The Heat Are Going Through The Motions

We all knew that things would be drastically different for the Miami Heat this season. After four seasons with the Heat, small forward LeBron James decided to return to playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The departure of James forced Heat president Pat Riley into scramble mode as far as fielding a team this season and more importantly a team that could compete in the Eastern Conference. Without James, the Heat still have power forward Chris Bosh and shooting guard Dwyane Wade who were key members of Miami’s NBA Championships teams in 2012 and 2013. But the injury bug has pulled up a beach chair Miami which has led to inconsistency on the basketball court.

At 20-26, the Heat are on pace for their first losing campaign since the 2007-2008 NBA season. Thoughts of a fifth straight Southeast Division Title have all but evaporated for the Heat as they are in third place and 18.5 games behind the division leading Atlanta Hawks. On the bright side for the Heat, they still call the Eastern Conference home and in spite of their sub-.500 record they are still in possession of the seventh seed for the NBA Playoffs.

Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade

After winning their first three games of the season, the Heat have not won more than two consecutive games since. Wade is leading the team in scoring at 21.4 per game, but he has missed 10 games as a result of injuries and a strained hamstring is going to force him to miss some more time. Bosh is right behind Wade in scoring at 21.3 per game while also averaging 7.5 rebounds and he has missed eight games due to a calf injury. As Wade and Bosh have gutted it out, the supporting cast has changed around them.

Pat Riley

Last summer Riley signed power forward Josh McRoberts to a four-year, $23 million deal. McRoberts was coming off of his best statistical season in the NBA as he averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds last season with the Charlotte Bobcats. McRoberts was not brought to the Heat to be the next Karl Malone, but he was expected to provide size for Miami on the interior. Last month McRoberts suffered a torn meniscus which ended his season. The Heat are also without reserve power forward Chris “Birdman” Anderson who is day-to-day with with injuries to his elbow and back. These injuries may not seem that significant, but unlike the past four years they are stinging a little bit more.

The past few years saw all of the Heat’s deficiencies masked by the superb talent of James as he was a triple-double waiting to happen. This season the Heat are last in the NBA in rebounding and 27th in assists. The Heat have lost 15 games this season by double figures and they have not been as strong in the fourth quarter as that was the time in which James took over in years past. But Riley appears to be a man that is simply biding his time as far as once again bringing a dominant basketball team to Miami.

After next season the Heat only have $31.85 million committed to salaries for the 2016-2017 NBA season which could lead Riley to becoming very creative over the next two summers. This summer’s NBA free agent market will be headlined by Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, Portland Trailblazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol while the summer of 2016 will see teams drooling for the services of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. If Jordan or Gasol would be too expensive for Riley, I could see him turning his attention to the likes of New Orleans Hornets center Omer Asik or Blazers center Robin Lopez. Asik and Lopez won’t command as much salary as Gasol or Jordan, but Lopez is a tremendous energy player while Asik has asserted himself into one of the top rebounders in the NBA over the past few seasons. For his NBA career Gasol has averaged 14 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and he could be another low-post presence for the Heat. And I highly doubt that Riley would go after Aldridge simply because he and Bosh are basically the same player.

But I believe that Riley will put the full-court press in the attempt to sign Durant. For his eight-year NBA career, Durant has averaged 27.3 points per game and he would fill some of the void for the Heat that they have since James left as he is one of purest scorers in the NBA. Bosh would be 32-years of age in 2016 while Wade is already beginning to slow down and he would be 35-years old at the time.

The Heat are down right now, but they are far from out because of the craftiness of Riley. As a head coach, Riley won five NBA Championship with the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers while getting the New York Knicks within a whisker of the title in 1994. Through wheeling a dealing on the trade market, Riley turned the Heat into title contenders when he took over in 1995 and he brokered the deal in 2010 to get James to come to South Beach. And in spite of the fact that James left the Heat last summer, it is tough for NBA superstars to say no to Riley and South Beach. Just like Riley positioned himself in 2010 to turn the Heat into a title contender, he can and will do it again. Right now for the Heat and their fans, it is just a matter of keeping the ship afloat.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

The Coming Tragedies Of The power Five

The landscape of college athletics has been changing since the 1970′s as school have been switching their conference affiliations. But in the past few years, conference shifts have become so commonplace that some conference have ceased to exist altogether. The Southwest Conference ceased its operations in 1996 while the Big East and Western Athletic Conferences no longer participate in football. The latest conference shift has produced five “Power Five” conferences in the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast, and Southeast Conferences that were created to stand head and shoulders above the others at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. These moves were solely football related as football is the top money maker in collegiate athletics and respective institutions are looking at securing the top dollar. But at what cost?

http://capstonereport.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/UABblazerFootball.jpgThe University of Alabama decided last month to drop its football program effective immediately as the school claims that it is and will continue to lose money from it. UAB’s decision to drop football raised some eyebrows, but not enough to firmly get the message across. That message could get across loud and clear if UAB isn’t just a blip on the radar.

Smaller FBS schools such as UAB rely on the Power Five schools to provide money for them when they travel to meet them in the earlier stages of the season. So in spite of the fact that big schools such as Florida State may destroy an institution such Alabama A&M on the football field by an absurd score of 63-3, the smaller schools will receive a nice consolation prize that could fund their entire athletic department for the entire academic year. But with Power Five schools potentially just facing each other as the race to be one of the four teams selected for the College Football Playoff and the need for a stronger schedule is strongly desired, it could put a damper on the smaller schools receiving those paychecks which could lead to more schools dropping football as it is only a viable sport at the FBS level when money is being made.

Another aspect that is hurting the landscape of college football is the mega conferences themselves. The ACC, SEC, and Big Ten all have 14 football members and each conference only has an eight-game conference schedule which means that each school goes each college football season without facing five conference members. An example of this is illustrated with the University of Florida and Texas A&M. A&M joined the SEC in 2012 and their first conference game was when they hosted Florida. But these two schools are not scheduled to meet again until in football until 2017. Each FBS plays 12 regular season games with an additional contest if a school has a road game against the University of Hawaii. Thus it is out of the question to have a 14-team football conference have all its members meet each season. But what about if the 14-team football conference played a 10-game conference schedule which could cut down on the problem somewhat? A 10-game conference schedule would still leave room for those 14-team conferences to schedule one cupcake school and face a non-conference rival. An example of this can be seen from the past college football season where the Missouri Tigers were 7-1 in SEC Conference play. The Tigers play in the SEC East and they didn’t have to face Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, or Mississippi State.

The Pac-12 has twelve football members and they play a nine-game conference schedule which cuts down on the problem of teams not facing each other while the Big 12 has 10 members each school meets one another and it eliminates the problem altogether.

The mega football conferences has now led to Wake Forest and the University of North Carolina of the ACC agreeing to meet in 2019 and 2021 in non-conference games. Wake Forest and North Carolina were both charter members of the ACC in 1953 and they have formed a rivalry on Tobacco Road which has been threatened by the 14-team conference. But Wake Forest and North Carolina are not alone. In the SEC, Alabama and Tennessee always meet in what is dubbed as “The Third Saturday in November”. The SEC was the first conference to expand to 12 teams in 1992. And in spite of the fact that ‘Bama and Tennessee are in two separate divisions in the SEC, they have still managed to face each other on the gridiron, but with the additions of Missouri and A&M to the conference, it is no longer a guarantee and rivalries will continue to bite the dust in the race for a paycheck.

As I have stated before in previous writings, sports are a money making machine, but it is rivalries that breath life into sports. Major League Baseball would not be as big as it is right now if not for the rivals such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees consistently meeting each other. The same can be said about the NBA as you cannot go too long without thinking about the Boston Celtics without the Los Angeles Lakers coming to mind. And even in boxing Muhammad Ali may have never been dubbed as “The Greatest” if he had never clashed with Joe Frazier on three occasions. There’s isn’t any more loyalty between schools and conferences like it once was which is evident by the fact that Texas and Texas A&M no longer play in the same conference. The Big Ten and Pac-12 made each school sign letters of commitment to the conference, but could we ever fathom not seeing Michigan meeting Ohio State or USC not facing UCLA?

At some point in collegiate athletics the pig is going to get too big as it has feasted too much that it will be unable to move. Institutions are getting paid, but at what cost? What the Power Five should consider doing is what most of the professional sports leagues do and that is revenue sharing. If the Power Five were to chip in to keep the smaller schools afloat athletically; aside from just paying them to show up, it is something that would help collegiate athletics all around. But the voices in the room have changed now as school presidents are mainly concerned about their respective brand as opposed to the greater good of the entire landscape. And as history has taught us, when the gap between rich and poor grows too big, utter chaos is not that far away.

Mile High Mike Is Gasping For Air

http://8countnews.com/images/alvarado.jpgAfter suffering his third consecutive loss last night, it is time for “Mile High” Mike Alvarado to go back to the drawing board. Alvarado’s third bout with Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios was over before it started and after the third round, referee Jay Nady stopped the fight at the request of the fight doctor. Alvarado who hails from Denver fought Rios last night in his backyard of Broomfield, Colorado and the sellout crowd at the 1stBank Center turned on their native son after his poor showing.

The third fight between Rios and Alvarado was expected to be a brawl like the first two were. But only Rios came to Broomfield last night prepared to rumble. Rumors were circling at ringside last night the Alvarado had only trained for two weeks for this fight. Alvarado’s trainer Shann Vilhauer urged him to leave Colorado in order to concentrate on training for the fight, but the pugilist refused as distractions are all around him right now.

Alvarado was arrested earlier this month in Denver on a felony warrant and suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of a weapon. Alvarado is also scheduled to get married in March. In his post-fight interview with HBO’s Jim Lampley last night, Alvarado attempted to drown out the chorus of boos that were being thrust upon him by the irate Colorado boxing fans and he admitted that he wasn’t prepared.

Boxing has and will always be a hungry man’s sport. Former Middleweight Champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler famously said that “it’s hard to get up and go do roadwork when you’re wearing silk pajamas”. Rios was the hungrier fighter last night as he picked Alvarado apart as if he were only a mere sparring partner.

Alvardo has not displayed that hunger since he defeated Rios in March 2013 when they had a good old-fashioned slugfest. Alvarado fought Ruslan Provodnikov in Bloomfield on October 2013 and he was unable to answer the bell for the 11th round. Alvarado lost to Juan Manuel Marquez last May and after giving away the first six rounds, he woke up in the second half of the bout to make it interesting, but he still lost by unanimous decision.

After being humiliated last night, Alvarado claimed that he wants to refocus and train harder, but at 34-years of age the sands of time could be running out on him. HBO executives and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum could not have been thrilled with Alvarado’s showing last night as they had been hyping this showdown for months. But instead they were treated to a fight out of the mold of Evander Holyfield destroying James “Buster” Douglas many moons ago. Rios’ career will undoubtedly shoot up as Arum and HBO believe that he is someone that can make money for them in the near future. This embarrassing loss for Alvarado will set him back dearly; to the point that he may never recover. Aside from trying to climb back up the boxing ladder, Alvarado is looking to avoid being put behind the iron bars in the big house which is a bigger fight than any that he could ever physically train for. But last night was a clear example of what happens when you fail to prepare for a big exam and try to cram at the last minute: you get destroyed and cannot answer the bell for the fourth round.

The Task Ahead For Todd Bowles

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Todd Bowles

On January 14, Todd Bowles was hired to be the 18th head coach of the New York Jets franchise. The last three head coaches of the Jets were able to get Gang Green to the National Football League Playoffs at least once during their respective tenures. But no Jets head coach has been able to hoist the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions since Weeb Ewbank did it in 1968. The Jets hiring of Bowles is a homecoming as he was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and the township could be renamed after him if he were to lead Gang Green to a Super Bowl Title. But Bowles does have his work cut out for him with the Jets.

Bowles is replacing Rex Ryan as Jets head coach and he inherits a defensive unit that was sixth in the NFL in total defense last season. But the Jets biggest problem right now is on the offensive side of the football where they were 22nd in total offense this past season. The Jets inept offense was a big reason why they were 4-12 last season and thus Bowles was hired to replace Ryan. This past season Geno Smith and Michael Vick split the duties as Jets starting quarterback and neither player left you bubbling with optimism about their potential. Vick is now an unrestricted free agent and I don’t see the Jets bringing him back while Smith is still under contract with the Jets for two more seasons. In two seasons with the Jets, Smith has a record of 11-18 to go along with 25 touchdowns, 34 interceptions, a 57.5 completion percentage, and a 71.5 quarterback rating. And now because of this Bowles and the Jets are in a very awkward situation.

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Geno Smith

The quarterback class of the 2015 NFL Draft is not expected to be the deepest and with the Jets slotted to pick sixth overall in the first round, they more than likely will not get their hands onĀ Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston or Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Winston and Mariota both have question marks surrounding them as they are both set to embark on professional careers, but it will be slim pickings behind them this April for teams that are looking for a new franchise quarterback. Bowles or new Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan have not given their public endorsement for Smith as new general manager/head coach combos tend to want to bring in their type of player at quarterback instead of rolling with a holdover which puts Gang Green back at square one AGAIN!!!!!

Unfortunately for the Jets they are still searching for the next Joe Namath and he doesn’t appear to be arriving at Florham Park anytime soon. If Bowles and Maccagnan decide to stick with Smith then they have to make sure that they put a very strong supporting cast around him as far as a solid running game and wide receivers. Smith has shown a flash here or there, but I am not sure if it will be enough to convince Maccagnan and Bowles to give him a legitimate shot to be the Jets starting quarterback of the future. These next few months will be extremely important for Maccagnan, Bowles, Smith, and the Jets as this organization is in dire need of some answers at the quarterback position.

2014-2015 NBA Coach Of The Year Candidates

Mike Budenholzer-Atlanta Hawks

http://matchbin-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/public/sites/624/assets/IBY1_rgbhawks1.jpgLast season the Atlanta Hawks won 38 games for the entire NBA campaign. This time around the Hawks have already won 35 games and the month of January has not even concluded. Mike Budenholzer is in his second season as the head coach of the Hawks and his team has bought into his system. Budenholzer was an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs before taking over the Hawks and he brought with him the team first philosophy that has propelled the Spurs to being one of the best run franchises in all of professional sports. While the Hawks were riddled by injuries last season, they have been durable this time around and each of their five starters is averaging in double figures in scoring. The Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and they are thinking about their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1961.

Jason Kidd-Milwaukee Bucks

http://www.sikids.com/sites/default/files/pages/images/cms/imce/users/dantec/2014/06/jason-kidd-nets-bucks-header.jpgJason Kidd shocked the basketball world last summer when he left his post as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets to join the struggling Milwaukee Bucks. But Kidd is showing everyone that he knew what he was doing as he is turning around the Bucks. After winning just 15 games last season, the Bucks have already surpass that win total as they are 21-21 and they are currently in possession of the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Kidd and the Bucks are doing this without small forward Jabari Parker who was the second overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. Parker was lost early this season with an ACL injury and the Bucks have not skipped a beat which is a credit to Kidd.

Steve Kerr-Golden State Warriors

http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/41/files/2014/11/steve-kerr-stephen-curry-nba-san-antonio-spurs-golden-state-warriors-850x560.jpgSome people may say that first-year Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr inherited a good team, but he is doing a terrific job of not messing things up. The Warriors won 51 games last season under head coach Mark Jackson which made it surprising to some people when Golden State decided to part ways with him. Kerr has stepped in and made a good team better. The Warriors are currently 34-6 which is the best record in the NBA. Kerr knows where his bread is buttered and he has simply stayed out of his team’s way and allowed them to play basketball. This is a philosophy that Kerr hopes to ride to the first NBA Championship for the Warriors since 1975.

Jeff Hornacek-Phoenix Suns

http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Jeff+Hornacek+Phoenix+Suns+v+Los+Angeles+Clippers+8-j_Q9OeM1pl.jpgLast season was the first one for the Phoenix Suns under head coach Jeff Hornacek and his team overachieved by winning 48 games. In spite of going 48-34, the Suns were denied a trip to the postseason as they play in the tough Western Conference. The Suns played over their heads last season and it would have been easy for them to take a step backwards, but that hasn’t been the case as Phoenix has improved off of last year’s close call. The Suns are currently 26-18 which is currently good enough for them to own the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and under Hornacek, they are seeking their first trip to the NBA Playoffs since 2010.

Dave Joerger-Memphis Grizzlies

http://memphisport.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/jeorger3.jpgWhen Dave Joerger took over last season as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, he inherited a team that had won 56 games in the previous campaign and they made a trip to the Western Conference Finals. But Joerger was able to keep the ship afloat last season as the Grizzlies won 50 games for a second consecutive season. However this time around the Grizzlies have jumped out of the gate with a record of 30-12 which is tops in the Southwest Division. The Grizzlies are eighth in the NBA in points allowed and they are known to make their opponents grind it out for four quarters. Joerger is attempting to lead the Grizzlies to their first division title in franchise history.

The Legend Of Gordon

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon has announced that 2015 will be his last year as a full-time driver on the Sprint Cup Series circuit. Gordon is not retiring from driving, but he will be scaling back his duties from the NASCAR schedule that begins next month with the Daytona 500 and ends in November at Homestead in Miami. But for a driver such as Gordon, he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation.

Jeff Gordon

Gordon began his NASCAR career in 1992 at the Hooters 500. Gordon would finish in 31st place that day as he was trying to get his footing while competing against some of the best drivers from that era that included Dale Earnhardt Sr., Rusty Wallace, and Dale Jarrett. 1993 would be Gordon’s first full season on the Winston Cup circuit and he served noticed that he would be a force to be reckoned with as he finished fifth in the Daytona 500. Gordon wouldn’t win a race that year, but he finished 14th overall in the driver standings to finish as NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year. Gordon would win his first NASCAR race in 1994 by taking the Coca-Cola 600 which is the circuits longest race of the year. Gordon would also go on to win the inaugural Brickyard 400 that season and he finished 8th overall in the standings.

1995 would be tremendous for Gordon as he would win his first Winston Cup Title and he had to do so by fending off a seven-time champion in Earhhardt Sr. Gordon would go on to win three more Winston Cup Championships and the “Rainbow Warrior” driving his famed no. 24 DuPont Chevrolet became one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR. Gordon has won 92 NASCAR career races and only “The King” Richard Petty and David Pearson have taken home the checkered flag more than him. Gordon has been a link in NASCAR between the reign of Earnhardt Sr. and the dynasty right now of Jimmie Johnson. Even at 43-years of age Gordon still has his boyish looks, but he is far from being a pushover which is something that Brad Keslowski can attest to after their melee towards the end of last season.

Gordon might be ready to scale back on racing a bit, but he still can hold his own as he finished sixth in the Sprint Cup standings in each of the past two years. Gordon has left his mark on the sport while putting a smile on the folks at Hendrick Motorsports and racing enthusiasts across America. It’s not, but if it were to be the last chapter that was written on Gordon’s career in a stock car, it would be worth the selling price as he has simply been one of the best to ever do it.

Another Potential Feather In The Cap Of Pete Carroll

Pete Carroll

Twenty years ago Pete Carroll was the head coach of the New York Jets and he started the season with a record of 6-5 which had the Jets thinking about making the playoffs. In their next game against the Miami Dolphins, the Jets had a 24-6 lead in the second half and things were looking good. But the Dolphins had quarterback Dan Marino who rallied his team and it was capped off by the infamous “fake spike” play as the Jets lost 28-24. The Jets would not win another game that season and Carroll was fired. After two seasons as the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, Carroll was hired as the head coach of the New England Patriots. In three seasons with the Patriots, Carroll never had a losing season which included two playoff appearances. But Carroll’s record got worse in each season with the Patriots and he was fired in 1999.

After spending nearly a decade in college as the head football coach of the USC Trojans, Carroll returned to the National Football League in 2010 as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. In his time in Seattle, Carroll has built his team in the same mold that he did at USC with speed, depth, toughness, and intelligence. Last year the Seahawks won the Super Bowl as they defeated the Denver Broncos and they did it at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey which is the home of the Jets as it was a parking lot for Giants Stadium at the time of Carroll’s termination there. The Seahawks are heading back to the Super Bowl this season and the only thing that stands between Seattle and a consecutive Vince Lombardi Trophy are the Patriots who were the last organization to pull of that feat 10 years ago. This is also the same Patriots organization that parted ways with Carroll in 1999.

When Carroll was fired by Patriots owner Robert Kraft in 1999, he was replaced in New England by Bill Belichick. In Belichick’s first five seasons with the Patriots, New England won three Super Bowl Championships and they have gone of to be the most consistent NFL team of this era. At first Carroll was just looked at as the head coach that was sandwiched between Bill Parcells and Belichick who both have had the greatest success of any head coaches in Patriots franchise history. But with the Seahawks things have changed for Carroll as he came in with less expectations than he did when he joined the Patriots as he inherited a team that was coming off of an AFC Championship in New England while Seattle was in search of a slight rebuild. But as much as Carroll would like to downplay it, there has to be a dose of the revenge factor on his mind heading into Super Bowl 49 as his Seahawks are set to clash with the Patriots.

Robert Kraft

It’s been over 15 years since Kraft gave Carroll his walking papers, but like any relationship you never want to see your ex upgrade. But Carroll has upgraded as well as he has a team filled with bullies. Bullies such as strong safety Kam Chancellor, cornerback Richard Sherman, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, and running back Marshawn Lynch as they have left their opponents black and blue over the past few seasons. These are the same bullies that made Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning look mortal last year in the Super Bowl and they will look to the same to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady when they face him in Arizona. But when you have two dominant teams like the Patriots and Seahawks who both have something to prove led by head coaches such as Carroll and Belichick who himself is trying to navigate through the deflated ball controversy, the ultimate winner will be the fans and we should be in store for a terrific Super Bowl.