Post Hangover Depression

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Last Wednesday, I witnessed probably one of the greatest sports performances of all-time, for the sole reason that Kobe Bryant did it.  I’m speaking for my entire generation of sports fans, 60 points in his final game and showing generations behind us what Kobe Bryant was while we grew up is what it was all about.

Sure, he threw up 50 shots and missed a lot of threes he attempted, but were you not entertained? Did it not throw you back to 10 maybe 15 years ago when we witnessed the cold-bloodedness of the Black Mamba? My eyes were glued to Kobe all night, trying not to accept the fact that I would never see this icon play again. I started getting the same feeling I had watching Derek Jeter at shortstop in his final game in the Bronx, and going absolutely NUTS seeing Jeter hit the signature opposite field game winner. And I pretty much celebrated the same way after seeing Kobe hit the three-pointer and two-pointer in the last minute, vintage Kobe. Obviously its no Peyton Manning exit, with their final record being the worst in franchise history. That’s not how to send a 5-time NBA Champion off, especially after losing Pau Gasol after his last 2-rings, leaving Kobe in the dust to end his career.

None of that mattered to me while I was watching him play the Jazz last week because all I could think about was taking in every second he was on the court and appreciate what he has done for me as a die-hard sports fan. “From Lower Merion High School, number 24 …”

– M. Gress

NBA Enters Slippery Slope with Ads on Jerseys

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People fall in love with sports for many reasons; some are drawn to the big lights and the entertainment presented in front of them, and others crave that intense roller-coaster ride of emotions. But I would think many of us can agree on a common attribute that we all love in our games – well, that it’s just a game. We appreciate all these things because we consciously allow ourselves to take time out of our long, strenuous days, and simply just watch a game. That is why sometimes it pains us to see when that game that we love gets overly-influenced by the powers that too often corrupt the world we live in: Money. When I heard that the NBA had accepted the proposal to put advertisements on their jerseys, I was disappointed in them; falling prey to the money game, once again.

While it’s no secret that sports are a multi-billion dollar industry, and players are probably making more money than they should be, because of the capitalistic society that we live in, we must accept their right to exist and operate freely. But, we have to start thinking about how far we want money and profits taking over the game that we love.

When the league puts ads on their NBA jerseys, die-hard sports fans, and casual fans too, will lose that connection and playfulness that they value in a game because now it just becomes another constant reminder that their favorite game is being controlled by the money machine. And the league must like it that way, so much so that they favor stitching it on their chest. I hope the NBA would understand that the reason we like the game so much isn’t because it makes them lot of money. But instead, we appreciate the raw, live action that it brings us every day, away from the outside world, even if it’s only for a few hours. We shouldn’t have to be reminded of the constant stresses of the outside world when we enter the sports realm.

Now, we know this is a great business opportunity for the league. When asked about the three-year pilot program, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, “People are watching less live television outside of sports. People are watching fewer commercials. This will become an important opportunity for companies for connecting directly with their consumers,” (ESPN.com). Clearly, Silver understands, and is definitely excited by this opportunity to bring in more money for their ever expanding business. Furthermore, according to Daren Rovell in his recent ESPN article on the deal, he noted that Silver projected the deal to bring about $100 million dollars per year in revenue. Seems like a large number, however Rovell says, “It’s a small opportunity relative to the league’s overall revenues, which Silver said are projected to be $7 billion in the 2017-18 season.” (ESPN.com)

If it’s such a small opportunity, then why must the league always take the side where the money is and not the side that we wished they would go? They should make more efforts to de-monetize the game and preserve the aspects of sports that we value so much. Does distracting the fan with advertisements placed on the game jerseys really reinforce their love of the game? Of course not. So, what’s the point?

I may be overthinking this, but I am sure people can all agree that the games are more exhilarating and captivating when we are not thinking of the profit motive behind it. Sure, FIFA has had ads on their jerseys for some time now, but it’s pretty evident they have large problems of their own. It’s time to rethink where we want sports to go in the future.

– J. Yellin

Losing My Patience With Phil

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As crazy as this may sound, I actually urge James Dolan to be more hands-on with his team. While it’s painfully obvious that Dolan and NBA knowledge don’t go hand-in-hand, I think it’s time for him to take a stand against the bully in the room, Phil Jackson. Back in 2014 when Dolan hired Jackson to become the Knicks’ President of basketball operations, the Big Apple fan base was ecstatic to know that the Zen Master himself would be taking the helm of their beloved franchise. However, it has recently become more clear that maybe this isn’t the match made in heaven that we initially hoped for.

In the first two full seasons under Jackson, the Knicks have a combined record of 49-114 and still have many questions across the board. First, let me say on record that I understand that rebuilding teams take time to change and get better. I know that Phil is not to blame for all of their struggles and there are actually things that I think he has done a good job with. But, as I see the direction that this team is soon to head in under Phil’s watch, I cannot help but be concerned.

Phil’s constant insistence on hiring a head coach who follows the Triangle mold is troublesome, not only for the franchise, but for the fans as well. Sure, Phil Jackson loves Kurt Rambis like a lifelong buddy, but that doesn’t mean he is the best man available for the job. Coaches like Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy (both former Knick assistants with great reputations in the NBA world) are at the top of most team’s available coaches list. Unfortunately, Rambis hasn’t been mentioned on that list.

In his last coaching gig with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2009-2011, he had a combined 32-132 record. Usually a resume like that would hurt someone’s chances of getting another head coaching position, but not with Jackson. All he sees is the fact that Rambis coaches the Triangle and frankly, that seems to be the only qualification needed to coach a Jackson-led franchise. This becomes a problem because it seems likely that Phil Jackson will overlook any idea or “Phil-osophy” that isn’t his own (hah, get it?). He hasn’t realized that the Triangle system is becoming more and more obsolete in this league. Teams are faster-paced and more free-flowing than the Triangle allows for. Sure, the system preaches passing and movement in the half-court, but since its implementation into the Knicks roster, it hasn’t produced the winning results that teams usually look for throughout the course of an NBA season.

That is why I think it might be time to move on. I know people may be more patient than I am, quoting the “Rome wasn’t built in a day” phrase, but when you give someone a 5 year, $60 million contract to right the ship, you kind of want to see some steps towards progress. I will give Jackson credit for drafting Kristaps Porzingis, a move that could certainly become the foundation of the Knick’s future. The Knicks can have a bright future, but it is up to the President to put a coach in place who can harness that potential, not fill the seat with one of his pals.

His unwillingness to hire someone outside his core circle is putting the team at an extreme disadvantage. Plus, when you add the New York media that piles on Jackson and his shortcomings as an NBA executive, this becomes another distraction that the Knicks simply don’t need.  I still have the utmost respect for Jackson being on the Mt. Rushmore of NBA head coaches, but I expect my President of Basketball Operations to know more than just the X’s and O’s. It’s time to pull the plug on this operation.

– J. Yellin

KD Chatter Just Got Even More Confusing

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Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder are currently chugging through the rest of the regular season, anxiously waiting until their games start to matter in the playoffs. As you can probably tell, they are as focused as ever to make it back to the NBA Finals after a 4 year absence. You can bet that is the only thing on Kevin Durant’s mind. Unfortunately, KD fans around the country are focused on a different topic surrounding the All-NBA forward: Who will he be playing for next year? This question has hovered over the NBA all season now, as it is no secret that KD is set to hit the open market come this summer. And due to a recent interview with one of his buddies, Kendrick Perkins, his 2017 destination has become as confusing and puzzling as ever.

Before Perkins and his New Orleans Pelicans went out to face the Boston Celtics (his former team) on Wednesday, he was asked a series of questions revolving around KD’s plans for the future. When asked if he can see KD signing with the Celtics, Perkins avoids most of the question, however, he mentioned, “But he did shoot some teams out there that he made me sign a confidentiality form that I couldn’t tell nobody. He’s got a few teams that he will be looking at,” (masslive.com). Gee, thanks K-Perk, that just raises more questions than answers. It seems clear that Durant has a few teams in mind, maybe it’s the Celtics, and maybe it’s not. Now, every NBA fan wants to grab a hold of that confidentiality note given to Perkins.

For one, I can see KD being a great fit for the Celtics. He will instantly become the face of the franchise and the centerpiece of a team already equipped with great young talent. But, I can also see other teams falling into the mix. Teams like the Wizards, Lakers, Rockets, and even the Golden State Warriors can all make solid pitches as to why KD would be a perfect fit for their team. Right now, it all rests on where KD thinks is the best place for him to go, and this leaves many fans without sleep for the next few months.

Personally, I think a move from OKC would be a good move for him, especially if they don’t take home the title this year. Durant needs a change of scenery, although he would probably tell you otherwise. Leaving OKC this summer will allow both him and Westbrook to expand their games without the pressures from the media who criticize the two for not co-existing together. He certainly has a big decision to make – let’s just hope he doesn’t broadcast “The Decision: KD Edition” on live television like one of his counterparts did in the past.

– J. Yellin

NBA Playoff Sleeper Picks

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Well…it’s that time of year again. We are officially less than 2 weeks away from the start of the NBA postseason and the playoff picture in both the Eastern and Western Conferences are starting to shape up. There has already been much discussion surrounding the true “contenders” in the league; the Warriors, Spurs, Cavs, Thunder, Raptors. But as I look at the field of teams this year, I can see some real sleepers that could give some of these powerhouse teams a run for their money. While there are many teams that could have ended up on this list, these are the teams that I feel could truly shake up the playoffs; It’s simply too hard to bet against the Warriors and Spurs losing very early. So let’s take a look at some of the teams who I feel are successfully flying under the radar come playoff time:

 

Boston Celtics (45-32, tied for 3rd in East)

Don’t look now, but the C’s are starting to develop a strong core of talented young players. Led by Isiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Jared Sullinger, the Celtics have impressed many around the league with fast-paced offense and their quick hands on the defensive side (2nd in NBA in steals). With former college coach Brad Stevens at the helm, this team screams quickness and pace on the offensive end and when they get on a roll, there aren’t many teams that can stop them. Because their team doesn’t have a true star in the lineup (although Thomas may be well on his way), they are a great passing team that breaks down defenses with their fluid offensive flow. I can really see the Celtics making a nice run in the playoffs, as they have been known to rise to the challenge against their quality opponents.

 

Portland Trailblazers (41-37, 6th in West)

Damian Lillard surely is maturing into the franchise piece that all Blazers fans have hoped for. Although they lost 4 of the 5 starters from the 2015 season, Portland remains in the playoff hunt and has looked very sharp against tough Western Conference competition. The backcourt duo of Lillard and C.J. McCollum is quite possibly the 2nd best guard-combo in the league (behind the Splash Brothers, of course) and they can flat out score with the best of them. The Trailblazers shoot 37% from the 3-point line (4th in the NBA) and they are also a very good rebounding team that has the ability to rack up possessions. If they remain at 6th, they will most likely be facing the Thunder, which is certainly tough, but they have the play-making abilities to perhaps pull the upset in the first round and make a run.

 

Atlanta Hawks (45-32, tied for 3rd in East)

 I know it may seem odd to be naming a team 3rd in the conference after a 60+ win season a “sleeper”, but frankly, they have gotten little to no recognition throughout the year. The Hawks have quietly but surely racked up wins this season, and although they may not be what they were a year ago, they are equipped with a deep roster that can threaten any opponent. Their 25.6 assists-per-game (2nd in the NBA) has been the reason why they have remained one of the most efficient offenses over the last two seasons. With a core group of talent that already has playoff experience under their belt, I’m almost certain the Hawks won’t be an easy out. And because of the parity within the East, anything is possible.

– J. Yellin

What It’s Like Being a Philadelphia Sports Fan

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It sucks. There’s no other words to describe it. It just sucks. The last place Phillies, the lower than last place Sixers, the Super Bowl winning-less Eagles, and the almost relevant but not-s0-relevant Flyers. The winningest sports team in Philly for the last 12 years has been their arena football team, the Philadelphia Soul. LOL. How’s that sound for one of the most die-hard sports fan bases in America? Every damn team in the city has replaced their head coach within the past 2 years. I, unfortunately, put myself in that category rooting for the statistically worst sports team in Professional Sports History. By no means does that mean I am embarrassed to be a Philadelphia sports fan, even though I should be. I love my sports teams just as much as the next brainless Philly fan, and I’ll never root against them, but the losing needs to stop.

The Eagles have been kind of heading in the right direction with the firing of Chip Kelly. He needed to go immediately. Never did I think it would be a good idea to hire a head coach straight from college AND THEN they wanted to give him all the power he wants in moving around the roster. Yeah, it looked great on paper, but that’s just an irresponsible move on Jeffrey Lurie’s part. I was ecstatic when they got rid of Kelly and even got a little excited hearing they hired Doug Pederson, a former Eagles quarterback. But, no Super Bowls? How can you talk trash to any other team out there when you have ZERO Super Bowl rings?

The Phillies are just God-awful. There is nothing positive to say about the Phillies. Bringing in a brand new manager and pretty much cleaning house with the release of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels. Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are the only players left on that roster from the 2008 World Series Championship. I guess we have to wait another 10 years to see any relevance out of one of the worst teams in the MLB.

The 76ers. Nope.

The Flyers have given us some type of hope with their late playoff push. Wow, that sounds awful. I’m getting somewhat excited that there’s the slightest possibility that the Flyers might sneak into the Wild Card spot in the East playoff picture. I do have to say, the future is looking very bright for this Philadelphia team, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I hope now you can all feel my pain of rooting for the worst sports teams in the world. But hey, at least we don’t deflate our balls, right?

– M. Gress

What you need for a next generation NBA Team

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Basketball is not what it used to be, there is no doubt about it. Why is the game played so differently now at the offensive end of the floor? It’s all about spacing and efficiency.

For example the evolution of the traditional power forward to the “stretch four” changed the game. Players like Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, and Anthony Davis are considered stretch fours, just to paint a picture. These are players with power forward size, but have superior shooting ability. Back in the day a power forward stayed down low with his back to the basket. His job would be to physically dominate in close and rebound the basketball. Now they can come out and knock down mid range jumpers and three pointers.

“During the 1995 Western Conference semifinals, Houston Rockets Coach Rudy Tomjanovich had never heard the term “stretch-4,” because it had not entered the basketball vernacular. The phrase “pace and space” did not exist. Tomjanovich only sought a means to guard Phoenix Suns forward Charles Barkley without double-teaming him, to prevent passes to open three-point shooters. And so Tomjanovich tried something new. He played usual small forward Robert Horry at power forward.”

-Adam Kilgore, Washington Post

Defenses weren’t used to seeing a big man with the ability to knock down the three with ease. Now this is a necessity to a team if they want to have success in spreading the floor. An extra shooter is just one more way to create passing lanes and move the ball.

 

The Golden State Warriors do this very well. There are plenty of possessions where they have four shooters on the three point line. This forces the defense out on the perimeter. Because you have to respect the shooters ability to knock down the jumper, you end up creating one on one match-ups. Now you have Steph Curry playing one on one, and that’s a bet I’ll take every time. As soon as someone comes over to help, Steph can kick it to the open man and now you have an open, high percentage shot. And in the high scoring, offensive era that we are in now, both teams are going to shoot a high volume of shots. It is a huge advantage from an offensive perspective if you can limit the amount of contested shots.

Now for the wild card. The next position to evolve is the center. Think of Shaq for a minute. He was an absolute truck in the paint, but if it wasn’t in the paint, it wasn’t going in. Just look at him at the free throw line. Now you have centers like Kristaps Porzingis. He is a stretch four that is so big he can have success as a center. He can be that rim defender on the defensive end, and he can score in the paint as well as hit jumpers from all over. You could even call him a stretch five.

If you have a dominant center with the perimeter shooters, you are set. In this era, if you can put four shooters on the floor with a center that can rebound and score when he needs to, then you have an unstoppable offense. Your center can post up and dominate the opposing center. As soon as someone in for the double team, that immediately creates an open shot on the perimeter.

Bottom Line:

  • The recipe for success is to have depth in your shooters coupled with a dominant center.
  • You need to have diversity in your scoring options to maximize your consistency.
  • The best way to weaken a defense is to spread it out.
  • You create a one on one with your center and your shooters on the perimeters keep the defense honest.
    • If they cheat or try to double team, someone on the perimeter get an open 3-point shot.