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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jay-Z under investigation by the NBA

Rap superstar Jay-Z maybe be in hot water after an impromptu visit with the winners of the Kentucky Wildcats and North Carolina Tar Heels college basketball game. The NBA said that its plans to investigate the New Jersey Nets minority owner after his little visit to the locker room. The rap mogul was seen on video and in photos celebrating with the Kentucky team after their victory. The win advanced the Wildcats to the Final Four but the big uproar is that Jay-Z interacted with two possible high draft picks in Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones and the NBA doesn’t take that lightly.

This is mildly surprising as one would think the Roc Nation president and CEO would know owners can’t talk to potential players especially underclassmen. Just as recent as 2007, Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge was fined $30,000 for sitting and conversing with Kevin Durant mother during a game. Being a rap superstar has it perks and I would guess it was hard for the person in charge of security to turn down a man that most of those kids look up to. The problem is the impression that it gives when a multi-millionaire owner is partying it up with potential clients.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NBA Power Rankings March March 29,2011

It’s impossible not to take notice of what the Lakers and the Bulls have accomplished since the All-Star break. LA’s run of 15 victories to 1 defeat is astonishing. In fact it’s historic as LA became just the fifth team since the invention of the All-Star game to go at least 15-1 after the break. Four of those teams (Detroit Pistons 89-90, Chicago Bulls 90-91 and the Lakers again back in 99-00) went on to win the NBA title. The inspired play of Andrew Bynum is one of the big reasons the Lakers have returned to championship form. The Lake show have also been scoring like the old show time Lakers and locking down opponents as SI’s Zach Lowe pointed out in his Point Forward column. The Lakers are scoring 109.3 per 100 possessions and only allowing 99 points per 100 possessions. That means their offense is in sync as only the Denver Nuggets have a better points per game average in that span than the Lakers and on defense only the Bulls and Celtics are being more economical. The Spurs recent three game skid has opened the door for LA to possibly snatch the number one seed from the Spurs which a month of two ago was unfathomable.

The Bulls also have been on scorching the league of late with their hot play. Despite their lost to Philly last night, they are still 8-2 over their last 10 games. The lost snapped the Bulls’ home win streak at 14 and “dropped” them to 32-5 at the United Center. The Derrick Rose MVP chatter couldn’t get any louder as he has put up career numbers averaging 25 points and 8 assist a game. Rose may ultimately receive the hardware (Even though I’m more partial to Dwight Howard) but his team’s results in the playoffs may concern him more. I like the Bulls and I think they will be the top seed in the Eastern conference but I don’t think they are ready to leap frog the Celtics in the playoffs. The Celtics have lost 7 of 12 and have looked lost on offense since the injury Rajon Rondo suffered on. Home court advantage may mean a lot to the Bulls but let’s not forget the Celtics made it all the way to the finals as a fourth seed last year. The Celtics are the type of team that can make a run rather they have home court or not, it just doesn’t really matter to with those guys.

Now to the rankings:

1. Los Angeles Lakers (53-20) – The Lakers are in position to claim the number one seed in the west with San Antonio’s recent slide, not that it matters to them. 'It doesn't matter to us whether we catch them or not,' Kobe Bryant said. 'We try to win every game. If we catch them, so be it. If we don't, so be it. Bryant words are those of a former champion. The Lakers know if they play their game, then it’s going to be tough for any opponent to wrangle away the championship from the Lakers.

2. Chicago Bulls (53-20) – The Bulls’ Derrick Rose may get all the attention but it’s really their defense that keeps the train going on the Bulls train. The Bulls defensive stats: ranked first in opponents’ field-goal shooting (42.8 percent), opponents’ three-point shooting (32.7 percent) and second in points allowed (91.1 a game) and rebounds per game (44.4) and fifth in blocks per game (5.72). As the saying goes: Offense sells tickets but defense wins championships. Let’s see if the Bulls can make that quote work for them this year.

3. Miami Heat (51-22) The Heat’s roller coaster season continues with yet more ups and downs. They are definitely on a high at the moment and they made history last week. For the second time in NBA history, the other coming 50 years ago, three teammates all posted at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a regulation game. James had 33 points and 10 rebounds, Bosh added 31 points and 12 rebounds, and Wade finished with 30 points and 11 boards as the Miami Heat beat the Houston. That is what everyone expected from this team since Bosh, Wade, and Lebron had their little introductory pep rally this summer. The Heat have a soft as bread schedule for the rest of the season and actually have a shot at catching the Bulls for top seed and home court advantage in the playoffs.

4. San Antonio Spurs (57-16) – So let’s get this right with all their injuries. When you have Tony Parker out (left knee contusion), Timmy Duncan out (ankle sprain), and Manu Ginobili out (left quad contusion) what do you get? Two losses to the Trail Blazers in three days and your once insurmountable lead in the West dwindled down to 3 ½ games over the Lakers. Can the Spurs hold it together and pull through in the playoffs?

5. Dallas Mavericks (51-21) - I noticed an amazing stat about Peja Stojakovicand the Mavs. When he scores at least 15 in a game the Mavs are 15-0. I say make sure at all cost you get him those 15 points. The depth of this team knows no bounds as they go at least 10 to 11 deep in their regular rotation. That’s not even including the pending comeback of Caron Butler who insists he will be back by the playoffs. We will get to know everything we to know about the Mavs when they face the Lakers this Thursday. The two teams have split the season series and the victor of this game will own the tie breaker should the two teams tie in the standings. In other words it’s a big game and both teams should bring the best out of each other.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tennessee annocues Cuzono Martin as their new men's basketball coach.

The University of Tennessee will formally introduce Cuonzo Martin as their men’s basketball head coach today. Martin of course will fill the role vacated by lightning rod Bruce Pearl. After chasing high profile names such as Villanova’s Jay Wright and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, the Vols decided that the best option left was Martin.

Cuonzo is among the most promising young coaches in the game, and we are excited about the coaching ability, toughness, and energy that he brings to our program," Tennessee Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton said. "He has a proven track record of success as a head coach at Missouri State and an assistant at Purdue as well as an outstanding career as a college basketball player. His Missouri State program improved from 11 wins to 26 in just two seasons, and they won the regular season conference championship this year." Said athletics director Mike Hamilton

Cuonzo Martin (pronounced CON-zoe) may not be the splash in the pan that most Vol fans were looking for, but upon closer inspection, he seems to be a judicious hire due to the circumstances facing the program. Under normal circumstances, UT with its facilities and deep pockets would be a coveted job for most coaches. However because of to trail left by Bruce Pearl and the possible NCAA infractions facing the program not so much at this time. Martin will inherit a program that has a due date with the NCAA infractions committee just 3 months from now and will learn their fate. Not to mention that the cupboard could be bare as Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson could jump to the NBA and incoming freshmen Kenny Ware could look to sign elsewhere with Pearl gone.

Nevertheless, Martin has proven that he can change a programs fortune. While at Missouri State, he took the Bears to a 26-9 and a conference championship in his third season. That was a stark turnaround from a team that just two years ago was 11-20 and last in the Missouri Valley Conference. He is a another coach off the Gene Keady coaching tree as is current Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. Martin has no history of NCAA violations which is important after the whole Bruce Pearl saga. He also received coach of the year honors in the MVC conference and is a finalist for two national coaching awards this season: the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award, presented annually to the top mid-major coach in Division I college basketball, and the Ben Jobe Award, presented annually to the top minority head coach in Division I.

Martin also survived a cancel scare as he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1997. He was last treated for the disease in 1998 and is now in full remission. The Martin era may not be what many UT fans wanted after six successful seasons by Bruce Pearl. My initial reaction to the hire was like most in saying who is this guy? The Vols had little choice really after reportedly being turned down by multiple coaches for the job. I figured it would have to be someone with strong resolve and determination to undertake such a dubious job. Martin seems to be as strong willed as they come after growing up on the mean streets of East St. Louis and surviving cancer, an NCAA infraction should be the least of his worries.

In summary, Martin should serve well in Knoxville. He wasn’t the first choice but if you remember back last time UT had an opening, neither was Bruce Pearl. His background shows that he is a man of high character and moral standards. His tenure may get off to a rocky start in rocky top but if his track record proves anything he will be able to endure the challenge of keeping UT in the top echelon of SEC basketball.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NBA Power Rankings March 23, 2011

Post All-Star break is usually when the real cream on the crop rises in the league. This year is no different as the Lakers, Bulls and Thunder are all making their second half runs. The Lakers have clearly flipped the proverbial switch and have won 13 of their 14 games since the break. Chicago seems to find a way to gut out a victory every night and have taken control of the Eastern conference. The Thunder finally have big man Kendrick Perkins manning the post and are jelling together as a unit. There is no denying that these three teams are poised for deep runs in the playoffs.

On the other hand, you have teams that are nose-diving at this junction of the season. New York seems to have settled into a non-defensive approach to defense. The hype and hoopla of Carmelo’s entrance on the big stage are gone and now he must commit to being a better all-around player rather than just scoring. Carmelo skipping the press conference and leaving A'mare to hang and dry was just wrong. The Spurs may have the number one seed locked down in the west, but just as I predicted they are wearing down after their torrid pace. Tim Duncan’s injury is an indication of trop vieux (old age) as Gregg Poppovich so eloquently put it when he didn’t start Duncan last week.

Now for the rankings:

1. Los Angeles Lakers (50-20) – The Lakers thrilling three overtime victory over the Suns proved that the Lake show have found their groove. The stats from that game as you would imagine are unbelievable. Kobe with 42 points 12 rebounds and 9 assists, Lamar Odom with 24 points and 16 rebounds and Pau Gasol “chipping” in with 24 points and 13 boards of his own. When you add Ron Artest’s 18 points to that it total out to 113 points of the 139 scored for the Lakers. That’s getting it done for the starters. LA keeps rolling along as they prepare for the Zen master’s final playoff run.

2. Chicago Bulls (50-19) The Bulls clinched their first 50 win season since some bald guy named Jordan was playing for them. This team is just so relentless on defense that they just wear down most opponents. Coming into this season I thought they would be a good team but not this good. The emergence of Derrick Rose has catapulted them into elite status this year and for the foreseeable future.

3. Boston Celtics (50-19) – So Doc Rivers pulls out the “S” word on his team to describe how they were playing against New York and the veteran laden team was having none of that. They went on to outscore the Knicks by 24 in the second half and took it to New York physically. The Celtics are like the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NBA. You know they will hit you and they will continue all game long.

4. San Antonio Spurs (57-13) – When you look at their record, it automatically jumps out. To have won 57 of 70 games constitutes that you have a great team, but I just think their record is inflated. When push comes to shove in the western conference playoffs, I would take the Thunder or the Lakers over the Spurs. Tim Duncan age along with injury prone Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli just doesn’t bode well in my eyes for a long playoff run.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-24) – OKC may have the best front office in all of the NBA. Sam Presti came over from San Antonio with the good tutelage from R.C. Buford and has been one of the craftiest GMs in the league every since. His trade for Perkins was brilliant and he reinforced that by adding Nazr Mohammed. Kevin Durant is one of those special players that if he gets hot, its nothing as a defense you can do about it. Durant and Russell Westbrook are a deadly one two punch. This team will do nothing but grow and just like the Chicago Bulls will be an elite team for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pearl Pushed Out By Tennessee

I clearly regret having to post this article because I am a Bruce Pearl fan but his time with UT has come to an end. Pearl was gregarious and his high energy personality rubbed off on everyone around him. He embraced Tennessee culture and did things that made us Tennessean’s embrace him. Pearl finished with a record of 145-61 as UT’s head coach and also led them to six straight NCAA tournaments. His resume speaks for itself but Pearl was more than just win and losses. He put UT basketball on the map as he led them to their first ever number one ranking. Who can forget Pearl showing up at the Lady Vols game with his torso camouflaged in Vol orange? Pearl’s endearing antics surpassed those of all the coaches in the SEC. It rubbed most the wrong way but it you are a Vol fan, you loved it.

You can tell how much he meant to the program as news of his firing has dominated the sports scene here locally. People in Tennessee have a certain type of infatuation with him. He cam from the northeast but was able to adapt to Tennessee and from what I hear is not an easy thing to do. The ramifications of Pearl ouster are huge. Players such as Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson are all but done in a UT uniform at this point. Incoming players are asking for permission to speak to other teams in wake of Pearl’s ouster. And with an NCAA sanction hanging over the UT program, how can they expect to land a good coach? The program is left with more questions then answers at this point. Mike Hamilton seems incapable to handling bad situations. His ill-advised interview before the NCAA tournament had to make other AD’s around the country cringe. Hamilton should be on shaky ground as well now as two of his hires in Pearl and Lane Kiffin both have come under fire from the NCAA are no longer at UT. If Hamilton knew he was going to fire Pearl then he should have done it immediately. There was no point of creating the circus that was UT’s men basketball season. There was no point of docking Pearl’s pay, suspending him and publicly backing him for the entire season only to dump as soon as it was over. Hamilton’s interview seemed to be nothing more than him distancing himself away from Pearl in an effort to set up the fan base for his firing.

Futhermore on Pearl, he had built a reputation as an upright and what you see is what you get coach. His persona has been that way since he blew the whistle on Illinois and their involvement with former recruit Deon Thomas. Dick Vitale called the Thomas situation career suicide but Pearl made it through that debacle. Now it does seem ironic if not prophetic that Pearl career is stalled because of NCAA violations. As much as I like Pearl, don’t get me wrong, he was wrong for the things that he did. The most stunning part of the allegations is the reported “Bumps” that the NCAA found out after they had met with Pearl in September. Pearl held a tear filled press conference soon after his meeting with the NCAA but according to reports, he and assistant Tony Jones illegally had contact with a prep athlete. Pearl disputes this and says it was a cordial greeting of the player but at this point it doesn’t matter. Once you’re the crosshairs of the NCAA, they are relentless. Pearl had a chance to come clean and he didn’t which is no one’s fault but his own. But when a coach like Jim Tressel of Ohio State does in what amounts to basically the same thing if not worse, then you begin to realize how unfair this fallout was to Pearl. Everyone knows the story now of Tressel as he knew all along about his players selling their memorabilia in exchange for tattoos but instead of turning the players in, Tressel played them and rode them to a Sugar Bowl victory. How can that not be more offensive than what Pearl did? Highly hypocritical but the NCAA has been this way for years.

Pearl became a victim of his own success. He was a diamond in the rough that finally had a big-time program at his dispense. He did what most coaches are doing at this very moment. Some say Pearl was set-up for those reasons I mentioned earlier in this article, I don’t know if I can agree with that. I do think that he became drunk with his own prosperity. They say it is only cheating if you get caught but that doesn’t even correctly objectify what is going on in college athletics these days. And when you think about coaches like John Callapari, who has took two programs (UMass and Memphis) to the final four only to have those banners taken down because of allegations, it does make one think Pearl may have been duped one way or another. Pearl’s ambition drove him to do whatever it took to stay on top. If that meant 100 calls to a recruit so be it. If that meant throwing a cookout for future players, so be it (even though I still don’t understand why he would allow anyone to take photos of the event). Pearl is just the latest casualty in the NCAA world of rules. Pearl will resurface after a year of two. He is too charismatic and too good of a coach not to. It’s just a shame that he won’t be back on the Tennessee sidelines anymore.

Monday, March 21, 2011

So How Is Your Brackets Looking?

So after the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, my bracket is looking like a high-school kid’s algebra test as it is filled with x’s at this point. My carnage ravaged bracket isn’t surprising when I think about it. Every year I believe I have the formula for the perfect bracket and every year it all goes downhill after the first few rounds of games. I may have drunk too much of the Belmont kool-aid that the experts were serving and ended up having the Bruins making a sweet 16 run. After Wisconsin and Jordan Taylor put a beat down on my hometown Bruins my bracket was already done. I got another surprise when Morehead State’s Demonte Harper downed a 3-point bomb on Peyton Siva and the Louisville Cardinals. Now Harper and I know go back to high school and I talked to him before the game. You would think he could have given some type of heads up or something.

The tournament is so much fun because in a year like this, there are no favorites. You could argue that Ohio State, Kansas and Duke are but do you really think any of these teams are unbeatable? This is as an open field as I as I seen in recent years. I doubt that even Joe Lunardi could pick a perfect bracket at this point The NCAA has been watered down with the one-and-done rule to the point where good teams can be borderline great with the given circumstances. Think about this, if most of the underclassmen that have declared over the last four year had to stay in college, how different would the tournament be? Kentucky would feature the likes of John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Terrance Jones. That’s just a scary proposition. Then again maybe Kentucky doesn’t because John Callapari stays at Memphis with Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose at his expense. Ohio State would even bigger inside with Greg Oden (Do you still think he would hurt in some sort of fashion? I do) and better at the point with Mike Conley Jr manning the ship. Things would definitely different that’s for sure.

How about some the controversial calls in this year’s tourney as well? Pitt got jobbed in the Butler game and I don’t care what you say. There is no way those types of calls should determine the outcome of the game as they did but Butler deserves credit for making their free-throws. Memphis fans still think Derrick Williams fouled Antonio Barton, Louisville feel the same about Kenneth Faried’s block on their last second 3-point attempt and what on earth was John Henson thinking for North Carolina? Henson couldn’t figure out if he wanted to be the hero or the goat against Washington as he stole an inbound pass that looked to seal the game then inexplicably touched a half-court heave from Washington’s Isaiash Thomas that had no chance of going in. His mistake gave the Huskies the ball with 0.5 seconds left on the clock and Henson again decided to touch the ball, this time almost receiving a goaltending violation but it wouldn’t have mattered as the Huskies needed a 3-pointer to tie but still you don’t want to chance those type of things John.

As for the rest of my picks, I still have a chance. I did have down a few upsets that happened like Richmond over Vandy. The Commodores are always a safe pick for an upset in the opening rounds. I had George Mason over Villanova. That made since as you had a surging mid-major that has been here before against a down on their luck Wildcats team that the wheels fell off of a long time ago. I still love Jay Wright’s suit selections I must say. Who could have predicted VCU’s run from first four in to Sweet 16 team? The Rams got in and are making the most of it. That is what this entire festival is about. The little team that could and everyone always roots for the underdog. The Sweet 16 is usually the best match-ups of the season and this year looks up to par. When you have Uconn vs. San Diego State, Ohio State vs. Kentucky and BYU vs. Florida you can expect some fireworks.

Stay tuned is all I can say because as more games are played there will be more upsets. Looking at the President’s bracket I’m inclined to think how is he able to pick a 26-2 first round and handle everything else in the world. His bracket was in 98 percentile and he was 431st in ESPN’s bracket challenge. That means that the President is better than me and most people at picking college basketball and I call myself an expert in this field. That’s tells you that this is nothing more than crap shoot. So I finish with the question I began with, how are your brackets looking?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Q and A with Brian "Penny" Collins, former starting point guard for the Belmont Bruins

As I continue you with my series on College basketball in honor of the tournament, I had the opportunity to ask a few quick questions for former Belmont starting point guard Brian “Penny” Collins. Collins is a former Whites Creek High School all-state performer and led Belmont to the NCAA tournament in the 05-06 season averaging 10.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. Collins and I played together at Whites Creek. He was always a fierce competitor and his basketball I.Q. was through the roof. He earned his nickname of “Penny” with his similar build to Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway but he also had the handling ability and floor awareness that put you in mind of Hardaway. He was always a tough cover for opponents.

He joined Tennessee State University as an assistant grad for in 2007. Collins also conducts the Brian “Penny” Collins Run-N-Gun Basketball Camp in Nashville which he also established in 2007. Collins professional experience includes stints overseas with Finlands’s Kouvot Bears and he was drafted in the 6th round by the Bakersfield Jam of the NBDL. Collins still hold the mark for all-time steals and assists for Belmont’s division I era. He is now entering his second season as assistant coach for the Cumberland Bulldogs. Long story short this man knows basketball and especially Belmont Basketball.

With the Bruins enjoying so much success of late and making their run into the NCAA tournament, I figured this was the perfect time to gauge his outlook for this current edition of Belmont.

Q. What do you think of Belmont’s chances this year in the tournament?

A: I think this is the best possible bracket for them to play in. They will have problems against the more athletic teams in the field as in Kentucky and so forth but the way the bracket shapes up for them, it gives them a chance of advancing.

Q. Hypothetically speaking, do you think if Belmont advances as far as the sweet 16 that it would help as far as for the exposure of the program goes?

A. Definitely. I believe the run we made in 06 gave the program tons of exposure. I can remember watching ESPN and the commentator saying “Not Belmont downs or horses but the school of Belmont.” But now we are viewed as a legitimate basketball school. The exposure of the tournament makes the possibilities endless.

Q. How do you think the run your senior team made at Belmont affected the school?

A. I think it helped in a big way. It opened doors as far recruiting is concerned. Coach Byrd is now being able to land players such as Kerron Johnson out of Huntsville, AL who beat out DeMarcus Cousins for Mr. Basketball in that state. Look at Ian Clark and Mitch Hedgepeth, I believe the recruitment of all those good players are directly related to the success that we had in the tournament and the exposure that it brought the program.

Q. What are some the best aspects of Coach Rick Byrd

A. Well to me Coach Byrd is the best I’ve had the chance to play for. His preparation for opponents is the best I’ve ever seen. He goes out and gets players that fit his program and that’s why he able to continue his success. He is a very detailed and meticulous coach and again one the best I’ve ever been around.

If you like what you heard from Collins here, you can listen to more of his commentary on sports radio 560 AM WNSR radio on Fridays between 12:30-1:30 as he steps in talks college basketball.

Go Bruins!

Q and A with Morehead State Standout and NCAA tourney player Demonte Harper

I was blessed with the opportunity of interviewing my former fellow Whites Creek alum and current Morehead State standout Demonte Harper. For those who haven’t been watching, Harper was named OVC conference tournament MVP after he scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the championship game against Tennessee Tech. Harper and fellow senior Kenneth Faried (Who is the leading the nation in rebounding at 14.6 a clip) lead the 13th seeded Eagles against in-state rival and 4th seeded Louisville in the Southwest regional being held in Denver. The Eagles (20-15) are in the tournament for the second time in three years.

My fondest memories of Harper are as a freshman at Whites Creek. He was a tall and lanky kid whose body had not quite caught up with him as far as height is concerned. I was a senior at the time and in some type of scheduling quirk, I had gym class with him. We played some inspired games and I could tell at that time that he had a chance to be a very good player. He would always play me tougher than the others in gym and that was including some other seniors that were so lucky to have gym like me as a senior. After I graduated and went on to college I lost contact with him. I heard about his success at my old high school as the team had made it to the state championship but I wasn’t able to attend those games as much as I had wanted too. A few years went by and as I am now finishing up school (I know it’s been awhile) I noticed that Demonte had earned a starting spot for Morehead State and was putting up some solid numbers for them as well. Harper’s minutes and points have increased every year for him, going from 3.7 points a game in 19 minutes as a freshman to 16 points a game in 37 minutes per contest as a senior. He showed off his scoring ability as he exploded for 35 points against the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars this season and dropped another 34 on Austin Peay.

It is a feel good story for me as far as being able to see him fulfilling the potential I noticed in him as a high-school freshman. It makes me proud as a former Whites Creek basketball alum to see Harper keeping the tradition of Whites Creek Cobra basketball alive.

Harper with the block in the above photo.
Now for a few questions on Harper as Morehead State as they prepare for battle against the Cardinals this Thursday.

Question: What is your first take on Louisville?

Answer: They are similar to us in that they like to get up and down the floor like us and it should make for an exciting game.

Q: Do you think playing in the high altitude of Denver will affect your teams approach, as you guys usually go about 7 deep?

A: Maybe a little bit. Coach (Donnie Tyndall) has instructed us to drink more water but other than that I think we will be ok.

Q: Do you think you guys will be rusty since you haven’t played in two weeks?

A: We had a few days off but we have had some tough practices and I definitely think we will be prepared.

Q: Did playing Louisville and going 1-9 in 37 minutes two years ago as a sophomore help as far as scouting and experience are concerned?

A: Definitely, when I played them as sophomore I got a feel for their style of play. This time I should be ready to make more of a contribution

Q: How does it feel to be playing in the hotbed of college hoops in Kentucky?

A: It can be overwhelming to play in front of 20,000 people as we did when we traveled to the University of Kentucky in Lexington, but this is an experienced team that isn’t afraid of the moment.

Q: Did playing Florida to within 6 points of the win help build confidence in playing another big time program such as Louisville?

A: We played them tough but we just had a bad shooting night. Things could have been different had we shot better. It does give us confidence knowing that we are a capable team

Q: They say momentum is the most underrated aspect of the tourney, you guys won 13 of 14 entering the tourney, and does it give you guys an extra bump entering the big dance?

A: Yeah definitely, I think the momentum we are taking with us in the tournament will carry over and give us an additional boost.

Q: How was it to be to get the chance to play in-front of friends and family in OVC tourney here in Nashville? And speaking of Nashville as you being a native of the city did you feel any extra pressure to perform and represent for your city?

A: It was the greatest feeling in the world man. I played in the in the OVC tournament the last three years that it was held in Nashville and so its no pressure to me. I’m just happy to be able to perform in front on my family and friends.

Q; You have scored at least 25 points in your last two games, what has been your key to success in those games?

A: Just being aggressive man. I actually rather make my teammates better if it’s my scoring, rebounding or passing, just whatever I can do to help the team win.

Q: What current NBA player do you think your games most resembles?

A: I would say Derrick Rose. I know I am not as fast as he is (Chuckles) but our styles are similar in attacking the rim and getting up and down the floor.

Q: How do you and Kenneth Faried compliment each others game?

A: I think we compliment each other a lot. He is the best rebounder I have ever had the chance to play with. In my opinion I definitely think he is a first-round NBA pick. Maybe even lottery pick.

Q: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans in the city of Nashville?

A: Thanks for all the love and support from the city.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tiki Barber coming out of retirement?

After an unceremonious and abrupt end to his NFL career, former all-pro running back Tiki Barber confirmed via twitter that he will be making a comeback to the NFL at age 36. He is the Giants all-time rushing leader. Barber retired in 2006 after straining his relationship with the New York Giants organization. He would go on to become a football analyst for NBC and made disparaging comments about his former head coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning. The Tiki and Eli saga played out publicly as both lashed out at each other various times during 2007.

After his retirement Barber made the successful transition onto T.V as NBC's correspondent for "The Today Show" and "Football night in America/Sunday Night Football". He also was the host of NBC's pre-show for the 66th annual Golden Globe awards with former "Dancing with the Stars" champion Brooke Burke. Barber also published a book titled "My life and the game beyond".

Barber led the league with 1,662 yards in his last year in the league. He has been rumored to want to play with his brother Ronde Barber and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I will say that Tiki was a great running back in his prime, but this will be almost impossible for him to comeback and be effective at age 36. Most running backs are not around at his age but maybe because he took a few years off he can pull this off. I question his motivation also behind such a change of heart move. This is a guy who said he wanted nothing to do with football anymore as an analyst for NBC. Could this be financially motivated? Barber was due $9.3 million when he retired in 2006.

What do you all think about Tiki's return?

NBA Power Rankings March 8, 2011: Crygate Edition

What a roller coaster week in the league we just witnessed. The season is now a month and half away from the playoff and all the personnel moves have been made. ”Crygate” has dominated the headlines as Miami has become completely unglued at this point. I will touch on that subject in just a moment. The LA Lakers have finally decided its time to play basketball and have quietly posted seven straight wins. Their domination of the San Antonio Spurs Sunday served notice that the two-time defending champs are still the team to beat in the west. I knew how much that game meant to Kobe when I saw him jutting his jaw out (This jaw thing Kobe is doing is becoming his signature I guess like Michael Jordan’s tongue wag) and talking trash to the Spurs bench.

Now I could spend this entire column dissecting what’s wrong with Miami but it’s not enough time in a day for that. What I see on the court from them is a team lacking confidence in late game moments, which is flat out insane when you think about it. Lebron James and Dwayne Wade have been among the best at knocking down game-winners in their career. According to, Lebron has 17 career game winning shots and D-wade has 11. Even newly acquired Mike Bibby has 8. It also seems very questionable that Wade is not touching the ball in clutch moments. The moment of truth that I predicted has finally came to bear its ugly head. Lebron and D-wade are struggling to figure out who team its going to be. Wade made the following statements after their loss to the Bulls: “I’m used to coming down in the fourth, having the ball, making mistakes, getting a chance to make up for them, etc.” I don’t know but to me it sounds like he wants the ball in his hands at the end of the game. Lebron has always been and always will be the best player on his team. He is the best player on the planet right now and is use to having his way with teammates. Lebron and Wade have to learn to trust one another in those moments. It shouldn’t matter who takes the shot as long as IT’S THE RIGHT SHOT. They also seem to lack ball movement in those crunch time moments, rather just relying on isolation plays for James and Wade. Teams know this and crowd who ever has the ball in those final seconds. In the game against Chicago, if Wade or Bosh had cut to the basket they could have had an open shot if Lebron was able to get the pass off. That goes back to the coaching as well as Spolestra has to have more imagination in his play-calling because smart teams know what is coming and how to defend it.

As for the crying thing, give me a break. The last thing any player should be doing is crying after losing a regular season game. This wasn’t a NBA finals game, this wasn’t even a playoff game. The biggest rub I have about this situation is that the coach comes out and publicly announces that his team was shedding tears in the locker room. Do you think Phil Jackson or Greg Popovich would come out and admitted that for everyone in the world to ridicule? Me neither. Coach Erik Spolestra has made a crucial mistake in my opinion. Can’t you just imagine Kevin Garnett having a word or two when these teams play? Yep, me too (I would pay any amount of money to hear what he says to Bosh when they play again!). You never want your team be known as soft and now they will forever have to carry that burden with them. Maybe crying was their way or showing how much they care about their season but I reiterate you never want your team to show weakness. The Heat still have the 6th best record in the league at 43-20 and are in first place in the Southeast division. Remember way back at the beginning of the season when they started 9-8 and the bandwagon wheels begin to fall off? They promptly went 21-1 over there next 22 games. They have too much talent not to compete but the expectations they have made for themselves may be to much for them to win a championship this year.

Now to the rankings:

1. Los Angeles Lakers (45-19) – The Lakers just destroyed the best team in the league in the San Antonio Spurs. That win served notice to the league that the championship still goes through Hollywood, like it or not. The Spurs big 3 version of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan were held to just 22 points. Andrew Bynum was a beast on the boards as he just inhaled any missed shot they came in his direction and finished with 17 rebounds. Kobe has that look in his eyes as Lakers haven’t lost since the all-star break. The Lakers showed how good they can be against the Spurs and the league better concern themselves with the champs once again.

2. Dallas Mavericks (45-17) - Every year there is a team who has a bunch of wins in the regular season just to fall flat on their face in the playoffs. I hate to say it but that is what this team puts me in mind of but I have to keep them here because they just keep winning. Their lost Sunday to surging Memphis is just their second in 18 games. The Lakers are creeping up on the Mavs for second place in the conference as they are just percentage points behind them. A bright spot for Dallas though is the return of Roddy Beaubois as he has scored 28 points in 29 minutes. Talk about efficiency.

3. Chicago Bulls (43-18) - These guys just don’t let up defensively. Coach Tom Thibodeau deserves a lot of credit for making them into one of the stingiest teams in the league. They added to Miami’s misery this weekend by beating them Sunday. Derrick Rose seems to be able to step his level of play up in late game situations as well as the Bulls defense. Sometimes it’s the little things in games and Joakim Noah’s block-out of Lebron and Erick Dampier was a thing of beauty. It allowed Luol Deng to get the ball and get fouled in which led to the ensuing game winning free-throws. This is mentally tough team and they proved it against Miami.

4. San Antonio Spurs (51-12) The Spurs took one on the chin against L.A and therefore take a big drop in the rankings. San Antonio looked old, weak in the post and overmatched against the Lakers. Even though they have the best record in the NBA and the inside track to home court advantage, I just don’t see how they could beat the Lakers four out of seven. Tim Duncan scored a measly TWO POINTS against the Lakers and never looked comfortable against L.A’s front line. They were only out rebounded 49-43 but it seemed like it way worse than that. Who knows, maybe this was just a bad day at the office for the Spurs but whew did they ever stink in that game.

5. Boston Celtics (46-15) The Celtics just keep chugging along under the radar while Miami and L.A dominate the headlines. The Celtics have gotten a nice boost from Nenad Kristic of all people as he is averaging 12.2 points since he came to the team. That is big for the C’s as Glen “Big Baby” Davis recently was hit with the knee tendonitis that could sideline him for the next week. They also added the recently cut Miami point guard Carlos Arroyo for some back court depth. They will now have to work on making their new additions (Kristic, Jeff Green and Arroyo) fit in. Just look for more of the same until playoff time from the Celtics

Other news and notes:

Kevin Love ties double-double record: Shaq couldn’t do it, neither could Dwight Howard, Charles Barkley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlin or even the great Bill Russell. Hopefully that can put into context what Love is accomplished here. The previous record by Moses Malone has stood since 1979. It’s an incredible feat and will be that much better if he is able to break Malone’s record. The man has played possessed this year and was three rebounds short of recording his fourth straight 20-point 20-rebound game. He should get the record against the Pacers (Roy Hibbert has never put up much of a fight on the boards) Can you imagine the difference he could provide for a team that needs rebounding (Miami, Philadelphia or Dallas) and a little offense. I think its time that we gave this man a nickname, he has clearly earned it. And please don’t give me a goofy white guy name either just because he happens to be white and playing in the NBA (A la White chocolate, Ghost rider, etc). I will have to think about that and come up with one.

New York Knicks taking form – The Knicks are looking like a team that could surprise a higher seeded team in the playoffs this spring. They put 131 points on Utah last night in their victory and showed what they could be when clicking. Notice I didn’t say clicking on all cylinders as they didn’t have starting PG Chauncey Billups who is still recovering from Dwight Howard’s mammoth knee to his thigh. Carmelo had 34 points and Stoudemire just abused the Jazz post going off for 31 of his own. This is a dangerous team. They have a deadly perimeter scorer in Melo, who also can knock down the clutch shot when needed and with Stoudemire on the block you can’t double team him. Another big surprise I noticed with the Knicks is their shooting stroke. These guys can fill it up with Landry Fields, Shawne Williams and Toney Douglas. They shot 13-26 behind the three point line and again that with one with one all time shooting greats in Billups sitting on the bench. When this team is able to get some more depth to add to the talent they already have, they will be title contenders, let me be the first to say it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Tragic Stabbing death of MTSU's Tina Stewart

The Middle Tennessee State University women basketball team was shell-shocked with the news of the stabbing death of guard Tina Stewart by her own teammate Shanterrica Madden. Authorities are reporting that an argument led to the confrontation. “There was an argument,” Murfreesboro Police Spokesman Kyle Evans said. “During that argument, Madden stabbed the victim. Stewart had multiple trauma injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival.

This is such a tragedy for everyone involved. A minor argument that led to a person taking another ones life never makes any sense. A mother and father lose their daughter over an asinine disagreement. I personally just don't understand how two teammates could be allowed to argue to the point that one kills another? Where were her teammates? I'm not one to pass judgement on anyone but these questions have to be asked. The team will be hard pressed to recover from such a dramatic turn of events and also losing two of its players. How do you recoup and recover from something so devastating to the entire university? Stewart was a 21 year old junior and Memphis native who was just beginning to come into her own as a basketball player. This is a team that is 23-6 and the number 1 seed in the Sun Belt conference tourney that is slated to begin this Thursday. I feel for the players and coaches as their season now will be under siege by every media outlet trying to milk this story for everything its worth.

The team can either go in two directions in this type of situation. They can use this troubling tragedy to galvanize and play for the memory of their fallen teammate, or they could succumb to adversity there facing along with the pressure of being the top seed in their conference. I know I and the entire state of Tennessee will be rallying for these young ladies. She was a wonderful, vibrant young woman and a gifted athlete,” MTSU President Sidney McPhee said in a press conference from the lobby of MTMC Wednesday night.

Rest in peace Tina Stewart, may your death not go in vain but be celebrated for all of your accomplishments.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Serena Williams blood clot scare

The last we saw of tennis superstar Serena Williams was her dazzling in a red dress and attending the Elton John academy awards viewing party. She also made an appearance at Graydon Carter's Vanity Fair celebration later. So it makes this story that much more stunning as reports have surfaced that she suffered a pulmonary embolism last week. That is medical jargon for blood clot and it’s located in her lungs. According to People magazine and, Williams saw doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for the problem. It was later discovered when she returned from New York for doctor's appointments relating to her foot issues.

A statement made by Williams representatives states "Monday Serena Williams underwent emergency treatment at Cedars [Medical Center] for a hematoma she suffered as a result of treatment for a more critical situation," Nicole Chabot, told People magazine.

The former top ranked Williams has been sidelined since July 7, 2010 when she was cut by a glass at a Munich restaurant. Many questioned the injury initially when it was reported because the fuzzy details surrounding it.

Williams had an excepted return date set for the French Open, which begins May 17th but now that definitely is in doubt. This latest issue for Williams pushes her health to the forefront and tennis at a distant second. Let’s all wish for speedy recovery for women’s tennis biggest star.

Sources: People Magazine and

Battle of the Stupid Birthday Cakes: Braylon Edwards vs. Floyd Mayweather

Braylon Edwards and Floyd Mayweather both had big birthday bashes over the weekend and they both enjoyed extravagant cakes as well. Braylon’s cake is a little over the top as the writing on the cake states “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Um, did we miss something Braylon? Edwards plays wide receiver for the New York Jets and is a frequent league leader in a category no one wants a part of in dropped passes, but if that’s what he wants to conquer that his business. Check out his cake below and tell me what you think.

The best part of this cake is the minature figurine. It looks like a mix of Michael Jackson and and some jewelry encrusted rapper.

As for Floyd "Money" Mayweather, he may have even topped Edwards's cake. The undefeated boxer and best friend rapper 50 cent took it to the next level by not having a cake at all, just a stack of money. As I was on twitter this weekend, 50 cent said he had a big surprise for his friend and you can take it to the bank when 50 talks like that, literally. Take a look below for yourself.

I like the Louie Vuitton emborided name tag along with the nice added touch of the watch and diamonds surronding this "cake". It makes one think though, with money like this, no wonder Mayweather is in no rush to fight Manny Pacquiao.

If I had to pick one, I guess I would say the "Money" cake is the way to go. Just imagine how many cakes you can buy with Mayweather's. Which one do you think is better?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sportaholic NBA Power Rankings and Other News and Notes

Welcome to the first unveiling of the Sportaholic NBA power rankings. I’ve waited this long because I had a feeling that a flurry of deals would happen as they did on the trading deadline (along with finally getting over my short depression that the NFL season is over). The trades have sparked a new interest in the league. You have major markets (New York, Miami, New Jersey) with major stars now (Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams). This is the new landscape of the NBA. Big time players are linking up and building super teams. Some people like it and some don’t. Like it or not that seems to be the future of the league. The Knicks trade is already paying off for them as they took down Miami in the showdown on South Beach. New York made a statement with their two superstars (Anthony and Stoudemire) that they will have something to say about the Eastern conference playoffs.

The smallest but biggest coup in the trade for New York was acquiring Chauncey Billups. Raymond Felton was a good fit for Mike D’antoni fast paced offense but Big-shot Billups is more of a well-rounded guard that should be able to facilitate the offense that features two of the games premier scorers. Billups is not afraid of playing on the big stage that is New York nor taking the big shot as his nickname says. In an ironic twist on all the trade bluster, one of the smallest market teams that didn’t make any move has the best record in the league. That would be none other than San Antonio Spurs.

And with that, let’s unveil the inaugural rankings:

1. San Antonio Spurs (49-10) – The infamously boring but effective Spurs sit atop the Western conference and have the best record in the league. Coach Pop and the bunch received some bad news with Tony Parker calf injury that will sideline him for the next 2-3 weeks but besides that they are hitting on all cylinders. They gutted out a win Sunday against a scrappy Memphis team thanks to Manu’s 35 and his big plays down the stretch. My question for this team is will their torrid pace that they put themselves on result in tired legs in the playoffs? Only time will tell.

2. Dallas Mavericks (43-16) – It is truly shocking just how good the Mavs are right now. They are16-1 over there last 17 games and don’t show any signs of letting up. They have probably the deepest team in the league and Dirk Nowitzki seems to defy father time with each soft step back jumper he makes. If I have to say one bad thing about this team it is health and age. Caron Butler is likely out for the remainder of the season and Roddy Beaubois just came off an ankle injury. That doesn’t bode well for a team with the 3rd oldest roster in the league.

3. Chicago Bulls (40-17) - You can’t start a Bulls conversation these days without bringing up Derrick Rose. The young all-star point guard and MVP candidate does it all offensively for Chicago. He runs the pick and roll, drives fearlessly to rim, and dishes out assists. I knew his game would translate well in the NBA but didn’t think he would be this dominant. The Bulls also have bought in to coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive strategy and now have one of the league’s stingiest defenses. And they didn’t make a trade but got the equivalent of one in getting Joakim Noah back from injury. I can’t wait to see the Eastern conference playoff match-ups. It’s going to be epic in the East this year as far as the playoffs go.

4. LA Lakers (42-19) – The Lakers defeat of Oklahoma City proved that they are still the team to beat in the West. No team in the league can defend their three headed monster in the post featuring the oft injured Andrew Bynum, the hairiest neck in the NBA Pau Gasol and candy man himself Lamar Odom. The Lakers now have won four in a row as they appear to have flipped the switch and are ready to take the season seriously now. I just don’t see how any team in the West can beat the two time defending champs four times in a playoff series, so the West is theirs to lose. Now when they face who ever makes it out the East that will be a different story.

5. Boston Celtics (42-15) – This is the team that everyone fears in the East, I don’t care what anyone says. They are like the old guys in the neighborhood that the young kids have to go through before they get respect. The Perkins trade leaves them vulnerable in the middle but I can understand GM Danny Ainge’s thinking behind the deal. They weren’t going to pay Perkins the amount of money he was looking for after he turned down a 4-year $22 million deal and they needed a big versatile 3-4 man to cover the likes of Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony in case they meet them in the playoffs. Jeff Green fits the bill and gives them what they have been looking for every since Tony Allen left town. Now just because I understand the deal doesn’t mean that I like it. Perkins mean-grimacing face was the prime example of what the Celtics are all about. The vets in the locker room (KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce) were all said to be upset after the deal but its nothing they can do about it. The Orlando Magic and the Lakers should benefit the most from this deal if they happen to meet the Celtics at one time or another in the playoffs.

Other news and notes around the league:

Contract buyout time: Now that trade deadline has come and gone, its time for the buyout players to get signed. Mike Bibby was the first player to begin the process. He was traded to the Wizards and took a $6.2 dollar buyout option to sign else where (Wow, this man really wants a ring). All indications point to him joining the Miami Heat and that would be a welcome addition for the point guard starved team. Bibby doesn’t’ play a lick of defense anymore so that has to be a concern.

After mulling offers from New York, Miami and Orlando, Troy Murphy has decided to take his talents to Boston. The 6-10 power forward is the active leader in games played without appearing in the playoffs (639 games Wow). I think it was great choice for Murphy if he wants to make a playoff run. The Celtics needed him badly after letting Perkins go and having to past their primes O’neal’s on the roster. Murphy was thought to be going to Miami but after news surfaced that Udonis Haslem would be returning soon from injury, meaning that he would likely have split Murphy’s minutes, Murphy choose Boston. Good shrewd signing for the Celtics.

The Kooky Kuseter situation in Detroit – The Pistons are too bad to be making all of this controversy. Why doesn’t Joe Dumars just get rid of this guy? He obviously isn’t meshing well with his players when most of them don’t even bother to come to practice and the voice of the locker room Richard Hamilton is saying what ever he wants to him. Kuester lost the locker room lost a long time ago. Remember when Rodney Stuckey refused to go back in a game after being taken out? Strike one. Remember when Tayshaun Prince and Kuester got into a shouting altercation and Prince had to be restrained? Strike two. And now this Rip Hamilton incident coupled with the players mutiny and laughing at the poor guy when he was thrown out the game for getting teched up twice. It’s truly amazing how long this man has lasted this long in D-town.

Joe Dumars seemed to have the golden touch in the early 2000s when the Pistons were a model of consistency in the NBA. Now after over signing for two good but not great players in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, he seems to be lost in the portrait of his team. They clearly need to clean house and start over. Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton both need to be moved and will be at any cost after the season. Your team can’t possibly be good if you have washed up Tracy McGrady starting at point guard. Dumars came out and stated that the organization has full support of John Kuester but that is just smoke and mirrors until the season is over. He will be the first one shown the door.