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Monday, December 26, 2011

Sportaholic: The Association shows us what we missed in first two days of action

For those who missed it (If you could with the wall to wall ESPN coverage) the NBA is back with a vengeance. In two days of action we have already witnessed a Kevin Garnet throat shove, Lebron James and Dwayne Wade looking like Jordan and Pippen 2.0, a Derrick Rose game winner, Chris Paul take over in the 4th for the Clips,Mr. former Mr. Kardashian himself Kris Humphries drop a 21 point 14 rebound game, and Dwight Howard make up a song about his on again off again trade rumors.  And that’s just half the story. I didn’t know what to expect as a writer and fan when the NBA finally got over themselves and stopped the madness. From “Witnessing” Lebron show up at his alma mater’s varsity football practice, players moving overseas, Delonte West working at The Home Depot, and Kevin Durant do a little bit of everything made me think these guys wouldn’t be ready come when the lockout ended. Just didn’t seem like the focus was on getting better with all of the additional free time they had.

I was as wrong as I could I could be especially about the King himself. James and the Miami Heat look as if they could beat the ’96 Chicago Bulls with their aggressive defense and spectacular fast break offense.  Lebron and Dwayne Wade combined for 63 points 18 rebounds and 12 assists and just continually got in the lane to punish the Mavericks (0-2 now after losing to Denver tonight). The Mavs look to have the dreaded “Championship Hangover” as they have looked old, slow and discombobulated to start the season. Some of that is to be expected when you add veteran players such as Lamar Odom and Vince Carter but the effort just didn’t seem there. The Los Angeles Lakers are clearly a different team under new Head Coach Mike Brown. They are much more post oriented in their offense and will use a lot of screens to open up their 3-point shooters. All that being said the ball still ended up in Kobe’s hands in crunch time and that old bugaboo of them not being able to defend small quick point guards rang true. Derrick Rose absolutely left Derek Fisher stuck to the ground and floated a leathery soft floater over Pau Gasol (Don’t get me started on him) to finish off a sensational 22-point 8-assit game. The Bulls showed they will be able to match superior offensive teams by adding Richard Hamilton (Can anyone tell me why he still wears the face guard mask?)

Carmelo deserves a big mention as well with his 20-point 2nd half outburst. "Most importantly for us, as a new team, we showed something," Anthony said. "We came together as a team. Even when we got down, there wasn't no frowns. Nobody was down. Mentally everybody was still up about it, and we willed our way to this win." The Knicks have the look of a team that can make a run but the injury of Rook Iman Shumpert going down with a MCL sprain hurts them at a position that they are already thin at. They still can score on you at will wit Melo, Amar’e Stoudemire, and a cast of talented role players. But the most important development for them was the shot blocking by newly acquired center Tyson Chandler. He obliterated 6 shots and showed that as long as he is around New York won’t be pushovers in the paint.

Lastly I can see why Dwight Howard will be traded or leave in the off season if he isn’t The Magic don’t have even half the talent around him to sniff an NBA championship.  Not when you wing player rotation consists of Jason Richardson (1 of 10), Hedo Turkoglu (3 of 10) and J.J Redick (0-3). They would have to pull off some kind of miraculous trade that they don’t have the money to do thanks to a couple of bloated contracts. The Lakers should smell blood in the water soon with Howard’s first choice New Jersey having to deal with Brooke Lopez breaking his foot.  One way or another the writing is on the wall for that situation even if Howard wants to make up little Christmas carols about it.

It was just a damn good way to start off the season after all of the bitterness that ensued during the lockout. The marquee players that we all expect to performed pretty much did that on the first two nights of the season.  Things can only get better from here and it looks like the NBA is ready to make up for dragging us into a shortened season with exceptional play all throughout it. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sportaholic College Basketball: What's wrong with the Vanderbilt Commodores?

This was a season that started off with the dreaded high expectations moniker for the Vanderbilt Commodores men’s basketball team. This was a team that that was coming off a 23-11 season that ended in disappointment after a 2nd round tournament loss to underdog Richmond. Despite the tasting that bitter pill of defeat early in the tourney the Commodores returned its core players including likely NBA draftees John Jenkins, Jeffrey Taylor and Festus Ezeli who all opted to remain in college for another shot at the NCAA tournament. They seemed poised for a deep run and started the season ranked number 7 in the nation on the strength of their experience and the best players coming back for one more year with Kevin Stallings.

However, things have not worked out as planned so far this year and its not even close. The Commodores have stumbled out the blocks to a 7-4 record. Now it’s hard to fault them on their two losses to highly ranked teams like Xavier and Louisville but their other two losses against the likes of Cleveland State and Indiana are a different story. The team seems lacking in the finishing department as they have led in the last minutes of all their losses. It’s hard to fathom why this team isn’t better in crunch time with a player in Jeff Taylor that is as versatile as any in the country and a dead eye shooter in John Jenkins who led the SEC in scoring last year. They are sorely missing the inside presence of Ezeli who has been sidelined the entire year with a sprained knee. He gives the ‘Dores a much needed presence in the post that helps spread the floor for their shooters like Jenkins, Taylor, and Brad Tinsley and also tremendous for them on the defensive side of the ball. I have been waiting since last year for Taylor to emerge as the guy with his skills and defensive prowess but he just doesn’t seem to want to take on that role even as a senior. Even Jenkins seems to shy away from taking the last shot and that’s really shocking when you see him light up teams for 20 and 30 points. He has such a beautiful stroke and shoots with ease so it really bothers me that he hasn't stepped up and become the guy.  No one the team wants to be the guy and when you have a team full of followers and not leaders you know what to expect as result.

Although the loss of Ezeli is a big one, the Commodores still be better than what we’ve witnessed so far from the. Ezeli can’t make them perform better in late game situations and neither can he in most cases be the guy who takes the last shot. A lot of Vanderbilt fans are beginning to point the finger of blame to Head Coach Kevin Stallings. Stallings is in his 13th year at the helm of the Vanderbilt program. His hard edge task master mentality toward his players rubs some the wrong way. But this is a coach that has won two SEC coach of the year awards (2007 and 2010) and has taken Vanderbilt to two Sweet Sixteen’s. Most critics of Stallings say he has a hard time of maximizing his team’s abilities as evident by recent rash of early tournament exits and some of his big time recruits not panning out. The Commodores under Stallings has seemingly always been a team with high expectations that disappoint every year and this season would be the greatest of them all with what most would call his best ever roster. Stallings is very blunt guy and tells it like it is. This is what he to say about John Jenkins after their loss to Indiana State: "They did a good job of getting up on John," Stallings said. "He was too quick to try and pinch off shots. There was no rhythm to our offense, but we had no rhythm the whole week of practice."

Whoever is to blame the Commodores need to crank it up as the season if they hope to meet those lofty goals that were made when the season started. Someone other than Coach Stallings has to become the voice of authority for this team. Rather it be Jeff Taylor, John Jenkins, Brad Tinsley or whoever. Vanderbilt teams since forever have been labeled as soft and nothing has changed from what we have seen so far. The team really misses Ezeli who is their muscle but can’t just rely on him to do everything in the post. They have to develop some intestinal fortitude when a guy like Xavier guard Tu Holloway goes off for 10 points in overtime. This team is just too talented to have the type of mental lapses it has during the most important times of the game. The beauty of this whole thing is that have plenty of more games to figure it out. They will get another crack at a top 25 opponent in Marquette. The Golden Eagles just suffered their first loss as LSU pulled the upset 67-59, so naturally they will be looking for blood after losing to one SEC team.

For the fans of the Commodores this was suppose to be the season of all seasons for them as they looked finally ready to get over the hump and make a possible Final Four run but if they don’t develop a late game go to guy and continue to play as soft as they have, they will limp into the tournament with a lower seed and set up another possible 1st round exit. Maybe it was the high expectations that have led to them faltering. Ezeli will come back soon so we will get a better gauge of what team is to become. Here is hoping that they get their act together once he does. The problem with Vanderbilt these days are the Commodores themselves. They have to look into the mirror and realize that they are just a better team than the one we’ve seen one quarter into the season.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sportaholic Weekend Rundown Dec 19, 2011

So it was my birthday weekend and I celebrated by kicking back and relaxing with family and friends. I even got caught up on my Christmas shopping as I am like most men who wait until the last minute to buy gifts. The sports scene this weekend was one of many layers. The NFL saw the Green Bay Packers going down for the first time this year as Kansas City pulled off a stunning 19-14 victory over the defending champs. Tim Tebow’s mythical legend suffered a setback as New England led by another Golden Boy in Tom Brady built a lead that even the great Tebow could not overcome. The Broncos-Pats game did draw a 19.5 T.V. rating good enough for the highest rating in four years for NBC. Let’s give it up for Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski for pulling off the Little Giants hidden ball trick play that. It resulted in a 7-yard TD for fullback Richie Brocker and help them beat the Texans. And we have to mention the Titans as they got Indianapolis in the win column losing to the Colts 27-13. I think we may have seen Matt Hasselbeck’s last past as a Tennessee Titans but more on that later.

The biggest story in the NBA was off the court as Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant wife Vanessa filed for divorce. This just adds to the list of things going on for Bryant as the Lakers seem to be in flux after the on again off again trade for Chris Paul. As for CP3 he finally landed with cross town rival Los Angeles Clippers and looks to make for a formidable team with the likes of dunk poster ready to happen Blake Griffin and a young promising Deandre Jordan. The Knicks continue to add veteran point guards with Baron Davis reportedly signing. B-diddy will be out 8-10 weeks with a back injury so he won’t be seen for a while. The season is just a week away and there will surely be a few more surprises coming the association.

Now for the rundown (I warn you now it’s football heavy):

Tebow mania runs into Brady and Belicheck: It cannot go without saying that Tebow love has reached full scale epidemic mode. He has Saturday Night Live spoofs, has a beer named after him and even got a few kids suspended for Tebowing in school hallways. Tom Brady knows a thing or two about superstardom and even more about winning. The Pats gave up an early lead to the upstart Broncos but would come roaring back and put this one too far away for another Tebow moment. Brady seemed to have something to prove going 23 of 34 for 320 yards with 2 passing TDs and one rushing TD. On his rushing score he seemed to make sure to emphatically spike the ball to serve notice that no one should be forgetting about him. Denver really got sloppy with the ball at the end of the first half as they fumbled three times.  The Pats came out firing on all cylinders in the second half as they went on to score the last 21 points of the game. Tebow started hot and finished 11 off 22 for 194 yards. He scored two rushing TDs but also took a few ugly sacks including one that saw him lose multiple yards. The Broncos shouldn’t hang their heads as they lost to a very good New England team and still are in first place at 8-6 and in first place in the AFC West. Tebow and co. should still make the playoffs where is legend can continue grow.

Green Bay finally loses but surprisingly to the Kansas City Chiefs: There a lot of ways in my mind on how the Packers quest to go undefeated would unfold. 1. They would just go undefeated. 2. They would start to lose players to injuries  (See: Greg Jennings) and shut it down for the rest of the season or 3. One of their two remaining division foes would take them down. As you can notice in no way, form or fashion did I have the previously 5-8 Chiefs would take down the undefeated champs. Kyle Orton was making his first start for them as well as Rommeo Crennel taking the helm as head coach after the firing of Todd Haley. The Pack came out flat and never seemed to have the precsion passing game working that we have come to get use to from them. There were dropped passes from trusted guys like TE Jermichael Finley and WR Donald Driver. Their defense allowed Orton and the Chiefs to march up the field a number of times that yielded 19 points. And the last thing that doomed the Pack was an off game for Aaron Rodgers. He has played lights out all year but this was the first game he looked human going 17 of 35 for 235 yards and one TD. The Chiefs deserve a lot of credit as well as they simply out played Green Bay. Crennel’s defensive game plan was masterful as he flat out jammed the receivers at the line and only rushed four men to give his defense enough personnel to cover the vaunted Packers passing game. Its just one lost but it opened up Pandora ’s Box of questions for Green Bay. They suffered two more injuries on the offensive line and that of course means that Rodgers is at risk until they get healthy.  We all know that somewhere in the world today every player from that ’72 Dolphins team are smiling.

Indianapolis finally gets a win at the expense of the Titans playoff chances: Upon witnessing Donald Brown’s 80-yard scamper that sealed the game for the Colts, I remembered asking myself how did this just happen? How did a Tennessee Titans who are smack in the middle of a playoff race let a winless team beat them so thoroughly? On the surface it appeared as if the Titans simply came out flat and didn’t take the Colts seriously. But as I looked at the game stats and different recaps of the game a few things became more apparent to me. First, I couldn’t believe that the Titans started the game going just 1/9 on third down. A lot of that can be attributed to them seemingly going two runs and one pass on most of the first half drives. Secondly, Indianapolis seemed to be more physical the entire game and it was evident with Brown end game stat line of 181 yards. The Titans just didn’t seem to want it as much as the Colts did. And lastly, it appears the time of Matt Hasselbeck as the starting QB for the Titans may have just passed right before our eyes.  Hasselbeck was as ineffective as I ever seen him going just 27 of 40 for 223 yards and no TDs. He was coming off a calf injury so we can cut him some slack for that but that was just not a good performance from the vet. Jake Locker came in and provided a spark for Tennessee as he led them on a scoring drive and it just seems like it time to start thinking about the future with the Titans playoff chances in serious doubt.

They would need a few miracles to happen now at 7-7 now to make it in as this lost basically took them out of contention. I like everyone else are disappointed about their lost to such a poor team but upon further thinking this is exactly what I predicted the Titans to be this season in a .500 team. They have had a few surprising victories over some teams and now they lost a game they should have won which is the exact reason they are a .500 football team. They are not quite there yet as a playoff team in my mind but they are oh so close.Now I know Tennessee Head Coach Mike Munchak came out and stated that its still Hasselbeck job but don’t be surprised if Locker doesn't get at least one start this year.

Editor’s Note: I know will be interning for 102.5 the Game here in Nashville so you may be able to catch me on a few of their radio and promotion spots. Don’t forget I also still host the Sportaholic Radio Show on every Saturday from 10 A.M. to 12 P.M. so make sure you tune or call in. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 13

The AFC playoff picture is about as cloudy as Lindsay Lohan’s caree path. It’s a train wreck but no one can stop watching. This much is clear in the AFC, someone has to win the conference. It’s just hard to tell who it will be at this point. If the season ended today the Houston Texans would be the AFC’s top seed sitting at 10-3 with two missing QBs and their best defensive player. Baltimore would be # 2 but they seem to save their worst games for their worst opponents with two of their three losses coming to cellar dweller Jacksonville and a Seattle team that scares no one. At # 3 would be the Patriots and its been well chronicled how woeful that defense can be at its worst moments. I always knew Tom Brady played with a chip on his shoulder but geez does he have to go in on his offensive coordinator with such fire? If you can read lips, well really when I think about it you don’t even have to know how to see the venom that Brady was spitting at offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.

As a result of the shortcomings of the front-runners of the conference, in my opinion it makes for a wide open race. Any team that gets hot (Read: Denver Broncos) at that perfect moment can really steal the conference. That goes for all the bottom teams as well as all they have to do is ride their momentum and they could topple a Houston, Pittsburgh or whoever ends with the top seed in the conference.

In the NFC it’s a different story as the Packers continue their quest to go undefeated and clearly the best team in all of football. San Francisco and New Orleans each have a commanding lead in their respective divisions as well. The only division race that is up for grabs at this point is the NFC East or should I say the least with the way Dallas and New York are fumbling and bumbling all the way to the finish line. This is a role reversal as over the past decade its usually been the NFC that was scrambling to find the dominant team of the conference.

1. Green Bay Packers (12-0) – Their demolition of the Raiders couldn’t have gone better if it wasn’t for the loss of WR Greg Jennings. He was the team’s leader in recpetions with 67 and only second to Jordy Nelson in receving yards and touchdowns. This will slow down that vaunted passing attack and the you tell the Packers didn’t take any other risks after the Jennings as Rodgers and most of the other starters were taking out on the next series. That is the biggest unknown in Green Bay’s pursuit of perfection as injuries always play a role in a team’s season. The Pack has to make sure that their priorities are in order as they have to stay healthy more than they need to go undefeated. If another star player goes down look for the Packers to shut it down.

2. Baltimore Ravens (10-3) – I thought Indy might stand a chance against the Ravens as we all have seen how Baltimore seems to play down to their competition. But there was no let down this time for John Harbaugh’s team as they did what they were suppose. It was a nothing to see here victory that keeps them on top of the AFC North. Looking at their schedule they should at least win two out of three and take the division and se themselves up with a # 2 seed and a first round bye.

3. New Orleans Saints (10-3) – The Saints league leading offense looked downright pedestrian for 3 quarters against the Titans before finally waking up. It was a dog fight to the end as Jake Locker made some big plays but he couldn’t make the biggest one at the end of the game and spared them. You have to win games like that in this league. Winning ugly is better than losing pretty that much is for sure. Once the playoffs start games will slow down defenses will be ready so games like this are inevitable. I do still have my doubts about New Orleans secondary as they gave three big pass plays in this game. As long as Brees is standing upright though, this team has a chance at the Lombardi trophy.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) – Was James Harrison’s hit on Colt McCoy worth a suspension? Considering it was Harrison, the NFL”s poster boy of big hits who has been fined over 100k since he began playing then I guess. But this is getting quite ridiculous that guys on defense can’t do what you pay them to do. It was a vicious hit I will agree to that but what was Harrison suppose to do? McCoy was ripe for a big hit and there is no way Harrison can just turn it off once he is in motion. The bigger problem I had in that game was the Browns training staff allowing McCoy to back into game when he clearly was concussed. The NFL may have a ticking time bomb on its hand as 5-10 years from now we will see a lot of guys who are not going to be in the best mind frame from all those concussions. Big Ben also suffered a bad ankle sprain in the game but he’s a gamer and I fully expect him to be in uniform for their big game against the 49ers.

5. New England Patriots (10-3) – The Pats have finally cracked the top 5 again on the strength of their 5 game winning streak. I wasn’t impressed with their victory over the Redskins as that defense again allowed to many points to Washington’s terrible offense. When Rex Grossman is looking good against your team then your team defense is a problem. And then we had the whole Tom Brady-Bill O’Brien shouting match on the sidelines. When it was all said and done the Pats took home the victory (Thanks to Grossman’s mistakes of course) and it puts them in the driver seat for the AFC East. They will have their hands full with the Denver Tebows especially with that league worst passing defense but more on that later.

News and Notes from the league:

Tebow and the Broncos do it yet again: Its so redundant at this point but I just have to ask the question once again? How in the hell are the Broncos able to do this week in and week out? Now granted they had a little help this time from Marion Barber as his two bonehead plays (Not staying inbounds on one play and fumbling on the next). Its just crazy how every week they seem to just hang around in the game and then just take the other team to the woodshed in the fourth quarter. Matt Prater deserves a lot of praise with his two +50 yard field goals as well. Now is this divine intervention as Tebow’s preacher is claiming in Denver? I don’t know and I don’t even want to speculate into something like that but you have to admit it does seem like Tebow is playing for a higher cause. We will really see what they are made of when they face New England this weekend’s premier game. Can’t wait to watch that one.

Cowobys lose again on last second FG miss: To be Cowboys fan these days has to be torture. You have your team up by 12 points with less than six minutes to play and somehow, someway they find a way to lose the game. While a friend and I were watching the game, we could just sense that Dallas letting the game slip away. After Miles Austin short-armed Tony Romo’s deep pass it was all but over for the Cowboys psyche. When a team is use to losing close games as Dallas is, all it takes is for one thing to go wrong in crunch time and all those doubts and fear begin to reappear. The game shouldn’t even have been in question by the time Giants stud linemen Jason Pierre-Paul blocked the game tying field goal. The Cowboys have to find a way to finish games and it may be too late this season to figure it out. The Giants on the other hand ended a four game losing streak and took control of the NFC East.

Sportaholic best games of the weekend:

New England Patriots (10-3) vs. Denver Broncos (8-5) – Tebow’s magic versus Brady’s golden arm in what should be an epic showdown. Brady and Belichek will surely say all the right things this week but come Sunday they will be ready to shatter the white Broncos Tebow aura. Tebow should actually have a lot of success against the Pats awful pass defense but more than likely he will struggle until the fourth and then go bonkers like he always does.

Detroit Lions (8-5) vs. Oakland Raiders (7-6) – Something has to give with the Raiders and Carson Palmer. He looked flat out horrible against the Packers last week and if he is to prove Hue Jackson and the organization right about the trade they pulled he has to at least put competitive performances. For the Lions they basically have to win out to secure a playoff spot with Dallas now breathing down their neck

San Francisco 49ers (10-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) – This one just has playoffs oozing out of it. Two post season bound teams meeting in San Fran for a Monday night tile so of course you can count me in for this one. The niners are coming off an embarssing lost to the Cardinals so they should be ready to come out and raise hell. Will Big Ben play? Of course he will because like he earlier he is a gamer.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sportaholic Tennessee Titans vs. New Orleans Review

Coming into this game everyone knew New Orleans NFL best offense led by Drew Brees would challenge in the Titans in every conceivable way on defense. Tennessee fought hard and came up short losing 22-17 in a game that they could have won. The Titans defense for the most part held the red hot Brees under control allowing only 3 John Kasay field goals in 3 quarters this game was practically a bore through the first half and I’m sure that was just fine with the Titans defense. Brees did complete a lot of passes but they didn’t do much harm at Tennessee was bending but not breaking. The Saints also had too many penalties in the first half that attributed to their stagnant offense. Tennessee’s offense just couldn’t capitalize on the defenses success as they could only muster 3 points in the first half. Titans starting QB Matt Hasselbeck’s injury may have had something to do with the offense struggling as he went down with an injured calf in the 2nd quarter. Hasselbeck was 5/7 for 44 yards before leaving the game.

Rookie Jake Locker came in provided a spark in the second half with his arm and legs. The University of Washington grad showed why the Titans are high on so high on him as he made a number of big plays. First, Locker found an open Nate Washington for a 40-yard TD pass as the injured WR broke a tackle on his way to the end zone. Next, he scrambled around and bowled over Saints Safety Roman Harper for his second score that closed the gap for Tennessee to 22-17. Unfortunately that would be as close as they would get as they wouldn’t get another score as they stalled on their last two drives. Things looked promising on their next to last drive as Locker hooked with Washington for a couple of strikes of 18 and 9 but they couldn’t covert a 4th down on a Locker quarterback sneak.

The Titans got the ball back with 1:34 for their last breath and moved the ball well as Locker delivered yet again to Washington for another 40-yard strike that put the Titans at that Saints 5-yard line. The Titans tried to fit in a quick slant over the middle that Saints CB Tracy Porter knocked down. That left the Titans with one last play. This time Locker couldn’t deliver this time as the rookie couldn’t get rid of the ball on a scramble and was taken down by the Saints as the game expired. It appeared that Locker may have held the ball to long and could have found a way to at least get the ball out to give his receiver a chance to make a play. Locker seemed inclined to second guess himself saying “Once I got outside the pocket there were a lot of guys there,” Locker said. “It ended up that I didn’t throw it anyway but ... I should have.” Titans head coach Mike Munchak was having none of that in the post-game. “I am not going to second guess anything he did,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. The loss snaps their two-game losing streak and puts the pressure on them to win their last three games just to make the playoffs. The division is out of the question now as Houston’s win over Cincinnati clinched the AFC south. If you read the article closely you will notice not mention of Chris Johnson. He was held to 23 yards on 11 carries as the could never find his way against the Saints D.

It was such interesting game for multiple reasons for Tennessee with so many bizarre things developing during the game itself. To have top cornerback Jason McCourty out for the game, WR Nate Washington hurt but gritting out a good performance, and have Hasselbeck go down and rookie QB Jake Locker fill was just a lot for any football team to go through in one game. Luckily for the Titans they have three winnable contest left on the schedule with Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and a not much to play for Houston squad. They have to hope that the New York Jets stumble as they are 8-5 and control their own destiny after destroying the Kansas City Chiefs 37-10. The Titans are still in it but they can’t afford to lose another game.

The season is on the brink for Tennessee and we will see how they respond in the last stretch of the season.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nixed Chris Paul trade creates firestorm of problems for NBA

Lakers Paul trade fiasco is a bad look for the NBA:

There are a lot of ways to take in what transpired yesterday involving Chris Paul and a host of other big names being traded, only to have NBA commissioner/czar David Stern kill the deal. It sets a disturbing precedent for the league right after all of the hand wringing of the labor dispute that has already knocked the season down to a 66-game schedule. Most fans already see Stern as a meddle some power drunk leader who seems to have way too much power over his league. It was first reported by Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojonarowski that the NBA owners pushed for this not to happen. Now the one thing that I was say is that the NBA does own the Hornets and so that means they do have the final say in their basketball operations. This is the biggest problem with the whole situation. The entire trade was put to a vote from the owners and it was declined. It was inevitable that Paul was going to leave New Orleans when his contract expired and even Hornets president Hugh Weber said as much this year. New Orleans didn’t want to be held hostage like Denver with Carmelo Anthony or just let Paul walk like Lebron James did in Cleveland. The Hornets GM Dell Demps engineered one heck of a trade that saw his team land Kevin Martin who averaged 23.5 points last season, Lamar Odom the versatile power forward. Goran Dragic a decent backup point guard and a first round draft pick. Seems pretty fair to right? The Lakers were giving up their entire identity as they traded away two of the three 7’footers that has defined them over the past few years.

When the league owns a team, then it can pretty much do whatever it wants with it. Cleveland Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert, who of course had his own about face with big time superstarLebron James, wrote a letter to Stern that pretty much sums up what most of the other owners were thinking. This is the letter:

Cavs Owner Dan Gilbet

It would be a travesty to allow the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul in the apparent trade being discussed.

This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.

Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.

I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make trade for Dwight Howard. (They would also get a large trade exception that would help them improve their team and/or eventually trade for Howard.) When the Lakers got Pau Gasol (at the time considered an extremely lopsided trade) they took on tens of millions in additional salary and luxury tax and they gave up a number of prospects (one in Marc Gasol who may become a max-salary player).

I just don’t see how we can allow this trade to happen.

I know the vast majority of owners feel the same way that I do.

When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals?

Please advise….

Dan G.

Hornets GM Dell Deps
Do you feel that stinging feeling of hate and spite from Gilbert? Now maybe that is taking it too far but what other way do you interpret this letter? Its understandably disheartening for small market owners to have to swallow yet another superstar getting his request and being traded to big market team (which was one of the key issues in the recent labor strife) but its another thing for them make such a bold move of this magnitude.

 Lamar Odom
This makes the entire brand of the NBA look superficial and presents more questions then answers. Now what do the Hornets do? Can they not trade Paul at all this season, setting up a scenario where he walks away fom nothing? How do the Lakers explain to Lamar Odom (Who was reduced to tears on radio and then later went on a rampage on twitter) and Pau Gasol? Houston thought it finally had its premier big man and now they are back to square one. And how about Hornets GM Dell Demps? He was so distraught that he reportedly almost quit his job and had to be talked into staying. They have taken away all of his power to be able to do his job. The NBA has to find a way to get this right. Even if the owners are lobbying for it not to, this would set an unprecedented scene for a league that should want nothing to do anymore legal wrangling. The Hornets got what they wanted, ridding itself of the drama that would have ensued with Paul this year, The Lakers got the best Point Guard it would have had since Magic Johnson, and the Rockets got the big man they coveted in Pau Gasol so what is the problem here? David Stern and his cronies have some explaining to do or this could get ugly fast.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 13

The Sportaholic NFL power rankings showed about as much movement as a Best Buy Black Friday pre-sale line as all of the top 5 teams won their games. The Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers all came away with victories with the Packers the only team not winning by at least 14 points. Green Bay took a few body blows and head shots from the New York Giants and their relentless pass rush that left the future MVP Aaron Rodgers (Yeah I said it) on the ground more than any Packers fan would like to see. I tweeted how that game eerily reminded me of the 2009 battle between the undefeated New England Patriots and the desperately needing a victory just to make the playoffs Giants. New York lost that game 17-14 but it lit a fire under them that saw them become the first NFC wild card team win a Super Bowl. Now I’m not saying that is what’s going to happen to this 2011 version of the Giants but rather the flow of the game had that kind of feel to it. I still fully expect the Packers win every game this year with only Oakland, Kansas City, Chicago and Detroit. Everyone of those teams will give the Pack their best shot but with Rodgers covering up all of inefficiencies (Horrible pass defense, no run game, etc.) they should at least make to it to the playoffs unscathed if they want to.
The other top 4 teams flexed their muscle by blowing out their opponents.

Outside of the top 5 week 13 produced the usual drama that NFL fans crave.  Tim Tebow did what Tim Tebow does as he helped the Broncos pull out another squeaker over Minnesota. That’s 5-1 as a starter for you keeping stats on him. The New England Patriots played a head scratcher of a game against the winless Colts. Hard to justify a top 5 spot when you allow Dan Orvlosky (Remember he is the guy who didn’t know he stepped out of the end zone in game against the Minnesota Vikings a few years back) to pile up 353 yards of passing on you. The Patriots defense just isn’t good enough to make the team viable in the playoffs.  Houston looked surprisingly well without either of the Matt’s at QB as young T.J. Yates was decent in his first start. The best thing about the Texans horrible situation is that two fundamental things that do in running the ball and playing good defense hasn’t changed even with all of their injuries. They beat a good Atlanta Falcon team and would have beaten a lot of good teams with their performance. How bout them Cowboys? Last I check Jason Garrett had an Ivy League education but you wouldn’t know it by the end of their with the Arizona Cardinals. He iced his own kicker, rookie Dan Bailey at the end of regulation as Dallas eventually lost to the Cards on a walk-off screen pass from Kevin Kolb to LaRod Stephens-Howling. The reaction form Cowboys defensive coordinator Rex Ryan pretty much summed it up. Dallas can never seem to find its identity on offense and Romo could beginning his annual December to never remember slide again.
Fun week in the league as the regular season is culminating into what should be an exciting finish. The obvious question of if the Packers can go all the way with more than enough other storylines. Can Tebow take the Broncos all the way to the playoffs? What will become of the once dominant NFC East as Dallas and New York take on each other this weekend and determine the division’s fate.

Rankings time:

1. Green Bay Packers (12-0) – Funny how this whole rankings thing has become Green Bay # 1 and everybody else for themselves. Since the start of the season the Packers have owned this spot. Green Bay has continued to look vulnerable throughout this entire season but no one can seem to crack them. The Giants did a lot of good things that game including pounding them on the ground and apply pressure on Rodgers with the pass rush. They also controlled the clock but even with them doing all of the above they still fell short. That all goes on the Packers offense. They don’t need a lot of time to be effective. Rodgers gets a lot of praise but the entire offense deserves it. Yeah the receivers dropped more than enough passes but they caught the ones they needed. You will have games likes this during the season but it’s all about how you perform in the clutch and we see how the Packers find a way week in and week out.

    2. Baltimore Ravens (9-3) – I have been clamoring for the emergence of Ray Rice in the Ravens offense (As I seem to do every year) and finally Baltimore got him the ball. Rice had 204 yards toting the rock and looked even stronger as the game went on. That’s the formula that works for them even if they don’t like it. When Rice and that offensive line gets to impose their will on an offense then it becomes a game much of favor of the Ravens. Their defense can take over from there. Now will the Ravens follow this blueprint into the playoffs we shall see but it would benefit them in the best of ways if they did.

 ;   3. New Orleans Saints (9-3) – Some teams do it with defense and some do it with offense but none may do it better on that side of the ball then New Orleans. It gets repetitive but Drew Brees control over that system is amazing. He controls it with such precision and finesse it’s as if he could do this in his sleep. The Saints are hot and they shut down an above average but out of control Lions team. Their run defense will get a stiff test against Chris Johnson and the Titans this weekend but they look to be up to the task. That offense has given many a defensive coordinator nightmares and now its Jerry Gray’s turn at no sleep for Tennessee.
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    4. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) – The emergence of Antonio Brown has allowed to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense to become one of the more potent passing attacks in the league. When you have the speedster Mike Wallace and the athletic Brown on the outside coupled with Ben’s escape ability then you have a chance for big plays. The Steelers still play good defense of course but they can hang a quick 30 on you if you don’t pay attention. Can that defense hold up with its age is the question we will have to find out.

    5. San Francisco 49ers (10-2) – If there was ever a reason to jump on the San Fran bandwagon, then it would be now. Their defense is just suffocating as proved wby their shutout 26-0 victory over the St. Louis Rams. Yeah it was just the Rams but a shutout on ahy NFL team is impressive. This team seems to always have an edge and that’s mostly because they have crazy in a good way coach, Jim Harbaugh. He never lets his team feel like they have arrived and it has paid off in a big way this year. They have to keep that edge going into the playoffs as they are staring down the # 2 seed and an bye for the first round. Is this team ready for all this success?

Other news and notes:

    Tim Tebow goes to 5-1 as starter, Broncos in first place at 7=5 – Now I won’t get any Tebowe (Not a real word I just made it up) on you and give him all the credit for their victory. The defense stepped when it needed to as Andre Goodman picked off Christian Ponder to seal the game but it’s still Tebow’s influence on the locker room. They have really all brought in to his mind frame and look like they could find a way to steal their division. They play with heart and never give up (Who does that sound like?) which is a credit to each and everyone of them. Don’t be surprised if they sneak into the playoffs and maybe even win a game once there.

    Philadelphia implodes, loses to Seattle: The season started off with so much hope in the city of brotherly love but nothing has been brotherly about this season for the Eagles. They allowed RB Marshawn Lynch to just go beast mode as he says and run all over them. There was no effort to stop it on defense and on offense they looked dismal as former Tennessee Titans Vince Young had four interceptions. Desean Jackson just about sums up the Eagles season as he didn’t even pay attention to an animated Young on the sidelines. After the game Jackson was short and rude with reporters as he described the game. If I were Michael Vick I would just put the ribs on ice for the rest of the season as they are going nowhere but home after week 16.
      Local Flavor:

    Tennessee 24 Buffalo 17 – Chris Johnson seems to have finally found his way as the Titans RB ran over, around and through the Bills defense. Johnson was game from the beginning as he busted a 48-yard TD in the first and never looked back from there. The Bills made it interesting as Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to find his receivers and put up points but in the end Johnson and the Titans were just too much. The Titans are in the thick of the playoff race and still mathematically have a chance win the AFC south. They will face # 3 in the Sportaholic NFL Power rankings as New Orleans will put pressure on the Titans defense from every angle. I am interested to see if Johnson and Tennessee can keep it going on the ground and try to control to clock against the quick strike offense of the Saints.

Key Games for next week:

    Houston Texans (8-3) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) – If the Bengals are some way to make a playoff push then they have to find a way to win this game. The Texans just keep rolling QBs be damned and look to keep winning with the Tennessee Titans breathing down their neck.

    Chicago Bears (7-5) vs. Denver Broncos (7-5) – The Bears are just hanging on any way they can at this point and couldn’t have got worse news than Matt Forte knee injury. His MCL sprain means that now they are without their heart (Jay Cutler) and now their soul without Forte. The fighting Tebow’s look to keep rolling and have a good chance to go 8-5 against the injury riddled Bears.

    New York Giants (7-5) vs. Dallas Cowboys (7-5) - Remember when the NFC East could do no wrong a few years ago and was agreed upon as the toughest division in the league? Boy has times changed as it appears 10-6 or even 9-7 may take the East this year. This is a must win for both teams naturally as whoever wins this one controls their own destiny. Can Tony Romo reverse the trend of his bad play in December play and the same can be asked about the as they are notoriously known for their late season swoons under Tom Coughlin. 


Monday, December 5, 2011

Sportaholic Weekend Rundown 12/05/2011

As we all lament that Monday is here again and dreadfully head back to work, there were more than enough things that happened in the world of sports that should make work a little better for you today. No matter if you’re a football, basketball, or golf than you had something to cheer about. So with that being said lets jump into the weekend run down.

Tiger……….finally wins again: Insert all the jokes you want to right here but this is a moment you won’t be able to take from Woods. For the first time in over two years, he captured his first title in the Chevron World Challenge. It wasn’t just that Woods won, it was the manner in which he did as he made clutch putts down the stretch to beat Zach Johnson. “It feels good,” said Woods. “I’ve been in contention twice this year, which is not very often. I had the lead at the Masters on the back nine there, and obviously had a chance there at the Aussie Open. We all knew on that faithful day back in 2009 when his Escalade was plastered all over the news that Woods life would change from that moment but not to the extent that it has. Woods winless streak went a career long 749 days and for a guy that we could usually pencil in for at least one or two majors a year than that had to seem like an eternity. Between the infidelity scandal that led to his divorce and then a rash of injuries that limited him to only a number of tournaments, Woods has faced a challenge more remarkable than any other superstar athlete. Woods looked loose and comfortable all weekend in speaking with the media which is usually a signal that he is playing well. Hopefully this is the beginning of a Tiger renaissance as the game of golf sorely misses his dominant play that transformed golf. Cheers to you Tiger.

Miami Marlins make splash, sign SS Jose Reyes to multi year deal: As we can now see with this signing, this isn’t your daddy’s Florida Marlins. The new look new attitude Miami Marlins made the first big move of the MLB off-season signing what most experts considered the best all around offensive talent on the market. Reyes hit for a .337 average and led the league with 16 triples. The six year $106 million dollar deal means that the Marlins star SS Hanley Ramirez will be moved to 3rd base to make room for Reyes. The Marlins with the addition reliever Heath Bell and now Reyes are making noise in an already crowded NL East division. The Phillies and Braves are surely taking notice and the Marlins are still in the hunt to land the biggest fish of them all, that’s right you guessed it Albert Pujols. Stay tuned as these Marlins have the money all of a sudden and aren’t afraid to spend it.

BCS Championship set but not without debate: The LSU Tigers clinched their championship ticket with a lopsided win over Georgia in the SEC Championship game. That meant that if was down to Alabama and Oklahoma State for the 2nd spot. Both teams are more than deserving as Bama has beat everyone its faced except for the Tigers as they played them to a 9-6 lost, the closet game the Tigers have had the entire year. Oklahoma State has rolled all but one their opponents as well with their only defeat at being at the hands of Iowa State on a Friday night and one day after the tragic plane crash of women basketball coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna. With all things being measured, Alabama was chosen as the 2nd best team in the nation and will face the Tigers for a rematch in the BCS National Championship in New Orleans. There has been a lot of griping from all over the nation as most fans (Fans not from the south that is) don’t seem to want a rematch from the two SEC schools. The computer systems in which the BCS uses to formulate its championship uses the AP and USA Today poll in 2/3 of its formula and Bama was ranked 2nd in both. It’s hard to make a case for the Cowboys even after they took arch rival OU to the woodshed 44-10 in their biggest victory ever over their nemesis. If the Cowboys had handled their business against the lowly Cyclones, then none of this would be up for discussion. I, just like everyone else hate the BCS system because its such a fracas that causes everyone to doubt the legitimacy of college football. When you have teams like Michigan and Virginia Tech playing BCS with more deserving teams not getting the nod, it makes everyone involved in the system look bad. The LSU vs. Bama match up does appear to pit the best two teams in the nation against each other. Ok State has a superior offense to both of those teams but as the old adage goes defense wins championships. Oklahoma State fans do have a reason to complain about as in any other year their 11-1 record would be good enough to get unfortunately this wasn’t the year.

College Basketball: #1 Kentucky downs #5 North Carolina 73-72 – In a game that was hyped as much as early season game can and it actually lived up to the billing. This was an embarrassment of riches for these two storied programs as 9 of the 10 starters on the court were projected to be drafted in the NBA. The two schools played in an epic showdown that saw the game go down to the wire with Wildcats freshman Anthony Davis blocking the Tar Heels John Henson on a last second shot. This was a preview of a potential Final Four match up. Carolina wasn’t able to get it done but no one may play the Cats this close for a long time.

NFL: Rodgers and Packers move to 12-0 – The Pack attack just won’t lose and with their latest win there is no reason not to believe that they will go undefeated. Green Bay took down the physical New York Giants 38-35 in an exciting game that saw Mr. Rodgers step in crunch time to help the Packers seal the victory. After the Giants scored to tie game at 35, Rodgers and the offense came on to the field with 58 seconds remaining and Rodgers made it look easy from there. He completed passes of 24, 27, and of 18 yards in a drive so quick that you missed it if you blinked your eyes. The quick drive set up a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby and just like that the Packers are 12-0. Looking at Green Bay’s schedule this was the hardest game they had remaining in my opinion. They face Oakland, Kansas City, Chicago and Detroit to end the season and should be favored in every game from this point. I fully expect them to go undefeated at this point and you would be crazy to bet against them at this point. They do have their flaws as every team does but they just seem to find a way to win each game. This looks like one of those special teams that is destined for something great.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sportaholic College Football Weekend Setup: Championship Weekend Edition

Championship week is upon us in college football which is always something to be bittersweet about. The season is already coming to a close but this is probably one of the best weekends to be a college football fan. Another thing to cheer for is the formation of a few new conference championship games. You may not like the conference realignment that is sweeping the nation but it has given us the opportunity to witness additional games this weekend. We now have the Big 10 championship game, Pac-12 championship, and even the MAC and Conference USA championship games. So far in my opinion this is the only good thing that has come from all this shifting in college football. The conferences got what they want by adding championship games.

Although the season is winding to a close, a plethora of questions remain. Can Alabama really play in the BCS championship game without winning its conference? What about the other one-loss teams, can any of them leap frog the Crimson Tide? Who is the front-runner for the Heisman at this point? If LSU stumbles in the SEC Championship game against the red hot Georgia Bulldogs, should they still get an invite for the Championship game? Like I said, a lot of unanswered questions still abound that should make for a list of interesting storylines.

Maybe the most entertaining narrative is the Rick Neuheisel -UCLA drama. I’m sure by now you now the story as he was fired by the Bruins, although they made it to the inaugural Pac-12 championship game. He will actually coach in the game even though he is technically axed from his job. Crazy times as always in the Pac-12 that are sure to get even crazier with the addition of the mad genius Mike Leach to Washington State.

Championship week also provides us with a few old fashioned rivalry games like Army vs. Navy and the Bedlam battle between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. It stinks this is the last regular season week in college football but at least we have more than enough games to watch.

SEC Championship Game: Georgia Bulldogs (10-2) vs. LSU Tigers (12-0) – My fellow writer Taylor Cannon will do the honors for this game:

And here we go (Heath Ledger JOKER VOICE), this is for SEC supremacy, EAST vs. WEST. The Top ranked LSU TIGER come to Atlanta as Western division champs and undefeated , while the GEORIGA BULLDOGS started off cold 0-2 and Mark Richt seat was BLAZIN, but now the seat has cooled off and da DAWGS are hot winning 10 straight. SOMETHING has to give, both these teams have a BCS bid, but BOTH want the SEC TITLE. So , who will it be, will it be the LSU TIGERS who are on a mission for titles, or will it be UGA who will want to give the “home “ fans something to celebrate in the ATL.

Offense vs. Offense: UGA is led by super sophomore Aaron Murray with 2698 yds 32 Tds 10 interceptions; his running counterpart Isaiah Crowell 172 carries 832 yds with 5 TDS and their main receiving threat in Malcolm. Mitchell 34 catches with 582 yards 4 yds. The Bulldogs have an above average offense capable of putting points up on anyone. LSU will have Jordan Jefferson at QB has came on as late and has taken charge of this team. The quad monster running back team of Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Kenny Hilliard, and Alfred Blue looks to give Georgia’s D some fits and if receivers Russell Sheppard and Rueben Randle get open and get hot LSU will look to light up the scoreboard. Edge: LSU

Defense vs. Defense : LSUs Defense is solid it’s been putting pressure and has been given SEC QBs nightmares all year and look to do the same against Murray. Georgia’s defense is no slouch either as they ranked in the top 10 in points allowed, rushing yards and total defense. With that being said we all know that the Tigers defense has been by far the best of any team in the nation this year. Edge: LSU

Intangibles: LSU has been playing focused all year and mistake free football. This is the main game they can’t trip up because the whole nation is watching, some STILL think LSU does not deserve to play in the national championship if they lose, so LSU must come out and play ball. The Bulldogs want to crash the Tigers little homecoming party in New Orleans, site of the BCS Championship and keep their winning ways going as they have ran off with nine straight victories. Edge: Push

Winner and why – LSU 45-UGA 28- Too much LSU D and offense. The Tigers just have too much on the line to lose this game and after beating all comers (In Les Miles accent) they should finish the season off with a win and the chance to play for all the marbles in January.

Big Ten Championship Game: Michigan State (10-2) vs. Wisconsin (10-2) – The highly anticipated rematch of these teams was what most people wanted to see in the first Big 10 Championship game. Their epic battle that saw Michigan State win on a last play Hail Mary was one of the most memorable moments of the year. They will get it on again this time for a chance at the Rose Bowl. The two teams know each other well so expect a slugfest. Wisconsin’s bread and butter is on the ground as RB Montee Ball is quietly having one of the best scoring seasons in all of NCAA history with his 34. Ball and Russell Wilson lead a dominant Badgers offense (averaging 44.8 points per game) that will put pressure on Michigan State’s number 3 ranked defense (266.7 total yards per game). The Spartans have a pretty offense as well with the likes of QB Kirk Cousins, WRs B.J. Cunningham and Keyshawn Marin, and RB Edwin Baker. I think the Badgers still have that taste in their mouths from the last time they played so they will be out for blood. Motivation is always a big momentum swinger in games of two evenly matched teams so mark this one down for the Badgers.

The Pick: Wisconsin

ACC Championship Game: Virginia Tech (11-1) vs. Clemson (9-3) – Another Championship and another rematch. Clemson thrashed the Hokies 23-3 two months ago but Tech hasn’t lost a game since and looks as if the lost made them stronger. ACC player of the year David Wilson at running back has really taken it to another level as he seemingly is breaking off big runs in every game they play. Clemson has lost three out of their last four and it seems the wheels are falling off at this point. Dabo Swiney’s team was a nice story as QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins carried the team for most of the season but both of those players productions really have fallen since their hot start. There is no way you can pick against the Hokies in this one as they should go on to win yet another ACC Championship.

The Pick: Virginia Tech

Pac 12 Championship: Oregon (10-2) vs. UCLA (6-6) – Like I said above, this one is interesting for the simple fact that its Rick Neuheisel’s last game at the Bruins coach rather he likes it or not. He has already been fired but is still coaching and would need a miracle to pull off the upset as the Ducks are favored by 30 points in this one. The Bruins needed a heap of misfortune just to make it into the game as they lost to USC 50-0 (The Trojans would won the division this had it not been for the whole NCAA ineligibility thing) and had to have Utah lose to Colorado to win the south division. This game is ripe for a blowout as the Bruins have nothing to counter the Ducks high powered offense featuring the likes of Darron Thomas, Lamichael James and Deanthony Thomas.

The Pick: Oregon Ducks

The Battle of Bedlam: Oklahoma (9-2) vs. Oklahoma State (10-1) – This was suppose to be the game that decided who would go on to face the SEC winner in the BCS Championship but unfortunately both teams lost to teams they shouldn’t have and now are relegated to needing a miracle to get in. This will be a game of offensive fireworks featuring two of the best QB in college right now with Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden. The two have combined for over 8,000 yards in passing this year and another 62 touchdown passes. The Sooners have a dealt with injuries as Jones favorite target WR Ryan Broles went down earlier this year with a torn ACL and his other favorite target Kenny Stills has been slowed by multiple injuries. Justin Blackmon is Weeden go to guy and he has racked up 103 receptions 1,241 yards and 15 touchdowns so far. This one will be fun just because of the offense but when it boils down to it, the Sooners defense should be able to get a stop when they need it. They are way more capable then the Cowboys defense which isn’t bad but not even close to being as good as the Sooners are on that side of the ball.

The Pick: Oklahoma Sooners

Lastly, I saw an interesting article on the prices of each major BCS conference ticket. Check out the chart below