By Jake Ritter ‘Tis the season for season-ending surgeries, tra lala la la lala la la. My apologies for my lack of sensitivity; as a Mets fan, cynicism is the only way that I don’t completely lose my mind. Each season has its hype man, calling attention by publicizing a specific trend, player, or event so then that season will linked with what/who happened. The 1974 season is synonymous with Hank Aaron breaking the Babe’s home run record, 2013 is a reminder of the cellar-to-cindrella transformation of the Boston Red Sox. And what does the 2014 season bring you may ask? The year of the Tommy John. Due to the Red Sox’s remarkable season and the emergence of the thrill seeker (on and off the base-path) Yasiel Piug, the 46 ball players who went under the knife courtesy of Mr. John took a backseat. So what makes this season any different? From this year’s Spring Training to the month of April, 24 players had to close the book on their season. The significance? in 2013, there were five. I’ll give you a moment to comprehend what I just told you On the bright side, the Mets can finally pass on the award of most unlucky National League East team (the holiday fruitcake of fictitious awards) to the Atlanta Braves. The new Mets (sorry I can’t help myself) lost both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, starting pitchers whose performances had a direct correlation of the Atlanta Braves prosperity pitching staff. Then again, the Mets aren’t that better off. We lost phenom and potential savior (I know, we’re desperate) Matt Harvey and supposed-to-be franchise closer Bobby Parnell is consecutive years to Tommy John Surgery. But don’t fret my fellow baseball enthusiasts, for there is still much promise that this season can provide. We have the new additions to the New York Yankees retirement home in Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, Robinson Cano actually taking the money and running to Seattle, and Jose Fernandez hoping to repeat a stellar rookie year. So cheer up baseball fans, for the 24 lemons of Tommy John surgeries ending your treasured player’s career, the lemonade of the opportunity for that player’s replacement could be sweet enough to replace that sour taste.
By Jake Ritter
Michael Sam may have not delivered the finishing blow, but he definitely help weaken the notion that there aren’t gay athletes in professional sports. The spotlight was shining radiantly on Sam Sunday night when he told the world he is gay. With this in mind, it’s easy to forget the athletes before him who disproved the stigma that people who are homosexual don’t play professional sports. I’m not trying to downplay the significance of the first homosexual football player in history.
Despite the progress in welcoming and encouraging diversity, there are still those who refuse to get with the times. But that didn’t stop Michael Sam, who may only be 24 years old, but his mature way beyond his years. “I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African American, and I’m gay,” he said. “I’m comfortable in my skin.”
That being said, there have been heroic men and women who publically announced that they are gay before Mr. Sam. One of the pioneers is tennis great Martina Navratilova, who told the world she was bisexual in 1981.
There is also WNBA giant (pun intended; she’s 6’8!) Britney Griner came out prior to her first game as a professional. Despite these two (definitely more great examples) courageous women coming out while our society is still haunted by hatred and cruelty, the world wanted a gay athlete from a major sport. Apparently, a professional athlete coming out in any sport isn’t good enough.
I digress, after all, there were still some brave souls out there that wanted to let the world know that they’re proud of who they are. Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder/striker Robbie Rogers was one of those brave souls. After retiring from the sport for four months, he decided to return, becoming the first openly North American gay athlete to play professionally. Despite Rogers returning to his beloved sport to play as an openly gay athlete, society had an “Oliver Twist” moment; they wanted more.
Now there is Michael Sam, who unlike Rogers, has came out before his career as a professional started. As a straight man, I have no idea not only what it’s like to be gay and to have the confidence to admit it to yourself and others is something I will never experience. However, I do know what it’s like to be proud of who I am, and that my friends, is a feeling everyone should have.
By Brian Borders
With the 2013 NFL season in the books, I’ll be looking back on what was in two separate parts. Having already covered the biggest surprises, it’s time to move on to the biggest disappointments.
1. Atlanta Falcons: A year after going 13-3 and playing for the NFC Championship, the Falcons went out and got Steven Jackson and convinced Tony Gonzalez to come back for a season sure to end in a Super Bowl appearance. Well something went wrong along the way, and the Flacons finished with a horrific 4-12 record and will now have a top 5 pick in the draft.
2. Robert Griffin III: With Nick Foles being the big surprise in the NFC East, Robert Griffin III was on the opposite end of the spectrum. Griffin burst onto the scene last season, leading the Redskins to the playoffs, where he then suffered a gruesome knee injury. RG3 seemed to rush back to try and play in the season opener this season, and he just never looked healthy, and he greatly underperformed, turning the ball over 10 more times than he did the season before. He also seemed incapable of running, which is a major aspect of his game.
3. Washington Redskins: So much of the Redskins offense seemed to be focused on RG3, and when the quarterback struggled, the Redskins struggled. Couple that with a horrific defense, and the Redskins went from a division winner to a 3-13 team that would hold the 2nd pick in the draft, had the not traded it to the Rams for Griffin, back in 2011.
4. Star Running Backs: If you had a top fantasy draft pick, but had a poor season, you can blame it on Arian Foster, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson and Ray Rice because chances are you drafted on of these underperforming running backs. Foster was actually on pace for a good season before he suffered a season ending injury. Martin also spent much of the season on IR. But the same cannot be said of Ray Rice and Trent Richardson, who just simply looked like a boys amongst men this season, and struggled to even gain positive yardage in some games.
5. Josh Freeman: Freeman had up and down seasons for the past few years, seemingly alternating between good and bad. But this year was a totally different story, as the quarterback played horrific for the Buccaneers, before being cut. Upon being cut, Freeman was picked up by the Vikings and appeared in a Week 7 Monday Night game, where he looked terrible and never found the field again.
6. Nnamdi Asomugha: There was a time not too long ago, where Asomugha was considered the best shutdown cornerback in the NFL. Asomugha got picked apart as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, before returning to the west coast and play for the 49ers. Asomugha appeared in just 3 games for San Francisco recording only two tackles before he was cut and told to go on his way. Asomugha recently announced his retirement from the NFL, ending what was once an outstanding career.
7. Minnesota Vikings: The Minnesota Vikings were 10-6 in 2012 and made the playoffs as a wild card team, finishing just one game behind the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North. They brought back almost the same roster in 2013, but Adrian Peterson couldn’t repeat his MVP form, and Christian Ponder still hasn’t quite made the jump to being an above average quarterback at the professional level. The Vikings unfortunately finished 5-10-1 this season, whereas a similar 10-6 record would have claimed the NFC North. The subpar season cost head coach Leslie Frazier his job.
8. Joe Flacco: Now that Joe Flacco has his money, he should probably go take a lap. The selfish act of the Ravens quarterback prevented the team from resigning several key players, which caused the team to miss the playoffs. Although Baltimore still has enough talent to remain competitive in a lackluster AFC, Flacco put up some terrible performances when the Ravens needed him most down the stretch run. 24 turnovers is simply too many for someone that is being paid as much as Flacco is.
9. Eli Manning: Yikes. The Giants were expected to be a solid team this year, and certainly should have been able to compete in a very poor NFC East. But the Giants, who rely so much on their passing game, struggled all season due to the sudden ineptitude of their quarterback. Manning and his receivers just couldn’t seem to get on the same page, and it led to an atrocious 27 interception season.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs made all the right moves in the offseason, improving what had been one of the worst secondary’s in NFL history by bringing in Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson. But the Bucs continued to be terrible, perhaps due to the injury to Doug Martin, but in all probability because of head coach Greg Schiano, who has justifiably been fired.
By Brian Borders
With the 2013 NFL regular season in the books, I’ll be looking back on what was in terms of players and teams that have surprised us, and have disappointed us. So let’s start with the 10 biggest surprises of the season.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs went 2-14 in 2012 and had the #1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. They had a very talented roster, and certainly Andy Reid would make the team better, but I don’t think anyone saw an 11-5 record and a playoff berth in the Chiefs immediate future. Andy Reid had a huge role in this turnaround, as he took a team that averaged 13.2 points per game and turned them into a team that averaged 26.9 points per game.
2. Nick Foles: Foles was in a fierce competition for the starting quarterback job with Michael Vick, which Vick eventually won. However, after a 1-3 start and an injury to Vick, Foles led a comeback win against the Giants in week 5 and carried the team to a division title. Foles also had an immaculate 27:2 touchdown to interception ratio.
3. Carolina Panthers: Who got the 2nd seed in the NFC? After winning just 13 games in the past two seasons, Cam Newton and the Panthers burst onto the scene, winning 12 games and claiming a first round bye in the playoffs. Much of the Carolina turnaround can be attributed to their defense, which ranked second in total defense, after ranking 10th a season ago.
4. Alshon Jeffery: Many expected a much better rookie season from Jeffery in 2012. But he struggled to find the field in his rookie year, and that led to lower expectations in his second season. Part of the trouble that Jeffery has faced is based on the fact that quarterback Jay Cutler loves top target Brandon Marhsall. But when Cutler went down, Josh McCown stepped in and Jeffery became more involved in the offense, to the tune of 89 catches, 1,421 yards and 7 touchdowns.
5. Knowshon Moreno: Moreno, who burst on to the scene with solid years in both 2009 and 2010, gradually faded into obscurity with poor seasons in both 2011 and 2012, as he appeared in only 15 games. However, Moreno had a fabulous resurgence in 2013. He managed to top 1,000 yards for the first time in his professional career, all while providing Peyton Manning a reliable running back.
6. Kiko Alonso: The Buffalo Bills have been searching for a solid middle linebacker for quite some time, and Alonso proved that he could fill that role. The rookie from Oregon finished 3rd in the NFL with 159 tackles, and he also managed to rack up 4 interceptions, leading a much improved Bills defense.
7. New York Jets: If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that the New York Jets would finish 8-8, and in second place in the AFC East, I would have thought you were crazy. The Jets lack talent at several key positions, but there is no question that they play extremely hard. Head Coach Rex Ryan did a terrific job with this group, and has perhaps positioned them for a playoff run in 2014.
8. Philip Rivers: The entire Chargers season was surprising, but perhaps no quarterback had a better turn around season that Rivers. In the past 2 seasons, the Chargers struggled due chiefly to their inability to hold onto the football, something that was spearheaded by Rivers. He turned the ball over 47 times in 32 games, as opposed to just 13 turnovers in the 16 games he played this season. Rivers is ultra-competitive, and very fun to watch, so it’s great to see him back in the playoffs again.
9. Giovani Bernard: Bernard was expected to be a nice change of pace for starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But as the season went on, it became apparent that Bernard was the better player, and he gradually evolved into the Bengals featured back, finishing the season with 1,209 total yards and 8 total touchdowns.
10. New England Patriots: I almost feel guilty putting the Patriots on this list, given that they were widely expected to win the AFC East. However, their top receivers from last year (Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Lloyd, and Wes Welker) are gone, top running back Stevan Ridley can’t hold onto the ball, and Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Sebastian Vollmer and Rob Gronkowski have all suffered season ending injuries. Given all that the Patriots have endured, finishing 12-4 as the 2nd seed in the AFC was no easy feat.
Check back later today for my biggest disappointments of the 2013 season.
By Sam Kuperman
After a thrilling NFL regular season, we have finally reached the postseason! 12 teams remain in contention, as they look to capture that coveted Lombardi Trophy. Here’s how I think the 2014 NFL Playoffs will play out.
AFC Wild Card Games
(5) Kansas City Chiefs at (4) Indianapolis Colts- After a red hot 9-0 start, the Chiefs cooled off down the stretch, losing 5 of their last 7 games. One of those losses came to the Colts in week 16, as Indy got the win 23-7. The Chiefs have a very electric running back in Jamaal Charles, as well as a top-notch defense full of pro bowlers. On the flipside, the Colts have a solid downfield attack led by quarterback Andrew Luck and speedy wideout T.Y. Hilton.
Prediction: Colts 31- Chiefs 17: The Colts should not have too much trouble. They are riding a 3 game winning streak, and should continue their solid play, especially if Kansas City’s Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali ends up sitting with a knee injury.
(6) San Diego Chargers at (3) Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in 23 years. That being said, Cincinnati is a perfect 8-0 at home this year, so one of these streaks will end in this game. Ultimately this game comes down to which Bengals team we will see. When they are at their best, the Bengals have an elite defense coupled with a dominant passing attack featuring Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. However, when they struggle, the Bengals can put together abysmal performances like they did in week 15, when they gave up 21 first quarter points en route to a 20-30 loss. The Chargers won’t be an easy opponent though, as they have won 4 straight to sneak into that last playoff spot.
Prediction: Bengals 28- Chargers 24: Phillip Rivers and company will give the Bengals a run for their money, but at the end of the day Cincinnati will prove to be too talented all around for the Chargers to handle.
NFC Wild Card Games
(6) New Orleans Saints at (3) Philadelphia Eagles- Ice cold temperatures are expected in Philly, and this is a cause for concern for the Saints. Sean Payton’s team is 3-5 away from the Superdome this season, and will have to adjust their potent passing attack to the cold and windy playing conditions. As for the Eagles, they are on fire right now, having gone 7-1 in the second half of the season. Nick Foles has been lights out throwing the ball, as he has 27 touchdowns compared to 2 interceptions. The Eagles defense has been shaky though, and that is not a good sign when you are taking on a passing attack as dominant as New Orleans has though.
Prediction Saints 38 Eagles 21- Despite the cold weather, I expect Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham to tear up the shaky secondary of the Eagles. Even though Philly is capable of putting up points in a hurry, you never want to engage in a shootout with the Saints.
(5) San Francisco 49ers at (4) Green Bay Packers- The Packers are coming off of a dramatic win over the Bears to capture the NFC North title. This week, they will be facing a much better defense though. The Niners have playmakers all over the field, and should look to let them loose against a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers that looked pretty rusty for most of last week’s game. San Francisco is also extremely locked in right now, as it has won 6 straight. During that stretch Colin Kaepernick has thrown 10 TDs compared to only 1 pick.
Prediction 49ers 20- Packers 10: With temperatures below zero expected in the tundra, running the ball will be key. I give the 49ers the edge here, as Frank Gore should have himself a game.
AFC Divisional Games
(4) Indianapolis Colts at (1) Denver Broncos- When the Broncos host the Colts, a media firestorm should once again ensue because of the quarterback matchup. The Broncos have only lost one game at Mile High this year, and have no trouble lighting up the scoreboard. Peyton Manning will look to get revenge for the 39-33 loss he suffered to his former team back in week 7. Of course, the Colts won’t be an easy opponent. Andrew Luck can make a few plays himself, and Indy has a very underrated defense.
Prediction Broncos 34- Colts 13: As long as the Broncos don’t make the same costly mistakes they made last time around, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have their way with the Colts.
(3) Cincinnati Bengals at (2) New England Patriots- In Week 5, New England struggled mightily as the Bengals won (at home of course) 13-6. In Foxboro things could go very differently. Now that running back Lagarrete Blount seems to have solidified himself in the Patriots backfield, some of the pressure should be taken off Tom Brady. The big question here will be how the Bengals pass rush fares in this one. If Cincy wants to get another win, they will have to make sure Brady does not have much time to sit back in the pocket and throw.
Prediction Patriots 27- Bengals 7: Home-field advantage should prove to be key for New England as the Pats take this one with ease.
NFC Divisional Games
(6) New Orleans Saints at (1) Seattle Seahawks- No one will forget that 34-7 thrashing the Seahawks put on the Saints on Monday Night Football in week 13. As the Saints return to CenturyLink Field, they will need to get some sort of offensive flow going early to avoid another debacle. That will mean getting the running game going to an extent. As for Seattle, that defense just needs to continue to dominate. That in addition to Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch running the show on the offensive end makes them the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Prediction Seahawks 27- Saints 24: This should be a fantastic matchup coming right down to the wire. You gotta give the edge to the Seahawks though, as they will be playing in a crazy environment.
(5) San Francisco 49ers at (2) Carolina Panthers- This game features two of the most popular young QBs in the league. Cam Newton and company haven’t lost at home since week 1 against Seattle. Coach Ron Rivera’s defensive approach has been huge for this team, as they are second best in the league in opponent rushing yards allowed. Playmakers like Charles Johnson and Luke Kuechly could cause nightmares for the Niners. Luckily for them, they happen to have a pretty formidable defense of their own. Expect a chess match in this one, just like back in week 10 when the Panthers won 10-9 on the road.
Prediction 49ers 18- Panthers 13: If this does become a low scoring game, I give Jim Harbaugh the edge. His team has been in playoff situations before, and should be able to be a little more disciplined to pull out the win.
AFC Title Game
(2) New England Patriots at (1) Denver Broncos- Another chapter in the legendary Brady versus Manning matchup. Brady now holds a 10-4 edge over Peyton after that memorable comeback back in Week 12. Manning will have home field advantage here, but this game will come down to which defense can rise to the occasion. The Pats D struggles mightily against the run while the Broncos D has a ton of trouble with the pass, as they typically engage in shootouts.
Prediction Patriots 34- Broncos 31: Both qbs will play well, but New England’s running game should give them a slight edge. I have a feeling this game will have some late game magic that has become synonymous with the Patriots this season.
MVP: Lagarrette Blount- If the Pats do prevail, Blount should prove to be the difference maker, as he continues his newfound success on the ground.
NFC Title Game
(5) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Seattle Seahawks- These bitter NFC West rivals take the field once again in a game for all the marbles. The Seahawks absolutely dismantled the Niners back in week 2 in Seattle, but San Fran pulled out a recent win at home in week 14. Both teams are extremely talented all around, and matchup well. Whichever team can get some sort of attack going through the air should have the edge.
Prediction 49ers 23 Seahawks 14: Experience will be key in this one, and San Francisco has the clear edge in that department. Expect a few big plays to open up the passing game for Kaepernick.
MVP: Anquan Boldin- Even though the Seahawks secondary is by far the league’s best, Boldin will be on his A game, making big time plays to get the W.
Super Bowl XLVIII
(AFC) New England Patriots vs. (NFC) San Francisco 49ers- Both of these teams have had their ups and downs this season, but they will make for one fantastic Super Bowl matchup. Belichick and Brady will be playing in their 6th Super Bowl, while Kaepernick and Harbaugh will be in their 2nd. Huge snowstorms are expected for game day, so both teams will have to adjust their game plans accordingly. Ultimately, this one will come down to which team can handle the inclement weather the best.
Prediction Patriots 17- 49ers 13: As we have seen them do time and time again, the Patriots will rise to the occasion here. There’s just something special about this team. They just have the it factor. Of course, having a hall of fame coach and quarterback to lead the team doesn’t hurt either.
MVP: Tom Brady- A Super Bowl MVP should cement this man’s legacy as one of the great quarterbacks of all time. This would be his most impressive season to date, as he will have gotten the job done with a very inexperienced receiving corps around him.
By Sam Kuperman
As another year is about to be in the books, it is time to look back on some of the best moments of 2013. And by moments I mean Tip Assists of course! Since we started this blog back in September, we have worked diligently to find the best tip assists across the wide world of sports, and show them to you on a weekly basis.
Now that this year is almost over, we will give you our top 5 tip assists of 2013. These are in no particular order, so to decide which tip assist was truly number one this year, cast your vote in the poll at the bottom of the page. So without further ado, here are the tip assists of the YEAR!
AJ Green Hail Mary- On November 10th, the Cincinnati Bengals found themselves in a tough spot against the Baltimore Ravens. With the Bengals trailing 17-10 and down to their final play, Andy Dalton threw a bomb down the field, and into the end zone. After the ball got tipped past a sea of defenders, Ravens safety James Inhedigbo got a hand on the ball in the end zone. However, the ball got by him too, as AJ Green made the game tying play.
Even though the Ravens won the game in overtime, this tip assist is definitely worthy of being considered one of the best of the year.
Arizona INT vs Oregon- When the Arizona Wildcats upset the Oregon Ducks on November 23rd, they didn’t just end Oregon’s BCS hopes. They also were able to pull off a crazy tip assist interception. On this play Oregon QB Marcus Mariotta threw a pass that looked like it was headed out of bounds. Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson had a different idea though, as he tipped the ball back in bounds, right into the hands of linebacker Scooby Wright.
This tip assist also marked Mariotta’s first interception of the season.
Shabazz Napier Game Winning Jumper vs. Florida- On December 2nd, UConn point guard Shabazz Napier pulled off a clutch tip assist on the hardwood. The Huskies were down 63-64 in the waning seconds of the game, when Napier threw up a wild shot that bounced off the side of the backboard. Luckily for UConn, forward Deandre Daniels was able to tip the ball out again for one more shot. Off of the tip in one motion, Napier caught the ball, and pulled up from midrange as the ball fell through the hoop as time expired.
You know that old saying…there’s no tip assist like a game winning tip assist!
Ricardo Louis Game Winning TD Catch vs Georgia- Back on November 16th then #7 Auburn took on #25 Georgia. With Auburn down by one with only 25 seconds remaining, Auburn had one last shot at both winning the game and keeping their SEC title hopes alive. On 4th and 18, Tigers QB Nick Marshall had no choice but to air the ball out and hope for the best. It looked like Marshall had overthrown his intended receiver, Ricardo Louis, but instead the ultimate tip assist took place.
This tip assist was a defining moment in Auburn’s season, as the Tigers are now one win away from being crowned national champions.
Ryan Tannehill Ridiculous INT- On November 24th in a game between the Miami Dolphins and the Carolina Panthers, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw an interception that had tip assist fans across the globe salivating. Tannehill threw a pass that bounced off AT LEAST 7 different hands before finally being controlled by Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas.
I’d give a shout out to all the participants on that tip assist, but so many people tipped the ball that it’s impossible to tell!
Well there you have it! Those are the top five tip assists of the year. Now YOU can decide which one should be crowned number one by voting in the poll below.
By Sam Kuperman
As we are more than a quarter of the way through the NBA season, it is time to take a look at the All-Star Game. The fan voting results to date were released two weeks ago and as you’d expect, it was mostly a popularity contest. Kobe Bryant should be a lock to start despite the fact that he has only played in six games all season long (and will now miss another six weeks). My favorite is how Derrick Rose is in third place in Eastern Conference guard voting despite the fact that he yet again will be on the shelf for the season.
Even with these ridiculous votes, the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans will feature 24 of the top basketball players in the world. Based on purely who has performed the best this season, I have made my picks for who should be on each roster. These picks represent what I think the teams SHOULD look like, not necessarily what I think they will end up looking like. Note that there are 2 starting guards and 3 starting frontcourt players since the NBA got rid of the starting center position in the All-Star Game last season. Nonetheless, here are my selections. Enjoy!
Note: (G) stands for guard and (F) stands for frontcourt. The NBA got rid of the center position in the All Star game last season.
G: Kyrie Irving (CLE) 21.5 PPG 3.0 RPG 6.0 APG- Cleveland may be struggling this year, but Kyrie Irving’s play certainly hasn’t been the reason. The Cavs point guard has shown that he is one of the most explosive players in the NBA.
G: Dwayne Wade (MIA) 19.9 PPG 4.8 RPG 4.9 APG- D Wade has been a little banged up, but he is still playing like an All Star when he takes the floor. The 31 year old has his squad in position to battle the Pacers for the top spot in the East.
F: Paul George (IND) 23.8 PPG 5.9 RPG 3.6 APG- George showcased himself to the world last postseason, and hasn’t looked back since. The Pacers small forward does everything out on the floor, and has taken his game as well as his team, to the next level.
F: Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 26.3 PPG 8.8 RPG 2.8 APG- In addition to his typical gaudy scoring numbers, Anthony has averaged a surprising amount of rebounds. The Knicks have been a major disappointment thus far, but Melo has still played like an All-Star.
F: Lebron James (MIA) 25.2 PPG 6.8 RPG 6.5 APG- He’s the best player on the planet, simple as. He gets better and better with each coming season, and this season has been no exception for King James.
G: John Wall (WAS) 19.6 PPG 4.3 RPG 9.1 APG- Wall has proven to be worth every bit of that monster contract he signed this past offseason. With an improved all-around game, John Wall has become the player Washington had envisioned he would be when they first drafted him.
F: Roy Hibbert (IND) 12.4 PPG 8.6 RPG 1.3 APG- He’s the catalyst of that stingy Pacers defense. Hibbert is second in the league in blocks, and has also developed a nice post game too. Not many players can affect the game with just their presence alone, but Hibbert can.
G: Aaron Afflalo (ORL) 21.9 PPG 4.6 RPG 3.9 APG- Unless you play fantasy basketball, seeing Aaron Afflalo’s name on here probably put you in a state of shock. However, the Magic guard is putting up fantastic numbers. That Dwight Howard trade is looking better and better for Orlando by the day.
F: Andre Drummond (DET) 13.2 PPG 12.5 RPG 0.3 APG- It’s scary to think that Drummond is only 21. The Pistons center has become a beast down low, and can get it done on both ends of the floor. Between his ferocious dunks and emphatic rejections, Drummond makes his presence known.
G: Michael Carter-Williams (PHI) 17.7 PPG 7.3 APG 5.8 RPG- He’s a rookie, but MCW deserves to be an all-star. Besides stuffing stat sheets on a nightly basis, the Sixers point guard has significantly improved the play of his team when he is on the court. Philly is a respectable 7-10 with MCW and a horrific 1-10 without him.
F: Al Horford (ATL) 18.3 PPG 8.4 RPG 2.6 APG- Horford has carried the Hawks all season, as they currently hold the third best record in the East. He is undersized for center position, but gets the job done. He can take opposing big men off the dribble, use his impressive mid-range game, and a nice mix of post moves to score.
F: Luol Deng (CHI) 19.6 PPG 7.0 RPG 4.1 APG- Deng has undoubtedly had some big health issues this season. That being said, he has been huge for the Bulls when he has suited up. His numbers have been terrific, and Deng should be looking at a big pay-day this offseason.
*If Brook Lopez hadn’t gotten hurt, he would’ve been selected
First 2 Out
G: Kemba Walker (CHA) 18.7 PPG 4.4 RPG 4.6 APG- Get this; the Charlotte Bobcats aren’t that bad! The perennial bottom feeders are in the hunt for a playoff spot, and Walker has a lot to do with that. The problem is that there’s only so many spots to work with.
G Joe Johnson (BKN) 16.5 PPG 3.3 RPG 2.8 APG- Despite all of the struggles in Brooklyn, Joe Johnson has been solid. From his 37 point performance against the Sixers to his game winner against the Suns, Johnson has been a bright spot for the Nets.
G: Chris Paul (LAC) 19.2 PPG 4.7 RPG 11.3 APG- There is no question that CP3 is the best point guard in the game. His passing ability is unmatched, and his quickness enables him to get to the basket at will. Simply put, he’s a superstar.
G: Stephen Curry (GSW) 23.9 PPG 4.2 RPG 9.2 APG- Last year, Curry was robbed of an All Star selection. Now Steph Curry has turned into one of the best combo guards in the league. He has arguably the sweetest stroke on the planet, Curry also distributes the ball very well. The later is a facet of his game that is very underrated.
F: Kevin Durant (OKC) 28.1 PPG 8.1 RPG 4.7 APG- Remember when Greg Oden was drafted before Durant? Me neither! KD has been dominant once again, as he has improved his all-around game, and can still score at will. OKC will continue to ride their superstar, and reap the benefits.
F: Kevin Love (MIN) 25.9 PPG 13.9 RPG 4.2 APG- No those stats are not a typo. Kevin Love has actually been THAT dominant this season. While his team has struggled to play consistently, Love has put up numbers that have both fantasy owners and NBA fans in general drooling.
F: Lamarcus Aldridge (POR) 23.3 PPG 11.1 RPG 2.8 APG- The Blazers big man has his team in first place in the West. With his array of post moves and his smooth mid-range jumper, he has become one of the elite big men in the NBA, and is certainly worthy of being a starter.
G: James Harden (HOU) 24.4 PPG 4.6 RPG 5.8 APG- Harden has not missed a beat since D 12 came to town. Playing the role of both scorer and distributor, he is essential to his team. Any chances of Houston making a title run start with the play of James Harden.
F: Dwight Howard (HOU) 18.7 PPG 13.2 RPG 1.9 APG- Many probably disagree with my decision not to make Dwight a starter, but I still think he has played exceptionally well this season. His defensive play and low post presence has completely transformed the Rockets.
G: Russell Westbrook (OKC) 21.6 PPG 5.7 RPG 6.8 APG- Westbrook returned from knee surgery much earlier than anticipated, and immediately returned to all-star form. He (along with Durant), has carried the thunder all season long, and should continue to do so.
F: Anthony Davis (NOP) 19.3 PPG 10.3 RPG 1.4 APG- Davis currently leads the league is blocked shots, and is the unquestioned alpha dog on this Pelicans team. With his versatility at both ends of the floor, he has made New Orleans competitive this season.
G: Damian Lillard (POR) 21.5 PPG 3.7 RPG 5.8 APG- The small point guard from Weber State has made it folks! Lillard has been electrifying this season with his highlight reel plays and clutch shots. This selection should be the first of many for the Blazer point guard.
F: Blake Griffin (LAC) 20.9 PPG 10..5 RPG 3.1 APG- Unlike most fans, I didn’t select Griffin for his increadible dunking ability. I selected him because he is scoring and rebounding at an All Star level right now. Griffin has also improved his jump shot, and it has shown.
F: Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) 21.5 PPG 6.1 RPG 2.9 APG- After struggling with injuries last season, everyone’s favorite German big man is back to playing like a star. He is taking over games offensively, and is shooting 49.5% from the field. That’s his best percentage since the 2010-2011 season.
First 2 Out
G: Tony Parker (SAS)- 18.1 PPG 2.5 RPG 6.2 APG- I understand that Tony Parker is invaluable to the success of the Spurs. However, his numbers are not spectacular, and he is not the type of player that can take over a game like others on this list. He’s a great player, he’s a winning player, but he’s not an All Star this season in my books.
F: Demarcus Cousins (SAC) 22.5 PPG 10.8 RPG 3.1 APG- This is a tough omission for me because of how much he’s improved this season. Now Cousins seems more focused and has the numbers to back that up. I gave Blake Griffin the nod over Cousins though because his team has played significantly better than the Kings have.
By Sam Kuperman
We are back with your tip assists of the week. Since we left you hanging with only 2 tip assists last week, we will throw in a few extras for your liking. Enjoy!
We start off in Cincinnati where the Bengals pulled off a nice tip assist in their 42-14 rout of the Vikings. In this one, Vikings QB Matt Cassell threw one up into double coverage, intended for Jerome Simpson. The ball bounced right off the helmet of Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, and into the arms of a diving George Iloka for the pick.
Nothing says Matt Cassell quite like that play!
Our second tip assist comes from the hardwood. In Wednesday’s game against the Pistons, the Boston Celtics executed the in-bound tip in to perfection. With only 0.2 seconds left in the first half, Gerald Wallace inbounded a pass from near half court, and lobbed it up right near the rim. Jared Sullinger was able to get his right hand on the ball, and tip it in.
The fact that the Celtics Color Commentator Tommy Heinsohn said that it would take the “best tip-in play of the century,” for Boston to score makes this all that much better.
Our third Tip Assist came when the New York Football Giants were able to come back and defeat the Lions on Sunday. Matt Stafford was looking to preserve a 20-13 lead with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter on Sunday. The only problem was that he managed to throw a bad pass, and Giants free safety Will Hill made him pay for it. Hill caught the ball off of the tip, and ran it back 38 yards to the house.
Even though the Giants are out of playoff contention, they played very hard on Sunday, and it showed as they played spoiler and eliminated the Lions from having a shot at the NFC North.
Tip assist number four comes from an Illinois high school basketball game between Eisenhower High and Tinley Park. Eisenhower senior Kalin Hawkins was playing heavy defense on the Tinley Park inbounds, and it paid off big time. As Tinley Park attempted the throw-in, the ball bounced off Hawkins’ hand and right into the hoop for an Eisenhower basket!
Not the most conventional way to score but hey, they’ll take it!
We conclude our tip assists of the week with the most controversial play. With under two minutes to go in the game between the Seahawks and the Cardinals, Russell Wilson had Seattle driving. That was until this pass bounced off the arm of receiver Jonathan Baldwin, and right to Karlos Dansby for the game-winning interception.
Seattle heavily protested the call but it was to no avail. The refs got the call right as you can see with this angle.
Also, Seattle fans shouldn’t complain too much. You can say they’ve gotten a few lucky calls in recent years.
That’s all for this week. Come back next week for a special year-end edition of Tip Assists, where we will break down the Tip Assists of the Year!
By Sam Kuperman
Remember our big debate on whether Xavier Henry or Deandre Jordan had the better dunk? Well, Andre Iguodala was about a fingertip away from getting his name in that discussion last night against the Pelicans. The Warriors small forward dribbled the ball behind his back, through his legs, and then attempted the 1-handed slam over New Orleans center Jason Smith. Luckily for Smith (and unluckily for NBA fans), the dunk was blocked as Smith got his fingertips on the ball. Here’s a look at what would’ve surely been the highlight of the night.
Oh well. At least it looks like Iggy has fully recovered from that hamstring injury!
By Sam Kuperman
It was a slow week in the world of tip assists, but we still managed to find a few for your liking. So kick back, relax, and enjoy this week’’s edition of Tip Assists of the Week.
We start off in New York, where not much went right out on the gridiron. Both the Giants and the Jets took losses to Seattle and Carolina respectively. In the Giants case, Eli Manning threw 5 INTs on the day! That is not a typo! This gives him a whopping 25 picks on the season. The final one came on this well-executed tip assist from Richard Sherman to Earl Thomas. *Play occurs at 2:17.
The Seahawks were certainly doing a lot of this all day.
Tip Assist number 2 came in Jay Cutler’s return on Sunday. The Bears were able to get a big win in Cleveland, but they had some early struggles. Cutler threw two interceptions in the first quarter, including this tip-assist pick six.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s Brandon Marshall on the tip and Tayshaun Gipson on the return.
Our final tip assist comes from……. wait there were no more tip assists?! Well, yeah this was not a very good week for tip assists, so this is all we have for you. This was my reaction when I realized that there were only 2 tip assists to put up this week.
Remember, if you see a tip assist you want up here, tweet us @3floorcrew and use #TipAssist. Maybe, just maybe, your tip assist will be included in our weekly compilation.