Category Archives: sports

NBA: Ten Surprises To Look Out For This Season

The NBA season couldn’t return quick enough, and with official tip off already underway, it’s time for ChiSide’s annual NBA season outlook. This year I’ll be posting my thoughts on the unexpected. Last season brought us the unforgettable “Linsanity”, the emergence of the Denver Nuggets and the various trades that put the league on its head the league. With a full 82-game season slated, expect more of the same; expect the unexpected.

1. Kyrie Irving vaults himself into a top 15 player in the league

The 2011 number one overall selection had a rookie season better than superstar point guards Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook had. The next step for him is to become the players both are. While Irving does not have another Kevin Durant-type on his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a solid foundation that could make huge strides if Irving steps his game up significantly, which transitions into my next surprise…

2. The Cleveland Cavaliers will be a lot better than you think

Head coach Byron Scott has ironed out the kinks in his first two seasons managing the club. After a 19-win first year, Scott got the Cavs to 21 wins in 66 games (equivalent to 26 wins in 82 games), a seven game improvement. If all goes according to plan (barring key injuries), Cleveland can crack 40 wins. If Irving becomes transcendent, power forward Anderson Varejao stays healthy and second-year center Tristan Thompson makes a jump, the Cavs can win a lot of close contests in a weakened Eastern Conference that has lost superstars Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard.

The X-factor for Cleveland will be none other than Varejao. The crafty Brazilian, in my opinion, is as good as Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah. Varejao is one of the league’s best floppers (yes, this is a good thing) and draws offensive fouls at an astounding rate. He averaged 11 points and 11.5 rebounds in 31 minutes of play through 25 games last year. Noah averaged 10 and 10 last year in 30 minutes throughout a whole season. There’s no doubt that Varejao’s presence is vital to this team’s success.

3. The Los Angeles Lakers will not lead the league in wins

The Western Conference is tough and the Lakers have the oldest starting five in the league with an average age of 32. In addition to a full 82-game schedule, head coach Mike Brown will be preserving the legs of his older starters for a late playoff run. It would not be far-fetched if the Denver Nuggets were able to finish the regular season off with two-to-five more wins than the Lakers. Continue reading

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MVP Race: Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera?

One of the more interesting debates on the diamond this season is the AL MVP. This season, Angels’ rookie Mike Trout and the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera compiled two of the best seasons in baseball history, leaving baseball writers perplexed when it comes to voting for the title. My Daily Illini colleague Stephen Bourbon and I break down the race below, beginning with my argument for Trout after the jump. Continue reading

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Video: The Return of D Rose Episode 5: The Drive

In the fifth installment of Reebok’s video series documenting Derrick Rose’s recovery, Rose speaks on what gives him drive and where his passion for the game stems from. Take a gander.

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October 19, 2012 · 4:10 PM

Chicago Bulls: Quiet Offseason Clears Way For Favorable Future

After leaving fans with a bad taste in their mouths at the conclusion of last season’s first round playoff exit, center Omer Asik and guard C.J. Watson have moved on to greener pastures.

In a league where teams can drastically improve overnight (see: 2011 Miami Heat, 2012 Brooklyn Nets), high expectations are to be had when the offseason rolls around. This goes especially for young, contending teams. Where high expectations are held, high expectations are rarely met. This is an adage that generally holds true and can explain what many bewildered Bulls fans are feeling right now in this frustrating free agency bid. Let’s recap some of the moves made so far: first, management lets superstar duster Brian Scalabrine walk (along with more prominent players such as rotation guard Ronnie Brewer, backup center Omer Asik, and backup point guard C.J. Watson). Players like Scals don’t grow on trees. Then, they trade the sharp-shooting Kyle Korver to Atlanta in exchange for a briefcase full of Benjamins and a trade exception (more on this later). And just like that, the bench mob is downgraded into something that resembles  more of a sob. Continue reading

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ChiSide’s 2012 NBA Mock Draft Version 2.0

[UPDATED 6/27/12] Picks changed: #10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29

Moved into the first round: PF Andrew Nicholson, SG Will Barton

Moved out: C Feztus Ezeli, SG John Jenkins, SG Doron Lamb

Biggest Movers: G Austin Rivers (11 spots up), PF Jared Sullinger (12 spots down), Perry Jones III (5 spots up), Terrence Ross (6 spots up)

It’s 6:00 am on a stuffy, hot Chicago summer day. Kevin Durant would say “Man, that’s messed up” if he knew how unwonted my sleep schedule is right now. Why am I doing this on approximately zero seconds of shut-eye? I have no idea. I spend my free time doing strange things. Here is ChiSide’s first NBA mock draft for 2012:

1. New Orleans Hornets select…

F/C Anthony Davis, 6-10, 220 lbs, Kentucky

What more do I have to say that hasn’t been said? The Chicago native will certainly be a stud at the next level, but not immediately. Davis was only a mere six feet tall five years ago and has sprouted 10 inches since then. He has yet to fill into his frame, weighing only 220 pounds, but that will come in time. His defense is NBA-ready, and fits in well with New Orleans’ defense-first style of play. Expect Davis to find his offensive game two to three years down the road in addition to perennial All-Star selections for years to come.

Ceiling: Kevin Garnett; Floor: Marcus Camby

2. Charlotte Bobcats select…

F Thomas Robinson, 6-9, 245 lbs, Kansas

Will Jordan find a way to screw this one up again? I think so. I’m not sold on the big man from Kansas, but I have a feeling MJ is. While Robinson has as much heart as anyone in the draft, I don’t see his skills translating into a game-changing player for the Bobcats. He doesn’t bring a significant defensive presence nor do I think he’s talented to score 20 a night in the association. Robinson possessed limited post moves and an inconsistent jumper in college, but was able to get by due to elite athleticism. His strengths are rebounding and heart, you can count on him to give it his all every night. He’ll be a solid pro for sure, just not worthy of a number two selection. Jordan will be kicking himself for passing on guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (who they should select), Harrison Barnes, and Brad Beal.

Ceiling: Derrick Williams; Floor: Patrick Patterson

3. Washington Wizards select…

SG Bradley Beal, 6-4, 200 lbs, Florida

I’ve been in love with Beal since his high school days and I believe he’ll be one of the best players to emerge from the draft. Beal didn’t put up eye-popping numbers during his freshman year at Florida (15 ppg, 7 reb, 2 ast; 44.5% fg, 34% 3pt), but showed that he plays an all-around game by making plays on both ends of the court despite playing out of position. Beal has an extremely high basketball IQ, plays unselfishly, and can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. He has no glaring weaknesses as far as I’m concerned other than size. The Wizards desperately need a perimeter scoring threat after shipping SG Nick Young to LAC, and Beal fits the bill. Expect this guy to be a strong ROY contender from day one.

Ceiling: Eric Gordon; Floor: Marcus Thornton Continue reading

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The NBA Finals Post

After a heartbreaking Game 7 defeat, Boston Celtics guard Keyon Dooling said it best:

“Everybody should relax a little bit,” Dooling said. “He is great for the game. He is our game. We need to uplift him, instead of try to tear him down. He is a guy who is the most unselfish superstar I have ever seen. He rebounds the ball, assists the ball and empowers his friends from his community. He is a model citizen. He should not have a stain on his reputation. I hope that it stops.”

No, Dooling wasn’t uplifting any of his teammates. He was praising his opponent, Miami Heat’s Lebron James.

As a Chicagoan, a cursory glance at my Twitter feed during Heat games reveals the same old jabs and jeers at the three-time MVP: “Lebron sucks!”, “Lebron will never get a ring!” “*Insert unoriginal fourth quarter joke here*”. It’s all non-sense. This is a new year, and frankly, I don’t see where Lebron went wrong. He shut his mouth and played the best basketball of his life. The beauty of these NBA Finals is that he has the chance to quiet the noise. What’s even better is that he can accomplish the feat over the greatest competition available, leaving no excuse for fans to continually deride him.

Everyone wanted Lebron to falter in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but I did not. I wasn’t ready to watch the Thunder steamroll a far inferior (and a far more dull) opponent in another unexciting Finals. This year’s matchup may be will be the most exciting in a decade. When was the last time we saw the top two MVP vote-getters, the Sixth Man of the Year and five total All-Stars competing for the O’Brien trophy? I don’t know if that’s happened since MJ left the game. As much as you hate Lebron, trust me, you wanted him here all along. This is when you should be rooting for him to fail.

Not to take anything away from OKC’s prized possession, forward Kevin Durant. He brings as much to the table as James does, but in a more reserved manner. Durant doesn’t have to deal with media scrutiny, as he is the antithesis of James’ public persona: beloved,  uncriticized, uplifted. There’s not much to say about him that is new.  The clash of differences between the two stars, however, summons the cliché “good vs. evil” storyline, which just adds to the fire. You wouldn’t have found that in a Thunder-Celtics matchup.

I’m going to continue the format of five thoughts for the series as I did in my NHL preview. I’ll try and keep the stats to a minimum (doubtful). Here we go:

1. The Presence of Bosh

It was obvious that Miami’s previous two victories couldn’t have happened without the return of Bosh. It may have taken an epic Game 7 80% shooting performance that included knocking down a career high three of four three pointers for fans to realize that he’s an undervalued asset to the Heat’s success. During the regular season, the Heat were 42-15 with Bosh on the floor and a mere 4-5 without him. In the playoffs, they are 7-2 with Bosh playing 5-4 without Bosh seeing action. If Bosh continues red-hot shooting from outside, this series can end a game or two early as defense will have to respect him and stretch the floor, opening lanes for Lebron and Wade to penetrate.

2. Turnovers

An overlooked factor all playoffs has been OKC’s atypical ball protection. During the regular season, the Thunder led the league in turnover ratio, but was able to improve vastly upon that throughout the playoffs, by becoming the second best team in protecting the ball. This can be attributed to the Thunder playing opposition that weren’t exactly huge generators of turnovers, which the Heat are. The Heat, however, didn’t force many turnovers against a usually turnover-prone Boston team. It’s safe to say that PG Russell Westbrook is much more reckless with the ball than Rajon Rondo, though, so the stats may fluctuate back to their norms.

3. Heat X-Factor: Dwyane Wade

Wade has been surprisingly inconsistent in this year’s playoffs. The absence of Bosh may have had a huge affect on that, allowing teams like the Celtics to double-team him constantly, turning him into a jump shooter (one skill he does not excel at). The Thunder do not have the quickness on the perimeter to close out space as the Celtics could do, so we may see more of those patented 25-5-5 games.

4. Thunder X-Factor: Russell Westbrook

I feel as if the Thunder live and die by Westbrook’s play. When the Thunder drop games, you can’t help but look towards Westbrook to see a sub-35% shooting night coupled with a near one-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. On the other hand, Westbrook has the capability of taking control of the game and scoring at will. The Heat defense will be his toughest task to date, and I really don’t see him breaking it more than one time all series.

5. Thoughts & Predictions

I think this series will mirror the Thunder-Spurs series. Pundits all around will assume the Thunder have the edge, and they will look good… for two games. Lebron will turn on his “Game 6 face” and go off for another spectacular 40+ point-near-triple-double performance in a win to tie the series or take the lead. Durant will be impossible to quiet, as usual, but will not be able to close out the series thanks to a few careless Westbrook games. Like the Spurs, the Thunder won’t know what’s coming after facing three teams with mediocre defending. The Heat will suffocate Westbrook and Harden and force turnovers which will lead to dozens of fast break buckets. Bosh will render Ibaka ineffective by forcing him to the perimeter. Four to five of the games will be instant classics, possibly overtime thrillers. Most will end with only a 3-5 point disparity between the two teams. With that said…

Heat in six games

Finals MVP: Lebron James

And I’ll leave you to a completely irrelevant song that has been on repeat in my Itunes 24/7 since Sunday night:

 

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ChiSide’s 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Preview

The 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs was an absolute doozy to witness. Although my beloved Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated in a mere six total games, my eyes never ceased to deviate from the rest of the competition that was going on. Thus far, there have been a total of 23 games that have gone into sudden death overtime, the most since 2003, which also had 23 overtime games. The NHL record for overtimes in a playoff is 28, set in 1993. The record could be broken if the extraordinary happens in this year’s final, which would have to result in, at least, a six game series in which every game extends beyond 60 minutes. A side note to those unfamiliar: Nothing is more nerve-wracking than observing your team sacrifice body after body in order to keep that tiny, disk-shaped piece of vulcanized rubber from crossing the goal line. Nothing. A great number of fans from Chicago and Phoenix, as well as myself, had to endure five consecutive cardiac-arrest-inducing wars between the Blackhawks and Coyotes. Even though the Yotes came out on top, it’s safe to say I loved every minute of it (this is easier to say a few weeks afterwards). No sport conveys suspense and sense of urgency like hockey. It’s simply unparalleled.

What makes hockey so great is that, no matter what happens at the end of the regular season, all sixteen teams have an equivalent shot at hoisting the most majestic trophy in all of sports. This year’s playoffs further attest that statement, as we are set to watch the eight-seeded Los Angeles Kings face-off against the six-seeded New Jersey Devils. The Kings have been wiping up the floor with everyone they’ve played so far, losing only two games in the entire playoffs. This includes the top three Western Conference teams, the pesky Vancouver Canucks, the St. Louis Blues, and the Phoenix Coyotes. The Devils, on the other hand, have had scares against the Florida Panthers, who took them to seven games, as well as the number one-seed New York Rangers, who took them to six.

I’m going to compose this preview in a more abnormal way than I usually go about by just giving five thoughts about the matchup, instead of breaking down every facet of each team and comparing the two. I’d like to imagine these opinions will enlighten those new to the sport as well as the hardened veterans that have watched the game for the past 20 years. Enjoy. Continue reading

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