The Legend Of Roger Federer

To some people the age of 33 may seem like dinosaur years in the tennis world. But good luck explaining that to Roger Federer. Federer is 33-years of age and he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The Association of Tennis Professionals season is two months old and Federer has two tournament wins to his credit. In January, Federer defeated Canadian Milos Raonic in three sets. Last week Federer met longtime rival Novak Djokovic in the finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships where he got past the Serbian in straight sets. Federer hasn’t won a Grand Slam event since 2012 when he won Wimbledon, but he is still in the conversation as one of the best male tennis player on the court as he currently ranked as the second best tennis player in the world.

Roger Federer

After a tough 2013, Federer began to make adjustments to his game as some skeptics felt that his best days as a tennis player were in the rear view mirror. First, Federer switched to a new tennis racket which has greatly improved his game. Second, as an older and wiser tennis player, Federer has learned to become more craftier and he has been using all of the tricks in his arsenal. Where some of the younger tennis players may attempt to win with power, Federer is going about things with finesse. Federer’s drop shot and slices are legendary as when he is on with them it is the equivalent of watching Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux toy with opponent’s at home plate during his Major League Baseball career.

The revival for Federer began last March when he reached finals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. There Federer would face Djokovic who was expected to cruise to an easy victory. Federer won the first set that day 6-3 and made Djokovic work for the hard earned victory. And even in defeat the fans in attendance and Djokovic alike had gained some more respect for Federer’s grit as they saluted him. Djokovic and Federer would meet last summer in the finals at Wimbledon. And just like it was at Indian Wells, Federer made Djokovic work for every point as he took him to five sets before bowing out at the All England Club. Last summer in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, Federer would lose the first two sets of his match against Gael Monfils of France. And just when things seemed bleak, Federer rallied to win the next three sets to the cheers of the fans in New York City. But unfortunately for Federer, the five set victory over Monfils took everything out of him as he didn’t have anything left and he fell to the eventual U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic in the semis in straight sets. After his run at the U.S. Open, Federer would win the Shanghai Masters last fall before reaching the finals of the Barclays ATP World Finals before an injury forced him to withdraw from another meeting with Djokovic. To top it all off in 2014, Federer helped Switzerland win the Davis Cup. And just when some people thought the 2014 would be Federer’s last day in the sun, they were thoroughly mistaken as he has gotten off to a good start here in 2015.

There was a time when some people thought that Federer was winning too much. In 2004, 2006, and 2007, the French Open was the only Grand Slam event that Federer didn’t win. Federer won five consecutive U.S. Open’s and at Wimbledon along with claiming three consecutive Austrailian Open Titles. Federer would finally win the French Open in 2009 joining an elite list of male tennis players to win each Grand Slam event. It appeared to be too easy for Federer, but now in the next stage of his career he has become more of a fan favorite due to the fact that he is now somewhat of an underdog. With Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray currently in the prime of their respective careers and youngsters such as Cilic and Raonic looking to make a name for themselves, things are tougher for Federer. It is the classic example of the young lions attempting to knock of the old lion. But in this case the old lion (Federer) isn’t still fighting off the pack. There is still plenty of exciting tennis action on tap this year and I don’t see the native of Switzerland in Federer getting lost in the shuffle.

A Bad Signing All Around

While other teams in the National Football League are attempting to get onto the success bus, the Cleveland Browns haven’t even figured out where it departs from. The Browns are coming off of their seventh consecutive losing season and they have only had two winning seasons since returning to the NFL in 1999. Aside from the constant turnover at the general manager and head coaching positions, the Browns have also had a revolving door at quarterback. Since 1999, the Browns have used 22 different starting quarterbacks which gives you an idea as to why they have struggled. Last year the Browns drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round of the NFL Draft and upon his arrival in Cleveland he was looked at as a savior for what has become a pitiful franchise. But last summer in Browns training camp, Manziel was beaten out for the starting quarterback position by Brian Hoyer. With Hoyer as their starting quarterback the Browns would begin the regular season with a record of 7-5, but he would be benched late in the season in favor of Manziel. Manziel would start two games for the Browns and he would go winless with a completion percentage of 51.4  with no touchdown passes and a pair of picks.

Now Hoyer is an unrestricted free agent whom the Browns appear ready to move on from. Manziel on the other hand who did have a checkered prior to joining the Browns voluntarily checked himself into a rehab facility last month in the effort to get his act together. The Browns solution for their quarterbacking woes was to sign veteran signal caller Josh McCown last week. McCown’s deal is for three years for $14 million and it could escalate up to $20 million based on how he performs. Make no mistake about it that McCown didn’t sign with the Browns to be a tutor to Manziel; he did it because he knows that he can start there.

Josh McCown

McCown will be 36-years old when the 2015 NFL season rolls around in September and the Browns will be his seventh NFL team which coincides with the revolving door at quarterback in Cleveland. McCown’s younger brother Luke who is currently a backup quarterback for the New Orleans Saints started four games for the Browns in 2004 and he went winless over that stretch. The older McCown is 17-32 lifetime as a starting quarterback in the National Football League including going 1-10 last season as the starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McCown was recently released by the Bucs as they saw enough of him which paved the way for him to join the Browns.

Aside from Manziel and McCown, Connor Shaw is the other quarterback currently one the Browns roster and once you factor in that no member of this trio has made all 16 regular season starts in the NFL, it is setting up for a long season in Cleveland before it even gets started.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine appeared to be pushing all of the right buttons last season until he benched Hoyer late in the season and kept the football world hostage for a few days as he was thinking about making the switch to Manziel. Since then it has simply been the same old Browns. Wide receiver Josh Gordon will more than likely miss the upcoming season for the Browns after another failed drug test while team general manager Ray Farmer could face disciplinary action from the NFL for his “texting” mishap. And on top of that the Browns will more than likely have their version of the keystone cops at quarterback. With moves like this consistently made by the Browns it is no shock that the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens continue to run laps around them in the AFC North.

Potential Landing Spots For Reggie Bush

Last week running back Reggie Bush was released by the Detroit Lions. Bush appeared in 11 games this past season for the Lions as he only tallied 297 rushing yards and 253 receiving yards. Bush was the second overall pick of the 2006 National Football League Draft by the New Orleans Saints. And during his time in New Orleans, Bush would help the Saints win the Super Bowl in 2009. But for some people Bush has never lived up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him when he came out of the University of Southern California.

http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/229/files/2013/10/7769124.jpg

Reggie Bush

Bush initially won the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top player in college football in 2005 only to return it in 2012 as he was deemed as an in eligible player due to receiving impermissible benefits. Bush’s speed and elusiveness made him tough to tackle in college which hasn’t been as easy for him since arriving in the NFL. But during Bush’s time in New Orleans, Saints head coach Sean Payton did a good job of maximizing his ability as receiver coming out of the backfield along with being deadly in open space. For his nine-year NFL career, Bush has been a good receiver coming out of the backfield as he has gained 3,498 yards receiving.

Bush will be 30-years old tomorrow, but he doesn’t have a ton of mileage on him as an NFL running back being that he has only had three seasons in which he has carried the football more than 200 times. Bush still has speed along with being a smart football player which will make him a valuable player on the open market by NFL teams that are looking to contend next season and here are some teams that could benefit from his services in 2015.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys will do everything in their power to re-sign running back DeMarco Murray who is coming off of a career year with 1,845 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns which both led the National Football League. Bush cannot match Murray’s rushing ability, but he can be a complimentary running back to him while also giving Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo another viable option in passing situations.

New England Patriots

Fresh off of winning the Super Bowl last month, the New England Patriots will be in the mix to contend once again next season. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn’t shy away from spreading the football around to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends which was evident in Super Bowl 49 where running back Shane Vereen had 11 receptions for 64 yards. Vereen and running back Stevan Ridley are both unrestricted free agents and if their asking price is too high for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, I would not be surprised to see Bush on New England’s radar.

Seattle Seahawks

In 2003, current Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll won a recruiting battle to get Bush to attend USC during his time there as the head football coach. Carroll and Bush enjoyed a ton of success together at Southern California where they won a national title together in 2003. Under Carroll, the Seahawks have athletes at every position and he loves to have depth. Make no mistake about it that running back Marshawn Lynch is still the heart and soul of the Seahawks offense, but this past season illustrated a glaring weakness for Seattle on offense which is a lack of breakaway speed from players at the skill positions which Bush still possesses. Bush could be vital to the Seahawks in passing situations; especially when teams are worried about the scrambling ability of quarterback Russell Wilson.

San Diego Chargers

Last season the San Diego Chargers were 30th in the National Football League in rushing offense which is a good reason why they failed to make the postseason. Running back Ryan Matthews is an unrestricted free agent who hasn’t lived up to expectations for the Chargers during his time there as he has failed to remain healthy. Bush has had durability concerns himself during his NFL career, but he is a native of the San Diego area and it would be a nice homecoming story for him.

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers are still a bit ticked off after their loss in the NFC Championship Game to the Seattle Seahawks this past January as they simply gave the game away. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the reigning NFL MVP who makes the players around him ascend to another level with his leadership. The Packers already have a bruiser at running back Eddie Lacy and their home run threat at wide receiver in Jordy Nelson. But the Packers could use another running back on third down that could catch the football out of the backfield which is a void that Bush could fill.

Indianapolis Colts

In spite of finishing 22nd in rushing in the National Football League this past season, the Indianapolis Colts still navigated their way to the AFC Championship Game. Running back Trent Richardson led the Colts in rushing this past season with just 519 yards. Richardson has fallen out favor with the Colts front office and I doubt that he’ll be back in Indy next season. In two seasons with the Colts, veteran running back Ahmad Bradshaw has failed to remain healthy and off-the-field issues could mark the end of his time in Indianapolis. The Colts are making a mistake by putting too much on the shoulders of Andrew Luck and he needs more play makers around him if the Colts are going to be serious contenders for the Super Bowl.

Time For Rondo To Check His Ego

Rajon Rondo

It is no secret that throughout his NBA career, point guard Rajon Rondo has been a handful for opponents and on his head coaches as well. During his time with the Boston Celtics, Rondo would clash with former head coach Doc Rivers over his attitude and his inability to stay within the realm of the team offense. After eight-plus seasons with the Celtics, Rondo was traded to the Dallas Mavericks this past December. Rondo was expected to be the missing link that would once again turn the Mavericks into contenders for the NBA Championship, but he instead has become a cancer.

In 25 games with the Mavericks this season, Rondo is only averaging 9.0 points and 6.2 assists per contest. Rondo is only averaging 28 minutes of game action and he is someone that Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has had no problem benching in late game situations. Like Rondo, Carlisle once played for the Celtics and he won an NBA Championship there as a player in 1986, but he has established a reputation as being a player’s coach while also paying attention to detail. Carlisle needs a point guard that he can trust to run his system, but so far Rondo hasn’t been up to the challenge as he tends to do his own thing. The tension between Rondo and Carlisle reached a feverish boiling point this past Tuesday when the two had to be separated on the Mavericks bench. Both men attempted to downplay the incident, but Rondo was suspended for the Mavericks Wednesday night affair with the Atlanta Hawks for conduct detrimental to the team and it was a move that had to be made as Carlisle needed to maintain his position of authority over his squad.

Rick Carlisle

Regardless of whether or not that Rondo agrees with the basketball philosophies of Carlisle or not, he cannot afford to get into a public confrontation with his head coach. Rondo is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and he is costing himself some money as no NBA team that is looking to contend for a title will take a chance on a player that is not going to do what a head coach wants him to do.

In spite of winning an NBA Championship in Boston, Rondo had run-ins with Rivers which led him to nearly being traded on several occasions. And now Rivers who is currently the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers can sit back and say,”I told you so” after seeing Rondo’s recent issues with Carlisle. When a player like Rondo tends to clash with his head coach, you can attribute it to the fact that there needs to be a veteran presence around him. But the Mavericks have veteran leadership on their team in the form of power forward Dirk Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler and in spite of that Rondo is still acting up. And if the issues with Rondo don’t get addressed soon it will greatly hinder the Mavericks chances to win the NBA Championship this season.

The situation with Rondo has reached the point where there are only two things than can be done. Carlisle and Rondo more than likely will need to have a face-to-face meeting in order to clear the air. And if that is the case then Rondo needs to understand and respect what Carlisle needs from him. Eventually for this marriage to work Rondo will have to conform to Carlisle’s system, but this is a classic example of buyer beware. The Mavericks were in need of an elite point guard, but they should have done more homework before making the move to acquire Rondo if he is unwilling to conform to their system. Carlisle was the Mavericks head coach when they won the NBA Championship in 2011 and he also has the backing of team owner Mark Cuban which means that Rondo is fighting an uphill battle if he wants to have things done his way in Dallas.

If the Mavericks are going to make the NBA Playoffs and navigate their way through the Western Conference, they need everyone to be on the same page. Luckily for the Mavericks they have another veteran point guard in Devin Harris. Harris was expected to be Rondo’s understudy, but he understands and plays within the realm of Carlisle’s system. Harris doesn’t have the ability of Rondo, but he is someone whom Carlisle trusts. This is a dicey situation which will test the mettle of both Carlisle and Cuban, but it could ultimately be remedied if Rondo simply does what his asked of him.

The Magic Of Sam Presti

Sam Presti

Sam Presti has been an NBA general manager since 2007. Presti started as a GM in the front office of the Seattle Supersonics before they became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008. Presti’s first season saw the Sonics finish with a record of 20-62 which was the second worst record in the NBA, but they did have a building block that year in small forward Kevin Durant who would average 20.3 points per game and would be named the NBA’s Rookie of The Year. Presti would give Durant a running mate in 2008 when he selected guard Russell Westbrook with the fourth overall selection of the NBA Draft as the team was set to transition to Oklahoma City. With a young Durant and an even younger Westbrook, the Thunder would go 23-59 in their first season in Oklahoma City. The Thunder would use the third overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft on guard James Harden and Presti now had his core to build around. The following season would see the Thunder win 50 games and make the 2010 NBA Playoffs. And in 2012, the Thunder would win the Western Conference Championship. After the Thunder’s run to the NBA Finals in 2012, Presti would then begin to show even more of his savvy as a general manager.

With Harden up for a contract extension, the Thunder could not afford to give him, Durant and Westbrook maximum deals; especially after signing power forward Serge Ibaka to a four-year, $48 million extension in August 2012. And after failing to sign Harden to a team friendly contract, Presti traded him to the Houston Rockets in a six-player deal that also saw the Thunder receive three draft picks just prior to the start of the 2012-2013 NBA season. Two of those picks would work out for the Thunder as they used them on center Steven Adams and power forward Mitch McGary who are growing into solid role players in Oklahoma City. Since trading Harden, the Thunder haven’t skipped a beat as they won 60 games during the 2012-2013 NBA season for the first time since 1997-1998 when they still called Seattle home. In the past five years the Thunder have become a consistent title contender as they also advanced to the Western Conference Finals last season.

Kevin Durant

Things would be tougher for the Thunder this season as Durant began the season in street clothes as he was recovering from a fractured foot. And it would become more complicated for the Thunder in their second game of the season when Westbrook suffered a fracture in his hand versus the Los Angeles Clippers that would sideline him for nearly a month.

The Thunder were without their two stars in Durant and Westbrook and it showed in their record as they began the season at 3-12. But the slow climb back to respectability has seen them get back above the .500 mark as they’re back in the playoff hunt.

Ever since returning to returning the Thunder lineup, Westbrook has been a one-man wrecking crew as he has scored in double figures in every contest. In Westbrook’s first game back he went for 32 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds in a 105-78 victory over the New York Knicks on November 28 and earlier this month he scored for 45 points in a 102-91 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. In the past Westbrook developed a reputation as being a bit of a ball hog, but this season he is averaging 8.1 assists per game which is fifth in the NBA. On the season Westbrook has three triple-doubles to his credit including one this past Tuesday night in the Thunder’s 105-92 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the victory over the Pacers, Westbrook went for 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. For the month of February, Westbrook is averaging 10.1 assists per game and on the season he is averaging 26.2 points, 8.1 assists and 6.6 rebounds as he is in the discussion to be the NBA’s MVP.

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook’s emergence as a better all-around player has been able to somewhat offset Durant’s absence. Durant missed the first month of the season as he was recovering from a fractured foot. That same foot has caused Durant to miss some time here and there after initially returning to the Thunder’s lineup, but he has been shutdown since February 19 after undergoing a minor procedure to reduce the pain in his foot and he will be re-evaluated soon. Durant is the reigning NBA MVP and on the season he is averaging 25.4 points. But at this point Durant is just trying to stay fresh for the stretch run and the postseason.

Scott Brooks

But aside from Durant and Westbrook, Presti has given Thunder head coach Scott Brooks a talented team to work with. Last month the Thunder acquired shooting guard Dion Waiters from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team deal that included the Knicks. Waiters was fourth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Cavs, but during his time in Cleveland he and point guard Kyrie Irving were never on the same page. Waiters came to the Thunder and he has been a valuable sixth man off of the bench as Oklahoma City has needed a player that can somewhat fill the void that Harden left when he was traded a few years ago. Earlier I talked about Adams and McGary and how they are asserting themselves with the Thunder. In 2013, Adams was the 12th overall pick of the NBA Draft while McGary was the 21st overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. Adams is currently sidelined with a broken hand, but when healthy he has shown drastic improvement this season as he is averaging 7.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. At 7’0″, Adams came to the Thunder being rather “green” after spending just one year in college at the University of Pittsburgh. Adams has a tremendous wing span and his overall game is only going to improve due to his athleticism. Like Adams, McGary left school early as well. After two years at the University of Michigan, McGary declared for the 2014 NBA Draft. But due to injuries and a positive test for marijuana, McGary’s stock fell; however he has found a home with the Thunder. And after missing the majority of the season due to injury, McGary has appeared in ten games for the Thunder as he is averaging 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest.

Enes Kanter

And as if that weren’t enough for the Thunder, Presti added a slew of depth to his squad just prior to the NBA’s trade deadline. The Thunder acquired point guard D.J. Augustin from the Detroit Pistons. After being a first round pick of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2008, Augustin has bounced around the NBA and the Thunder are the sixth team that he has played for in the league. For his career Augustin has averaged 10.2 points and 4.1 assists and he can be veteran presence coming off of the bench for the Thunder. Presti also made a big splash when he acquired center Enes Kanter from the Utah Jazz. Kanter’s numbers have improved in each of his four years in the NBA and at 6’11″, he is another big body in the Thunder’s frontcourt to go along with Ibaka, McGary, and Adams as in the Western Conference you can never have enough big bodies when the postseason rolls around.

The Thunder have won nine out of their last ten games and they are currently in possession of the final spot in the Western Conference, but they are mowing down opponents in spite of the injury to Durant and that is mainly due to their depth which comes as a result of the ability of Presti. With the exception of selecting Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder have drafted in the later part of the first round and they have come out smelling like a rose due to the fact that most of the teams that have been picking in front of Oklahoma City are clueless which makes Presti’s job that much easier. Presti has continued to push the right buttons with the Thunder and regardless of where they are seeded when the NBA Playoffs begin this spring, they are poised to contend for the NBA Championship.

The Cavs Are Getting Their Sea Legs

LeBron James

With all of the new talent that the Cleveland Cavaliers have assembled for this season you knew that it would take some time for them to gel. When small forward LeBron James decided to return to the Cavs this season, the expectations for Cleveland went through the roof. But just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Cavaliers found out the hard way that there’s no such thing as a quick turnaround in the NBA. In early to mid-January, the Cavs were mired in a six-game losing streak and they had an overall record of 19-20. But since then the Cavaliers are 17-2 including a 12-game winning streak as they now appear to be on the same page heading into the spring.

David Blatt

Aside from James returning to Cleveland, the Cavs began this season with a new head coach in David Blatt. Prior to joining the Cavs, Blatt had never coached in the NBA (even as an assistant) which meant that he had to get accustomed to the nuances of the league. The Cavs lost their regular season opener to the New York Knicks and shockingly Blatt decided to call a team meeting afterwards. Along with Blatt attempting to get on the same page with James and the rest of the players in Cleveland, Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving had to figure out how to play with other talented players while the newly acquired power forward Kevin Love needed to figure out his role in Cleveland as well. In the past Irving was accused of playing “buddy ball” with Cavs center Tristan Thompson by former Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters. Irving would also tend to play one-on-five offensively which would alienate his teammates. Prior to joining the Cavs, Love put up big numbers as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the team there wasn’t close to being a winner.

And in just one stroke of the pen by James last summer, the Cavaliers went from being an underachieving team in the Eastern Conference to a team that is now expected to contend for the NBA Championship. But for guys like Love and Irving who have never been to the NBA Playoffs, they’ve had to learn how to win in the league which also required them to understand the concept of playing team basketball. And that meant that you wouldn’t see as many 35-point, 20-rebound games from Love and not as many 35-point games from Irving either with the new and improved Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving

But now all of that appears to be behind the Cavaliers as they are rolling. The Cavs currently have the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference and they’re only half a game behind the Chicago Bulls for first place in the Central Division. Irving is only averaging 5.3 assists per game, but his shot attempts are down as he is not coveting the basketball like he did in the past, but he is still averaging 21.7 points per game. Love has accepted his role as the third wheel in the Cavaliers offense behind James and Irving while still being able to maintain his status as one of the better rebounders in the NBA at 10.4 per contest. James is still the best all around player in the NBA and at the age of 30, he is now becoming more of a mentor to the youngsters on the Cavaliers such as Love and Irving. On the season James is averaging 25.8 points per game which is third in the NBA. The turnaround this season for the Cavs simply began when everybody including Blatt started to trust one another. James had been down this road before when he went to Miami 2010 as he and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t start out on the same page. Things would change and subsequently the Heat would win a pair of NBA Championships in four seasons with James. However the Cavs are dealing with a more mature James this time around and more than ever he is leading by example through his focus and intensity.

The City of Cleveland has never been a hotbed as far as luring NBA free agents, but James’ presence alone on the Cavaliers roster is changing that notion. A pair of James’ old teammates with the Heat in forwards James Jones and Mike Miller followed him to Cleveland over the summer. And James’ return to the Cavaliers has also made everybody on the team step their game up.

J.R. Smith

Last month the Cavaliers acquired shooting guard J.R. Smith from the New York Knicks. During his NBA career Smith has developed a reputation as being a loose cannon. Smith has had issues throughout his playing career as far as playing within the realm of an offense as he has never met a shot that he didn’t like. But in 23 games with the Cavaliers, Smith is averaging 13.0 points per game and Blatt has trusted him to be on the court for nearly 32 minutes per contest. Along with Smith, swingman Iman Shumpert was acquired from the Knicks last month. And like Smith, Shumpert was considered to be a malcontent with the Knicks but all he has done with the Cavs is what he has been asked to do which is to play basketball and have fun doing it. This past Sunday, the Cavaliers faced the Knicks in what marked the first game back at Madison Square Garden for both Smith and Shumpert since the trade. In the game Smith went for 17 points as the Cavs easily disposed of the Knicks 101-83. Another ex-Knick in center Timofey Mogzov was acquired last summer in a deal with the Denver Nuggets. The Cavs needed another big man after center Anderson Varejao was lost to an injury. And so far with the Cavaliers, Mozgov is averaging a career high in points (10.4) and rebounds (8.2) which was highlighted by a 20-point, 7-rebound performance in a 113-93 victory over the Heat on February 11. Along with Love and Thompson, Mozgov has given the Cavaliers another big body in their frontcourt to provide size, get rebounds, and clog up the defensive interior.

The Cavaliers a gelling and they appear to have all of the tools necessary to make a deep run in the postseason. James is in the prime of his career while he also has a strong supporting cast around him which wasn’t the case during his first run in Cleveland. Nothing is set in stone for the Cavaliers, but the best appears to be in front of them.

 

Kyle Lowry Is Now A Household Name

In 2006, it was a bit of a shock when guard Kyle Lowry declared for the NBA Draft. Lowry played college basketball at Villanova University for two years where as a freshman he was a member of the Big East Conference’s All-Rookie Team in 2005 along with being second-team All Big East in 2006. As a sophomore, Lowry averaged 11.0 points and 3.7 assists per contest as he helped Villanova reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 1988. Lowry was one of four guards that Villanova head basketball coach Jay Wright implemented in his starting lineup that season. Lowry would be outshined by guards Allan Ray and Randy Foye that season and with the duo set to graduate in 2006, all signs pointed to Lowry having a bigger role the following season.

But in 2006, Lowry would be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. Lowry’s numbers have improved in every season; especially when he was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2009. By the end of the 2010-2011 NBA season, Lowry was averaging double-digits in points for the first time in his professional career as he averaged 13.5 points and 6.7 assists for the Rockets. However Lowry wasn’t on the same page with Rockets head coach Kevin McHale and in 2012 he was traded once more; this time to the Toronto Raptors.

With the Raptors, Lowry’s numbers have continued to improve as he averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 assists last season in helping Toronto win its first Atlantic Division Title since 2007. Other NBA teams noticed Lowry’s improved play. Last year teams such as the Indiana Pacers attempted to acquire Lowry, but Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri wasn’t interested in parting with the point guard. Last summer Lowry became a free agent and with teams like the Miami Heat vying for his services it would have been easy for him to leave Toronto, but he stayed with the Raptors after agreeing to a four-year deal worth $48 million.

This season Lowry has continued to improve his play as he is averaging 18.4 points and 7.1 assists which are both tops on the Raptors team. Lowry recorded a triple-double on November 7 in a 103-84 victory over the Washington Wizards which was just one of his highlights this season. Lowry’s improvement hasn’t gone unnoticed by the basketball world as not only did he participate in his first NBA All-Star Game last Sunday, but he was a starter for the Eastern Conference on the same squad that featured Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James and New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony.

At 6’0″, 205 lbs., Lowry brings that Philadelphia playground game to the NBA. Lowry is a physical guard that doesn’t have a problem with getting physical close to the basket along with providing speed as far as driving to the hole. Overall, Lowry is simply Philly tough. Lowry is the prime example of a player that has aggressively worked at his craft each day in order to improve and become not only a solid NBA player, but one of the better overall point guards in the league. A prime example of that was this season when Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan was sidelined with an injury for 21 games. DeRozan is the Raptors second leading scorer this season at 18.4 points per game and in his absence with Lowry leading the way, Toronto went 12-9.

At 37-19, the Raptors have the second best record in the Eastern Conference and they also have a cushy 13-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors are a virtual lock to make the NBA Playoffs this spring and they are looking to advance past the first round for the first time since 2001. For the Raptors to make some noise in the postseason they will rely on Lowry’s ability which he has displayed all season long as being a true floor general.

Mayweather And Pacquiao Were Out Of Options

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

So now the boxing match that the world has wanted to see is finally coming to fruition. The two best welterweight fighters of this era have been Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Pacquiao and Mayweather will now meet on May 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in what should be the biggest purse in the history of the sport of boxing. Six years of on-again, off-again negotiations between Mayweather’s camp and Pacquiao’s representatives are a thing of the past now as it is finally time to determine who is the best welterweight of this era. Aside from fragile negotiations, it was mainly the overall politics that have deprived boxing fans from seeing this long awaited super fight.

Part of the initial holdup was over drug testing as Mayweather wanted Pacquiao to submit to Olympic-style drug testing. Olympic-style drug testing would mean that Pacquiao would be subject to random testing leading up to the fight. This became an issue as Mayweather has long suspected Pacquiao of using performance-enhancing drugs due to the fact that the Filipino born fighter maintained tremendous punching power and speed in spite of the fact that he moved up into different weight classes. Mayweather’s public criticism of Pacquiao led to a lawsuit on Pacquiao’s part which led to both sides settling out of court in 2012. Then there was the haggling over the money for the bout as Mayweather wanted a bigger cut. And once you factor in that Mayweather no longer likes to do business with Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum, this fight was put of the back burner for far too long.

Manny Pacquiao

So instead of seeing Mayweather and Pacquiao clash a few years ago, we instead had to watch each pugilist showcase their talents against someone else. Since the negotiations went south in 2009, Pacquiao lost two fights: once to Timothy Bradley and a technical knockout at the hands of his longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez. Mayweather on the other hand has been able to keep his unblemished record intact which has been highlighted by him schooling Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2013. But for both Mayweather and Pacquiao, it is becoming extremely difficult for each of them expect the viewing public to fork over $60-$70 dollars for each of their pay-per-view matches where you typically know what the outcome will be before the fighters touch gloves. Boxing fans were not interested in seeing Pacquiao fight Marquez for a fifth time and they weren’t going to break their necks to see Mayweather take on Amir Khan or touch gloves with Miguel Cotto again which means that it is time for these two to get it on.

Subsequently Pacquiao has agreed to all of the terms that Mayweather wanted. Pacquiao is on board with the drug testing as well as taking 40 percent of the purse as opposed to Mayweather’s 60 percent. Pacquiao will be the first fighter to hit the ring and the bout will take place in Mayweather’s backyard of Las Vegas. The buildup to this fight will be immense as tickets sold out in a matter of minutes when the fight was announced and you can expect a who’s who from the entertainment world to be in attendance that Saturday night in May. Being that Mayweather has an exclusive contract to fight on Showtime while Pacquiao is with HBO, both networks will work together to show the pay-per-view extravaganza which could cost fight fans $100 dollars to view.

For Muhammad Ali to earn the mantle of being “The Greatest”, he needed Joe Frazier. And when the 1980′s became the golden era of the middleweight division, Sugar Ray Leonard needed Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler to bring out the best in him. Come May it will be the punching power of Pacquiao versus the speed and craftiness of Mayweather. The people that want to see the cocky Mayweather served a slice of humble pie will undoubtedly be rooting for Pacquiao while the fans of “Money” want to see the unblemished record remain intact. Pacquiao is 36-years old while Mayweather will turn 38 tomorrow. But the age of both fighters shouldn’t prevent us from witnessing a good bout. Sometimes good things come to those who wait and in this case fight fans are finally getting what they have wanted for a very long time.