Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No Answer?

The Kufere Laing Lounge

As a small, skinny 6-0 guard Allen Iverson captured the attention of basketball fans around the world for a decade. Mixing a genuine, funny persona with a great handle, explosive hops, and an unique style Iverson was seemingly everyones favorite player. Playing in a league that encourages imitation and consequently comparison (seriously how many next Jordan's/Magic's/Isiah's have we seen) Iverson was different, a first. It wasn't that he was such a great scorer, it was how he scored. Fade aways over taller defenders, floaters in the lane, finishing over 7 footers, step back 3's, god awful shots that somehow managed to drop, and who could forget his crossover that left guys reaching, step sliding the wrong way, calling for help, and even sometimes falling to the ground; Iverson did it all. However, none of that seemed to matter early this season as every NBA team passed on the opportunity to sign one of the greatest scorers in the history of the NBA. His critics claim he's lost a step, and he should be a bench player and while the assertion that Iverson has lost a step may be true, the idea that he is now a bench player is utterly ridiculous (Iverson backing up Mike Conley Jr? seriously?). There's no way there are 60 better guards in the NBA, furthermore, there's no way all 30 NBA teams couldn't use a scorer who could get 20-30 points a game. In a reduced role, while battling injury last season Iverson still averaged 17 points per game last season and during his time in Denver Iverson proved he could still produce as the second option. Hopefully the Sixers do the sensible thing and resign Allen Iverson, the "gamble" will pay off immediately.

Tiger's Image Now Fuzzy?

The Kufere Laing Lounge

After first hearing the news of Tiger Woods' car crash, I was shocked; the Twitter post said he had suffered serious injuries and was still in the hospital. I immediately wondered what it meant for his career, what exactly serious injuries meant, I even questioned if it was true. As I did more investigating and found out that the accident consisted of him hitting a fire hydrant, then a tree, then a miraculous rescue thanks to his wife and a nine iron something didn't seem right. Aside from the obvious questions of: how did he hit a fire hydrant and tree, why didn't the air bags come out if the crash was so serious, and why did his wife need a nine iron to save him? To say the least, I was skeptical, but even with this doubt of Woods' account of his car accident my view of him has not changed. Furthermore, I don't see why anyone's view of him should change. He wasn't driving drunk, if there was domestic violence as I suspect, Woods did not harm anyone, and most importantly what has Woods done to be a public icon? Sure he's a great golfer who stays out of trouble, but with the exception of John Daly what golfer isn't a goody two shoes? Yes, The Tiger Woods Foundation is a nice charity that aims to help impoverished children, but what successful athlete doesn't have a charity or give back in some way? Woods has been given too much credit as an ambassador for the world for simply being a great golfer, who doesn't run afoul of the law. Still, even if you view Tiger as a hero or role model why should this accident change your view of him? He hasn't done anything that should make you believe he's a great person, and this accident does nothing to defame his character. The true problem lies in the fact that Woods has been wrongfully considered a great role model, despite doing nothing to earn this honor.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Award Show

The Kufere Laing Lounge

Rookie of the Year- Blake Griffin's early season injury jepordizes his ability to win this award despite being the most talented rookie. Due to this Johnny Flynn may steal the award. His ability to run the pick and roll and distribute will allow him to be successful early in his NBA career. Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, and Ty Lawson are all contenders for this award as well.

Sixth Man- Lamar Odom would start on most NBA teams, and will play big minutes on a dangerous Laker team. Due to this he will be able to accumlate the stats needed to win the award and his impact will be evident.

Defensive Player of the Year- Dwight Howard is the early front runner to repeat for the DPOY. His ability to control the glass and block shots makes him a defensive threat. Ron Artest, Rajon Rondo, and Greg Oden are all darkhorses for this award.

MVP- Dwyane Wade should have won the MVP last year, but voters were scared away by the Heats lack of wins. With Cleveland expected to have a down year (thus cancelling out LeBron), and Miami's role players improving Wade should get more recognition and MVP votes this season.

Predictions Part Two

The Kufere Laing Lounge

Surprise Eastern Conference Team- The Wizards are not true contenders to represent the East in the Finals, but could cause some problems should advance to the second round. A huge jump from being in the lottery a year ago. Not only will a healthy Gilbert Arenas cause a huge jump in Washington's win total, but adding Randy Foye will pay dividends on nights when Arenas struggles. Foye's ability to play both guard positions will allow the Wizards to match up with most teams. Nevertheless, the Wizards have a ton of scoring guards, and although Arenas has become a better passer their ability to share the basketball will directly affect their success.

Disappointing Eastern Conference Team- The Cavaliers are most likely to disappoint this year. Both Orlando and Boston improved, and while the Cavs added Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, and Shaq; none of these players fill a need. They still do not match up favorably with Orlando, or Boston. Adding Shaq was an awful move, he's a ball stopper in an offense that lacks innovation, a defensive liablity in the pick and roll, and is slow rotating on defense. I doubt the Cavs will return to the Conference Finals this year.

Surprise Western Conference Team- The Thunder should turn a lot of heads this season. Most feel they are a year or two away from being a play off team, but why not this year? At the end of last year they were very competitive, and Kevin Durant is a top ten player in the NBA this season. His presence alone should win them an extra five games. They are young and entergetic and will compete every night. Although they are in a tough Western Conference they have the talent to win 45 games this season.

Disappointing Western Conference Team- The Hornets have all the makings to fall short of their preseason playoff expectations. First, their lack of a perimeter scorer will hurt them, at times they play unspirited and lacking passion. This team will struggle to score and will be inconsistent. This will cause them to miss the playoffs.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Where Predictions Happen

The Kufere Laing Lounge

What's the start of NBA season without late Garbage Time predictions? Nothing of course, so without further ado, here are the much awaited predictions.

Atlantic Divison- The Celtics will easily win the Atlantic, in fact if any team other than the 76ers finishes above .500 in this division that would be a mild surprise. While both the Knicks and Nets were mild surprises last year, I doubt either team will make any noise this year. It's unrealistic to think the Raptors can win over 37 games, and the 76ers at best are a 45 win team.

Central Divison- The Cavs are the clear favorite in the Central, but the Bulls should contend for the divison title. Don't expect the Cavs to replicate last seasons magic and win close to 70 games. At best the Cavs are a 60 win team, but it wouldn't be surprising to see them in the 55 win range. The Bulls still lack a low post scorer to help Derrick Rose, but they will compete every night and Rose is one of the best point guards in the NBA and give them a chance to win every game this season. Detroit and Indiana will both be average teams who will win in between 30 and 40 games. Both are long shots for the playoffs, but could hang around and flirt with a playoff spot. The Bucks may be the worst team in the NBA this year, but they do have Garbage Time favorite Brandon Jennings which will make all of their games somewhat entertaining.

Southeast Divison- The Magic are the class of the Southeast. Adding Vince Carter gives them a scorer to compliment their shooters and having Dwight Howard in the low post makes them even more dangerous. The Heat, Wizards and Hawks should battle for second place in this division. All have 50 win potential. Gilbert Arenas looks to be back and better than ever, featuring improved passing skills. Randy Foye is an underrated guard who is an upgrade from a solid DeShawn Stevenson and would be a second or third option on most teams. Foye is the fourth offensive option, which shows how explosive they can be offensively. Still, this is a very important season for the Heat. If Mike Beasley and Jermaine O'neal can prove to be solid second and third options the Heat will be very dangerous this year.

Northwest Division- This is the toughest division in the NBA this season, but the favorite has to be the Nuggets. Carmelo Anthony has turned into a complete player and is slowly but surely entering the Wade-James-Bryant league in the group of men amongst boys. Ty Lawson has looked good early on and will be a surprise Rookie of the Year canidate. Portland and Utah will both push Denver as 50 win teams, but lack the offensive fire power Denver has. Oklahoma City will not contend for the divison this year, but may secure a playoff spot. Kevin Durant is a top three scorer in the NBA, Russell Westbrook has looked great, and Jeff Green is a solid option who can contribute 15-20 points a game. The Thunder's lack of experience and true number two option may keep them from securing a playoff spot. Lastly, Minnesota will be one of the worst teams in the NBA this year. Still, the future looks bright with Kevin Love, Johnny Flynn, and Al Jefferson.

Pacific Divison- The Lakers are clearly the favorite in the Pacific. They return everyone from their championship team except for Trevor Ariza who was replaced with Ron Artest. Artest is a better shooter, defender, and scorer than Ariza and has been well behaved in both Sacramento and Houston so the questions about his affect on the Lakers' chemistry are a bit unfair. The Clippers and Suns will battle for second place in the divison without threatening the Lakers. Both have talent to win 50 games at best, and anything less than 45 wins will be considered a disappointment for both teams. Nevertheless, expect the Clippers to make the playoffs and the Suns to miss the party for a second straight year. Although Golden State as talent, they appear to be in turmoil and still do not make a commitment to playing defense, this will cause them to be a bottom feeder in the NBA once again. Unlike Golden State, Sacramento lacks talent other than Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin and will struggle to win games. If they eclipse the 20 win mark, they will have had a successful season.

Southwest- The Spurs appear to be the best team in the Southwest this season. They were already a dangerous team and with Richard Jefferson will contend in the Western Conference. Dallas will challenge the Spurs, but still aren't a major threat. I expect a down year from New Orleans who are in desperate need of a scoring guard. Chris Paul is forced to manufacture almost all of their points and may wear down as the season goes on. Houston and Memphis could both quietly contend for a playoff spot. Memphis is young, but should have an explosive offense which will win them a few games. Houston lacks a scorer until Tracy McGrady returns, but will compete and play defense. This will keep them in a lot of games, but in the end I don't see them in the playoffs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Season on the Brink

The Kufere Laing Lounge
After a disappointing loss against Woodland Hills last week, the Central Catholic Vikings are looking for answers. One week they look great (see: at Upper St. Clair, at Cannon Mac, and against Ursuline), the next well not so much (blowout losses against Woodland Hills and Mt. Lebanon). After the most recent season altering loss, the coaching staff has decided to make some changes, most notably at quarterback where senior David Smyers will not start this week. While this change is not a total surprise, his incumbent is. Sophomore quarterback Perry Hills will get the nod at quarterback over Junior quarterback Tony Pompeo. Pompeo has spent all of this season as the teams back up quarterback and has the support of not only the student body, but the majority of the team. When I asked Viking players to comment on the change, all expressed their disappointment in Pompeo not starting, and began to hint at a divided locker room between the players and coaches. Furthermore, Pompeo has varsity experience as he has not only started every JV game this year, but also saw time on varsity as a freshman at Fox Chapel.

Still, what makes this move most shocking is the timing. This weeks opponent Penn Hills has a stout defense featuring two of the best corners in the country in Brandon Iffel and Cullen Christian (Christian plays safety, but is the number three corner in the country according to rivals.com). Playing against a team with such a decorated secondary wouldn't you want to start a more experience quarterback, that also has the backing of the team?

Penn Hills prides itself on stopping the run and getting to the quarterback, coincidentally this also seems to be the formula for beating the Vikings. The Vikings are 0-2 when sophomore running back Damion Jones-Moore does not rush for over 150 yards. Lastly, Pompeo at 6-3 215 is known for his command of the pocket, against a team that will blitz on about 60% of their defensive of snaps the decision not to start Pompeo may prove to be costly.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vikes Back on Track

The Kufere Laing Lounge

Redemption. That was the word Pittsburgh Central Catholic football players were using to describe this week's game against Upper St. Clair. After coming out flat against Mt. Lebanon last week, and falling behind 23-0 before you could blink, and then 30-7 at halftime, the Vikings ensured another let down would not occur against the Panthers tonight. Led by a stout defense, and sophomore running back Damion Jones-Moore, the Vikings returned to their winning ways with a 31-7 win over USC. The Central defense flew around holding the Panthers to 179 total yards and the offense did their part as Jones had his third 200 yard game this season and senior quarterback David Smyers threw for 112 yards with a touchdown pass to junior Dustin Lowman; the second time that duo has hooked up this year.

With tonight's win, the Vikings put themselves back in the conversation for a WPIAL championship, but there are still some questions about this team. Are the Vikings done with their first quarter-first half no shows that were seen in the first three games? Will Jones-Moore be able to hold up for an entire season with the current workload he's getting (over 30 carries tonight, which is an abnormally high amount in high school)? and most importantly, how will the Vikings handle being in the media's good graces again? They thrived as the underdog this week, but after tonight's blowout win, Central will be considered a favorite again. Can this group of Vikes stay motivated with the success?