The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

Follow Mike Patton aka The General as he puts his thoughts in on sports.

Derek Fisher Is Out. Is Tom Thibodeau The Answer In New York?

(photo courtesy of Derrick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Derrick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports)

The New York Knicks are in Year Two of their rebuilding project. Derek Fisher was picked to preside over this project last season and it was evident they were trying to be as bad as possible once Carmelo Anthony went down to injury. The team tanked and ended up getting the third pick in the draft, which turned out to be forward Kristaps Porzingis (which many expected to be a project). The addition of Porzingis, the free agents the Knicks added and the return of Carmelo Anthony had some thinking the Knicks could make the playoffs. But the Knicks, even though they have shown improvement, don’t look like they will be making the playoffs again this season either. The Knicks are currently 23-31, good for 12th in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. And after starting 20-20, the team is now 23-31, including losing nine of their last ten games. Needless to say, the organization was not happy with the recent outcomes and the slow starts as well. So with that dissatisfaction, the Knicks made a move. New York fired head coach Derek Fisher on Monday, replacing him with interim head coach Kurt Rambis. And with that move, the Knicks move forward.

Fisher was following in the footsteps of Jason Kidd when he went from playing straight to being a head coach. With Phil as his mentor and the relationship they built when Phil coached Derek, there was some thought that the pairing would work well together. But apparently the relationship was not strong enough to overcome the recent struggles. It seemed like the team got off to a pretty good start and then inexplicably started inconsistent play. The intensity that was there before just was not the same. And it was not just noticeable to the fans of the team, but to the organization. But not only was the play not the same, neither was the coaching. There have been many questionable decisions that Fisher has made in terms of playing time, situational substitutions and timeout management that have made some cringe. Of course, he has never been a coach before at any level, so he is learning on the job. But even in knowing that, Fisher still seemed to not learn from some of the mistakes he was making. And with that, it became increasingly frustrating for some to watch their team consistently not make it happen when given the opportunities to do so. So with that happening, the Knicks had to make a move. The team’s future being led by Fisher was going nowhere fast. And now it seems like he may have been the coach that was sacrificed before any type of success happens for the Knicks again.

Kurt Rambis is the current replacement, but many feel the interim head coach is just holding the position for someone else. There has been one prominent name mentioned after Fisher was fired and that name is former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. The long-time assistant coach in the NBA got his big break when becoming the head coach of the Chicago Bulls in 2010. Thibs, as he is called by many that played for him, was a solid coach in the NBA and got the most out of his players in the Chicago. But unfortunately, he and management in Chicago could not get along and he was released from his job there this past offseason. Some thought he would have gotten another NBA coaching job just as quick as he got fired, but that was not the case. Instead, Thibodeau took some time off and examined the coaching scene. And with the job opening coming up in New York, there has been some talk that Thibs is interested. There are reports out there that he has always wanted to be the head coach of the New York Knicks. And with who all is available out there, who is more qualified for the job than Thibodeau? He took the Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year, was the fastest coach in NBA history to 100 victories and also was able to help the Bulls survive the loss of point guard Derrick Rose year after year and still have them be successful. Thibodeau is a tireless worker and has been known to get the best out of his teams. But how does he fit in New York?

Thibodeau has been known as a great defensive coach. He was the mastermind behind the defense in Boston during their resurgence with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back in 2007-2008. If he is hired as the coach of the Knicks, defense is one aspect that will be better. And for Carmelo Anthony, it will probably be the hardest he has been asked to work defensively. The Knicks and their effort on that end will not be compromised and Thibodeau will make sure of that. And with Porzingis there on the team, it will be scary how good a defender he could make the 7’3” rookie forward. But for as much as he could help the defense, Thibodeau would not help them offensively. For his entire time in Chicago, he was criticized time and time again about his offense. Even when he had Derrick Rose, the offense was deemed unimaginative and rudimentary by many. And the lack of diversity in the offense led to the Bulls being one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA for much of his time there in Chicago. With that knowledge being known, the Knicks would be an even uglier mess offensively with Thibodeau there as the head coach. The Knicks currently sit as one of the worst offenses in efficiency and points per game over the last two seasons. With a star player that isn’t exactly the picture of efficiency and Thibs not exactly known to have much movement in his offense, the Knicks would be an eyesore on the offensive end. And in this day and time in the NBA, you have to score to win. The days of Jeff Van Gundy having a physical defensive team win games in New York is over. Bringing Thibs there would be flashing back to that time in Knicks basketball with even less offensive talent.

The Knicks knew they had gone as far as they could with Fisher as the head coach. It was apparent when they lost nine of their last ten and the team looked like they had lost their direction. But in hiring the next head coach, Phil Jackson has to know this could be a job-defining move. If he hired Thibodeau, then he is hiring a fierce competitor as a head coach that will not allow anything but the best effort every night. But on the flipside, Thibs is not the guy to help them be better offensively. He may be a better head coach than Fisher, but he is not the guy to give them what they need. And imagine Thibodeau trying to run the Triangle offense in New York without really knowing it. If he has to do that, then you could really have an offensive mess on your hands.

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Marshawn Lynch: Beast Mode Deactivated

(photo courtesy Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports)

The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the NFL over the last four seasons. They are known for a dominant defense and a physical running game. This year, that formula changed a bit with the loss of running back Marshawn Lynch for half the season due to nagging injuries and sports hernia surgery. The responsibility of the offense fell more on quarterback Russell Wilson to run the show and make it happen. The offense was still successful, but there was no doubt that they could have been even better with a healthy Marshawn Lynch. The veteran running back has been the staple of their offense since their run started in the Great Northwest. Each game, you got used to seeing a physical run happen that would just amaze you. Many players said he was one of the toughest players to tackle in the NFL. But Marshawn has decided he has had enough of the NFL. At the age of 29, Lynch has decided to call it a career. Lynch tweeted out a picture during the Super Bowl that indicated that he was retiring and there were messages from teammates Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman along with Seahawks owner Paul Allen that all but confirmed it. The real confirmation came when Lynch’s agent confirmed it on Monday that Lynch was indeed calling it a career. So Beast Mode will now be leaving the game and headed on to a new chapter of his life.

Many will remember the things that he did on the field and the effect he had there on the Seattle team. One of the most memorable plays of his career had to be the run he had against the New Orleans Saints back in 2011. That run and the cheers led to an actual earthquake happening. And that memory will forever be in the minds of Seattle fans and NFL fans as well. But what will also be in the memory of many is that Marshawn did things his own way. Much was made of him and speaking to the media. When he was in Seattle, media was not something he did at all. If he could have his way, he would avoid it at all costs. But due to threats of being fined, he eventually made some appearances with media. Those appearances, however, were still done on his own terms. He said very little if anything and promptly told media why he was really there. Who can forget him saying that he was at the Super Bowl press conference last year so he does not get fined? Marshawn just was not about the media at all and could care less about talking to them. He was more about playing the game and having fun with his teammates on the field or as he says it “I’m bout that action boss.” And about the action he was with career numbers of 9,112 yards, a 4.3 career average per carry and 83 career touchdowns over nine NFL seasons.

Marshawn Lynch and his exploits on the field will be talked about for a while. And there will be a debate whether he is worthy enough to make the Hall Of Fame in the upcoming years. He put up some good numbers over nine years. But the reality is he has 3,000 less yards than Frank Gore and he also has 29 less career touchdowns than Adrian Peterson. Both Gore and Peterson will more than likely be Hall of Famers. But with the way he handled media, that could affect him getting in. Lynch, though, could probably care less whether he makes the Hall of Fame or not. To him, he got what he wanted out of the NFL and is now able to move to the next step of his life. And reportedly, he has not spent much of his money he made in the NFLl. Lynch can now devote his energy to causes that affect where he is from, Oakland, and things that interest him and create a new life and identity for himself away from the game. And more importantly, Lynch can now be as quiet as he wants to be. Of course he cannot live like a hermit because many know who he is. But he can get away from the spotlight that he really did not like anyway. And that seems to suit him just fine.

Lynch definitely was a guy that struck fear in defenses. And when Seattle began to become the power they are now, he was the face of that movement. But Lynch has made his decision and it is time for him to move on. And who can blame him? He is getting out with his health and a bunch of money to live with. And he more importantly got to go out the way he wanted to go out: on his own terms. Good luch in retirement Marshawn. Enjoy life after football.

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The Denver Defense Takes Over The Super Bowl

(photo courtesy Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

(photo courtesy Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

The Super Bowl was a matchup of the old guard and the new school of quarterbacks in the NFL. We had Cam Newton and the high-scoring Carolina Panthers in one corner and veteran Peyton Manning and the gritty Denver Broncos in the other corner. Both teams had fought through different things to make it to the big game. The Panthers lost their top wide receiver and many did not expect much of them to start the year. And for the Broncos, they had their share of quarterback issues and offensive issues as a whole. But there these two stood, battling for the Lombardi Trophy. In the end, the Broncos were able to prevail over the favored Panthers 24-10. And with that, Peyton Manning now has his second Lombardi Trophy to add to his illustrious career. The Panthers fought hard, but they just did not have enough to make it happen. And for the Broncos, their defense definitely won this game.

The Broncos defense had a tall task: stopping the MVP, Cam Newton. He has been terrorizing defenses all year with his feet and his arm. But in this game, the terror was what he faced in the Denver defense. The Panthers offensive line was not very successful in protecting Newton and that led to him being sacked seven times in this game. The main guy who was after Newton all game was pass-rusher supreme Von Miller. The free-agent-to-be and MVP of the game was all over the field and on Cam’s heels all night long. He had a total of 2.5 sacks Sunday night. The pressure on Cam was the most he had seen all season long. And the hits that he took just kept coming all night long. That led to him not having much time to hit any of his wide receivers down field and having to throw away more passes than he had all season long. Because of the disrupting of the passing game by the Denver pressure packages, the Panthers looked disjointed in the passing game and Cam never seemed to get comfortable in the pocket. And when he scrambled, Cam had a few runs of note, but he had the clamps put on him for most of the night.

Coming into this game, the Panthers were the team that was known for forcing turnovers. They had the best turnover ratio in the NFL coming into this game. But in the Super Bowl, the Broncos defense turned the tide. The Broncos forced three turnovers in this game. And the Panthers, they were only able to force three turnovers. Usually the turnovers the Panthers force end up in points. But in this game, they were not able to take those turnovers and convert them at all, as the Denver defense was stingy all night long. The Denver defense, however, forced two big turnovers that led to their two touchdowns. The first big turnover they forced came when the Von Miller sacked Cam Newton. Miller was able to strip Newton on the play and then the Broncos recovered the ball in the endzone for a touchdown. And the other huge turnover was when they were up 16-10 and Carolina had the ball, needing a touchdown and extra point to take the lead. Von Miller again striped Cam Newton of the ball while rushing the passer. That turnover led to the game-clinching touchdown that would seal the game. Those 14 points the Broncos defense helped either score or setup were the difference in the game tonight and helped them hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Another huge key in this game was the running game. Coming in, the Carolina Panthers were the team that was used to having a consistent running game. With Cam Newton being able to run and Jonathan Stewart running the ball very solid coming into the game, it was thought the Broncos could be the team to have the issue running the football. But the Panthers were never really able to get their running game going. Newton ended up with 45 yards on six carries, but Jonathan Stewart was missing in action all night long. The veteran running back out of Oregon had one big run of 12 yards in this game. But other than that, he had only eleven carries for 17 yards and a touchdown. With the running game never getting started, the Panthers had to depend on the passing game. And if anyone has watched the Panthers play this year, they are not a team that typically depends on the passing game to get them going. Besides their veteran tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers had a pedestrian receiving corps. In this game, their dropped passes finally caught up to them. And add to that some errant passes from Cam and the passing game was stuck in neutral as well.

Peyton Manning may be retiring after this game and riding off into the sunset as a two-time title and arguably the greatest of all-time. But the Denver Broncos did not win this championship because of his stellar play. They won this game on the strength of their defense. And from the beginning of the season to now, their defense carried the offense on their collective backs. It’s only fitting that the final game of the season was a defensive masterpiece.

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The General’s NFL Proclamations-Super Bowl Special

(photo courtesy Associated Press)

(photo courtesy Associated Press)

It all comes down to one game. Two teams, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, have fought hard to make their way to the Super Bowl. One was expected to be a contender from the beginning of the season. The other was not expected to even win six games. But now both are in Santa Clara, California getting ready to try and win the biggest football game in their professional careers. One will achieve that goal while the other will take in the bitter feeling of defeat on the NFL’s biggest stage. Which one will be taking that loss and more in the final installment of the General’s NFL proclamations coming right now!

Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers

  1. The Panthers are very heavy run-oriented and the Broncos stop the run very well. One of these strengths are going to have to give. The feather in the cap Carolina has is Cam Newton running the football. And with that being said, the Panthers will have 125 yards total on the ground, with Cam acquiring at least two first downs and 50 yards rushing. And just for good measure, let’s add in a touchdown for him as well.
  2. The Broncos have to get their running game going. And in doing so, they will be trying to run against a stingy defense as well. But unfortunately, the Broncos have not been as successful as the Panthers’ offensive line. In this one, look for the running game of the Broncos to not gain over 80 yards rushing.
  3. Cornerbacks Josh Norman and Aqib Talib have played very well for the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos respectively. Talib will have his own issues to deal with, but Norman has two really good receivers he will get some time against in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. He will not be able to guard both, but he can affect both of them. Look for him to hold whoever he checks defensively to 4 receptions for 70 yards at the least.
  4. The Denver pass rushing duo of Von Miller and Demarcus Ware can cause havoc on opposing offenses. And every game they have played in together, they both have had an impact on the game. Well in this one, they will have their chances. Of course it will be hard for them to get Cam down. But they will get there at least once to get Newton.
  5. Peyton Manning versus Cam Newton has been the story for most of the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Many have wondered which one will have the better game. Well, both will have an interesting one in this game. Both will have at least one turnover and there will be one play made by one quarterback that will be the difference in the game.

Prediction: The Panthers come in riding high off their two big wins in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Broncos were able to hang on and win two big game to get to the big stage. Both teams need the running game to be effective and both defenses stop the run very well. Eventually, the playmaking of Cam overcomes the nasty defense of the Panthers. And through the air and on the ground, Cam makes the plays for the Panthers to win the game. And although Peyton will come out and play well for a while, he will not be able to keep up the pace for the entire game. The Panthers win their first ever Super Bowl title and it will be a close one. Carolina 27, Denver 21

The Carolina Panthers are Dabbin’ all the way back to Charlotte with the Lombardi Trophy.

(photo courtesy USA Today)

(photo courtesy USA Today)

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Five Factors For Carolina To Win The Super Bowl

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

The Carolina Panthers have been a revelation this year. When the season began for the Panthers, there was trepidation with how they would do. Carolina lost their best wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, to a torn ACL before the season started. But the Panthers passing attack overcame that and ended up being one of the best offenses in the NFL, thanks to soon-to-be NFL MVP Cam Newton. And combined with that stingy defense, the Panthers steamrolled through the regular and the postseason. Now the next challenge awaits them as they take on the Denver Broncos. And while some may think it could be an ugly game for Denver, the Panthers should expect a battle from the veteran Broncos team. Here are five factors that could swing the game in their favor versus Denver.

  1. Turn up the heat on Peyton Manning

The Panthers have been steady in putting pressure on quarterbacks all year long. And the Denver Broncos have not exactly been the best at protecting their quarterback. The Broncos have gotten better over the year, but they are still the same offensive line that had issues to start the year. If Carolina is able to take advantage of that, then they will have Peyton Manning dancing in the pocket more than he would like to. One guy to watch out for up front is defensive tackle Kawaan Short. He seems to be the barometer of their front four and can be a huge force on the game.

  1. Who’s the other corner?

The Carolina Panthers have had cornerback Josh Norman step up all season long. And going into his free agency this offseason, he will be targeted by many teams because of his stellar job. But other than him, who do the Panthers have? The other cornerbacks have done well, but with Charles Tillman out, Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain have to step up and play well. Based on the Panthers defense, Norman will not be on Broncos’ wide receiver Demaryius Thomas all the time. And with Emmanuel Sanders at the other wide receiver slot for Denver, the Panthers will need someone else to step up and defend him sometimes too. Finnegan and McClain will be key to how the Panthers defend the Broncos’ passing game.

  1. Pound the rock

The Carolina Panthers are a physical team whose mantra is “Keep Pounding”. In this game, they must do so offensively. The Panthers are a run-oriented team with a passing game that works off of it. As far as the Broncos, they are a physical team that limits teams in the running game. The Panthers have to win that battle in the running game versus Denver’s defense. When they run the football with Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart or Mike Tolbert, it sets up everything that they do. And if they don’t have the running game, then it causes the Panthers to struggle a bit. The Panthers offensive line has to be nasty in this one from start to finish.

  1. Cam being the MVP

Cam Newton has been the MVP of the NFL this season. And in this game, the Denver Broncos will try to do all they can to limit him. But it’s real hard to limit a guy that is 6’6” and 250-260 pounds with a cannon for an arm. Cam has to make those special plays that make a player like him unique. The pressure will be after him all game long, so he has to turn those potential sacks into positive plays. And if he is able to do that and neutralize the Broncos’ pass rush, then the Panthers will be a better position to win the game.

  1. The others receivers

The Panthers receivers have been playing well this season. For example, Ted Ginn Jr has had a career year for Carolina. But there have been some times where Ginn Jr has disappeared and dropped sure touchdown passes. And for him and the rest of the Panthers receiving corps, they will have their opportunities to make some things happen. Denver’s defensive secondary is very good but they do allow some plays to happen. The question is will they make the plays when they present themselves like they have all season or not? The big stage can have a great effect on players and it can also have a damaging effect. If they show up and take advantage of their opportunities, they could be in great position to win.

The Panthers are in a spot where they can make history. Carolina can win their first title in team history if they are to defeat the Broncos. It will not be easy. The Broncos will give them everything they have. But if Carolina can make these five things happen, then they could potentially be Dabbin all the way to Charlotte after this one.

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Five Factors For Denver To Win The Super Bowl

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

The Denver Broncos are where not many thought they could be. After their big start to the season, they struggled offensively and Peyton Manning was hurt. At that point, many had lost faith that could get it right. But during the postseason, they have made it happen and will be representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. Their opponent in the Super Bowl, the Carolina Panthers, will present a formidable challenge. If they are to win, they will definitely have to play outstanding in all aspects. But it isn’t impossible for them to win this one. After all, the games aren’t won just off matchups alone. Here are a few things that could swing the game in their favor.

  1. Running game consistency

The Denver Broncos are facing a stingy run defense in the Carolina Panthers. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are two linebackers that can cause any offense problems. The offensive line of the Broncos will be charged with creating holes for their running backs. If they are able to run the football, then they keep the Panthers’ defense on their heels. But just as key as it is that the Denver offensive line open holes, it will also be important that running backs CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman hit those holes. Because against Carolina, any sliver of daylight they get running the football will close quick. If Denver is not able to run the football, then they will be at the mercy of the Panthers’ defense, who will be able to do whatever they want to.

  1. Paging Demaryius Thomas

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas got paid this offseason to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. And in the regular season, he played very well (105 receptions for 1,304 yards and six touchdowns). But in the postseason, Thomas has been less than stellar (six receptions for 52 yards). For the Broncos to win, they have to get something from Thomas when in passing situations. They have been able to win without him so far in the postseason, but on the big stage they need all their weapons to play well. Josh Norman will surely defend him a good percentage of the time, but it does not matter. Thomas has to be big and play big.

  1. Put Greg Olsen on a milk carton

The Panthers passing game was something many questioned at the beginning of the year. And to their credit, they answered the bell and have played well as a unit all year. But make no mistake about it, tight end Greg Olsen is Cam Newton’s must trusted weapon in the passing game. The Broncos have to eliminate him from the equation in this one. One way to do so would be for them to use safety TJ Ward on him and maybe play under Olsen with a linebacker. That will be tough to do since they also have to contain quarterback Cam Newton, but it isn’t something that cannot be done. Another option would be to put cornerback Aqib Talib on him some in this game. If they are able to eliminate Olsen, then it puts the onus on the Panthers’ wide receiving crew to make it happen. And although they have been solid all season long, including Ted Ginn Jr having a career year, they are still not generally looked upon as a strong group. If the onus is placed on them, it will be interesting to see how they react.

  1. Third-down proficiency

The Carolina Panthers have been one of the better teams at converting third downs this season, doing so at a 42% clip. On the opposite side, the Broncos are one of the least efficient teams in the NFL on third downs. For the Broncos, a huge factor will be stopping drives and converting to keep drives alive. If the Broncos are able to bring that percentage down from the Panthers while getting theirs up, then that will definitely increase their chances of winning this game versus Carolina. If they don’t, well we know what could happen. And of course that would not be a pretty sight for the many that want Peyton to win what could be his last game.

  1. Contain Cam

Cam Newton has been special this season. He has passed and ran his way all the way to what will be his first MVP award. But in order to win this game, they must be able to contain him. Of course there will be times that he will break contain and make a play in this game. But as long as they are able to keep him in the pocket for majority of the time, their chances increase to win this game. One thing the Broncos may try to do is Mush Rush. In doing so, they may be able to keep Cam in the pocket while hopefully holding up in coverage. The Denver pass rush will be pivotal in this game. And with Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe getting after Cam, there will be an interesting battle going on between them and Cam.

The Broncos made it here and they are now getting a chance to make it happen on the big stage. There is no telling when they will be back and if they will ever get back to the Super Bowl. So they have to take advantage of their opportunity. And if they do these five things, then they increase their chances to potentially send Peyton Manning out on a winning note.

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What’s Wrong With The Washington Wizards?

(photo courtesy Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

The Wizards were playing the Atlanta Hawks tough in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season. John Wall was leading his team and giving them everything he had. But one fall he had changed the dynamic of the entire series. Wall took a tumble in the 1st game and ended up having some fractures in his left hand. He played through the fractures for the rest of Game 1, helping the Wizards steal homecourt advantage from Atlanta. But in doing that, Wall suffered an injury that would change the series. The injury to Wall would cause him to miss the next three games, which the Wizards would lose two of them. Washington would get a surprise return in Game 5 from Wall, but those two games they lost without Wall would come back to haunt them, as they would lose the series 4-2. Heading into this season, there were higher expectations for the Wizards. They had a very young and talented backcourt duo returning in John Wall and Bradley Beal. And to go along with that, they had some veteran big men returning to their team and a swingman in Otto Porter Jr who gained valuable experience. It was thought that this team would be competing for the Eastern Conference crown. Well, those thoughts have not come to reality as the Wizards are currently 21-25, good enough for 10th in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and outside the playoff picture. So what has happened to this up-and-coming team?

The pairing of Wall and Beal was talked about as being one of the most talented backcourts around. And when they are on the court together, they can have their moments. But the issue has always been the health of Bradley Beal. The talented young wing from the University of Florida was taken with the 3rd pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. And when he was taken, there was the thought of what he could be with Wall. But because of him always being injured, we never get to see the consistency of those two playing together. This season is especially important to Beal because he is seeking a max extension from the Wizards. But if I am the Wizards, I think long and hard on that one. Do you really want to give a max extension to a guy that has missed over 25 games twice in his four-year career? That is the dilemma facing the Wizards at this point. Beal is a talent, but he is a talent that stays injured all the time. And if he continues to get injured at this pace, then he may start entering the realm of guys that are talented but a risk. So far this season, he has only played in a total of 25 games, staring 17 of them. He played well in the game Wednesday night versus the Golden State Warriors. But looking at his numbers this season, he has been an up-and-down character. If the Wizards are to make a push for the playoffs, then Beal has to be more consistent. The Wizards need him to be on the floor and effective at all times because it seems like the weight of this team is falling on John Wall.

But the issue is of the Wizards’ decline does not squarely fall on the shoulders of Wizards head coach Randy Wittman and the injuries of Bradley Beal. The Wizards pretty deep inside last season. The duo of Marcin Gortat and Nene were punishing people inside last season. Add to that guys like Kevin Seraphin and Kris Humphries to that mix along with veteran forward Paul Pierce and you have a group of guys that are solid and can give something to the team. This season, Paul Pierce is gone (signed a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers) and Kevin Seraphin signed with the New York Knicks. Other than those two, the Wizards have the same crew there as their big men. But unfortunately for them, the Wizards have not been the same underneath. Gortat has not been quite as consistently and Nene has definitely not been the same guy. Both were huge for the Wizards at one point in time. Now it seems like they both struggle to get it going from night to night. Gortat cannot finish the point blank layups despite having layups spoon fed to him. And defensively, it seems like they are just getting outworked on the boards at different points. That kind of play from their big men will not help them win very many games at all.

The Wizards have a multitude of issues. The heath of Beal has to be monitored along with the play of their bigs. But the good thing for them is they are close to the playoff picture. And looking at where they currently standings, the Wizards have some time to get it there. The big task is to get more guys to consistently show up every night. Beal could be that guy, but he has been in and out due to injury. As far as Gortat, he has to show up every night as well. The Wizards paid big money to keep him and so far he has not produced to the level they paid him to. And to go along with that, there has not been consistent production from the power forward position. It will be interesting to see what they attempt to do to solve these issues because right now, they are looking like a team that is falling apart more than coming together.

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Johnny Manziel Was His Own Undoing In Cleveland

(photo courtesy of www.businessinsider.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.businessinsider.com)

The Cleveland Browns moved up in the 2014 NFL Draft with a quarterback in mind. No, it was not the guy everyone thought was going to be their choice. Teddy Bridgewater was the guy many thought would be the 1st pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. But after some scouts saw him workout and questioned his throwing, he began to tumble down draft boards. The other quarterback people were talking about was Johnny Manziel. People loved the excitement he brought to the college game. But there were questions as to how his style would fit in the pros. The decision was right there for the Cleveland Browns as they traded up to obtain the 22nd pick. Were they going to take the falling quarterback in Bridgewater or get the guy that intrigued some and infuriated others? Well, the owner of the Browns, Jimmy Haslam, was very intrigued by Johnny Manziel. And he was so intrigued with him that he decided to take him over Bridgewater. And with that, the Manziel era in Cleveland was set to begin. But unfortunately for the Browns, it was grounded before it got started. Tuesday, the Browns announced they were going to release the troubled quarterback in March when the new NFL year for business starts. And with that, Manziel will be without a team to play on.

The oft-troubled quarterback had plenty of chances to make things right. The Browns did not want to give up on him. But eventually the Browns had their hand forced when Manziel would continue to ignore the things they asked him to do. And as a result of his partying, drinking and potential domestic violence issues, he now finds himself teamless. Many would not have an issue with Manziel partying. And unfortunately, the coverage of his issues went a little overboard in the media. But still, Manziel knew the stipulations and chose to ignore what the Browns requested of him. And to top it all off, the potential of domestic violence did not make him look too good to them. So instead of the team waiting to see what he would look like under Hue Jackson, the team is more than likely looking for a new quarterback. There are some that will be wondering what happens next with Manziel. But there is only one thing Johnny should be thinking about: help. He has an issue with alcohol among other things. Anytime you disguise yourself to be in Vegas to party and drink when you’re supposed to be around your team, then you know you have to get some help. He also reportedly showed up to practice drunk and the team deemed it a concussion and that he would be out for the following game. That kind of activity from him screams help and that is exactly what he needs. And even though he went to rehab for thirty days, it was not enough for him. He needs the whole offseason to get it right at the least. Because if he does not get it right, he could cause trouble to himself and trouble to others around him.

Manziel has definitely earned not having a job right now. He carelessly threw away his career because he wanted to do what he wanted to do. But even in that, there will be someone that wants to take a chance on him. That someone could be Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. And for those that think he won’t take a chance, look at what he did last season signing controversial defensive end Greg Hardy. All Jones wants to do is win and if he thinks Manziel can be the guy behind Tony Romo, then he is all for giving him a shot. Besides, Manziel cannot be any worse than Matt Cassel, Kellen Moore and departed backup Brandon Weeden. But again, it will be interesting to see what all Jerry agrees to should he sign him there. If he has learned anything from his past, Jerry will get Manziel help and have restrictions like he did for wide receiver Dez Bryant. If he is able to get that type of security around Manziel and put language in his contract that prohibits certain things, then Jones may have a chance to get Johnny on the right track. But again, Johnny tends to follow the beat of his own drum and that can tend to get him in trouble.

The Manziel era was one in a long lists of disappointments for this current Cleveland regime. He never really touched the field and we may never get to know what he would have been as a starter consistently in the NFL. But what we do know if that Johnny has to get Johnny together first. He has to want to get himself on the right track on his own before someone can help him. And at this point, there is no indication that he even wants any help. But for him to have a chance to revive his career, Manziel must decide he wants to clean up his mess. After all, he could have done better and not created this drama. But instead he stirred up more things off the field than on the field. The onus is on him whether he wants to be in the NFL or not. And with the release coming in March, the reality may be starting to set in for him that he needs to get his act together. He has gotten way more chances than many NFL players and athletes get. But even with that, eventually the chances run out.

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Love Is Alive In Cleveland

(photo courtesy of David Blair/Portland Tribune)

(photo courtesy of David Blair/Portland Tribune)

Kevin Love was suffering under head coach David Blatt. And although the team was doing well overall (1st in the Eastern Conference), they were not getting the most they could get out of Love. He was looking more like a spot-up three point shooter and terrible defender. And as a result of that, Love would disappear a lot in the offense and defensively would be taken advantage in pick-and–roll situations. With his role being an issue there in Blatt’s offense, there were rumors that the team would look to trade him. It just was not going to work out for him and it looked like he was being forced into the action instead of the action flowing through him and the rest of his teammates. But ever since Blatt got fired, it seems like Love has been the answer for the Cavaliers. He has scored 20+ points three of the last five games. He scored 20+ points at a pace like this earlier in the seaon. But this time around, it looks a little different and he looks like a part of the offense instead of a round peg in a square hole. Lue has definitely tapped into what he thinks he can make happen for Love. And because of that, it seems like he is slowly becoming comfortable in The Land.

The role of Love offensively has always been one to question. He was a excellent shooter, rebounder and scorer for the Minnesota Timberwolves and averaged 20+ points and 10 rebounds a game three of his six seasons as a member of the Timberwolves. When he was picked up by Cleveland, it was expected that he would be a big man that could space the floor and help create lanes for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on the offensive end. Love has been shooting 37% this season from distance. But that is not all his game is. Love can be active in the post and he can also be active at the high post/elbow area. Under Blatt, it seemed like he never incorporated him in the high post/elbow area or the low post. LeBron would normally inhabit the post on one side and for some reason, they would not even bring Love to the high post. And as a result, he was almost a bystander in their offense. The first thing Lue said in regards to Love is that he would be getting him more involved in the offense. And Lue so far has been true to his word. Love has been getting the basketball more on the block and at the elbow since the coaching change. And as a result, he has been more active offensively and made more plays. And as time goes on, his presence offensively will help make things easier for LeBron and Kyrie Irving.

One thing that always used to happen to Love defensively was him being exposed in the pick-and-roll. Teams like the Golden State Warriors would spot who he was guarding and put whoever he was guarding in a pick-and-roll scenario. The results were usually a wide-open layup by the person getting the screen or the screener getting an open shot, whether it be a layup or a three-pointer. And because of that lackluster defense, Love would often find himself sitting the bench at crucial times. But Lue has not sat love in crucial moments since he has been there. And to his credit, Love has not harmed them as much defensively at critical times up to this point. Love, however, cannot take all the credit for the defensive adjustments. Tyronn Lue realized that Love’s limited foot quickness would be something he would have to compensate for. So with that in mind, he has used his defensive rotations just a touch quicker. The result is covering up for Love should he be out of position on defense. And what it also means is that Love has a seemingly predetermined decision on how to handle the pick-and-roll. There is no grey area and there are pieces around him that also understand that and are quick enough to cover him. The combination of recognition from the coach and knowing where you are supposed to be by Love has helped him actually make a few plays on defense. For example, the questionable charge he took against the Pacers Monday night probably would have never happened under the old regime. And along with that, Love would have never had that block in overtime would he had not been in the correct position. Those two instances show me that Love is capable of playing sold defense and can get the job done when positioned right by Lue.

The way the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing right now, they seem to be fitting more under Lue than they did Blatt. Tyronn seems to have their attention front and clear. And in having their full attention, Lue captured the attention of the Big Three there, especially Love. And because of that, the Cavs are starting to get comfortable with Love being out there with him than at any point in his tenure there. Chris Bosh tried to tell Love how the fit would work but Love reportedly has not responded. It has been a rough go for him there as the third wheel. As the season goes on, the Cavs will have more time to get comfortable with Love and the way he is being used. And for the Cavs, this coaching change may end up helping them.

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The Wrong Coaches Are Coaching In The NBA All-Star Game

The NBA All-Star game in Toronto is quickly approaching. For the West, we will have Spurs coach Gregg Popovich coaching the team. His Spurs are second in the Western Conference only to the Golden State Warriors, who are winning at a record-breaking pace this season. And for the East, former Cleveland head coach David Blatt was supposed to be coaching the All-Star game as a representative of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But after the surprise firing of Blatt before the All-Star break, his lead assistant will now be the coach. Tyronn Lue will be stepping in to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars since he is the newly named head coach of the best team in the East. And with that, we have two coaches coaching in the game that should really not be. But due to rules the NBA has, both of them are now the coaches that will be leading two groups of the best players in the NBA.

Coach Popovich could probably care less about the All-Star game. The thing he is more than likely thinking about is the playoffs and how to get his team ready for that time of the year. But because of a rule that does not allow coaches to coach in an All-Star game two years in a row, he is the coach that was blessed with the honor of leading the Western Conference All-Stars. And what was even stranger about the whole thing is the coach that would have been leading the All-Star game, if the NBA did not have a rule against it, would have been a coach that missed a good majority of the season before recently. NBA rules say that Steve Kerr would have been the coach should the rules allowed him to coach back-to-back All-Star games. But let’s be realistic here. He may have been with behind the scenes, but this team was not being led to this historic start they are on by him at all. While Kerr has been trying to get healthy, assistant coach Luke Walton took over and pushed this team to the best record in basketball. And for his reward, he got a nice seat next to Kerr and no more fanfare around the league. Essentially this team was under a different head coach. And even though he was not the permanent head coach, he earned that spot as the All-Star game head coach. Rules say that he should not be head coach, the rules in this case punish one of the great stories in the NBA’s first half of the season. Eventually Luke will get his own team where he does not have to be in this type of situation. But for right now, it just seems wrong on a couple of fronts. Let the coach of the best team every year coach the All-Star game no matter if that team was the best team two years in a row. And make the exception that Luke should be able to coach the team. It’s just that simple.

As far as the East, Lue got the chance of a lifetime. Not many times do you see a first-place team in the Eastern Conference fire their head coach around midseason. While Lue is finally getting a chance to prove his worth as a head coach, the whole scenario with him becoming the head coach does not look very pretty. But with him as head coach, the Cavaliers have won four straight after losing the first game he coached in at home versus Chicago a little over a week ago. He has the Cavs dialed in just a little bit more defensively and has their Big Three playing well together. But even with all that, a 4-1 record does not mean he should be coaching in the All-Star game. Lue just took over the job and has not earned the All-Star game nod. And for that, he should actually step aside for another coach even though we know he will not do so. The coach of the game should actually be the coach of the team that is hosting the All-Star game. Toronto coach Dwane Casey has the Toronto Raptors playing some of their best basketball right now. They are second to the Cavaliers in the East currently and they are on a major role, winning eleven straight games to date. And more than just them being second in the East and on a hot streak, Casey has been there the entire season coaching his team. Lue may have been in Cleveland as an assistant coach, but he was not the one calling the shots the entire time. Casey has earned that opportunity to be the head coach and if you ask any coach in the NBA, they will probably say that Lue has not earned this one at all.

Lue and Popovich will be coaching the All-Star game, but neither should be standing on the sideline at all. But because of rules that are in place, the real All-Star coaches will come nowhere near the benches. Of course the coach of each team really does not matter in this one. Neither team will really be running sets in this game anyway. But what does matter is the recognition both Walton and Casey would be getting in this game. And for Casey, it would be huge because this is his second head coaching job in the NBA and by far his best job to date. The NBA needs to examine their rules so this type of scenario does not happen again.

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