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

Ahhhh yes, the so-called “coronation of King James” finally happened Thursday night as the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 for the NBA Championship.  LeBron James, the self-proclaimed King, earned his crown in his ninth season in the League, leaving everyone asking questions like “is this redemption,” and “does a title signify the pinnacle for James and will it quiet the haters?”

With one notch on his Championship belt comes a level of respect for James that even the toughest of the haters must acknowledge.  You don’t have to like the guy or forgive some of the crappy choices he’s made in the past, but with this title comes the confirmation that LeBron is more than just a superstar; he’s a winner. 

James has experienced a true career evolution, but in reverse.  As a high school phenomenon, James was, without earning them, handed the keys to the kingdom -based on talent, not results- before making an NBA roster.  While he was a celebrity from Day 1 and showcased an arsenal of offensive skills in his very first season as a Cleveland Cavalier, it took James a few years to get his defense up to par, which elevated his game and reputation significantly. 

Since becoming the complete package circa 2009, the question seemed to be not “if” but “when” James would win a Championship and enter the elite ranks of the NBA.

For years, nobody doubted James’ talent, instead, using non-basketball reasons to pick the man apart.  From the rumored affair between ‘Bron’s mom Gloria and Delonte West, to Handshake-gate vs. the Magic, to The Decision and The Heatles, much of the James-hatred was self inflicted. 

The criticisms of being unable, and even worse, unwilling to take “big” shots tainted James’ on-court image just enough to change the question to, “will he EVER win a title?”

Individual talent is no longer good enough for those playing team sports.  The debate exists, “can you be at the most elite level without a Championship ring?”

Look at Dan Marino, or Peyton Manning before he finally led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2006?

With career averages of 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 48 percent shooting in 39.9 minutes per game, PLUS a host of hardware including three MVP awards, four NBA All-Defensive First Team honors and eight All-Star appearances, all that remained was a Championship to put a bow on an already-Hall of Fame worthy career. 

John Stockton & Karl Malone, TOGETHER, never won a championship.
Eglin Baylor never won a championship.
Charles Barkley never won a championship.
Reggie Miller  never won a championship.
Dominique Wilkins never won a championship.
Patrick Ewing never won a championship.

These guys are some of the best to EVER play the game of basketball, an opinion backed up by the fact that each one is a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.   Had James failed to win a title during his career, he would still be in great company.  That said, he would be haunted forever, just like the men listed above remain, to this day. 

Michael Jordan won his first of six Championships in his seventh season.  It took Shaquille O’Neal eight years, and poor Dirk Novitzki toughed out 13 seasons before winning it all. 

While second place is indeed the first loser, there is something to be said for the fact that James had already been to the Finals twice, with two different teams.  Neither the Cavaliers nor last year’s Heat team would’ve made it there without James on the roster.

Every great individual basketball player needs a good team surrounding him (or her) to win at the highest level.  It took James a LONG. ASS. TIME. to get the right people around him on the court, clipboarding on the bench and sitting in the front office before he could possibly put on a ring. 

After Miami’s Big Three went through all kinds of trial and error in its first season together, the players finally fell in place this year as the Heat figured it all out.  Miami completely dismantled a Thunder team that looked unstoppable, losing a mere three playoff games heading into the Finals. 

There would be no taking a backseat for James in the Finals this year, no sir.  He did not defer to his teammates.  James was the first option, period.  That says a lot when Dwayne Wade is on the court as well.  I don’t care if Wade looked old and beat up at times, he’s still a damn good basketball player who was dwarfed by LeBron in this series, a few specific moments aside.  James averaged 28.6 ppg and 10.2 assists in the series, earning him the title of Finals MVP.

After the series-clinching Game 5 win, Wade said of James, “I don’t know if I could be happier for another guy, another man to succeed in life as I am for him.”

Talk about a different tune.  Not so long ago, word would occasionally leak from Cleveland depicting a young, cocky and often times selfish player who was so untouchable that the head coach was afraid to discipline him, causing resentment among fellow Cavs players.  Now, it sounds like James is clearly adored by his Miami teammates, including Wade, the brightest of stars in his own right.

The haters will keep on hating.  “Well, how many rings will he get?  I mean, Mark Madsen has more rings than LeBron.” 

True.  But who cares? 

In my book, all it takes is one, therefor James can finally rest on top of the mountain and enjoy the view. 

If the NBA Playoffs started today, hoops fans would be happy campers!  Why?  A first-round Heat vs. Knicks match-up alone would be enough to send ratings through the roof and keep the many TV talking heads yapping from here to eternity. 

Can you imagine?  The Heatles versus Linsanity?  Then again, it would be somewhat of a letdown if the most exciting series of the playoffs came in the first round.  Either way, it’s a win-win situation, right?

If the NBA playoffs started today, we’d have a familiar cast of characters out East:

1.  Miami
2.  Chicago
3.  Philadelphia
4.  Orlando
5.  Atlanta
6.  Indiana
7.  Boston
8.  New York

…and an eclectic and somewhat surprising group in the West:

1.  Oklahoma City
2.  San Antonio
3.  LA Clippers
4.  Dallas
5.  LA Lakers
6.  Memphis
7.  Houston
8.  Denver

The teams in playoff contention (at the moment) in the Western Conference aren’t that shocking in and of themselves, it’s their seeding that brings the element of surprise. 

Before the Chris Paul trade (umm, the second trade… to LA’s “other” team), who would’ve guessed the “Clippers” and “playoffs” would be words spoken in the same sentence?  Sure, the Clippers had potential with a young nucleus of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Gordon and a veteran in Chris Kaman, but still… Donald Sterling’s team would be the type of squad to evoke a statement like “I’ll believe it when I see it” in conversation. 

Instead, Chris Paul and the Clippers are only 3.5 games behind the first place Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has risen to power the old fashioned way; through hard work and experience.  This could be the year we finally see ThunderUp in the NBA Finals.  Perhaps the youth of the Thunder’s roster gives them an advantage in this shortened season as OKC trails only the Heat and Bulls with a 23-7 record.  Could an older, more experienced team catch up to them in the playoffs when everyone has a few days rest between each game?  Sure, but Kevin Durant and Co. look pretty good halfway through the season and have been fascinating to watch in the playoffs in the last two years. 

Sandwiched between the Thunder and Clippers are the aging San Antonio Spurs who could earn Greg Popovich a second Coach of the Year award (he also won the award in 2003).  The Spurs have managed to stay atop the Western Conference without their star guard, Manu Ginobili who has missed 22 of the Spurs’ 31 games with an injury.  What the Spurs have done is quite impressive, and as usual, until the playoffs, San Antonio will be largely ignored by many in the mainstream media.  The Spurs have never been a flashy team full of typical stars or large personalities, but come playoff time, you’d better hope your favorite team doesn’t have to play them. 

The Dallas Mavericks are basically back on track after an ugly start to the season and if they can stay healthy, I think they have a great shot at returning to the NBA finals.   The Lakers, Grizzlies, Rockets and Nuggets are all in the hunt, each within two games of the 4-seed Mavs.  All of these teams have a legitimate shot at making the post season, but it wouldn’t shock me if Portland, Utah or even Minnesota finds a way to sneak in, knocking a current contender out of the race.  With young players like Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams sharing the court, the Timberwolves are easily the most entertaining team to watch on any given night.  They remind me of the Thunder a few years ago:  they are one or two pieces short of putting the puzzle together.  If they can make a personnel move or two, these guys will be ready to shine after another year or so of learning how to play together. 

If I had to predict today, who we’ll see in the NBA Finals, I’m going with a rematch (or three-match) of Heat vs. Mavericks, with the possibility of Heat vs. Thunder at a close second. 

The Miami Heat are ON FIRE right now.  So what if they lose a few games here and there, that doesn’t matter too much.  We’ve watched them win with only two of their Big 3 healthy and playing, so barring a catastrophic injury, the Heat can easily survive the wear-and-tear of a typical NBA regular season.  Miami leads the league in scoring, field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage.  The Heat are third in free throw attempts and somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to defense and rebounding.  I think the Heat will roll right through the regular season and will once again have a chance to prove their worth in the NBA Finals.  Of course, all the focus will be on LeBron James and whether or not he has the mental fortitude to win it all.  From taking the last shot to making bizarre comments in the press, it will once again be the LeBrown Show should the Heat make it back to the Finals.  In the words of Bart Scott, CANTWAIT!

The only team I can picture challenging the Heat in the East is Chicago.  If Derrick Rose can overcome his back problems in the near future, there is no reason the Bulls shouldn’t make it to the Conference Finals.  Chicago is second in the NBA in defense allowing 88.1 points per game (the 76ers and Celtics are tied for first, allowing 87.2 ppg), second in rebounding and ninth in scoring.  The Bulls are tied for 15th in free throw attempts (22 per game) which surprises me, and are 25th in terms of free throw makes, capitalizing on only 72 percent of their attempts.  The Bulls are a good team, even without the superstar Rose on the court.  But can Chicago make it to the Conference Finals without Rose?  I don’t think so. 

The 76ers, Magic, and Hawks are all within five games of the Heat and Bulls, but none of them excite me all that much.  I think Philly is the best of the bunch and would welcome a first round playoff series between them and the Indiana Pacers, which is what we’d get if the playoffs began today.

The Pacers are an interesting team that is flying under most peoples’ radars, including mine.  I had forgot that Indiana made the playoffs last season and was reminded of it only when they pulled off an impressive come-from-behind victory over the Lakers at Staples Center back in January.  I see the Pacers as a younger, Eastern Conference version of the the Spurs.  They won’t razzle-dazzle you, but they’ll find a way to beat your team down for the win.  Like last year, I think this group will put up another tough fight in the playoffs with the difference being that I think they’ll pull off a first-round victory this time. 

Now we come to the Celtics and the Knicks.  The Celtics and Lakers, oddly enough, are in the same boat.  Each squad’s Big 3 is no longer good enough on it’s own to propel their teams to victory.  It’s sad watching both LA and Boston unable to do what came quite easily over the last few years knowing each team is probably just one player away from being a championship contender this year.  For the Lakers, it’s a point guard, for the Celtics, it’s a dominant center.  The Celtics are still fun to watch because you never know which team is going to show up each night so there is always an element of mystery when they take the court.  As we’ve seen recently, the Celtics seem to take a nose dive after the half-way point in the season when age and health start to take a toll, but come playoff time, the older guys have adequate time to rest between games and get re-energized.  As long as Boston makes it into the playoffs, they are in good shape.  I’d be shocked if Danny Ainge doesn’t make a move of some sort by the trade deadline so who knows what the Celtics will look like in April. 

Because of the NBA lockout, many teams have needed more time than usual to adjust, working out the kinks long into the start of the regular season.  This might be the year where the NBA looks more like the NHL, where playoff seeding means virtually nothing as the lower seeds frequently beat the higher seeds in post season play. 

The Knicks are a wildcard right now.  Jeremy Lin has seemingly taken over the basketball world and we are all in a tizzy over how he has turned the Knicks around overnight.  The story is sensational, in both meanings of the word, and hopefully New York can keep the train rolling.  When the Knicks are good, it’s good for basketball.  Period. 

The Knicks are playing well at the moment, but who knows how the chemistry will change once Carmelo Anthony returns.  As instrunmental as Lin has been to New York’s success, the addition of JR Smith might prove to be just as important as Smith is already in post season form after playing for several months in China.  Plus, it would be helpful for Amare Stoudemire to turn into his old self by upping his shooting percentage. 

But back to the “important” stuff… If Mike D’Antoni can figure out a way for Lin and Anthony to coexist, we won’t get a first-round Heat/Knicks match-up because there’s no chance New York will head into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed in the east.  If Lin and Anthony can work together, the Knicks will not only make the playoffs for only the second time since 2004, but they could find themselves hosting a first-round series at Madison Square Garden.  Wouldn’t that be something?

    

One third of the way through a truncated NBA season, several teams have already gone into panic mode with fans and some players alike clamoring for trades. 

Former power houses like the Lakers and Celtics are struggling to stay afloat while up and coming teams like the Knicks have failed to meet lofty expectations. 

Magic center Dwight Howard could be a solution to each of those three team’s problems should he opt for a trade out of Orlando. After getting whooped by the Hornets Friday night (93-67… ya.  You read it right), the Magic have lost three of their last four games and their star player is furious.  Howard, whose agent has received permission to talk trades with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks, said after the loss to New Orleans, “”I look at guys and they don’t look like they want to play.  I told them at halftime, ‘If you don’t want to play, just stay in the locker room, because it don’t make sense for a team who we should beat to just demolish us.’”

OUCH.  There was a stretch of a few games where the Magic (12-7) looked on point and many guessed the team would keep Howard in hopes of making one last title run.   But now that the seesaw seems to be stuck in the down position, one would guess Howard will find a way out of town.

One team that might want Howard’s services is the New York Knicks (7-13).  Amare Stoudemire is only shooting 42 percent from the field, a significant drop from his 53 percent career average.  Sure, Amare is scoring over 17 points per game, but his rebounding is dismal, grabbing 8.2 balls per game and blocking less than one shot per game on average.  I’m sorry, but when you are 6’11, you should have no less than 10 rebounds per game.  When Kris Humphries Kardashian is killing Amare on the boards, there’s a problem.  I’m well aware of the fact that perhaps Carmelo Anthony isn’t dropping the ball down low enough, but when he does decide to share, Stoudemire has to make the most of it and shooting under 50 percent won’t get it done.  Plus, with $83 million remaining on his contract, Stoudemire is going to be very tough to move. 

But would Howard even want to play for the Knicks under Mike D’Antoni?  Probably not.  The fact that a big guy has yet to really succeed in the D’Antoni run-and-gun system is likely a turn off for Howard, whose agent has not received permission to negotiate with the Knicks (as far as we know).  In that case, shouldn’t Howard just go to the Lakers (11-9) like many had originally assumed as early as two years ago?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, lets take a few steps back.  I know the season is short, putting pressure on teams to win fast and often, but what if we’re all jumping the gun?  Without an organized off-season and a poor excuse of a training camp, it’s only logical that many teams (especially those with new coaches and/or key players) might take longer than normal to get in the swing of things.

I keep seeing Kendrick Perkins in my head with flashing red lights surrounding him, reminding me of what a terrible trade that was for the Celtics (9-9) last year.  Yes, that situation is different in the fact that Boston opted to get something in return for Perkins, who the team was not willing to pay top dollar to re-sign after his contract was set to expire.  The gamble was that the Celtics, in theory, coming off a game 7 loss in the NBA Finals, were still equipped to make a playoff run with that same roster primarily in tact.  Instead, they saved money but lost the heart and defensive presence of their team and fizzled out in the playoffs.  I would hate to see any team make the wrong move in haste because of the unique situation caused by the lockout.

Now that we have that spiel out of the way, lets go back to various trade scenarios of this season.  I don’t think Dwight Howard is the answer for the Lakers.  Yes, he’s a fantastic player, but the majority of the Lakers issues are not down low, but at the guard position.  Steve Blake got off to a fantastic start before injuring his ribs, which has the point guard out and missing significant time.  The Lakers are more in need of a facilitator than a big man, given that they already have two.

If I am Orlando, I would LOVE a trade with the Lakers.  With the choices being to keep Howard this season then let him go, or trade him in return for Andrew Bynum (and another player, draft pick, cash, whatever…) who could become our franchise center, I’m going with the “give something to get something” approach. 

Bynum is third in the league in rebounding, he is blocking 1.9 shots per game and averaging 16 points in 21 minutes per game.  I have watched every Lakers game this season and Bynum, while playing well, isn’t playing up to his potential.  He’s shooting 53 percent from the field, but he has the shot and footwork to be even better.  The sixth-year Big has missed several easy, uncontested shots in nearly every game, which in my opinion, is completely mental.  He has been through a lot in his career and aside from injuries, I think the only thing stopping him from being an all-out monster is his psyche.  Moving out of LA may very well be the key to unlock Bynum’s inner-beast. 

Yes, Pau Gasol has been inconsistent since last season but I wouldn’t give up on him just yet either.  Had the Lakers original trade with the Hornets been accepted by the league, yes, it would have been worth it to let go of Lamar Odom and Gasol for Chris Paul.  That would have worked beautifully in the non-triangle offense under head coach Mike Brown.

As we know, the trade didn’t go through so unless the Magic are willing to throw in Jameer Nelson along with Howard (which will not happen), I say the Lakers stay put and hold out for a guard via trade or find a different way to weather the storm, perhaps utilizing a developing Andrew Goudelock until Blake is healthy and available to help Kobe Bryant run the offense.

Sure, trading Gasol to the Nets (7-13) for Deron Williams sounds like a pretty sweet deal, but with the way Pau is playing at the moment, I don’t see New Jersey making that move.  Williams leads the Nets in points and assists so bringing in Gasol isn’t going to replace that level of production.  The Nets have some good pieces, but it seems like they each fit different puzzles instead of all coming from the same box.

Then we have the Boston Celtics.  Oy Vey. 

It’s quite sad watching the once-almighty Big Three get older and suffer loss after loss as the team around them just doesn’t seem to mesh.  If Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen each played for different teams, each would probably be the difference-maker that could take his team to new heights.   When Jermaine ONeal is your starting center, well, that can’t bode well for your team.  O’Neal has already missed a few games and he’s scoring less than six points per game.  Garnett is the team’s leading rebounder with a whopping 7.7 per game.  7.7 rebounds a game to lead the team?  No bueno. 

Word on the street is that Danny Ainge isn’t opposed to trading away any of the Big Three who brought the Celtics a championship in 2008 after a 22-year drought.  If he gets a good offer, Ainge must let anyone on that roster go, well, anyone aside from Rajon Rondo who has turned into one of the league’s premiere players in the last few seasons. 

As much as fans would hate it, I could see Pau Gasol playing well in Boston and imagining Paul Pierce in is hometown purple and gold isn’t a stretch of the imagination by any means.  I think Doc Rivers is the type of coach who can motivate anyone and positively reinforce Gasol in order to squeeze the best game out of him.  Although, Garnett might eat Gasol for lunch one day, but theoretically, Rivers could get those two on the same page.  Because of injuries to Bynum, Gasol is used to playing center despite being a natural power forward and the Lakers could use Pierce’s versatility.  I’m not sure that Bryant and Pierce could play together, but that’s another story.  

Will trades go down this season?  Yes.  Which teams will be involved?  I have no idea.  Will we see a blockbuster?  Probably.  I love the trade deadline as the NBA typically has at least one exciting move providing us fans with tons of drama, but I  sure hope each team really does its homework before signing the paperwork. 

 

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

   

Thanks to the groups of lawyers representing the NBA and its players, we were given the gift of the professional basketball this Christmas.  Opening day of the shortened 2011-2012 NBA season was no throw-away as each of the five games had something to positive offer as well as something to hate on.  In the spirit of Christmas, we present the naughty and nice of NBA’s opening day!

NAUGHTY

The Justin Beiber/NBA Holiday Promos:  Was the idea that the Beibs has the power to draw in the under 18 female viewers?  Surely, the NBA’s target audience was cringing while being force-fed spoonfuls of the talented teeny-bopper throughout the day.

Rajon Rondo, But In A Good way:  The Celtics guard stole the show for me (despite Carmelo Anthony’s performance) as many wondered if preseason trade rumors would distract Rondo and make his already questionable attitude worse.  If anything, Rondo did what the best competitors do as he excelled among controversy (real or perceived), picking apart the Knicks defense and dropping 31 points and 13 assists while logging five steals in Madison Square Garden.  While the Knicks escaped with a 106-104 win, Rondo’s performance was encouraging for a team playing without the injured Paul Pierce and boasting Jermaine O’Neal as the starting center.

Lamar Odom:  Adding insult to the injury of his new team being humiliated by the Heat, Lamar Odom got himself tossed out of his first game playing for the Dallas Mavericks.  Coincidently, the ejection was the second in as many games for Khloe’s husband dating back to last season when Odom was ejected in what would be the Lakers final playoff game after being swept by the Mavs in Dallas.  This time around, Lamar got tossed because he barked at the referee about a foul call in the third quarter, or as my Mom explained to my Dad, “he sassed the ref.”  Looks like L.O.’s track record in American Airlines Center could use a turn-around real soon. 

Dallas Mavericks: The reigning NBA Champion Mavericks were god awful in their season debut leaving a sellout crowd disappointed in Dallas as last season’s finals foe, the Miami Heat trounced the home team 105-94.  The game was nowhere near as close as the final score with the Heat leading by 35 points midway through the third quarter.  We’ll address the Heat in the “nice” section, but the Mavs, while still reigning champs, lost several vital pieces of the title-winning team, such as J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler.  The addition of Sixth Man Of The Year Lamar Odom is fantastic, but with Vince Carter and Delonte West also new to the roster, Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki and the gang have a lot of bonding to do in order to find the right team chemistry. 

Dwight Howard:  The Orlando Magic big man had a less than Super performance on Sunday as the Oklahoma City Thunder held Dwight Howard to only 11 points.  Thunder bigs Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed did most of the damage on Howard helping OKC to a 97-89 win.  Sure, it was an ugly team effort for the Magic as only three players scored in double figures, but as the leader of your team, trade talks or not, Howard needs to shoot better than 4-12 from the field (he’s 7 feet tall, c’mon now) in 38 minutes.  Howard grabbed 15 rebounds, so I’ll give him credit for that, but if nobody on the team can convert rebounds into points, why bother? Meanwhile Kevin Durant balled out, dropping 30 on Orlando in a solid overall team win by the Thunder at home.  By the way, if you folks haven’t checked out Kendrick Perkins on Twitter (he recently joined), you are missing out big time.  He is one of my favorite athletes I’ve covered as he is sweet, sincere and brutally honest.  Follow him on twitter for some good laughs and Perky knowledge bombs at @KendrickPerkins

Drunk Santa Harassing LeBron James:  A lovely man dressed as Santa Claus heckled LeBron James with an alcoholic beverage in hand as the Heatles star shot free throws during Miami’s shellacking of the Mavs.  Santa, clearly a Dallas homer, shouted to James, “What do you want from Santa? A ring?”  I would give this guy props if he had anything original to say to James, but not only was he boring, but his team was getting hammered which makes heckling a bit pointless.   

NICE

Carmelo Anthony:  On a day where the New York Knicks led by 17 points and trailed by 10 in the same game, Carmelo Anthony provided the only real consistency for the home team in MSG.  Anthony scored 20 of his 37 points in the second half and sunk two free throws which proved to be the game-winning points for the Knicks.  After trying to pull a Sprewell on former teammate Billy Walker after the game, Celtics big man Kevin Garnett told reporters, “They seem to have a little swag and confidence behind them.  It’s good for the city. It’s good for the Knicks. I’m going to see how consistent they are with that, but for the most part Carmelo played really well.”  When KG shows you love after you beat him, that is saying something.

Los Angeles Clippers Swagger:  There was no shortage of confidence among the Clippers starting lineup; Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul took the court at ORACLE Arena in Oakland beaming with pride and a sense of belonging as they faced the Golden State Warriors.  While the Clippers performance was far from perfect and the 105-86 win over the Warriors was closer than the score indicates, the Clipps season opener was encouraging as the guys demonstrated noticeable differences from Clippers past.  As an L.A. native and long time Clippers fan, I have never seen a Clippers team with this kind of swagger.  There was a time when a young run & gun  collection of guys like Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson and Lamar Odom got cocky after doubling their win total one year after a 15-win season.  Once Blake Griffin took off last season, the Clippers showed more and more confidence with each game they played, but this season, that positive attitude is on a different level.  Now watching the Clipp Joint play with legitimate energy and boldness from the opening tip (backed up by their play in the preseason and down the stretch vs. Golden State) until the final buzzer sounds is really refreshing. 

Miami Heat: Yes, it was only the first game of the season but it was important for the Heat to get off to a good start this year, especially given the time and place of their 2011-2012 debut.  Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra kept his team sequestered as the Mavericks unveiled their championship banner and celebrated last season’s finals win over Miami on the court before the game.  It was a small gesture that sent a strong message that their finals failure was in the past and it was time for the uber-talented Heat to start anew.  That they did as Miami scored at least 30 points in each of the first three quarters, and at one point, held a 35-point lead en route to smoking the Mavs 105-94.  LeBron James and Dwayne Wade scored 37 and 26 points respectively as the Heat finally got the better of the Mavs; at least for one game. 
 

NAUGHTY & NICE

The final minutes of the Bulls/Lakers game played out like a poetic Wagner opera, full of surprise, joy and heartache.  My eyes began to water and butterflies took over my stomach after Chicago’s defense forced a turnover resulting in a gorgeous Derrick Rose floater good for a one point Bulls lead with 4.8 seconds to play.  The beauty of DRose’s shot coupled with the anticipation of watching perhaps another Kobe Bryant game winning shot was a bit overwhelming for me on Day 1 of the NBA season. 

While the home team Lakers started strong despite a torn ligament in Kobe’s shooting wrist as well as being without  center Andrew Bynum (who is serving a four game suspension), L.A. let it all slip away in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.  The Bulls fell flat for a good chunk of the game, seemingly unable to hit air with the basketball or play anything resembling defense.  But that all changed when Chicago woke up as  Rose went down with 3:34 left to play after the league MVP took a shot to the head, care of teammate Luol Deng’s elbow, as he landed a pretty up & under for two points.  Rose hit the deck shortly after, and clutching his head, the Bulls took a timeout to make sure he was okay and had not received a concussion.  Rose stayed in the game and from that moment on, Chicago’s offense and defense were synchronized enough to dig them out of an 11-point hole and lead them to a one-point, 88-87 win over LA.

For the Lakers, they have to be pleased with the play of Kobe as well as Pau Gasol, despite the drama surrounding a failed trade that would’ve sent the Spaniard to Houston for Chris Paul.  Role players (aka guys you probably didn’t know existed) like Josh McRoberts, Devin Ebanks and Steve Blake were impressive in running Mike Brown’s new offense as well as variations of Phil Jackson’s old triangle.  The Lakers defense was also spectacular until the final minutes.  It is not encouraging for LA that they had the Bulls down in the dumps and couldn’t keep them there, at home, on opening day, with the Staples Center going crazy.

As for the Bulls, they struggled to shoot and rebound for much of the game, despite having scoring ability and being one of the league’s top rebounding teams last season.  The defense was non-existent which was shocking as the Bulls had the top defense in the league last season.  Despite a long rough patch in this one, the team managed to turn water into wine, pulling the win out of nowhere.  As usual, DRose did his part but Deng was also sensational, playing stellar defense down the stretch and scoring 21 points, second only to Rose’s 22 for the Bulls.   I think this young Bulls team started slow and just needed a while to realize the lockout truly is over, for real, and no, they weren’t playing in a charity game or Vegas league contest.  The Bulls are incredibly talented and fun to watch, thus I wouldn’t anticipate too many more slow starts like the one we witnessed against the Lakers on Christmas.  

      

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

                             
The truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it?  In excerpts from Shaquille O’Neal’s autobiography, “Shaq Uncut: My Story,” the Big Diesel plays a game of kiss and tell with his friends and foes from the hoops world through the years.

Deadspin released juicy excerpts about Shaq’s rocky relationship with Kobe Bryant and Pat Riley a few days ago ( http://deadspin.com/5854904/in-new-book-shaq-explains-how-kobes-sexual-assault-charges-destroyed-the-lakers ), and now hoopsworld.com has released the next batch of gossipy goodness from the book which hits stores November 15. 

Shaq and writer Jackie MacMullan take you inside the Cleveland Cavaliers film room where things got a bit testy between central characters LeBron James, Delonte West and head coach Mike Brown.  Shaq takes aim at James’ inability to bring his ‘A game’ when it matters, the fact that Coach Brown’s rules did not apply to James and that Brown, the new Lakers head coach, might have similar problems with Kobe Bryant.

Read and enjoy, care of hoopsworld.com and the Chicago Tribune:

"Our coach, Mike Brown, was a nice guy, but he had to live on edge because nobody was supposed to be confrontational with LeBron. Nobody wanted him to leave Cleveland, so he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to do.

“I remember one day in a film session LeBron didn’t get back on defense after a missed shot. Mike Brown didn’t say anything about it. He went to the next clip and it was Mo Williams not getting back and Mike was saying, ‘Yo, Mo, we can’t have that. You’ve got to hustle a little more.’ So Delonte West is sitting there and he’s seen enough and he stands up and says, ‘Hold up, now. You can’t be pussyfooting around like that. Everyone has to be accountable for what they do, not just some us.’ Mike Brown said, ‘I know, Delonte. I know.’ Mike knew Delonte was right.

“I’m not sure if Kobe (Bryant) is going to listen to (new Lakers coach) Mike Brown. LeBron never really did.”

O’Neal also addresses James’ failure in the 2011 NBA Finals, comparing it to his infamous disappearing act in the 2010 playoffs against the Boston Celtics:

“There’s no question in Game 5 LeBron was kind of out of it… .  I always believed he could turn it on at any moment, but for some reason he didn’t. Not against the Celtics in 2010 and not against the Mavericks in 2011. It was weird. It’s one thing to be a passer, but you are supposed to be the One.

“I’m watching him play against Dallas, and they’re swinging the ball and they get him a perfect open look — and he’s kicking it to Mario Chalmers. Makes no sense. I told people, ‘It’s like Michael Jordan told me. Before you succeed, you must first fail.’ ”

For many years, I felt that LeBron James was crowned The Golden Child, receiving a free pass from the media enabling him to say and do things that other players couldn’t get away with.  When James stormed off the court, refusing to shake hands with the Orlando Magic after the Cavs were defeated in the 2009 playoffs, that was the first time I saw any media members publicly criticize James. 

Obviously, the flood gates opened with “The Decision” and people finally got to see that not-so-golden side of James.  One would think that at his age, after all that Shaq had dealt with through the years, LeBron would be the least of his concerns at that point in his career.  Clearly Shaq was still competitive, wanted to win and didn’t appreciate James getting special treatment. 

Especially with Jackie MacMullan behind it, this book is a must-read.  I’ll put it on the shelf next to my autographed copy of “Shaq Talks Back,” which I waited in line for a few hours to get signed by the big man when I was a teenager.  Those were the good old days!