Serena Williams loses in French Open: How will she respond with Wimbledon around the corner?

For nearly ten years Serena Williams has dominated women’s tennis and it appears that her reign  maybe coming to an end. Although no one will ever dispute the talent and ability of Serena Williams, despite their numerous Wimbledon and US Open Championships their commitment to the game has always been a hot topic. Unlike her peers on the tour, Serena Williams has often taken long layoffs from the court choosing to focus on her fashion and handbag clothing line instead of training.

Several pundits believe that her lack of commitment is a blatant show of disrespect to the game due to her possessing the ability to be the most dominant  women’s tennis player of all time. For years Serena silenced critics who questioned her effort by collecting consecutive major championships (US Open, Wimbledon, French Open) without breaking much of a sweat but earlier this week her poor conditioning finally caught up with her. In this years French Open Serena received a huge reality check when she was eliminated in the first round for the first time ever in her professional tennis career.

Her performance on the court was an abysmal display of a poorly conditioned athlete whose ego finally got the best of her, she was thoroughly dominated by an opponent who was immediately dismissed in the second round in straight sets.

Throughout her career the game of tennis has come so easy to Serena, but for greatness to be attained her commitment and dedication to the game must change. I don’t recall anyone ever questioning Billie Jean King or Michael Jordan’s effort do you? However, there is hope, Serena has responded to embarrassing losses with a strong resolve in the past. For example, after taking a year off due to a blood clot in her lungs she returned to the court to win the Madrid Open thoroughly dominating the number one ranked tennis player in the world.

Serena Williams has four weeks to get in shape and prepare herself for Wimbledon. If she wishes to reclaim her title it is critical that she makes tennis a priority and not be distracted by her clothing line and cameo acting opportunities on shows like the Game and Single Ladies.

Ex- NBA player, Shawn Kemp possessed Hall-of-Fame talent but due to his ego and bad work ethic he ate himself out of the league. Will Serena continue to let poor conditioning and bad habits be her downfall?  She broke up with longtime boyfriend Common to refocus on tennis, will she cut out the other distractions to get back on top? Stay tuned, I know I will – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)

Youth Got Served: Spurs Win, Veterans 1 Young Guns 0

The outcome of Game 1 of the Western Conference Championship was decided by the two players who did not record a single rebound, assist, or steal in the regular season series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Round one of the Battle of the Alamo went to the Spurs, whose 19-game win streak remains intact due to the offensive outburst of Manu Ginobili and the defensive play of Stephen Jackson in the second half.

For nearly three months the San Antonio Spurs have rarely had to break much of a sweat, wrapping up both first and second round opponents in convincingly dominant fashion, most outcomes often decided by halftime. The rust of a long layoff by Spurs was evident in a first half that included 14 turnovers and Tony Parker sputtering instead of attacking.

The Thunder’s speed was on display in the first half, making the Spurs pay for their costly turnovers with uncontested lay ups and ESPN top-ten worth highlight dunks. However, in the second half the Spurs made the appropriate adjustments and combatted the Thunders speed with defensive execution and floor spacing on offense. Although the veteran-laden Spurs will never be able to win a track meet with the Thunder, they successfully made the Thunder rely on perimeter shots by clogging the paint with big bodies and deterring dunks by taking offensive charges.

Although most of the credit for last night’s win will go to Manu Ginobili, the defensive play of Stephen Jackson in the second half against Kevin Durant was truly remarkable. Yes, I know Durant scored 27 point but he had to earn every point against the physical play of Jackson and the Spurs. By the fourth quarter the physicality of the Spurs resulted in the Thunder being winded and sloppy, Harden and Westbrook both were called for offensive fouls and Durant’s feet were like cement, unable to get lift on his shots or get past the much slower Stephen Jackson.

Last night, Youth got served a dose of reality, that highlight reel dunks and crossovers will not guarantee a win over the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs tought the young team a few lessons one only gets through the experience of winning championship, we will see Tuesday night if the Oklahoma City Thunder were paying attention.  Veterans 1 Young Gun 0- A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)

Series Prediction: Spurs in 6!!

Hall of Fame Coach + 2 Future Hall of Fame Players + Depth + Experience = 2012 Western Conf. Champions

New Orleans Saints: No Coach No Problem, No Brees No Chance

For three years the New Orleans Saint fans have discarded their *Aints Paper Bags and grown accustomed to record-breaking offensive performances, NFC West Division Championships, and one of the best Super Bowl finishes ever. Since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy  the New Orleans franchise has apparently reached its peak and the glory years now appear to be distant memories due to Bounty Gate, Jonathan Vilma and Head Coach Sean Payton’s 1-year suspension, and Drew Bree’s ongoing contract negotiations.

Although the Saints front office can do nothing about the 1-year suspensions their failure to sign Dree Brees to a long-term contract has already cost the team their All-Pro Guard Carl Nicks who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because the Saints had to use their franchise tag on Brees. During the offseason Brees also lost a weapon at wide receiver in Robert Meacham who signed with the San Diego Chargers.

Such a troubling offseason for the New Orleans Saints combined with a stalemate on contract negotiations with Drew Brees serve as indicators that the end is near. The Saint front office is playing with fire by not meeting Drew Bree’s demands, which has been reported to be only a difference of five million dollars.

Early this summer, everyone bared witness as Peyton Manning Mania took the entire league by storm, and it ended with the 37-year old  quarterback with the fused neck signing with the Denver Broncos for 5 years, 96 million dollars. If this aging injury prone quarterback was able to fetch nearly 100 million dollars, imagine what a quarterback five years younger with no injury concerns combined with record-breaking production would fetch on the free agent market.

Two months ago I told my friends that Brees will be a free agent at the end of the 2012-13 season and they all laughed at me claiming that Bree would not holdout due to his loyalty to the city of New Orleans. However, Brees still remained unsigned and has grown frustrated with the progress of contract negotiations.

I predict that Brees will become a free agent at the end of the season and I believe that once more information about Bounty Gate is made public that Sean Payton will either be fired or his contract will not be extended after the 2013-14 season. If Payton is not fired I believe he will strongly consider coaching elsewhere, especially if Brees does not return after the 2012-13 season. Why commit long-term if Brees is not at the healm?

All arrows would then point to the Dallas Cowboys, who would certainly enter the bidding war if Drew Brees were available, because clutch championship pedigree is hard to find, sorry Romo. Drew Brees thrived in New Orleans with second-rate receivers, imagine how productive he would be with Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten at his disposal. This scenario would become even more compelling because Sean Payton has publicly stated that the Dallas Cowboy head coaching job is his dream, I think you can connect the rest of the dots.

Saints front office, your time is running out and other franchises will start licking their chops ready to start the Drew Brees sweepstakes #nfldecision2013 – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)

A Dose of Reality for Lakernation: Fading Stars + Huge Contracts = Little Promise

For the last ten years the Los Angeles Laker faithful have become accustomed to their team being in contention for NBA Championships due to their young star Kobe Bryant and his revolving door of talented big men (Shaquille O’Neal, Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol). However, after successfully winning 5 Championships the Laker front office has failed to prepare for the future. Their once young star is now 34-years old and is nearing the end of his career and the talent that surrounds him is not the same faces Kobe Bryant won multiple championships with. The average age of the Lakers is 29 years old and the assets on their roster are deeply flawed due to character concerns, inconsistent play, and large contracts that other franchises would dare not touch.

As several pundits propose absurd trades involving Andrew Bynum, his bad knees and attitude will cause several franchises to think twice about making him their franchise player. Although Paul Gasol has become the popular target to blame for the Laker’s failings this season it is also unlikely that any team outside of the Houston Rockets will be willing to pay the remaining 38 million dollars left on the final two years of his contract.

Nevertheless, Lakernation do not fret there is still hope. There are two options that the front office can explore in order to make their roster more competitive and increase their chance of contention:

Option 1: Fire Coach Brown and hire Hall of Fame Coach Jerry Sloan

  • Despite his reputation Mike Brown as a tough defensive minded coach, the truth is that the Lakers only hired him because there was no one left in the dry coaching pool to choose between other than long-time assistant coach Brian Shaw.
  • The players do not respect him as a coach and often free-lancing on the court and  (ex: Bynum’s 3pt attempt)ignoring the play sets Coach Brown had called.
  • The pool of coaches is much better than it was a year ago. Recently retired, Jerry Sloan has the coaching itch and wants to get back into coaching. Coach Sloan’s experience would be an asset that would demand the immediate respect of Kobe Bryant and the rest of the players would follow suit.

Option 2: Trade Kobe Bryant ‘black mamba’

  • Kobe is 34-years old and is owed $62.5 million dollars in the two years left on his contract which runs through 2013-14.
  • Although several may consider trading Kobe Bryant to be unthinkable I ask you to consider how his one-on-five mentality in Game 4 resulted in a Laker lost to the Thunder.
  • Kobe is in his prime and may be the only asset franchises would consider swallowing a huge contract to add to their team.
  • Several great athletes end their careers in other uniforms because the time comes where the value of what they can fetch outweighs what they may provide their current team on the basketball court.

However, in the end I believe that Kupchak and the Laker front office will choose Option 1 by firing Mike Brown and attempt to hire a coach with more experience and a far more impressive track record. Despite the economic relief that trading Kobe Bryant may bring, it is unlikely that the front office will make such a bold move without the assurance of receiving an immediate return on both talent and fan fare.

Lakernation a long offseason awaits, but it certainly promises to be a compelling one filled with rumors, failed trade attempts and the harsh reality that the glory days of Laker dominance are behind us, and the future of the Laker franchise is unknown.

– A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)

San Antonio Spurs: Impressive Win, But on to the Next One

Winning has become customary for the San Antonio Spurs, during the regular season they had two win streaks of eleven games and are currently on a 18 game win streak. Despite their continued dominance on the court the Spurs continue to be easily forgotten or overlooked by the national media. After running a clinic on the fundamental of basketball and execution against the young an inexperienced Clippers aka ‘Lob City’, the Spurs were relegated to the back pages while everyone focused on the inconsistent highlight friendly team in South Beach.

However, the Spurs appear unconcerned about winning popularity contests instead deciding to focus on their quest for an NBA Championship. The Spurs have taken on the personality of their head coach Gregg Popovich who I consider to be one of the greatest minds in basketball, the Bill Belichick of the NBA. If the NBA had not have implemented a dress code policy, I am sure Coach Popovich would have worn the famous hoody only adorned by true geniuses of their craft (ex. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Belichick, and Lady Gaga).

It is unfortunate that Coach Popovich contribution to the game often get overlooked due to him coaching during the era of the Great Zin Master, Phil Jackson who won ten NBA Championships. But due to the Zin Master recent retirement Coach Popovich enshrinement as the NBA top coach in the league is no longer questioned.

Unlike the Zen who relied on the greatness of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, Coach Popovich has created a system run by self-less players who flourish where the right pass is always made and their strengths are always enhanced. For example, Danny Green who was a NBA non factor has flourished as a starter for the Spurs posting the best numbers of his career. The value of the Spurs system only gets noticed when his former players fail to produce at the same level once they sign to play with other franchises (ex. Stephen Jackson).

As the NBA playoffs continue do not forget about the Spurs because although they appear in highlights getting posterized by their opponents at the end of the day all that really matters in the final score. With their depth, experience, and superior execution the team from the Alamo is a force to be reckoned with and although Vegas does not have them as a favorite (Heat are 2:1) to win the championship, do not be surprised if they win the title in impressive fashion this year. – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)