Make a believer out of me ….

Make a believer out of me

The NBA off-season has been filled with blood , sweat and tears , as teams have gone about bolstering their rosters with a plethora of high and low-profiled free agents . Said to be the biggest acquisition of the off-season, Dwight Howard`s none too surprising departure from Los Angeles to Houston, drew a few jeers, snickers and some laughter . I believe it further proves that Howard simply cannot function in the glare of the spotlight or lead to a team to any measure of success. Now, it must be said that this was indeed a bold move on the part of the Houston Rockets ` GM Daryl Morey . A move approved by team owner, Leslie Alexander and head coach Kevin McHale . The beleaguered center joins a talented team , led by James Harden and point guard Jeremy Lin . It will be interesting to see how the newly revamped Rockets will fare against many of the top ranked teams within the Western Conference as well the rest of the NBA this upcoming season.

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If you are going to play by the rules, then do so and not act under the pretense of not fully understanding the cap responsibilities or that a team cannot add incentives to a player`s tat circumvent cap restrictions . The Brooklyn Nets, in a deal to acquire unrestricted free agent Andrei Kirilenko , sought to add incentives by way of a back-door method , clearly in violation of NBA rules . However , when this all came to light, it would appear that Nets GM Billy King and team owner , Russian investment tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov backed off the original elements of that deal.

The signing of Kirilenko to a one-year mid-level $3.1 million contract seems all the more baffling when you consider that Kirilekno earned $10 million in 2012. It has to be said, that mid-level deals are prevalent within the NBA and are part of its inner workings . Yet, one has to consider also the signing of the player will push the Nets` payroll for the upcoming season to in excess of $103 million, far in excess of the current league soft salary cap of $58 million . By that measure, were the cap to remain at its current level , the Nets would have to pay a luxury tax of $45 million for the 2013-14 seasons. Given the vast resources at Prokhorov’s disposal, and his estimated wealth of $13 billion , making him by far in a way the league`s richest owner . Beyond wanting success , it would appear that the mantra for the billionaire , is by any means necessary , no matter what the cost .

The Brooklyn Nets having also acquired aging veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce , are a team being built to contend and quite possibly win this upcoming season. The stars were brought in to bolster what appears to be very good roster on paper , but somehow, during the post-season they failed to live up to expectations. I simply believe that beyond Deron Williams , Brook Lopez and an enigmatic Joe Johnson , there does not seem to be a great deal to this team.

The Nets` newly installed head coach Jason Kidd and his coaching staff will be hard pressed to get this team playing at a level , consistent enough to place them on par with the likes of the Miami Heat , New York Knicks , Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers … within the Eastern Conference . Kidd , with a wealth of experience as a player , now has to corral the talents of a team , that at best, can be described as having under-achieved in 2012 . Yet, the new additions to the roster can either create false hope or become a cohesive unit good enough to take on all-comers . Next season should provide us all with the answers we seek . The rookies drafted by the franchise will learn a great deal from their head coach , a former player still revered by his peers and fans alike , for his work ethic and brilliance on a basketball court .

With the pre-season to the NFL opening , less than three weeks away , so much of the news that as encompassed the league has been about the arrests of not only a number of players but also senior executives from an NFL franchise . It would appear that the NFL is now also becoming associated , not only with the athletic feats of the players on the field , but what they now seem to be capable doing off the field , as it relates to breaking the law . From misdemeanors to capital murder , no stone seems to have been left unturned , in terms of the crimes committed. In the midst of it all , NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and is union counterpart DeMaurice Smith remain as quiet as docile church mice. It is now pretty much safe to say, all of the piety and pomposity from bot of these executives have begun to alienate the fans , just as much as the narcissistic and deviant behavior of the players . I mean , how else can you explain their silence and their being no sense of outrage ? In reality , the less said by both, perhaps the better off we all are, because at this juncture , neither Roger Goodell or DeMaurice Smith can be taken seriously in terms of their respective roles within the NFL !

We are all aware as to the off-the field issues faced by the New England Patriots with the arraignment and indictment of Aaron Hernandez on a charge of felony first degree murder, as well as , possibly being a complicit accomplice in two unsolved homicides . A second Patriots` player, corner-back , Alfonzo Dennard was arrested on a DUI charge , but the defensive stalwart of the team`s secondary now knows that if he is charged with this particular criminal act , he faces a double whammy , because as a two-time offender , with another sentence due to be served for assaulting a law enforcement officer. Alfonzo Dennard`s fate may not only rests in the hands of the justice system , but also at the behest of team owner Robert Kraft, who has now witnessed the franchise`s name and reputation being dragged through the mud.

Often thought to be one of the better ran organizations around the NFL . In the past two-and a half weeks the New England Patriots` franchise has gone from being the pride of the NFL , to an organization now more known to harbor deviants and miscreants . Are the Patriots in need of a makeover at this juncture ? And here am I thinking, the biggest drama to be had for the franchise, was the signing of Tim Tebow and the speculation , as to where he stood on the team`s depth chart behind Tom Brady. Less about that, and now more about , what the hell can the organization now do to regain its composure and raise its profile back to an acceptable status ?

With Hernandez now being held without bond , the likelihood of his trial not taking place until late into the season or quite possibly in early November or late December . One could attest to the fact that head coach Bill Belichick now faces a real dilemma . The team`s other tight-end tandem of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, of which the latter , is still recuperating, having undergone back and arm surgery . Those challenges asides, the likes of Julian Edelman , Danny Amendola , Stevan Ridley will be asked to step up to the plate in order for the offense to remain formidable and potent . While we are all aware as to the troubles on defense for the Patriots . I do believe that this season the team in its present guise will be able to make some giant strides It is unclear whether or not he can be a willing participant in the Patriots` preseason schedule as well as the regular season opener for the team. As things now stand, with all of the trials and tribulations now surrounding the Patriots at present . It now brings the franchise a great deal closer back to the pack within the AFC East . Yet, by no means should we entirely count out New England , who have made the division their own personal domain over the past decade .

One year wiser and with an influx of talent by way of the draft as well their free agency acquisitions , we should be able to see New England raise their standing as a defensive presence . Last season`s woes , during the regular and post-season were a nightmare , most notably so, were the team`s failings in the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens . Joe Flacco was instrumental in dissecting the defense and making it look extremely mediocre . Then again, during the post-season , which teams did the Ravens` quarterback not make look ordinary from a defensive standpoint , as he and the Ravens marched on the Superbowl ?

Personally , I have never placed much faith in the NFL pre-season as those games are primarily staged for the purpose of assessing draft picks and veteran acquisitions seeking to make mark for their respective teams. If anything , what I am looking forward to seeing, is how the New England Patriots will fare through the first four games of their regular season schedule . As I believe that will be a true indicator and test as to how the team will fare over the course of their season . Those games will be against in week one , the Buffalo Bills , week two , the New York Jets , week three , Tampa Bay Buccaneers and finally in week four , the Atlanta Falcons . If they can come out of those four games with a 3-1 mark , then it is my belief that the team can win the division as well as having a winning record , with no more than twelve games being good enough to win the AFC East outright.

Baseball has begun its mid-season showcase with their All Star Game festivities . Meanwhile, a giant cloud has been cast over the game that is likely to cause a major upheaval within baseball and for the remainder of the season . Bud Selig`s lax stewardship of the game has seen its image deteriorate , alienating the fans and in many cases a mass withdrawal in attendance for a number of teams, with a decline for a number of games. . The fact that the names of several major stars have been linked to the scandal plagued South Florida firm Biogenesis and its now indictment of owner , Anthony Bosch .

The landscape of the divisional and wildcard races will be severely altered should MLB carry out their measures of suspending these players for as many as one hundred games . The commissioner has simply been living in a delusional vacuum over the past decade . And even with adopting what he believes to be the strictest testing policy in all of professional team sports , baseball still remains plagued by steroid cheats, and there has not been a damn thing done by the league hierarchy to abate the problem. The rescinding of Ryan Braun`s suspension in 2012 , simply was proof of that , with Bud Selig being overly critical of the arbitrator who presided over the case . Selig would have been better off level is criticism at the testing facility who mishandled the player`s test samples . Yet, this was something ignored by this buffoon , who continues to make a complete ass of himself as baseball`s highest ranking executive .

As great a spectacle as the event is meant to be , it will mean nothing in the end, whichever of the two leagues prevails in the game on Tuesday night at Citi-Field in Flushing , New York . Baseball placed itself in this predicament , simply because they are afraid of and to deal with the power of the MLBPA (union) . And the very fact that many the game`s high-profiled stars have seen fit to stand idly by , as the game is besmirched by fellow players , who simply have no wish to abide by the rules of the game or its tenets of a sport with a now tainted image.

Baseball was privileged to have its second no-hitter of the season , as Tim Lincecum pitched a complete game in the San Francisco Giants` victory over the San Diego Padres in a lopsided 9-0 win on Saturday afternoon . The fact that the Padres would rebound from that loss to defeat the Giants the following day with an astounding 10-1 victory , tells you how diabolical the NL West division just happens to be this season . There is a scarcity of great baseball being played within the division in spite of the recent run by what appears to a resurgent Los Angeles Dodgers . Much of that has come down to the heroics of their rookie phenom Yasiel Puig . Tim Lincecum can now add a no-hitter to his already impressive resume` as being a two-time Cy Young winner with the Giants as well as a two-time World Series champion with the ball-club.

At 43-51 , the defending World Series champions now find themselves 9 ½ games out of the wild-card play and some 6 ½ games out first place within the division . One could point to the fact that injuries have played their part in the woes of the Giants , but a great deal of the team`s dilemma has come from inconsistent pitching and a woefully inept offense . Bruce Bochy and his staff will now have to muster all of their guile if the team is to have any chance of playing themselves into contention and the possibility of winning their third World Series title in four years.

As the praise is now being heaped upon the shoulders of Chris Davis and his play this season for the Baltimore Orioles . I can`t help but wonder how the purists can overlook the achievements of Raul Ibanez . As a forty-one year old, the Seattle Mariners` slugger has recorded his tenth consecutive season of fifteen or more home runs alongside at least fifty runs batted in . All but a select few players at that age,have achieved that feat , and a number of those in question were destined for the Hall of Fame .

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Picture gallery.

While no one questions the fortitude of Ibanez , doubts have come into question concerning Chris Davis` record breaking season in terms of his home runs tally , which leads the Majors with at thirty-seven home runs . Personally , I have long-held the contention that ever since Barry Bonds obliterated the single season home runs` mark , nothing is out the realms of being possible, as it relates to such feats ! possibility . Davis may well continue to deny any wrongdoing on his part , but I have yet to hear the player himself, be even remotely critical of his peers associated with the era of steroids and cheating. So make of it , what you will .Your thoughts on this, and anything else you believe pertinent to the subject matter ?

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tophatal ……. 07/15/2013

Picture and slide show details below .

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(1)Dwight Howard, center, poses for a group photo with, from left, Yao Ming , Ralph Sampson , Hakeem Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes after he was introduced as the newest member of the Houston Rockets during ceremonies at Toyota Center on Saturday, July 13, 2013, in Houston. The free agent officially joined the Rockets with a news conference and public rally. AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool …

(2) Dwight Howard smiles as he addresses a press conference where he was introduced as the newest member of the Houston Rockets during ceremonies at Toyota Center on Saturday, July 13, 2013, in Houston. The free agent officially joined the Rockets with a news conference and public rally. AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool ….

(3) In this Jan. 11, 2013, photo, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko (47) drives past New Orleans Hornets forward Al-Farouq Aminu during a basketball game in New Orleans. A person with knowledge of the deal says the Brooklyn Nets have agreed to a contract with Kirilenko. The person, speaking Thursday, July 11, 2013, on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced, says Kirilenko has accepted the taxpayer’s mid-level exception worth about $3.2 million. The contract includes a player option for the second year. AP Photo/Bill Haber ….

(4) Alfonzo Dennard leaves a Lincoln Nebraska Courthouse, with his attorney , having been found guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer in Lincoln, Nebraska . YNETH ROBERTS/THE JOURNAL-STAR/AP

(5) San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum is bent over as water hits the crowd of Giant players celebrating Lincecum’s no-hitter over the San Diego Padres in a baseball game in San Diego, Saturday, July 13, 2013. Tim Lincecum has thrown his first career no-hitter and the second in the majors in 11 days, a gem saved by a spectacular diving catch by right fielder Hunter Pence in the San Francisco Giants’ 9-0 win against the last-place San Diego Padres on Saturday night. AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi …

(6)Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis follows through on a two-run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays in the third inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 14, 2013, in Baltimore. It was Davis’ 37th this season. AP Photo/Gail Burton …

(7) Seattle Mariners’ Raul Ibanez (28) doubles in a run as Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta looks on in the fifth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, July 14, 2013, in Seattle. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson …

(8) Raul Ibanez (28) of the Seattle Mariners hits his second home run of the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on July 12, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. Otto Gruele Jr/Getty Images ….

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