Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lakers vs Celtics Preview


Tommorow Afternoon the World Champs go into Boston for another showdown. These 2 storied franchises have the most championships in NBA history. In 2008 the rivalry was officially renewed when Boston stockpiled their roster with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett making them contenders over night. The Lakers traded for Gasol that same year and the two teams were headed for a collision course. Both teams met in the finals as Boston went on to win in 6 games. LA committed themselves to being tougher and made the necessary adjustments to get back to the finals. The Lakers did just that and beat the Orlando Magic in 5 games in 09' giving them 4 championships in 10 years.

Today, little as changed. LA is the premiere team in the West and in the midst of an 8 game road trip. By beating Philly last nite the Lakers improved to 4-2 on this current road trip. The Lakers have looked dominating but have also looked soft at times. It just depends on who's looking. With 2 losses to Cleveland many questioned LA's toughness and ability to play well in a physical game. New Acquistion Ron Artest has yet to consistently show why the off season trade made sense. Bynum and Gasol have yet to play well together as they continue to find chemistry. Lastly, Kobe has been nagged by injuries. A broken index finger on his shooting hand and back spasms have slowed the best player on the planet and made him less efficient. With all these setbacks LA has had the best record in the league the majority of the year and are still favored to repeat.

Boston has also had some adversity this year. Kevin Garnett has missed significant time with a hyper extended knee. This injury comes off the heals of knee surgery that sidelined him for the 2nd half of last season including the playoffs. The Celtics are showing their age. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Garnett are all approaching their mid 30's and are starting to slow. Rondo has come into his own and is leading the league in steals and is 3rd in assist. He has been the lone bright spot for the C's. Boston has also struggled against the elite teams this year especially Atlanta who just completed a season sweep against the Celtics. They are 0-2 in their last 2 games and they welcome the champs on Sunday.

I expect to see an extremely physical game in Boston tomorrow in front of a sold out hostile crowd. If Gasol and Bynum can play big and withstand the physical nature of the game I expect LA to win going away. Kobe will be Kobe but who from the Celtics will have a big game. I am also anxious to see how Artest will play against Pierce. That match up might be the key to the game. Boston needs this win bad to get back on track but the Lakers also need it to show that they can still dominate the eastern conference. This is easily one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports and might be a preview to the 2010 finals. Tip is scheduled for 3:30 pm est. Sun on ABC.

RP

Serena proves why she is the best by winning Aussie Open Championship


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)

Serena Williams put an end to Justine Henin's hopes of a Grand Slam title on her return from retirement with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win in the Australian Open final on Saturday.

Williams withstood a determined challenge from Henin before securing her fifth Australian Open title and 12th Grand Slam singles championship overall

Henin, who had most of the crowd support at Rod Laver Arena, couldn't match her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters' feat of winning in her Grand Slam comeback tournament. Clijsters won last year's U.S. Open on her return from a two-year retirement after getting married and having a baby.

Williams won the last four games Saturday to clinch the final in just over two hours, falling on her back in celebration after match point before shaking hands with Henin at the net.

"It's good to have her back, it's exciting,'' Williams said of Henin. "She can definitely be No. 1, especially with our ranking system, if she keeps doing well.''

Still, it was an impressive run by Henin. She lost in the final of the Brisbane International tournament to Clijsters two weeks ago.

The unranked and unseeded Henin then beat four seeded players en route to the Australian Open final, including No. 5 and Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva in the second round.

"It's been a very emotional two weeks for me,'' said Henin, who put her hand on her heart as she thanked the crowd for support. "I thought it would never happen to me again. I'd like to congratulate Serena. She's a real champion.''

Henin saved two break points to hold for 3-3 in a four-game run in the second set, winning 13 of the last 14 points in a dominant finish to the set. She maintained the superiority early in the deciding set, increasing that to 18 of 19 points before Williams held serve to level the third set at 1-1.
Serena Williams won her 12th career Grand Slam title. TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

Williams, with her right thigh and left knee heavily taped as it had been for much of the tournament, staged her own resurgence, breaking Henin in the next game to go up 2-1. Henin broke Williams' serve in the next game, but the American broke back in the next to go up 3-2, a lead she never relinquished.

"I thought I was just giving it to her at that point,'' Williams said. "I didn't want to go out like that. I literally said to myself, 'I need to man up and start playing better.'''.

Williams held her serve in the next game with a second-service ace to go up 4-2, then broke again in the next game to take her within a game of the title.

The American holds an 8-6 lead in career meetings between the pair, including a 6-2, 6-0 win in Miami in 2008. At the time, it equaled the worst loss for a reigning No. 1, and Henin quit tennis two months later.

Henin won the Australian Open title in 2004. She quit from the 2006 final with stomach problems while trailing Amelie Mauresmo 6-1, 2-0.

Williams' 12th singles major matched American great Billie Jean King's career total. King was at the stadium on Saturday night to take part in a pre-match ceremony to honor the 40-year anniversary of Margaret Court's four Grand Slam tournament wins in 1970.

"Billie, we are tied,'' Williams said. "So I've reached my goal.''

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova are Williams' next goal, with 18 majors each.

"Honestly, I'm just doing what I can. I obviously enjoy playing in Melbourne, clearly,'' Williams said. "I never thought I could catch up with Martina, because she's such an amazing champion.''
FOX SPORTS POLL How many Grand Slams will Serena win in 2010? 1 2 3 4
The men's doubles final between Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States and Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia was scheduled for later Saturday. The Bryans have won the title here three of the past four years and were losing finalists the two previous years.

The men's final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray will be held Sunday night, where Murray will attempt to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam major.

The Australian Open is Murray's 17th Grand Slam tournament, which is how many attempts Federer needed before winning for the first time at Wimbledon seven years ago against Mark Philippoussis.

Murray was beaten 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 in the U.S. Open final in 2008.

Two years later, the now 22-year-old Murray thinks he knows how to end the 74-year drought.

"I'm going to need to play my best match ever,'' Murray said Saturday. "That's what I plan on doing. If I do, I've got a good chance of winning.''

Federer played in all four finals last year and will be appearing in his 22nd Grand Slam final overall, an all-time record. He acknowledged that the pressure will be on Murray.

"I know what it takes (to win) and how to do it, which is definitely an advantage,'' Federer said. "I don't feel like the pressure's really on me having to do it again. I think he really needs it more than I do.''

Federer joked about the British drought after his semifinal win on Friday.

"I know he'd like to win the first for British tennis since, what is it 150,000 years?'' Federer joked.

Murray smiled Saturday when told of Federer's comment.

"I've only been alive for 22 and a little bit, but, yeah, it's been a long time. It's going to be tough.

Associated Press

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kurt Warner retires after 12 seasons


TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kurt Warner has called an end to one of the great storybook careers in NFL history.

The 38-year-old quarterback announced his retirement from the game on Friday after a dozen years in a league that at first rejected him, then revered him as he came from nowhere to lead the lowly St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowls, winning the first of them.

"Not much on the drama part of it, as most of you know," Warner said to begin a news conference at the Cardinals' training facility.

Warner said he'd been leaning toward retirement for the last half of this season.

"Obviously, it's been 12 unbelievable years, some of the best years of my life," a composed Warner said. "But I want everybody to know that I'm just as excited about the next 12, that I'm excited about what lies in front of me. I'm excited about spending more time with my family, and seeing what God's going to do next."

Written off as a has-been, he rose again to lead the long-suffering Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl a year ago.

Warner walked away with a year left on a two-year, $23 million contract, knowing he still had the skills to play at the highest level.

He had one of the greatest postseason performances ever in Arizona's 51-45 overtime wild card victory over Green Bay on Jan. 10, but sustained a brutal hit in the Cardinals' 45-14 divisional round loss at New Orleans six days later.

"He has had a dominant career. He's a good person," Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "He's got to do what's best for his family. He played long enough. He took us to the Super Bowl last year. We had a great season this year. It's a good thing. If you're going to go out, go out on top."

Warner leaves the game with a legacy that could land him in the Hall of Fame even though he didn't start his first game until he was 28.

In a comparison with the 14 quarterbacks to make the Hall of Fame in the last 25 years, Warner has a better career completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and yards per game. Only Dan Marino had more career 300-yard passing games.


The Warner file
• Born June 22, 1971
• Raised in Burlington, Iowa
• Attended Northern Iowa University
• Originally signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent on April 28, 1994 but was released on Aug. 17, 1994
• Played in Arena Football League with Iowa Barnstormers (1995-97)
• Signed with St. Louis Rams on Dec. 26, 1997 as a free agent
• Played for Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe during 1998 season
• Played six seasons with Rams (1998-2003)
• Signed with New York Giants on June 3, 2004 as an unrestricted free agent
• Signed a 1-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals on March 6, 2005
• Signed a 3-year contract with Arizona on Feb. 14, 2006
• Signed a 2-year contract with Arizona on March 4, 2009


Accomplishments
• Four-time Pro Bowl selection (1999, 2000, 2001, 2008)
• Owns Arizona Cardinals regular season records for attempts, completions, completion percentage, passer rating, TD passes and consecutive games with a TD pass
• Two-time NFL MVP (1999 and 2001)
• Super Bowl XXXIV MVP
• Second QB in NFL history to start a Super Bowl for two different teams
• Career passer rating of 93.7 ranks 3rd in NFL history behind only Steve Young (96.8) and Peyton Manning (94.7)
• Became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 passing yards (36th career game)
• 2008 NFL Man of the Year award winner

In 124 regular-season games, Warner completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns. He and Fran Tarkenton are the only NFL quarterbacks to throw for 100 touchdowns and 14,000 yards for two teams.

Warner, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and played collegiately at Northern Iowa, ranks among the career leaders in a variety of passing statistics.

He was also the fastest player in NFL history to 10,000 yards passing and tied Marino as fastest to reach 30,000.

He has the top three passing performances in Super Bowl history. His 1,156 yards passing in the 2008 playoffs broke the NFL record of 1,063 he set with St. Louis in 1999.

Warner's rise from obscurity seems the stuff of sports fiction.

He played three seasons in the Arena Football League and one in NFL Europe, mixed in with a sting stocking grocery shelves back in Iowa.

Warner made the Rams as a backup in 1998, then was thrust into the starting role in 1999 when Trent Green was injured.

What followed was a masterful and wholly unexpected season, when he led the Rams to a 13-3 regular-season record, then a Super Bowl triumph over Tennessee. He was named the league and Super Bowl MVP.

St. Louis was upset in the first round of the playoffs the following season, but Warner had them back in the big game in 2001, where "The Greatest Show on Turf" lost a squeaker to New England. The season earned him a second NFL MVP award.

But after an injury-plagued 2002 season, he was sacked six times and suffered a concussion in a 2003 season-opening loss to the New York Giants. He never started for St. Louis again.

He signed a free agent contract with the Giants for 2004, but was replaced by rookie Eli Manning after nine games. Warner came to the Cardinals in 2005 and was an off-and-on starter before replacing the injured Matt Leinart part way through the 2007 season.

Warner had to beat out Leinart the following spring, then led the Cardinals to the NFC West crown and playoff victories over Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia before the narrow loss to Pittsburgh in last year's Super Bowl, where he threw for 377 yards.

Off the field, Warner has been just as impressive.

He and his wife operate the First Things First Christian charitable foundation. Last year, he was named the NFL's Man of the Year for his off-field and onfield accomplishments.

"We all learned great lessons from Kurt's humility, dignity and grace. We will forever be thankful for the success he brought us and the unparalleled generosity he has shown the St. Louis community and beyond," Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom said in a statement.

Warner's departure leaves Leinart the presumed replacement. The former Heisman Trophy winner has started 17 games for Arizona but only one in the last two years.

Associated Press

NBA All Star rosters set, who made it and who didn't

The NBA All Star game in Dallas is poised to break the record for most people to attend any basketball game in the US. 80,000+ tickets have already been sold for the game scheduled on Feb 12 at Cowboys Stadium. Yesterday the reserves were announced. Every year there are several guys who are worthy of the All Star tag but only a select few can make the cut. The Coaches turned in their picks late Tue and this is what they came up with. NBA All-Star Game reserves Eastern Conference Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks Western Conference Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets Deron Williams, Utah Jazz Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies In my opinion this is exactly how I would of picked the teams outside of one guy. I would of picked David Lee over Horford. Horford has been good this year but I think Lee's impact this season has been nothing short of spectacular. He is one of 3 guys averaging a double double this year( 19 pts, 11 reb). The Coaches seemed to reward winning. All players chosen as reserves come from teams that are in the playoff picture. I also noticed that there are 7 guys who are making the All Star team for the 1st time. Kevin Durant and Deron Williams highlight this group as they should of been All Stars last year. Derrick Rose, Gerald Wallace, Zach Randolph, Rajon Rondo and Al Horford round out the list of new comers. The midseason classic should be another great one. The NBA's best will be on stage and with the likes of Kobe, Lebron, D Wade, and D Howard there will be plenty of ohh's and aww's. The 2010 NBA All Star game has the makings of being and unforgettable event. If you have DVR you better set it for this one. RP
video

Magic come back to beat Celtics


ORLANDO, Fla. -- The play designed for Vince Carter was being shredded. J.J. Redick stood near midcourt, swarmed by defenders, unable to make the pass with the clock about to run out on an improbable come back.


Instead, Rashard Lewis caught the ball and surprised everybody.

Not Easy Being Green

The 2010 playoffs could prove difficult for the Celtics, who have posted a 2-5 record against the East's top teams this season.
Team W-L Margin Next
Cavaliers 1-0 +6.0 Feb. 25
Hawks 0-3 -8.3 Friday
Magic 1-2 +0.6 Feb. 7

Lewis made the go-ahead layup with 1.3 seconds remaining, and the Orlando Magic overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 96-94 on Thursday night.

"Turned the corner with my right hand, took it to the basket and was expecting the defense to collapse," he said. "I was surprised when I turned to the basket there was nobody there."

Not one to pass up a 3-point shot, Lewis took the ball after a broken play and sprinted down the baseline past Kevin Garnett for the uncontested layup. Rasheed Wallace missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Magic their second victory in three games against the Celtics this season.

Lewis led the Magic with 23 points, and Dwight Howard overcome early foul trouble to finish with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Ray Allen had 20 points, and Wallace added 17 for the Celtics, who took a big lead on potent 3-point shooting but wilted from outside in the final period.

"We deserved it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought we completely lost our focus. An 11-point lead at halftime, I told them it was a joke. We should've been up by 25 points."

Boston players were just as upset.

"I can't explain that one," Garnett said. "Tough loss. We had them right where we wanted them and let it slip away."

The Magic came back with a lineup that featured centers Howard and Marcin Gortat. The rare pairing paid off for Orlando.

They stifled Boston defensively and hooked up on a nifty alley-oop that Howard finished with a powerful dunk. Gortat even gave Orlando its first lead with a 17-foot jumper off the glass, making it 84-83 with 4:52 remaining.

"Defensively, I think we are killing them," Gortat said about playing with Howard. "There's no way they can stop us defensively with two big men like that."

The once punishing defensive game became a furious, frantic push to the buzzer with each team matching shot for shot.

Paul Pierce's 3-pointer from the wing put Boston back in front 92-91. Wallace then blocked a shot by Carter and later stole it from Orlando's shooting guard before Rajon Rondo hit a running layup to give Boston a 94-91 lead.

But Redick answered with a 3-pointer rolling off a screen to tie it, and he contested a 3-pointer by Allen to give Orlando the chance for the win in regulation.

On the final Magic possession, Redick tried to get the ball to Carter but was surrouned by defenders. Eventually Lewis got the ball in the corner and went past Garnett for the winner.

"Rashard saved me," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We couldn't get Vince the ball, it was a poorly designed play and Rashard bailed my butt out."

The bullying basketball Boston does best against the Magic completely disappeared.

Fouling and frustrating Orlando early, the Celtics smothered Howard defensively. The aggressive play paralyzed the Magic at the start.

Only a few minutes into the game, Pierce was called for a foul on Howard after a hard hack to prevent him from an easy dunk. Matt Barnes took offense, said something to Pierce and the two went nose-to-nose at full pitch. Each was whistled for a technical foul.

The Celtics got Howard in foul trouble and built a 13-point lead in the second quarter with Orlando's big man on the bench. The Magic got within six before Brian Scalabrine made a 3-pointer, Allen hit two from beyond the arc before the half and then hit two straight shots -- including another 3-pointer -- to start the third quarter and stretch Boston's lead to 56-40.

"We should've been in control but I never felt like we were because of the way we were playing," Rivers said. "I think with 6 minutes left in the third quarter I told the bench, 'We're in trouble."

Even after coming back from the win -- especially after a bad Christmas Day loss to Boston -- Van Gundy was reluctant to say that this could be a turning point.

"I know it's supposed to be a huge game, measuring stick, statement game, all the cliches. It's Game 46 in a regular season," Van Gundy said. "But it is good for us in terms of our development to be in these kind of games.

"We're starting to show more resilience and fight."

Associated Press

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The NFL is trippin, Pro Bowl before Super Bowl?


In the other 2 major sports the All Star game is a big deal! The NBA All Star game is a big production, almost like a Broadway Show. A week full of events in which the fans can interact with the players, highlighted by All star Saturday nite and the All Star game on Sunday. MLB has the Home Run Derby which people from all over the country flock to see during its All Star Weekend. There is a genuine buzz surrounding the players leading up to that weekend. The NFL has, umm well replacement players for the stars who are reluctant to play.

The Pro Bowl is the NFL's version of the All Star game. It has absolutely no luster or hype surrounding it. Players like to get away and enjoy themselves off the field but they hate to play in the game itself. For the longest the Pro bowl was held in Hawaii after the season was over. It was a perfect get way as the best of the best were honored as Pro Bowlers. On the field it is a different story. Players hate the Pro Bowl because they risk injury. Truth be told every time you step on the court/field you risk injury but in the NFL the risk is easily doubled. Especially in a game that means nothing.

This year the Pro bowl is scheduled for this Sunday in Miami. A week before the Super Bowl which is also to be held in Miami. Coaches, GM's and fans are shaking their heads on this one. 14 players total were selected from the Colts and Saints to play in the Pro Bowl this weekend and none will take the field. Each player only there to full fill his league obligation. The NFL totally dropped the ball on this one. The big prize for all 14 of those guys comes a week later in the Superbowl. They could careless about the Pro Bowl. So why have the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl? Somebody please help me understand because the NFL clearly doesn't.

RP

Stern brings the hammer on Arenas and Crittenton


NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Washington Wizards guards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for the remainder of the NBA season Wednesday, and ESPN.com learned that Arenas has agreed not to appeal the punishment.

Stern's disciplinary actions were announced Wednesday afternoon after Arenas met face-to-face with Stern for the first time since the gun incident that put Arenas' future with the Wizards in doubt.

The Washington Post first reported the length of the Arenas suspension, and a source with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.com that Arenas told Stern that he expected and deserved to be suspended for the rest of the season.


Stern Penalties
Commissioner David Stern suspended Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for the remainder of the NBA season on Wednesday, effectively handing the Wizards duo the third and fourth longest suspensions in league history not involving drugs, alcohol or gambling.

Year Player Games
'04-05 Ron Artest 73
'97-98 Latrell Sprewell 68
'09-10 Gilbert Arenas 50
'09-10 Javaris Crittenton 38
'04-05 Stephen Jackson 30
'77-78 Kermit Washington 26
'04-05 Jermaine O'Neal 25

Another source divulged to ESPN that Crittenton has not yet agreed to accept the suspension and that his counsel and the players union are in discussions on how they might challenge it.


"The NBA has conducted a thorough investigation of events relating to this matter," Stern said. "It is not disputed that, following an argument on the team's flight home from a game in Phoenix, both Mr. Arenas and Mr. Crittenton brought guns to the Verizon Center locker room and -- with other players and team personnel present or nearby -- displayed them to one another in a continuation of their dispute. The players engaged in this conduct despite a specific rule set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the Players Association prohibiting players from possessing a weapon at an NBA facility, and reminders of this prohibition given annually by the NBA to players both in writing and in person.


"The issue here is not about the legal ownership and possession of guns, either in one's home or elsewhere. It is about possession of guns in the NBA workplace, which will not be tolerated," Stern said.


"I have met separately with Mr. Arenas and with Mr. Crittenton. Both have expressed remorse for their actions and an understanding of the seriousness of their transgressions. Both have volunteered to engage in community service in order to turn the lessons they have learned into an educational message for others. I accept fully the sincerity of their expressions of regret and intent to create something positive from this incident.

"Nevertheless, there is no justification for their conduct. Accordingly, I am today converting Mr. Arenas' indefinite suspension without pay to a suspension without pay for the remainder of the 2009-10 season, and am also suspending Mr. Crittenton without pay, effective immediately, for the remainder of the 2009-10 season."

The team said it supported Stern's ruling.

"Their poor judgment has also violated the trust of our fans and stands in contrast to everything Abe Pollin stood for throughout his life," the Wizards said in a statement.

"It is widely known that Mr. Pollin took the extraordinary step of changing the team name from 'Bullets' to 'Wizards' in 1997 precisely to express his abhorrence of gun violence in our community. We hope that this negative situation can produce something positive by serving as a reminder that gun violence is a serious issue."

Asked during a conference call what message the penalties sent, Stern said: "We mean what we say when we say that guns are prohibited from being in our buildings and on team business.

"You will be dealt with harshly because it's very potentially dangerous to our players, to the other players and to anyone else who might be involved."


"I felt that I should do something to keep Arenas from doing even further damage to himself and I told him that," Stern said. "We also try to protect [players] from doing things that are foolish and damaging. I felt that Gilbert was in the process of doing that and it was incumbent on me to stop it."

ESPN.com reported Friday that suspension lengths for Arenas and Crittenton would be announced this week in the wake of a Dec. 21 confrontation in the Wizards' locker room in which both players have admitted to displaying unloaded handguns.

Arenas entered a guilty plea Jan. 15 in District of Columbia Superior Court to a felony weapons possession charge after admitting to bringing four guns into the locker room following a heated argument with Crittenton during a card game on the team plane.

Arenas missed his 12th consecutive game Tuesday night after Stern announced an indefinite suspension on Jan. 6, Arenas' 28th birthday.

Arenas awaits criminal court sentencing on March 26. His sentence could range from probation and community service and a fine to a recommended prison term of up to six months.

The sentence Arenas receives is expected to be the determining factor for the Wizards regarding their intent to void the remaining four seasons of Arenas' $111 million contract, which is valued at just over $80 million. Many league and legal experts contend that the Wizards could not successfully attempt to void Arenas' contract unless he is forced to serve jail time during the NBA season.


"We're still exploring all our options," said Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld regarding the issue. "We haven't made any decisions up to this point. We're seeing what we can do. I think it's going to be a combination of many things to see which direction we go in."

Crittenton, who hasn't played a single minute for the Wizards this season, met with Stern on Tuesday after being sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation following his guilty plea to a misdemeanor gun charge. Prosecutors agreed to drop a second misdemeanor charge of attempted carrying a pistol without a license.

"[Union director] Billy [Hunter] has been consistent with his message and his tone of really kind of waiting until the NBA comes out with what their position will be going forward and until then we can't respond," players association president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers told ESPN.com last week.

"It's never happened before, so there isn't anything you can match it to, per se," Fisher said. "If I was commissioner? Well, I'm not privy what he has to balance, what all is at stake in terms of what message he sends to fans, to sponsors, to team owners. So there's a lot more on his plate to contemplate before he makes a decision.

"We respect that process, but from a union perspective we have to protect the short-term and long-term rights of our members, and when members do wrong things or make mistakes, they'll be rightfully punished, and we're just here to make sure that that doesn't go beyond what it should be under the circumstances."

Stern said he and Hunter would meet in the coming weeks to perhaps build a stronger gun policy than the one in the collective bargaining agreement.

Wizards coach Flip Saunders told The Washington Post on Tuesday: "I think right now, the whole situation, we're all pretty much numb to the whole thing. We knew when it got to the point that it got to, nothing good was going to come out of it."

Associated Press

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When is the right time to shut it down?


One of the issues that I have with Athletes in all of sports is knowing when to retire. Average players don't have this issue. Superstars struggle with this time and time again. The Latest example is Brett Favre. Favre has been going back and forth on stepping away from football for the last 5 years. He did it with the Packers who grew tired of his antics and decided to push him out the door in favor of Aaron Rodgers. Favre did it again with NY Jets. Surgery on his Bicep muscle kind of sealed the deal on that one. Favre just finished an incredible season with Minnesota and at 40 yrs old is pondering a come back for another season. Come on Brett your killing me. Granted, Favre can still play at a high level as he proved this year but at some point you gotta let it go. 40 yrs young is a good time do it especially in the unforgiving and physically challenging NFL. Favre's legacy is already set. He is a Super Bowl Champion, multiple league MVP, and easily a top 5 QB of all time. There is nothing left to prove. Honestly, He needs to go and sit down somewhere and stop sending us through this soap opera every offseason.

The problem is great competitors don't know when to call it quits. Their competitive juices are always flowing and they are constantly looking for the next challenge. You saw that with Ali who came back from retirement. You Saw it with Jordan with his stint Bulls then again with the Wizards. You Saw it with Gretsky, Magic, and Floyd Mayweather. As a great athlete you just cant Stop. Hopefully the next generation of Star Athletes does a better job of knowing when to shut it down. If the past is any indication, I wouldn't bet on it.

RP

Venus loses as Serena squeeks by in Aussie Open


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)
Serena Williams saved some family pride Wednesday at the Australian Open.

After older sister Venus' loss to Li Na of China in the previous match on Rod Laver Arena, four-time champion Serena was down a set and 4-0 in the second before rebounding for a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Top-seeded Roger Federer overcame an awkward start to win 13 straight games and beat Nikolay Davydenko 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 to reach the semifinals for a 23rd straight Grand Slam.

Novak Djokovic, who beat Federer in the semifinals here two years ago en route to the title, was beaten by the man he defeated that year, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, in a later quarterfinal.
2010 Australian Open
Evans: Venus sinks, Serena survives
Venus ousted, Serena digs out of hole
Nadal, Roddick out; Henin into semis
Cronin: Roddick running out of time
Aussie Open draws: Men | Women
Photos: Australian Open action

Tsonga beat Djokovic 7-6 (8), 6-7 (5), 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in a near four-hour match and will play Federer in a semifinal Friday. Djokovic appeared to be affected by breathing difficulties and stomach problems during part of the match and took a medical timeout trailing 2-0 in the fourth set.

Last year, Djokovic retired in the fourth set of his quarterfinal with Andy Roddick with a heat-related illness, but the weather conditions Wednesday night were cool and breezy.

``I think I was in good shape, maybe better than him,'' the 10th-seeded Tsonga said.

Andy Murray and Marin Cilic are already through to the semis and will play Thursday night.

Federer is impressed with his Grand Slam semifinal streak.

``It's incredible, looking back on how many years that is now, I'm able to deliver at Grand Slam play,'' Federer said. ``For some reason I was just a bit worried I was not going to make it this time in the semis.

``Now obviously that it's safe again and I've been able to add one. Definitely one of the most incredible things I have in my resume.''

Federer's victory snapped a 13-match Davydenko winning streak after the Russian won the season-ending ATP World Finals in November at London and his 20th career title in Doha earlier this month.

``I've played him many times before, and I know he goes through ... some rock-solid phases at times,'' Federer said. ``I just tried to stay positive.''

Venus Williams couldn't make it to an expected sister semifinal, losing in a mistake-filled match featuring in a combined 110 unforced errors against Li.

The result is that Serena will take on Li, who beat Venus 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5. Justine Henin, playing in her first Grand Slam tournament in two years after coming back from a two-year retirement, will play Zheng Jie in the other semifinal.

Serena Williams was far from confident after the first hour of the match, thinking of her sister's loss.

``It was obviously on my mind,'' Serena said of Venus' defeat. ``I saw maybe one or two points, maybe three. I don't want to watch too much, I get too nervous watching. Obviously I was incredibly disappointed.''

So she started off tentatively.

``I wasn't playing my best, especially in the first two sets,'' she said. ``I was down the whole match from the first point. I wasn't surprised but I was definitely shocked.''

Instead of wilting, she fought back from her big deficit in the second set with two service breaks of her own, easily won the tiebreaker and dominated the third.

Li and Zheng were the first Chinese pair to reach the quarterfinals at the same Grand Slam. Add semifinals now, and could the final be possible?

Serena Williams and Henin, with a combined 18 Grand Slam singles title between them (Serena 11, Henin 7) would seem to have the inside edge. But Li, who lost the first set and was twice down breaks in the second, says anything can happen.

``In China, we say if you have tough time and then you return back, maybe have good luck,'' Li said.

Venus Williams had more mistakes than luck against Li, who called the win the ``best day of my life'' and said she might celebrate with a beer Wednesday night.

``It's important to put the ball in the court,'' said Venus Williams, who served for the match in the second set. ``I felt like sometimes I made some errors.''

That was an understatement. The pair's unforced error count went over the 100 mark midway through the final set, which produced eight service breaks in the first 10 games.

``Unfortunately I let my errors creep in, and then I allowed her to dictate too much,'' Williams said. ``But she played really well.''

Azarenka wilted in her fourth-round match with Serena here last year, retiring in the second set with a virus after taking the first set.

This time, the 20-year-old Belarussian was undone by a trademark comeback by Williams, who is the only player to save match points on the way to three Grand Slam titles. She did it at Wimbledon last year and at the 2003 and 2005 Australian Opens.

Initially, Azarenka looked like she'd continue the Williams family woes. She broke Serena in the opening game and then, after fending off three break points, held her own opening serve in a game that lasted more than 15 minutes and went to deuce nine times.

It was mostly one-way until Williams started her comeback in the second - winning five straight games and then getting on top again at the end of the tiebreaker. She dominated the third set, converting both her breakpoint chances.

Li, who is forecast to go into the WTA's top 10 rankings after the tournament ends, was dominant in the third set when it counted against Venus Williams, who has five Wimbledon titles and two at the U.S. Open.

``I don't like losing at all,'' Williams said. ``No one does. I put in a lot of hard work to come out here and get a win (I'm) not at all pleased

Associated Press

Kentucky's reign at #1 shortlived as South Carolina beats them in a SEC showdown


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)
Top-ranked Kentucky found out it's got some growing up to do. And college basketball will most likely find a new No. 1.

Devan Downey scored 30 points and South Carolina sent Kentucky to its first loss of the season 68-62 on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (19-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) moved atop the rankings this week for the first time since 2003. They were cautioned by no less a fan than President Barack Obama earlier Tuesday to keep their focus and play with the same passion that brought them to the top.

The president or Kentucky didn't count on Downey, the SEC's leading scorer to break the 30-point mark for the fourth time in six league games for South Carolina (12-8, 3-3).

"This is what happens when you have young guys who think we're are going to win at the last minutes of the game," Kentucky coach John Calipari said.

It has been Wildcat youngsters such as John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins that have fueled the program's best start in 44 years. South Carolina showed there's still a place for a couple of smart, savvy senior guards such as Downey and Brandis Raley-Ross.

Raley-Ross had 17 points, the most he's scored in an SEC game this season as South Carolina won its third straight over Kentucky.

The president said as much earlier Tuesday when he called to congratulate the Wildcats on raising more than $1 million to help earthquake victims in Haiti, reminding Kentucky that South Carolina was a difficult place to play.

Obama, though, also thought - like most everybody else who follows the game - that the Wildcats would have little trouble with undermanned South Carolina.

"Yeah, I'm aware of it, but I'm kind of scared to mention something about this president," Downey joked. "I don't want anybody knocking at my door. I don't have anything to say about Obama."

DeMarcus Cousins matched his career best of 27 points to lead Kentucky, which had been the nation's last unbeaten team.

Fans rushed the Colonial Life Arena floor when the buzzer sounded, Downey hugging whomever he could and screaming, "I told you so!"

Giddy fans came up to South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman, handing him dollar bills to pay the anticipated fine the SEC levies for swarming the court.

First offense is $5,000, escalating to $50,000 for repeated violations.

"I'll handle this one," Hyman said.

With Downey, there could be more upsets and celebrations ahead.

He had seemingly hit a game-winner at Florida on Saturday, scoring on a driving layup with 5 seconds left until the Gators' Chandler Parsons outdid him with a winning 3-pointer.

This time, though, Downey and the Gamecocks would not be stopped - even after the Wildcats fabulous freshmen of Wall and Cousins seemed to take things over.

The pair combined for 13 points during a 14-3 run midway through the second half that put the Wildcats up 47-42. That's when Downey took over.

South Carolina's senior had a three-point play and two foul shots to tie it up.

Downey had another three-point play with 4:06 left to give the Gamecocks the lead for good at 54-51.

"It's been my thinking all year," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. "If it's close, we've got No. 2 (Downey) and we've got a shot."

Wall's three-point play with 40.1 seconds left brought Kentucky within 62-61. But Raley-Ross followed with two free throws to restore the edge.

Cousins had 12 rebounds to go along with his points, which tied his best performance set earlier this season against Seton Hall.

Cousins said the Wildcats needed to learn from their mistakes in time to reach their ultimate goals.

"I wanted to be undefeated, and No. 1 was all good, but No. 1 is not a championship," Cousins said. "And we're playing for a championship."

Maybe the Wildcats were distracted by their head-in-the-clouds moment earlier Tuesday when President Obama called.

How else to explain this one?

The Wildcats were ragged and out of sync. They were outrebounded 41-35 by the Gamecocks. They missed from close range, Darnell Dodson even missed an all-by-himself layup after a midcourt steal.

Wall, who Obama greeted with "What's going on all-star?" when they spoke by phone, was 6 of 16 from the field with four of Kentucky's 15 turnovers.

Wall ended with 19 points.

"What I keep saying," Calipari repeated, "we may have been undefeated, but we were lucky to be undefeated. I was being truthful."

No Wildcat could corral Downey.

While the Gamecocks' senior didn't have his shooting touch (9 of 29), he went 10 of 11 at the free throw line.

"Lets be honest," Downey said. "No one gave us a chance."

They will now, especially with Downey in the lineup

Associated Press

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guns and Basketball dont mix


WASHINGTON -- Washington Wizards guard Javaris Crittenton has been sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge stemming from a dispute with teammate Gilbert Arenas.

Senior Judge Bruce Beaudin ordered Crittenton to do outreach work with young people after accepting his plea Monday to one count of possession of an unregistered firearm.

Prosecutors agreed to drop a second misdemeanor charge of attempted carrying a pistol without a license.

Crittenton apologized for what he called an "embarrassment" and said the incident was out of character. His lawyer says the 22-year-old brought the gun to D.C. because he feared Arenas would carry out threats he had made.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league had no comment at this time.

Arenas pleaded guilty on Jan. 15 to a felony gun charge connected to a locker-room argument that is believed to have involved Crittenton.

Arenas, who is under an indefinite NBA suspension, will learn the ultimate length of the ban by the end of next week, sources told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan.

Associated Press

Monday, January 25, 2010

Carolina out of the top 25, Say it aint so


Living in the state of North Carolina not a second goes by that I don't see a Tar Heel Jersey or some type of baby blue baseball hat. State School, State Pride, yeah I get it. Carolina is also coming off a National Championship so the expectations are super high. The people around here need to see their team winning. As of late that's not happening and for the 1st time in a long time North Carolina has fallen out of the top 25.

They have the talent but they are missing a key component. Guard Play. For the last 3 years Carolina had Ty Lawson who is now a top 5 rookie in the NBA. He was the floor general and a huge reason for their success. This years squad features Larry Drew at the point who is far from the decision maker that Lawson was. He is backed by freshman Dexter Strickland who has promise but is inexperienced. Carolina turns the ball over early and often and have seemed to have lost a step defensively. This comes as no surprise as to why they are taking some losses in conference play.

The ACC waits for no one and if Carolina doesn't figure out a way to protect the ball then they will be in serious trouble. I'm talking Post season NIT type trouble. The Tar heels go to NC State this week which will be no gimme. Lets see how they bounce back as the 26th best team in the country.

RP

The NFL hit the jack pot with exciting games

video

Who Dat !!! Them Saints are going to the Super Bowl



NEW ORLEANS -- A 40-yard field goal in overtime by a little-known kicker could become as famous as jambalaya in these parts.


The New Orleans Saints, a team with no home and an uncertain future five years ago, are heading for their first Super Bowl. By battering Brett Favre and beating the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 Sunday, they set off celebrations on Bourbon Street that locals never could have imagined in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"This is for everybody in this city," said coach Sean Payton, the architect of the Saints' turnaround. "This stadium used to have holes in it and used to be wet. It's not wet anymore. This is for the city of New Orleans."

And it came courtesy of Garrett Hartley and the Aints -- who surely ain't the Aints anymore.

"In reality, we had to lean on each other in order to survive and in order to get where we are now," quarterback Drew Brees said. "The city is on its way to recovery, and in a lot of ways has come back better than ever. We've used the strength and resiliency of our fans to go out and play every Sunday and play with the confidence that we can do it, that we can achieve everything we've set out to achieve."

Favre threw away Minnesota's best chance to win, tossing an interception deep in New Orleans territory in the closing seconds of regulation. Then the Saints won the coin toss and ended it on Hartley's kick 4:45 into OT.


"Just helping my team get to Miami," he said. "Just doing my part."

A team of nomads after Katrina ravaged its city and the Superdome, overcame a slew of mistakes in the biggest game the Big Easy has ever seen.

Forget the paper bag masks and that long history of losing that started in 1967. Moments after Hartley's kick, they were toasting their hometown winners in the French Quarter and making plans for South Florida.

The Saints (15-3) will meet Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts (16-2) in the Super Bowl in two weeks in Miami. The Colts opened as 4-point favorites.

"Brett prepared us, but now we've got another challenge in Peyton," safety Darren Sharper said.

And in the Superdome, once a squalid refuge after Katrina, they boogied in the aisles as confetti covered the field.

"It's a moment I've been waiting for for a long time and obviously we're not done yet," said Brees, Payton's hand-picked QB for the Saints' renaissance.

It's the first time the top seeds in each conference made the big game since the 1993 season.

There were nine fumbles and two interceptions, and the biggest mistake belonged to Favre. Flushed from the pocket in the final minute, he seemed to have room to run to set up a field goal. But hampered by a left leg injured in the third quarter, he threw cross-field and was intercepted by Tracy Porter at the 22.

That finished off Minnesota's chance for its first Super Bowl trip in 33 years -- and opportunity to win it for the first time after four defeats. The Vikings have lost five straight NFC title games.

"I've felt better," said Favre, who looked every bit his 40 years. "It was a physical game. A lot of hits. You win that and you sure feel a lot better."

New Orleans won the coin toss, Brees guided it to the Minnesota 22 after converting a fourth-and-1 on Pierre Thomas' leap over the line, and Hartley -- suspended at the start of the season for using a banned stimulant -- split the uprights.

"It was as loud as I have ever heard it in the dome," Brees added. "It feels so good to know we have given our fans an NFC championship. We have another championship to go after in two weeks."

It was anything but easy for the Saints, in only their second conference championship game; they lost at Chicago three years ago.

They had to withstand yet one more comeback by Favre, who returned to the NFL with the Vikings (13-5) after another brief retirement. He was alternately spectacular and pedestrian Sunday, betrayed by his gambling style and, perhaps, an aging body.

Porter's pick sent it into overtime, the third time an NFC title game has needed extra time and the second in three seasons. Two years ago, Favre's interception in OT set up a field goal that sent the Giants past the Packers and into the Super Bowl.

The Saints can only hope they have the same happy ending as New York did back then.

"Yeah," said Reggie Bush, who scored a touchdown. "One more step."

The seesaw game saw All-Pro Adrian Peterson score three touchdowns for Minnesota and Saints running back Thomas get two. The Vikings handily won the possession and yardage battles -- Peterson rushed for 122 yards and Minnesota gained 475 overall. But the Vikings were undone by five turnovers, including three fumbles.

"We really gave those guys the game," said Peterson, who peeked at the rousing celebrations on the Superdome floor. "Too many turnovers. It's eating me up inside."

The seemingly indestructible Favre was hurt on one of those turnovers, on a combination hit by Bobby McCray and Remi Ayodele while throwing his first interception. And, despite being the closest Viking to the ball, he was helpless in the scramble to recover Percy Harvin's fumble that seemingly turned the game in New Orleans' favor early in the fourth period.

The Saints took over at the 7 and, on third down, Bush caught Brees' rollout pass by the right pylon. He was ruled out at the 1, but Payton sprinted almost to the goal line to throw the red flag.

The challenge was upheld, and the dome rocked like never before -- until Hartley's winning field goal.

But Favre has been in enough hostile environments to be able to shrug at such challenges. He hit tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for 16 yards, Peterson ripped off a 20-yard run, and a pass interference against Porter set up Peterson's tying 2-yard rush with 4:58 to go.

"I would have loved to represent the NFC," said Favre, who grew up in Mississippi a Saints fan. "But, as I told Sean throughout the year when we talked, if it's not us, I hope it's you guys."

Notes
The crowd of 71,276 was the largest in the Superdome for a Saints game. ... Favre finished 28 of 46 for 310 yards. Brees went 17 of 31 for 197 yards and three TDs. ... With New Orleans having the only possession of overtime, it could spark more protests about the NFL's sudden-death overtime system.

Associated Press

Saturday, January 23, 2010

NFL Final Four


The Final Four has a ring to it. Usually associated with the NCAA tournament the NFL is having its own version of the Final Four. Four teams remain and tomorrow nite a Super Bowl match up will be set for Miami.

The AFC championship game will put the NY Jets vs the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are at home where they are extremely tough to beat. They have the best QB in the game in Peyton Manning who is surgical with the passing attack. The Jets are menacing on defense and incredibly stingy when it comes to giving up points. They have a rookie QB in Mark Sanchez who has never seen this type of pressure but has performed well up to this point. NY beat Indy a few weeks ago in a controversial game when the Colts decided to rest their starters enabling NY to get the win. Sunday will be different, The Colts will have their guys in the whole game and have consistently been the best team in the league this year.

The NFC championship game in my opinion will be more exciting to watch. Once again the Stars will be on stage as the Minnesota Vikings visit the New Orleans Saints.
Minnesota looks dominating especially on Defense holding the Cowboys to one field goal and no touchdowns last week. Offensively Brett Favre looked sharp as he threw for 4 Touchdowns without an interception. Adrian Peterson didn't have a big game last week but at any time he can deliver the big play that can change the complexion of the game. New Orleans is fun to watch. They love to throw the football and they do it very well. Drew Brees is a top 3 QB in the NFL and probably the most accurate. He places the ball only where his receivers can get it. He also has big play threats all over the field. Reggie Bush is electrifying and can hurt you as running back, receiver, and punt returner. He singlehandedly destroyed Arizona last week. The Superdome should be rocking tomorrow as the Saints have never hosted an NFC championship game.

Predictions. In the AFC I'm going with the Colts. I just refuse to bet against Peyton at home. In the NFC, OOOh this is tough. I'm going with Minnesota. Defensively they are just too good. Sundays games should be great across the board. Cant imagine anything better than watching 4 great games on the big screen in HD.

RP

Busy nite in the NBA, KG steals the show with his return giving Boston hope


Friday night in the NBA is always a big deal. The majority of the league was in action last nite including most of the elite teams. The Lakers, Boston, and Orlando all got wins while San Antonio and Dallas struggled last nite.

The Biggest story was in Boston as the Celtics beat Portland in OT 98-95. This was all so important because KG was back in uniform for the Celtics. Boston had been average at best without their superstar and were looking to get back on track. Boston is known for being one of the better teams on the defensive end and KG is one of the main reasons for that success. He is extremely long and active. He has great anticipation and timing to block shots and he is probably the best one on one post defender in the game today. With KG in the lineup most people predicted Boston as the pre season favorite to win it all. They took a step in that direction by merely getting back their All Star Forward. He scored 13 points in 30 mins of play and looked good running up and down the court without laboring. It will take a few weeks for him to get back in game shape but I think Boston will begin to make a push for the top spot in the east. The Eastern Conference however will be a dogfight at the top as 4 teams Clev, Bost, Atl, and Orl all have a chance at claiming the top spot. Cant wait to see how this all pans out.

RP

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lakers implode as Lebron closes


Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- As chants of "M-V-P" filled the electrified air, LeBron James locked his thumbs under his maroon jersey and made it pop off his chest.


The Cavaliers had beaten the NBA champions again, and James soaked in every second.

"This," he said, "is what I live for."


Fast Facts


• LeBron James finished with 37 points and nine rebounds.

• The Cavs have won five of their last six home games against the Lakers and swept the overall season series with Los Angeles.

• James has won seven of his last nine head-to-head meetings against Kobe Bryant.

• Cleveland forward J.J. Hickson recorded 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for his first career double-double.

• Kobe Bryant finished with 31 points and became the youngest player to reach 25,000 points for a career.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

Cleveland showed its Christmas Day win over Los Angeles was no gift as James scored 37 points, including 12 straight down the stretch, and the Cavs, playing their first game without injured Mo Williams, beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers 93-87 on Thursday night.

J.J. Hickson grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds and Anderson Varejao made three free throws in the final 20 seconds as Cleveland swept the season series between the league's top two teams. That could give the Cavs home-court advantage if they meet the Lakers in June's finals.

A lot can happen between now and then, but the win gave Cleveland confidence it might be able to survive despite losing Williams, their All-Star point guard, who will miss at least one month with a shoulder sprain. Williams scored a team-high 28 in Cleveland's Dec. 25 win at Staples Center.

Williams will be missed. But with James around, the Cavs have little to fear.

"He willed this win for us," Cavs coach Mike Brown said of his star. "He has been doing that for us down the stretch, no matter who our opponent is."

Bryant finished with 31 points but was only 4-of-15 in the second half as the Lakers lost the opener of an eight-game road trip. Pau Gasol scored 13 for Los Angeles, which shot just 33 percent in the final three quarters.

Bryant surpassed 25,000 career points, but he was unable to match James in the fourth quarter as both teams turned to their superstars. Earlier, Bryant was looking forward to a physical game and was eager to see how the Lakers would respond to playing "smashmouth" basketball against Eastern Conference squads like Cleveland and Boston.

Afterward, he wasn't so sure the Lakers are rough enough.

"The mentality has to change a little bit playing against these teams," Bryant said. "These teams are physical, tough-minded, hard-nosed types of teams. That's not part of our DNA. We have to step up and match that and still play skillful basketball."

James was careful not to put too much stock into Cleveland's win. He knows the regular-season sweep will mean nothing if the Cavs can't win it all.

"You don't want to look too far into beating one team twice," he said. "The championship still goes through L.A. It doesn't matter if you beat the team four times, you still have to beat them in the finals to take that trophy away from them."

With the score tied 80-all, James hit a 3-pointer from the left side, and after a miss by Bryant, James dropped another jumper to put Cleveland ahead by five. James then hit an 18-foot jumper to make it 87-80 with 2:48 left and the Cavs looked to be in control.

But Ron Artest hit a big 3 for the Lakers and Bryant made two free throws and a quick jumper to tie it 87-87 with 1:32 remaining.

James then blasted down the left side for a layup with 40.5 seconds to go, sending the raucous Quicken Loans crowd into a frenzy. After Gasol missed two free throws that would have tied it, James was fouled and missed the second of two free throws. But the ever-hustling Varejao was fouled by Artest as they battled in the key for the loose ball. Varejao, a 66 percent shooter from the line, made both attempts for a 92-87 Cavs lead with 20.7 seconds left.

"I'm glad he's on my side," James said of his frenetic teammate. "I have no idea how he does it at the right time."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson didn't agree with the call against Artest.

"I didn't like that," he said. "I thought it was Varejao's foul. When he blew the whistle, I thought he was going to call Varejao for coming over the back. But they called the foul on Ron for grabbing him. A rebound situation foul like that at the end of the game, to make that call is kind of weird."

Bryant then misfired on an off-balance 3-point attempt and James saved the long rebound, flying into Cleveland's bench after swatting the ball back.

"It's a huge win," James said. "I can't sit here and say it's just a normal game because it's not."

Bryant went just 11 of 25 from the floor, not much of an improvement from his 11 of 33 effort against Cleveland last month. He was guarded in the fourth by Delonte West, who started in place of Williams.

Shaquille O'Neal scored 13 and Hickson, who had just two points in the first meeting with L.A., had 11 and was the difference inside as he outworked Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

While media members, fans and even the league have pushed to portray the Cavaliers and Lakers as a budding rivalry, Bryant isn't buying it -- not yet anyway.

"No," he said coldly when asked if the team's were adversaries before the game. "Not at all."

He may now be warming up to the idea.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Who should be an All Star in 2010? Your boy is here to break it down


Monday was the last day to officially vote for the starters for the 2010 NBA All Star Game. Tonite on TNT, The NBA will announce the starters for the Eastern and Western Conference. The game is always a big deal as it signifies the halfway point to the season. Only once a year will you see so many superstars take the court at one time. This years game will be held at Cowboys Stadium which is probably the best venue to watch any sport. I can only imagine replays of your favorite player making a spectacular play on the jumbo tron in cowboys stadium. Its gonna be sick!

One of the biggest ongoing debates in the NBA is how to select the starters for each team. For years fans have been able to vote for their favorite players to be in the starting lineup. I like this philosophy but now fans have lost control and are voting the wrong people into the starting lineup.

It all started with Yao ming who is from china which happens to have the biggest population of any country in the world. Yao's rookie season the fans (95% Chinese) voted him as a starter when Shaq clearly deserved to be there. Since fan voting is global it was allowed. It has since snowballed to this year where Tracy Mcgrady and Allen Iverson will probably be named starters to the All Star game. Don't get me wrong I'm happy for Mcgrady and Iverson but they don't deserve to be reserves let alone starters in the 2010 All Star game. Both guys have been out with injury most of the year. Mcgrady played in less than 5 games before Houston sent him home with pay as they looked to trade him. Iverson started the season with memphis and complained about playing time so he opted to retire only to unretire a week later and sign with Philly. On the court both players have been average at best but definitely not All Star worthy.

The Coaches and/or GM's need to be given control of picking the complete roster of the All Star game. I would venture to say that they would do a better job of picking players who are worthy of an appearance. I appreciate Stern giving the fans the option to choose the starters but some have become reckless and unknowledgable about the game and its players. Some have become bias to the point that good players are getting left off the team. This has to stop.

The starters will be announced tonite and the reserves sometime the following week. If I'm Picking, the 2010 All Star game would look like this.

West starters - Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitski, Tim Duncan.

West Reserves - Deron William, Steve Nash, Brandon Roy, Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol, and Amare stoudamire

East Starters - Rajon Rondo, Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard

East Reserves - Mo Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Antwaun Jamison, and Gerald Wallace.

This group is clearly the cream of the crop and should be representing the NBA as All Stars. I have a funny feeling there will be plenty of snubs in this years game. The Fans are definitely going to mess this up. My only question is how bad.

RP

Kobe vs Lebron Part II


CLEVELAND (AP) -- Seconds after LeBron James and his Cavaliers teammates dismissed the Toronto Raptors, one excited Cleveland fan began a solitary chant.


"Beat L.A., Beat L.A.," he screamed.

Dude, chill. It's January.

But maybe not too early to dream about June.

After all, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are coming.

In possible NBA finals preview Thursday night, Cleveland will host the Los Angeles Lakers, who have a score to settle after being embarrassed 102-87 by the Cavs on Christmas Day. It was a lump-of-coal-in-the-stocking-loss that ended with irate Lakers fans tossing foam fingers -- and a few filled water bottles -- onto the Staples Center court in anger.

With Mo Williams scoring 28 points, James adding 26 and Shaquille O'Neal acting as their enforcer, the Cavaliers bullied the defending NBA champions, whose frustration level led to them retaliating with some cheap shots and being slapped with several technical fouls.

"We didn't like that Christmas game," Lakers center Pau Gasol said. "It was very disappointing on our part. We've got to try to get that ballgame when we play them again. We need to do that. You never want a team to get the confidence they can beat you, especially when it's somebody you might see down the road in the playoffs."

The stop in Cleveland begins a demanding, eight-game road trip for the Lakers (32-9), who have the league's best record in part because of a favorable schedule. They've played just 15 road games -- compared to 25 for the Cavs -- and the imbalance has helped Los Angeles open a five-game lead over Dallas in the Western Conference.

That could change depending on how the Lakers handle a stretch of eight games in 13 days, including three sets of back-to-backs. Last season, Los Angeles went 6-0 on a similar Eastern trip that helped propel the Lakers to a title.

First, though, they want to erase the memories of an unhappy holiday that was particularly hazardous for forward Ron Artest.

"That Christmas game was tough, and then that whole day wasn't too good for me, anyway," said Artest, who suffered a concussion in a fall at home hours after the loss to Cleveland. "We feel like we're a better team now than when we played them before."

The Cavaliers believe they are better, too.

At 32-11, Cleveland has the best record in the East, and with 23 of their final 39 games at home, the Cavs have a chance to run away from Boston, Orlando and Atlanta, their closest competitors in the conference. They just returned from a West Coast trip, where they displayed some bad habits -- a tendency to rely too heavily on James -- and also some new offensive wrinkles with O'Neal on the floor.

In Tuesday night's win over Toronto, O'Neal was the difference maker on both ends as the Cavs beat the improved Raptors for the 10th straight time at home. It's taken longer than expected, but Cleveland coach Mike Brown may have finally figured out how to best utilize the super-sized center, whose offensive game isn't what it once was but whose defensive presence remains unmatched.

O'Neal hammered Raptors guards Jarrett Jack and DeMar DeRozan with hard-but-clean fouls in the third quarter that ignited Cleveland's defense, which gave up 60 points in the first half.

"He's a guy from the old school," Brown said of O'Neal, who also surpassed 28,000 career points in the win. "He's not going to give up anything easy around the basket."

That was the case when the Lakers and Cavaliers met last month. Bryant scored 35 points, but few were easy and he finished just 11 of 32 from the field. And, on more than one occasion, he ran into O'Neal, his former, formidable teammate.

"He definitely had a presence in the game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I do know it was a factor on Kobe. (Shaq) knocked him down about four times without a call."

Down the stretch against Toronto, the Cavaliers ran their offense through O'Neal, who couldn't be stopped by any of the Raptors. Brown ran four consecutive plays to O'Neal in the low post and he produced two assists and a dunk in a 9-2 spurt to put the game away.

"It is great to have that luxury," James said. "Shaq is an unselfish guy and it is great to have that interior presence."

Jackson doesn't want his team to get too caught up in Thursday's matchup or the Lakers' upcoming trip, which will take the club to New York on Friday and won't conclude until Feb. 1 in Memphis.

"Last year's road trip jump-started our season," he said. "I'm setting a low bar for this team, though. We don't need to put too much emphasis on the entire trip as a whole. We just need to play good, solid games and avoid injuries, starting in Cleveland. We don't assign a whole lot extra importance to that game, even though it is an interesting game."

Associated Press

Duke and Carolina both lose on the same night, The ACC must be catching up.


Duke and Carolina have dominated the ACC for years. Since I can remember the two teams have been the cream of the crop in the nations best conference. That was not the case last nite. Duke was beaten at NC. State while Carolina lost at home against Wake Forest. Duke is known for being extremely tough on the road. Fact is they have not won on the road and are 3-2 in the ACC. Carolina has lost 3 straight conference losses, 2 of which were home games and 2 of which were blowouts. Their record is a 1-4 in Conference play. Duke is currently In 3rd place while Carolina is in 11th place. So What gives?

The ACC is getting better. Teams are starting to figure out how to beat Duke and Carolina and the best time to do it is when their down. Carolina lost 4 players to the NBA last year and feature a young inexperienced backcourt. Opponents have also figured this out and are capitalizing. Teams are forcing Carolina into all types of turnovers and bad shots which ultimately equal Losses.

Opponents have been game planning for Duke a little bit differently this year. Teams continue to attack Duke inside. Dukes interior has been weak for the past 3 years but The Blue Devils have upgraded with bigger players. Ironically, In both losses their bigs were badly outplayed. Duke also has a live by the 3 die by the 3 approach that can backfire if your not hitting shots. Teams know this and capitalize.

The ACC continues to be the best conference in basketball and will likely send 7-9 teams to the NCAA tournament. We also may see a team other than Duke and Carolina win the regular season championship and the ACC Tournament. If you like to bet on the underdog this my friend is the year to do it.

RP

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Basketball and racism. Stirring up the pot


A new professional basketball league boasting rosters made up exclusively of white Americans has its eyes set on Augusta, but the team isn't receiving a warm welcome.

The All-American Basketball Alliance announced in a news release Sunday evening that it intends to start its inaugural season in June and hopes Augusta will be one of 12 cities with a team.

"Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league," the statement said.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who has publicly expressed his support for minor league teams in the past, said he would not do the same for this team.

"As a sports enthusiast, I have always supported bringing more sporting activities to Augusta," he said. "However, in this instance I could not support in good conscience bringing in a team that did not fit with the spirit of inclusiveness that I, along with many others, have worked so hard to foster in our city."

Clint Bryant, athletic director at Augusta State University, laughed when he heard the news.

"It's so absurd, it's funny, but it gives you an idea of the sickness of our society" he said. "It shows you what lengths people will go to just to be mean-spirited. I think at any basketball level, no matter if it's all black, all white, all Hispanic, all Asian or anyone else, the players should just be a basketball team."

Don "Moose" Lewis, the commissioner of the AABA, said the reasoning behind the league's roster restrictions is not racism.

"There's nothing hatred about what we're doing," he said. "I don't hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here's a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like."

Lewis said he wants to emphasize fundamental basketball instead of "street-ball" played by "people of color." He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas' indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans' dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run.

"Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" he said. "That's the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction."

The Atlanta-based league, which will operate as a single-entity owning all of its teams, is looking for local contacts to pay $10,000 to become a "licensee" in one of 12 cities throughout the Southeast. Lewis said he has already received threats from people opposed to the roster restrictions and several cities have told him to stay out of town. Lewis said he has yet to hear from any one in Augusta.

"We need a local person ingrained into the community to make this successful," he said.

Lewis said he expects to eventually find support in every town with a team.

"People will come out and support a product they can identify with. I'm the spoken minority right now, but if people will give us a chance, it'll work... The white game of basketball, which is essentially a fundamental game, works."

Lewis said he wasn't sure where the team will play.

Augusta has had problems with minor league basketball teams in the past, but the issues never centered around race. The Augusta Drive lasted less than a month before folding in 1995, citing financial reasons. The Augusta Groove made it through a full, 20-game schedule in 2009, but accusations from players and local businesses that the team wasn't paying its bills surrounded the team during the second half of the season. The team later shut down in the offseason.

By Billy Byler | Staff Writer| Augusta Chronicle

Shaq scores 28,000 points, Moves into the top 5 all time


I always liked Shaq. He is one of my favorite players. He is easily a top 3 Center of all time. He was the 1st dominating force of my generation. At 7ft 350 pounds he looks like something out of a comic book. He played like it to. I followed him all the way back to his LSU days where he was forced to enter the NBA because opposing teams would look to intentionally foul him to stop him. I followed him In Orlando where he literally broke the backboard on Dunks. I followed him in LA where he took the Lakers to 3 titles and won his 1st MVP award.

Shaq has an incredible skill set to go along with sheer power. In his prime he could single handily overpower multiple defenders. If he caught the ball in the paint you had to foul him or he would score or both. Over a 17 year career he averaged 24 pts and 11 reb shooting an incredible 58% from the field. He could of easily averaged closer to 34 points per game if he was a better FT shooter which most big man are not. He is now a top 5 scorer in the history of the NBA which puts him in an elite class with the likes of Kareem, Malone, Wilt, and Michael Jordan.

Even though Shaq is at the tale end of his career he is still a more than serviceable big man. He has Cleveland in the mix for a title run. The league will miss a great ambassador whenever he decides to hang up up his size 24 shoe. In the words of Shaq " CAN YOU DIG IT"

RP

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lakers look dominate, Celtics look lost on MLK day.


Nobody takes advantage of Holidays like the NBA. MLK day like Christmas and Thanksgiving is a huge day in the NBA. Yesterday the usaul supects the Lakers and the Celtics were featured. Most people have these two teams meeting each other in the Finals in June. That may be the case for one of the teams but for the other it will be a true battle to get to the finals.

The Lakers played Orlando last nite in a finals rematch that lived up to the hype. Dwight Howard was dominant early and was the only bright spot for Orlando. He finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. He was overshadowed by Shannon Brown and Pau Gasol. Brown had a career high 22 points and looked unstoppable at times in the
1st half. He has really become a quality, trustworthy reserve for the Lakers. Pau was just Pau. dominant against smaller players and too skilled for bigger players. He is the perfect Robin to Kobes Batman. LA seized control of the game in the 4th quarter with a 15-0 run to start to the period and never looked back. I just cant see anybody beating the champs in a 7 game series.

3,000 miles away the Celtics hosted the Mavericks in an exciting Mon. matchup. The storyline was simple. Too much Nowitski. Dirk Nowitski is a matchup nightmare for just about anybody. I have never seen anybody shoot the ball as well as Dirk, well maybe Larry Bird but thats it. He absolutely destroyed the Celtic frontline. Dallas was down in the 1st half but took control of the game in the 3rd quarter slowly beginning to pull away from the Celtics. Defensively the Celtics have been having problems and Dallas took full advantage. Jason Kidd handed out 17 assist making it easier for the Mavs who shot the 3 ball great in 2nd half. Dallas desperately needed this win droppin 2 out of their last 3. Boston without KG has looked lost. No identity, no toughness, and no stellar defensive play. These are things Boston has been know for over the past 3 years. They better find a way to rite the ship because the east is no picnic with the likes of Clevland, Orlando, and Atlanta all looking to get to the finals.

Even though we are just entering the half way point in the NBA, the Playoff push will officially began in late Feb. Seeding and homecourt are all too important and both the Lakers and the Celtics need to be at the top of their games if they plan to meet in the finals. Based on what i saw last nite the Lakers seemed poised and ready for a repeat while Boston is trying to keep up with the pack in the east. I wish June would just get here already.

RP

Texas #1 spot was all too brief, falls to Kansas State


MANHATTAN, Kan. -- More than 15 minutes after the final horn, thousands of Kansas State fans lingered in the stands to savor a hard-earned victory.


No floor-rushing celebrations, no hopping on the scorer's table, just a loud, sustained ovation.

Even against the nation's No. 1 team, Kansas State and its fans, many wearing fake beards in homage to high-scoring Jacob Pullen, expected to win.

Jamar Samuels scored 15 of his 20 points in a dominating first half and the Wildcats (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) withstood a gut check rally to knock off top-ranked Texas 71-62 on Monday night.

"Teams rush floors when they do something phenomenal," said Kansas State forward Curtis Kelly, who had 17 points and eight rebounds against one college basketball's best front lines. "It's flattering. They knew we were going to win. They didn't have to rush the floor because they believed in us."

Beating The Best

Kansas State upset Texas on Monday for its third win in school history over the top-ranked team in the AP poll. Here's a look at the others:
2/8/90 1/17/94 Monday
Opp. Mizzou Kansas Texas
Score 65-58 68-64 71-62
NCAA Tourney L, 1st Round None ?

Kansas State (16-2, 3-1 Big 12) had every reason to bow to the Longhorns, but instead smothered Texas with its extended man-to-man defense to overcome a 1-for-12 effort from 3-point range and held on to beat a No. 1 team for the third time in school history. Samuels added in 12 rebounds and freshman Rodney McGruder chipped in 11 key points for the Wildcats, who used a late 11-1 run to take control in their record 14th straight win at Bramlage Coliseum.

When it was over, the players celebrated on the floor -- by themselves.

"I think our fans understand we're not trying to celebrate in January," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "They're going to wait around and see what comes the rest of the season."

Texas (17-1, 3-0) matched Kansas State's defensive intensity, holding Kansas State to 38 percent shooting and bottling up high-scoring guards Pullen and Denis Clemente, who went a combined 4 of 24.

What killed the Longhorns -- and their short stay at No. 1 -- was offense.

Texas shot 36 percent from the field following a season-low 35 percent against Texas A&M, went 3 for 11 from 3-point range and hit just 9 of 22 at the free-throw line.

The Longhorns rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit with an early run in the second, but couldn't keep it going in their second week ever at No. 1, leaving No. 2 Kentucky (18-0) as the lone unbeaten team in Division I.

Avery Bradley had 11 points to lead Texas.

"We definitely played well enough defensively to win this game, but offensively, in the last two games, it's hurt us," Texas coach Rick Barnes.

Texas had passed every test on the way to its first No. 1 ranking.

The Longhorns beat North Carolina at Cowboys Stadium, Michigan State in Austin, and pulled out a tougher-than-expected road win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. It was a tough first week as the nation's top-ranked team against Iowa State and Texas A&M, but Texas still won both.

Monday's game represented the Longhorns' toughest task so far: on the road in a juiced arena against a top 10 team.

They didn't seem ready for it.

Uncharacteristically frazzled, Texas struggled against Kansas State's pressure and its own indecisiveness, shooting 10 of 33 from the field with 11 turnovers to trail by 10 at the half.

"I think they guarded pretty well, but we missed some wide open layups and some crucial free throws that could have turned the game around," said Texas guard Justin Mason, who took just four shots and had eight points.

Kansas State fans were certainly ready, lining up outside Bramlage Coliseum the night before the game, many sporting fake Abraham Lincoln beards -- a school giveaway -- and "Fear the Beard" T-shirts in honor of the fuzzy growth under Pullen's jaw line.

Pullen joined in the fun, too, trotting out to warmups with a faux Lincoln before revealing the real thing.

The Wildcats fed off the facial-fuzz energy early, using their aggressive defense to hound the Longhorns into turnovers and difficult shots.

Texas managed to keep it close for a little while before Kansas State put together the kind of run the Longhorns usually snuff out opponents with: 18-4.

Samuels was the key, slashing inside on drives and putbacks, capping the spurt with a 3-pointer that put the Wildcats up 36-22.

Texas, of course, made a run, but Kansas State made all the plays it needed down the stretch, setting off in-the-stands pandemonium in the Little Apple.

"That's what it's about," Martin said.

Associated Press


Monday, January 18, 2010

Has the dunk contest lost its luster ?


What happened to the dunk contest? What happened to all the hype surrounding it? How could you let the dunk contest just fall off? Well it has to the point that people don't even watch it anymore. I wonder why that is.

The Slam Dunk contest used to be the highlight of All-Star weekend. It was the sign of ultimate creativity and it got you out of your seat watching dunks that you had never seen before. I remember watching the dunk contest as a kid on TBS on Sat and then the All-Star game on Sun. In my backyard I had a basketball hoop that was a little lower than regulation so I could do all the dunks that I saw the players do in the dunk contest. For the longest Dr. J was known as the best dunker. In the mid 80's a new wave of young high risers emerged highlighted by Dominique and Jordan. Till this day the battles that they had in the 3 years they competed were the best the dunk contest has ever seen. Dominique was more power! He made the wind mill dunk famous as he rocked the rim with one or two hands. He had the sickest double pump reverse dunk I had ever seen. Jordan was more finesse! He would kiss the rim and lean on his dunks. His hang time was unreal. Then he would take off from the Free Throw line which he always saved for last, as his rabbit in the hat. He just looked sweet when he dunked.

After Jordan and Dominique the dunk contest began to lose its popularity. Every once in while we got flashes from guys like Kobe, Vince Carter and Jason Richardson who all won the dunk contest but for the most part it was the same ole, same ole.
One of the reasons why Dominique and Jordan had so much interest was because both guys were 2 of the best players and scorers in the league at the time. They also both dunked alot in games. It was like a built in competition to see them in the dunk contest. Today our best best players pass on being in the contest and give way to younger unproven players to move the crowd with their dunks. Lebron James told the media last Feb during All-Star weekend that he would be in the dunk contest. Now he is is pulling out. Guys Dwayne Wade would rather do the skills challenge. Kobe is saying "1 dunk title is enough".

Nate Robinson is the defending dunk champion. Yeah you heard me, Nate Robinson. Don't get me wrong he can jump and has alot of creativity. We need superstars to compete for the dunk title to bring the buzz back. Robinson's competitors consist of Gerald Wallace, Shannon Brown and the winner of a dunk off between Demar Derozen and Eric Gordon. This is far from the eye popping list that the fans truly want to see. The Dunk contest also is becoming more predictable because we have seen just about every dunk that can be done. As fans and judges we are our own worst enemy. Hopefully one of the participants can pull the unthinkable and give us something never seen before. My guess is probably not, but as a true fan I will still be watching and tweeting in between dunks. Cowboys Stadium is the ultimate venue for any sport and the city of Dallas should be crazy on All-Star weekend. Predictions. I like Derozen to win it all with Shannon Brown a close second. Trust me, the dunk contest on Sat will take a backseat to the game on Sun. We gotta get things back to the way they were

RP