Today is model turned actor Brooklyn Decker’s 25th birthday. The blonde bombshell is best-known for gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated’s 2010 Swimsuit Issue. Like Brooklyn, this year’s covergirl Kate Upton is one of the sexiest models to appear in SI in recent memory, which raises the question: Who’s hotter, Brooklyn or Kate?
For decades the Los Angeles Clippers have been the laughing stock of the NBA, the red-headed step-brother to a Lakers franchise which has dominated the league with a flare that captures the glitz and glamor of Tinseltown.
The Clippers have made the playoffs just twice since moving to L.A. in 1984. Their notoriously stingy owner Donald Sterling routinely allowed his best players to walk, bungled draft picks and failed to attract any star power to the media capital of the world. Meanwhile, the Lakers won eight NBA championships during that period on the backs of superstars so big they only need one name, Kareem, Magic, Shaq and Kobe.
So when the NBA lockout finally concluded last week and two of the league’s top players, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, were on the trading block and both reportedly interested in playing in L.A., basketball fans and insiders assumed that the Lakers would land one, if not both of them. Given the Clippers reputation as a moribund franchise, nobody believed they were seriously in the running, even though they had several attractive young assets.
Initially, it looked as though the scenario would play out as expected, with the Lakers reaching an apparent agreement on a three-team deal involving the Rockets and Hornets in which they would obtain Paul in exchange for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Then at the last minute, the league – which currently owns the Hornets – set off a firestorm by nixing the trade for “basketball reasons.”
Still, history dictated that the Lakers would find a way to restructure the deal and get their guy. But that’s not what happened. Instead, a devastated Odom reportedly asked to be traded. Instead of giving their versatile big man time to cool off, in Clipper-esque fashion, the Lakers shipped one of their biggest trade chips to the Mavericks for virtually nothing (the Mavs 2012 first round draft pick.)
The Clippers swooped in amid the chaos and began serious negotiations with the Hornets for Paul, which culminated in a deal Wednesday night in which they sent Eric Gordon, Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round pick, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu to New Orleans for the four-time all-star point guard.
The trade gives the Clippers the best guard-big man tandem in the league with Paul and last season’s Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin, a combination reminiscent of Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire during their glory days in Phoenix.
Paul wasn’t the only move the Clippers made this past week. Donald Sterling’s club won the bidding for veteran point guard Chauncy Billups, who can also play some two guard next to Paul, after he was waived by the Knicks under the amnesty provision. The club also signed gritty small forward Caron Butler and matched the four-year $43 million offer Golden State made to their up-and-coming restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan.
With a formidable starting five and the best one-two punch in the league other than LeBron and D-Wade, for the first time ever, the Clippers have the makings of a legitimate rivalry with the Lakers. In fact, one could argue that they have a better chance than their Staples Center cohabitants to win the championship this season.
The Lakers were swept by Dallas in the playoffs last season, Phil Jackson retired and they completely mishandled the Odom situation, turning their biggest strength, their deep front line, into a weakness. They have numerous question marks heading into the season, including an aging backcourt, the relationship between Bryant and new head coach Mike Brown and as always, whether Bynum can stay healthy.
Yet, the Lakers still have the potential to be an elite team. Don’t forget, they’re just two years removed from back-to-back championships and last I checked, they still have one of the top five players in the world in Kobe Bryant. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum form a devastating power forward/center tandem and both are solid bargaining chips for a potential trade with Orlando for Howard.
The Clippers have weaknesses as well, particularly inexperience and a lack of depth down low, which will be crucial in this compressed season. With several new parts and very little time to gel, the Clippers probably aren’t ready to compete for a championship this season, though they’re legitimate contenders and they’ve certainly closed the gap between themselves and the Lakers.
As Blake Griffin said when asked about the acquisition of CP3, “When you hear the Clippers, it’s not going to be a joke anymore. I can guarantee you that.”
One of the key matchups in the Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and Bulls has been Chris Bosh against Joakim Noah. On paper Bosh is the better player. The six-time All-Star has averaged 20 points and 9.2 rebounds for his career, though his numbers took a hit this season as he deferred to LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.
Noah, on the other hand, has yet to make an All-Star team and posts just 8.5 points and 8.4 rebounds for his career. This was his best statistical season, in which he averaged 11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. The Bulls center is a superior defender and excellent passer. His greatest value lies in the intangibles he brings to the court, specifically his infectious energy.
The two big men have guarded each other at times during the current series. Bosh has been the better offensive player, scoring at a rate of 24 points per game and carried the Heat offensively during stretches of Game 3 when Noah was in foul trouble. Yet, Noah has exceeded Bosh in just about every other statistical category, including; rebounds, blocks, steals and assists. His passing out of the high post and help defense has been particularly impressive.
Bosh and Noah are both in their prime, ages 27 and 26 respectively. Bosh has the name and the numbers, but Noah’s value to the Bulls is immeasurable. Which one would you rather have on your team?
The NFL draft is underway and that means ESPN’s two prominent draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay will undoubtedly be engaging in heated debates over the next few days. If you’ve ever noticed, they’re never in the same place at the same time. That’s because they would likely tear each others heads off if they ever crossed paths. Every time I see the two arguing over a prospect I wonder what would happen if they ever did throw down.
Kiper is the original draft guru and has fought off countless up-and-comers who’ve attempted to unseat him from the top spot. He’s broader than McShay, probably has at least 30 pounds on the junior analyst and is the feistier of the two. He made his bones by refusing to back down when Colts general manager Chris Polian went on the offensive after Kiper criticized him for not selecting Trent Dilfer in 1994 draft.
McShay is likely quicker than Kiper, 16 years his elder and is probably the more athletic of the two, having played quarterback at the University of Richmond. Don’t underestimate his resiliency either. He’s spurned King Kiper’s attempts at intimidation and has yet to wither in the shadow of the do, like so many before him.
It’s NBA playoff time, when legends are born. Some young players are taking the opportunity to cement their reputations as superstars in the league. Kevin Durant won his second consecutive scoring title this season at the age of 22 and continued to sizzle, dropping 41 points in the Thunder’s Game 1 victory over Denver. Teammate Russell Westbrook has been no less spectacular, with his athleticism and play making in the regular season and playoffs. Derrick Rose has dazzled with speed and elusiveness, building on his MVP campaign by willing the Bulls to two victories in the playoffs. Blake Griffin was an All-Star in his rookie season and though the Clippers didn’t advance to the playoffs he captivated our imaginations with several sensational dunks.
Those are just four of the budding stars who will dominate the league for years to come. Who do you think is the most exciting young player in the game?
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and University of Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun are two of the best coaches in college basketball and they’ve been matching wits in the Big East since Calhoun took the coaching job at UConn in 1986. They’ve each won at least one National Championship and are two of only eight Division I coaches to win 800 games. Fittingly, the two Jims were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame together in 2005.
So I ask you, which one is the better coach?
TALE OF THE TAPE
Boeheim – 1 (2003) (and a Keith Smart jump shot away from a 2nd)
Calhoun – 2 (1999 and 2004)
Final Four Appearances
Boeheim – 3 (1987, 1996, 2003)
Calhoun – 3 (1999, 2004, 2009)
Regular Season Big East Titles
Boeheim – 8
Calhoun – 9
Big East Tournament Championships
Boeheim – 5
Calhoun – 7
Players Sent to the NBA
Boeheim – 29
Calhoun – 23
20 Win Seasons
Boeheim – 33 in 35 seasons
Calhoun – 18 in 25 seasons at UConn
Boeheim – 855
Calhoun – 840 (601 with UConn, 239 with Northeastern)
After signing with the Red Sox in December, former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks criticized the way his old manager Ozzie Guillen handled him and the bullpen in general. A few days later Guillen’s son Oney tweeted that Jenks used to cry in the manager’s office.
Round two began on Friday, when Jenks claimed that there’s a problem between Guillen and the White Sox front office. Naturally, Ozzie had plenty to say in response. He initially dismissed the comments, then alluded to dirt he and Oney have on Jenks, and concluded with…
“I’m not even mad. I wish I was mad about it because I will rip his throat.”
Jenks has 18 years, 5 inches and probably over 100 pounds on his former skipper, but you don’t mess with crazy. So who you got?