USA Olympic Basketball

May 19, 2009

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The 2008 “Redeem Team” was a refocus to the fundamentals and talents of the normal US Basketball player.  Coach K was brought in and taught defense and teamwork.  Team CEO Jerry Colangelo brought a sense of importance and value to being part of the team.  The players are now regarded as the cream of the crop and the next generation of superstars in the world of basketball.  Now as we are down to the Final 4 of the NBA playoffs, all 4 teams are led by an Olympian.  Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers, Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.  All 4 players were vital parts of the Gold Medal Team.

Now the US Olympic Team has begun the process of its next batch of National Team players.  I believe that out of the 2008 Gold Medal Team, Kobe and Jason Kidd are probably 2 guarenteed players that won’t return.  The nucleus of LeBron, Melo, and DWade should stick around to win another gold medal.  

One player that I believe should be invited to the camp is Rajon Rondo.  The exciting Celtics’ Point Guard is the perfect choice as a replacement for Jason Kidd  and is comparable to what Chris Paul or Deron Williams bring to the table.  Rondo knows how to lead a team of superstars, spread the ball, and fill in where he can.  Arguably the best defensive point guard, Rondo will lock down Patty Mills of Austrailia and Ricky Rubio of Spain.  This year, Rondo added his ability to finish around the rim to make him a complete team player.  Not a complete offensive basketball player yet, but with all that scoring on the Olympic Team, he won’t need to.

LeBron James signs his Olympic Jersey #6 more then his NBA jersey and has been quoted as saying that the Olympic Medal is his most important accomplishment.  Once again the refocus of the USA on the Olympic Basketball Tournament will make the World’s other powers better, so the USA team can not rest.  Rondo will help keep the momentum.

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Barcelona – Chelsea

May 7, 2009

There is nothing better then a Champions League match-up.  Let alone, a semi-final match between Chelsea and Barcelona that is tied at 0 after a scoreless draw in Spain 2 weeks ago.  Dubbed “Beauty and the Beast”, for the contrasting styles of play the outcome could of been decided by a coin flip and it pretty much was.

In the UEFA Champions League, you are rewarded for away goals.  This meant, that if Barcelona scored 1 goal in London at Chelsea’s home turf, it essentially counts for 2.  So if the score ended 1-1 or 2-2, Barcelona would of went through on away goals.  The Federation does this to try to bribe away sides from packing it in and playing for the 0-0 draw.  It usually works.  

Chelsea is an athletic, powerful, physical team.  A kind of 3 yards and a cloud of dust team.  Love to smash volleys, head in restarts, and score on quick, aggressive counterattacks.  Barcelona is “The Beautiful Game” or “Total Football” in a nutshell.  Barca loves to thread the needle, possess the ball until the defense gets lazy, and then combination pass behind and for a goal.  The Catalans were coming off putting 6 goals up against bitter rival Real Madrid last Saturday.

With the contrasting styles of play, it would be foolish to bet on this game.  It would come down to whoever could impose their will on the other for the entire 90+ minutes.  Chelsea, true to form, raced up and down the pitch from the opening whistle.  Micael Essien volleyed home one of the best goals you will ever see.  Boosting Chelsea to a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute.  

Chelsea then retreated to their own half, often with 9 or 10 men behind the ball.  Barcelona controlled, actually dominated, possesion but lacked a real scoring chance.  The giant Chelsea defenders made life a living hell for exciting Barca forwards’ Eto’o and Messi.  

Chelsea crowed for a few penalty kicks after counterattacks were chased down and thrawted by defenders and Barcelona got a terrible red card after the referee mis-judged a Chelsea player tripping over his own legs.  While the London side complained heavily about the officiating, it, like always, balanced out.

Then, out of nowhere, Barcelona scored in the final minute of extra time, setting off an amazing celebration that bordered on delirious.  I was shocked and happy to have watched this.  Now it is on to Rome where Barcelona will face Manchester United for the big game on May 27th.  It has a lot to live up to, but after today anything is possible!


Renardo Sidney

May 4, 2009

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One of the top prospects in the College Basketball World has been told by traditional powers USC and UCLA that his services are no longer wanted in Southern California.  Reports are surfacing that USC and UCLA have researched the family’s financial background and were less then thrilled on what they found.  USC, tired from the OJ Mayo and Reggie Bush investigations, parted ways from the superstar and UCLA followed suit, probably worried about the baggage that this young man could bring.

It was found that Sidney’s family has moved into higher-class neighborhoods then their paychecks could afford.  Also, Renardo’s Stepfather ran a Basketball Club that had a modest shoe sponsorship.  

So Renardo will take his baggage and game to Starkville, MS where he will suit up for the Bulldogs of Mississippi State.  So what is the problem here?  I think that the 2 institutions are right in avoiding this situation; if the suspicions come to fruition it would set the 2 programs back.  BUT, the NCAA and the NBA again are holding back young men trying to get a job and do what’s best for their families.

It’s that simple.  Why are these 2 mega-corporations holding back 17, 18, and 19 year-olds from achieving their life-long goal of playing professionally?  It is so ludicrous, I am beginning to believe it is bordering on discrimination.  These 2 monopolies are holding back the lives and well-being of people that will in the long run benefit their game.  I am disgusted.

College should not keep bringing in the benefits of the student-athletes, while judging what these families are doing in a downward-spiraling economy.

The Answer?  No age requirement for the NBA Draft.  Even if the top tier of High School Players went directly to the NBA, North Carolina vs. Duke would still be worth watching.

Your Thoughts?


NBA 2nd Round

May 4, 2009

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It has been a minute since I posted.  My folks were in town and I was just on a trip to San Francisco, killin’ it with the crew.  What a time of year it is!  Both the Second Rounds of the NHL and NBA playoffs are set and the NHL’s second round is in full swing, with every series 2 games deep. 

The first round of the NBA was highlighted by the Chicago-Boston series, as it should have been!  A million overtimes, big shots by the UCONN guys and intensity for the ages.  I thought the Celtics would win, but it was vital for the C’s to get out in front, because I didn’t believe the Bulls could come back against Boston, they had to keep it close.  Cleveland looks great, Orlando looks good, and Atlanta won its first series in 10 years.  LA rolled, Dallas shocked my second favorite team, the Spurs, Denver looks great, and Houston got out of the 1st Round, finally. 

As for the Second Round, I see another sweep for LeBron James and the Cavaliers, they are so deep and so committed to defense, I don’t know how the streaky Hawks will keep it close.  Maybe they will steal one game.  Orlando and Boston may have the best match-up, Kendrick Perkins must stay out of foul trouble against Dwight Howard, I see Orlando winning in 7 games.

The West, I can see a Los Angeles – Denver Conference Final match-up.  Both teams are far superior to their Texas Counterparts.  Kobe vs. Ron Artest is a good match-up, but I don’t think that the Rockets can score enough points.  Denver has too much energy, scoring, and finally defense for Dirk and the Mavericks.

Can’t Wait!


NHL Playoffs

April 13, 2009

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I am excited for the real season of the NHL that begins on Wednesday.  The Playoffs.  Hockey is a great sport and the Playoffs are where you really see teams dig in and where hot goaltending can lead a team to the promised land or to an early exit.  This year will be a different watching experience, I am not sure how much the playoffs will be on TV because of Americans’ lukewarm reception to this great sport.  

Up in Vermont, with the 3 Canadian Channels, fans are treated with a doubleheader each night.  Not only is there hockey on television, you have intelligent commentary, previews, and of course Don Cherry.  Not only does CBC provide us with great coverage, the style in which the game is called is far superior.  Great announcers that know the game, do not over analyze, call the action almost with a radio feel.  Also, the way the microphones are jacked up so the fans, the ice, and the boards are all illuminated makes the game experience awesome.  Something I will miss tremendously.  

Luckily I will get to watch my Montreal Canadiens, as they are matched with their rival the Boston Bruins.  Albeit a second class station, NESN will broadcast all these games.

Here is the order in which I will root for teams in the NHL Playoffs:

1. Montreal – Not to far from home, love the tradition, Go Habs Go!

2. Calgary – Love the people from Western Canada, GREAT FANS

3. Vancouver – Beautiful City, when in doubt, root Canada

4. Boston –

5. Chicago –            ALL ORIGINAL 6 TEAMS – love that tradition.

6. Detroit –

7. New York –

8. Pittsburgh- Sidney Crosby

9. Washington – Alexander Ovechkin

10. New Jersey – Martin Brodeur, solid fan base for United States

11. Philadelphia – Hockey matters in PHI

12. St. Louis – Hockey matters in the STL

13. San Jose – 

14. Carolina –             IF between games you are sunbathing or your fans cannot have a homemade rink in their                                                  backyard, YOU CANT  WIN THE STANLEY CUP!!                                     

15. Anaheim –

 

16. Columbus –  Columbus has a team and Winnipeg/Quebec City doesn’t?


Thriller!

April 10, 2009

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Last night’s Frozen Four Match-up between the Boston University Terriers and my school, The University of Vermont, was an absolute thriller.  An EPIC game.  The Hockey East Rivals met for the 4th time this season, and produced a wild 5-4 game in which we witnessed 4 lead changes, 2 late BU goals for the victory, and an absolute inspired effort by Vermont.

I was so excited to watch the Catamounts on the big stage.  Vermont Hockey is the state’s team.  Without a professional team, or a dominant College Basketball Team, Vermont Hockey represents us on the National scene.  And what a year it was in 2008 – 2009.  Consistently ranked in the Top 10 all year, Vermont beat a solid Yale team and then outlasted Air Force to arrive at its’ 1st Frozen Four since the St. Louis/Perrin/Thomas era of ’96.

By all means, Boston University was the better team, but in a 1-game playoff anything can happen.  I was expecting a low-scoring, neutral zone war by Vermont that would try to keep BU’s high scoring offense in check.  But I was dead wrong, in signs showing us that Vermont is becoming an elite power, they went toe-to-toe with the Terriers for the entire game.  And could of easily moved on to Saturday’s National Championship Game.

In the end, the Terriers powered past Vermont with a couple late goals, the winning goal by Colin Wilson who NHL scouts are drooling over.  Both teams left everything on the ice, made their coaches, fans, and alumni proud across the country, and left me wishing for another match-up.

Vermont is a step away, but being in the bright lights will only help Vermont attain that next step.  Looking forward to 2009-2010!


The Same?

April 9, 2009

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Loving to see Baseball back.  But am I back in love with my Boston Red Sox?  As many of you guys know, I boycotted the Red Sox after the trade of Manny Ramirez.  I felt like both the Red Sox and Manny were to blame, but in no way should it of ever come to the trade of the greatest right-handed hitter in our modern history.  Regardless, I boycotted the team from July 31st on, of course I was watching in the ALCS, but held strong to my boycott.

Going into 2009, I was ready to be a fan again.  I got myself all set up for last night’s game, cheese and crackers, frosty glass, and tuned into Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy for the first of many Red Sox telecasts.  

But something was lacking.  Either 1 or 1a of the brightest lights in baseball (Yankees are right there) Boston has a HUGE personality for the superstar, a sold-out stadium every night, and a monstah payroll.  

Gone are the personalities, the talent, the flaymboyance.  Pedro, Manny, Orlando Cabrera all out the door.  Derek Lowe is in the ATL and Ortiz should put his Boston real estate on the maket as soon as he can.

Bottom line is this, the Red Sox have turned into a machine, a cookie cutter team that is good, but we are yet to see if they will produce a Championship.  Something that Pedro, Cabrera, and Manny all did in a city that hadn’t tasted the World Series trophy in 86 years.  Manny twice.

The Major League Baseball Season is a novel, so would you want it to be a 900-page look into Karl Marx thoughts or To Kill a Mockingbird?

I will have to wait and see.