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Monday, February 20, 2012

Depp delivers in The Rum Diary, but the story - not so much

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Courtesy of  Amazon.com

Everyone’s woken up to the pounding head ache. The one that comes with a constantly bubbling stomach and blood shot eyes that tell the prior night’s story.
From the moment you see star Johnny Depp’s same blood-shot eyes in Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary, you know where that rum part of the title comes from and where the film might be heading.
That hung over man is Paul Kemp, a nomadic journalist from New York. A relatively normal guy, Kemp shows up in San Juan, Puerto Rico to take a position with The San Juan Star - a newspaper on its way out.
People love Johnny Depp, and part of that is his ability to portray those characters that are little off kilter. Whether it’s Jack Sparrow or the Mad Hatter, he’s shown an ability to depict something out of the ordinary, which is why his character in The Rum Diary is so out of character for Depp.
Kemp represents Depp’s second time depicting world-renowned journalist Hunter S. Thompson, whose book of the same name served as the basis for the film.
Thompson’s hard-drinking and even harder living life can be seen in Depp, but despite his constant smoking - he’s puffing away in nearly every scene - he finds a way to make Kemp relatable and down to earth.
What isn’t quite as relatable is the story, which is Depp experiencing the strange culture of Puerto Rico. Whether it’s his alcoholism or the constant clash between poverty and wealth, the story takes a dark angle at times.
Depp experiences much of this with his photographer, Sala (Mark Rispoli), equally an alcoholic, albeit more culturally sound and a proud cock fighter. The two represent the American in a foreign land, maneuvering through their lives without much direction.
That’s great and all, but for as intoxicated as the duo is throughout the film, the story jumps around at a schizophrenic pace. One minute you’re seeing Depp working on a story and the next he’s spitting rum into a lighter to shoot fire at someone then he’s schmoozing with the beautiful Chennault (Amber Heard).
It’s really too bad the story jumps around as much as it does because the adventures and interactions we see between Depp and Rispoli are legitimately funny. While his humor comes off as dry and many times unassuming, Depp consistently finds a way to make the right facial expression to make a line seem more funny than it actually is.
Partying aside, the journey through the film sees an array of characters. Whether it’s the newspaper editor Edward J. Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) or shifty public relations snake Hal Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), they don’t fall into a cliché and the actors fit their roles.
The dynamic between Eckhart and Depp is what fuels the film. Eckhart is part of a group illegally trying to secure land on an island not yet for sale. In  way, it’s a battle of good (journalism) versus bad (public relations) that eventually helps Depp gain the perspective and eventual understanding of how life in Puerto Rico is.
Music is far and in between, but when you hear a song it just fits. Maybe it’s the fact that finding music to make a tropical island seem, well, tropical is relatively easy, but despite the thin soundtrack, the songs just fit the moment well.
Depp does his job in The Rum Diary and there’s definitely a good enough mix of laughs and seriousness to warrant calling the film a comedic drama.
However, it does feel like the film is Robinson’s first directorial appearance since 1992, and that’s not a good thing. If you cut the two-hour runtime down by 30 minutes, you probably don’t lose a whole lot and the film might have been able to avoid the sporadic storyline.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jeremy Lin controls the universe, for now

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Photo Courtesy of Washington Post
The story had to come sooner or later didn't it? After a 161-day lockout and a season full of empty arenas and struggling stars, there had to be some sort of big, possibly over-blown story in the NBA this year.
  It’s arrived, and has helped ESPN flawlessly transition from a New York Giants’ Super Bowl to an undrafted, Ivy League point guard who has improbably made the most noise in New York City since .
  Jeremy Lin is easy to root for, and despite the fact that he plays in front of the most annoying and judgmental fan base in sports, he’s absolutely killing it.
Slow your roll though, despite his career-high 38 points in Friday’s win over the Lakers, the guy has only been doing this for four games. That’s six percent of the season, and he’s done most of his damage against apathetic defenders like John Wall and Devin Harris.
Not to take away from him, he seriously carried the Knicks against the Lakers. When you’re second banana is Jared Jeffries, well, you’re banking on Tyler Perry’s next movie to be watchable.
Either way, Lin has done it in an exciting fashion. It’s a good thing this run didn’t start a month sooner, the guy could have gone Yao Ming on the All-Star voting system and garnered a billion votes from China.
Jeremy Lin, starting over Dwyane Wade in the All Star game.
Alright, I just said slow your roll and then I started rolling. The guy is playing like he’s still tearing it up at Harvard, but can someone please elicit a ban on making Lin-based nicknames? I’m a nickname aficionado, but Charlie Sheen thinks Linning is awful, and the new leader in the clubhouse for worst nickname, Super Lintendo, isn’t even cool to people who still regularly play Super Nintendo.
Either way, he’s brought the Garden and the Knicks alive. He’s got fans replacing the name and number on the back of their Carmelo Anthony jerseys by adding a duct taped number one and sticking Lin on it.
That’s powerful. This Lin thing isn’t a matter of whether or not he’s going to maintain this level of play all season - he’s not going to - it’s the fact that he’s taken what Tim Tebow has in the NFL and brought it to the NBA.
He's proven he's something, and the only difference between him and Tebow is he isn't polarizing. No one dislikes this guy, his peers are rooting him on, and fans of all teams are jumping on the bandwagon. He’s not preaching his beliefs or getting by on luck - he’s playing at a high level, plain and simple.
It’s fun and trendy to love him, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sports are all about the hot topic, and right now that's Lin, you just have to hope that once the phenomena comes back to Earth, so do the fans.
Lin has proven he belongs in the NBA, now he has to prove he can be a real player in the NBA. He said it himself this week, he wants to establish himself as a rotation player and not a 12th-15th man - mission accomplished.
The real challenge is going to be proving he can sustain a level of play worthy of that. From what we’ve seen thus far, the future looks bright, but when Carmelo and Amar'e Stoudemire return, Lin's touches are going down.
    It's what Lin is doing in March and April that will decide if he’s the real deal, but until then, cautiously enjoy the ride.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Youth in Revolt: The Pistons' youngsters are growing up

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Courtesy NBA.com
Considering the fact that the Detroit Pistons are currently carrying the NBA's third-worst record, fans are probably dreaming more of the team's future than ever before. That future is going to include a very high draft pick expected by those same fans to immediately impact this sinking ship.

Think about that, of all the top draft picks to enter the NBA in recent years, how many have revived their respective teams right off the bat?

The fact is it rarely happens, there are outliers like Derrick Rose or Carmelo Anthony, but most times these guys don't have enough to carry a team on their own.

Now take a look at the Pistons, don't gag, just look at what they've got going forward - specifically the youthful aspect.

Every team needs a versatile big man to compete, right? You've got one in Greg Monroe. The man they call "moose," Monroe has far exceeded anyone's expectations for him in his second season. He went from being a skittish rookie touching the ball rarely, many times off the rebounds he'd collect, to a focal point offensively.

Sure, he's the focal point of the worst offense in the NBA, but averages of 15.8 points and 9.5 rebounds, plus an extremely reliable jumper from the free throw line, are reason to smile. If fans, both locally and nationally, knew that Detroit still had a basketball team, Monroe would probably be in contention to back up Dwight Howard. Instead, the fans have Joel Anthony above him.

Regardless, every good team has two parts: the man and the second fiddle. There are no one-man teams winning titles, just like their aren't any great comedies starring one person.

LeBron James and the cavalcade of mediocrity he had in Cleveland? No rings.

Ed Helms when he left The Office and The Hangover fame to star in Cedar Rapids? No laughs.

Monroe isn't going to lead you to a title if he's your best player, but if you find an athletic wing or post player to pair next to him, you just might have something.

There's other pieces aside from Monroe. Jonas Jerebko and Austin Daye (recently) have looked like the kind of role players you need. Have you seen the Lakers play these last few games? Their bench is awful, give them a couple of role players like the swede and Daye and they're better.

Courtesy of AP
Daye's an enigma. At times, like he did against Miami on Thursday, he looks like a guy who can be one of your scorers of the bench. He's got elite potential as a shooter, and if these last few games have shown anything he's got potential to have a little versatilty offensively.

The same goes for Jerebko in some ways. When he's hustling around the court like a crazy murder, he's great.  He's got energy, athleticism and the ability to give you minutes at either forward position. When he and Daye are out there with Monroe, your front line goes 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-10 - that's some solid size.

Of course, Daye can't really do a lot for you consistently outside shoot. Jerebko has some offensive talent, but when you ask him to be a scorer it's kind of like asking Nickelback to play a good song, it's just not happening.

Those two are small potatoes compared the the final bit of hope for fans. Rookie point guard Brandon Knight has had his ups-and-downs this season. He's had moments, like his 18.5 point, 6.5 assist averages during the Pistons' recent two-game stretch of coming-close-but-not-close-enough games against Miami and Atlanta.

He's also had moments of the smelly, like his 4-of-17 shooting against Philadelphia on Saturday. You know a rookie is going to struggle, especially on a team with so much inconsistency around him, but he's getting better every game.

Courtesy NBA.com
You need a point guard if you hope to be good, and he looks like he could be that guy. He's got the best jumper of any of the rookie point guards, and something he hasn't used to his advantage is his athleticism. It isn't like other Calipari-coached guards John Wall or Derrick Rose, but he's got a sneaky burst and once the game slows down for him, there's no telling how much he could continue to improve.

Like it or not, this team is progressing with every game - win or loss. Sometimes it may come in front of 23 people, but this group of young players is growing together, and if you're a fan that's all you can hope for in a season that isn't going to result in anything outside a high draft pick.

Now, you just have to hope this progression keeps them in contention for a guy like Anthony Davis or Harrison Barnes. If that happens, all bets are off in 2012-13, but until then try to enjoy the future now.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

NFL Playoff Power Rankings - Win or Go Home

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Courtesy of securecloudreview.com

Winter is here, and January - a polarizing time of the year - is upon us. You hate it because it’s January, football is ending soon and there’s nothing to look forward to except snow and people who don’t know how to drive in it. The good thing is it’s the new year, and you’re trying your hardest to accomplish those resolutions you thought up at the last second on New Year’s Eve.

The idea of dropping ten pounds before Spring Break sounds great, but you’re beginning to realize that people liked you before new years, so why not just keep things that way? Regardless, it’s a new year in the NFL and there are good and bad with that too. League laughing stocks like the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals are in the playoffs, obviously satisfying their fan's New Year’s Resolutions.

Part of me feels like Bengals’ fans would have probably been content with just missing the playoffs and being ridden of the always underwhelming Marvin Lewis. The relationship between Lewis and Bengals fans is awkward - kind of like that of a teenager and their divorced mom’s boyfriend. Think about it, the kid knows the boyfriend is a decent guy (or coach) and treats his Mom (or the Bengals) decent, but this boyfriend (Marv) is no Jerry Maguire (badass Mom’s boyfriend figure, obviously).

Either way, it’s yet to be seen whether those teams are ready to drop the pounds and make a run in this thing, or just work out for a week and be content with trying and being in the playoffs. As for the rest of the field, let’s take a look:

12. Denver Broncos - AFC No. 4 
Tebow
- At least recently, it looks like things appear to be slowing in Denver and these last three weeks, the once impeccable Tim Tebow is looking more like a bigger, more religious and likable version of Rick Mirer. They host the injury-depleted Steelers this weekend, but they’re going to be playing without arguably their most important defensive player in Brian Dawkins. Judging by the Broncos’ performance on both sides of the ball these last few weeks (badbadbad), I don’t see Tebow Time against the Steelers.

11. New York Giants - NFC No. 4
- Couldn’t you see this team going on a run? At the same time, couldn’t you see this team going out in a embarrassing way? That’s why they scare me, just too much inconsistency. Eli Manning has been great this year, and he’s legitimately carried them this year. Atlanta struggles against the pass, and if you remember last year, Matt Ryan had his “Matty Ice” nickname revoked after last year’s home playoff loss to Green Bay. Eli and the boys have a chance if they can play like they did against the Cowboys.

10. Houston Texans AFC No. 3 
Yates
- A few weeks ago, it looked like TJ Yates was the second coming of Tom Brady. He was the late-round draft pick who replaced a talented starter and potentially lead his team to playoff success. Well, then we realized that without Andre Johnson, TJ can’t really throw the football. I know, Johnson should be back for the playoffs, but this team just looks so one dimensional offensively, I can’t trust them against a Bengals’ defense that ranks in the top ten of rushing defense. Plus, if they play Jake Delhomme - let’s just hope that doesn't happen.

9. Cincinnati Bengals AFC No. 6 
- If you haven’t already caught on, I kind of like this team going into the postseason. Sure, they’re led by a duo of rookies and a running back who seems to be better at misdemeanor assault than playing consistently, but they’ve got defense. Look at these playoffs, how many teams can you actually say play good defense? Baltimore and maybe San Francisco, so that alone makes me think this defense can handle the two-headed monster of Arian Foster and Ben Tate and whatever Houston tries to do with their passing game. You heard it here, Cincinnati wins it. Show me the money, Marvin.

8. Detroit Lions NFC No. 6
Stafford
- Did you know that Drew Brees and Tom Brady threw for over 5,000 yards this season? Of course you did, but did you know Matthew Stafford did? Unless you’re from Michigan, of course not. I think the guy’s the NFL Come Back Player of the Year based on how much of an impact he had on this team’s success and the fact that his shoulder stayed intact for 16 games. The Lions can score with the best of them, but unfortunately they’re playing against the Saints, who can score best of any of them. The Saints will win, but the Lions - with the return of safety Louis Delmas - will keep it close to the end.

7. Atlanta Falcons NFC No. 5
- There’s just something about the Falcons that doesn’t feel right. Matt Ryan has played great against bad teams, but when you take away his ability to go down field he’s looked a lot more comfortable gambling on deep balls and throwing short, going nowhere passes. That’s not a winning formula. They’re going up against a Giants’ secondary that’s been up-and-down this season, which makes you think Ryan will be able to get the ball to Roddy White and Julio Jones on the outside. Difference between Ryan and Manning is the fact that Ryan has a horse in Michael Turner to ride in the running game. Advantage: Falcons.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers AFC No. 5
Polamalu
- The quintessential old team. They’ve got the talent to win, they’ve been there and know how to win, but their bodies hold them back from winning. Ben Roethlisberger has been banged up and is without Rashard Mendenhall, out with a torn ACL. Safety Ryan Clark is out because he hates skiing in altitude, and has sickle cell anemia. Denver is good at home, I’ll give them that, and boast a unique, ground-oriented offense. Unfortunately, the Steelers have Troy Polamalu and some of the NFL’s best linebackers. Oh, and the best defensive coordinator in the league in Dick LeBeau, which is why they win pretty easily, out-scheming the all-schemed-out Denver offense.

5. Baltimore Ravens AFC No. 2
- These Ravens have to be the enigma of the NFL. One week, they look like the best team in the AFC and the next they look like a sure-fire out in their first playoff game. Ray Rice is going to get his both on the ground and catching passes out of the back field, and the defense is going to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but can Joe Flacco step up? We talk about quarterbacks being so important to team’s success this time of the year, and if we’ve learned anything about Flacco it’s that he’s an enigma himself. He’s got weapons, and the ability to throw downfield with the best of them. Plus, he’s a superb actor, as shown by Flacco’s Favorites:



4. San Francisco 49ers - NFC No. 2
Gore
- These 49ers don’t really look appealing, but they get the job done. They’re kind of like a bottom-shelf beer. As a college student, you expect great things from one of those micro-brewed beers at the store. Sometimes, you just hate it because it‘s just too different. The Packers or Saints are that kind of beverage, they’re said to be what you want, but these 49ers, well, they’re the cheapie. These guys are the beer you build your Thursdays around. They don’t play for looks, they play for effectiveness, and Alex Smith does just enough for his offense, led by Frank Gore, to get the job done. Not to mention the defense is one of the best in the NFL. This is a scary team if Smith plays smart.

3. New England Patriots - AFC No. 1
- I made this observation in the office once a few weeks ago, and as dirty as it sounds I’ll stick by it: you can’t double-team a tight end. The emergence the Patriots tight end heavy offense of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez is something new to the NFL’s pass-pass-pass philosophy. The Patriots don’t trot out a great group of receivers, but the tight ends they to put out there get open and make plays - that’s all you need. Tom Brady is great, and he showed that this year, but his defense is so porous that I just don’t think he’ll be able to save them every game this postseason.

2. New Orleans Saints - NFC No. 3
Brees
- At least half of my preseason Super Bowl pick (Saints and the walk of shaming San Diego Norv Turners) is still alive in this. This is as scary an offense as there is in the NFL, but it’s an offense that gets considerably less scary outdoors. Should the Saints beat the Lions on Saturday? Yes, but would the Saints be able to travel to San Francisco and play on that outdoor, Cali-slop they call Candlestick Park? That’s what stands between the Saints and the Super Bowl. Brees is great indoors, but only nine touchdowns and six interceptions in five games played outdoors could be seen as one concern, but the reemergence of Christopher Ivory has given them a ground game just in case.

1. Green Bay Packers - NFC No. 1
- It’s great to be green these days, and it looks like the Packers plan to reshape their “perfect season” plans by making a run in the postseason. We saw them do it last year, winning games on the road behind Aaron Rodgers, but without that underdog role could they be upset? There’s questions as to whether or not Rodgers and the offense can continue to bail out a defense that seems to always get a turnover right when they need it. That kind of gambling isn’t a good formula long-term, but for now it’s working. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Packers in the Super Bowl, nor would I be totally surprised if they lose before - that’s just how the playoffs work in the NFL.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The 'Merry Christmas' NBA Preview! Detroit Pistons/Awards Edition.

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Courtesy AP
As I write this, the Detroit Lions lead the San Diego Chargers 24-10 and barring a second-half choke, will be going to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. That’s a helluva playoff drought, but Lions’ fans have just gotten used to not being in the postseason - that’s still a foreign concept to Pistons' fans.

They’re a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008-09, and seem to be running in place rather than going forward or back. That’s what has to change, and the change has to be a tear down.

That, of course, would require GM Joe Dumars to dismantle a roster that he seems to almost stubbornly think can win. This team has talent, but it doesn’t seem to have any sort of direction.

Adding Lawrence Frank as the head coach is a start. Frank is a guy who’s seen success as a head coach and assistant. You could attribute last year’s struggles to then-coach John Kuester’s inability to control the team, and I think Frank is going to be a guy who instills a workman-like attitude in this team - something they desperately need.

Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rodney Stuckey are the last of the players from the glory days. Prince is still serviceable, but is he really needed? Same with Wallace, he can give you good minutes in stretches, but I don’t think you can rely on him.

Both of these guys would be extremely valuable for a team with championship aspirations. They have certain skill sets that can be utilized by a good team, and overused by a bad one.

Stuckey’s another story. I’ve always been a supporter, and I think he’s shown flashes of All Star ability (remember, he did drop 41 on Derrick Rose in 2008). He’ll be playing off the ball this year, something he’s had some success with in the past.

I’ve said it a million times, but the guy is a shooting guard. I expect him to be a lot more effective this year, getting to the line and looking to score most games rather than be timid looking to pass.

The rest of the back court looks like it could be the strength. Ben Gordon should be able to bounce back a bit, and I think he and Stuckey will be a good duo off the ball. I’m still not huge on Will Bynum as a rotation point guard, he gambles too much and looks out of control.

Rookie Brandon Knight has looked good in the preseason, and by midseason he should be your starter. He’s got all the tools to be a point guard in the NBA, he just has to get acclimated to the NBA game.

The frontcourt has questions - except for second-year forward Greg Monroe. He’s a guy who just seems to be constantly improving, and after averaging a double-double in the second-half of last season, he’s ready to bust out. Scoring at the basket is still a little bit of a struggle for him, but he’s going to be a rebounding machine and an important part of the offense thanks to his passing.

Jonas Jerebko is back, something people underrate. He’s another guy who could be a contributor on a title team, but he’ll be a starter here. I don’t know that he’s going to give you much more than he did his rookie year, but he’s a spark plug.

Charlie Villanueva is bad, and that’s all. Austin Daye is another guy who could break out this year. His shooting is going to be big for this team, but his lack of defensive ability really hurts his impact. He’s got to improve his one-on-one defense, but he’ll be a scorer for them off the bench.

With all that said, this team just doesn’t seem like it fits. There are scorers and defenders, but they just don’t match up. This team is going to struggle, and that’s probably the best thing. They’ll finish 22-44, smelling the playoffs - barely - while being a little too good to be smelling Harrison Barnes or Anthony Davis.

Happy Holidays, Detroit.

Postseason Award Picks
MVP - Kevin Durant
- It’s about his time, isn’t it? He’s going to be leading the best team in the league, and if he can repair and turn the Russell Westbrook situation into a positive, he’s the guy. Usually, it’s the guy on the best team anyways, plus, Durant has absolutely zero haters - how that happens for a guy like him is beyond me.

Rookie of the Year - Kemba Walker
- Someone’s gotta score in Charlotte, and God knows it’s not going to just be Corey Maggette. It just feels like Walker is the most NBA-ready guy. I know he’s an undersized combo guard, but he’s got a knack for scoring and doing some exciting things at big moments.

Defensive Player of the Year -  Dwight Howard
- It's almost a boring pick, but it's the right one. He's the best defender in the league, and the fact that he piles up huge block/rebound numbers is always going to help his cause. I don't think it matters where he plays, he's going to make plays on defense and he's going to make his teammates look better because he's cleaning up their miscues.

Most Improved Player - DeAndre Jordan
- Chris Paul is going to win him this award. Jordan is a nice player on the defensive end, but he’s pretty inept on the other side of the ball. Good point guards always make a big man’s life easier, and that’s exactly what CP3 will do for Jordan. The new Tyson Chandler.

Coach of the Year - Vinny Del Negro
- Good point guards like Chris Paul can also make a coach look a lot better. Many times, this award is given to the coach whose team has the best record, not necessarily the best coaching job. Paul and Blake Griffin are going to make him look like a coaching genius, when in reality, he’s still Vinny Del Negro.

East champ - Chicago Bulls
West champ - Oklahoma City Thunder
NBA Champion - Chicago Bulls

Friday, December 23, 2011

The 'Merry Christmas' NBA Preview! Western Conference Edition.

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Courtesy SI
Pacific
Los Angeles Lakers 41-23
Los Angeles Clippers 40-26
Golden State Warriors 35-31
Phoenix Suns 29-37
Sacramento Kings 24-42

There are questions about Kobe Bryant’s health, Pau Gasol’s willingness to be a
Laker and Andrew Bynum’s ability to keep his knees from falling off. With that said, those three are too good to fall apart fully. I think Bryant’s wrist will be an afterthought by February, and Gasol and Bynum will figure their problems out sooner than later.

I also think one of them (or both) will be a member of the Orlando Magic by the end of the season. Brook Lopez’s broken foot has basically put New Jersey out of the Dwight Howard running, and I think that means he’s the Lakers to get - and you know how that story ends.


I don’t understand the fascination with the
Clippers. Most of ESPN’s “experts” picked them to win the division. They’re a team with star power in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, but they don’t have a ton outside of that. Sure, we can assume DeAndre Jordan is going to be very Tyson Chandler-like this year, but just because Paul is throwing him alley oops doesn’t mean Jordan isn’t going to foul ever chance he gets.

Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams can play a little shooting guard, but do two shooting point guards equal one really good shooting guard? The bench is short and their coach is still Vinny Del Negro - remember that.


It’s a basketball revolution in California! I don’t know how Mark Jackson the head coach is going to work out, but I know
Golden State has a really good group of guards at his disposal. Stephen Curry and Monte Ellis proved to be one of the best back courts in the NBA, and I think the addition of rookie Klay Thompson gives them a three-headed monster.

They have some decent big men, and if David Lee rebounds and plays like the New York version, this is a team to watch.


Poor Steve Nash. This is the same
Phoenix team as last year, and I don’t think things are going to get any better. They’re like the Pistons of the Western Conference, only they have a future hall of famer at point guard. They’ll win some games, possibly enough to jump into the playoff discussion, and then they’re force Steve Nash into wasting another mediocre year near the end of his career. Free Steve Nash.

So, remember how I said the Wizards were talented, but undisciplined. This is the Wizards on steroids. If the
Kings had any sort of direction or leadership (Steve Nash), they would be one of the scariest teams in the league. Tyreke Evans can score and so can Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette, DeMarcus Cousins, John Salmons…basically the whole team. If Evans can be a leader, not a ball hog, and DeMarcus Cousins can screw is head on right, this could be a surprise team - just don’t bet on that.


Courtesy Oncourt Onslaught
Southwest
Dallas Mavericks 42-25
Memphis Grizzlies 39-27
San Antonio Spurs 36-30
Houston Rockets 28-38
New Orleans Hornets 25-41

The
defending champs are going to be good again this year, but I can’t see them being as good as they were last year. The loss of center Tyson Chandler, who went and got paid in New York, is going to be a big loss down the road. Chandler was the defensive anchor, but I think he was also one of the leaders on that team. Lamar Odom is there now, but as we’ve seen from Lamar Odom, he’s not even the leader of his marriage…he won’t be in Dallas.

Dirk Nowitzki will be Dirk, and Jason Kidd will continue to be serviceable. They’ve lost JJ Barea from that strong bench, but I think Rodrigue Beaubois - somewhat of a forgotten man last year - will rebound from a broken foot and be the new Barea for the Mavs.


With
Memphis, you kind of have an odd situation. They were the darlings of the Western Conference in last year’s playoffs, but things have changed since then. Rudy Gay is back, and that’s either going to boost them to the next level - or drop them down. Gay’s a talented scorer and rebounded when healthy, but is his return going to mean less shots for playoff studs Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol?

I’m of the belief that it’ll be a good thing. Gasol is a guy who can score and rebound, but with Gay back that gives Gasol a lot more open shots - and open 15 footers are somewhat automatic with the younger Gasol. Randolph is in shape, and I think he’s set up for an all-star caliber season. As long as Mike Conley continues to improve as a point guard - and after last season, signs point toward that - they’ll be in good position.


If you read my Eastern Conference Preview, you probably saw my prediction for the Boston Celtics. Well, a lot of that applies here. Tim Duncan is breaking down, and some would argue that Manu Ginobili has already broken down. If those two are out for extended periods of time, this team will struggle.


The difference between the
San Antonio and the Boston Celtics is the Spurs have a deep, talented bench. DaJuan Blair could start on less talented teams, and I think rookie Kawhi Leonard will be a starter by the end of the season. This team can survive injuries, and knowing Gregg Popovich, Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker will be healthy scratches throughout the season, preserving them for one last playoff push.

This team in
Houston has talent, but they need a star. They’re the definition of a team running in place - great pieces, good coaching, no results. Kevin Martin is nice, and so is Luis Scola, but are they really going to lead you to any sort of success? The loss of Chuck Hayes is going to be big, and I don’t know what they’re going to do to get to the next level. Truly a playoff team in talent, but I don’t know if they can put it together to make the jump.

I like the pieces
New Orleans got for Chis Paul, I just don’t like them on the same team. The big men are weak, and somewhat redundant with Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman likely to cover every possible inch of the paint. Eric Gordon is going to lead the league in scoring, but he’s going to have to take a lot of shots to do it. Also taking a lot of shots will be Trevor Ariza, who will miss most of them. The Hornets enjoyed a 2-0 preseason, but that might be the high point to what looks like a very mediocre season in Nawlins.


Courtesy HoopsHype
Northwest
Oklahoma City Thunder 50-16
Denver Nuggets 40-26
Portland Trailblazers 35-31
Minnesota Timberwolves 29-37
Utah Jazz 19-47

This is an interesting division from top to bottom. The
Thunder are the cream of the crop. I can’t imagine that they’ll let last year’s debacle between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook bring them down this year. Those two have proven to be star players, and the imminent breakouts of Serge Ibaka and James Harden will only make this team better.

They’re also one of the deeper teams in the conference, which is going to be the key to their success during the shortened season.


Denver
is interesting, and even without key players from last year’s squad, they’ll be a good team. Gone (until March) are Wilson Chandler, JR Smith and Kenyon Martin.  In are Kenneth Faried, Andre Miller and a whole lot of playing time for Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Arron Afflalo. Those three are the key, and I think they’ll be great this year.

Lawson is going to be a stud, and combined with Miller, will be one of the top point guards in the league. Scoring won’t be a problem without Chandler and Smith because Gallinari and Afflalo are more than able to step in and score - effectively too. This team has a lot to like, which is why they’ll continue their surprise success this year.


Even though he barely played those last two or so years,
Portland just feels different without Brandon Roy. Even without his limited services, the Blazers have plenty of weapons. LaMarcus Aldridge is a legit top-10 big man in the league and the addition of Jamal Crawford will help alleviate Roy’s loss. I just don’t know how I feel about this group. They’re talented, but I think they’ll just miss the playoffs. Probably a hunch bound to be wrong, but hey, prove me wrong.

There isn’t a more interesting team than
Minnesota. Ricky Rubio has shown flashes in his one preseason game, and Derrick Williams is going to be a star, but there’s still a roster of questions. Kevin Love isn’t a question, and he’s going to put up big numbers, but is Michael Beasley going to get better or continue to be a guy who just shoots a lot?

What about Wesley Johnson? Seriously, what about him? If he can figure out the NBA game, they’ll be better, but he looked lost and one dimensional last year. If Rick Adelman can mold this team together, they could be a playoff team by as soon as next year, but right now they’re just an assortment of talent in need of direction.


Utah
is going to be bad, but I think the Jazz have a bright future. When we look at this team in two years, we’re going to be looking at the best front court in the league. Derrick Favors is going to be a breakout player this year, and rookie Enes Kanter may be a few years away, but once he gets acclimated, watch out.

This year though, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are nice, but watch out for some bad basketball.


Playoff Projection

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Dallas Mavericks
3. Los Angeles Lakers
4. Los Angeles Clippers
5. Denver Nuggets
6. Memphis Grizzlies
7. San Antonio Spurs
8. Golden State Warriors
Conference Champion: Oklahoma City Thunder

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 'Merry Christmas' NBA Preview! Eastern Conference Edition.

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Courtesy NY Post
Atlantic 
New York Knicks 46-20
Philadelphia 76ers 40-26
Boston Celtics 33-33
New Jersey Nets 19-47
Toronto Raptors 11-55

Just several years ago, this division was the NBA’s running joke. The “Titanic” division, as it was commonly referred to, was a steaming pile of you-know-what. Fast forward to now and it’s quite the opposite. It’s an interesting division in that there are questions throughout.


With the Knicks, you have to wonder how this star-studded group is going to do this year because last year’s results weren’t great. After acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets at the trade deadline last year, the team sizzled for a bit then fizzled worse than the Zune. 


This year, they’ve ditched Chauncey Billups, the only point guard on their roster, and added Tyson Chandler, who currently stands the only good defender on their roster. They’ll be able to do enough offensively to win this division because Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have had an entire off season to work with each other. That kind of chemistry between top dogs is underrated, and anything they get from Chandler or guys like Toney Douglas and Landry Fields will work out.


I like what Doug Collins has done with this team. The 76ers have had talent, but just haven’t been able to put it together until last year. Their first round loss to the Heat looked convincing, but they showed glimpses.


I’m not sold on Andre Igoudala as a top dog, but he’s good enough to lead this group to the playoffs. I am sold on Jrue Holiday eventually being that guy though, and this year he’s going to join that group of stud young point guards. I refuse to believe that Evan Turner is as bad as he was last season, and maybe Elton Brand does have a little bit left in the tank. Young legs are going to be valuable this season, and Philly has them.


Speaking of young legs, do you really think the Celtics have any chance at surviving this compressed season? In terms of talent, I think they’re going to be as good as they were last year. They haven’t lost anything tremendous from last year’s team, and I think their offseason addition of Brandon Bass (fantasy sleeper!) is going to pay off big time. That payoff is going to come when Kevin Garnett’s knee finally falls off. 


Injuries are going to kill this team, and they really don’t have any control over that. Unless they strategically sit Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce some nights, they aren’t going to get through a 66-game schedule unscathed. With that said, if a team like the Knicks runs into a healthy Celtics team in round one of the playoffs - watch out.


The Nets are interesting, but more so because they have the most badass group of owners ever. Deron Williams is going to put up good numbers on this bad team, but all he’s really got to play with is Brook Lopez, who I think is allergic to rebounding. Marshon Brooks could end up being a surprise this year, but he’s a carbon-copy of Anthony Morrow - the guy ahead of him on the depth chart. This team could surprise, but  unless they end up acquiring Dwight Howard, I’d expect them to just coast into Brooklyn next season.


The Raptors are starting Aaron Gray this season, and they won’t have rookie Jonas Valanciunas until 2012. Serious contenders for the top pick in the draft.

Courtesy Yahoo! Sports


Central 
Chicago Bulls 55-11
Indiana Pacers 40-26
Milwaukee Bucks 31-35
Detroit Pistons 22-44
Cleveland Cavaliers 19-47

Last year, this might have been the worst division in basketball, and the Bulls’ record may have been inflated by that. This year, it’s better, but so are the Bulls, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the division.


The addition of Rip Hamilton is huge. He isn’t what he was in 2004, but Hamilton is the perfect compliment for Derrick Rose - a scorer who doesn’t need the ball to be effective. It’s going to open up space for Rose to do more with the ball, while giving Carlos Boozer a little less pressure to be the bulk scorer he tried to be last year.


It’s a team that’s got depth and youth, something that will help them survive this shortened season. Defense is going to be the top priority, but Tom Thibodeau’s crew is going to be able to score too. They still lack guard play off the bench, but they’re just too good to let that bog them down. Hello, NBA Finals?


If you haven’t noticed, I really like the Pacers this year. They were a team that slipped into the playoffs last year and, like Philadelphia, showed a lot in their short time in the playoffs. Darren Collison could make the same kind of jump Holiday will make, and Danny Granger is the same kind of iffy No. 1 guy, but there’s more to this team. 


David West is one of the best additions this offseason, so is George Hill. He’s the perfect compliment to center Roy Hibbert, but he is coming off knee surgery, so temper your expectations early. Hill will be solid, which is something they need. They also have two wild cards in Tyler Hansbrough and Paul George. Physcho-T has looked very Tim Tebow-esque on the court in his career, but if he can get some consistency, he’ll be a good bench piece. George has All-Star potential, but he’s still too rough to rely on.


Milwaukee just feels mediocre. They have a center who can be really good, but most times just skates by. They have a point guard who has the potential to be really good, but he seems to just be really good at some things (steals, scoring) and really bad (being at all efficient) at others. Stephen Jackson is an interesting edition, but this seems like a low-seeded team that’ll get knocked out of the playoffs early.


Detroit, well, we’ll discuss this later.


If Cavaliers’ fans thought last year was bad, well, this year can’t be that much worse. Kyrie Irving has looked like he can play in the NBA, but he hasn’t looked like a point guard yet. The rest of the team seems like trade bait. Antawn Jamison will get traded, but what value are you really going to get this year? Same goes for the Brazilian Bush, Anderson Verajao.



Courtesy Forbes
Southeast 
Miami Heat 53-13
Orlando Magic 38-28
Atlanta Hawks 30-36
Washington Wizards 20-46
Charlotte 10-56

Is there any reason to believe we won’t see the Heat get their crap together at the start of the season and run away with this division? The Magic have more questions than my Theories of Communication final, and the Hawks have gotten worse since their debacle in last year’s playoffs.


The Heat didn’t get off the most acrimonious start last year, but this year should be different. The Big 3 have gotten their feet wet and know how to win together, and the addition of Shane Battier is big for a bench that lacked anything offensively or defensively last year. The roster still lacks a center - they’re going to rely on the combo of Joel Anthony, Juwan Howard and possibly Eddy Curry’s corpse - but it’s something they’ll address in some form during the year.


I like Norris Cole, their rookie point guard out of Cleveland State, and I think he’ll overtake the over-confident Mario Chalmers as the starting point guard this year. Regardless, this is a team with holes, but it just has such star power elsewhere that they shouldn’t be too detrimental.


These guys scare me. I don’t know if Dwight Howard will be around all season long and I don’t think this team is comfortable with that. They’re kind of in purgatory.  With Howard, this team is a faux-contender, but without him they’re an afterthought. They added Glen Davis to a team that ran dry in the playoffs. Davis is a solid role player, but not enough to make you like Orlando right now - even with Howard around.


The Hawks, for as consistently “meh” as they’ve been these last three years, are about to fall off. Joe Johnson has been more bad than good and his supporting cast is better suited to surround a super star, not a guard who shoots too much. Josh Smith and Al Horford are improving, still, but they just aren’t guys who can carry the team when Johnson isn’t at his best. They’ve lost Jamal Crawford too.


Despite the fact that Crawford was a marginal defender and a volume shooter, he was that team’s heart. He was cold blooded and knew his role perfectly. They’ve replaced him with Tracy McGrady, who might have had his career revived while in Detroit, but without trainer Arnie Kander could fall back onto the IR.


Washington is an awful team with an insane amount of talent. John Wall is going to be a star within the next two years, and JaVale McGee looks like a future franchise center. I’m not sold on the Nick Young/Jordan Crawford duo, if it looks like a couple of guys who shoot every time they touch the ball, it probably is.


Their rookies are solid though, and Jan Vesely still has the cutest girlfriend in this year’s rookie class. They’ve got a ton of talent, it’s just unlikely that the proverbial light flips on this year.


The Bobcats, well, they have Kemba Walker and…that is all. Ok, they have Bismack Biyombo, who could be the next Dikembe Mutombo - or the next Desagana Diop. Despite that, they’ll be in the running for Harrison Barnes next year because this group is just not going to get it done in a division with three potential playoff teams.


Playoff Projection

1. Chicago
2. Miami
3. New York
4. Indiana
5. Philadelphia
6. Orlando
7. Boston
8. Milwaukee
Conference Champion: Chicago Bulls

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Len Bias: What Could Have Been?

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Courtesy of Gazette.net

What could have been?
It’s almost an over-used statement in today’s sport’s lexicon. From sport to sport, players fail to live up to expectations on the court, and by the end of their playing days they’re classified. Whether it’s because of injuries, poor play, anything, it’s always “what could have been.”
For the greatest example of all, just look back to 1986. The NBA was at the top of its game, and the star power of players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had the league’s popularity surging like it hadn’t in decades.
At the podium stands NBA commissioner David Stern. It's an ominous summer night at the Felt Forum  in New York, New York and Stern is on stage announcing the 1986 NBA Draft's selections. With University of North Carolina center Brad Daugherty off the board as the No. 1 overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Stern approaches the podium again to announce the second pick in the draft. That pick, of course, belonged to the defending NBA Champion Boston Celtics. The NBA’s most successful franchise, the Celtics touted five future hall of fame players, including Bird himself. They were the cream of the crop and on top of the basketball world after winning their 17th NBA title just nine days earlier.
That brings us back to the draft. Dressed in a white, pinstriped tuxedo, a 22-year-old man sits in front of that stage in the Felt Forum. He looks calm, almost like a fly on the wall. The room has quieted down in anticipation of the selection of the defending champions. As a young Stern stands at the podium, he takes a breath and quickly spouts:
“The Boston Celtics select, Len Bias from the University of Maryland.”
Stern’s words cut through the room only to be overtaken by the bellowing cheers of what sounds like every fan in attendance. Walking to the stage the man shows little emotion, nothing more than a quick smirk. The crowd howls and cheers as he strides toward the stage, it looks almost like he’s been in this situation before. Finally on stage, he lets his guard down, smiling from ear to ear as he shakes hands with the commissioner and poses for photos. Little did Len Bias, or anyone else, know that would be the last time he’d be cheered like that.
We avoid saying his name because he’s almost like one of our own, someone we knew. Bias died two days after the draft of cardiac arrhythmia caused by a cocaine overdose. It was June 22, 1986 that the basketball world saw Bias as the piece that put the already great Celtics into the realm of potential greatest team ever, and it was two days later that those same people mourned him and that idea.
At six-foot-eight, 210 pounds, he was an athletic beast before the phrase had even been thought of. Aside from his 1984 ACC championship team, the teams he played on at the University of Maryland were never great, but he clawed his way from bench player to ACC Player of the Year. Nightly battles with the likes of Michael Jordan and Ralph Sampson during his tenure helped make Bias the blooming star he was. His career never resulted in any titles on the court, but averages of 23.2 points and seven rebounds per contest during his senior season of 1985-86 helped Bias to gain recognition as a first-team All-American.
  Lefty Driesell, his coach at Maryland, has been quoted as saying “If Lenny Bias isn't the player of the world, I don't know who is.”
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Think about that Driesell quote again. Obviously, he’s going to speak highly of his own player, but this is a guy who many believed was in the same ballpark as the great Jordan himself. Despite only being two years older than Bias, Jordan had already become the golden standard for young swingmen in the NBA, and many, including Celtics’ head coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach, thought he could be the next guy in that category.
None of that mattered though. He was the college star who was improbably drafted by the best team in the game. It was all set up to be a Celtics’ dynasty that wouldn’t die once the Bird-era ended, but transition into the Bias-era.
That transition never happened of course, and now we’re left wondering “what if?” There are so many parts of the NBA that would be vastly different had the pogo stick forward joined the Celtics. Despite their immense success in 1986, those Celtics only made it to one more NBA Finals in 1987.
During that series, Bird told Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon that Bias’ death was the “the cruelest thing I've ever heard.” That’s spoken by the man Bias was drafted to eventually replace.
However you look at those Celtics in that year’s NBA Finals, a series they lost 4-2 to the Los Angeles Lakers, you can tell that age and injury had finally caught up to them. Could Bias have been able to take some of the load off of a hobbled Bill Walton, who only played in 10 regular season games that season?
You’d think that Bias, as Georgetown University men’s basketball coach John Thompson said during that ‘86 NBA Draft, would “have a difficult time getting playing time” behind Bird during that 1987 season. He wasn’t going to unseat Bird, but with Walton missing almost the entire season, he could have been the stop gap in a season that fell just short of another title.
What about Bird? Bias’ death was something that affected him emotionally, but it was also something that affected his career in the long term. Like teammate Kevin McHale, Bird’s health began to wane as the 1980s ended, and with that so did the Celtics’ championship window. Even if Bias were to have been able to spot both of them 10 minutes a night, that could have eased the pain Bird suffered from his back and McHale
from his right foot.
In a way, the death of Bias marked the death of the Boston Celtics. They made that NBA Finals appearance in 1987, but in the following years things started going down the drain. First Bird, then McHale was forced into retirement by injury and the Celtics’ golden era was over. The Detroit Pistons took their turn atop the NBA, and then the Jordan and his Chicago Bulls took over. It was at that point you really begin to miss Bias the player.
In what was supposed to be a time where Bias took to the elite of the NBA, his former ACC adversary Jordan ruled. The Celtics averaged 28 wins in those years after Bird and McHale retired, winning a total of 168 games in the six years before 2000. Could the Celtics have avoided the follies that came with a team whose future died before it was even its present?
Courtesy of Contraband
Let’s not look at it that narrowly though. What really puts this into context is what Celtics’ guard Danny Ainge told the Boston Herald in 1986 after Bias’ death. “When I heard about it, I couldn't believe it was true,” he said. “Here was a guy I was just with the night before, laughing and smiling and sipping on 7 Up. He was just on top of the world.”
That’s the reaction that links this, the idea that we all have dealt with this tragedy on the same level. It’s a realization that Bias was just a kid excited to start a new chapter of his life. He wasn’t dealing drugs, and he wasn’t anything of a gang banger, he was a 22 year old who was on the verge of playing for the greatest team in the NBA.
“He was just on top of the world” culminates the whole personal idea of Bias. Yes, he was a player who was supposed to lead the Celtics to championships, but he was more than a player – he was a person.
  That’s what we lose in all of this. Sometimes we think of Bias as this theoretical piece of a championship puzzle, like he’s an ingredient needed to bake a cake. This is a person, a young man who had his entire life ahead of him, and lost it all just two nights after it really began.
I said that we avoid saying his name, and that’s because it’s piercing. The story of Bias is not told because we don’t feel comfortable with it, even 25 years after his passing. It’s still hard to come to terms with the circumstances and some refer to him as just Bias rather than Len Bias – that full name, it seems almost too personal.
Len Bias was a basketball player, a highly-decorated young player who had the talent and potential to change the way we talk about the NBA today. Len Bias was also a person, a happy and smart guy who made a costly and fatal mistake.
Although he never scored a basket in the NBA or enjoyed the life of one living out their dream career, it’s at that point we look back at the question of “what could have been?” and realize that there is no answer.
There is just the monumental legacy of a player lost too soon.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Anderson bring confidence, NBA pedigree to GVSU

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Courtesy Doug Witte
You're not going to hear much coming out of junior guard Josh Anderson's mouth during practice or a game, but the laid-back transfer has made a lot of noise on the court as a spark plug for the Grand Valley State University men's basketball team this season.
The 6-foot-3 guard from Chicago has a quiet confidence and a little basketball pedigree, part of which comes from his father, Nick, who played 13 seasons in the NBA.
Ten of those years came with the Orlando Magic, where he teamed with Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal to push the Magic to an NBA Finals appearance 1995.
“Him making it as far as he did, I want to succeed as far as I can at the same time,” said Anderson, who averages 9.4 points per game so far this season. “He gave me a lot of talks to just stay with it, stay focused, to always try to win. He’s played a big part in my life just as a role model, as a father, (in) basketball and just overall as a good guy.”
While he is not as big or strong as his 6-foot-6 father, Anderson has been able to bring the Lakers a deft shooting touch (7-of-10 from 3-point range this season) and in-game confidence.
“Obviously, he’s an excellent shooter, that’s probably the No. 1 thing he’s done for us thus far,” said GVSU head coach Ric Welsey. “Not only is he a good shooter, but he also shoots with confidence, which seems like it’d go hand in hand, but it doesn’t always.”
Wesley said Anderson is a player that can give the offense a boost, and after his three-consecutive 3-pointers helped the Lakers get back into their eventual loss to top-ranked Bellarmine University earlier this season, he’s proven his coach right.
“It just rubs off on everybody else when you see him confident in his game,” said junior forward Tony Peters. “He’s just a basketball player, and he’s been through a lot of the same things we’ve been through. It all comes down to being a basketball player, and he’s good at what he does, so he fit right in with us.”
That easy transition has helped Anderson, as well as the team, throughout the early parts of this season. Despite the three-point loss to Bellarmine, Anderson has proven to be a player his teammates can rely on in games, a quality he developed through experience at the junior college-level.
“The fact that he’s an older junior college player, he’s been in tougher games, he’s been somewhat tested … is all good stuff,” Wesley said. “He’s a confident player, but he’s a confident person. Older guys tend to be that way, they’ve been away from home, and they’ve been on their own a bit … so their assimilation into the team is a little bit easier.”
Tough games are nothing new to Anderson, who teamed with Chicago Bulls’ guard and reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose to win consecutive state championships at Simeon Vocational School in Chicago.
“It’s just going through a bunch of experiences, going through the trenches playing with the players I’ve played with, it just gave me a lot of experience,” Anderson said. “I feel like when I go out there, I’m just ready. I’m ready to make a play, defend, do what I’ve got to do to uplift my team to a win.”
While the basketball connection to his father is an obvious one, the connection to Rose is another aspect of that basketball pedigree that many can only dream of having.
Courtesy of Google
“It was an experience man — Derrick Rose is Derrick Rose, he’s the MVP,” said Anderson, who still keeps in touch with Rose. “Playing with him is another experience. I saw what he did to better himself everyday in practice. Before practice he’s in there shooting, he’s in there working on his game. It’s definitely an experience just watching him go through what he went through.”
Looking over Anderson’s short career, which began at age 7 at the Penny Hardaway Basketball Camp in Memphis, his pedigree has helped increase his confidence, but the ability to play well on the court has helped Anderson make his biggest impact.
“I just want to be a presence on the court, what can I do to make the team better,” he said. “It might be diving on the floor, it might be getting rebounds or getting steals on the defensive end – if my team needs me to do that, I’m going to do that.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brady Hoke: Big Ten's top coach in 2011-12

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Courtesy Zimbio
In case you haven't heard, and I'm not sure the University of Michigan's fans would let that happen, head football coach Brady Hoke has been honored as the conference's coach of the year.

The first year coach has completely flipped the Rich Rodriguez-era and transformed the Wolverines into surprise BCS contenders. Despite the accolades, it was basically his award to lose.

Wisconsin's Brett Beilema and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio were the only other coaches with a shot, but even they weren't in the same type of situation as Hoke.

He helped turn a defense that was once worst in the conference into one of its best, and his offense, despite its imperfections, found a way to be effective all season long.

Kudos to him, there wasn't another candidate as deserving as him, now, just keep winning with your players in the future and don't pull a Charlie Weis.