Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Madness in March

March Madness. Two of my favorite words. Starting Thursday, there will be 48 games in four days - all of them televised by the CBS Sports networks. I've downloaded the March Madness On Demand app on both my iPad and laptop so I can sit in front of the TV and watch all of the games on three devices at the same time.

Every year, this week is the most exciting time for me as a sports fan. There will be last-second shots, crazy upsets, and plenty of drama. Only 16 teams (Out of 68) will still be standing on Sunday. I rarely do well in the bracket contests because I try to pick the one team that will shock the hoops world and become this year's Cinderella. Invariably, I miss on choosing the correct one.

This college basketball season has been filled with upsets and parity has reigned supreme. For that reason, this Tournament should prove to be wacky and unpredictable. My Final Four selections are Louisville, New Mexico (there's that upset hope), Miami, and Florida. I have Louisville beating Miami for the title. There really are about 12-15 teams that have a realistic chance to win including my Syracuse Orange, who I have losing to Indiana. Other teams I won't be surprised to see win include Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Georgetown, Kansas, and Gonzaga.

After this wild weekend, we start all over again next weekend with the Sweet 16. Can't wait!

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Great Rivera's Last Hurrah

The one-of-a-kind Mariano Rivera will announce his retirement after this 2013 season in a press conference slated for tomorrow. As a lifelong Yankees fan, this will be a sad time because it is truly the end of one of the all-time greatest careers in Yankees history.

The 43-year-old Rivera is a baseball marvel, getting hitters out for 17 years with one pitch – albeit a very nasty one. It was Rivera who was the difference-maker in all of the Yankees’ five World Series titles during the past 16 seasons. He will go down in history as one of the Top 5 all-time greatest Yankees (Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle). No one else dominated his position more than Mo did. He’s the all-time saves leader in MLB history and has one of the lowest ERA’s for a pitcher with at least 1000 innings pitched.

I could go on for awhile about my feelings for the classy Rivera, but I though a few comments pulled from ESPN’s message board says it all:

“I'm a die hard red sox fan, but I have always had the utmost respect for Mo. I'm extremely glad that the man gets to retire on top. I would have hated to see a stellar player who is also a great human being retire after an injury.  
I sincerely hope his 2013 season is injury free. There are very few players, Yankees and Red Sox alike that have earned my lifetime respect. Mariano is one of them.  
He defines what it means to be a player. He is the role model we want for our kids.  
I cant think of a better player to represent baseball in my generation. I salute you sir.””

“As a Red Sox fan, the greatest satisfaction I got was when the Sox actually got to Rivera. Not because I "hated" him, or the Yankees, but because he was just that great. Class and dignity come to mind first and foremost when I think of Mo, as well as Jeter. My favorite moment of the Sox winning the 2004 World Series was '05 Opening Day when Mo received that ovation from the Fenway crowd, and he smiled that engaging smile, and waved his hat to the crowd. I hate that I admire a Yankee so much, but there is no other way to feel. Go get 'em Rivera, except when you play the Sox. Baseball will be lessened when you are gone.”

Here is a wonderful story about Rivera being the last player to ever don the 42 jersey, retired by MLB in 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson. Robinson’s widowRachel is especially proud of Rivera:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Turning Up The Heat


What else can LeBron James do in this season of excellence? James wrapped up a spectacular, record-setting month of February with an epic performance Tuesday night in a wild 141-129 double overtime win over the Sacramento Kings.

James scored a season-high 40 points, while dishing out 16 assists – the first NBA player to accomplish that since Kevin Johnson in 1994. What’s more impressive is the way James took over in the second extra session, scoring 11 points on 3-3 from the floor, and 4-4 from the line as he added three rebounds AND three assists. All this in FIVE minutes. The Kings, perhaps shellshocked by King James, managed only five points.

In the month of February, in which the Heat ran off 12 consecutive wins, James connected on a blistering 64 percent of his field goal attempts and scored at least 30 points eight times. His season totals are an astonishing 27.3 points a game, 7.3 assists, and 8.1 rebounds, while shooting 57 percent from the floor – easily a career-best for James.

As impressive as last night’s effort was by James, his Valentine’s Day massacre of the West’s best Oklahoma City Thunder was scintillating. The 6-8, 250-pound hybrid forward-guard-center scored 39, grabbed 12 boards and handed out seven assists.

There is simply nothing LeBron can’t do on a basketball court and that has rubbed off on his All-NBA running mate, Dwayne Wade. James’s unselfishness has led Wade to record one of his finest and most efficient seasons, averaging 21.5 points, nearly five assists, and five rebounds a game as he shoots a career-high 51.6 percent from the floor. With these two megastars in sync and on a roll, it’s hard to see any NBA team stopping a Heat repeat this year.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Duncan Most Underrated Star Ever

In his 16th season of excellence, Tim Duncan, the unassuming star of the San Antonio Spurs, still doesn't get the national attention he deserves. The 6-11 forward never seeks the limelight, plays within a strong team-oriented structure, and just wins - quietly.

Once again this season, the Spurs own the NBA's best record and although Duncan isn't the dominant player of his youth, he still is a major contributor to the amazing success of the Coach Greg Popovich-led team. Duncan is a 13-time All-Star and a nine-time All-NBA first-team selection. More importantly, he has led the Spurs to four NBA Championships, earning Finals MVP three times.

Duncan was the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 1998 after arriving to San Antonio from Wake Forest University, where he was a two-time All-American. He's won the league's MVP twice and has been named first-team All-Defense eight times. He has accumulated over 23,000 points and almost 13,000 rebounds in a remarkably consistent career.

His career averages are 20 points, 11 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and 3.6 assists per game. Those figures increase during the playoffs. Although many experts consider Duncan to be the finest power forward in NBA history, he still gets little attention from fans because he's not flashy or loud and doesn't appear in many commercials.

He will go down in history as one of the finest players in NBA history and is a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer. He may even win his fifth title this year. It's about time America gave him his due.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sad Day In Los Angeles

The NBA and the Los Angeles Lakers are mourning the loss of visionary Lakers' owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who died today at 80 from an undisclosed form of cancer.

Buss was one of the finest owners in sports history, purchasing the Lakers, hockey's LA Kings, and the LA Forum arena in 1979 for $67 million. He loved entertainment and parties and was the first of the owners in sports to realize the value of merging sports and entertainment. He understood that to be successful in a city like LA, where there are many nightlife and entertainment options, he had to transform an already successful Lakers franchise into a must-see event each game night.

He invited many of his Hollywood buddies to sit courtside at the games, he re-branded the Forum to the Fabulous Forum,then sold the rights to name the arena to Great Western Savings and Loan (Great Western Forum) he changed the lighting at The Forum to shine solely on the court, and he treated each game like a party. But, he never forgot about the quality of the basketball team - hiring former Laker great Jerry West to run the team. Of course, it helped that he drafted Magic Johnson, brought in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and Coach Pat Riley. Now, it was "Showtime," a moniker Buss marketed to describe the highly-entertaining, up-tempo style of basketball the Lakers played.

Buss's team won 10 NBA Titles, five with Johnson and five with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal decades later.  Magic Johnson, on Twitter, posted, "WOW! Where do I begin?! I was 19 when I first met Dr. Buss and for 34yrs he has been a father figure and best friend." Players loved Buss because he loved them and showered them with money, respect, and kindness. He was described as a laid-back, ego-less man who was a self-made billionaire. The Lakers are now estimated by Forbes to be worth over $1 billion. His hockey team, the Kings, won the NHL's Stanley Cup in 2012. He also moved the teams out of the older Forum and built a sports and entertainment palace called The Staples Center.

Buss will be missed by all in basketball, especially his former players, coaches, and employees. They don't make owners like him anymore. R.I.P. Dr. Buss.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Yankees' Spring Heating Up

Injured New York Yankees star pitchers CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera continued their recoveries from surgery by throwing a bullpen session today at Spring Training headquarters in Tampa.

 Sabathia is on the mend from elbow surgery to get rid of bone chips and looks much thinner than previous seasons. He told the media he had butterflies while testing his elbow but seemed fine. He hopes to be pitching in a game by early March.

Meanwhile, future Hall of Famer Rivera continues his comeback from last April's season-ending torn ACL. The greatest closer in baseball history and one of the finest players ever in Yankees' history, the 43-year-old Rivera believes he will be back without any issues. He's most worried about testing the knee while fielding - no problems pitching.

Retired catcher Jorge Posada is joining the usual group of former Yankees who aid the team in teaching the younger prospects the "Yankee Culture." He joins Ron Guidry, David Wells, Reggie Jackson and others this spring. Missing for the first time in recent memory is 87-year-old Yogi Berra, who cannot travel anymore. Posada is excited to help out, telling reporters, ""I'll be bossing them around -- telling them to run and all that stuff. I miss certain things about the game. You're always going to miss certain things. I, obviously, miss my teammates the most."

In other news, new Yankee Kevin Youkilis met with former adversary Joba Chamberlain to clear the air regarding their rivalry when Youkilis donned the Red Sox uniform. Chamberlain hit Youkilis several times when they faced each other, further fueling a mutual dislike. Youkilis should eventually win Yankees fans over with his hustling, hard-playing style, which was missing for New York last season.

Michael Pineda, the promising young pitcher acquired by NY last year for Jesus Montero, is continuing his slow process from shoulder surgery. The Yankees hope to have him back by mid-season.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mid-Season NBA Report

As the NBA nears its annual All-Star Weekend, it is time to review the first half of the season. There really have only been a few surprises this year, namely the Lakers' implosion and Dallas' mediocrity.

My half-season MVP is an easy choice - LeBron James. There really isn't a debate, although my All-Star team below will highlight some of King James' competition. James is averaging 27 points a game, on a blistering 56.5 percent shooting from the floor. In addition, he is connecting on 42 percent of his three-point attempts. He's one of the league leaders with a little over seven assists per game and is grabbing over eight rebounds. As I stated in a previous post, James has bumped his overall game up a notch higher than anyone in NBA history.

In many seasons, Kevin Durant would be a runaway MVP choice. The 6-11 forward is leading the league in scoring at a 29 points per game clip, while shooting a career-high 52% from the floor. He's also connecting on 42% of his threes and 90% from the line. If he finishes the season with 50/40/90 while averaging at least 20 points a game, Durant would be the first ever in NBA history to accomplish that.

Joining James and Durant up front is Knicks' forward Carmelo Anthony, an explosive scorer and one of the game's best players. He is second to Durant in scoring and has shown improvement in his all-around game, especially on defense. Anthony's squad is second in the Eastern Conference, behind only James' Heat.

My backcourt is filled by explosive second-year star Kyrie Irving, of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chris Paul. Easily one of basketball's most exciting players, Irving is nearly unstoppable with his variety of moves and shots. He's scoring at a 24 points a game clip, hitting on 43% from long-range. Irving is a great building block to rejuvenate the Cavs.

Paul, of the LA Clippers, is the game's best point guard, and at 27, is just entering his prime. Known for his intelligence and leadership abilities, Paul has his young squad sitting at the break with the league's third-best record. He's second (behind Rajon Rondo) in assists (9.5) and is averaging 17 points a contest. He led the Clippers to an amazing 17-game winning streak in December.

My pick for Coach of the Year is Golden State's Mark Jackson, who has created a winning atmosphere at one of the league's traditional also-rans. The Warriors have cooled a bit lately after a red-hot start, but are still in the playoff race with a 30-22 record. Young stars like Stephen Curry (my second-team guard), David Lee, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes have matured quickly under the demanding Jackson.

The easy choice for mid-season Rookie of the Year is Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who is scoring over 18 points a game and dishing out nearly seven assists. The 6-3 former Weber State star has surprised many NBA experts by playing with so much maturity in his first season. Other impressive rookies include Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Bradley Beal (Washington), and Dion Waiters (Cleveland).