Kevin Durant and the Melo Treatment

When the Oklahoma City Thunder started the 2012-13 NBA season, they had one goal in mind, hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy as World Champions. Expectations couldn’t have been higher having come up short last season in a 4 games to 1 NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat. Scott Brooks and his young team were hoping that experience would help propel them over the hump this year much like it did to Lebron and co, who lost in the Finals the year before claiming their title. After another successful regular season, one that saw the Thunder win 60 games and claim the top spot in the Western Conference, the path was clear. Run through the West and set up a potential (and likely) rematch with the Heat.

Enter Patrick Beverley

In Game 2 of their first round matchup vs the Rockets, with the Thunder trailing 42-41 and 5:34 left in the first half, OKC guard Russell Westbrook slowed down to call a timeout. At that moment, Patrick Beverley of the Rockets was going for the steal when he and Westbrook collided. The collision hit hard on the Thunder star’s knee. Westbook tore his meniscus and was forced to have surgery. His season was over. The pressure now fell solely on the shoulders of Kevin Durant. The superstar would have to lead the Thunder to the promise land by himself.

The Thunder would go on to defeat the Rockets 4 games to 2 and advance to a second round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that presents a ton of problems. They are big, they defend, they rebound and they don’t go away easy. Not many people gave the Westbrook-less Thunder a chance to win it all, but they are still good enough to get past the Grizzlies right? They weren’t. The Thunder fell to the Griz 4 games to 1 and exited the playoffs on their home court. So who does the blame fall upon? Lets look at the superstar leader of the team in Kevin Durant. In game 3, an 87-81 loss, Durant missed two key free throws with 15 seconds left that would have cut the Grizzlies lead to two. In game 4’s 103-97 loss, Durant shot 2 for 13 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Not the clutch performance fans in OKC have come to expect from their leader.  Then came game 5. Durant lead the Thunder with 21 but shot just 5 for 21 from the field and missed what would have been the game tying shot with seconds remaining.

Enter the critics

Or not…

The criticism that players like Carmelo Anthony or even Lebron James endured while in Cleveland, was non existent. Instead, many members of the media praise Durant. They give excuses for him and admire the “weight of the franchise on his back” heroics. Now I am not going to sit here and say that the loss of Westbrook shouldn’t impact Durant, that’s absurd. In the nine games Durant played without Westbrook, his field goal percentage, three point percentage, and even free throw percentage all dropped dramatically below his season average. It was clear that he took on a role unfamiliar to him and could not handle the load. With Westbook gone, the Thunder became one-dimensional. The offense almost always ran through their best player Durant and rightfully so. This became easier to defend, especially when no one else stepped up. No one helped fill the void that was left when the number two option went down. There’s no more James Harden on this roster. No one to step up and help out Durant who saw constant pressure. The media acknowledged this and seemed to give Durant a pass on this postseason. But where is the similar pass to another superstar on the island himself?

Enter Carmelo Anthony

Ever since game 3 of their first round series vs the Celtics, the Knicks are just 2-5. They’re field goal percentage is awful and they can’t seem to get into a rhythm. They find themselves down 3 games to 1 in their second round series with the Pacers and are almost certain to get knocked out. All the pundits and fans put the blame on Carmelo Anthony. They say he shoots too much, he is not efficient, and he is not a winning player. Carmelo is constantly fighting off the “haters”. Those who say it cannot be done with him. I’m sorry, did I miss something? Isn’t Carmelo Anthony in the same position that Kevin Durant was in this postseason? Forced to carry the load on his back, provide the offense for his team with no help. Where is Carmelo’s number 2? JR Smith? JR Smith is the most inconsistent player in the NBA and even if he wasn’t in the midst of a terrible cold streak, is not good enough to be a number 2 on a championship caliber team. Carmelo Anthony is getting no help from his supporting cast and much like Durant, is facing a big, physical, defensive team in the Pacers. The Knicks offense, like the Thunder, is one-dimensional, it runs through Melo. Still despite this, Melo is giving his all and putting up respectable, not great, but respectable numbers. The similarities are there, yet the treatment of the superstars is different.

No, I am not defending Carmelo Anthony, I am simply pointing out that if we criticize one superstar for coming up short, then we should criticize them all. Look, no one can do it alone. As was the case with Lebron in Cleveland, Kobe without Shaq and before Pau, Pippen without Jordan, and yes, Kevin Durant without Westbrook. But when you are widely considered as the second best basketball player in the world, you should be able to carry your team past the Memphis Grizzlies.

Perhaps its time we give Kevin Durant the Melo Treatment.


Lost on Revis Island

(USA Today)

Fact: Darrelle Revis is the best Cornerback in the NFL. Fact: Darrelle Revis is the best defensive player on the New York Jets. Fact: Darrelle Revis is a financial headache.

Fiction: The Jets need to trade Darrelle Revis.

I am getting really tired of all the Darrelle Revis trade talk. The idea that the Jets need to trade him away baffles my mind. Sure he may be a financial headache, but Darrelle Revis is not going to hold out this year. There is language in his contract that essentially prevents him from holding out. He is also coming off of an injury which limits his leverage. So lets calm down with the Revis panic. The Jets have to let this play out.

Now lets look at the on-field reasons for a trade. There are none. Face it, the Jets offense is bad. Really bad. They cannot win games if they have to score a lot to do so. The best chance for the Jets to win is to limit the opposition. How do you do that? By putting the best defensive unit out there. Last year, without Revis for the majority of it, the Jets ranked 2nd in the NFL in passing defense. With a healthy Darrell Revis, the Jets can put together the leagues toughest defense to throw on. In this era of the NFL, where it is clearly a passing league, where more and more young Quarterbacks are being used, it is imperative to put together a solid pass defense. Some teams use their pass rush to limit the opposition’s passing game, others use their schemes to confuse the Quarterbacks. The Jets have something right now that most teams don’t, elite talent in the secondary. Antonio Cromartie played at a pro bowl level last year and combined with a healthy Darrelle Revis, can essentially take away 2 of the opposing Quarterback’s weapons. That is huge! Why would you want to give up arguably the only advantage your team has over any other?

Look, I understand the Jets are in complete financial disarray. They are scrambling to restructure player’s contracts and releasing others to free up cap room. But to trade Revis for draft picks, even a 1 and a 3, would do nothing to improve the team right now. Could they go out and sign offensive help? Yes, but like I mentioned above, the Jets offense is terrible. One player will not make a difference. Two might not unless one of those is the Quarterback and the other is an elite Receiver or Running Back, but that’s not going to happen.

New General Manager John Idzik was reportedly “shopping” Darrelle Revis to other teams at the NFL Combine. To me, it sounds like another money guy, thinking about money moves. Mike Tannenbaum anyone? If he pulls the trigger on any Revis trade, then Idzik, and the Jets, are certainly lost.

Want more Revis talk? Check out the Audio page for more.

Lebron James, The GOAT?

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We are all Witnesses. After the greatest basketball player in the world finally won an NBA Championship last season, many wondered what was next for Lebron James. Already a three time NBA MVP and perennial All Star, it seems as if King James has received every accolade we could give him. But there is one title that Lebron has yet to claim, Greatest of All Time. Now, when the topic of the GOAT comes up, it is quickly followed by the name Michael Jordan. Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, the logo man himself Jerry West, often are brought into the argument as well, but all usually fall to Jordan. Now the discussion gets interesting. Not only has Lebron easily put his name into the mix, he may be at the top of the list.

Lebron James is in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Forget the fact that he is averaging 27 PPG to go along with 8 rebounds and 7 assists, it’s his efficiency that’s eye opening. During this recent stretch in which Lebron James has set an NBA record, King James recorded 6 straight games of 30+ points while shooting over 60 percent from the field. These aren’t all layups and dunks either. Lebron is shooting three’s and jumpers all throughout this stretch. He has simply been in a different stratosphere when it comes to his performance lately. With Jordan turning 50 years old this year, the debate has never been more popular. No one would argue that Lebron James is physically the most gifted athlete to ever play basketball. At 6’8” and 250lbs of muscle, the ability to run like the wind and jump through the roof, he is unlike anything ever seen before in the NBA. Not to mention, much like Magic Johnson, Lebron can play all 5 positions on the court at an elite level. But does that make him the GOAT?

The one argument that has always elevated MJ over LBJ has been the intangibles. The will/desire to win. The clutch gene. All those would have been applicable up until last season. Lebron has gotten over the hump. He performed in the clutch and won his title and MVP. In fact, when you look at Jordan’s career at the same point Lebron is at right now, it’s pretty similar. Both players have won 3 MVP’s. Both players have been to 3 NBA Finals. Jordan of course never lost any, Lebron is 1 for 3. Jordan retired and then came back and won 3 more titles. Lebron is not taking any time off, and his team is favored to win the NBA Finals this year and most likely for the next few seasons. Will he win 5 more titles to tie Jordan? We don’t know.

That’s the big thing for me. We just don’t know. The NBA is incredibly competitive right now. There is no way to predict exactly how many more titles Lebron will win. Is it safe to assume he will another one over the course if his career? Sure you can say that but you just don’t know. What we do know is the impact Michael Jordan has had on the game of basketball. From the marketing to the endorsements to the global branding of the NBA, nobody has had more of an impact than His Airness. Without MJ, there would be no Lebron. Few athletes in sports transcend their games. Babe Ruth and his impact on baseball, Wilt Chamberlain and the way he literally changed the NBA rulebook, and Michael Jordan, who set the bar for everyone after him. Lebron is not there yet.

Could Lebron James go on and become the greatest basketball player of all time? Yes, he can. However, to make the argument today, to me, is just not fair. We have to see where Lebron’s career goes. It is certainly a joy to watch him grow as a player. Without a doubt he is currently the best basketball player on the planet. I stress the word currently. Let’s wait and see what Lebron blossoms into for the rest of his career. Until then, we are all witnesses.

Los Angeles Fakers

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Showtime? More like No-time. It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows in La La land lately. The 2012-2013 Lakers season started with championship aspirations. All Star Center Dwight Howard was brought in along with 2 time NBA MVP Steve Nash. Put those two with Pau Gasol, Ron Artest (Sorry, I still remember the guy who killed it at Nike Pro City and St John’s, but I’ll try calling him Metta) and of course one of the all time greats in Kobe Bryant, forget about The Big 3, the Lakers entered the season with The Big 5. However, after a disappointing 1-4 start, the Lakers parted ways with head coach Mike Brown. Despite reports of Phil Jackson expecting the job, the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni to bring “Showtime” back to LA. The results, disastrous. Let’s break it down.

Mike D’Antoni was the wrong hire for this team. There was a reason D’Antoni was not successful in New York and it’s the same reason he is not and wont be successful in LA. He is stubborn. 10 years ago Mike D’Antoni revolutionized offense in the NBA. His run-and-gun, “7 seconds or less” philosophy took the league by storm. The Suns were fast, they were efficient, and they were athletic. Stars like Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Shawn Marion, and even at one point a young Joe Johnson, fit perfectly into D’Antoni’s fast paced attack. No one would argue against the success he has had in the past, however, the NBA has changed. It has been proven over the years that D’Antoni’s system just does not win in this NBA. You cannot lose sight of defense in order to play at a fast pace, and you certainly cannot play this system if you don’t have the players. In New York, D’Antoni did not have the players to run his offense. He had a short stint with Jeremy Lin but it alienated his super star Carmelo Anthony. His biggest flaw was his stubbornness. His unwilling to change his style to benefit his roster. This led to his departure from the Knicks. So would it be different in LA? When D’Antoni took the job I’m sure he thought Steve Nash and even Steve Blake (a guy D’Antoni tried to get in NY) would run his system effectively. Unfortunately, he was without those two due to injury and he never figured out how to get the rest of the roster to mesh with his plan. Where does Dwight Howard fit? Pau Gasol? He benched Gasol, leading to trade speculation, and that didn’t work. At times it seems D’Antoni is clueless. What do you do with this collaboration of talent? Can you get these players to put their egos aside and buy in to what you are selling? Can he put aside his ego and evolve to better suit his talent? I doubt it.

Then there’s Dwight Howard, one of the most physically dominant players in the NBA the past few years. His impact on this Lakers team has been mostly negative. There’s even trade speculation around him, although GM Mitch Kupchak has already said he wont be dealt. His performance lately has been nothing to write home about. In fact, some would say he is more a hindrance on the roster. Recently, Dwight has gone down with a shoulder injury and the Lakers won all 3 games in his absence. Dwight comes back, Pau goes down, and they get smoked by the Celtics. Kobe has even called Howard out, saying he needs to play through pain. The scenario is not great in LA. It’s becoming more clear that Dwight Howard does not fit in with this team. I wonder how split that locker room is. If that in fact is the case, who is choosing Dwight’s side over Kobe? No one. We all envisioned when they brought Howard in, that he would be the future of the Lakers. Kobe is aging and it will soon be time to pass the torch to Dwight. That might not be the case anymore. Based on what we see so far this season, with the Lakers right now on the outside of the playoffs looking in, can we say for sure they will sign Dwight at the end of the season? Why would they? Maybe Dwight Howard isn’t the same player he was back in Orlando. Perhaps after his back injury, he wont be the same again. All we know is that we have not seen the dominant Dwight the Lakers thought they were getting. The back and forth between Kobe and Dwight is not healthy and the constant questions about Mike D’Antoni’s ability to lead this roster will not go away. Gasol is out the next 6-8 weeks and with less than half the season remaining, it’s pretty clear who the X factor has to be in order for the Lakers to make a push. Dwight Howard. Man up. Play the game like you know how. Be the most dominant Center in this league like you used to be and perhaps they can turn this around.

No one is expecting the Lakers to go on this miracle run and get into first place. All they have to do is figure out how to get this thing going and make it into the playoffs. If they do, I guarantee no team in the West is going to want to see them. With their talent, the leadership of Kobe, and throw in a healthy/rested Pau Gasol, who knows how much damage they can do. Is it possible? Sure. But they need to show something and show it soon. Until then, they can go on Faking.

You can’t spell ELITE without F-L-A-C-C-O

joe-flacco1(Getty Images)

Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens on winning Super Bowl 47. It certainly was a fun game to watch filled with everything from a record setting Kickoff return to a 34 minute delay due to a power outage. We saw the grand finale for Ray Lewis, who will join Jerome Bettis, John Elway, and Michael Strahan as the only players to win a Super Bowl in their final NFL game. We saw Colin Kaepernick rush his way into the record books. We even saw an intentional safety. For all we saw in this years Super Bowl, there was something we couldn’t envision right away, but probably see it more clearly now than ever before. Joe Flacco is a special Quarterback.

You will hear and read the word “Elite” over a hundred times when it comes to Joe Flacco. The question will be asked over and over. Is he or isn’t he? The fact of the matter is Joe Flacco has just completed one of the most impressive postseason runs we have ever seen. Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions including his 3 TD performance in the Super Bowl. That ties him with Joe Montana for the most postseason touchdowns without an interception in NFL history. Flacco led his team to come from behind wins in both the Divisional round vs Denver and the AFC Championship game vs New England. Playing out the final year of his rookie contract, Joe Flacco didn’t really “wow” anyone in the regular season. 22 touchdowns to 10 interceptions while completing just a tad under 60% of his passes for the year. However, time and time again, Flacco has made big plays in big spots when his team needed him the most. He has showed poise under pressure and proved worthy of carrying the load. Most importantly, Flacco has showed leadership. With Ray Lewis hurt most of the season and his impending retirement weighing on the team, we saw the transfer of power on the Ravens. A transition from this being Ray’s team, to it being Joe’s. Flacco has taken the responsibility and has let his play do the talking. He may not be the most boisterous player, but he certainly does lead by example. Displaying a level of composure shown by veteran Quarterbacks who have been there multiple times, Joe Flacco lead his team to the ultimate goal. A Super Bowl championship.

But what is it worth? Flacco is now in line for a monster pay day. Lets look at his career so far. He has started every single game for the Ravens in his 5 year career. He has led the Ravens to the playoffs in each of those seasons. In fact, he has won at least one playoff game in each of his first 5 seasons, that’s an NFL record. When you look at the contracts that have been given to Quarterbacks recently, it’s not crazy to think that Flacco is in line to make upwards of 18-20 million per year. The NFL is a Quarterback league, you have to lock up your talent there when you have it, and the Ravens have it.

That brings us to our initial question. Is Joe Flacco “Elite”? I think I’ll answer that question with another one. Does is matter? Sure it’s fun to debate where you rank Flacco amongst the best Quarterbacks in the league but to me, it doesn’t matter. The top 5 seems like a rotating door every year anyway. Last year it was Eli Manning, this year it’s Joe Flacco. Who cares? Does it really matter how many quarterbacks you rank ahead of him? If you asked the Ravens who they would want to lead their team, 10 out of 10 times they would answer Joe Flacco. That’s all that matters. Let’s just acknowledge the stellar play of a young Quarterback whom we have seen develop into a star in this league. A Quarterback who has set records, won games, and taken the torch from one of the great leaders of our time, Ray Lewis, and lead his team all the way to the Super Bowl. So congratulations Joe Flacco. A most impressive postseason run, an unparallelled start to your career, and the emergence into that “Elite” status. You certainly can’t spell ELITE, without FLACCO.

Ray Lewis, Super Bowl MVP

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Ladies and Gentleman, fans of the National Football League, I present to you the Super Bowl XLVII (that’s 47) MVP…..Ray Lewis. That’s right. But in this case MVP doesn’t stand for Most Valuable Player. More like Most Vociferous Player. Vociferous, an adjective meaning loud. Having a tendency to be loud. It comes with negative context and it should. I’m tired of Ray Lewis, I really am. The whole act, the farewell tour, the preaching, I’m just done with it. If you have been watching or listening to the Super Bowl coverage over the past 2 weeks, which I’m sure you have if you are reading this blog, then you have noticed the love affair with Ray Lewis. In fact, the love affair started earlier in the Wild Card round of the postseason. We’ve seen his pre-game dance, heard all of his inspirational locker room speeches, and heard all about how big a man of faith he is. Me personally. I’m over it.

I understand Ray Lewis is arguably one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game of football. No one is denying his on the field accolades. My issue comes in part from the coverage of Ray Lewis as well as the character of Ray Lewis. First lets look at the coverage. All we heard all post season is about the “farewell tour” of a future Hall of Famer. All the coverage went to Ray Lewis as he was the most polarizing figure in his games. But what about the other first ballot Hall of Famer on his “farewell tour”? Why no mention of a player who is arguably the best to ever play the game at his position. A player who, until this season, has yet to win a playoff game in his illustrious 16 year career. I’m talking about Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez also announced his retirement would come at the conclusion of his season. His team, the Atlanta Falcons, were the #1 seed in the NFC. Yet, not much coverage was given to Gonzalez. Could it be because Gonzalez is more of the “lead by example” type? We don’t see Tony Gonzalez doing pre-game dances so why shine the camera on him? Could that be the reason? This is just one item that bothered me about the postseason love affair with Ray Lewis. Spread the love

Who is Ray Lewis anyway? Oh yea, I remember. Ray Lewis was the guy who plead guilty to obstruction of justice in the double homicide case that occurred after a Super Bowl part in Atlanta back in 2000. A case that has never been solved by the way. Ray Lewis is the guy who later reached a financial settlement with the families of the victims. Ray Lewis is also the guy who has fathered six children with four different women, none of which he is or was married to. Now we hear about Ray Lewis’ potential involvement with performance enhancing drugs. Of course Ray Lewis denies having taken any banned substance, claims he never failed a test. The substance in question is IGF-1 or Insulin like Growth Factor. IGF-1 and HGH cannot be detected in urine. The NFL does not test blood samples. Ray must know this and thus is right, he would never have failed a test. Nice job Ray.

Finally, the religious aspect. Ray is not shy when it comes to his faith. In fact, in every post-game interview, when he is not crying for the cameras, Ray is telling us how great the almighty is. How putting his faith first is what has brought him to the “promised land”. I remember a player doing this before. His name was Tim Tebow. Both players essentially preached the same thing. Pun intended. However, where Tim Tebow was vilified for “rubbing it in our faces”, Ray Lewis is praised? How is that fair? Why is one player annoying and the other one accepted?

Taking all these things and more into consideration and I find myself rooting for the 49ers in the Super Bowl. Not because I want to see them win over the Ravens, but because I’m afraid of the non stop Lewis love affair that will happen should #52 lift the Lombardi Trophy again. I can see it now. Anquan Boldin makes the game winning catch, part of a 10 reception, 150 yard day, but your MVP…RAY LEWIS. So yes, Ray Lewis will be your Super Bowl MVP, simply because everyone, including Ray, will tell you he is.