Memphis Grizzlies: Playoff fixture, Title Contender – Mo Betta Blues #memphisgrizzlies #grindhouse

Once upon a time there a pro basketball team in Memphis that always came in a distant second to Coach Calipari and his Memphis Tigers which had come within a free throw of winning a national title. Five years and four playoff appearances later the Fedex Forum are now always sold-out and the city of Memphis are fully behind this resurgent franchise that continues to show the nation and the league that they ain’t your daddy’s griz grindhouseGrizzlies.

When the Grizzlies traded the cornerstone of their franchise Pau Gasol many believed that Memphis had been bamboozled getting two broom sticks, a rusty nickel (Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, and Aaron McKie), and a vertically challenged little known big man and second round pick Marc Gasol. Although the janitorial appliances yielded little fruit as many expected the lesser known Gasol has become the franchise’s new cornerstone, ‘whose the dummy now?’

griz front courtWith his frontcourt mate, Zach Randolph fully recovered from a knee injury the Grizzlies embody the toughness and swagger of their two big men who can’t out jump an ant but constantly outwork and out hustle their more athletic counterparts. The toughness of this team is further fortified by defensive stalwart Tony Allen who was named to the NBA All-Defensive first team.

When Lionel Hollins was named coach at his disposable he had a collection of former lottery pick prema-donnas who only seemed to be concerned with their stat line and not with winning games. However, Hollins quickly cleaned house disregarding draft selections and only putting the players on the floor who exhibited toughness, hustle, and selflessness. Promising first round lottery picks Xavier Henry, OJ Mayo, Darrell Author found themselves riding the pine while second round after thoughts logged major minutes in the clutch.

It may have taken a while for young stars point guard Mike Conley and swing-man Rudy Gay to buy in the success the Grizzlies are experiencing can be largely attributed to the growth and maturity of these two. As early as high school Rudy Gay has only shown glimpses of the dominant that everyone knows that he is gay n conleycapable of. Gay has slowly come into his own become a match up nightmare that is reliable in the clutch.

Once only known as the robin to former number pick Greg Oden, Mike Conley has become more than just a facilitator finally living up to his early first round draft selection. Early in his career Conley was viewed as an offensive liability in the clutch due to a poor free throw shooting and a non-existent jump shot. Although he may never get selected to an All-Star due to the deep stable of talented point guards in the Western Conference his play during the NBA playoffs has left no doubt that he belong in the discussion of elite point guards.

force to be reckoned withAlthough the Grizzlies were on a 3-game losing streak there is no doubt in the minds of many that come playoff time this team would certainly be one to be reckoned with. Often lost in the discussion of NBA title favorites the Grizzlies have already logged impressive wins over the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunders, and the New York Knicks. See a pattern, although the Memphis Grizzlies may never make a grindhouseSportscenter highlight, do not be surprised if the Larry O’Brien trophy calls the House of Blues its new home. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

Dwight Howard – ailing back, 4th quarter liability, questionable work ethic = Max contract?? #dwightmare

Last night Dwight Howard record his fifth consecutive double-double, but what did it matter if the Los Angeles Lakers continued their losing ways with a dismal 2-8 road record. Although Dwight has already been voted to his 6th consecutive All-Star game the question must be asked, has he reached his ceiling? Have we alreadysuperman rises seen the best of what he has to offer? For nearly nine seasons fans have witnessed Superman run like a gazelle and dish out punishment leading the league in rebounding and block shots.

But after off-season back surgery fans have only seen glimpses of the dominant force who clearly is not operating at 100%. Although his early return may be for the good of the team in the long run Dwight is only doing himself and the Laker franchise a disservice. Dwight is currently averaging career lows in a contract year and after a disastrous last season which ended with his exit more than his performance will be used to determine who enters the Dwight-sweepstakes and what will be the final asking price this summer.

d12Yes, Dwight is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds but have anyone ever left you so unimpressed because the player was truly capable of doing more especially judging by his performances in season’s past. Although D-12 may never be considered a mediocre player averaging twenty points per game does not automatically make you elite or does it automatically give you entry into the NBA Basketball Hall of Fame.

When compared to the other big men who dawned the purple and gold Dwight ranks in a distant seventh at best when compared to the other Laker big men:

  1. Wilt Chamberlinlaker big men
  2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  3. Shaquille O’Neal
  4. George Mikan
  5. Bill Walton
  6. Pau Gasol
  7. Dwight Howard

The big men ranked ahead of Dwight were dominant big men who took pride in their craft whose games and skills expanded and improved each year while they were in the NBA. Although Dwight’s legacy has yet to be determined in its entirety an ailing back and a continued lack of maturity may end up being his demise.

Each year in the league his current teammate Kobe Bryant added something new to his repertoire in his questdunking dwight for greatness. Since coming into the league straight from high school what new has Dwight Howard added to his game beside the occasional dunk and swat. Those who are great are always working on their games, its apparent that the same cannot be said about Dwight Howard who seems to be more concerned with becoming an actor and promoting his new Adidas shoes.

d12 decisionDwight will certainly become a wealthy man because of the game of basketball but once he can no longer run faster or jump higher than his peers what legacy will he leave. In the NBA there are many tells of ‘shoulda, coulda woulda’s, if Dwight does not grow up he will end up on that list and not in the Hall of Fame. As the season progresses he future with the Lakers and his play will be watched closely. Will he be a Laker next year? Another True Hollywood Story, stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Los Angeles Lakers: From first to worst? Another true hollywood story #lakernation

Last night the Los Angeles Lakers reached a new low as they were run out of the arena by the Cleveland Cavaliers bringing their abysmal road record to 2-7. At the start of the season the Laker faithful envisioned a return of the Showtime Lakers but so far this season it seems like Kobe has been the only one who is showing up for games while his peers look like their just collecting checks. The personnel on the court clearly do not fit the system that D’Antoni wants to run and with the front office already strapped for cash the question many will ask is what do they do now?

An 82-game season has already cost the Lakers their starting point guard Steve Nash the first quarter of thed12 brick season, due to age and nerve damage in his shin his return continues to be unknown. In his quest for the big stage among the stars of Hollywood Dwight Howard has consistently folded under pressure, proving to be liability and deflecting blame for his poor play in crunch time. (9-21 from the stripe against his former team the Orlando Magic).

Too make matters worst the wear and tear of 16 year pro career in addition to his yearly commitment to the Spanish National Team has finally caught up to Pau Gasol who is currently collecting DNP (do not plays) due to arthritis in his knees. Although he has struggled to assimilate into D’Antoni’s offense the contributions of a career 18 pt 10 reb has certainly been missed.

laker best losersWith the Laker front office having large contracts and no desirable assets outside of Kobe Bryant it looks like a long season of unmet expectations appears to be in store. As the frustration continues to mount expect there to come a time when Kobe reaches his breaking point like he did back in 2007 when he demanded to be traded.  Although Phil Jackson is somewhere laughing at the current state of the Lakers it is critical that this team exhibit some resilience or they risk missing the playoffs all together.

If the Lakers went from title favorite to not even sniffing the playoffs a once proud franchise would be in a phil chipcomplete state of embarrassment and total disarray. At this rate its safe to assume that Gasol and Metta World Peace have played their last season in a Laker uniform as their contracts are likely to be bought out at season’s end. The fate of Dwight Howard remains unknown but judging by Coach D’Antoni’s man crush it appears that the Lakers are committed to making Dwight their franchise player.

Despite failing to meet expections the Lakers have been anything but boring so far fire dantonithis season. As D’Antoni’s former team the New York Knicks continue to thrive his Lakers continue to lose using the same broken system that cost him his job in New York. Who would have imagined that the Lakers would have to settle with the Knicks sloppy seconds. If only the Lakers front office had a reset button the season may have turned out so different. As the drama and suspense continues stay tuned. I know I will – A. Denmark

Lakernation – Banner or Bust: After the fire and hire coaching debacle in the end no one wins

Unable to stomach the putrid performance of a $100 million dollar roster led by Coach Mike Brown any longer the Laker front office finally decided to cut the cord. Despite his tireless efforts it took the Laker front office last season and five games to acknowledge the widely held truth that Coach Mike Brown just was not a good fit for the Laker franchise.

Once news broke of the imminent firing rumors were rampant that the head coaching vacancy was gift wrapped on a silver platter with a red bow for 10-time championship winning Coach Phil Jackson to take. Despite the overtures from both Phil Jackson and the Laker front office the expected match made in heaven failed to come to fruition, the third time was not a charm. Rumors allege that Phil Jackson wanted more say in basketball operations and wished to negotiate the number of road games he would have to travel too.  According to a statement released by Jackson these demands were not accurate and he was told that he had until Monday per a gentlemen’s agreement to make his decision.

Despite this alleged agreement to the surprise of Jackson, Lakernation, and many others the front office officially announced that Mike Dantoni was going to be the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. After this announcement speculation was rampant that the demands of Phil were unreasonable and that the Lakers current roster was not a good fit for his famed triangle offense.

Regardless of which side one may sit on this issue the bottom line is that everyone loses. Jerry Buss, the Lakers general manager and president of operations has ruined a once pristine reputation after his poor handling of the coaching debacle. His initial hiring of Mike Brown initially raised eye brows but many gave him the benefit of the doubt but his failure to seal the deal with Phil Jackson revealed the division that in not on the Laker front office but also within the Buss family.

The new head man in Laker-ville has walked into a no win situation that many pundits and fans have yet to realize. Although Dantoni’s break neck offense led to three Western Conference Finals appearances and two MVPs for Steve Nash the thoroughbreds he had on that Suns roster are not present on the Laker bench.

In an effort to refresh the memories of many let me remind everyone that those Sun teams ran a pick and roll offense where Nash dominated the ball and dished the ball to his three-point shooters when the defense collapsed on him when he attacked the paint. However, Nash is now only shades of his former self after suffering several injuries to his back, ankle, and now his shin which have robbed him of both his explosiveness and speed needed to attack the basket.

Too make matters worst, the age of the Lakers makes the prospects of them running Dantoni’s break neck speed offense appear far from a desirable alternative for an entire 82-game season. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant are already dealing with injuries and Dantoni’s has yet to install his offense which will certainly test the will and frail bodies of these two often injured superstars.

Although Kobe appears to be on board cameras will certainly be on alert trying to capture any moment of discontent once Dantoni’s offense reduces him to a spot up shooter and a secondary option forced to watch the pick and roll offense run through Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Lastly, do not think that Dwight Howard has not already began to plan his exit strategy in case his stay in Staple Center is only temporary. The wear and tear of running Dantoni’s offense tears your body to shreds, don’t believe me ask Amare Stoudamire of the New York Knicks who has never been the same after playing for the Suns for four years.

Dantoni has said that if the Lakers are not in the finals then he has failed ‘banner or bust’. This promises to continue to be a compelling story all season long. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

 

Colorado and Washington legalize marijuana – How will the NCAA, NFL, NBA, and MLB respond? #election2012

On Tuesday approximately 114 million Americans exercised their fundamental right to vote but in addition to selecting our next Commander-in-Chief in several states Americans were left to decide on an issue that may be of great interest to the NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB and other professional sports franchises played in the United States. The issue that I am speaking of is the use of marijuana which was legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington. Both of these states are home to the BIG 3 in pro sports as well as college programs with ties to the BCS.

Each of the three major sports industries have stiff penalties for their players if they test positive for using banned and or illegal substances.The NCAA also has issued stiff penalties to its players for testing positive and being found with a banned substance in their possession. A number of players with promising professional careers have found themselves dismissed from their schools and out of the league due to their addiction to marijuana. However the legalization of marijuana poses an interesting dilemma for the universities and sports franchises in these two states.

In light of this new law will these billion dollar sports franchises make the necessary changes and align with these new laws? Although it is unlikely that these professional sports leagues would ever make a state by state exception the thought of a player being suspended or dismissed from a college for smoking marijuana in a state where its legal would open a petrie dish of problems that no commissioner would want to deal with. I can already envision the NFL or MLB players associations challenging such suspensions causing a media frenzy of momentous proportion.

The struggles of students with promising professional futures has been well documented and frequently made headline news: Tyrann Mathieu of LSU, Da’Rick Rogers of UT, Greg Reid of Florida State, Michael Dyer of Auburn, Isiah Crowell of UGA. These talented players seemed destined to shake the hand of the commissioner after being drafted in the NFL but due to their addiction to marijuana a pro career for some of them already appears highly unlikely.

In the world of recruiting where coaches are always trying to get an edge I wonder in the states where the use of marijuana is legal will recruiters use this to their advantage to get 5 star players to sign with their schools? Although many would consider such a ploy to be unethical some may consider it no worst than giving the prospect money or buying their family a house. The world of recruiting is a ruthless business where nice guys always finish last so any advantage is always maximized. However, such a recruiting ploy would require these institutions of higher learning and the NCAA to revise drug testing policies.

At the moment the legalization of marijuana for recreational use is a problem that the sports industries and the NCAA can ignore but if more states begin to change their policies the time may come where the world of sports would be forced to follow suit. Two dominoes fell on election night and I am sure that the NCAA, NFL, NBA, and MLB took notice. Will the other 48 eventually follow suit? In the realm of sports there will never be a boring moment. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (like my fan page on facebook @Eat Drink Sleep Sportz)

2012 London Olympic Games: My Fav Five Female Olympic Winners #london2012

(By: Jonquil R Flowers aka no1swimmerj)

I am still on cloud 9 after watching the 2012 Summer Olympic Games that were just recently held in London!  It was two weeks packed with great athletic competition.  Not only did we see the best athletes in the world compete, we were given insight to many of their personal life stories.  As I reflect on the excitement of the 2012 Olympic Games, I have come up with my fave five females; five female Olympians whose athletic performance inspired me.

#5 Lia Neal – Swimming 

Although 17 year old Lia Neal did not qualify for the Olympic team in the 100 meter Olympic Trials she played a key role as a member of the US women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay team with Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt, & Jessica Hardy.  They came in third place behind Australia and the Netherlands with a time of 3:34.24, which set an American record. Neal, a Brooklyn native, had an amazing swim in London and will be a force to be reckoned with in Rio.

#4 Claressa Shields – Boxing

For the first time in the London Olympic Games women were able to challenge for gold in boxing. Clarissa Shields, a 17 year old from Flint, Michigan, became the first woman boxer to represent the US in the Olympics.  On top of that, she is the first woman boxer to win gold!

#3 Destinee Hooker – Volleyball

Destinee Hooker at 6ft 4 in tall won four consecutive NCAA Championships in the high jump at the University of Texas while also earning All-American honors in indoor volleyball. In 2008, she joined the US women’s national volleyball team. Destinee is an opposite attacker and is often seen serving, blocking, and spiking the ball.  After watching several Olympic volleyball matches, I would move out of the way if Destinee ever sent a ball over my way. She was the second overall scorer in the Olympic tournament where she, along with her teammates, won the silver medal for the United States.

#2 Allyson Felix – Track & Field

Fast!  That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of Allyson Felix.  But, not only is she fast; she is also graceful.  She makes sprints look so easy when many other runners look so tense.  Allyson is from southern California, where her love for track began.  After high school, she went pro and also got her degree in Elementary Education from USC. She competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where it seemed the gold medal eluded her in her best event, the 200 meter sprint. However,  2012 was truly Allyson Felix’s year winning  3 gold medals in London.  She finally won gold in the 200 meter race with a time of 21.88 sec.  She also ran the 4 x 400 meter and the 4 x 100 meter relay which was arguably one of the most exciting races of all of track and field events.  She, along with Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight, and Carmelita Jeter, set a new world record as they upset the Jamaican relay team in their quest for gold.  This was Allyson third Olympic games.  I have never heard of such longevity for sprinters, but she says we can expect to see her in Rio.

Gabrielle Douglas – Gymnastics

Yep!  You guessed it!  My absolute favorite female athlete of the 2012 Summer Olympics was Gabby Douglas.  This young lady has such a heart filled story. This 16 year old had every bit of focus and poise needed to be successful in London. She was able to slip under the radar of super high expectations and earn a spot to on the US gymnastics national team. She helped the US Women’s Team win gold in the team competition, which had not been done since the “Magnificent Seven” at the 1996 games. Then, she shocked the world and won gold in the Individual All-Around.  Wow!  While some were commenting on how her hair looked during the competition, she was taking care of business.  She is an awesome athlete and beautiful young lady.

These were my fave five!  But, I have to give a shout out to Carmelita Jeter (track & field), Sonya Richards-Ross (track & field), Serena Williams (tennis), Candace Parker (basketball), and the list goes on…  These women were great in London!  It’s a long four years away, but I can’t wait to see what Rio will bring!   “Stay tuned… I know I will!” – J. Flowers

Lebron James: A Ring for the King, his rise to greatness

On Thursday night the self-appointed Lebron ‘King’ James finally gained his crown by leading the Miami Heat to their second NBA Championship. Since gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated hailed as the ‘The Chosen One’ as only a sophomore in high school everyone witnessed the growing pains of a phenom striving to fulfill his promise.Thousands filled college arenas as Lebron James and his high school team traveled the country playing on national television facing traditional high school powers such as Oak Hill Academy (VA) and Germantown Academy (PA).

Despite possessing the size of Goliath and the speed of gazelle the expectations that awaited him once he shook NBA Commissioner David Stern’s hand as the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft was far too much for his strong broad shoulders to bare alone. At the young age of 19 his network was valued at over 125 million dollars and his giant-like appearance and superior play on the court made pundits forget that he was still only a young teenage boy.

His seamless transition to the NBA instantly made fans and pundits increase their expectation due to his  freakish size and dominance on the court. As his game continued to expand the Cleveland Cavaliers record began to improve. The expectations for Lebron grew immensely after leading his hometown Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in only his third year. These heightened expectations of a cap strapped franchise unable to lure other star players to play in Cleveland made winning a title for his hometown appear nearly impossible.

Once praised and hailed for his abilities on the court the criticism that once began only as whispers grew louder with each missed jumper or due to his inability to single-handedly lead his undermanned Cavalier franchise over the Boston Celtics which included 3 first ballot Hall of Famers: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.

We watched as this young man struggled to carry a franchise on his shoulders in the public eye while also experiencing the same growing pains common for young adults struggling to find their identity and place in the world. This lapse in judgment manifested itself in his now infamous Decision Special where  he announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach.

After his announcement the self-appointed King immediately became villainized. He watched in shock as fans burned his jersey in the same streets where he grew up. Dumbfounded as the owner of the Cavaliers publicly criticized and questioned his leadership, selling his memorabilia for 17.41 which was the year that Revolutionary War Traitor Benedict Arnold was born.

Lebron played last year with a chip on his shoulder, full of bitterness for the city who hated him and anger at the thousands who no longer embraced him but greeted him with boos and harsh words. However, the hardships of last year and an abysmal performance against the Dallas Mavericks in his second NBA Finals causing humility which fostered a fire that helped him rediscover his love for the game he once only played for himself and not for the approval of others.

This season we bared witness to a player tortured by the mistakes from his past take steps toward reaching his full potential. In route to collecting his third MVP award Lebron became the leader that few thought he would be capable of attaining. Effectively blending his superior athleticism with a high basketball IQ often barking out the offensive sets of the opposition before they had even reached half court.

The young high school phenom has grown before our eyes, and like the Nike commercial we have all witnessed greatness grow before our eyes. Congratulations Lebron James on winning your first NBA championship, everyone can not wait to see what you will do for an encore.

Stay tuned… I know I will. – A. Denmark (@eatdrnkslpsprtz)