Paul Pierce Is Still The Truth

For 17 years, Washington Wizards small forward Paul Pierce has navigated up and down basketball courts in the NBA with precision. Pierce is in his first season with the Wizards, and at the age of 37, he might not be the focal point of their offense, but when the chips are on the table he can still get the job done. Pierce’s nickname is “The Truth” and throughout his basketball career he has backed it up.

After becoming an All-American at the University of Kansas, Pierce was the 10th overall pick of the 1998 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. At the time of Pierce’s arrival to the NBA, the Celtics were one of the worst teams in the NBA and in 2002, Pierce would help Boston reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time 1988. Pierce would hit numerous big shots in a Celtics uniform which was highlighted by by him helping Boston win the NBA Championship in 2008. Pierce would go on to be named NBA Finals MVP in 2008. Pierce spent the first 15 years of his NBA career with the Celtics where he was a 10-time NBA All-Star and only Basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek has scored more points while wearing Celtic green than “The Truth”.

A trade in the summer of 2013 would send Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets where he was expected to provide a veteran presence in their locker room. Pierce showed his leadership skills as he put the Nets on his back last spring and led them to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2007. And when Pierce became a free agent last summer, he decided to take his show on the road once more on the East Coast; this time in the Nation’s Capitol.

Pierce knows that the Wizards are led by their explosive backcourt of point guard John Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal, but that doesn’t mean that he cannot still be effective. Pierce’s 11.9 points per game this past regular season were a career low, but Wizards head coach Randy Wittman made a conscious effort to manage the veteran’s minutes on the floor as he only averaged 26.2 minutes per game this season. The result is a fresher Pierce now in the NBA Playoffs.

The Wizards entered the NBA Playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference while they prepared to meet the Toronto Raptors in the first round who won the Atlantic Division. And before the series began, Pierce didn’t have a problem playing the role of the villain. In an interview with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, Pierce let it be known that the Raptors didn’t have “It”. When the Wizards traveled to Toronto for Game 1 of the series, the fans at the Air Canada Centre let Pierce hear it. But the more that the fans in Toronto expressed their displeasure for Pierce, the more that he torched them. Pierce went for 20 points in Game 1 as the Wizards won 93-86 and stole home-court advantage.

After returning home to D.C. with a 2-0 series lead, the Wizards looked to deliver the knockout blow to the Raptors. In Game 3, Pierce backed up his talk once again as he went for 18 points in the Wizards 106-99 victory which put the Raptors on the brink of elimination. And by the time that Game 4 rolled around last night, the ship had already left port as the Raptors didn’t have anything left and the Wizards swooped in for the kill with a 125-94 beat down which put an end to the Raptors season. For the series, Pierce averaged 15.5 points along with numerous incidents of frustration for the Raptors as he helped to eliminate them from the NBA Playoffs for the second consecutive year.

The Wizards made a run in the NBA Playoffs last spring when they gave the Indiana Pacers all that they could handle in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. And when the Wizards were eliminated, you knew that they weren’t that far off from becoming legitimate contenders for the NBA Title. Pierce knew that as well and he is providing the veteran leadership to the Wizards as they look to win their first NBA Championship since 1978. Pierce is attempting to be that missing link for them as young teams always need a veteran presence like his to show them the ropes. After making short work of the Raptors, the Wizards can now sit back and relax as they await the winner of the playoff series between the Brooklyn Nets and the Atlanta Hawks. And just like the flowers and trees are blossoming at this time of year, Pierce knows how to rise to the occasion as well.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

Back To The Drawing Board For The Mavericks

After taking the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs to the brink of elimination last spring in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, there was a bit of optimism this season for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks began the season as a veteran team and with the signing of small forward Chandler Parsons and the acquisition of point guard Rajon Rondo, Dallas believed that they were once again ready to contend for the NBA Championship. But unfortunately for the Mavs, things have not gone according to plan.

Rick Carlisle, Rajon Rondo

The Mavericks did go 50-32 in the regular season, but that was only good enough for seventh place in the brutal Western Conference. Rondo has never been on the same page with Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle and a back injury has all but ended his brief tenure in North Texas. A troublesome knee has put Parsons on the shelf as the Mavericks are now on the brink of elimination from the NBA Playoffs and they have yet to solve the riddle that is the Houston Rockets and their shooting guard James Harden. The Mavericks are now on the verge of being eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs for the fourth time in the last six seasons.

After years of attempting to reach the summit, the Mavericks were able to find that innate level of team chemistry, ability, and toughness that resulted in the franchise’s first and only NBA Championship in 2011. The Mavericks were the ultimate losers of the NBA’s Lockout that year as with the new collective bargaining agreement, they were unable to maintain the majority of their core players. For Carlisle and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, they have attempted to re-tool as opposed to rebuilding their team. It has helped the Mavs that veteran power forward Dirk Nowitzki has opted to take less money in order to allow the organization more flexibility to sign quality players. The Mavericks have been attempting to do that as they had a good team this season, but the move to acquire Rondo hasn’t worked out.

Rondo helped the Boston Celtics win the NBA Championship in 2008 and he has been one of the better point guards of this era. But at the same time Rondo has been a handful for his head coaches. In Boston, former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was on the verge of trading Rondo on several occasions before cooler heads prevailed. And when Rondo was traded to the Mavericks earlier this season, he was looked at as being the missing link to Dallas’ potential title chain. Rondo has never been on the same page with Carlisle which has threatened to destroy the Mavericks chemistry. Carlisle consistently benched Rondo in late game situations as he has been a player that has not elected to play within the realm of the Mavericks offense. Rondo is a pending free agent and you can all but eliminate the Mavericks as being a landing spot for his NBA home for next season.

The Mavericks already have more than $44 million committed to player salaries next season and there will still need to be some moves that will have to be made on their part if they want to be serious contenders.

Tyson Chandler

Center Tyson Chandler was one of the top rebounders in the NBA this season and he has always been a favorite of Cuban. Chandler came up big for the Mavericks in 2011 when they won the NBA Championship before leaving town after that season to join the New York Knicks. Chandler was traded back to the Mavs last off-season and it was almost like he never left town. In two seasons with the Mavericks, shooting guard Monta Ellis has been a pleasant surprise and he has played within the realm of Carlisle’s offense as he has also been one of the team’s top scorers. Ellis does have a player option for next season of $8.72 million and he could opt-out as at the age of 29, he’ll be looking for a big pay day.

Chandler and Ellis will be priorities for the Mavericks as will the pursuit of a quality point guard; either through the NBA Draft, a trade, or free agency as they need to upgrade their point guard position. Chandler is only 27-years old as he is looking to recover from his knee injury and when healthy he can be a solid wing player. The Mavericks also must get their defensive intensity back as they were 25th in the NBA this season in points allowed which is not going to cut it if they want to entertain any thoughts of winning another NBA Title.

Mark Cuban

More than ever you need to have a complete team if you’re going to advance in the Western Conference Playoffs as it is extremely difficult to navigate there even with a solid squad. Nowitzki will be 37-years old in June, but he has shown that he can still get it done on the offensive of the floor in a very effective way. Carlisle is still one of the best head coaches in the NBA and Cuban is one of the best owners in professional sports as far as giving the people that work for him everything necessary for them to succeed. After tasting championship gold in 2011, the Mavericks are eager to once again reach that pinnacle and this summer will go a very long way in determining how long that it will take them to get back there.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

Hamilton Is Making It Look Real Easy

2014 was a tremendous year for Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton won his second Formula One Championship while he also managed to date Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls. And as 2015 is nearly one-third into the record books, Hamilton literally hasn’t taken his foot off of the pedal. Hamilton is on the verge of signing a new lucrative deal to continue racing for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team as they cannot afford to lose him to Ferrari who would love to have another star driver. And now Hamilton is off of to a blazing start on the race track in his quest for his third Formula One Championship.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton has won three of the first four races this season while he also took second place at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Hamilton’s hot start has him in ownership of the top spot in the driver standings as he has a 27-point lead over second place driver Nico Rosberg who also happens to be his Mercedes teammate. And Hamilton has recently been dominating in the same fashion similar to some legends of Formula One such as former driver Michael Schumacher and current driver Sebastian Vettel.

After making the jump to Formula One in 2007, Hamilton has always been one of the circuit top drivers and now at the age of 30, he is figuring it all out to dominate each race. The Mercedes team which is led by the likes of engineering director Aldo Costa has and will continue to give Hamilton one the best cars on the circuit. To me Hamilton’s contract status has nothing to do with his strong racing as he has just been that good. But with eighty percent of the Formula One season still to be determined, Hamilton is well on his way to becoming the tenth driver in the history of the circuit to claim at least three Formula One Championships.

A Long Season Ahead In Beer Country

After winning 82 games last year there was optimism for the Milwaukee Bucks heading into the 2015 Major League Baseball season. But that optimism for the Brew Crew has faded rather quickly. The Brewers have stumbled out of the gates with a record of 2-13 which is also currently the worst record in MLB. The Brewers have already been outscored by 47 runs this season and they have already fallen behind the pack in the National League Central as they are seven games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.

Things didn’t get started on the right foot for the Brewers as they were swept by the Colorado Rockies to begin the season. And Milwaukee hasn’t won a game since they defeated the Cardinals last Monday. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke attempted to change things this past Tuesday night when he had the team don their batting practice jerseys during the game. But the move didn’t pay off for the Brewers as they fell to the Cincinnati Reds 16-10. The Brewers starting pitching staff has a team earned run average of 5.08 which is at the bottom of the National League. The Brewers starting pitchers only have two quality starts and opponents are batting .280 against them. In this past Wednesday’s loss to the Reds, the Brewers gave up a pair of grand slams. Already the Brewers have had three games in which they have surrendered at least 10 runs and the month of April hasn’t even finished.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin traded starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers over the winter. And even though Gallardo wasn’t coming off of his best season, he was still one of the Brewers better starting pitchers. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Brewers starting pitcher Kyle Lohse set the wrong tone for this team on Opening Day as he gave up 8 earned runs in just 3.1 innings pitched in a 10-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

https://majorleaguefantasysports.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/jean-segura-brewers.jpg

Jean Segura

The Brewers offense which has always been the backbone of this franchise hasn’t done that much better as they are last in the National League in on-base percentage (.260), 14th in runs scored (42), batting averaging (.212), and hits (105) as shortstop Jean Segura is the only everyday player that is currently sporting a batting average near .300 as he is batting .291. Injuries and suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs have diminished Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun to a less than average player as he’s only batting .240 and it would be surprising if he went yard 20 times this season. Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez has already let it be known that this will be his final MLB season and at the age of 37, he is no longer the threat to be a power hitter that he once was. The past few seasons have seen outfielder Carlos Gomez turn into the Brewers best everyday player, but he is currently on the 15-day disabled list as he is recovering from a hamstring injury.

For the Brewers right now it is more than just weathering the storm at the early part of the season. The NL Central is expected to be more competitive this season with the Reds and Chicago Cubs showing signs of improvement. I have already pegged the Cards to win the World Series which means that the Brewers will be swimming upstream all season long. It’s still early, but Melvin should strongly consider to process of parting with as many viable trade assets as possible. However with the Brewers slow start, their players haven’t displayed that much that could be appealing to other teams on the trade market which will make for a long summer in Milwaukee. The one thing that the sports fans of Wisconsin will be looking forward to is when the Green Bay Packers open training camp over the summer.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

 

Same Old Marlins?

After some wheeling and dealing over the off-season by Miami Marlins general manager Dan Jennings, the team was hopeful that the results would turn them into a contender in the National League East. But unfortunately for the Marlins, the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season hasn’t been what they envisioned. The Marlins are off to a putrid 3-11 start and they’ve only managed to win one series so far this season. The Marlins are also 2-9 against opponents from the NL East.

Mike Redmond

Marlins manager Mike Redmond is in his third season in Miami. Redmond was handed a young and inexperienced team that lost 100 games in 2013, but they overachieved last season as they won 77 games. And when you couple that with all of the new Marlins acquisitions, the bar of expectations has been raised in South Florida.

Giancarlo Stanton

The Marlins lineup is anchored by right fielder Giancarlo Stanton who is fresh off of inking a 13-year, $325 million extension in the off-season as he is one of the premier sluggers in Major League Baseball. Via trades, the Marlins acquired second baseman Dee Gordon from the Los Angeles Dodgers and utility man Martin Prado from the New York Yankees along with signing first baseman Michael Morse in free agency to put some protection around Stanton in the lineup. The acquisition of Gordon is paying off so far as he is batting .390 with a .403 on-base percentage. Gordon has also stolen six bases so far this season as he is one of the fastest runners in baseball. Gordon’s speed at the top of the Marlins lineup is expected to help Stanton see more pitches to hit as pitchers fear the threat of him stealing bases. But Stanton hasn’t gotten off to an electric start as he is batting just .260 with a trio homers and 12 runs batted in.

More than anything the Marlins have been done in so far by their starting pitching or lack thereof. The Marlins team earned run average of 5.28 is 14th in the NL and they are also near the bottom of most statistical categories on the Senior Circuit. In the off-season, starting pitcher Mat Latos was acquired by the Marlins from the Cincinnati Reds and he was expected to be a part of Miami’s foundation in their starting rotation. But through three starts this season, Latos is 0-3 with an earned run average of 10.24 and he has yet to pitch at least six innings in any of his starts. Marlins starting pitcher Tom Koehler is coming off of a start this past Sunday against the New York Mets where he surrendered seven runs in just 3.1 innings of work. Marlins relief pitcher Steve Cishek is coming off of a season in which he saved 39 games. But so far this year Cishek is 0-for-2 in save opportunities with an earned run average of 19.29. The Marlins are holding out hope that the 2013 NL Cy Young Award winner in starting pitcher Jose Fernandez will return to the club at some point this season, but his brethren have not been holding it down without him.

Jeffrey Loria

The Marlins slow start has the rumor mill swirling already in South Florida as the team could be close to moving on from Redmond unless the players begin to turn it around as team owner Jeffrey Loria has shown in the past impatience with his club. In 2012, the Marlins came into the season with tremendous expectations as they began play in a new ballpark (Marlins Park), a new logo, and a new name as they were no longer the Florida Marlins. But after a 69-93 finish in 2012, Loria had a fire sale as the only star player left was Stanton. And after the slow start this season Loria could be ready to pull the trigger once more.

But more than ever Loria needs to exercise patience with his team as with so many new players, it will take some time for the Marlins to properly gel. Stanton is returning after his 2014 MLB season was cut short after being hit in the face late last season by a pitch. Stanton is playing with a protective guard over the left side of his face this season and he has to be a bit tentative as pitchers are going to try him on the inner part of the plate more than ever. But what we have seen in the past from Stanton is a player that can get hot and when he does, he can put a team on his back for a very long time. Gordon and Stanton will work well together once they figure out the timing of one another while Prado and Morse along with shortstop Adieny Hechaverria and outfielder Marcel Ozuna will be a big part of the Marlins lineup as well. And aside from the lineup, the Marlins starting pitching has to come around if they are going to get going.

The Marlins were swept in a four-game series over the weekend by the Mets who are playing some of the best ball in Major League Baseball right now. The Marlins have already spotted the Mets an eight-game lead in the National League East, but there is plenty of time remaining in the season as we haven’t even reached the quarter pole yet. What the Marlins must do is get back to the basics of playing fundamental baseball that begins with solid starting pitching, good defense, and the little things on offense such as driving in runners that are in scoring position and things can get turned around for them. The other key for the Marlins should be to win their next series which they are in the middle of as they dropped the first game of it on the road against the Philadelphia Phillies and from there to see where they are by the end of the month. But it is still to early for Loria and crew to push the panic button on this team.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

2015 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Jameis Winston-Quarterback-Florida State

Jameis Winston is the best available prospect in the 2015 National Football League Draft and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in search for a franchise quarterback which makes this a no-brainer.

2. Tennessee Titans-Marcus Mariota-Quarterback-Oregon

The Tennessee Titans could go in several directions with this pick, but more than likely it will be Marcus Mariota.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars-Leonard Williams-Defensive Tackle-Oregon

The debate in Jacksonville will continue to be whether or not the Jaguars will select Leonard Williams or Dante Fowler.

4. Oakland Raiders-Amari Cooper-Wide Reciever-Alabama

The Oakland Raiders appear to have found their franchise quarterback last year in Derek Carr. Now the Raiders must find someone for him to throw the football to.

5. Washington Redskins-Trae Waynes-Cornerback-Michigan State

The Washington Redskins secondary was torched last season and they need all the help that they can get.

6. New York Jets-New York Jets-Dante Fowler-Outside Linebacker-Florida

The last thing that you want to do is give a good New York Jets defense another option up front as Dante Fowler will be a menace to opposing offenses.

7. Chicago Bears-Kevin White-Wide Receiver-West Virginia

The pressure will be on Kevin White to make the people of Chicago forget about former Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

8. Atlanta Falcons-Danny Shelton-Defensive Tackle-Washington

New Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is going to build his team in the mode of the Seattle Seahawks which means he is looking to get physical in the trenches.

9. New York Giants-Vic Beasley-Outside Linebacker-Clemson

For the longest time the New York Giants have lacked a play maker at outside linebacker which is a void the Vic Beasley could fill.

10. St. Louis Rams-Brandon Scherff-Offensive Tackle-Iowa

The St. Louis Rams enter the 2015 NFL Draft with the ability to take the best athlete available and they beef up their offensive line with another road grader.

11. Minnesota Vikings-DeVante Parker-Wide Receiver-Louisville

The Minnesota Vikings recently parted with wide receiver Greg Jennings. And who better to replace Jennings than wide receiver DeVante Parker who Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw the football to in college.

12. Cleveland Browns-La’el Collins-Offensive Tackle-LSU

The Cleveland Browns are in search of a bookend offensive tackle to play opposite of Joe Thomas and they’ll get one here in La’el Collins.

13. New Orleans Saints-Shane Ray-Defensive End/Outside Linebacker-Missouri

For far too long the New Orleans Saints have neglected to upgrade their pass rushing situation in the NFL Draft and they’ll get one in Shane Ray who is a hell raiser.

Landon Collins

14. Miami Dolphins-Landon Collins-Strong Safety-Alabama

If the Miami Dolphins are going to win the AFC East, they must find a way to get by the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady. Landon Collins is a safety that can play the run and he also has tremendous range to cover the field.

15. San Francisco 49ers-Kevin Johnson-Cornerback-Wake Forest

If you’ve watched the San Francisco 49ers over the past few seasons, you have seen a secondary that has been picked on by opponents.

16. Houston Texans-Cameron Erving-Center-Florida State

Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien loves to run the football, and center Cameron Erving will anchor the line down in Houston.

17. San Diego Chargers-Melvin Gordon-Running Back-Wisconsin

The San Diego Chargers appear to be moving on from running back Ryan Matthews and Melvin Gordon gives them a home run hitter at the running back position that they’ve missed since LaDanian Tomlinson left town.

18. Kansas City Chiefs-Breshad Perriman-Wide Receiver-Central Florida

The Kansas City Chiefs have been upgrading the wide receiver position this off-season and that trend continues with them drafting Breshad Perriman.

19. Cleveland Browns-Arik Armstead-Defensive Tackle-Oregon

If the Cleveland Browns are going to contend in the AFC North, then they must get tougher in the trenches.

20. Philadelphia Eagles-Randy Gregory-Defensive End/Outside Linebacker-Nebraska

Randy Gregory has top ten talent, but his positive drug tests for marijuana will scare some teams away from drafting him.

21. Cincinnati Bengals-Alvin Dupree-Defensive End-Kentucky

Under head coach Marvin Lewis, the Cincinnati Bengals have always had a stout defensive line and that trend will continue.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers-Malcolm Brown-Defensive Tackle-Texas

It was 14 years ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a run stuffing nose tackle from the University of Texas in Casey Hampton who was vital in a pair of Super Bowl Championships. When Hampton retired in 2012, the Steelers never replaced him until now when they draft Malcolm Brown.

23. Detroit Lions-Ereck Flowers-Offensive Tackle-Miami

At this point of the NFL Draft there will be several good offensive tackles available and the Detroit Lions will have their pick of the litter.

24. Arizona Cardinals-Eddie Goldman-Defensive Tackle-Florida State

The Arizona Cardinals had a solid defense in 2014 that was raided in free agency. And now the re-tooling process begins.

25. Carolina Panthers-Todd Gurley-Running Back-Georgia

The knee injury that Todd Gurley is rebounding from will scare some teams away. But not the Carolina Panthers who love to run the football right down an opponent’s throat.

26. Baltimore Ravens-Jaelen Strong-Wide Receiver-Arizona State

The Baltimore Ravens lost wide receiver Torrey Smith in free agency and wide receiver Steve Smith will be 36-years old next month which makes this move here a no-brainer.

27. Dallas Cowboys-Jordan Phillips-Defensive Tackle-Oklahoma

The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League and now it is time for them to work on the defensive side of the trenches.

28. Denver Broncos-Andrus Peat-Offensive Tackle-Stanford

Part of keeping veteran quarterback Peyton Manning healthy throughout the upcoming season will require the Denver Broncos to put a solid offensive line in front of him.

29. Indianapolis Colts-Owamagbe Odighizuwa-Defensive End-UCLA

The Indianapolis Colts are not thrilled with the production that they’ve gotten out of outside linebacker Bjorn Werner in his first two seasons in the NFL and they could be ready to move on.

Eric Kendricks

30. Green Bay Packers-Eric Kendricks-Inside Linebacker-UCLA

As a result of injuries, the Green Bay Packers were forced to use outside linebacker Clay Matthews as an inside linebacker last season which took away from his effectiveness. The Packers also let inside linebacker A.J. Hawk leave in free agency which makes middle linebacker Eric Kendricks the logical choice here.

31. New Orleans Saints-Dorial Green-Beckham-Wide Receiver-Oklahoma

The New Orleans Saints are desperate for an impact wide receiver and because of that they’ll look past Dorial Green-Beckham’s checkered history.

32. New England Patriots-Byron Jones-Cornerback-Connecticut

This off-season has seen the New England Patriots lose starting cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in free agency as head coach Bill Belichick begins the process of re-tooling his secondary.