Friday, June 29, 2012

Blazers select Lillard & Leonard with both lottery picks

By Kshell

The Portland Trail Blazers were picking in the lottery for the first time since 2008 held the #6 selection(from the Gerald Wallace trade to the New Jersey Nets) and the 11th selection(their own) in this years NBA draft. For the second straight year the Portland Trail Blazers selected a point guard in the first round. With the 6th pick overall they took Damian Lillard from Weber St. which plays in the Big Sky conference. Then with the 11th pick overall they took center Meyers Leonard from Illinois Fighting Illini. The Blazers are hoping with this draft and a more healthy season out of LaMarcus Aldridge that they can return back to the playoff picture. This has been a tough year for the Blazers franchise that operated the entire season without a general manager, fired head coach Nate McMillan who had been coaching the team since the 2005-06 season, Brandon Roy suddenly retired(he is making a comeback) and finally Greg Oden was released as he missed all of this year and will miss all of next season. The Blazers who were the up and coming franchise back in 2008 just four years later found themselves back in the draft lottery a place no team wants to be.

The Blazers are hoping that Lillard is thier point guard of the future. At Weber State he played in 104 games in his career. As a freshman playing in 31 games helping his team to a 21-10 record he averaged 11.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 2.9 APG while making 1.6 three pointers a game. He shot 43.4% from the field, 37.4% from three point range and 84.1% on free throws. As a sophomore he improved averaging 19.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 3.6 APG. He shot 43.1% from the field, 39.3% from three point range and 85.3% on free throws. He made 2.7 three pointers a game in 31 games as Weber State went 20-11. As a junior he only played in 10 games(one where he played two minutes) and didn't really have a junior season. Then as a senior in 32 games leading Weber St. to a 25-7 record he averaged 24.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 4.0 APG. He made 2.9 three pointers a game while shooting 46.7% from the field, 40.9% from three point range and 88.7% from free throws. Lillard is also 6'3" and appears to be more of a combo guard than a true point guard. With Roy gone the Blazers desperately need someone in their backcourt who can carry the scoring load while setting up their teammates. Lillard although playing at a small college is a consistently good three point shooter and free throw shooter. The Blazers are hoping their search for a point is finally over once and for all.

The last few seasons the Blazers have been trying to find a point guard. They drafted Jerryd Bayless with their last lottery selection in 2008. He didn't work out while the Blazers have tried to go with stop gaps in the middle with Steve Blake and then Andre Miller. Having losing in the first round of the NBA playoffs three years in a row the Blazers decided to shake things up on draft night by drafting Nolan Smith and trading for Raymond Felton. Smith played in 44 games averaged only 3.8 PPG and 1.4 APG while shooting 37.2% from the field. Felton was also a disaster as he showed up fat and out of shape. Felton in 60 games averaged only 11.4 PPG and 6.4 APG while shooting 40.7% from the field. The hope now is that Lillard can finally solve that point guard problem which has been holding this franchise back for over a decade now.

With the 11th pick in the draft the Blazers selected center Meyers Leonard out of Illinois. The Blazers who are in need of a center with Marcus Camby now gone and of course #1 pick overall Greg Oden also gone drafted Leonard. First of all I'll start this by saying I don't like this pick and I'll tell you why in a moment. As a freshman Leonard wasn't a factor at all playing in 33 games he averaged only 2.1 PPG and 1.2 RPG in roughly 8 minutes per game. Then he had a big break out season his sophomore year where he averaged 13.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 1.9 blocks in 30 minutes. He also shot 58.4% from the field and was over 70% both years on free throws. He recorded eight double-doubles this past season as well. I didn't like this pick because I think in today's NBA you need to be athletic and I would have liked to have seen Aldridge play center as the Blazers finally run. In the west though with Duncan, Bynum, Utah Jazz, Griffin, Love and Perkins-Ibaka combo you do need some bigs so the Blazers are hoping they finally solved their center problem.

The Blazers last two drafts haven't added up as they passed on Kenneth Faried who made all rookie team in leading the Denver Nuggets to the playoffs in favor of point guard Nolan Smith. Then this year they passed on big man Andre Drummond in favor of Lillard. With the following pick they took a big man in Leonard so the Blazers admitted they needed a big man why not take Drummond who has so much more upside? If you planned on giving up on Nolan Smith after one year why not take Faried who had an elite skill set which is rebounding. I guess that is what happens when you conduct a draft last year without a general manager. Hopefully this works out for the Blazers who are coming off  a disappointing 28-38 season which saw a coaching change and finally a new general manager. The Blazers with two lottery picks I felt could have done more but ultimately time will tell if this was a good draft or not.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Grizzlies select Tony Wroten 1st round(25th overall)

By Kshell

The Memphis Grizzlies who have made the NBA playoffs the last two seasons selected Tony Wroten from the Washington Huskies with the 25th pick overall in the 2012 NBA draft. Wroten's selection was a historical selection for the Huskies program as Terrence Ross was selected earlier in the day marking the first time in Huskies history they had two first round picks in the same NBA draft. For Lorenzo Romar this is a good day for the program for the future of recruiting. Wroten is the sixth Husky taken in the first round and ninth Husky overall to be drafted in the Romar era. Wroten like Spencer Hawes who was taken 10th in the 2007 NBA draft was only with the Huskies for one season. Also like Hawes, Wroten will have never played in the NCAA tournament. Despite winning the conference regular season title and featuring two future first round picks the Huskies failed to make the NCAA tournament. Wroten along with Ross were both named first team all conference and for Wroten he was the first freshman to be named that in school history. Wroten also won freshman of the year for the conference as he was up for player of the year in the conference.

Tony Wroten Jr has been a legend in the northwest well before he ever landed on U-Dub campus. Wroten's dad Tony Wroten Senior was a tight end on the Don James Rose Bowl teams of the early 1980's. Wroten's cousin Nate Robinson was the first guy selected in the first round for the Huskies in the Romar era. In high school at Garfield High Wroten was the #1 overall player in the nation as a freshman and sophomore. Then he blew out his ACL playing football his junior year missing that entire season. When he committed to the Huskies heading into his senior year he was a four star recruit but after playing he was upgraded to a five star. Then as a freshman for the Huskies in 35 games he came off the bench for his first eight games of the year before starting the final 27 games. Wroten averaged 16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 3.7 APG. The reason he fell was because he shot only 44.3% from the field, 16.1% on three pointers and 58.3% on free throws with 3.8 turnovers a game. Wroten would make spectacular dunks and drives while breaking your heart with the basics. The Oregon State game summed up his brief Washington career in a nutshell. He carried the team down the stretch scoring 29 points but with the game on the line down by one he missed four straight free throws as the Huskies lost. That game ultimately cost them the NCAA tournament. In the NIT Wroten didn't play well either only averaging 10.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 4.2 APG. Wroten is one of those guys who will make a bigger impact with the Huskies in the NBA as him playing well will give the Huskies program more of a spotlight to hopefully land the next Wroten.

Wroten and Isaiah Thomas were supposed to play together this year but Thomas bolted to the NBA. Thomas fell to the second round only to see himself finish 7th in the NBA rookie of the year voting while being second team all rookie team. Not bad for the last pick in the draft. While Wroten is more talented than Thomas he wasn't quite as polished as Thomas was by the time he left the Huskies. Regardless of how their careers turn out Thomas will have left a mark at Washington while Wroten just wasn't the same. Even Ross who was only here two years at least had his moments in the Pac-10 tournament championship and against UNC in the NCAA tournament. He also came up big on the final four NIT run. With Wroten just like with Hawes you will always feel like there is a huge gaping hole in their UW legacy. Sure they might go onto to be great NBA players but a guy like Jon Brockman who is barely hanging on in the NBA will always have a special spot in Huskies fans hearts over Hawes and Wroten.

From Lorenzo Romar who won Pac-12 coach of the year this was a bittersweet day. First time in school history the Huskies produced two first round picks. So when you win a conference title, have two first round picks plus the coach of the year you would think this was a special year. Instead this team missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008 as they made history being the first BCS conference champion to miss the NCAA tournament. For Ross, every UW fan expected him to go as he was ready and Romar even acknowledged that. For Wroten you are disappointed as he left with major unfinished business. This draft was loaded while next year is supposed to be extremely weak meaning had he stayed another year he'd be a top 10 pick which means more money later on. Plus you'd think after the way his Pac-12 career ended with the miss free throws against Oregon State and then his season ended shooting 4-16 with zero assists in the NIT overtime loss to Minnesota he would have came back. I won't vault someone for wanting to be a millionaire this year but the program will be hurting. With Wroten the Huskies would have been the conference favorites instead they'll be lucky to make the NIT.

So this day was historical for the Huskies and hopefully Romar can turn this history into landing some major recruits. After seeing Wroten and Hawes though should we even be excited to land these one and done type of talents? Sure they look good as they add to your NBA alumni status but far as the program goes both years were huge letdowns. For Wroten though he is going to a good team who has made the playoffs the last two seasons. He can learn how to be a team player as he fits in to find his niche. After a while hopefully he cuts down on his turnovers, improves his free throw shooting and developes something that resembles a jumper so he can be a successful guy who lasts in the NBA. Wroten was a wonderful talent and there was no freshman I enjoyed watching more than him as he "Wow'd!" me so many times. At the end of the day with Wroten you will always feel like there was something more he could have given this program. The reality is his best gift can be notority so the Huskies can land the next big time recruit and this time hope that guy can do what Hawes and Wroten couldn't do. Hopefully that guy can finally lead UW to the promise land until then we'll always wonder what could have 2013 been with Wroten as a sophomore and Ross as a junior. At least they made Huskies history right?

Toronto Raptors take UW's Terrence Ross with 8th pick overall

By Kshell

The Toronto Raptors selected Washington Huskies guard Terrence Ross with the 8th pick overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. Ross will become the fifth Husky drafted in the first round in the Lorenzo Romar era and eighth player overall drafted. Ross was only at Washington for two years after sitting out his senior year of high school at Jefferson High. Ross who electric at Washington with his three point shooting and incredible dunks also accomplished quite a bit with the Huskies. With the Huskies Ross was first-team all tournament team in the 2011 Pac-10 tournament and was first-team all Pac-12 in 2012. When Ross arrived at Washington Romar had called him the best athlete he'll ever coach. Everyone thought Romar was crazy when he made that statement but after two years nobody thinks that now.

When Ross came to Washington he was known as the "other" Terrence as him and his high school teammate Terrence Jones both committed to Washington on the same day. Only Jones backed out and went to Kentucky instead. For Ross he was an after thought and at Washington he was the last man in the rotation at first. Then due to injuries to Abdul Gaddy(season ending), Scott Suggs(missed a few games), C.J. Wilcox(missed a few games) and Venoy Overton's off court issues that allowed Ross to shine. Ross as a freshman played in 34 games starting four(three in Pac-10 tournament and one in NCAA tournament) as he averaged 8.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG and made 1.3 three's a game. Ross shot 44.3% from the field, 35.2% on three pointers and 75.8% on free throws. In the Pac-10 tournament he was big time averaging 15.3 points per game while shooting 19-36(52.7%) from the field and made 6-17(35.3%) from three point range. He ended the year scoring 19 points on 7-10 shooting against North Carolina who had four guys on that roster drafted in the first round. That led to his sophomore season which saw him earn first-team all conference. Ross started all 34 games and averaged 16.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG and made 2.1 three pointers a game. Ross shot 45.7% from the field, 37.1% from three point range and 76.6% from the free throw line. The Huskies missed the NCAA tournament despite winning the Pac-12 regular season championship. Ross made the most of it in the NIT leading the Huskies to the NIT final four averaging 25.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG and making 3.8 three pointers a game. Ross scored a career high 32 points against the Northwestern Wildcats in the second round NIT game making six three pointers.

Ross is the highest draft pick for the Huskies since Brandon Roy went 7th overall back in 2006. In fact Ross is only the fourth Husky to go top 10(Detlef Schrempf, Brandon Roy and Spencer Hawes). Ross was probably the most NBA gifted player the Huskies have had since Roy as he had no weaknesses in college. Like Roy, Ross could beat you to the hole and he could also beat you outside. Roy went on to play in three all-star games, Schrempf played in two while winning the sixth man of the year in two other separate seasons while Hawes has had a breakout playoffs for the 76ers. In the Romar era he has proven he can recruit and turn those recruits into NBA players. Ross was a kid who didn't play basketball his senior year and two years later was a top 10 pick. Ross won't leave behind the legacy that Roy has but no Husky have lived up to that in the Romar era. Ross though has a chance to stick in the NBA and by going to the Raptors can grow into a star. Ross is hoping to joing Roy and Schrempf as the only Huskies to play in an all-star game. Romar has produced some stars in the past and it appears the program is growing in the right direction with these type of talented players. This is a good moment for Ross even if he gave the Huskies only two years as both years gave the Huskies conference championships.

For Romar this day is bittersweet for him as he is saying goodbye to Ross. This is a happy day for the program as they have another guy head off to the NBA and Romar will be able to sell that to recruits. The downer for Romar is Ross had two more years of eligibility and going into the year I'm sure Romar was hoping Ross would have given the Huskies one more year. The fact Ross kept having big moments this year in big games made it so we all knew Ross was going to leave. Ross developed faster than anyone could have imagined. He is now going to a passionate fan base in Toronto that is eager for a winner. He is going to a roster where he can play early and get some minutes. Ross can develope as Toronto isn't in the media eye so there will be no pressure on him. Ross can develope at his own pace and I know Ross will be a good NBA player when all said and done.

This is a special day for the Huskies with Ross going in the first round. Ross helped the Huskies to two conference championships and had plenty of big moments for this school. He was very humble on the court and a hard guy to dislike. He was very athletic and skilled which is rare to find in a player as they usually have one and not the other. Ross will make the Raptors fans proud much like he has made the Huskies fans proud the last two years. Ross was only here for a short while but his impact being a top 10 pick might just be his biggest contribution to the Huskies yet. Which is saying a lot considering he has hit plenty of big shots for this program the last two years. Ross is now going to Canada as he'll do his best to lead the Raptors back into the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sounders struggles continue as they fall 2-1 to the Timbers

By Money Mike


The Seattle Sounders still can't find a way to snap their winless streak. The Sounders have now gone seven games without a win after suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of their arch rival the Portland Timbers. After starting the season 7-1-1, injuries have really racked up for Seattle along with players doing a poor job communicating with each other. With another pretty big month coming up, it's important that the Sounders end the month on a good note by beating the New England Revolution next Saturday. And let's not forget their Open Cup match on Tuesday against the San Jose Earthquakes.

In the 11th minute, as I said a couple blogs ago set pieces are one of the biggest keys to victory offensively and defensively and the Sounders got lucky here because defensively they sucked on this corner. Franck Songo'o curled the ball out and found the head of David Horst from point blank range and he hit the crossbar and Jack Jewsbury couldn't put home the rebound.

In the 16th minute however, the Timbers would take advantage of some more lousy defending and draw first blood. Steven Smith worked a brilliant give and go with Franck Songo'o on the near side and whipped in a perfectly good ball into the area for Kris Boyd and Andrew Weber was left helpless as Boyd slams it home and the Timbers take a 1-0 lead.

In the 24th minute, Kris Boyd was left unmarked again, this time with a free header and Andrew Weber did enough to punch the ball over the bar. That was twice that Jeff Parke got caught and got away with it.

Straight off the corner kick though Parke gets caught one more time and this time, there was no "get out of jail free" card. Franck Songo'o curled the ball out and found David Horst for a downward header that skips through Andrew Weber and Alex Caskey and into the back of the net and things were going terribly wrong for the Men in Rave Green as they found themselves two goals behind after 25 minutes. I don't understand what has happened to Parke and Hurtado. Both of them just can't seem to communicate with each other very well and have been a major disappointment these last couple of games.

On the stroke of halftime, Ozzie Alonso had a go from a long way out and forced a big save from Troy Perkins. He had too much space on that play and it didn't look like the Timbers read any scouting reports on him, especially the fact that he can hit em' from distance.

In the 53rd minute, Alonso made a cut to his right foot and tested the keeper again, trying to go for the far corner. But again, Troy Perkins was equal to it.

In the 58th minute, the Sounders would find an answer and cut the Timbers lead in half. Zach Scott found Eddie Johnson on the right side. Johnson brushed off David Horst and was looking to square the ball across for Fredy Montero, but Futty Danso cut down the angle. Instead, Johnson cut to his left foot and curled a shot inside the far corner for his fifth goal of the season.

In the 90th minute, the Rivalry starts heating up as tempers flare from both teams. The Sounders had the ball in the Timbers area and looked to continue attacking, but referee Ricardo Salazar stopped play because it looked like Fredy Montero shoved David Horst, who went down easily. This after Horst and Eddie Johnson were right in each others face. Just after the whistle had blown, there was pushing and shoving everywhere. Futty started to go at it with Johnson and then right from behind, Lovel Palmer threw on elbow at Johnson. After all the scrap was cleaned up, it was Fredy Montero and Lovel Palmer who got sent off. This is the third straight game in which a Sounder player has been shown a red card. So we all know that Montero and Palmer will be suspended for their next match, unless appealed. But it looks like there could be more suspensions handed out. Things have gotten out of control for the Sounders once again, especially after another disappointing result.


Scoring summary:

Portland Timbers - Kris Boyd 5 (Steven Smith 1) 16'

Portland Timbers - David Horst 1 (Franck Songo'o 1) 25'

Seattle Sounders FC - Eddie Johnson 5 (Zach Scott 1) 58'


Misconduct summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - Brad Evans (caution; off the ball foul) 18'

Portland Timbers - Diego Chara (caution; foul) 43'

Seattle Sounders FC - Osvaldo Alonso (caution; foul) 48'

Portland Timbers - Kalif Alhassan (caution; foul) 53'

Portland Timbers - Steven Smith (caution; foul) 73'

Portland Timbers - Jack Jewsbury (caution; time wasting) 90'

Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (ejection; fighting) 92'+

Portland Timbers - Lovel Palmer (ejection; fighting) 92'+


Lineups:

Seattle Sounders FC - Andrew Weber; Zach Scott, Jeff Parke (Patrick Ianni 42'), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch; Brad Evans (Andy Rose 46'), Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales, Alex Caskey (Cordell Cato 75'); Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero

Portland Timbers - Troy Perkins; Jack Jewsbury, David Horst, Mamadou Danso, Steven Smith; Kalif Alhassan (Sal Zizzo 54'), Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, Franck Songo'o (Lovel Palmer 78'); Kris Boyd, Mike Fucito (Danny Mwanga 66')

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cascadia Rivals set to clash in Portland

By Money Mike


Still looking to end their winless run, the Seattle Sounders head south of the border for a massive Cascadia Clash tomorrow afternoon against the Portland Timbers. Kickoff time is 2pm on ESPN, shortly after the conclusion of the England-Italy match in EURO 2012 (unless it goes to extra time). Last year the Sounders defeated the Timbers on their home turf 3-2, rallying back twice with two goals from Fredy Montero and then a game winner by Osvaldo Alonso. They'll have to get past them again tomorrow on the road if they want to snap their six game winless streak.


Players to watch:

Fredy Montero - The Portland Timbers backline will have to keep their eyes out for Montero. Again, last year he scored twice against them at Jeld-Wen Field and he will be looking to silence the Timbers Army again tomorrow. Right now with four goals on the year, Montero will have an opportunity to add to his tally, but to do that, he and Eddie Johnson will have work together to wear down this weak Timbers backline who are going to be without Hanyer Mosquera, Eric Brunner and Rodney Wallace. But as we all know, they can't do it all alone.

Mauro Rosales - Like I said on my previous recap, the Sounders need to stick with Mauro Rosales in the center of midfield because as I said last time, despite only picking up a point against Sporting KC they actually played a lot better than they did the previous five games since they moved Evens to the right and Rosales to the center. I've been starting to get annoyed with Montero acting as a playmaker which in all honesty he's not. That role is why we brought back Mauro Rosales to begin with and up to the Sporting KC game, he hasn't really done much. Keep him in the center and let him create.

Kris Boyd - In case any of you don't know this fact by now, Kris Boyd is the all time leading goalscorer in Scottish Premier League history with 164 and the Timbers are lucky to have him especially after all the speculation during the offseason that he was going to the Houston Dynamo and I was surprised to see him go to Portland. Anyway, the Sounders backline needs to shut him down I think in order to get the win because he's pretty much the only goalscorer they have right now. I mean Danny Mwanga just joined the team, Jose Adolfo Valencia is out with possibly a season ending injury and former UW Husky Brent Richards hasn't been given any real opportunity yet.


Injury report:

Seattle Sounders FC - For the Sounders, David Estrada, Babayele Sodade and Michael Gspurning are out. Steve Zakuani is listed as questionable, but I expect him to be on the 18 man squad. Adam Johansson has been upgraded to questionable. He's been out the last three matches after straining his right hammie against the Columbus Crew. And also, I would've included Christian Sivebaek but he's been waived by the club.

Portland Timbers - For the other team, there's really nothing here except that Eric Brunner and Rodney Wallace are out. Danny Mwanga has a contusion on his left quad, but I don't think it'll keep him out for this one.


Suspensions:

Seattle Sounders FC - Alvaro Fernandez is suspended for Seattle after a red card last match against Sporting Kansas City.

Portland Timbers - Hanyer Mosquera will be serving the first of his three match ban and that will be a big big blow for the Timbers back line who are already with Brunner and Wallace.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lebron goes from prince to finally becoming king!

By Kshell

After years of suffering Lebron James can finally be called an NBA champion. When the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in game five to win the series four games to one the Heat have won their second championship in franchise history. More importantly the leagues greatest player Lebron James has won his first NBA title in his 9th season and was named NBA Finals MVP. Lebron capped his terrific playoffs with a triple double scoring 26 points, dishing out 13 assists and grabbing 11 rebounds. James in these finals averaged 28.6 points per game, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. James came to Miami to win a title and after making an ass of himself his first season in Miami that humbling experience made him who he was today.  James won his third MVP award in four seasons averaging 27.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 6.2 APG. In these playoffs he was even better averaging 30.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 5.6 APG. James who has always put up amazing stats finally silenced his critics after last year for the first time in his career he had a bad playoff series in last years NBA finals. James had amazing playoff games that will now be remembered because he finally won a title.

In the summer of 2010 James had "the decision" which was when the Seattle Sports Blog was formed so I always look back to that summer. James decided to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form the "super team." They held a celebration before ever playing a game where Lebron famously said "not one, not two, not three.....not seven championships." The Heat immediately became the villains of the NBA and James was the poster child of that hate by every NBA city. After getting off to an 8-9 start which everyone figured 40 year old head coach Erik Spoelstra would be fired the Heat battled back to go to the NBA Finals. After being up two games to one Lebron no showed the final three games and the Dallas Mavericks upset the Heat. There was speculation that the Heat should blow this up as they don't have enough role guys and that Spoelstra was over his head. Instead Pat Riley stayed the course and added Shane Battier  to the team as the only major move heading into the strike shorten 2012 season. James played free as if he accepted that he can't please everyone and more importantly he took a hard look in the mirror at himself. I noticed on twitter instead of making snarky remarks towards Cleveland Cavs owner Dan Gilbert he was interacting with fans. He vowed win or lose he was going to play hard this Finals and to his credit he backed it up. The "decision" was a bushleague move that probably helped James become an even greater player than we could have ever imagined. James had to endure last season to finally grow into this season just like Michael Jordan had to do in the late 1980's, Shaq in the 90's when losing to the Bulls then Jazz, or Kobe post Shaq. Every player has to go through these pains and James is no different and neither is Kevin Durant.

For Kevin Durant his time isn't now. For those who thought the Thunder were going to win and Vegas had them as favorites they forgot the rules of the NBA. You have to pay your dues first which Lebron, Wade and Bosh have. While Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden haven't done yet. Durant who has won the last three scoring titles and lit up game one of the finals scoring 36 points including 17 in the fourth quarter proved he is a great scorer but not on Lebron's level.....yet. Durant these finals averaged 30.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 2.2 APG making 2.6 three pointers a game. Durant was a great scorer these playoffs but his all around game could still use some work. These playoffs Durant averaged 28.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG and made 2.05 three pointers a game. Westbrook had his moments like scoring 43 points in game four loss on 20-32 shooting but also had his low moments shooting 4-20 in a game five elmination loss. James Harden who was terrific all postseason was a total no show in the finals who padded his stats when the game was a blowout in game five. Still Durant is only 23(turns 24 in September), Westbrook is 23(turns 24 in September) and Harden is 22(turns 23 in August). Their three best players are well ahead of the learning curve. The fact they are already in the NBA finals and have lost to eventual NBA champions the last three seasons shows they are right there. Durant is going to have his day eventually where he is king and winning all the rings. For now though Lebron is showing that he isn't ready to give up the "best player in the game" award that he has held the last few seasons.

When Durant finally wins his ring it won't be as big of a deal as today since there is no player quite like Lebron James. Good or bad people have a strong opinion on James that hasn't been seen before. He is talented, says stupid things and grew up in the 24/7 media world we live in which creates a perfect storm. This is Lebron's time and he left Cleveland so he can have help. Mario Chalmers scored 25 points in game four win, while Mike Miller had 23 points in game five hitting seven three pointers. Shane Battier scored 17 points hitting five three pointers in the game two win. Chris Bosh despite playing hurt these finals averaged a gritty 14.6 PPG and 9.4 RPG. Meanwhile Dwyane Wade bounced back from a rough game one to average 22.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 5.2 APG. Without those guys James probably doesn't have a ring but that isn't to diminish James title. Jon Paxson and Steve Kerr hit game winning shots in NBA finals clinchers for Michael Jordan and who can forget Ron Artest hitting a dagger three pointer to bail out Kobe Bryant's 6-24 in the Finals in game 7 in 2010?  These clutch moments by others are what helps stars reach their championship totals but stars do have to come through in big moments and James did just that this postseason.

The Heat are the first ever team to win a championship trailing in three different series. Trailing two games to one heading into game four in Indiana without Chris Bosh the Heat had to win. James responded with a historical performance not seen since 1961 by Elgin Baylor. In the Heat 101-93 win in which they trailed by 15 early Lebron scored 40 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and had 9 assists. The Heat would go on to win that series in six games. In the Eastern Conference Finals after being up 2-0 the Heat lost three in a row and were heading to Boston with their season on the line. The Heat destroyed the Celtics 98-79 as Lebron scored 30 points in the first half finishing with 45 points on 19-26(73.2%) shooting with 15 rebounds and five assists. In game seven after trailing early James once again came up big scoring 31 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. In game two of the finals with his team needing a win James scored 32 points and iced the game at the free throw line making all 12 attempts. Then in game four he was cramping and had to leave the game. He did return however to hit the go ahead three pointer giving him 26 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists which hadn't been seen since Larry Bird in 1986. Then today Lebron finishes up his great playoffs with a triple double scoring 26 points, dishing out 13 assists and grabbing 11 rebounds. Not many powerforwards dish out 13 assists just like no many guards average nearly 10 rebounds. James can play any position on the court which he has done this entire playoffs. He had one of the all-time great playoffs by an individual anyone has ever seen.

Call James whatever you want but a "choke artist," "not-clutch," "ringless," and "disappears in the fourth" can no longer be used. In proving the critics wrong he also proved them right as well. He needed to change as a player and as a person why he has low post moves, why he isn't afraid to take over down the stretch, why he plays defense now which he didn't prior to the 2008 Olympics(he noticed how hard Kobe Bryant was going at it and it clicked to him and Wade). James is more humble now as his celebration after beating Boston in round two back in 2011 was more so than when he actually won the title. In the 1980's you had Bird-Magic, in the 1990's you had Jordan, in the 2000's you had Shaq, Duncan and Kobe. In the 10's you'll have Lebron-Durant. James won the first of many battles between these two in the finals. Durant will have his time someday but for now there is only one king and his name is Lebron James.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sounders and Sporting KC finish all square in an evenly played match

By Money Mike


The Sounders winless streak now sits at six matches and they are still due to get their first win since May 9th. Last night the Sounders came away with only a point after a 1-1 draw at home against Sporting Kansas City. It was a physical game from start to finish with a few controversial moments in this match. If the Sounders want to end their six match winless run, they'll have to get past their arch rival the Portland Timbers on their home ground this Sunday which will be the first of three straight on the road before they return home for a match on July 7th against the Colorado Rapids.

In the 8th minute, it was the visitors who opened the scoring. Jacob Peterson's long throw in found Aurelien Collin who barely got a piece of the ball with his head. Jeff Parke tried to head the ball clear, but Collin outjumped Zach Scott and flicked the ball back for Peterson for a right footed volley which I think deflected off Ozzie Alonso's foot and inside the far post. Unlucky for the Sounders. Had the shot not been deflected, it might have sailed over the bar or wide of the far post. I don't know, but the deflection went Sporting KC's way and there was nothing goalkeeper Andrew Weber could've done.

That lead didn't last long as the Sounders got one back in the 15th minute with a potential goal of the year candidate. Mauro Rosales curled his free kick to the far post, now Patrick Ianni had to come back for it because the cross was drifting behind him. He comes back for it and what does he do? He jumps up and side volleys it into the net to level this match at one. There was absolutely nothing Jimmy Neilsen could do but bitch at his defenders because they did a crappy job defending this set play. Michael Harrington was supposed to be marking Ianni and he got caught at the last second. Set pieces are one of the biggest keys to victory for every team. What a way for Ianni to cap off a return from injury by scoring one of the goals of the year. This was also his 100th MLS appearance of his career.

A minute later, this one should've been a red card. Aurelien Collin took down Mauro Rosales, who looked to have had a breakaway opportunity had he avoided the sliding challenge, and referee Jair Marrufo decided that it was only a yellow card. I don't know if it was because he thought there was another Sporting KC defender in the area and there could've been but that's ridiculous, Rosales would've been clear so that should've been a Red Card. Another thing is Marrufo later on in the match did a horrible job keeping both teams under control. Since that yellow card, Collin has been acting like a damn jackass all game and the referee doesn't do anything about it.

In the 19th minute, the Sounders dodged a huge bullet. Roger Espinoza found Soony Saad making a run in behind Zach Scott and played a good ball in for him. Saad struck it first time from almost a tight angle, but the crossbar saves Seattle from falling behind for the second time in the match.

In the 29th minute, the Sounders nearly made Sporting pay for some crappy defending of their own. Ozzie Alonso found Eddie Johnson who had loads of space. Aurelien Collin was the only player back for KC. Johnson did have Fredy Montero in support, but he went for it himself and just missed wide by inches. Johnson probably should've played the ball to Montero who was onside and perhaps had a better chance at putting the Sounders ahead. On the other side, where were the KC defenders? Why was Johnson given all the time and space on that play? Had the Sounders scored, I think Lawrence Olum would've taken the blame because he overcommited and Alonso read it perfectly and found Eddie Johnson. One thing I might want to ask myself is, why was Lawrence Olum given the start at center half? As far as I know by watching him during his time in the USL, he's been used as a holding midfielder. That's from what I've seen though.

In the 61st minute, the Sounders come close again. Mauro Rosales played an excellent ball to Alex Caskey who was onside and was clear of goal. Caskey was looking to put it inside the left post, but again it just rolls wide.

In the 88th minute, I don't even know what happened or how Jimmy Nielsen spilled this one but a crowd of over 46,000 and most of the viewers in Seattle, KC and other viewers around the nation watching on Direct Kick or MLS Live thought the Sounders snatched another victory against Sporting. Andy Rose's cross found Fredy Montero at the far post. Montero cut to his left foot and I don't know if this was a low cross or if Montero was trying to score, but the ball deflected off Chance Myers and it looked to be an easy gather for Nielsen but he let the ball go through him and it bounced off the far post and cleared by Lawrence Olum before Ozzie Alonso could put home the rebound. A couple seconds later, Zach Scott was booked for shoving C.J. Sapong into the boards and tempers began to flare on both sides.

In the second minute of stoppage time, the Sounders were reduced to 10 men for the second straight match. Alvaro Fernandez looked like he was fouled by Roger Espinoza, but the referee didn't call that and Fernandez retaliates and comes in with a dangerous challenge and Jair Marrufo wasted no time going to his back pocket and giving Flaco a Red Card and that summed up how the Sounders felt about the officiating in this game.


Observations:

I was looking forward to seeing Steve Zakuani make his return for over a year since he suffered a broken leg in the early stages of last season, but Sigi Schmid decided to bring on Alvaro Fernandez instead and a few minutes later he gets sent off. The fact that everybody was excited that Zak was in the 18 man squad, looking forward to his return and then being left on the bench was a little disappointing. At the same time, I think it was the right decision to keep him on the bench because of the way things have gone late in the match.

Here's what Sigi said regarding why he didn't bring in Zakuani....

"It had less to do with Zakuani's length of injury or coming back. I just thought the game last night, the referee really didn't have control of the game; there was a lot of extracurricular activities going on off the ball that weren't called. To put Steve into that sort of game I didn't think was going to be a good situation because there was a lot of reckless abandon, let me put it that way, when people went into tackles. It wasn't so much a reflection of where Steve was at. It was more a reflection of the game. It's not a case of the game being aggressive or physical and that part; he's not going to shy away from that. I'm not worried about it in that sort of game, but I thought it was a game that to be quite honest had gotten out of control."

To be honest here, I think Sigi had a point. The game was completely out of control, especially late in the match with all the pushing and shoving and the fact that the referee didn't do his job and made some poor decisions. As for Aurelien Collin, I've already said enough. That guy's a prick.

I think moving Mauro Rosales to an attacking midfield position was the right move by Sigi. I thought Rosales had his best performance in quite a while. He's been able to make more plays on the ball, put more pressure on the central defenders and he also picked up an assist. Sure it was on a free kick, but still this was his best performance since the Philadelphia game on May 5th in which he scored the only goal of the match. I thought Brad Evans looked good on the right side of midfield, getting a few early touches at the start of the match. I'm still not overly impressed with Evans, but I think he's looked better playing on the right side than in the center. That goes for Mauro Rosales being in the center of midfield than on the right. I think they should stick with this lineup against the Timbers on Sunday because now they were able to find some openings and really put some pressure on the opposition.

I wasn't surprised to see Andrew Weber in goal for the Sounders after Bryan Meredith's struggles in these last couple games and Michael Gspurning not fully recovered yet. There were some nervous moments though, not because this was his first game for the Sounders and his third overall in MLS, but because Sporting Kansas City is a great attacking team with guys like Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong and Graham Zusi. Of course Kamara, Sapong and Zusi didn't start but they still looked dangerous offensively. Anyway, I thought Weber did a great job making some good saves and communicating with his defense. I'm expecting him to get the nod again this Sunday when the Sounders travel to take on the Timbers.

I wasn't overly happy with just a draw, especially with all the crap going on at the end of the game. At the same time, I think it's a step forward for this team because they looked a lot better offensively and defensively than they did in their last five games. If you're some stupid idiot like some user on SeattleTimes named "Cougforlife2011" who know's absolutely nothing about this team and just says the same ridiculous thing over and over again, "Softest team in MLS", "The front office is worse than the Mariners" (Give me a damn break), than I wouldn't be surprised if you don't agree with me on this. If you don't agree on this, that's fine but at least have a better explanation that what we keep getting with this user on SeattleTimes who can't get his facts straight. This guy is like Joe Queenan from the Wall Street Journal except Queenan trashed American soccer with false information. Anyway, if the Sounders stick with this formation in their next with Rosales in the center of midfield and Evans on the right, I think they'll come away with a better result and put an end to their six game winless streak. One win will surely change things for the Sounders as they look to get back in title contention.


Scoring summary:

Sporting Kansas City - Jacob Peterson 1 (Aurelien Collin 1) 8'

Seattle Sounders FC - Patrick Ianni 1 (Mauro Rosales 3) 15'


Misconduct summary:

Sporting Kansas City - Aurelien Collin (caution; foul) 16'

Sporting Kansas City - Lawrence Olum (caution; foul) 48'

Sporting Kansas City - Jimmy Nielsen (caution; time wasting) 59'

Seattle Sounders FC - Zach Scott (caution; foul) 59'

Seattle Sounders FC - Alvaro Fernandez (ejection; foul) 92'+


Lineups:

Sporting Kansas City - Jimmy Nielsen; Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Lawrence Olum, Michael Harrington; Michael Thomas, Peterson Joseph (Graham Zusi 50'), Roger Espinoza; Jacob Peterson (Kei Kamara 65'), Teal Bunbury, Soony Saad (C.J. Sapong 86')

Seattle Sounders FC - Andrew Weber; Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Marc Burch; Brad Evans (Andy Rose 72'), Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales (Alvaro Fernandez 80'), Alex Caskey; Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa 80'), Fredy Montero

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sounders show up unprepared and get hit hard against Montreal

By Money Mike


Coming off a much needed break, the Seattle Sounders were expected to come out with high energy and a lot of confidence following their two Open Cup victories. Instead, they show up like they weren't even ready for this match and end up losing 4-1 to the Montreal Impact in their Stade Saputo opener. The Sounders winless run now sits at five games, which now begins to raise a few questions and concerns about this team leading up to the Summer Transfer Period next Wednesday. The Sounders need to find an answer in their next match at home this Wednesday against Sporting Kansas City.

Not much action in the first quarter of an hour of the game, but in the 18th minute the Impact got things going. Patrice Bernier was spotted down the right hand side. The veteran decided to have a go against Zach Scott instead of chipping the ball into the penalty area as he maneuvered around Scott and poked the ball to the top of the area for Felipe Martins who curled a shot to the far post and there was nothing Bryan Meredith could do about that one as Felipe bagged his second of the season and the first at Saputo Stadium to give the Impact a 1-0 lead.

The Sounders began to show signs of life in the first half and they nearly got the equalizer in the 39th minute as Mauro Rosales took the corner kick for the Sounders. The ball was flicked towards goal by Eddie Johnson where Fredy Montero was waiting, but Donovan Ricketts denied any opportunity of Montero getting to the end of that.

In the 50th minute, the Impact would double their advantage. It was Patrice Bernier setting up another goal for Montreal, this time to Justin Mapp as he made a great run past Zach Scoot, who had a terrible game, and slid the ball inside the left post to make it 2-0 to the Impact.

Seven minutes later, things just went from bad to worse for the Seattle Sounders. Defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado looked like he was reaching for the ball and he tripped up Collen Warner for the foul. Now normally this would be a yellow card, but for some reason referee Mark Geiger went to his back pocket and pulled out a red card. I don't understand this one, his studs were not exposed, he was trying to play the ball. Terrible decision by the referee. Another thing was the Sounders had 24 hours to appeal the red card on Hurtado and they didn't appeal, so Hurtado will be suspended for the home match on Wednesday against Kansas City.

Shortly after, Montreal started to run away with this game and once again it was Patrice Bernier setting up the third goal. Bernier flicked the ball over his shoulder and slotted the ball through to the no. 1 draft pick Andrew Wenger and the 2011 Hermann Trophy winner struck in first time inside the near post for his third goal of the season, to put the match out of reach. I think this was a shot that Bryan Meredith probably should've stopped. I tell you what, this guy has stuggled over the last couple of games making saves, communicating with his defenders, etc. Which begins to raise more questions if they should keep him in net or turn to Andrew Weber or Josh Ford until Michael Gspurning is fully recovered. Gspurning was targeting a June 16th return but he had a bit of a setback and probably won't be ready until June 30th, if not July 4th.

Three minutes later, the Sounders would pull one back. Fredy Montero slid the ball through to Eddie Johnson who beat Jeb Brovsky to the ball and chipped the ball over Donovan Ricketts and into the back of the net for his fourth goal in 2012.

In the 87th minute, Montreal would add a fourth and it the former Sounder Lamar Neagle. Neagle sprinted away from Jeff Parke into the penalty area and either Brad Evans and Marc Burch were supposed the clear the ball. Instead, there was some miscommunication and Lamar Neagle slammed the ball into the net and slammed the door in this game as the Impact walked away with a 4-1 win.


Scoring summary:

Montreal Impact - Felipe Martins 2 (Patrice Bernier 2) 18'

Montreal Impact - Justin Mapp 2 (Patrice Bernier 3) 51'

Montreal Impact - Andrew Wenger 3 (Patrice Bernier 4) 58'

Seattle Sounders FC - Eddie Johnson 4 (Fredy Montero 4) 61'

Montreal Impact - Lamar Neagle 1 (unassisted) 87'


Misconduct summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - Jeff Parke (caution; foul) 22'

Seattle Sounders FC - Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (ejection; foul) 56'

Seattle Sounders FC - Eddie Johnson (caution; foul) 70'

Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (caution; foul) 76'

Montreal Impact - Shavar Thomas (caution; foul) 79'

Montreal Impact - Nelson Rivas (caution; foul) 85'


Lineup:

Seattle Sounders FC - Bryan Meredith; Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch; Mauro Rosales (Cordell Cato 71'), Andy Rose, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez (Alex Caskey 62'); Eddie Johnson (Servando Carrasco 82'), Fredy Montero

Montreal Impact - Donovan Ricketts; Zarek Valentin, Nelson Rivas, Matteo Ferrari (Shavar Thomas 33'), Jeb Brovsky; Davy Arnaud, Collen Warner, Patrice Bernier (Bernardo Corradi 77'), Felipe Martins, Justin Mapp (Lamar Neagle 62'); Andrew Wenger

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2012 NBA Finals preview + prediction

By Kshell

The dream NBA Finals match up that every casual basketball fan has wanted has finally arrived with three-time MVP Lebron James and the Miami Heat taking on the three-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant. Both players will be the face of team USA this summer in London. Both of are the best players in the world who happen to play the same position. Both guys are also looking for their first championship ring in their young careers. Both guys have also left a city bitter with James having the "decision" which still has Cleveland fans pissed off. While Durant has done nothing wrong the man who signs his checks moved the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City and us Seattle fans are still hurt about losing our team along with Durant. In this post I'll break down my three keys to the series while reflecting back on the Sonics situation. Then at the end I'll offer up prediction on the series as the Oklahoma City Thunder are the heavy favorites this series after defeating the San Antonio Spurs four straight games while the Heat struggled to beat an aging Boston Celtics team in seven games.

1. Who will emerge from this Finals as the best player in the NBA?

What makes this NBA Finals so unique unlike previous other finals is that so much is riding on the superstars of each team. Fair or not the winner of this series will see their star emerge as the best player in the NBA. In most sports the role players step up and win MVP's sometimes in championship series but in the NBA the MVP is almost always the best player on their own team. This postseason both players are playing surpurb basketball. For the Heat Lebron James is averaging 30.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 5.1 APG. He is averaging 42:22 minutes a game in 18 games while recording 1.9 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. He is making 1.1 three pointers a game and shooting 50.8% from the field. He is also getting to the foul line averaging 10.4 free throws a game. In the Eastern Conference Finals win over the Celtics James was terrific averaging 33.6 PPG, 11.0 RPG and 3.9 APG. James though has struggled in 10 career Finals games averaging only 19.6 PPG and has yet to score more than 25 points.

His counterpart will be Kevin Durant who will be playing in his very first of probably many NBA Finals. Durant these playoffs is also playing terrific averaging 27.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 4.2 APG. In 15 games he is averaging 41:33 minutes a game while recording 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. He is making 1.9 three pointers a game while shooting 50.5% from the field, 36.4% on three pointers and 87.0% on 8.2 free throw attempts. Durant has defeated the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and then the hottest team in the NBA the San Antonio Spurs. All three teams have represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals the last 13 seasons including 10 championships. I have a feeling the Durant-Lebron rivalry is about to reach Bird-Magic territory as this won't be the only time these two will square off in the NBA Finals.

Whoever wins this matchup will most likely be hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy. I can't see a scenario where either player has even an average series by their own high standards and their team prevailing. One of these two is about to be the face of the NBA, team USA basketball and win their first ever championship and that is all in their hands.

2. Nobody likes a third wheel except for both these teams:

In this series Kevin Durant-Lebron James battle will grab the first, second and third headlines. The next headlines will be the battle between Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook who will also be a fun matchup as both are combo guards. If those matchups cancel each other out as they'll be going up against each other offensively and defensively then this series could be decided by the "third wheel's" on each team. For the Zombies Sonics that is sixth man of the year James Harden and for the Heat that is six-time all-star Chris Bosh who is coming off injury. Currently Bosh like Harden is coming off the bench and I actually like that move as he provides instant offense off the bench which teams have used to win a title recently with Jason Terry, Lamar Odom, and Manu Giniboli.

The man with the incredible beard James Harden has been great all year and especially in these playoffs with already two big moments(both of which were on the road against Dallas in game four and San Antonio in game five). Harden these playoffs is averaging 17.6 PPG, 5.2RPG, 3.3 APG and 1.7 steals per game in 31:04 minutes while coming off the bench. Harden is shooting 45.2% from the field, making 1.7 three pointers a game on 44.6% shooting and 87.3% of his free throws on 6.8 attempts. He is playing incredible this postseason as he has the third highest PER rating behind on James and Durant.

Meanwhile Bosh who got hurt during game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals has finally returned while coming off the bench. In this postseason Bosh has played in only nine games making six starts. He is averaging 13.7 PPG and 6.9 RPG in 28:28 minutes per game. He is shooting 52.3% from the field and making 80.0% of his free throws on 3.9 attempts. He has also made 0.6 three pointers a game on 62.5% shooting. In game seven he was a huge spark for the Heat making a career high three three pointers as he scored 19 points while pulling down eight rebounds as he looked healthy.

Harden will be guarded in crunch time by Shane Battier while Bosh will be guarded by Serge Ibaka who is better at blocking shots not necessarily playing on the perimeter. If either guy can go off and help ease the load of their two stars this could be what is needed to shift this series. Both guys are very capable of erupting for 30 plus at home or on the road.

3. Like Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg the other guys can save the day:

This series will be defined by Lebron vs Duant, Westbrook vs Wade and the two major 6th men stars. What could swing a game or two in this series is the other guys headlined by the Zombie Sonics Serge Ibaka. The Miami Heat trio of Lebron-Wade-Bosh scored the final 31 points of their game seven win over Boston. In these playoffs the Heat big three is averaging 67.4 PPG, 10.0 APG and 21.5 RPG. They are also getting 4.0 steals and 3.0 blocks per game while hitting 2.1 three pointers a game. The "other guys" on the Heat are averaging 28.7 PPG, 7.3 APG and 19.0 RPG. They are also getting 3.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game while drilling 4.3 three pointers a game.

The Oklahoma City trio of Durant-Westbrook-Harden is averaging 67.1 PPG, 13.1 APG and 18.2 RPG. They are also getting 4.9 steals and 1.8 blocks per game while hitting 4.6 three pointers. The "other guys" on the Zombie Sonics are averaging 35.2 PPG, 5.6 APG, and 22.1 RPG. They are also getting 4.2 steals and 5.7 blocks per game while hitting 2.3 three pointers a game. As you can see the Zombies "other guys" are more explosive than the Heat. The Zombies feature Serge Ibaka who these playoffs is averaging 10.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 3.3 blocks per game.

For the Heat their main "other guy" is Mario Chalmers who is averaging 11.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 3.9 APG while making 1.4 three pointers a game. The Heat don't have a deep roster there is a reason why head coach Erik Spoelstra started three different guys at center in the Celtics series alone and basically only played the big three along with Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Chalmers. The Zombies though have the edge in talent and championship experience with Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher who have combined played in nine NBA Finals while winning six NBA championships.

The national media has it all wrong and that's a damn shame!

I'm already getting annoyed with how Lebron James and the Miami Heat are the "villains" because he chose to leave his hometown team for less money to pursue a championship(already in two seasons been to more NBA finals than in seven seasons in Cleveland) while most on ESPN are covenietly ignoring how Oklahoma City became Oklahoma City. The Thunder were flat out stolen from the Sonics as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Collison were all drafted by Seatle. To pretend they are the heartfelt good guys is a slap in the face to all those in Seattle who grew up as Sonics fans.

I understand the national media doesn't want to hate on Oklahoma City or be disrespectful towards them as this is their moment. Just don't pretend they are the good guys either while Miami is the villains because that is simply not the case. We have suffered a lot in recent years with the Seahawks not having a winning season since 2007, the Mariners lost 95+ games three of the last four seasons while finishing in last place six of the last eight seasons. For our college fans the Washington Huskies going 0-12 in the Tyrone Willingham era and for the Washington State Cougars fans going 9-40 the last four seasons in the Paul Wulff era. The Sonics with Kevin Durant was supposed to be our reward and we didn't even get that. Hopefully the Sonics return(they'll be here sooner than people think you watch) I hope we are awarded a talent like Durant as this city is so overdue. At least Cleveland got the experiene of Lebron James for seven years. We got to experience Durant for one season in a lameduck year that was full on rebuild mode. Seattle fans got robbed and the national media continues to piss down our back and tell us it's raining isn't helping either.

Prediction: Heat in six games

As if I was going to take Oklahoma City in this series. In reality I'm making this prediction for basketball related reasons and I'm even wagering money on the Heat to win. I can't believe a team that features Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is being underestiminated but they are. The Heat I feel are more battle tested than the Thunder after playing in the NBA Finals just last year plus are always under the media spotlight so this is nothing new to them. While the young Thunder are on center stage for the first time. Durant especially has received a free pass from the media his entire career if he starts to slump and James is going off that won't happen this series. Westbrook has already received some backlash last year but it won't be like it is now if he struggles in the Finals. I do think experience plays a role as well as the losing team from the previous year in the NBA finals who happens to reach the finals the next year has won the championship four out of seven times since 1980. Two of those champions the 1988 Detroit Pistons and 2009 Los Angeles Lakers would actually go on to win the next two titles. The teams that lost were the 1984 Lakers who would win the title following season, 1998 Utah Jazz who lost to the Michael Jordan dynasty back to back and the 2003 New Jersey Nets who came from the weakest east ever.

Now since 1980 when teams with Finals experience went up against teams without it(basically the core players) the team with experience has won 10 of the 14 matchups. The four cases where no experience prevailed was the 1980 Los Angeles Lakers who would go on to win five NBA titles, 1991 Chicago Bulls who would go on to win six NBA titles, 2004 Detroit Pistons who would reach NBA Finals following season and 2008 Boston Celtics who were all veteran future hall of famers.  I think both these teams are going to be living in the NBA finals for the rest of this decade as Durant and James are in their prime years.

Besides experience and being battle tested the main reason I'm taking the Heat is I feel like Lebron James is playing the best ball of his career. I also think Lebron has matured and is just focused on winning a title. Last year he worried too much about his critics and was tweeting about his "haters". While this year he seems at peace with himself and that hate towards him isn't as strong as it once was. He is playing like Karl Malone if Malone was able to bring the ball up court and pass. James is playing at a super natural level and defensively he is guarding Rajon Rondo one possession while guarding Kevin Garnett the next. I think he is going to give Durant some problems in those crunch moments plus Wade brings his "A" game in the NBA Finals as Wade in 12 career games has averaged 30.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 4.5 APG. Last year in the Finals loss Wade averaged 26.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 5.2 APG as he was having another spectacular finals. In 2006 Wade won the Finals MVP averaging 34.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 3.8 APG. For the Heat to win Flash will need to go off once again.

This series is what every fan who doesn't live in Cleveland or Seattle can hope for. We have six stars including four guys who will be on the U.S. Olympic team and a fifth in Bosh depending on his health. All of these guys are in their primes and in the case of both teams best two players play the same position. Westbrook will be going up against Wade in the fourth quarter and more importantly Durant will be squaring off against Lebron in the fourth quarter. America better get used to this matchup as I think this will be the new Magic-Bird of the 1980's which saw one of those two play in nine of the 10 NBA finals in the 1980's winning eight championships. They went up against each other three times as well with Bird winning the first matchup while Magic won the last two. I'm looking forward to this Finals and I truly believe this is the Finals where Lebron silences his critics for good.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Denmark stuns the Netherlands 1-0

By Money Mike


In the third match of EURO 2012, it was Netherlands and Denmark kicking off group play in Group B and most people would expect the Netherlands to pick up an easy win. Instead, the Oranje failed to finish their chances and they end up losing. On Saturday, Denmark pulled off an upset win as they held on and defeated the Netherlands 1-0. The Dutch, who were one of the favorites of making it out of the group of death, now find themselves on the brink of elimination with Germany on Wednesday and Portugal on Sunday.

The first opportunity of the match came from Denmark just a minute into the match off a set play. Simon Poulsen came up from his left back position to take the free kick and curled it in toward the near post for a header by Daniel Agger, but there wasn't enough pace on it and Maarten Stekelenburg got down on pounced on the ball for the first save of the match.

In the seventh minute, the Dutch had a chance that they probably should've converted. Arjen Robben, who remember was the man who missed a penalty kick in Extra Time for Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, made a great run around Lars Jacobsen toward the endline and looked to slide the ball across and the ball bounced off the heel of Simon Kjaer right to Robin van Persie from point blank range, but he missed wide and rarely do we see that from him, especially after a year in which he scored 30 goals for Arsenal and won the Premier League golden boot.

The Dutch continued to wear down the backline, but it wasn't enough for them to find the net and in the 24th minute the Dutch failed to clear the ball out of their own area which lead to an opening goal by Denmark. Simon Poulsen made a good run before trying to get the cross in which was blocked by Gregory van der Wiel, but Michael Krohn-Dehli stepped in after a defensive miscue. Krohn-Dehli stepped passed John Heitinga and fired his shot low through the legs of Maarten Stekelenburg and into the net to give Denmark a 1-0 lead.

In the 29th minute, the Dutch had a chance to pull level off the corner kick. Arjen Robben curled the ball in toward the near post and it looked like Ron Vlaar was going to get to it, but it was just out of his reach. Vlaar actually ended up colliding with his teammate Ibrahim Afellay and it was Afellay who got the worst of that as he was the one who stayed down on the ground.

In the 39th minute, Nigel de Jong fed the ball to Ibrahim Afellay who had room to run. Afellay turned away from Daniel Agger with some trickery and ripped a shot to the far post, but it was over the bar.

In the second half, the Dutch looked to spark their attack by bringing on Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but still there was nothing to show for. In the 72nd minute, van der Vaart looked to level the match at one from long distance, but he skied his shot well over the top. Two minutes later, Wesley Sneijder threaded the ball through to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who had only the keeper to beat but he shot it right at Stephan Andersen. The last opportunity came in stoppage time from Robin van Persie to flicked the ball over the bar. That summed it up for the Netherlands as they finished with 28 shots and out of the 28, none of them found the back of the net and Denmark to only had eight attempts were able to hang on and upset the Netherlands 1-0.


Scoring summary:

Denmark - Michael Krohn-Dehli 1 (unassisted) 24'


Misconduct summary:

Netherlands - Mark van Bommel (caution; foul) 67'

Denmark - Simon Paulsen (caution; time wasting) 78'

Denmark - William Kvist (caution; dissent) 81'


Lineups:

Denmark - Stephan Andersen; Lars Jacobsen, Simon Kjaer, Daniel Agger, Simon Poulsen; William Kvist, Christian Eriksen (Lasse Schone 74'), Niki Zimling; Dennis Rommedahl (Tobias Mikkelsen 84'), Nicklas Bendtner, Michael Krohn-Dehli

Netherlands - Maarten Stekelenburg; Gregory van der Wiel (Dirk Kuyt 85'), John Heitinga, Ron Vlaar, Jetro Willems; Mark van Bommel, Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong (Rafael van der Vaart 71'); Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Ibrahim Afellay (Klaas-Jan Huntelaar 71')

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Russia gets past Czech Republic

By Money Mike


The Czech Republic's first match of EURO 2012 didn't go the way they would've wanted. On Friday the Czechs ended up on the bottom end of their match against Russia, losing 4-1. After finding themselves 2-0, it looked like the momentum shifted their way when they pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute, but late in the match, the Russians answered with two late goals to put this match out of reach.

Not much action early on in the first 10 minutes of the match, but in the 15th minute, it's Russia who strike first. Alen Dzagoev found Konstantin Zyryanov streaking down the right side. Zyryanov chipped the ball to the far post for a wide open Alexandr Kerzhakov who looked to direct his header across and the ball bounced off the post, but Dzagoev was there to slam home the rebound and Russia took a 1-0 lead a quarter of an hour into the match.

Four minutes later, Dzagoev had a chance to double Russia's lead. Dzagoev was found by Kerzhakov streaking down the right with loads of space, however he tried to take the shot first time and the ball drifted away from goal.

In the 24th minute, Russia would double their lead. Andrei Arshavin threaded the ball through and just out of the reach of Alexandr Kerzhakav, but Roman Shirokov was right there to chip the ball over Petr Cech and into the back of the net to give the Russian's a 2-0 lead and so far, all the momentum was in their favor.

In the 51st minute, Czech Republic would pull one back and cut the lead to 2-1. Jaroslav Plasil played the ball through to Vaclav Pilar who dribbled around Vyacheslav Malafeev and slotted the ball into and empty net. It looked like at that moment the tide began to turn and the Czechs were playing a little more aggressive for the next few minutes.

In the 79th however, the Russians added a third goal. Six minutes after coming on, Roman Pavyuchenko played the ball through to Alan Dzagoev who powered his shot past Petr Cech for his second goal of the match to extend Russia's lead to 3-1. Three minutes later, Pavyuchenko would add to their lead as he cut to his right foot, dribbled around Theodor Gebre Selassie and smashed it past Petr Cech to put the icing on the cake as Russia walked away with a 4-1 win to kick of their European tournament campaign.

Scoring summary:

Russia - Alan Dzagoev 1 (unassisted) 15'

Russia - Roman Shirokov 1 (Andrei Arshavin 1) 24'

Czech Republic - Vaclav Pilar 1 (Jaroslav Plasil 1) 52'

Russia - Alan Dzagoev 2 (Roman Pavlyuchenko 1) 79'

Russie - Roman Pavlyuchenko 1 (Andrei Arshavin 2) 82'


Misconduct summary:

NONE


Lineups:

Czech Republic - Petr Cech; Theodor Gebre Selassie, Roman Hubnik, Tomas Sivok, Michal Kadlec; Jaroslav Plasil, Tomas Rosicky, Petr Jiracek (Milan Petrzela 76'); Jan Rezek (Tomas Hubschman 46'), Milan Baros (David Lafata 85'), Vaclav Pilar

Russia - Vyacheslav Malafeev; Alexander Anyukov, Alexei Berezutsky, Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov; Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov; Alan Dzagoev (Aleksandr Kokorin 84'), Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Roman Pavlyuchenko 73'), Andrei Arshavin

Friday, June 8, 2012

EURO 2012 kicks off with co-hosts Poland finishing all square with Greece, 1-1

By Money Mike


Well EURO 2012 kicked off today, but not the way anybody would've thought or hoped. The first match of the tournament was full of drama. Two red cards were handed out, a missed penalty and a lot of controversy in the first half for Greece. In the end co-hosts Poland and Greece each walked away with a point after a 1-1 draw in front of a crowd of 56,070 at the new National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland. As of right now both teams will be happy that they came away with a point, but at the same time this draw could come back to haunt both teams. Too me, the first group stage match is always important.

In the 5th minute, Poland had a couple of big opportunities. Lukasz Piszczek made an overlapping run and was fed by Eugen Polanski. Piszczek than made a cut around Jose Holebas and slid the ball across toward the near post for Robert Lewandowski who poked it back to his teammate for a shot that was blocked. The ball bounced to Rafal Murawski who tried a dipping shot over the keeper from just outside the box, but goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias did enough to tip the ball over the bar. I don't know who took the initial shot that was blocked. I couldn't get the number, but I think it may have been Maciej Rybus.

Poland continued to pour pressure on the Greek defense and in the 12th minute, they put together another opportunity. Except for the fact that this one didn't have much of a chance of going in. Jakub Blaszczykowski fed Rafal Murawski as he pulled wide around Holebas who had his work cut out for him early in this match. Murawski slid the ball across toward the near post and this is where the chance went begging. Blaszczykowski looked to hit it first time and from his angle, I don't think it had a chance of going in. I think he had plenty of time to settle and hit one low into the far post, instead he opened himself up for a first time shot and the ball sailed well over the top.

In the 17th minute, Poland found the breakthrough and drew first blood in EURO 2012. After the Greeks failed to clear the ball out of their area, Poland were on the break and they would capitalize as Ludovic Obraniak fed the ball out wide to Blaszczykowski who whipped in a very good cross to the far post for Robert Lewandowski who opens the scoring with a snap down header to give Poland a well deserved 1-0 lead in the opening match of EURO 2012. Poland were the better side in the first half and they showed that right there with a goal from the 23-year old Lewandowski, who could be on his way to Manchester United this summer.

In the 35th minute, there was some controversy here. Sokratis Papastathopoulos apparently got up well and won the header cleanly over Robert Lewandowski, but the referee ruled that to be illegal and he gave the yellow card to Papastathopoulos. Comeon, we had enough crappy referees in the last World Cup and we have crappy referees in Major League Soccer and so far I've tracked down one crappy ref so far in EURO 2012.

Another bad decision in the 44th minute proves my point. Rafal Murawski turned on Papastathopoulos before losing his footing, but the referee called it a foul and he issued a second yellow to Papastathopoulos which means he's sent off. I gotta tell you, that was a flat out absolute disgrace because one, Murawski was already going down and two, there was hardly any contact. Bad call. And here's a fun fact, this referee officiated 19 Spanish La Liga matches last season and shown 16 red cards. That's right, 16.

Six minutes into the second half, despite being down a man the Greek's fought back and tied it up at one. Fanis Gekas got on the end of a cross to the near post, but his header was blocked. However, getting on the end of the loose ball was the substitude Dimitris Salpingidis to slot into the empty net to put 10 men Greece back on level terms.

The equalizer from Greece in the 51st minute really took a lot of steam out of Poland and in the 69th minute, they would be reduced to 10 men and this decision was obviously correct. Just seconds after coming on, 19 year old Kostas Fortounis chipped the ball into the box for Salpingidis who had only the keeper to beat and just as he was about to make a cut around the keeper, Wojciech Szczesny tripped him up in the area and the referee wasted no time giving the penalty and a red card to the Arsenal goalkeeper and Szczesny knew it as he tripped Salpingidis. Probably one of few decisions the referee got right. It was a clear breakaway opportunity for Greece, the goalkeeper commited a foul, red card. Easy decision. In order for Poland to bring on their backup goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton, they had to surrender one of their outfield players and they decided to take out Maciej Rybus.

So at this stage, you thought the backup didn't stand a chance at stopping this penalty. EH EH!! WRONG!! Tyton is very good in these situations and he read perfectly where Giorgos Karagounis was going and he denied him from converting the penalty and he kept the match level at a goal a piece. There wasn't much action since then and both teams finished level at 1-1. I mean, this was only the first match of EURO 2012 and already there's was a lot of drama in this match. The bottomline is, you never know what you're going to get in the European tournament. There's been a lot of surprises over the years.


Scoring summary:

Poland - Robert Lewandowski 1 (Jakub Blaszczykowski 1) 17'

Greece - Dimitris Salpingidis 1 (unassisted) 51'


Misconduct summary:

Greece - Sokratis Papastathopoulos (caution; foul) 35'

Greece - Sokratis Papastathopoulos (caution; foul) 44'

Greece - Sokratis Papastathopoulos (ejection; second yellow) 44'

Greece - Jose Holebas (caution; dissent) 47'+

Greece - Giorgos Karagounis (caution; handball) 54'

Poland - Wojciech Szczesny (ejection; denied clear goalscoring opportunity (foul)) 69'


Lineups:

Greece - Kostas Chalkias; Vassilis Torossidis, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos (Kyriakos Papadopoulos 37'), Jose Holebas; Giannis Maniatis, Kostas Katsouranis, Giorgos Karagounis; Sotiris Ninis (Dimitris Salpingidis 46'), Fanis Gekas (Kostas Fortounis 68'), Giorgos Samaras

Poland - Wojciech Szczesny; Lukasz Piszczek, Marcin Wasilewski, Damien Perquis, Sebastian Boenisch; Jakub Blaszczykowski, Rafal Murawski, Eugen Polanski, Maciej Rybus (Przemyslaw Tyton 70'); Ludovic Obraniak, Robert Lewandowski