Archive for March, 2011

WATERCOOLER CHAT: HEAT ON FIRE, NETS EXCITING, SPOONER SUES OVER TWITTER

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In the NBA, it was a rematch between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.  A few weeks ago, the Heat came into San Antonio and got absolutely crushed.  It was one horrible loss in a string of disappointing losses.  But, recently, the Miami Heat have been in ‘revenge’ mode.  They are tired of people talking foul about them and are seriously ready to start destroying folks.  So, hosting the NBA’s best San Antonio Spurs was yet another challenge.  They beat the Lakers, and last night, they didn’t beat the Spurs… they murdered them.  Chris Bosh led the way with 30 points, as the Heat were simply out-hustling the Spurs and making them show their age.  This current Heat team is fierce!!!  Watch out.  They might actually be the team they claimed to be at the beginning of the season.  Miami 110, San Antonio 80.

Elsewhere in the NBA, many think that the Celtics will get back to the NBA Finals this year, which could mark the end of the Big 3 era.  However, last night, the new-look New Jersey Nets brought it to ’em!  Brook Lopez had a fantastic game with 20 points, while the Celtics struggled to keep up.  Plus, New Jersey recorded yet another sell-out for the season.  This is very exciting for a team that last year could never win a game.  Now they have an all-star point guard in Deron Williams and have now won five straight.  If they play their cards right this off-season, they could land another big free agent and become a contender in the East.  New Jersey 88, Boston 79.

Finally, some interesting legal news out of the NBA.  It looks like 22-year old veteran referee Bill Spooner is suing a Minnesota beat writer over a twitter tweet.  The Minnesota writer tweeted that he overheard Spooner telling T-Wolves coach Kurt Rambis something controversial.  Rambis complained about a call, and the beat writer wrote that he overheard Spooner say he would make a call to get the 2 points back later.  Well, Sponer didn’t like this because that’s a very sensitive topic in the NBA (i.e. corrupt officiating), and putting something like out there is detrimental.  Spooner said he responded to Rambis’ complaint (that Spooner cost him 2 points) by saying something to the effect of ‘you’ll get those 2 points back later’.  This doesn’t mean that he would make a bad call, but rather that he was dismissing Rambis’ frustration.  Spooner is suing the writer for $75,000.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: LOVE STREAK ENDS, SELECTION SUNDAY

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In the NBA, a streak has come to an end.  Kevin Love headed into Golden State with a 53-game double-double streak (points and rebounds). The now dangerous Golden State Warriors wanted to bring that to an end.  They came out with a force and got a fantastic game from Stephan Curry 24 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists.  Kevin Love did have double-digit rebounds (12), but only 6 points in a crushing defeat from the Warriors.  After the game, the happiest guy out there:  Kevin Love.  Love said he was getting exhausted by the streak.  He even played injured to keep it up.  “Now I can finally focus on playing my game”, Love said.  He won’t have to worry about specifically keeping up the streak, but can even rack up some more assists (as Love has the reputation for being a fantastic passing center).  Congrats to Kevin Love on this amazing streak.  Golden State 100, Minnesota 77.

In college basketball, a marquee ACC Championship game between North Carolina and Duke.  Duke sat atop the ACC for the majority of the year, but UNC has come on strong lately, primarily because of their blue-chip freshman recruit Harrison Barnes.  So, which team would take the championship? Regardless of UNC’s fantastic second-half season effort, the Blue Devils were just too much.  They got a 20-point game from Nolan Smith and routed the Tar Heels.  The victory awarded Duke a #1 seed in the March Madness brackets, and UNC solidified a #2 seed (albeit in a very tough bracket).  Duke 75, UNC 58.   Which brings us to…..

SELECTION SUNDAY!!!  That’s right, the day that everyone looks forward to.  Where will their favorite teams go, what look like possible first-round thrillers, who are the possible Cinderella teams — it’s all pure excitement.  This year, the tournament expanded to 68 teams, with additional play-in games.  However, this year’s play-in games aren’t just for the #16 seed, there is also one playing in for a #12 seed and a #11 seed (to give larger conference bubble schools a chance).  The top seed in the country is Ohio State, but they’re in a very tough conference with North Carolina waiting for them at the #2 seed.

The other #1 seeds are Duke, Kansas, and Big East champion Pitt.  However, this year will be a wild ride, as there is no definitive favorite.  Of course, it’s tempting to put all #1 seeds in the Final Four, but we know that’s not possible.  The thunderous and very dangerous San Diego State Aztecs earned a #2 seed and could definitely make some noise.  And watch out for BYU.  Jimmer Fredette is one of the best players in the country, and when they get hot, there is no stopping them.  Syracuse is a #3 seed.  They play better when nobody is expecting them too,  and that’s also the seed # they had when they won the National Championship.  Arizona pulled a #5 seed, and even though they lost the Pac-10 Championship, they still are loaded with top talent and an NBA star in Derrick Williams.  They could run the board.  And let’s not forget about the red-hot UCONN team with potential top #3 NBA pick Kemba Walker.  This guy can score and is unstoppable at times.  It’s a very difficult year for picking brackets… but go ahead and try.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: REMATCH OF LAKERS & HEAT, UCONN WINS AGAIN,STERN LIKE A DICTATOR

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In the NBA, it was a re-match of this year’s marquee match-up:  Kobe and the Lakers vs. LeBron and the Heat.  In the first go-around on Christmas day, LeBron, Wade, and Bosh marched into Los Angeles and absolutely destroyed the Lakers in a statement game.  Many thought that when Kobe got a chance to hurt the Heat on THEIR home court, he would deliver the smack down.  Miami has been on a losing skid lately, and everyone thought the Lakers might put the nail in that coffin.  So what would happen?

The game stayed pretty much neck and neck the first half.  The Lakers tried to separate themselves, but great players like LeBron and Wade bring it to the next level when playing high-caliber talent like Kobe and the Lakers.  Kobe struggled a bit, but eventually put up a nice 24 points.  In the end, however, the Heat just grabbed the necessary rebounds and got a fantastic night from Chris Bosh (24 points and 9 rebounds).  And with that, the Heat topped the Lakers to sweep the season series.  Now, the question is, will they meet again in the playoffs????  Miami 94, LA Lakers 88.

In college basketball, more red-hot action out of the Big East tournament.  It was a showdown between #3 Pitt and #19 UCONN.  Ever since the season started, UCONN has been trying to prove that they are a team to be reckoned with.  They started out unranked and nobody expected much from them, but they had a surprise gem in Kemba Walker, who has evolved into one of the best players in college basketball and a certain lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft.  The game stayed close the whole way, but with the score tied at 74, Kemba Walker took the ball, did some fancy foot work, popped back and launched a shot from the top of the key.  GOOD!!!!  And UConn wins the game at the buzzer.  If they’re able to win the entire Big East tourney, they are probably looking at a #3 seed in the brackets.  UConn 76, Pitt 74.

Finally, in the NBA, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has been very critical lately of commissioner David Stern.  He went so far as to (loosely) compare Stern to some of the dictators that are getting massive media attention.  Van Gundy said, “This is the system David Stern and his minions like, so that’s the system you have. … I certainly can’t have an opinion because David Stern, like a lot of leaders we’ve seen in this world lately, don’t really tolerate other people’s opinion or free speech or anything. So I’m not really allowed to have an opinion. So it’s up to him.  He decides and he likes the system he has.”  This of course caught the attention of Stern, but said he won’t be speaking with Van Gundy personally on the matter.  Stern said that he could understand Van Gundy’s frustration (i.e. the Magic aren’t performing and his superstar was suspended), but that the outcry made him sad.  It’s possible that the Orlando Magic make an early exit from the playoffs this year.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: ST. JOHNS AND RUTGERS CONTROVERSY, LOVES HISTORICAL DOUBLE, 18 GAMES NO MORE IN NFL

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In the Big East tournament, one of the deepest tournaments we’ve seen in years with all the talent they have in that conference, a very controversial game between St. Johns and Rutgers.  St. Johns got out to a big lead early, but Rutgers slowly crawled their way back in where they only trailed by 2 with 5 seconds to go.  On a full court in-bound baseball pass, a Rutgers player was knocked down by two St. Johns players, but… no foul called.  Then, a St. Johns player dribbled the ball, stepped out of bounds, and, in celebratory fashion, threw the ball into the stands.  Except, there were still 2 seconds left on the clock when he stepped out… and no call from the refs.  They just handed the win to St. Johns.  Now, the head of officiating called both “No Calls and No Reviews” unacceptable.  Just a terrible job officiating.  They will investigate the matter further. St. Johns 65, Rutgers 63.

In the NBA, history was on the line.  Kevin Love is currently tied with the most double-doubles streak in history (in his case — rebounds and points).  Could he break the record against the Indiana Pacers?  Before he was even going to try, the Minnesota coaching staff had to decide if he would even play.  He was wearing a brace and has a bulky and bruised left knee.  In most cases, you would sit just to be safe.  But with a record this great on the line, and the fact that the Wolves are WAAAAAAAYYYYY out of playoff contention, they decided to let him give it a shot. Once he hit the floor, he got right to work, breaking the record in no time. 21 rebounds, 16 points, and a record of 52 straight double-doubles was set.  Love added after the game, “What’s important is that we won the game”.  And boy did they.  Minnesota 101, Indiana 75.

FOOTBALL

In the NFL, a major breakthrough in the NFL Lockout situation.  One of the biggest media stories this past year (and a major controversy) was the proposed 18-game NFL season.  The owners of course wanted two more weeks because the ratings and ticket sales for the NFL are through the roof.  The league is making a killing, so why wouldn’t they want two more games?  The players have been complaining that this isn’t possible because of the beating they take on a weekly basis.  At the end of the year, most teams are playing with many reserves.  Two more weeks would mean more injuries, more concussions, shorter careers, and an unbalanced playoffs with banged up teams battling each other with back-ups.  Yesterday, the head of the NFLPA said that an 18-game season is unsafe for the players so they’re not going to do it.  And that’s the end of that nagging issue.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: HEAT DISAPPOINTING, BUTLER AND TIKI BACK

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In the NBA, the Miami Heat have been disappointing as of late.  After losing to the Bulls recently, there were reports of crying in the locker room.  So… could they get their act together against a Portland team that has been on fire as of late?  The Heat put on their typical spectacle — amazing Dwayne Wade dishes and dunks, your nightly monster slam from LeBron, but when it came down to it, Portland just wanted it more.  They got fantastic bench play from their former all-star Brandon Roy, and their new addition Gerald Wallace put up 22 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.  The Heat trailed by 6 with over a minute to go, but an off-balance 3-pointer from the Blazers’ Wesley Matthews put the dagger in their hearts.  The losing continues for Miami.  So, who will send them packing in the playoffs?  Portland 105, Miami 96.

In college basketball, the top seeds better watch their backs.  Why?  Because BUTLER’S back.  That’s right, last year’s runner-up (who almost won the National Championship short of an in-and-out long range 3-pointer from Gordon Hayward) is back in the tourney.  Last night, they beat the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Horizon league championship.  The Butler heroes this year are Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack (who was essential to last year’s team).  Matt Howard finished this game with 18 points and Shelvin popped on an additional 14. It’s uncertain what seed they will get, and you most likely can’t expect another miracle run, but guaranteed nobody wants to play them in the first round.  Butler 59, Milwaukee 45.

FOOTBALL

In the NFL, it looks like an old veteran will suit up again.  It’s rare for players to come out of retirement in football (or in professional sports in general), but every now and then… they get the itch.  Tiki Barber retired 4 years ago, opting to maintain his health as opposed to taking brutal hits on the field.  He immediately got a cushy job as an NBC desk announcer for prime-time football.  Now at the ripe age of 36, he will put on the gear again.  BUT — it will not be Giants gear.  Remember, the Giants won the Super Bowl the year he retired.  It’s unsure if he’s not welcome back, but Tiki won’t be wearing Giants blue.  There’s a chance he could wind up in Tampa Bay with his brother Ronde.  We should know soon.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: KNICKS A DIFFERENT TEAM, FUN TO WATCH LOVE, TRAGEDY IN MICHIGAN

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In the NBA, the Carmelo Anthony experiment in New York seems to be working out.  Last night, they hosted a Utah Jazz team that is searching for an identity after losing their star Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets.   When you don’t D-up the Knicks, they score… A LOT!!!  The Knicks have lost the last 4 games to the Jazz, but this is a very different Knicks team.  The Knicks are still without Chauncey Billups, but that wouldn’t matter because Carmelo put on a show.  He had 34 points on the night, and Amare Stoudemire added another 31.  No Billups, no problem.  His replacement Toney Douglas is doing just fine, and helped lead the Knicks to a rout of Utah.  The Knicks should not be taken lightly.  NY Knicks 131, Utah 109.

Elsewhere in the NBA, a young player set a landmark record.  The Minnesota Timberwolves have been an up-and-down team this year.  But their main attraction, Kevin Love, has been a marvel to watch.  Going into this game, he had 50 double-doubles (which means he put up double digits in two of the five major stat categories.  In his case, points and rebounds).  Could he set the single-season record with 51-straight double-doubles.  Well, he would have to do it against a very tough Dallas Mavericks team.  But, Love went off again, putting up 23 points and 17 rebounds.  Nicely done!  Unfortunately though, they couldn’t contain the Mavs for the whole game and fell by just a few points.  Dallas 108, Minnesota 105.

Finally, as reported last week, the star player on a Michigan High School basketball team hit a shot to win the game, then collapsed to the floor moments later and died.  It was a very sad moment for the school and the city, and yesterday they played the first game since his death.  The emotions ran high in the arena, and the boy’s parents were in tears in the stands.  But, to keep spirits somewhat up, Fennville won their first game back.  All eyes are on this school, and so are the nation’s heart.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: BULLS EDGE HEAT, LAKERS STILL ON STREAK, OHIO STATE ON FIRE

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In the NBA, the Miami Heat needed a big win as they hosted the Chicago Bulls.  The Bulls are vying for the #1 seed in the East, and the Heat have lost a bunch of close games as of late.  People are doubting them left and right.  So could they beat Derrick Rose and the Bulls?  They ruled the first half behind a big game from LeBron and Chris Bosh.  But, in the second half, the Bulls came surging back doing their thing.  And D-Rose finished the game with 27 points and 5 assists.  The game came down to the wire, and suddenly the Heat found themselves down by 1 point with under 10 seconds to go.  And, yet again, they just couldn’t hit that winning basket even though they had two chances.  So, the Bulls edge closer to Boston in the East.  Chicago 87, Miami 86.

Elsewhere in the NBA, a much anticipated match-up between the Lakers and the Spurs.  Recently the Spurs hosted Miami and absolutely crushed them.  It showed how porous the Heat can be and how dominant the Spurs could be.  The Lakers are on a win streak after the all-star break, and heading into San Antonio, this was a perfect opportunity to see if the Lakers had turned their act around.  The answer:  Absolutely.  The first half was essentially a Laker shoot-around.  The OWNED the game, hitting all their shots, putting up 65 points in the first half and holding the Spurs to 38 points.  They basically took a breather in the second half, knowing that they controlled the game.  After watching this, it’s hard to imagine the Spurs beating the Lakers in a 7-game series.  This game was a statement game for LA, telling the league, “Hey, we’re the 2-time defending champions.  Don’t count us out yet.”  LA Lakers 99, San Antonio 83.

Finally, in college basketball, everyone agrees that there is no definitive favorite out there.  It looks like we could be headed for one of the wildest tourneys in NCAA history.  Don’t be surprised if a #5 seed wins it all.  But, #1 Ohio State is starting to catch fire.  They are clicking on all cylinders and their 3-point marksman Jon Diebler, who fans have nicknamed “3bler”, had an amazing game against #10 Wisconsin.  He hit 7 of 8 3-pointers, had 27 points, and even apologized to his teammates for missing one.  Sure, the Buckeyes are no lock to get to the Final Four, but they are jelling at just the right time.  Ohio State 93, Wisconsin 65.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: ST JOHN LOSING COOL, HEAT NOT LOOKING HOT, AJ HAWK BACK

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In college basketball, #15 St. Johns has been wreaking havoc on the Big East Conference.  The top teams don’t want to play them for fear of upset.  For a long time, St. Johns wasn’t even ranked, but they’ve rattled off 6 impressive wins in a row.  Much of this is due to the vision of their new coach, former UCLA captain Steve Lavin.  So, of course, they would handle unranked Seton Hall.  Right?  Well, Seton Hall came out shooting, nailing 12 3-pointers and frustrating the Redmen to an extreme extent.  And when St. Johns loses their cool, they can melt down.  Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell had 31 points in the rout.  When picking your brackets in 2 weeks, it will be tough to decide how far to advance St. Johns.  They could win it all or lose in the first round.  Seton Hall 84, St. Johns 70.

In the NBA, a marquee match-up between the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat.  The Heat were now with their new point-guard Mike Bibby to give them a new style and dimension at the top of the key.  In a preview of a possible 2nd round playoff match-up, LeBron/Wade and the Heat came out blazing.  They were up 63-45 at the half and were poised to run away with the game.  But, the Magic came surging back, and even found themselves up by 6 late in the 4th quarter.  Wow!  How did this happen?  The Heat tried, but they just couldn’t even up the game, and the Magic rolled to a victory.  Howard had 14 points and 18 rebounds.  The Heat simply just can’t seem to hang on to leads against big teams.  On Sunday they blew a big late lead to the Knicks.  This team does NOT look championship caliber right now.  Orlando 99, Miami 96.

FOOTBALL

In the NFL, the Green Bay Packers released their all-pro defensive back AJ Hawk.  They said it was a financial decision because Hawk was poised to make $10million in the upcoming season.  They couldn’t afford to do that and make other deals.  But, after just 24 hours without a job, the Packers signed Hawk back to the squad for a 5-year deal.  Hawk agreed to take slightly less money to play with the Pack, and it appears the trade-off was a 5-year security blanket.  This is a huge relief to Green Bay fans as Hawk is one of the signature players on the team.  A tough-as-nails guy who had a spectacular 2010 season.  Can the Packers repeat?

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: BULLS/HAWKS ON FIRE, BIBBY POINT GUARD FOR HEAT,BYU PLAYER DISMISSED

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In the NBA, the Chicago Bulls are on fire right now.  They continue to beat the best teams in the league and crush the inferior teams.  Last night, they headed to Atlanta. Derrick Rose is playing MVP level ball right now and is considered the leader in that race.  So, it was no surprise that Chicago pulled out to a commanding lead in the first half.  Rose finished the night with 12 points, 12 assists, and an amazing triple-pump dunk that you absolutely must see in the highlights.  But, defending their home court, the Hawks came soaring back and even took a 1 point lead with 23 seconds to go.  Then, Joe Johnson stole the ball and got it to a 3 point lead.  The Bulls had one last chance, but an air ball from the Bulls’ 3-point marksman Kyle Korver sealed the deal.  It’s playoff level atmosphere in Atlanta right now.  Watch out!  Atlanta 83, Chicago 80.

And in some final NBA moves, now that the Washington Wizards have released Mike Bibby (per his request), Bibby has signed on to play point-guard with the Miami Heat.  The Heat’s Big 3 have been starved for a point-guard (currently Mario Chalmers is filling that role), and having a veteran like Mike Bibby to appropriately dish the ball and score some points every now and then.  This will definitely help the Heat.  And the Knicks have released Corey Brewer, one of the 3 stars of the Florida Gators team that won two straight National titles (along with the Bulls Joakim Noah and Al Horford).  Now it looks like Brewer will join the red-hot Mavericks.  Having Brewer would give them a good bench option at small forward to give the starters a breather.  And, who knows, maybe Brewer could turn into the player that everyone thought he could be.

In college basketball, some very interesting news.  BYU has had a fantastic season, much better than many years prior.  They have played on the national stage many times, and have a cohesive unit.  Now, one of their core players Brandon Davies has been dismissed from the league for having sex with his girlfriend.  BYU is a mormon institution and has a reputation for being very strict.  The players even sign a code of conduct, and in that code it says that they will live “a chaste and virtuous life”.  Clearly, they take that seriously and were willing to break up the chemistry because a player admitted to having sex.  Some may find this story fair, and others may find it very unfair.  Weigh in now.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: MAGIC OVERCOME KNICKS, 30 POINT EFFORT FROM NON STAR, PALMER DRAMA IN CINCI

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In the NBA, coming off a win against LeBron and the Heat, the New York Knicks were looking to firmly establish themselves as contenders in the East.  Their next opponent:  The #3 seed Orlando Magic.  Could Carmelo and Amare produce some magic of their own and beat Orlando?  The first half belonged to the Knicks.  They looked like they would run away with the game.  The Knicks even entered the fourth quarter with a healthy lead.  Billups and Stoudemire had incredible evenings with 30 points a piece (and Carmelo contributed 25).  But, late in the 4th, the Magic came surging back behind some clutch 3-pointers from Jameer Nelson.  They would overcome a 9-point deficit to win the game.   Orlando 116, NY Knicks 110.

Speaking of 30 point nights, who would have thought that we would see a 30-point effort in college, and not even from the star player on the team.  Yep, #1 Ohio State headed to Penn State last night to try and maintain their fire.  They want to go into the tourney ranked #1 overall.  Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger is typically the star, but last night all the attention went to 3-point marksman Jon Diebler.  He simply couldn’t miss from behind the arc, and even created his own shot away from his defender on many occasions.  Many buckeye fans even call Diebler… “3bler”.  With his lights out shooting, the Buckeyes routed Penn State and continue to roll.  At this point, they would be the favorite come March Madness.  Ohio State 82, Penn State 61.

FOOTBALL

In the NFL, some serious drama out of Cincinnati.  It looks like their long-time starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, has refused to wear the Bengals uniform ever again.  Palmer released a statement yesterday threatening to retire if the Bengals don’t trade him.  Palmer said he doesn’t want to play football for money any more, adding “I have $80 Million on the bank”.  He only wants to play for the love of the game and said, “That’s not in Cincinnati”.  This should almost guarantee his departure from Cincy, and there’s no question that Palmer would be a valuable addition to a team just looking for that missing link at quarterback.  The Bills, Raiders, and Vikings instantly come to mind, as Palmer is fully capable of running an offense at this point in his career.  This will get interesting

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