Beating the Heat

Playing basketball – or any sport for that matter – gets much harder when temperatures are above 90.  True.

The heat only affects one team?  False.

As most have heard, the Air Conditioning unit stopped working at the AT&T Center during Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals between the Spurs and Miami Heat, reminiscent to the Summer and AAU games that all of these elite athletes have played in.

Yes I said it – they are all elite athletes.

However, the thought presented by media personnel (I decided not to name names in this post) that it affected one team more than the other is ridiculous.  Both teams were playing in the same arena, obviously.

Professional athletes understand that hydrating and stretching are an important part of the game that have to be done consistently.  Only one player had to leave Game 1 on Thursday due to affects of the heat – Lebron James.

It’s no secret that while I admit King James is the best player in the world, I don’t care for all of his antics.  However, the best athlete in the NBA tonight showed that he had not been properly hydrating over the 5 days of rest between Friday’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Thursday’s NBA Finals Game 1.

You can say what you want about it, but when only one player is forced to come out of the game because of cramps when the game is played in 90 degree temperatures, the evidence is quite conclusive.

South Texas is currently in a heat wave, during which the high temperature has been 95+ degrees for 1-2 weeks straight with high rates of humidity.  The power had been out across parts of the San Antonio area throughout the day prior to Game 1.

The fact that some people are calling this a conspiracy is asinine.

The Air Conditioning did not affect the outcome of Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals.  Bottom line.

Rant, over.

How the NBA Names a “Coach of the Year”

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich with the Red Auerbach Trophy after being named the 2013-14 NBA Coach of the Year. (via San Antonio Express-News)

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich with the Red Auerbach Trophy after being named the 2013-14 NBA Coach of the Year. (via San Antonio Express-News)

As many of us have heard, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs was named the 2013-14 NBA Coach of the Year.  This is the 3rd time he’s accomplished the feat – joining Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only coaches to do so.  But how did he win this one?

If you don’t know how the voting works, 124 members of the NBA media submit ballots with a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place candidate.  A candidate receives 5 points for a 1st place vote, 3 points for a 2nd place vote and 1 point for a 3rd place vote.  Voting members include newspaper beat writers, TV sports talk-show hosts, color analysts and play-by-play announcers.

Popovich finished with 59-1st place votes, 23-2nd place votes and 16-3rd place votes for a total of 380 points.  Of the voting members from San Antonio, Mike Monroe from the San Antonio Express-News was the only one to not place Popovich 1st on his ballot.  Monroe placed “Pop” 2nd behind the Phoenix Suns’ Jeff Hornacek (Hornacek finished 2nd in the stadings with 339 points).  The other San Antonio voters were Bill Land, play-by-play commentator for Spurs Television, Bill Schoening, play-by-play commentator for the Spurs on the radio, and Jeff McDonald from the Express-News.

Once those points are removed, “Pop” finished the voting with 362 points – still 23 points ahead of Hornacek.  Twenty-six people left Popovich off of their ballots including:

  • Bill Oram – Orange County Register
  • Bob Cooney – Philadelphia Daily News
  • Brendan Brown – MSG Network
  • Brian Wheeler – Fox Sports Radio/620 AM, Portland
  • Charles Gardner – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • Chris Denari – Fox Sports Indiana
  • Chris Sheridan – Sheridanhoops.com
  • Craig Ackerman – Sportstalk 790 AM, Houston
  • David Mayo – Mlive Media Group, Detroit
  • Eric Hasseltine – 92.9FM ESPN/680 AM, Memphis
  • Gary Washburn – Boston Globe
  • George Blaha – WXYT/Fox Sports Detroit
  • Glenn Consor – 106.7 The Fan, Washington, D.C.
  • Jim Paschke – Fox Sports Wisconsin
  • John Denton – OrlandoMagic.com
  • Keith Pompey – Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Kevin Calabro – ESPN Radio, Seattle
  • Mark Followill – TXA-21/Fox Sports Net, Dallas
  • Michael Wilbon – ESPN (Pardon The Interruption co-host)
  • Paul Jones – Raptors Radio
  • Rick Bonnell – Charlotte Observer
  • Stacey King – Comcast SportsNet, Chicago
  • Steve Buckhantz – Comcast SportsNet, Washington, D.C.
  • Steve Martin – Bobcats Radio
  • Vincent Goodwill – Detroit News

Hornacek was only left off of 21 ballots (click here for the official results from the NBA).  3rd place in the voting was Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls with the Charlotte Bobcats’ Steve Clifford in 4th.  Not receiving any votes were Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Indiana’s Frank Vogel.  Three coaches all finished with 1 point – Scott Brooks from Oklahoma City, Mark Jackson from Golden State and Jason Kidd from Brooklyn.

While this season’s Coach of the Year results are quite plain and simple, what remains to be seen is how long Popovich will continue to coach the San Antonio Spurs.  If he continues much longer, there is a chance he may become the first coach to win a 4th award.

Emphasis on chance.

ESPN: Did They Start a Trend? Or Simply Hop on Board?

Oklahoma State Sophomore Point Guard Marcus Smart kicks a chair at the OSU bench in a conference game against West Virginia on Jan. 25, 2014. (via Phog.net)

Oklahoma State Sophomore Point Guard Marcus Smart kicks a chair at the OSU bench in a conference game against West Virginia on Jan. 25, 2014. (via Phog.net)

On April 2nd the annual McDonald’s High School All-American Game was on ESPN, showcasing next year’s prospective “One-and-done’s” in College Basketball.  These are kids who haven’t even graduated from High School yet, and one still has not decided where he is going to go to college.

None of these kids that played last night are going to pay a dime for college.  And in most cases, they will only be in college for one year before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is calling their names out in June 2015 when they are drafted.

On National Signing Day every February, ESPN does a massive Signing Day special on their flagship program SportsCenter as well as live coverage all day long on ESPNU.

Once they get into college, you can safely guess that they treat all of these star athletes just as they did Marcus Smart through this past College Basketball season.  When they play well, they continue to overhype how good they really are.  If they don’t play well, then ESPN traditional treats it as if it’s the end of that player’s career and they no longer will get drafted.

Seriously? (Click here for ESPN’s coverage of Smart’s chair incident)

Nevermind the fact that these are 18-22 year-old kids that are still growing up.  ESPN blows collegiate athletics way out of proportion.

I believe that ESPN started this whole trend, and we all hopped on board with them because they are “the Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

The TV Effect

New York Knicks Forward Carmelo Anthony argues with Joey Crawford while he was still playing in Denver. (via Sports Illustrated)

New York Knicks Forward Carmelo Anthony argues with Joey Crawford while he was still playing in Denver. (via Sports Illustrated)

Many young athletes watch some of their favorite players on television.  When I was just starting my playing career in basketball, I would watch Manu Ginobili almost every night during the Spurs’ games that actually got televised.  It took a few times of my coach yelling at me for me to understand that I wasn’t a guard and probably shouldn’t try Manu’s moves.

However, this problem is worse with the new generation of beginning basketball players.  When you look at the egos in the NBA today like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, they don’t leave good impressions.  These are the three NBA players who argue the most with officials, and for the most part these three players get away with it. (Click herefor a study of the effects of televised sports on youth)

Many skilled youth who watch these games see that these skilled players are arguing and pleading with officials, and try to do the same thing and are surprised when the official slaps them with a technical foul that they very well deserve.

While watching television can do a lot of positives for an athlete, it can also give them an ego so big that no scouts would be likely to look at them because of their attitude.

The Draft and its “Prestige”

South Carolina DE, Jadeveon Clowney during the 2014 Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.  The Gamecocks beat Wisconsin 34-24. (Photo via CBS Sports)

South Carolina DE, Jadeveon Clowney during the 2014 Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. The Gamecocks beat Wisconsin 34-24. (Photo via CBS Sports)

“Jadeveon Clowney could potentially be the top overall draft pick in 2014,” said everyone in America.

“Andrew Wiggins could potentially be the top overall draft pick in 2014,” they all continued before the season even started.

Too often now, may people start drooling over “draft prospects” when they are just coming into the major college ranks or even when they are still in high school.

Look at Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina’s “star” Defensive End who became popular after his brutal hit on Michigan Running Back Vincent Smith during the 2013 Outback Bowl.  At the beginning of the 2013 season, ESPN’s draft “experts” both had Jadeveon Clowney at the top of their draft boards and said many teams were drooling over Clowney. (Watch Clowney’s brutal hit here)

I can honestly say that Clowney, to me, was overhyped.  In their season opener against North Carolina, UNC just ran plays the other way.  Lo and behold, no Clowney affect.

“It’s not his fault other teams run plays to the other side”

Correct, it isn’t.  However, if Clowney was truly top pick material, wouldn’t he be versatile enough to, I don’t know, switch sides?  There’s not a truly significant difference.  Plus his own coach, Steve Spurrier, said his work ethic is “okay.” (For that story from CBS Sports, click here)

Enough about Clowney, what about others?

Kansas Guard Andrew Wiggins, a freshman, said prior to the season that this would likely be his only season playing college basketball.  In 2013, Nerlens Noel left Kentucky after his freshman year, even though he tore his ACL early in SEC play in a game at Florida.

Is the draft really as prestigious as we all want it to be?  Or are we simply ruining the young, promising careers of what we assume to be world-class athletes, like Jadeveon Clowney?

The AAU Circuit

Here is a team picture of the San Antonio Legends AAU Basketball Team.  This was taken prior to one of their games at the 2013 AAU National Championships in Memphis, Tenn. (Photo via SA Legends Sports Academy)

Here is a team picture of the San Antonio Legends AAU Basketball Team. This was taken prior to one of their games at the 2013 AAU National Championships in Memphis, Tenn. (Photo via SA Legends Sports Academy)

For several years, many have looked at the Amateur Athletic Union as a great way for athletes to compete at an elite level and get noticed by major college coaches, especially in basketball.  I for one, am guilty of this train of thought because I have seen the positive effects that playing on the AAU circuit has had for my brother’s abilities as a basketball player and overall athlete.

However, over the years the AAU circuit has provided a lot of controversy as well.  In the 1970s there was a scandal dealing with the living standards of AAU athletes, leading President Jimmy Carter to sign the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 which established the United States Olympic Committee.  This act made the USOC in charge of all international sports competitions, removing the AAU from that post.

More recently, a former AAU basketball coach of the nationally prominent Houston Select team committed suicide in 2011.  David Salinas was involved in various controversies due to his job as an investment manager.  What’s the problem right?  Most of his clients were college basketball coaches, and he lost millions. (Click here to read about Salinas)

The idea behind the AAU is truly a novel one; allow amateur athletes the chance to become as elite of an athlete as possible and expose them to major collegiate coaches for scholarship opportunities.  However, there are several issues with the organization.  These issues will likely never go away.

That being said I pose the question, “Are AAU athletes truly amateur athletes nowadays?”

Fans and Ejections

A shot of Jeff Orr (man on the left) and Oklahoma State Guard Marcus Smart during Saturday's altercation in Lubbock.  Texas Tech won the game 65-61. (photo via KJRH-TV)

A shot of Jeff Orr (man on the left) and Oklahoma State Guard Marcus Smart during Saturday’s altercation in Lubbock. Texas Tech won the game 65-61. (photo via KJRH-TV)

Lately, a trend in sports seems to be to criticize referees for anything and everything.  Sometimes while watching a game either on television or in person, or even when playing I will hear someone say, “That ref doesn’t like us.”

I’m sorry, what?

The odds are that the officials do not have any sort of personal relation or affiliation with any school or person in their respective conference at any level of play, be it high school or college.  For instance, the son of legendary coach formerly at the University of North Carolina, Dean Smith, is a Division 1 referee.  However, he is not allowed to officiate in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The fact of the matter is that these officials go through countless hours of rules and mechanics training.  They know what can and cannot be done, and have their primary assignments while on the field or court.  As an example, the lead in 3-person mechanics for basketball has primary on contact below the shoulders, the trail has above the shoulders and the center has first dibs on the back side of the play.

To demonstrate another way fans can be ejected, we just need to rewind to last night, February 8th.  I was in Lubbock, Texas for the Oklahoma State-Texas Tech Men’s Basketball game in which OSU Guard Marcus Smart shoved TTU fan Jeff Orr in an altercation with only a few seconds remaining.  The long-term effects of this incident are yet to be seen, but Orr will not be attending any of the remaining Red Raider Basketball games and Smart has been suspended for the next 3 games at Texas, home against Oklahoma and at Baylor.  Smart will return against Texas Tech at home on Feb. 22. (Click here for Texas Tech University’s statement regarding the altercation)

If this trend of overly-rowdy fans doesn’t stop, it could get out of control.