Nick Saban Wants a “Level Playing Field”

1CC/RammaJammaYellaHamma 


Who would have fathomed the idea that any other conference could possibly have an unfair advantage over the SEC? The conference that won seven national championships in a row is apparently at a disadvantage according to legendary Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

Saban, a four-time national champion and six-time National Coach of the year, gave his thoughts on some of the Big Ten schools’ use of satellites to cover summer camps. To summarize, he didn’t like the idea because he believed it gave those schools a foothold recruiting-wise in the South.

Essentially, he believes the top five conferences in college football: the SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, and the Pac-12 should all abide by the same rules. This is coming from a multi-millionaire who coaches at a university that has a waterfall!

Why Saban’s argument is flawed

 Honestly, the idea of a conference having the same advantages as all the other conferences isn’t terrible at all because that would mean that no conference actually has an advantage – an actual level playing field. However, it is hypocritical for Saban to make that argument when the SEC just oozes with benefits, one of which is the fact that many if not most five-star recruits around the country come from the South (particularly the Southeast) year after year. Coaches in this conference probably don’t need to recruit outside their region because the talent is in their own backyards. Saban could just walk down a street in Tuscaloosa and see a five-star recruit.

Let’s also not forget the fact that last August, the NCAA Division I board of directors voted 16-2 in favor of the Power Five gaining autonomy or the right to set their own rules. Other conferences were allowed to adopt the same rules if they wanted to, but they would have needed Power Five money to pull that off.

Final Thought

It is easy for a coach with Saban’s success and status to say that something the SEC doesn’t have or couldn’t use in recruiting is unfair but I think he is forgetting the bigger picture: this is how recruiting works. College head coaches have to try to sell to potential recruits the idea that their particular university has something to offer that the others don’t. One could even think of them as unofficial salespeople. Bottom line, if roles were reversed and Nick Saban could use satellites to cover Alabama’s summer camps, he would do so in a heartbeat because he knows he would have an advantage, unfair or not, over other universities. College recruiting isn’t meant to be fair or equal. If it were, every university would be able to compete against one another and that would be ridiculous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slobber-knocker!

 

LeBron James by EDrost88, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  EDrost88 

What happened?

If you watched the game you can’t ignore what you saw.  A 30-point loss in an elimination game 4 makes a statement:  The Hawks, in their current configuration, can’t ride the Tao of Pop to a championship.

I tweeted before the game last night that the Hawks needed to shoot 50% from the field and erase the rebound margin in order to win.  They did neither and got dump-trucked.  Shooting 42%, and 15% from three, shows a team that wasn’t able to step up in the moment.  They shot a lower field goal percentage and almost 10% lower 3-pt percentage in the playoffs. But that didn’t stop them from launching 3’s like the Dubs.  I understand Korver was out for two games, but even when he was in he struggled to get his shot.  Al Horford took SIX shots, SIX!  Schroder, Bazemore and Mack took more shots than the All Star?  Not a winning strategy.

Atlanta also got bum-rushed around the rim.  They were out-rebounded by almost 20 last night and grabbed only 7 offensive rebounds.  Horford only managed two…..that’s right….2 rebounds.  That’s well below his playoff average of almost nine.  Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov basically did what they wanted inside.  They combined for 30 points, 18 rebounds and 4 blocks and patrolled the paint like they owned it.

I WILL give coach Bud credit for emptying the bench in these last two games and giving of his reserves a shot.  He started Bazemore out of necessity but allowed he seemed to take advantage of the opportunity and was all over the floor, challenging every position with reckless abandon and grabbing rebounds.  Shelvin Mack was solid at times and completely manic at others.  He seems so committed to attacking that he winds up in awkward spots on the court and often has no one to bail him out.   Mike Scott is a skilled rebounding forward.  Millsap was the only Hawk who outperformed Scott on the boards in this series.  I’m not sure why Antic and Schroder didn’t see the court as much, but neither had an impact when they did get in.

All the stats aside, the Hawks just didn’t belong in the discussion for a championship.  They scraped by their first two series thanks to age and injury, respectively.  And when they ran into a legit contender they got weighed and measured and found lacking.  I’ll be the first to get on board with “team” play and the passing/motion offense Atlanta used this season.  Nothing is more fun to watch than a defense trying to catch up when the ball is swinging side to side.  The Hawks just need to tweak their rotations and invest in more bench players.  They ran into the biggest enemy of this type of roster:  injuries.  But this team has the talent if used properly and HONESTLY.  The Cavs shined a light on the level of talent and position deficiencies at Philips Arena.

Now that I’ve established what’s wrong with the Hawks, I promise to only bring solutions moving forward.  Stay tuned for how Atlanta gets better……

Michael Sam CFL BOUND

Michael Sam has signed a two-year deal with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. General Manager Jim Popp said,” if nothing else doing the dancing show was great cardio for Sam.”

The first openly gay NFL player to wear the blue and gold Rams jersey in 2014, was cut from the team shortly after. He later spent some time on the Cowboys‘ practice squad, and was later invited to participate in the 2015 veteran combine. With no success in landing a NFL home Sam headed to Dancing with the Stars where he spoke candidly about being estranged from his father after he came out as gay.

With no NFL teams showing interest, Sam has been given a new opportunity to do what he does best which is be a football player. He has announced that he is headed to Montreal to play in the Canadian Football League. Sam’s’ stated that he is not trying to make history he just wants to play football.

Michael Sam is deserving of this opportunity. It may not be the NFL but the CFL is a great opportunity for him to thrive and be the beast he was meant to be on the field.

CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora first reported Sam’s signing.

 

Chicago Bears release DE Ray McDonald Upon His Latest Arrest

It is said quite often that people deserve second chances, but the truth is that not everyone should actually get a second chance.

Chicago Bears defensive end Ray McDonald was released Monday by the team after his latest arrest in Santa Clara, California on a domestic violence charge and a separate charge of child endangerment.

Santa Clara police officers responded early Monday morning to a disturbance call. According to the victim, McDonald allegedly assaulted her while she was carrying a baby. When police arrived, McDonald was nowhere to be found but was later tracked down and arrested in San Jose just hours later.

McDonald’s Background

 McDonald, 30, previously played eight seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. In August of last year, McDonald was accused of domestic violence. In December of that same year, McDonald was accused of sexual assault. The 49ers had released him after getting word of the sexual assault allegations.

This past April, the NFL released a statement based on the investigation into McDonald. In the statement, the NFL claimed that McDonald didn’t violate the personal-conduct policy in the domestic violence incident last August. The sexual assault case against McDonald is still ongoing. Recently, McDonald stated that he was innocent in both incidents and that his image was damaged as a result of them.

Bears Owner George McCaskey initially felt that McDonald shouldn’t be signed to the team but relied on the supposedly better judgment of General Manager Ryan Pace.

Timeline of Events

 Here is a quick recap of the events leading up to McDonald’s latest release:

  • August 2014: McDonald is accused of domestic violence.
  • December 2014: McDonald is accused of sexual assault; he is released by the 49ers on the same day.
  • April 2015: NFL concludes that McDonald didn’t violate personal-conduct policy.
  • May 2015: McDonald is arrested on domestic violence and child endangerment charges; he is released by the Bears on the same day

Conclusion

McDonald has racked up a combined 210 tackles, 19.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 1 interception in his eight-year NFL career. He was obviously talented and a key piece on the 49ers’ defensive line. However, as many of us sports fans know, talent alone will only get an athlete so far in his/her sport. Along with talent, you need discipline – knowledge of how to handle yourself like a professional on and off the playing field. McDonald was given a second chance to prove that he had just that. Now, he will be stuck in the free-agency market for a while and will likely be forced to retire.

This is yet another story of an athlete having the chance to live his/her dream and throwing it away because of a lack of discipline – a terrible shame really.

Opportunities Missed

Frustration and everything else that cost the Hawks Game 3

With 5:30 left in the game, the Hawks and Cavs were tied and LeBron James was dragging up and down the court.  Atlanta had managed to hang tight in a game full of drama and big shots, but their season long deficiencies became glaring issues after losing their heart and soul in the first half.

Coach Bud couldn’t have asked for a better scenario to start the game.  James was scoreless in the first quarter and with Kyrie Irving out that meant the Cavs were relying on some unproven talent to step up.  Unfortunately, the Hawks managed just a 3 point lead going into the 2nd quarter……really…..LeBron scoreless for 12 minutes and you’re only up 3….not a good sign.  James didn’t even get a field goal until almost 5 minutes into the 2nd quarter.  This is not the way to take advantage of a slow start by the other team’s best player.

Fast forward to the final minute of the first half……

Matthew Dellavedova and Al Horford are chasing down a loose ball and as Al is reaching down for the ball, Delly is falling to the ground and into Horford’s knee.  Horford then drops down with a WWE elbow that gets him a Flagrant II and is told to kick rocks.  We can debate whether the play deserved an ejection or if Dellavedova is a dirty player, but the reality is that Al Horford is considered a pro and a leader.  He’s gotta know his importance to his team.

(For the record:  Dellavedova dove after loose balls that both Hawks players “reached” down to grab.  Coaches don’t teach players to “reach hard” they teach young players to dive for the ball.  Get over yourselves…..the Cavs were throwing Atlanta beat downs before Korver got hurt!)

So with Horford gone, the Hawks seemed to just lose steam.  They hung tight and even forced overtime, but I never got the feeling the Cavs were in trouble.  Teague dropped in 30, but had no help in the backcourt.  Demarre Carroll is making a valiant effort with his knee injury, but his 2 assists and 10 points were a drop in the bucket compared to what he gives up on defense.  He doesn’t have the lateral quickness or the core strength to battle with LeBron and he’s severely hobbled when going up for rebounds.

Kyle Korver, out with an ankle sprain, wasn’t even missed last night.  Shelvin Mack shot 50% from the field (3/7 from 3pt) and gave the Hawks 4 rebounds to go with his 13 points.  What doesn’t show up in the box score is the physical play of Mack.  He carries his 6-3/207 with a lot more strength and shows more on defense than Kyle ever has.

The other two contributors for the Hawks last night were Mike Scott and Kent Bazemore.  Both had seen their minutes cut in the postseason and I couldn’t understand why.  Scott’s minutes had been cut in half until last night and even though he didn’t shoot well, he grabbed 9 rebounds and dished out 2 assists to go with his 8 points.  Bazemore is a different kind of player for the Hawks.  He isn’t always terribly efficient but he has slashing capabilities and rebounds well for his size (7 last night).  He’s no Kwahi Leonard, but that’s a role that’s gone unfilled in Atlanta all season.

I appreciate that Coach Bud is finally going all out with his rotations.  When you’re facing the King, there can’t be any bad ideas…..only options.  But being scrappy will only get you so far.  Players get you to the Promised Land, not philosophies and the Hawks simply don’t have the players to match up.  As solid as he was last night, Shelvin Mack was the guy with the last two looks for Atlanta……LeBron, CP3, Chef Curry, The Beard he is not.

Everybody loves the gritty underdog, but in the end it’s the big dogs that hunt.

 

Say anything…rant

I’m looking for a heartbeat….

I wanted to write about the amazing game Steph Curry posted for the Warriors.  I’d hoped to break down how the Hawks might battle back into their series and give the Cavs a run in the East.  I spent my morning thinking about the NBA draft and the different scenarios based on team needs.  These were the topics I WANTED to think about today.

Instead, I’m still wrapping my brain around yet another cop skating by after spraying a brown person with bullets.  I’m also trying to reconcile why I saw a post from Jalen Rose about it and not a damn word from anyone else in sports.  I understand many professional athletes fear voicing an opinion but I’m done giving them a pass.

When young black men and women were being mistreated during segregation athletes such as Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali didn’t remain silent.  Ali sacrificed 3 years of boxing because he refused draft induction.  Two young black men made a statement in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico on the medal stand.  Carlos Delgado protested the singing of America the Beautiful because he felt the wars in the Middle East were ridiculous.  I applaud all these men for what they did to further their conviction, but far more often, especially in the modern era of huge contracts and big money endorsements, athletes are more and more silent.  Michael Jordan was always famously silent whenever anything controversial came up.  Tiger Woods remains “above” the fray…..even as other golfers are making racists comments and the mainstream golf media is critiquing every shot and second-guessing each putt.  I can’t even recall a significant response to the Rodney King verdict……and outside of O.J. that was THE defining judicial moment of my lifetime.

All this is to say:  SAY SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING, THINK SOMETHING!

I respect the t-shirts worn, moments of silence and hashtags as much as the next person, but where is the statement?  Where is the outrage?  Where is the soundbite calling for action?  Hell, where’s the Vine with an athlete supporting the police, GOP or conservatives?  (All opinions are welcome)  What’s it gonna take for the young black and brown men and women of professional sports to break the silence and speak up for all of those who wear their jerseys and emulate their play?  Why don’t we require more than just leading by example?

I’ll tell you why…..becomes money trumps conscience and Political Correctness trumps honesty.  I can’t tell you the last interesting player interview I heard.  As long as players continue their canned answers the endorsement deals keep rolling in.  I’m not hating on cash, but damn….can I get a glimpse of humanity?  No, because we don’t value humanity unless it’s OUR humanness.

This is a rambling rant, but the lack of honesty and soul among athletes is disheartening.  I miss the poetry of Darryl Dawkins, the realness of Manny and the social conscience of Jim Brown.

So I’m calling out LeBron, Kyrie, Horford, Teague and any other player moved to do so:

Make a STATEMENT in Cleveland!  Give the media something REAL to report.  And tell all the people, young and old, that speaking out is OK and standing by is NOT.

 

Hawks’ 3-Point Specialist Kyle Korver is Out For the Rest of the Playoffs

As if it couldn’t get any worse for the Atlanta Hawks, it just did. After getting handled rather easily by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2, the team found out that their best 3-point shooter Kyle Korver is going to miss the rest of this year’s NBA playoffs.

Korver limped off the court in the third quarter with a high right ankle sprain after Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova rolled on his ankle while diving for a loose ball. Korver wasn’t that effective in this game as he scored 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting, grabbed 1 rebound, dished out 1 assist, and had 1 steal – real close to a quadruple double.

The Hawks are unsure of whether or not Korver will need ankle surgery.

Korver’s Value to the Hawks

Losing a 3-point shooter is bad for any team, but here are some statistics that show that losing Korver is a huge blow to the Hawks:

Korver was one of four Hawks players who made the All-Star team this season (Teague, Horford, Korver, Millsap).

  • Korver is 6’ 7” and plays as a guard/forward hybrid. This means he could have been guarding someone like J.R. Smith AKA J.R. Swish and/or LeBron James, two players that have obviously been going off in this series.
  • Korver averaged 12.1 ppg during the regular season and led the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage…for the second consecutive season.
  • With Korver on the court, the Hawks have outscored their opponents by 60 points this postseason.
  • With Korver off the court, the Hawks have been outscored by 30 points this postseason.

What This Means for the Hawks

 Honestly, after the Spurs fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in the divisional round and the Chicago Bulls basically quit in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, I thought this team would be the next biggest threat to Cleveland matchup-wise. All season long, the Hawks have been playing a brand of basketball similar to Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs AKA LeBron’s kryptonite. In fact, the Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer worked previously under Popovich as an assistant coach so he is very familiar with coaching team basketball rather than relying on Superstars to carry him to the Promised Land. However, this is perhaps the Hawks biggest flaw.

The Hawks don’t have a consistent go-to-scorer on the team. In just about every game they’ve played, it seemed like someone different was always stepping up. That’s great for a team like the Spurs who have top players at their positions like reigning defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard and the ageless Tim Duncan, but the Hawks virtually have a bunch of role players on the team. After losing Thabo Sefolosha to an off-the-court incident with the NYPD just before the start of the playoffs, Korver was the only other 3-point specialist left on the team. Now someone else is going to have to take up that mantle and whoever is going to do it, probably will not be as effective as Korver.

Trailing 2-0 in the series, the Hawks should probably hit the panic button because it is going to take a miracle for them to win this series now.

(Statistics courtesy of ESPN and my own knowledge)

All That Glitters…..(is not a contender)

How did the Hawks REALLY get it done this year?

Atlanta finds themselves in the Conference Finals as the number one seed in the East and sporting the second best record in the league.   They did it without a “Superstar” and are taking on THE superstar of the league in King James and his Cavaliers.  This storybook season of team basketball and selfless players has made for some teary-eyed traditionalists, white-haired journalists and fringe players.  But saying the Hawks are the best in the East doesn’t necessarily make it true.  Their success has been as much about luck as anything else.

The Eastern Conference was pretty much a dumpster fire this season.  The Atlantic featured two teams tanking – initially because their rosters stank, then they designed garbage rosters to stink on purpose.  The Central was the brightest spot with two winning records and one team finishing at .500.  The Southeast, Atlanta’s division, was abysmal at best.  The Magic and Hornets were playing for lottery spots from opening night.  Miami’s logo should have been a question mark going into this season with all the turnover in their roster.  That left the Wizards to compete with the Hawks and their roster looks pretty similar to Atlanta’s with the exception of John Wall.  So I’m gonna call “boo-boo” on the 60 wins Coach Bud’s guys put up this year.  It’s tough to win games, period, but when the competition is as lacking as the Eastern Conference was this season expectations should be somewhat tempered.

For all you stat riders, here’s some interesting numbers regarding YOUR Atlanta Hawks:

  • ATL was 2nd in assists per game – but gave up almost as many to their opponents
  • ATL out rebounded overall and gave up more than league average of offensive rebounds
  • ATL was in the bottom third in the league in free throws attempted
  • ATL gave up almost as many 3 pt shots as they made

The biggest advantage for the Hawks came in the training room.  Until Thabo Sefalosha got an NYPD beatdown, the Hawks had only had minor bumps and bruises this season.  They didn’t even have an injury worthy of the league report!  Miami lost Chris Bosh to a life-threatening blood clot and Charlotte had 5 guys on the injured list from late March on.  Injuries happen in sports and you can only take what’s given, but Atlanta’s luck has put them in an awesome position with regard to health.

As we’ve seen through the playoffs, the Hawks have talented players who have been successful in the right situations and lucky in others.

  • The Nets exposed the Hawks dependence on the 3 and Kyle Korver’s inability to get his own shot.
  • The Wizards challenged the Hawks inside and only when John Wall got hurt did Teague and Shroeder have an impact.
  • The Cavs exploited weakness in the post and a lack of toughness in the forwards in Game 1.

The keys to making this series competitive:

  • Find a way to get Korver open or sit him. He’s a defensive liability and can’t score off the dribble.
  • Develop a rotation with Teague, Shroeder and Carroll (if he’s healthy) since none of them are lighting it up.
  • Brand and Antic need to eat some lane. Allow them to body Thompson and Mozgov while Horford and Milsap play a scoring role.
  • Get away from the traditional – use your unpredictability to your advantage. Chaos Theory