Tag Archive | "LeBron James"

Dorsey’s Dugout – NBA Free Agency Frenzy

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Dorsey’s Dugout – NBA Free Agency Frenzy

Posted on 18 July 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

LeBron James

In one of the better sports stories in years, LeBron James returned back to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers where it all began. The King left Miami after four seasons, winning two out of four NBA Final appearances during that stretch.

The return of the King to Cleveland shocked many because there are still plenty of lingering images of destruction that come up when talking about James departure for Miami. Fans crying, burning jerseys and an owners hateful letter calling out the Akron native for his lack of loyalty. LeBron James made the best decision to go back to Cleveland for many reasons.

When the dominoes began to fall, the four-time MVP’s former team Miami looked to be dismantling with key pieces looking to move on elsewhere. With uncertainty of the quality of players that would surround him on the floor, James made the right move to leave.

Cleveland has some nice pieces on the roster as it stands, including NBA All Star MVP Kyrie Irving running the point. There are other players as well, but the future is uncertain for some of the other young Cavaliers.

There have been rumors swirling around that Cleveland might deal Dion Waiters, Andrew Wiggins and a first rounder to acquire Kevin Love from Minnesota. General manager of the Cavs, David Griffin, should make the trade for Love because it would make them a title favorite out of the Eastern Conference.

Trading a young player like Andrew Wiggins with the kind of potential he has seems like a bizarre idea, but it would be the better move for the Cavs. Wiggins is not a sure thing, but with acquiring Kevin Love you know your getting an All Star player. The former Bruin is a three-time All Star who has a great post presence with the ability to shoot from the outside as well.

As the roster currently stands, Cleveland has Wiggins playing the shooting guard position. The Jayhawk standout played the small forward position at KU and was not known as a great jump shooter. He better suits playing the three spot in the NBA, but on Cleveland that’s the spot that the King currently occupies.

If Griffin makes the trade for Kevin Love, the Cavs become the instant favorite to represent the East in the Finals. With a new big three that consists of Irving, Love and James they would be difficult to defeat in a seven game series. It is a win-win move for Griffin, especially since Love has expressed interest in signing a long-term deal in Cleveland.

Carmelo Anthony

The choices were narrowed down to either the Windy City or returning back to the Big Apple and Anthony chose to return back to the Knicks. Melo decided to sign the big deal and put his faith in Phil Jackson to build a winner in New York.

While Phil Jackson certainly knows what he is doing when it comes to winning in the NBA, Melo should have chose the Bulls as his next destination. Chicago is in a much better position to win now and is a better fit than the New York Knicks.

Chicago is a playoff team already without Anthony and his skills could have elevated the Bulls to another level in the East. The Bulls have a proven coach in Tom Thibodeau whereas the Knicks are going with Derek Fisher, who is about to coach his first team ever. Not only does Chicago have the better coach, they also have the better team by far.

The Bulls are a defensive powerhouse in the NBA and their most glaring need is a player that can close. That need was definitive in their first round exit against the Washington Wizards. Some of those games in that series were close down the stretch in the fourth quarter, but Chicago was unable to find a consistent scoring threat that could close out a game.

Adding Carmelo to the mix would fill their need of a closer and help bolster their lackluster offense. One of the criticisms of Anthony throughout his career is he is not a good defensive player. The Bulls already have great defense throughout the lineup so Anthony would not of been as much of a liability on the floor for the Bulls.

Carmelo put his trust in Phil Jackson to build a winner and maybe one day his faith will be rewarded. In the short term, Chicago would have been the better opportunity for Carmelo Anthony to win a ring.

Heat Rebuild

Once LeBron bolted for his hometown, it was almost certain that Chris Bosh would take the max deal he was offered from Houston. Instead of joining Howard and Harden, Bosh made a surprising decision to stay with the Miami Heat.

A franchise that seemed as if it was going to be completely dismantled, had hope restored once Bosh re-signed. Pat Riley has built contending teams several times in Miami before and did an excellent job once the King left. Retaining Bosh was huge for the Heat and they also managed to bring back Dwayne Wade.

Two pieces of the big three remain in Miami and although Wade is not at the level he once was, it’s a nice start to retooling. Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts were not sexy enough names to woo LeBron, but they do provide solid depth for the Heat.

Miami added Shabazz Napier through the draft and brought back point guard Mario Chalmers. The pieces were coming back together and Riley did the best he possibly could at filling the James void by signing Luol Deng.

The former Duke star has been a Bull for the majority of his career until last years short stint as a Cavalier. Deng is superb defensively, but injury is a concern with Deng. Since the start of the 2011 season, Deng has missed 54 games due to injury. If Deng can stay on the floor, the Heat will be contending for the Southeast division title.

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NBA HOFer Barry thinks Cavaliers favorites in East after LeBron sigining

Posted on 11 July 2014 by WNST Audio

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Basketball Insiders’ Kyler thinks Melo’s future in New York, LA or Chicago

Posted on 08 July 2014 by WNST Audio

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Big Story Banter: Duncan vs. LeBron

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Big Story Banter: Duncan vs. LeBron

Posted on 06 June 2014 by Brett Dickinson

As the NBA Finals are now underway, the debate will continue on the greatness of Miami Heat forward LeBron James.  But he is facing off against a familiar foe in the San Antonio Spurs, as well as their All-World forward Tim Duncan.  The Spurs took the first Finals matchup against “the best player in basketball” in 2007 (while with the Cleveland Cavaliers). LeBron achieved his redemption, as the Heat grasped victory from the jaws of defeat in the 2013 Finals.

Now this debate is “Who is the greater All-Time Player” between James and Duncan. Both have multiple titles and various awards throughout their careers, so the argument must be complex. Barry will take on LeBron’s side of the debate, while Brett tries to prove Duncan’s place in history.

LeBron James

LeBron James By: Barry Kamen 

I have a lot of respect for Tim Duncan, there is no debating who is the better player of all time. LeBron is the most physically gifted, well-rounded player in the NBA today. When the pride of Akron made his “decision” to sign with the Miami Heat, fans (myself included) were quick to turn their backs on the superstar for how he handled the free agent process. However, LeBron did what he had to do in order to win championships. There are three main categories where LeBron James holds a clear advantage over Tim Duncan.

As a Cavalier, James’ most talented teammate was Ricky Davis, with Zydrunas Ilgauskas as a close second. Neither of those players come close to the talent level of David Robinson, Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobili that surrounded Duncan for the majority of his career in San Antonio. James legitimately carried the Cavaliers all the way to the finals in 2007, only to be swept by Duncan’s Spurs. For the postseason, James averaged 25-8-8, a stat line that has never been seen before. Every year, the Spurs remind us that it takes a team to go deep into the playoffs and win championships. The reason that the Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year is because of the supporting cast surrounding LeBron. Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, and Rashard Lewis are all seasoned veterans who have played important roles for the Heat during their streak.

Perhaps the biggest disparity between James and Duncan is versatility. At 6’8″ and roughly 255 lbs, James has the frame to post up and play power forward, and the dribbling and vision necessary to play point guard. James has guarded every position on the floor in his career, sometimes in the same game. While Duncan has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Team eight times in his career, LeBron has been named to five at a position that requires more athleticism. In last year’s Finals, LeBron’s versatility was on full display, as coach Erik Spoelstra often played him at power forward, with Chris Bosh shifting to center in an effort to spread San Antonio’s defense out and limit the opportunity for rebounds. Duncan is versatile for his size, but there is not another player in the NBA that can do what LeBron can on a nightly basis.

The debate between Duncan vs. LeBron really lies in the supporting cast. What if Tim Duncan didn’t have David Robinson at the beginning of his career? If Cleveland had any depth surrounding LeBron, would we be discussing a dynasty in Cleveland? Two great careers. Uber amount of championships. Both top ten players of all time.

Tim Duncan By: Brett Dickinson

First off, Tim Duncan in no way gets the credit he deserves as a player because honestly, he is the most boring superstar in NBA history.  He does not have the outgoing personality, does not give reporters bulletin board quotes, does not have off-court transgressions grabbing headlines.  Let alone he plays for a small market in the middle of the country for a former ABA franchise in the San Antonio Spurs.

Tim DuncanBut the realization is HE IS THE GREATEST POWER FORWARD  in NBA history, period! Karl Malone and Charles Barkley never won a ring, and the likes of Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki only have one, after getting beat up by Duncan for years. The Spurs big man has played in an era where a vast majority of the great players in the league play the power forward position. And he is head and shoulders above them all.  His two MVPs are equal to the combined total for his peers: Garnett, Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and Pau Gasol. He also has the same total amount of championship rings as that entire group as well (Duncan-4, Garnett-1, Nowitzki-1, Gasol-2).

So it is easily established his standing amongst the power forwards, but comparing him to players of other positions is much tougher.  He has all the accolades, including multiple titles and MVPs, 14 time All-NBA and All-Defensive teams honors, three NBA Finals MVPs and a Rookie of the Year.  But LeBron’s career will likely stack up equally to all those fancy trophies as well.

So what sets Duncan apart? Well he plays a position where the ball is not in his hands; he has to be fed the ball down low.  He does not dribble up the court like James, yet he has put up the same dominant numbers. Add in the amount of double teams and physical play that is involved on the block, its just that more impressive to control a game from the low post.

While Duncan has also done all this while sticking with the San Antonio Spurs for the entirety of his career.  He didn’t have to team up with other superstars, the organization built around their big-man with key role players.  Though Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are really good, they are significantly better by developing next to Duncan.  He was always the ire of defenses attention (and still is to this day), making life much easier out on the wing and in space.

Let’s just say if he finishes with a 2-1 record against LeBron in the Finals, finishes with a 5-1 record overall, there is no way that the Miami forward could catch him as an all-time talent.  But this series will play a major role if both players’ legacy.

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Michael Phelps’ return makes swimming relevant again

Posted on 25 April 2014 by johngallo

Sports needed this.

Swimming needed this.

And of course, Baltimore needed this.

Michael Phelps is back, which means swimming is back and even more importantly, it means one of the most underappreciated sports rivalries is back: Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte.

You can’t have a sport without a rivalry, which makes fans gravitate to the competition, whether it’s on land or water.

The Ravens have the Steelers, and the Orioles have the Red Sox. But those are teams and Phelps is a 28-year-old man, well, more like a demigod considering what he does in the pool isn’t human.

Expect the national media, including Sports illustrated, to follow Michael Phelps' every move after coming out of retirement. (Courtesy of Michael Phelps' Facebook page)

How many great athlete vs. athlete rivalries are there right now? LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant? Nope. Talk to me when Durant beats James in the Finals. Baseball? Who?

What about boxing? The Baby Boomer generation grew up with Muhammad Ali, who never stopped throwing jabs – verbally or physically – at opponents. Now, we have Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao talking about fighting each other instead of actually, well, you know, getting in the ring and proving who’s the man.

I miss the days when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird went at each other. I long for the time when Michael Jordan had to learn to fail against the Pistons before conquering them. And how about the Knicks and Heat? I still crack a smile when I see footage of Knicks Coach Jeff Van Gundy clinching to Alonzo Mourning’s leg like a toddler during the 1998 playoffs.

Every decade can be defined by its rivalries. The 70s had the Steelers and Cowboys and even NASCAR was in the mix, with Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough trading punches next to the track at the 1979 Daytona 500. Awesome.

The 80s had had Martina Navratilova against Chris Evert and the Edmonton Oilers against everyone else. The 90s had Pate Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Sports forces us pick sides. You can’t like the Terps and Duke, just as you can’t cheer for the Yankees and Red Sox. You either cheer for Tiger Woods or the rest of the field, with the same applying to NASCAR drivers.

That’s why swimming needs Phelps back in the pool. Lochte, a native New Yorker, simply isn’t polarizing enough, or good enough, to carry swimming the way Mark Spitz did decades ago. How many professional swimming races did you watch after Phelps called it quits? That’s what I thought.

But Phelps says he’s coming back and immediately, swimming’s relevant again.

How else can you explain that all sessions of the three-day Arena Grand Prix at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Arizona were sold out. A pair of $40 all-session tickets was being sold for more than six times that on the Internet. Phelps should get a cut.

All of the sudden, swimming was in a news cycle dominated by the NHL and NBA playoffs and the release of the NFL schedule. On SportsCenter, Phelps received more coverage than the Orioles.

And for good reason. The only way Phelps, an avid Ravens and Orioles fan, could be any more “Baltimore” is if you covered him in Old Bay. When Phelps is at the starting block, our city is there with him. By having Phelps, we could go to anywhere and say our guy is better than your guy. Phelps isn’t one of those athletes who lives here during the season and spends the offseason in Miami.

Phelps lives in Canton.

Even Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist, acknowledges swimming is much better with Phelps in the pool than on the golf course.

“With what he’s done for the sport of swimming and him leaving kind of broke my heart a little because I love getting on those blocks and racing him,” Lochte told reporters after his winning time of 51.93 seconds was two-tenths of a second faster than Phelps (52.13) in the 100-meter butterly on Thursday night in Arizona. “Now that he’s back, I’ve got a big ol’ smile on my face.”

And so does everyone else. We get another chapter in the Phelps-Lochte saga, with the two biggest bullies on the block, lining up at that the starting block, wanting nothing more than to touch the wall before the other guy.

Phelps, a Rodgers Forge native, has won a world record 22 Olympic medals, including 18 gold medals that probably are worth more than Dundalk.

The guy’s super human. Who else can go from retiring after the 2012 London Games and, with minimal training, jump and beat Lochte – and everyone else – by swimming the fastest qualifying time in the 100-meter butterfly in 52.84 seconds?

“Him and I can’t stand losing to one another,” Phelps told reporters. “We both want to beat each other as many times as we can. That’s the competitiveness we both have. When we do get in the water, we’re going to do everything we can to get our hand on the wall before [the other] in every single race. And it’s the same for him. We’ll fight to the end, in any stroke, in any event we swim.”

Consider: Phelps is a three-time Olympic champion and current world record-holder in the 100-meter butterfly and his time on Thursday night tied for the fourth fastest in the world this year.

“It’s one meet; it’s one race,” Phelps told reporters after the final. “It’s a long way whether I decide to continue or not. This was awesome. I’m really excited about how things went. I do know what I need to do if I want to continue and swim faster.”

How much faster would his time have been he wasn’t overweight or hadn’t spent the past 18 months on the golf course, where he claimed to have struck 20,000 balls in the past six months?

“I’m doing this for me,” Phelps said at a press conference before the competition. “I’m doing this because I enjoy being in the pool and I enjoy the sport of swimming. I am looking forward to wherever this road takes me.”

Michael, we all know where this road is leading: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Olympics.

Follow me on Twitter @JonGallo1

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B&B Top 5: Both Believe Lebron James Could Play In NFL

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B&B Top 5: Both Believe Lebron James Could Play In NFL

Posted on 19 April 2014 by Brett Dickinson

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Lebron’s New Fan

Posted on 27 June 2012 by derekandrews

I might lose Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and Nestor might just kick me out of the competition over this comment, but I stand by it, and that comment is that: I am officially a Lebron fan.

How can a die-hard Lakers fan be a Lebron fan? I asked myself that question as I wrote this article and I came up with three reasons.

Reason #1 – He was clutch in the moments of adversity.

He has been ridiculed and scorned for not having the heart to close out a critical game, but he proved that he is more than capable in closing out games.In the critical close out game, Game 6 against the championship pedigree Celtics and had one of the greatest performances in playoff history, period.

He dished the ball with grace and precision and played quality defense. In Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Thunder, he hit a clutch shot in the 4th quarter sealing the game and taking back home court. He didn’t have the flu or a bum knee, but he came up big with a three pointer in the 4th quarter in Game 4 of Finals while experiencing leg pains.

Reason #2 – He was a team player first.

He expressed after winning his first championship that last season he played with a lot hate and this year he returned back to who he was as a man and a player. His life and game adjustment proved to give him the formula towards winning this year. His game improved greatly and the game was fun again. This year he never deferred from who he was. What he was scorned for was his greatest asset.

Reason #3 – He owned up to his faults and challenged himself.

First, he owned up to his game on the court. He worked tirelessly and diligently to add dimensions to his game that consequently made him more unstoppable. He never gave up and stuck with the game plan. This is the sole reason why he earned his third MVP award and eventually the NBA Finals MVP.

Second, he owned up to the fiasco called the “The Decision” and the lavish party and declaration that it would be easy to win multiple championships. He couldn’t undo what happened but he moved on to be a better person and athlete.

Now don’t get me wrong, I will not defer from criticism at times of mental breakdowns, but I will give credit where credit is due. He needs to win multiple championships to enter that upper echelon of NBA greats. I would say three rings would suffice to putting him in the likes of Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and others. He also needs to win it all during a full 82 game season. I will give him a pass because despite the labor-shortened season, it was condense in a shorter period of time and the league didn’t suffer too much on ratings and revenue.

Let’s debate about it on Twitter @WinLifestyle

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Phelps makes way onto odd list

Posted on 27 June 2012 by WNST Staff

AshleyMadison.com asked women across America which athlete they would most likely cheat on their husband with. Over 13,500 women responded by picking their top three athletes which yielded the following results :

International Soccer Star and Sex Symbol David Beckham was the overwhelming winner with 43.1% of ALL women surveyed saying they would cheat on their husbands with him.

  • ·         Ultra-conservative New York Jet QB Tim Tebow was second with 19.6% of all women surveyed.
  • ·         New England Patriot and the most prolific QB in the NFL, Tom Brady was a close third with 17.9%. Brady is currently married to Supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
  • ·         Mark Sanchez may be the #1 QB on the Jets but only 8.1% of women said they would have an affair with him, well behind his back-up, Tim Tebow.
  • ·         MLB Future Hall-of-Famer and New York Yankee Derek Jeter led the way with 16.5% of women looking to hit a Home Run with him, edging out Yankee Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez, who garnered 13.2% of women respondents.
  • ·         In the battle of the Manning’s, Peyton edged out his younger brother Eli : 9.6% to 8.5%.
  • ·         NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP LeBron James is the top NBA player amongst women looking to go to the hoop, with 5.8% of all women surveyed looking to cheat with the King. (Kobe Bryant came in second with 4.4%)
  • ·         Andy Roddick (5.6%) out volleyed both Rafael Nadal (4.6%) and Roger Federer (4.2%) to become the top tennis player chosen amongst women
  • ·         Michael Phelps was the leading Olympian with 10.5% of women ready to jump in the pool with him.
  • ·         Top 5 NFL players (are all QB’s): Tim Tebow (19.6%), Tom Brady (17.9%), Peyton Manning (9.6%), Aaron Rodgers (9.5%), and Eli Manning (8.5%). The top non-quarterback was Reggie Bush (6.9%).
  • ·         Top 5 NBA players: LeBron James (5.8%), Kobe Bryant (4.4%), Lamar Odom (3.7%), Dwyane Wade (3.6%), and Kris Humphries (3.3%)
  • ·         Top 3 MLB players: Derek Jeter (16.5%), Alex Rodriguez (13.2%), and Matt Kemp (1.6%)
  • ·         Top 5 non- NFL, NBA, and MLB athletes: David Beckham (43.1%), Christiano Ronaldo (11.0%), Michael Phelps (10.5%), Kelly Slater (9.2%), Lance Armstrong (7.4%)
  • ·         Top 10 athletes overall: David Beckham (43.1%), Tim Tebow (19.6%), Tom Brady (17.9%), Derek Jeter (16.5%), Alex Rodriguez (13.2%), Christiano Ronaldo (11%), Michael Phelps (10.5%), Peyton Manning (9.6%), Aaron Rodgers (9.5%), Kelly Slater (9.2%).  Tiger Woods came in 15th (6.1%).

**Note:  The percentages are based on 300% since each women picked three athletes.  You could also divide every number by three to get an accurate percentage based on 100%.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Glenn Clark

Honorable MentionBoxing-Victor Ortiz vs. Joselito Lopez (Saturday 9pm from Los Angeles live on Showtime); WNBA: Washington Mystics @ Phoenix Mercury (Wednesday 10pm from Phoenix live on WNBA.com), Washington Mystics @ Seattle Storm (Sunday 7pm from Seattle live on WNBA.com); Pro Lacrosse: MLL Boston Cannons @ Chesapeake Bayhawks (Saturday 7pm from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium live on Comcast SportsNet); U.S. Olympic Trials: Diving (Wednesday 12am & 10pm Thursday 10pm Friday 11pm live on NBC Sports Network, Saturday 4pm Sunday 3pm live on NBC. All diving from Federal Way, WA); Track & Field (Friday 9pm live on NBC Sports Network Saturday 8pm Sunday 7pm live on NBC Monday 9pm live on NBC Sports Network. All track from Eugene, OR); Swimming (Monday 6:30pm live on NBC Sports Network 8pm live on NBC. All swimming from Omaha)

10. Earth, Wind & Fire (Thursday 6pm Pier Six Pavilion), Childish Gambino (Saturday 6:30pm Pier Six Pavilion); Rascal Flatts/Little Big Town (Saturday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live); Counting Crows (Wednesday 7pm Wolf Trap), Diana Krall (Tuesday 7:30pm Meyerhoff Symphony Hall Thursday 8pm Wolf Trap); Jill Scott (Thursday 7pm Verizon Center); LMFAO (Monday 7pm Patriot Center); Mr. Greengenes (Friday 8pm Power Plant Live); Tech N9ne/Machine Gun Kelly (Tuesday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage), Ice Cube/Wale/DJ Khaled (Wednesday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage); Deanna Bogart Band (Saturday 8:30pm Rams Head on Stage); The Hives (Tuesday 7pm 9:30 Club), Modest Mouse (Wednesday & Thursday 7pm 9:30 Club); Fiona Apple (Wednesday 8pm Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric); Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers (Friday & Saturday 8pm Jammin’ Java); Del Ray Music Festival feat. Pat McGee (Mt. Vernon Recreation Center Fields Alexandria); Ringo Starr (Sunday 7pm Meyerhoff Symphony Hall); Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle feat. Soul Asylum/Cowboy Mouth (Saturday & Sunday Pennsylvania Avenue DC); Smashing Pumpkins “Oceania” and Kenny Chesney “Welcome to the Fishbowl” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

I like Donald Glover on “Community” (Six seasons and a movie!) and all, but I was always skeptical about him as a performer. But honestly, not bad (lyrics NSFW)…

Quick. Favorite Counting Crows song ever. I’ll go with this…

Wale and Kevin Durant have something in common. I like them both a LOT but would like them a hell of a lot more if they weren’t Redskins fans…

Fiona Apple is coming to town. Anyone remember their awkward feelings about seeing her in her underwear in the “Criminal” video? I can’t tell you how confused I was about myself watching it the first time…

9. Aziz Ansari (Friday 7:30pm Meyerhoff Symphony Hall); Paul Mooney (Thursday-Sunday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Jim Gaffigan (Thursday DC Improv); “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter”, “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World” & “Brave” out in theaters (Friday)

If you don’t think Aziz Ansari is funny I don’t think this conversation is going anywhere and we might want to consider talking to other people…

Also, I think I AM planning on a midnight screening for ALVH Thursday night. I’m hoping to come dressed like this…

If you don’t go see this movie you’re a terrible American.

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Taking a look at this year’s NBA Finals

Posted on 12 June 2012 by Christopher Cook

Two years ago at the FIBA World Championship, Kevin Durant put the rest of the world on notice. Durant finished as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player with an average of 22.8 points per game including a masterful championship game against the host country Turkey. He carried a USA team filled with some of the best young talent in the NBA to their first FIBA World Championship since 1994.

Durant and the World Championship team, labeled the “B Team” by many, earned an automatic bid to the World Championship when LeBron James and the 2008 US men’s basketball team took gold at the Summer Olympics. Team USA rolled through the tournament going 8-0 and outscoring their opponents by an average of 27.9 points per game. The 2008 team was filled with the NBA’s most established stars. LeBron was second on the team in scoring with 15.5 points per game behind Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade.

On Tuesday night in game one of the 2012 NBA Finals, Durant and LeBron will again be on the biggest stage. For LeBron, it will be his third Finals appearance. As a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron was swept in 2007 by the San Antonio Spurs. Last year, after joining the Heat, LeBron again lost in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. Durant will be making his first appearance in an NBA Finals game after starting his career with a record of 37-117 in his first two seasons.

The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder are reminiscent of those 2008 and 2010 US national teams. The Miami Heat, filled with the established stars of Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, look a lot like that 2008 Olympic team. The Oklahoma City Thunder, constructed with some of the top young talent like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka, take a similar form to the 2010 World Championship team. Both teams were dominant, but one constantly overshadowed the other in the spotlight.

When these two teams face off in the Finals, either LeBron James or Kevin Durant will get their first championship ring, the ultimate measure of a great player. The world will not only be watching the Miami Heat versus the Oklahoma City Thunder for the ultimate prize in professional basketball, but they will also be seeing LeBron James versus Kevin Durant for the right to be called the best player in the NBA. Whether or not that topic is up for debate by NBA fans doesn’t matter. That is how most of the world will look at the result of this series.

Both teams and both players finished up remarkable regular seasons. The Heat winning 46 games and the Thunder winning 47. LeBron James averaging 27 points per game and Durant 28.

The Thunder are on the rise. Whether or not they win this series, the 2011-2012 season will have been a success for them. In the Western Conference Finals, they fell to an 0-2 deficit to what looked to be the best team in the NBA. They climbed out of the hole and won four straight to advance to the Finals.

The Heat, in their current incarnation, are in their second season together, but it is considered by many as a last ditch effort. If the “Big 3″ do not find a way to win a championship this year, the media explosion that will follow will likely lead to some changes somewhere in the organization. It could be Spoelstra that is ousted. It could be Bosh.

In their two meetings against each other this season, the Heat and Thunder split the series. On March 25, the Thunder beat the visiting Heat 103-87. Durant led the way with 28 points, but it was Ibaka, Perkins and Harden who made the difference and combined for 54 points. In that game, Miami got just 26 points from everyone outside of their big three. On April 4, the Heat beat the Thunder in Miami 98-93. Durant and Westbrook combined for 58 points and the rest of the team added 35.

The Thunder need to find a way to get Perkins and Ibaka involved to win this series. Much like the Indiana Pacers, the frontcourt of the Thunder will be their biggest advantage. When David West and Roy Hibbert weren’t able to leave their mark on the game, the Pacers faltered against the Miami Heat. The Thunder cannot make the same mistake. The decision-making of Russell Westbrook will be the ultimate deciding factor for the Thunder. If he plays with the flow of the game and takes what the Heat give him, the Thunder will beat the Miami Heat. If he forces shots, the story will be different.

The Heat are a very different kind of team. They need big games from Wade and LeBron to succeed. At any point in time, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers or Shane Battier can land a barrage of three-pointers, but that really isn’t a consistent option for the Heat. Their greatest strength is their fast break game with Wade and LeBron running the floor and making highlight plays. The key to a Heat victory will be their ability to score out of half-court sets when they can’t pull away from the young Thunder in transition.

Their one game advantage in their regular season record earned the Thunder home court advantage in the Finals. The Oklahoma City crowd has been huge in the playoffs, providing energy for their young players to feed on. This advantage heavily tips the scale in favor of the Thunder. Since 1985, the NBA Finals has been a 2-3-2 format, with the home team playing the first and last two games of the series on their home court. In the last ten years, only three teams have won the NBA championship without home court advantage. One of those teams was Dwyane Wade and the 2006 Miami Heat. Of the three teams who failed to win the NBA championship with home court advantage, the 2011 Miami Heat are the most recent. Home court advantage is everything in the NBA Finals.

With Bosh returning to the line-up, both teams are at full strength. Just four more wins to immortality. Durant and LeBron both know what it is like to win at an international level. The burning question is which one will be able to get their first Larry O’Brien trophy. That one point and that one win will be the difference between a champion and a loser.

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