By: Trent Little
I know the NBA Lockout days seem like a blur now considering the NBA Finals begin tomorrow in Oklahoma City with the Thunder taking on the Heat at 9 p.m. However, the matchup between KD and Lebron reminded me of a very dismal place last Fall. Each Fall NBA fans are usually gloating about their favorite team or player, but last Fall no one had anything to gloat about with the Lockout looming over the NBA. I searched the internet daily looking for anything basketball-related to fill the void of not having any basketball to watch. While some players took their talent overseas, others just sat around, but KD and Lebron worked out and trained together everyday, doing swimming drills and on-court drills at the Akron University gym in Akron,Ohio the hometown of Lebron James. To see these two players shooting to be great while no one was watching at a time of uncertainty and not having a job due to the Lockout was very intriguing. In these drills these two players displayed a hunger for greatness, coincidentally the 3-episode vlog was titled “Striving for Greatness”.
Seven months later, Lebron and KD are 4 wins away from getting closer to their dream, to be great. Lebron’s Miami Heat will take on the Durant-led Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, each player seeking out their first ring. A ring for three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant will put him into good shape to be remembered as a great by the end of his career. Lebron has accomplished everything except a title being named the MVP of the league 3 times, therefore a ring would validate all his prior awards. One thing I can say about this NBA Finals is that it will be a great one, for the legacies at stake, and the fact that we have arguably the top two players in the league facing each other.
On to the Predictions: In no way shape or form am I a Lebron fan. The way he made his decision a couple of years ago didn’t sit well in my book, and the fact that he decided to team up with another superstar in Dwayne Wade, and a All-Star in Chris Bosh. However, the run Lebron has had in this years playoffs forced me to respect him. The 45, 15, and 5 Game 6 performance against the Boston Celtics in the TD Bank Garden facing elimination is the greatest playoff performance our generation has seen by an individual. As much as I don’t want it to happen I just feel this is Lebron’s year. As great of a player Kevin Durant is, there’s one thing I don’t like about his game. When Kevin Durant came out of college, many said he was too small but it never seemed a big deal as he’s been crowned the scoring champ three years in a row.The problem I see in Kevin Durant’s game is that he has a hard time of getting off a defender to get open, stemming from the fact that he’s a Pixy Stix. This causes the Thunder’s offense to look stagnant at times, and leads to the extreme criticisms of Russell Westbrook. Too many times, I’ve seen KD disappear in the late stretches of games due to the fact that he isn’t able to get open unless he’s running off a screen. He can’t afford to disappear in any of these games against the Miami Heat, because Lebron, Wade, or Bosh will make him pay. Just like Chris Bosh showed in Game 7 against Boston, I feel he will be the difference maker in this series. I’ve changed my mind many times about who’s going to win this series in the last days, but I finally decided. In 7 games, Lebron James will hoist his first NBA championship.
Be sure to follow Trent on twitter at @_TeeLittle and check the footage of KD and Bron below:
Basketball fans everywhere had been waiting for this past weekend since Christmas, when the regular season tipped off due to the “infamous” lockout. This past weekend left basketball fans with a feeling of every emotion, sadness when the reigning MVP Derrick Rose and stellar rookie Iman Shumpert went down for the rest of the season with torn ACLs. Admiration when KD hit his second game winner of the year against the Mavs in the closing seconds to take the series lead 1-0. Lebron gave every Heat fan a reason to gloat after that 100-67 destruction of the New York Knicks, and the Clippers gave every fan that missed that 27-point comeback a feeling of disbelief. However, don’t get carried away after one game, this is a best-of-seven series so take it one game at a time. Below are my predictions for all of the first round series.
Eastern Conference First Round Matchup Prediction
1. Bulls vs. 8. 76ers
If you’ve been around any television, computer, or cell phone in the last 48 hours you probably heard or seen the play that ended Derrick Rose’s playoffs this year. My heart goes out to Derrick Rose, he embodies what a NBA player should be, with his character, and humbleness. However, the playoffs will go on without him, and honestly I feel that the Bulls will beat the Sixers without Rose. The Bulls have played without Rose the majority of the games this season due to injuries and boasted a 18-9 record, so I feel John Lucas III and C.J. Watson are well prepared for this next challenge. I don’t want to judge the 76ers by game one alone, but they looked putrid, they just don’t belong on the same court as the Bulls. With talent like Jrue Holiday, and Andre Iguodala, I do think they can pull out 2 games though. Prediction= Bulls 4, 76ers, 2
2. Heat vs. 7. Knicks
After a horrible showing in his last playoff series handing the title to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs, Lebron made sure we were all “witnesses” in the Heat’s first game this playoff against the Knicks. He shut down my favorite player Melo, while outscoring the Knicks starting lineup. I must admit, coming into the playoffs I thought the Knicks had a good chance of upsetting a top seed like the Bulls, or Heat. However, that went out the window when rookie and lockdown defender Iman Shumpert went down with a torn ACL. While most people don’t see Shumpert as a big loss to a star-studded Knicks team, Shumpert had the role of locking down the opposing team’s best player every game and most games he did. As much as I hate to say this, I see the Knicks only winning one game this series, yet being competitive in all games. Prediction= Heat 4, Knicks 2
3. Pacers vs. 6. Magic
This is one of the more overlooked first round series because of the lack of stars in the series. In Game 1, the Pacers handed the game and home court advantage to the Magic. Even though the Magic was able to escape Game 1 I expect the Pacers to come out strong Game 2 and the rest of the series to send the Dwight Howard-less Magic back to Orlando. The only reason I would second-guess the Pacers is because of the lack of a star or go-to-guy. Granger is very inconsistent, but that problem shouldn’t show up in this series. Prediction= Pacers 4, Magic 2
4. Hawks vs. 5. Celtics
Down a game and losing your best player to a one game suspension is a very big deal for the vintage Boston Celtics. However, I just don’t have any faith in the Atlanta Hawks relying on Josh Smith or the overrated Joe Johnson to be their best player.They’ve let me down too much in the past to choose them now against proven vets like Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. I don’t expect the Celtics to win game two in Atlanta without Rondo, but I do expect them to win the rest. Prediction= Celtics 4, Hawks 2
Western Conference First Round Matchups
1. Spurs vs. 8. Jazz
The Spurs are the most boring team in the NBA, but had the best record in the NBA this season. The bottom tier of the Western Conference teams gave up on the season vying for a spot in the lottery. In result, the Utah Jazz were thrown in the last spot in the playoffs. While this was a bright spot for their franchise, what happens in this series won’t be. SKUNK! SWEPT! The Spurs top to bottom has the best roster in the playoffs with reserves like Stephen Jackson, and Boris Diaw. So I’m looking forward to the next series, Spurs vs. Lakers. Prediction: Spurs 4, Jazz None.
2. Thunder vs. 7. Mavericks
This series is one of the more compelling first round series of the playoffs. While most fans want to chalk up the Thunder as the new powerhouse of the Western conference, you might want to go back and look at the Thunder and Mavericks series last year. Two words: Dirk Nowitzki. In the first game the Mavericks were in control for 39 of the 40 minute game, the Thunder went on a quick scoring run and a buzzer beater by Kevin Durant saw the Thunder take game one. If I’m a Thunder fan that would scare me. The Thunder don’t have a answer for Dirk, and when will Russell Westbrook self-destruct? Not this series. That being said, Thunder will come out this series for a rematch with the Grizz? Prediction: Thunder 4, Mavs 3
3. Lakers vs. 6. Nuggets
The absence of Ron Artest didn’t affect the Lakers in the first game of the series. Andrew Bynum and the Lakers was able to do anything they wanted to do against the Nuggets in game one winning convincingly. However, I don’t expect Ty Lawson to play as horrible as he did in game one so I expect the next couple of games to be more competitive. Competitive? Yes. But do I expect the Nuggets to win this series no. I don’t expect the Lakers to sweep the Nuggets because of age, and the Nuggets are a very uptempo team running at any chance they get. The Nuggets have the greatest home court advantage with the altitude in Denver, so they should be able to pull one out at home. Prediction: Lakers 4, Nuggets 2.
4. Grizzlies vs. 5. Clippers
I’m still shaking my head at the Grizzlies giving up a 27-point lead in the fourth quarter. Before the playoffs had started I felt that whoever was matched with the Grizzlies in the first round would go home but seeing them give up that lead, and the health of Zach Randolph is beginning to scare me. While the Grizzlies were able to make a long run in the playoffs without one of their top players Rudy Gay, they won’t be able to do that without Zach Randolph. However, the Clippers have injury problems of their own. Caron Butler will be sidelined for the rest of the season after breaking his hand in game one. So now I’m faced with the question do you go with the best point guard in the NBA, in Chris Paul or the best defensive unit in the NBA, in the Grizzlies? That being said, I`m sold on the Grizz. Plus I want to see a Thunder/ Grizz rematch. Prediction: Grizz 4, Clippers 3.
Written by: Trent Little [@_TeeLittle on twitter]
Which blue prevails?
By: Trent Little
Follow on Twitter: @_TeeLittle
The Duke and North Carolina rivalry surpasses all rivalries in sports. In rivalry games you can throw out the record, so which ever team loses this game will be crushed. Ask any Tar Heel fan, losing to that other blue team is dreadful, vice versa for Duke fans. Tonight another chapter in the battle of Tobacco Road will take place as the ninth-ranked Blue Devils will travel about ten minutes up NC 15-501 to face the fifth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. While the rivalry hasn’t been exciting over the past years, tonight’s game is very important for both teams because of the stakes that exist. The Blue Devils are in an unfamiliar spot losing to the Miami Hurricanes at home in their last game, a loss tonight could give the Blue Devils their first set of back-to-back losses since 2009. In that win, the Hurricanes also exposed Duke’s offensively minded guards Austin Rivers and Seth Curry in capability to play defense, which might prove more significant tonight. The Tar Heels will be the best offense Duke will play all season, they lead the NCAA in rebounds, points per game, and fourth in assists. This has been one of Coach K’s most challenging seasons at Duke due to the lack of athletes and real point guards on his roster. In the last game he made an unexpected move inserting Sophomore Josh Hairston in the starting lineup. If he pulls a move like that tonight expect whoever he’s guarding to have a career night. (Harrison Barnes maybe?) The one concern I have for Coach K is whose going to guard the potential number one pick in this year’s upcoming draft? For most of the season Coach K has decided to go with a 3 guard lineup in Rivers, Curry, and Dawkins and two big men in Kelly, and Plumlee. No one in that lineup can guard Barnes, I mean no one on Duke’s roster can guard Barnes. So that leaves the assignment of Harrison Barnes to……………Josh Hairston(lol). When you throw in the deep bench of the Tar Heels spearheaded by the real Hairston, P.J. and Reggie Bullock it just looks scary for the Blue Devils tonight. I advise all Blue Devil fans to watch the game at your house don’t go to any public places, because it will get ugly tonight.
Prediction: Tar Heels rout.
Who should the Bobcats go after?
By: Trent Little
If the NBA season ended today the Charlotte Bobcats would have the greatest possibility of snagging the number one pick in the NBA lottery for the upcoming draft in June. The Charlotte Bobcats currently have the worst record in the NBA at 3-20, with their leading scorer Gerald Henderson down for the next 2-4 weeks the losses are bound to pile up even more. I know we’re well over 2 months before the season’s end, but lately I’ve been thinking about who should the Bobcats pursue if they obtain the number one pick in the draft, and who’s worth the overall number one pick in the draft. In today’s NBA if you aren’t a big market team like the Lakers, Knicks, etc. your only way to compete is through the draft like the Thunder did so this draft will be critical for the Bobcats.
First I need to assess the roster for the Bobcats to find out what they need. There is a glaring weakness in big men for the Bobcats. I feel the Bobcats are still missing that go-to-guy, Gerald Henderson is doing his best to be that guy for the Bobcats right now averaging 15 points per game.
Who’s worth a number 1 pick?
Anthony Davis, Kentucky – If you check most mock drafts online Davis is the projects number one draft pick. However, I’m not fully sold on him yet. He has great potential, and athleticism, but what else? Growing 8 inches in 2 years Davis is adapting to a new position. His junior year he was a 6’2 point guard at a local high school in Chicago, Illinois. Now he’s playing Center for the Kentucky Wildcats at 6’10. His offensive game is not impressive to me, and I feel like I have seen this player before in Brendan Wright, and John Henson.
Harrison Barnes, UNC- I feel that Barnes should be the pick for the Bobcats in this upcoming draft. Michael Jordan( the Bobcats owner) has reached out to Harrison Barnes on many occasions. Therefore the two have a relationship, and Jordan has to like that Barnes plays for his alma-mater Chapel Hill. I have seen Harrison Barnes play in person many times and he’s the truth. I showed up an hour before tip-off and he was on the court by his lonesome, shooting jump shots, showing the work ethic it takes to be an All-Star in the NBA. In that game he finished with 40 points leading his team to a win. This year he’s been having a rather decent season, probably due to the boredom he’s receiving at the collegiate level for talented players like himself.
Perry Jones, Baylor – After sitting out his freshman year Perry Jones has had a stellar season so far. With a 6-11, 235 frame Jones is a handful in the paint. He’s probably the most athletic big man in the upcoming draft.
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By: Trent Little
Sunday’s Super Bowl game will look very familiar to NFL fans. On this day five years ago these two teams faced off in the same game, when the Eli Manning- led Giants defeated the undefeated Patriots giving them their only loss of that season. Tom Brady and the Patriots are back for some unfinished business.
This game has potential to go down as the best Superbowl ever, because of the legacies of the players/coaches involved. A Brady win would give him and Coach Belichick four rings and ensure a spot in NFL legendary for both, but a loss would give Brady a mediocre 15-6 record after starting 9-0 in the playoffs. Another legacy in jeopardy is that of Eli Manning’s, winning this Superbowl would give him two Super Bowl rings, one up on big brother Peyton Manning, and a 3-0 overall record against Tom Brady.
I’ve always told myself to never go against Brady. However, recently Tom Brady hasn’t looked like the two-time Superbowl MVP we once knew. Against the Baltimore Ravens two weeks ago he was flustered, and rattled in the pocket finishing with zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. I don’t even want to think about that ferocious front four of the Giants against Brady. If Brady pulls out this Superbowl win no doubt it will be his most impressive. His favorite target Gronkowski is hopping around on one leg, and the Patriots pass defense is basically doing the same ranking 31st in the league. Belichick even decided to convert a wide receiver to a cornerback, in Julian Edelman. I have expressed my unsatisfaction in Eli Manning on numerous occasions but if he pulls this out I’ll back off. You can’t doubt someone who has won two super bowls. With the weapons Eli has on the outside in Hakeem Nicks( Charlotte native) and Victor Cruz he should be able to go up and down the field against that wretched Patriots secondary. To conclude, ……never go against Brady. Prediction: Patriots Win
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NFL Divisional Round Playoff Predictions
By: Trent Little
A week into the NFL Playoffs, and one powerhouse has already been sent home packing, forced to clean out their locker room and dwell on “what the season could’ve been.” Last weekend the Tebow-led Denver Broncos defeated the deflated Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. Aside from this major upset, there weren’t any surprises in the Wildcard Round of the NFL Playoffs. All higher seeds were able to pull out victories and advance to this weekend’s Divisional Round of the playoffs. The New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers will start off the Divisional round on Saturday at 4:30 pm, while Brady and the Denver Broncos will battle for the night game. The Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens will kick off Sunday’s slate of games, and the Week 13 rematch of the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants will conclude the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Saturday, January 14th
New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49ers- The battle of number ones. The New Orleans Saints are one of the hottest teams in the NFL at the moment, leading the league in passing yards per game with 334.2 yards a game. The 49ers come in with the top ranked defense, so something’s got to give. Drew Brees has had a record-breaking year surpassing Dan Marino’s record of passing yards in a season. However, Drew Brees hasn’t looked the same when the Saints play away from the Superdome. The 49ers didn’t allow a rushing touchdown this season until week 16. That being said, defense wins championships.
Prediction= 49ers win
Denver Broncos @ New England Pats- For the last week Sportscenter has turned into the Tebow show. You can’t escape Tim Tebow. I walk into grocery stores and he’s the cougars topic of discussion. However, I feel that Tebow’s run ends here. In their first matchup the Patriots easily handled the Broncos beating them 41-23 in Denver. I expect another dominant performance from Tom Brady being at home, with a AFC Championship berth on the line. The only way Tebow can pull this one out is if the man upstairs, Jesus Christ takes his jersey and plays quarterback.
Prediction= Pats win.
Sunday, January 15th
Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens- To the average sports fan this game should be an easy win for the Ravens. However, the Houston Texans are a very good low-profile team. The Texans possess one of the best defenses in the league. I’m not sold on their rookie quarterback( UNC alum), T.J. Yates, but the best wideout in the game Andre Johnson, and the two-headed monster in the backfield of Arian Foster and Ben Tate make his job a lot easier. At the end of the day this game comes down to which Ravens team will show up. If they feed Ray Rice early and often and keep the ball out of the hands of “Mr. Inconsistent” Joe Flacco they will win. In their first matchup this season the Ravens were able to defeat the Texans convincingly with their starting quarterback Matt Schaub healthy, 29-14. So I expect them to win again.
NY Giants @ Green Bay Packers- This is the most talked about game of the divisional round of the playoffs. Right now, the Giants are the hottest and most dangerous team in the league. However, as impressive as the Giants have looked recently they also looked horrific earlier in the season in losses to Redskins, and Seahawks. This season has been the best of Eli Manning’s career but I haven’t bought into him yet.The Packers have been dominant all season but I don’t think that one-dimensional offense will work against that ferocious front four of the Giants. The Packers inefficiency of a running game puts countless pressure on Aaron Rodgers to perform game in and game out. Aaron Rodgers MVP-caliber season ends here.
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