About Me

My photo
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Determination, Real, Efforts, and Abilities, Means Success! D.R.E.A.M.S

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Who Will Win the Western Conference

“I feel healthy, I feel strong. I feel ready.” Kobe Bryant. Is he implying trouble for the rest of the league?

Where did the summer go? Better yet, what players went where? With so many players swooping teams this season should be more exciting than years past.  No discussions of a lockout, no Collective Barraging Agreement worries and a full 82 game season slated, waiting for this season has add a few more gray hairs.

Let’s start with the Western Conference.  Last season showed us that Kevin Durant and the Thunder will be title contenders for years to come.  Will they represent the West in the NBA Finals over the next few seasons?  The way they stomp over the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, it’s not a bad guess.  If they sign James Harden, there’s no earthly reason why they shouldn’t, this team will be great for years to come. 

Speaking of the Spurs, Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker are far from spring chickens but one thing is for certain their productive will be there.  Coach Greg Popovich will once again develop a solid bench to offset the scoring power once had by the Spurs version of the big three.

With two major signees, Nash & Howard, the Lakers once again leap to the top of everyone list of title contenders.  Even with those two future Hall of Famers there are questions, of course.  What will the chemistry be like with Kobe and his new teammates? Will the bench be strong enough? Teasing but, will Phil Jackson need to come coach this team to win a ring?  One thing is for sure the Lakers will once again be must see TV, and yes I see them being there at the end battling the Thunder.

Another team out West on the come up is the Memphis Grizzlies. Their two-man frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will give teams nightly nightmares.  Having a healthy Rudy Gay will be an additional benefit.  Can you say second round in the playoffs? I can.

With the Lakers once again returning as L.A’s favorite team, the Clippers will take their familiar place as the “other” team in L.A.  Chris Paul and Blake will lead the NBA in highlights on Sports Center. Yes, that’s a stat.  If Billups is healthy and with the addition of Duke great Grant Hill, and the return of Lamar Odom the Clippers will be prime to make a deeper run in the playoffs. 

Speaking of running, the Denver Nuggets will do a ton of that.  Coach Karl’s brand of basketball with this team is run-baby-run.  They never saw a 3-pointer they didn't like and with Andre Miller running point there most certainly will be 3-pointers available.  JaVale McGee has a bright upside.  Having a defender in Iguodala should help on the defense side of the ball.  First round playoff team but I don’t see anything beyond that.

Remember the good ol days when Dirk was the best player in the league? Yes, those days are long gone.  Also, gone is the talent that Mark Cuban Mavericks once had. Dirk and a host of role players will only get them so far unfortunately; it’s nowhere near the top of the Western Conference.  The best thing about this season after playing 88 games (that’s 82 regular season and 6 playoff games) Dallas will have plenty salary cap space for a big-time free agent this summer. 

David Lee and the Golden State Warriors will bank on Bogut returning strong from his injury last year.  Having Bogut as the anchor in the middle the Warriors defense will be much improved.  Stephen Curry will hold down the scoring, and with support from Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack the Warriors will have a solid team. 

Don’t be surprise but the Minnesota Timberwolves will be in the middle of the playoff race again this year…barring any injuries.  Rubio is back. Kevin Love will continue to be the most consistent power forward in the league.  If Brandon Roy has anything left in the tank this Timberwolves team will win enough games to earn Coach Rick Adelman coach of the year. 

You know what you’ll get in the Utah Jazz.  Now will it be enough to push them pass the first round of the playoffs.  Their defense will again be their strength, last year only allowing 97 points per game, offense will need a boost.  Their young cats Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward will be a key ingredient to their success.

In the ‘Big Easy’ easy victories won’t be the story line for the New Orleans Hornets. However, they have a very bright future with Anthony Davis, who will be the favorite for rookie of the year, and a solid guard in Eric Gordon. No playoffs this year or next year, but I’m sure their bandwagon will grow when they begin to win.

Jeremy Lin we have a problem Houston.  The Rockets are young and Jeremy Lin will bring some excitement but it won’t equivalent to enough wins for a playoff spot. 

The Sun has already set in Phoenix even before the season starts.  The Suns will also have sufficient amount of salary cap space after this year.  The big question is will they have the surrounding parts to draw a ‘big name’ free agent to the land of the Sun.

Portland is a solid team all around.  LaMarcus Aldridge is a bon-a-fide star, with wing players in (Nicolas) Batum and Wesley Matthews they will in the hunt once again. 

Until next time live out your DREAMS with some Determination, put forth Real Efforts and given your Abilities; Mean you will have Success.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Natives Have Grown Restless

“…I get emotional about it because these guys, they work their butts off. Matt Cassel hasn't done anything to you people.” – Eric Winston, KC Chiefs

Emotion can drive a humbled man to the edge of insanity. Emotion is what drives 200 to 360 pound men to run into one another and bash each other’s brains out; well emotions and potentially millions of dollars in salary, but I digress. Emotion can justify ignoring what’s right, and reverting to do wrong. Finally, emotion can take the small incident, and blow it completely out of proportion. Today, I bring you a tale of a city that has been craving a championship NFL franchise since 1969, the administration, players, and mentality that has done everything in their power to make sure that does not happen. This is Kansas City.

In a season that many thought that the Kansas City Chiefs would contend for the AFC West division title, the team has looked like everything but a winner. Aside from a come from behind 27-20 victory against the New Orleans Saints, the Chiefs have been throttled only to submit to the will of their opposition. During this five game period of losses in all but one game, starting Matt Cassel has thrown eight interceptions. In this past Sunday’s game against the Ravens, Cassel had three interceptions, preventing the Chiefs from conjuring up any offense against a Ravens team that could only produce nine points themselves.

As badly as Cassel had played, a sudden spark of offense could possibly ignite the Chiefs to snatch victory from the hands of defeat. With the help of a Haloti Ngata pass rush, Chiefs fans may have found the change that they had longed for. A bruise from Ngata left Cassel initially motionless, but seconds later struggling to gather himself as he was obviously in pain. According to Winston, in his first year with the Chiefs after signing a 4 year, $22 million contract, this is when cheers reigned down from “70,000” in the crowd. Quite frankly, 70,000 fans would have been impressive to hear considering Sunday’s attendance was 68,803 according to ESPN’s box score totals.

Yet it is hard to imagine a full house would all cheer their starting QB laid out during the game. As badly as fans in Kansas City have wanted the benching of Cassel, as well as the firing of Scott Pioli; the Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, is an on-the-field injury the reason for fans to rejoice.

Personally, I believe an injury to an opposing team member or the home team should never be cheered. While Pro Football is the most popular sporting event in America, the long-term effects that many of its alumni suffer is quite depressing. Dementia, memory loss, joint damage, severe arthritis, and other ailments rob many from enjoying life after retiring from the game. With the speed of the game today, a single hit can escalate the arrival of retirement for players. So for the many who pursue this career, quite frankly, I admire their courage. I, in no way, am ignorant to the fact that they one of the benefits for such valiancy is immediate wealth; in many instances generational wealth. So, as a professional these players subject themselves to abuse from their opposition, as well as from upset fans and media. But somewhere in this connection between athletes and fans, don’t we have to separate are expectations of winning at all cost from the humanity of our fellow man? I believe so, but I can’t fault those who do not.

In the case of Chiefs Fans, I have been a witness for the last 15 years to the growing frustration of supporting an organization that has profitability before championships. While Pioli has not been here for that full period of time (former GM Carl Peterson prided himself on earning previous team owner Lamar Hunt a whole lot of money, even if it only produced one AFC Championship appearance under his regime), many of his decisions have been questioned with the intensity of an Internal Affairs interrogation. None more scrutinized more than the signing of Matt Cassel in 2008 to a six year, $63 million contract ($28 million guaranteed). What was the reason for such a lofty contract? In his first season starting at QB since high school (yes, HIGH SCHOOL), Cassel lead that New England Patriots to a 10-6 season. That’s it. A franchise put its hopes on the potential of a QB who hand a period of eight six years between starts.

While the Cassel experience started off nicely (10-6, AFC West Champs), the team’s progress has deteriorated each season since. Coaches have lost their jobs during this period and Cassel has continued to underwhelm, but he “gave the Chiefs the best chance to win”; the mantra being spewed from Pioli all the way down to the equipment manager. The fact of the matter is fans have grown tired of waiting for the potential that Cassel supposedly has to come to fruition. So Sunday’s cheers, whatever few there may have been, may not have been because of Cassel’s injury, as much as the Chiefs organization being put into the position that the fan’s wishes HAD TO BE MET!!!  So I don’t think Winston heard a stadium full of disgruntled fans cheering an injury (he would later be quoted as saying he did not mean all in attendance cheered) but the what he was hearing was the consumer getting what they wanted at the chagrin of a franchise that has wanted to give them only so much.

Dwight Mannery Thomas – Follow me on Twitter @UrbanSportsSpot