Shaq to the Celtics. Sure, why not?

Shaquille O'Neal will be joining Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics next season

Mid-way through the 2009-10 NBA season the Boston Celtics looked to be a team on the decline. Having already won an NBA championship with the Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce in 2008, the dream of a second championship had already been wiped from the minds of much of the basketball world. Talks swirled around the trade deadline of moving Ray Allen and thus breaking up the once dominating big 3.

Move forward to the 2010 off-season, another championship finals under their belts and the big 3 still intact. The Celtics have gone out and signed the Big Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal, to a 2 year deal worth around $3 million. With the signing of Shaq, the word rebuilding has been taken out of the vocabulary of Boston Celtic fans for at least another season.

Mixed reviews have been pouring in over the bringing in of Shaquille O’Neal to the Boston Celtics, but I am definitely one who is not against it.

It is obvious to everyone that Shaq’s play has fallen off massively from his heyday with the Lakers, but quality big men are few are far between in the NBA which is part of what makes the Shaq signing logical.

With Kendrick Perkins out until possibly February following knee surgery, you have to ask what is your next best option for a big man other than Shaquille O’Neal.

There really is not much out there, and with the Celtics being one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA last season they could sure use the 7 foot 1 force in the paint.

Jermaine O'Neal had a disappointing stint with the Toronto Raptors

Of “quality” big men, the Celtics currently are sporting Jermaine O’Neal who, like Shaq, is a player well past the prime of his career. For Jermaine O’Neal, injuries have been a big problem throughout his career, and at the age of 31 he doesn’t have the same explosiveness in his legs that he had in years past. Jermaine O’Neal can still do good things for a team but is just not a solid enough interior presence. In his last 3 seasons he has maxed out at 7 rebounds per game and not to mention being constantly in and out of the line-up.

Again, like Shaq, this grizzled veteran is not going to able to carry a big load on his own. However, combine their forces and they might be able to create a formidable force up front.

The C’s are going to need Shaq on defence when it comes to stopping the NBA’s elite big men. We all saw how Kendrick Perkins was able to shut down Dwight Howard for much of the Magic-Celtic series. But without Perkins there is no way the Celtics can rely on guys like Jermaine O’Neal to get the job done defensively. Even though Shaq is one of the worst pick and roll defenders in the league, the Boston Celtics as a team are one of the best defensively, and should be able to make up for his lack of mobility in those situations.

One of the biggest knocks on Shaq at this point in his career is his detrimental effect to his team’s offence. Because of his inability to run the floor well, Shaq greatly slows done the offence and once his team’s offence gets set in the half court he clogs the lane for teammates. Moreover, Shaq no longer has the ability to dominate the paint. He doesn’t finish around the basket like he used to and his initial post position is farther from the basket.

Despite these flaws, many analysts have noted that the Boston offence is very methodical. Unlike the Phoenix Suns, the Celtics don’t rely on running and gunning. Although it should be mentioned that Rondo will face some difficulty attacking the paint like he has done in the past with Shaq there to be a bit of a road block.

Lastly, I have to talk about his so-called attitude problems. People are questioning Shaq’s ego and whether he is willing to take a reduced role without complaining.

I really don’t think this is going to be a problem at all. First off, Shaq is surrounded by a team of players who are just out to win. Who’s to say that Shaq is no different? It seems to me he just wants a championship ring for his pinkie finger and doesn’t singing a contract worth virtually nothing to him show that he is all about winning? Also, there is no way that Shaq still thinks he is still the main man in town. Again, he is surrounded by great players and the fact that nobody is willing to give him a contract with a significant amount of money should be humbling to a man of his stature.

At the beginning of the off-season I didn’t think that anyone in their right minds should sign Shaq, but the Boston Celtics situation has convinced me and it should convince you otherwise.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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It is too early

It looks as though Brett Favre is finally finished

It happens so often where professional athletes are guided towards retirement as they reach their golden years. But when players feel that they have more to offer and a team is willing to give them the opportunity to play with a contract, who’s to say that they should end their career a bit prematurely.

Brett Favre is a player who, for the last few years, has ignored the criticism and calls from fans, media, and even front office personnel to leave the game of football. Now, after another off-season of Brett Favre cat and mouse, a source has told the Associated Press that Favre has in fact informed the Minnesota Vikings that he will not be playing this upcoming NFL season.

This year, just about everyone seemed to think that Favre was going to return for another season at the tender age of 40 years old, and there was no reason to think otherwise. He was coming off a season that saw him in contention for the NFL’s most valuable player as well as being within one game of the Super Bowl. Moreover, Favre delayed his necessary ankle surgery until recently with the intention of avoiding OTA’s and training camp. However, his ankle not healing correctly may be the reason that he is not coming back for another season.

As much as people say they are tired of hearing about Brett Favre I don’t buy it. This season has lost a lot of intrigue now that Brett Favre has supposedly decided not to come back…at least for me.

It was a joy to watch Brett Favre succeed the way he did last year. Who would have thought it was possible for player of Favre’s age and stature to have possibly the best statistical season of his career?

In the game of football player’s are constantly going down with injuries and career-threatening ones at that, yet Brett Favre has managed to make a record 285 consecutive starts while playing at an incredibly high level.

No longer are we going to be able to see an old, hardened veteran, playing the game with the joy akin of a little kid. The passion and desire of a man who has been beat up as much as anyone in his 19-year career is unmatched by anyone.

Brett Favre doesn’t care what people think of him, but that is exactly what makes him one of the best to ever put on an NFL jersey. His gun slinging ways would not be possible if not for his lack of a conscious.

Could any other athlete have shown up at the ESPY’s all smiles despite the uncertainty surrounding his decision of whether or not to return?

Virtually everyone knows the saying “you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” Well, that’s the song we’re going to be hearing for quite some time when we talk about Brett Favre and it is sad that we are not going to see another possible magical season from the legendary #4.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Alex Rodriguez’s 600th will be bittersweet

Alex Rodriguez is soon to be part of the very exclusive 600 home run club

The day Alex Rodriguez hits his 600th home run will no doubt be a day cherished by him forever, but it will leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

The steroid era may be just about over, but it is still fresh in the minds of baseball fans everywhere. During the 1990’s, players were hitting home runs out of the ball park like it was nobody’s business and fans couldn’t get enough of it. However, since Major League Baseball started cracking down on performance-enhancing drug users the league has been experiencing some problems with run scoring. The 2010 season is being dubbed year of the pitcher. There is no doubt that that steroids are playing a part in this but it is impossible to say to what extent.

Alex Rodriguez is currently sitting on 599 home runs for his career and is looking to join some very elite company in the 600 home run club. Only 6 other players have hit 600 home runs in their career, which includes Barry Bonds (762*), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (610), and Sammy Sosa (609.

Despite admitting last year to steroid use between the years of 2001-2003, Alex Rodriguez has surprisingly received little criticism in recent months in that regard. There were also reports that A-Rod may have even been taking steroids since high school, but those soon faded away.

Did everyone seriously gobble up A-Rod’s “heartfelt” apology?

You can’t tell me with 100% certainty that he hasn’t used in the years prior or after to those admitted. Doesn’t the fact that he admitted to it so readily once he was caught make you think that there has to be more to the story?

These days when I see A-Rod mashing on the highlight reels there is always this uneasy feeling about me and there should be for you all as well. You have to wonder what his numbers would be now without the steroids that he claims he only took for 3 years. In 2007, Rodriguez denied to Katie Couric of ever having used performance enhancing drugs. However, once reports came out that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs last year in his AL MVP 2003 season there was no denying anymore for the superstar. It was obvious that someone smart told him to admit to the only things that they could prove and it has worked up to this point.

It is mind-boggling to see the amount of fans who are willing to tolerate steroids in baseball as well as other professional sports. Fans are so quick to forgive and forget the failures of athletes whether it is on or off the field. The difference between cheating on the field and indiscretions off the field is that one compromises the integrity of the game where as the other just compromises the integrity of the athlete as a person.

Barry Bonds is still under investigation for his involvement with performance-enhancing drugs

Barry Bonds cheated the game of baseball by taking performance-enhancing drugs. There is no way to argue that he could have put up those kinds of numbers otherwise. Barry Bonds was a very good player before steroids, but he would not mentioned in the same breath as Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth if not for steroids.

I hear fans say what does it matter if players use steroids if it makes the game better? Professional sports are meant for the fans anyways right?

Well, how is it fair to the other athletes going the straight route and playing the game with pure natural physical ability and talent? How is it fair to the record holders from years past who didn’t ever use the performance enhancing drugs that we now possess?

Hank Aaron hit 755 home runs without performance enhancing drugs and Barry Bonds hit 762 with performance enhancing drugs. Who is the home run king?

Moreover, steroids do not just help you hit the ball farther contrary to the beliefs of many casual observers. Steroids generate more bat speed, help you throw harder, run faster, and give you an all-around better game. Yes, you do still have to hit/throw the ball, but it just makes it easier.

In my opinion, anyone who takes steroids at any point in their career should not be even considered for the hall of fame. Nobody should ever get rewarded for cheating. Pete Rose deserves to be in the hall of fame more than any player who has taken steroids. Sure Pete Rose gambled on baseball, but he never cheated the game. His 4256 hits are legitimate and he didn’t need performance-enhancing drugs to get them.

The Hall of Fame rewards people who do great things for the game of whichever sport they are representing and people who cheat the game are flat out not doing anything good for the sport.

Tiger Woods may have had some indiscretions with many women, but he has not done anything to give himself an unfair advantage in the game of golf…at least not that we know of.

Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, the list goes on and on. The long line of players who have fallen to the temptation of steroids makes me cringe when people speak of them. Although they may be great players in their own right, they have also done their part to ruin so much of what is good in baseball and we are still trying re-build the solid foundation that this game was built upon.

600 home runs is a great milestone which may or may not be reached by any player for decades to come but you won’t see me cheering when Alex Rodriguez smacks his next one out.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Note to NHL GM’s – This is Getting out of Hand

Ilya Kovalchuk signed an unprecedented 17 year contract on Monday

If you have ever wondered what it is like to run a circus you can just ask NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Since the implementation of the hard cap in the NHL, teams have started giving contracts that are almost as crazy as an elephant on the high wire. These outrageously long contracts are being given to players with the benefit of having a lower cap hit, albeit for a longer period of time. Having a cap in the NHL is a great thing but the ringmaster’s of this operation are soon going to be sorry for their short-sightedness.

Lou Lamoriello, who is known as one of the most shrewd general managers in the NHL, did something very un-Lou like yesterday by signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a massive 17 year contract worth approximately $102 million. Kovalchuk, who was probably the most sought after free agent this off-season, had been rumoured to be close to a long-term deal with the LA Kings a couple of times. It was also reported that he had turned down a 10 year $100 million contract extension last year from the Atlanta Thrashers.

Are you kidding me? Kovalchuk is a point a game guy who is not an experienced playoff veteran. You’re telling me he’s worth $100 million over 10-17 years?

For the most part, this off-season has been filled with more reasonable contracts, but the unprecedented Kovalchuk signing may just be the freak show that NHL GM’s needed to wake them up from this dream.

In the business of sports, winning now is one of the most important things to fans and owners alike. However, the price for winning sometimes comes at a great cost to the future.

These long-term contracts look all fine and dandy when players are in their prime and performing at optimum levels, but what happens when their play starts to digress little bit by little bit?

What is going to happen is that 5 or 6 years down the line, maybe less, these players that are being signed to double-digit contracts in the prime of their career are going to start receiving a lot of criticism for not playing to the level of their contract.

Johan Franzen was signed to an 11 year contract worth $43 million dollars at the age of 29. His best season consists of 34 goals and 25 assists in 71 games, which is less than a point a game. Franzen is undoubtedly a valuable player to the Detroit franchise, but at a cap hit of $3.9 million annually it is not going to be a bargain in the years to come.

Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg both signed double-digit year contracts

What about Henrik Zetterberg? At 28 years old he signed a 12 year deal worth an estimated $73 million for a cap hit at around $6 million per year. Zetterberg can be a plus point a game guy for a team, and is one of the best wingers in the league. However, once he starts reaching the age of 34 or 35 you are going to start to see his play drop to some extent.

Oh yeah, what the heck is a team supposed to do when their player is not performing at the level expected of them even at the supposed peak of their career?

The Tampa Bay Lighting and the Vancouver Canucks have already started to see the error of their ways in the signings of Vincent Lecavalier and Roberto Luongo respectively. In the last two seasons, Lecavalier has already started to show some possible signs of aging, where he scored 67 and 70 points while failing to reach the 30-goal mark. At the age of 30, who knows if we will ever see the old Vinny ever again.

Robert Luongo is also in the same boat, as his play has been weaker his last couple seasons in Vancouver. At a cap hit of $5.3 million, the contract is sure not looking like much of a bargain at this point.

When they signed Luongo to that 12 year contract, the Canucks had Cory Schneider waiting in the wings, who is now finally that backup goalie to Luongo. However, with very good AHL numbers you have to believe that taking a chance on Cory Schneider with a rookie contract cap hit would have been the better idea. With the extra cap space, the Canucks may have been able to acquire some better quality skaters.

When these players with big contracts stop performing at their top level, it isn’t just going to be that they are getting paid too much. Suddenly, the cap hit that seemed like such a shrewd move, is more of a garbage decision than anything.

Mark Messier was a big disappointment to Vancouver Canuck fans

If you look at some of the all-time greats there are only a select few that performed comparably to their glory days. You cannot fight age, and with these long-term contracts it should be expected that guys will have injuries that hurt their longevity. Once Mark Messier went to the Vancouver Canucks at the age of 36 his play dropped dramatically.

You can tell me that guys like Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe were able to play well later in their careers. Then are you trying to say that Hossa, Kovalchuk and Zetterberg are in the same class as these guys? Gretzky dropped from 100+ to 90+, that’s a big difference than 80+ to 60 or 70+ points.

Teams are throwing away their opportunity at future success by signing players to these ludicrous contracts, and leaving their teams only a small window for a chance to lift the Stanley Cup.

Imagine if the Chicago Blackhawks had not won the Stanley Cup this past season. They would still have their core four players of Kane, Toews, Keith and Seabrook, but they have had to trade and let-go of some of their key role players.

Their ability to win a Stanley Cup makes the move a success in my eyes because of the degree of difficulty it takes to win just one championship. But the ability to build a dynasty is almost out of the question. We talk about their core four, but there are also the underachieving Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa who are both in the midsts of eight and twelve-year deals respectively. You aren’t going to win many Stanley Cups with six players.

All of these contracts are constantly setting a precedent for future ones, which almost inevitably means an endless cycle of brutally long contracts. General Manager’s are digging a deeper and deeper hole for themselves to get out of, and it will eventually culminate in their demise.

Things are getting out of hand and if the NHL isn’t going to do anything about it, the only way to stop it is for every single one of the GM’s to refuse to give the contracts that the players are demanding.

This might mean that your team is not going to get the player it is looking for right now, but it will save your franchise 5 or 10 years down the road. These players do want to play, and if no one gives them the contract then they are going to have to settle for something less. Be strong and don’t give into the temptation of the lucrative deals.

Act 1 of this show has been quite spectacular and act 2 may turn out just as good. But ringmaster’s are warned that these later acts will dull as father time works his magic.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Forget Lebron, Dwyane Wade is still King of South Beach

Who is the real King of South Beach?

Lebron James has been known as the “king” ever since he entered the NBA in 2003. 2 MVP seasons, 1 NBA finals appearance, and career averages of 27.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists for Lebron James has meant for the most part that this title has gone undisputed.

Until now.

The unification of 3 of the NBA’s top 10 scorers in Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James has left some questions regarding who the alpha male is for the Miami Heat. Well, Chris Bosh really isn’t in that discussion but I felt his name deserved mentioning.

Unlike Lebron, Dwyane Wade has already won over fans in Miami with his flashy play (no pun intended), and of course, leading the Heat to an NBA championship in 2006.

Recently, Lebron James’ competitive drive has been in doubt due to his decision to flock to Miami to form a super team. Many say that his decision to join Wade and Bosh has shown that he has no desire to be the leader who takes his team to the promised land. They say that if guys like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant were in his situation they would never have made that same choice. The best want to beat the best, not play with them.

I am one of those people who completely agree with this assessment.

This has been said so often but it was evident in the Cavs-Celtics series when Lebron flat out gave up in game 5. There is no way Kobe Bryant would ever give up on his team no matter how frustrated he was with their performance or lack thereof. Lebron’s quitting was basically saying “my teammates are garbage and I am sick and tired of doing this.” On the other hand, during the Kobe-Shaq days, Kobe Bryant was doing all he could to get rid of Shaq because he was sick and tired of hearing how good Shaq was.

Kobe Bryant wanted to be and undeniably is the man. Lebron James just wants to be one of the guys.

The fact that Dwyane Wade has already won a championship already gives him the upper-hand on Lebron. He has been to the NBA finals and is a true winner. However, since their 2006 NBA championship, the Heat have struggled to build a solid team around Dwyane Wade. If you think Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O’Neal and Delonte West is a weak supporting cast then I’m not sure what Jermaine O’Neal, Carlos Arroyo, Quentin Richardson and Michael Beasley is.

With absolutely no team around him, Wade was still able to produce playoff appearances in the last two seasons.

Now obviously it wasn’t just Lebron James who decided that they were going to join forces in Miami and Dwyane Wade had a lot to do with this as well. In this case though, Dwyane Wade did not leave the only team he knows to solely win a championship. Wade is not getting any criticism for joining a super team because he is not doing it to ensure that he has at least 1 championship ring to his name when it is all said and done.

In addition to that is, to Miami Heat fans, Wade will always be considered top dog. I don’t know if there could possibly be any Miami Heat fan who has not had their heart won over by Dwyane Wade. He has already done so much for the franchise that Lebron James would have to be beyond superhuman to dethrone Dwyane Wade in Miami.

It will be apparent that all of the big 3’s numbers are going to dip to an extent next season and in the seasons to come, but I don’t see there being a big difference between Lebron’s and Wade’s numbers.

Championships may be won, and Most Valuable Player’s crowned but it will take a lot more than a title to oust the real King of South Beach.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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