Tag Archives: Western Conference

“Food for Thought on 12-1-10”

Here are a few of my top thoughts on this Wednesday morning:

Would Jon Gruden (pictured above on the far right) really leave the booth to get back into coaching at the U?

Will Derek Jeter wake up and return to the Yankees?

I honestly believe that Derek Jeter and his agent will come to their senses.  The 3 year, 45 million dollar offer is a more than fair deal for the Yankee Captain.  I know it is hard for anyone to take a pay cut, but in the MLB, players age.  Derek is aging, which was demonstrated threw his .270 batting average this past season (34 points below his career average) and his career lows in On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage.  But the Yankee shortstop does not feel that he is done yet.  Besides, he will still be the highest paid shortstop in all of baseball (Hanley Ramirez next highest paid shortstop at 11 million).  Also, do you really think another team will offer him more than 15 million dollars a year?

So I do think Derek Jeter will be wearing the Pinstripes come next April..

Will James Harrison need to alter the way he plays?

Coach Tomlin has mentioned that Harrison may need to alter some elements of his style of play.  But lets be entirely honest.  James Harrison is going to be James Harrison.  He has made a living off of his aggressive play.  Do you really think a guy like Harrison is going to bow down to the man?

Coach Tomlin was quoted as saying, “Man life isn’t fair.  I’m not concerned about fairness. I’m really not. I’m concerned about preparing for the Baltimore Ravens.” 

Harrison is also concerned about preparing for Baltimore.  But you better believe his style will not be altered when two of the League’s most physical teams go head to head for AFC North supremacy.  Football can be a brutal game.

Can the Lakers return to dominance even in the midst of a tough 3 game slide?

So the Lakers have dropped 3 games in a row.  Do you really think Kobe, Phil, and the LakeShow are panicking?  Give me a break.  Even with the recent skid, they still sit atop the Pacific Division by 4.5 games.  This team has won the Western Conference 3 consecutive years and is looking for a 3rd straight NBA Championship.  Great teams know when they have to get it together.

Also realize that the Lakers now go on a 4 game stretch where they play the Rockets, the Kings, the Wizards, and the Clippers.  Realize that none of these teams have won more than 5 games thus far.  The 4 bottom feeders have a total of 17 wins between them on the season.

 Look for the Lakers to reel off 4 straight wins and hush the critics.

You better believe that this Laker team is still the best team in the League.

Is the Big Ten now the supreme conference in College Basketball?

After being dominated by the ACC for over a decade, the Big Ten finally won the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge last season.  They are currently ahead 4 to 2 this year, and look to be bringing home the hardware again.  Currently, the mighty Big Ten has 5 teams ranked in the top 25.  Two of these squads are in the top 10.

The perennial top basketball conference, the Big East, has 6 teams in the AP top 25.  With 3 in the top 10.  I will admit that preseason I had the Big Ten as the top conference and the Big East as a very close number 2.  I still stand by this pick even with the Big East currently sporting 1 more top 25 team.

The difference is at the top.  I do not think the Big East’s top teams are as strong as the Big Ten’s top squads.  Do you really think that Pittsburgh, Nova, or UConn for that matter are better than Ohio State or Michigan State?  It is still early though.

A lot of this depends on what you define as the criteria for the best conference though.  Most Final Four Contenders?  Most overall tournament teams?  Most overall depth?  The best teams at the top?

But please note that the Big Ten has only 11 teams, while the Big East has 16.  I give the nod to the Big Ten at this time, but barely.

Will Lebron survive his visit to Cleveland on Thursday?

The NBA has provided heightened security for the Miami Heat wherever they have traveled all season.  They better up the ante in Cleveland big time though.  People in Northern Ohio are still extremely bitter towards their former “King.”  They will do all in the power to make sure that LBJ has a horrible stay in his former home state.

I do not see anything tragic happening.  But do expect this game to sport a playoff atmosphere.  The Cleveland team will play inspired basketball and do all in their power to please the crowd in probably the biggest game of the season for this Cavs team.  Miami on the other hand will also come out and play with a tenacity that we have not seen yet.  Lebron wants this game.  He left Cleveland to win titles.  You better believe that he will be highly disappointed if he gets beaten by his former squad.

Is Jon Gruden actually considering going to Coach at the U?

Gruden claims he loves his job as a Monday Night Football Analyst.  And can you really blame the guy?  He has every man’s dream job.  Sure the Head Coaching job at the University of Miami is one of the most sought after positions in College Football.  Yet they have not made a BCS Bowl Game since 2004. And, over the years, high-profile coaches moving from the NFL to College and vice versa has not been the most successful business venture.

I do admit that I think Gruden has a hint of interest.  But at this time, I do not see him leaving. 

So there is my food for thought on the days hottest topics in sports.  Let me hear your thoughts.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NBA Preview 2010-2011”

Expect to see Kobe Bryant (pictured above) holding up a championship trophy for a 6th time come June.

The NBA is back folks.  Hard to believe, but after an epic NBA Finals in May, the “Decision” in July, the World FIBA Championships, and preseason basketball, it feels like it never ended.  Well either way, the action gets going tonight with a big time matchup in the East.

Main Storylines:

-What affect will the “Decision” have on the overall scope of the League?

-Can Miami’s stellar trifecta bring Lebron his first championship in South Beach?

-Can Phil Jackson capture his 4th version of the 3-Peat?  And going with this, will Kobe tie Jordan with his 6th title?

-Are the Magic ready to finally take that final step and win a title?

-Can Boston finish the job this year in what looks to be the last year with this amazing group in tact?

-Has the Eastern Conference finally caught up to the West (it would be for the first time since the Jordan era with the Bulls)?

-Do the Thunder or Bulls have what it takes to shock the world?

Divisional Winners:

East:

AtlanticCeltics:    In what may be the NBA’s weakest overall division, I got the Celtics bringing home their 4th consecutive divisional title without much difficulty.  This team is extremely tough, and if they remain healthy, could put up the best record in the entire League.

SoutheastMagic:  Shocking I know.  But I do think contrary to popular belief, that the Heat will have some growing pains.  They have an amazingly talented group.  But the Magic have been good for some time now and look ready to take the next step.   Not to mention they have won the division 3 consecutive years already.

CentralBulls:  Chicago is a team that is kind of hiding behind the mighty Celtics, Magic, and Heat.  And believe me, they are fine with this.  This is an extremely talented team that will quietly go about their business all year, and be there come playoff time.  They had arguably the best offseason, outside of Miami, picking up Carlos Boozer and sharpshooter, Kyle Korver.  Look for Derrick Rose to continue to play exceptional and really utilize the talent that management has put around him.

West:

Southwest: Mavericks:  This may be the most up for grabs division in the entire NBA.  They have a few very talented teams in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.  Though I do not see a title frontrunner in the group, teams like Dallas and San Antonio have been very solid for over a decade now.  Do not sleep on the teams out of this division come playoff time regardless if they are beginning to age.  I am taking Dallas here though, due to their amazing owner (Mark Cuban), and their outstanding consistency over the past decade.

NorthwestThunder:  This will be another hotly contested division at the top.  I see the Thunder and Trailblazers having a great battle down the stretch for the division title.  But Kevin Durant is arguably the best scorer in the entire game now.  And though I wish Oklahoma City could have made a move to bring in a major interior presence such as a Carlos Boozer, this team is extremely exciting and young.  Honestly, if you are looking for a fun team to watch, look no further than the Thunder.  Durant, Westbrook, Cook, Harden, and Green are some of the best young players in the League.  And they all happen to be on the same team.  Not to mention this team now has some playoff experience.  With a major midseason move, this team could be a title contender.

PacificLakers:  As if I was going to pick somebody other than LA.  This team has been to 3 consecutive NBA Finals and look to be the frontrunner to come out of the West for the 4th consecutive year.  This team has great chemistry, a phenomenal coach, and great length at every position.  Not to mention they have the best closer in the game, Kobe Bryant.  Expect the Lake Show to be around and right in the thick of things come May.

Sleeper Teams:

I am going to pick one sleeper team out of each conference.  Now in the East, the Bulls are my team that could shock the world.  Now I realize I am picking them to win the division title, but they also are a team that is really known as the 4th or 5th fiddle in the East due to teams like the Celtics, Magic, and Heat.  Another team to keep an eye on though is the Brandon Jennings led Milwaukee Bucks.  This team is young and talented.  But my sleeper pick in the East is the Chicago Bulls.

Out of the West, my sleeper pick has to be Portland Trailblazers.  Now I would have said the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they are really no sleeper team to anybody anymore.  Many analysts have them as the 2nd best team in the West, after the Lakers.  But the Trailblazers are a team that has had the talent for years now.  Injuries and poor execution down the stretch has been a thorn in this franchise’s side for some time.  With a healthy roster, this team is big, fast, and athletic.  Not to mention they have great length.  Length is a key in this league today, and the Trailblazers have it.  The question is can guys like Greg Oden, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Brandon Roy stay healthy?  If this team stays healthy, do not be surprised to see them play their way into the Western Conference Finals or dare I say the NBA Finals?!

Eastern Conference Finals:

Celtics over Magic in 7:  I know many of you are thinking, how could you not have Miami at least going to the conference finals?  And I will admit, they could easily ride their 3 stars all the way to the title, but I do not see it happening yet.  Miami is a year away in my eyes.  Team chemistry cannot be bought.  It has to be formed through going to battle together.  The Celtics and Magic are two very deep teams, that if they remain healthy, could each easily win the East.  But I got the Celtics, heading to the Finals for the 3rd time in 4 years.

Western Conference Finals:

Lakers over Thunder in 6:  You better believe I got the Lake Show heading to their 4th consecutive NBA Finals.  This team is just so deep, so well coached, and full of star power.  Now I will state that the Thunder could easily be a major bust though, but I am expecting them to pick up a big man at some point during the season , that will provide the final piece to the puzzle.  Sadly for the Thunder, Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant.  He has a greater will to win than any player in the game today.  If you look up the term “Refuse to Lose,” Kobe Bryant’s picture will show up next to it.  Expect to see Phil smiling in June (again).

NBA Finals:

Lakers over Celtics in 7:  I am making the same call I made last year.  And it is a safe bet in my eyes.  Both of these teams return basically their entire rosters from last year and look poised to go to battle for the rubber match.  Sadly for Boston, I see the Lakers ending up on top.  Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant are just too good of a combination.  But it will be an epic series that will provide the NBA with possibly its highest ever television ratings.  Kobe will be even with Michael Jordan come June.

So there you have it.  What a year it is going to be after the most tumultuous and action packed offseason of all time.  “The Decision” will have no affect on the NBA Champion in my eyes though.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“The Real Terrific Trifecta”

Could these two bitter rivals on the court and good friends off the court land in New York City next season?

Just when we thought the aftershock of “The Decision” was over. Today started murmurs about the possible departures of Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony from their current teams, to the Big Apple. New York would truly be the city that never slept if this happened. The Knicks have been craving a winner for the better part of a decade. A once proud franchise has really been at a standstill or a steady tread downward for 10 plus years now. Well that could all end in the very near future if the General Manager for the New York Knickerbockers (Donnie Walsh) puts on a David Blaine act. And a guy can dream right? I mean how far-fetched did most think it would be to see Lebron James and Chris Bosh join Wade in Miami?

In the words of the famous Disney Movie, “Angel’s In the Outfield,” “It could happen.”  So without even looking at the actual logistics and possibility of this momentous move, today, lets just dream big and look into if this actually happened. First of all the effect it would have would be amazing. Because these 3 players actually would have the pieces to gel. They are not just 3 random superstars. You take the best point guard in the game in CP3. Put him with the best small forward in the game outside of “King” James, Carmelo Anthony, and add in the highlight reel that is power forward Amare Stoudemire? You better believe that you have a great mix of guys that could really play together.

Amare was acquired by New York to bring other big names with him.  Stoudemire failed in a big way in July at helping acquire big name talent with him.  Well July is over and it is August now. Carmelo is an East Coast guy who thrived at Syracuse. And CP3 wants to play on a winner and even hinted at this trifecta heading to NYC at Melo’s wedding. The consequences for the East would be mind-blowing. The old Knicks vs Heat rivalry would be renewed. And probably more exciting than ever.

This would probably even lead to the power shifting in the NBA from the West to the East. In the East, you would now have the Celtics, the Magic, the Knicks, and the Heat as 4 very strong teams.  Not to mention a 5th very solid team in Chicago. The West would be left with the Lakers, the Mavericks, and the very young Oklahoma City Thunder. The Nuggets would never be the same without Melo. The Hornets were not a contender anyways. The Jazz loss of Boozer hurts.  The Trailblazers are always a major question mark due to injuries. The Spurs are becoming old and decrepit. This move would honestly lead to many believing in the East as the superior conference for the first time since the days of his “Airness.”

And I will say this. On paper, Lebron, Wade, and Bosh are the more skilled trio according to most.  Not to mention that Pat Riley is surrounding them with a decent supporting cast considering his lack of funds. But I will state that the New York trio would have a far better chemistry and would have a better shot at bringing home the title in my eyes.

The NBA game has had a reawakening at the point guard position.  Look at the contending teams from last year.  The  Celtics, the Magic, the Lakers, the Nuggets, the Mavericks, and the Suns and I could go on.  Want to know what they all had in common?  A big time point guard with playoff experience.  I mean think about it.  These teams had Rajon Rondo, Jameer Nelson, Derek Fisher, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, and Steve Nash.  Do the Miami Heat have a real legitimate point guard next year?  I guess Wade could do it.  But I would rather have Chris Paul running my offense.

So could this second terrific trio be formed, and would it be the “Real Terrific Trifecta?”

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Awake a Sleeping Giant”

Journeyman Al Harrington joins the 5th different team of his 12 year career and will do his best to mend the wounds of injuries to Kenyon Martin and Chris "Birdman" Anderson in Utah.

This NBA offseason has been dominated by the Eastern Conference.  Other than the return of Dirk in Dallas, it has really been the East Show.  Well that appears to be changing.  As this amazing summer continues to get hotter, the West seems to finally be arriving at the party fashionably late with some big moves. 

The Denver Nuggets have agreed in principle to a deal with 12 year journeyman Al Harrington.  Now why is this such a big move?  Well the Nuggets are a franchise that has been near the top of the West for the past few years, but never been able to take it to the next level.  In addition, Harrington is a consistent 15 and 5 guy who can help the Nuggets cope with the injuries to the Birdman (Chris Anderson) and Kmart (Kenyon Martin).  He provides another low post presence that will help give these guys some more time to heal so there is no need to rush the recovery.

 Other than the Lake Show, the Wild Wild West appears wide open at this time.  The Mavericks will be good again, though they really wanted Harrington.  The Thunder have improved by picking up more young talent like Daequan Cook, but still are in need of a real post presence.  The Suns are fading with the loss of Amare Stoudemire.  And things could be getting worse in the Phoenix desert.  Portland is always a wildcard in the respect that they are very dangerous when healthy.  Then lastly, the Spurs are always a threat, but seem to be aging to the end of the Duncan era.

There was also another big move made yesterday though that will make another team a  contender in the West.  The Utah Jazz picked up stud big man, Al Jefferson, for Kosta Koufos and some future first round draft picks.  This was a great move by the Jazz, who were in need of filling some of the void left by Carlos Boozer’s departure to Chicago.  Now some of the pressure is diverted off star point guard Deron Williams and the team has another scoring option.  The Jazz are extremely well coached by Jerry Sloan, and really will be able to utilize Jefferson in the half court.  Sloan has always been one of the most overlooked and underrated coaches in my eyes for the better part of 2 decades.  Most teams in the West can really get out and run.  It is much fewer and farther between to find teams that can play an effective half court offense especially during crunch time.  This pick up will further improve the solid half court game the Jazz already possess.

So there you have it.  The West is finally making moves.  Though the Lakers are still the team to beat without question, teams like the Nuggets and Jazz are making moves to improve and challenge LA.

The West has finally awoken. Eastern Conference beware.

Strap in for the Wild Wild West in the 2010-2011 season.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze