Category Archives: Breakfast

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. 

Breakfast: Whoops.

Chicago's Jimmy Butler celebrates during a timeout. His 17 points helped Chicago to a 101-97 victory (Rob Grabowski/USATodaySports)

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler celebrates during a timeout. His 17 points helped Chicago to a 101-97 victory (Rob Grabowski/USATodaySports)

Wow, my bad.

I don’t usually put a curse on these type of things, that is, unless I’m making a monetary wager. BUT I DIDN’T. Actually, TheOrangeWedge has a guy for sports betting, but we’ll get to that another time.

The record still stands. Did Jerry West pop a bottle of champagne? I’d love to say yes, but we’ll never know for sure.

The Bull’s physical brand of basketball was enough to hold off the Heat as the Bulls ended the streak last night with a 101-97 victory.

The Heat didn’t win 27 games in dominating fashion. In fact, eleven of those wins needed fourth quarter comebacks to keep the streak going. Tight games in Sacramento, then Orlando, then Boston will have LeBron and Co. battle-tested come June.

But do they even need it? The way they’ve been playing, it would be lucrative to think that anyone could beat the Heat once, let alone four times in seven games.

In the late game, my Brooklyn Nets looked in fine form without “Iso” Joe Johnson for a second game. Johnson is suffering from a quad bruise, and his absence allows for two developments. First, Deron Williams, on what look like his healthiest metatarsals in years, was allowed to be more aggressive to the basket. The second is that without Johnson, the Nets are bigger, tougher, and more active in the post. Last night was all about the latter, as the Nets looked great on the road, winning 111-97 in Portland.

The difference maker for Brookyln was Reggie Evans, who finished with a career high 26 rebounds to match a career-high 22 points. Evans was a monster, working all his post moves and getting putbacks all night long.

The Nets are now just 2.5 games back of both Indiana and the Knicks for the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference. Last night’s win has to provide some motivation as they move to 4-1 on their current 8 game road trip.

As for the Blazers, last night may have effectively ended their season. Rip City has been fighting for the 8th seed in the West, but now trails 10th place Dallas by two full games. Late in the fourth quarter, Blazers coach Terry Stotts emptied his bench, a sign that fans may want to watch the Sweet 16 for potential lottery picks.

Breakfast: Knicks Struggling Out West

Tyson Chandler has started all 62 games for the Knicks this season (Aaron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images)

Tyson Chandler has started all 62 games for the Knicks this season (Aaron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images)

In a month nothing but the Heat will matter in the Easter Conference, so for now let’s talk a little Knicks. Boy, November feels like ages ago; when Rasheed Wallace was backing down fools in the Garden and teams were still lazy on defense. But as they begin their annual slide down the East standings, the Knicks are hurting right now in more ways than one.

It’s more than watching Tyson Chandler crumpled on the floor before the half of last night’s 23 point loss in Denver. It’s more than Carmelo, in his first game back in Denver, was awful from the field, clearly hindered by swelling in his right knee. It’s way more than Amare Stoudemire, who, despite playing somewhat effective basketball for the past three weeks, is back in a suit and will never be a consistently healthy athlete ever again.

The Knicks, in the midst of a brutal five game road trip, are being exposed as mentally weak as well as physically unstable. This is the second consecutive game that was over in the 3rd quarter, and they still have to travel to Portland and Utah, who are combined 43-19 at home.

Between those games is a matinee with Lob City, maybe the worst matchup for the Knicks right now. The athleticism and youth of the Clippers might make Kenyon Martin pass out.

Kenyon Martin. We need to talk about the Knicks rotation right now. This roster is filled with jump shooters, but now that the Knicks are running out of big men, there’s no way this team can compete. James White is getting more minutes, but from what I’ve seen thus far is best skill is without a doubt fouling. Iman Shumpert looks to be getting back to full strength, but his offensive game is so limited right now he can’t be the primary weapon on the floor. And that leaves me with J.R Smith, the man I’d never want to play a game of pick-up hoops with.

Smith is one of the NBA’s most frustrating scorers. The definition of streaky, Smith will occasionally make an improbable highlight-reel worthy shot, giving him liberty to jack up 20 more. But now with all the injuries, Smith has gone from a spark off the bench to depending on his shooting to generate offense. And it just isn’t working.

Have the Knicks been quitting? That’s not fair to say. But this team desperately needs rest, and they aren’t going to get it right now. The Knicks have one of the oldest rosters in the NBA, and right now it is a glaring flaw. Because not only to the best teams in the league right now have youth, most of them like to run. A lot. And from what I’ve learned, old guys don’t run like young guys.

I’m not saying the Knicks won’t make the playoffs. Hey, if they end up paired with the Hawks or Bulls, they might even grab a win or two. But this is a fighter on wobbly legs. And whether they realize it or not, they just can’t seem to punch back as strong as before. We’ll update this situation as we learn more about the knees of Melo and Chandler. Stay tuned.

Breakfast: Breaking Bubbles

Kentucky still has work to do if they want to repeat as champs (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Kentucky still has work to do if they want to repeat as champs (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Most of the teams in this year’s field have already done enough to punch their ticket to the big dance, but some squads could use another quality win or two on their resume. This brings us to Championship Week, when teams that haven’t won enough regular-season games have the chance to come out of nowhere to win their conference tournament and “steal” a bid away from an at-large team. 37 bids are up for grabs, but after all of the “locks” are accounted for, that leaves just 6 bids.

Today we’re going to look at ten teams from various conferences.  These teams, which are certifiably “On the Bubble”, need some help over the next few days but are still in contention for the aforementioned final 6. The number-crunching and bracket-building all stops on Sunday, but for now it’s Bubble Time!

Baylor (18-13) – The Bears got a huge win last week, beating Kansas by 23. This bumped Baylor back up near the cut line, but right now they are still on the outside looking in. Scott Drew’s team draws Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament on Wednesday night, an opportunity they cannot pass up. Should the Bears lose they will have 14 losses, more than any team on the bubble, and will have to sit around waiting for the rest of the tournament pieces to fall into place. If Baylor can beat Oklahoma State however, they’ll most likely have done just enough to land on the right side of the bubble.

Boise State (21-9) – Boise State has been one of the most underrated teams in the bubble conversation. Not only are the Broncos the only team on this page with 4 top-35 RPI wins, they’ve also got the second-highest RPI, after Temple. The biggest blemish on this resume is the low non-conference strength of schedule, a measly but not crippling 217. If the boys in blue can beat San Diego State for a second straight time in Thursday’s Mountain West quarterfinal, they will be in for sure.

Iowa State (21-10) – Missed calls occur in sports almost daily, but rarely does a league commissioner admit to such mistakes. This was the case in Iowa State’s recent overtime loss to Kansas, where a missed charge at the end of regulation extended the game and deprived the Cyclones of a marquee win. Fortunately the Cyclones have done enough that they should be alright without one. They have beaten every other quality Big 12 tournament team and only suffered one truly bad loss in the process. They draw a struggling Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 tournament, and so long as they put up a fight, they should be fine come Selection Sunday

Kentucky (21-10) – One of the most intriguing bubble cases comes in the form of the defending champions. Granted, this team only returned 4 players from last year’s title team, none of which started in either season. The loss of star center Nerlens Noel a month ago nearly crippled this already under-performing team. But a recent win over Florida cat-apulted these Cats back into serious consideration. The Wildcats draw either Arkansas or Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament – a loss to either could drop them off the bubble for good. In the semis they would most likely draw the Missouri-Ole Miss winner. A win over one of these two teams could lock up a bid for John Calipari’s squad. However being that this game won’t take place until Saturday afternoon, mid-week bid thieves could make this another do-or-die game for the Cats.

La Salle (21-8) – La Salle has a very simple tournament path laid out – Win and you’re in. The Explorers get a bye to the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, where they’ll face either Dayton or Butler. If it’s Dayton, they need to win to avoid their second sub-100 RPI loss. If they draw Butler, a win would be their second over the top-20 RPI Bulldogs, and would validate an already impressive resume. A loss to a very good Butler team probably wouldn’t hurt, but with the rest of the bubble teams trying to win important games at the same time, it could set them behind the rest of the field.

That’s the first five. But these teams do not have their spots reserved by any means. Which other teams want to take their place? Check back at lunchtime to find out, and we’ll also tell you which ones will actually have their names called come Sunday.

Breakfast: Today’s The Day

NFL free agency is set to begin at 4 p.m. today, and TheOrangeWedge is as excited as ever to break down all the happenenings. Today many big names are waking up to their names all over the media, and could potentially finish the day far richer than they started.

But getting back into the workforce isn’t always easy. You need to be ready, and you need to be prepared. That’s why some of the top NFL free agents have highly sought-after resume coordinators. We happen to have gotten in touch with one of these men, and are here to bring you an NFL exclusive report. Here are some previously never-before-seen images of resumes being sent to all 32 general managers today. Enjoy!

Dashon GoldsonRESUME11

**Edit: Goldson attended the University of Washington, not Washington University. Blame his agent.

Links:

Greg JenningsRESUME1Link:

Steven JacksonRESUME1

Link:

Do you think having a resume will help these job-seekers? Perhaps Goldson should have included a cover letter? Lets us know @TheOrangeWedge.

Breakfast: Not Enough Ice Time For The NHL

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As the new hockey guy at the OrangeWedge, I’m joining the writing team at an exciting time. After an embarrassing 113 day lockout, the 2013 NHL season is about halfway finished, and the league is as popular as ever.

That is, as popular as ever among long-time hockey fans.

Many writers undoubtedly point to the past work stoppages as the leading factor for the lack of American support. While I agree with this, I believe that the NHL’s popularity cannot be discussed without mentioning ESPN, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports.”

The big story of this year has been the Chicago Blackhawks’ miraculous 22-game point streak. As a Detroit Redwings fan, it sickens me, but I have to tip my hat and say well done. After the Hawks and the Wings faced off this past Sunday, in NBC’s second most viewed hockey game in history, ESPN was forced to properly highlight the achievement. How did they bring attention to this historic streak, you ask? By allowing their controversial NBA analyst, Stephen A. Smith, to discuss it on their flagship program, SportsCenter. Smith, unimpressed by the streak, attacked long-time hockey analyst Barry Melrose, barely letting him get a word in while he attacked with nonfactual arguments.

My gripe with Stephen A. Smith’s prideful ignorance has more to do with ESPN than Smith himself. It is not surprising that a basketball guy thinks poorly of hockey. To be honest, I doubt you’ll ever find me mentioning basketball on the Wedge, unless of course I’m discussing this year’s top NHL prospect Seth Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. But more to the point: ESPN, in their quest for higher revenue and ratings, fails to cover the NHL with the integrity and fairness it deserves. Until this changes, ice hockey will forever be the little brother of North America’s big 4 sports.

Lucky for American hockey fans, there may be hope in the future:

Hockey Tweet

Let’s just hope that the reporter there was not Stephen A.

Brunch: Now When You Say, “Classic”….

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Here it is!  Today’s the big day! It’s the WBC!

The Baseball event we’ve been waiting for!

Um, anybody there?

For the third time now, ESPN has done a subpar job promoting the World Baseball Classic. Running until March 19, 16 countries will be competing for a trip to the Championship Round at AT&T park in San Fran. There are two newcomers to the field this year, involving a new wrinkle in the rules. A qualifying tournament was held for the last two spots in the tournament, which in the past two Classics were given to Panama and South Africa. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the national teams from Spain and Brazil! Two countries that are so accustomed to their teams dominating one sport are sure to love watching their homeland getting destroyed by the likes of Chinese Taipei.

The real draw of the WBC is that no other major baseball tournament had ever before used MLB players. And the USA roster has a decent amount of firepower. David Wright, Brandon Phillips, and Mark Teixeira provide a solid infield and Ryan Braun could provide the power necessary to give the USA its first medal.

Oh, you didn’t know? Team USA has yet to medal in either of the previous two Classics. Truth is, this field is very competitive. There are 11 All-Stars on Venezuela’s roster, including Miguel Cabrera, and they finished third last time around.

But the real trouble is in the Far East.

Japan is fielding an all-domestic team this year, so no namedropping necessary. The WBC has been the most watched sporting event in Japanese television history, and why not- they are the two-time defending champions. Their biggest rival is South Korea, who also has a roster filled with players you’ve never heard of. Just know this: South Korea is 12-4 all-time at the WBC, with all 4 losses coming at the hands of the Japanese.

Am I going to watch the Classic? Probably not. Truthfully, it’s just not classic enough for me. This is only its third time around, and half of these teams are likely to get trampled early (I’m looking at you, Brazil).

Now the Big East Tournament? That’s Classic.

And it’s the last one, so damned if I miss one last showdown at MSG. BUT, the Big East tourney ends on the 16th. The WBC Championship is March 19. So I’ll be there to bandwagon for whatever team makes it to California.

But with seven months of baseball ahead of me, can’t I just enjoy March Madness?

Brunch: The Other Side Of The Coin

CK7 is all smiles 10 games into his career (Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

CK7 is all smiles 10 games into his career (Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

In today’s NFL, the hardest thing to do is to not win, but win consistently. To sustain success over multiple years. As team success grows, players feel they deserve more, and so naturally it becomes harder for a team to retain their best talent. So my question is, over the next five years, is anybody better prepared than the 49ers?

I think Jim Harbaugh is a great coach, one of my top 5 favorites in fact. But he came into the NFL with a stacked deck. A solid defense, an all-pro back in Frank Gore, and all-world tight end Vernon Davis were already on the roster upon arrival. Give Harbaugh credit for on-field success, but Mike Singletary was the skipper while this team gelled, and it was Singletary, not Harbaugh, who was crucial in the maturation of Vernon Davis.

What Harbaugh did not have was a lanky kid from Nevada. Colin Kaepernick elevated the Niners in a way Alex Smith never could, and his skill set is undeniable. CK is quick, he is smart, and he has a laser cannon attached to his right shoulder. If Kaepernick can stay healthy, he could lead this team for a long time to come.

So it comes as no surprise that Kaepernick’s friend and former mentor Alex Smith was shipped to Kansas City on Tuesday for two draft picks. This brings San Fran’s total to a whopping fifteen picks in April’s draft, 7 of which are in the first four rounds. 15 Picks! Talk about burning a hole in your pocket; Trent Baalke’s phone must be ringing off the hook. The 49ers are in the unique position of controlling their own destiny in the offseason. If there is a specific player they want in the draft, they will be able to offer any number of packages to teams if they would like to move up in the order.

The 49ers are stacked, but they are by no means perfect. There are still issues to be taken care of for this team before September. Namely, a few big names that need to be paid. Dashon Goldson has been a rock for this team since the moment he put a uniform on, and Harbaugh has said in the past that Goldson deserves a long-term contract. But Delanie Walker, Randy Moss, and others on the interior line are all poised to walk this summer, and it’s fair to say that some will walk for greener pastures.

What to do with the draft picks? As the big days get closer, we’ll break it down and see who the 49ers should be targeting. But with a package like that, many analysts are looking towards blockbuster trades. And if the Jets are willing to part with Darelle Revis, it might be something for the Niners to consider. Having a dynamic shutdown corner added to that defense would prompt me to make a phone call to Mr. Goodell’s office: it’s just not fair.

Although the 49ers would have loved to have kept Alex Smith, it simply was not a sound business decision. Harbaugh made it clear Week 10 that he was turning the page on the Alex Smith era, and Colin is now the Guy. And through 10 games, he’s a pretty good Guy to have. But as the film builds, and coordinators spend the summer strategizing, Kaepernick’s toughest test is yet to come. Because now if he struggles, or takes a hard hit on a designed run, there is no proven backup to turn to. If you’re willing to take that risk, the reward might be a San Francisco team ready to contend for a very long time.

Breakfast: The Rafa Benitez rant we’ve been waiting for!

Over the past several seasons at Chelsea, the club has seen its fair share of high profile managerial scrutiny. Between the likes of the menacing “Jabba the Hut” stature of Avram Grant, and the underachievement of current Spurs manager, Andre Villas-Boas, the Blues are no stranger to weariness at the helm.

However, what happened yesterday seems to have raised the club’s normal standard for crazy.

Following a 2-0 FA Cup victory against former EPL side Middlesbrough, current manager Rafa Benitez sat in front of the media in what was supposed to be your typical game analysis and agenda for the near future. Instead, to the media’s delight, the Spaniard decided to go OFF on his club’s supporters AND his billionaire boss, Roman Abramovich (full tirade below).

Well, that’s one way to rally the troops. Just call out your fan base and announce you’re giving up at season’s end. Brilliant strategy, Rafa. I’m sure you haven’t given any more ammunition to your side’s supporters. They will definitely stop making banners and singing songs about your ultimate demise and departure from Stamford Bridge.

Regardless, I guess some sympathy may be warranted in this situation. The poor guy has to show up to matches, no matter home or away, and listen to songs about him being sacked and wanting Di Matteo back in charge.

However, this is nothing new for the London squad. Since his purchase of the club in the 03/04 season, Abramovich has been the most trigger-happy owner in England’s top flight hiring and firing 6 different managers in only 9 seasons.

As always, two sides of rumors have begun swirling following the press conference. On one end it has been noted that Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, will sack Benitez earlier than expected after his comments. Other speculations assume it is back to business and that Rafa will hold onto his managerial responsibilities until the end of the season.

This bumpy road for the Spanish manager just will not flatten out.

Check back for further updates on this story. @TheOrangeWedge has you covered.

Breakfast: Putting Perspective on Pacers-Warriors Pushing Party

First things First: Last night was not Malice at the Palace 2.0. This needs to be said. But in case in you missed it, there was a scrum in the 4th quarter of last night’s Pacers-Warriors contest. The Pacers won, 107-98, but not after an incident that began when Roy Hibbert got tangled up with David Lee. Check it:

The whole thing could have ended at the :10 mark. David Lee gives Hibbert the most unfriendly chest bump I’ve ever seen, talks his trash and then turns his back. It’s over. Defused.

We at TheOrangeWedge are huge fans of David Lee. Not just because he started as a Knick, but the way he plays the game. As for Hibbert, I doubt you’ll find a nicer 7 footer than Roy Hibbert. Check out this article, or this article. The dude is exactly who you want as the cornerstone for your franchise.

And yet, the Pacers can’t fill their seats. But we’ll get to that later. Back to the video.

If anyone deserves to get suspended here (besides Hibbert), why not Steph Curry? Curry throws himself at Hibbert not once, but twice! And both times he gets tossed by Hibby. By that time, Curry’s sheer momentum has carried the pile towards the first row and photographers, escalating the situation and probably the main cause for the suspensions. Sitting courtside is the single best way to view a professional sport, and the NBA has to protect that asset or they will be at risk of losing that privilege. Just ask NASCAR.

Why these two teams? It wasn’t unlikely when you break it down. Since Frank Vogel’s arrival in Indiana his has instilled a very blue-collar mentality to the locker room. The Pacers play tough, they play physical, and they play unselfish. Even with the 2nd best record in the East, they play like an underdog every night.

The Pacers methodology and mindset is exactly what Mark Jackson has been attempting to do in Oakland. Jackson took the role of Warriors head coach before last season, had a shortened training camp, and struggled with injuries; all while management made significant roster moves. But he has transformed the Warriors into his mold: athletic, scrappy, and unselfish. Much like the point guard who trails only John Stockton and Jason Kidd in the All-Time assists totals.

A quick backtrack: last night’s scuffle is terrible for the Pacers, who are already ranked 26th in league attendance. Why would the team that only trails the Heat in the East be struggling to fill seats? I have my points, and they are much in line with that of Colin Cowherd. But this isn’t about that issue. The point is, this incident won’t stop people from going, but it certainly won’t have a positive impact. People that haven’t been going will finger-point and call this another reason they won’t attend games. But this wasn’t violence. It was hunger. Hunger from two teams that are built to win, but are destined to fall short of their goals.

Neither of these teams have a legitimate shot at the title. They are playoff teams, they will be in the discussion, but deep down, they know they won’t be able to reach the Finals. So what if the Pacers are 2-0 against the Heat this year? So what if the Warriors beat the Spurs in OT last week?

Both of these teams know they are good, but not good enough to win a series. As we hit March and teams pick up the intensity, more players are going to get technical, and more skirmishes like this may break out. It’s unfortunate this had to happen in Indiana of all places, but the NBA is too competitive for emotions not to boil over at this point. I believe, however, that last nights, tussle was a very good sign of things to come.

 

Brace yourselves, this Playoffs is going to be one of the best in recent memory.