Miami Heat: What do the Heat have to do to repeat?
• Matt: I think the better question here is what do the Heat have to do to not repeat as champions, because right now, they’re the clear cut favorite. LeBron is coming off one of the greatest seasons in NBA history, and the guy still has room to improve. Wade and Bosh are still solid, and though health concerns will always be an issue, the two will still be steady contributors come playoff time. Added bench depth means a continued reliance on small ball with the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, which isn’t a bad thing. The Heat proved last season they can match up with any team despite the lack of traditional low post depth, and now that that monkey is off LeBron’s back, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this team top the 60-win mark.
• Brett: There is a very simple answer to this question: they just have to play basketball. Seriously. They are still the best team in the league after rampaging through it last year and still have the best player on the planet in LeBron James. The bench is much improved with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis and oh yeah, they still have Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The NBA needs to be on lookout again because the Heat are more dangerous than last season.
Orlando Magic: Who is the most important player on the Magic now that Dwight Howard is gone?
• Matt: Last season, the Magic were an early favorite for playoff success before Dwightmares and Dwight injuries bogged down what could have been a relatively successful season. If their first-round loss to Pacers was any indication what the Magic could do without Dwight Howard, this season is already shaping up to be a long one. Right now, the most important player on this Magic squad has to be Arron Afflalo. The biggest get in the Dwight Howard trade, Afflalo has the ability to score the ball and defend either guard position, which is invaluable in a league full of defensive switch-ups and faster play on the wing. Sure, having guys like Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson will take some of the pressure off their new Magic teammates, but in the end, it might be weird to say this, but I’d argue Afflalo is the team’s best player now, and needs to play like one.
• Brett: The Magic’s roster looks so bad on paper. Like, No. 1 overall pick worthy. That’s why it’s so hard to pinpoint the player who is most important to the Magic now that Dwight Howard is in LA-LA Land. I guess if I had to choose one, it would be their point guard, Jameer Nelson. He’s a seasoned veteran who has been with the team for a long time, and the only guy that exudes any type of leadership qualities on a consistent basis. There are other names on the roster that could fit, such as Al Harrington or Hedo Turkoglu, but realistically, Nelson is the de facto leader of this team, despite the anonymity. (more…)
With the NBA season upon us, many are already jumping to predict the next champion. Will the Heat repeat? Will the Thunder look to take it one step further and win the organization’s first championship? Or will a retooled Lakers or Celtics squad step up to the plate and show that savvy veterans have what it takes to compete with the young dogs?
But just because the end goal (to win it all) remains firmly in sight, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a Sacramento Kings/Cleveland Cavaliers game, right? There are 30 teams to break down, which is why Matt Vinsko and Brett Murdock (with a little help from their friends) are here to answer the biggest questions from all around the league. So sit back, relax, and enjoy an in-depth breakdown of the NBA season prior to opening tip.
Phoenix Suns: What is the biggest challenge for the Suns in the first year of the post-Nash era?
• Brett: Looking ahead, the Suns biggest concern is their chemistry and how they will mesh. There are some pretty good pieces to this puzzle now, both in the starting line-up and on the bench. Acquisitions like Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola bring talent and namesake to the starters to go along with fan favorite (and possible face of the franchise?!) Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat. Off the bench, Wesley Johnson has impressed so far for his new team, but the rest of the back-ups have been underwhelming, including first-round pick Kendall Marshall. As it stands, there is no real floor general like Nash was, and it will take some time to find that cohesiveness that coach Alvin Gentry needs for this team to get back to the playoffs.
L.A. Lakers: Does the Dwight Howard trade put the Los Angeles Lakers back into title contention?
• Matt: If you would have asked me this question prior to last season, I would have immediately told you what a benefit Dwight Howard would be. But now, coming off a season filled with off-the-court drama and a number of injuries (compared to Andrew Bynum’s career year), it’s hard to be ecstatic. Sure, Dwight will help defensively, which is what the Lakers needed last year in the playoffs against a much-younger Oklahoma City squad. And even though defense isn’t his specialty, Steve Nash is set to rejuvenate a somewhat stagnate offense. But still, it’s hard to be excited knowing Superman can walk out the door at the end of the season if contract negotiations fall flat. With the Lakers, it always feels like a championship or bust mentality, and unless Nash, Pau Gasol, and even Kobe Bryant can channel their youth, it’s hard to see the Lakers competing night in and night out for 48 minutes. (more…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
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Couch Side pays its homage to the World Champion San Francisco Giants in this week’s episode with hosts Wade McMillin ans Craig Paul and special guest Sean Schoonover. Our panel also looks at the highlights of Week 8 of the NFL and gives out some Fantasy Football advice. Click below to start streaming, downloading or subscribing to the Couch Side Show podcast:
As a hardcore Atlanta Braves fan, I would truly be remiss if I didn’t write a tribute blog to Chipper Jones one day after the 2012 season ended.
The 19-year-pro may have hung up his cleats earlier than he wanted to as his beloved Braves were ousted of the playoffs in the inaugural Wild Card round of the MLB playoffs, but I bet this season was everything he wanted it to be. Although it must’ve been a saddening experience, every single MLB ballpark that Jones played in during this final run bid him their own farewell in some very unique ways. Every club gave the 40-year old their park’s third base while others threw promotional nights for baseball fans to say their goodbyes to one of the best players who has ever graced the diamond.
In times of darkness with things like performance enhancing drugs and “chicken and beer” incidents, Jones’ final season showed us all how classy baseball can be. Jones won’t go down as the best third baseman who ever walked or perhaps even a top 50 player, but he was treated like a true titan of the game in each contest he played this season. I even made a trip from Northwest, Wyoming to Coors Field in Denver just to see No. 10 one last time and I made that very special trip my bachelor party, two months before my wedding.
Jones has clearly earned his respect. He may not have done it with his numbers, but rather his heart. I truly believe he was so well respected for more than his talent. And although he could certainly be recognized on talent alone, there was just something different about Chipper. Maybe it’s because he spent his entire 19-year-career in the same uniform. Maybe he is so highly regarded because he was never within a 10 foot pole’s reach of any sort of steroid conversation. Above all, I believe most baseball fans honored Chipper because he is that sort of “Mr. Baseball” kind of guy.
He has the neat nickname. Chipper plays the hot corner and did it despite bad knees. He was a World Series champ and the poster boy of Bobby Cox’s run at 19-consecutive N.L. East division titles. While some just watched the Braves for their pitching, they always knew No. 10 was the one hitter you always had to watch out for. While some players will earn their honors in the stat sheets, Chipper took the hearts of MLB fans by being himself — a grown man that played the game for the simple joys of it and the people who looked up to him.
So thanks for 19 years Chipper. I hope retirement is all that you want it to be. Although I will be looking for your name in next year’s starting lineup, I’m truly proud to have been a baseball fan during your career.
Jay Cutler is a hard guy to like.
Sure he’s the quarterback of the most popular team in the Chicago area, and a “franchise” guy, but Jay Cutler’s attitude is making it really hard to root for the Chicago Bears and enjoy their success.
The Blackhawks have Jonathan Toews who balances out Patrick Kane‘s so-so antics. But at least Kane loves Hawks fans and never shuts them or the media out. The Bulls have Derrick Rose, perhaps the most likable guy in the NBA and the Sox, as brutal as that clubhouse can get, have guys that fans love.
Cutler is as polarizing as it gets, and it seems each week we’re not only watching to see what he does on the field but what he does on the sidelines as well.
We got another “Cutler being Cutler” moment on his way to the locker room, trailing at halftime. As boos reigned down in Chicago, FOX cameras followed Cutler and caught him giving a condescending look to the Bears faithful at Soldier Field and mouthing something that is open to interpretation — but it didn’t seem like he was thanking them for coming.
Dan Bernstein from CBS Chicago suggested that Cutler was saying “You fuc#!ing fans, you guys…”. The GIF above seems to also suggest that, or at least Cutler is saying words to that effect. (more…)
Defense wins championships, still.
The first thing that came to mind when assessing these teams was not the stellar starting pitching on either sides, or the high end offensive quality, but the defense.
If you watched the NLCS, you could tell which team was more fundamentally sound, or at the very least executed better with the glove. The Cardinals repeatedly shot themselves in the foot in games 6 and 7, while the play of the Giants only seemed to get better with each opportunity. Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco are fantastic outfielders who have shown off great range; Brandon Crawford is one of the best defensive shortstops in the league (lead the NL in range factor), Marco Scutaro has shown off some nifty glove work, and Pablo Sandoval is not a complete liability at third. Contrast this with the Tigers defense and we get an entirely different story.
Austin Jackson aside, the Tigers defense is and has been sorely lacking all season. Miguel Cabrera is not an adequate third basemen, he’s actually better at first, but Prince Fielder is over there and he should be a DH. However, the Tigers have to play games in the NL Park where there are no designated hitters, which means the god emperor of outfield suck Delmon Young has to play Left, which he hasn’t done in a while. Remember Vladimir Guerrero in the 2010 World Series? We could see gaffes of epic proportions.
The ALCS MVP had a few good games against the Yankees, but the former #1 draft pick has no skills other than popping a few home runs, and maybe a few cheeseburgers. He’s a big guy, and I don’t see the move to the outfield as a positive. But of course, Jim Leyland has to play him because it’s what he’s doing throughout the season, but I can’t help but wonder if old Jim will replace him for an Andy Dirks or Don Kelly late in games against a Santiago Cassia or Sergio Romo.
Defense Edge: Giants (more…)