You can talk a good game, but can you play one?

You can talk a good game, but can you play one?

There are some troubling times ahead for the NBA , even if the outgoing commissioner would not like to admit that fact. Three decades in charge of the league and it could be said that David Stern turned a pondering sport and its brand into a multi-billion dollar global phenomenon . With global revenues now exceeding $5 billion annually, one has to be thankful Stern, as the league’s highest ranking executive, was as successful as he was. That being said, it was not without controversy, with the league and the owners seeking to apportion blame elsewhere for many of the problems, they themselves created. With something of an imbalance and with the NBA seeking to have a soft “salary cap” , it still leaves the league in somewhat of a perilous situation. Nonetheless, the league hierarchy has sought to proceed ahead under its current guise, neither seeking to truly solve that particular issue and several others that they currently face.

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David Stern’s successor , Adam Silver , brings in a new era of leadership and likely some change, with their being something of a smooth transition with his predecessor’s departure and his ascent to the current position as the NBA Commissioner. What Silver has witnessed this season in the league, as there has been for several of the past seasons , has been steadying decline of the play within the Eastern Conference of the NBA. If things were to get considerably worse , the league’s Board of Governors might have to consider either realignment of several of the divisions or quite possibly delve into the contraction of under-performing franchises , with the league taking over those teams , compensating the owners and then seeking to re-assign the players there , unto the rosters of the remaining franchises. That might sound a bit drastic, but consider the alternatives, as they might currently stand? The play continues to deteriorate and the consumers known as the fans, are still asked to endure such mediocrity , while the league itself continues to profit financially from it all and that hardly seems fair, at all.

While the Indiana Pacers (45-15) are running away with the Eastern Conference lead and well on the way to being the NBA’s first fifty-game winner of the season. It begs the question, in spite of the dour play within the conference , can Frank Vogel’s players knock off the reigning champions in what is likely to be a repeat of last season’s conference finals ? While both the Pacers and the Miami Heat have both suffered losses this season , these two teams are by far in a way the best two franchises within the conference and amongst the upper echelons of the league’s best teams this season.

LeBron James continues to be the player we have seen , since he entered the league in 2003 , during which he has redefined his game as well coming into his own as the NBA’s best player. Already, a four-time league MVP and two-time Finals’ MVP, James, has all but answered, just about every question of by doubters , as to the proficiency of his play , with a punctuation mark, suggesting there is still a great deal more to come from the ten-year veteran. This season, what appears to be a captivating battle has begun to unfold, concerning LeBron James and the player, many believe to be his closest rival as a nemesis and what could likely be a budding rivalry for individualistic and team honors in the coming years. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder lead the Western Conference and the player is now considered to be the leading contender for the league MVP this season . Durant and LeBron James during their tenures in the league, have provided the NBA with some classic contests, with both individuals showing why they are considered the best two players in the NBA.

Frank Vogel and the Pacers could very well now be in the driver’s seat, after what I believe to be a coup-de-gras by the front office , in acquiring Evan Turner to bolster what should already be considered a very good Indiana Pacers’ roster in terms of its depth and talent . The fact that Pat Riley of the Miami Heat , did little in terms of adding to the Heat’s roster at the trade deadline could very well come back to haunt the front office executive and the Heat’s coaching staff led by Erik Spoesltra . Coming off a narrow three-point victory over the hapless Utah Jazz , Indiana’s next opponent will be the high-powered offense of the Golden State Warriors, led by Steph Curry , whose match-up against Paul George of the Pacers should prove to be very intriguing.

9-1 in their last ten games the Miami Heat could be considered the hottest team in the NBA over that time-frame and clearly the reason why many believe them to the odds-on favorite to repeat as a three-time NBA champion . As LeBron James goes , then so does this team, albeit, with at times , some threadbare support from his teammates. Yet, it has been in the postseason, where James has excelled , as he has repeatedly led the team in their most recent postseason triumphs . Saturday’s lopsided victory over instate rivals the Orlando Magic , further emphasizes why the Miami Heat will continue to make light of their regular season schedule , as Erik Spoelstra gauges the performances of his players in the lead-up to the NBA Playoffs.

The impact that Dwight Howard was meant to have , after being acquired as a free agent by the Houston Rockets , has not been as dominant many thought it might have been. Granted, the Rockets currently have the fifth best record , in the Western Conference with a mark of 40-15 ,as of the 2nd March . Yet, many believed, that this team would be contending at least for a top-three berth within the conference. Though I do not consider it to be a major disappointment , I do believe that with Dwight Howard , what you see is what you get , in terms of a player who at times , does not fulfill the talent that he is said to have. As good a center, as is he said to be , I do not believe him to be the most dominant player at the position , currently playing in the NBA ! If anything, I believe the player tends to simply take his foot off the gas pedal and go through the motions, while allowing others around him to lead . A clear case can be made, that Dwight Howard would never have fit in with any type of team he would have been surrounded by, had he remained in Los Angeles playing for the Los Angeles Lakers . A failed experiment from the start and failed experiment in the very end !

Kevin McHale has proven himself to be an astute head coach, along with his coaching staff , in getting this Rockets’ team to play some up-tempo basketball, while gaining themselves a credible spot in the conference rankings. The team however, is fortified by the talents of James Harden , while being ably supported by Chandler Parsons , Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin , Patrick Beverley and Jordan Hamilton . A true test of the team’s ambitions will be on view , when they play host to the Miami Heat, at the Toyota Center, in Houston , Texas on Tuesday night . That contest should tell us a great deal about McHale’s players their mindset as they head down the final stretch of their regular season schedule. Certainly, a chance to see two of the NBA’s most productive scorers , with James Harden facing off against LeBron James , should prove to be very interesting.

To my mind one of the more surprising twists of this season, has been the fact that Kevin Love still remains a player with the Minnesota Timberwolves ! They may well have an outside chance of garnering a playoff berth in the Western Conference , but at this stage of the season , I believe that it might well beyond the reach of the team ! Five and a half games out of the final playoff spot, that is currently held by the Dallas Mavericks (35-25) , the Timberwolves would have to jump ahead of the ninth placed Memphis Grizzlies (33-25) , while hoping that both the Mavericks and Grizzlies make monumental . slip-ups in their next couple of games . A highly unlikely scenario at this point of the season, when teams are not likely to be overly complacent , but then again, who could have really foreseen that the Eastern Conference would prove to be such an embarrassment as an advertising model for the NBA ? Well, the end of the season is barely a month away, with most teams having no more than twenty-five games remaining on their regular schedule. Those with intestinal fortitude, are likely to rise to the occasion, while others are likely to falter at the very last hurdle.

Kevin Love has proven to be one of the few bright spots on a Timberwolves’ team that struggled has throughout of the season, while Rick Adelman and his coaching staff have simply been outmaneuvered and out-coached at every point of the season that has mattered most to the organization. From my own perspective, I now believe that it is time for Flip Saunders , Head of Basketball Operations and GM Milt Newton to seek a trade and obtain the best possible value for their Timberwolves’ All Star power-forward , Kevin Love ! It simply serves absolutely no purpose to have the player struggle, night in and night out , all to no avail , while wasting his talents with a franchise that seems to show no signs of life or actual ambition ! These are the very same issues, that led to the growing discontent with Kevin Garnett while , a player with the Timberwolves . His subsequent departure, still did not manifest itself, by way of anything positive for the franchise.

Outwardly, Love has remained loyal to the Minnesota Timberwolves, not wanting to say anything, that might be taken out of context, as a way of showing his discontent, but if the rumors are to be believed , then this off-season a confrontation is likely to be in the offing, when the player is likely to meet with the front office to discuss his immediate and long-term future . I believe that he is likely to opt out of the final year of his contract and test the free agency market , rather than remaining in Minnesota, because I do not believe that owner , Glen Taylor or any of the front office executives possess the acumen needed to build the Timberwolves into a legitimate NBA title contender !

Monday night, places the Minnesota Timberwolves back into action, as they face the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center , in Denver, Colorado, A third consecutive win for the Timberwolves, would provide the team with a great deal of confidence, but they first have to make that a reality , rather supposition.

Not for the first time, this season, have the Sacramento Kings suspended player, DeMarcus Cousins for conduct detrimental to the team . Each and every time, he has run afoul of the organization, the front office has seemingly , given him what on the face of it seems a slight reprimand. A one game suspension for physically assaulting an opposing player , is simple idiocy ! Yet , these are the times that we are living in , where athlete misconduct on or off the court , is no longer frowned upon and the lame ass apathy of some of the dumbest mother fucking fans, is to simply excuse that type of behavior altogether or come with the rather inane statements such as “ locker room behavior “ , or ” boys being boys” . Last I looked, these were grown individuals and not middle or high school players , making complete asses of themselves ! The league hierarchy under David Stern was weak and remains weak , because the NBPA remains in an extreme position of power, not necessarily unlike their counterparts within the MLBPA , NFLPA and the NHLPA ! Anyone who believes that to be the contrary , I would now like them to plead their the case , for the opposite view !

DeMarcus Cousins as a player in college , had real “character issues” , that were never addressed by the coaching staff ,led by John Calipari , a coach known shall we say , “let things slip by him “ ? I have never really thought, highly of Calipari, in terms of his character or the litany of issues that have followed him continuously over the course of his coaching career ! Allegations of recruitment violations, players with failing academic standards, still being allowed to play on his teams, as well as possibly monetary inducements for players in terms of their of productivity. Like it or not, there had to have been a multitude of reasons, why a number of programs where John Calipari has coached , have felt the wrath of the NCAA , though not to the point where there has been an outright accusation leveled at the head coach. While Calipari’s outward image appears pristine, something ” rotten smells ” this side of Denmark , as it relates to this particular head coach !

The Sacramento Kings’ own fortunes in recent years, can be best summed up with these words “the Maloof Family , with reckless abandonment , all but ruined the franchise and in the aftermath of it all , were on the precipice of duping the idiotic members of the city’s council to bail the franchise out of their financial plight ” . All of this under the watchful eye of David Stern , who in some circles, has been viewed as the savior of the NBA. The former NBA Commissioner , simply, takes on the battles, he knows he can win outright , while apportioning blame elsewhere, for his incompetency or web of deceit , when caught in an actual lie.

With the worst record in the Western Conference , a mark of 20-39 , is a true reflection of what the Sacramento Kings have been about all season long. Long gone, are the glory days , when the high-flying Kings were a dominant force within the conference led by All Star Chris Webber and the team was seen as a perennial contender for year-end honors. Feast or famine, can best now sum up the franchise, but in reality, there has been a great deal more hunger, as the fans of the organization, yearn for years past. There’s not enough food on the table and there certainly is not enough talent on this roster , to even deem them worthy of being thought of as even a moderately average team , if that !

The Kings’ remaining regular season schedule , is not necessarily daunting, and victory over the New Orleans Pelicans may well be sign that the team is determined to go out with a great deal of determination . DeMarcus Cousins remains the best player on the Kings’ roster , but herein lies the issue, he is a troubled individual who remains immature and unable to handle the real pressure of being assumed the leader of the franchise . Other than Rudy Gay , there is absolutely no real reason to believe that GM Pete D’Alessandro can continue to believe that Cousins is a valuable asset to this team and the organization as a whole , not with the continued problems that he provides. Sacramento, may well to decide to cut their losses and seek a trade of the troubled player.

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Vivek Ranadive having recently purchased the franchise may well now be having regrets , because I personally believe he was “ sold a bill goods” , that were in no way shape or form is what he was told it would be ! Thankfully , Microsoft Chairman Steve Ballmer and his business partner , billionaire venture capitalist Chris Hansen dodged a bullet , when they failed in their bid to purchase the team , having bid a great deal more than the reputed $575 million paid by Ranadive’s consortium . With the league’s hierarchy’s, reluctance to relocate the franchise to Seattle, Washington, as was previously discussed between Stern and the potential purchasers. I can only assume , with David Stern reneging on that deal, having given Ballmer firm assurances that there would not be a problem , it simply shows that the former commissioner is really a less than honorable individual .

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The second half of the NBA season is already underway, what do you hope to see in the latter stages of the schedule ? Also, which player or group of players, have provided you with the greatest surprise over the course this NBA season ? Of the teams in contention, for a divisional or playoff berth, which do you believe , are likely to triumph and to fail ?

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Picture and slideshow details below .

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(1) David Stern is seen here handing the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Miami Heat team President Pat Riley after the team’s triumph in winning the NBA title in 2013 , having won in a tough seven-game series against the San Antonio Spurs in a thrilling NBA Finals’ series , 4-3 . Stern formally stepped down as the NBA Commissioner after thirty years as the league’s highest ranking executive . He is succeeded by Adam Silver , who hopes to make a smooth transition into his new role . AP Photo / Chris Hughes ………..

(2) Nicola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic is seen here challenging the New York Knicks’ Tyson Chandler during a game played at the Amway Center in Orlando , Florida on the 23rd December , 2013 . The Magic would go on to lose the contest 103-98 with both teams under-achieving this season within their respective divisions as well as the Eastern Conference , there is likely to be major shakeups within the rosters of both franchises during the off-season . NBAE/ Getty Images / Max Miller ….

(3) February 27, 2014 The Milwaukee Bucks gave the Pacers a formidable test on Thursday night, but Indiana made enough plays down the stretch to come away with a 101-96 win in a game played in Milwaukee , Wisconsin,. Roy Hibbert recorded a double-double (24 points, 12 rebounds), while Paul George added 18 points , eight boards, and six assists . NBAE Getty Images / Frank McGrath ….

(4) LeBron James of the Miami Heat goes up for the dunk as he rises above Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller of the Charlotte Bobcats in a game played at the AA Arena in Miami , Florida on Monday night . James would go on to score a career-high 61 points during the contest , which the Heat won convincingly. This has been the second time this season , that the Bobcats have given up more than sixty points to a player during their schedule with the first such incident , coming when they played the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden , where Carmelo Anthony torched the team a career-high , also, of sixty-two points . AP Photo / Emile Toussaint …..

(5) Kevin Durant (35) of the Oklahoma City Thunder is seen here alongside the Miami Heat’s LeBron James (6) . Both players are the leading candidates for this season’s League MVP . Their rivalry may well be the best to be seen in the NBA in several years , but not yet on the level of the classic match-ups between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson , which many purists believes set the bar for individualistic rivalries within the NBA and from a team standpoint , especially in many of their postseason contests . Durant and James have met once in a postseason series with the Miami Heat prevailing in their 2012 NBA Finals’ , with a rather lopsided series’ victory. AP Photo / Mike Patton ….

(6) Houston Rockets’ center Dwight Howard (12) looks to make the play against Miles Plumlee of the Phoenix Suns in a game played between the two Western Conference teams on the 23rd February , 2014 . The Rockets would defeat the Suns 115-112 . NBAE /Getty Images / Ross Hart ……

(7) Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love, left, drives as Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game , Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Minneapolis. The Clippers won 102-98 . These two young players are two of the brightest young stars to have entered the NBA in the past seven seasons . AP Photo/Jim Mone ….

(8) Kentucky coach John Calipari thinks 6-11 center DeMarcus Cousins should go top 3 in this year’s NBA Draft. But GMs fear the player’s immaturity , which has been justified since his entry into the NBA as a first round draft pick in 2010 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings . US PRESSWIRE/ Mark Zereof ……

(9) Sacramento Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins is seen here with the team’s head coach Michael Malone on court sidelines during a game at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento , California . After a recent on-court physical altercation with an opposing player where Cousins is said to have punched his opponent in the lower abdomen and then having been ejected for his conduct , he then verbally assaulted the referee , using several profane expletives , heard within earshot of the crowd . DeMarcus Cousins was fined $20,000 and suspended for one game, forfeiting his $ 44,000 game check . . Vivek Ranadive , the Kings’ owner , will meet with GM Pete D’Alessandro and Michael Malone to discuss the troubled center’s ongoing behavioral problems . All signs seem to be pointing to the fact that the franchise may well seek to trade the player this off-season rather than retain his services . This recent suspension has been the third of DeMarcus Cousins’ three-year career in the NBA and poses the question as to his lack of maturity while in college at the University of Kentucky and since his entering the NBA in 2010. AP Photo/ Chris Affeldt ……

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Let’s go by the numbers ……

Let’s go by the numbers …………

As the NFL enters week ten of its sixteen week regular season schedule , with the plethora of stories that have made up the season thus far. Perhaps no one story, than the one currently fomenting will have a lasting effect on the league as we know it to be at present . No matter how anyone now tries to spin what appears to have been an unsavory incident between Miami Dolphins’ teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin , there is absolutely no way that one can justify the stance that racial intolerance or abuse should be part of anyone’s work environment . As to this downright idiocy , that a code of conduct amongst a brotherhood was broken by Martin, after he made it public, as to an incident that took place between he and Incognito, speaks to the damn stupidity of former NFL player Damien Woody , that with Jonathan Martin having broken that code , it now makes him “ a marked man “ who is likely . to distrusted by a teammate .

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Personally , I believe Woody to be entirely wrong, due to what appears to be ignorance and the fact , that as an African-American , I seriously doubt that he would have chosen to simply walk away, were a racial epithet directed at him or a member of his family , as appears to be the case with the online evidence of the “tweets” that were directed at Jonathan Martin and his mother in derogatory racial terms . As to those who simply want feel-good stories in a world where we have corrupt politicians , businessmen and violent crimes being perpetrated against women and children , simply add this episode, in another chapter in country spinning out of control , where common decency and respect no longer prevails .

With no formal statement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the matter, from an incident, that is now almost a week old. It begs the question, is the commissioner simply an executive, who cherry picks the issues where he feels it is simply another area where he can be seen in a positive image , albeit that the NFL brand is now once again coming under fire for all of the wrong reasons and a great deal more ? In appointing an attorney Ted Wells , to conduct an in-depth investigation , that will seek input from both of the players involved in this matter , as well as head coach Joe Philbin and the Dolphins’ general manager Jeff Ireland . It now remains to be seen, if there will be parameters set, as to whether or not this matter will be given greater latitude by way of an even greater investigation not just solely of the Miami Dolphins’ organization , but also of all of the thirty-one other teams that make up the NFL . Philbin, originally tried to suggest that this was an isolated incident , but clearly the head coach is now at a loss to explain how an environment of racial intolerance was acceptable within the Dolphins’ locker room , with a makeup of players of different ethnic backgrounds . Clearly, the matter was taken seriously enough by Jeff Ireland to suspend Richie Incognito indefinitely , without pay , while the organization now conducts its own in-house inquiry .

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has summoned both Richie Incognito , his agent and that of Jonathan Martin and his own legal counsel to meet at the Players’ Union headquarters to meet and deal with and discuss d this matter in some clarity . To my mind, this is simply the union trying to line up all of its ducks in a row, in order to abate any possible public outrage over the matter that has blown up over the past forty-eight hours ! The NFLPA , has done little to monitor or dissuade the often criminal or outrageous behavior of its members who have often deemed themselves above the law. Need we also be reminded, this is the very same union that has continued to hide behind the matter of it being a privacy issue , as to why they have yet comply with the league’s request with the commencement of in and out of season testing for anabolic steroids as well as human growth hormones , even after a vote ratifying testing to begin . All this in accordance with a promise made to a US Congressional Committee in 2010 , for which this policy has yet to be instituted three years later . Such hypocrisy , not only from the executive committee of the union, but also the entire NFL hierarchy , led by Roger Goodell.

For a league, where the player personnel makeup extends beyond 65% of players, who are of African-American descent, and other ethnic backgrounds. One has to ask , if the so-called family friendly and all-inclusive atmosphere created and marketed towards its consumers by the NFL , has simply glossed over the at times and often overlooked behavior of the players . Player misconduct is one thing, but where racial bigotry has now become part of the environment , not where a fan has been directing racially insensitive remarks at a player , but that of a player directing those remarks at a fellow teammate and directly at a family member . Should we really be now asking , what else has the NFL chosen to tolerate within its own insular world of the male testosterone driven bastion of the league’s locker rooms and practice field environment ?

This season in the NFL, there have been several terrible games that the fans have been subjected to , on not only on Monday Night Football , but also on Thursday night . Tonight, should prove to be no different , with the Washington Redskins (3-5) as the guests of the Minnesota Vikings (1-7) , in what could prove to be a ” make ” or ” break game ” for both teams, with their respective seasons said to be on the line. In what has turned out to be a monstrously bad season within the NFC East , only the Dallas Cowboys (5-4) currently possess a record above .500 . As to what this actually indicates about the division as a whole , can be best summed up by how one views each of the four teams and their respective records and play over the course of this season . Suffice to say , the New York Giants (2-6) , the Washington Redskins , Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) and the divisional leaders , the Dallas Cowboys have given us a perspective as to what truly bad football is said to be about , at this point of the season. It would be terrible to think or witness the fact that a team with a sub .500 record is likely to win the division and a guaranteed berth in the postseason. Yet , this is what the fans could be facing over the remainder of this season , as I simply cannot foresee either of these four teams showing the type of consistency needed to end up with a winning record by week sixteen !

Greg Schiano , head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) , came in with a blaze of glory , having been hired by general manager Mark Dominik to resurrect the fortunes of the franchise after a dismal 2011 foray , which in the end led to the firing of Schiano’s predecessor Raheem Morris . Now win-less, with an 0-8 record , which they jointly share with the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) for the worst in the NFL . The countdown is now on to see whether or not the Buccaneers can gain their first victory of the season , as things continue to spiral out of control for Greg Schiano , his coaching staff and the entire team . And I use the word “team ” loosely , as there seems to be no desire from anyone on the roster to show any passion , much less leadership or to be held accountable for what is now turning out to be a truly miserable season by any stretch of the imagination.

The Buccaneers will play host to instate neighbors the Miami Dolphins in a game that will have a bearing on both of their seasons and quite possibly determine the fates of both Joe Philbin and Greg Schiano , and their long-term futures as NFL head coaches in the league .

Early season in the NBA and it would appear, as the Indiana Pacers (5-0) remain the lone unbeaten team in the NBA , sitting atop of the Central Division in the Eastern Conference . On Wednesday night the Pacers played host to the Chicago Bulls in one of ten games that was on NBA schedule for the day. Frank Vogel has this team playing at a high level with Paul George giving the sort of performances that was most notably seen in last season’s highly contested and competitive Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat . While I have no doubt that the Pacers are good enough to make return the postseason this year , beyond their being joined by the defending champions . It is difficult to state, which six teams within the Eastern Conference will join that duo and what that determining order is likely to be !

On Friday evening, Indiana will seek to stretch opening season run to six straight unbeaten games , when they play host to the Toronto Raptors (2-3) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana , Indianapolis,. With the Pacers having the upper hand in the regular season meetings between the two, twee this game is likely to prove to be somewhat uncompetitive . Frank Vogel’s players , but it would be rather impudent to simply think that , because the opponent just happens to be a team with a two-game winning streak , they should be taken lightly , because they have never been part of a competitive season , much less a part of the NBA’s postseason soirees . Chances are, this contest is likely to be close, based on the current disposition of both teams and the mindset of the Indiana Pacers’ players and how they will actually approach the game .

New ownership , same old story , as the Sacramento Kings continue to under-achieve , while their fans remain forever optimistic. From my own perspective, the loss of the Maloof family from the ranks of the NBA owners , should not be seen as that great a loss ! Consider the fact, that they continued to mismanage the franchise and almost brought them to the verge of bankruptcy , speaks volumes as to the lack of oversight that continues to be shown by the NBA hierarchy led by David Stern and his continued abstinence in insisting that the teams are and will remain financially solvent . Either, the NBA commissioner lives in the world of make belief , or he is of the opinion that creative accounting continues to be the best way to inflate the value of the franchises and their profitability .

Sacramento is off to a 1-3 start placing them at the bottom of the standings within the Pacific Division of the Western Conference . For rookie head coach , Michael Malone , beyond having to deal with a completely new hierarchy led by owner Vivek Ranadive , general manager Pete D’Alessandro , special consultant Chris Mullin and Shareef Abdur-Rahim as Director of Player Personnel . It is difficult to see how Malone will seek to navigate the waters of the NBA along with an untested coaching staff and a team led by the talented , but always temperamental DeMarcus Cousins . Already , the mercurial center and his coach are off to rocky start with the two seen clearly angrily gesticulating with one another after Malone sought to substitute the player during a game against the Golden State Warriors that ended in a 87-98 loss to their conference rivals . As to what this say as a precursor for the rest of the Kings’ season , will clearly be determined by the mindset of Cousins and how he views his head coach . Things are obviously not that great in terms of the long-term relationship between the two and it now defies logic as to any reason behind the franchise’s decision to re-sign the player to a four-year $62 million deal . Yet, it was felt by Chris Mullin , Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Pete D’Alessandro to retain the player and make him the centerpiece of any future development of the franchise and its long-term future. Unless DeMarcus Cousins can show signs of maturity as a player , rather than the petulant individual seen in college and repeatedly shown in the NBA when adversity looks him squarely in the eye , then in all likelihood his days in the NBA could very well be numbered as a starter in this league .

It would be fair to suggest that four years into his NBA career , in spite of the hype surrounding a collegiate career with the Kentucky Wildcats that brought about numerous highs and lows . It has to be said that with his being drafted as the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings . It would be fair and enough to suggest that the Kings’ center has simply failed to live up to the perceived expectations and that John Calipari believed that DeMarcus Cousins would prove to be an immediate success in the NBA because of his undoubted skill-set .

In spite of being overwhelmed in the NLCS by the St Louis Cardinals , it now looks as if the Los Angeles Dodgers are prepared to reward manager Don Mattingly with a new contract, extending the current deal , which the manager intends to honor , as he enters into its final year. If the rumors are to be believed Mattingly and his agent Ray Shulte have met with Dodgers’ general manager Ned Colletti and team President Stan Kasten to hammer out the finite details of a deal , that is likely to make the former New Yankees’ player one of the highest paid managers in Major League Baseball . Kasten’s wish to have Mattingly sign a five-year deal, with the option of an additional year on top of that, shows the intense belief of this front office in their manager and his abilities . In what turned out to be an astonishing year for one of baseball’s more venerable organizations, although the heightened expectations were there , with the expectations that it would be the Dodgers facing off against the Boston Red Sox in the World Series . The team’s failure to cool down the Cardinals’ pitching in the NLCS pennant series , was a clear indicator that there were and remained flaws that were often overlooked , because the Dodgers were a team capable of showing momentary flashes of brilliance. Instead , what was really needed , was in fact a great deal more consistency from the entire team , rather than those momentary showings of brilliance .

With the certainty that Don Mattingly will be retained, along with his managerial staff intact for 2014. The front office, will now look to assess the entire roster and review what they believe their most urgent needs are said to be. The pitching staff was amongst the best in the NL during the regular season , with their starting ace Clayton Kershaw having one of the best years in franchise history as well as in the game’s history , posting figures that were simply astonishing .

With a team payroll that already exceeds $200 million , with only the New York Yankees this past season having a larger salary obligation . This upcoming season could very well be the year where we could witness baseball’s first team with a payroll commitment close to $235 million annually . Certainly , with the ambition of team owners Magic Johnson , Peter Guber , Todd S Boehly , senior managing partner Mark Walter and the financial backing of Guggenheim Baseball Properties LLC and that of holding company Guggenheim Partners Inc , as well the $ 8 billion twenty-year television deal with Time Warner Inc . It begs the question , if the Dodgers simply want the best free agents available , will they simply outbid their opponents at the drop of a hat ?

With Clayton Kershaw as the team’s most urgent priority in terms of re-signing the player to a long-term multi-year deal , rather than losing him to free agency in 2014 . The question remains whether or not Ned Colletti will now make the player the highest paid starting pitcher in the game, with a deal thought to be in excess of $275 million over ten years . The Los Angeles Dodgers currently have some of the highest paid players in the baseball , me with notables such as Zack Greinke and his compensation package in the upper echelons of the starting pitchers in the game . Kershaw and his agent J D Smart will likely seek a deal commensurate with what is being earned by the top pitchers in the game ,albeit that salary arbitration in 2014 , will not prove to be that great a hurdle with Stan Kasten Ned Colletti eager to sign the pitcher to a long-term deal . And if Magic Johnson’s statement are to be believed “ that money will be of no object “ as the Los Angeles Dodgers seek to bring the franchise its first World Series’ title since 1988 . A quarter of a century has passed since that achievement came into being , so next season ought to portend to something special for the franchise , as they seek to make winning baseball’s biggest team prize a reality for this upcoming year . Is this team capable of doing that , given the makeup of their present roster , without seeking to delve amongst many of their prospects within their farm system to bolster that lineup ?

We have yet to know the fate of Alex Rodriguez , as he awaits the date to be set for his arbitration hearing in front special arbitration adjudicator Fred Horowitz . Rodriguez , denies any wrongdoing on his part in what he feels are scurrilous accusations and claims being brought by the MLB hierarchy that he was a customer of the defunct supplements’ company Biogenesis Inc, whose founder Anthony ‘ Tony’ Bosch claims that the Yankees’ third basemen purchased anabolic steroids from the company for his own personal use. The company founder, will be baseball’s chief witness in the proceedings against the player along with what is said to be detailed factual evidence now in the league’s possession . As to the veracity of MLB’s case against Rodriguez , without any evidence for the public to view , this all remains speculative in nature. Yet , to my mind, Alex Rodriguez when questioned on the matter , has sought defer the questions claiming that under advice of counsel (his lawyers). he cannot answer any questions pending a legal matter. Clearly , with the hiring of two noted criminal attorneys , Alex Rodriguez is now seeking another avenue to refute the charges being leveled against him and what better way to do that , than by legal means , in seeking to bring about a civil suit against Major League Baseball as well as the New York Yankees’ chief medical physician . Muddy the waters of the case against you, and then also seek legal recourse with attorneys David Cornwell and Joseph Tacopina as the conduits in pressing ahead with your civil suit in the New York City , US District Federal Court .

Should the arbitration not go in Alex Rodriguez’s favor , one of the more likely premises to arise out of this all, will be that the New York Yankees , will have Rodriguez’s future salary obligations taken off their books , allowing them instant relief and wiping away in one fail swoop the approximately $43 million owed to the player , which would cover the two hundred and fourteen game suspension that the baseball hierarchy leveled as a verdict for Rodriguez’s alleged wrongdoing . With that financial burden taken off the books of the Yankees , it would allow them to pursue their likely target amongst the free agents sought , none other than Carlos Beltran of the St Louis Cardinals, whose postseason productivity has been consistent , as well as his regular season performances , during his career with the Cardinals. A number of front office executives around the league as well as a number of owners are simply dumbfounded that once again the New York Yankees are in a favorable situation , in spite of what appears to the misdeeds of a player known to be disingenuous and most certainly deceitful , given his actions of March of 2010 , when Rodriguez gave his less than contrite public apology for lying about his not having been a user of performance enhancing drugs (PED’S) . Less than two years after that apology, the player’s name was again linked to another establishment and producer of anabolic steroids and other prohibited substances banned under the league’s policy, but no investigation was called for by Bud Selig , even in light of federal prison sentence handed down to now disgraced Orlando , Florida medical doctor Anthony Galea . Which once again begs the question and strains the ongoing credibility and claims now constantly being made by Bud Selig that baseball has the most stringent testing procedures in all of professional team sports . My question for the commissioner , if the claims you are making has any veracity to it all , then where is the evidence and what about the investigative side of the league’s actions ?

The Biogenesis scandal was not uncovered by any work done by league investigators and the league hierarchy itself , who we now know to have purchased a great deal of the evidence said to be in its possession from Biogenesis for use as evidential proof against twelve of the thirteen players suspended this past season . Once again, the bumbling incompetency baseball’s hierarchy and the now less than credible and soon to be outgoing MLB Commissioner, have taken a monumental hit from an image and intelligence standpoint . As if we needed any further proof, that baseball is being ran by a bunch of supercilious buffoons, whose intelligence and credibility have repeatedly come into question over the past decade and a half, without anyone ever being held accountable for the stupidity that has been on display ! Pretty much sums up not only MLB at present , but also the NFL , if those with any discerning interest would care to look at the tenure of Roger Goodell.

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Picture gallery .

In light of the topics raised in this article , what if anything do you believe to be or find anything disturbing as to the veracity of the content ? Also , are you of the opinion that the NFL can deal with this unwanted story concerning Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins appropriately without their being further damage done to the image the league ? With the New York Yankees quite possibly being in an advantageous position should the suspension of Alex Rodriguez be upheld , with the ball-club not having to pay any luxury tax, are you of the opinion that this situation has become too advantageous for the organization ? By all means do leave a comment on this and anything else you believe to be relevant the subject matter at hand.

Picture gallery and slideshow details below .
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(1) Richie Incognito (68) and Jonathan Martin (71) of the Miami Dolphins . A furor over racially insensitive comments posted by Incognito has created a firestorm within the NFL , that has led for an in-depth investigation to be called for by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ,which will be headed by noted corporate litigator Ted Wells . Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland thought the matter serious enough to suspend Incognito indefinitely without pay , pending the team’s own in-house investigation . Meanwhile , NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has summoned both players to the union’s headquarters to discuss the alleged incident that took place between the two players . AP Photo / Ricardo Gutierrez ….

(2) Damien Woody , formerly a player with the New York Jets , now an ESPN NFL analyst went on record in suggesting that Dolphins’ defensive lineman Jonathan Martin was wrong in making his incident with Richie Incognito public and bringing to attention what apparently goes on inside of NFL team locker room . It is clear that Woody simply does not get it , if he feels that “racism ” and racial bigotry somehow belongs within the environment of the NFL, which he duly failed to acknowledge concerning the actions of Richie Incognito . The former Jets’ player has yet to respond to comments calling for an explanation as to what he meant in stating that Martin was wrong to address the media . However, when pressed on the issue of Richie Incognito’s now viral “tweet” and the player’s depiction of Jonathan Martin and his mother , Woody was non responsive . @ copyrighted material courtesy of ESPN …

(3) From left to right , NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith , center former union president Kevin Mawae and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are seen outside of the NFL headquarters in New York City , New York . The two lead executives are now caught up in a firestorm , which further casts the image of the NFL as an entity that appears to have a code of conduct wherein reprehensible behavior is tolerated and kept out of the media and public’s view. Both Goodell and Smith have failed miserably in dealing with repeated player misconduct and the fact that the league’s athletes now run afoul of the law with alarming regularity on annual basis . The incident now widely being reported in various media formats centers around the behavior of the Miami Dolphins’ Richie Incognito and his racially insensitive remarks about his teammate (Jonathan Martin) and that player’s mother , both of whom were depicted in racially derogatory terms . Getty Images North America / Paul Mason …..

(4) Native Americans protest before the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins game on November 7, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Many of those protestors were not only protesting the use of the word ” Redskins ” and that of its use by NFC East franchise the Washington Redskins , but also the incident now being widely reported in the national media that took place within the Miami Dolphins’ organization . Getty Images North America / Adam Bettcher …..

(5) Robert Griffin III (10) of the Washington Redskins, Adrian Peterson (28) of the Minnesota Vikings and Trent Williams (71) of the Washington Redskins pose for a photo on November 7, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Getty Images / Adam Bettcher ….

(6) Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) looks to gain some yards as he evades the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive lineman Jared Allen . Minnesota gain a well-deserved victory in erasing a double-digit deficit to beat the Redskins 34-27 . AP Photo / Ann Heisenfeldt …

(7) From left to right , Tampa bay Buccaneers’ general manager Mark Dominik , team wide receiver , Mike Williams and head coach Greg Schiano . The Buccaneers are off to a miserable start this season , win-less and bearing an 0-8 record , placing them firmly at the bottom of the NFC East division. The team will play host to instate rivals the Miami Dolphins this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa , Florida , as they seek to earn their first victory of the season . There are now growing calls for the firing of Schiano as well as the removal of Mark Dominik in his current role with the organization . The Tampa Tribune / AP Photo / Keith Morris …..

(8) ) Indiana Pacers’ Paul George, right, talks with head coach Frank Vogel speaks during a news conference Tuesday, April 23, 2013, in Indianapolis. George has been honored as the NBA’s Most Improved Player . This season the Pacers are off to an excellent start and presently the NBA’s only unbeaten team . They will put that five game start and unbeaten run to the test when they face the Toronto Raptors on Friday night in a match-up of these two East Conference teams . AP Photo/Darron Cummings ….

(9) Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, left, is walked off the court by head coach Michael Malone after he was called for a technical foul during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. The Clippers won 110-101 . AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli …

(10) Alex Rodriguez ,right , is seen leaving a limousine alongside his lawyer Joseph Tacopina as he arrives at the MLB headquarters for a preliminary meeting with league investigators to answer questions concerning his suspected use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) . The player denied any wrongdoing or the accusations that he has once again begun to use any type of illicit substance prohibited by Major League Baseball . Not a far cry from Rodriguez’s original claims in both 2006 and 2008 , before finally admitting publicly in 2010 , that he had indeed used anabolic steroids supplied to him by a family relative , his cousin , Yuri Sucart . NY Daily News / Mark Hall ……………

(11) Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, left, checks on starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, center, during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies Tuesday, July 2, 2013 in Denver. The Dodgers won 8-0 . Mattingly is likely to be rewarded with a lucrative contract extension , a five-year deal , with the option for a sixth , that is likely to make him one of the highest paid managers in Major League Baseball. Likewise , Clayton Kershaw , who is in an arbitration year with the franchise in 2014 , is seeking a long-term deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers , having met informally with team President Stan Kasten , GM Ned Colletti , along with his agent J D Smart to begin the initial talks, concerning a new deal that is likely to make the pitcher the highest paid player in the game in his current role . The Dodgers’ ace also highly favored to win NL Cy Young Award and is also seen an outside favorite to perhaps pull off the ” double ” of also taking home the NL MVP Award to adorn his own personal trophy cabinet , after a tremendous season in 2013 . AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez …

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Jordan Carver and a montage below of Carver, again.

Nice , real nice !

A Quiet But Unassuming Look At One NBA Franchise No One Sees As A Threat …….

A Quiet But Unassuming Look At One NBA Franchise No One Sees As A Threat …….

By tophatal … Thursday, 12 April, 2012 9:46pm

Unassuming and overlooked throughout much of the regular season the Indiana Pacers (36-22) have quietly played themselves into contention amongst the Eastern Conference standings . Currently the Pacers have the third best record within the conference as they sit behind the Miami Heat (40-16) and the conference leading Chicago Bulls (44-14) . And while other teams have simply been inconsistent it has been the Pacers in their often unassuming approach who have put together quite an impressive run over their last ten games posting a 7-3 record , the second best behind (8-2) the Boston Celtics (34-24) .

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The Pacers’ head coach Frank Vogel has assembled a team that on the face of it wouldn’t be seen as one of the more glamorous NBA franchises . But most certainly , given the history and pedigree of the organization it would be remiss to simply write them off as being just another team that will be seen as “cannon fodder” for the likes of the Chicago Bulls and to my mind what is now becoming more apparent an overrated Miami Heat team ! The Indiana Pacers led by their best player Danny Granger who in essence had to play “second fiddle” for a number of years while Jermaine O’Neal , who became something of a “pariah” and infantile in his approach before departing to take his career elsewhere . Granger alongside Roy Hibbert , David West , Paul George , Darren Collison and George Hill have given the Pacers’ fans something finally to believe in.

Now while Magic Johnson has been center stage as the new owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers . The former NBA great whose career in the league was something to behold , with his greatest adversary during his epic playing years being none other Boston Celtics’ great Larry Bird . Their classic encounters propelled the NBA into the ” big time “ and made the brand a staple for the fans long before Michael Jordan would then become the “icon” and face of the NBA . And while Jordan has become an owner of the now failing …. Charlotte Bobcats and where his failures as front office executive have far exceeded his successes. It has been Bird who has excelled in that capacity as the general manager of the Pacers under the ownership of Herb Simon and his family . Larry Bird as general manager has simply done things in his own way , looking to bring back the years of acclaim when Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson made the franchise prominent and slayed the ” dragon “ who at the time just happened to be the New York Knicks .

Bird would like nothing better than to emulate his former teammate Danny Ainge who as the current general manager of the Boston Celtics’ franchise guided the organization to their most recent success as champions of the NBA in 2008 when they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers (4-2) . The Celtics under the reaffirmed presence of Kevin Garnett and the best point guard …. playing in the NBA at present , Rajon Rondo , the ” heart “ and soul “ of the team at present . If anyone doubts that claim concerning Rondo then consider the fact of productive output this season and the fact he accounts for more than half of the “triple doubles ” notched up in the NBA during this season and has garnered himself several “double doubles” over the course of the of the Celtics’ schedule .

Now while the Indiana Pacers sit some eight games behind the Chicago Bulls within the Central Division , with records being what they the Pacers’ schedule now becomes somewhat tenuous as it now winds down with 8 games to be played before the culmination of the regular season on the 26th April 2012 . The Indiana Pacers most certainly would like nothing better than to sweep through that schedule and add to their tally of season wins . Coming off a 104-98 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Quicken Loans Arena in , Cleveland , Ohio , the Pacers now have a return engagement with Byron Scotts’ …. team at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana , Indianapolis this Friday which just happens to be the 13th April 2012 . And hopefully it will not cast any omens of bad luck upon the teams playing at their home venues on this date .

Now while I have always been impressed with the play of Danny Granger I always felt that he was being stifled by the sheer contempt of his former teammate Jermaine O’Neal and the very fact that the talents of Granger upon his entry into the NBA in 2005 where he was drafted 17th overall in the first round of the draft that year. To my mind it also had a lot to do with the fact that the coaches Rick Carlisle and his successor Jim O’Brien who at the time who oversaw his career never truly appreciated or understood what they had within their midst . Granted, early in his career Granger had his problems but much of that had to do with the fact that the coaching staff may not have had enough faith in the young player. It took the hiring of Frank Vogel to fully appreciate the talents of Granger and with the obvious judicious drafting of players by Larry Bird seems to have the Indiana Pacers now heading in the right direction .

Roy Hibbert for his part has impressed many with his play and growing signs of maturity . So much so , the young center who was drafted by the Toronto Raptors in the 2008 NBA Draft , seventeenth overall in the first .round but somehow he didn’t seem to fit in within the Raptors’ organization . But he was then traded by the Toronto Raptors in exchange for the troubled Jermaine O’Neal , who has in essence become a nomad during the latter part of his NBA career . Frank Vogel and his coaching staff have certainly not been given the credit they truly deserve . They have this team playing with a great deal of resolve averaging offensively 96.81 ppg (5th in the Eastern Conference) and with a point differential of +2.72 with the team being indeed very proficient when scoring 100 points or more during a game . And from a defensive standpoint the Indiana Pacers are second only to the Chicago Bulls within the Eastern Conference and within the NBA overall they are amongst the more efficient teams overall in allowing 94.1ppg . .

With the postseason approaching and due to commence on the 28th April it will be interesting to see what those potential first round match-ups will be based upon the current standings and the projected year-end results . The Indiana Pacers would play hosts to the Orlando Magic (34-24) , team that in recent weeks has been plagued by a great deal of uncertainty , with the infantile behavior of both Dwight Howard and head coach Stan Van Gundy . And though the Magic do hold a 3-1 season series lead over their conference rivals. I would suggest that for the Magic , given their recent displays and lack of real cohesive consistency that match-up could end up being their own undoing . I have long-held the contention that while Stan Van Gundy is a good regular season coach but come the postseason he tends to be like a deer caught in headlights . As for Dwight Howard , at this juncture and stage of his career , I am not so sure that the commitment is there for him to give it his all in the support of the Orlando Magic franchise ! And though in their last meeting at the Amway Center , in Orlando , Florida was something of a lopsided thirteen point loss (107-94) for the Indiana Pacers , with Dwight Howard leading all scorers with 30 pts and 13 rebounds . Paul George led the Pacers in scoring 22 points and eight assists for the game . .

While I am in no doubt that this potential first round will be a highly competitive one , it is my belief that the Magic though highly favored can’t truly be considered the favorites , albeit that it just happens to be the Indiana Pacers who has the better conference and divisional record of the two teams in question . The Pacers’ playoff history though littered with some memorable moments have been few and in between . But with their last postseason appearance being 2010-2011 playoffs where a first round series’ loss (4-1) to the Chicago Bulls ended their foray in the postseason. The Indiana Pacers in the 2010-11 season posted a 37-45 .. record good enough for the eighth seed within the conference . It has been the resolve shown by Vogel to get his team playing with the determination that would see a gradual progress that has been exhibited this season .

As to the fans of the Indiana Pacers with a team has created a great deal of excitement within the state and being a surprise draw within the league this season , beyond that of the Indiana Hoosiers’ basketball program and the last decade of unprecedented success of the state’s NFL franchise the Indianapolis Colts , whom over that period of time was led by the four-time league MVP Peyton Manning . With the player having departed as a free agent to join the Denver Broncos . It has to be said that the excitement one would come to expect may well have ceased . And even with the anticipated belief that the front office will make the decision to take Andrew Luck as the consensus number one overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft (2012) . It has to be stated that the Colts are now a work in progress as they build for the future having shed players superfluous to their needs .

Tom Crean has the Hoosiers’ program heading in the right direction and that was certainly on display during the season and reflected in the play of the team . Indiana may well be about basketball and its legacy has been well chronicled that of the Hoosiers and the accomplishments of Bobby Knight . It is hoped that the fans of the game within the state can now show some real enthusiasm towards the NBA franchise .

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What if anything has surprised you concerning the NBA season from its starting on Christmas Day 2011 and the results of that day to what you have seen up until now ? Also are you of the opinion that the Indiana Pacers can be viewed as a serious threat during the postseason ? Simply chime in with a comment on this and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter herein . Thanks as always for your continued support of this site throughout the years , as it has been greatly appreciated !

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(1) Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott talks to guard Lester Hudson in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Cleveland. Hudson scored 19 points in Cleveland’s 104-98 overtime loss to Indiana. AP Photo/Mark Duncan

(2) Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel complains about a call to referee Greg Willard in overtime during an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Cleveland. The Pacers won 104-98. AP Photo/Mark Duncan …

(3) Cleveland Cavaliers’ Samardo Samuels and Indiana Pacers’ Danny Granger , right, scramble for a loose ball in overtime during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Cleveland. The Pacers won 104-98 . AP Photo/Mark Duncan ……

(4) (4) Indiana Pacers’ Roy Hibbert , left, blocks a shot by Cleveland Cavaliers’ Alonzo Gee in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Cleveland. AP Photo/Mark Duncan …

(5) (L-R) Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson answer questions during a news conference to relive their 1979 NCAA Championship Game between Indiana State (Sycamores) and Michigan State before the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship game at Ford Field on April 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. Getty Images North America / Gregory Shamus …. (6) Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are seen here prior to a game between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers . Johnson and his teammates would go on to defeat the Celtics …. 104-87 . AFP/Reuters archives .

(7) ATLANTA, GA – MARCH 23: Will Sheehey (10) of the Indiana Hoosiers reacts after fouling out against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half during the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images …

(8) Head coach Tom Crean of the Indiana Hoosiers talks to Victor Oladipo (4) in the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

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And now for something completely different , something nice and tasty ! Your thoughts ? Meet Keeley Hazell . My , oh my ! What’s not to like ? .

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And So It Begins ……….. The NBA Playoffs Are Here …….

And So It Begins ……….. The NBA Playoffs Are Here …….

The NBA postseason is almost upon us and the first round of games beginning this upcoming Saturday the 16th April . But on a side note it cannot have escaped the latest incident whereby NBA Commissioner David Stern had to impose a severe $100,000 fine on the Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant for using a derogatory homophobic term towards a referee during the Lakers’ game against the San Antonio Spurs . I’ve always felt that far too many of today’s athletes are nothing more than a bunch of entitled primadona self absorbed idiots who think themselves above the law and above the rules that govern their game ! Bryant seems to be no different and his less than contrite apology speaks volumes as to the player’s immaturity at this juncture .

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The Lakers’ season has now become all the more tenuous when it was announced that their center Andrew Bynum has a recurring knee injury that could very well sideline him for initial part of the first round of these playoffs. A match-up against the New Orleand Hornets has all the semblance of a potential upset if the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t fully prepared for their task against the Chris Paul and David West led Hornets . This will be a match-up of styles and though many feel that the Lakers are the more athletic of the two teams I personally believe that the Lakers’ Achilles’ heel is that their bench lacks real depth ! The likes of Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff on paper may well look impressive but in actuality , do they actually strike fear into anyone much less you as a fan ? Admittedly , the Lakers may well this season’s potential Sixth Man of the Year in Lamar Odom but beyond that the roster in terms of its bench has nothing . The team’s greatest strength is that of their duo Pau Gasol and Bryant himself who leads the team in scoring .

Courtesy of NBA.com

NBA fines Kobe $100,000 for apparent slur toward ref

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 on Wednesday for using a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee’s call.

NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a swift disciplinary ruling after the Los Angeles Lakers’ five-time NBA champion guard cursed and used the homophobic slur when referee Bennie Adams called a technical foul on him Tuesday night in the third quarter of a victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

“Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable,” Stern said. “While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. … Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”

Stern’s action drew praise from gay-rights organizations that had demanded a fuller apology from Bryant and condemnation of his words by the Lakers. Bryant, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying his words came strictly out of anger and shouldn’t be taken literally.

“We applaud Commissioner Stern and the NBA for not only fining Bryant but for recognizing that slurs and derogatory comments have no place on the basketball court or in society at large,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said. “We hope such swift and decisive action will send a strong and universal message that this kind of hateful outburst is simply inexcusable no matter what the context.”

Bryant’s words and actions were captured by TNT’s cameras during the network’s national broadcast of the Lakers’ regular-season home finale.

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A patron (JW aka Dubs) of my site had posed the question to me who amongst the teams in the Western Conference would simply be good enough to derail the hopes of the Lakers in the off-season ? My response to him ___ was , that should the Lakers and Spurs meet in the conference finals it would not be beyond the realms of possibility to see the Lakers succumb to Gregg Popovich coached Spurs . The equalizing factor may well be the two head coaches in Phil Jackson and Popovich who between them have won nine of the last fifteen NBA titles since 1996 . If that’s not accounting for the dominance of these two coaches and their respective teams , someone needs to explain to me what is.

The seedings within the Western Conference has worked itself out coming into the last week of the regular season schedule with the San Antonio Spurs sewing up the number one seed followed by the Lakers , Dallas Mavericks , Oklahoma City Thunder , Denver Nuggets , Portland Trailblazers , New Orleans Hornets and finally the Memphis Grizzlies .

The Eastern Conference played itself out with the Chicago Bulls taking the number one overall seed much to the surprise of many who may well have felt that Tom Thibodeau’s young team led by MVP candidate Derrick Rose weren’t yet ready to be viewed amongst the elite teams within the conference. Instead we had the inconsistency shown by the Celtics , Heat and Magic all thought to be potential leading candidates for the conference’s number one seed. But the inconsistency shown by those trio of teams over the course of the season opened the door for the Chicago Bulls their successful regular season.

Rose for his part ably abetted by Luol Deng , Joakim Noah , Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer have all played their part resurrecting the fortunes of the ball-club from those lofty days when Phil Jackson was the coach and Michael Jordan was leading the organization to their numerous triumphs . The question now being asked by the faithful Bulls’ fans who’ve attended the home games at the United Center is whether or not this team is actually capable of winning this season’s NBA title. This postseason may well go a long way in answering those questions and a great deal more not only about the Chicago Bulls also as to the aspirations of several other teams within the Eastern Conference. Undoubtedly the coaching acumen of Tom Thibodeau as coach of the Bulls has to be admired and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him being rewarded with the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award as he’d be thoroughly deserving of the award !

It goes without saying that while the Miami Heat were obviously viewed as the prohibitive favorites within the Eastern Conference merely because of the Pat Riley off-season engineered moves amongst the free agents on the market _____ many felt that the Heat would walk away with the conference. You even had the asinine notion being raised by none other than former coach Jeff Van Gundy and former Knicks’ point guard Mark Jackson that this incarnation of the Miami Heat would be able to challenge the Bulls’ single season record of 72 wins . In essence both Jackson and Van Gundy were enamored with style over substance rather than what was tangible and in front of their very eyes. And hence ,it’s one of the primary reasons why I tend not to take anything that they have to say about the NBA with any sense of intelligence. Because it’s as if duo had a man crush on LeBron James and this team rather than looking at their body of work over the course of the season . Gullible and unintelligent would simply sum up their knowledge and the asinine prognostications that they’ve made about this team and what they thought was actually possible.

Now while I believe that the Heat stands as good a chance as any of the deemed favorites within the Eastern Conference , I firmly believe that if they’re to prevail then the play of their main trio of James , Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will have to be at a heightened level with the role players on this roster also stepping up their game . If they’re able to do that then it’s my belief that they can prevail within the conference but given the relative postseason inexperience of the team’s coach Erik Spoelstra it could well be that in part that they will struggle along the way as the team’s postseason efforts evolve. My firm opinion is that the top four seeds within the Eastern Conference will be the conference semi finalists and that the match-ups there will go along way in suggesting who we are likely to see in the conference finals .

If there is to be a surprise to be had in the first round of this season’s playoffs I do believe that it could come at the hands if the New York Knicks pushing the Boston Celtics for all their worth. And though this Knicks’ team leaves a great deal to be desired in terms of their defensive efforts there’s no denying that offensively they can stand toe to toe with just about any high scoring team left in these playoffs. GM Donnie Walsh in acquring Amar’e Stoudemire , Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups made sure that the team was at least capable of competing but there’s little to suggest that there’s now that consistency sought to actually make that one big push in the postseason. But herein lies the caveat once the postseason comes around everything indeed appears to be on a level playing home field advantage or not , and I do believe that both Anthony and Stoudemire wish to prove the team’s doubters wrong.

The Boston Celtics with a mix of some youth and veteran experience seem to relish the postseason and in Doc Rivers they have a coach who knows how to coax the best out of his players. But as I’ve repeatedly said to a number of patrons who’ve proffered an opinion on the team , it’s my belief that GM Danny Ainge made a profound mistake trading both Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson and getting very little in return. The duo of Perkins and Robinson were two of the unsung heroes on this roster . Unfortunately, they have an aging pair of seemingly unproductive players in Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal whom I believe will offer very little beyond their experience in the league. I know Shaq has five rings to his name but in reality after his decade and a half in the NBA, he’s no longer the once potent offsensive player he once was. And to my mind Jermaine O’Neal is literally robbing the Celtics blind while offering little in return !

Now while I’m really looking forward to the postseason it goes without saying that what I truly do hope to see are some very competitive series that are adjudicated by the officials with a great deal of impartiality and sound judgment rather than the usual quantity of blown calls and rather insidious wish of theirs to place themselves in the midst of a series, as if they’re indeed part of an ensemble cast. I’ve always felt that a great game is one where you see very little of the officials and more of the players exhibiting their skills and athleticism ! More often than not once the NBA postseason comes around you tend to see little of the latter and more of the referees interjecting themselves into a game or series for all of the wrong reasons that in the end tends to create more controversy than there really needs to be.

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you have on this upcoming postseason and what if any are you really looking forward to seeing in terms of the teams playing ? Simply chime in with a comment on your thoughts on the NBA postseason . As a bye note are you also in agreement with the fine imposed on Kobe Bryant after his display , pointed and heated comments at a referee during the Lakers’ game against the Spurs ? Once again do leave a comment concerning that incident also.

Alan aka tophatal …………….

https://tophatal.wordpress.com/

Picture and slide show details below .
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(1) Sacramento Kings fan Ralph Miller IV, 9, holds a sign conveying his sentiments during the Sacramento Kings NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 13, 2011. The Maloof family, majority owners of the Kings, are expected to go to New York later this week to ask the NBA permission to move the team to Anaheim. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli ………………

(2) (L-R) Tiago Splitter(22), George Hill (3) , Chris Quinn (11) , Steve Novak(23) , and Gary Neal(14) of the San Antonio Spurs look on against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California . NBAE/Getty Images/ Andrew D Bernstein ….

(3) Andrew Bynum (17) of the Los Angeles Lakers grimaces after an injury against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images / Harry How ……….

(4) 12: Kobe Bryant(24) of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots as he is defended by Tiago Splitter(22) and Richard Jefferson(24) of the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California . Getty Images/ Harry How …….

(5) CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 13: of the Chicago Bulls of the New Jersey Nets at the United Center on April 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Nets 97-92 . Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images ……

(6) Carlos Boozer(5) of the Chicago Bulls is called for charging as he hits Dan Gadzuric(50) of the New Jersey Nets at the United Center on April 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois . Getty Images/ Johnathan Daniels ……..

(7) ‘The Three Stooges’ Jeff Van Gundy, right, appears comfortable with his broadcast partners Mark Jackson, left, and Mike Breen. Breen says of Van Gundy, “He’s even smiling sometimes.” . I’m not so sure that the trio mightn’t be the worse on air analysts covering the NBA either on broadcast or cable network today ! What they believe they provide in , insight , is simply dulled by their ineptitude and stupidity with the belief that they’re also funny ! Courtesy of ESPN / Scott Clarke …….

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NBA News

NBA Officials …… (Referees)

NBA Hierarchy

NBA Team Statistics (Team by Team Stats)

NBA Standings Season Finale (Conference)

Standings by Division

NBA Team Statistics Defense

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NBA Playoff Matchups

Eastern Conference

(1) Chicago Bulls …. vs …. (8) Indiana Pacers

(2) Miami Heat …. vs ….. (7) Philadelphia 76ers

(3) Boston Celtics ……vs …… (6) New York Knicks

(4) Orlando Magic ….. vs ….. (5) Atlanta Hawks

Western Conference

(1) San Antonio Spurs ….. vs …… (8) Memphis Grizzlies

(2) Los Angeles Lakers ….. vs ….. (7) New Orleans Hornets

(3) Dallas Mavericks ….. vs ….. (6) Portland Trailblazers

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder ….. vs ….. (5) Denver Nuggets

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