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10 storylines heading into NBA Free Agency

It seems as if the 2015 free agency period has the potential to flip the league on its axis. Some teams with restricted players will have to dish out some serious cash to keep a key player. While some playoff teams will no longer be playoff teams after major subtractions.

  1. What will happen in Cleveland? Coach LeBron James is now using the “wait-and –see” approach as if he doesn’t know what he will do. James will stay with the team and he will put his general manager cap. He obviously wants David Blatt gone and more depth added to the team. It doesn’t look like James wants to team up with Kevin Love anymore as the experiment did not work. (Sidebar: Love is capable of getting 20 points and 20 boards each night. He cannot do that by playing on the wing. Just because he can shoot from the perimeter, inaccurately, does mean you should put him there.) James has gone on the record saying that he wants to see Tristan Thompson come back and be a Cavalier for live. For the record, LeBron has not been a Cavalier for life. It is Cleveland after all. That city can screw up a 911 call dialing 119. BTW we will be previewing all 32 NFL teams in 31 days. The first team up is the Cleveland Browns. There are so many great things to not say about this franchise.
  1. Jimmy Butler has singlehandedly carried the Chicago Bulls in the absence of Derrick Rose. Butler is developing into a superstar shooting guard who will have the ability to make another team an instant threat if he were to leave the Windy City. Most likely he will be offered a max salary that Chicago should match. The Bulls would be placed in a tough position if he were to leave. They already are in need of shooters. This team could go from a championship contender to a middle of the pack team. It is the East where a .500 record can get you in the playoffs.
  2. In the past two seasons Portland has had its best record since the Nate McMillan days. The Blazers will lose at least one star. LaMarcus Aldridge has already put his home up for sale and informed the team he won’t be returning. He will become a max player early in free agency. Wesley Matthews is also an unrestricted free agent who happens to be recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. If he is 100% healthy he can make a team better over night. The only notable player that may be left in Portland is Damien Lillard who happens to be going into his final year of his contract.
  3. The Los Angeles Lakers will be spending George Steinbrenner money this offseason. Rumor has it that they will be making a serious push for Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, amongst others. Can they become ShowTime again? Who knows? Expect Kobe to still put 40 shots a night.
  4. My favorite NBA owner, Mark Cuban, will also be looking to spend some dineros this offseason as he is still trying to win another championship for Dirk Nowitzki. It is rumored that they also want Aldridge, C DeAndre Jordan and PG Goran Dragic. It is safe to say the Rajon Rondo will not be returning to the team as he was a bud Rick Carlisle was happy to nip (People thought the Rondo addition would guarantee them a title. Silly rabbit). The team will most likely not get Monta Ellis back.
  5. Then there are the New York Knickabockers. I, like everyone else, have no clue as to what this team/Phil Jackson is attempting to do. It’s clear Carmelo Anthony does not care about winning. He proved that last year when he decided to resign. It was no surprise to see the team perform to horrifically. It appears as if Greg Monroe is going to join the team and continue to be a part of a below .500 team. It’s a shame to see a team with such a good fan base be so irresponsible.
  6. The Spurs will be resigning Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan and hoping that they have enough left over to go after Aldridge. Remember Kawhi Leonard is a restricted free agent. It’s not often San Antonio has to make salary and personnel decisions during the offseason.
  7. Boston is going to look to get bigger. Last season they tried unsuccessfully to get Kevin Love. Expect them to land a big name person to go in the post. Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge have done a great job thus far of putting this team together. They came a long way in such a short period of time.
  8. I want to see the Charlotte Hornets pick up someone. Anyone. This team was the biggest disappointment last season. There is a lot of talent, but they can’t put it together. When Michael Jordan, THE GREATEST NBA PLAYER OF ALL-TIME, at age 52 says that he can beat every player on his team there is a serious problem.
  9. Will Dwayne Wade stay in Miami? It would be hard to see him a different jersey next season. Would it matter if he left though? Yes, if Chris Bosh would have been healthy at the end of the season the Heat would have been a playoff team. However, Wade will be one year older this season and if healthy he can give a team a maximum 50-60 games? D-Wade should leave to try to win another title. He should join a team where he would need to play about 30 minutes a night.

Bonus: The Philadelphia 76ers will be looking to add Slava Medvedenko, Nick Young, Mark Madson, Brad Miller, and Kwame Brown. You can never have to many centers and other worthless players, right?

Other bloggers talking about free agency:

Instant Sports Net 

Off My Podium

Pistons Nation

The Athletes Hub

Hoops of America

Blues of Nine

Smirfitts Speech

Photo: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

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2015 NFL Wild Card Preview

The 2015 NFL Wild Card round is will begin this weekend and there will be four great contests. All of the “few notes” are from ESPN Stats and Information.

Saturday Games

Arizona vs. Carolina

I would not want to face the Panthers in the post season. This team is smoking hot. They’re riding a four game win streak and the defense is firing on all cylinders. They beat Atlanta 34-3 last week to get into the playoffs. Just because they are 7-8-1 DO NOT take this team lightly. Since Cam Newton’s wreck they have seemed to be invincible.

For the banged up Cards, they must be feeling like they are the most underrated team remaining. Injuries have mounted at nearly every skill position, but they have been able to implement the next man up philosophy. Ryan Lindley is a third string quarterback who will have to lead this team to possibly four victories. Is it possible?

Few Notes

  • Over the last 10 seasons, the Panthers are the 5th team to make the playoffs with a record of .500 or worse…each of the previous 3 teams went on to win in the Wild Card round.
  • Teams that finished .500 or worse in the regular season have won 5 of their last 6 Wild Card games. No team that finished .500 or worse has made it past the Divisional Playoffs, however.
  • From Elias: If Ryan Lindleystarts for the Cardinals, he will be the 7th QB since the 1970 merger to start a playoff game after having 1-or-fewer regular-season wins as a starter. Those QBs are a combined 2-4 and haven’t won since Gifford Nielsen won in 1979 for the Oilers.

Who wins?

I believe that this game will not be close. Bruce Arians has done a phenomenal job at motivating his team and preparing his troops for the next battle. However, Carolina is clicking and it will be tough for Arizona to stay in it.

Score: 27-10


Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh

This is the only divisional contest this weekend and it is fueled by hatred and that alone. The squads split the regular season contests by both winning on their home turf. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 17-14.

Baltimore clinched the final playoff spot by defeating the Browns in there finale 20-10. They have a balanced offense that is being fueled by the strong running of Justin Forsett. He shockingly ran for over 1200 yards.

It’s still no secret that I have had it in for the Steelers all season. The Philadelphia 76ers have been more consistent than the Steelers. Remember this is the same team that lost to both the Bucs and Jets. They have won four games straight so they will be looking to keep their spark lit. The biggest question mark for Pitt is the health of arguably the best running back in the NFL, Le’Veon Bell. He has a right knee injury and he did not practice on Thursday.

Bell said, “I feel really good. I didn’t expect to be feeling this well this early. But I am, so I’m just going to take it day by day and see where it goes.”

Few Notes

  • Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 17-14
  • The Steelers were an NFL-best 6-1 against teams that finished over .500 this season.
  • The Ravens are 6-1 in the Wild Card Playoffs in team history, the best record in the NFL among the 29 teams to play at least 4 Wild Card games.

Who wins?

Well if I have not been that excited the Steelers through the regular season, do you really think I pick them now. Baltimore wins by a field goal.

Score: 23-20


Sunday Games

Cincinnati vs. Indianapolis

I have no idea what to expect in this contest. Both teams have the ability to put up points, but they can also stink up the joint. On paper we can expect a high scoring game, but if it is low scoring I would not be surprised.

The only way Cincinnati can win is if AJ Green plays. He did not practice on Friday due to the NFL concussion protocol. Can Andy Dalton lead this team to victory win it counts? Will the Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard run for at least 150 to take some pressure off of Dalton? There are way too many questions and I have no answers.

I have the same doubts about Indy. They can’t run the ball. The defense is more off pitch than Idina Menzel singing at a New Year’s Eve performance. Click here for the performance.

Few Notes

  • Marvin Lewis has lost his 1st 5 postseason games as head coach. Lewis has won 100 games in the regular season and joins Jim Mora as the only coaches with at least 100 wins and 0 postseason wins in NFL history.
  • The Colts defense allowed just 7 pass TD and a 27.1 Total QBR at home this season, both best in the NFL.
  • The Bengals had 135 yards of offense and went 1-of-13 on 3rd down in the Week 7 shutout loss to the Colts. It was the Bengals worst offensive performance since getting shutout in Week 17 against the Jets in 2009, when the starters didn’t play the full game.
  • Andrew Luck has thrown 8 interceptions in 3 career playoff games. Luck is the 1st QB to throw 8+ interceptions in his 1st 3 playoff games since Dan Fouts (1979-80 seasons).

Who wins?

By default I have to give the win to the Colts.

Score: 27-17


Detroit vs. Dallas

This will be the best matchup over the course of the weekend. This will be a battle of the lines. Can the Cowboys o-line stop the Detroit d-line? The Lions have been the best team against the run this season only allowing 69 yards per outing.

Matthew Stafford will have to have a perfect game if he wants to beat the ‘Boys. I’m sure Joique Bell and Reggie Bush will some pressure off of Stafford, but he cannot have another playoff letdown.

Dallas very well may be the best team in the league. They can pass, run, and defend. Murray and Romo have both made claims for the MVP award. They finished 6-1 to polish a very good regular season.

Few Notes

  • If history tells us anything, the Cowboys should go ahead and pack their bags for Green Bay. Matthew Staffordis 0-16 in road games against teams that finished the season with a winning record, the 3rd-most losses without a win in such games for any quarterback since the 1970 merger.
  • The Lions allowed an NFL-low 3.3 yards per rush on first down during the regular season. Only three teams have allowed fewer yards per rush on first down in a season in the last five years.
  • With Nick Fairleyreturning to practice, the Lions run defense could get another boost after Ndamukong Suh’s suspension was overturned earlier in the week. The Lions allowed 2.48 yards per rush against 86 carries with that duo on the field together this season. Those numbers dropped off significantly when 1, or both were out of the game.

Who wins?

How ‘bout the Cowboys????

Score: 31- 20

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2014-2015 NBA Preview, LeBron, Championship, Lakers, and more

nba

by Regis Welch @regisjwelch

Down the Line Sports

Well the NBA season returns this week, and I must say that I am extremely excited. I’m excited because this has been an extremely long offseason that has only had a few storylines that have been covered for far too long by the media. C’mon you know what I’m talking about.

  • Where’s LeBron going?
  • Can D. Rose come back healthy?
  • Is Phil Jackson going to return as the head coach of the Knicks?
  • Are the 76ers going to win five games in the 14-15 season?

For the most part we already knew how those questions were going to pan out. Am I surprised that LeBron went back to Cleveland? Not really. He has a much better chance to win an NBA title and he can bring glory to his home city. Cleveland has not celebrated a championship since 1964. Jim Brown led the then Cleveland Browns to the NFL Championship.

Let’s examine the teams:

Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers-Media Day

As previously mentioned, LeBron James did return home. He is team up with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. I believe Love is the best big man in the NBA because he can rebound and he can score from anywhere on the court. However, Chris Bosh was also a deadly big man as well who took a minor role to play alongside LeBron. I don’t see Love putting up the same numbers that he did when in Minnesota just because he doesn’t have to. I can hope that he is still effective on both sides of the court. Kyrie Irving is arguably the best point guard in the league. He can score and stretch the court. The Cavs also have a great bench who is made up of good scorers.

However, on the bad side the Cavs do a have a rookie coach, David Blatt. He is a respected coach. Blatt comes with a great resume. He’s a four time Israeli League Coach of the Year, six time Israeli Cup Champion, Italian Cup Champion, and Euroleague Champion. It will be interesting to see him bring an international flair to the NBA and see how he reacts to the nuances a new league.

Miami Heat 

For all of the friendly folks who pretended to be Miami Heat fans, please know that your presence will not be missed. It was just a few years ago where the Heat were in this same position. The leader of the team was Dwayne Wade and he had a mediocre supporting cast. Now players who actually have talent will surround Wade. Chris Bosh can be a beast within the paint again. He does not have to be on the perimeter to stretch the defense. I believe that Luol Deng is one of the most disrespected players in the league. He can score, play defense on log major minutes.

The million-dollar question with this team is their health. Wade must play in at least 70 games. If Danny Granger can return healthy they may have a chance at a playoff spot.

With all that being said the next time that the Miami Heat win a championship will be when LeBron James has a full head hair. It’s not gonna be anytime soon.

Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose appears to be back and playing like Derrick Rose. He’s making cuts and driving hard to the basket. My only concern about this team is the health of the former league MVP. Rose has had an ACL tear in the past and a torn meniscus. To play this sport you must have a good foundation and hopefully he has that.

The Bulls brought in a Pau Gasol during the free agency period. It will be hard for teams to matchup on the Bulls double-headed monster in the post. Gasol will play side by side with Joakim Noah. Noah carried the Bulls all of last season in the absence of Rose.

Chicago reminds me most of San Antonio. Meaning that this group of people plays great together. If and only if Rose is healthy will this team win the NBA title.

Indiana Pacers

Paul George broke his leg while playing for team USA during the offseason. He will be out the entire 2014-2015 season. George says that he can possibly be back for the playoffs if needed. This team has no chance of making the playoffs in the easiest conference. The Pacers were disgusting in the postseason last spring. Roy Hibbert, proved his worth as he had games where he did not record a basket or a rebound. A 7’2 you can’t get a rebound. I have a great aunt over 80 who can play better. David West is the only person on this team that I trust. He will play hard, too bad his team won’t.

New York Knicks

ny_a_knicksts_600x400

We found out over the offseason that Carmelo Anthony cares more about money than winning a championship. He signed a five-year $124 million to stay in the Big Apple. It is understood that Melo does not pass the ball. It is also understood that he has no one to pass to. Amar’e Stoudemire is supposed to be his help, but Stoudemire can’t stay on the field. He has played in 55 games per season since signing with the Knicks. That ain’t gonna cut it. Derek Fisher is they’re new head coach. Oh, he knows absolutely nothing about coaching. He knows the triangle offense, but does he know that he has no talented players on his team. If New York makes the playoffs it will be in a very low position.

Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant is the Los Angeles Lakers. If Kobe Bryant stays healthy the Lakers can win 30 games. If he is not healthy the Lakers win 12. It’s as simple as that. The team sucks, and there is nothing that Bryant can do about it. Then there’s Nick Young. Who cares about Nick Young? Carlos Boozer is washed up! Steve Nash is out for the season. Truly, that’s a good thing. He would have made them worse. Jeremy Lin is overrated and the owners are delusional. Here’s a clip of Jeanie Buss on First Take last week. She thinks her team will make the playoffs. Excuse me. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

San Antonio Spurs

The defending champs will look to do the same thing they do every year. Except, this year they will catch no one by surprise. They’ve been to the finals the last two season and many are expecting them to go back there again. There really is no story here. This is a great team. Expect them to be in the mix.

Oklahoma City Thunder

kevin-durant-russell-westbrook

Kevin Durant will miss at least the first month of competition. When he comes back the Thunder return to be the force that they truly are. But instead of talking about the league’s second best player let’s talk about Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is one of the best young players in the NBA. I believe that he has a very bright future in front of him, but he really needs to know his role. He is not the best player in Oklahoma City and never will be. I believe he is the modern day Penny Hardaway. Hardaway just knew he was better than Shaq and got a rude awakening once he found out he was not. Shaquille O’Neal went on to get four titles. Durant will get his championships with or without the help of Russell Westbrook.

Eastern Conference Standings

  1. Chicago
  2. Cleveland
  3. Charlotte
  4. Washington
  5. Toronto
  6. Brooklyn
  7. Miami
  8. Detroit

Western Conference Standings

  1. Los Angeles Clippers
  2. Houston
  3. San Antonio
  4. Oklahoma City
  5. Golden State
  6. Portland
  7. Dallas
  8. Denver

In the East, may the Knicks will play their way in. Look out for Orlando. They are a young talented team that will be on the way this year. The West is stacked. Memphis and Phoenix both made compelling arguments for being my eighth seed. I believe in Brian Shaw as a head coach and he will lead the Nuggets to a top eighth seed.

Finals: Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Clippers

Chris_Paul_CP3_next_to_Derek_Rose

Champs: Chicago Bulls (If Derrick Rose stays healthy.)