Going for broke ……..

Going for broke

I find it simply amazing the gullibility of today`s sports fan and a belief that they seem to have that because a franchise owner (NBA) is steeped in billions . There is no simplicity to the madness, that an owner can simply spend tens of millions of dollars on talent, in seeking to gain success overnight. Rarely has that been known to happen overnight and more often than not , the franchise itself may well have lost just as much as the owner has spent in acquiring the athletes to fulfill their dreams. Nowhere has this been more self-explanatory than with the fortunes of the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat in recent years . The two franchises in question are the winners of the last three NBA titles . Team owners Mark Cuban and Micky Arison are amongst the wealthiest owners in North American sports , with their names to be found amongst the Forbes` 400 wealthiest Americans. That in of-itself, is by no means a guarantee of their alleged successes as owners of a sport`s franchise. For years, both the Heat and Mavericks toiled in the obscurity of the NBA, as other more illustrious franchises held the limelight and the glare of the spotlight before attaining the success denoted in their respective histories.

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For the Dallas Mavericks after a disappointing season , during which the team posted a 41-41 record , good enough for tenth place in the Western Conference . The front office led by GM Donn Nelson and head coach Rick Carlisle , in conjunction with Mark Cuban sought to revamp the roster of last season , in the hope of building a competitive contender for the upcoming year . What has become abundantly clear with the Mavericks` owner in recent years , was that money was of no object , as he chose to offer king`s ransom to any player willing to sign with the Texas-based franchise . At the height of the executives` capricious spending in seeking to lure some of the top-flight free agents , Mavericks` payroll was as high as $92.5 million during the 2008-09 season . As the sixth seed for that year in the Western Conference , the team would meet the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA Playoffs . The Mavericks` foray in the postseason would be short-lived as they would fall to the Denver Nuggets in the conference semi-finals 4-1 .

Fueled by that loss, Mark Cuban continually spent money unwisely in the chase for that elusive first NBA title, and along the way racking up losses for the Mavericks` franchise in excess of $103 million . Now one should bear in mind also that the NBA did have a soft salary cap in place , with teams exceeding the cap being penalized under the luxury tax penalty structure. . For the teams who sought to exceed that cap , NBA Commissioner David Stern and the league hierarchy continued to sell the fans a “ bill of goods“ , knowing full well that the financial health of the league`s teams were nowhere as healthy as he was trying to suggest . Between 2009 and 2011 the league`s executive committee ( hierarchy) sought financing from major financial institutions to aid teams around the NBA , who were said to suffering acute financial problems . The sum borrowed exceeded over $515 million . At the time , NBA Commissioner David Stern stated that … “monies received by these franchises should not be viewed as a bailout , but merely a way to aid the teams overcome what had been a difficult period for the NBA in the midst of an economic downturn that was adversely affecting the country “ . So good to know that at the time the league could avail itself over of a half billion dollars ($500,000,000) , while small businesses around the country could not be facilitated with a small business loan . Your thoughts on that specifically ? From 2003 to 2011 , the NBA and its teams have received financing exceeding $2.3 billion ($2,300,000,000) and yet it would appear that the greed of the league and its owners seem almost boundless .

The 2010-11 season would see the rise of the Dallas Mavericks , as the team led by Dirk Nowitzki , would finally slay the dragon , on their way to a rather surprising Finals` victory (4-2) over the highly favored Miami Heat , who were at the time were led by their trio of NBA All Stars , LeBron James , Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh . What took place during those series of games was a testament to the strength of the Mavericks and what I believe to be the sheer arrogance and complacency of the players on the Heat`s roster . Nowitzki would come away with the Finals` MVP award and adding to his legacy as perhaps the best European to have played in the NBA during its history.

This upcoming season the Dallas Mavericks will be built around Dirk Nowitzki as the central focus point of a team looking to get younger . As to how they will fare against much younger and far more athletic rosters within the Western Conference will be predicated upon the defensive and offensive capabilities , and how they are able to play in transition . The veteran forward will be looked upon to be and provide a large part of the team`s offensive productivity, Something that the player has been able provide for the franchise over the majority of his career. And it is proof , to the testament of his game and the longevity of his career.

The NBA Draft of 2003, literally provided the NBA with a plethora of stars , that over the past decade have provided the league with one of its richest era during the NBA`s existence . If you simply peruse the list of players taken over the first two rounds , you can see undeniably, that a number of those stars players are still around and very productive within the NBA. . Granted , there were a few hits and misses made by a number of teams in the assessment of the players drafted .

Lebron James taken number one overall, by the Cleveland Cavaliers would be followed by Darko Milicic , taken by the Detroit Pistons . A pick that many believe was so stupid in the sheer gullibility and lack of thought made by Pistons` GM Joe Dumars . The pick would set the franchise back for a number of years , due to Milicic`s lack of productivity , but the Pistons would somehow come through to pull off what I believe to the biggest upsets in NBA Finals` history over the past two decades , when they simply outplayed the Los Angeles Lakers on their way to the 2004 NBA Finals` championship (4-1) .

The Miami Heat`s success in acquiring their first title was built around the premise and skill-set of Dwyane Wade and surrounding him with players complementary of his skills . Wade along with center Shaquille O`Neal , Jason Williams , Gary Payton , Alonzo Mourning , Michael Doleac , Dorell Wright and other role players . Then head coach Stan Van Gundy would be ousted from his position in 2006, as the team would go on to make that season`s NBA Finals. While the controversy concerning Van Gundy`s ouster had more to do with is souring relationship with central figures O`Neal and Wade . It was widely known, that Heat team President Pat Riley sought one last shot at winning a title as a head coach. Riley denies that Van Gundy`s ouster was anything more than his desire to return to a head coaching role. Riley would excel in leading the Miami Heat to their first NBA title along with Wade`s bravura postseason performances that would also see him garner a Finals` MVP award as the team derailed the hopes of the Dallas Mavericks that season .

Micky Arison and Pat Riley would not let team expenditure in terms of the payroll be a hindrance to what was their ultimate goal . Winning that elusive first title would prove to be profitable, but also create even bigger problems going into that off-season . From a team high payroll of $119 million and with the salary cap of $49.5 million , Miami during the off-season paid just over $70 million to the league hierarchy in luxury taxes. Teams surpassing the cap figure were imposed with the customary dollar-for-dollar penalty, as mandated under the collective bargaining agreement. . The team`s payroll would drop from the aforementioned figure to a more manageable $78.2 million for the following season , but still remaining above the league mandated cap (soft salary cap) .

A patron of this site whose business acumen as such simply revolved around zeroes and the wealth of NBA franchise owners, was of the opinion that the Brooklyn Nets merely because of having acquired Kevin Garnett , Jason Terry and Paul Pierce would be a competitive franchise with the prowess of Deron Williams , Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez . The fact that the addition of the former Celtics trio adds an additional $33 million to the team`s already bloated payroll for the upcoming season which will be set at $ 102.7 million , ranking the Nets` payroll atop of the league`s thirty teams . In the past two seasons Nets` owner Mikhail Prokorov has squandered in excess of $250 million in payroll and luxury tax fees on a franchise , whose playoff run was a single appearance last season , that ended rather abruptly in a first round playoff series` loss , with the team itself , being less than competitive , lacking in leadership and any heart , in being able to play , even a modicum of defense during the postseason . Yet somehow, here was an individual now rather vainly and I do believe idiotically, trying to extol the virtues of a team where three aged veterans will not be able to truly contribute to a roster lacking in leadership and who will now have a rather inexperienced head coach at the helm, in Jason Kidd . The Brooklyn Nets are simply an organization looking to keep up with many of their more illustrious luminaries , while simply believing tat throwing money at an issue is the ultimately the best way to solve it , without showing any real knowledge of know what it is they are doing .

In the subsequent years between the Miami Heat winning first NBA title to successfully making a defense of their second title won in 2012. The franchise has seen a number of highs and lows . None more so, than the less than celebratory departure of Shaquille O`Neal and the we ill will between the player and the organization . During the intervening years , there have been multi-million dollar losses , $140 million u in total , upheaval of the rosters and a change of coaches. Pat Riley`s protege Erik Spoelstra succeeded Pat Riley in 2008 , and the young head coach brought a about a great deal of stability and , with the players buying into his coaching style and blend of youthful exuberance .

The biggest coup for the franchise however , was Pat Riley`s engineering of the deals that would bring both LeBron James and Chris Bosh to the team , along with the re-signing of Dwyane Wade. An immediate impact could be felt on the franchise’s bottom line and that proved to be fortuitous along with the astonishing rise in attendance for the organization . Teams at home facing the Miami Heat saw an immediate attendance spike , alongside concession sales . There is a unique business principle that comes into play , something I believe that is often overlooked by inane fans, simply making pronouncements about teams and their willingness to simply spend money on a whim . If you are going to make such a presumptive statement , at least have the temerity to back it up with something more substantive , than that is a good team, simply because of the makeup of the roster and the fact that the team`s owner has a great deal of money to spend . It simply shows ignorance and even more so, a lack of understanding about the economics of a sport that is not solely about X`s and O`s.

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LeBron James, since his entry into the NBA as proven to be everything the analysts and fans believed him to be. The accolades received, have been a testament to that fact , as his game has become more well-rounded , along with a leadership ability , the respect of his peers and the growing belief now , that he could very well over the next five or so years reach the unprecedented heights of surpassing almost every feat achieved by his boyhood idol Michael Jordan . There is no denying that James` decision to come to Miami, was not only of benefit to the player, but a major part in the turnaround of the franchise and the economic impact brought to the city, but quite possibly above all, to the NBA as a whole. James as now joined the rarefied air of being mentioned in the same as breath of many of the all-time greats within of the game . Justified or not, I will let you be the judge of that ! As to the statements made within this article , do you believe that the NBA can now continue on its current course, when so many of the teams choose to ignore the league`s soft salary cap ? Also , do bear in mind that in spite of the increased values of a number of the NBA franchises , a number of the organizations have acute financial issues , wherein profitability is their greatest concern . Your thoughts on this and anything else you believe pertinent to the subject matter? Chime in with a comment, as you see fit.

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Picture and slideshow gallery details below .
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(1) Pictured from left to right, are Miami Heat owner , Micky Arison , head coach Erik Spoelstra and team President Pat Riley. The trio celebrating the franchise`s 2012 triumph in winning their second NBA title . A feat that would be repeated again this past postseason with the Heat`s second consecutive title and third overall in the past six seasons . The Miami Heat hope to achieve their own historic three-peat by winning a third consecutive title in the 2013-14 season . The franchise is now a heavily backed favorite by the odds-makers in Atlantic City and Las Vegas , respectively. AP Photo /Bruce Moss …..

(2) Jason Kidd , left, is seen here alongside Dallas Mavericks` team owner Mark Cuban , head coach Rick Carlisle , Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. The group are pictured just after the franchise`s triumph over the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals . Getty Images / Kim Moran ….

(3) Mikhail Prokhorov team owner of the Brooklyn Nets is seen here with former minority stake owner in the NBA franchise , rapper and entrepreneur Jay-z . The entertainer has since sold his interest in the team back to Prokhorov , having become the founder and owner of sports` management company RocNation Sports , a full consultancy sports management firm sports marketing and promotions company , managing athletes and their business portfolios . Jay`z was also licensed as a certified sports agent by the NBA, WNBA , NFL , NHL , MLB . Prokorov for his part in conjunction with team general manager Billy King in the past two seasons have spent in excess of $ 375 million on team payroll and luxury taxes for a franchise , that has yet to progress beyond the first round of the postseason since he assumed control of the Brooklyn Nets . Getty Images / Mark McNair ….

(4) Carmelo Anthony , left is seen here with LeBron James on the night of the 2003 NBA Draft . The two players were drafted in the first round by the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers respectively , with James being the number one pick overall . NBAE/Getty Images / Christopher Riggins ….

(5) LeBron James and Michael Jordan . Comparisons are now being made between the two players and their respective careers . I believe that certain similarities can be made , but on making a call upon who is said to be the better player . It should and is best left to NBA historians after the career of James has ended , and then true comparisons can be made . Matte Inc . @ copyrighted material ……..

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NB: The NBA bailout , twenty-two of the league`s thirty teams were recipients of the funds disbursed during the years mentioned .

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tophatal ……….
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NBA news and archived stories

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NBA team payrolls and salary cap $58.044 million

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This month in NBA history (July) and August .

The ties that bind ….

The ties that bind ….

The toil and troubles we create and then seek to blame others for the mess created. In the world of baseball , the game`s hierarchy is now seeking to prove to the fans that they can be proactive in dealing with steroid cheats . Meanwhile, the NFL, the commissioner , Roger Goodell continues to act like a buffoon, while team owners continue to sit quietly, as players simply run amok. That being said , it is to be expected when the two unions in question the MLBPA and NFLPA are powerful enough to make the respective hierarchies in question , simply quiver in their boots .

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Much of this NFL off-season has been encapsulated by the events in New England , with the arrest of Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots . With no exact timetable set for the player`s murder trial, . he remains incarcerated , without bail and having not spoken to law enforcement in any great detail, as to the allegations of he and his two accomplices and their implication in the death of former associate Odin Lloyd . With Patriots` owner Bob Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick offering the family of the victim , their condolences as well as stating that this was a tragedy that could not have been foreseen . I would like to know what was it , that could not be foreseen as it related to the behavior of Hernandez, when it was widely known that the player had serious behavioral issues whilst in college, as well as a juvenile ? Furthermore, with the NFL hierarchy now suggesting that they will now conduct far more wide-reaching research into the backgrounds of the players drafted each season . It also begs the question, what were they actually doing prior?

The NFL pre-season is now merely less than a week away and a number of players will start their seasons in a new environment and with their new teammates. Before the actual seismic eruption within the Patriots` organization , the big story was the acquisition of free agent quarterback Tim Tebow . The fact that Bill Belichick has sought to take a flier on the player, either has more do with the coach’s ego or the fact that he truly believes that he can make a successful reclamation project out of the now infamous player. And as much as Tebow is beloved by fans and the public alike , I truly believe that this season with the Patriots will be nothing more than mere titillation, without anything of note being achieved by Tebow on the field of play.

Last season for the New York Jets can be best described as comedic in its tragedy and the very fact that Rex Ryan was lucky enough not to join the list of coaches fired at the end of the regular season . Poor 2012 performances , poor coaching and lack of leadership , all played a part in the Jets` downfall . Quarterback Mark Sanchez has now gone from being the face of the franchise to the now down on his luck and a besieged player with a great deal to prove not just in the pre-season , but most definitely in the regular season , as well. After a lackluster year in 2012 , with a string of woefully inept performances . It easy to understand why GM John Idzik took it upon himself to draft a quarterback , as well as revamping the roster from last season. If nothing else, turning over to a new page and chapter , is perhaps the best way forward for this beleaguered franchise .

For rookie quarterback Geno Smith , his being drafted by the Jets did not exactly come as a complete surprise, but what was undeniable was the player`s lack of maturity and due reverence shown for the whole draft process . Granted , Smith would then seek to defer that melodrama, by stating that his presence was not required after the first round process . Then again , the player , one of a slew of high-profiled athletes signed to the sports` management agency of rapper and entrepreneur ,Jay-z , has single-handedly gotten off to a bad start within the industry . Roc Nation Sports in conjunction with CAA Sports will now have a presence within the NBA , WNBA , MLB and the NFL . The company founder also found himself in a great deal of hot water, when it was noted that he had yet to be certified as a licensed agent by both the NFL , MLB and NBA. Yet , this is now the type damn incompetency being repeatedly being shown on an annual basis by the hierarchies in question. There are those who see these issues as being rather minor . With the matter now resolved , concerning Jay-z`s certification , it will be interesting to see the growing appetite of the entrepreneur and his agency.

Geno Smith for his part , will have a great deal to prove and with their being a growing call for the young rookie to be the starter for the Jets` regular season opener at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers , rather than fans having to endure and witness the problems that repeatedly beset Mark Sanchez in 2012. It must be said, that Rex Ryan and John Idzik on the face of it , may well have a tough decision to make .

This season I believe, as it relates the fortunes of the New York Jets , will be predicated on the play of Sanchez and whether or not he can overcome is foibles of last season. Their division, AFC East could very well be up for grabs, with all four teams now in transition , vying for divisional supremacy , and no clear and distinct favorite to be spoken of. This much we were certain of , before the off the field problems of the New England Patriots hit the headlines. One might easily have suggested that they would once again have the division to themselves and with everything at their beckoning . With the upheaval from within and no apparent certainty of what the fans should expect , we could very well be in for one or two surprises, in determining the likelihood as to whether or they can make a successful defense of their divisional title . Or perhaps we could very well see the most unlikeliest of challenges coming from either the Jets , Buffalo Bills or the Miami Dolphins ?

Though his figures are not all consuming , for James Loney of the Tampa Bay Rays (62-43) , this might well be looked upon as his most productive season from a team a standpoint . Loney , along with the pitcher Matt Moore , are two of the reasons why the team has been able to keep abreast with the Boston Red Sox (63-43) and Baltimore Orioles within the AL East for much of this season . Six weeks ago , I would have been one of the first to suggest that their season might well have been over . Yet the guile, with which Joe Maddon and his staff have kept the Rays relevant and their recent run of having won twenty of twenty-tree games , has put the ball-club of not just contesting the division, but also for an AL wild-card berth .

Having taken two out of the three games recently played at Yankees Stadium against a beleaguered New Yankees` team. It must be said Tampa`s fate now rests in their very own hands . No excuses can now be made at this juncture , as to any reason why the organization cannot seek to win their second divisional title over the course of their history . The fans now seem to willing the layers on , and they are now answering those calls with their play . Pitching and defense have always been the cornerstone behind the Rays success and this season is proving to be not different .

Monday, pits the Rays against divisional rivals the Boston Red Sox , in a game to be played at Fenway Park Boston , Massachusetts. With only a half game separating the two teams at the top of the division, both ball-clubs are fully aware how pivotal and meaningful this contest is likely to be . Taking the mound for the Red Sox will be Felix Doubront(7-4, 3.78 ERA) against David Price (5-5, 3.75 ERA) .

Perhaps I am mistaken , but I was always under the impression the reason behind having a coach or manager was one of instilling into the players a love of the game as well as preparing the for the day-to-day rigors of an elongated season . Also the expectations are , that the coaches and coaching staff will be able to impart their wisdom unto the younger and less experienced players on a roster . If the allegations are to be believed , then recent incidents between Miami Marlins` hitting instructor and batting coach Tino Martinez are to be believed . Then the former Yankees first baseman`s behavior was reprehensible and beyond disgusting. Martinez is said to have lost his temper,physically and verbally assaulted several of the younger players on the team on more than one occasion .

In light of that fact , manager Mike Redmond , GM Michael Hill and team owner Jeffrey Loria , are all said to have wanted the coach to remain within the organization . It was only after the players made their views public on the matter , Martinez offered his resignation to the organization and then issued a public apology to the players and fans alike . If it took Tino Martinez over a month to take this action , to my mind, it simply showed a complete lack of respect for the players under his tutelage . Also , what should the fans and public alike make of a situation, where the front office and manager collectively , stand behind the coach after such disdainful behavior ? Then again , the Marlins are going through a pitiful season where absolutely noting has gone right for a ball-club, where their competitive level is at an all-time low, as well as possessing one of the worst records in the Majors (MLB).

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At a time when the image of baseball is said to be in tatters and with Bud Selig and the league hierarchy commanding about as much respect as one might hold for a current seated member of Congress . Is it any wonder why the fans and public alike, no longer have any faith or respect for the game`s leading officials , never mind the very fact that the players themselves lack any integrity whatsoever ? By all means, chime in with your thoughts on this and anything else you believe pertinent to the subject matter as you deem fit .

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(1) New York Jets coach Rex Ryan speaks to the media at their NFL football training camp Monday, July 29, 2013, in Cortland, N.Y. The beleaguered head coach will be under a great deal of pressure to succeed this season. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun …

(2) New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith throws a pass at their NFL football training camp Monday, July 29, 2013, in Cortland, N.Y. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun …

(3) Tampa Bay Rays’ James Loney follows through on a three-run home run off of New York Yankees relief pitcher Adam Warren in the seventh inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Friday, July 26, 2013, in New York. AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek …

(4) Miami Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez looks from the dugout during a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Miami, Sunday, July 28, 2013. Martinez has resigned after players complained he verbally abused them. AP Photo/Alan Diaz …

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tophatal ……..

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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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By clicking on an individual frame you can view tat picture in its original formatted size .

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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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