Friday, August 6, 2010

Ready For Some Football

In case you missed my last post, this blog will not be up for much longer. I will be moving my posts to the Blaze's new website, which should be up and running in a few weeks. Since I will have an expanded role with the station this year, all of my posts will be related to ASU football or basketball. I'm very excited for the potential opportunities in store for me this year. I will post a link to the new website once it is up.

I got to cover Pac-10 Media Day last Thursday at the Rose Bowl for the Blaze. It was a fun experience. I was the only ASU student there, which was sort of surprising. I went straight from Media Day to San Diego for family vacation, so I didn't get to post any notes. Here are some observations from Media Day.

-For the first time since 2002, the media did not pick USC to win the conference. Instead, they went with the defending Pac-10 Champion Oregon Ducks. Here is the official poll with the total points (first place votes in parenthesis)

1. Oregon (15)...............314
2. USC (12)...................311
3. Oregon State (3).........262
4. Stanford (1)...............233
5. Arizona (2)................222
6. Washington (1)............209
7. California..................175
8. UCLA (1)....................134
9. Arizona State...............81
10. Washington State.........39

-ASU is picked to finish 9th in the conference, which is the lowest spot its had in the preseason poll since 2002, when it was also picked to finish 9th.

-Head Coach Dennis Erickson and kicker Thomas Weber represented the Sun Devils at the Rose Bowl. Erickson said the reason he chose to bring along Weber was because he is "invaluable" to the team.

-Erickson said that the offense will be the biggest factor in how successful ASU is this year. The Sun Devils have struggled mightily on the offensive side of the football in the last two years, ranking at the bottom of the conference in nearly every offenseive category. Things could be a lot better this year, however, under new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Erickson praised the work that Mazzone has done so far, as he made clear that the offensive players have had more fun and have been more motivated under him.

-It sounds like the quarterback battle between Brock Osweiler and Steven Threet is wide open. Erickson did not give an indication as to who he will select, and he said he has no problem waiting until the final days of fall camp to make a decision.

-Finally, the Sun Devils don't seem to care about being picked to finish 9th in the conference. They have had two losing seasons in a row, which is enough to motivate them to play their hearts out this year. The players very well know that Dennis Erickson could be fired if ASU has another losing season, and as Thomas Weber put it, they are out "to shock the world."

Fall Camp started on Wednesday. The Sun Devils have four weeks to prepare for the start of the regular season.

I will be back at ASU next Saturday, and I will start covering practices on Monday, August 16th. I'll be posting practice news more so on my twitter page, but I will also be writing brief reports on here, until the Blaze website is ready to go.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The End Is Near

The more I promise to post, the less I actually do it. I haven't posted in over a month, which is nothing new, but you know I'm really lazy when it's the first time I've posted since the Lakers won the championship and LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat. I haven't kept up with the blog, so why should I keep it? Simply put, this blog won't last much longer, in fact I'll most likely stop posting here at the end of the summer.

I'll be moving my posts to the Blaze's new wesbite in the fall, since I will have an expanded role with the station. My posts on the Blaze website will heavily focus on ASU football and basketball since I will be covering both teams. I'm looking forward to my new role with the station, in addition to the new opportunities that will come with it.

Summer back home in Southern California has been very relaxing. I've been making frequent visits to the beach and to Dodger games. So much has gone on in the world of sports since I've been home, so I'll go ahead and give you my top five sports stories of the summer thus far.

5. Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg makes his MLB debut

4. The Lakers beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals and win their 16th championship in franchise history

3. Legendary UCLA Head Coach John Wooden passes away at age 99

2. Spain wins the 2010 FIFA World Cup

1. LeBron James leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers and signs with the Miami Heat

I can no longer promise that I will blog more often, but I'll do my best to post at least twice a week. Hold me to it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

NBA Finals Prediction

The time is finally here. We're a little under two hours away from the start of the 2010 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. I wouldn't be me unless I waited until the last possible moment to make a prediction, so here we go.

These two teams are clearly different from the last time they faced each other in the 2008 Finals. For the Lakers, they have Andrew Bynum, who did not play at all in the series two years ago. Bynum's not 100% healthy, but his presence alone should make a difference as he'll be in charge of bodying up with Kendrick Perkins, and providing length in the paint against the Celtics guards, mainly Rajon Rondo. The Lakers also have Ron Artest, who will be in charge of containing Paul Pierce, the 2008 Finals MVP. In the two meetings in the regular season, Pierce averaged 13 points and shot under 40% from the floor with Artest guarding him. I don't expect Ron to completely shut down Pierce, but I do think he'll have a decent impact on Pierce's offensive output this series.

The Celtics' bench is also not as good and as deep as it was in 2008. Instead of James Posey, PJ Brown, Eddie House, and Leon Powe, the C's now have Rasheed Wallace, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, and Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Posey was really important for the Celtics in 2008 because he played great defense on Kobe Bryant, in addition to being a great three-point shooter.

While the points I made above are important, I think the biggest difference between now and 2008 is that the Lakers are more experienced. They know what to expect from the Celtics and won't be as shell struck as they were two years ago. The Lakers are a more physical team now than they were in 2008, and they also have the revenge factor in their heads. LA was humiliated in Boston two years ago, and obviously both sides remember that. Kobe Bryant is arguably playing his best basketball of his career, and I'm sure he will do as much as he can to make sure the Lakers don't lose to the Celtics in the Finals for the second time in three years.

Here are a couple of scenarios that went through my mind before finally making a pick. Keep in mind that the homecourt format for the Finals is 2-3-2. So games one and two will be played in Los Angeles, games three through five will be played in Boston, and games six and seven will be back in Los Angeles.

- The Celtics are too good to lose the first two games at Staples Center. They were the best road team in the NBA this season, and I've got to think that they will win at least one of the games.

- The Lakers are too good to lose games three through five in Boston. I don't think the Celtics will win all three, but at the same time I don't think the Lakers can win two of the three. I've got to think the C's will win two in Boston.

- I can't imagine Kobe Bryant and the Lakers losing an NBA Championship on their homecourt, and especially to the Celtics. If Boston doesn't win this series in five games, they won't win the series at all. With that being said, one of the above scenarios won't happen, and I think it's the first one. The Lakers will win the first two games in Los Angeles. LA is 28-3 at Staples Center in the last three postseasons, and this isn't just any ordinary Finals matchup, it's the Celtics and a it's chance for revenge. The crowd will be fired up and ready to go.

- I doubt this series actually goes seven games, like most people think it will. Only three Finals matchups have gone seven games in the last 27 years.

My prediction- Lakers in six

Monday, May 31, 2010

Let The Rivalry Continue

The Los Angeles Lakers are headed back to the NBA Finals for the third straight year, and it's only fitting that their opponent is the one team that Laker fans hate the most. It's the only franchise that has more NBA Championships than the Lakers, and it's the one franchise that has caused Laker fans to despise players like Bill Russell, Larry Bird, and Paul Pierce. It's the franchise that has defeated the Lakers nine times in the finals, and has consequently caused misery to the Laker faithful. For the 12th time in NBA Finals history, the Los Angeles Lakers will face the Boston Celtics. These two teams have combined to win 32 of the NBA's 63 total championships, with the Celtics most recent title coming in 2008, and the Lakers' in 2009. Now the two most storied franchises in NBA history will collide once again, this time for the 2010 NBA Championship. Could you imagine it any other way?

Words really can't describe how excited I am for this matchup. There is no other team I'd rather see my Lakers face than the Celtics. Unfortunately since I'm 20 years old, I missed pretty much all of the epic battles between these two teams in the past, but I've read plenty of books and watched plenty of videos/tv/documentaries to understand just how serious this rivalry is. I wish I could have grown up watching Jerry West vs Bill Russell, and Magic Johnson vs Larry Bird, but I'll settle for watching Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol vs Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.

The only experience I've had with this rivalry since I've been alive came in 2008, when the Celtics beat the Lakers in six games to win their 17th NBA Championship. I remember game six of the series like it was yesterday. The Lakers lost by 39 points, green and white confetti was everywhere, and the Celtic fans were taunting the Laker players as they left the court, humiliated. The Celtics dominated the Lakers in every way there was to dominate. The feeling I had after game six was probably the worst feeling I've had in my 20 years as a Laker fan. I've never felt more depressed about a loss, and at the same time never had more anger towards a team or a city.

I expected the Lakers to be in the finals this year, after all they are the defending NBA champions and I knew there wasn't a team in the Western Conference that could beat them in a seven-game series. However I can't say I expected the Celtics to be in the finals, which is ironic because I've always thought that they were the best team in the East, when healthy. I just figured LeBron James and the Cavs would get there, and we would finally see the Kobe vs LeBron matchup, or that Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic would get back there and we would see a rematch of last year's finals. But I'm excited now that Lakers' opponent is indeed the Celtics.

A lot is on the line in this matchup. Not only is this a chance for the Lakers to redeem themselves from their embarrassing defeat in 2008, but it's also a chance for Kobe Bryant to cement his legacy as one of the greatest, if not the greatest Laker of all-time. A win would give Kobe five NBA Championships, but it would also give him a championship win over the Celtics, which is pretty much the only thing he hasn't accomplished in his illustrious career. You have to beat the Celtics if you want to be considered a true Laker great (i.e. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Now that's not to say that Kobe won't be considered a great if the Lakers lose again, but that would be the one negative hole in his legacy, and it would be a big one.

In addition, the Celtics' big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen is getting old, and I can't imagine them being in the league much longer. This may be the last opportunity for the current group of Laker players to defeat the current group of Celtic players. If LA wins, they will have 16 NBA Championships, only one behind Boston's 17, but if the Celtics win, they will have 18 championships compared to the Lakers' 15.

This will be the seventh time in my life that I will see the Lakers compete for a championship. I've seen them win four titles, and lose out on two. The one thing I haven't seen in my 20 years as a Laker fan is a purple and gold championship victory over the green and white. I can die a happy man if that happens this year.

It's the Boston Celtics vs the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2010 NBA Championship. Could you imagine it any other way? I can't.

I'll have a prediction post up before game one, which is Thursday night in Los Angeles.

You can see more of my daily thoughts by following me on twitter

Friday, May 28, 2010

From Zero To Hero

After Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Finals, the game in which Derek Fisher hit the "0.4" shot, Shaquille O'Neal said, "One lucky shot deserves another." Six years later that quote came to fruition, as Ron Artest hit the game-winning layup at the buzzer last night to give the Lakers a 103-101 victory against the Phoenix Suns. The layup came after Jason Richardson banked in a three pointer to tie the game with 3.5 seconds.

The Lakers now lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, and are one win away from reaching the NBA Finals for the third straight year.

I was glad to see Artest redeem himself last night after the horrible offensive decision he made that could have very well cost the Lakers the game. He took a three-pointer with 51 seconds left, but more importantly when there was 23 seconds left on the shot clock. I'm sure he would have been subject to scrutiny if the Lakers lost. It seems like Artest has been trying to fit in with the Lakers all season long, and last night he finally made his mark on the team.

As happy as I am that the Lakers won, I'm also a bit nervous. LA had an 18 point lead at one point in the third quarter, yet the Suns came all the way back and nearly forced overtime. The Lakers did a much better job defensively last night than they did in Game 4, but I'm a little worried about the offense. The Suns' zone defense has really limited LA's inside game. Andrew Bynum's been a complete non-factor in games 3-5. In 19 minutes last night, Drew had two points, seven rebounds, and five fouls. People also forget that Artest's game-winning layup was just his third and fourth points of the game.

The Lakers have the opportunity to close out the series tomorrow night in Phoenix. LA is 8-1 in their last nine close out game attempts, with the lone loss coming in the Houston series last year. As much as I'd love to see the Lakers finish the series tomorrow, I think the Suns will win and force a Game 7. Phoenix's bench will play much better at home, conversely I think LA's bench will again struggle on the road. I hope I'm wrong, but the Suns are a resilient group and are a tough team to beat at US Airways Center. With the way the Suns players were acting after last night's loss and when you keep in mind that they played poorly, yet came back from 18 points down on the road, it seems like a forgone conclusion that there will be a Game 7.

On a side note, I think the Lakers are just meant to give the Suns heartbreaking defeats in the playoffs. Flashback to Kobe Bryant's game-winner in 2006, and now last night with Ron Artest.

I'm going to the Angels game tonight. I'm excited since it will be my first time at the Big A. Isn't it funny that I'm going to see the "Los Angeles" Angels, yet I have to drive all the way to Anaheim, which is an hour or so past downtown?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Summertime, and the Living's Easy

I'm enjoying my time back home in LA. It's been nice to relax after going through a stressful last couple of weeks with finals and such. I've been to the beach three times already (we all know I need to work on my tan). I'll be in St. Louis this weekend for my buddy's wedding. Still can't believe he's getting tied down at age 21, but hey, more power to him.

We're down to the conference finals in the NBA, but I'd like to talk about LeBron James before I talk about the Lakers-Suns series.

I've called LeBron "Prince James" for quite some time now, because I have always felt that he's been overhyped. Now just because I think he's overrated doesn't mean that I hate him. I respect LeBron's talent and ability, but it really annoys me when people call him the next Michael Jordan when he's won nothing in his career. The guy is unbelievable in the regular season, but for whatever reason he always seems to choke in the playoffs. I don't buy into the whole "LeBron doesn't have enough help" crap, because the Cavs had the best regular season record in the NBA the last two years. Everyone was ready to crown Cleveland as NBA Champions in the regular season, yet as soon as they lose in the playoffs LeBron all of the sudden has no help? LeBron is certainly the one player I'd love to build my team around in the regular season, but give me Kobe Bryant all day long in the playoffs because Kobe knows how to win when it matters, unlike Prince James.

The Lakers dominated the Phoenix Suns last night 128-107 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Kobe Bryant led the way with 40 points on an amazing 13-of-23 shooting, and Lamar Odom added 19 points and 19 rebounds for the defending champs, who extended their playoff winning streak to seven games. The Lakers have looked great ever since closing out Oklahoma City in the first round. If they keep playing the way they are now, then I have all the confidence in the world that they will win the championship.

A lot of my friends at ASU are Suns fans, so I'm enjoying this series all the more. I got so many texts from friends that were talking trash once the matchup was set. It amused me that Suns fans felt the need to gloat about reaching the conference finals, but I guess you don't know any better when you're a fan of a franchise that doesn't know what it's like to be successful.

Game 2 is tomorrow night at Staples Center, and I will be there in person. My friend has an extra ticket for me, so I'm pretty excited, as you can assume. The Lakers are 2-0 in playoff games that I've attended, hopefully they will be 3-0 after tomorrow night.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Final Countdown

One videography story separates me and the end of my sophomore year of college. Halfway done with college.... I can't even write that without cringing a bit. It's amazing how fast the time has gone. I've had the time of my life these last two years at ASU, but come Wednesday I will be back in beautiful Southern California. I guess I can't complain too much since I'll be able to be at the beach on a daily basis, after all it's starting to get really hot here in Tempe. I'm still waiting to hear back for a possible summer internship. I'll keep you guys posted.

On a different subject, one win separates the Lakers from reaching the Western Conference Finals for the third straight year, as the defending champs took a commanding 3-0 series lead against the Utah Jazz with a 111-110 win tonight in Salt Lake City. No team in the NBA history has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a series, and it will more than likely stay that way.

As good as the Jazz may be, and as hard as their players might play, they simply are not in the same league as the Lakers. Take tonight as a perfect example. The Jazz shot 48% from the field, their bench outscored the Lakers' 46-22, and Andrew Bynum scored 0 points. Just about everything that could have gone the Jazz' way did, yet they still lost. Tonight was Utah's best chance to get a win in the series in my opinion. While I do think Utah can and most likely will win Game 4, I don't see this series going past five games. Looks like we're all but set for a Western Conference Finals showdown between the Lakers and the Phoenix Suns.

I don't even want to talk about the Dodgers. Their performance so far this season disgusts me. I can only hope that General Manager Ned Coletti makes some moves before the trade deadline, otherwise this season could get ugly very quickly. I can also only hope that the Dodgers have at least a .500 record by June 18th, because my dad and I will be in Boston to see them take on the Red Sox at Fenway Park. If the Dodgers keep playing the way they are now, then we'll be flying out to Boston to see them get swept.