Monthly Archives: July 2013

How to Fix: College Basketball

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Michigan and Louisville treated fans to an instant classic.

Five Months ago the Louisville Cardinals won a thrilling National Championship game over the Michigan Wolverines 82 to 76. There was the rarity of seven players reached double figures, including a 20 point scorer on both teams. Each team hit 8 three pointers while shooting 52 and 46 percent from their floor; a shootout by college basketball standards. The game also featured several future NBA draft picks, up tempo play similar to the pro game and several highlights that will be shown on future broadcast. The game also showed what college basketball could and should be. College basketball is great from mid March to early April, but something needs to change to make it just as exciting from midnight madness in late October until selection Sunday in early March.

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According to Ken Pomeroy, a college badketball statistician who runs kenpom.com, NCAA teams are scoring at an average of only 68.13 points per game. There are several factors contributing to this result, including defense, tightly called games by officials and a defection of top players year after year to the NBA. What follows are my suggestions to help increase scoring as well as interest in the college game in the months leading up to the madness of the NCAA Tournament.

The college game is slow, not because of the lack of athleticism but because of time constraints such as the shot clock.

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Trim the shot clock.

The NCAA needs to consider minimizing the shot clock from 35 seconds and adopting the NBA timer of 24 seconds. This will create more possessions, which will increase scoring. It will also cause ball handlers to push the ball up court – instead of walking – and get teams into their plays sooner before turning it over on a violation. If they don’t want to completely go the NBA route, cutting the shot clock down to 30 seconds would still create a handful more possessions.

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Jump ball ties up should lead to jump balls. Not possession arrows.

Next, get rid of the jump ball possession arrow. ESPN Analyst Dick Vitale has been calling for this for years. It won’t help with scoring, but the jump ball tie up has screwed a few teams late in games and taken the air out of the building. It is even being used as strategy. When I played in college, coaches would tell us to purposely go for a tie up when the possession arrow was in our favor. Coaches do this now today, hence we have players with quick hands like Ohio State’s defensive standout Aaron Craft who reach in while playing defense to create a tie up and get the ball back via a jump ball.

Another NBA rule the college game should adopt is six personal fouls before disqualification. Due to the current five foul limit, coaches have to take key players out early to protect them. This causes a change in game plan and coaches tend to get more conservative. Adding another foul, would allow coaches the opportunity to take a gamble and stick with their original plan.

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Finally, change the limit on the bonus. Right now it is at six and all fouls including non shooting fouls count towards it. Once a team hits the limit, the game becomes a free throw shooting contest. I don’t blame officials for this, because I truly believe for the most part, they’re calling the games correct. The only reason you see so fewer fouls called in the NBA is because lesser name players get less benefits than the stars. How many times have you heard a commentator say “he doesn’t have enough stripes to get that call?” or “that star player got away with that on reputation.” That’s where the NCAA game has a leg up on the pros. But increasing the foul limit will keep the game at a steady pace while the officials continue to call it tight.

College basketball is more exciting to watch because of what’s at stake every game when it comes to seeding for the Conference and NCAA Tournaments. But it needs tweaking in order to fully maximize its potential as one of America’s top draws all season long. Now that I’ve solved college basketball’s problems, I’ll turn my attention to fixing college football and the BCS/playoff system. It could be awhile before I finish that project.

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Potential

Potential is defined as having possibility, capability or power. Potential is an ugly word to many people now days, because in subtext it means there’s plenty of work ahead. In this credit card/PayPal society we live in, so many believe they should get what they want now and earn it along the way. You could say that mentality is the problem with our World as it stands/spins.

One of my high school football coaches used to say to the good players on the team, “you have a lot of potential” after we’d make good plays on the field. I remember him saying it to me on several occasions and then I’d beam with pride and gush at the same time. Then, just as he saw our reactions he would shout “that means you haven’t done anything yet!” The smiles would fade like a sunset on a fall afternoon. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve spoken to that coach, but if he were standing in front of me right now I’d tell him he was 100 percent right.

I now look at potential as a trust fund. Often times parents set them up for their children in hopes that one day they’ll earn what they set aside for them. In order to earn the trust fund, the child has to meet several requirements in order to cash in. Some requirements are to reach a certain age, earn a college degree or avoid certain legal troubles, things like that. Potential is similar. You must meet several requirements in order to reach the level your potential is set for. Many of you have the potential to be Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, News Personalities, Professional Athletes and so on. In order to become those titles, you must fulfill requirements in school with the appropriate education or training. You can’t become a doctor, lawyer or news personality without several years of schooling and then gaining valuable on the job experience in the form of internships and entry level positions.

The reason why I speak on this is because I know several people with potential to do great things, but don’t work at it and expect everything to be handed to them.

We all have potential to do something great and should relish when we are told we have it. Whenever anyone told me I had potential, whether it was when I played sports or in my writing, it only made me work that much harder to fulfill my God given potential.

2013 NFL Storylines to Watch

By weeks end, all 32 NFL teams will be back on the field in pursuit of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. With the anticipation mounting and the regular season still seven weeks away, here are the top storylines to ponder as you wait for kickoff.

Is This The Beginning Of The Demise Of The New England Patriots?

Courtesy: NOLA.com

Tom Brady has lost two of his top three targets from last season. Aaron Hernandez is in jail awaiting trial after being indicted on murder charges, Wes Welker is now one of Brady’s rival’s (Peyton Manning) key threats with the Denver Broncos. Don’t forget his top target Rob Gronkowski is on the mend from a broken forearm that has been broken twice and back surgery. Lastly, the entire organization seems to be underfire again after Hernandez’s legal troubles, as well as cornerback Alfonzo Dennard’s DUI arrest.

So who are the Patriots? We will learn this season. This will likely be the most scrutinized and challenging season since Spygate and the 2008 season when Brady tore up his knee on the first play of the season. However, until another team defeats them for the AFC East title they’ll always be the favorite, but their reign may end soon with the moves the Miami Dolphins have made bringing in wideout Mike Wallace from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe from the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. Can the Pats use some Tebow magic? I can’t believe I just said that, I won’t go there.

Will RG III, Be RG III?

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Sophomore slump isn’t even the biggest concern for last season’s Rookie of The Year. Coming off a gruesome knee injury in the NFC Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks, where both his ACL and LCL needed surgery in the offseason, many are wondering if Robert Griffin will make an Adrian Peterson comeback or be like other mere mortals who have taken close to a full year to return to form.

The NFC West, The NFC’s Best?

Courtesy: devianART.com

There was a time recently when this division was known by many as the NFC worst. The San Francisco 49ers will begin their season with Quarterback Colin Kaepernick having his first full training camp as the starter. The reigning NFC Champions are all in for not only a return to the Super Bowl, but winning it all. Shortly after losing to the Baltimore Ravens, they traded for wide receiver Anquan Boldin from the reigning Champs. At the time it was seen as just a shrewed move for insurance purposes, but after the leading receiver Michael Crabtree blew his ACL in the offseason, the Boldin move is now even more important. If they have any shot of getting to Super Bowl 48 in New York, Boldin will have to be Kaepernick’s go to guy like he was for Joe Flacco.

The Seattle Seahawks are much improved as well, adding triple threat wide receiver Percy Harvin to their arsenal after making a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Quarterback Russell Wilson will come into the season with a full training camp as the starter after battling and beating out Matt Flynn last season. Wilson is expected to be better and lead an offense that is more high powered than last season’s when they surprisingly made it to the Divisional Playoff round.

The St. Louis Rams went 4-1-1 in the division. This will be their second year under Head Coach Jeff Fisher and are expected to be improved on offense, especially with the addition of do it all weapon Tavon Austin. The Rams will need to find an answer at running back after losing Stephen Jackson to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Arizona Cardinals shouldn’t be totally inept at the Quarterback position after bringing in former Pro Bowler Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders. Palmer should be able to jump start an offense that let their defense down after getting off to a 4-0 start in 2012. If he can regain any of his old form he had with the Cincinnati Bengals, he should be able to help wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald revitalize the offense.

The winner of this division could very well be the NFC representative in Super Bowl 48.

What Defending Champions?

Courtesy: Sports Illustrated/CNN

The Baltimore Ravens lost 9 starters from their Super Bowl winning team including Iconic leaders Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, as well as Danell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger; that’s just on defense. As mentioned previously, they traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to their Super Bowl 47 opponent. Can we really call them the defending champions?! The AFC North which is widely regarded as the best division in the NFL looks to be headed for a down year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost key Receiver Mike Wallace to the Miami Dolphins, former Defensive Player of The Year James Harrison now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals, also the Steelers top ranked Defense from a year ago is another year older which has been the knock on them for the past three seasons. Don’t be surprised if this division will have a throwback to the late 1980s and come down to the battle of Ohio for the title.

Will Matt Ryan And The Dirty Birds Fly North For The Winter?

Courtesy: Atlanta Journal Constitution.com

Matty Ice and the Atlanta Falcons were 30 minutes away from representing the NFC in Super Bowl 47 before they collapsed to the 49ers. The Falcons have talked Tony Gonzales into postponing his time on the Hall of Fame clock for enshrinement, to return for a 17th season and another shot at an elusive Super Bowl. Running back Stephen Jackson brings his 10,135 rushing yards from St. Louis to the ATL to help balance out one of the best aerial attacks in the NFL. After winning his first playoff game in 4 season, it all falls on Matt Ryan. Can he be like Joe Flacco and EARN his place on the list of NFL elite QBs?

Rookie Quarterbacks

There is no Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson in this class. There was only one QB taken in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL draft. After last season’s class rivaled the one of 2004 with Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, not many are expecting much from this group of signal callers. However, there will be plenty of intrigue from the group. Will Geno Smith end the Mark Sanchez era with the New York Jets? Will Buffalo’s EJ Mannuel justify being selected 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills? Most had him pegged as a third rounder, second rounder at best. If the Philadelphia Eagles struggle early in Head Coach Chip Kelly’s first season, will he pull Michael Vick and look to the future in Matt Barkley out of USC? Barkley was said to be headed towards being a #1 pick whenever he decided to leave So Cal before an injury and unexpected down senior season.

Dallas Cowboys

When is America’s team not a storyline? Tony Romo got paid this offseason to the tune of 6 years $108 million, $55 million guaranteed. The expectation is now he’ll have more of role in the offensive game plan. Jerry Jones raised eyebrows when he said Romo will have “Peyton Manning like” responsibilities. Can Romo in his 10th season, finally get over the hump and restore glory to one of the most glamorous positions in all of sports?

Records Are Made To Be Broken

Courtesy: NY Daily News

Last season Minnesota Vikings Running back Adrian Peterson did the unthinkable for everyone but him and returned from a gruesome knee injury at the end of the 2011 season to fall 9 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record in 2012. AP is on record as saying he wants to rush for 2,500 yards this season, which will shatter Dickerson’s record of 2,106.

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson overcame the EA Sports Madden cover jinx to break Jerry Rice’s single season receiving yards record that stood since 1988. Megatron is already predicting he’ll be the first to receive over 2,000 yards in a single season.

Good luck to both of them. Every Defensive coordinator will have 8 in the box against the Vikings and triple coverage against the Lions planned all season. Either way, i’ll be watching to see if they can come through on their predictions.

Ice Bowl, I Mean Super Bowl 48.

Courtesy: Football.ballparks.com

Most people are looking forward to the Super Bowl not because of who will be playing in it, but because of the elements the game could be played under. The big game will be played outside in a cold weather city for the first time when the AFC and NFC champions take the field in MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014. In 2013, the temperature in the New York, New Jersey area on was 19 degrees on the same day. Will 2014 bring the same? Will a successful game in Super Bowl 48 open doors for other cold weather cities with outdoor stadiums like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago or Philadelphia to get a Super Bowl in the future?

My Predictions

I reserve the right to change this after the preseason before the opening game of week one. I’m confident in these picks barring MAJOR injuries.

Regular Season Awards:

Most Valuable Player: Quarterback, Matt Ryan (ATL)

Rookie of The Year: Running back, Monte Ball (DEN)

Defensive Rookie of The Year: Linebacker, Jarvis Jones (PIT)

Defensive Player of The Year: Linebacker, DeMarcus Ware (DAL)

Coach of The Year: Pete Carroll (SEA)

Division Winners:

AFC East: Miami Dolphins

AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South: Houston Texans

AFC West: Denver Broncos

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

NFC North: Green Bay Packers

NFC South: Atlanta Falcons

NFC West: Seattle Seahawks

Conference Championship Games:

NFC: Atlanta Falcons Vs. Seattle Seahawks. Winner: Atlanta Falcons

AFC: Houston Texans Vs. Denver Broncos. Winner: Houston Texans

Super Bowl 48: Atlanta Falcons vs. Houston Texans; Champion: Atlanta Falcons

Getting Tony Gonzales to return and signing Stephen Jackson will keep the continuity of the most high powered offense in the NFL. This is what Matt Ryan needs in addition to getting the playoff monkey off his back to lead this team to its first Super Bowl title. 15 years after their first and only Super Bowl appearance, the Dirty Bird returns to dance at the 50 yard line in the New Meadowlands.

Ready for Football!

Seven weeks and counting. That’s how long until our gridiron heroes officially began the chase of bringing a Super Bowl Championship to its fans.

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Latrobe, PA; August 2012

The grass is freshly cut. The field is perfectly lined with white paint. The sun beams so brightly it feels like one hundred degrees. Sweat pours down the back of my neck, but the hair on my arms stands up like I’m standing at the bus stop in the cold on a cold winter’s day. But I’m not cold, I’m excited. Football season is here! By the end of this week, every NFL team will have opened their training camp for the 2013 season and my annual trek to Latrobe, Pennsylvania to see my Pittsburgh Steelers is on deck.

Troy Polamalu signing autographs, 2012

Troy Polamalu signing autographs, 2012

I look forward to this trip every year. it’s the one opportunity I have to get close to the players and coaches I root for every sunday from late august until hopefully early February. This is the highlight of the season for me because  it’s not easy or cheap to get a ticket to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh for a meaningful game.

At Sun Life Stadium, Oct. 2010

At Sun Life Stadium, Oct. 2010

Actually, I’ve only been to one Steelers regular season game. It was in mid October at Sun Life Stadium in Miami during the 2010 season, (A good season for fans of the Black and Gold as they went on to play in the Super Bowl at the end of the season) but I sat all the way in the nose bleeds. The picture above was taken during pre-game warm up, before I had to take my seats at the top of the stadium.

Hines Ward, 2007

Hines Ward, 2007

That’s why training camp is more fun and memorable than going to a game. I get to stand on the sidelines and watch cornerback Ike Taylor chase down wide receiver Antonio Brown on a post route and hear the trash talk between the two of them. On the other end of the field I can hear the legendary defensive coordinator Dick Labeau talk strategy with his prize pupil Troy Polamalu. Most importantly for me and other fans we get to bond with each other and our heroes while wishing them a great season we all hope will end with bring home the Lombardi Trophy for the seventh time in the team’s history.

With Coach Mike Tomlin, Aug. 2009

With Coach Mike Tomlin, Aug. 2009

Most professional sports should open up their training camps to fans like the NFL does. The closest is Major League Baseball when they hold their Spring Training in Florida and Arizona. If basketball and hockey would do the same, maybe they’d see their popularity grow. In the case of the NBA it’d be better to market more teams as opposed to just players, which has turned many fans away. In the NHL’s case it would just bring in more interest period. Training camp in the NFL just goes to show why football has become America’s game.

Here is a link of the dates in which all NFL teams will open up camp. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000215798/article/nfl-training-camp-schedule-with-dates-and-locations

Underrated and Unappreciated

“If Ben Roethlisberger’s last name was Manning; if he was majestic throwing the ball like Aaron Rodgers when he broke the pocket and had pretty boy looks like Tom Brady, he’d be recognized by all as a Top 5 quarterback in the NFL every season.”

Courtesy: zimbio.com

ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski has been counting down his list of the top 32 quarterbacks in the league headed into the 2013 season and when he hit #7; ironically or not, it was Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I disagree that there are four other QB’s better than the two-time Super Bowl Champion. Recently Roethlisberger said he wants to win more Super Bowl titles than former Steelers great Terry Bradshaw who has 4; Big Ben currently has 2 out of 3. With the way he is dismissed in the conversation of top NFL QB’s, winning 5 or even just one more is what it will take for him to gain his just do.

Courtesy: nflpassers.com

I have a theory on why #7 is so underrated and unappreciated. First, his game isn’t that attractive. He’s clunky in the pocket and often makes plays for his team after the designed play breaks down. These improvisations more often than not turn into big plays for the Steelers; the “quarterback purists” don’t like it because his style is sandlot and they don’t like that. Hardly do they ever give him credit for being athletic and agile because he doesn’t it do it like Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin the III, but it is his athleticism that allows him to play at such a high level every season and take the beating he does in the pocket when he decides to hold ball instead of throwing an interception.

Second, his off the field issues. There was the motorcycle accident after Super Bowl XL that almost cost him his life and career; there were the alleged sexual assault incidents in Georgia and Nevada that almost cost him a life of freedom and his career. I believe many don’t want to move pass that, even though he was never charged. In a way it is like Ray Lewis; till this day people still bring up his obstruction of justice charge from after Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta in 2000; even though he has gone on to prove he’s a changed man who has used his past to help others. Ironically both Lewis and Roethlisberger led their teams to the Super Bowl the season following their legal issues, however the Steelers lost to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Third. The national media never gives #7 his due for leading the Steelers to Super Bowl XL. They only want to talk about how poorly he played – lowest QB rating of any Super Bowl winning quarterback – and that the Steelers won in spite of him. They over look his stats during that run to the championship; 3 touchdowns on 208 yards passing with a 148.7 QB rating against the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild card game. The next week he threw for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns against a ring-less Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional round, plus a game saving tackle after Jerome Bettis fumbled going in for a game-clinching touchdown.

Courtesy: Pittsburgh Post Gazette; Immaculate Tackle

His best game of the playoffs came in the AFC Championship where he threw 2 touchdowns with 275 yards passing and a 124.9 QB rating against the Denver Broncos to get the Burgh to the Super Bowl. So without his superb performances, they wouldn’t have been in position to win a championship, in spite of him. By the way all those games were on the road in his second season as a pro.

Roethlisberger has won 69% of the games he’s started in his 9-year career including the playoffs. By comparison, Eli Manning who many rank above him has won only 58% of his games in the same time period Eli. Roethlisberger’s career Quarterback rating is of 92.7, higher than Eli Manning’s 82.7.

If you want to throw little brother Eli’s Super Bowl MVP’s in my face, Roethlisberger could and should have at least won co-MVP with Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII. It was his Elway-Montana impersonation on the final drive that saved the Steelers from the biggest upset in Super Bowl history against the Arizona Cardinals.

Roethlisberger deserves more respect as a top elite quarterback. After 9 seasons he has thrown for 29,844 yards good for 7th among active QB’s and 191 touchdowns, 6th amongst active QB’s. He has 29 career game winning drives, good for 4th among active quarterbacks and 14th all-time. Roethlisberger should always be in the top 5 at least. The only QB’s I’d rank ahead of him are Brady, Manning and Drew Brees. Brady for rings, Manning for overall stats and Brees for his pure passing ability. That’s it!

The Great Debate: LBJ or MJ

LeBron James isn’t better than Michael Jordan, and that’s okay. One day he will either eclipse him, fall short or be his equal. Truth is, he is already the best OVERALL player the NBA has ever seen. This is coming from one of the biggest Jordan fans you’ll find.

Courtesy: Baseketfootball.com

Now that the confetti has cleared from the Miami Heat’s third championship – the second for LeBron James – and the national media has wiped their collective drool from the last couple of weeks over LeBron’s performance, it’s my turn to jump in on this. I’ve read several articles, watched and listened to several sports talk shows on various media platforms, debate whether or not LeBron is better than Michael Jordan. LeBron is not better than MJ, but he is the best overall player the NBA has EVER seen. There is a difference. It’s like saying what’s the difference between a scorer and a shooter. They both can score plenty of points, but a shooter only does it with the jump shot and a scorer does it a multitude of ways from slashing lay-ups and dunks, jump shots, free throws etc. Ray Allen is a shooter; Carmelo Anthony are Kevin Durant are scorers.

My issues with the comparisons are the key variable in which they are comparing the two by, which is their age. It’s unfair to MJ. You can’t compare ages because LeBron entered the league three years before Michael Jordan did. If you want to use age, you would have to start the comparison at age 21, the age Michael played his first game for the Chicago Bulls back in the 1984-85 season. But this would be unfair to LeBron. The only fair way is to look at years of service or experience, 10. So let’s start there.

All my stats have been fact checked by basketball reference.com. Michael Jordan’s first 10 seasons are 1984-1993 and 1994-1995. LeBron’s first 10 seasons are 2003-2013.

LBJ or MJ

Michael has scored 21, 998 points to LeBron’s 21,081. LeBron has more assists with 5,302 to MJ’s 4,025. LeBron also has more rebounds with 5,553 to Michael’s 4,336. LeBron has the edge in MVP trophies at 4 to 3. Michael has the edge on championships at 3 to 2.

Courtesy: The Sportsfanjournal.com / “18 year old LeBron meets 40 year old Michael”

Another key stat to look at when adding up all these numbers; LeBron has played in 765 games while Michael played in only 684. Because of Michael’s broken foot during the 1985-86 and his stint in minor league baseball that caused him to miss a season and a half, LeBron has played in 81 more games than Michael. That is equal to one full season more than his Airness.

To no surprise MJ scored more than LBJ and the per game average is more than 5 points a game. It’s also not shocking that LeBron – who goes out of his way to get teammates involved – has more assists than Michael at a per game average of 6.93 to 5.88. But I bet few people expected it to be that close.

The stats support the claim that LeBron is more Magic Johnson than Michael as many suggest. Honestly, I thought Scottie Pippen was a better all around player than Michael with his abilities and versatility. So giving the nod to LeBron as a better “overall player” isn’t that big a deal.

But look at the titles category that many are trying to throw against MJ with their 28 years old argument. MJ wins 3 to 2. I’ll throw another stat in there. 3-0 to 2-2. What’s that? Michael Jordan was undefeated in his three trips to the NBA Finals, where as LeBron won two of his four trips. I’ll give LeBron more credit than most for getting that 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals in his first trip. I’ll give Michael a nod for never missing the playoffs in his first 10 seasons, while LeBron did miss in his first two seasons with the Cavaliers.

Depending on what category you place more importance on, you can decide who you feel is the best. If it is championships, MJ is still number one. If it’s total stats, LeBron has the edge everywhere except points.

Either way LeBron isn’t MJ, MJ isn’t LeBron. Let’s just enjoy the greatness we are witnessing in King James and celebrate his Airness for what he has done. My main point is that the discussion of who is the best is closer then we think. At least at this stage of their careers. Let’s do this in 5 years and see where the MVPs, stats and championships lay. Still we have to wait until Lebron is retired to come to any conclusion.

Courtesy: jordansdaily.com

Courtesy: ESPN.com

NBA Free Agent Frenzy 2013

When the NBA Free Agency period opened five days ago it was sure 2013 to be the summer of Dwight and CP3. Rightfully so, they are the two biggest names in this years free agent class. But this class has several unrestricted free agents who can fill a role on a team looking to make a leap from a mid playoff seed to a contender or a playoff bottom feeder to a team on the rise. I have composed a list of players no one is talking about that can do just that. My list is based on the best fit (team needs), not how it works with the cap. I’m not a capologist like ESPN’s Tom Penn, so I won’t pretend to be. I’m placing players in situations to help their careers as well as the team get over their hump. Also, some of these moves would change depending on what Dwight does.

ANDRE IGUODALA (Chicago Bulls)

Courtesy: ESPN

UPDATE (7/5/13): ESPN and Media reports Iguodala will sign 4 year $48 million deal with the Golden State Warriors.

A.I. chose to opt out of his contact after only one great year with the Denver Nuggets. Now that there’s been a coaching change – George Karl was fired after winning a franchise record 57 games and coach of the year – who knows what style of play the Nuggets will run or how new 1st time head coach Brian Shaw will use Iggy. Even though he’s an all star and gold medal Olympian, Iguodala isn’t great at anything, but he excels at many things. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make a huge impact and he doesn’t seem to want the spotlight. So I would suggest him taking control of his future and moving to Chicago or San Antonio.

Chicago is near home for IGUODALA. He stared at Lanphier High in Springfield before moving on play for Lute Olson at the University of Arizona. Many will read this and say “but they have Loul Deng.” True, but rumor has it they’re trying to trade him and lately he hasn’t been very durable. Iguodala will bring you the same defensive intensity Deng provides, with more athleticism to get up and down with a fresh Derrick Rose and even some time with Nate Robinson when he comes in off the bench (more on him later).

Had Manu Ginobli not resigned with the San Antonio Spurs I would have listed them as a potential fit for Iguodala. He could’ve been the necessary addition to pry that championship window open for a few more years. Like I previously mentioned, he doesn’t want to be the focal point. A perfect fit in the scheme of the Spurs way. Tony Parker is the guy there and Kawai Leonard is the long-term future along with Danny Green. With Igoudala you add versatility and youth. He can could’ve off the bench for Danny Green or Kawai Leonard, or you could start a small quick lineup with him at the power forward position and start Tim Duncan at center. This gives you speed and quickness to run with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s, Miami Heat’s and anyone else who wants to play small ball.

Iguodala is a rare mix of long-term vet with still a significant amount of youth. He could be just the answer for a team whose main goal is to play and win in June.

JOSH SMITH (Houston Rockets)

Courtesy: NBA.com

UPDATE (7/9/13): Various media reports Smith agrees to 4 year $56 million deal with the Detroit Pistons.

Could you imagine the Houston Rockets rolling out a roster with James Harden and Jeremy Lin at the guards, Chandler Parsons and Josh Smith at the forwards and Dwight Howard at center? I would immediately put that starting five in the top four of the Western Conference. Someone in Atlanta would also lose sleep for letting Smith go team up with his childhood friend Dwight Howard in a city other than their hometown. The Rockets would have to trade more pieces to make room for Smith, likely Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. But as I mentioned in my piece on Howard, [https://kavispeak.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/dwights-dilemma/] they would probably shop those two to make room for a run at another key free agent in 2014 anyway, so why not do it now and create a big four. Yes, Chandler Parson would help create nightmares for opposing teams making this a devastating fantastic four. As with many of these moves I’ve mentioned it all comes down to money. Can they get Smith to take less than he believes he’s worth to make it work? Basketball wise, this makes perfect sense.

ANDREW BYNUM (Miami Heat)

Bynum led the league in hair styles and games missed, all 82.

UPDATE (7/9/13): ESPN and various media reports Bynum offered 2 year deals from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The rich could get richer. This makes sense only for one year. Bynum didn’t play a single game last year because of knee injuries. The Heat’s weakness is a key inside presences. They were exposed during the playoffs and especially the Finals even though they won. THEY WILL NOT GET AWAY WITH IT AGAIN! Word is Bynum doesn’t want to even workout for possible suitors, so getting the big max deal he hoped for will be difficult. However, if he can go to South Beach for a season to prove he’s healthy on another title contending team, who knows what kind of money he will get in 2014-2015. With degenerate knees, it’s hard to imagine him getting the money he wants. At least in this scenario he could help win another championship to go with the two he got in Los Angeles. As far as the Heat, there is rumor they could sign Greg Oden – another big with knee issues – for the veterans’ minimum that would cost far less than Bynum.

JARRETT JACK (Indiana Pacers or stay with Golden State)

Courtesy: NBA.com

UPDATE (7/9/13): Various media reports Jack agrees to 4 year $25 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Jack made himself a lot of money during the 2013 NBA playoffs with his play in helping the underdog Warriors get out of the first round – no one expected them to beat the Denver Nuggets, especially after David Lee went down with a torn hip flexor – and then take the Spurs to a grueling 6 game series in the conference semi-finals. He made and took several big shots in key moments in both series and set up “The Splash Brothers” Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The problem with Jack isn’t on the court, but off. No he’s not a troublemaker, but rumor has it he’s looking for $7 million a year. I know I said that I wasn’t going to deal with the money issues, but I have to say that is a lot for a back up point guard. He played for the pacers on 2008-09 when Current coach Frank Vogel was an assistant under Jim O’Brien. I’m not sure if they had a good or bad relationship, but talent trumps all.

How does he help the Pacers? He’s steady. He proved that in this past year’s playoffs. The pacers struggled with turnovers and point guard play throughout the playoffs. With D.J. Agustin an unrestricted free agent and not having the best of series in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jack would be a definite upgrade but he may be too expensive for them while trying to keep several other key free agents. But he could even dethrone George Hill as the starter. Hill didn’t do much to help his case in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami making him expendable if your goal is to beat the defending champs and get to the Finals.

O.J. MAYO (Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls)

Courtesy: NBA.com

UPDATE (7/9/13): Various media reports Mayo agrees to 3 year $24 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

If Kevin Martin leaves Oklahoma City, Mayo could be the guy to fill the void that Martin played after coming over in the James Harden trade. Unlike Martin, Mayo can create his own shot. Not like Harden, but better than Martin. That’s a dimension the Thunder needed desperately all season and especially during the playoffs after the Rockets Patrick Beverly accidentally injured Russell Westbrook in game two of their first round series. If a deal between these two gets done, it could be the steal of free agency.

The following unrestricted free agent players should stay put with their current teams for the benefit of their career and team success.

NATE ROBINSON (CHI): With the Chicago Bulls Nate became what many thought he’d always be when he came out of the University of Washington. Until this past season Nate was known as a spectacular athlete who could often times be a malcontent. Some way some now Coach Tibideau found a way to maximize Nate’s abilities on a team that could’ve easily folded. With Nate as a back up to Derrick Rose, he could be the perfect compliment in the second unit D-Rose has never had. Also, the city of broad shoulders got behind Nate and he became the unofficial symbol of what the 2012-2013 team was about. Heart, hustle and hope.

J.R. SMITH (NYK): No other coach or franchise will allow him to be who he was this year – on and off the court – and not change him. He became the sixth man of the year due to Mike Woodson’s coaching, had he not hit that slump in the playoffs, maybe they would’ve faced off in the Eastern Conference against Miami.

KEVIN MARTIN (OKC): He’s not James Harden and that’s okay. He did just what was needed off him and it showed against his old team the Rockets in the playoffs. It wasn’t his fault they lost to Memphis in the second round, blame Patrick Beverly – he caused the injury to Russell Westbrook – and Serge Ibaka for not showing up. Martin is 30 years old and may be looking for the type of contract the Thunder can’t afford. USA Today and various media outlets are reporting the Minnesota Timberwolves will off Martin a 4 year $28 million deal.

MATT BARNES (LAC), TONY ALLEN (MEM), AND CHRIS ANDERSEN (MIA): I put these three together because they bring the same thing to their respective teams; toughness, energy, defensive tenacity and professionalism. You never heard any of these guys complain about their role, they do what they do every night to the best of their ability better than anyone. They are often times the difference between a win or a loss and receive less the credit. In Andersen’s case just watch the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers series, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder series for Allen and his whole damn career for Matt Barnes (I never understood why this guy bounces around. He’s a glue guy). UPDATE: CBS Sports and other media outlets are reporting that Allen has verbally agreed to stay with the Memphis Grizzlies and sign a 4 year $20 million extension.

DAVID WEST (IND): Has agreed to sign a 3 year $36 million deal with the Indiana Pacers. The contact won’t become official until July 10th. Smart move for both he and the franchise. He is the difference between them getting over the hump to a NBA Finals or being in the bottom half of the playoffs. However this deal may keep them from being able to keep Tyler Hansbrough, a key energy guy off the bench.