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2013 NFL Mock Draft

1. Chiefs:  Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A & M

Before the scouting combine and the heart condition that forced Star Lotulelei to sit out and go for additional testing, I had him as the runaway top prospect and number 1 pick to KC.  Even though he has been cleared by doctors, it has still scared teams away enough to drop him down.  The Chiefs have a solid LT with Brandon Albert, so Joeckel would fit in as the RT for this year after releasing Eric Winston, but will be the starting LT either this year or next.  The Chiefs have been speaking to the Dolphins about trading Albert for a second round pick, who is playing on a franchise tender.  Joeckel will be the pick here.

2. Jaguars: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon

In my opinion, the most dominant and disruptive defensive player available in this year’s draft, Jordan is an edge rusher at 6’6” 250 lbs who clocked a 4.60 40-time at the combine.  The Jaguars have a new coach who learned under Pete Carroll in Seattle that speed builds defenses (hence Bruce Irvin 15th overall last year).  Jordan can absolutely fly and is an impact player from day 1.

3. Raiders: Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida

Another dominant defensive player in this years draft, can play anywhere on the defensive line, 1 technique, 3 technique, and 5 technique.  Big body with speed, Floyd would fit in the Oakland defensive line immediately with the losses of Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly.  The Raiders need to generate a pass rush, and Floyd can fill that void for them.

4. Eagles: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

The Eagles cannot afford to NOT find an impact tackle in this draft, as their line is in shambles following the torn Achilles to Jason Peters, the release of Demetress Bell, and the loss of King Dunlap to San Diego.  There is talk that it is a coin-toss for Kansas City to take either Joeckel or Fisher, with many believing that Fisher has more upside, but either way one of the two will be here and the Eagles will sit back and take whichever falls to them, but I believe that the chips (no pun intended) will fall as such.

5. Lions: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU

A freak athlete who is raw as he doesn’t have a lot of football experience on his body, he has drawn a lot of comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul, and if Ansah can match that productivity or increase on it, the Lions will be getting a true player.  He is high risk/high reward as Ansah does not have much football experience, but I think with proper coaching he can be a great player.

6. Browns: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

The first surprise of the draft drops right here!  As the draft nears, Eifert has continuously gained steam from many teams around the league, and I think this is the spot that looks good for him.  This may not be the team that takes him, but if its not Cleveland, it will be Atlanta trading up to snag him here.  Atlanta and Cleveland have a history of draft-day dealing (see: Julio Jones) and with Tony Gonzalez seemingly on his way out, Eifert would be an over-the-middle fearless Tight End for the next 15 years.  If not Atlanta, he would still be a great fit for Cleveland and give Weeden another target that he desperately needs.

7. Cardinals: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

This pick was a toss up between Lotulelei and Lane Johnson, but with many needs I believe Arizona takes the best player available, and I would have to assume that Lotulelei is higher on their big board than Johnson.  Lotulelei was the top prospect all season long coming into the draft until the medical snafu at the combine that caused him to be sent home for additional testing on his heart before being medically cleared.  His draft stock has not recovered and other players have leap-frogged him.  Lane Johnson caught steam because of his athleticism, but Lotulelei has to be the pick here.

8. Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse

And the first quarterback off the board is Gen…wait what?  Ryan Nassib?  That’s right.  The 8th spot has been quarterbacks the past 2 years (2011 – Jake Locker, 2012 – Ryan Tannehill) and I believe the trend will continue here.  The Bills have a new head coach in Doug Marrone whose last job was manning the sidelines at Syracuse, and clearly the team is happy with him in this spot.  A competition in camp between Tavaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb also likely means that Nassib will be the starting quarterback for Buffalo in Week 1.

9. Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU

Rex Ryan as of now is still the head coach of the New York Jets, and while a divorce appears imminent between the two, he still has some say on personnel and he gets his player, a speed rusher on the outside of the defense.  Before the combine, I would have flipped Mingo and Dion Jordan (and believe me if that were still the case I would be shooting off fireworks in celebration) but Mingo has fallen a bit based on questions in production his last season (4.5 sacks in the SEC) and the lack of production against top teams, there is a bust factor written all over Mingo, but he has the upside that the Jets appear to see.  He has earned comparisons to DeMarcus Ware and Bruce Irvin, and while I believe the latter is a fairer comparison, it would be a positive if Mingo can reach the productivity of either.

10. Titans: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

The Titans round out the top 10 grabbing a player that many appear to be drooling over, but if teams are as smart as me (and sometimes I tend to wonder if they are not) he will not be drafted any higher than this.  He will also not drop past this point at all because he is a number 1 corner in the league right now, but is not the sideline to sideline disruptive corner that many people believe he is.  He only registered 6 INTs in 3 years at Alabama, a number that is concerning to many.  He also does not bring that added return man element to a team, so he will have to prove his worth as a top corner.

11. Chargers: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

The man the Chargers covet falls to them as offensive line is one of the top needs for San Diego, and Lane Johnson fills a need for them.  Johnson is an athletic tackle that, in JUCO prior to Oklahoma, played Quarterback and Tight End.  The Chargers need to find protection for Philip Rivers because he got smacked around a bit last year, and don’t be surprised if the Chargers take a top guard in the second or third round and come out of this draft with a completely revamped offensive line.

12. Dolphins: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

The Dolphins have a lot of holes to fill on the line and if they don’t pull off the proposed deal for Brandon Albert, I wouldn’t be shocked if they try to move up a spot or two to secure Lane Johnson to take over for the loss of Jake Long, but if they are stuck here and the board looks the way it does, Warmack has to be the pick.  Far and away the best guard available, I wouldn’t be shocked if he went as high as number 7 to Arizona.  His size, athleticism, and road-grader mentality is a perfect fit in Miami and he would represent an immediate upgrade over John Jerry on the line.

13. Jets: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

The player that will forever be synonymous with “the trade for Revis” has a lot to live up to, and the Jets especially have to make sure that they are not taking a Vernon Gholston with this pick.  They traded arguably the best player in franchise history and one of if not the best cornerback to ever play the game for essentially only this pick (if they let him walk as a free agent when his contract ran out they would have received a 3rd round pick anyway).  Tavon Austin is one of those freakish athletes that represent a high risk/high reward as they can be utilized all over the field and with a creative enough OC and a quarterback who is not completely useless (ummmm…).  Austin has drawn comparisons to Percy Harvin and I believe that is a very accurate comparison, and I would argue that Austin is more athletic than Harvin.  The Jets have many needs and creativity on offense would be one of them.  He would immediately help in the return game and would have the potential to make Sanchez look not completely hopeless in what is his last year as a New York Jet.  NOTE: The saddest organization in the sport could also consider Geno Smith at this spot.

14. Panthers: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

I am writing this pick in here because I believe this will be the spot for Richardson whether or not the Panthers remain here, but I am highlighting this as a potential trade spot.  Richardson is a gap rusher who is strong enough to rush through blockers and who has a motor that doesn’t stop.  If the Panthers sit here, they will take him, but I am highlighting a potential trade here with the 49ers who also covet Richardson, and if they pull that off, the rich get richer.

15. Saints: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

The best safety in the draft and potential dominant secondary player, the Saints have a lot of holes to fill and could go many different ways, and they will have their choice between Vaccaro and Xavier Rhodes, but in the end I believe the Texas product is who the Saints will select to be their Ed Reed.

16. Rams: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

The Rams are another team that could go in many directions here, and also don’t be surprised if another trade is in the works here or the previous pick, as the Cowboys and Jerry Jones love to move up and maneuver themselves to get the players they want.  If the Rams stay put here, I believe they will have their choice between many players, but two that stand out are Ogletree and Jonathan Cooper.  Ogletree has to be the pick as the Rams need some depth and added talent at MLB.  His DUI shouldn’t scare teams off too much, the kid is a player whose talent will outshine any red flags.

17. Steelers: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

When you meet the Georgia Bulldogs, you’re gonna feel the bulldogs bite!  We’re going Bulldog-Bulldog in this draft with Jones coming off the board next.  It seems like every year the Steelers sit back and take the players that fall in the draft because the teams up at the top don’t understand the draft.  Until just leading up to the combine, Jarvis Jones and Star Lotulelei were the top two players in the draft, and people had the Chiefs taking Jones first overall, but after some unimpressive workouts he has fallen.  Jones and the Steelers are a match made in heaven and the Steelers get their immediate replacement for James Harrison on their defense, and are better for it.

18. Cowboys: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina

The Cowboys have a few needs that it can take care of in the first round, and as I previously stated, don’t be surprised if they are not picking here and move up to grab someone else, but if they do stay here, Cooper has to be their pick.  They need help up front protecting their new $100 million man Tony Romo (pause for chuckles).  Cooper is a dominant guard, many people slotting him ahead of Warmack, but I believe this is a good fit for both parties.

19. Giants: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State

The Giants have a few needs going into the draft and addressing RT is one of them.  Right now David Diehl is their guy, but with injury concerns and inconsistency, they need to address right tackle.  D.J. Fluker makes a lot of sense here as he is a road grader and a big body at the position, but he provides little upside.  Menelik Watson is one of those players that comes out of nowhere and is drafted high.  Watson is from England and was a relative unknown but had a great season and great workouts and I believe slots in as the RT from day 1 with the potential to eventually move over to LT.  There is not a lot of football on those knees, meaning he will be able to hold up for a long time.

20. Bears: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

This is the spot where Fluker goes and it is a good spot for him.  The Bears need the added protection for Jay Cutler and Fluker can provide that.  Big body on the right side of the line, he will be able to neutralize the good pass rushers in the NFC North, but his lack of athleticism can get the best of him at times.  Speed rushers are his worst nightmare, so because of this I see potential bust factor here.

21. Bengals: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International

It is no secret that the Bengals need help in their secondary, and while they really covet Kenny Vaccaro, he will be gone by this point.  There are three top safety prospects that deserve mention at the end of the first round: Cyrprien, Eric Reid, and Matt Elam, but I believe Cyprien represents the most upside of the bunch and could potentially be on par with Vaccaro.  Coming out of a smaller program, he hasn’t received the notoriety that he deserves, but he has the potential to give offenses a nightmare with his ability to play the pass as well as move up in the box and rush the quarterback and is a fierce tackler.

22. Rams: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

I considered slotting Patterson to the Rams with their first pick in the first round, as they truly need a number 1 wide receiver.  They know much like me, though, that this draft is very deep with wide receivers and there is top WR talent reaching into the third round of the draft.  The Rams need a pass catcher and Patterson represents a top talent receiver who has the potential to be taken even in the top 10, but I believe that he will fall.

23. Vikings: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

Rhodes’ free fall ends here.  The Vikings have other more pressing needs to address, but corner is one of them and with the loss of Antoine Winfield, there is an opening on their defense.  Rhodes is one of the top CBs available who is tall and able to cover man to man and zone.  He should potentially go higher, but if he falls to the Vikings they have to pull the trigger and take him here.

24. Colts: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State

The Colts let Dwight Freeney walk this offseason and with him they lost their best edge pass rusher.  Freeney wasn’t a typical pass rusher with his hand in the dirt in that he was far smaller than many of his other fellow defensive ends.  The Colts have an opening there and Carradine should slot in that opening nicely.  Before Carradine tore his ACL at FSU, he was considered one of the top pass rushers available and while that may scare some teams off, the Colts should do their due diligence and realize that he is healthy enough to come in and start.

25. Vikings: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

This would have been the Vikings’ first selection two picks ago, but with Rhodes on the board they had to take him knowing that Williams would still be here to take.  The Vikings need a defensive tackle to clog the middle of their line and Williams at 6’3” 315 lbs represents a big body in the middle and add to the Williams’ that the Vikings seem to be rotating at DT for the past decade.

26. Packers: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

This pick will be much discussed and I personally don’t think that Lacy may end up being the selection here, much like I don’t believe necessarily that the Packers will be selecting here.  If you have been following along, you will notice that Geno Smith is still available and while the Packers don’t represent a destination for him, this is the spot that teams will look to move up into from the second round if they want him.  Should the Packers hold on to this pick here, though, there is very little value for their selection here and will draft based on need.  What they truly need is a running back and Lacy is one of only about 3 backs in this draft that warrant top consideration.

 27. Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

The Texans don’t have many needs as they are a complete team, but wide receiver is a position that they could use additional help with in building for the future.  Andre Johnson is a legendary wide receiver, but they could use additional help on the other side of the field to strech the defenses for Matt Schaub.  Hopkins is a big speedy target who would give defenses nightmares opposite Johnson and Schaub would be very happy throwing the ball around.  Hopkins has a red flag as he was found to be one of the players responsible for trashing his hotel room at the Scouting Combine, but I believe that the team will do their homework and decide it is a non-issue in taking him.

28. Broncos: Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Florida State

The Broncos snafu with Elvis Dumervil really bit them in the behind, and they will pay the price for letting his agent influence the future of their organization in such a direct manner.  The Broncos need additional pass rushers to make up for the loss, and Werner represents that type of player.  At one point he was in the top 5 discussions but has fallen throughout the process (as I agree with) as I don’t see star written over Werner as some do.  He has a great jump off the ball but his strength and pass rush moves leave something to be desired, but he should fit in nicely in the Broncos front seven.

29. Patriots: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

The Patriots need help in the secondary as Aqib Talib signed a 1-year deal and Adrian Wilson is turning 34.  They don’t have many pressing needs as they are a team built to win now, but corner is a position they could use help with and Trufant represents an upgrade for the future.  He has family ties to the NFL and the position (see: Marcus and Isiah Trufant) and will be a great talent.

 30. Falcons: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

The Falcons are a team that is actually hurting in the secondary, specifically at cornerback with the losses of Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes.  Taylor is a great man-cover corner who has gained a lot of steam over the recent weeks, and could potentially go the previous pick to New England, but if that’s the case, Atlanta will take their pick between Taylor and Trufant.

31. 49ers: Datone Jones, DT/DE, UCLA

The 49ers don’t have many needs to fill, but they always love stocking up on the front seven, and Datone Jones is a talent that could have an immediate impact on their defense.  Justin Smith isn’t getting any younger and Jones could eventually replace him.

 32. Ravens: Eric Reid, S, LSU

For some reason, the popular selection is the Ravens shocking the world and taking Manti Te’o with the final selection of the first round on Thursday, and while I believe he would be a good fit on the Ravens defense, they have other pressing needs to take care of.  The loss of Ed Reed hurts them tremendously as he was their rock on their secondary, but they can replace him with another Reid (unfortunately not the same spelling).  Reid is a big body safety who can fly in the secondary and does not shy away from a big hit.  The Ravens defense in the wake of losing Reed and Ray Lewis should want another player who will come in and lay people out.

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Kobe’s Injury Could Mean Change of Plans in Lakerland

Photo by Mark Terrill/Associated Press
Kobe Bryant injured his Achilles last night at the Staple Center. Will the Lakers star ever be the same?

One of the toughest players that the NBA has ever seen tore his Achilles tendon last night at the Staples Center.  Kobe Bryant, who is universally recognized throughout the sports world as one of the grittiest, toughest guys around, will not be able to play through this injury.

Earlier this season, Kobe admitted to the media that next season would probably be his last in the NBA however this injury has now put that in jeopardy. Although he is only 34 years old, this is his 17th NBA regular season to go along with another 236 combined playoff and Olympic contests. Kobe has played over 54,000 minutes in his career. He’s been able to play through some tough injuries in his career and has an incredible amount of “mileage” on his body. Whether this injury hinders Bryant’s availability for next season remains to be seen, however, the much more important question is whether or not Kobe will ever be able to get back to being the same player that we all remember and revere. If he doesn’t then there could be a complete shift in thinking for Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.

This injury to Kobe effectively ends the Lakers chances of making any type of noise in the playoffs (if they even get there now), however, call me crazy, but this may be a blessing in disguise for a Lakers franchise that has some crucial decisions to make this offseason in regards to their future.

It’s been blatantly obvious to anyone who is paying attention that Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant don’t get along.  Kobe is old school; Dwight is new school.  Kobe is tough minded; Dwight is weak minded.  Kobe is always serious about his craft; Dwight just wants to have fun.  Kobe is the ultimate Alpha-Male; Dwight just ain’t about that life.

With all that being said; Kobe may never be the same player again and Dwight is currently entering what should be the prime years of his career. Think about it…what NBA Center is competing with a healthy Dwight Howard on a nightly basis? We all know damn well that the answer is nobody and so do the Lakers.   Would the Lakers really be willing to lose Howard to free agency in order to keep Kobe Bryant, a player who has meant so much to the franchise but whose future is unclear? To me, the answer is yes because there is another possible scenario in Lakerland that is much less obvious and much more likely.

The Lakers allow Kobe to leave on his own terms, which means rehab and return from a major injury, in effect keeping their relationship in tact with the player  who some consider the greatest Laker of them all. This also means losing Dwight Howard in free agency to a team like Houston who will have the available cap space to offer the maximum 4 year, $87 million dollar contract that Dwight most certainly desires.  This seems like a dumb move right?

Wrong!

Photoshop via http://www.fantasy-sports.com
Could LeBron James end up on the Lakers? It’s a reasonable thought.

What ends up happening is after 2014, Kobe retires and LeBron James becomes a free agent if he chooses to opt out of his contract with Miami.  If the Lakers let Howard leave and Kobe retire on his own terms, they will have enough cap space to max out LeBron next summer.  Don’t rule out this very reasonable and likely possibility because LeBron has goals that reach far beyond basketball and Los Angeles is a place where he can obtain those goals.

There is no such thing as good timing when it comes to an injury from a player’s perspective, but from a management perspective, I can see this being the catalyst for much needed change in Lakerland.

Someone’s Gonna Steal Matt Barkley

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Matt Barkley has spend his whole life preparing for the NFL Draft.

The Kansas City Chiefs own the top pick in this year’s NFL Draft and they probably have no clue as to what they want to do with it.  Should they pick consensus future All-Pro in Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel and trade their franchised left tackle Brandon Albert? Is former number one overall pick Alex Smith the long term solution at quarterback? Should they trade the pick for more picks in what is considered a mediocre to weak draft class?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO!

I am 100 percent certain that Matt Barkley should be the number one pick in the NFL Draft. He has been training to be an NFL quarterback since he was in grade school and has had incredible success at every level of play thus far.

Barkley went to Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California. Let’s just say the resumes of some of the alumni from this school would blow your mind, not only sports, but entertainment, government, and even religious leadership. Mater Dei has a rich football history that boasts not one, but two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks.  He was only the second player in the storied history of that football program to start at quarterback as a freshman.  The only other freshman to start for MDHS was “Robo-QB” Todd Marinovich (who has an incredible story that was brilliantly documented by ESPN’s 30 for 30 series).  Barkley started all four years in high school and broke Marinovich’s all-time school and county record for passing yards. Barkley is the only player to call his own plays since current Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson took over in 1989. Barkley was a top recruit, committed to USC after his junior season, and was named Gatorade National Male High School Athlete of the Year in 2007. My point is that it’s safe to say that Matt Barkley has spent his formative years preparing for success in an environment that has a track record of breeding it.

The story doesn’t get much different when it comes to his career at USC.  Again, Barkley started as a freshman, and with the help of some really good teammates, dominated CFB from the jump.  Barkley was extremely impressive as a freshman, garnering praise from evaluators such as Mel Kiper Jr. who dubbed Barkley “the number one pick in the draft three years from now”.  It’s still fresh in the minds of college football fans, so I don’t have to go over all of Barkley’s incredible numbers and accomplishments at USC.  He stayed and started all four years and played brilliantly. There is enough tape on this kid to be able to see that he can make plays with the right talent around him.

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Andy Reid takes over a Kansas City Chiefs team with three times as many Pro-Bowlers as they had wins last season.

The Kansas City Chiefs have some outstanding players on their roster.  Dwayne Bowe is an elite receiver when motivated and former first round pick Jon Baldwin has potential to be a nice compliment.  Jamaal Charles is a quality running back with big play capabilities, as is Dexter McCluster in a variety of roles. The Chiefs employ a Pro-Bowl player at each level of their defense with Eric Berry at safety, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston at linebacker, and Tamba Hali at defensive end.  Dustin Colquitt made the Pro-Bowl as the best punter in the AFC, and believe me when I tell you that field position means a great deal in the NFL.

It’s incredible that the Chiefs won a mere two games last year with six Pro-Bowl players on the roster.  This goes to show you what a franchise quarterback means to an NFL team’s success. The Chiefs traded for Alex Smith this offseason.  I know better than most as to what Smith can and cannot do, for I’m a lifelong 49ers fan.  I supported the decision to draft Smith number one overall in ’05 and I still do to this day.  He is a fantastic football player, a very good NFL athlete, and a leader who takes care of the ball and makes quality football decisions.  He’s a quiet guy who had all the respect in the world from his former teammates and coaches. He’s faced and conquered adversity that most NFL players would never dream that they would have to deal with. He’s got heart and he’s tough.

But he’s not the answer the Chiefs are looking for moving forward.  The Chiefs should draft Matt Barkley number one overall and let him sit behind Smith for his rookie season.  Smith is the perfect transitional quarterback for Andy Reid because of his experiences in San Francisco, and I can guarantee he will win more than two games next season. This will allow Barkley to completely heal and strengthen his throwing shoulder (which is his number one “red flag” according to evaluators) in preparation to take over for KC in his second season NFL season.  I don’t know Matt Barkley personally, so maybe something about this kid’s personality doesn’t sit well with NFL brass, but from everything I’ve read about him and his brief history on this planet, to me, this is a no-brainer.  Barkley is the truth and one screwed up season in college doesn’t take away from everything else that he’s done to this point.  All signs points to greatness for Matt Barkley. Whoever lands him will have the most important position in sports locked up for years to come.

NHL: If you can play, you can play!

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Over the past couple decades, lockouts have given the NHL’s management and leadership a terrible reputation in the eyes of their fans. Well, they finally did something right. Yesterday, the NHL became the first North American sports league to officially partner with the You Can Play Project, a movement dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in sports. 

In fact, since its launch, the You Can Play Project has been publicly backed by numerous NHL players, including stars Henrik Lundqvist, Claude Giroux, Rick Nash, Zdeno Chara, and Daniel Alfredsson. To me, this is a no-brainer for all sports leagues, but especially for the NHL.

One of You Can Play’s founders, Patrick Burke, the son of hockey management legend Brian Burke, started the project last year in memory of his brother Brendan. In 2009, Brendan, who was the student manager of Miami of Ohio men’s hockey program, publicly came out of the closet with the unwavering support of the RedHawks team.

Brendan told the Toronto Sports Network, “I think it’s important my story is told to people because there are a lot of gay athletes out there and gay people working in pro sports that deserve to know there are safe environments where people are supportive regardless of your sexual orientation.”

It’s nice to know that the hockey will be on the right side of history. I’d like to also point out that Major League Soccer publicly supported the movement this past fall. I hope more leagues follow suit. 

Simply stated, barriers do not belong in the sporting world. Participating in sports provided me with countless friendships, priceless memories, and personal development. Everyone should have access to those great experiences.

If you can play, you’re welcome to play. 

Amare’s Ailing Knees Are Killing The Knicks

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Amare Stoudamire was supposed to save the Knicks. Now he is holding them back.

When the New York Knicks made the decision to sign Amare Stoudamire to a five year, $99.7 million dollar contract in July of 2010, it was absolutely the right thing to do considering the direction the Knicks were trying to go.  Former President Donnie Walsh already had Head Coach Mike D’Antoni in place and reuniting Amare with D’Antoni made perfect sense. Knicks fans were hungry for change, and when LeBron spurned them, the organization felt like they needed to make a splash.

And in the beginning… Amare was a tidal wave…

78 games played in 2010-2011. 25.3 points per game on 50% shooting. He controlled the paint with 8 rebounds per game (2.5 offensive) and 2 blocks per game. He shot 79% from the free throw line on just under 8 attempts per game. He was an MVP candidate on the “New” New York Knicks. The final piece of the puzzle fell when the Knicks acquired Melo from Denver, and BOOM! The Knicks make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 (when they were swept by the Nets, led by Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd. Fun fact).

But in the end… the only number that mattered was 36.8.

That was Amare’s minutes per game that season. The wear and tear of exactly 82 games took its toll on his already surgically repaired knees.  The 2010-2011 season will probably be the last time we ever see Amare Stoudamire play quality basketball for the Knicks or anyone else for that matter. Since then he has played in 47 and 29 games in consecutive seasons. He is currently out of the lineup for the Knicks and it doesn’t look like he is coming back any time soon.

Amare is absolutely killing the team when it comes to the salary cap. The Knicks still owe him $21.7 million dollars next season and $23.4 million dollars the following season. He made $19.9 million dollars to play 29 games this season as a bench player for the Knicks. He started 0 games. None.

Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images
Carmello Anthony and Tyson Chandler would not be in Knicks uniforms if Amare Stoudamire didn’t sign in 2010.

The best move the Knicks made in recent years was to sign Amare Stoudamire. At the time of the signing, it immediately made the Knicks a relevant franchise again.  It legitimized the Knicks as a contender in the Eastern Conference and gave them the confidence to go ahead and trade their young talent to Denver to get Carmello Anthony. I don’t believe that the Knicks go get Melo if they didn’t have Amare there first (that’s a whole other argument).

Where the Knicks went wrong was the 2011 off season. The Knicks knew about Amare’s knees, yet went ahead and used their newly acquired Amnesty Clause that was negotiated into the new CBA by the players association on Chauncy Billups’ contract that would have expired after the season anyway. Yes, they were able to sign Tyson Chandler because of it, and he ended up being the Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA, but they could have made this happen without using thier reprieve.

Looking back, this is what the Knicks should have done. Instead of re-signing Billups for $14.2 million dollars prior to the lockout, they should have simply let him go as a free agent. That would have left them with hole at point guard, however, it would have allowed them to sign Tyson Chandler and still keep that Amnesty Clause in their back pocket.

They should have known that the Stoudamire contract was going to end this way because of his injury history. It was a chance they needed to take in order to get where they want to be, but as soon as they found out that they were going to be able to shed one contract without penalty, they should have immediately thought of Amare’s knees and his $20+ million dollars. Now the Knicks are stuck with Amare until the 2014-2015 season is over. Even worse is that Carmello Anthony will have to play out his prime years with the Knicks without a true superstar as a compliment because they will never be able to afford it.  The Miami Heat are already better than the Knicks, and with Amare Stoudamire’s contract holding them back from getting another superstar, it doesn’t look like the Knicks will overtake them anytime soon.

Most Valuable Video: Nebraska Spring Game

Well, I may be a little late here, and I’ll be shocked if this kid isn’t already on (or soon to be on) Ellen, Oprah, and the whole morning talk show circuit, but I love this stuff. When teams take a young fan who is battling illness and make him feel part of the team, I can’t help but smile.

This run, which was actually a pretty good display of vision and break-away speed, made this young boys life. The crowd was into it, the players were loving it, and he was treated like a champion after. If this doesn’t bring any joy to your life, I don’t know what will.

3 Things We Learned: 2013 March Madness

The Madness is over folks!

March Madness has come to an end and Louisville has proven to be the best team in the country by defeating Michigan 82 – 76 in the Championship Game of the 2013 Final Four at the Georgia Dome in HotLanta.

Here are three things we learned from the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Louisville’s Rick Pitino becomes the only coach to win a title with two different schools.

1)    Rick Pitino is the Man!

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has just solidified his place amongst the all-time great coaches in Division 1 history.  His postseason resume is staggering. He became the first coach to win the whole thing at two different schools (Kentucky ’96).  He is one of two coaches to lead three different teams to the Final Four (Calipari is the other but the Memphis years are vacated). He is also one of a pair of coaches to lead two teams to three Final Fours (Roy Williams). Pitino has coached a team to the Final Four in four different decades. His teams have made 18 tournament appearances, seven Finals Fours, and have won 11 conference tournaments over his 27 year career.

What do all these accomplishments mean? They mean Rick Pitino gets the job done when it counts the most. His up-tempo offensive attack combined with stifling, full court defensive pressure has led to 662 careers wins. That’s good for 22nd all-time, just two behind John Wooden!  It’s only fitting that a coach with as much style as Coach Pitino be named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on the same day that he makes coaching history…and the scary part is…he ain’t done yet!!

Photo by John Lariviere
A high school basketball players misses a dunk as today’s youth lack fundamentals.

2)    The quality of play is down compared to years past.

The tournament is always exciting. It doesn’t really matter what teams are in it, or if there are any major “stars” showcasing their talents, because the NCAA has built the brand of March Madness to a point where it has become self sustaining.  Brackets, office pools, and Vegas lines are a driving force behind what has become a multi-billion dollar business.  The tournament will always be good.

It’s the quality of play that stinks…

Young athletes are fundamentally flawed because we live in a society that values entertainment over hard work.  Youngsters are taught, by their peers and by the media, that it’s cooler to have swag and style than it is to be fundamentally sound.  24/7 sports coverage on television shows nothing but dunks and flashy plays. This becomes engrained in the minds of young athletes who, instead of practicing bounce passes and foul shots, are practicing lob passes and dunks.

Frank Ordonez/The Post-Standard Jim Boeheim has dealt with bad refs at the University of Syracuse since 1962 when he a walk-on guard for the basketball team.

3)    The Refs STINK!!!

Can it get any worse?

I sure hope not because it’s really, really bad right now for these NCAA officials. There were a multitude of terrible calls throughout this NCAA tournament that affected the outcomes of games. Trey Burke had a clean block on Peyton Siva but was called for a foul because the referee anticipated contact.  There was a charge call on Syracuse guard Brandon Triche at the end of the Michigan game in the semifinal that could have changed the game.

My point is that the poor officiating has contributed to the lack of quality play from the student athletes.  When the officiating is inconsistent (and it sure has been in not only this tournament but in the conference tournaments as well) the players don’t know what to expect when it comes to what is going to be called on a game to game basis.  This uncertainty and confusion leads to poor execution because more split-second decisions have to be made by the athletes instead of allowing their natural instincts to prevail.  The combination of uncertainty and inexperience leads to poor basketball, which doesn’t help when the refs can’t even get it right!

March Madness did exactly what it was supposed to do, entertain and excite while providing unforgettable storylines that we will remember forever.  Kevin Ware’s injury, Rick Patino’s glory week, the Big East goes out with a bang, the Fab-5 reunites at the Final Four…yeah, I would say it was Madness…but at least you learned three things!!!