Mats who?

November 29, 2008

by Melissa Hashemian… This is probably close to, if not the same response many provoked Leaf fans give when discussing the muddled status of Toronto, and the angst brought on by the departure of their captain Mats Sundin.

After spending 13 seasons of his career in a Leafs jersey, the 37 year old centreman became an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, 2008 and was heavily pursued by countless teams attempting to add his infamous name to their roster.

It was a four team race between the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, and Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately however, I refuse to go into explicit detail on the opportunities he was given and the decisions he could have and should have made.

Being a Leafs fan myself, it was extremely difficult to watch the crazy media attention centred on him. There were either rumours announcing that Sundin no longer wanted to remain in Toronto or that he was contemplating retirement.

Clearly this publicity did not have a positive effect among the followers of the blue and white, and immediately drew negative attention towards their star player.

It’s not surprising either. The guy couldn’t make up his mind on what he wanted to do; he just kept putting off his final decision to a further date.

The more I think about it the more I realize how much Mats Sundin reminded me of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  It might seem like a strange comparison at first, but they share a lot in common.

They are both patient, indecisive, and slow at coming to conclusions. For Hamlet it was about killing his uncle and for Sundin it was about killing time the teams gave him—sadly the clock was ticking for negotiating rights.

Even his agent J.P Barry knew what was going on.  “He knows if he waits too long certain opportunities could disappear. But he just wants to be one hundred percent sure that he wants to play next year.”

And he was right.  As a result, Montreal ended up acquiring Robert Lang from Chicago and New York obtained Markus Naslund from Vancouver.

What irritates me the most is that he says one thing and acts on another.  It’s some sort of split personality where you have two minds contradicting each other; it results in confusion because you can’t decide which one to listen to.

Later this summer, in the process of rebuilding his future he stated, “I cannot leave my teammates and join another NHL team at this time. I have never believed in the concept of a rental player.

“It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June.”

I don’t know about you, but I failed to witness his name on any team site.

So instead of wasting my time waiting for a tall, bald man to come out onto the ice, I began to resent him instead.  Too bad for the no-trade clause. Perhaps the Leafs could have actually received someone significant who wouldn’t either be dying because of age or absent because of injury.

Sundin’s probably living the high life overseas right now with his 25-year-old Swedish model/fiancée. I guess it makes sense to focus on his love life now, seeing how all his previous girlfriends left him in the past. It’s a shame really.

Who knows, maybe he’s just waiting to see what teams climb out on top, come December and January, or merely living his life until he comes to the conclusion that he’s going to retire anyway.

Whatever the case may be, Mats Sundin’s name is still used when discussing the future of the organization—even if his presence in the dressing room no longer exists.

All I can look forward to now is what this team will become. There isn’t much hope at the moment with most of their veteran players gone and no “C” on any particular jersey. However, this team is full of potential and can rise above it given the right ingredients.

The future is now. The future is Luke Schenn, Vesa Toskala, and Mikhail Grabovski.  If Leaf fans quit being so judgmental and demanding, maybe they’ll see that even without their number one centre on the ice, this team can reconstruct into something functional, something big.  A winning team can be produced; you just have to keep watching!

Honoured and Retired, I Wendel Roy?

November 29, 2008

by Brady Rynyk…

On Saturday evening two of Canada’s two most storied NHL franchises respectively paid tribute to past players whose historic achievements on the home ice left lasting impressions amongst the devoted fans who cheered them on.  In Montreal, The Canadians retired the jersey of possibly the greatest goaltender of all time whose butterfly style forever changed the game and the way the position will be played.  In Toronto, The Maples Leafs honoured a fan favourite that played with his heart-out and gave everything he had night in and night out.

While each player has a unique connection with their team and community, the ceremonies present an interesting reflection on both teams and the quality of players who don their jerseys.

Although Patrick Roy’s departure from the team on December 2, 1995 raised many mixed emotions and controversy (as a result of the infamous “le trade”), the goaltender entered The Molson Centre to a standing ovation and all seemed to be forgotten.  Even as the Hall of Famer began to address the capacity arena, the cheers could not be hushed.  There ceremony would go for a good 20 minutes and included a heartfelt speech from Roy, who walked down to ice-level shaking hands of fans and hugging past & present members of the organization.  The tribute was a true event and one that will not soon be forgot as Patrick finally “returned home.”

Roy, who entered the league in 1986 and lead his team to a Stanley Cup in his rookie season, would go on to have one of the greatest careers the game has ever seen.  Over his 17 year career, the net-minder would amass countless accolades including records for career wins (551), games played (1029), career play-off wins (151), play-off games played (247), with 11 all-star appearances, 3 Vezina Trophies (for best goaltender), 5 Jennings Trophies (for fewest goals allowed), 3 Conn Smythe Trophies (Play-off MVP), and lead his teams to 4 Stanley Cups.   In addition shortly after his retirement, the goal was not only inducted in to the Hall of Fame, but was also voted in as the greatest goaltender of all time (in both a writer’s and fan poll).

On Saturday evening when his #33 was retired by the Canadians and hoisted into the rafters above net, the legacy and tradition of greatness was preserved.  Roy is in the company of only 14 other legendary players who have donned the blue & red for Montreal.  There is no question that Patrick Roy is deserved of the honour and prestige.

In contrast, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, The Maple Leafs seemed to draw a past players name out of a hat in order to decide who they would celebrate before the game – and The Leafs knew it too, considering they decided to Honour the jersey instead of retire it, in the event a better #17 comes along.

There is no question that Wendel Clark is a fan favourite who was dedicated to the game, but to try and turn an average player into a legend is almost laughable – Then again, so are The Leafs in general, and have been for decades now. Although Captain Crunch captained the team from from 1991 to 1994 and was selected 1st over all in 1985 by Toronto, Clark’s actual on ice accomplishments are non-existent.

In his 15 year career, Wendel Clark never played a complete season, never won a Stanley Cup (never even made it to the finals), never won a single award, or even named to a post-season All-Star team.  Apart from a short stint with the Red Wings (where he was a trade deadline pick-up that didn’t amount to much in 1999), Clark spent his entire playing career being shuffled around bottom of the barrel team like The Leafs, The Nordiques,  The Blackhawks, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
When looking at Clark’s statistics and reflecting on his play over the years, Toronto’s own Fan 590 sports talk host Bob McCown commented on Captain Crunch’s run-of-the-mill abilities stating, “the ocean’s filled with fish like that.”

Apart from 1,690 total penalty minutes (which places him 86th overall), it is fair to say that Clark’s only notable accomplishment, was getting traded for Mats Sudin.

Saturday night’s events in Toronto were not so much of an honouring of a star player, but more so was a celebration of mediocrity – which was reflective in the horrible presentation which featured a short highlight reel that focused on Clark’s ability to body-check and fight.  Having Clark’s banner raised into the rafters is a sham, and makes one question whether or not some day teams like Philadelphia will honour player like Donald Brasher for his goonery.

If there is one thing that can be taken from the evenings events in Montreal and Toronto, it should be that The Canadians represent greatness and players of a high caliber, while The Leafs showcase the best of the bad - But I guess “even losing armies have war heroes.”

MONEY MAKERS – WEEK 13

November 29, 2008

by Mike De Marco… 42-36-3 (Power Picks 9-4)

Hope everyone had a profitable Thanksgiving. We plan on continuing the trend here this weekend, including my Total play of the year!!!

New England/ Pittsburgh Over 39.5 (Power Pick)
I have to say this is one of the most attractive plays I have seen all season. Normally you would think that these two teams are defensive clubs, which for the most part is true, except I want to focus more on the fact they are pretty good offensively as well. Truth is, running the football might be a rarity in this game, as both teams hold up well against it, so I see the quarterbacks taking things into their own hands. Matt Cassel has become a media darling the last few weeks after posting back to back 400-yard games and quite honestly the Pats air attack is back. Pittsburgh on the other hand will exploit the one weakness New England does have and that is their secondary. The number in this one is way to low for my liking…I am hammering that over!

San Diego – 4 over Atlanta
That was a very impressive win by the Falcons over Carolina, but it was a misleading one. After watching tape on the match-up I noticed how poorly the Panthers tackling was, as most of the yardage they gained was after first contact, so I do not expect that to happen in San Diego who are a very good tackling club. Secondly, I do believe that Atlanta has a letdown here, after a huge divisional win. The Chargers absolutely have to have this game, there is no exception. If they lose this game, their season is over, and in all likelihood, Norv Turners tenure as head coach would also be over. I love San Diego to take this one going away.

Tampa Bay – 4.5 over New Orleans
Did that offensive display scare you on Monday night? Well it doesn’t scare the Bucs who have had many a battle against the high flying Saints. The Cover-2 scheme employed by Tampa Bay  is the perfect medicine for that Saints offense, limiting their big play ability. The Saints still have gaping holes on defense, enough of them for Tampa to exploit. This is one of those times where Vegas makes the spread based strictly on public opinion. It is much more than a five point game.

Other selections:
Denver +8 over NY Jets
Have a big feeling Jets let down after huge win last week. Denver comes out firing.

Cleveland +5.5 over Indianapolis
No Quinn no chance right? WRONG. Anderson can sling too, and he has something to prove.

Kansas City + 3 over Oakland
Oakland’s win was a mirage. It won’t happen again. This is one of the only games the Chiefs have a shot at winning this season, and the players want to win for Herm. They love him.

How will Brian Burke help the Leafs? Let us count the ways

November 29, 2008

by Mark Ritter… It’s official, Brian Burke is the Toronto Maple Leafs new General Manager. Now that he is in charge, how will Burke change the fortunes of this underachieving franchise?
Burke has the reputation as a General Manager who likes North American players, not exclusively, but he’s definitely not a fan of having too many Euros on board his train. Burke also is a big believer in goaltending. Expect Burke to evaluate both Vesa Toskala and Justin Pogge, if he doesn’t like what he sees, you can bet your butt one or both of them will be shipped out sooner rather than later. A third aspect to Burkes Managing philosophy is his love of tough players. Expect Burke to clean house of all players that will not take the body and/or make the sacrifices Burke deems necessary to compete.
Other changes will include a change in attitude around the rink, Burke will demand that all of his soldiers be competent, he will demand they be accountable and he will expect nothing but 100% effort, and if you fail, you will be gone, period.
Burke will also be a quote machine for the media, he may be a little tough on reporters most nights, but he’s always good for a quote or two and he leaves the status quo “We’re just happy to be here, good Lord willing, we can get hot at the right time and advance in the playoffs”, kinda of quotes at home.
In the short team, Burke will take a little time to evaluate not only the current roster, but also the entire organization from top to bottom. Once again, if Burke feels there are improvements to be made, he will not hesitate for a second. Burke is all action, he backs up his words, definitely a “Say what you mean, mean what you say kinda guy”.
Predictions? I will make a few. Nik Antropov, Alex Ponikarovsky, Jiri Tlusty and, if anyone will take his contract, Jason Blake, should all be in touch with their real estate agents, they are all as good as gone. Burke will quickly put a premium on toughness, especially from his defensemen. Look for Burke to try to convince Tomas Kaberle to waive his no-trade, Kaberle would bring back a player of significance and/or draft choices, which are invaluable to teams like the Leafs.
Make no mistake about it, the Leafs will be a feeble team for the foreseeable future, the decisions Brian Burke makes with this club will impact it’s future significantly, but it will be a long and winding road to respectability, this will be a long term bulid. Fortunately, many believe that Burke is the right Man for the job, he’s creative, forceful, unique, respected and endearing to his organization. By this time next year, the Leafs will be a Very different team, Leaf fans will have Brian Burke to thank for that, and, given the lack of results of late, change couldn’t happen soon enough.

Wake Up with Christina Hendricks

November 29, 2008

Good morning Toronna, time for that 30 minute workout… I bring you Christina, the Sex Bomb secretary on the hit show MAD MAN, aint we all. Now we at TOsports are looking for a secretary, and I must tell you straight up, I’m not hiring just anybody. She’s gotta be hot and aggressive, just like Christina, otherwise forget it. So if you are a look alike of Christina’s (or better) and think you can do the job…hmmmm, just send in your resume please and yes we do have a casting couch, just in case you’re asking!!

Maple Leafs-Flyers: Tyler Hill’s Weekly “Hockey Night In Canada” Preview

November 29, 2008

by Tyler Hill… Yes, it’s that time again—the week has passed and the teams have changed.

It is time for Saturday night Hockey!

This week’s game sees the Maple Leafs take on the Flyers. Finally, I get to predict a game between two teams in the Eastern Conference.

Team Records:

Philadelphia: 11-6-4, 26points

Toronto: 7-9-6, 20 points

My Thoughts

Last week, I listed a few stars from the Blackhawks. But this week, as I look at the team the Flyers have, the only conclusion I can come to is that there are too many stars to list—so I will only talk about four or fivem tops.

Let’s see here, Jeff Carter (the should be captain, no offence to Richards), Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Braydon Coburn, and many, many others. A combined point total of 83—and that’s only the guys I listed above! In their last ten games they gone 7-1-2, which is good for 16 of 20 possible points.

When you look at the Leafs’ roster there aren’t a lot of stars.  But we do have some better than average guys on the team, such as Mikhail Grabovski, Nik Antropov, Luke Schenn, and the recently-added Lee Stempniak, who could be promising in the future.

But other than those few players, the Leafs roster lacks that extra something. Where is the heart? It has been gone for a while—two weeks and two days since their last win.

Game Analysis

So, when you break it down, who outnumbers whom?  It appears obvious that the Flyers have the better offence. And as far as depth goes, the Leafs will be suffocating and gasping for air—no pun intended. The Flyers are fast, and won’t let the Leafs catch their breath.

I said this all last week—the Leafs have more depth than almost any other team in the league. However, a few recent injuries plague both these teams and the Leafs are without Mike Van Ryan.

I’m not saying the Flyers don’t have a solid blue line, I am just simply saying the Leafs have a better Defence as a whole. They have three solid lines to ice—even without Coliacovo and van Ryan.

Martin Biron or Vesa Toskala? Poor Vesa, he has (like I said before) been shaky this year, and Biron has been great in net for the flyers this year and will shut down the Leaf offence


Game Expectation and Projected Score

I hate to say it, but I don’t see this being the game for the Leafs to snap their losing streak.

Pick: 5-2 Philly

32 Questions:

November 27, 2008

by Mike De Marco…

New England: Have we seen a reincarnation of your offense?
New York Jets: Can you prevent over confidence from settling in?
Buffalo: Is there still hope for your season after all?
Miami: Were there any positives you can take from that lambasting against the Pats?

Indianapolis: Can we include Manning in the MVP talk?
Jacksonville: Do you blow it up and start all over?
Tennessee: Your armor has been pierced. How do you respond?
Houston: Can Gary Kubiak save his job?

Pittsburgh: Is Ben Roethlisberger going to be fully healthy with 10-days off?
Cleveland: Are you always going to be consistently inconsistent?
Baltimore: Can you find a way to push the Steelers for the division?
Cincinnati:  Is Carson going to return this season or not?

Denver: How in the world to you lose by 21 to Oakland? AT HOME!
San Diego: Are you fuming over the officiating Sunday night?
Oakland:  You scored an offensive touchdown…How did that feel?
Kansas City: does Herm Edwards make it back next year?

Dallas: One great game on defense. One great game on offense. Can we see you put them together?
Philadelphia: Do we all agree that maybe it is Kevin Kolb time?
NY Giants: Are you embarrassed that your only loss came to lowly Cleveland?
Washington: Can you find a way to keep pulling out victories?

Green Bay: Did your secondary not get off the plane for Monday’s game?
Minnesota: Big road win in Jacksonville Can you become a dark horse?
Chicago: You beat the mediocre teams. Can you beat a good one?
Detroit: Your season is this Thursday. Can you shock the world?

New Orleans: Is there anyone on defense that can help this team out?
Tampa Bay: Are you not the quietest 9-3 team in football?
Carolina: Someone finally punched back. How do you deal with that?
Atlanta: Do you have dreams of HOSTING a playoff game?

Arizona:  Can you put this last game in the forgotten column?
San Francisco:  Any news on the Alex Smith front? Just wondering.
Seattle: Can’t win on the road. Can’t win at home. What now?
St. Louis: Just wondering….Does Marc Bulger have insurance?

The 5 Most Enraging Moments Of Boston’s Sports Decade

November 27, 2008

by Michael Seff… Throughout the enduring pain of Boston’s sports gods smiling down on them this decade, there have been many moments that stand out for the frustration and anger they created. For every lucky break or inexplicable comeback they had, the sports world suffered just a little bit more. Take, for example, the infamous Tuck Rule. Now at the time, Boston sports had not gotten on their karmic run, so who knew then that the Notorious Raiders’ misfortune would become the Patriots’ everlasting treasure. Looking back on it, Oakland was cheated and the Patriots actually cheated. That unfortunate event, as well as Drew Bledsoe’s untimely injury in Week 2 of that season, changed everything for the worse. A look back (and hopefully, not forward from this point on) at the 5 most grueling and despised moments in Boston’s recent run in sports, in no particular order:

Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS. The end does not justify the means here. The Rays may have won the series in 7 games, but lest we forget that Game 5 may have emotionally and psychologically drained them for the World Series, in which they came out flat against an inferior but rested foe in Philadelphia. The 7-0 meltdown suffered by Tampa Bay was one of the most painful things I’ve ever watched. It figured Boston was back at their old cheap tricks, coming back from a deficit in a series to prove their place in baseball lore. The Rays (and the fans) had to gut out such a gruesome thought until Matt Garza finally turned out the lights on Boston’s 2008 season in Game 7. But the days between Games 5 and 7 were terrifying, to say the least.

Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals. As if the Red Sox and Patriots’ successes weren’t enough, the Lakers got to experience what many past victims of those aforementioned clubs had in Game 4 of the NBA Finals last season. A complete and utter choke job only explainable by means of divine intervention ensued, as the Celtics erased a 24-point deficit to rally for a command 3-1 series lead. They went on to win in 6 games to make it a grisly trifecta in sports titles in the present decade. Perhaps the worst part about the Celtics’ title run was that very few people saw it coming. Alas, that’s how it always seems to be, doesn’t it?

Super Bowl XXXVIII. So many little things that could’ve changed the game but didn’t. Either it was the two failed, ill-advised two-point conversion attempts by Carolina, or it was their kicker, John Kasay, kicking the kickoff following the game-tying TD out of bounds, setting up a short field for Tom Brady to claim to be a hero by leading a truly-defining, 47-yard drive to set up a field goal. When Carolina took a short-lived, 22-21 lead in the fourth quarter, it was the first time we had the pleasure of even seeing the Patriots trail in a game in over two months to that point. The Panthers gave up a touchdown and never led again. Adam Vinatieri, who gets props at least for bolting to the rival Colts after the ‘05 season, got to experience deja vu and hammer the final nail in the Panthers’ coffin.

Marlon McCree’s fumbled interception, 2006 Divisional Playoffs. This is the one that killed me to almost no end. Even though it paved the way for Peyton Manning’s heroics the following week in the championship game, the annual Patriots charade should never have gotten that far. Tom Brady was picked off for the third time in the game, but McCree carried the return like a loaf of bread, only to be stripped by prehistoric receiver Troy Brown. IT gave the announcers and media a chance to laud a “truly selfless” effort by the overrated Brown, when really the focus should have been on McCree’s utter stupidity, as well as Marty Schottenheimer’s constant postseason failures. Mercifully, Schottenheimer’s career ended after this debacle, but the Patriots luck did not. Predictably, the botched interception set up the tying touchdown and ultimately the 24-21 victory, which the classless Patriots followed up by mocking the Chargers at midfield after the final seconds ticked off.

May 13, 2007. This was possibly the worst of them all because it involved my beloved Orioles being victimized by the Boston terrorism. The Orioles were well on the verge of taking two out of three at Fenway Park, leading 5-0 in the bottom of the 9th. Jeremy Guthrie had pitched lights-out to that point, and got the first out of the inning before catcher Ramon Hernandez mishandled an infield pop-up that ignited a brutal 6-run rally by the Red Sox. The horrendous nightmare culminated with Julio Lugo hitting a ground ball to the right side of the infield. Former Sox hero Kevin Millar made an errant flip to pitcher Chris Ray at first, allowing the winning runs to score. I immediately wen to the gym and took out my frustrations on the punching bag.

The LeBron Lottery - Is the Answer in the Shoes?

November 27, 2008

By Brady Rynyk…

Although superstar Lebron James does not officially become a free agent until 2010, the sweepstakes for his future NBA services are already well underway. In anticipation that the leagues most coveted player will opt out of his $17,149,243M contract, teams around the league have been making trades to free up salary cap space in hopes of signing the phenom. Currently, James is the second highest paid player on the Cleveland Cavaliers beyond power forward Ben Wallace (whose contract was acquired through a trade with the Chicago Bulls) and is set to earn $14,410,510 million this season. Surprisingly enough, James who is clearly the best player in the NBA is not even close to being one of the top 20 highest paid players in the league this season – Something which is surly to change at the end of next season in what has already been coined “The Summer of LeBron.”

There is so much anticipation and speculation surrounding the future of LeBron, especially considering reports earlier this summer that the Euro-League Russian team CSKA Moscow and the Greek team Olympiacos, had both contacted James with their respective interest in signing the player to a deal reported at $50M a season – Something sources close to James say he would closely consider.

But the deep pockets of Euro-League team owners are not the only ones in contention for the 6’8, 250 lbs. 24-yrs old. Earlier this week James ambiguously made comments to the media mildly suggesting he will likely stay in the NBA. When asked about the possibility of dawned the blue & orange LeBron shrugged away from a direct response, and alluded to putting himself in the best situation to win a championship (which does not boast well for Cleveland who has failed to surround Lebron with a good enough supporting cast in his 5-yrs career).

There are rumours that that King James is close friends with Hip-Hip icon Jay-Z, who is co-owner of the New Jersey Nets and is apparently trying to convince the All-Star to be the centrepiece of his squad when the rapper moves the team to a new arena in Brooklyn.

Although no team can officially be up front with their pursuit of any player under contract as falls under tampering restrictions of the league, it is no secret as to what teams are really doing.

After only two games into the regular season, Detroit Pistons general manager “shook-up” his roster by trading Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets for aging Allen Iverson. Although both teams have begun to flourish with their respective acquisitions, Joe Dumars was apparently attracted to The Answers “expiring contract” which would clear significant cap space and allow the Pistons to make a legitimate play for King James when the time comes.

In New York, the Knicks were not thought to be anywhere close to the running for any big free agent signings due to the abundance of ridiculously inflated contracts former GM and coach Isaiah Thomas had incurred with the like of Stephon Marbury (who is amazingly the second-highest paid player in the NBA whose paycheck’s come in instalments of $1,828,125. Some serious coin considering Starbury is inactive and will not likely even see a second of game time with NY this season).

But on Friday that all changed when the New York Knicks liquidated substantial cap space when they traded their two best players Jamal Crawford (to the Golden State Warriors for Al Harrington), and Zach Randolph (along with Mardy Collins to the LA Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley). In doing so, the Kinckerbockers unloaded close to $27M from their books for the 2010 off-season.

To make matters more interesting, New York’s GM Donny Walsh is attempting to unload some of the teams other dead weight in 6’11 Eddie Curry. The center is yet another Knick that has been riding the pine this season, as his lethargic style effort does not fit into Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system of play. If Walsh can pull of this miracle, The Knicks will not only free up Marbury’s $21.9M salary, but also an additional $11.3M from Curry, which will ultimately not only allow them to make a play for LeBron James, but potentially the services of a second superstar player.

With the potential of only having four players under contract going into the 2010 season (Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries who have player options, and team options on Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler), The Knicks find will find themselves in a similar situation to The Boston Celtics, who went from worst to first in one season.

With a plethora of players becoming free agents, and D’Antoni’s recent relationship with players Like LeBron, Dwayne Wade, Michael Redd and Chris Bosh as a coach from this past summers US Olympic Redeem team, there is a chance that the Knicks will longer be the leagues laughing stalk.

Even though LeBron has done his best to deflect all Knicks related attention from the media and stay true to his current allegiance to The Cavaliers, it is clear that actions speak louder then words. In last year’s 119-105 victory over the Knicks on March 5th, King James dropped 50 points and added 8 boards along with 10 helpers against The Knicks. After the game James told reporters, “To get a standing ovation in the greatest basketball arena in the world, it was a dream come true for me. It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.”

During the James sported a special pinstriped Nike shoe specifically for Madison Square Garden as homage to the New York Yankees, his favourite Baseball team.

Could that have been an early sign…

In similar fashion, in last night’s 119-101 victory over The Knicks at MSG, LeBron fashioned an exclusive pair bright red “Big Apple” version of his Nike Zoom Lebron VI’s. And although he did not match his 50pts performance from last season, finishing with 26 pts in just over 30 minutes of play, he did not have as the game was pretty much a blow-out by half-time.

The summer of 2010 is sure to be an interesting time for the NBA and only time will tell what the future holds for Lebron James. One thing is for certain, although he is bound to become the highest paid player in the league, he will only go where he has a legitimate chance to win a ring.

FREE AGENTS FOR THE 2010 OFF-SEASON INCLUDE:

Joe Johnson
Ray Allen
Ben Wallace
LeBron James (player option)
Dirk Nowitzki (player option)
Josh Howard (player option)
Marcus Camby
Rip Hamilton
Stephen Jackson
Tracy McGrady
Shaquille O’Neal
Dwyane Wade (player option)
Michael Redd (player option)
Tyson Chandler (player option)
Eddy Curry (player option)
Amare Stoudemire (player option)
Brad Miller
Manu Ginobili
Chris Bosh (player option)

College Football Preview: Week 14

November 27, 2008

by Hollis Warren… I know I am a little early this week, but with tomorrow being the last day of the workweek for yours truly, and travel to follow tomorrow night, now seems like a good time to post my college football preview for the upcoming weekend.

It’s Rivalry Weekend folks! So grab a turkey leg, tell your significant other to go Christmas shopping, block out any annoying relatives, and sit back and enjoy some college pigskin. Oh, and be sure to enjoy the trainwreck that the BCS is sure to become between now and Dec. 6.

TUESDAY 11/25

Navy at Northern Illinois, 7 (ESPN Classic)
Western Michigan at Ball State, 7 (ESPN 2)

THURSDAY 11/27

Texas A&M at Texas, 8 (ESPN)

FRIDAY 11/28

West Virginia at Pittsburgh, 12 (ABC)
Ohio at Miami (OH), 12:30 (ESPN U)
UTEP at East Carolina, 1 (CBS College)
LSU at Arkansas, 2:30 (CBS)
Bowling Green at Toledo, 3:30 (ESPN Classic)
Colorado at Nebraska, 3:30 (ABC)
Fresno State at Boise State, 6 (ESPN 2)
UCLA at Arizona State, 9:30 (ESPN 2)

SATURDAY 11/29

Georgia Tech at Georgia, 12 (CBS)
Virginia at Virginia Tech, 12 (ESPN)
South Carolina at Clemson, 12 (ESPN 2)
Kansas vs. Missouri in Kansas City, 12:30 (FSN)
Auburn at Alabama, 3:30 (CBS)
Baylor at Texas Tech, 3:30 (Versus)
Florida at Florida State, 3:30 (ABC/ESPN 2)
Maryland at Boston College, 3:30 (ABC/ESPN 2)
Houston at Rice, 3:30 (CBS College)
North Carolina at Duke, 3:30 (ESPN U)
Kentucky at Tennessee, 6:30 (ESPN 2)
Oregon at Oregon State, 7 (Versus)
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, 7 (ESPN U)
Notre Dame at USC, 8 (ESPN)
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 8 (ABC)

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Texas A&M at Texas

Well, it looks as if Texas is the lucky Big 12 South team to enter the final weekend of the regular season the highest in the BCS standings, with the Horns, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma all tied at 6-1 in league play.

Seemingly, if they win this game and beat Missouri in the Big 12 Championship, you have to like their chances to be a participant in the BCS Title Game. IF they win this game.

I know what you are saying: The Aggies are 4-7. But they have beaten superior Texas teams the past two years. Anything can happen in these big rivalry games, and I cannot stress that enough. However, I expect Texas and Colt McCoy to come through against an awful A&M defense and end their losing streak in the Lone Star Showdown.

If Texas does struggle, you have to wonder if an impressive OU victory would catapult them over the Longhorns in the BCS.

West Virginia at Pittsburgh

Bill Stewart might be the head coach now as Rich Rodriguez tries to get Michigan back on the right track, but a lot of the players who watched a terrible Pitt team defeat the Mountaineers in Morgantown and end their shot at a national title a year ago are still with the program. That should add even more spice to this bitter rivalry between schools that are just 78 miles apart.

This year’s game features WVU trying to keep their faint Big East title hopes alive. They’ll need to win this one, beat South Florida next week, and hope Syracuse finds it in themselves to pull a second major upset in a row at Cincinnati.

Pitt, meanwhile, is playing primarily for bowl positioning, and of course, to knock off their hated rivals once again.

Virginia at Virginia Tech

Believe it or not, both ACC divisional races are pretty simple entering this weekend. If Tech wins this game, they go to Tampa. If they lose, Georgia Tech represents the Coastal in the championship game.

I would be worried about the offense if I was a Hokies fan entering a rivalry game that will determine if UVA is bowl eligible or not. They put up exactly one touchdown on Duke this past weekend. Virginia was even worse, managing just a field goal at home versus Clemson.

But you can always count on Frank Beamer’s defense and special teams to make a game-changing play, and I expect that will happen to swing momentum in the Hokies’ favor at some point this Saturday.

Watch out for the Wahoos, however. As I said, they still need that sixth win, and they haven’t defeated their cross-state rivals since 2003.

Georgia Tech at Georgia

Georgia Tech’s fate as far as playing for a conference championship is out of their control, so they just need to go out there and focus on their rivals from Athens. Based on what I saw from the Yellow Jackets’ offense against Miami, they have a real shot to upset the Dawgs, even on the road.

It will be a hostile environment, so Josh Nesbitt just has to focus on making his reads. He was shaky at certain points on Thursday night but ultimately led his team to a resounding victory.

Georgia has had a week off to recover from the SEC grind, and with no title game on the horizon, should be fully focused on extending their winning streak in the Clean, Old Fashioned Hate Rivalry to eight games.

Auburn at Alabama

The Crimson Tide have not won the Iron Bowl since 2001, but they are an overwhelming favorite to end that losing streak on Saturday.

Nick Saban’s team can smell the showdown with Florida in Atlanta next weekend, with a slot in the national title game on the line. But they cannot overlook the business at hand in Tuscaloosa, or that SEC Championship Game may become a whole lot less important for the Tide when they roll in there at 11-1.

Auburn has been beset with problems all year, especially on offense. Tommy Tuberville needs a huge upset win just to get this team to bowl eligibility and get the critics off his back, who have been on him over the new spread offense that failed miserably this season.

The Iron Bowl is always a close, defensive battle, and even with an apparent mismatch on the horizon, look for Auburn to play Alabama tough for four quarters and make them earn that 12-0 record.

Florida at Florida State

The UF-FSU rivalry has lost some luster in recent years, especially as the Seminoles have fallen into mediocrity. In 2008, there have been signs that the future is once again bright in Tallahassee, as the team sits 8-3 on the cusp of an ACC championship game (and a fumble going into the end zone and campus fight away from potentially being 10-1).

What better way to say “We’re back!” than upsetting the Gators and hurting their hopes of making it to Miami in early January?

It won’t be easy, seeing how Florida has been absolutely giving it to their opponents since losing to Ole Miss, winning those seven games by an average score of 53-12—and they played both LSU and Georgia during that stretch.

It would be in Florida’s best interest for the Seminoles to give them a game on Saturday, because I know for a fact Bama will in Atlanta. I don’t think FSU wins, but they will keep it close for at least three quarters.

Not to shamelessly promote the Seminoles’ noticeable gains as a program this season, but wait until 2009, folks. I have a feeling people will be championing this rivalry once again.

Maryland at Boston College

As is the case over in the Coastal, the ACC Atlantic race is pretty simple. If BC defeats Maryland, they are the Atlantic champions. Florida State, meanwhile, will be the world’s biggest Terps fans on Saturday, because they would take the division if Maryland happens to win in Chestnut Hill.

Chris Crane suffered a broken collarbone against Wake, so his absence may be helpful to the Seminoles’ hopes. Backup QB Dominique Davis did lead the Eagles to the winning score but had two fumbles returned for six.

Then again, the Terps looked horrible in all facets of the game against Florida State and may still be icing themselves after all the hard hits they took in that contest.

I know who I will be rooting for as a Noles fan, although I don’t see a clear favorite.

Oregon at Oregon State

They don’t get to celebrate their football program too often in Corvallis, but if the Beavers can upend the loathed Ducks on Saturday night, they will find themselves in the Rose Bowl for the first time in over four decades.

Easier said than done, because Oregon is 8-3 (6-2 in the Pac-10) and features a strong, balanced, spread-based offensive attack. For the most part, Oregon State’s defense has been a strong point in 2008, so it will be intriguing to see how they are able to handle dual-threat QB Jeremiah Masoli.

Boise State should be very interested in this game, assuming they defeat Fresno State to move to 12-0. If Oregon State wins the Pac-10, USC will surely get an at-large berth and squash any hopes the Broncos might have had of getting a second BCS berth for a mid-major.

If the Beavers falter, I think Boise State has to get thrown into the picture for the final at-large (it’s safe to say Utah, an SEC team, and a Big 12 team will all get at-larges into the BCS).

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

Oklahoma took it to Texas Tech, making a case to the pollsters that they deserve a chance at the Big 12 title and potentially a national championship. It still wasn’t enough to leapfrog Texas, so they are either going to: a. need Texas A&M to make Texas look pedestrian, or b. beat the living snot out of their intrastate rivals in the Bedlam Game.

I’m not sure either of those scenarios will evolve, so the Sooners just need to go out and play their game and not worry about the BCS situation.

The offense is basically unstoppable, and I was impressed with the defense against Tech (at least I was until the game became so much of a stinker that I turned over to FSU-Maryland). They will be challenged by the Zac Robinson/Dez Bryant-led offensive attack for the Pokes, so buckle your seatbelts for another high-scoring Big 12 contest.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

It’s rivalry weekend. Every game deserves to be watched!

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