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.
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.
No Nene…No Problem. The Wizards were able to take a commanding 3-1 series lead dominating the Bulls 98-89. Trevor Ariza had the hot hand all day scoring a playoff career high 30 points. John Wall recorded his first career playoff double double with 15 points and 10 assists, while Bradley Beal chipped in 18. The absence of the big Brazilian didn’t seem to affect the offense as the Wizards got off to a blistering pace jumping out to a 14-0 run to start the game. The score wasn’t truly indicative of the game as the Wizards dominated the offensively challenged Bulls.
Chicago struggled to generate any consistent offense outside of Taj Gibson who led all scorers with 32 points, shooting an impressive 13 of 16 from the field. Four year vet Trevor Booker filled Nene’s starting spot amicable providing the Wizards with relentless hustle and toughness inside. Booker, who fouled out with five minutes remaining, finished with eight points and nine boards. Marcin “The Polish Machine” Gortat filled up the box score with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
The Wizards will look to close out the series Tuesday when they head back north to the United Center. Even if the Bulls manage to win game five, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Wizards don’t advance to the next round. Since the switch to a seven game playoff format, only eight teams were able to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and move on to the next round. Assuming they go through to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the Wizards would await the winner of the Pacers Hawks series which is currently deadlocked at 2 games apiece. The upstart Wizards are peaking at the perfect time and have to feel good about their chances at advancing to the Eastern Conference finals where they will like find an old playoff nemesis and the 2 time defending champion Miami Heat.
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.
The combination of strong pitching and hot bats allowed for Salisbury to enjoy dominating victory over Virginia Wesleyan. Senior Andrew Levy orchestrated a masterful performance on the mound, pitching 7 2/3 innings scoreless innings. Levy seemed to be in cruise control the whole game as he allowed only one hit while striking out four.
Salisbury would complement their pitchers dominance by ensuring him with plenty of run support throughout the game. Despite having only one extra base hit, Salisbury was able to manufacture 9 runs through 13 singles and 9 walks. After a scoreless first inning, Salisbury registered two runs in the second in what proved to be a tone-setter for the rest of the game. With the bases loaded and two outs, junior center fielder Bill Root slapped a single into left center field scoring two.
After a quick Wesleyan three and out, junior infielder Quinn Griffith who tallied a game high 3 hits, led off the third with an emphatic double to left center. Junior shortstop Ken O’Neill singled on the very next at bat, scoring Griffith and extending the lead to three. Salisbury would add another before the inning was over confirming that the rout was on as they took a commanding 4-0 lead into the bottom of the 3rd.
Virginia Wesleyan was unable to amount to any sort of offensive production throughout the game going 3 up 3 down in 6 of 9 innings. They were only able to put three men on base the entire game displaying an abysmal .069 combined batting average. With their opponent’s faltering at the plate, Salisbury showed great poise in manufacturing great at bats cultivating in an outstanding .578 on base percentage for the game. Salisbury had 5 players with at least two hits while Virginia Wesleyan only managed three for the game.
With the NFL Draft a mere three weeks away, nobody seems to know how this draft will play out. The Houston Texans have been very coy with their intentions on what they plan to do with the first pick in the draft. NFL analysts have been shuffling players in and out of the top spot and there has also has been discussion that the Texans could trade out of this spot. This is a franchise that is not as bad as their 2013 record would indicate and very well could have quick turnaround in 2014. Newly appointed head coach has ties to UCF coach
The choice is simple; O’Brian should select Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick. Clowney has all the intangibles of a hall of fame esq player and can make an impact with from day 1. A team can never have too many pass rushers and the pairing of Clowney with JJ Watt would be a quarterback nightmare. While Clowney’s work ethic has been called into question on numerous occasions, Watt and locker room leader Andre Johnson would light a fire under Clowney forcing him to be great. Clowney’s imposing size and freakish athleticism (he ran a 4.5 40) are so grand that he is drawing comparisons to Hall of Fame great Bruce Smith.
O’Brian is a quarterback guru and has not fallen in love with this crop of signal callers in this year’s class. By taking Clowney, the Texans would boast one of the best defensive lines in all of football. Derek Carr could also slip to the Texans at pick 33 if they decide they want to go with a signal caller.