Archive for April, 2009

WATERCOOLER CHAT: CELTS WITHOUT GARNETT, MADDEN RETIRES, YANKS LOSE IN NEW STADIUM

NBA

Big time bad news for the NBA’s reigning champion, the Boston Celtics.  This morning they got word that their superstar player, Kevin Garnett, will not be available for the playoffs.  They’re gonna have to do it without him.  Unfortunately, this puts a real damper on their plans.  The Celtics were expected to lose to Cleveland in the Conference Finals WITH Garnett.  Now, without him, they are sure to lose.  That is, unless they rally around the whole underdog card.  This puts a lot of pressure on Paul Pierce, as he will have to guard LeBron and handle a bulk of the offense too.  That’s very taxing on a player, and it is most likely unsustainable.  This, however, implies that the Celtics will even REACH the Conference Finals.  They might exit earlier than we expected.

NFL

A legend has decided to retire from football.  This time though it’s not a player — it’s the immortal John Madden.  Madden will put down the mic next season, and his voice will surely be missed on Sunday Night Football.  Arguably, Madden has done more for the game of football in the last 15 years than anybody else — primarily because of his video game franchise MADDEN FOOTBALL, which continues to get fans excited about the NFL.  Also, he did his best to try and educate casual fans to the strategy of the game.  Football is a complicated sport to completely comprehend, and it was important to Madden to do so.  As of right now, there is no one that will be able to fill his shoes.

MLB

In baseball, it was the grand opening of the NEW YANKEE STADIUM.  This is a momentous event not only in sports, but in American culture, as the old Yankee Stadium was a true fixture of Americana.  Yankee fans showed up in droves to be a part of this historic event, but… they didn’t exactly like what they saw.  The Cleveland Indians came in and absolutely destroyed the Yanks.  It was murderous.  The Indians Grady Sizemore hit a Home Run blast that pulled in 4 RBIs, and the Indians completely spoiled the Yanks new palace.  Cleveland 10, NY Yankees 2.

NHL

It appears that the Chicago Blackhawks are finally back on the map.  The Blackhawks were dominant in the early 90s, but have been rather absent this decade.  But last night, the Blackhawks grabbed their first playoff win in SEVEN YEARS.  That’s quite a while.  It all came in Overtime, when Martin Havlat scored his second goal of the game to cinch the win, and give Chicago a 1-0 lead in their series against Calgary. Is Chicago hockey really back?  We’ll just have to wait and see.  Chicago 3, Calgary 2.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: BOLDIN TO BE TRADED, MAURICE JONES-DREW $31 MILL MAN, ISAIAH THOMAS REFUSES SALARY

NFL

The Arizona Cardinals Anquan Boldin is one of the most reliable wide receivers in the NFL.  Even before Larry Fitzgerald came to town, Boldin was pretty much the only highlights from the Cardinals passing attack.  And in the past few seasons, he’s been electric, always coming up in big moments.  However, guys like this like to be the alpha dog, not second fiddle.  After the Super Bowl, Boldin asked to be traded, and now it looks like he will get his wish.  Head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he and the Cardinals organization will listen to a trade for Boldin.  This too has major draft shake-up potential, as the Cards could land some key draft picks for Boldin.  The NY Giants are looking to replace the slot left by Plaxico Burress, and Boldin might be that guy.

Elsewhere in the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars just signed their star, and only true running back weapon, Maurice Jones-Drew to a 5-year deal worth $31 Million Dollars.  This effectively makes him the 3rd highest paid running back in the NFL, just behind the Rams Stephen Jackson and the Chiefs Larry Johnson.  However, he does edge out the Redskins Clinton Ports, and that’s saying something.  Jones-Drew is primed for a huge year next year, especially given that Fred Taylor was finally let go (and signed by New England).  So, now, Jones-Drew will be the sole featured running back and get a ton of carries.

NBA

In the NBA, the Cavs were primed to tie the 86 Celtics for the best home record of all time (40-1)  But, in an expected move, Cavs coach Mike Brown decided to sit his stars.  Yes, that includes LeBron and Mo Williams.  Looks like they decided to value a healthy playoff team rather than a historic record.  Well, it’s hard to argue with this. However, the Cavs still looked good, and the game came down to the final seconds, and a clutch 3-pointer from Boobie Gibson to send the game to overtime.  And, in OT, Gibson got one more chance to win the whole game, but the defense was too strong and Gibson didn’t even get a shot off.  So much for tying the all-time home winning record.  But… the Cavs are primed, that’s for sure.  Philadelphia 111, Cleveland 110.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Finally, in an UNEXPECTED move in the college basketball world, new head coach of Florida International, Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas, has decided to refuse his first year salary.  He said that he would prefer to donate that money to the school’s athletic program.  Wow, that’s a stand-up move.  Does Isaiah actually have a heart?  Isaiah said that this is his way of giving back.  Florida INT is an upstart school, but it’s starting to really become relevant. Their football program is getting better, the school’s in the heart of Miami, and they play in a competitive conference.  Next college basketball season, we need to keep a sharp eye on this team.  Some very exciting things could happen.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: DE LA HOYA RETIRING, ISAIAH THOMAS TO FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL

Boxing

In the boxing world, it’s the end of an era.  Oscar De La Hoya, the Latino pretty boy (albeit very athletic) is hanging up his gloves.  In a press conference yesterday, he said, “I just can’t do it anymore”.  De La Hoya, unquestionably, was the most popular fighter in boxing over the past decade, primarily because of his support from the Latino community.  His fights were always big Pay-Per-View spectacles, and he had a reptutation as a good-looking pretty nice guy.  The sport will sorely miss him, especially considering that there really isn’t a De La Hoya figure out there to root for.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

A small Division 1 school has made a big splash.  Florida International has signed basketball Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas to be its head coach.  This is remarkable considering that Thomas was the General Manager and coach of the New York Knicks just last season.  THE NEW YORK KNICKS!!!  That’s one of the most coveted coaching jobs in sports.  Now, just to take the opportunity, Thomas is headed to Florida International to try and give them a new start.  This is a very small school, but they made a very smart move bringing Thomas to town.  It gives them… cache.

Elsewhere in the college basketball world, some very interesting news revolving around a Duke point guard.  Greg Paulus was one of the top football recruits coming out of High School.  He could have played quarterback at Notre Dame.  However, Paulus opted to play for Coach K at Duke.  He started at point guard for three seasons, and was decent, but was replaced this year by Nolan Smith.  Well, oddly, the Green Bay Packers came knocking at his door.  They want to work him out and see if he’s still got the goods.  This is highly irregular, and it’s very unlikely that Paulus has any shot at donning a Packers uniform next season, but what a cool day for the kid.

Finally, UCONN monster center Hasheem Thabeet has decided to declare for the NBA draft.  This doesn’t really shake things up at the top spot (that will almost definitely go to Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin), but it does make pick 2- 10 very interesting.  Many experts think that Hasheem could use at least one more season of grooming, but he is from a poor African village and looking to get a much needed NBA paycheck.  It’s just a shame that he couldn’t help UCONN win a National Championship before departing, but hey, it was UNC’s year from the get-go.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: REMEMBERING HARRY KALAS, METS PLAY AT CITI FIELD

MLB

The top story of yesterday was the tragic death of Philadelphia Phillies announcer Harry Kalas.  Kalas was present at both of the Phillies World Series Championships, and thankfully, was able to see their momentous win last season.  Sadly, he passed out in the broadcast booth in an away game against the Washington Nationals, and was immediately rushed to the hospital.  A few hours later he had passed.  While Kalas will be sorely missed by Philly fans, he was also the thunderous voice of NFL Films.  And if you’ve ever watched even one highlight from an NFL Films broadcast on INSIDE THE NFL, you know it was something special.

The New York Mets played their home field debut in Citi Field against the San Diego Padres.  A win would have truly made it something grand, but unfortunately, the Padres were just a little too much.  David Wright had a clutch home run to tie the game in the 5th at 5-5, but in the 6th inning, Mets pitcher Pedro Feliciano balked in the Padres winning run.  ERROR.  So the Mets lose their home opener AGAIN by one run, as they also lost back when Shea Stadium opened its doors.  San Diego 6, NY Mets 5.

NBA

The Cleveland Cavaliers were trying to lock up home court advantage in the playoffs.  They have been jockeying position with the Lakers all season, but if they could get past they Pacers they would cinch this thing.  Well, that’s exactly what they did.   The Pacers Danny Granger tried to hold them off with 38 points, but LeBron and the Cavs were just too much.  James had 37 points, the Cavs will host the NBA Championship if need be.  This is a huge advantage.  However, the Cavs only have one home lost this season, and the it was at the hands of the Lakers.  Cleveland 117, Indiana 109.

Finally, it looks like the Washington Wizards may have a new coach.  They are headed to finish last place in the East this season, after nabbing playoff spots the past couple years.  And in a big market like Washington, this is unacceptable.  Now, the Wizards have offered the position to Flip Saunders.  Good news for Wizards fans — Saunders is the 7th most successful coach in NBA History with 900 games under his belt.  The Wizards will have one of the top picks in the draft come June, and these two new ingredients, plus a healthy Gilbert Arenas next season could really turn things around in Washington.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: ANGEL CABRERA WEARS GREEN

NBA

The Miami Heat seem to be headed in the right direction before playoff time.   They hosted the Knicks last night, and their superstar, Dwayne Wade, was absolutely on FIRE!!!  And after this performance, you really have to consider him right up there with LeBron and Kobe for the MVP.  He had 50 points at the END OF THE 3RD QUARTER.  Wade only had five points in the 4th quarter because Miami’s coach took him out of the game.  The reason:  Wade has broken almost every record in Miami Heat history.  The only one he doesn’t have is most points in a game (56 by Glen Rice), and the Heat coach felt that they should let Rice keep that one… for now.  With the win, the Heat clinch the #5 spot in the east, which will give them a much easier first round match up.  Miami 122, New York 105.

Elsewhere in the NBA, a much anticipated late season game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.  And the Cavs were looking to defend their awesome 38-1 home court record.  Well… that’s exactly what they did.  The Celtics looked like anything BUT the defending champions out there, as the Cavs just steamrolled over them.  LeBron had 29 points, and looked like he couldn’t be contained.  Now, the Cavs are just one home win away from matching the Celtics home winning record from the illustrious ’85/’86 season.  Cleveland 107, Boston 76.

NFL

The Buccaneers are trying to help their quarterback situation before draft time.  Byron Leftwich had a decent year last year as a back up in Pittsburgh, and really stepped up when Roethlisberger was out with an injury.  Now, the Bucs grabbed him, hoping that he can provide some consistency in their QB game.  However, Leftwich will have to battle for the starting job against Luke McCown, Josh Johnson, and Brian Griese.  And you can probably expect the Bucs to grab one of the hot rookie QBs in the upcoming draft.

Golf

Finally, you can add another member to the Green Jacket club, as Angel Cabrera captured his first Masters Championship.  However, it didn’t come easy, as Cabrera had to play in a playoff with another extraordinary performer… Kenny Perry.  Perry had a one shot lead going into the final hole, but he just didn’t get it done.  And, most likely, this was Perry’s last chance to win it all given his senior age for this event (48).  Frankly he just botched it with some bad shots, and all Cabrera had to do was hit an easy two foot putt to win the whole thing.  That’s exactly what happened, and Cabrera joins the elite club of Masters champions.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: UNC TAKES THE TITLE

Well, it was a great three weeks, but last night officially brought March Madness to a close.  It was a David v. Goliath story in Detroit, as the hometown Michigan State Spartans took on the juggernaut that is North Carolina.  A lot of people were dismissing the fact that UNC crushed Michigan State on this court back in December, but apparently… that meant something.  A bit of foreshadowing if you will.

The game started off all UNC, and… it pretty much stayed that way.  The Tar Heels had 55 points heading into the half, which is a record for most first half points in an NCAA Championship Game.  It was abundantly clear that UNC was looking to avenge their shocking loss to Kansas in last year’s Final Four.  The entire team returned to win a championship, last night was their shot, and they had no intentions of squandering even one second of it.  Michigan State played “their” game, but UNC was just too strong, and their defense too tough.

In the second half, the Spartans’ Goran Suton put up a nice performance, finishing the game with 17 points, but the game simply belonged to North Carolina.  Their top performers were the marquee names throughout the tournament:  Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson. They finished the night with 18 and 21 points respectively, as the Tar Heels won their 5th championship in school history.  These team was favored from the beginning of the season, and last night they fulfilled their potential.  And the crowd applauded when senior Tyler Hansbrough exited the game towards the end.  Just a fantastic college career.   UNC 89, Michigan State 72.

MLB

And the baseball season kicked off yesterday with some instant surprises.

First off, the new look New York Yankees signed $423 million dollars of new players to ensure they never miss the playoffs again.  Their new, expensive pitcher, C.C. Sabathia took the mound in Baltimore, and just got thwacked.  Meanwhile, the Orioles looked great in their debut, putting up 10 runs in a win over their rival.  Baltimore 10, New York Yankees 5.

And then, in a nostalgic appearance, Ken Griffey Jr. was back in a Mariners uniform.  That’s all well and good, but nobody thought he would homer in his first game.  Yep, that’s right, in the 5th inning Griffey smacked a shot to right field for a solo home run.  It was like we were back in the early 90s.  Griffey is BACK!!!  Perhaps the Mariners will turn it around this season.  Seattle 6, Minnesota 1.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: IT’S UNC VS MICHIGAN STATE!

Wow — what a weekend in the sports world.  And, of course, the main story was the Final Four in Detroit.

The first game of Saturday evening:  the #2 Michigan State Spartans v. #1 UCONN Huskies.  Coming into this game, UCONN was favored, but there was a lot of talk throughout the week about Michigan State’s home court advantage.  The game was in Detroit, and you can bet that Spartan fans filled the stadium.  Plus, Michigan State had the whole Detroit, Motor City morale going for them; that winning this game would be good for the mental attitude of a city with a depressed economy.

The first half was an incredible back and forth battle, and it was clear that the Spartans weren’t afraid of the mighty Huskies.  And heading into the half, Michigan State had a two point lead.  Then, in the second half, UCONN came out strong, but Michigan State came out far more determined.  Behind Kalin Lucas‘ 21 points, the Spartans continued to roll.  They let up a bit under the 5-minute mark, and UCONN had a late comeback, but Michigan State kept hitting the “nail-in-the-coffin” shots when it counted, and they advanced to the National Championship Game.  Wow — that home court advantage sure did make a difference.  Michigan State 82, UCONN 73.

Then, up next, it was the tourney favorite, North Carolina, taking on the seemingly unstoppable tournament underdog, Villanova.  ‘Nova entered the final four due to a miracle last second shot from Scottie Reynolds against Pitt last week.  And this team thinks they’re on a fateful run, just like the magical Villanova team that won the whole thing as an underdog in the 80’s.  Unfortunately for Nova, North Carolina was just too powerful.  From the get-go it was all Carolina.  Nova’s Reynolds did have 17 points, but behind Ty Lawson’s 22 points, UNC steamrolled through the Wildcats en route to facing Michigan State in the finals.  UNC 83, Villanova 69.

UNC is favored in Monday night’s game, especially because UNC beat the Spartans on this exact court in December by more than 30 points.  But given Michigan State’s home court thunder, it would be no surprise if they were cutting down the nets at night’s end.

NFL

Finally, a little news out of the NFL, as the Jay Cutler drama is finally over.  The Denver Broncos are shipping Cutler to the Chicago Bears in exchange for two first round draft picks, and current Bears’ QB Kyle Orton.  Denver made the best of a situation, landing some high draft picks, and will most likely take USC QB phenom Mark Sanchez.  Meanwhile, the Bears now have a franchise quarterback for at least the next five seasons in Jay Cutler, and finally will have some consistency at the QB position, which they have sorely lacked for almost 30 years.  It’s a new era for both teams.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: DOUBLE OVERTIME FOR CELTICS WIN, CUTLER NOT IN DENVER, USC COACH TO ARIZONA

NBA

An action-packed game between the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats.  The Bobcats have been a welcome surprise this season.  They’ve finally turned it around, and are now making a late season push to get the #8 spot in the playoffs.  They held their own against the Celtics, even leading towards the end of the game, but Ray Allen drained a beautiful 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.  Then, in DOUBLE OVERTIME, Ray Allen hit another 3 to give the Celtics the lead.  The Bobcats had one last chance, and got a good look, but just couldn’t finish.  Behind Ray Allen’s 22 points, and clutch end-game heroics, the Celtics prevailed.  Boston 111, Charlotte 109.

NFL

An update from the Jay Cutler drama in Denver.  Two days ago, the Broncos publicly announced that they would trade Cutler.  Owner Pat Bowlen said that he has been trying to reach Jay Cutler for the last week.  This call was essentially a final apology, a final plea to just get over this and move forward.  However, yesterday, Cutler claimed that this wasn’t true — that he never heard once from the Broncos owner.  So… who’s telling the truth?  Either way, Jay Cutler won’t be in Denver next year, and he will be a huge catch from whatever team gets him.  Reportedly, 10 different teams want Cutler.

Elsewhere in the NFL, the policeman who stopped Texans running back Ryan Moats has quit.  Last week, an officer stopped Ryan Moats and his family as they were preparing to spend a few final minutes with his dying step-mother.  Moats pleaded with the cop to just let him go, that his mother was dying, but the officer persisted, forcing Moats to answer a series of questions.  And in that time, his step-mother passed away.  There was a public outcry, and just yesterday that officer reportedly quit his job.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Finally, in some news out of college basketball (non Final Four related), USC’s head coach Tim Floyd will take over as the elite Arizona basketball program.  Zona has been coachless ever since the infamous Lute Olson retired for health reasons, and now, to revive the program, they’ve brought in the proven Floyd.  Mixing Floyd’s incredible coaching abilities with the top talent that Arizona attracts, should blend for some fantastic results.  Expect Arizona to return to the Top 10 next season.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: CALIPARI NEW KENTUCKY COACH, JAY CUTLER DRAMA

College Basketball

Some huge news out of the college basketball world.  Last week, Kentucky decided that it was done with the Billie Gillespie experiment.  He came in to coach the illustrious Kentucky basketball program, one of the top five programs in the country, but failed to turn the team around in any degree.  Kentucky used to rule the SEC and almost always gets a #1 seed in the tournament.  This decade, they’ve been very quiet.  Well, today they made a huge change.

It appears that Memphis Tigers coach, John Calipari, will be the new Kentucky coach.  This is somewhat controversial, given that he has completely turned around the Memphis program in the past couple years.  He bolstered their recruiting ten-fold, led them to a National Championship last season, and got them a #2 seed this season, after losing just three games.  Calipari said he wanted to stay at Memphis, but the opportunity to take the reigns of the KENTUCKY WILDCATS was just too special.  Now, with Calipari in control, you can definitely expect Kentucky to return to the top of the rankings and once again be the team that everybody wants to see lose in March (Besides Duke).

NFL

An important update to the Jay Cutler drama.  To quickly recap, the new Broncos head coach tried to get free agent Matt Cassel as his quarterback.  That heavily insulted their current quarterback, Jay Cutler, and there has been nothing but a tone of betrayal in the Denver clubhouse.  Cutler has said he wants out of Denver, but the Broncos said that he was their guy.  Well, today, the Broncos publicly announced that they plan to trade Jay Cutler.  This situation must have become so poisonous that the Broncos just felt they were better off without him.  A risky move considering now they will have to train a brand new quarterback on the Denver offense.  So, essentially, the Broncos will be heading into next season with both a new quarterback and new head coach.  Not exactly the best formula for a Super Bowl win.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

And finally, a little news out of women’s college basketball.  The undefeated UCONN Huskies have entered the Final Four.  Heading in to this tournament, many felt that this current UCONN Huskies team might be the best team in women’s basketball history.  They’re not just undefeated, they are overwhelmingly favored to win it all.  Now, they are just two games away from cementing their place in history.

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