Whats Wrong With the Pacers?

What the hell is wrong with the Indiana Pacers? Midway through the season analysts and fans were ready to crown them the Eastern Conference champs. Paul George was being placed in MVP talks with the likes of Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Frank Vogel was the front runner for coach of the year and all was right in in Indiana. Then everything went sour after the all-star break which has caused a seismic breakdown rarely seen by a top seeded playoff team. Fast-forward to today and the Pacers find themselves in a dogfight of a series with the lowly Hawks. These are the same Hawks who limped into the eight seed with a losing record. So where did the Pacers go wrong?

For starters they simply cannot score on a consistent basis. Their offense has become a stagnate one on one stylistic mess. Center Roy Hibbert has completely fallen off the map. After averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds in his previous playoff stints, this season Hibbert is averaging a lowly 6 points and 4 rebounds on 28% shooting. He plays with noticeable frustration with his “selfish” teammates, and has been regulated to the bench in the most crucial stretches of games.  The lack of point guard play has significantly impeded Indian’s ability to string to together coherent possessions.

The severe amount of pressure is clearly weighing the team and its coach down. As the legendary Uncle Ben once said “with great power comes great responsibility,” and the Pacers are failing to live up to their one seed. It has been said that 2 year head coach Frank Vogel is coaching for his job and a first round exit would certainly mean a coaching change. This has forced Vogel to make rash decisions i.e. benching Hibbert in the fourth, trying to ensure they don’t become the sixth 1 seed to fall to an 8 seed. Even if the Pacers manage to escape the Hawks (the series is tied 2-2), I don’t see them contending for a title. The fall from grace has been too great for them to rebound and challenge the two time defending Miami Heat.

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The Disgraceful Donald Sterling

Will we ever truly escape Racism? Even in modern melting pot America, an episode occurs that is so illogical and mind boggling that it reminds us that race is still a pressing topic in this nation. Today’s bigot is Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling made headlines Sunday when a conversation between him and his girlfriend was made public by TMZ. In the recording Sterling makes several racist remarks regarding African Americans and their existence in modern society. Sterling berates his half black half Latina girlfriend, a woman identified as V. Stivia, for broadcasting herself in the presence of African Americans. Sterling specifically identifies a post from Stivia’s Instagram in which she is pictured with Hall of famer Magic Johnson. Sterling also asks that she not bring African Americans to Clippers games.

These comments are appalling, especially from someone who owns a franchise in a league in which 80% are African American players. It’s not surprising to learn that Sterling has a history of racism that predates his ownership of the Clippers. Sterling, a real estate mogul with a net worth of almost two billion, has refused to rent out apartments to African American and Latino tenants. More curiously, Sterling was set to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP.

Sterling has proven himself unworthy of NBA ownership, but what can the league do to discipline him? The league cannot forcibly remove him from the team and will most likely deal out a substantial fine and push him to sell the team. Sterling’s remarks put the Los Angeles Clippers in a compromising position. How could a team, mostly comprised of black athletes, compete for a championship under the regime of a man who is a racist. Sterling is the latest racist ingrate to surface and he surely won’t be the last. The NBA must take a stand and ensure its players, coaches and fans that it will not tolerate racism on any level. 

Wizards Playoff Seeding Scenarios

The final day of the NBA regular season has come.  Although they clinched over two weeks ago, the Wizards playoff seeding remains uncertain. Currently sitting in the 6th seed, the Wizards could potentially jump up the 5th, remain in place, or fall to the 7th seed.

With Indiana and Miami having already locked up the first two spots, I have compiled all the different scenarios that would impact the Wizards seeding.

1)      If the Wizards WIN they automatically clinch no worse than the 6th seed

2)      If Washington loses and the Bobcats win, the Wizards fall to 7th and face the defending champs and a first round exit

3)      If Brooklyn loses and the Wizards win, Washington would leapfrog Brooklyn into the 5th seed

First and foremost, the Wizards have to take of business against the Celtics (who are questionably resting players) before worrying about the following scenarios that would determine their foe if they clinch the 5th or 6th seed.

1)      If Toronto Wins or the Bulls lose they automatically clinch the third seed

2)      Vice Versa, if the Bulls win and Toronto loses the Bulls would secure the 3rd seed

I’d personally like to see the Wizards play Toronto as the 5th or 6th seed. I know that the Raptors took the regular series 3-1, but Chicago has been playing the best basketball as of late. Chicago also has a veteran laden team with multiple players having playoff experience.  As most of us now, the playoffs are completely different breed of basketball. The Raptors, just like the Wizards, find themselves with in the playoffs after a six year drought. Both teams will need at least a game to match the intensity brought forth by an experienced team. Now I’m not saying the Wizards couldn’t defeat the Bulls (because I think they could), but I think the Raptors would be the easier road to the second round. In either scenario the Wizards have to win at Boston because facing the Heat in the first round would be a death sentence. 

76ers Road to Infamy

The 2013/14 Philadelphia 76ers should be used as model for teaching prospective NBA teams how to tank a once formidable franchise. For years porous NBA teams have been accused of purposely losing games at the end of a lost season in hopes of receiving a higher lottery pick in the upcoming draft.  In the past such allegations have been hard to prove as teams would still put a competitive product out on the court. Such is not the case with the sixers who have gutted their entire roster and find themselves in midst of 25 game losing streak. To put things in perspective, the NBA record for most consecutive losses stands at 26, a mark the sixers will undoubtedly attain when they face the Houston Rockets this upcoming Thursday.

Before we go any further, let’s take a quick look at how the sixers and their blundering management got themselves into such a predicament. I know it’s hard to believe, but just three years ago the sixers led by the likes of Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala, pushed Boston’s big three to seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. They were heralded as the next big thing with a young nucleus maturing under the guidance of tenured coach Doug Collins. After far exceeding anyone’s expectations, General Manager Sam Hinkie inexplicably decided to blow up that nucleus the following year by trading Iguodala for temperamental Center Andre Bynum. Marred by injures his whole career, Bynum never once suited up for the sixers and left the following year in free agency. Unable to learn from his mistakes, Hinkie curiously traded away the sixer’s lone all-star, Holiday, for Nerlens Noel an unproven big man out of Kentucky who happened to be rehabbing a recently torn ACL. Just like Bynum, Noel has yet to play this season and further decimated this abysmal squad.

With the 2013/14 sixer’s season all but over, Hinkie’s ineptness shined through once more when he traded former 2nd overall pick Evan Turner for another injury marred former all-star in Danny Granger. Granger, who justly had no interest playing for this train wreck of a franchise, was bought out and never once played a game. Only one player (Thaddeus Young) is on the roster from that Eastern Conference Semifinal team. The current roster is littered with Rookies and former D-Leaguers who quite frankly don’t deserve to be in the NBA. I fully expect the Sixers to break the record for most consecutive losses and would consider it an absolute shocker to see them win a game.

For the Love of the Game

As I’m sure you may have heard by now, there is a discussion brewing about potential changes to the NBA game. Various news outlets have reported that the NBA brass has discussed the idea of expanding the court length and adding a four point line. The NBA was quick to dismiss any such notion with league spokesperson Tim Frank releasing a statement saying “no one at the NBA, nor the competition committee, has had any serious conversations about increasing the size of the floor or adding a 4-point line.” Frank also dispelled any further rumors, saying executives were simply entertaining out of the box questions.

Whether they intended to our not, the NBA has set off a firestorm of debate over the potential rule changes. Like many sports enthusiasts, I too began to ponder what the game would be like should these changes go into effect. I’ve come to the conclusion that these changes could actually enhance the NBA as we know it. I know that any drastic changes to the games we love come at the chagrin to many of you, so take a second to hear me out.

The NBA game is one of heavy congestion, with the lane constantly clogged with massive bodies. Expanding the floor would allow for better spacing and allow more cuts and emphatic drives to the lane. A 4 point line would serve as a heightened sense of excitement for many fans. Many of the top shooters in the game, i.e. Stephen Curry and Jamal Crawford, can hit down a twenty four foot three’s with great consistency. They’ve proved themselves more than capable of hitting from much farther, so why not reward that incredible range with an extra point.

Unfortunately these plans are little more than talking points, as there are a plethora of objects that stand in the way from these ideals to become realities. For starters, the NBA would have to either expand arenas or get rid of its most profitable court side seats, something owners would surely object to. Coaches would also have to adjust their philosophies and never like things they don’t have control over. It will be interesting to see how the NBA addresses the surefire media storm that is bound to follow.

 

Wizards Must Move On Without Nene For 4-6 Weeks

In a season of resurgence, the Wizards have just been dealt a potentially devastating blow. After receiving a MRI Monday, Big man Nene has been ruled out for four to six weeks with a left knee sprain. When Nene, an 11th year vet, struggles with injuries the Wizards usually follow suit. Since acquiring Nene in 2012, the Wizards are 60-61 when Nene plays and 9-34 when he doesn’t. That is a monstrous disparity and could spell trouble for the Wizards going forward. Nene’s contributions this season have been invaluable, averaging 14.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game this season. In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Nene gives the Wizards much needed height and leadership alongside center Marcin Gortat.

In response to Nene’s injury, the Wizards have signed veteran forward Drew Gooden to a ten day contract giving them some much needed front court depth. Coach Randy Wittman will have to rely heavily on third year forwards Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin to shoulder the load in Nene’s absence. While Seraphin and Booker are suitable backups, neither can emulate Nene’s savvy basketball IQ or his low post presence. Seraphin is a decent scorer, but is a defensive liability and Booker is an all hustle player with limited potential to improve his skill set. Luckily, veteran forward Al Harrington has recently returned to the lineup after a knee injury sidelined him nearly three months. Harrington is still working him back into playing shape, but should be able to dispel Booker and Seraphin, allowing the Wizards to space the floor with his outside shot.

Even if Booker and Seraphin admirably step into Nene’s role, the Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal will take them. With just 25 games remaining in the season, the Wizards are deeply rooted within the playoff race currently holding the fifth seed. Nene’s injury couldn’t have come at worse time for the Wizards, but there is optimism that he will be available and healthy for the playoffs should the Wizards hold onto their spot. For now the Wizards must continue to make do with what they have and hope to get contributions across the board.