The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

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

Dwyane Wade, The Miami Heat And The Summer Of 2015

Dwyane Wade is potentially going to be n the market. But does he really leave Miami? (photo courtesy of www.halestormsports.com)

Dwyane Wade is potentially going to be n the market. But does he really leave Miami? (photo courtesy of http://www.halestormsports.com)

Dwyane Wade has been a staple of Miami Heat basketball ever since he was drafted there back in 2003. Back when he was selected 5th overall in the infamous 2003 draft, some thought he wondered how good he would be. Well, a few years later, he has churned out a Hall Of Fame career and is closing in on retirement with each passing day. He has also been able to do something that many have not been able to do in their careers: stay in one place. Through the years, he has been very visible on the court for the Heat along with part of their community. The dynamic shooting guard has also been very unselfish as well, taking less money to help the team over the last five seasons. And to his credit, the team was able to bring in superstar forward LeBron James and perennial All-Star Chris Bosh to help make the team better. The results were four NBA Finals appearances in the first four years and two more NBA championships for Wade, adding to the title he won with Shaquille O’Neal in Miami in 2006. But after the fourth year and a disappointing loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, Wade, James and Bosh all decided to opt out of their current deals for new ones. In the summer of 2014, Wade agreed to a new deal worth $31.1 million over two years with a player option for the second year. Being that Wade had two years and $42 million left on his deal, Wade took a $5 million per year paycut to stay in Miami. And although LeBron James decided to go back home to Cleveland after four years in Miami, the Heat still had money to re-sign Chris Bosh to a max deal (5 years and $118 million) and LeBron James’ replacement, Luol Deng (2 years and $20 million with a player option for the second season). Unfortunately, taking less money did not work out for him or the team this time. Wade and the Heat missed the playoffs and were not as successful as some thought they would be. Of course, the absence of Bosh due to blood clots in his lungs for the second half of the season was a costly injury to their success, but the Heat were still fighting uphill to make the playoffs with him. During the season, the Heat traded for point guard Goran Dragic even though he was expected to be a free agent this offseason. And many though that he would be the one person to watch with this team this summer. Would they sign him or would he take a deal form another team? Well, all that talk about Dragic has been silenced by one Dwyane Tyrone Wade, Jr.

Recently, word began to matriculate out that Wade may opt out of his current deal with the Miami Heat. There are rumors out there that he wants to get paid more money in a longer-term deal. Well, apparently the Heat do not have the same feelings and in some circles, there are people that think the threat of Wade leaving Miami is real. Honestly, this would be something that many would not have seen coming. It was thought that he would retire a member of the Miami Heat and potentially land a job with the team in the front office. But this isn’t about loyalty this time. This is about business. Wade is 33 years old now. He is a veteran that knows time is limited in the NBA. Whether he values more money, winning or both are things that have yet to be answered by him at this point in his career, but it can be assumed he would like to win and get paid more at the same time. So, the question now falls on the Miami Heat and what they are willing to do. Do they pay him more money or do they let him walk? On one hand, they cannot let him walk. Like mentioned earlier, he is the face of Miami basketball and has made many sacrifices for the team over the years. The Heat could take a public relations hit if they let Wade walk considering all he has done. And if he walks, Dragic could potentially leave with him. That would leave the Heat with Chris Bosh and a bunch of players that are not prepared to step up in Wade and Dragic’s absence. And at that point, the Heat would probably either get players one-year deals in hopes of attracting Kevin Durant in the 2016 free agency class or they could take their shots at some free agents out there on the market this offseason. Either way, there is some decisions that Miami has to make and this season, they all hinge on the decision of Dwyane Wade and not LeBron James as it did last summer.

If Wade is to opt out and seriously go somewhere else, where would he go and get the money he wants? There are only a select few teams that have the deep pockets to pay him what he wants. One team that does have money to spend are the Los Angeles Lakers. But the thing that would hinder him going there would be one Kobe Bean Bryant. Wade and Bryant both play the same position and both are getting up there in age in their careers. This would be the most unlikely of scenarios for the Lakers and something that isn’t what they would want to begin with. The other team that has cap space this summer would be the New York Knicks. Of course that would mean he would leave to go play with Carmelo Anthony in New York. That combination and the Triangle offense would not necessarily be a good fit at all either. Melo is a scorer and needs the ball in his hands. Wade has gotten better playing off the ball, but that pairing would be mean that the Knicks are giving up on Tim Hardaway Jr. and that they are not going to take that money and sign a point guard and big man they need more than another shooting guard. There are surely other teams out there, but these two can offer Wade the most money to finish off his career. And for those that are thinking it already, there is little to no chance that the Cavaliers can bring Wade to Cleveland, pairing him with one of his best friends, LeBron James. The team is already over the cap for this season and they have their own decision to wait on from Kevin Love amongst other things to figure out in their offseason. And there is also the chance that LeBron James could opt out of his deal as well, making him a free agent again. The situation with James is unlikely being that the cap goes up in the summer of 2016 and that would position him to be paid in the neighborhood of $30 million per season, but there were many that thought he would never leave Cleveland in the summer of 2010 and that happened. Many things are on the table for Wade at this time, but thinking that he will get more money from another team this summer is something that is not very realistic when looking at the entire picture.

The battle between Wade and the Miami Heat has begun. One wants more and the other wants to keep building towards contention. In this battle of the face of the team versus the team, it should be interesting to see who comes out on top. But be for sure Dwyane Wade saw the contract extension Kobe signed with the Lakers for two years and $48.5 million. He envisions himself as second to Kobe at the shooting guard position, so we can guess he feels he should get something near that amount of money. Which side blinks first on this one will be something to watch going forward.

A Closer Look At Jeff Van Gundy Potentially Coaching The New Orleans Pelicans

Jeff Van Gundy is on the list of coaches New Orleans is looking at to coach. So, what would he look like as the Pelicans coach? (photo courtesy of www.lakernation.com)

Jeff Van Gundy is on the list of coaches New Orleans is looking at to coach. So, what would he look like as the Pelicans coach? (photo courtesy of http://www.lakernation.com)

The New Orleans Pelicans are looking for a new head coach in the wake of their surprise firing of head coach Monty Williams. Many figured that he would get a chance to compete next season with a healthy roster coming off a playoff appearance. But that was not what New Orleans had in mind. The search for a new head coach has had a few interesting names mentioned. One of the most mentioned names out there has been former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. The recently fired head man in Chicago and the front office have been at odds for a while now and their divorce was finally announced on Thursday. He will get an interview there in New Orleans if he wants one, but he is not the only coach they are checking out at this time. And with the draft quickly approaching, the Pelicans have to make a decision on a new head coach. With that in mind, the Pelicans have looked everywhere for the next head coach of their organization. Their search has led them to the broadcast booth to potentially bring in their new head coach. Former Rockets and Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy reportedly met with the Pelicans brass in regards to their head coaching position. Van Gundy is seemingly so intrigued by the idea of coaching budding superstar Anthony Davis that he is considering ending his hiatus from coaching. But what can you expect from Van Gundy should he step back into the coaching arena?

The New Orleans Pelicans are a young team with talent everywhere. But this season they had some health issues and that led to an inconsistent performance from them all season. But they were able to pull it together enough and get to the playoffs. While in the playoffs, the Pelicans had one of their glaring weaknesses exposed. The Warriors were going to the basket at will against the Pelicans, even with the presence of shot-blocker Anthony Davis. And as a result, the Warriors dispatched of the Pelicans rather easily in four games. Going forward, the Pelicans have to be tougher in the paint. They were one of the worst paint defending teams in the NBA and Van Gundy could be the perfect guy to change that for them. Throughout his coaching career, Van Gundy has had stout defenses. When he was in New York, he had a veteran team that was tough and physical. And with that team he made them a factor in the Eastern Conference virtual every year he was there. And when he went to Houston, he made them a tough team and also a team that could compete in the West. But unfortunately for him, injuries, mainly to Yao Ming, caused them to not achieve the heights they could have achieved. From Patrick Ewing to Yao Ming, Van Gundy always had a cornerstone inside that was able to be the backbone of his defense. And although Anthony Davis is not a center, he could definitely be the cornerstone of that defense. With New Orleans, Van Gundy would have a team that is as athletic as he has had, but also as inexperienced as he has had also. But the thing he would also have is a team that is younger than he had in New York and Houston that could run on teams as opposed to grinding it out on the offensive end. The possibilities of what Van Gundy could bring to this team would be endless on the defensive end and that could make this team a perennial playoff participant.

Van Gundy has had success everywhere he has been, but there has always been one criticism he has always had. The teams he had were always competitive and in every game, but the offenses he trotted out there were very hard on the eyes. Who can forget the grind-it-out teams he had in New York all those years? With those teams, it always seemed he could not squeak out 85-90 points consistently. And in the end, the lack of offense always ended up being the downfall of his teams. Not only was the lack of offense the biggest downfall of him, it was the biggest criticism that fans of his teams always had. With the Pelicans considering bringing him in, that could be something they have to look forward to. New Orleans already is an offense that has some issues as we saw in the playoffs. They didn’t know what to do down the stretch of games to win and they had some horrible possessions. By bringing in Van Gundy, it would almost guarantee their offense would lose what little bit of creativity that it had under former coach Monty Williams. New Orleans would be better defensively, but the offense would make the fans of the Pelicans boo uncontrollably and cry for offense. If Van Gundy is to be hired and bring in someone to run his offense, then he could potentially be ok. But Van Gundy changing his style of play this late in the game is like asking a person to take on a different personality than who they are. The fact is Van Gundy is a defensive guy with little to no offensive imagination. And that could spell doom for the Pelicans as Anthony Davis potentially enters the free agency after this season (provided he does not sign the extension the Pelicans are supposedly laying out for him).

There are plenty of candidates for this job and there is no certainty that Van Gundy will get this job. But if he does, the Pelicans would be rolling the dice that this new coaching hire would be enough to convince Anthony Davis that New Orleans is the place to achieve even higher levels of success. In the end, it will be interesting to see if he is able to morph this Pelicans team into a tough defensive unit, should he get the opportunity to coach them, while making a creative and effective offense in the process.

The Kevin Love/ Tristian Thompson Dilemma Is Quickly Approaching For The Cleveland Cavaliers

Tristian Thompson and Kevin Love enjoying a light moment together. Love's decision could end up with one of these two leaving town. (photo courtesy of www.nbatitlechase.com)

Tristian Thompson and Kevin Love enjoying a light moment together. Love’s decision could end up with one of these two leaving town. (photo courtesy of http://www.nbatitlechase.com)

Thoughts of the Cleveland postseason going up in flames immediately came to mind when the injury to forward Kevin Love happened. It was announced heading into the Chicago series that Love would be out the rest of the playoffs when Boston Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk yanked on Love’s arm in the decisive Game 4 in Boston causing a shoulder separation and some other damage as well. Many wondered what adjustment would be made from Cleveland head coach David Blatt in this regard. Would he move LeBron James to the power forward position permanently and slide guard JR Smith back into the starting lineup? Or would Blatt make a move that many would not expect? Well, Blatt opted for the unexpected when he slid seldom-used Mike Miller into the starting lineup alongside James and Timofey Mozgov in the frontcourt. Miller was ineffective for the few minutes he saw on the court and then Blatt made the move that he should have made from the beginning. Blatt brought in bruising big man Tristian Thompson to give them some life like he always does. The Cleveland Cavaliers did not come back to win that game, but it did cement Thompson in the starting lineup for the rest of the postseason. And with him in the starting lineup this postseason, the Cavs are now headed back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007 when the Cavaliers faced the San Antonio Spurs. But with a decision looming in regards to Thompson and Love, the team now has some things to think about.

Love is the first part of this equation in Cleveland at the power forward spot. In Minnesota, Love was the answer as he stretched the floor with his shooting for the Timberwolves and ate the glass as well as a rebounder. So naturally when the thought was that he would fit in nicely with LeBron as a younger version of Chris Bosh with a better shooting stroke when the Cavaliers acquired him. But the acquisition of Love came at a price, as the Cavs gave up 2014 1st round pick (and #1 overall pick) and eventual 2014-2015 Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins. There were some that said the Cavaliers should have waited until next season to do this when Love could opt out of his deal. But the choice was made that the Cavs needed Love now and were willing to give up a future great NBA player to do so. Love was and still is a very good shooter for his size and that can give problems to a team that is not used to seeing that type of play from a power forward. But even though some believed he would be a seamless fit, he has actually had more problems adjusting there than some anticipated. Love was always the main focus in Minnesota, but in Cleveland he was just a third wheel. Being third in the pecking order behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving seemed to cause problems in Love fitting in on this team. He did not get the shots that he thought he should get and it seemed like the team just ran inconsistently when he was on the court. And on the defensive end, the comparisons of Love to former LeBron teammate Chris Bosh immediately ended. Love was giving up any and everything on the defensive end and he was not rebounding on the defensive end either. That led the Cavs to being a middle of the road defensive team. The team began to find its rhythm when they traded for Timofey Mozgov and guards Iman Shumpert and JR Smith and Love began to fit in better, but all that momentum with the new starting five they had quickly halted with Love’s injury. Heading into the summer, Love has to examine the sample size of how he fit this Cleveland team and what he could make on the open market. Love has a $16.7 million player option available for him next season. That could keep him paid and in Cleveland to give it one more run as he tries to stay healthy and fit into the team. But if he feels he can make it somewhere else and wants to be the man a little bit more, he could take his chances on the open market as a free agent. If he does that, then he could get a deal that could potentially pay him somewhere close to what he would make in 2015, but he could also be sacrificing winning with the best player in the NBA for the ability to make a payday. All in all, it falls on what Kevin Love values most: the money and status or winning and playing his role.

Love’s decision to stay or go could not only have an effect on him and his career, but on the career of Tristian Thompson as well in Cleveland. The former 2011 4th overall pick out of Texas was slated to be the starting power forward this season. And after rejecting a four-year, $52 million extension with the Cavaliers, Thompson was betting on himself to be more valuable than the deal he was offered by Cleveland. That decision to reject the extension looked to be the wrong one at first glance because the Cavaliers would gain the services of Kevin Love via trade and that meant Thompson would be going to the bench. Some would have sulked at the situation and lamented not signing the deal that was offered. But Thompson took a different approach. Instead of becoming a malcontent, he became the hype man off their bench. Thompson came in with energy and passion everytime he stepped on the court. And the best thing he did when he stepped out there was rebound. Thompson, while coming in off the bench, was the best rebounder for the Cavs all season long and he even finished games this season ahead of Kevin Love because of his rebounding along with his defensive presence. And when Love went down for the season in the playoffs, Thompson got his chance to make some things happen as a starter. And as a result, Thompson has added some toughness and grit to the Cavaliers starting lineup and has also helped make them better defensively than they ever were with Love. With every passing game, it seems like Love is less and less mentioned and Thompson has become the guy that Cleveland fans are thinking more about wanting to stay. Thompson may not have the prettiest numbers, but he can definitely change the game with the things that he can do. And he has proved that he was worth more than what the Cavaliers though he is worth at first. But the thing is now, the Cavs are at the mercy of Kevin Love. If he signs to stay in Cleveland, the Cavaliers will either have to find someone to take on the new extension they gave big man Anderson Varejao during the season or they will be losing Thompson to free agency even though he is restricted. And that would be sad for Cleveland fans being that Thompson has come of age in Cleveland this season under the tutelage of LeBron James. It’s unfortunate because he will more than likely want to stay in Cleveland, but the reality is there are numbers that have to match up in regards to the salary cap and the numbers more than likely will not if Love stays.

Kevin Love was supposed to be an important piece on the run to the title for Cleveland. But heading into this offseason, it seems like he could be the biggest issue this offseason. If he stays, then the likelihood of Tristian Thompson leaving becomes reality. But if he decides to leave, then Thompson will be the starting power forward for Cleveland next season. All in all, the ball is in Kevin Love’s court and what he chooses to do will cause the dominoes to fall even quicker in Cleveland. But one thing is for sure in regards to all these decisions: Thompson and Love will not be donning a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey again after this season as teammates.

Three Reasons The Atlanta Hawks Are About To Be Eliminated From The Eastern Conference Finals

Jeff Teague is a part of an Atlanta team that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference Finals (photo courtesy of www.ajc.com)

Jeff Teague is a part of an Atlanta team that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference Finals (photo courtesy of http://www.ajc.com)

The Atlanta Hawks were the top seed heading into their series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers but it did not seem like it. The Hawks had struggled to win series against the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets before facing the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, on the other hand, had an easy matchup versus the Boston Celtics and got a little push from the Chicago Bulls. And even without the services of Love since the first series, it seems like the Cavs have taken it to another level and have blown through the playoffs. Some expected a good battle between both teams. After all, Atlanta was nicknamed “Spurs East” due to their ball movement and their head coach, Mike Budenholzer, who was a longtime assistant in the Spurs organization. But there were others that looked at this team and were waiting on the Cavs to taken them apart like they did to the Celtics and Bulls. Well, at this point we are still waiting on any semblance of a series to show up. The Cavaliers have handled the Hawks pretty easily through the first three games on their way to a 3-0 series lead. It’s hard to believe that the #1 seed in the East could be getting swept so late in the postseason and so soundly. But there are three big reasons why this is happening to them and why Tuesday will more than likely be their last game in the playoffs.

Like was mentioned before, the Hawks are a team that moves the basketball a lot. The constant cutting, movement and passing has led to the Hawks being able to find high-percentage shots created by all the action going on offensively. And as a result, the Hawks averaged 102.5 points per game and were a difficult matchup for teams due to their multitude of players that can step away from the basket and shoot a three pointer. But in the playoffs, it seems as if the movement has gotten worse and worse. They had some ball movement versus the Nets and the Wizards, but it seems as if that motion has come to a halt. Part of that is the defense of Cleveland, which has been the best in the postseason. But the Atlanta Hawks have to take most of the blame in this one. They have become a stagnant offense in the playoffs and it seems like Budenholzer cannot get them out of their tailspin. Instead of the ball movement that was attributed to their offense, the Hawks have now become a more isolation-oriented offense. And with that type of style, the Hawks will never win, as evidence by this series. The best thing for them to do would be to stop looking at the matchups and where they may have the size advantage. By doing that, maybe it will bring some of the focus back to what made the Hawks so dangerous this season. Of course it will be a little bit harder for them to attempt to dig out of this hole, but it is something that would not be deemed impossible either.

Another thing that has helped them into their 3-0 is their lack of rebounding. The Hawks have not been considered a team that has been great rebounding this season. In fact, they were ranked in the bottom half of rebounding this season (ranked 28th in the NBA). Atlanta was successful in the regular season despite the lack of rebounding on both ends of the court. But as the postseason has gone on, they have definitely been exposed in the paint. They came into this series versus Cleveland ranked as the 11th worst rebounding team out of 16 teams. A successful playoff team should never be that low and when they are, they should know that it will catch up to them. Well it took a while, but the Cavaliers have been punishing the Hawks on the boards this series. As it stands before Game 4, the Hawks are a have been beat on the boards every game and are an astonishing -41 on the boards for the series. Tristian Thompson, LeBron James and Timofey Mozgov have been tearing it up on the boards while the Hawks have been missing shots and missing blockouts on the offensive end as well. As a result, the Cavaliers seem to get more shots each game and they also seem to be the tougher team. The Hawks never adjusted to the physicality of the Cavaliers and it is evident not only in the rebounding, but the games.

But the biggest reason the Hawks are down is they have no superstar or star guy that takes over when times get tough. Taking a look at the teams left in the playoffs, they all have a guy they can go to when the offense gets tough and stagnant. Steph Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston) and LeBron James (Cleveland) have been coming through for their respective teams and carrying them when it is evident their teams need someone to step up. All three of these guys make plays and can elevate the roles players around them to new levels of productivity. For the Hawks, they have some good players, but not one that can make other teams pay no matter what they do. It is commendable they have made it this far without one, but for the future, Atlanta will need that one guy to take over and make their offense go. Al Horford is a good post player, but he is not taking over when the going gets tough for them. All the Hawks have to do is look at their opponent to see how much a star player can help in tough times. The Cavaliers have been playing without Kevin Love since the Chicago Bulls series and have been missing Kyrie Irving the last two games. But despite those absences, the team still wins and it is all because of the LeBron James setting the table. He has not only scored when they needed it, but he has also made players like Matthew Dellavedova and veteran James Jones effective on the offensive end by setting the table for them. Having that star takeover has gotten them through the absences and the tough times and that is something a team trying to win a title needs. And unfortunately for Atlanta, they do not have that guy.

As it stands, it looks like the Hawks great season is going to go by the wayside in embarrassing fashion. They more than likely will lose the fourth game in this series and be going on vacation earlier than they though. But most of it is in their own doing. Sure, there have been some questionable calls and there may be some plays that bothered the Hawks and made tempers rise, but the Hawks cannot blame any of those on the execution of their offense and lack of rebounding. The star power search is up to the front office of their team. And even though there is one candidate in Jeff Teague that could be a star for them, he unfortunately has not reached the level they want him to just yet. The season has been a whirlwind for the Hawks, but the time has come for them to head to the offseason and the Cavs are going to take them there with a broom in hand.

The Houston Rockets Will Never Win Anything With Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard is not the guy to take Houston where they want to go. (photo courtesy of www.anyandeverythingblog.com)

Dwight Howard is not the guy to take Houston where they want to go. (photo courtesy of http://www.anyandeverythingblog.com)

The Houston Rockets staved off elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors Monday night. Many expect them to still lose this series after going down 3-0, but of course, many did not expect the Rockets to even be in this position. Down 3-1 in their series versus the Los Angeles Clippers, the Rockets became only the 10th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series. Plenty started to believe in the Rockets again. They were powered by star guard James Harden and the role players on the team were playing well. But as they head out of the Toyota Center for potentially the last time, the joy has turned to concern and focus. The Rockets have been leaning heavy on the services of James Harden this series. And all except for Game 3, Harden has been there and shown up. But there is the matter of the other star of this team. Dwight Howard is as good of a physical specimen as there is in the NBA. His size, speed and leaping ability are things that athletes dream of. With the physical matchup he had going into this series, there was some thought he would have a chance to dominate the series. Well, that thought has quickly turned into what most thought it would be in the end: disappointment. And that is the ultimate problem when it comes to Dwight Howard.

Before Howard came to Houston, the Rockets were a franchise trying to make it back to the level they were in the mid-1990’s with Rudy Tomjanovich as coach and Hakeem Olajuwon as the centerpiece of their team. While they did not quite make it there, the team made it back to the playoffs in 2013 while being led by Harden and a miscellaneous crew of players. When Dwight came to town, he was hailed as the missing piece to take the Rockets to the next level. Howard is a former Defensive Player of the Year, so naturally he was expected to help take their defense to the next level. But on the offensive end, he was expected to have an effect as well. Howard was to be working with Olajuwon, who still lives in the Houston area, on his post moves. And he was going to get his wish to get more opportunities on the block. Well, that happened and that proved to expose Howard more than anything. Howard may be a good athlete, but he is not the greatest when it comes to post play. Throwing it down to Dwight is always an adventure and has been so since he has been in the NBA. You would think at this point in his career he would have some sort of consistent post moves besides catching alley-oops and offensive rebound putbacks. But unfortunately he either does not have that down or is lacking in confidence in making those moves. Well, whatever the case, he is not dependable there. And when he gets in position, he can be fouled, which leads Dwight going to the free throw line, and that is not a win for Howard either.

Along with Howard’s play on the court, he also came to Houston to be a leader in the locker room. Dwight Howard mistakenly gets credit for leading the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008-2009 season. But in all actuality, it was the versatility of point forward Hedu Tukoglu that led them to the Finals. But make no mistake that he was a presence though, averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds. But how quickly some forget that the Magic were outclassed in that NBA Finals and Dwight did not have quite the effect he was thought to the entire game. His leadership was not evident there at that point when they were down. Fast forward to now and the Dwight Howard experience has not gone as planned for the Rockets. He is there, but last year they were bounced earlier than they thought and this season he missed half the games with knee issues. But even when he was on the floor, it seemed like he was not the same athletic Dwight we are used to seeing and it also seemed like he was not in any way a part of the leadership there. It is officially Harden’s team now and also when they huddles are going on, notice that Howard does not say much at all. In fact, veteran guard Jason Terry is way more vocal than he is and he did not play for the Rockets last season. Howard is not a leader and will never be one. And if someone is following him as their leader, then they may want to understand that Howard has not shown that he can be a leader at any point and time of his career. And any leader that is seen laughing on the bench when their team is getting blown out and that does some things that are not the mark of a leader is someone you may not want to follow anyway.

The addition of Howard could have been good, but Howard did not recognize his gift and put in the work to become the big man that many thought he could. So instead of getting a guy that could help take them to the next level, the Rockets got a big man that is closing in on 30 years old and is not the dominant big man and leader they thought he would be. To best use Howard, he needs to be a rebounder, finisher and defender because his offense is not something that you can depend on to ever take you where you want to go. When Orlando went to the NBA Finals, it was almost like a needle being found in a haystack and being thrown back in, only to be missing again. That glimmer of Dwight being the man to take you to the Promiseland is something of a mystery. Dwight is going to lead the Rockets nowhere fast. And that is just the cold reality of his presence in Houston.

The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog Presents The 2015 NBA Top 5 Draft Pick Predictions

Who goes where when it comes to the NBA Draft? (Photo courtesy of www.insider.espn.go.com)

Who goes where when it comes to the NBA Draft? (Photo courtesy of http://www.insider.espn.go.com)

Tomorrow’s superstars could potentially be in the 2015 NBA Draft. Many are excited over the many talents that are out there including the teams. But before anyone can pick, the NBA had their usual routine during the Conference Finals, the NBA Draft Lottery. In the lottery, the order in which teams pick is determined by their record and the bounce of a ping pong ball. The more you lost during the year, the more ping pong balls you had available to obtain the 1st overall pick. There were many teams that were hoping to obtain the 1st pick, but in the end, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended up with the number one spot. They were followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and then the Philadelphia 76ers. The top five was completed by the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic. With that being set, many are starting to envision who will be wearing their favorite team’s jersey. Well, let’s take a second and check to see who could be landing where!

1st Overall pick (Minnesota Timberwolves): Jahlil Okafor, Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves already have the reigning Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, to build around and now they have the 1st overall pick. With the team they currently have, they are more of a speed team. With players like Zach Levine and Wiggins filling the wings and point guard Ricky Rubio dishing assists, it would actually make more sense for them to select Towns to run with this team. But again, the Timberwolves do need someone they can throw the ball to in the post and get a basket. And with that notion, they may not want to wait and see what Towns becomes at the NBA level. So with the affinity that Timberwolves coach/general manager Flip Saunders has for Okafor, it is almost a no-brainer that he gets selected there. When the game slows down, the Timberwolves are hoping Okafor can be the guy to sustain their offense with his offensive footwork and soft touch. Of course the Timberwolves may suffer defensively with the young big man, but they will take their lumps there if the big man is able to produce for them.

2nd overall pick (Los Angeles Lakers): Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

One of the coveted big men in this draft is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. Assuming Flip Saunders is still in love with Okafor, the second most-coveted big man is headed West. The Lakers are looking for yet another piece to help them in their rebuild. They selected power forward Julius Randle last season out of Kentucky and he was essentially hurt all year after he suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the season. But even though they lost their top rookie, the Lakers still got great play from second-round pick Jordan Clarkson out of Missouri. Now with Randle coming back next season, the Lakers can add a healthy but aged Kobe Bryant and versatile big man in Towns. The big man out of Kentucky will add rebounding, shot-blocking and versatility to the Lakers frontcourt and he will also be able to learn the Laker way under Kobe for what some think is Kobe’s last year in the NBA. Look for the Lakers to begin the rebuild with Towns, Randle and Clarkson and maybe another piece in free agency to add with Kobe Bryant. It may take a little time for Towns to show his skills. But once Towns settles in, the Lakers will be happy with the monster they end up drafting.

3rd overall pick (Philadelphia 76ers): Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong Southern Tigers (Chinese Basketball Association)

The Philadelphia 76ers had a chance to get multiple picks in the lottery. But with the way the ping pong balls dropped, they ended up with only one. However, the 76ers still ended up in great position with the 3rd overall pick. The last couple of years, the 76ers selected injured players and essentially redshirted them for their first season in the NBA. Well, this season will be something different. The 76ers have some nice complimentary pieces that would fit well on a team that had a star. But the team is void of star power currently as they stand. Nerlens Noel is a player the team is high on, but they also have a decision to make with how they can use he and Joel Embiid. They may try Noel at the power forward position, but they will be physical and rugged up front. The problem with this team is they do not have a point guard. Well, in this draft, they have their choice of which point guard they want. Some may want the services of D’Angelo Russell here, but the 76ers may have others ideas. 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie was the only general manager to fly to China to see Mudiay and that should tell you right there the way he is leaning. The 6’5” point guard, who many don’t know a ton about, will be the 76ers international man of mystery this year and he will be one that will have Philly fans excited because of his size, speed and athletic ability.

4th overall pick (New York Knicks): D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State

The Knicks are going to have a lot of cap space this summer and plenty of Knicks fans were hoping the number one pick would be joining the players the Knicks are able to obtain with the money available in free agency. Well, everything did not pan out as well as the Knicks and their fans had planned. But all hope is not lost. Things could have been worse for them and they could have landed even further back. They will more than likely not get one of the coveted big men in this draft and that could have been something that would have helped Carmelo Anthony when he returns next season. But another thing they didn’t have last season was solid point guard play. The Knicks need a player that can be special with the basketball and bring some sizzle to the Garden. Russell is as talented an offensive player as there is in the draft. He has a nice stroke, good handles and can make the perfect pass in a tough situation and he is no slouch defensively either. He and Carmelo together and maybe a big man in free agency could be an interesting dynamic together. And the Knicks will finally have a point guard that could compete with the top point guards in the NBA potentially in a point guard driven NBA.

5th overall (Orlando Magic): Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

The Orlando Magic have been out of the spotlight since they traded away Dwight Howard. The team has not been close to being a playoff-caliber squad and that is quite bad considering they play in the Eastern Conference. But this team does have some young pieces they can build with. Victor Oladipo is starting to catch his stride in the NBA, starting point guard Elfrid Payton got better as the season went on and Nikola Vujevic was a machine inside. The Magic fired their head coach, Jacque Vaughn, during the season and reports are that they are looking at current Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau and are willing to do anything to get him there. If that happens, you can bet he will look to build his team identity through defense. And what better piece would fit his scheme than Kentucky Willie Cauley-Stein? The athletic big man from Kentucky will remind some of current Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah with his game. He is not a scorer, but he is a guy that will defend, block shots, rebound on both ends of the floor and give you putbacks. The passing is not the level of Noah, but he can have a great effect on a team that is trying to form an identity.

This NBA Draft could help a lot of teams, but these in the Top 5 need it the most. And if they draft correctly, these guys could make their teams better immediately if they are selected where they are. It should be interesting to see if these selections hold true to form or if trades happen to change up the selection. What are your thoughts on The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog’s Top 5 NBA Draft Projections?

Conference Finals Preview With Chucky Brown

Chucky Brown in action blocking Spurs guard Avery Johnson's shot. (photo courtesy of www.beaumontenterprise.com)

Chucky Brown in action blocking Spurs guard Avery Johnson’s shot. (photo courtesy of http://www.beaumontenterprise.com)

The Conference Finals are finally upon us. In the West, we have the Golden State Warriors versus the Houston Rockets.  And in the East, we have the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Both pretty good matchups and both pitting the #1 seed versus the #2 seed. But how does it play out? Today I reached out to someone that is familiar with all these teams being that he played for them all. Former NBA player Chucky Brown gave me his thoughts on the conference finals along with his best memories from his playing days.

Mike Patton: Chucky, you played for a lot of teams in the NBA. What was the most memorable team you played on and why?

Chucky Brown: That would be the Houston Rockets team back in 1995. That was the year we won the title. Everyone knew their role, had the same goal and wanted to win the title together.

MP: What is your best professional basketball memory?

CB: Besides winning the title, I would say the best memories I have are all the guys that I met over my career. I’m still in contact with some of them to this day.

MP: Good to hear. Well, let’s get down to the playoff action. What have you thought about the playoffs so far?

CB: The playoffs have been pretty good. I hate it that Memphis and Chicago had injuries. I would have loved to have seen Cleveland at full strength, but injuries are a part of the game.

MP: As far as the conference finals matchups, which one intrigues you more?

CB: The Golden State/Houston matchup is one that intrigues me. Houston lost the season series to them, but now they have everyone back except for point guard Patrick Beverly and that could make things interesting. Houston has learned how to play without a point guard.

MP: What are some keys for the Houston Rockets/ Golden State Warriors series?

CB: For Golden State,  they must shoot well and defend so they can get out in transition. The Warriors must also protect the paint. In regards to the Rockets, they need to attack the paint but they also need to make the Warriors take the ball out. That will help keep them out of transition. And the Rockets also have to defend well in the halfcourt.

MP: Who is someone not on the marquee that you see playing really well in this series?

CB: For Golden State, that would be Harrison Barnes. He is a really good player that the Warriors don’t use as much. He started coming on in the Memphis series and could continue it in this one. As far as the Rockets, Josh Smith is the name that comes to mind. He has ben playing very well recently. If he continues that, he could make a difference.

MP: What are some keys for the Cleveland Cavaliers/Atlanta Hawks series?

CB: For the Cavs, their roles players are key. They could be the difference in this series if they play well. As for the Hawks, they cannot let the role players get going and make LeBron James have to do everything, being that he is a pass-first player. They also have to play good team defense as well.

MP: Who is someone not on the marquee that could have a big effect on this series?

CB:  The Cavs have a guy in Tristian Thompson that was a huge factor in the Chicago series on the boards. He could have that same type of effect on the boards in this series versus Atlanta.

MP: Who do you think win both series and in how many games?

CB: I think Cleveland will win in six games because of having the best player in the NBA, LeBron James, on their side. As far as in the Western Conference, I believe the Rockets will win the series in seven games. They showed extreme character in the Clippers series when faced with adversity and I think they can carry that over to this series.

MP: Who do you have winning it all?

CB: If the Rockets get there, then the Rockets. Regardless, the champion is coming out of the West.

Many thanks to Chucky Brown for his time and answers on the Conference Finals. What do you all think of what he said?

The Seahawks Now Have Contract Extension Issues With Russell Wilson And Bobby Wagner

Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner highlighted the 2012 Seattle draft class (photo courtesy of www.seahawks.com)

Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner highlighted the 2012 Seattle draft class (photo courtesy of http://www.seahawks.com)

The Seattle Seahawks have had a lot of success over the last two seasons. They have made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and they will come into this season as a serious contender to make the Super Bowl again. The biggest factor in the team making the run they have so far is the 2012 NFL Draft class. That draft class was said by some to not be the greatest at all by some. In fact, NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rated the class as a C- at the time. But little did he know that draft class would bring the Seahawks four starters. And along with four starters, it would also bring them a couple guys that would become their quarterbacks on both sides of the ball. Russell Wilson was drafted in the 3rd round (75th overall) by the Seahawks that season. Of course everyone knows his story and how he has become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But before him in the second round, the Seahawks also drafted linebacker Bobby Wagner. The former Utah State linebacker was drafted 47th overall and he was plugged in the middle of the Seahawks defense right away. And with the rise of the Seahawks, he has definitely been at the forefront. Both Wilson and Wagner are up for contract extensions. Wagner and Wilson are coming to the end of their contracts with the Seahawks and could potentially enter free agency next offseason. But with both of them looking to cash in, what decision will the Seahawks make?

Even though running back Marshawn Lynch is the engine of the Seattle offense, Wilson is the face of it. He has made big plays ever since he entered the NFL and has captured the Seahawks fans’ hearts with his thankfulness and his charity work he does within the area. But all that he has accomplished on the field eventually has a pricetag. The Seahawks have been very fortunate that they found their starting quarterback in the 3rd round. Because of that, they were able to pay him the rookie salary while adding pieces on their team that were a little more expensive. They knew eventually it would catch up to them and they would have to pay Wilson, but they just were not sure what they were getting into. Rumors are circulating that both Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks are not very close on a new deal. In fact, it has been said that the Seahawks are willing to let him finish this year without a deal in place. The plan is to place the franchise tag on him potentially in back-back years. To some that may be crazy to do, but for Seattle it makes a lot of sense. Wilson is reportedly asking for a deal that would pay him $20 million per season. The Seahawks are obviously not willing to pay that and would rather opt for a franchise tag. By doing that, Seattle may save tying up their salary cap more than they want to while Wilson can get paid near or at what he wants. But the offset of the franchise tag is it cannot be spread out over years. The hope for the team is that he agrees to an extension that is reasonable for the team and Wilson. That would allow the team to load the contract on the back end potentially and have more cap room free.

But along with Wilson, the Seahawks also have to think about the case of Bobby Wagner. If they franchise tag Russell Wilson, then they must hope they have enough money to keep Wagner aboard. Players like defensive end Michael Bennett, safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman get the credit for the Seattle defense being as dominant as they have been. But quietly, Wagner is the engine behind what they have accomplished. His angles he takes when stopping the run are precise and perfect. And despite being a smallish linebacker in height (six feet tall), Wagner just finds a way to make things happen. When he was out of the lineup with a toe injury, the Seahawks definitely felt his absence. Of the five games that Wagner missed, the Seahawks defense gave up at least 20 points three times. But when Wagner returned from the injury, it seemed as if the defense picked up. Seattle would end the season giving up more than seven points only once and they seemed to be back on track with their defensive quarterback. Wagner was in Seattle recently and he was throwing out the first pitch at the Seattle Mariners game. During that appearance, he definitely had some thoughts in regards to an extension in Seattle. He has made no bones about wanting an extension and wanting to be paid accordingly. But up to this point, it seems as if Seattle is not willing to give him what he wants and risks losing him. The young middle linebacker may be looking at a potential payday outside Seattle if the team does not think he is worthy. Add this one to the decisions to watch in the Pacific Northwest.

The Seattle Seahawks thought they had one contract issue on their hands but now they have two. And the reality is that they cannot keep everyone and they may have to choose between one or the other. Do you keep the quarterback of your offense, who is also the face of your team? Of do you keep the quarterback of your defense that has made a huge impact? The choice is in Seattle’s hands as all the guys they found in the draft have now made it to contract extension time. The draft class of 2012 paid Seattle and now it is time for Seattle to make a decision to which they will pay going forward. Without a doubt, a decision has to be made.

The Los Angeles Clippers Were Tragically Flawed From The Beginning

Doc, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin having a meeting of the minds. (photo courtesy of www.rappler.com)

Doc, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin having a meeting of the minds. (photo courtesy of http://www.rappler.com)

The Los Angeles Clippers were one game away from heading to their first Western Conference Finals. The task was going to be tough though. The Clippers, after giving up a 3-1 series lead to the Rockets, had to travel to Houston to win a Game 7. You would have thought that the Clippers would have brought one of their best games with the season on the line. But after watching them fall in Game 7 to the Rockets 113-100, the Clippers just seemed to lack that energy to get the job done. The hope they had of making history was gone just like that and the Clippers are joining all the other teams that have lost in the playoffs in the offseason. Plenty are already assessing the blame of this loss on players like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. And others are blaming Clippers head coach Doc Rivers for the loss as well. But if you really take a look at this team, there were flaws with them from the beginning of the season. The team could have played better in Game 7 and that is understood. There were expectations that were there, but there were also many holes in this team and they were never really addressed by general manager and president Doc Rivers.

Looking at the Clippers, they had arguably the best point guard in the NBA. Chris Paul has been dazzling all of us with his play for his entire career. But in the playoffs, success has seemed to escape him. This year was the year that the pressure was mounting on him. Plenty felt he was going to make that jump as well with this current Clipper team. But if you take a look at their starting lineup, there has been an issue from the jump. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were solid at the power forward, point guard and center positions. JJ Reddick was solid this season at the shooting guard position, even though he was somewhat limited in terms of all the things he could do. But when it comes to the small forward position, the Clippers were sorely lacking there. The team trotted out veteran wing player Matt Barnes as their starter this season. And although he had his moments starting for them, he was and is not a starter at this point in his career. The best thing for him to do is be a sub off the bench. In that position, he can come in and give energy, defend and make open shots. Moving him to the bench and bringing in a starting small forward would have been the ideal thing to do for the Clippers this season instead of depending on veterans like Hedo Turkoglu to be a backup off the bench. If you notice in this season, Hedo has not been the best coming in off the bench and he honestly is a guy that should not even be suiting up at this point. Barnes was severely exposed this series versus the Houston Rockets. His first game was great for the Clippers when he put up 20 points, but the rest of the series he was not very good. The veteran forward did not even crack double-figures the entire rest of the series and finished this series by not even scoring in the biggest game of the season. His counterpart on the Rockets, forward Trevor Ariza, had a way better series than he did. Ariza was in double-figures every single game and averaged 16.7 points. He was the perfect third scorer for the Rockets and he actually showed up in the big Game 7, scoring 22 big points and helping complete a big comeback versus the Clippers. The Clippers could have only hoped to have that type of production from Barnes, but they knew they could not depend on it at all.

Barnes starting at small forward was not the only issue the Clippers had. If you look at championship teams, everyone that comes off their bench brings something to the table. Even the teams with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade had pieces like Mike Miller coming in and shooting big shots along with other pieces as well. But if you look at the Clippers, it seems they did not have that piece at all besides Jamal Crawford. Crawford is instant offense, but he also has to put up a lot of shots to get his points. He shot under 40% for the series. But other than Crawford, the Clippers had absolutely no one they could count on consistently all season. Doc Rivers’ son, Austin Rivers, had some good games in the playoffs, but in the last few games down the stretch, he disappeared as well. And behind DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers really had no one to come in and make some plays for them. Doc Rivers barely played his free-agent acquisition, Spencer Hawes, when it came to this series and the previous series. And other than him, there was only Glen “Big Baby” Davis that was there to backup Jordan. On a championship team, these three are not enough to get it done. And in this series, they proved to be not enough. If you flip over to the team that they played on Sunday, the Rockets got contributions from every area off their bench actually. They got something from rookie big man Clint Capella, forward Terrance Jones, forward Corey Brewer and veteran point guard Pablo Prigioni. And this Houston team would have been even deeper if they had their starting point guard, Patrick Beverly, and their other big man, Donatas Montiejunas. The construction of that team was way better than that of the Clippers. And there were other teams that had better constructions of a team and bench than the Clippers, but they are the most recent to show their bench up. The bench really hurt the Clippers and it showed even more in Game 7. Over the season, they have been able to overcome the issues they had there, but it eventually caught up to them and it bit them bad at the wrong time.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the Clippers rebound from this loss. Center DeAndre Jordan is a free agent this summer and there is a possibility that he may not come back(even though he probably will be back in Los Angeles). Chris Paul just turned 30 and is not getting any younger. And Blake Griffin, who had been playing to an MVP level in the playoffs, decided that he would not come out with all his energy in Game 7. One solution to making the Clippers better may be to bring back Barnes and move him to the bench while finding a starting small forward. And while they are at it, the Clippers may want to take a look at sending JJ Reddick to the bench as well. He had a great season, but to expect him to duplicate that is asking a lot. Moving him to the bench while adding a bigger shooting guard (Reddick is 6’4” as listed) will make them a better defensive team and also will give their bench more pop. Doc Rivers will be on the clock for making this team better this offseason and he is definitely going to catching some heat for what he created in this team and this bench. Some say the Clippers may want to blow it up, but that may not be the case here. Some changes need to be made, but tearing this team up is not the answer. Making this team younger and more athletic at the shooting guard and small forward position along with making the bench better should yield better results for the Clippers. But as far as this team, they were tragically flawed and the hope in them went as far as their best players. But it died when you looked at the performances of their role players, which are needed to win a championship.

The Los Angeles Clippers Versus The Houston Rockets: The Battle Of The Inconsistents In Game 7

Dwight Howard will have to step up for the Rockets to win. Can he match Blake Griffin in production? (photo courtesy David J. Phillip from the Associated Press)

Dwight Howard will have to step up for the Rockets to win. Can he match Blake Griffin in production? (photo courtesy David J. Phillip from the Associated Press)

It was all good heading into the fourth quarter Thursday night for the Los Angeles Clippers. The team who had never been to the Conference Finals before only stood 12 minutes away from team history. All they had to do was hold to the lead they had worked so hard to build up. But unfortunately, the Clippers became the usual Clippers again. They were outscored 40-15 in the fourth quarter and ultimately lost the game. The scene went from pure joy in the third to frustration in at the end of the game. The faces of the team and the fans of the team were long from the frustration of losing a game they had in the palms of their hands. And along with the fall of the team in a series-clinching game, the Clippers now have to travel to Houston to take on a Rockets team that has a ton of confidence. The play of forward Josh Smith was outstanding in the fourth quarter and what was so amazing is they did this with their best player, guard James Harden, on the bench. As a result, the Clippers and Rockets will face each other one last time. The Clippers will face yet another Game 7 but this time against the Houston Rockets. Of course the blame game has been played with this team ever since the loss. Some are blaming Doc Rivers for not calling a timeout to slow down the Rockets’ momentum while others are blaming the team’s stars, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, for not restoring order when the lead was quickly disappearing. But at this point, it does not matter who is to blame. The Clippers have to get ready for Game 7 on the road and there is nothing they can do about the results of Game 6 anymore. But which Clippers team will show up in Houston?

The Rockets, on the other hand, are getting it going at the right time. Ever since Rockets head coach Kevin McHale put Josh Smith in the starting lineup over Terrance Jones they have gone 2-0. Jones outperformed him coming off the bench in Game 5, but Smith was the catalyst in the Game 6 comeback, netting 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. But the Rockets have not been the most consistent team this series at all. They were outplayed in Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Clippers and they would have lost Game 2 of this series if they wouldn’t have got it going late in the game. They were very fortunate to not be down by two games just that quick. Other than the last two games, it seems as if the Rockets have not been playing that well at all. Their MVP candidate, James Harden, has been putting up numbers (25 points and 8 assists per game), but has struggled from distance in the last two games (just 3/14). And along with that, he was in a funk in Game 6 and only shot 5/20 that game. But Harden has been nowhere near as inconsistent as Dwight Howard. The big man has been dominant in some games and non-existent in others. The foul shooting from him has been awful this series (38%), but that was to be expected. What some may have expected is for him to be better defensively this series. The Clippers are an excellent offensive team, but he was supposed to be the equalizer for them on the backline. Well, that has not happened as much and even though his numbers look good to the eye, those that have watched the game have been disappointed yet again in what they have seen. Dwight has been making the usual plays that make you scratch your head and he still cannot make two solid post moves in a row. But even with that, the Rockets don’t use him right anyway. They should put him in pick and roll situations that limit the post moves he has to make, but yet he camps out down low, looking to try and recreate himself at the wrong times. We shall see if Howard, Harden, Josh Smith and the rest of the Rockets show up in Game 7 or if they falter in front of their home crowd on the big stage.

Both teams are trying to go to a new level while searching for consistency during the playoffs. And they both are looking to take that next step that many said was not possible when the year began. But in order for them to do so, there needs to be someone step up and be consistent for this huge game. For Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, this game would be the biggest game in their career. They would be a part of making Clippers history. And for James Harden and Dwight Howard, this would be a chance for both to get one step closer to a return trip to the NBA Finals. It will be interesting to see which team rises to the occasion. Will the Clippers pay for letting Game 6 get away from them or will the Rockets wilt under the pressure of a Game 7? Only time will tell, but it will definitely be fun to watch who can be the more consistent team of the two.

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