team, and ‘Mother’s Day Massacre’ might have a completely different meaning for Mavs fans.

Jon Daniels proved to everyone that the Rangers have their eyes set on the World Series in 2016, when they picked up both Carlos Beltran and Jonathon Lucroy at the trade deadline. Many fans were upset when they didn’t pickup a starting pitcher, but Daniels was just not willing to give away the farm (system) for a single pitcher, but the trades he did make we’re still pretty bold. Beltran is a great bat to add to the lineup, the only issue will be if he will have to play in the field for three games in the World Series. Lucroy is a huge addition to the Rangers for this year and next, filling in the one weak position they had in the field. Not to jump the gun or anything, but in Lucroy’s first fifteen games with the Rangers, he has seven home runs and fourteen RBIs. Not bad my friend, not bad at all.

punch

THE PRIOR YEAR

Finally, both teams also finished their prior year by losing to a rival in the playoffs. The Mavs, as a two-seed, lost in the 1st round to the much hated San Antonio Spurs in 2010. This rivalry during the Duncan/Dirk era will live on forever in fans hearts, and this series was no different. Losing again with such a high seed and a 1-0 lead made Dirk fans start to question if he would ever win a championship in the NBA. The articles circulated, which no doubt got back to Dirk to fuel the fire for the following year. And what a year 2011 was!

The 2015 ALDS between the Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays may not have started as a rivalry, but, if Bautista’s bat flip and Odor’s punch heard round the world haven’t proven it to you yet – it is one now. The Rangers took games one AND two on the road, and it looked as if no one could deny the Rangers another chance at the pennant. We all know how this story ends though, with the Blue Jays roaring back to take both games in Texas, then flying home to crush Rangers fans’ hearts as Elvis Andrus committed two crucial errors to seal their fate. It may not have been all that bad though, considering it didn’t look like anyone could have beat the Royals in 2015.

Early November 2016:
 So where will I be at this time? Where will you be? Maybe I’ll scrounge up some tickets and see the magic unfold live before my eyes. And you can never rule out the camaraderie found in a sports bar, with hundreds of other strangers with one common goal: a win for the home team. They say championships live forever, but really, it’s the memories that do.

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Rio 2016: The *AsteRISK* Olympics

The top four golfers in the world are out. Five of the top twenty-five tennis players in the world said, “No thanks”. Fifteen NBA players from the USA alone are staying home for various reasons. And, if you think it’s just rich superstars from flourishing, developed countries, think again. Kenyan marathon runners Wilson Kipsang (who won bronze in 2012) and world record holder, Dennis Kimetto, are both refusing to compete due to ‘scheduling issues’.

Scheduling issues happen when someone asks you to come to their housewarming party next week, but you are going to be out of town for an annual work conference; not for one of the world’s biggest event that occurs every four years in August. When Russia, an Olympic powerhouse, almost being completely banned from the 2016 Olympic Games is a story that doesn’t command headlines, something big must be happening in Rio. And it is, it just isn’t anything positive. While the Zika virus is getting a lot of attention in the media, and many athletes are citing it as their excuse to stay home, there are so many reasons why the Olympics need a complete overhaul. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) needs to find a way to host the Olympic games, while providing safety and comfort to both athletes and fans. Before we get into the solution, let’s go over the biggest problems in Rio.

Olympic Village


For the second straight Olympic Games, the living conditions provided to the athletes in the Olympic Village are, in a word, unlivable. Everyone saw the horror photos from Sochi in 2014, but according to the teams from Australia, Sweden, Argentina, Belarus, and Kenya, Rio isn’t much better. I’m sorry, but if some Kenyan athletes are staying away, and the ones that actually come are complaining about the deplorable living conditions, you probably have an issue. Even the building inspectors have said that the Olympic Village is not passing basic safety codes. Not just one or two, but 19 of the 31 buildings have not been passed, less than two weeks before the opening ceremony. Several countries have decided to stay elsewhere until these problems are fixed.

Super Bug


Hopefully, if you are competing in the Rio Games, you do not have an event that takes place in the open water, because there is a super bug to worry about now. No, not the Zika virus, it’s a drug-resistant bacteria that can affect the urinary tract, the bloodstream, and your lungs. Oh, you mean the things we breathe with? No big deal. Well, according to Dr. William Schaffner, and infectious disease specialist, there will not be an epidemic because of the low concentrations of the bacteria in the water. Also, if there were going to be an epidemic, the native Brazilians would have already been experiencing that. That’s like saying, “Sandy’s got herpes, but Johnny and Ricky both dated her and didn’t get it. So, you’re probably good”. Dr. Schaffner is also recommending the athletes in these events shower with soap and water immediately after leaving the open water. It’s always reassuring to ask your coach, “What’s my time?”, and be answered with, “YOUR TIME?!? Are you kidding me, go get in the shower and clean off that super bug!!!” I understand that the risk may be low, but I don’t think I would be voluntarily getting in those waters with the gravity of the possible diseases from the super bug.

Social & Financial Collapse


As for the social side of Rio de Janeiro, they have recently declared a state of public calamity. Seriously, that’s a thing that can be declared? It’s not as if Rio announced that its ozone level orange today, try not to go outside. They’re basically saying that is has gotten so bad that they can’t even sugarcoat it anymore. When you’re beyond the point where politicians can cover up something bad by pointing the other way at something good, I guess you declare a state of public calamity. So Rio is on the edge of disaster less than two months before they host one of the biggest events in the world.

Apparently, the IOC likes to go to struggling cities, who have these itty-bitty issues, such as feeding and educating their people, and tell them that maybe those problems will take care of themselves if they spend $12 billion on a two-week sporting event. It’s funny, because I was just thinking of telling a friend that has 4 kids, no job, and two mortgages to hurry up and buy another house before the market goes back up. The finances are getting so bad they can’t even afford to pay firefighters and police. Why were their salaries in the budget cuts before the politicians that got them into this mess? But, don’t worry too much, it’s not as if South America is a place where there’s a lot of crime, and tourists aren’t safe on the streets at night. Oh wait…shit.

The Next Step

The next step

The solution to this Olympics issue is quite simple. Have a five city rotation (10 total including winter) where the games are held. Pick cities that have a stable economy and have the means to accommodate millions of visitors for two to three weeks. This would eliminate the issue of cities building structures that are never going to be used again, because they will be used again. Of course there is a boost for the economy with all of the construction that goes on, but when that same area turns into a ghost town almost immediately after the closing ceremony, it feels as if all that work was done for nothing (not to mention all of the money spent).

These areas could be used for various other events as well, from other sporting events to conventions to concerts. I’m sure the IOC promises these struggling countries dreams of turning what was nothing into a new affluent area of their city, but a poor area isn’t going to be brought out of poverty from a two-week event. This would also help to eliminate the transportation issues of a city not used to so many extra visitors. Having done it in the past will allow for each Olympic Games to be more efficient, not to mention enjoyable, for everyone involved (raging cheers from anyone who went to Atlanta in 1996).

The only stories about the Olympics should involve the athletes, but each Games has turned into more and more of a political mess. Some of these athletes spend their entire lives training to compete in one, and only one, Olympic Games. Unfortunately, the ongoings in Rio may have taken that chance away from them.  The medalists at these games will not be viewed as inferior to other years because of the number of competitors staying away, however, it’s sad that the world cannot see the best of the best. There is a business side to the Olympic Games, and revenue must be generated to run such a massive event, but not at the expense of general human needs. Especially, when the Olympic Games is a spectacle of the human body and what it can achieve at its highest level. One of these days, we will get rid of overbearing and greedy legislative bodies (IOC, NCAA, FIFA, etc.), so that sports can be pure again. Until then, cover yourself head-to-toe with OFF, swallow a few broad-spectrum antibiotics, and go grab your wallet chain from middle school before you jump on that flight to Rio.

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Why 118 is the Most Important Number in Dallas

For most of us, sports is a game, but one that must be taken very, very seriously. It comforts us to know that there is a higher power, a sports god if you will, that is protecting the very sacred laws of sports. When these sports gods are on your side, you’ll do whatever you can to keep them happy. This can range from the somewhat normal (Wade Boggs eating chicken on every game day), to the obsessive (Jason Terry sleeping in the shorts of his opponents the night before every game), to the disgusting (Serena Williams not changing socks throughout an entire tournament). It’s when the sports gods are against you that things start to get weird. Jason Giambi used to wear a gold thong to get out of slumps. Seriously!? What’s worse is that when it worked, his teammates started to do it too! (hopefully using different thongs)

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