Friday, April 29, 2011

Is it Mechanics, Wonderlic Ethnicity or What?

Cam Newton has come under criticism since his surge to prominence as a championship quarterback.  Most criticism has been centered around his low Wonderlic score, his QB session with Jon Gruden and his supposed mechanics and style as a run first QB.  The latter is a misrepresentation, the Wonderlic is a joke and the Jon Gruden is an entertainment session in sports that has yet to verify the success trend of level of a young NFL quarterback in his transition from college to the NFL.

So the next question is the most politically incorrect question available.  Is this because he is an unproven African American quarterback going into the league as the most recent Heisman Trophy winner, National Championship MVP who happens to be Black in a society that wants to think they are contemporary, fair and non-bias, while actually spelling out the true sentiment of how far we have not come?  At any other time other than Charlie Ward, who made it clear he was going to the NBA, have we ever assumed that the reigning Heisman winner should not be the top candidate for the #1 pick in the NFL draft.

Out of no where came Blaine Gabbert who was only a Big 12 honorable mention in his conference as a viable NFL quarterback candidate and now as the top QB candidate for this year's draft.  Immediately, various analyst began defining the deficiencies in Cam's game, rather the potential for his success in the NFL.

The draft has always and will always be about the potential of any athlete and the negatives are a given considering the that all former superstar QB's and the current stars of the game have all had learning curves that have developed into marquee labels.  The culture of winning is one of the most needed attributes in the transition and Newton brings that culture with having been a part of three National Championship seasons at three different programs in as many years.

Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder are all be given "upside" projections for their quick development with emphasis on their winning mentality, with two of them being given average arm strength and all having a need to develop and mature into their roles.  Each a first round pick, has no level of achievement greater that Cam Newton, but each appears to be projected to become successful quarterbacks without little doubt of failure.  Newton is being given a "feast or famine", "Stardom to Bust" and "All or Nothing" evaluation. 
And please spare me the Wonderlic as ESPN Analyst Tim Hasselback recorded a 23, Brett Farve 22, Vince Young, Dan Marino, Randall Cunningham Jim Kelly and Terry Bradshaw each clocked 15, Donovan McNabb 14.  While Alex Smith with a 40 and Matt Leinart at 35 have struggled in the transition to the NFL.  The NFL it supposed to be a problem for a QB scoring below 24.  Sounds like a minor flaw in the system or the rationalization of the value of the test.  This year's stars resulted with Gabbert at 42, Ponder 35, Ryan Mallett 26, Newton 21 and Locker 20.

Top NFL executives of player personnel and NFL draft analyst say that what makes Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees great is their work ethic and that they work harder at their position than anyone else.  Is it becoming clear yet......we have to wait and let the guy study, train, workout, play and then decide if he has the work ethic and transferable skills, including mentality to star at the next level.  It would be irresponsible to mention the "race card", but being the only African American QB prospect at this level, we have to be careful not to imply it either.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Favorites Make Statement, But Not All Are Out Of The Woods

While the Lakers blew out the Hornets 106-90, the Bulls 116-89 over the Pacers and the Magic 101-76 over the Hawks in game 5 for each, only the Bulls win was a guarantee to the next round, as they eliminated the Pacers 4-1.  The Lakers and Magic must now go on the road to play game 6 on their opponents' respective floors.  While the Lakers lead 3-2, they have struggled with New Orleans in this series and the Magic are still facing elimination trailing 2-3 heading into Atlanta.  Likewise, the Maverick have been able to outscore the Blazers in a relatively non-physical game 93-82 earlier in the week to take a 3-2 lead, but must go to Portland for game six, in what should be another physical battle, which is advantage Blazers.

The Miami Heat has its' date with Boston set for Sunday after a yet challenging victory over Philadelphia 97-91 in game five.  The Nuggets needed a late surge and run to overtake the Nuggets in in game five and move on to the second round.  With their backs against the wall the Spurs needed two big and improbable shots in the last 10 seconds to force overtime at home and eventually win in the extra period 110-103, to stay alive in game 5, but they must now travel back to Memphis still facing elimination against the Grizzles, who have played extremely well at home.

Finally the teams viewed as the favorites have surfaced but it may be too late for San Antonio, Orlando, while Los Angeles will have to be careful not to be forced into a game seven, "winner take all" with a very athletic and hungry New Orleans team, that has shown they can win in LA and control tempo.

The question is now, if the Magic are eliminated, the upset of the Spurs completed and if the Lakers were to slip and fall to the Hornets over the next two games, does the emphasis on the post play become a moot point, and does this playoff become the game of transition, match ups and hot shooting or do mid-range post players become dominant forces.  Either way, one would have to say this scenario opens the door for a potential Oklahoma City versus Boston, Chicago or Miami, probably in that order of analytical preference.  But I'm sure Dallas, Atlanta and Memphis have their own opinions about that projection. 

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dooms Day Getting Closer For Favorites In The NBA

With 33 NBA Playoff games completed, the stage is set for exciting finishes, surprise endings and possibly some disappointed favorites and projected championship contenders.  Boston has moved on with its' sweep, but others are getting close while a couple are holding on and most are fighting to the end. Denver is now playing on pride, against a team that has more talent and has owned them all season, as the Thunder sustained it's first loss against the Nuggets last night 104-101.  Dallas made a statement with a controlling victory over Portland, who forgot to get physical in the second half and allowed the skill of the Mavericks to shine again, leaving the series in favor of the Mav's 3-2, a position that only 17% of the trailing teams in the past have comeback to win after training 2-3.  Then there is the Western Conference #1 seed trailing the #8 seed 3-1, after Memphis handed San Antonio a 104-86 loss to grab a commanding lead and making the dream of a rare upset reality, and a nightmare for the heavily favored Spurs.  Orlando is looking at the same fate, trailing 3-1 and Los Angeles has its' back against the wall going home tonight to try and regain control of their series tied 2-2.  Indiana has played extremely well for three and a half quarters against the #1 Eastern seed Chicago Bulls but has come up lame in three of four games due to the late game heroics by Derrick Rose, until a break through in game four has them feeling a glimmer of life and some potential hope, as a hobbling Rose may not be up to standard with a severely sprained ankle.  Philadelphia's actual win, may be no more than a token or moral victory, having to travel back to Miami for game five on Wednesday, where the newest "Big Three" will undoubtedly finish off the 76er's, who have hung around each game, but never really threaten to take a game until game four when the Miami concentration went stale and a sense of desperation set in and a large double digit lead was blown by the Heat late in the ballgame this weekend.

With two gimpy superstars playing on each end of side of the country, New Orleans could steal a game in LA.  While Indiana has its' last chance to turn playing extremely well and close into finishing with another victory as Rose continued to wear a cam boot following treatments.  And as a Kobe Bryant follows getting off crutches with daily treatments, New Orleans may have a window of opportunity to outplay the will of the Leagues top superstar and sustain the momentum gained in winning game four.  If these scenarios play out and Atlanta continues its abuse of Orlando, this could prove to be the most unpredictable playoff run in modern day history.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The NBA Playoffs Become Unpredictable

The NBA Playoffs were to be about the Lakers and Spurs in the West and Chicago and Miami in the East. The Pacers were supposed to be lacking talent, while the Thunder has talent but are said to be just a little shy on the experience.  Atlanta presents questions about their post capabilities and offensive schemes, as New Orleans could not match up with the defending champions.  The 76'ers have nobody and Memphis is young and coming but no match for the Spurs.  Portland, while dangerous, lacked the skills and synergy of the Mavericks and of course the Boston is just too old.

Well, somebody forgot to tell Boston, who swept the Knicks, Atlanta who leads Dwight Howard's Magic 3-1, Portland has the Mavericks tied at 2-2, Memphis leads the Spurs 2-1, Indiana has played Derrick Rose and the Bulls to four single digit games leading late in three of the four to hang around 3-1 and Oklahoma leads a "red hot" Denver Nugget team 3-0.  New Orleans has displayed tremendous poise in scrapping with the Defending Champions, knotting the series at 2-2, when Chris Paul outplayed a late game injured Kobe Bryant.  A Philadelphia last minute comeback allowed the 76'ers to avoid being swept by the South Beach "Big Three" forcing a game five in an improbable come-from-behind attempt.  

The first round was to move quickly for most series with many blowouts expected, but with 30 games played through Sunday, the winning teams have won by double figures only 7 times, with 15 of the remaining 23 games ending in a spread of five points or less.  Only the aged Boston Celtics have won two games by double digits, 17 and 12 in games three and four, both played in New York.  The other teams winning by double digits were Atalanta, Miami, Dallas Oklahoma and Los Angeles.  The Celtics failed to sweep a series in over three years until now.

The Spurs will be trying to even the series on the road in Memphis on Monday, while Denver will try to avoid being the only other potential sweep victim later in the evening.  A trend already set by this years NCAA basketball tournament is begging to surface and the favorites might want to take a look at history and trends, as the league known for its' Super Stars and Marquee Players is finding role players, little known reserves, supposedly washed up veterans and new coaches creating the unexpected schemes leading to victories and nail bitting finishes.

The finals may not be what was expected but, this year's NBA playoffs and road to the finals appears to be heading towards one of the most exciting and possibly unpredictable championship finals in years.  At this stage one, of an obvious long road, almost every team can make a statement as a legitimate contender for this year's NBA title.