Tag Archives: All Star Weekend

Big Blue Thoughts Week 7

Ten thoughts following the Giants 31-21 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T stadium in Dallas, Texas.

1. The Cowboys are good….- Naturally I reserve the right to change my mind but the eye test proves it.  The Cowboys are playing sound, power football and have the playmakers on the outside to make you pay if you overcompensate in the box (nice sexual reference I know).  The offensive line is basically the best unit going in all of football- better than the Legion of Boom Seattle secondary.  They are winning individual battles at the point of attack and helping to win games for the Cowboys.  The defense, as a result, doesn’t need to play as much and allows them to be fresh.  Remember, this is a unit that lost its two best players and still sits as the 22nd best team defense based on total yards surrendered, giving up the 15th most yards per game, 18th most pass yards, 21st most rush yards, and tied with Green Bay for 16th most points given up.  So how does a team that has a +1 turnover differential get such acclaim?  Because Rod Marinelli has tied scheme with the pieces given and formed a unit that likely will have to continue playing great football for not so long stretches of the game.  This is a team that had the ball for more than 31 minutes in the game they lost in San Francisco, then had it for more than 41 minutes in Tennessee, almost 35 minutes against the Saints, 36 minutes in OT against Houston, nearly 38 minutes in Seattle, and 33 minutes against the Giants.  The only time they LOST the time of possession game was against the Rams, where they had to pass their way to victory after going down 21-0 midway through the second quarter.  This is a team that makes no bones about its offensive identity: they will run the football with a physically imposing running back who has finally managed to stay healthy and the minute they think you’re cheating at the line of scrimmage they will throw the football to a physically imposing wide receiver who’s on the short list for dominant wide receivers in the sport.

Do I trust the defense in the second half of the season when the weather turns cold?  Just looking at their next month, they go against Washington on Monday night, Arizona at home, and then travel to Jacksonville before they hit their bye.  They could enter their bye 8-2 if we are to assume that they lose to Arizona and even then you can’t assume anything.  Then the schedule gets a bit more daunting.  Sunday night against the Giants, then a quick turnaround against the Eagles on Thanksgiving day, followed a week later by a game at the who knows where mentally they will be Chicago Bears, ten days later at the Eagles for what could be pole position in the division, home for the Colts and then close out the season against the Washington Redskins. who may have Robert Griffin back healthy with what looks like a slate of solid weapons.  If one were an optimist, and say the Cowboys run the table till the bye, let’s say they split the Eagles games, sweep the other two divisional opponents, and lose to the Bears and Colts, we’re still talking a 12-4 regular season.  Here’s where the Tony Romo, Jason Garrett era has always hit a hard thud, there will be one or two losses that could slip into that dreamy scenario that could ultimately undo them, but this iteration of the Cowboys seems markedly different than the play for the division on the final day of the season Cowboys teams that always stopped short.

Based on the records as it stands, the Eagles face a tougher stretch.  The Eagles have Dallas twice, but also have yet to play Seattle and they draw Green Bay by virtue of winning the division last year.  Let’s assume they beat Arizona at home which is no easy feat, and then beat Houston and Carolina.  Let’s say they split one of the two against the Cowboys and split one of two against the Green Bay and Seattle teams and then win out.  That’s a 13-3 record for the Eagles.  I trust the Eagles defense more than I do trust the Cowboys defense and those two divisional games between the two will be huge especially the December 14th showdown at Philadelphia.  Should be an interesting 2 months to see this drama play out in Big D and Broad Street.

2. …this loss means the end for the Giants? Technically no one is officially knocked out but look at the two schedules and the if everything plays out as it should scenarios for the two teams- Dallas, would wind up 12-4 or 13-3 and Philly would go 13-3.  The best record the Giants could get now is 12-4 and thats by running the table Jim Fassel style.  That means beating Indy and San Fran at home and then beating Seattle AT Seattle and then also beating Dallas and Philly once which would make things interesting again.  They end the regular season in Philly.  But to get there, they would have to get through that tough stretch completely unscathed and there’s no evidence that the Giants even make it out of that stretch 1-2.  Remember, these two games were as must-win as must-win can be this early in the season and they failed both times.  If you think the wild card will be there for the taking consider that one of the two spots will be taken by the Dallas/Philly group and the other spot will likely come from the NFC West who have the defending champions, the Niners, the Cardinals and a suddenly dangerous Rams team.  Good luck trying to slip in through the wild card.  Crazier things have happened and Giants fans can attest to that.  It will be difficult to envision the Giants going any better than 10-6 and barely missing the playoffs.  Of course, as the season goes on, you have the out of nowhere injuries to significant players.  The Cowboys don’t have the kind of depth on defense that can afford any type of major injury.  The Eagles are a sound team but if LeSean McCoy doesn’t start performing better and the offensive line continues to have the kind of injuries they already have had (they are playing without Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce), the season could turn and the Eagles could start to suffer.  But I still like the Eagles and Cowboys thanks to their schedules to make it out with double digit wins more so than the Giants.

3. Is it time to put an end to the fairy tale that was Larry Donnell? No.  Physically he’s still a match up nightmare.  Mentally one has to wonder if the young kid can put the two costly turnovers late in the fourth that ultimately cost the Giants Sunday’s game.  We won’t have the answer to that for a few weeks, but the Giants have capable players up and down the roster offensively to start making a difference and the “next man up” philosophy will be put to the test if he doesn’t take care of the football better.  One thing we’ve learned about Coach Coughlin is that he HATES players with fumbling issues and isn’t a coach that takes kindly to mental mistakes.  It bears watching how Coughlin handles this in terms of the depth chart.  Daniel Fells continues to be steady and reach the end zone, but I know coming into the season  The Giants are heading into the bye and perhaps time off will heal the wound of Donnell’s fumble but Coughlin will remind the young TE that a 3 TD performance in Washington does NOT a career make.  The play in question wound up being a 14 point swing when Donnell fumbled at the New York 27.  The Cowboys scored 4 plays later with a 1 yard TD run by DeMarco Murray.

4. Eli Manning continues to be mistake free….- But the Giants keep losing.  Eli’s career record when throwing for at least 2 TD’s and zero interceptions is 21-6 (.777 win pct).  Coincidentally three of the six losses were to the Cowboys.    When the Giants handed the offense to Ben McAdoo one of his chief responsibilities was to reduce the amount of interceptions thrown by Eli.  He’s already done a fantastic job.  Eli has thrown 5 interceptions in 7 games.  Compare that to 2013 when he had thrown his 5th interception by the fourth quarter of game number two.  The biggest question surrounding Eli has always been about his erratic play but there’s no doubt that the early returns on this new offense have been good.  Eli has limited his mistakes and some of that is due to the fact that he is no longer forcing the issue when being under pressure.  He’s making sure to throw those god-awful short throws at the knees of his running back rather than throw it and hope for the best.  Think about the effect that has on an offensive line that everyone agrees has not improved as much as the Giants brass would have liked.  The offensive line is projected to give up 10 fewer sacks this year than last and that’s with an eight sack performance at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles on their register.  While the benefits may not be seen now, mistake free football is what helped win two Super Bowls.  This can only lead to better things.

5. Andre Williams isn’t there yet.- And that’s ok.  The rookie was thrust into a role after a few highlights of him lowering the boom on some unsuspecting cornerback.  But you’re now seeing why he wasn’t projected as high on team’s draft boards.  He’s not as quick or shifty as the superstar running backs in the league.  He’s a pound it out in between the tackles 4 yards at a time the hard way kind of guy.  Those guys age quick.  Its the guys that can avoid the hits that last in the league and Williams hasn’t learned that trick yet.  Jennings, another big back, did a great job when he was healthy of showing burst once he hit the hole.  Williams runs into the hole and finds very little room to operate because he didn’t read the hole correctly.  That will come with time and repetition.  The Giants brought in former Jet Alex Green and former Cowboy Felix Jones for workouts but that’s more as a contingency.  They believe Jennings will be healthy enough to play after the bye.  But it does bear watching how reverting back to a part time role could make Williams more productive or if it has a negative impact on his development.  If he is in fact the future feature back, these few games may be the best thing for his development.

6. The defensive line is going back into its shell- The Giants went up against two above average (Philly) to really good (Cowboys) offensive lines and failed both times to generate any consistent rush.  Yes, their performance in Dallas was significantly better than it was in Philadelphia where it seemed like the Giants weren’t in the same league as the Eagles, but again a breakdown in fundamentals led to critical scores for the Cowboys.  Terrance Williams’ touchdown catch saw Tony Romo break to his left once he realized that JPP had taken an inside route to get the sack and he had acreage to run or stop, set himself and throw a touchdown strike to Terrance Williams.  It was similar to watching the Giants break contain against Shady McCoy.  The way to stop shifty players is to force them to try and go straight when they really want to run left or right.  Shady and Tony Romo are adept enough to wait for you as the defender to make the first move and give away where you’re going to try and get them so that they can instinctively make a counter-move.  The importance of being patient and allowing the player to fall into the hands of the defense are vital and the Giants failed both times.  During 2011, JPP had a knack for making the sure tackle and being excellent in run support because he was able to hold the point of attack on running plays and force the runner to either go way outside or shift back inside which led to short or no gain.  That’s the kind of performance we need.  Coach Nunn has promised to unleash DaMontre Moore and shift Kiawunuka to the inside on certain passing downs to generate  a pass rush but he said it with the nugget that he doesn’t think DaMontre Moore is necessarily ready to make that leap.  The Giants, more so than others, can be hamstrung by what they see in practice.  They recognize talent but if the talent doesn’t perform from Monday-Saturday they won’t trust it Sunday.  I’m not going to second guess them because their method has worked.  But sometimes you have to take chances that don’t have anything to do with your hand being forced due to injury.

7. Who deserves more credit? Tony Romo or Demarco Murray- Its a popular question but I offer this response: the offensive line.  That offensive line has changed everything for the Cowboys and I beg someone to say that the offensive line’s performance hasn’t been what has spurred the Cowboys resurgence this year.  As I wrote earlier, their affect on how long the defense has to stay out there, or their ability to wear opposing defenses out can’t be felt until the third and fourth quarter.  It reminds me of the offensive line the Giants had in late 2007  and throughout most of 2008.  The rushing stats for the Giants were unbelievable because the offensive line dominated the point of attack and forced the issue and moved buildings out of the way for the runners to run through.  Giving Tony Romo, an already talented quarterback, a running game and an offensive line that can pass protect well is creating the illusion that the Cowboys have an extra receiver on passing situations and a big TE blocking on running situations: it looks unfair.

8.  Why didn’t the Giants just keep passing it last Sunday?-  That’s a very good question and one that I think has more to do with how the game was being played and how close the game was until five minutes left.  Yes, the Giants were having success passing the football.  Eli played another fantastic, mistake free game.  But the fact is Tom Coughlin has always preached balance and he won’t change the identity of his team to suit the narrative of ONE game.  Remember, the Giants were trailing the Cowboys by 7 with 5:28 left in the game so there was no reason to panic and deviate from the game plan.  There is some merit to the thinking that perhaps the Giants should’ve gone pass heavy to set up the run and flip the script.  In the fourth quarter the Giants went pass heavy calling 12 pass plays to 4 run plays.  Technically the Giants did go pass heavy but two fumbles by Larry Donnell extinguished any chance of the Giants being able to score.  It will be interesting how the play calling changes if Rashard Jennings does not return after the bye.  Will the Giants rely heavily on the pass game?

9. Hey Rook, you’re a veteran now- That’s the headline that screamed this week as Victor Cruz’s injury now forces Odell Beckham to come into his own as a veteran.  I’m one of those guys who views injuries like this as opportunities for players who have the skill to put their talent on full display and I believe that Beckham will do just that.  I’m a fan of his route running, and his ability to get down the field and create mismatches.  Judging by “Drafting Giants” the NFL Films production that aired as a miniseries on the NFL Network, the Giants thought the world of him and love his pedigree; both his parents were professional athletes.  I did find it surprising that the Giants would be vocal about expanding his role in the offense.  There’s a difference in the tone that the Giants speak about him than say a Damontre Moore, a second year defensive end that the Giants feel similarly enthused about.  While Moore physically is able to dominate at the line of scrimmage, there are concepts he still is having problems with.  Beckham, who’s early injury put doubt into people’s heads about his toughness, sprung from his first game and immediately made an impact.  Whether its his budding connection with Eli which seems to be almost instinctive, or its his other skills that were on display from the day the Giants and other teams scouted him, it just looks like the added responsibility won’t be too much for the rookie receiver to handle.  An Adrien Robinson who has been the tight end of the future while the Giants keep inviting one year tryouts for tight ends has found it difficult to make it on the field on Sundays, and almost found himself completely out after Larry Donnell’s breakout performance the first few weeks.  The Giants aren’t sending mixed signals.  Some players progress a lot quicker than others.  Its just a nature of the game and the point of the game is to win.  The best players make the plays on Sundays and the best players play on Sundays.  For rookies, that means growing up quicker than maybe the  traditional process says.  But I don’t think Beckham minds.

10. Looking ahead- Well a bye couldn’t have come at a better time.  It feels like a coming to God moment for the Giants.  I thought they had to, at the very least, split the series against the Eagles and Cowboys.  Now, the focus comes to Indianapolis who has been playing excellently recently and that offense led by Andrew Luck and old friend Ahmad Bradshaw.  The Giants last played the Colts when they had a young buck called Peyton Manning as their quarterback.  This version of the Colt QB is just as dangerous if not more thanks to his physique.  If you thought Tony Romo was tough to bring down, I promise you Luck will be tougher.  Sacking Luck will require multiple Giants converging at the QB and even then, he has the arm and upper body strength to get the football out.  If the Giants don’t get pressure on Luck it will be a long day.  One player to keep an eye on: Dwayne Allen.  He missed virtually all of last season following a hip injury that put him on the IR.  His ability to block and be an able member of the passing game was a huge loss for the Colts but the Colts are a resilient bunch.  It forced certain players to play a more pronounced role.  With Allen back, a lot of players can now take their rightful place in the offense.  The Colts won’t expect Colby Fleener to block.  He can play the Dallas Clark role by lining up outside of the down linemen.  Allen’s presence is huge in this offense and the reason they have rolled off the kind of numbers they have.  Interestingly enough, the Colts last year played the kind of murderer’s row of schedules the Giants will.  Starting in week 3 the Colts played the 49ers in San Fran, the Seahawks at home, the Chargers in San Diego and the Broncos in Indy in five weeks and went 3-1 in those games.  So the lesson here is that it can be done.  The mistake free Eli needs to play those games.  If not, the Giants may not stand a chance and a bad 0-2 stretch can stretch into a nightmarish midseason which will give way to a pointless end of season string of games.  The Giants are now forced to win nearly all of the next few games against the Colts (at home), Seahawks (in Seattle), Niners (at home) and Cowboys (at home) to even survive and keep up with the Cowboys and Eagles.  Let’s remember, they have to win all of their division games thanks to losing to the Eagles and Cowboys in consecutive weeks.  This will be an interesting after the bye stretch.

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Latest On Melo

Throughout the Carmelo Anthony saga the biggest misconception has been this: that there is some mystery that needs solving.

We know that Carmelo wants to be a Knick. The Nuggets and Nets want Carmelo to be a Net. NBA fans of 27 other teams could care less*. But there’s been this constant back and forth about where Melo wants to be.
*= Laker fans don’t care either, except they have that .05% hope that Mitch Kupchak blows this team up and reloads for a run at Dwight Howard after 2012 so they can give Kobe maybe an extra 2-3 years of life on his legs.

Carmelo has been open about where he wants to end up as he could be without completely looking like an ass. He hasn’t led on his current fanbase about a future there that both sides knew was not going to be. He has been as honest as he possibly could be when pressed by media members who repeatedly just want him to admit something that they themselves know he is trained by professionals not to.

If Lebron’s “decision” taught us anything, its this: there are right and wrong ways to go about doing this. We may hate it as a “need-to-know-everything” public but the way this is playing out on the outside is exactly how it should be. Melo and all parties involved need to keep some space between them and the information hounds until something happens.

I am tired of sports tickers calling deals “imminent” and “very close” according to “sources” that will never be made public. I’m tired of seeing Chris Broussard and Marc Stein and reputable reporters like Ken Berger and Adrian Wojnarowski make informed opinions. I want fact and not some imaginative fiction made to increase page views on sites.

I would at this point rather hear nothing until a trade is made, or read about the other offers after the fact and an informed opinion about why these deals didn’t go through and what made the teams come to terms on what they did.

Sadly I’m in the minority. In some respect, I love this new age of rapid fire information but many times its a whole lot of smoke I have to sift through until I see fire and for people who are as lazy as I am, we don’t like being duped into reading an article that has no basis in truth. Its neither rewarding or fun.

Don’t confuse this with opinion pieces. I love columnists who can offer fresh perspective on any sports story. I just hate reading about the possibility of something happening that hasn’t. Don’t bore me with that. Excite me with (f)actual news.

The Knicks and Nuggets will continue to try and broker the deal that would get Carmelo’s approval while the Nets hope that once the Nuggets and Knicks don’t reach a deal that Melo, desperate enough to get that extension, will approve a deal to the Nets. A deal that has been on the table since last summer.

The amount of players and draft picks it would take from the Knicks and Nets would be huge and I am not going into who has been rumored in either package but you can be certain that this would be a “farm cleaning” kind of a deal that sends both franchises into uncertain futures.

After all, this is about the future as much as it is about the present. This weekend is supposed to be Blake Griffin and the depth of talent that the NBA hasn’t had in a really long time. But the weekend has been filled with rumors of trades and deals and meetings and executives and rap moguls that take it far from what fans want to see- basketball.

Is Melo worth all of this? We won’t be able to tell that until Melo helps deliver a title to whichever team he eventually ends up on. When a player of Melo’s caliber gets traded its a win-now move for the franchise that lands him and anything short of a title makes this deal pointless.

I’ve been of the opinion from day one that the Knicks should wait till free agency to scoop up Melo. If Melo wants to be a Knick so bad and wants to win a title in New York then the Knicks shouldn’t trade away half the team. This is Melo wanting his cake and eating it too. He doesn’t want to leave $20-$25 million on the table especially considering that there will be a new collective bargaining agreement in place.

Which of course brings up the dark horse scenario that could play out. Let’s say that the February 24 trade deadline comes and goes and Melo isn’t dealt. The Nuggets and Melo would be stuck together till a new labor deal is struck- one which could have a franchise tag built in. A tag that the Nuggets could use on their superstar to keep him from going to the Knicks in free agency. Its the only bit of leverage the Nuggets have and its a leap of faith to assume that it would happen.

So the need for Melo to have some resolution to his situation prior to February 24 is necessary.

One thing is clear: the Nuggets and Melo are not leaving each other on good terms. Neither wants to give what the other wants. Is it fair for the Nuggets to take a less than fair offer to help a player who wants to leave? Is it right for the Nuggets to be this stubborn to not deal with the Knicks and risk Melo leaving them without getting a single thing in return?

Here’s the only thing to know. It doesn’t matter talking about it until it happens. Did that make the last couple of hundred words I wrote useless? Maybe. What I do know is that when it happens then there will be something worth talking about. Until then we’re all driving ourselves crazy over something that hasn’t happened.

Atleast I’m trying to convince myself that this is the right course of action. To be honest I’m having a hard time doing it.

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Ten Things I learned while watching All Star Weekend

Honestly, its been ages since I sat myself down through the entire All Star Weekend and forced myself to watch it.  Here are ten things that I learned while watching All Star Weekend:

1.  Tyreke Evans is a beast, but he was smart to share that award with DeJuan Blair. Blair had 22 points and 23 rebounds.  He played more minutes than anyone in the game for a reason.  In these All Star contests, the coaches give every guy an opportunity to play but give the hot hand most of the playing time.  Evans is a spectacular player but Blair is the guy who really stole the show.  Its amazing what guys with a chip on their shoulder can do?  How do teams like the Spurs end up with guys like this?  Isn’t it easy to see that his work ethic was extraordinary?  The first round is littered with talented blue chip prospects you hope will mature into great players but the second round is filled with players you need to score high on the “i’m going to work my butt off in the gym to prove I belong on an NBA roster” scale.  Blair is described as many as one of the most likeable and personable people you will meet which of course is always a plus and he was selected with the 37th overall pick in the second round by the Spurs.  When I heard he went in the second round, I knew that whatever team selected him would have a steal and of course it had to be the Spurs.  He’s going to be a double double machine who is not afraid to use his wide frame and bulky build to punish opponents down low which he showcased in the Rookie-Sophomore game during all star weekend.  Tyreke may have walked away with the MVP award, but everyone walked away wowed by DeJuan Blair.

2. The DUNK contest should no longer be the premiere event of ASW, unless they get a major name to participate. There’s an APB going out to LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and any other basketball player who fancies himself a great dunker.  Since Vince won it, I’ve never been really wowed by a dunk contest.  Every year the originality has been sucked out of it by the fact that there are so many “we’ve seen this done” dunks repeated and worse missed a few times and then done.  Nate won it for the third year in a row but does it really matter?  That’s how bad the Knicks are, even when their players are winning awards its for pointless things like the dunk contest.  I Facebooked on Saturday that perhaps I was spoiled as a youngster watching the likes of Michael Jordan, and Clyde Drexler and Vince Carter participate in the dunk contests.  Don’t ever expect to see that kind of star power happen today.  Imagine if LeBron were to lose the dunk contest? How hard would it be for him to have the tape of that dunk contest mysteriously disappear?  Probably not that hard.

3. PRIDE is lacking. Which naturally leads us to the problem with All Star games in general.  Really there’s no incentive for the players to put on a show other than pride.  You know when pride kicks in?  with about 7 minutes left in the All Star game.  These guys don’t compete hard against each other.  Familiarity usually breeds contempt but not in this case.  Bill Simmons, the page 2 writer, made a good point a few years ago when he said that a lot of these guys grew up together.  They played on AAU teams and in summer travel leagues.  They stayed with each other.  Got their first blackberries together and have been texting each other box scores since they were 13.  So how do you expect two friends to be super competitive with nothing on the line?  You can’t.  Not even for normally hyper competitive guys like LeBron and Carmello and D-Wade.  Back in the day, Jordan and Magic and Bird all fought for alpha dog status.  It meant something to them because they came in as loners.  Imagine going to a conference and meeting everyone for the first time in a competitive setting.  You know no one.  You don’t owe them anything or have any link to any one there.  If you channel your normal hyper competitiveness into that room, you’ve got a bunch of highly talented guys trying to be “the man” for lack of a better term.  Now THAT would be sensational.  You don’t have that.
All Star games are not meant to do that but that’s the beauty of basketball.  The NBA is the only sport that can actually have an entire weekend filled with activities to showcase individual ability.  The 3 point contest, the Slam Dunk, HORSE (which as a basketball fan you have to LOVE, although it does need some minor tweaks), and skills competitions are all great ways for fans to see how truly athletic and gifted these guys really are at specific things.  No other sport can claim to have events that truly showcase the wide range of abilities like this.  I mean the NFL, if it were to make a big deal of those QB competitions and skills competitions may come close but it doesn’t so we can’t say that.  The NBA properly uses these events to showcase their talent.  If we raised the pot for the winners of some of these competitions or added a few wrinkles to some of the events, maybe just maybe players might give a damn but with so many outside factors and the globe more tightly connected than ever thanks to facebook and youtube and camera phones, players are more protective of their image and scared to fail because of the possibility that everyone will have the ability to see it in almost real time.

4. Craig Sager can wear normal suits, but his outfit altogether can’t be normal.  Has anyone in sports ever solely kept a career alive thanks to his wardrobe?  He mumbles when he talks, has the creepiest smile in America, and no NBA player feels comfortable enough to look him in the face when they talk.  Would anyone be surprised if we come to find out that his suits were actual human skin painted to those colors?

5. The NFL isn’t the only league in trouble. After the withdrawal of the NFL wore off, the attention quickly shifted to Dallas where David Stern was bombarded with questions about a possible strike looming in the NBA in 2011.  The Players Association apparently ripped to shreds the Owners latest proposal and are not willing to take a paycut to allow owners to have some breathing room as the economy recovers.  Its a tough sell for Memphis fans who really have no ties to their NBA team to sell out every night when their team is barely in playoff contention.  The problem has always been to put an NBA team where it fits.  Not where the guy with the deepest pockets are willing to spend on a team.  Putting a team smack dab in the middle of college basketball country will always be an epic fail and the people who love expansion don’t see that.  Developing a winner takes time and when you are expanding a recession will undoubtedly cause the team to take a hit.  Players have to accept the truth that the league is losing money hand over fist (the NBA is reporting an average of $200 million lost each year over the last 3), and guaranteed contracts will be impossible in the upcoming CBA.  Perhaps partially guaranteed contracts with long term contracts having an out after 3 seasons.  Who knows what kind of details need to be worked out but what we do know is that several teams are in the red and have been for a few seasons now and the CBA must be reworked to fix that.

6. Charles Barkley is by far the best pre game, halftime and post game entertainer in all of sports broadcasting. Since like I said, its been a while since i’ve solely concentrated on basketball, I forget how great it is to have a Charles Barkley around.  I imagine production meetings going on and Barkley walking in, then going to the toilet after about two minutes and sitting there for the duration of the meeting since you know Taco Bell offers you lots and lot, its especially good after you smoked lots of pot.  He walks out with toilet paper sticking to the bottom of his shoe (there’s no relevance to the rest of the comment but come on, you know that’s how it plays out) and he goes out there and totally wings the entire show.  He’s by far the only person with carte blanche to say whatever he likes on national television and rarely see anything more than a slap to the wrist for doing that.

The three best Charles Barkley moments from the All Star Weekend:

A. McLovin coming on to the set (I know he has a real name but I refuse to write it and if he knew what’s best for him, he had better embrace that name for the rest of his life).  Charles looked admiringly at McLovin, and not in a nice way.  He had finally found a guy that Kenny “the Jet” (the most overblown nickname ever by the way.  He was never that good to get a cool nickname like that) Smith and Ernie Johnson (white guys with black people names hall of fame) might look at as more ridiculous than Sir Charles (who by the way has my favorite mock nickname I’ve ever heard given to him by Hall of Fame sportswriter Peter Vecsey: Sir Cumference).  But of course what was unexpected was McLovin thinking the exact same thing about Charles.  He finally had the chance to be on stage with someone that people thought was on the same speed as him.

B. Charles Barkley’s funniest comment of the weekend: “you ever notice how gatorade doesn’t work on players who suck?”  Very true Sir Charles.  This was while you saw Nate Robinson take a chug from his gatorade bottle.

C. Barkley looking like a proud kid when David Stern gave him a compliment.  Look, even I get a little frightened when I hear David Stern speak but it was funny to see the oversized personality that is Charles Barkley address the commissioner in a slightly less demonstrative way.  Stern is an imposing figure for a small guy, but Barkley’s back pedaling and look of sadness when the commissioner gave Kenny Smith a compliment at the expense of Barkley and then paid Barkley a compliment two minutes later was about as revealing to you how scary Stern is and how much of a kid and crazy figure Barkley is.  You just never know with him.

7. I’m convinced NBA players are the least interesting people on the planet.  I had an interesting conversation this weekend about Dwight Howard.  Ever notice how we get all giggly about anything Dwight does and how we gush about his childish acts and get all gaga about it?  I realized why after about two David Aldridge interviews with Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade about how absolutely boring these guys really are.  They don’t even know how to formulate proper sentences.  OF COURSE DWIGHT HOWARD is funny, compared to most NBA players he’s Dave Chappelle. Dirk Nowitzki, God bless him, looked like the least comfortable man on the planet saying “everything is bigger in Texas.”  Its as if he had a cue card and was reading it monotone.  In fact he was walking off as he said it.  He wanted no part of the big stage.  Kobe Bryant always looks pissed off while being interviewed.  I hear LeBron James talk and I just wish he didn’t go to “Clyde Frazier teaches English 101”.  You know, using big words in the wrong context.  Meanwhile there’s only two superstars who I could see being a normal human being outside the court with their friends: Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.  I mean normal in the context of you or I behave with our friends.  I understand that stars operate on a different universe and different rules apply to them.  I would put LBJ on this list but LeBron falls short in one key area.  Amidst all the hype that surrounds him, all the commercials and everything else, looks like a guy that teammates naturally gravitate to.  Bill Simmons a few weeks ago talked about presence.  Jordan had the presence.  That being, the ability to make everyone in an arena or whatever setting they are, stop what they are doing and just watch a person’s every move.  What’s more, Simmons wrote, LeBron knows its and embraces it by putting on shows during pre game warm ups and horsing around.  LeBron is the rare superstar who’s comfortable in his own skin and willing to embrace all that comes with the hype and all the pomp and circumstance.  In that way, LeBron is normal because he hasn’t allowed himself to get caught up in everything around him and looks like a kid when he plays.  But his major flaw other than his language skills is the fact that LeBron needs to be the leader of the group.  He HAS to be.  Every group has that guy who needs to plan the trips and makes the phone calls to find out what everyone is doing or names the email chain you’re in and LeBron is that guy.  He would automatically be the leader of your group whether you wanted him or not.  He knows no other way.  He’s the alpha dog which I will get to more on the LeBron sweepstakes handicap article I will eventually do.  Those guys end up leaving the group and being replaced or he learns to be able to blend in better and not insist on being that guy.  No two ways about it.

Nash and Howard on the other hand are so similiar, they just look like goofy kids.  What sealed it for me for Nash was him accepting the Skills Challenge trophy and doing the goofy “strain to lift the trophy” thing but this article (http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/postedsports/archive/2010/02/11/steve-nash-is-the-most-internetiest-basketball-player-in-the-world.aspx) should further prove to you why any guy that takes himself that seriously could fit into any group.  Also Howard is always smiling and always putting on a show and never afraid to be silly.  When David Aldridge asked him about the Shaq controversy (who’s approaching bitter old man status real soon), you could see the pained expression as if telling David through his facial reaction that he did NOT want to talk about this and didn’t feel comfortable being serious.  That right there did it for me.

Otherwise, no other player seems that interesting to me and I despise listening to them talk.

8.  Steve Nash had the best weekend in all of sports. He went to Vancouver to carry the Olympic flame in his native Canada.  Flew to Dallas the next day and won the Skills Contest and then Sunday got almost as loud a reception as his good friend Dirk Nowitzki.  Its easy to see why so many NBA ball players love him and love playing with him but very few can say that they had that kind of weekend.

9. Dallas Stadium raised the bar for all sports All Star games. No doubt the NBA was smart to capitalize on the new Dallas stadium before even the NFL had a chance to (think Super Bowl 2011), but the NBA’s brain trust couldn’t have foreseen how successful the game was going to be.  Granted the competitive level got to normal with about 7 minutes left, but guys were genuinely trying to do the best dunks just so they could run back look up to the rafters at that beautiful screen and see them on the humungo jumbotron.  Granted pride is no longer part of the conversation for All Star games, but certainly guys angling for plays of the game and MVP’s were most certainly trying their hardest.  But how does the NBA address that next year when it comes to Staples?  The flash and the intrigue of having an NBA game at Dallas stadium has come and gone.  How does the NBA make it matter for NBA players next year when they are in a regular arena?  The fact that its in Hollywood will only affect the extra curricular downtown LA area and also Vegas (its only 3 hours away).

10. Everyone wants to be LeBron’s teammate. Just look at the East Squad’s entrance and the West squad’s entrance.  Its clear that LeBron’s repoire with his fellow players is so high and it makes him so likeable to everyone involved that its hard to hate the guy.  He commands attention and respect even from veterans.  We know how great a teammate KG is, even at the All Star Game he was acting like it was  regular season game, at the edge of his seat and cheering on his teammates, but even he takes a backseat to LeBron.  LeBron gets all his teammates involved and the genius of him to do the group intros is further proof of the extras that LeBron just naturally brings.  I see why Cleveland fans think that he’s developed this repoire with his teammates in Cleveland, but if the All Star game proved anything, he can build that up with just about anybody.  Just give him a few minutes, he can teach David Lee how to shimmy.

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