I recently found this gem of an article written by a Carolina grad who went to law school at dook. Its really long so make sure you’re comfortable before you read it. And here it is…
The Anti-Duke Manifesto
Mike Krzyzewski and his players don’t understand the antipathy. They know it’s out there, but they truly don’t know why. Fans of all schools love to hate Duke, with growing enthusiasm it seems, and the trend is baffling the great coach to no end.
Truly, it is difficult to accept that a group of purportedly intelligent persons could at once be so repugnant yet oblivious to the intentional impudence that makes them so. However, I suppose it is possible to be so steeped in conceit and self-righteousness as to become blind to one’s own flaws.
At any rate, as a lifelong basketball fan, and as a graduate of both the University of North Carolina and the Duke University School of Law, I feel infinitely qualified to allay the consternation. Although many writers, in piecemeal fashion, occasionally opine as to isolated reasons behind the ABD (”anybody but Duke”) movement, I am aware of no comprehensive piece that fully enumerates the multitude of interrelated reasons why this basketball program is loathed so intensely by so many. I will attempt to do so herein.
I. The Duke Persona.
First is the persona shared by the coach, his team, and the supporting student body. A rarely seen blend of obscene arrogance and shameless hypocrisy is the cornerstone of Duke basketball. Whether it is Christian Laettner wagging his tongue after a lay-up, Brian Davis tauntingly skipping across the floor after a break away dunk, or Chris Duhon matter-of-factly stating that all other ACC teams simply compete for second place in the annual conference tournament, (ironically said before Maryland defeated Duke for last year’s title), the rank conceit and condescension are insufferable.
As for the equally unrelenting hypocrisy, examples abound year after year. In every close game, for instance, Coach K spews profanities at game officials for the extremely rare call against his team, while, at the same time, starring in a television commercial promoting the importance of good sportsmanship. Admittedly, his boorish behavior gets results, as every ACC official seems to react to each outburst by calling an offensive foul against the opposition at the next possible opportunity. Nevertheless, Krzyzewski, unabashed and blind to his hypocrisy, stated during last year’s ACC tournament that nothing is gained from working the officials, and it is therefore something that he does not do.
The language this coach spouts is truly appalling, even by competitive sports standards, yet the media anointed him to sainthood status long ago. Gary Williams shouts game profanities with similar regularity and is understandably criticized by the media for doing so. Bobby Knight is similarly blasted for his well-publicized misconduct. And yet Coach K – a Knight disciple by the way – is not only given a free pass but worshiped as the great gentleman – “an officer and a gentleman” as one commentator said during a game break last year. Somehow the media equates the man with class, when, in reality, he is two letters removed from the word. Duke students and fans similarly experience difficulty with consistency. As all basketball fans know, the student body is legendary for its efforts to humiliate opposing players. They, for example, threw snack cakes at Dennis Scott because he once had a weight problem; they dressed as Frankenstein in an Eric Montross replica jersey; they named an “All Acne Team” of opposing players and further named Mike O’Koren the Oxy 10 poster boy; record albums were thrown at an N.C. State player accused of stealing a stereo; Maryland forward Herman Veal was showered with condoms and women’s panties after being accused of sexual misconduct, (a charge of which he was exonerated); Steve Francis received a serenade of “SAT” because of academic struggles. The list goes on and on. All of these stunts, mind you, were performed on regional, often national, television – the better to publicize the “creative genius” of the Duke student body. In the face of this churlish history, J.J. Redick, last season, complained of opposing fans’ insensitivity towards Duke players. “Just from this year,” he whined, “there have been so many incidents from other team’s fans, saying rude and crude remarks to us.” Which is the more amazing: that Redick would be surprised/troubled by opposing fans’ comments or that he would show the temerity to complain of the perceived unfairness publicly?
Only a few years earlier, during Matt Doherty’s first year as UNC head coach, Doherty concluded a closed team huddle, in a raucous environment where his team struggled to hear his words, with the statement, “Duke still has the ugliest cheerleaders in the ACC.” Somehow word of this statement reached the media, whereupon the Duke students and alumni immediately exploded in outrage. How, they asked, could a coach utter such a callous remark? Surely such insensitivity could not be tolerated, they said. Unbelievable, but true. Somehow, in the Duke mindset, a half-century of mocking the physical appearances of individual, teen-aged players, on national television is good-natured fun, while a coach’s private comment to his own players about a group of cheerleaders is grounds for persecution. Bringing its hypocrisy full-circle, only weeks ago, the Duke student body, in its Maryland pre-game “cheer card,” (yes, they actually print and circulate such a thing), encouraged the student body to continue to spout cheers and jeers about how ugly they believe Steve Blake to have been.
Beyond the hypocrisy, it is difficult to select the word that best describes the Duke students who attend the school’s home games. Haughty, impudent, smug, egg-headed nerds – all capture elements, but none come close to painting the full descriptive picture. The Washington Post, roughly twenty years ago, coined a useful but dated phrase in labeling the students, “Yuppie Brats.” Still, a full understanding of their detestable nature can be gathered only through experience, not description.
And yet the sports media, for reasons that baffle, glorify this same group. Led by **** Vitale, who affectionately refers to the student section of Cameron Indoor Stadium as the “Cameron Crazies,” sports telecasters and analysts regularly imply, and often directly state, that the Duke student body is what’s “great” about college basketball. These same commentators credit the students for their creative and clever game rituals, and they seemingly cannot say enough times what a “classy” program Duke is. It’s an insane commentary on students who, as opposing players are introduced, chant such creative phrases as, “Antawn @#%$.” Another Duke trademark is the united chant of “@#%$” in response to any unfavorable official’s call. Before losing to UNC in 1989, the student body, referring to Carolina’s star center J.R. Reid, raised a sign that read, “J.R. Can’t Reid This.” The same statement was chanted, even though Reid was actually a quite intelligent and scholastically accomplished student athlete. This is the stuff of class?
Now back to the hypocrisy factor. Dean Smith was badly troubled by the latter incident, which he understandably construed as a racial slur. Because Coach Smith had also recruited two of Duke’s big men, Christian Laettner and Danny Ferry, he coincidentally knew what these players scored on the SAT. In a press conference, he rebutted the crowd’s baseless innuendo by explaining that J.R. Reid and frontcourt mate Scott Williams accomplished a higher combined SAT score than did Laettner and Ferry, both white. Smith took pains to avoid disclosing any specific scores, nor did he provide any individual comparisons. In response, the same group that slanderously labeled Reid illiterate berated Smith for his audacity in disclosing the completely true, but purportedly “private,” information of its players. Still unconvinced? Consider the case of J.R. Reid’s frontcourt running mate, Scott Williams. By all accounts, a great person, Williams suffered the worst imaginable tragedy when he lost both his parents in a murder-suicide shooting. Several of the good-natured, creative Dukies responded at the next Duke-UNC game with clever shouts of “Orphan, Orphan!” as Williams was introduced. This year the classlessness continued when N.C. State guard tyler Lewis was at the foul line. he had lost his grandmother earlier in the week, and the Duke fans serenaded him with a chant of, “how’s your grandma?”
II. Coach K.
Why else is Duke despised? No essay on the subject is complete without extensive discussion of the coach. The man who models the haughty demeanor that his players so perfectly emulate is an egotist to no end. This past summer’s experience is a prime example. Krzyzewski was approached by the Los Angeles Lakers and offered a coaching position. Admittedly, the story is worthy of news in the sports world, but what followed was truly absurd. Coach K issued media statements on a daily basis to advise of his intent to continue with his deliberations. Local newscasts actually led with the story throughout the week long affair. At a time when American soldiers were dying daily and a presidential election was but weeks away, news outlets actually led one to believe that the latest in a series of K’s disingenuous flirtations with the NBA was front page news. Of course, in the end, Krzyzewski did what he has always done: chose to remain at his cherished college post, fully aware that he, like the overwhelming majority of his players, would enjoy zero success at the next level.
The man’s ego is such that it prevents him from ever accepting criticism. Take the 1994-95 season as an example. That was the year that Duke suffered an ignominious record of 13-18. Knowing when to fold them, K sat out the majority of the season, citing an ailing back (or hip or some body part), and delegated head coaching duties to assistant coach Pete Gaudet. Any standup guy would have accepted responsibility for the season that unfolded with his players, at his school, following his game plans. Classy Coach K, however, insisted that the season’s win-loss record be stricken from his career totals. And if you think this was an isolated incident, think again. The man is a champion buck passer. When I attended the school during the 1989-92 time period, Duke squeaked by in a couple of regular season games, after which there was some question about the team’s leadership and direction. Always looking for a fall guy, Coach K, in a post-game press conference, actually turned on his own student body, who, he barked, had grown complacent in its support. “I think we need to understand what the @#%$ is going on here at Duke University,” was one of the quotes. This he said of the same students who camp out for weeks for the chance to support this team with their boorish displays.
This has proven to be a recurring Krzyzewski excuse, one that he resorted to even this year as his students remained as boisterous and obnoxious as ever in their game time antics. No doubt, there is plenty for which to criticize these students, but support of the team is not one. K’s tendency to turn on his fellow vermin is a testament to his amazingly self-centered, one-dimensional mindset.
And let us not forget the man’s tendency to fault game officials for unfair calls – the same officials who regularly enable his team to make more free throws in a season than their opponents are allowed to attempt – more on that later.
III. Media Bias.
The general public’s unawareness of the foregoing is perpetuated by the sports media’s irrational love for anything associated with Duke basketball. For reasons unimaginable, sportscasters, commentators, and writers constantly turn blind eyes to the plethora of reasons to despise the place, all while perpetuating the myths that Coach K and his Cameron Crazies are embodiments of class. Indeed, the media has become so jaded in its bias that it has taken to viewing Duke players as the victims of unfair and undeserved hostility. A perfect example was aired by ESPN immediately after Duke’s second loss to Maryland this season. The network devoted a lengthy segment to the subject of how low opposing fans will go to get inside poor JJ Redick’s head. The segment started by showing JJ shooting alone in a quite and dark gym that he considers his quite and comfortable home, the absurd implication being that Duke offers a calm and reverent venue. Next, game clips of rival fans, mostly from Maryland, are shown shouting at Redick. From there, JJ himself, in a sickeningly sanctimonious tone of voice, bemoans the startling comments that he has heard from opposing school’s students and fans. Midway through the piece, Chris Collins, of all people, offers his opinions as to what is and is not acceptable from a sportsmanship standpoint. The segment ends with JJ reading poetry and scripture, which he explains help him through his tribulations. All of this, mind you, from a player whose supporting student body annually raises the bar for the most despicable courtside conduct in the country. The entire segment was preposterous, yet, at no point, did ESPN even hint at the possible irony.
Well, JJ, to your inspirational book of poetry, please allow me to contribute the following gems of wisdom, which hopefully will further assist you in enduring your life’s toils:
People who live in glass houses, should not throw stones. You reap what you sow. What goes around comes around.
As with its misguided adulation of the Duke student body and players, the media for some odd reason goes to absurd extremes to worship Krzyzewski as the ultimate role model. A classic case in point came in the 2001 season. Duke, in a home game against Georgia Tech, runs its lead to 44 points with under a minute to play, due largely to three point shooting that continued long after the game had passed the point of gratuitous humiliation. Finally, as the clock went under thirty seconds, Duke graciously holds the ball for its final possession in lieu of a final field goal attempt. Mike Patrick, in his annoyingly dogmatic tone of voice, shouts, “Doesn’t that just show what a classy guy Mike Krzyzewski is? He doesn’t want to embarrass anybody.” It was as if the difference between a 44 and 46 point nationally televised drubbing was somehow a magnanimous show of sportsmanship.
The extent to which the media has become blind in its love for this program is astounding. Remember a few seasons ago when Duke came back from ten points down to Maryland in the final minute of play? A great comeback, no doubt, but Mike Patrick once again lost all grips on reality by emphatically stating how it was the most amazing thing he had ever seen. Apparently, Mike missed it when Carolina came back from eight points down in seventeen seconds, with no three-point shot available – against Duke, by the way.
To this day, we are still afflicted with video clips of Christian Laettner’s buzzer beating shot against Kentucky in the 1992 regional finals. Undoubtedly, it will remain firmly etched in the middle of CBS’s road to the final four for perpetuity. And why? A dramatic shot? Sure. But how many more spectacular – and far more significant – tournament shots have there been? How about a freshman named Jordan hitting the game winner in the 1982 National Championship game? N.C. State’s Lorenzo Charles dunking home the championship winner the very next year in one of the great Cinderella stories? Laettner’s shot was good, but please, for the love of Pete, spare us further viewing of this well-worn piece of film.
IV. Bias of Game Officials.
The media bias, while annoying to be sure, pales in comparison, and significance, to that of the game’s officials. By now, most have heard how Duke’s basketball team has experienced seasons where its players convert more free throws than their opponents attempt. Admittedly, this fact, standing alone, is not necessarily cause for criticism, as smaller and lesser talented teams are more likely to foul their bigger, quicker, more talented adversaries. In Duke’s case, however, the actual numbers, when viewed in appropriate context, are staggering. In 2000-01, the last championship season, Duke actually attempted 1,002 free throws, compared to its opponents’ 701 attempts.
Think about that statistic for a moment – over one thousand free throws. During that season, Duke players were assessed with 659 fouls; the opposition, 848. The year before, Duke converted on 618 free throws, 81 more than its opponents attempted. Certainly, the foregoing statistics are absurd in themselves, but the issue becomes truly inexplicable when one considers the team’s traditionally aggressive approach to the game. Krzyzewski, remember, shuns the zone defense, insisting instead that his players confront even superior athletes with his signature, hard-nosed man-to-man. By its nature, man-to-man is a more physical defensive style, one that usually generates a higher foul count than the more passive zone alternatives, but somehow not for Duke. Instead, Duke players routinely waltz to the charity stripe at twice the rate of their opponents, all while hacking, slapping, and hand-checking opponents up and down the court.
Remember too that Duke regularly leads the conference in steals and blocked shots – other tell-tale signs of aggressive play – and still enjoys prodigious advantages in foul tallies. Going back to the title year, for example, Duke had 411 steals compared to its opponents’ 282; Duke blocked 196 shots, its opponents, 117. Inside players, meanwhile, feast off of a constant barrage of moving picks and not-so subtle pushes. Danny Ferry, for example, was allowed to shove his way to better collegiate rebound stats than any number of superior inside players who have subsequently, in pro ball, easily exposed his dearth of true skills.
During the mid-1980’s, an ACC coach anonymously explained Duke’s defensive philosophy as follows: all five defensive players foul all five opposing offensive players at the same time, leaving officials too confused and stunned to respond. Since then, Duke’s impunity has evolved to the point where the game’s rules simply do not apply to the school. Referees absolutely refuse to blow the whistle when Daniel Ewing and Redick push off defenders with their left hands; Duke guards are never penalized for extending their arms laterally to obstruct opposing players’ movements; moving interior screens are simply expected; Shelden Williams swings his elbows into opposing player’s faces throughout games in which he collects a total of 3 personal fouls, (none as a result of his headhunting); Coach K screams himself hoarse with profanity with never a technical called. And who could forget this year’s first UNC-Duke game where K presumptuously ambled onto the court, in the middle of play, to talk strategy with Redick. As Billy Packer himself noted, it was undisputable grounds for a technical foul, but the refs never thought of blowing the whistle.
The foul disparities become more baffling still, when one considers Duke’s prevailing offensive approach. In recent years, Duke has emphasized the three point shot. For roughly the past five seasons, the offensive philosophy reminds one of the 1980s Loyola-Maramount squads as Duke players repeatedly jack up one long-range shot after another. Usually, such a team approach produces low foul counts for the opposition, as outside shooters are rarely fouled. Nevertheless, Duke’s free throw advantage continues unabated, even as JJ Redick runs and guns in a fashion that would make Rick Pitino proud.
Virtually every Duke game is a perfect example of the favoritism the players receive, but this year’s classic case study has to be the first of the Duke — Virginia Tech games. Played at Duke, the game began with Shelden Williams driving his elbow at freshman center Deron Washington’s head, causing him to hit the deck. No foul was called, Williams scored an uncontested first two points of the game, and the tone was set. Throughout the game, Williams pushed, elbowed, and bullied his way through VT’s younger frontcourt players, with officials doing nothing. In the same game, however, the officials whistled an astounding thirty-four team fouls on Virginia Tech, many of which would have gone uncalled in a church league game. An amazing twenty-two fouls — nearly enough to foul out four players – were called in the first half alone. Not surprisingly, Duke won the game by 35 points, 30 of which were scored from the foul line. In an interesting contrast, when the same two teams met only weeks later in Blacksburg, the team foul tallies were essentially even. The result? A Virginia Tech win, (after which JJ Redick’s father complained publicly about the student body’s poor sportsmanship.)
To make matters worse, during the first game, the Duke students began chanting, “Please stop fouling,” as if Tech was attempting to have its entire team disqualified. As the son of a V.M.I. graduate, I have no love for Virginia Tech, but could there be a greater example of the absurd lengths to which officials go with their favoritism?
A. The Duke Flop.
A principal reason for the disparity in foul totals is the outrageous manner in which game officials apply the ever-subjective offensive foul rule. You know the scenario: An opposing player blows by a slower Duke defender while being closely guarded thirty feet from the basket. As the player races to the hoop for a lay-up, another Duke player jumps into his path, often while the offensive player is in the air, deliberately causing a dangerous collision near the basket. The late arriving defender falls over backwards, arms flailing, with a melodramatic shriek. As sure as the sun sets in the West, one of the three game referees will run to the scene, often from far out of position, hand clasped behind his head, whistle sounding loudly, all with Krzyzewski’s pumping fist signaling his approval in the background. Of course, when the opposition attempts to return the favor, the call is just as surely a block or, at best, a no call.
While many times the Duke player accomplishes his goal of creating a violent collision, any given game brings several additional defensive “plays” in which a Duke defender drops to the floor when his opponent so much as breathes on him. The Duke team is so thoroughly trained to resort to this regularly rewarded tactic that it is common so see them fall anywhere on the court – near the basket, at mid-court, in the backcourt, sometimes while the offensive player is simply dribbling laterally, making no effort to move towards the basket. During the closing seconds of its last loss to Maryland, for instance, a Duke defender actually flopped beneath Maryland’s defensive goal on an inbounds play. It seems only a matter of time before a Duke player is awarded a charge call for taking a seat at the scorer’s table. Any time is a good time for a Duke defender to dive under the feet of an offensive player in an effort to manufacture offensive fouls.
This patented “Duke flop” is without doubt the most maddening innovation of the Coach K era, (with his players’ tendency to slap the floor at midcourt in a purported show of defensive solidarity running a close second). Over the course of an average game, the Duke opponent sees five to six baskets, or ten to twelve points (fifteen to eighteen if we count the three-point play that should have resulted), erased by this grossly one-sided call. Duke, meanwhile, receives an additional five to six free throws as opponentsare regularly whistled for blocks. Year after year, legendary athletes, from Jordan to Bias to Duncan to Carter, are unfairly handicapped by the spectrum of inferior Duke players jumping into their paths and flopping backwards, even if contact is avoided. Indeed, it is not unusual for slow-motion replays to show Duke defenders beginning their staged falls, before, occasionally in the total absence of, actual contact. Much to the chagrin of flop-leader Shane Battier, it was because of this infuriating nonsense that the NBA actually amended its rules to prohibit offensive fouls from being called as the result of charges within five feet of the basket. And for great reason: games should not turn on the basis of inferior athletes deliberately diving into an opposing player’s path in order to manufacture an offensive foul call. This is not basketball. It breaks the flow of any game, angers fans, and endangers athletes. In a broader sense, it perverts the game by shaving points from opposing teams’ scores while simultaneously saddling their players with fouls that should never be charged.
B. Bastardizing Game Effects of Pro-Duke Officiating.
Think the officials’ bias is inconsequential or overstated? Think again. While the numbers themselves tell the story, decades of history provide extensive anecdotal evidence of the college ref’s embellishing impact. How many of the all time Duke basketball greats promptly proceeded to fizzle at the next level where game rules are actually enforced in an unbiased manner and where defenders must actually defend their opponents? Mark Alarie, Johnny Dawkins, David Henderson, Billy King, Robert Brickey, Phil Henderson,Kevin Strickland, Danny Ferry, Alaa Abdelnaby, Brian Davis, Antonio Lang, Cherokee Parks, William Avery, Shane Battier, Dahntay Jones, Chris Carawell, Mike Dunleavy — the list is seemingly endless. Past Duke rosters read like a “Who’s Who?” of professional basketball jokes, most of whom are quickly shipped out to European leagues because of their inability to make it in the NBA. With the sole exceptions of Grant Hill (on those rare seasons when he does not – like his college mentor — sit out entire seasons for injuries), Elton Brand, and Carlos Boozer, it would be fair to say that every Coach K era Duke basketball star has, at the pro level, either completely failed or substantially under performed vis-à-vis his college record, with Danny Ferry perhaps best symbolizing the stuff of the Duke basketball reality check.
Even all-time media darling Christian Laettner has unwittingly exposed the extent to which his collegiate success depended upon Coach K’s striped worshipers. Laettner’s career NBA numbers (12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds per game) are reasonably respectable, even if accumulated while being traded more frequently than Krzyzewski’s hair dye schedule. However, his career, which includes but a single All-Star game, falls far short of the greatness that hoops analysts projected on the basis of his golden boy college years. And does anyone seriously believe that the trend of pro duds will end with JJ Redick and Randolph Shavlick?
Compare the post-collegiate accomplishments of the following UNC grads from the same time period: Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Kenny Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Antawn Jameson, Vince Carter. The group has collected enough NBA rings, All-Star appearances, and MVP awards to fill the Dean Dome. Nevertheless, each of these players, with the possible exception of Worthy, who went pro before Krzyzewski was given his sainthood status, struggled against the one-sided neutralizing effect of the collegiate officials.
Other absurd examples of the Duke flop’s bastardizing effect on the game abound. When I attended Duke, for example, the student body rejoiced as Christian Laettner actually got the better of a vaunted LSU center named Shaquille O’Neal. Two seasons earlier, Christian finished with better numbers than Alonzo Mourning. These unfathomable outcomes were all due to the inane manner with which the college official favors Duke above any other team.
The mystery to all of this is why college refs would show such transparent favoritism to a program of haughty whiners. Remember Phil Henderson’s publicized mid-season tirade about Lenny Wirtz? How about Krzyzewski’s tendency to hold mid-court tantrums, replete with profanity, any time his team falls behind in a game? Just last season, the man experienced a seemingly endless meltdown, which would have made any spoiled three year-old envious, as his team lost at home to Georgia Tech. Who could forget K’s Classless screaming to refs “you killed us” after his team’s 2004 semifinal loss to UConn. Or Matt Christiansen physically accosting a referee in the aftermath of an earlier Duke tournament loss, only to be recognized weeks later by Coach K as the player who most exemplifies Duke basketball. And still the refs treat these spoiled louts as if they were their own fair-haired children. At any rate, it is because of the Duke players’ inability to adjust to the shock of objectively enforced rules that so many fail in the NBA, and in Europe (e.g., Casey Saunders’ cut by a Swedish team), and quickly return – where else – to Duke to rejoin Coach K as an assistant coach. Any given year brings us a team of real world flops who take on the role of assistant coach. Currently, two of Duke’s more obnoxious alumni – Chris Collins and Steve Wojokowski – join Johnny Dawkins in this capacity. Others, such as Tommy Amaker, Quinn Snyder, David Henderson, have found homes as equally underachieving college head coaches.
V. The Fans.
No essay on the subject can be complete without discussion of the mindless Duke fan base that has emerged over the past decade or so. As distinguished from the obnoxious student body that at least has a reason to support the team, these are the fair-weather fans who simply root for whichever team enjoys a winning tradition at a given point in time. They are the folks we see in four-wheel drives donning Blue Devil baseball caps and championship bumper stickers. Neither the Duke fan nor his close friends or family members attended Duke, but they have all purchased Blue Devil apparel from a Durham County Wal-Mart.
Unheard of during Krzyzewski’s early years, this growing collection of gullible dupes also buys into the media’s misplaced love for Duke by believing that the program and its coach are class unmatched. Most of the fans are North Carolinians, who, perhaps not unreasonably, assume that the school’s central state location is reason enough to justify an allegiance to it. Because the Blue Devil fan has no firsthand experience with the school, he has no idea that the vast majority of the student body is imported, with a large percentage comprising smug Northeastern carpetbaggers who constantly mock North Carolina and its native residents. The Duke fan honestly believes that Mike Krzyzewski is handsome and marvels at his ability to coach ACC basketball for a quarter of a century without sprouting a single grey hair.
VI. The players.
Without question, one could compose a lengthy book on the subject of despicable Duke players. It’s far easier to identify the few who do not turn our stomachs. I, for example, generally had no problems with the starting five of K’s first final four team, (although Michael Jordan wannabe David Henderson bordered on the annoying). I later met Jay Bilas, a law school classmate of mine, and he is definitely a likeable guy – I’d even agree with classy. My sense was that Mark Alarie, Johnny Dawkins, (while he was a player anyway), and Tommy Amaker were similarly unobjectionable. But aside from this small group, the roster from any of the Krzyzewski era teams reads like an historical survey of all-time NCAA tools. The list is so inexhaustible that it is necessary to discuss the most hated Duke players by categories. First is what I describe as the Wojo prototype. Usually two to three on any Duke team, this is the player with average to below-average skills who, after ANY made basket, runs down the court with arms fully extended at his side, fists clutched, brows furrowed, and garbage effusing from a mouth opened as wide as humanly possible. The facial expression is a cross between that of a trash-talking punk and a toddler in mid temper-tantrum. The prototype was perhaps perfected by two of the current assistant coaches, Steve Wojokowski and Chris Collins, with the current representatives being JJ Redick and, my favorite, Lee Melchionni. In an effort to put a favorable spin on these clearly detestable players, basketball commentators developed a euphemism for this particular type of Krzyzewski-bred jerk: “the emotional leader of the team.”
Admittedly, other schools occasionally have players of the Wojo mold: former N.C. State player Chris Corchiani and current Maryland swingman Nick Caner-Medley come to mind. But no other school has ever put forward such a consistent and unending string of infuriating tools. In addition to the previously mentioned annoying gnats, we’ve seen Danny Ferry, Quinn Snyder, Bobby Hurley, Greg Koubek, Thomas Hill, Brian Davis, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Cherokee Parks, and a herd of other past and present players gallop down the court with that same smug look. I have no doubt that the reason Wojo himself was plucked from the radio booth and given the honor of an assistant coach position was his ability to mentor current Duke students in mastering the nuances of this prickly player profile.
Next, we have the Dahntay prototype. Named for Dahntay Jones, this player is a master of unabashed thuggery. He regularly resorts to dangerous, flagrant fouls, the majority of which are somehow never called. You may, for example, recall Dahntay himself striking Raymond Felton with a vicious elbow to the face during Felton’s freshman year. No foul was called, (but the referees did order Felton out of the game until his bleeding was stopped.) This “accidental” contact, incidentally, occurred almost a year after Jones broke the jaw of Wake Forest forward Justin Gray. The Dahntay prototype is physically what Krzyzewski is verbally: an out-of-control absurdity who gets a season long free pass from game officials and a blind eye from the media. Other classic examples of these elbow-throwing, cheap shot artists include Danny Ferry, Greg Newton, Elton Brand, Matt Christianson, Casey Saunders, and, of course, Shelden Williams. Then there is the Duhon prototype. A long-time Duke tradition, virtually every player from Danny Ferry forward fits this mold: haughty, smug, pompous players who look as though everyone around them is an untouchable piece of garbage. A further reflection of the coach, the best examples here often unfold off court. A few years back, for instance, Carlos Boozer left an ACC tournament game after being called for a foul. Unbeknownst to him, the camera followed as he sat on the bench, arrogantly staring forward. A water boy immediately stepped behind him and touched his shoulder with a cup of Gatorade, apparently forbidden from speaking to him. Boozer simply stared forward for a good twenty seconds, to good to say, “No thank you,” or to even shake his head. Dahntay Jones’ impromptu set of pushups in front of the television camera immediately after a dunk against UVA is another good example. I mentioned earlier Duhon’s smug proclamation that all other ACC schools simply compete for second place. Another great illustration is the prevailing tendency of Duke players to whine about the cruel manner with which opposing fans treat them, as if nothing short of homage is expected. But, above all, it is the unmistakable look of unadulterated conceit that has made the following illustrative players so easy to despise: Phil Henderson, Grant Hill, Brian Davis, Christian Laettner, Elton Brand, JJ Redick, Daniel Ewing, and, of course, Chris Duhon himself. The aforementioned Wojo and Collins, of course, also cross over into this list.
All of the foregoing prototypes are the direct results of Krzyzewski’s two-faced approach to the game. The saddest aspect of it all is the manner with which the K factor can convert even normal human beings into detestable *****. A case in point is Johnny Dawkins. As remarked earlier, I personally had few problems with this guy as a player. He struck me as a solid, overachieving player with a great shot and a vertical leap I could only dream of; a respectable counterpart to UNC’s Kenny Smith. But, oh, how Things changed as the man morphed into a Krzyzewski clown, uh, clone. These days, every time the camera shows “Coach Dawkins,” he has that foul, contemptuous, chip-on-the-shoulder scowl permanently etched on his face, the look of a man so conceited that he resents even being required to prove his superiority.
VII. The Place is PHONY.
As the extensive evidence of Duke hypocrisy suggests, Duke, its students, players, fans, and coaches, are a bit on the disingenuous side. And yet few people appreciate that the school is fake to its core. I still recall my orientation during which a second year law student took us on a short tour of the west campus. As we walked between the gothic buildings, she explained the school’s origin by advising that James B. Duke had a love affair for Princeton University. He actually tried to buy the place, but Princeton was not looking to sell. After being rebuffed, Mr. Duke decided he would build his own Princeton. Hence, stone-carved gothic architecture was added to what was then Trinity College.
Additional efforts were taken to cause the twentieth century buildings to appear much older than they are, our guide explained. For example, acid was placed on the stairs in order to cause them to have a time worn appearance. I couldn’t believe Duke wanted to publicize this history, but it confirmed what I already suspected: that Duke, from its inception, has tried to be something that it is not.
No one epitomizes this phony tradition better than Coach K. From his jet-black dyed hair, to his hypocritical attempts to paint himself as a model citizen, K nauseates me each and every fall. Indeed, he ascends to new zeniths of abhorrence each year as he does things like star in American Express commercials in which he claims an interest in helping players develop as human beings.
If the man were simply a boorish lout, I would not take as strong an offense to him. Bobby Knight, for instance, is about as foul mannered as they come, but he doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not. Ditto for Gary Williams, John Cheney, and other coaches who are rough along the edges but first to admit it. Only K, and his disciples, go through life as obscene, self-centered, smug, haughty jerks while pretending to be the sport’s Snow White.
VIII. Obstinate Refusal to Accept/Act Upon Constructive Criticism.
Last but far from least, we loathe Duke University because its arrogance prohibits it from recognizing and correcting its most serious deficiencies. What other explanation can there be for the fact that Duke has still, without a doubt, the absolute, number one, undisputed, UGLIEST cheerleaders in the ACC?
Ray Lewis is one of the top 5 linebackers to ever play the game of football. He most certainly will be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He has been on two Super Bowl championship teams, in 2001 and 2013. This past Super Bowl was the Ray Lewis bowl, and it was sickening. Ray Lewis was involved in a double murder in January 2000, in Atlanta, after Super Bowl . This seems to have been lost on ESPN and all the other media outlets who want to canonize Lewis and his professed love of his religion. Let’s look at that night in Atlanta, and what really happened.
On the evening of Jan. 30, 2000, Ray Lewis was looking to party. He had flown to Atlanta to watch Super Bowl XXXIV and booked himself into the luxury Georgian hotel. He’d also brought along his personal driver, Duane Fassett, to chauffeur a stretch Lincoln Navigator: 37 feet long, 14 seats, $3,000 a day.
On this night, Lewis turned himself out: white-and-black suit, full-length black mink coat and what would later be described as “enough rock to break the bank.” A few nights earlier, he had met a gorgeous woman named Jessica Robertson at a party thrown by Magic Johnson, and it was she — not Lewis’ pregnant fiancée — who was his date for the evening.
With him were Joseph Sweeting, a strip-club promoter who’d been friends with Lewis since college, and Reginald Oakley, who’d recently worked his way into Lewis’ circle through friends of friends. They were getting to know each other better, though; the day before, the three men had gone shopping at a Sports Authority store, where Sweeting and Oakley bought folding knives.
“Smooth” was how Lewis would later describe his mood at Cobalt; he’d had four Rémy Martin cognacs while luxuriating in the attention of half-dressed women and an ever-expanding entourage. He was 24 years old and had a four-year contract worth $26 million. He had just dropped more than $100,000 shopping, and the necklace he was wearing — a gold door-stopper studded with diamonds — was one of his recent acquisitions.
At around 3:30 in the morning, Lewis and his crew of about 10 headed outside, where Oakley began to get aggressive with two other clubgoers — themselves part of a group of about 10. Oakley kept at it and got whacked on the side of the head with a champagne bottle. Then, Lewis would later testify, “all hell broke loose at that point. Everybody was throwing fists. Everybody was punching.” Everyone, that is, except Ray Lewis, who testified that while all this was going on, he calmly rested against his limo, watching as his friend Sweeting was dragged and assaulted by two huge men.
Lewis wasn’t so calm, though, when two young men collapsed in the street, covered in blood. Lewis yelled at Robertson and his crew to get in the limo, and they scrambled and sped away as guns were fired at their tires. Minutes later, when the car came to a stop in a parking lot, Lewis took control of the situation. “Everybody just shut the f–k up!” he yelled. “This ain’t going to come back on nobody but me.”
Meanwhile, those two young men lay dying in street: Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinth Baker, 21. Both had records — Lollar for possession of marijuana, while Baker was wanted for violating probation on gun possession — and had recently moved to Atlanta from Akron, Ohio. Baker wanted to be an artist; Lollar, whose fiancée was pregnant, was a barber. “These guys were slaughtered,” said Cindy Lollar-Owens, Richard’s aunt. “Like someone was getting a kick out of it.”
Lollar suffered five stab wounds: two to the heart, one to the chest and two to the abdomen. Baker, too, was stabbed directly in the heart and in the liver. Both died before they made it to the hospital. Baker’s face was beaten so badly that, he had a closed casket at his wake. Both men were buried in Akron, 24 miles from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
After racing from the scene, Lewis’ limo didn’t return to his hotel, the Georgian, but instead to the Holiday Inn Express where Sweeting was staying. Lewis then took a cab back to the Georgian. It didn’t take long for police to find the limo, shot through with bullet holes, blood in the interior. It sat just a mile from the crime scene, and when cops walked into the lobby, they found Lewis’ driver, Fassett, trembling and chain-smoking. Fassett told the police he’d seen Sweeting, Oakley and Lewis all fighting and provided details that only an eyewitness could know. He said he’d heard Oakley boast, “I stabbed mine,” and Sweeting reply, “I stabbed mine, too.” When police got to Lewis’ room, they found blood there, too — but not Lewis, who had fled to his fiancée’s family home.
When cops arrived to question Lewis, he was, they felt, not helpful. It took less than a day to obtain an arrest warrant, and when police came to take Lewis in, he cried. He cried some more in jail. “I wept,” Lewis wrote on ESPNmag.com that December. “I wept when my 5-year-old son asked me why Daddy was always on TV wearing chains. I wept myself to sleep some nights on that nasty bed in that nasty cell.” It took 15 days for his lawyer to get him out. Sweeting and Oakley were advised to turn themselves in, which they did. While Ravens owner Art Modell called around for defense attorneys, cops were learning more about Lewis’ activities that night.
For example, his cellphone was unusually active right after Baker and Lollar were killed. Several eyewitnesses saw people exiting that limo with a laundry bag, which they threw in a Dumpster. Cops would never find the clothes Lewis wore that night, not even the mink. Nor would they find the photo taken of Lewis’ entourage that night, which Robertson had already burned.
A few hours after the murders, at about 6 a.m., Lewis had called Robertson and asked her to go to the Georgian and pack up everything he’d left behind. A jailhouse informant, meanwhile, told cops that Lewis was using one of his sisters to relay messages to Sweeting, telling him not to worry, that Lewis would never betray him. Lewis himself felt he had little to worry about. The Ravens were standing firmly behind him. Lewis’ own private investigators beat the cops to just about every witness in the limo; they all got lawyers. His driver, Fassett, became increasingly unsure of what went down that night.
The trial began on May 15, 2000, and quickly fell apart. The state’s star witness, Fassett, recanted much of what he had told police. He swore he’d never seen Lewis strike anyone. By the trial’s second week, Lewis wasn’t even attempting to appear respectful. He sat at the defense table and scrawled his autograph over and over. Finally, on June 4, Lewis’ attorney and the prosecution cut a deal. Lewis would testify against Sweeting and Oakley in exchange for one year’s probation on obstruction of justice. Lewis testified he saw Oakley fighting in the melee and that Sweeting had told Lewis he’d been punching with the same hand that cupped a knife.
Here, too, the prosecution miscalculated. On June 13, 2000, the jury acquitted both men on charges of murder and assault. They spent just five hours deliberating.
Ray Lewis’ career never took a hit, even as he spent years alternately playing victim — “Jesus Christ couldn’t please everybody . . . that’s my attitude” — and remaining defiant. “The real truth is, this was never about those two kids that were dead in the street,” he said in 2001. “It’s about Ray Lewis. Don’t be mad at me because I was on center stage.”
The victims’ families saw it differently, bringing civil suits against Lewis. He settled them out of court, with confidentiality agreements attached to both. “The family didn’t get no money,” Priscilla Lollar, Richard’s mother, told The Post. Priscilla says Richard’s fiancée, who gave birth to his daughter one month after the slayings, received $4 million from Lewis — far more than the $1 million estimated.
As far as Lewis is concerned,Lollar believes he bears guilt for what happened that night but that “the answer to why — you’ll never get that. Because nothing is going to stop his career.” She’s right.
Lewis will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in five years and is considered a lock. It’s widely rumored that ESPN wants to hire him as a color commentator, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said he wants to hire Lewis as a special adviser, citing him as a “tremendous voice of reason.” What??? This is unconscionable. Goodell says Lewis is the voice of reason, he has 6 children by 4 different woman. Sounds like the voice of reason and sound decision making to me.
And all these years later, Ray Lewis holds no regrets about what happened that night in Atlanta. “If I had to go through all of that over again . . . I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said recently. “Couldn’t. The end result is who I am now.”
That is right Ray, who you are now, a hypocrite. You claim to be chosen by God and found the Lord, but when you had the chance to do the right thing you cried like a little girl, and protected your own self interests. You are the biggest phony the sporting world has ever seen.
The Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31, over the 49ers, but it was not without controversy, and some very poor play calling. We will take a look at both as I recap the game. 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman was awful on those final four play calls on first and goal from the 8 yard line. But let’s review what led up to this.
Things went wrong for the 49ers right from the start. Their first play from scrimmage was a 20 yard completion that got called back, and rightfully so, because they lined up incorrectly. This led to a three and out. It only got worse from there. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco was outstanding. He threw three touchdown passes in the first half, and was nearly flawless.
Colin Kaepernick looked overwhelmed at the start of this game, and his team looked unprepared. He looked like a quarterback making his 10th NFL start. LaMichael James fumbled when the 49ers were driving and on the Baltimore 24 in the 2nd quarter. Kaepernick overthrew an open Randy Moss in the 2nd quarter that was intercepted by Ed Reed. The Niners were the most well coached and prepared team in football all year and they looked like a high school team in the first half. Head coach Jim Harbaugh did not look like he had his team ready to play. The Niners defense was awful too, committing dumb penalties, blown coverages, and no pressure on the quarterback. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who had 19.5 sacks this year, was invisible throughout the game. He had one more tackle than I did! The score certainly reflected that, with the Ravens leading 28-6, at half.
I was hoping the 49ers would make some adjustments at half and Harbaugh would get their heads back in the game. Then Jacoby Jones opened the second half with a 108 yard kickoff return, the longest in a Super Bowl history. Then things got interesting. Shortly following Jones’ return, the sudden, odd power outage arrived. Officials stopped play about 1 1/2 minutes into the third quarter, and the bizarre delay lasted 34 minutes in real time before action resumed. The 49ers looked like a different team when play resumed, as did the Ravens.
San Francisco scored the next 17 points in the 3rd quarter to close the gap to 28-23. First, Kaepernick threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree, pulling them within 15 points midway through the third quarter. Ravens defensive backs Cary Williams and Bernard Pollard missed tackles on the play. Then, with 5 minutes left in the third quarter, Frank Gore swept around right end for a 6-yard TD run, making it 28-20, before Ravens running back Ray Rice’s fumble gave the ball right back to the 49ers. San Francisco tacked on David Akers’ 34-yard field goal to get within 28-23 after he missed from a longer distance but the Ravens were whistled for running into the kicker. It should have been a personal foul penalty, which would have been a first down, but I will address the horrible officiating later.
About 2 minutes into the fourth quarter, Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker made a 19-yard field goal to stretch the Ravens’ lead to 31-23. Not long later, Kaepernick’s 15-yard run around the left side – the longest TD run by a quarterback in Super Bowl history – made it 31-29. The Niners went for the 2 point conversion to tie the game, but Ed Reed put pressure on Kaepernick who threw the ball away. Upon further review we see why Ed Reed was so quick to get into the backfield, he was offsides by two strides. Again the officials missing an EASY call!
The Ravens drove the length of the field, but were forced to kick a 38 yard field goal, to make the score 34-29. Things were set up for the Niners to come back from the largest deficit in Super Bowl history, and if the officials did their job they would have.
Things got interesting when Frank Gore ran 33 yards to the Baltimore 7 with 2:47 left. On 1st-and-goal, the Niners ran the ball up the middle with backup running back LaMichael James. With Frank Gore on the sidelines catching his breath after ripping off that long run on the prior play, offensive coordinator Greg Roman figured the fresh legs of James would give the 49ers offense some sort of spark. He was dead wrong. The result? A poorly designed play that led a small running back directly into a wall Ravens defenders. Roman seemed to give up on the run after James was stuffed on 1st-and-goal. Even with Gore back on the field, the second play called on that final drive was a pass play. When you have been pounding the Ravens on the ground all drive long, why would you not give Frank Gore a chance to run the rock? If not Gore, then at least give Kaepernick a chance to find his own space to run. The Niners ran the same play on third down, again why not let Gore or Kaepernick find a crease. Now comes 4th down, and the lob to the corner of the end zone to Crabtree. Again the officials blew the call, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith has a fistful of Crabtree’s jersey, it was obviously pass interference. I guess it was only obvious to those of us that were watching the game, because the officials were not. The result,Ravens ball, Ravens win!!!
Now let’s review the missed calls. Let’s start with, what happens to an NFL player when he pushes a ref? Nothing, apparently. At least, if you are Cary Williams and it’s the Super Bowl. After Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed intercepted a pass by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl, a scuffle between both teams broke out. As the players were being separated, Ravens cornerback Williams shoved a referee. He shoved him with both hands, and was not ejected. Do you think if the ravens starting cornerback was ejected it could have had an effect on the game? Then we had the roughing the kicker which would have given the Niners a first down, the offside on Ed Reed, and then the missed pass interference. Not to mention the helmet to helmet hit on Crabtree on third down with a minute to go. This group of officials should never be allowed to officiate a playoff game, and maybe not an NFL game again. They were an embarrassment to the NFL, and all the fans who watched.
I do want to congratulate head coach John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens, and much maligned quarterback Joe Flacco on their Super Bowl win. Flacco threw for 287 yards and 3 touchdwons in being named MVP. Well at least we don’t have to see Ray Lewis and the endless stories of his greatness. Check back tomorrow to read about the real Ray Lewis legacy…
The Super Bowl weekend is here, thankfully. I get so tired of the media redoing the same stories over and over. This year has been even more over hyped due to Ray Lewis’ presence, as this will be his last game, and the Harbaugh brothers coaching against one another in the biggest sporting event of the year. A pretty amazing feat to have two coaches from one family make it to Super Bowl. The Ray Lewis stuff I could care less about. He is a great football player, but off the field there are too many unanswered questions. I’ll leave it at that for now.
These are two very evenly matched teams, but I give the edge to the 49ers, and that pistol offense. Here is a closer look at each team.
When the Ravens have the ball: During the regular season, the Ravens were right in the middle of pack offensively, ranking 16th in total offense, 11th in rushing and 15th in passing and were 29th in time of possession. The Ravens offense began to flounder late in the season, resulting in head coach John Harbaugh making a change at offensive coordinator. The team fired Cam Cameron and promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, even though the former Indianapolis Colts head coach had no play-calling experience at the professional or major college levels. This was a tremendously gutty move.
Jim Caldwell placed a renewed emphasis on running the ball, resulting in success against Indianapolis and Denver in the playoffs. Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice combined for 171 total rushing yards against the Colts, while Rice added 131 against Denver in Baltimore’s thrilling double-overtime win.
The biggest thing Caldwell did, was know when to put the ball in quarterback Joe Flacco’s hands. Flacco has certainly responded. Flacco, who, despite an average completion percentage, has thrown for 853 yards and eight touchdowns this postseason. Most importantly, Flacco has largely played turnover-free football, losing just one fumble during their run to Super Bowl XLVII with zero interceptions. Flacco’s preferred target this postseason has been Anquan Boldin, who has 16 receptions (on a team-high 26 targets) for 276 and three touchdowns, including two in their AFC championship game win over the New England Patriots. The number 2 receiver, Torrey Smith has just nine receptions this postseason, but is the team’s deep threat and has the talent and skill-level to go off at any time. Quiet in the wild-card win over the Indianapolis Colts, Smith had three receptions for 98 yards in the double overtime win over the Denver Broncos, including two long touchdowns against future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey. Tight end Dennis Pitta has caught 10 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns this postseason and has caught the attention of the 49ers’ secondary. They also use Ray Rice in the passing game, which presents major matchup problems.
The 49ers defense is no pushover, as it ranks as one of the best in football. Of the nine 49ers selected to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster, six were members of San Francisco’s defensive unit — Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner and Patrick Willis. San Francisco’s defensive unit ranked fourth in the NFL in passing defense, limiting opposing quarterbacks to just 200.2 yards per game, while also ranking fourth in rushing defense, holding teams to 94.2 yards per game. That defense was exposed in the first half against the Falcons, as wide receivers Julio Jones, Roddy White, and tight end Tony Gonzalez were open all over the field. The Ravens receivers have similar skill set so this will be a matchup to watch. They did however shut out the Falcons in the second half after giving up 24 first half points. The pass rush will be also be key, if Flacco has time with those receivers he will pick you apart.
When the 49ers have the ball: The 49ers ranked 11th in the NFL in total offense this season – fourth in rushing offense and 23rd in passing offense, but were third in both rushing and passing yards per play. It is worth mentioning that the 49ers played in the same division as some of the top defenses in the NFL – Seattle, Arizona and St. Louis were Top 10 defenses.
The key to the 49ers’ offense is quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took over for a concussed Alex Smith to pass for over 1,800 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions to go along with 415 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. The 2011 second-round pick out of Nevada has taken his game to the next level in the postseason, completing 33-of-52 pass attempts for 496 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Kaepernick has also rushed for 202 yards and two touchdowns, though much of that production came when he ran for 181 yards in the divisional playoff win over the Green Bay Packers, setting an NFL single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
At 6-foot-5 and 233 pounds, Kaepernick presents a unique “run-pass” challenge to opposing defenses when operating out of the pistol formation, which he ran in college at Nevada.
The last time the Ravens defense faced a threat like Kaepernick was on Dec. 9 against Robert Griffin and the Washington Redskins. Griffin led the Redskins on a pair of 80-yard touchdown drives at the start of the game as the Redskins racked up 423 yards of total offense, including 179 yards on the ground, as the Ravens lost, 31-28.
Frank Gore ran for over 1,200 yards during the regular season and has ramped up his production this postseason. Through two games, Gore has 44 carries for 209 yards and three touchdowns. Gore has always used his lack of height (he’s a shade over 5-foot-9) to hide behind the 49ers’ massive offensive line and the read-option plays, and defenses having to watch Kaepernick, and monster-sized pulling guards Mike Iupati (6-foot-5, 331 pounds) and Alex Boone (6-foot-8, 300 pounds) has added another dimension to the 49ers running game.
When Kaepernick does put the ball in the air, fourth-year receiver Michael Crabtree has emerged as his top target. Crabtree had a somewhat frosty relationship with Alex Smith and caught 56 passes for 771 yards and seven touchdowns since Kaepernick stepped into the huddle. Crabtree has benefited from playing opposite Randy Moss, who still garners considerable attention from opposing defenses. Both could have good days against the Ravens defense . Vernon Davis also resurfaced in the NFC championship game to catch five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. He is another matchup nighmare.
The Ravens defense is still led by Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrel Suggs. They will have their hands full with 49ers offense, both on the ground and in the air. The Ravens will put up some points, but not enough. Colin Kaepernick will have his way on the way to being named MVP. Sorry Ray…
Prediction: 49ers 30 Ravens 21
Alex Rodriguez, who is an all time great in his chosen profession, has let us down again. Just when you think it can’t get any weirder, out comes a story about deer antler spray. Huh??!!
Let’s start with A-Rod. In 2009 he comes out and admits to using steroids and HGH from 2001 thru 2003. He only admits this after Sports Illustrated’s Selena Roberts broke the story. It was also later confirmed that he had indeed tested positive for two anabolic steroids during the “anonymous” testing done in 2004 by the players union to determine if testing was indeed necessary. Boy was it!!!
Now comes this, a recently closed anti-aging clinic that allegedly sold performance-enhancing drugs has been linked to several current Major League Baseball stars, according to an investigation by the Miami New Times. Biogenesis, described as an anti-aging clinic, was located in Miami, near the University of Miami campus. A former employee supplied the newspaper with a list of alleged clients; listed among those names were New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez,Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, Washington Nationals lefthander Gio Gonzalez, Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland A’s righthander Bartolo Colon and San Diego Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal. Cabrera, Colon, and Grandal were each suspended this year for 50 games for violating baseball’s drug policy. The big news here is, of course A-Rod, who stated he had not used PED’s since 2003. I guess he must have “misremembered”.
Anthony Bosch, identified by the Miami New Times as the clinic’s chief, kept handwritten notebooks of Biogenesis’ records and clients. Included in those notes were details about the clinic’s clients, what drugs they took and how those drugs were received. Clients often were referred to by nicknames. Among them was “Alex Rod,” who was listed 16 times in the recordsobtained by newspaper. And there are entries as recent as 2012, implying that Rodriguez and others were using PEDs as recently as this past season. The evidence continues to mount. It gets better, there is more.
The New Times reported that Biogenesis’ records list that Rodriguez paid for HGH; testosterone cream; IGF-1, a substance banned by baseball that stimulates insulin production; and GHRP, which releases growth hormones. Rodriguez’s cousin, Yuri Sucart, also is listed as having purchased HGH. Sucart was banned from the Yankees clubhouse, charter flights, bus and other team-related activities by MLB in 2009 after Rodriguez said Sucart obtained and injected PEDs for him. One of the substances A-Rod allegedly used is deer antler spray, called IGF-1, which is an insulin-like protein that helps promote anabolic growth. Biogenesis, as have the others that have been named. I for one am not buying it, and neither should you. Now that we know A-rod was still using PED’s, maybe that explains why he continually breaks down. The Yankee organizati0n is furious, as well they should be, but there is not much they can do. It’s deja vu all over again!!!
Notre Dame football is back. The Fighting Irish will be playing Alabama, January 7th, for the National Championship. Head coach Brian Kelly and ND’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, will be leading the charge with their holier than thou attitude. And the truth is, this is as this as despicable a pair as there is in College Football, bar none. I wrote an article in December 2010 about Notre Dame being in disarray under coach Kelly, and this administration, and as recently as last week this story has come to light again in an article in the Washington Post, which was followed up on the Chris Matthews show. Take a look at the article I wrote 2 years ago…
Notre Dame football is in disarray, and there is plenty of blame to go around. In the last 2 months a videographer died while filming football practice in 50+ mile an hour wind, and a female student from neighboring St. Mary’s College committed suicide after allegedly being sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player. Does this sound like a coach and an athletic department that have things under control?
The first incident occurred when team videographer, Declan Sullivan, a 20 year old junior, fell from a scissor lift while filming practice in 50 mile per hour wind. This NEVER should have happened. Just before practice started Sullivan had tweeted, “Gusts of wind up to 60 mph today will be fun at work … I guess I’ve lived long enough.” Less than an hour before the accident, he tweeted again, saying it was “terrifying” to be on the tower in the high winds. A safety consultant with Workplace Group LLC, a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based consortium with expertise in occupational safety, said wind gusts of 50 mph are much too high for the safe outdoor use of any scissor lift. This has to be the responsibility of the head coach Brian Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick. Reportedly, coach Kelly was upset that they had to practice indoors the previous day and couldn’t film practice. The National Weather Service had stated the wind gusts would reach 50+ miles per hour that day, and before anyone says all the universities do it, no they don’t. Penn State and the University of Michigan said their lifts are grounded if wind gusts reach 28 mph. On Tuesday and Wednesday, when much of the Midwest was being swept by winds much higher than that, the Wolverines football team practiced with lifts at 15 to 20 feet. Ohio State’s Jim Tressel stated he checks the wind daily for safety reasons. it should be noted Ohio State didn’t film practice the same day under the same conditions. Ole Miss video coordinator said it best, ”There isn’t a football drill or practice in the world that’s important enough to get somebody hurt or, God forbid, killed,” Commer said. “We agreed that we’re never going to make that call to a parent. The question I always ask myself is: ‘Would I put my kid up there?” There are many other colleges that have safety guidelines that keep videographers out of the towers if the winds reach 30 miles per hour or more. AD Swarbrick stated it was up to each individual sports program whether to practice outside. This passes the buck to Kelly, but hardly absolves him of responsibility. Notre Dame president, Rev.John Jenkins, has since released a statement taking responsibility for Sullivan’s death, but in the same statement he stated he stands firmly behind Brian Kelly. Huh??? I guess taping a football practice is more valued at Notre Dame than a student’s life. Their actions prove as much.
Now let’s take a look at the Elizabeth Seeberg case, who is the neighboring St. Mary’s student who alleged that a ND football player sexually assaulted her. Then nine days later took her own life by overdosing on antidepressants. This young girl had a history of anxiety and depression. The reports state that an ND football player sexually assaulted her by groping her breasts and the attack was stopped when someone knocked on the door. Ms Lizzy Seeberg did exactly what you are supposed to do when you are a victim of sexual assault. She reported it, went to the hospital, gave written statements and pointed out the player she was accusing. She also submitted to an offer of counseling. Notre Dame’s response to all this. Nothing, absolutely nothing was done. The unnamed player has been allowed to continue playing and the timeline of the investigation is vague at best. At first the St Joseph County Police Department said it had not received any information on the case, then stated they had, but told the Chicago Tribune, “the lead investigator disregarded this information because he just didn’t feel it was important.” Are you kidding me? Sexual assault isn’t important!!! The detective also did not mention the sexual attack complaint in his official report about Seeberg’s apparent suicide, according to the assistant chief. “He just didn’t feel it was important,” he said Tuesday, adding he did not fault the detective for the omission. “There was nothing suspicious about her death.” This is amazing, a woman files a sexual assault charge and then commits suicide and the detective doesn’t even mention it in his report? The Seeberg’s have stated they have received no condolences nor had any contact with Notre Dame, despite statements to the contrary. The only response they have received was through ND’s legal counsel, Marianne Corr, who had this message for them: “I hope the Seebergs know how bad this could get for them”, if they ever went public. This from America’s foremost Catholic University. The president of the university has refused to meet with them, even after prosecutors stated no charges against the player will be forthcoming. Politicsdaily.com has also dug up the following: Politics Daily has also confirmed that the accused player was suspended in high school for aggressive behavior towards a teacher, according to a newspaper account published at the time because he was a star player. The mother of a former classmate of the accused told me that after years of complaints that he regularly bullied other students, he was expelled from middle school in the 7th grade for threatening a girl. So coach Kelly can stop with the holier than thou attitude about recruiting higher quality student athletes!!! Something has to change at Notre Dame and it should star with the AD and the head coach. The player couldn’t have at least been sat down until an investigation into the complaint was performed. Kelly disciplines players for being late to practice, but for alleged sexual assault there is none.
In closing, the part of this story that is so upsetting, besides the obvious, is that it has been under reported. ESPN has dropped the ball on this one. If this was an SEC school, or any other high profile football program, it would be on every night, but because its the infallible Notre Dame there has been virtually nothing. Cam Newton’s father asking for money is far less important to the moral fiber of college athletics than a sexual assault and for that matter directly causing the death of another student. Shame on the media, shame on Notre Dame!!!
This story is only made worse by the following revelations, ND’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, who refused to meet with the Seeberg family on advice of counsel, and other school officials who’ve whispered misleadingly in many ears, in an attempt to protect the school’s brand by smearing a dead 19-year-old. It’s also been reported that the prevalent attitude at Notre Dame in regards to the football team is that all college football teams have a few bad eggs. Committing rape and sexual assault is being a bad egg??? Then there came this story which was in the article in the Washinton Post, by Melinda Henneberger. A few months after the incident with Seeberg, a resident assistant in a Notre Dame dorm drove a freshman to the hospital for a rape exam after receiving an S.O.S. call. “She said she’d been raped by a member of the football team at a party off campus,” the R.A. told me. I also spoke to the R.A.’s parents, who met the young woman that same night, when their daughter brought her to their home after leaving the hospital. They said they saw — and reported to athletic officials — a hailstorm of texts from other players, warning the young woman not to report what had happened: “They were trying to silence this girl,” the R.A.’s father told me. And did; no criminal complaint was ever filed. There you have it, two dead, and two alleged sexual assaults that were never properly investigated, and Brian Kelly and the Rev. John Jenkins are allowed to keep their jobs. I guess as long as Notre Dame football is doing well. Notre Dame is a FRAUD, just like that other school that thought they were better than all the others…and we all know how that turned out…
The Pacific Division is the most interesting in all of basketball, due to the Los Angeles Lakers additions in the offseason, as well as that other team in L.A. The Warriors have talent, albeit very young, as do the Kings. The Suns are waiting to see what pick they get in the lottery. Here is a look at the Pacific…
Since the Lakers’ loss to the Thunder in the playoffs last season, much has changed. The roster has been polished and is full of future Hall of Famers, meaning the team has a lot to prove. With the non-stop chatter about the “triple threat,” fans everywhere are excited to see how coach Mike Brown and his Lakers will take advantage of their three veteran All-Stars, and that doesn’t even include Steve Nash. Though they remained winless during preseason, finishing 0-8, the record is little indication of how the team will perform during the regular season. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard played little in those eight games, giving major playing time to the bench. Nash, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Chris Duhon are the new additions that are without a doubt going to be beneficial for the team. Losing Andrew Bynum, Ramon Sessions, and Matt Barnes should not be a problem with this influx of talent. As a side note, I don’t believe the Lakers ever recovered from the loss of Lamar Odom. It’s the first time Kobe will be playing alongside one of the most talented point guards in the game in Nash. Dwight Howard’s trade from the Orlando Magic to Los Angeles has been one of the most exciting things to happen to the Lakers in a long while. Howard will be a great help to Pau Gasol inside. This group is champioship or bust, and Howard has not agreed to an extension, so he could leave via free agency next year. I see them as the favorites by season’s end.
The Clippers were the talk of Los Angeles last year after trading for Chris Paul. Now, they have a lot to prove to their dedicated and newfound fans alike. With Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom on board, this Clippers team has a better chance to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Chauncey Billups is recovering well from his Achilles injury, while eyes will be on Eric Bledsoe to show improvements in his third year in the league. Clippers fans hope to watch Lamar Odom return strong after his controversial 2011-12 season that saw him traded to Dallas and leaving the Mavericks early after his awful play in Dallas. Odom is still talented and will hopefully bring those talents back to Los Angeles, where he had his best days with both Los Angeles teams. For all his flaws, Blake Griffin is still a beast in the paint. By combining him with Paul and the Clippers’ offseason additions, this team basically has a free pass to the playoffs. Coach Vinny Del Negro has a lot to look forward to, because this year might be the one where the Clippers’ hopes for being one of the best teams in the West become reality.
The Warriors are definitely a playoff-worthy team this season. With the key addition of forward Harrison Barnes, the team’s rotation looks pretty set. Stephen Curry played less than half of last season due to injury, but will retake the role as top shooter with his return. Klay Thompson and David Lee form the rest of the Warriors’ top three. Lee’s smarts and quickness will help him create effective rotations on the offensive side, while Thompson came on late in his rookie season as a lights-out shooter. Andrew Bogut will make huge contributions with his elite post defense after coming over from Milwaukee in exchange for Monta Ellis last season. If he can stay healthy that is. Small forward Brandon Rush had by far the best shooting season of his career coming off the bench last year, and will be a valuable asset for Coach Marc Jackson to bring in. It’s been a while, but the Warriors finally have a legitimate group of players with the talent and opportunity to reach the playoffs. If Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut stay safe and avoid any further injuries, this is definitely a playoff team.
The Sacramento Kings are starting fresh this season with a young team, but this green lineup has great potential. With the addition of rookie Thomas Robinson the Kings should consider themselves lucky to have drafted one of the hardest-working athletes in basketball. Aaron Brooks and James Johnson are two of the other additions to the Kings, with both being young talent to fill out the rotation. DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans are the team’s most talented, but questionable players. The two are motivated and have the power to drive the Kings, but both lack authority and emotional stability. Cousin’s could be an elite big man, but needs to grow up. Evans needs to step into a leadership role. This is also the team that drafted Jimmer Fredette, which has not worked out so far. Jimmer was a great college player, but his talents have not tranfered well to the pros. The team is full of young and new players alike, so coach Keith Smart will have his work cut out for him in making the pieces all fit.
Right about now the Suns are readjusting to their unfortunate loss of long-time point guard Steve Nash, now with the Lakers. They also lost Grant Hill to the Clippers, who contributed greatly under the basket. The additions to the team this season will not make up for the loss of Nash, but Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, and Luis Scola will make this squad competitive. Scola is a favorite of mine. a hard working rebounder and reliable scorer and defender. Coach Alvin Gentry will have to do his best to keep the team from falling apart, but will keep the pace and structure of his defense-based system the same in order to mold his team for success a few years in the future. It will be exciting to see how the team will adapt to the changes and all the pressure. The Suns do not have the talent to stack up with the rest of the division, so they must have more intensity and competitiveness than their opponents in order to stay respectable. Like I said earlier, they will be waiting on those lottery balls.
The Southwest Division has been owned by the San Antonio Spurs it seems like forever. The Memphis Grizzlies have been making strides and appear ready to contend. The rest of the division is anyone’s guess. New Orleans won the Anthony Davis lottery, and Houston acquired James Harden from the Thunder. With that being said let’s take a look…
We keep writing them off and they just keep on coming back. Stronger and stronger and stronger. The window has supposedly been closing for the last five seasons for the Spurs. And all they’ve done is reinvent themselves and remained one of the NBA’s elite. They were once an inside team built around Tim Duncan. They’ve evolved, adapted and adjusted. Now, they spread the floor as beautifully as any team in the league, utilizing all five players on the court and making everyone a weapon. Also-ran players like Danny Green, Boris Diaw and Matt Bonnerbecome lethal, because Gregg Popovich places them strategically in a system and roles where they can succeed. They still have Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, along with the ageless Tim Duncan. Kawhi Leonard has been entrusted by the coaching with ball-handling duties and will be more involved initiating pick-and-roll sets – a far cry from last season where his game was based on instinct and catch-and-shoot opportunities. Defensively, he has the prototypical size and length to become an unyielding defender much like former Spurs’ favorite Bruce Bowen. He could be a major factor in the Spurs taking the next step. The Spurs, like the Celtics, have a fine margin for error. Much of what they can achieve is predicated on a healthy roster and hoping that none of their Big 3’s production falls off dramatically. Barring any significant injuries, their fluid motion offense will be enough to beat most teams, but until they figure out their defensive identity, they are still dark-horse contenders for the Western Conference.
The Dallas Mavericks’ impending season could be summed up in a phrase: cautious optimism. They missed out on premier free agent targets Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, and lost perennial fan-favorite Jason Terry. Plus, Jason Kidd ditched them at the very last moment for the Big Apple. But the Mavericks rolled with the punches and responded, signing proven veteran big men Elton Brand and Chris Kaman. In O.J Mayo and Darren Collison, they’ve also found a talented role player looking to break out and a lightning-quick youngster in need of a fresh start, all while retaining flexibility and cap space for 2013. They continue to enjoy great depth. However, their defensive frailties still remain, as Mark Cuban and company have still been unable to find an elite defensive anchor quite like Tyson Chandler. Chemistry will be an issue to watch with this many new faces, but the presence of Dirk Nowitzki ensures that the Mavericks will not slip too far behind the Western Conference’s elite.
The Memphis Grizzlies appear ready to make another run like in 2011 when they upset the Spurs in the 1st Round. The core of that Grizzlies team has remained intact. In fact, ignoring Rudy Gay’s season-ending injury in 2011, not much has changed for this team. The Marc Gasol-Zach Randolph high-low post game is still a viable threat, although they would be wise to let Gasol initiate the offense from the high post more often. Rudy Gay continues to be their main off-the-dribble creator, Gay, in most eyes, has never quite justified his monstrous five-year, $82 million contract. He was paid to be the team’s go-to scorer, but his scoring output and efficiency has, more or less, remained the same. He has not progressed into an effective distributor and playmaker either, averaging just over two assists per game. With few new faces, the Grizzlies need internal improvement from their best player. Tony Allen still hounds opposing scorers with unconscious verve and Mike Conley Jr. has maintained his improving pick-and-roll efficiency. Conley is the key here, if he can continue to improve, and become one of the elite point guards, this team can make a serious run in the playoffs.
Last year, the New Orleans Hornets were an abysmally slow team that couldn’t score. They trailed the entire league in pace, and they were an admittedly-unsurprising 26th in the league in offensive rating. All of that will change this season, as they have completely retooled their squad by replacing aging, past-their-prime players with youth, athleticism and hope. The Hornets lucked out and added two Top 10 draft picks in Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. No. 1 pick Davis is questionably the centerpiece addition and despite his lack of offensive polish, the big man is a major threat running the floor. Austin Rivers could potentially be a key secondary playmaker for the Hornets, which would ease the considerable burden on Gordon’s shoulders. The speed in which Rivers is able to develop the requisite court vision and pick up the subtle nuances of point guard play will also be extremely beneficial for the Hornets, who intend to eventually start him at the 1. Austin Rivers will form a formidable scoring backcourt together with former Clipper Eric Gordon. Gordon, who has averaged 20 points per game in the last two seasons, will continue to be the focal point of the offense. But this time, he will have more help in the form of sharpshooting Ryan Anderson, the reigning Most Improved Player and last season’s league leader in three-point field goals made. The addition of Robin Lopez will also bolster the depth of the Hornets’ frontline. They are a work in progress and their youth will be an obstacle (every member of their starting lineup is under 25 years old), but expect coach Monty Williams to coax more than a few unexpected wins out of these Hornets over the course of the season.
Here is a foreboding stat for all Rockets fans: out of the entire roster, only three players started more than 30 games last season. One of whom became a league-wide phenomenon, dazzled with all-world scoring displays, got injured, had knee surgery, and then signed with the Rockets for a three-year, $25 million offer sheet. Yes, Linsanity has arrived (back) in Houston, but will he live up to the promise of last season’s abbreviated heroics? I for one don’t think so. Also, much of the Rockets’ offseason was centered on acquiring Dwight Howard. They stockpiled young assets while sending out quality veterans like Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert and Marcus Camby. They failed to get the Orlando superstar, and then lost, amongst others, emerging leader and tenacious bulldog Kyle Lowry. Finally, they committed considerable cap space to a role player – Omer Asik – who has only seen limited minutes in his short NBA career. They werer able to salvage their offseason with the last minute acquisition of James Harden from the Thunder. He provides scoring and leadership, and will get to be the primary ballhandler and number 1 option. This Rockets team is a bunch of spare parts and talented role players assembled in haste, and they are almost certainly favorites for last place in their division.
The NBA Northwest Division is still the Thunder’s division to lose, but the trade of James Harden brings them back to the pack a little. They are still the favorites here, but his loss will be felt throughout the season. The Nuggets improved by adding Andre Iguodala, but there was not much else as far as big moves. Let’s take a look at the Northwest Division…
After falling just short of an NBA title last season, the young Thunder made a major splash on Saturday by shipping James Harden to the Houston Rockets. Kevin Martin now comes over to play Harden’s role of lead scorer off the bench. Martin’s ability to whirl his way into the lane and send himself to the free throw line is incredible, but his defensive effort is shaky at best. Plus, he’ll need to adjust to not being the top shot-taker on his team. Kevin Durant, who has led the NBA in scoring each of the last three years. His 6-foot-10-inch size combined with his lethal shooting touch makes him the heart and soul of this team. The main issue he needs to work on: demanding the ball more from his partner in crime, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is über talented with his elite speed and incredible abilities in transition, but last year’s Finals showed how he needs to become a better distributor. A re-signed Serge Ibaka has been tirelessly working on his post game this summer in order to become more than just an athletic shot-blocker, while Nick Collison is an unexciting, but serviceable back-up. Kendrick Perkins is a serviceable center at this point, nothing more and nothing less, while Hasheem Thabeet is a wild care pick-up behind Perk. The ability of this team to conquer the Heat and Lakers for NBA supremacy lies in the new Big Three’s ability to become an unstoppable scoring machine come playoff time. The jury is out until April.
The Nuggets took a weakness, their wing defense, and turned it into a strength in Andre Iguodala. They’ve implemented more elements of the dribble-drive offense, which fits supremely well with their array of athletes on the edge in Iguodala, Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Corey Brewer and Jordan Hamilton. They have their weaknesses, namely shooters, rotation defense and, of course, that pesky superstar question. The Nuggets’ star of the future is Ty Lawson. Lawson quietly averaged over 16 points and six assists per game last season, and is arguably the league’s quickest player. They face a ridiculously brutal schedule to open, with 17 of their first 23 on the road. They’re putting in new players with a new approach. It would not be shocking for this team to be under .500 entering the new year. But they have too much talent with a coach who fits too well with the roster to miss the playoffs. They could wind up as high as third in the West; they could sneak in. But they have too much ability and areas of potential to miss the dance.
The Jazzcould surge to sixth in the West; they could drop back into the lottery. They have maybe the most question marks in terms of just players and ability with no clear answer. We know how Minnesota will be if it gets healthy. We know Portland will struggle regardless. But Utah? This playoff team from last season could get much better or much worse, and neither would surprise. Ty Corbin has done a fantastic job of balancing a winning approach with developing young talent. He managed to make a logjam of quality frontcourt players into a solid rotation. The Jazz enter the season with the benefit of both veteran help and internal development. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are established double-digit rebound guys, although Jefferson is really a power forward masquerading at center. Which brings in Enes Kanter. Kanter has a sweet stroke and polished offensive game, so while he might not be a traditional center, he has the size and the moves to hold his down low. Derrick Favors is another former top-five pick and while his development has not been rapid, he has shown flashes. The bigger concern is how the Jazz will score from the perimeter. Atlanta Hawks outcast Marvin Williams comes over in exchange for Devin Harris. Williams flourished in the preseason, but will need to contribute more than just his defensive abilities to his new team.
Just as the Timberwolves’ entered their first season in years with legitimate playoff hopes, superstar Kevin Love broke his hand during workouts. He will join T-Wolves’ dynamo Ricky Rubio on the bench, with both most likely being out until December. The Timberwolves will miss Love’s nightly 20-10 and Rubio’s lightning-quick passing, but the roster is more than just these two. Nikola Pekovic emerged as an above-average NBA center last season due to his relentless aggression in the block, while Andrei Kirilenko is back from Russia and looks like a (slightly older) version of what used to be the NBA’s most versatile player. Continuing with the theme of players not in the NBA last season, Brandon Roy signed a two-year deal to return from a medical retirement. The former Blazers star is not the player he used to be due to chronic knee pain, but will be another scorer for coach Rick Adelman. Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea are viable backups at the point guard spot, while 2011 second overall pick Derrick Williams could vastly improve Minnesota’s outlook if he improves upon an underwhelming rookie season.
The Blazers fired their coach and shipped out nearly the entire team via trades or free agency over the past year. With a completely revamped roster, 2012-13 will be a season of transition as new coach Terry Stotts finds out what he has to work with for the future. Continually underrated, LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the league’s best power forwards and is lethal in the pick-and-roll. His new partner in crime will be rookie Damian Lillard, who lit up the NBA Summer League and will be given the opportunity to be the Blazers’ point guard of the future. Nicolas Batum is also back at small forward, providing the Blazers with length at the wings as well as an improving outside shot. Besides those three, there’s not a lot to be excited about. The unreliable and undersized J.J. Hickson is the starting center for opening night, Wesley Matthews saw his shooting accuracy vanish out of thin air in 2011-12, and rookie center Meyers Leonard is not ready to compete night in and night out against NBA-level big men. The rest of the roster is filled with unproven young guns, journeyman veterans, and a pair of international unknowns from across the pond in Joel Freeland and Victor Claver. For Blazers fans, this season’s goal is to see development from Lillard, Batum, and Leonard. Anything more than 30 wins is just gravy.
The Southeast Division is where the defending champion Miami Heat reside, and they are not going anywhere. this division is abour who will finish second. The Hawks got out from under Joe Johnson’s contract, the Wizards made some veteran additions, while the Magic and Bobcats are in rebuilding mode. Here is a look at the Southeast Division…
With all the talk going on about the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, the Heat have gone a bit under the radar. Raise your hand if you thought that was possible. The Lakers may have added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, but the Heat are still the best team in the NBA and the favorites to repeat as champions. It’s scary to think that the Heat has a chance to be (and should be) even better than last year. The acquisitions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis will make their offense virtually unstoppable. With the way LeBron James and Dwayne Wade attack the basket, Ray Allen will get more open looks then he’s had his entire career. If Mike Miller can make seven three-point shots in the NBA Finals with his back falling apart, then who knows what the greatest three-point shooter of all-time can do. The Heat didn’t sign any big men to solidify their thin frontcourt, but Erik Spoelstra realized last season that it’s not an issue. No one can keep up with their version of “small-ball,” with LeBron moving to power forward. His strategy to keep his 5 best guys on the court, regardless of position, proved to be their most effective lineup. Look for the Heat to build on what they accomplished last season and for LeBron to continue his run as the game’s best player. Miami should have no trouble getting through the East and securing a spot in the Finals for a 3rd straight year.
Trading Joe Johnson freed the Hawks of his $120 million dollar contract, but left Atlanta in limbo. Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague form a trio still potent enough to reach the playoffs in a watered-down East, but the team isn’t a true title contender. It’s hard to imagine that general manager Danny Ferry traded two primary rotation players (Johnson and Marvin Williams) in his first week on the job only to tweak a team that has made five straight playoff appearances. Ferry likely has a bigger rebuilding plan in mind, one with fresh faces whose ceiling is higher than the second round. Atlanta still did make some nice moves to immediately improve their team, picking up Lou Williams, Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson, and trading for Devin Harris. Lou Williams was the 76ers’ leading scorer last year and should help with the loss of Joe Johnson’s offense. The Hawks should also see improvement in their already-solid outside shooting with the acquisitions of Morrow and Korver, both of whom are shooting over 41% from beyond the arc for their careers. The area where the Hawks should see a decline is on the defensive side of the ball. Atlanta was a top-six defensive team last year, but will be significantly smaller on the wings this season. The Hawks will struggle to contain the bigger guards in the league. Atlanta still has one of the best frontcourts in the league with Josh Smith and Al Horford. If you’re able to put solid pieces around a foundation as strong as these two, then you’re in a good spot. Expect the Hawks to be in the playoffs for the 6th straight year.
If not for starting the year without John Wall and possibly Nene, the Wizards would have a very good shot to challenge the Hawks for second in the division, but a month-long stretch without their star will make it hard for the squad to sneak into the playoffs. With that being said, Washington is definitely a team on the rise. Getting rid of JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche will make for a more mature locker room that is focused on winning. Wall should have his best year yet as he enters his third season in the league, and establish himself as a legitimate star in the league. Pair him up with the 3rd overall pick of this June’s draft, Bradley Beal, and it looks as if the Wizards have their backcourt set for the future. Adding veterans Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor will help shore up a defense that was 20th in the league last year; but their issues will come on the offensive end, as it did last year. They were close near the bottom of the NBA offensively last year and will struggle again early in the year without Wall creating open looks. The Wizards show a lot of promise and have the potential to be a very good team in the near future. Other guys will need to step up early in the year to make up for Wall’s absence. The Wizards have a chance of sliding into the playoff picture if young guys like Beal, Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin show their potential.
After finishing last season on a 23-game losing streak, the Bobcats were in desperate need of NBA-level talent. The likes of Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood won’t get Charlotte out of the lottery, but they offer a set of professional faces for recent draft picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker to learn from. Plucked from an assistant’s role with St. John’s, coach Mike Dunlap was a surprising choice to lead a team that won a record-low 10.6 percent of its games. Dunlap’s 14-year career as a college head coach, though, should make him the type of teacher the Bobcats need with a young roster that promises to become younger in the next few drafts. If Biyombo further develops into the defensive force his 7-foot-7 inch wingspan promises, and Kidd-Gilchrist makes good on his vast potential, this rebuild could be promising. In the next few months, however, there is a lot of bad karma to erase from a team that ranked last in points scored and points allowed per possession in 2011-12. This team won’t be judged by wins and losses but by effort.
The Magic are clearly in a rebuilding year, having traded away their superstar in Dwight Howard in the offseason. Orlando has some solid pieces to build around, but it will be tough to be a contender with Glen “Big Baby” Davis as your leading scorer. The Magic were a top-seven defensive team last season, but expect to see a big decline with the absence of Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. The Magic just don’t have the talent to be a playoff team again this year. The Magic have some solid players in Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and JJ Redick, but GM Rob Hennigan never planned on being a contender this season after trading away Dwight. His plan is to build the team through the draft, and they will start this offseason with a nice lottery pick.