REDCHAIR; Sports Editor
West (Predicted December 2011)/ Actual
1) Thunder – Spurs 50-16
2) Mavericks – Thunder 47-19
3) Spurs – Lakers 41-25
4) Clippers – Grizzlies 41-25
5) Lakers – Clippers 40-26
6) Grizzlies – Nuggets 38-28
7) Blazers – Mavericks 36-30
8) Warriors – Jazz 36-30
(Finals: Heat & Thunder. Heat win in 6)
Although I wasn’t as successful as with the western conference I still think I did pretty well. The Clippers were the ones who splashed in the offseason with Paul and Billups but no one was sure how well they’d do. I had them at #4 and they’re really only two games away from being that. If Billups didn’t get hurt they could have possibly been a #3 which would have helped them this year in my opinion. Jazz barely squeaked in. They have young talent but they’re not ready.
1 Spurs vs. 8 Jazz – As I just stated the Jazz have young talent and the Spurs have older talent with some younger parts off the bench. Spurs somehow managed to tie for the best record in the NBA. Personally the Spurs bore me. I will not watch this series and unless the Jazz get lucky or Manu breaks something again the Spurs will advance.
2. Thunder vs. 7 Mavericks – The Thunder have a very similar roster as last season where the Mavericks seem a lot different. Mavericks lost two key guys like Chandler and J.J. Barea that helped a lot last season. The Mavericks got by because of Dirk’s big time shots. Age has really gotten to this team. Dropping from one of the top seeds all the way to #7 has showed this. They need to learn from the Spurs coach how to maintain. Thunder are just too good with Durant and Westbrook. These guys won’t be stopped in this series. Thunder also will feel like they have something to prove since the Mavericks are who beat them last year.
3. Lakers vs. 6 Nuggets – Somehow the Nuggets win games without having any big elite players. They are just a good solid team. That’s about all I can say about them. I like Afflalo but Lakers adding Sessions and Kobe keeping himself healthy and rested for the playoffs is all the Lakers need with the duo of bigs they have. Lakers will advance and Kobe will hit big shots anytime he needs to.
4. Grizzlies vs. 5 Clippers – This could be a fun series to watch. I like the guys on both teams. I think “Lob City” is going to be in trouble when they have to slow down and run sets. I think Paul can carry the team at times but Billups needed to be there for big shot for them to go deeper. I like the Grizzlies and I think they showed a lot of people how good they were last year without their best player in Rudy Gay. I think the Grizzlies advance in a lot of close games.
1 Spurs vs. 4 Grizzlies – Upset alert! Rankings wise this is really the only upset I have for your guys. The Spurs are good and have depth but in the playoffs the key players play more minutes and I feel like the Spurs will wear down. I also think this is the year that Mark Gasol shows he’s now the better Gasol brother in the NBA. He will be huge. I think Randolph will be back in shape after his injury enough to contribute. Gay will have a great series and Conley and Mayo will continue to do their thing and win games.
2 Thunder vs. 3 Lakers – This shit just got personal. Metta World Peace will be back after his suspension and hopefully Harden will be back to playing 100% after suffering a concussion. You have the top two scorers in the league going at it. Ibaka and Perkins are going to have to have a good defensive series against Gasol and Bynum. Before the Lakers traded for Sessions I figured the point guard position would be the downfall for the Lakers. He is a great improvement over what they had. I think the Thunder are determined to be in the finals or the season will be a bust. The depth of the Thunder and youth will outlast the Lakers. Expect a game or two where Kobe & Durant get the chance for a last second shot.
2 Thunder vs. 4 Grizzlies – The funny thing is this was probably one of the hardest series for the Thunder last year. I think they competed with the Mavericks better but not being able to close games and Dirk hitting big shots is why they lose. The Thunder and Grizzlies match-up really well against one another. Now the Grizzlies have Rudy Gay this series and could be a huge upset here. I’m not going to say that though. I believe last season the biggest flaws of the Thunder was their half court offense and their maturity to close at the end of games. I think they have fixed these problems and with the addition of signing Fisher brings great experience and also allows Westbrook to play some SG for the entire playoffs. I would love to see when Thunder go small with Fisher, Westbrook, Harden, Durant, and Ibaka/Collison. I think this series will go 6 or 7 but the Thunder will come out victorious to face the Heat in the finals.
REDCHAIR: Sports Editor
Prediction – December 2011/ Actual
1) Heat – Bulls 50-16
2) Bulls – Heat 46-20
3) Celtics – Pacers 42-24
4) Knicks – Celtics 39-27
5) Magic – Hawks 40-26
6) Hawks – Magic 37-29
7) Pacers – Knicks 36-30
8) 76ers – 76ers 35-31
(Finals: Heat & Thunder. Heat win in 6 Dec. 24, 2011)I will admit I’m not a huge regular season NBA fan. I enjoy watching games but as I’ve said for the last several years nothing matters until the playoffs begin. Once the playoffs begin I love it. It’s like the start of summer for me. Kobe and D Rose sitting on the bench to rest up for the playoffs helps prove my point that the regular season doesn’t matter. I managed to pick 14 of the 16 teams that are going to the playoffs and pretty close to their actual positioning so even if you’re not impressed with it I’m impressed with it and that’s all that counts!
Anyways the NBA playoffs begins Saturday so with the bracket set up this is who I believe will move on and who will be sent home early.
1 Bulls vs. 8 76ers – Although the 76ers started off playing really great basketball this season they have slowly regressed. They traded away one of their key bench players and now they just haven’t been clicking. Do I think they’ll show signs of it and make this is a fun series to watch? Yes I do. In the end the Bulls defense with D. Rose playing every game, whether he’s completely healthy or not, is enough for the Bulls to advance past the 76ers.
2. Heat vs. 7 Knicks – The Knicks have been an interesting team this season to say the least. The craze of Linsanity and Carmelo playing probably his beast basketball he’s ever played makes this a must see series to watch. Stoudemire and Carmelo are both healthy going into the playoffs and the Knicks have good young players coming off the bench that can make a difference. I like Shumpert as a defender a lot and I think Fields doesn’t get enough credit. Novak is a great off the bench shooter who can give you points in bunches and J.R. Smith is also a great guy who can contribute and light a spark. Chandler will be there and I think he will neutralize Bosh in the paint during this series. If there is a major upset waiting to happen it could be this. The Heat haven’t been playing well rolling into the playoffs. As much as I do believe that the Knicks are better than a #7 seed I can’t help but stick with my early prediction and say the Heat will beat out the Knicks in this series. It will go seven games, or five, I can never remember if the first round is winning 3 games or 4 games.
3. Pacers vs. 6 Magic – This is an easy series for me to pick. Even though I never expected the Pacers to be good enough as a #3 seed I do know they have some nice pieces on their team even if I don’t consider any of them elite. The Magic won’t have Howard to my understanding with a back injury and that’s all I need to know that the Pacers will advance. Too much depth and Granger will probably go off for a few games.
4. Celtics vs. 5 Hawks – The criticism of the Celtics is always they’re getting old but I think Coach Rivers has done a great job with this team as they’ve aged. He’s changed up the roles of the team. He takes Garnett out early with the first squad and let’s him play with the second unit a lot more and be the go-to guy when Pierce and Allen are resting on the bench. The Hawks have talent I’ll give them that. I just don’t feel like they have that one player who can step up and get them over the hump in crunch situations. When they were getting by last season they relied on their sixth man Crawford for some big three pointers. I love the Celtics Bradley and Pietrus for their quickness and defensive ability. I think they’ll be big in this series and do the things the average fan doesn’t notice.
1. Bulls vs. 4 Celtics – Another good matchup and series that I will enjoy watching. As much as I do like giving Bulls fans shit, I do like the Bulls and I like to see them do well. It’s just I don’t want them to do better than my Thunder but I’m getting off topic. Derrick Rose vs. the combo of Rondo/Bradley will be a great matchup to watch. I think the Bulls youth along with their depth (Korver, Asik, Gibson, and Brewer) will be the difference. Bulls preach defense and they live it. Deng has had a great year and I think has really come into his own when Rose was injured and someone had to step up. One of my biggest problems with the Bulls last year was Boozer but he even seems to be playing better. The only worry I have in this series is that Rose has taken too much time off and isn’t his self and makes some key turnovers or he reinjures himself and the Celtics are able to take advantage. If Rose stays healthy the Bulls will advance to the Easter Conference finals.
3. Pacers vs. 2 Heat – If the Heat plays defense like I know they can and have shown I don’t think this series will be too hard for them. Granger is the only scorer to worry about and LeBron can neutralize him. I like Paul George in this series if he guard Wade. I just think the quickness of the Heat attacking a slow Hibbert will get the Pacers bigs in foul trouble and the Heat will just keep attacking the rim and win the series at the foul line. See you in the Eastern Conference finals Miami Heat.
1. Bulls vs. Heat – Oh the long awaited rematch. Small things have changed since last season but they are good improvements. Last season the Heat lacked depth and Wade and LeBron seemed to wear down a lot late in games. The Bulls didn’t have that other guy at shooting guard who could make big shots. The bulls went out and picked up Rip Hamilton who, although an aging veteran, has proved himself in the playoffs. The Heat added depth that they needed. Haslem came back for a full season. They drafted Norris Cole who is a spark and can spark the second unit on office and run the offense when LeBron and Wade are on the bench. They also added Battier who is a proven veteran and is a guy that can shutdown key players on the defensive end. He’s a guy that does things that don’t show up on the stat sheets. D Rose will be banged up by this series and I don’t see Hamilton being a big enough factor in this series. Deng will do a good job but he will mostly be guarded by LeBron and he will be marginalized. I think the Heat made enough additions that they will still advance to the NBA Finals.
BY REDCHAIR; Sports Editor
A hot item to be discussed right now is college football and how the sport goes on to picking the national champion for the year. Right now the current system has a bowl game system and the top two ranked teams in the poll go on to face each other in the BCS Championship game. A lot of scrutiny often goes into the rankings and the choosing of the teams that get to play in the bowl games. The simple solution is to have tournament playoffs like the professionals or even just like college basketball does. The amount of teams to be in the tournament is up for discussion. The important people in collegiate athletics are sitting down and discussing all options now that this college football season is over. After what were two elite teams but a boring game of field goals from the same conference a lot of fans were turned off by this season’s finale.
The idea that fans want a 16-team playoff system is simply unrealistic. A 16-team playoff would add four more weeks of games to the schedule. While we don’t see this as a problem as a fan it’s a problem for the student-athletes, who aren’t getting paid, and for the administrators. With the unpredictability of advancing or not even making the tournament the idea of scheduling buses, hotels, practice field times and places, fan travel, and all other small things are going to be incredibly difficult and stressful. The bowl games are great because they have key sponsors and plenty of time to work out the scheduling for both school programs. They allow for all the bowl games to sell out because the fans have time to figure out their travel schedules as well. While a playoff system if probably the easiest way to settle things on the field it is not easiest to plan everything else leading up to it.
There a lot more that goes into bowl games and how winners and conferences get bonuses for winning and for making it to bowl games but that’s a whole different article. The best solution in my eyes is what’s called the “Plus 1 System.” The Plus 1 System is basically mini playoffs. It takes the bowl game winner of the #1 and #2 seed and has a game between the bowl game winner of the #3 and #4 seeds. For this season we would have a game between Alabama and Oklahoma State to determine who the real national champion is. These two teams were the #2 and #3 seeds before the bowl games were determined and Oklahoma State nearly missed out on being in the BCS Championship Game. This would also work because it is only one more week of games and could open up for another bowl game sponsorship. By doing this it would bring in even more money and make fans happy. It would be easy to schedule, and it’s the easiest step to adjusting to what they currently have.
Another problem with the playoff system is that it makes the regular season not as important. The games aren’t as intense as it currently is. Right now if a major program has an upset or key loss their shot at the BCS game and a top 2 ranking are in jeopardy. With the playoff system the teams just have to do enough to get in and the regular season loses the excitement. If they want to adapt the version of a Plus 1 System make the #1 and #2 teams get a bye and that way it includes the top six teams in the country. The regular season would mean something and I believe no one would argue that the top six are the best teams out there. This would then add two extra bowl games. The first step to any changes and the most realistic option is the Plus 1 System. They need to add one extra bowl game and have a national champion that we all believe is truly number 1.
BY REDCHAIR; Sports Editor
The Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow need to win now. They need to find another unique way to beat the Patriots and advance. The fact that they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers is not that surprising. The Steelers did not have their starting running back for the regular season. They had a hobbled quarterback and the field general on defense, Ryan Clark ,was not available to play with a sickle cell trait that would leave him susceptible at such a high altitude of pressure. Was it not ironic that a blown coverage by the safety and corner back is the reason the Steelers lost?
Tim Tebow has been a great story for the National Football League (NFL). He has brought people who were not fans into the sport. He drew more attention for the semi-interested sports fans, and he gave even the hardcore fans something to critique and judge. NFL public relations personnel love Tebow. He has the wholesome package of a what the ideal person should be. Good natured church goer who says all the right things and thanks God in his interviews. He helps the image of the NFL player and not everyone being a steroid popping womanizer. The football analyst are split about 50/50 on him. Tebow is different. He does not have the normal size of a quarterback. He does not have quarterback mechanics either, but somehow he does enough to win games. Analyst love the stories but those who are not on the Tebow bandwagon often get their foot placed in their mouths about Tebow. Fans are often the same way with Tebow and are split right down the middle.
Now who deserves credit for the significance of Tebow? How do the Broncos win games? The Broncos win games by solid defense and running the ball. John Fox, the coach, has not received enough credit for all the work he has done. He has created an offense where Tebow can succeed. He has basically created a half college offense with a half pro style offense that keeps defenses guessing. He uses options and allows him to throw out of the shotgun. The pass plays they use are often middle to deep routes and with the size of Tebow if there are no receivers that are open he has enough space to run for yards. Tebow is the size of a linebacker. Arm tackles that normally can take down a quarterback do not work on Tebow. But the reason Tebow needs to win now is simple. An off-season of film and study of Tebow is going to hurt his game significantly. Remember the wildcat offense? It was great and unstoppable for about a season and a half. Then the teams figured it out and even those that didn’t copied those who had and now the wildcat offense is extinct.
Tebow needs to win now because the NFL has become the league of passing. With passing records being broken by quarterbacks this season and past most valuable player (MVP) awards who were quarterbacks wouldn’t be in the top three this season when it comes to quarterback numbers. The elite teams in the playoffs all have elite quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and even to a lesser Eli Manning are all the favorite team in the playoffs because even when their defenses struggle they are such good passers and game callers that they can score on every play they touch the ball. They all have won a championship as well. Tebow completes about half of his throws if he’s lucky. He is not an elite quarterback by any means. He is an athlete playing quarterback. If Tebow doesn’t get to the Superbowl this season the front office and John Elway have no problems drafting a new possible franchise quarterback. Tebow has done his best to get into the playoffs and advance so far but if he does not perform well or get his team to the Superbowl I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s holding a clipboard by 2013.
BY REDCHAIR; Sports Editor
For those of you who do not know Russell Westbrook, he is an emerging basketball star for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is the starting point guard who was very much criticized for his play in the western conference playoffs. The biggest issue with Westbrook could be considered his head. At times he can get out of control and have high turnover numbers and shoot the ball as many times as his fellow all-star teammate Kevin Durant. He also has his own “Why Not” theory that he has on his wristbands and promotes on twitter with his #WhyNotWednesdays. I by no means disagree with his theory. As soon as you think you can’t do something you are already limiting what you can do. I love his why not ideology and even though certain coaches believe you need to play within yourself and play within the team philosophy Russell Westbrook is such an explosive and athletically gifted specimen that he might not have any limits. He can get to the rim almost anytime he wants to and either score or draw a foul. He can also create his own shot whenever he wants.
As a player who was drafted in 2008 out of UCLA he has incredible talent but is still a maturing talent. He played the shooting guard role and is still learning to be a point guard. With all the attention that Russell Westbrook has gotten, with the media and fans finally getting to see him play in the western conference finals, and them labeling him as reckless and a ball hog I couldn’t help but taking a different look at the situation as a Thunder fan. Westbrook is a beautiful distraction to a possible bigger issue. What is the biggest issue with LeBron James right now? That he doesn’t show up in big games, he plays timid, he doesn’t have that killer instinct. If Durant didn’t have Westbrook taking all the criticism for all the Thunder losses Kevin Durant would be in the same situation as LeBron. Durant has games where he looks amazing and he has that killer instinct. He takes it to the hole and draws fouls and is almost automatic at the free throw line. The games where the offense is stagnant and Durant isn’t driving and settles for three-point shots the Thunder are in trouble.
The Thunder’s offense does not have a low post game at all. Not even Durant at 6’10”. If Durant, Harden, Manor, and Cook aren’t knocking down their shots and Perkins and Ibaka aren’t getting cheap put back points the only play-makers the Thunder have are Westbrook and Harden. Harden is a good shooter and is more suited for a pick and roll motion type of offense which works well with the players around him but if they can’t hit shots it’s useless. Enter Westbrook, a player who drives to the lane with almost a reckless abandonment style and can get to the rim any time he wants. At 6’3” he is normally faster, taller, and stronger than whoever is guarding him. He’s fearless when he takes it to the hole. He isn’t afraid of contact. He absorbs it. He’s a great free throw shooter and isn’t afraid of getting fouled. Westbrook has the killer instinct. He just isn’t in the position where it’s acceptable to have it. When you’re on a team with the multiple time scoring champion I guess you’re only allowed to play side kick and facilitate the ball. There’s no room to be partners in crime. When the media tried to inflate the situation by asking if Durant had a problem with Westbrook’s shot selection and quantity Durant basically said he loves Westbrook as a teammate and encourages him to play his game.
So when it comes to all of the attention that surrounds Russell Westbrook and the type of player he is I can only think what Durant is thinking. Durant doesn’t want the ball in his hands all the time and having to create his own shots. He wants to curl on a screen and shoot three pointers. He wants to slash without the ball. Westbrook is a great compliment to his game as he always has that killer instinct when the pressure might be getting to Durant in key games and he becomes timid if his shots aren’t falling. Why not Westbrook? You’re telling me Westbrook can’t take over a game? Why not? Over the off-season Westbrook trained with the same trainer Derrick Rose used before his MVP season. Westbrook focused on improving his jumper that had a slight lean. He believes that has been corrected. He also focused on a low-post game as he is one of the bigger point guards in the game today. A floater has also been added to his arsenal of weapons increasing his percentages within five feet when he drives and doesn’t get the fouls called. Even though realistically it’s hard to say that Westbrook will win a MVP anytime soon with Durant being on the same team it’s still possible. He did post pretty similar numbers to Rose last season. Why not a future MVP? Why not a future NBA champion? I guess only time will tell but expect an even better season for Russell Westbrook in his 4th season.
BY REDCHAIR; Sports Editor
“Tis the season” you might hear a lot of people say around Christmas time. But what I say is tis the season for sports lovers. This is the period of time that sports fans enjoy being fans and amateur critics. Right now we have the end of the regular season in the National Football League (NFL). Fantasy sports fan know its playoff time and how their week goes depends on how their players play. For the normal fans this is the time of the year where you’re fighting to make it to the playoffs. The best is being brought out of each team in the last few weeks for that opportunity to win a championship. Can Tebow continue to will his team to victory week after week and get into the playoffs? Will the Packers rest their players week 17 against the Lions now with no chance at perfection? Who finishes with the worst record with the chance to draft highly touted prospect Andrew Luck?
Major League Baseball (MLB) is having their offseason where we get to wake up each morning with excitement of a new signings and trades to help our team improve upon last season. We get to see signings we thought wouldn’t happen, ala Albert Pujols going to the Los Angeles Angels, and get to judge whether the trades that are pulled off such as Matt Latos coming to Cincinnati and wondering if the Reds gave up too much to get him. Does signing Carlos Beltran improve the Cardinals chances at repeating or does signing Yu Darvish make the Rangers a lock straight to the World Series for the third season in a row? Does YouTube sensation Yoenis Cespedes sign with the Yankees? How will the Marlins do with their new expensive budget and new stadium?
Normally we have been about two months into the National Basketball Association (NBA) and are starting to see what teams are for real and what teams simply can’t put their pieces together and need to start looking for trades. Even right now with the NBA starting their season on Christmas we are all excited to see the new look teams with a fast and furious offseason of acquisitions. Chris Paul did end in Los Angeles but he’s wearing a Clippers Jersey. Are the Mavericks going to repeat? Can the Heat finally come through in the clutch or did the Bulls picking up Rip Hamilton pick up the edge to triumph over the hated Heat. Can the young teams of Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzles continue to improve and possibly surpass the aging Mavericks?
I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not the biggest hockey fan. I do enjoy going to games and I enjoy staying informed when the playoffs begin but even the National Hockey League has been exciting to that fan base with the season being halfway through. The Chicago Blackhawks are back to being in first place in their division after a disappointing season last year. College basketball is off and running and college football has bowl games going on around us. The bigger bowl games will be here before we know it. Will the LSU vs. Alabama turn into more of an offensive game compared to their first battle? Which NFL prospects will shine brighter in the Stanford vs. Oklahoma State Tostitos Bowl?
So while the majority of the world are enjoying unwrapping their Christmas presents and getting ready for their New Year’s Eve parties the sports fans of the world are keeping their phones in their hands and their wandering eyes on the television. Instead of playing their new Call of Duty game they’re watching the great matchups on Christmas day. Instead of getting “chocolate wasted” on New Year’s Eve they’re making sure all their fan fanatics attention span is ready for the major bowl games starting on January 2nd and on. Tailgating is their time party. Other fans have their phones blowing up with twitter following all the new plot twists and turns on MLB acquisitions. Whatever sport is your passion or whatever combination of sports gets your juices going this is definitely one of the best times of the year for sports. Now all we have to do is sit back and let all the different stories unfold and simply go along for the ride and enjoy it.