Category: Sports


Who Is The 2012 NBA MVP?

By: Martin Rand, III
Date: April 6, 2012


valuable: adjective; of considerable use, service, or importance.

Earlier this week, ESPN showcased four teams and four contenders for this year’s NBA MVP Award. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder took on LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Then, the late game, featured Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers versus Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers in a inner-city battle for dominance and the Pacific Division lead. All four players are doing incredible things for their respective clubs; however, Paul is the one and only true MVP this season.

While LeBron James (left) and Kevin Durant (center) have been getting more attention, the true NBA MVP is Chris Paul.

Now, before everyone gets that puzzled look on their face, let me explain.

First, let me remind you this is the Most VALUABLE Player Award. It’s not for the best player in the league. It’s not for the player who can put up the best stats. It’s for the player who matters the most to their team.

Lets refer to the definition of valuable above. According to dictionary.com, for something to be valuable is has to be of considerable use, service or importance. Importance being the operative word, which brings me to my second point.

To gauge the importance of a player, I rely on an old question: If you take the player off the team, how far would its competitiveness fall in the league?

Lets start with James and the Heat. Take James off the Heat and they would still have Dwyane Wade (the 2nd best SG in the league), Chris Bosh (one of the top ten players in the league) and the best bench of any of the four teams mentioned. No doubt they would still make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and be a contender to win a title. What James does is great, but it only adds to a team that would be a contender without him.

Importance level of James to the Heat: Extremely low.

Now, lets look at Durant. Durant and starting PG Russell Westbrook are the two best offensive threats on the Thunder. With that being said, if Durant were taken off the team, Westbrook could still carry the load offensively for the team; and they would be successful. There’s precedent for such a situation and it wasn’t too long ago.

Last season, Derrick Rose (another super-athletic PG who was a streaky shooter and not that great at passing the ball) led an offensively challenged Chicago Bulls team, not only to the best record in the East, but to the best record in the league. All the other players had to do was play great defensive and hit an occasional shot.

I’m feel very confident in saying Westbrook could do the same thing with the numerous defensive minded players on the Thunder.

Importance level of Durant to the Thunder: Low.

Okay, now lets take Bryant off the Lakers. I know the thought is unfathomable, but for this situation it has to be done. If you take him off the team, the Lakers would still have the best offense front court in the league with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, both of which can score 30 points on any give night.

However, they would have a major hole in the backcourt that couldn’t be half-way filled with anyone on the bench. Also, Gasol has fatigue issues and Bynum has injury issues, so the extra workload of carrying a team would probably way to heavy on them.

They would still make the playoffs; however, it would probably be a very low seed between the sixth and eighth spot. Their title hopes could still be there but it would seem more like wishful thinking.

Importance of Bryant to the Lakers: High.

Now, take Paul off of the Clippers. They wouldn’t even make the playoffs and would probably be in the NBA cellar at this point in the season. One word would sum them up: terrible. They’ve had only one playoff appearance in the last 20 years! Now with Paul’s arrival, they’re the fourth seed in the Western Conference and two games behind the Lakers for the division lead.

They would still have an all-star in F Blake Griffin, but he’s not at that point in his career where he can carry a team offensively or defensively. Plus, of the four teams, the Clippers have the worst bench with the least amount of scoring options.

Importance of Paul to the Clippers: Extremely high

To often in sports we mix up a player’s value level with their statistical production; but,I hate to break this myth, numbers always lie. They only tell a portion of the value the player has to a team. I hope the people who vote for this award get it right. There’s hope because the last three years they did, with Rose winning last year and back-to-back wins for James before him.

Of course, some people are still going to want stats to validate Paul being the MVP. Here’s a statiscal reason why him winning shouldn’t rely on statistics.

When Steve Nash won the award for the 2004-05 season, he was averaging less points, steals and more turnovers than Paul is this season, but he had two more assists per game. The numbers for the two player’s are similar; and, just like Paul this season, there were plenty of players with better stats than Nash.

So, why did Nash win?

He won because he came to a franchise, the Phoenix Suns, that had a losing record the previous season and made them relevant in the league the very next season. The same thing Paul has done this year with the Clippers.


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Who should win the 2012 NBA MVP Award?
Kobe Bryant
LeBron James
Chris Paul
Kevin Durant
Other
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By: Martin Rand, III
Date: April 3, 2012


Heavy rains are frequent, flowers are getting ready to bloom and pollen is covering everything everywhere. This can only mean one thing: spring is in full effect; and, with spring comes the start of the MLB season.

Jose Reyes is one of the main reasons all eyes will be on Miami this season.

The first pitch of the 2012 season is set to be thrown tomorrow, and with that pitch, teams will get all their questions answered. Was this player the right guy to add to the ball-club? Should we have hired that other coach? Did we do enough to win it all? Questions like these and any other executive decisions will be answered in due time.

However, I have my own questions that I can’t wait to be answered about this upcoming season. Even though I’m a die-hard New York Yankee fan, I’m also a fan of the game; and, this season, I have other topics I’m going to follow alongside New York.

Here are three storylines everyone will be talking about throughout the 2012 MLB Season:

  1. Can the Miami Marlins live up to expectations?
  2. This past off-season was huge for the Marlins. Not only did they get the brand-new stadium they’ve been trying to get for the last couple of years, they also got the star power to bring people to the stadium. Jose Reyes led the National League (NL) in batting average in 2011 and was the best free agent on the market. Mark Buehrle is an All-Star, Gold Glove, World Series (WS) winning starting pitching, who can bring leadership and a winning attitude to a franchise that desperately needs it. Heath Bell has been one of the best Closers in the game, winning the Rolaids Relief Award two out of the past three years.

    So, now that you have one of the best hitters in the game, a starting pitching to lead your rotation, a closer who can come in and seal a win for you at the end of the game, new uniforms and the new stadium, what are you going to do with them Marlins? No doubt, receiving all these riches, in a limited amount of time, comes with a win now mentality or else it would all seem pointless. The heat will definitely be on the Miami this season (where have I heard that before?).

  3. Can Albert Pujols thrive under the bright lights of L.A.?
  4. After ten years of service, nine All-Star appearances, three NL MVPs, two WS titles and multitude of batting awards, Pujols left his nest with St. Louis Cardinals to sign a ten-year $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Pujols has consistently played well his entire career, so the St. Louis media never picked on him. Even when he went through slumps and it seemed like he was over the hill, they stuck by him, waited it out and eventually he turned it on and started hitting like he usually does; but, will he be able to still play that way with a huge L.A. media judging his every move?

    L.A. is not going to coddle him like St. Louis. How is Pujols going to handle all the media attention when he goes through his slumps? What if the Angels don’t win at a high rate and the media starts questioning his contract? Or, what about when he commits a fashion faux pas on Rodeo Drive? The off-the-field media can be just as, if not more distracting. I hope Pujols thought about these things before signing to a big market.

  5. Will adding an extra wildcard spot mean anything to the playoff run?
  6. This year, MLB executives decided to add an extra wild-card spot to the playoffs. You can thank the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves for this rule. They set new standards of losing last season, when they both lost division leads by the end of September after coming into the month win a substantial lead. So, to help out the teams who play in the same division as powerhouses, as they both do, they put in this rule.

    I have mixed feelings about this rule. One thing that’s different in MLB versus other sports is that only four teams from each league get in the playoffs. That’s three division winners and one wild-card team. It’s harder and a little more meaningful to get in the playoffs in MLB compared to other sports. So, I don’t like rule for that aspect; but, MLB needed to do something drastic to get different teams in the playoffs. I would’ve preferred if they took my idea on how to improve the league but we’ll see if their idea adds excitement and helps up-and-coming teams get into the playoffs.

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Which is the more interesting storyline?
Miami Marlins possibly having a winning record?
Albert Pujols playing in L.A.?
Two new wild-card teams added to the playoffs?
  
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Top 2012 NBA Free Agents

By: Martin Rand, III
Date: April 1 ,2012


Remember last summer in the NBA? There were two main topics of discussion. The first was the NBA Lockout, which stopped all league activity until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was signed. The second was the 2012 free agency, which featured super-star Center Dwight Howard in a starring role.

Deron Williams (No. 8) will be the biggest fish to catch during the NBA free agency period.

Since that time, a new CBA has been signed and Howard decided to pass on free agency this year for next year. So, now that Howard is not on the market, who are the the top names in this year’s free agency?

To be honest, there aren’t many. There are some big names, but most of them have their better days behind them. Other free agents are young, but have the possibility to be great, in the future, based on what they have shown so far in the league.

Below, are the top 2012 free agents.Half are *unrestricted, and the other half are **restricted.

Unrestricted Free Agents

1. Deron Williams PG; New Jersey Nets: Williams, the top overall free agent this year, has made it very clear that he would be playing somewhere else next season. With Howard not being traded to the Nets, expect Williams to be in a different uniform next year.

2. Steve Nash PG; Phoenix Suns: I would have never thought Nash would leave the Suns; but, judging by some recent comments of his, he isn’t happy with how things are going there. Even at his age, he is still leading the league in assists per game (APG) and will be much sought after this off-season.

3. Ray Allen SG; Boston Celtics: This season will be the last hurrah for the original Big 3. Yes, unless the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made takes a huge paycut to stay with the Celtics, Allen will be leaving. Although, the biggest question remains; do the Celtics want him back, or are they going into full rebuild mode for the future? At his age, he’s still deadly accurate from behind the arc, runs around the half-court (usually tiring out his defender) and has one of the prettiest releases in the game; so, if the Celtics don’t want him, another team will be sure to pick him up.

4. Jason Kidd PG; Dallas Mavericks: Kidd has said he wants to play at least two more seasons, at which point he’ll be 40 years old; but, those two years probably won’t be with the Mavericks. By letting key players (Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, J.J. Barea) from their 2011 title winning team sign with other teams in 2011 free agency, billionaire owner Mark Cuban has made it clear that he is looking to retool the team around NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki and get younger in the process. Kidd will be one of the next players to go.

5. Tim Duncan C; San Antonio Spurs: Duncan isn’t what he once was, but he still averaging 15 points per game (PPG) and 10 rebounds per game (RPG); and, he’s a major reason why the Spurs have the second best record in the west (35-14). The chances of him leaving the only franchise he’s ever played for and led to four NBA titles are slim, so don’t hold your breathe; but, as we know with NBA free agency, anything is possible.

6. J.R. Smith SG; New York Knicks: Smith could become a free agent if he chooses. He has a ***player option next season and could use it to stay with the Knicks. Whether he stays or goes, depends on how far the Knicks go in the playoffs. If they make it to the second round or deeper, he’ll stay. If they have an early first round exit, expect him to have an early exit out of New York.

7. Kevin Garnett C; Boston Celtics: Much like Allen, Garnett’s time in Boston is more than likely over; and, he would have to take a huge paycut to stay. Also, much like Allen, it becomes a question of whether the Celtics even want him back because they’re going to be one of those teams after Howard next season in free agency. The answer is probably not. Injuries have slowed the former NBA MVP down in recent seasons, so Garnett will be playing somewhere else next season.

8. Jameer Nelson PG; Orlando Magic: To me, Nelson is the most underrated PG in the league. People forget that he was an all-star three years ago; and, if it wasn’t for an injury keeping him out the playoff run, the Magic could’ve had a better chance at beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. Sure, he’s not Chris Paul or Derrick Rose, but he’s still effective at running the offense. He does have player option, so he could stay with the Magic if he wants. Since Howard decide to stay, he’ll probably also stay to make one final run at a title in Orlando.

9. Steve Novak SF; New York Knicks:I know many of you don’t know this player. Heck, I didn’t know who he was before the season started either. However, this season, he has turned into one of the top 3-pt shooters in the league and is a huge reason the Knicks are in playoff contention. Becuase of his shooting ability, there will be a lot of teams after him, but I don’t think the Knicks will let him go so easily.

10. Spencer Hawes C; Philadelphia 76ers: Another relative unknown by the masses, but Hawes has been doing some good things for the Sixers. He can rebound, can post-up and can make a tight pass to cutting teammates. At 23-years-old, he’s only going to get better.

Restricted Free Agents

1. O.J. Mayo SG; Memphis Grizzlies: Mayo will more than likely sign with another team this off-season, without much fuss from the Grizzlies. The day before the trading deadline last season the team actually traded him to the Pacers; but, due to paperwork issues, the trade was never finalized and he stayed with the Grizzlies. This summer, expect nothing to stop him from moving to a new city.

2. Brook Lopez C; New Jersey Nets: The Nets are a team with domino pieces. Howard didn’t land there, so Williams is leaving; and, since Williams is leaving, Lopez is probably going to want to leave too. However, with the Nets moving to Brooklyn next season, they need a talented player to bring fans to the stadium every night, so they’ll match any offer for Lopez. Their hopes will be to either sign one of the top guards in the 2013 free agency pool to play along side him (Yes, Paul could still land in New York), or use Lopez as a centerpiece to finish a trade with Orlando that would bring Howard to Brooklyn next season.

3. Roy Hibbert C; Indiana Pacers: Ever wonder why the Pacer are the fifth seed in the East right now? Here’s one of the main reasons. Hibbert is a true big man of the game. He plays with his back to the basket, rebounds at a high rate, and defends the rim with the best of them. He showed signs of life towards the end of last season after the Pacers fired Jim O’Brien (who publicly belittled Hibbert for his play), and this season he has shown his true potential. With a shortage of big men in the league, expect a lot of teams to be going after him, but also expect the Pacers to match any offer.

4. Jeremy Lin PG; New York Knicks: Where would the Knicks be right now if they hadn’t found this gem at the end of their bench? For a brief stretch in February, Lin was all the talk in New York City and the NBA. His former teams, that had cut him, all said they knew he had talent; but, there just wasn’t any room on their roster for him. Well, this summer, I’m sure those teams, as well as others, will make room to acquire Lin. However, with the Knicks finally getting the PG they’ve been looking for, don’t expect Linsanity to leave Madison Square Garden anytime soon.

5. Ryan Anderson PF; Orlando Magic: This has been Anderson’s breakout year. His ppg and rpg are way above his career averages, and he’s one of the best 3-pt shooters in the league. If the Magic want to keep Howard long-term, keeping Anderson in the fold would be a good place to start. Of course, with their salary cap issues, they may not have enough to keep him around.

6. Nicolas Batum SF; Portland Trailblazers: Batum is one of the few bright spots for a franchise that seems to have a dark cloud hanging over the arena. He consistently plays hard at both ends of the floor; and, even though he’s small for his position, his long wingspan makes him a hassle to deal with. I’m sure the Blazers want to keep him in Portland to play alongside Lamarcus Aldridge for years to come. However, one thing I’ve learned about the Blazers franchise, its future is never written in stone.

7. George Hill SG; Indiana Pacers: Hill has starter talent, but has been the sixth man of the bench for his entire, although brief, career. When he was with the Spurs, he played behind Tony Parker and now with the Pacers, he plays behind Darren Collison and Paul George. I think Hill wants to prove he can be a starter in this league; and, since the Pacers have two young talented starting guards already, I don’t see them spending starter money for a player to come off the bench.

8. Landry Fields SG; New York Knicks: Fields has been a good young player for the Knicks. He is an okay defender, can drive to the basket (although sometimes it seems like he’s out of control) and has a nice mid-range jump-shot. The Knicks will want to keep him for the foreseeable future in the starting two-guard position.

9. J.J. Hickson PF; Portland Trailblazers: I’ve always liked Hickson; but, things haven’t worked out well for him early in his career. He was traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Sacramento Kings, then waived by the Kings and then picked up by the Blazers recently. I can’t understand why he can’t find a home because he has a nice offense game, can rebound the ball, has tons of athleticism and hustles on defense. Well, he skills were on full display against the Los Angeles Clippers recently, where he started in place of the injured Aldridge. He scored 29 points, grab 13 rebounds and shot 68% from the field. If he keeps putting up numbers like this, he will definitely land somewhere for a long time.

10. Jodie Meeks PG; Philadelphia 76ers: Meeks was playing very well as a starter at the beginning of the season, when the Sixers jumped out ahead of everyone in the Atlantic Division. Then, Evan Turner, the 2nd overall pick from the 2010 NBA Draft, moved ahead of him in the rotation and his numbers dwindled a little. Even though, he can still contribute to the team, if another team decides to sign him, I don’t think the Sixers will match the offer.

*Unrestricted Free Agent: A player can sign with any team he chooses.


**Restricted Free Agent: A player can talk to other teams and agree to a deal; however, the player’s current team has the option to match the offer. If the team doesn’t match within seven days, the player can sign with the other team. If the team does match the offer within seven days, the player will stay with the current team for the offer that was matched.


***Player Option: The player has an extra year on the original contract he signed with the team. He has the option to either stay for that year or forgo the year and become an unrestricted free agent.

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Will 2012 free agency be better than previous year’s free agency?
Yes
No
Maybe
  
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By: Martin Rand, III
Date: February 12, 2012


This has been a crazy month for the New York Knicks (13-15). After looking like their season was just about over, with multiple injuries to star players Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudamire while already being almost ten games under .500, a nobody from off the bench breathed new life into the team.

“Linsanity” is sweeping across New York City thanks to Jeremy Lin getting the Knicks in playoff contention, but is the celebration premature.

Well, that nobody has a name now, and it’s Mr. Lin. Jeremy Lin.

Lin, who was just days away from being released by the Knicks before his breakout game versus the New Jersey Nets (8-21), has led this largely under-performing team back from the depths of the league and has them in playoff position. In five straight wins, Lin is averaging 26 points while shooting over 50%, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals. He is the first Knick to put up numbers like this in a five game stretch since Stephon Marbury in the 2004-05 season.

Add in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers (15-12) where Lin out-dueled “The Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant, and Lin has his teammates, coaches, Knick fans and the whole city of New York excited for what seems to be wild ride to the end of the season.

However, I can’t pretend, like most fans, that the Knicks are completely rid of their problems.

One major problem is the play of Anthony and Stoudamire. I know the lockout this off-season cut into some practice time for these two to learn how to play together; but a lot of the times this season, it looks as though they have never worked on that aspect at all. Their offense consists of one pass to either two and the rest of the team standing around waiting for them to create some type of shot.

Of course, with Lin running the point now, that could change; but my best guess is that Lin will defer a lot to the two superstars because they’re superstars and he’s only had five good games.

Speaking of those five games, they weren’t against the best in the league. Their only game against a playoff team was against the Lakers; but, I can’t call them one of the best teams because their defense and offense (which reminds of the Cleveland Cavaliers (10-16) two years ago when a certain king use to rule) seems to be in a flux right now. No player, outside from Bryant, seems to know what they’re doing on the court.

Until I see how well Lin performs against a defense like the Chicago Bulls (23-6) or Miami Heat (20-7), I can’t be sure that he is the answer long term.

Also, lets not forget one thing, Lin is from Harvard University. Harvard athletes historically don’t pan out well at the professional level.

Remember Buffalo Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick last season in the NFL? He and the Bills got off to a fast start to begin the year. They started 5-2, beat the divisional powerhouse New England Patriots and some were mentioning Fitzpatrick in the MVP discussion. Ftizpatrick even got himself a long-term deal with the team worth around $35 million. Then, after beginning so well, the Bills lost their next seven games, finished the season 6-10, and missed the playoffs.

So, I ask you, should we really give Lin the key to the greatest city in the world after only five games and act like everything is fixed with the Knicks?

Just think about it, how many Harvard grads do you know have had an impact on the NBA? Can’t think of any? That’s because there are none. Only two other players (Ed Smith and Saul Mariaschin) have come from Harvard and to play in the NBA, and they didn’t last very long. So, I can’t believe that five games from Lin has cemented his place in the league.

I’m extremely happy to see the Knicks winning games and finally playing with some enthusiasm. However, they should’ve had that spark coming into the season, with the main charge being Anthony and Stoudamire. Those two have to get healthy quick, so they can get some quality practice time in; and the Knicks coaching schemes, role-players play and chemistry have to improve drastically before I can say Knicks are Lin-credible.

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Is Jeremy Lin a long-term option at point guard for the New York Knicks?
Yes
No
Maybe
  
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By: Martin Rand, III
Date: January 13, 2011


The New York Knicks have a history of being terribly bad at drafting players in the first round. Their picks over the last decade have done little to disprove this notation either; and, honestly, Iman Shumpert, their first round pick last year, may continue the tradition.

Can Iman Shumpert break be the first great first pick the Knicks have drafted in over two decades?

I haven’t seen the Georgia Tech product play much in this short season, but from what I’ve seen I’m not sure if this kid has what it takes to be great. Last night’s loss versus the Memphis Grizzlies is exhibit A.

It seemed like as soon as the game started he started jacking up shot after shot. By the middle of the first quarter, he was already 0-9 on his shots. He finished the game 5-20. On a team with Amare Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony, I don’t think it’s within the team’s best interest for an inconsistent rookie to run down the court and shoot the first shot he sees.

However, to be fair, Stoudamire did get benched early because of foul trouble and Anthony’s left wrist was bothering him; but, even when they were in the game, Shumpert was still throwing up shots.

At first, I thought maybe Coach Mike D’Antoni told him to shoot more, but a quick camera shot of his face after another Shumpert heave proved otherwise. I can understand D’Antoni’s frustration. It wasn’t just the fact Shumpert kept shooting and missing, but he also was not passing the ball to wide open teammates. Here’s the crazy thing– he is listed as a point guard!

I’m not trying to jinx Shumpert at all. I want him to be great and break this tradition of terrible first round picks; but, the fact is that the Knicks haven’t had a viable pick in the first round since David Lee (who now plays with the Golden State Warriors) was drafted in 2005; and haven’t drafted a great player since Patrick Ewing in 1985.

That’s a long time to not have drafted a great player considering they have had high draft picks numerous times over the last couple of years.

It would be in everyone’s best interest if Shumpert can develop and be the great player he thinks he is now. After watching a couple of games this season, including last night, I know he has very long way to go before this is possible. I hope Shumpert works hard and listens to the coaches and veteran players around him to make this happen because the last thing the Knicks need is another first round draft bust.

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Do you think Iman Shumpert will develop into a great player for the New York Knicks?
Yes
No
Maybe
  
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