I’m back just in time to cover the pennant race and college football kickoff! I’d like to welcome the newest addition to the Sports ALL DAY writing crew, Thomas Duggins. Thomas is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, studying Journalism and Electronic Media. His first post will be up shortly, on the current state of the NL East, so be sure to check that out! Also coming later, the countdown is over for Georgia State University’s football team and they showed Thursday night what two solid years of preparation can yield.
Playing with the same poise and perseverance that carried them through the regular season the Atlanta Hawks notched a 102-92 win at home against the Milwaukee Bucks. Many people have questioned the Hawks’ legitimacy as playoff contenders, but any uncertainties were put to rest in the first half when Atlanta came out firing and went into halftime with a commanding 62-40 lead over the visiting Bucks.
Joe Johnson led the steady Hawks attack with 22 points as well as notching 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Josh Smith contributed a 12 point 10 rebound effort while pacing the Hawks on defense with four blocks and on offense with his usual intensity and rim-rattling dunks. The real story of the night was the rebirth of Mike Bibby as a staple of the Hawks’ offense. Missing only one shot all game long, Bibby shot eight for nine from the field including three for three from behind the arc to end up with 19 points. In his first career playoff game, Jamal Crawford once again established himself as THE Sixth Man of the Year, coming off the bench to score 17 as well as helping contain Milwaukee’s dynamic duo of Brandon Jennings and John Salmons.
The Bucks put up a fight in the second half, outscoring the Hawks 52-40 but it was simply not enough as Jennings’ 34 point effort was wasted in the series opener. Expect the same intensity and sense of urgency from the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, as they look to extend their home winning streak to 14 games and secure a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Bogut-less Bucks.
Coming later, the first no-hitter of the season and first in franchise history for the Rockies in Atlanta. Also, a look into the first day of the NBA Playoffs and what to expect tomorrow.
This Sunday, Atlanta was faced with an arduous task, slowing down the Blazers and star shooting guard Brandon Roy. Roy put on a show scoring 29 points, dishing out five dimes and capping that off his spectacular performance four boards. But I guess Roy hasn’t heard the saying “Anything you can do I can do better,” because Joe Johnson went off on the Blazers. For the fourth straight game, Joe scored more than 30 points, with a grand total of 35 before going to the bench to allow the bench players some playing time. He also added an impressive seven boards and six assists to his scoresheet, showing that he is a versatile, all-around team player that is a force to be reckoned with on the court. Three other Hawks scored in double figures, led by Josh Smith with 19 points and 8 boards. Al Horford contributed 13 points and 5 boards while Mike Bibby was making himself useful at the point-guard position with 5 assists, also scoring 15 and grabbing 4 rebounds. This was an all-around great win for the Hawks, making it five in a row, all on their home-court. They were able to send their reserves in with time still left in the game, ending the game with a final score of 98-70. Blowing out Portland is great, but the Hawks need to keep on their guard for Sacramento. Although Sacramento has the worst record in the NBA, they are a dynamic team that can unexpectedly bring their A-game on any given day. Let’s hope that the Hawks will bring their A-game on Tuesday in Atlanta against the Kings to extend the winning streak to six games.
“I’m back!” Those were the first words out of Manny Ramirez’s mouth at his “welcome back” press conference for the return of the outspoken super slugger. Ramirez is happy to be back in Los Angeles for at least another two seasons after signing a lucrative 2-year $45 million contract with $25 guaranteed in the first year. Who wouldn’t be happy getting paid a salary like that? Oh yeah, Ramirez a week earlier when he initially turned down the contract. Who in their right mind would turn down $45 million, especially when $25 million is guaranteed and it is only a TWO-year contract? Goes to show that no matter how talented you are, you can still come off as completely arrogant and overpaid.
On the other end of the baseball spectrum back on the East Coast, the Yankees have problems of their own with their superstar, Alex Rodriguez. Weeks after coming out with the story of his steroid use, Alex Rodriguez has opted to have surgery to fix his torn labrum. Unfortunately for the Yankees, this surgery will have A-Rod out for at least 6-9 weeks, or at least that is what they are planning. Reports have said that a torn labrum can take up to 4 months or longer to heal after surgery, so the two month time-frame that the Yankees are giving Rodriguez is absolutely ridiculous. Why risk injuring their star player further by not allowing his injury to heal properly? The answer is simple. Without A-Rod in the lineup, the Yankess face the daunting task of replacing him at third base with their less than stellar backup infielders. This unfortunate news comes weeks after A-Rod’s disheartening confession to steroid use. What a month it has been for Rodriguez and the Yankees. They can only hope that the coming months will bring relief to a Yankees squad that is in desperate need of a pennant come October. With the Red Sox reclaiming the throne as the American League East powerhouse, the Yankees have been left searching for answers.
In light of this, baseball is still going strong, with teams from all around the world competing in the World Baseball Classic. Early favorites Japan and the United States have jumped out to 2-0 and 1-0 records respectively. After losing their first two games, China blew out the previously undefeated Korean team with a humbling 14-0 victory. Look out for the unprecedented amount of talent in this incredible baseball tournament, you might not see anything like it again.
Coming later, David Beckham back with the Los Angeles Galaxy for good?
After several days of heated debate on where the illustrious wide receiver would end up, the answer became apparent on Saturday. Terrell Owens will be in the market for some boots and winter coats, as his new team happens to be the Buffalo Bills. Who would’ve ever thought that the outspoken Owens would end up with a team as problem-plagued as the Bills? Owens put rumors of his signing with other teams to rest when he signed a one-year, 6.5 million dollar contract with the bills. All of that is guaranteed money, which is a big bonus for Owens.The signing off Owens is definitely a high-risk, high-reward type situation for the Bills. He could potentially bring that intensity and pure talent that could light up the field in Buffalo. However, he could also bring his negative attitude that has tarnished his reputation with his three previous teams (49ers, Eagles and most recently the Cowboys).
The major question here is can T.O. really bring the change needed to transform this lackluster ball-club into a season-long contender? He has a long road ahead of him, as a majority of the Bills offense could land on his shoulders. This is due to the possibility of running back Marshawn Lynch’s impending suspension due to his possession of a loaded firearm in his vehicle. Lynch’s actions have landed him with 36 months of probation and 80 hours of community service, all of which must be completed by September 1st. If Lynch misses games due to suspension as he is expected to, Owens will have to carry the offense on his shoulders, something he is used to and looks forward to once more. After complaining about the lack of passes targeted to him this past season, Owens should find no shortage of passes coming his way come September.
The looming question that hangs over the clubhouse in Buffalo is will Terrell Owens continue to cause problems and be a hindrance to team chemistry? Or will he bring a presence that has been long-sought for in Buffalo that will help them overcome their three straight 7-9 seasons? The answers still up in the air, and come pre-season we will find out. Until then we will just have to hope that an old dog can learn some new tricks, because Owens’ old tricks will certainly not suit him here.
More coming later today on the decision of Alex Rodriguez to proceed with surgery on his torn labrum.
In a day of comebacks, homecomings and clinched playoff spots, perhaps the most thrilling game of the day took place in South Beach. The high-scoring affair pitted Phoenix and All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal against Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat at home. It was a homecoming for Shaq, who called Miami home for a few seasons before being traded to the Suns. Dwayne Wade went off on Phoenix, putting up 35 points, 16 dimes and 6 boards en route to an impressive 135-129 win. The Miami Heat bench, fueled by rookie phenom Michael Beasley and hot-shot 3-point shooter Daequan Cook supplemented the incredible performance by Miami’s starting 5 by going off for a combined 55 points. This sealed the deal for Miami, who after facing struggles in recent games was able to finish this one out and get a good win against a talented Suns squad led by Shaq. Dwayne Wade, who has averaged 37.3 points per game over his last 6 games has come alive for the Heat, who are trying to fight for the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.
One team that no longer has to worry about their chances of making the playoffs are the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, fresh off a win in Miami took complete control at home and cruised to a 91-73 against a sub-par Milawaukee Bucks team led by Richard Jefferson. The Cavs are the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff spot, but that won’t be enough for them. Look out for Lebron and the Cavs to keep fighting for that number one seed and ideal homecourt advantage. With games against Boston, Miami and Phoenix coming up within the next week, the Cavs will have their work cut out for them.
Coming off a two-game skid, the Celtics were in desperate need of a win, and they managed to scrape one out against Devin Harris and the New Jersey Nets. Led by Paul Pierce’s 31 points and 5 assists, the Celtics were able to overcome a Nets 4th-quarter comeback to win 115-111. Vince Carter’s 34 points and 4 assists was just not enough to propel the Nets against the defending champs, so the Nets will look to rebound against Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic. Meanwhile, the Celtics will have to buck up because they are facing a surging Cleveland Cavaliers squad at home Friday, the Orlando Magic on Sunday and Dwayne Wade’s Miami Heat on Wednesday. Without KG, Boston will have to find some answers in order to keep their dreams alive of repeating as NBA champions.
Other teams around the NBA had some hard-fought games tonight as well. The Hawks fought back in the 4th quarter against the Knicks at Madison Sqaure Garden but came up short as they lost the game 109-105. Despite the valiant efforts of Tony Parker and his 37 point performance, the Dallas Mavericks were able to withstand the furious onslaught by the San Antonio Spurs to win 107-102. The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off an 88-83 win against the struggling Washington Wizards due to a balanced attack from their 5 starters, all who ended up scoring in double figures. The Chicago Bulls completely demolished the Golden State Warriors, having six players score in double figures on their way to a 110-88 victory at home. The Portland Trailblazers were able to capitalize on an impressive 28 point performance by Brandon Roy to beat the Indiana Pacers 107-105. The Pacers continue to miss All-Star Danny Granger, who has been sidelined with a foot injury since February 19th. The Utah Jazz were able to pull of a 101-94 victory against the ailing Houston Rockets, who are without Tracy McGrady for the remainder of the season. This win marks their 9th in a row, which poses the question can anyone stop them? We will get the answer to that when they face off at home against the Denver Nuggets. The Memphis Grizzlies got a good win against the Los Angeles Clippers. Not that it matters for either team, as they are both clearly out of the playoff races with Memphis having 16 wins and 44 losses and the Clippers having 15 wins and 47 losses. Rudy Gay was the shining star of the night, putting up 35 points and 8 boards to go along with Marc Gasol’s near triple-double effort of 20 points 10 assists and 8 boards. Tomorrow, the New Orleans Hornets face off against the Dallas Mavericks, who are fresh off a huge emotional victory against the San Antonio Spurs. Later in the night the Nuggets take on Brandon Roy and the Trailblazers in an attempt to continue their quest for a Western Conference playoff spot.
Tomorrow I’ll be covering the NFL Free Agency, including Terrell Owens being released by the Dallas Cowboys. Also will be covering the GHSA basketball state playoffs and Manny Ramirez signing back with the Dodgers.
On this day 47 years ago, Wilt Chamberlain put on the single-greatest showcase of scoring in the vast history of the NBA. All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Lebron James have put some scoring showcases of their own on this season, and last night was no exception. In a battle of two of the NBA’s elite, Dwayne Wade made the tragic mistake of trying to slow down Lebron James. I guess he didn’t get the memo that this feat, as of late, can not be done. As of last night, these two stars were the NBA’s two leading scorers and they provided clear evidence of this in their games. Wade made a valiant effort, putting up numbers some players would die to see in their box score: 41 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and a career-high 7 steals. However, it was just not enough to prevail against King James. Wade and James went back and forth all game, 3-pointer for 3-pointer, tomahawk dunk for tomahawk dunk. At the end of the game though, it was James’ Cavaliers that emerged victorious with a hard-fought 107-100 win on the road and Lebron’s performance was nothing short of extraordinary. In 43 minutes of play, he notched 42 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. James has emerged as a leading candidate for the MVP award, averaging 31 points a game in February including two games with more than 50 points. This game marked his 7th 40-point performance of the season. If that is not evidence that he is as deserving of this award as anyone else in the race, I’m not sure what is.
For now, he will look to continue his phenomenal play against upcoming opponents Milwaukee, Boston and Miami. Boston will be a tough stage for Lebron to perform on, as the Celtics are one of the top defensive squads in the league. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way and if Lebron can find a way to break out in that game, both he and his team will find great success. A pivotal game will be the Miami rematch on Saturday at home. With Dwayne Wade and the Heat looking to avenge their loss, Lebron and his team will have to protect their homecourt to maintain the intensity and confidence that has guided them so well throughout the season. The next chapter in this great rivalry between King James and D-Wade is just waiting to be written next Saturday night, and the fans are waiting to experience it.
Tomorrow I will delve into the depths of the free-agent pool in the NFL and discuss the major changes being made and that should be made in the offseason.
The burning question in the NBA right now is: Is there anyone or any team that can slow down the Los Angeles Lakers and their superstar Kobe Bryant? For the past few months many people have doubted if this was actually a possibility. However, the Lakers are currently on a two-game slide and are in search of some answers in terms of what happened to the sheer dominance they showcased throughout the first four months of the season. With devastating losses to both the Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns over this weekend, the Lakers are looking to bounce back Tuesday night against the sub-par Memphis Grizzlies squad led by emerging rookie star O.J. Mayo. They also have a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, which will be the perfect chance to prove that their spot atop the Western Conference is not one to be questioned.
Trailing behind the Lakers in a quest for the second seed is the perennial powerhouse San Antonio Spurs and the uber-talented Denver Nuggets. The Spurs have been plagued by injuries all season long. However, they have always had someone stepping up in the absence of their fallen stars. Recently, guard Tony Parker has provided them with the spark needed to overcome the loss of All-Star forward Tim Duncan. Duncan was out of commission for three games and his presence was sorely missed, but thanks to Tony Parker’s lights-out performances, the Spurs were able to win two out of three. Their only loss was to Lebron’s Cavaliers on Friday, despite Parker and four other Spurs players scoring in double-figures. Although the Spurs are without key reserve guard Manu Ginobli for at least another two weeks, Tim Duncan is back in the lineup tonight against Brandon Roy and the Portland Trailblazers. Whether Duncan will bring to the court the fire and intensity that is associated with his play is a question, but the bigger question still remains. Can the San Antonio Spurs maintain their intensity and second seed in the close race for Western Conference playoff sports?
Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets are desperately seeking to establish themselves as legitimate playoff contenders. Their 90-79 win against the Lakers on Friday not only helped them climb up in the rankings, but it also sent a message to the rest of the Western Conference that they will fight for that second or third seed, and that winning against them is no walk in the park. Unfortunately they were not able to keep that mindset against the Indiana Pacers today and lost 100-94. Whether this was because of overconfidence or just the lack of an adequate performance is up to individual interpretation. What it does mean though is that they will need to fight even harder if they want to move into that second seed that is currently occupied by San Antonio. This will mean consistent performance from Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin will be required on a nightly basis. Even though they do not have the bench depth that most playoff contenders have, the bench will also need to step up to shoulder some of the burden if they truly want to prove themselves as a possible top-seed adversary.
The fourth through ninth seeds are all playing phenomenally well and they are within four games of each other. What this means is that on any given night, the order can completely switch around depending on how each team does. This group consists of Houston, New Orleans, Portland, Utah, Dallas and Phoenix. All of these teams have hopes of making the playoffs, but only five will fill out the remaining spots in the Western Conference race. All of these teams are entertaining and bring their a-game, but the three teams to watch come playoff time are the Houston Rockets, the New Orleans Hornets and the Phoenix Suns.
The Houston Rockets have had a tough year, dealing with several injuries, but none hitting harder than the loss of their leader Tracy McGrady. McGrady is out for the season after having micro-fracture surgery on his knee. This is a big loss for the Rockets and they will have to shift the responsibility to Yao Ming and defensive guru Ron Artest. With the help of Luis Scola, Aaron Brooks and Shane Battier, the Rockets have a realistic chance of making the playoffs and making it farther than the first round exit they experienced last year.
And on to the New Orleans Hornets. If I said that I wasn’t disappointed in the Hornets performance so far this year, I’d be lying. However, they still have managed to work their way into the fifth spot. CP-3 has not been able to single-handedly win games this year and it shows in their record. Go-to guys David West and Tyson Chandler have not been putting up the numbers they put up last year and it has affected the Hornet’s performance immensely. If West and Chandler can re-emerge as options in the offense for Paul to hit with his dazzling passes, the Hornets will be able to solidify their hopes of returning to the playoffs. If the Hornets can’t find the intensity and passion that made them such a threat in last year’s playoffs, then they will not be successful in advancing in this year’s playoffs.
The Phoenix Suns are perhaps the biggest mystery in the NBA. How can a team so full of talent currently be a game back on the 8th seed in the Western Conference? The answer is that they have lacked an effective coaching style for the first four months of the season. Furthermore, the loss of Amare Stoudemire for eight weeks with a detached retina left them with some big shoes to fill. However, a big man with some big shoes of his own has been able to pick up the slack and reinforce the Suns’ frontcourt game. You might’ve heard of him before, he’s made his presence felt in the NBA for many years. The man I speak of is none other than the Big Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal. Only one word can describe his performance of late, and that word can be found in an ESPN commercial featuring the big man himself. That word is Shaqtastic. With his 37th birthday around the corner, his play is reminiscent of that witnessed in his glory days. With a monstrous 45 point and 11 rebound performance in a win against the Toronto Raptors, and a 33 point exhibition against his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal became part of NBA history. Not only did he re-establish himself as a legitimate threat in the low-post, but he also became only the fourth player over the age of 35 to score 33 points or more in consecutive games. He joined the likes of legends Alex English, Karl Malone and “His Airness”, Michael Jordan. If Shaq can continue to dominate down-low and the Suns backcourt can pick up the slack in the absence of assist-man Steve Nash, the Suns will be able to climb in the ranks and make the playoffs. That is, if their newly-instated coach Alvin Gentry can keep up his sensational coaching on both ends of the court.
The last two spots in the Western Conference race both come down to the simple facts of who can close out the season effectively. The Portland Trailblazers are a young team with abundant talent, but their ability to finish off opponents is questionable. Dallas is on the other end of the spectrum with a squad full of playoff-tenured veterans who are eager to get back to the playoffs once more. The question with Dallas lies in the ability of the Dallas bench to deliver on a daily basis. If Dallas’ bench can step up in the clutch, then Dallas will be back in the playoffs once more. That leaves the Utah Jazz, winners of seven straight and hungry for a playoff berth once more. With the return of powerful post presence Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams giving the Jazz solid play in the backcourt, the Jazz have been the hottest team in the NBA. The question remains do the Jazz have the determination and will-power to finish off the season strong, or will they end the season on a sour note and fail to make the playoffs? The answer will only come in time.
Next up for you readers out there, March Madness is finally here, so come back tomorrow to see which teams should be in, which teams should be out, and who stands to receive a number one seed.
With the end of February drawing near, the precedent is being set by certain NBA teams for what will be required to be considered as a worthy adversary in this year’s playoff race. Some teams have made moves hoping to further their playoff hopes. The Celtics made the most out of players on the market, signing center Mikki Moore, and also finalizing the signing of Stephon Marbury this morning. Although Starbury has had his fair share of both on-the-court and off-the-court problems, he has something to bring to this Celtics squad, and that is a quality bench presence and a big relief for Eddie House. House is a true shooting guard, and having Marbury there will allow him to be exactly that, as Marbury will be doing most of the ball-handling.
Another team that made a major move was the Orlando Magic. Acquiring Rafer Alston was a very smart move for the Magic. No offense to Jameer, but with him being out for the rest of the season, the Magic were in great need of a quality point guard who can bring that powerful point-man presence to the floor, and that is what Alston has to offer. With the Magic trying to legitimize their status as a true powerhouse and playoff contender, it is very important that they continue to win, especially with the Hawks and Heat both coming into stride in the closing months of the season.
Now some teams did not make as much of an effort to make changes, whether it be trades or free agent signings. The Hawks were one of those teams who made no moves at all. The Hawks are a young team with a lot of talent, and it often shows in their games. By keeping their roster the same, the Hawks are trying to continue the building of a solid young squad that can win games. With veterans Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby anchoring the young guns like Marvin Williams, Al Horford and Solomon Jones, the Hawks are hoping to build their team of the future, and win some playoff games while they’re at it. They continued their quest tonight against a surging Heat squad led by superstar Dwayne Wade.
Wade, who has had a record-breaking week was surprisingly quiet against the Hawks in a 91-83 loss. Although he still put up 21 points, 10 dimes and 3 steals, his team was not able to overcome the Hawk’s Al Horford with his 21 point and 22 rebound performance. This has been the story of the year for the Heat, who have folded several must-win games against formidable opponents. They were one of the teams who made a move, but it has not paid off so far. With the addition of Jermaine O’Neal, they have added a legitimate post player to strengthen their frontcourt attack and provide adequate support for Wade, Beasley and Chalmers.
On to other teams in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers are having one of the best seasons in franchise history. With Lebron James stepping his play up to a whole different level, the Cavs have streaked to a conference-leading 44-12 record, 1/2 a game ahead of the defending champ Celtics. However, with the loss of Ben Wallace down low with a broken leg, the Cavs have been left searching for answers. There’s Anderson Varejao, who is the definition of a hustle player. He can make the plays his team needs, but isn’t powerful enough to dominate down low. He is joined by veteran Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who can hit the 17 foot jumper, and occasionally post up down low. J.J. Hickson has provided some quality minutes off the bench, and his playing time will certainly be up now that Wallace is sidelined. Although he is young he is a tremendous competitor with a desire to win so he is definitely one player to keep on your radar in the next couple of weeks. Tonight against the Spurs the Cavaliers are completely dominating in every aspect of the game. After 3, they are up 21 points and Lebron has already went for 30 points, 14 boards and 4 assists. Looks like they are on their way to a huge road win in San Antonio, one that will help them forget the horrible loss to Houston last night. When it comes down to it, coach Mike Brown better hope that these three guys can step up their games, because the Cavs are going to need it to help them maintain 1st place and homecourt advantage for the playoffs.
The playoff seeds for the Eastern Conference are still up in the air right now. The top three teams right now are Cleveland, Boston and Orlando. Only time will tell if they can hold onto their spots as the end of the season draws near. The 4th seed is currently taken by the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are two games up on the 5th seed Heat, and if they keep playing like they have of late, then they will continue to win and solidify their hopes to keep the 4th playoff spot. If the Heat can incorporate Jermaine O’Neal into the offense and keep the emerging rookie studs Chalmers and Beasley hot, then they will have a good chance of keeping the 5th spot. The final three spots are definitely a toss-up. If Detroit can find a solution to their recent slide, they’ll definitely have one of those three spots. That leaves us with two spots, up for grabs between several teams. The Sixers look like they are going to make the playoffs, which leaves one spot for the rest of the conference to fight over. That is, except for the Wizards, who do not look like they have any chance whatsoever of making the playoffs.
More to come tomorrow on the playoff race in the Western Conference, and talking about if anyone can stop the Los Angeles Laker squad led by Kobe Bryant.