Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 NBA Playoffs: The Maturation of Big Baby

Has “Big Baby” grown up?

When Orlando Magic man-child Dwight Howard was shut down for the rest of the season, playoffs included, with a back injury a huge void was left in the post.

The minutes would go to Glen Davis, a six-foot-nine-inch, 289 pound forward who was often considered a soft jump shooter rather than a tough post presence.

But in the past month, Davis has been one of Orlando’s best and most consistent players.

In the Magic’s 81-77 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the first round of the NBA playoffs, Davis put up the numbers and did all the little things that go unnoticed in the box score that helped the Magic win the game.

Davis played 40 minutes against Indiana, scored 16 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked three shots.

Davis started at center and was forced to defend Pacers All-Star Roy Hibbert. Hibbert stands at seven-feet-two-inches, but Davis outperformed him in almost every facet of the game.

The former Georgetown standout did have nine blocks, but he only scored eight points (averaging 12.8 this season) and shot 3-11 from the field (down from his 50-percent shooting percentage this season), meaning Davis did a good job bodying him up on defense.

Hibbert did grab 13 rebounds, but that equals Davis’ output despite the five-inch height advantage.
Davis was also instrumental in key moments at the end of the game.

With about 27 seconds left in the game with Orlando ahead by only one, an unusually cold Ryan Anderson shot an ill-advised three-pointer that clanged off the rim. “Big Baby” was there to grab the rebound though, his sixth offensive rebound of the game.

Then with 10 second remaining in the game, the Pacers were inbounding the ball at half-court down by only three. The pass went to Indiana leading-scorer Danny Granger, who was confronted by Davis. Granger dribbled across the three point arc looking for a shot but Davis played good, tight defense on him and forced Granger to travel, giving Orlando back the ball and all but assuring the team victory.

It wasn’t just this one game where Davis has stepped up, however. He’s been great for the team the entire month.

For the season, Davis is averaging 23.4 minutes per game, 9.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and is shooting 42-percent from the field.

In the month of April, however, Davis has upped all those totals. In 12 regular season games during the month Davis has averaged 31.4 minutes per game, 16.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and is shooting 50-percent from the field. His free-throw shooting percentage has also improved, as he’s shooting 70-percent from the charity stripe this month compared to 68-percent this season; it’s also more reliable than the 49-percent Howard was shooting from the line.

In 13 starts Davis is averaging 15.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

“He's playing great basketball. Glen has shut out all the distractions. He's not trying to do anything except play the game as well as he can possibly play it. That's it,” Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy told the media in the beginning of April.

Davis has said that he understands his role better now and Van Gundy has pointed out that the big man has become more of a team-oriented player rather than one worried about his own stats and agenda. A new attitude coupled with what looks like a forward in better shape than the beginning of the season has fans hopeful that the 26-year-old is starting to turn the corner.

Losing Howard was a huge blow to this team because everything they do on offense and defense revolves around the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. But with Davis hitting open shots, defending the rim and bodying up his opposing center it gives the team a legitimate low-post presence.

The Magic have had some rough games this season, especially without Howard in the game but as Davis blooms into a big-time contributor at the end of the season he also gives the team a real chance to do some good things in the playoffs this year.

Photo Credits.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Friday, April 27, 2012

NFL Draft: Rutgers' Star Mohamed Sanu a Steal for Cincinnati Bengals in Round Three

With the Cincinnati Bengals on the clock with the 27th pick in the draft former Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu received a phone call.

He thought he was going to be a Bengal, and the voice on the other line told him so. Sanu wasn’t projected to be a first rounder but some analysts such as Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline said it wouldn’t be a surprise for the second-round prospect to jump into the late end of the first round.

But while Sanu celebrated, he watched the television tell him that the Bengals had selected guard Kevin Zeitler. The call was a prank and Sanu would have to get back on the couch and wait.

Turns out Cincinnati did wind up calling him still anyway in the third round with the 83rd overall pick.
Getting Sanu with that pick will turn out to be quite the steal for the Bengals.

Cincinnati needed a wide receiver opposite second-year player A.J. Green for Andrew Dalton, another great draft pick from last season, to throw to. Last year’s second leading receiver Jerome Simpson recently signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

CBS Sports Rob Rang raved about Sanu’s readiness for the NFL saying, “There are plenty of receivers in the 2012 draft with greater speed and natural playmaking ability than Sanu. But for my money few are safer NFL prospects than the former Rutgers star,” and, “Sanu is better prepared than most collegiate receivers to make the NFL jump.”

As a junior Sanu became the Big East’s all-time leader in receptions with 210. For the Scarlet Knights in 2011 he caught 115 passes for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns. He did all this with two different starting quarterbacks going in and out of the lineup. With some consistency, Sanu could really develop a strong rapport with his starting quarterback.

Sanu’s strengths lie in his underneath routes, his athleticism (Sanu was a Wildcat quarterback for Rutgers), his strength –Sanu is a big receiver listed at six-feet-two-inches and 211 pounds—his ability to just flat out catch the ball and his toughness, which might be developed from going many years in his childhood back and forth from New Jersey to his parents’ native war-torn Sierra Leone.

The biggest reason Sanu slid was because of his speed. Sanu has never really been considered a deep threat and at the NFL Combine he ran only a 4.67 40-yard dash.  The 40-time backed-up what scouts thought of his speed and explosiveness.

That only brings up the age-old argument of how efficient the Combine really is at evaluating a player. His sprint may not have been exciting, but if you watch him play you will see how he goes across the middle and cuts without fear and how he out-jumps most corners for the ball.

The Bengals will be getting a tough kid who has accomplished a lot on the field for a team that plays in one of the BCS’ bigger conferences. His strength and skill set make him a piece that will fit in pretty well right away on an offense that already features some impressive young talent.

Sanu will reward the Bengals for actually picking him and hurt those that didn’t.

Media Credits.
AP Photo/Mel Evans
Video from YouTube

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 11 - Chris Eck

In episode 11 of Lacrosse Lounge, Boston Cannons midfielder Chris Eck talks about dealing with diabetes, taking face-offs and The Office.  

"I think it's kind of my nerdy side that made me like facing-off.It's very one-on-one so that competitive side of me likes it. It's very obvious who's winning and who's not. There's not a lot of discretion. It's not about if the two-slide got there ... It is a thinking man's position. You really need to outsmart guys, not just run them over."

Episode 11 aired live on March 19, 2012.

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Photo from the Boston Cannons' website.

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 10 - Matt Smalley

In Episode 10 of the Lacrosse Lounge, Matt Smalley of the Boston Cannons talks about being a defensive midfield specialist, what it takes to be good at picking up ground balls and facial hair.  

"You have to play tough and you can't be intimidated by the big names. You just gotta' do your job and keep them from getting a good quality shot or possession. But other than being in shape you have to play with a chip on your shoulder. Everyone is good at that level but what are you going to do to set yourself apart? For me it wasn't going to be scoring goals from 15 yards out or making a spectacular play on the crease. It's about getting dirty and getting over the ball and doing a lot of the things a lot of people aren't very fond of."

Episode 10 of Lacrosse Lounge aired live on March 12, 2012.

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Photo from the MLL website.

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 9

In Episode 9 of Lacrosse Lounge I review Casey Powell's career, the Hamilton Nationals outlook for the 2012 season, rookies that can make an impact and which players have renewed their contracts.

Episode 9 aired live on 3/5/12.

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 8 - Brett Hughes

Brett Hughes of the Ohio Machine joins the Lacrosse Lounge to talk about the LXM Pro Tour, coming back to Major League Lacrosse and bringing a team to his hometown, Lacrosse the Nation and what it was like to play in New Jersey.  

"Putting a great product out in a very professional manner is obviously what I want for Ohio lacrosse and for the Ohio Machine. But for me and my teammates, we're here to knock some heads and win. All the games we're in we expect to win."
Episode 8 aired live on February 27, 2012.

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Photo from the MLL website.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 7 - Grant Catalino

In episode 7, Grant Catalino comes on the Lacrosse Lounge to talk about his rookie season, getting traded to the Long Island Lizards and long hair.

"Just like I'm gonna' start fresh with them, I think everyone else is starting fresh. From the e-mails that have been going around I think the dynamic of the team is pretty good. People are ready for training camp to start and ready for the season to get going. I think the fresh look to the Lizards is good and I'm looking forward to it."

Episode 7 aired live on February 20, 2012.

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Photo from Long Island Lizards website.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 6 - Drew Westervelt

In episode 6, Chesapeake Bayhawks attackman Drew Westervelt comes on the Lacrosse Lounge to talk about the growth of lacrosse in Denver, his move to the Bayhawks, Twitter and keeping your pads smelling fresh.

"What's mutually beneficial for both organizations, for yourself and the organization? Obviously a lot of organizations understand the travel schedule associated with it and some other obligations you have whether it's with your professional career or what have you."

Episode 6 aired live on February 13, 2012.

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Photo from the MLL website

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 5- Jordan Burke

In the fifth episode of Lacrosse Lounge, Boston Cannons' goalie Jordan Burke talks about going from backup goalie to 2011 MLL Championship Weekend MVP.

"I was fortunate to play well enough to get a start. From there it was working on building on each performance and holding onto that spot as long as I could because obviously I knew I had Kip behind me and that's some stiff competition."

Episode 5 of Lacrosse Lounge aired live on February 6, 2012.

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Photo from MLL website

Orlando Magic Finally Giving Daniel Orton an Opportunity

Daniel Orton was a five-star recruit while in high school but the three years after graduation have not been very glamorous. It’s been a challenging road for him, but he may have finally caught the break he needed.

With Dwight Howard missing time because of a herniated disk and Glen Davis injuring his right knee in Sunday night’s game Daniel Orton saw minutes that he hasn’t gotten since high school and was productive.

In Orlando’s 100-84 victory over Cleveland Sunday night—which clinched a playoff spot—Orton played 29 minutes, scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds, blocked three shots and had a team-high five steals.

He was a very productive player for the Magic and stepped up when his team needed him. It was good form to see from a player who has not been relied upon in recent years.

Orton committed to Kentucky in 2009 and came off the bench to back up DeMarcus Cousins. He averaged only 13.2 minutes per game, 3.4 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game. He did have 1.4 blocks per game but his other numbers were low. Still, he opted to go to the NBA Draft.

The Magic selected him with the 29th overall pick, making him a first-rounder and hoping he could add some size behind Dwight Howard.

There were many concerns about Orton. Despite his soft shooting touch and shot-blocking abilities, Orton was not considered a tough back-to-the-basket forward. There were even bigger questions about his conditioning and the health of his knees, which proved to be an issue.

A still raw prospect, Orton was sent to the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League to get more experience. He endured a season-ending knee injury in his second game.

Before even playing a game for the Magic, the team declined his option for a third season, so he will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

This season he has only played in 10 games. He’s averaged 7.4 minutes per game, 1.7 points and 1.4 rebounds. But now he has a legitimate opportunity to prove what talents he currently has, his work ethic to improve on them and what potential he does have.

“Defensively, he was great on rotations and he’s a sharp kid. If he’d really decide to really, really work at it and everything, I think he showed that he’s capable of some things, especially on the defensive end,” head coach Stan Van Gundy told the media after the game. “But even offensively, I thought he did a good job in our pick-and-roll game. He knows how we want to play; he’s trying to play that way. I’m really happy for him.”

Without many big bodies, Orton will be needed to be a big body that protects the rim on defense. He needs to be productive on offense as well, because that team is built around getting the ball to the post and then kicking it out for the open jump shot. If Orton can’t make teams play him honestly, then the defense will just lock on the shooters and the offense, heading into the playoffs, will be at its worst.

Currently he has to play a big role for the Magic helping them as they prepare for the playoffs and filling in for Howard and Davis.

He’s also auditioning for a future in this league, one that he hopes will be brighter than the path his young career has started on.

Photo credits.
AP Photo/John Raoux

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rafa Marquez Has Gone Too Far With Latest Incident, MLS Must Take Action

Rafa Marquez has been nothing but a problem for the New York Red Bulls since coming to the team in the summer of 2010.

He was suspended for one game last year after ripping his teammates in the media and accusing them of not being on the same level as him, and then the league suspended him for three games after he threw a ball at Landon Donovan and then feigned getting hit in a scuffle he started.

His latest incident could and should earn him even more games lost.

In Saturday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes Marquez was matched up against Shea Salinas on a corner kick. As Salinas moved off the goal-line to get open for the ball, Marquez wrapped his arms around Salinas and tackled him from behind. As he toppled over Salinas, Marquez then delivered a kick to Salinas that broke the Earthquake midfielder’s clavicle.

The maneuver was not seen by the referees during the game, but it was caught clearly on video and it’s time for the MLS Disciplinary Committee to step up and deal a proper punishment for him.

This is obviously not Marquez’s first offense and he had a prior track record to violent and dirty plays before ever signing with MLS. A hard tackle here or there, even the occasional red card, happens and can be tolerated. However fouls intentionally meant to hurt another player should never be accepted as part of the game.

A message has to be sent to Marquez, if anything will get through to him.

Not only should the league make a stand, but the Red Bulls should as well.

No player is above good sportsmanship and respecting the game, not even a Designated Player that was the third-highest paid player in the league last year. Marquez has missed so many games for New York and if last year is any indication, he has not done a tremendous amount to help the team win games.

This should be Marquez’s third strike with the organization. As per the baseball rule or with the NFL substance abuse policy, three strikes means you’re out.

He has done nothing but cause headaches and negative publicity for the team and the league. Someone needs to step in and show not only Marquez but also every other dirty player that is even thinking about coming into the league that if this is the way you choose to play, you will pay.

It’s uncalled for and enough is enough.

Photo Credit.
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 4- John Algie

In the fourth episode of Lacrosse Lounge, Ohio Machine President and GM John Algie talks about what it's like to build a team and organization from scratch. Also, Joe Spallina talks to Marisa Ingemi about becoming the new head coach of the Long Island Lizards.

"Just looking at the different markets and then places where we could potentially put a team, Ohio is by far and away the best choice. There's just so much lacrosse going on here, really throughout the whole state, not just in Central Ohio where we're located."

Episode 4 aired on January 30, 2012.

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Photo from the Ohio Machine website

Saturday, April 14, 2012

NBA: What Happened to the Rivalry Between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony?

They were two young stars with unique and special abilities on the basketball court. They had recently played in a high-attention scholastic contest against each other. They were both selected in the same draft.

The LeBron James-Carmelo Anthony was supposed to be the best individual rivalry since Magic-Bird.

But while the relationship between Bird and Johnson is dramatized in a new Broadway play, Anthony and James will meet for the 15th time in their careers and do so without much fanfare.

James and Anthony first met in a USA developmental camp in 2001. Much like how Johnson raved about Bird after they played together on a college All-Star team playing in an international tournament, James couldn’t stop talking about how Anthony. The two squared off in a high school showcase game the following year that pitted the player regarded as the best senior in the country (Anthony) against the one that was the best junior in the country (James), a game Anthony’s team would win.

After Anthony spent a year at Syracuse and James finished his high school career both were selected in the 2003 NBA Draft, James first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Anthony third overall to the Denver Nuggets.

The rivalry was supposed to take off from there. Both were top draft picks and successful scorers. They both played small forward and could match up against each other.

The similarities continue throughout their careers as both played together on the previous gold-medal winning Olympic team and inspired much dislike from fans after the ways both players went about changing teams.

The rivalry, however, always felt forced, unnatural.

The first game against each other would be a perfect indication of how the rivalry would develop over the years.

The hype for the first NBA game against each other was high but it was for a meaningless game in early November in which both players failed to really make an impact on the game. Anthony played 39 minutes but only scored 14 points on six for 17 shooting. James played 41 minutes and did have 11 rebounds and seven assists, but he only scored seven points and shot a measly 27-percent from the field. The Nuggets won that game 93-89.

The Magic and Bird rivalry started off so strong because they were thrust into an already existing rivalry that was larger than themselves.

The Celtics and Lakers was an already established rivalry. They were the most successful franchises in NBA history that had some memorable battles for the NBA championship as well as individual player subplots. There was a rivalry before Magic and Bird and there was one after them.

Denver and Cleveland were only linked together because of James and Anthony. They haven’t met with much on the line and with both superstars moving on to new teams, there’s not much too exciting about the match-up now.

Johnson and Bird motivated each other because they both knew they would have to go through the other to win the championship, something both had the most burning desire to do multiple times. With Anthony and James, winning just hasn’t been part of the equation.

Neither player has a ring, and while LeBron has lost in the finals twice, Anthony hasn’t been nearly as “successful” in the playoffs as James has. Anthony has played in the playoffs every year since his rookie season, but has only made it out of the first round once (in the 2008-09 season the Nuggets made it to the Western Conference finals before losing to the Lakers 4-2).

With James on the Heat and Anthony on the Knicks, both are now in the Eastern Conference and the possibility of them playing each other in the playoffs increases, including this year where a first-round match-up seems like a strong possibility.

If the two can play each other with greater stakes the rivalry may intensify, but until then the matchups will be second-rate.

While Anthony’s teams haven’t matched the success of James’ teams, Anthony also hasn’t achieved the individual honors that LeBron has.

Over his career James has averaged more points, rebounds, assists and blocks per game and also has a better shooting percentage than Anthony. James has been on the All-Defensive First Team three times while Anthony is criticized for not taking his defensive responsibilities seriously. James won the Rookie of the Year award the first year both players were in the NBA and has been an All-Star three more times.

James has outscored Anthony 10 of the 14 times the two have met. He is a two-time league MVP (with a good chance to win the award again this year) while Anthony has never won the award. In fact, Anthony has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting only once in his career (sixth in 2010).

Finally, do these players even buy into the idea that they are rivals?

The NBA, for better or worse, has become quite the “buddy-buddy” league, where players have known each other for long periods of time and are good friends. With the recent phenomenon of creating “super teams”, where the best players team up with other elite players in an effort to win a championship together, the superstars in the league today have been criticized for not having the competitive drive to want to beat each other.

If James and Anthony don’t consider themselves rivals, then how can the public see it that way?

James and Anthony are obviously two talented basketball players. They bring a lot of star power to the game and are certainly entertaining to watch play on the same court together.

But the rivalry that was marketed by the NBA when they first entered the league never really grew further than that.

Photo Credits.
James and Anthony: AP Photo/Alan Diaz
Johnson and Bird: AP Photo/Lennox McLendon

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 3- Matt Danowski

In the third episode of Lacrosse Lounge, Charlotte Hounds attackman and former Duke Blue Devil Matt Danowski talks about joining an expansion team and his love for the New York Giants.

"Even though we are an expansion team it's not like we're a team made of rookies. If you look at the roster there's a lot of experience on that team, there's a lot of talent on the roster already. Even though we are an expansion team I don't think we're going to be at the bottom of the league, the bottom of the barrel, just because it's our first year playing. I think we have the talent to play with anyone in this league."

Episode 3 aired live on January 23, 2012.

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Photo from Charlotte Hounds Facebook page

NCAA Lacrosse: Duke Beats Virginia, Displays Unrivaled Depth and Talent

Reigning Division 1 men’s lacrosse champions Virginia started the season as the No. 1 ranked team and with eight consecutive victories. Many pundits penned them as a good bet to repeat as champions thanks to stars like Steele Stanwick, Colin Briggs and Chris Bocklet.

Meanwhile, Duke opened the season at No. 3 but lost three games before the Cavaliers lost their first game. They dropped to No. 15 in the rankings and many analysts questioned how strong they were, specifically with a young attack line and an unstable situation in goal.

What some didn’t acknowledge or chose to ignore was Duke’s dominance over Virginia. That is until the two teams met Friday evening.

Prior to the game, the Blue Devils had beaten the Cavaliers 11 of the past 12 times they squared off. A 13-5 victory on Saturday in Charlottesville for Duke not only increased the team’s winning streak to eight games but also gave Duke the ACC regular season championship and the top-seed in the ACC tournament.

Duke, per usual, is getting better as the season goes along. They are working through the kinks, stepping up against big-time opposition in huge games and are playing their best lacrosse at the most important time of the season.

What did they do against Virginia to dominate from the get-go?

The contrast of styles has always been a factor in the Duke-Virginia series.

Duke, with coach John Danowski at the helm, likes to get up and down the field and really put on the pressure offensively. Virginia, under Dom Starsia and with smooth passer Stanwick at the X, likes to play more of a half-field offense.

The problem is that Duke does such a better job at establishing its transition game that Virginia has a difficult time keeping up that same pace. There are a number of factors that lead to this.

The first is the play of the Duke poles. The Blue Devils did a very good job on defense Saturday evening. They played a pressure-man defense that Virginia had difficulty breaking through. Duke has some big, strong and athletic poles that imposed their will on the opposition.

The slides on defense were effective and sophomore Henry Lobb stepped up in a big way, smothering Stanwick behind the cage and allowing him only one goal and assists.
The poles cause a lot of turnovers—Virginia had 14 turnovers compared to Duke’s nine—which led to a lot of fast breaks which the defenders were more than capable of taking charge of. Many of the defenders are talented enough and had good stick skills that they were able to go on the fast break and hang around on offense, even having two long-poles (Mike Manley and Luke Duprey) score goals.

The pressure wasn’t just applied on defense either. The offense continuously brought it to the Virginia defense. Duke outshot Virginia 42-33, including a 13-4 third quarter when the Blue Devils outscored the Cavaliers 5-0 and really took over the game.

Even with a lead, Duke never took its foot off the pedal; the final goal of the game came from Christian Walsh with 17 seconds left. Walsh was holding the ball but Virginia defensemen took some hard stick checks on him and didn’t defend him when Walsh wrapped around the crease and put the ball in the back of the net.

Duke could push the ball constantly because the team is so deep with so much offensive talent. Seven different players scored goals and two more tallied an assist each. The attack is young and talented, the midfield is deep and the defense has some good stick handlers and shooters as well. There are just so many weapons that it’s tough for teams to match.

While Duke was firing at Virginia at will, Blue Devils goalie Dan Wigrizer, the subject of much criticism this season, made some big saves throughout the game. He made 14 saves throughout the night and earned the win.

It was a total team effort that allowed the Blue Devils to continue to assert their dominance over the Cavaliers. It was Virginia’s second loss in its past four games.
Duke proved that they can play good lacrosse and beat anybody, even the best teams in the nation, and that its talent is as good as anybody’s as well.

The team is peaking at the right time and will be a tough team to play the rest of the way.

Photo of Josh Dionne from

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 2- Kyle Devitte

In the second episode of Lacrosse Lounge I interview Inside Lacrosse writer Kyle Devitte. We talk about the MLL collegiate draft and he dives into his feelings about the league, players, owners, coaches, management and fans.

"If you don't like what I have to say the only thing you have to do is prove me wrong. And guess what, when you do, I'll give you credit. I always have and I always will. I'm not Skip Bayless. I'll give you credit when you prove me wrong."

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Episode No. 2 aired live on January 16, 2012.

Photo from Daniel Webster College Athletics

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 1- Bill Daye

With the Major League Lacrosse season starting in 16 days, go back to the beginning of Lacrosse Lounge. In the debut of my on-line radio show on the Lacrosse Radio Network the first episode's guest is 2011 Major League Lacrosse and former Boston Cannon's coach Bill Daye, talking about life after coaching, the collegiate draft process and who he thinks will go #1 in the 2012 MLL Collegiate Draft.

"It was obviously a very difficult decision but it was something that was almost predetermined prior to me even coming into the 2011 season. It's been a long run for me. I've been involved with Major league Lacrosse since the inception of the league. Even though we do it because we love the sport and we love competing, it's still a part-time job that takes up full-time hours. It's just been a long road for me, a long run and I just felt it was in my best interests to take a step back and concentrate on spending time with my family."

Episode No. 1 aired live on January 9th, 2012. The episode featured some technical difficulties so the interview starts at 1:15 in.

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Photo from Boston Cannons website

Lacrosse: Celebrities That Once Played the "Creator's Game"

According to several surveys and outlets, lacrosse is currently the fastest growing sport in the country.

More kids—girls and boys—are playing. More high schools and colleges are providing programs to those players. Major League Lacrosse, the premier outdoor league in the USA, expanded by two teams this year with plans to introduce even more new teams in the future. The MLL also signed a big television deal with CBS Sports this past year.

The game has grown from Long Island and Baltimore to Virginia and New England and all the way to California and Denver. The players are becoming more popular than ever, even where a guy like Paul Rabil is on a number of commercials for athletic apparel.

While there are a number of stars today like Rabil, Matt Danowski and Kyle Harrison, there are also several celebrities that grew up playing the game and might have gone pro in lacrosse had that been an option years ago.

Here are some famous people that you may or may not know to have played “the Creator’s Game”:

Jay Silverheels

Silverheels is the nickname of the actor that played Tonto on “The Lone Ranger”.

Born Harold J. Smith on the Six Nations Reservation in Canada joined the semi-pro Mohawk Stars at the age of 16 as a way to make some extra money for his family during the Great Depression. He had good hands and was quite agile. He was a very swift player, well known for wearing white cleats, which earned him the nickname “Silverheels”. He grew to be one of the nation’s highest-scoring and highest-paid players.

Erin Burnett

She has her own show on CNN (“Erin Burnett OutFront”), has been on the cover of Maxim magazine and has served as an advisor to Donald Trump on the hit-television show “Celebrity Apprentice”.

But before all that, the now-35-year-old was a lacrosse player.

She played at her high school, St. Andrew’s School in Delaware, and went on to play in college at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass where she received her B.A. in Political Economy.

Peter Dante

You may not recognize his name but you’ll definitely recognize his face. Dante has played in just about every Adam Sandler movie since “The Wedding Singer”.

Dante has been very involved in lacrosse throughout his life. He played at Hofstra in the ‘80s and is still active in the sport even after appearing in so many movies. Dante was a coach for the LXM Pro Tour for its first few outings and is currently an assistant coach at Loyola Marymount.

Mick Foley

Foley grew up on Long Island, so naturally he was a lacrosse player. And it makes total sense that the former WWE Hardcore Champion would be willing to play goalie and stand in front of shots.

Foley (a.k.a Mankind, a.k.a Cactus Jack, a.k.a Dude Love) attended Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, New York and played on the lacrosse team. He also played a bit at SUNY Cortland before leaving to become a professional wrestler.

Bruce Arena

He is known as one of the best soccer coaches in the history of the United States. He’s led the University of Virginia, D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy to numerous championships and also led the United States Men’s National Team to two World Cups (including the incredible quarterfinals run in 2002).

He grew up playing soccer but was also a phenomenal lacrosse player.

Another Long Island-native, Arena played at Nassau Community College before transferring to Cornell University. At Cornell he was an All-Ivy first team lacrosse midfielder his junior and senior years. After graduation he played in the National Lacrosse League in 1975 and was also a member of the U.S. national team in 1974 and played for the U.S. in the World Lacrosse Games in 1978.

Dave Grohl

The rock star grew up in Virginia, a state with a pretty good lacrosse scene. The Foo Fighters front-man paid a lot of attention to learning the drums but he was active too. Grohl is famous in his music for being a hard hitting drummer so it’s not surprising that he was drawn to such a hard hitting sport.

In an interview with US Weekly, Grohl admits that lacrosse was his favorite sport growing up and that he played goalie.

John Kerry

The senior United States Senator and former Democratic Presidential Candidate was a former lacrosse player.

Kerry played lacrosse and hockey at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, where he was a teammate of current FBI director Robert Mueller. Kerry continued his hockey career at Yale, where he also played JV lacrosse.

He’s a politician by day, but still to this day Kerry is a huge sports fan and enthusiast.

Bill Belichick

He’s one of the best coaches in the NFL, but New England Patriots head coach also has a strong affinity for and knowledge of lacrosse.

Belichick was a captain his senior year at Wesleyan University in 1975. In an interview with USA Today his coach says Belichick “was an excellent leader. We had two kids on each side of him who had never played lacrosse before, and he coached them to become very good lacrosse players.”

The hooded-one still keeps an eye on the game today. He’s done a few interviews talking about his love for the sport and his support of Major League Lacrosse. He was also spotted at the Big City Classic, watching from the Johns Hopkins sidelines.

Wayne Gretzky

The “Great One” wasn’t an exceptional athlete in only one sport. Lacrosse is one of the National Sports of Canada (along with ice hockey) and as a kid Gretzky played the sport just like many other Canadians and ice hockey players.

Gretzky and commented on kids playing multiple sports and his experiences playing lacrosse. He wrote, “I could hardly wait to get my lacrosse stick out and start throwing the ball around. It didn’t matter how cold or rainy it would be, we’d be out firing the ball against walls and working on our moves as we played the lacrosse equivalent to road hockey.”

Jim Brown

Brown is the only player to be inducted into the halls of fame for the NFL, college football and lacrosse. Regarded as one of the best athletes the country has ever produced, Brown says lacrosse was his favorite sport.

He played at Manhasset High School on Long Island and went on to play at Syracuse University. He was an All-American midfielder his senior year, where he scored 43 goals and had 21 assists.

It is also speculated that Brown influenced two rule changes in the sport: the need to cradle the ball away from the body rather than trap it against your body and players were no longer allowed to thumb the ball to keep it in the head.

Photo Credits.
Brown: AP Photo
Silverheels: AP Photo
Burnett: AP Photo/Starpix, Amanda Schwab
Foley: AP Photo/Jeff Christensen
Arena: AP Photo/Gregory Bull
Grohl: Mark Davis/AP Images for VH1
Kerry: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Belichick: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Gretzky: AP Photo

Monday, April 9, 2012

What Would've Happened if Tim Duncan Signed With the Orlando Magic?

Dwight Howard’s numbers this season have been very good. He’s averaged 20.6 points per game, 14.5 rebounds per game (a career high) and 2.1 blocks per game.

The drama he has brought to the organization however has been a huge distraction and looks like it is crippling the team and the franchise.

Will he stay in Orlando when his contract expires? Who can the team trade him to in order to avoid losing him for nothing? Does he want his coach fired?

His reputation and legacy look tarnished right now, the fans are starting to murmur that he may not be worth the drama and the Magic have slid from third in the Eastern Conference to sixth.

The situation is eerily similar to the one that happened in Orlando with Shaquille O’Neal. Both were No. 1 draft picks, both go by the “Superman” moniker and both were the best center in the league. Both struggle with free throws, both feuded with their coach and both are upset with the media in Orlando.

O’Neal bolted to Los Angeles. Many believe Howard will also move on to greener pastures.

While Howard causes a raucous in Orlando, it’s hard not to imagine what might have been if the Magic were successful in signing another previous No. 1 draft pick: Tim Duncan.

Prior to the 2000-01 season, Orlando saved up a lot of cap space and went after Tim Duncan (who had just won the NBA championship), Grant Hill (at the time a player many considered to be the next Michael Jordan, however lofty those expectations were) and Tracy McGrady (who was just coming into his own as an elite talent).

Duncan was close to signing with the Magic. The team offered him a six-year $67.5 million deal.

“It was probably a lot closer decision than people even think or even know,” Duncan told reporters during the 2007 NBA.

Close, but Duncan wound up returning to the San Antonio where he has since won three more NBA Championships and has a realistic chance for another this season.

So what would the Magic Kingdom look like now if the NBA’s most fundamentally sound player and nicest superstar changed addresses that summer?

First thing is the Magic never would’ve bottomed out in the 2003-04 season, won only 21 games and landed the No. 1 pick that the team used on Dwight Howard.

But with McGrady, Hill and Duncan, Howard wouldn’t have been needed. Much like what the great three-somes the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat have secured the past few years, championships would’ve been expected.

“It would have been a great combination,” McGrady said in an interview with the New York Daily News in 2010. When asked how many championships the team could have won his response was, “Enough to where I would have been satisfied with my career.”

Things would have been especially different in the 2004-2005 season. For one, it’s hard to imagine the Spurs winning that year without Duncan. It was the year Hill finally came back from injury and contributed to Orlando and McGrady would’ve been happy with the Magic and not been traded to Houston.

With those three on the roster and with complimentary pieces like Jameer Nelson and Pat Garrity surely they would have been a top tier team. They most likely would have made the playoffs and would’ve been a strong contender against the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons.

Even had the team been unable to afford Duncan, Hill and McGrady, what kind of damage could a team with Duncan—and without McGrady-- have done?

The Eastern Conference, especially early in the new millennium, was not full of big-time centers. The majority of the great big men played in the West; Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Chris Webber and Yao Ming all played in the West.

The All-Stars in the East? Dikembe Mutombo, Jermaine O’Neal and a mostly-injured Alonzo Mourning. Surely a team with such a dominant big-man as Duncan could’ve done some damage in the Eastern Conference.

Think of some of the personnel moves the team could’ve made as well. Andrew DeClerq, Michael Doleac or John Amaechi could’ve been flipped for a more competent scoring forward to play alongside Mike Miller, or instead of drafting Steven Hunter in 2001 (because they needed a center) the team could’ve grabbed Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace or Tony Parker—and we’ve seen what Parker has done with Duncan.

And while the knock on McGrady’s career was the he couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs, Duncan, on the contrary, is known as one of the best winners in the NBA history. A team-led by Duncan and his personality very well could’ve gone deeper into the playoffs than one led by McGrady, despite a cast not as good as the one in San Antonio.

What Duncan would not have brought, for sure, was the drama that McGrady and now Howard brought. Duncan—like Nash in Phoenix currently—would not have asked to be traded. He would’ve fought with whoever was by his side. He also wouldn’t have been a coach killer.

In fact, if Duncan had gone to Orlando he might’ve been able to save Doc Rivers’ job, and instead of winning a title with a veteran Celtics team, Rivers could’ve done it with an Orlando team built around Duncan.

McGrady and Howard created some unforgettable memories for the Magic in their times. And it’s still possible Howard, signed through next season, could sort things out and get this team back on track. But most assuredly with Duncan, the consummate professional, things in Orlando would have been drastically different over the past 12 years.

In the end, it worked out extremely well for Duncan and there is no regretting his decision.

Whatever Howard chooses to do, one can only hope he starts handling the situation more like Duncan—in a private manner—than O’Neal or LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony have in recent years.

Photo Credits.
Tim Duncan: AP Photo/Eric Gay
Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill: AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove
Dwight Howard: AP Photo/John Raoux

Is Thierry Henry the Best Designated Player Signing in MLS History?

With two goals—including an MLS Goal of the Week nominee—and an assist in the New York Red Bulls 4-1 victory over the Columbus Crew on Sunday Thierry Henry was named MLS Player of the Week.

It’s the third week in a row he’s earned those honors and is the first player in MLS history to ever win three consecutive Player of the Week awards.

His historic run and impressive start to the season—seven goals and four assists—has New York Red Bulls fans excited. Since coming to the team in the middle of the 2010 season he has delivered the goods and has been a great Designated Player signing, worth his hefty contract (second-largest in the league).

Signing a player as a Designated Player contract has not historically meant success on the field. Many players, such as Luis Angel Landin, Blaise Nkufo and Geovanni have been failed signings.

Henry has been a success. In 42 MLS regular season games he has 23 goals and 11 assists. Has the Frenchman been the best DP signing in league history, though?

To properly gauge his impact we first have to exclude guys that graduated to DP salaries. Players like Landon Donovan, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Alvaro Saborio, Fredy Montero and Shalrie Joseph came into the league on normal contracts. They played so well that they earned a raise, one that put them over the DP threshold. While they’ve had great careers in MLS they weren’t typical DP signings. They were given the contract because of past success in the league, not as high-profile transfers from teams around the world that have an uncertainty if they can adapt to MLS.

Robbie Keane had a nice run at the end of the season for the Galaxy, scoring four total goals in nine appearances across all competitions but he needs to play more games in MLS for us to be able to really determine his impact.

The real competition for best DP signing is between Henry, Juan Pablo Angel, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and the man the rule was created for, David Beckham.

Blanco was a huge success for the Chicago Fire. In all three seasons his team made the playoffs and in 2007 and 2008 Blanco was selected as a finalist for the MVP award. He was an exceptional talent with a fiery attitude to match.

There could be two slight downsides to his time in MLS—and it could just be nitpicking—but one was that the Fire never made it past the conference finals. In 2009, his last year with the team the Fire were upset by wild card (and eventual champion) Real Salt Lake.

He also played forward but only scored 16 goals in three seasons for the team. A player’s value is not measure in goals alone, but as a forward it is your main job and Blanco did not light up the stats sheet.

Angel was a lethal scorer for the Red Bulls. He owns the record for most goals scored for the franchise in all competitions with 62 and was a fan favorite.

Angel was eventually moved out in favor of Henry however, and the Frenchman hasn’t disappointed especially with Angel slowing down in past years. Angel spent a lot of time in New York with injuries, struggled mightily with the Galaxy only scoring three goals all year and now finishing with Chivas.

As for Beckham, the English-midfielder was the reason the DP rule was made. Off the field he has lived up to all the hype. Beckham-mania has hit the country with all the commercials, magazine covers and jersey sales.

He’s sold out MLS stadiums on the road and his presence has gotten the league more attention, more respectability and influenced others, like Henry, to come over and play in the league. It’s hard to imagine any player ever making the kind of commercial-impact Beckham has had on the league.

His play on the field however has been more tumultuous. Yes, he was on the league’s Best XI last year and was a major component in the Galaxy winning the MLS Cup. That being said there has been so much negativity associated with Beckham’s on-field performance.

For the first four years of Beckham’s MLS contract he spent time either on the bench injured or on loan in Italy. He openly talked about his desire to go back to Europe in order to continue to play for the English national team. He fought with teammates, most notably Landon Donovan. All in all, he didn’t look like he really wanted to be in or play in America or with the Galaxy.

It wasn’t until his final year in his first MLS contract that Beckham seemed engaged and committed to Los Angeles and MLS.

Since coming to MLS, Henry has fully committed to the Red Bulls. He has retired internationally and is giving his full attention to his club team. He’s sometimes cantankerous as a player, has high expectations for himself and his teammates and he has no problem unleashing his emotions.

What he has done however is score lots of goals and he is always the hardest working player on the pitch for the Red Bulls. He knows when to take charge himself or when to set up his teammates. He was also part of the MLS Best XI last season.

He still needs to score more goals in big games (like Angel), dominate the league and receive individual attention for his play (like Blanco) and win a championship to go along with his ability to bring in more fans to games (like Beckham) but Henry has only played in 42 games, just a bit more than one full season.

What he has done in a short amount of time has been incredible. He is absolutely one of the best DP signing in league history and still has a lot of time to do even more.

Video from YouTube.
Photo Credits.
Thierry Henry: AP Photo/Mel Evans
Cuauhtemoc Blanco: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
David Beckham: AP Photo/Jonathan Moore

Sunday, April 8, 2012

When Will the Philadelphia Phillies Give Up On David Herndon?

The Philadelphia Phillies loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday—the team’s second in a row—does not mean it’s time for fans to panic. It’s one series very early in the season.

That doesn’t mean that players cannot be evaluated, especially those with a history with the team.

That being said, when does the David Herndon experiment end?

The 6-foot-5-inch right-handed relief pitcher came on in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game, gave up two hits and the game-winning run, earning the loss. It was his eighth loss with the Phillies since he made his debut in 2010.

Herndon was originally acquired by the Phillies as a Rule 5 Draft pick in 2009, like how they acquired Shane Victorino. In order for the Phillies to keep Herndon’s rights they needed to keep him on the 25-man roster for the entire season. So if the team wanted to give Herndon time to develop and a chance to be an invaluable member of the bullpen they needed to live with some of his growing pains.

He’s had two years plus one game now. The majority of the time Herndon has disappointed.

He is 2-8 overall with an ERA of 3.85. Opponents are hitting .292 against him. Coming into this season, lefties hit an exceptionally high .343 with a slugging-percentage of .594 against him and righties were hitting a respectable .262.

As stated above, he has eight losses for the Phillies. His four losses last season were tied for sixth-most on the team. As for relievers though only Kyle Kendrick—who started 15 games out of 34 total—had more losses than Herndon; Danys Baez had as many as Herndon. Even Vance Worley, who made 21 starts, lost fewer games than Herndon.

Herndon’s redeeming “skill” is his ability to get ground balls. Herndon’s go-to-pitch is a sinking fastball, followed by a slider and change-up combination. Getting ground balls is especially important for Phillies pitchers because Citizens Bank Park is known to be a hitter’s park.

The problem is that Herndon still gives up the long ball in abundance. Last season Herndon gave up nine home runs, the most by any relief pitcher (excluding Kendrick).
Herndon has difficulty getting players out, gets hit very hard and does not come up big when the team needs him.

It makes no sense for him to keep a roster spot if all he is “good” for is mop-up duty in blowouts.

More times than not when Herndon comes in he hurts the team. The question is how much longer will Phillies management allow him to do so?

Photo Credits.
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

New York Red Bulls: Ryan Meara Solidifies the Goalie Position

It’s only been five games into the 2012 season but Ryan Meara has made an impact in goal that the New York Red Bulls were missing badly last season.

In the first five games last season the team had only allowed three goals, but they had to use three different goalies (and they only had two wins). As the season went on mistakes by the man in net were abundant and the team used five different players at the position.

Mistakes, inconsistencies and not having chemistry on defense doomed the Red Bulls, as they barely made the playoffs and made a second round exit.

It was a position that team desperately needed to upgrade in the off season. So it was a bit puzzling when a franchise that has had no issues spending money on players and recruiting mostly foreigners to join the squad put the team literally in the hands of an American rookie.

The 21-year-old out of Fordham University was selected by the Red Bulls with the 31st pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. He was the first goalie taken in the draft and the only player the Red Bulls selected in the draft.

“We think he’s the best goalkeeper in the college system. He’s big, he’s strong, we need a goalie, and he’s from New York,” Red Bulls General Manager Erik Soler told the media after the draft. “Every factor that we looked at was there, and he was the player we wanted most from the draft simply because we needed a goalkeeper.”

Meara beat out another young American, Jeremy Vuolo, for the starting spot out of preseason and he has been quite the find. He has started the first five games and played every minute of them. He leads all of MLS in saves (21) and the Red Bulls have three victories.

The Red Bulls defense was bad last year and is still rather shaky. The loss of Tim Ream and his calmness on the ball is a big one. Markus Holgersson has failed to adjust to MLS thus far, Wilman Conde has not been healthy and the defensive bite in midfield has been absent due to the injuries of Teemu Tainio and the early suspension of Rafa Marquez.

Still, Meara has held strong in the back and has made a number of great saves to protect Red Bull leads or keep the team in the game.

“He’s looked very composed. He’s a low-key guy, but a hard worker,” head coach Hans Backe said in an interview with the New York Post. “Fingers crossed now, I think definitely he has a future.”

The 6-foot-4-inch goalie commands a strong presence and poise in net. He shows good athleticism and in the team’s poor opening to the season in Dallas, Meara was one of only a couple of bright spots.

He was born in Yonkers, New York and admits he grew up a MetroStars fan. The club, despite all its recent struggles finding a keeper, has had the luxury of playing some of the best goalies in league history such as Tim Howard, Tony Meola and Johnnie Walker.

“Going into this whole process, in the back of my mind I was thinking the Red Bulls. I was thinking how staying local would be great,” Meara said in an interview for the team’s website.

Meara is young and there still is room for improvement, as there should be. But he has looked like a good prospect early on and as the defense in front of him solidifies itself and he develops better chemistry with them he could develop into one of the best in the league.

For right now though, the responsibilities he has taken on have been huge and he has performed admirably. The consistency he has brought to the Red Bulls defense is just as important as the goals that Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper have scored.

It looks like the name Ryan Meara will be one that actually sticks around for a while.

Photo Credits.
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Will Anyone Root for the 2012 USA Men's Basketball Team?

NBA players have been allowed to participate in the Summer Olympics five times now, starting with the original Dream Team in 1992.

The goal was not only to raise the quality of play but to increase the NBA’s brand around the globe using its most talented and likable stars.

The first team in 1992 went to Spain as rock stars. Jordan. Bird. Magic. Barkley. Fans fawned over them everywhere they went and opposing players were in awe of them.
It doesn’t hurt, either, that they played for the USA and there’s nationalistic pride at stake in the Olympics.

USA Basketball has put together a pool of 20 players that this summer’s team will be comprised of. The talent level is extremely high, with some analysts even thinking they could beat the original Dream Team.

A different question to ask, however, is if anybody will actually root for this squad?

The players will be wearing red, white and blue but they could be hearing plenty of boos. While the team has yet to be finalized it seems as if there are some players as close to locks to make the team as possible.

LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard should all make the team and while the point guard position is a crowded one it’s very possible Deron Williams could make the team as well. They haven’t been making too many NBA fans happy lately though.

Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research conducted a survey of the NBA’s most disliked players that was released in December. James (No. 2), Wade (9), Bosh (6), Bryant (3) and Anthony (7) were all featured on the list (Lamar Odom, who was No. 10 on the list, is also a finalist for the USA Olympic team). The free-agency situations and coaching drama that has surrounded Howard and Williams the past two seasons could also put them on an updated version of that list.

Some of the hatred is jealousy; The Heat and Lakers are good teams, so those compilations of talent forming together creates a lot of attention that other fans wish they had on their team. That doesn’t mean that these players haven’t done things to turn fans away.

The Heat trio came together in a strong show of arrogance, with their rockstar like pep-rally. The constant moaning about how everyone hates them and they are blamed for everything is annoying. The mocking of Dirk Nowitzki and how he was sick in last summer’s NBA Finals was childish.

Mostly though, the dislike goes to LeBron James, whose “Decision” was an ill-advised promotion that seemed self-centered and upset many fans, especially the fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who without being mentioned felt that their loyalty meant nothing.

Bryant has frequently been viewed as a bad teammate and one of the biggest complainers to referees in the league. His cockiness also irritates fans.

Anthony made some enemies last year when he forced his way out of Denver. Anthony always seemed to be distant from his team, looked uninterested during the games and talked about his desire to be traded, especially to the New York Knicks. Then with the Knicks, he came out of the lockout out of shape, got hurt and Knicks fans believed that he would ruin the excitement and team chemistry generated by the arrival of Jeremy Lin.

While most fans dislike the first four mentioned because of character issues, Anthony’s style of play is widely criticized as well as his persona. His slow-the-ball down isolation play seems selfish and his lack of defensive abilities makes him look like he is not a team player.

Williams has made a number of enemies in the likes of Utah Jazz fans. He reportedly got into an argument with long-time Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. When Sloan resigned days later, many placed the blame on Williams, who hasn’t really shed his coach-killer reputation.

When he was traded to the Nets he complained about the deal. He’s been noncommittal about his future there, but with comments about how he dislikes the arena they play in (although it is the final year there before the Nets move to Brooklyn) and his recent “Nineteen days” countdown, he can’t be charming too many people.

Howard has held the Magic hostage this year. He’s flip-flopped on his desire to stay with Orlando past his contract and has recently reportedly asked the Magic to fire coach Stan Van Gundy. Howard has sparked a media circus around Orlando this season that has directly affected the play of the team and will only continue into next season.

Add his penchant to get technical fouls called from referees and the times he loses his cool to elbow an opponent and get suspended and it leaves fans to wonder if all the histrionics and drama are worth the incredible talent.

A player has a right to act any way he wants to on the court. He also has the right to play for whatever team he wants once his contract expires. All fans want to see is effort and some acknowledgment that they are appreciated.

When a star bad mouths his team, the city or a successful coach the fans get fed up, which leads to certain names going onto the list of the most disliked players in the league.

So if these guys, collectively, make so many fans groan in disgust, will there be anything beyond nationalism that propels fans to root for them as a group this summer?

Photo Credits.
James, Wade and Bosh (top): AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Carmelo Anthony (right): AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Deron Williams (left): AP Photo/Alex Gallardo