So I was reading Scoop Jackon’s latest article on ESPN.com, and I was appalled. Jackson asks various sports journalists weather or not they rank Kobe Bryant in their top 10 players of all time. Is that even in question after 2010? It shouldn’t have even been in question after 2009. Apparently there are some journalists who believe that there are 10 players that have been better than him. One of these journalists, Seku Smith said “On the edge, top 15 right now.” So there may be 14 players better that are or have been better than Kobe Bryant? I cannot believe that this man needs to prove himself with all he has done. Here’s a brief resume
Lakers all time leading scorer
81 points (second all time)
12x All-NBA (Tied for third all-time)
10x All defensive selections (Tied for third all-time)
Olympic Gold Medalist
7 Finals appearances
2x Finals MVP
5x NBA Champion
The man has a Wikipedia page dedicated to his accomplishments. You couldn’t give me 10 players who have done more or as much as he has. Many of those journalists who ranked him in the top 10 ranked him at 9 or 10. Shouldn’t he have top 5 consideration?. Scoop Jackson’s list “Jordan. Kareem. Magic. Oscar. Russell. Wilt. Bird. Elgin. [Hakeem Olajuwon]. Kobe. End.“
I hate this list. I don’t understand why everyone ranks Oscar Robertson so high. I have him at 9 or 10. His individual accomplishments are tremendous but he has one title in the twilight of his career in ’71 with MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor)leading the charge. Hakeem Olajuwon can credit his Finals success to Jordan’s baseball experiment. Elgin Baylor is the most ridiculous selection. A player that has never won a title should not be in the top 10 and should certainly not be ranked ahead of a player with 5 and two Finals MVPs.
The argument shouldn’t be weather or not he is in the top 10. It should be weather or not he is in the top 5`. When all is said and done, he will be the best player that isn’t Michael Jordan.
It’s been a month since the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat tipped off to start one the most anticipated seasons in league history.
L.A. Boston and San Antonio. Until another team steps up, these are the only real contenders because they are the only teams that have finished the season hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Dallas, New Orleans, and Orlando. Dallas always has a great season followed by an equally great choke, New Orleans doesn’t have the depth or talent to get out of the West. As awesome as CP3 is, carrying the Hornets past the likes of L.A. is a feat beyond his prowess on the court. Orlando contended one year, mostly due to a Garnett injury, they are no match for a healthy Celtics or Lakers and the recent loss to San Antonio might affirm their pretender status.
By: Mike Asti
Thoughts on entire MLB award banquet later this holiday week.
By: Mike Asti
Bringing it back….
By: Mike Asti
For you casual hockey fans, this is the same guy who single handily put together one of the most remarkable playoff runs in recent memory and due to his stellar play had Montreal very close to reaching to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993. He was traded to St. Louis over the off-season and played well the first couple weeks, since then he has gone on a downward spiral. The Red Wings did win by 4 so this was not exactly the game deciding tally, however, it is still funny just the same.
Louisville: The Cardinals are coming off their eighth straight 20 win season after the team finished 20-13 last year. Four starters are gone from last season’s team including their top three scorers. Not only does Pitno have to deal with the loss of the four starters but now he also has to deal with injuries, Jared Swopshire and Preston Knowles are sidelined with injuries.
Swopshire will be expected to carry the load offensively when he comes back. He made 20 starts last season and averaged 7.5 ppg and 6.1 rpg. Preston Knowles who is their best defensive player will also be expected to pick up the load on offense. Last season Knowles averaged just over 7 points. Peyton Siva who was the backup point guard last season is by far the most exciting and talented player Louisville has. Siva only averaged 4 ppg as a freshmen but there is no doubt he has the ability to fill up the stat sheet.
The team has to replace Samardo Samuels and Edgar Sosa but with players like Siva and Swopshire they shouldn’t be a drop in production. Pitno could also be getting another big boost if the NCAA clears Roburt Sallie who transferred from Memphis. Sallie is the all time leader in Memphis history for 3 point shooting. Louisville tips off their season Nov. 11 against Kentucky Wesleyan.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles put together another successful season this time under Buzz Williams. The Golden Eagles finished the season 22-12 and made a trip to the NCAA tournament. Picked to finish 9th in the Big East Preseason poll, the Golden Eagles will have to replace Lazar Hayward if they hope to return to the tournament again.
This year’s team will be headlined by two players, Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odem. Butler was named to the All Big East Honorable Mention team last year averaging 14.7 ppg and 6.4 rpg. Helping Butler carry the load will be Johnson-Odem who in his first year with the team averaged 13 ppg and finished second in the Big East in 3 point shooting. Dwight Buycks will look to start at point guard for the team, the senior averaged 6.7 ppg in 11 starts last season.
Replacing Lazar Hayward will be a challenge for Buzz Williams especially seeing as how he was at the top of the Big East in so many categories. Hayward finished 6th in scoring 9th in rebounding and 3rd in steals. The team will rely on Butler and Johnson-Odem to fill the void and also hope their defense carries them like it did a season ago. Marquette led the Big East in scoring defense, 3 point defense and turnover margin. The Golden Eagles start off their season hosting Prairie View A&M.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish finished last season 23-12 and returned to the NCAA tournament after missing it the year before. The 20 win season was Notre Dame’s fifth straight 20 win season. The Irish have played in the postseason all 10 years under coach Mike Brey but it may come to an end this season as the Irish lost Luke Harandgody.
All American Luke Harandgody has moved on and Big East coaches have to be happy with that news. Harandgody was one of the most productive players in Irish and Big East history. Last season he led the Big East in scoring at 21.9 ppg and finished 4th in rebounding at 9.1 ppg. Not only do the Irish have to replace Harandgody they also have to replace their starting point guard Tony Jackson. Jackson averaged 9.6 ppg and led the league in assists at 5.3 a game.
Picking up the scoring for the Irish this year will be senior Tim Abromaitis. Abromaitis averaged 16.1 ppg and finished 3rd in the league in free throw shooting at just over 87%. Ben Hansbrough the younger brother of Tyler also looks to have a good season. Hansbrough enjoyed success in his first season with Notre Dame after transferring from Mississippi State. Hansbrough averaged 12 ppg while shooting just over 40% from the three.
Abromaitis and Hansbrough will have to carry this Notre Dame team if they want to make it 11 straight postseason’s reached under Mike Brey. Purdue transfer Scott Martin is also another player to watch this season as he is a 6-8 player who can play guard and forward. The Irish may be turning to freshmen Eric Atkins to replace Tony Jackson. The Irish will open the season with Georgia Southern on Nov. 12
Pitt: The preseason pick to win the Big East is coming off another great season under coach Jaime Dixon. They finished the season 25-9 and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The trip to the tournament marked the 9th straight appearance for the panthers and with seven of its top eight scores returning and four starters back it’s no wonder why the panthers are favored to win the Big East.
The panthers return their entire backcourt in Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wannamaker. Gibbs averaged 15.7 ppg last season and was named the Big East Most Improved Player. Wannamaker on the other hand averaged 12.3 ppg and led the team in assists with 4.7 a game. Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson return down low for Pitt, both players are strong defensive guys with McGhee grabbing almost 7 rebounds a game.
The Panthers only lost Jermaine Dixon and with the amount of players returning his loss shouldn’t be noticed. The Panthers are an extremely balanced team and with four starters returning you should expect that balance to continue. The fact that Dixon was able to get 25 wins out of a team with so many newcomers is rather scary and it makes you think how could this team could be.
With a new season about to tip off its time to take a closer look at the teams in the Big East.
Cincinnati: Last season the Bearcats finished 19-16 and went to the NIT, it was the school’s first appearance in the NIT since 2006. The Bearcats will have to replace former diaper dandy Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn, who were the team’s top two scores from a season ago.
The team will return 8 players from a season ago with Yancy Gates being the headliner. Gates is the only returning player who averaged double digits last season averaging 10.4 ppg while also grabbing 5.9 rpg. Ibrahima Thomas who came over from Oklahoma State will have an expanded role this season after averaging just over 5 points and 5 rebounds a game. Coach Mick Cronin may look to sixth year senior Rashard Bishop to pick up the scoring that the team lost. Bishop averaged 8.4 ppg last season. The battle for the point guard position will come down to three players, Cashmere Wright, Dion Dixon and Jaquon Parker. Wright is the most likely starters after averaging 5.4 ppg in 11 starts as a freshman.
Mick Cronin did add two 3 star recruits to his team. 6-10 center Kelvin Gaines and 6-8 forward Justin Jackson. The losses of Stephenson, 12.3 ppg and Big East rookie of the year and Vaughn who finished third on the school’s all time scoring list will certainly hurt the Bearcats. The Bearcats will need to continue to crash the boards if they hope to have a successful season, they finished 2nd in the Big East in rebound margin at +6.2. The Bearcats kickoff their season Nov. 15 against Mount St. Mary’s.
Uconn: The Huskies are coming off their worst season in recent memory under Jim Calhoun. The Huskies went 18-16 and 7-11 in conference play. Four players did post double digits last season for the Huskies, but production fell off after that. After a disastrous regular season to a troubled regular season with Calhoun facing infractions from the NCAA, the Huskies are most certainly ready to start a new season.
Kemba Walker is back and it all falls on his shoulders. Walker was named All Big East third team last season after he averaged 14.6 ppg, 5.1 apg and led the league in steals with 2.1 a game. The only other starter that Uconn returns is center Alex Oriakhi. Oriakhi averaged 5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game and was named to the All Big East Rookie team. With only two starters returning freshman Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier could see minutes right away and contribute.
There are more questions surrounding this Uconn team than in years past. With Jerome Dyson, who led the team in scoring at 17.2 ppg, Stanley Robinson who led the team in rebounds with 7.6 a game and sixth man Gavin Edwards all gone the Huskies could struggle through the first half of their season. A bright spot for the Huskies however was in Big East play where they held opponents to 40.4 percent from the field, which was tops in the league.
DePaul: Despite being picked to finish last in the preseason poll there is optimism in the windy city. The Blue Demons somehow were able to lure Oliver Purnell away from Clemson. Purnell’s has went to the big dance the past three years and does a great job at building up programs. Purnell does have his work cut out for him has the Blue Demons have only won two conference games in two years.
The Blue Demons lost their two top scores, Will Walker and Mac Koshwal. Forward Mike Stovall will look to pick up the slack. Stovall started 20 games last season and averaged 7 ppg. Eric Wallace will also look to have a big season after averaging 6 points and 4 rebounds in his first season at DePaul, Wallace was a transfer from Ohio State. The offense will run through guard Jeremiah Kelley who averaged just over 5 ppg and led the team with 84 assists.
The loss of Walker and Koshwal will certainly impact a team who isn’t very good to begin with. Koshwal averaged 16 points a game and just over 10 rebounds and in 19 games had a double double 11 times. Walker was also another big time scorer for the team averaging just over 16 ppg as well. If anything Walker was dependable leading the Big East in minutes played, averaging over 38 minutes a game.
Georgetown: The Hoyas are coming off another successful season under JT3 in which the team went 23-10, went to the Big East championship game and made a trip to the NCAA tournament. The team did lose All-American Greg Monroe but returns a bevy of guards headlined by Austin Freeman who was picked as the Big East Preseason Player of the Year.
Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark are back to form the best back court in the Big East. Wright was named to the Big East Second Team in the preseason and the trio of Freeman, Wright and Clark combined to average more than 41 ppg. Joining the trio of guards will be swingman Hollis Thompson. Thompson is a sophomore who averaged 5ppg and had 16 points in their NCAA tournament game.
The Princeton offense will be in full effect again this year, all be it with some minor changes. The will have to figure out how they will replace Greg Monroe who arguably was the team’s best passer despite be 6-10. Chris Wright and Austin Freeman will now have to create their own shots but few teams in the Big East will be able to matchup with Georgetown’s guard play. Once again expect another trip to the big dance if you are a Hoya fan.
The AFC North has turned into a two-horse race, but the Browns are still alive and with a win over New York this week are right back in the thick of the wildcard race. Cincinnati is dead in the water, probably needing to win out to make the playoffs. Don’t count on it.
1. Baltimore Ravens (6-2, 2-1, 6-2)
They’re first game outside the conference is tonight in Atlanta. The Ravens will finish the season with three division games, four games against the NFC South, and a game in Houston. It’s not exactly the most difficult schedule, but the Ravens 6-2 record is a little misleading (much like most teams in the league this year). They’ve been respectable on third downs this season on both sides of the ball, and while the offense hasn’t been as electric with Ray Rice nursing injuries, Joe Flacco is finally starting to move the ball after a slow start to the season.
Baltimore’s also done a nice job this year despite a slew of injuries in the secondary. They haven’t been shutdown by any means, but they’ve only allowed 8 passing touchdowns and they are keeping the completion percentage relatively low. Big plays haven’t been much of a problem either as the Ravens have allowed just three passes over 40 yards this season.
The Ravens have done a good job of finding ways to win even if the numbers aren’t overly impressive. They’ve got to improve the second-level blocking on offense and defensively the run defense has actually been a bit weaker this year then in most years (4.2 YPC allowed). Baltimore still has arguably the best interior linemen in the league in Haloti Ngata who will throw just about any offensive linemen around like a rag doll. The Ravens have got to find a way to defend the weak side though. Currently they are ranked by Football Outsiders as the 2nd worst run stopping team on the weak side (I wonder why they cut Trevor Pryce?).
They are plus one in turnover ratio and they are winning games. But they’re two losses are to a bad Cincinnati team and a New England team that the Ravens handed the game too. The Ravens might be the best team in the AFC, but they can’t lose winnable games like that. This team could easily be 8-0 right now.
Remaining Schedule: @ATL, @CAR, TB, PIT, @HOU, NO, @CLE, CIN
A nice mix of games for the Ravens. Going on the road to Atlanta is always tough. The Falcons have been stellar in the Georgia Dome since the Ryan-Smith take over in 08. Even if Baltimore loses tonight, wins over Carolina and pretender Tampa Bay are probably in the cards. The Steelers haven’t looked much like the same team from the first month of the season, but they owe the Ravens big time and likely won’t allow a sweep. Houston’s been such a mess defensively that right now you have to assume they might not win another game this year with their level of play. New Orleans is going to be an obviously difficult test, but exotic looks have flustered Brees this season. The Ravens struggled with Cleveland the last time they played, and it’s likely the game will be close again. The Ravens will not lose their fourth straight to the Bungles though. So what’s the 2nd half record look like?
6-2 with wins over Carolina, Tampa, Houston, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. This will give them an 11-5, 4-2, 9-3 record which in almost every year is enough to make the playoffs (save 2008 New England). Will it be enough to win the division?
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2, 2-1, 4-1)
Arguably the best defense in the league over the first month of the season, they’ve come back to Earth. The Steelers run defense has still been superb though and are battling with the Jets to determine who the best brick wall is for opposing backs. Pittsburgh’s secondary has come back to life, as has the pass rush which looked so dominating to start the year. Whether or not the league is in James Harrison’s head is a totally unknown issue. There’s also the three straight sub-par performances, but Pittsburgh has still found a way to go 2-1 in those games (much like New York).
Pittsburgh’s also got some serious injury worries with Max Starks out for the season. They’re now left with Flozell Adams and Jonathan Scott. If there’s ever been a team that can survive without a great offensive line it’s Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger thrives off making men miss in the pocket. Run blocking is something that all offensive linemen love to do. They get into more of a rythm when they block downhill. Still, there’s no denying the talent downgrade. Are the Steelers in trouble? At 6-2 they’ve padded themselves well, but they need to start finishing games (oh hi 2009 Steelers!).
Mike Wallace has emerged as perhaps the best deep threat in the league. Rashard Mendenhall has also emerged as a great pure runner. Defensively, Pittsburgh just can’t finish. This team that looked like a Super Bowl contender a month ago now looks like at best a Super Bowl loser.
Remaining Schedule: NE, OAK, @BUF, @BAL, CIN, NYJ, CAR, @CLE
Five home games left for Pittsburgh including three in December. That’s huge. The Steelers are going to beat New England and Oakland at home. New England is going to keep it close, and could certainly swing it their way thanks to great preparation each week, but the Steelers are the more talented team with the better matchups. Oakland has to make a difficult trip to the east coast, but they are fortunate to come off of a bye week. Traveling to Buffalo is nothing more than a nuisance. Going on the road to Baltimore won’t be easy either, but the Steelers are going to hit them back. Cincinnati at home is going to be a win. I’ve already detailed that I think Pittsburgh takes out New York. Carolina and Cleveland should both be wins, but that Cleveland game could start meaning a lot more if the Browns keep playing this well. Based on this schedule the Steelers shouldn’t lose another game, but with how much they struggle to finish games I’m going to go ahead and say that they fall to Cleveland in Cleveland (especially since the Steelers will already have homefield wrapped up). Their final record will be 13-3, 4-2, 10-2.
3. Cleveland Browns (3-5, 1-2, 2-3)
This is a team that’s going to seriously regret the close losses to start the season. They lost their first three games by seven points or less (two of them by a field goal or less) and had leads in all of them entering the fourth quarter. They could be sitting at 6-2 right now with Baltimore at 5-3, but quarterback instability destroyed them in those three games. Delhomme committed two huge turnovers against Tampa Bay in the opener and didn’t get much help from Seneca Wallace after that. Imagine how different things could be for this Cleveland team. Now they have to really work to make the playoffs, but they certainly look like they’re committed after big wins over New Orleans and New England. Now they face the Jets.
The Browns are now +6 in the turnover department the last two weeks (7 turnovers forced). They started the season at a paltry -4 through the first six games (8 turnovers forced). The Browns running game has been the one constant throughout the season thanks to the emergence of brusier Peyton Hillis. The H-Back at Arkansas stuck in a crowded backfield with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, Hillis has emerged as the brusier that Cleveland wanted last year out of Jamal Lewis and couldn’t get. Hillis has also caught 30 balls out of the backfield. Right now he’s on pace for nearly 1300 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns, and 60 grabs out of the backfield. Hillis has become the entire offense, and last week opened things up for receiver Mohammad Massaquoi and tight ends Ben Watson and Evan Moore. There’s potential in Cleveland, but if they can win next season if they bring in a decent quarterback. Colt McCoy limits the offense too much, and that means whenever the Browns go up against a team that can actually stop the run is going to shut their offense down. That being said, the Browns are a poor man’s version of the 2009 New York Jets. Similar offense but the defense, as good as it’s been, isn’t quite as good as last year’s Jets team.
I expected the Browns to be better than 3-5. They’ve certainly played better than their record indicates, but this might be the reason they miss the playoffs.
Remaining Schedule: NYJ, @JAX, CAR, @MIA, @BUF, @CIN, BAL, PIT
I think Cleveland wins their next four games and all of a sudden they’re 7-5 going into December. If they beat New York they’re going to have serious momentum and some winnable games. I think they’ll struggle in Miami with a stout Mike Nolan defense (in spite of injuries). Buffalo and Cincinnati are going to be wins while the Browns lose to Baltimore and defeat Pittsburgh to finish 9-7, 3-3, 7-5.
Anyone think the Browns are going to be kicking themselves for blowing three fourth quarter leads to start the year?
4. Cincinnati Bengals (2-6, 1-2, 1-4)
So much for my division winning Bengals. Carson Palmer doesn’t look like the same guy. His arm strength almost looks shot, though admittedly he still stands tall in the pocket and likes to take shots downfield. It’s his decision making and velocity that are hurting. I wouldn’t be surprised if Palmer was in his last year in Cincinnati, even though it’s probably not the right decision for the Bengals. The worst part is they are always down and Carson Palmer is on pace to destroy his career high in attempts.
This is a team that clearly misses Antwan Odom. Their pass rush has been really poor when they don’t blitz. The running game is nowhere near as dominant as it was a year ago. Marvin Lewis is clearly frustrated and he’s got a lot of big time personalities in the locker room. Dating back to October 3rd this team has lost five straight games by eight points or less. They remind me an awful lot of the difference between the 2006 Jets who went 10-6 and the 2007 Jets who went 4-12. This Bengals team probably will be able to win a few games, but I think the playoffs are far out of reach for a team that starts slow out of the gate every week. Football is a 60 minute game, and whether you start hot or finish hot, if you don’t play for the full sixty minutes you aren’t going to win the game. The Bengals can’t decide to just show up with thirteen minutes left in the fourth quarter and expect a win.
Terrell Owens has been simply fantastic, but the team is 2-6 and you have to wonder what impact he has really had on this team, because they’ve still lost every single game where he’s been an impact player. In Cincinnati’s two wins this year Owens has 7 catches for 99 yards and no touchdowns.
No excuse for this team to be 2-6. They should be no worse than 4-4.
Remaining Schedule: @IND, BUF, @NYJ, NO, @PIT, CLE, SD, @BAL
Well let’s just be frank. They’re not going to win in Indianapolis. That place has been downright impossible to play in. Hosting the Bills should be a monster day for Cedric Benson. The Bengals are going to get lit up in New York. The Saints has the potential to be an upset win because Cincinnati can be a tough place to play with the bad weather, but on pure talent New Orleans should win that game. Even so I think that with a secondary like the Bengals have that could be a problem game for Drew Brees. Cincinnati won’t win in Pittsburgh and they’re not going to be able to stop Peyton Hillis. San Diego plays well late in the season and Baltimore in the final week of the season is going to be a bit of revenge for the Ravens. The Bengals power blocking scheme just doesn’t look the same this season. Without Antwan Odom the defense has struggled to get pressure with four guys. There’s no guarantee with such an inconsisten team. Marvin Lewis has to be frustrated at this point. The Bengals are going to finish 4-12, 1-5, 2-10.