Author Archives: owrobwhetham

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.

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Someone’s Gonna Steal Matt Barkley

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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.

Amare’s Ailing Knees Are Killing The Knicks

Photo from http://www.basketwallpapers.com
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.

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!!!