Thursday, July 31, 2014

2014 Season Preview (Dallas Cowboys)

There's the good, the bad, and even the ugly when it comes to discussing the outlook of the Dallas Cowboys' 2014-2015 season.

In recent news, Dez Bryant has expressed his concern for a new contract, claiming that he deserves to be paid as much as the NFL's top 5 receivers. On top of Bryant's concern, the Cowboys have recently restructered OT (Offensive Tackle) Tyron Smith's contract to an 8-year extension grossing up to $100 million.

Well, Dez...there goes your money.

In addition, Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones claims the Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league. This may be true, but Jones needs to get a new prescription of glasses to focus on the injury-prone defense.

I'm in agreement with building up our offensive line and hiring a new offensive coordinator to relinquish play-calling duties from Jason Garrett. However, our defense has taken some major hits in the offseason: Sean Lee's season-ending injury and DeMarcus Ware's departure to Denver. The only thing Cowboys' fans should do is hope for the best as we place inexperienced players in the roster slots of last year's defensive leaders.

Am I throwing in the towel yet? Hmmmm, maybe not.

Our offense looks promising and Jason Garrett is crossing his fingers to finish above average for the first time in his career as Head Coach. The pressure on Garrett may benefit the offense's potential, which can balance out our sub-par defense. But as we all know (or should know), defense wins championships. The Cowboys may not win a championship this year, but their offense has the potential to be the prime catalyst to steer them to a playoff bid.

According to Jerry Jones, offense fills up stadiums...but that's none of my business.

As we shift our focus to the NFC East, the Cowboys have a really good shot at winning this division. The Redskins and Giants should be the top two teams to give us a worthwhile challenge.

Robert Griffin III looks forward to stepping back onto the field and redeeming himself from those Adidas-sponsored injuries. To be honest, Griffin III is unpredictable at this moment but you never know what you get with RGIII.

Meanwhile, Eli Manning attempts to claw his way back to the mountaintop of champions. Eli Manning has a great deal of potential. It's surprising how he can be an elite quarterback one season...and an Interception Machine the next.

Although this is not your father's NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles took the division under Chip Kelly's high-powered offense. However, the Eagle do not pose a serious threat with Nick Foles still proving himself to the league.

Something to think about:

If the Cowboys dominated their rivals with a sub-par defense last season, there's no reason to think they cannot compete in this year's NFC East division.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Surviving the NFL Offseason

It's the end of July and football fans worldwide are currently enduring one of the longest breaks in American sports: the NFL Offseason.

Too often, fans find themselves in desperation...awaiting the next important NFL news to satisfy their athletic taste buds. The NHL and NBA crown new world champions, MLB and Golf make their way into full swing (pun intended), and every four years we are fortunate to toss aside American Football for world football (soccer).

These six months of the NFL's absence have consisted of:

- trash-talk over the past season

- suffering consequences of bets

- convincing everyone (and yourself) that your team will "win it next year"

- watching replays of the Super Bowl (I prefer "Sounds on the Field" via NFL Network)

- yelling at the TV during the NFL Draft

Well, I have one word for the football fans: congratulations.

You've endured the grueling months of football's absence, and now it is time to get ready for the fantasy leagues and NFL Sunday Ticket...and setting the DVR for those awfully-scheduled 12:00pm games.

Are you ready?

The NFL Hall of Fame (including inductions of Michael Strahan and Derrick Brooks) is right around the corner, then the NFL Hall of Fame Game takes place on August 3rd...ushering in an exciting NFL Preseason.

The NBA's New Balance of Power

Carmelo stayed in New York. LeBron took his talents back to Cleveland. Chris Bosh is the leader of the Miami Heat. Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards can possibly win the Eastern Conference.

Regarding the Western Conference: Chandler Parsons has signed with the Dallas Mavericks. The Spurs look forward to winning another championship. And other Western powerhouses (OKC Thunder, LA Clippers, Portland Trailblazers) patiently await their opportunity to represent the West in the NBA Finals.

With LeBron moving back to the great state of Ohio (hey, Johnny Manziel is there, it has to be exciting), the competitve balance of power has greatly shifted; not only affecting the Eastern Conference, but the West as well.

We're at a point to where the Dallas Mavericks are back in championship conversations. Plus, who would have thought the Washington Wizards would be a possible, top-5 finisher in the East? Even the Charlotte Bobcats Hornets have received a facelift in the hopes of becoming a playoff contender.

Once again, I extend a congratualtions to the San Antonio Spurs for sending LeBron back home...the NBA needed it.

It's a breath of fresh air to bring back the "up-for-grabs" atmosphere in the Eastern Conference..

Now, I know we can't travel back in time but the make-up of today's NBA brings me back to the last days of Jordan in Chicago (I was born in '92 so that's the only "MJ" I can remember lol).

There was a time when guys would compete for 48 minutes and even trash talk each other in the process. This was the era of hard fouls, debates with the referees, throwing basketballs at people, pushing the cameramen, taunting the opposing team's coach...this was THE ERA.

However, this era reached a stopping point when Jordan retired (his second time); which is where the NBA currently stands. There are not as many hard fouls or taunting (with the exception of the uncouth behaviors of Lance Stephenson); but one aspect from the 90s that today's NBA possesses is the balance of power.

Yes, Jordan and the Bulls won six titles. When we dig deeper into MJ's journey to his championships, we find out Jordan battled against some of the greatest guys to ever touch a basketball (Pat Ewing, Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, Isaiah Thomas, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, and even John Stockton). These guys were not on "all star teams." The league was arguably balanced, where every year the NBA title was up for grabs (Chicago just received a head start).

Well, even though the competitive balance of power is not tipping as much, the elite of the NBA has greatly changed. Cleveland, Washington, Los Angeles (Clippers), Dallas, and San Antonio are among the NBA's elite, which would be unimaginable over twenty years ago.

Since there's a new elite, there are also more teams taking on different roles. The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers have officially been put at the back of the line for championships.

Kobe doesn't even want to be seen.

Pretty soon, the majority of LA is going to be painted in Clippers gear. And New York fans - such as the majority of East Coast fans - may jump ship and cheer for the Brooklyn Nets.

The 2014-2015 NBA season looks promising, but you never what new moves will occur between now and the Season Opener. Until then, we'll keep our eyes open and remain hopeful for an exciting season.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The McIlroy Wager

Gerry (left) and Rory McIlroy (right)

Imagine placing a wager on your child to win a golf championship (British Open) and beating the odds, 500-1.

Gerry McIlroy's imagination became a reality this past Sunday when his son, Rory, captured the British Open for his third major golf title.

In 2004 when Rory was only 15 years of age, Gerry placed a 200-pound ($340.71, in U.S. dollars) bet at 500-1 odds on his son to win the golf tournament within ten years. In addition, family friends placed bets in 2005 at 250-1 odds.

In addition to Rory's $1.66 million in prize money for winning the British Open by two strokes, Gerry McIlroy's friends pocketed over $80,000 apiece -- with Gerry earning close to $171k.

I'm sure this has been an unforgettable weekend for the McIlroy Family.

The victory moved McIlroy three-fourths of the way to golf’s modern career Grand Slam. He won the U.S. Open in 2011 and the PGA Championship in 2012 and now needs a victory at the Masters in Augusta, Ga., to become the sixth man to complete the feat.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fueling the I-45 Rivalry (Dallas vs. Houston)

Since the 2005 NBA Playoff Matchup with Dallas vs. Houston, this rivalry between the Mavericks and the Rockets has lost its sting over time. Tracy McGrady and Dirk Nowitzki would literally go shot-for-shot, and Yao Ming dominated every center the Mavs could offer. Those games always provided great entertainment.

Now, the on-court I-45 Rivalry may have a chance to (again) live up to its potential. To be honest, Dallas can only talk about the Spurs for so long. Come on, we've been complaining about the same group of guys (Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker) for over 10+ years now. And, quite frankly, it's time to move on and bash another team in our division.

With Houston's acquisition of small forward Trevor Ariza and Dallas's pivotal pick up, Chandler Parsons, the atmosphere of this rivalry has the potential to shake up the Western Conference. 

Get your popcorn ready.

What adds even more fuel to the fire is the fact that Chandler Parsons played a key role in Houston's playoff bid, but now he will join the lineup with Dirk and company to represent Big D.
I knew something was up when I heard Mavs owner Mark Cuban was showing Chandler Parsons around the city last week.

Furthermore, the Rockets' owner was reported to have texted Cuban about trading Dirk to Houston shortly afterward the Rockets picked up Dwight Howard in 2013. Hopefully, Mark Cuban did not take this as an insult. Or maybe he did.
Rivalries only thrive when the fan bases, teams, and offices have some friction on and off the court. After a decade of arguably meaningless, regular season games between the Mavs and Rockets, it looks like the two camps are bound to collide at some point very soon.
Remember how much fire and drive DeJuan Blair brought to the Mavericks in this year's playoff series against his former team (San Antonio Spurs)? Well, expect the same from Chandler Parsons and even more tension between the two as the days count down for one of the Western Conference's premier matchups.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Top 3 Teams on LeBron's Radar (Decision 2.0)

First, some housekeeping: LeBron James is not coming to Dallas. The Mavericks (and Mavs fans) know and accept this, and frankly, it is embarrassing that we even need to bring it up at all. Let’s just forget we even had this conversation.

Just four years ago, LeBron James sat in the same position: weighing his options on where would be the best fit for him to add more titles and awards to his legacy. Now, James has went to the NBA Finals four times straight with the Miami Heat - winning two NBA titles and rewriting history in the process.

And today we are in a similar situation, where LeBron's decision will dramatically impact NBA history.

When we take a moment to realize the influence of LeBron (and other NBA superstars) compared to the superstars of other major sports in America, there is no comparison to the impact of high profile, NBA free agents. Sidney Crosby (of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins) has never been available in this context. And neither baseball nor football players have amassed as much attention and impact in their respective leagues.

Maybe the top-5 College Football recruits in America can arguably rank with LeBron's decision attention (just a thought).

It's difficult to know what will drive LeBron's motivation for choosing a team this time around. However, if winning titles remains priority No. 1, then the first thing LeBron will look at is the shape of the roster.

Here are the three most likely landing spots for James this summer.

1. Miami Heat

Miami presents itself as the frontrunner of James' choices. At one point in time, LeBron actually wanted to play with the Heat. Now, those feelings may come back to keep his feet planted in South Beach.

There are just too many luxuries that James would walk away from:
  • Pat Riley's prowess in merging together three superstars for something even bigger than themselves
  • Head Coach Erik Spoelstra's ability to handle different personalities in the locker room, all the while coaching his team to two championships
  • Dwyane Wade's and Chris Bosh's support as the Big Three were continually subjected to criticism after building a "super team"
    • These guys (Wade and Bosh) even helped James become a champion
  • Veteran role players, Ray Allen and Chris Anderson taking less money in Miami for desired NBA titles
LeBron knows the Heat's system and how it (almost) certainly ensures a trip to the NBA Finals each year. In addition, James' game has also found its way to properly mesh with Wade's and Bosh's game.

Due to Wade and Bosh also opting out of their contracts, there are many unknowns as to where the Big Three will land - most likely going on their separate journeys if LeBron leaves Miami.

I believe the most likely option that will occur is LeBron returning to the Heat roster, but on shorter terms.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

You know, I may be one of the only few people (next to Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert and the LeBron-supporters of Cleveland) to actually think that LeBron James will return to Cleveland. And I'm okay with joining those ranks.

LeBron's decision has put the city of Cleveland through enough turmoil, and even Mike Brown has suffered! Only Brown can get fired from a job with the same team twice (Cleveland Cavaliers).

But now, Cleveland seems off to a fresh start and has the necessary tools to lure LeBron back to his home-state.

Let's be honest for a moment.

It's the only place he can play his home games a quick drive from his hometown of Akron, where his heart lies. It's a story that writes itself with James - the one-time villain - returning home and trying to lead the city to its first title in 50 years.

Kyrie Irving
It's also the only team that can offer a 22-year-old running mate named Kyrie Irving, who is a two-time All-Star, and player that extends LeBron's championship window. Irving's presence alone gives James a better supporting cast than what he had in Cleveland the first time around.

In addition to a possible trade for Kevin Love, the Cavaliers present their roster in a better situation than the supporting cast in Miami. Without the Kevin Love trade, the Cavs may not make the No. 1 spot on LeBron's decision list. And there may continue to be some bad blood between LeBron and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert (Gilbert's open letter).

But, we'll see if LeBron can forget about the past and begin a new start in Cleveland.

3. Chicago Bulls

LeBron playing in the shadow of Michael Jordan's legacy with the Bulls is probably not the most appealing.

However, the roster in the Windy City sets up for James to compete for championships. He would get to stay in the Eastern Conference where the road to the Finals is currently less bumpy. Plus, Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has shown his expertise as a coach.

And teaming with Derrick Rose, who was the NBA's MVP before injuries robbed him of all but 10 games during the last two seasons, and Joakim Noah, who is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, makes for a strong new Big Three.

Currently, Chicago presents itself as a stable place for James. The only obstacle to overcome is the notion of Chicago's surrounding cast to allow LeBron be LeBron.

Honorable Mentions:
Los Angeles Clippers

Like the other teams on the list, there are some problems with Los Angeles. The first issue is ownership. The future of the franchise is still a bit cloudy after Donald Sterling was kicked out of the league for life. The confusion around that could be an issue, something unlikely to be figured out prior to his decision.

L.A. Clippers' Big Three
Jordan, Paul, and Griffin

The Clippers would also have to clear a lot of salary to make room for LeBron's possible $22 million. That would mean trading promising young center DeAndre Jordan as well as other pieces such as second-unit sparkplug Jamal Crawford and perhaps even sharpshooter J.J. Redick.
That would be a lot of work in a short amount of time or it would be a sign-and-trade for LeBron, which could also be a challenge. Also, going through the brutal Western Conference just to get to the postseason might not be very appealing.
The draw to L.A. is simple. Not only is Chris Paul one of James' best friends, but also James, Paul and Blake Griffin would create an incredible trio. With Doc Rivers as head coach, someone James respects, the Clippers would likely be the new favorite to win the West, and there would be a level of trust there.

Phoenix Suns

Do you think LeBron is really relaxing in South Beach thinking, "It would be quite a treat to play with the Morris twins or Alex Len?"

LeBron James (left) and Carmelo Anthony (right)

Me neither.
The draw to Phoenix, besides great weather and cactus, is the idea that it has room and flexibility to create a LeBron-Carmelo Anthony tandem, similar to what Miami did in 2010 when LeBron was looking for a place to play with his other buddies, Wade and Bosh.
It's a complete long shot, but relationships seem to matter to James and he and Anthony are close.

Oh, and James' agent, Rich Paul, represents another Phoenix player already, Eric Bledsoe. That means Paul knows the organization pretty well.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

You're Kidding, Right?

Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach Jason Kidd

For those who may have not followed along with Jason Kidd's timeline after his NBA-playing days, here's a quick rundown:

  • Retired from the New York Knicks in 2012-2013 NBA Season
  • Hired as the Head Coach of the Brooklyn Nets for 2013-2014 NBA Season
  • Earned a Playoff Bid for the Brooklyn Nets at the 6th spot (finishing over .500)
  • Traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for coaching duties
    • In exchange for two Milwaukee draft picks to Brooklyn (Kidd was traded for 2 Bucks, literally)
As you can see, Kidd is a fairly new coach to all. But more importantly, what has the NBA buzzing is his recent stint:

- wanting more power in the Nets' franchise (overseeing basketball operations) -
There are only four coaches who are afforded this luxury, which are San Antonio's Greg Popovich, Minnesota's Flip Saunders, Los Angeles Clipper's Doc Rivers, and Detroit's Flip Saunders. All four of these guys have paid their dues.
As for Jason Kidd paying dues, I don't think so. What does he know, he's just a Kidd.
After one year of mediocre success (I'm not even sure if success is good to use), Kidd's ego may have inflated to the point of actually believing that Brooklyn's, let alone ANY, general manager would be willing to give Kidd more power than himself.
There can be a number of motives for Kidd to want more power in the Nets franchise, but I'll focus on a possible issue of jealousy due to other player-to-coach scenarios throughout the League.
Former NBA Guards Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher were awarded the vacant head coaching positions for the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks, respectively. This may have something to do with Kidd's "one-up" mentality for willing himself to go and ask the Nets' GM for a promotion.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and
Milwaukee's Jabari Parker
Seriously, this is not the best way to get tapped to a higher position; especially when you're asking your boss for you to possess more power than him/her.
Now, Kidd is on his way to Milwaukee to shape up a next generation of ballplayers. This new job looks promising, since the Bucks have drafted Jabari Parker (see image); but, Jason Kidd will have his work cut out for himself.

Maybe this will be a good experience for Kidd to step away from the Big Apple and be able to put together a real coaching resume.

*Just to go off topic, I'm glad the Dallas Mavericks picked up Tyson Chandler (Raymond Felton, too...I guess). This will serve as a decent consolation prize, even if the Mavericks fail to pick up Carmelo Anthony.
I am really looking forward to seeing the chemistry between Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler, and Dirk Nowitzki. This may be a 60-win season in the works.
Welcome back, Tyson.

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