Saturday, July 13, 2013

Despite loss to Lynx, Fever Still Encouraged About Team’s Future

By: Brock Sanders
(Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings driving the ball to the basket while being closed in by Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson and center Janel McCarville. AP Photo)
Unfortunately the remnants of “Bieber Fever” from the Justin Bieber concert at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last night was not enough to ensure an Indiana Fever victory against a talented Minnesota Lynx team today.  With the annual Kids’ Day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indiana Fever took a tough 69-62 loss.  The injuries for the Fever continue to prove insurmountable, as they take a 4-8 record on the road to New York.

The defending WNBA champions are making progress despite the injuries.  Playing today without Katie Douglas (back), Jeanette Pohlen (left knee), Jessica Davenport (left leg), and a game time scratch of backup forward Jessica Breland (left ankle) left the Fever short-handed.

“I thought it was a good test for us to see where we are with a lot of people still hurt,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said.

Fever guard Erin Phillips saw her first action today since a preseason game May 15, and before that the last time she played was Game 4 of the WNBA Finals on October 21.  Phillips went 3 for 12 with 8 points, including a pair of three pointers.

“There’s always some anxiety and excitement and mixed emotions.  Disappointed that we couldn’t win, but I’m glad the first one is out of the way,” Phillips said.

Along with the excitement comes the mandatory rehab.  Phillips was icing her knee after the game, but she stated that it is just precautionary and that it felt nearly 100 percent when she was out on the floor.

“This is basically just the routine now for maintenance, but it actually felt really good out there,” Phillips said.

The Minnesota Lynx were also playing without starting shooting guard Seimone Augustus, Minnesota’s second leading scorer with 15.5 points per game.  Monica Wright, recently engaged to Oklahoma City Thunder’s star Kevin Durant, played exceptionally well for the Lynx scoring 22 points with 10 coming in the first quarter.

Minnesota’s point guard Lindsay Whalen is always tough to stop.  Whalen recorded 23 points with 12 points in the fourth quarter and she continued to hit clutch shots to stop the Fever from taking a lead.

“Lindsay Whelan hurt us down the stretch.  She’s so strong and she hit some big shots when the game was on the line.  I think she has gotten even better.  She’s leaner.  I think she’s gotten quicker.  We were switching on her and I think I want to start saying don’t ever switch on Whalen.  She hurt us when we needed to stop them,” Dunn said.

The Fever have a quality reminiscent of most Indiana basketball teams in that they have great defense.  They allow a league best 71.5 points per game, and that defense was on display today.  The Lynx only attempted four three pointers, failing to make a single one.  The Fever also held Minnesota to a mere 69 points, nearly 14 points less than their season average of 82.6. 

“We did a great job defensively on this team.  They didn’t score a three pointer the entire game.  We really limited them to something lower than they have been averaging,” Fever guard Briann January said.

The Fever shot an abysmal 34 percent for the game.  Indiana averages the second lowest shooting percentage in the WNBA at 39.4 percent.  Some of that blame can be contributed to the fact that sharp shooters Katie Douglas and Jeanette Pohlen have played a combined total of 2 games this season.

“I know we struggled quite a bit offensively, but you look down the line if we hit one or two more shots individually we win this game,” Fever forward Tamika Catchings said.

Catchings came close to a double-double despite the poor shooting performance totaling 9 points and 10 rebounds to go along with 5 steals.  She has a combined 19 steals in her last four games since returning from a back injury.

Erlana Larkins played well for the Fever recording a season-high 11 points.  It is also worth noting that Fever guard Shavonte Zellous has scored double figures in every game this season. 

Indiana is slowly creeping towards the championship team they had last year.  They hope to use this loss as a lesson and continue to build on the team capable of making another run at the title this year.  The Fever’s next game is Saturday night at 7:00 in New York against the Liberty.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's Up, Doc?

By: Brock Sanders

There is finally resolution in the Doc Rivers negotiations.  After four days of rumors, frustration, and anguish a deal has finally been made to send future Hall of Fame coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers in exchange for a first round draft pick in the 2015 NBA draft.  The transaction is officially labeled as compensation in the form of a draft pick for a coach, but think of it as a trade or a buyout.  The Clippers gave up a draft pick in exchange for the opportunity to sign Rivers to a three-year, $21 million contract.

More important than the trade is the impacts it will have on both the Celtics and the Clippers.  The Celtics’ owner, Danny Ainge, recognizes the age of the team and realizes that they need to begin a rebuilding process.  Soon, the days of the “Big Three” in Boston will be over.  Ainge values draft picks, and plans to acquire as many as he can in order to draft talented young players that will serve as the foundations of the new Celtics franchise.  Earlier attempts over the weekend to include Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the deal with Doc Rivers led to a stalemate in negotiations.  The Celtics may buy out Paul Pierce by June 30th for $5 million if they so choose, then they would most likely wait until the trade deadline when other teams are desperate for veteran players to deal Pierce.  The Doc Rivers transaction gives the Celtics both a draft pick, and the opportunity to clean the slate and hire a new coach to come in and take the reins of this famed franchise.

The key piece of the puzzle that was missing for the Clippers was the lack of great coaching.  They had enough talent to prolong their run in the playoffs, and possibly even the NBA Finals.  Inevitably, Vinny Del Negro was not signed to a contract extension at the end of the Clippers’ season.  With the addition of Rivers it greatly improves the Clippers chances of making a run deep into the playoffs this season, and launching them up the rankings as one of the top contenders in the west.  Sources close to Clippers’ all-star point guard Chris Paul indicated that the signing of Rivers almost guarantees the signing of his five-year deal.

Rivers will be traveling across the country, 2,986 miles to be exact, and the NBA will be impacted along every bit of it.  The Clippers are poised to make a run in the upcoming NBA Playoffs, while the Celtics are rebuilding and depending on how they use their draft picks, may be a very dangerous team in the upcoming years.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Very Mad March

By: Brock Sanders

Who is the best team in the Big Ten?  Even better, who is the best team in all of college basketball?  These questions have perplexed the minds of many this college basketball season.  With no clear-cut number one team as in years past, March Madness should live up to its name.  However there is one conference which continually produces far more top 25 teams than any other conference: the Big Ten.

Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, the list can go on and on.  This powerhouse conference has proved to be the best in college basketball in 2013, but is having so many good teams in a single league a good or a bad thing for the conference?  Take Michigan’s schedule for example.  In a span of ten days, they played three top ten teams: 3 Indiana, 10 Ohio State, and 8 Michigan State.  And don’t think Michigan is the only team to have to go through a dangerous stretch like that.  Wisconsin played three top 15 teams in seven days, Illinois played four top 25 teams in fourteen days, and Minnesota played three top 15 teams in eight days.  Almost every team in the Big Ten has, or will have to face the gauntlet of ranked teams coming after them.

As for the question of whether or not this is good for the Big Ten, I would have to say that in the long run it is an extremely good thing.  They may be knocking each other around in the rankings now, but the regular season rankings mean nothing except for seeds when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.  A mere seeding is nothing compared to the improvement and experience gained from the competition faced in Big Ten regular season play.  Teams in weaker conferences, say third-ranked Gonzaga playing in the WCC for example, are used to playing against teams like Portland and Loyola Marymount, while Big Ten teams are used to playing in games with Indiana and Michigan State.  While Gonzaga may get a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, they lack the experience of playing against elite opponents day in and day out like a fifth-seeded Wisconsin.

From a financial perspective it is definitely a good thing for the conference.  The Big Ten Tournament from March 14-March 17 in Chicago has already sold out three weeks in advance.  This is the first time the tournament has been sold out prior to its start since it was created in 1998.  The fans obviously love it, the money is rolling in, and the teams will be well suited to make a run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.  If Big Ten regular season play is any indication for the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament, we are sure to be in for a treat when March Madness rolls around.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Teams to Beat in 2012-2013

By: Brock Sanders

The idea that every player in the Lakers’ starting lineup has gone to the All-Star Game is pretty scary for the Western Conference.  The sign-and-trade deal between the Lakers and the Suns left Steve Nash, 38, packing his bags and heading to Los Angeles.  The three year, $27 million deal will likely be Nash’s last contract.  This is also the last legitimate shot Nash has at winning his coveted NBA Title.

Along with the Lakers, there are also several serious Finals contenders in the West.  A young Thunder team and an aging Spurs squad have shots to make it to the Finals.  With the Spurs losing their window of opportunity, the Thunder are just beginning to blossom.

In the East, there are several teams that could make it to the Finals.  A new and improved Brooklyn Nets proved they are serious challengers to the Heat, Celtics, and Bulls by acquiring Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks.  The Nets needed a pure scorer like Joe Johnson to rely on.  If they were to get Dwight Howard from the Magic, the Nets would have a “Big Three” of their own.

The Boston Celtics have had a great offseason.  Their draft couldn’t have worked out better.  Getting Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger in consecutive picks will add to their subpar group of big men.  The Celtics are also close to signing Jason Terry to a 3 year, $15 million deal.  This may turn Ray Allen away, but they get a cheaper option with Terry.

Of course there are still some variables left to sort out.  Depending on whoever lands some prized players such as Dwight Howard, Ray Allen, and Eric Gordon will determine a lot.  There are other signings and trades that will definitely impact the outcome of this season.  However things develop this offseason, you can be sure that it will be another great year in the NBA.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back To The Basics

By: Brock Sanders

Yeah, yeah, New Orleans got the number one pick.  Surprisingly, that is not their number one priority this offseason, Eric Gordon is.  Eric Gordon is by far the most important player to this team, averaging 20.6 points per game; five points more than anyone else.  Although he only played nine games this year due to arthroscopic knee surgery, he has proven his excellence with the Los Angeles Clippers in his first three years.  He is a very strong, powerful guard with a great jump shot.  You can’t compare many people to Chris Paul, but Eric Gordon is the fill in for Paul in New Orleans.  If they were to lose Gordon, they would lack the player to put up points night after night.  Not saying that Anthony Davis and the number one pick isn’t important, but Davis cannot come in and completely take over the game as a rookie like Jordan or Magic could do.  It is hard for any big man to come in and take over the game just like that.  He is going to need somebody to come and take some of the load, and not many point guards in the NBA are more explosive and high powered than Eric Gordon.

There are going to be a lot of people in the hunt for Eric Gordon this offseason, including the Knicks, 76ers, Suns, Trail Blazers, and probably the biggest contender, Gordon’s hometown Pacers.  That is why it would suit the Hornets best to sign Gordon early, even if they have to give up a little money.  The value of having Gordon secured early is huge because you don’t have to worry about other teams taking him.  Then you can focus on getting Davis and your other draft picks signed.  Gordon is one of the most underappreciated players in the NBA.  His quiet scoring and ability to break down the defense and get into the paint is what he brings to the table, which is necessary for any team, let alone a struggling team that is about ready to draft one of the most valued college players in the draft since Derrick Rose.  Davis will definitely be huge this season for the Hornets, but if they want to win games this season, resigning Eric Gordon is a must.


2012 Indy 500 Recap: Too Much Passing?

By: Brock Sanders

What another great day at the Speedway!  Record-setting heat, remembrance of Dan Wheldon, and a fair share of celebrities were presented to us at this year’s 500.  Some compelling, must-watch stories brewed through the month of May: Honda vs. Chevy, the unproductive Lotus engines, only 33 cars listing in the race, and hometown heroes Bryan Clauson and Ed Carpenter.  There was the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly.  But one thing that definitely stood out was the new IR12 Dallara chassis and the 2.2-liter turbocharged engine.

Since 2007, IndyCar has used the IR07 Dallara chassis and a 3.5-liter V8 engine.  This year, they unveiled the new chassis and engine.  These new body styles have claimed to be safer, and carry more down force.  Ironically, these styles were debuted just seven months after Dan Wheldon’s tragic death in the season finale of the IndyCar series last year in Las Vegas.  The negatives, however, were very prevalent in Sunday’s race.
Along with the record-setting heat, there were also a record-setting number of lead changes in the race (30).  The slingshot (a term used for drafting a car until the straightaway, then using the momentum to pass them on the inside) was in full effect, shooting drivers in front of each other all race.  Near the end, however, was when it was most obvious.  Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti ran one and two at lap 189.  They then proceeded to pass each other each lap until lap 198 when Takuma Sato passed Dixon for second place.  Sato then went for the pass on Franchitti on turn 1 of lap 200, and crashed into the wall, ending the race in caution.  Many are speculating if Dixon and Franchitti exchanged the lead on purpose to conserve fuel, and pull away from the pack, then run a two-car race the last two or three laps.  It was so easy to pull the slingshot and pass the leader that it seemed nobody wanted first place until the very last lap because they knew if they were in second, they could slingshot the leader for the victory.  You could almost calculate it backwards once Dixon and Franchitti began passing each other on lap 189 and determine who was going to win the race.

All of this passing is made possible by the new Dallara chassis, which lets a lot of air out of the back (see picture, left).  The amount of air in the back makes drafting and passing so easy, that nobody wanted to lead the race, so drivers let others pass in order to move to second place.  At the beginning of the race, James Hinchcliffe was leading, then fell down to third, after his crew ordered him to do so.  This kind of lead changing is unacceptable, and is not entertaining to fans.  We want true, skilled passing.  Not a slingshot on the back straightaway every time.  IndyCar should and will take a look at this, and see what changes they can make for the circuit next year, specifically the Indy 500.