Today I accidentally caught myself using “Dream Team” in reference to the USA men’s basketball team competing in the 2012 London Olympics.  I quickly corrected myself as the words sounded blasphemous the second they left my lips. 

The 1992 “Dream Team” is irreplaceable, not only because of the star-studded roster, but because that team was a historical first that will never be duplicated in Olympic competition as far as the U.S. is concerned.  It is, however, absolutely possible for the dominance and ferocity of the first NBA player-led Olympic team from the USA to be replicated. 

The 2012 men’s team has one thing the 1992 didn’t… an uber-talented, healthy roster from top to bottom.  Remember, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson may have been the most famous names on the Dream Team, but they were both at the end of their careers, serving primarily as figurehead fan-favorites and were no longer the most talented men on the basketball court.  Bird was in such poor health that he didn’t participate in practice and his teammates said he could hardly walk because of severe back pain.

That is not the case as the 2012 roster is deep with skill and talent.  Despite a lack of size without marquee players like Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin, Team USA is still chalk full of hoops greatness.

So then what is holding the 2012 squad back from that top-tier where the original Dream Team resides?  Well, the guys have to play the games before we can crown them kings.  Period.

Team USA has looked great in two of three international games played thus far.  Brazil gave the guys a bit of trouble, exploiting USA’s lack of size down low but not enough so to beat the red, white and blue. 

If the Americans will be tested by anyone at all in London, Spain and Argentina will do the honors.  And they’ll have the pleasure sooner rather than later as the U.S. will face two of the world’s best teams for some pre-Olympics friendly fun within the next few days.

Interestingly enough, the exhibition games are being played at Palau Sant Jordi, the site of the Dream Team’s gold medal game in Barcelona back in 1992. 

The U.S. faces Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola on Sunday, the two NBA stars, leading an Argentine team that won the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Games.  Tuesday, the U.S. is up against a ridiculously stacked Spanish team that ultimately lost to Team USA, taking home silver in the 2008 Beijing Games.  If you recall, that game was no gimme as the U.S. could’ve been beaten by the Spaniards. 

Speaking of Spain, the national team has seven current or former NBA players, plus another two whose draft rights are owned by NBA teams, on the roster.  Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka headline the group that is incredibly talented, despite losing phenom Ricky Rubio to injury during the NBA season.

Back in 1992, Team USA beat opponents by an average of nearly 44 points per game in Olympic play.  But there was no Manu Ginobili playing for Argentina, or Pau Gasol representing Spain.  Instead, those guys were young kids inspired by the NBA stars they were watching in the Olympics on television.

The presence of the Dream Team in 1992 changed the course of history for international basketball, ultimately ensuring that no team could ever dominate at Team USA’s level again, by way of increasing the popularity of the sport worldwide. 

Could another American team come close to earning the “Dream Team” name?  It’s unlikely.  The 2012 team definitely has the star power, but do they have what it takes to dismantle significantly tougher teams than the Americans faced 20 years ago?  We’ll find out soon enough. 


One thing we’ve learned from the Dwight Howard sweepstakes is that no deal is a sure thing until it’s done.  Signed, sealed, delivered. 

First it was the Nets.  Then it was the Rockets.  Then it was the Lakers.  Now it’s the Nets.  Again.

In the last 24 hours, Yahoo! Sports hoops gurus Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears have reported a proposed deal revolving around the Magic center that would involve movement of more than 10 players between four teams. 

While the Lakers are still interested in a trade that would send Andrew Bynum to Orlando in exchange for Howard, Bynum’s hesitation to sign a long-term contract with the Magic has significantly hampered L.A.’s ability to strike a deal, according to a source (as well as several previously published reports).

As a result, Bynum’s reluctance left the door wide open for the Brooklyn Nets, who along with the Magic, would lead the way in this four-team deal, according to Y! Sports.  When doing a deal with so many moving parts, its only natural that there will be a few hiccups in the process. 

One piece of this gigantic puzzle, as reported by Marc Spears of Y! Sports, would send Kris Humphries (sign-and-trade) to the Cavaliers with a one-year contract.  Problem is, the Hump is interested in a four-year deal, which is understandable.  Who doesn’t want some job security?


One guy who has a LOT of power in this situation is agent Dan Fegan, who represents both Howard and Humphries.

Awwwwkwaaaard. 

How do you convince Humphries to go against his own best interest, basically for the sake of another one of your clients?  Humphries (along with several other players said to be on the trading block) would have to agree to a sign-and-trade for the deal to happen. 

As an agent, a multi-year deal for Humphries would certainly be in Fegan’s best interest as more years equals more money (and mo’problems, no doubt).  But it seems like this is quite a predicament for Fegan and his clients, Humphries in particular. 

Plus, if TMZ’s reports of Humphries’ impending fatherhood are accurate (http://tinyurl.com/cevmfze), the financial security of multi-year contract will be of even more importance. 

Moving forward, it will be interesting to watch how this part of the deal plays out.  If Humphries refuses to do a sign-and-trade to the Cavs for a measly one-year contract, can the teams involved get creative and find a way around the Hump?

As if we weren’t already glued to this damn story, the Howard-Humphries connection just adds one more element to this so-called Dwightmare. 


To read the Yahoo! Sports’ story on the proposed mega-deal involving the Magic, Nets, Cavs and Clippers, click this link:  http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nba—nets-emerge-again-as-strong-contender-to-land-dwight-howard.html 

The Los Angeles Lakers are considering an offer from the Orlando Magic that would send Dwight Howard to L.A. in exchange for Andrew Bynum, a source close to the situation tells PepperOnSports.com.

I know, I know.  You’ve heard it all before.  Here’s the fun part:

The source says the Lakers have informed one player that he might be part of the package deal and that he could be traded at any moment. 

The Lakers are “very interested” in acquiring Howard, according to the source. 

Depending on which hour you inquire about a Bynum-for-Howard swap dictates the type of news you’ll get regarding the topic, so your guess is as good as mine.  But as of Thursday afternoon pacific time, the Lakers front office phones were blazing hot with Howard chatter.   

Whether or not the trade happens, it sure is courteous of the Lakers to give players with trade-potential a heads up in hopes of making a tough transition smoother.  Stay classy, L.A. 

Follow me on twitter @Jackie_Pepper

 

The days leading up to the NBA Trade deadline are always fun, regardless of anything big actually going down on the final day, but because of the truncated season, this year’s deadline had a definite sense of urgency and it did not disappoint.  Let’s take a look at the most important moves that were made on March 15.

NON-TRADE NOISEMAKERS

Orlando:

Not moving Dwight Howard was likely a bad move on the Magic’s behalf.  Orlando locked up the All-Star center for another year and as a result holding court, have some money to bring in a good player in the offseason.  The problem is that Orlando now finds themselves in a “catch-22” situation.  A top-notch free agent won’t want to commit to the Magic long-term if they think Howard will only be around for their first year with the team.  On the other hand, Howard sure as hell won’t sign a long term extension if he’s set to be the only marquee player on the roster for the next few years.  Even if  the Magic put up the money to bring in another big name guy while simultaneously paying Howard, who knows if he would even want to stay in Orlando.  It seems like he is “over it.” 


Boston:

Bill Russell ain’t walkin through that door this season, therefor the Celtics stayed put, making no moves at the deadline.  Trading All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo would’ve been pointless even if Boston would’ve landed a big man like Dwight Howard in return because who would get him the ball with Rondo gone? 

Sure, the Celtics could’ve moved any one of the Big 3, but at this point, they can’t get an All-Star player in return for any part of their aging former-championship nucleus.

The good news is that the Big 3 will stay together for the rest of the season and make a run for it in the playoffs.  The bad news is that I just don’t think they are strong enough to survive based on their lack of depth down low.  The Celtics will likely buy out the injured Jermaine O’Neal’s contract and fellow big Chris Wilcox is out for the remainder of the season with a heart ailment.  That leaves my main man Greg Stiemsma all alone down low, battling the bigs of the Eastern Conference, night in and night out.  YIKES.

Head coach Doc Rivers said he still hopes to sign a big man but he knows that is a tall order at this point in the season (no pun intended).  Perhaps Rasheed Wallace really will walk through that door this year.  We’ll see. 


Minnesota:

The Timberwolves went nowhere fast on Thursday.  Apparently, they were a few minutes away from moving Michael Beasley to the Lakers, but that fell through and now they are stuck with an inconsistent forward and no replacement for the injured Ricky Rubio.  I’ve been on the TWolves bandwagon from the second Rubio agreed to cross the Atlantic and the team drafted the fantastic Derrick Williams out of Arizona.  That said, unless J.J. Barrea morphs back into the feisty, clutch guard we watched win a title with the Mavericks last year, I’m afraid this season will finish in disappointing fashion for Minnesota. 

NBA SHUFFLE

Denver: 

The Nuggets shipped center Nene to the Wizards for fellow-bigs JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf (who will likely be bought out).  This one is puzzling for a few reasons.  The Nuggets re-upped Nene’s contract not that long ago, paying him a boatload of money and he has responded by having a career year, averaging 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.  While he has struggled with injury and illness in the past, he seems to be healthy now so this move is a tad confusing. 

McGee is UBER talented, frequently making ESPN’s Top 10 Plays highlight reel.  Problem is, he nearly stars in the Not Top 10 reel just as often!  McGee has a ton of talent and a LOT of growing up to do.  I could be judging him a bit harshly, but I feel like McGee is that guy who will just never “get it.”  I hope I’m wrong because if his maturity could match his physical talent, this guy would be unstoppable and could easily take the Nuggets to an elite level.  Unfortunately, McGee has yet to prove that capability. 

Meanwhile the wompwomp Wizards are getting a solid player who won’t cause controversy the way McGee did which should be beneficial for this team that has some young talent but needs leadership and stability. 


Lakers, Cavs & Rockets…oh my!:

This one is interesting, and I think I like it.  I didn’t want so see the Lakers part with Pau Gasol unless they were getting an All-Star caliber player in return.  The Lakers were in fairly desperate need of a point guard (see: Hornets & Chris Paul… or lack thereof) so getting Ramon Sessions, who averaged 10.5 points and 5.2 assists as Kyrie Irving’s BACKUP in Cleveland seems like a happy medium. 

The Lakers also acquired shooting guard Christian Eyenga (who has spent most of the season in the D League) from the Cavs and power forward Jordan Hill from the Rockets, who is averaging 5 points and nearly 5 rebounds per game, which makes him a nice supplement/backup to Gasol on the wing and down low.  In giving up Fisher, Luke Walton and Jason Kapono, it’s not like the Lakers lost a lot of offensive firepower, making Sessions and Hill reasonable additions to the team. 

The Lakers did give up two draft picks, which is basically the only thing making these trades beneficial to both the Rockets and Cavaliers.  Walton and Kapono should add some veteran juice to the Cavs who will look to use the draft pick to keep building around the young Irving.  The Rockets also got rid of big money by dumping the contract of Hasheem Thabeet  (sending him to Portland) which will help them in the long run.


San Antonio, Milwaukee and Golden State:

The Spurs added shooting guard Stephen Jackson in exchange for Richard Jefferson and a draft pick.  I don’t get this one at all for the Spurs.  Word on the street though is that the Rockets will likely buy out Derek Fisher’s contract, thus making him available as a free agent and supposedly, San Antonio would be interested.  I could see Fish fitting in well in San Antonio, although I doubt he’s enough to take this team deep into the playoffs. 

The Warriors unloaded their roster, losing the aforementioned Jackson, star shooting guard Monta Ellis, and centers Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh.  Obviously, Ellis jumps off the page as you have to wonder where the Warriors are going to get nearly 22 points and six assists per game from now that he’s gone.  Richard Jefferson and center Andrew Bogut combine for an average of about 21 points and six assists per game, so in theory, that’s where the production will come from, but perhaps the real steal for the Warriors is the first and second-round draft picks they acquired in these trades with the Spurs and Bucks.  It looks like many of the trades at this season’s deadline were more about looking toward to future than being practical here in the present. 


Portland & New Jersey:

The Trailblazers canned head coach Nate McMillan in addition to trading big man Marcus Camby and star forward Gerald Wallce.  In return, Portland picked up centers Mehmet Okur (often-injured) and Hasheem Thabeet along with point guard Johnny Flynn and small forward Shawne Williams.  The Blazers also got a first and second-round draft pick along with unloading Greg Oden (which sadly, is of no real consequence to anyone but him, personally). 

The only reason I see this trade making any sense whatsoever is because the Blazers wanted the draft picks, surely using the first-rounder to waste on yet another unhealthy big man. 

This one looks decent for the Nets though who now have a respectable starting lineup consisting of Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries.  I think Wallace is a nice building block for the Nets as they get ready for the big move to Brooklyn.

 

Update - 5:30 p.m. EST: To tweet, or not to tweet?  That is now the question surrounding Urban Meyer.  As I, and several other media outlets reported Tuesday morning, word spread that the new Ohio State football coach had banned his players from using twitter (read the original post below).  But now the tune has suddenly changed as Buckeye players are once again taking to their still-existing twitter accounts in attempts to set the record straight.

Tight End Reid Fragel, one of the first OSU players to tweet about the supposed ban, blasted a few follow-up tweets around 5:00 p.m. EST, about 4 hours after his original tweet caused a stir: 
 
   Just now finding out the whole twitter thing wasn’t exactly true.
Haha sorry for the confusion, sometimes people decide to put words in others mouths… That’s all I have to say about that
Um, Sorry Fragel, but it doesn’t look like anyone put words in your mouth, or your tweets for that matter.  “New staff new rules. No more twitter, not a big deal and probably for the better,” is pretty clear cut.  At first, I thought perhaps the twitter ban came from Fragel’s position coach, but the fact that he also wrote “the whole twitter thing wasn’t exactly true,” means he probably heard about the supposed ban second-hand, which makes me think the position coach wasn’t involved.
Cornerback Bradley Roby also threw his hat in the ring, tweeting the following: 
 
Lol this twitter stuff is funny. He never told us we can’t have twitter.
Hopefully Meyer will clear all of this up with the media.  Wouldn’t it be great if he made a statement via Twitter? 

Original Post:  In one of his first moves as the head football coach at Ohio State, Urban Meyer has done the unthinkable in the age of social media; he has banned twitter.

GASP!

A few Buckeye players broke the news Tuesday through their twitter accounts, of course:

(Tight End Reid Fragel) @Fragel88:  New staff new rules. No more twitter, not a big deal and probably for the better. Love our fans, love this place. Go Bucks #2012

(Tight End Jake Stoneburner) @STONEYeleven:   Twitter=Done. Me=back for senior year, leading this team, and shocking the world!! #gobucks #12-0

Stoneburner made it a 2-for-1 in what is likely his final tweet, announcing he will return to OSU for his senior season.  As for the 12-0 prediction tacked on at the end there… if a New England Patriot tweeted such obvious bulletin board material, he would certainly receive a Bill Belichick tongue-lashing in return. 

Speaking of Belichick, even the ultimate gatekeeper in professional football doesn’t prohibit his players from using twitter.

For several reasons, I don’t like this move by Meyer but I completely understand it at the same time.

Twitter has become the ultimate, universal news outlet helping to break stories and dispense information in the fastest way technology has ever seen.  On a less important level, the social media tool has, in itself, become a newsmaker thanks to people who mistakenly tweet out private messages, tweet while intoxicated, impulse tweet or say things that should probably be kept private in general. 

A few examples of #TwitterFails from the sports world in 2011 were Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall’s tweets about Osama bin Laden and 9/11,  Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard tweeting that the Orlando Sentinel has “dumb articles,” and of course, former L.A. Lakers guard Shannon Brown’s attempt at shutting down the rumor mill by tweeting that no, he did not sleep with teammate Pau Gasol’s “woman.” 

#smh on that last one.

Then there’s the trash talk, colorful language, twitpics of a porn star wearing your jersey, etc. 

Given the OSU football program’s tattooed record, I suppose its better to play it safe wherever you can.  Does this mean Facebook (aka: place for a prospective employer to look up all of your drunk party pictures from college) is out at OSU too?  What about MySpace?  Okay, I know, nobody uses MySpace anymore.

But in reality, how much tangible harm does twitter really cause in the college football arena?  Surely, the 27 Gator football players arrested during Meyer’s tenure at Florida were not twitter-related.  In fact, I would argue that twitter is a great way for an athletic department to keep track of its athletes as so many people seemingly tweet their every move. 

It’s too late to weigh the pros and cons as Meyer has already made his ruling, but how much do you want to bet that plenty of Buckeye players will continue to tweet. just with a new account under a different name?  Over or under 30 players?  I’ll also take submissions for best OSU player alias twitter handles.  Tweet them to me @jackie_pepper

      

I feel like we’ve been talking about Dwight Howard leaving Orlando for the last few years, and sheesh, he still has one more year left on that dang contract with the Magic.  With the NBA now back in action after a 148-day lockout, the rumor mill is spinning double time as sources say the Magic center might be on the move. 

The suitors? My favorite NBA newcomer in recent years, Mikhail Prokhorov and the New Jersey Nets.  Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets are willing to trade center Brook Lopez (who is no slouch, might I add) and two future first-round draft picks to Orlando to get Howard, the reigning NBA Defensive Player Of The Year, winner of the award for three seasons straight.

Oh ya, New Jersey is also ready to pony up about $35 million — yes, the Nets are willing to absorb the remaining three years of Orlando forward Hedo Turkoglu’s contract, which is a huge financial incentive for the Magic.  Not only would they get an emerging center and two draft picks, but they would also ditch a stinky contract, the kind owners were hoping to protect themselves from in reworking certain systems issues during the CBA negotiations. 

Just think, only one full season removed from a 10-win debacle of 2009-2010, the Nets could truly compete with Deron Williams and Dwight Howard in the starting lineup.  If Jason Kidd could take Kerry Kittles and Brian Scalabrine to the NBA Finals (sorry Scal, you know you’re my boy!), DWill, Dwight and company can at least make the playoffs. 

Not only would this trade make a great rap lyric in the future, but it would be one heck of a shower gift from Prokhorov and Billy King to part-owner Jay-Z and his wifey Beyonce.  The combination of Williams and Howard would help make a roster full of young guys and journeyman players better and coupled with the excitement of moving to Brooklyn in 2012, the Nets would be a team worth watching for the first time in a long time. 

For more information about the Nets’ interest in Dwight Howard, click here: http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/7297170/sources-new-jersey-nets-prep-big-trade-offer-dwight-howard-orlando-magic