the NBA

Can we fix the Pro Bowl?

Why don’t I care about the Pro Bowl?

This may be the million-dollar question. The Pro Bowl is the NFL equivalent of the All-Star Game, but it fails compared to the MLB and the NBA ones.

Now, what is the reason for this? It can’t be because baseball and basketball are better than football; now that’s just ludicrous.

Maybe it’s the lack of value in the game. The MLB All Star Game actually matters. The winning division gets home field advantage in the World Series.

This could be a great thing for the NFL to adopt, but then they would have to have the Pro Bowl during the season.

The recent reformatting of the Pro Bowl has only made it worse. Firstly, they moved it to be before the Super Bowl, which excluded some of the best players each year. I mean, that’s obvious, they made it to the Super Bowl after all.

Secondly, it is no longer NFC versus AFC. This has really led to the demise of the Pro Bowl, not that it was ever great, but it was better than this. This year, for example, it was Team Irvin versus Team Carter. Each coach “drafted” players that were selected to the Pro Bowl by voting.

Now let’s be frank, this is just unnecessary. They are trying to model a pickup game of football. Why are you ruining something that could honestly be so great?

Think about it. A game where Aaron Rodgers is throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. Does that sound awesome or does that sound awesome?

On paper, it should be. In reality, it is similar to watching paint dry.

So, why can’t we have the Pro Bowl midseason like the NBA and MLB do?

Maybe the reason the NFL is opposed to this is because of the physicality of the sport.

However, the NFL plays the fewest games per season compared to these sports. Yes, I understand football is literally running into someone and getting hit. But playing 82 basketball games a season probably isn’t too easy either.

Regardless of the levels of physicality, you play any sport at a professional level that often, your body will feel it.

I’m not asking for the NFL to play 50 games. I’m asking for one more game halfway through the season, I’m asking for 17 games. Give these guys an All Star break.

There won’t be any defense until the fourth quarter. It will just be exciting and electrifying plays for the fans. That’s all they really want.

Does anyone watch the NBA All-Star Game for a good matchup? No. We watch it to see a dream team that will never exist elsewhere. We watch it to see Chris Paul lob the ball to James Harden. We watch it to see LeBron throw the ball to the perimeter for Carmelo to shoot a three.

Why can’t we have this in football?

I want to live in a world where I can see Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy in the backfield together for one game a year.

Am I really asking for that much? No, no I am not.

So please, give me an NFL All-Star Game that everyone will watch.

Millions tune in to watch the NBA All Star Weekend. Millions tune in to watch the MLB All Star Game. Let’s add the NFL to that list.

There won’t be a dunk contest, but there could be a 40-yard dash contest, a one-handed catch contest, and a throwing contest.

Basically, it could be a casual combine. I mean, why not?

Do it for the fans. Bring the Pro Bowl back to life. Honestly, the NFL could use all the good press it can get right now.

NBA Trade Deadline

The NBA Trade Deadline was supposed to be relatively quiet, with the possibility of a few trades. And it looked like that would be the case leading up to last Thursday’s deadline of 2 p.m. However, the league saw a number of trades come in at the last minute of the deadline. The trades came in fast and furious, but not all were as good as they seemed while others were better than you might think.

Starting from the first and possibly the most overlooked trade was Portland acquiring Arron Afflalo from Denver. With Afflalo, Portland bolsters their bench with a player who was averaging 14.5 points per game and is an excellent defender. Portland had to give up Thomas Robinson and Victor Claver plus a future first round pick, but I still think this was a huge win for Portland. A team who advanced to the second round in last year’s playoffs, returned their core group of guys, and are third in the Western conference added a veteran guard who can defend multiple positions and shoots the ball well. I’ll go ahead and say this trade puts Portland as a dark horse in the West. Why? Because they have a star point guard in Damian Lilliard, not to mention he might be a little pissed off for being an All-Star snub. Granted he was chosen as a replacement, but I still expect Lilliard to play with a chip on his shoulder the rest of the season. And let’s not forget Lamarcus Aldridge is playing at a high level despite his thumb injury. So with a healthy Robin Lopez and Afflalo coming off the bench, this team stacks up well with the West’s best.

The blockbuster trade that got way too much attention in my mind was Phoenix shipping Goran Dragic to Miami. Don’t get me wrong, Dragic is an excellent point guard, and he knows how to produce. But let’s not get carried away here. He isn’t going to help Miami contend for the title this year and most likely not anytime soon. Dragic is posting 16.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, and 3.6 rpg while sharing the point guard duties with Isiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe. However, I don’t think he is worth the max contract he will be offered this offseason or the two first round picks Miami gave up on top of some rotational players. He can’t lead a team by himself and essentially that’s why you pay a player the big time money. That’s what scares me for this Miami team, Dwayne Wade is in the latter half of his career, and Chris Bosh isn’t the same player he was in his prime. (There is a serious concern in Miami that Chris Bosh may miss the entire season due to blood clots in his lungs. It is a very serious issue, so we wish Chris Bosh the best in recovering.) Having said all this, Pat Riley is a genius when operating his teams so I might be completely wrong in saying Miami was on the losing end of this trade.

The trade I liked the most came from team that desperately needed help. And that was the Oklahoma City Thunder. A few days ago, I wrote about how they might acquire Brook Lopez but honestly, he wouldn’t be a fit for a team that runs lots of isolations for their guards and perimeter players. Lopez is a back to the basket type player and I don’t know how he would have gotten his touches in the OKC offense. But that trade didn’t surface out instead the Thunder acquired Enes Kanter from Utah and DJ Augustin and Kyle Singler from the Pistons. In my opinion, Oklahoma City got better overall value than getting Lopez. Kanter is a legit 7 footer averaging 14 ppg and 8 rpg this season. Not to mention he’s only 22 years old. He will slide right into OKC’s rotation with Adams out with injury and Perkins no longer there. This allows Serge Ibaka to play his natural power forward position and stretching the floow out with his perimeter shooting improving. Plus Augustin can fill Jackson’s role as backup point guard and Kyle Singler has proved he can be a solid bench contributor.

On the other hand of this trade, I love what Detroit did. Stan Van Gaundy quietly got himself a steal in Reggie Jackson. Detroit gave up next to nothing for a player who is about to get his chance to be a starter on a playoff contending team. But let’s forget about this season, and look to the future. Detroit has two great guards in Jackson and Brandon Jennings, and arguably the best young frontcourt in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe moving forward. If they can convince Monroe to sign long term after his contract expires after this season, watch out for the Pistons. Van Gaundy has done a great job in his first season operating the team and I look for him to continue to build momentum for the franchise.

Those are the trades that had impacts on contending teams making a final push for playoff jockeying. Oklahoma City and Portland solidified their roster needs to contend in the wild wild west. But there were was one trade that caught my eye and can have a huge impact for a franchise.

The trade that had every NBA fan reminiscing the old days was Kevin Garnett being sent back to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young. Obviously Minnesota is going nowhere this season, but Kevin Garnett could be a valuable pickup for them in terms of leadership and locker room presence. Minnesota might have the best core of young players in the league. Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, and Gogui Dieng are all young talented players still learning their way in this league. The Timberwolves were lacking a veteran leader who can mold these young players into stars. That’s where Kevin Garnett comes in play. KG could be the perfect mentor for these kids since he was thrown into the same fire of the NBA right out of high school. He knows what it takes to become a perennial All Star and win NBA championships. So kudos to the Minnesota front office for making this happen.

And then there was the random swap of point guards that took place. Milwaukee sent Brandon Knight to Phoenix, Phoenix sent Isaiah Thomas to Boston, and Philadelphia packaged reigning rookie of the year Michael Carter Williams to Milwaukee. Brandon Knight was playing very well this season, so I was particularly surprised that the Bucks let him go and brought in Michael Carter Williams. I’m interested to see how Jason Kidd and company can mold the young Carter Williams into a legit PG. Brandon Knight could be a good compliment to Eric Bledsoe down in Phoenix so that could be something to watch for. As for Isiah Thomas in Boston, I just don’t get it. Boston should be in full rebuild mode, and Marcus Smart was their draft pick who could use some playing time at the point guard position so why trade for Thomas who can only play point guard. Thomas also is owed plenty of money after signing a lucrative deal just this offseason so that’ll take a hit on Boston’s cap room. These teams all made the headlines for acquiring players but I’m not sure any of them actually won their respective trades. I guess time will tell with them.

But wait, that’s not all! There have been reports Kendrick Perkins will be bought out by the Utah Jazz and the front runner to sign him is, you guessed it, the Cleveland Cavaliers. He would be a great fit for Cleveland, coming off the bench and giving them valuable minutes defending and rebounding the ball effectively. A few other potential bought out players include Tayshaun Prince and Thomas Robinson who could both be a great addition to any team. So the deadline might have passed, but a few teams could still be adjusting their rosters here in the next few days to gear up for the postseason.

T.J. Ford, who played for Texas for two seasons, continues to make an impact by coaching an AAU team in Houston.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

T.J. Ford spent only two seasons in Austin.

In that short span of time, the young point guard managed to lead Texas to a Final Four appearance while earning himself the Naismith Trophy for college player of the year.

The NBA Draft selected Ford as No. 8 overall after he spent the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 seasons as a Longhorn. He faced high expectations, but some grisly injuries — combined with a spinal condition that made paralysis a real threat — meant ultimately, Ford could only play off and on for nine years. Still, he never lacked in heart and talent.  

“His work ethic was incredible,” said Ronnie Courtney, Ford’s high school coach. “His heart is probably as large as any heart you are ever going to find, in terms of wanting to be the best at what he was doing.”

Although he retired in 2012, Ford hasn’t stayed away from basketball. Now, instead of dishing out passes, Ford dishes out advice on ways to succeed on the court and beyond.

Today, Ford runs the TJ Ford Basketball Academy and an Amateur Athletic Union Program in Houston, his hometown. Ford works alongside Courtney and other Houston area coaches to help Houston-area children improve at 

basketball and, hopefully, land college scholarships. But Ford said his academy is about much more than the game. 

“Basketball’s just a vehicle for us to get things that we’re trying to get across to the kids,” Ford said. “It’s a lot of fun being able to help a lot of different kids from a lot of different ethnic groups and just show them what a family environment feels like. Every kid’s home situation is different.”                                                                         

Working with kids and running an AAU team was not Ford’s original plan when he first retired from the NBA.

“I was focusing more on NBA guys that I was training, that worked out with me for four to five years,” Ford said. “We had a couple high school kids that would come in and train with us and had great seasons, and it kind of just took off from there.”

Ford’s program already boasts a strong track record. and he is as good at working with seven-year-olds as he is working alongside NBA players. Twelve of his players already gone on to earn college scholarships.

Texas head coach Rick Barnes said nothing about Ford’s successes is surprising.

“He had a great knack at knowing how to … put [his teammates] in a position to be good,” Barnes said. “[T.J. was] a ‘people person,’ and he always wanted to learn.”

Soon after he retired, Ford was offered NBA coaching opportunities — but the allure of returning to basketball played at the highest level could not outweigh the thought of coaching the game at its very roots.

“I love working with kids,” Ford said. “Teaching the game is teaching the game, and I enjoy doing it with any age level.”

In addition, the love of teaching has called Ford back to the 40 Acres, where he is taking classes to complete his education degree. Ford, who hopes to complete his degree in the next year and a half, still heads back to Houston on the weekends to coach.

“This is an unbelievable place [where] I had some great experiences,” Ford said. “For me, it’s pretty fun just being back and walking the campus and actually just being a regular student.”

All-Star Weekend predictions

Fans of the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities can breathe a sigh of relief. The NBA has changed the format again from last year’s team concept for All-Star Weekend. Last year’s team concept did not bode well with the fans so they are modifying it once again. So hopefully we will get a more entertaining All-Star Weekend.

 

Lets start from the top: the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge. This year’s new format still features players in their first two years in the league. But it separates the top players by USA and World rosters. The World roster is featured by Andrew Wiggins (Canada) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), while the USA roster has Victor Oladipo and Michael-Carter Williams leading the way. The World Roster is filled with big men such as Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert that could give USA some trouble in the paint. However the guard play of USA is far superior than the World team’s, so I’ll give the slight edge to USA. 

Team USA wins this and Oladipo is crowned MVP. 

 

Next up, the Degree Shooting Stars Challenge. This one is quite simple, it comes down to who can knock down that half court shot fastest. Chris Bosh’s team is the defending champ but I think he loses that title this time around.

I’m taking team Westbrook which includes Russell Westbrook, Penny Hardaway, and Tamika Catchings to win this competition. 

 

Now the fun starts. The Taco Bell Skills Challenge features quick and speedy guards from across the league and showcases their skills in an obstacle course. The format has players going head to head in a bracket style tournament. Another change has the obstacle course ending in a three pointer. That is a big game changer as it eliminates some players right away.

Give me Jeff Teague in this event. He may not be the quickest of the bunch, I’ll give that to John Wall, but he will be able to make the passes and finish the three pointer rather quickly. 

 

Probably the most anticipated event of the entire weekend is this year’s Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. Participants include the Splash Brothers, Wes Matthews, JJ Redick, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Mr. Automatic Kyle Korver (we need to get him a nickname), and defending champ Marco Belinelli. The field is said to be the greatest of all-time by many. It includes the top five players in three pointers made so far in the season. So picking this apart will be difficult, because how do you separate the best of the best? Well I’ll go with the process of elimination and say Belinelli won’t repeat and Wesley Matthews doesn’t seem like he can hang with the big names. Plus I don’t like the idea of him going first. As for Curry, arguably the best shooter in the game, I don’t think his game translates to the three point contest so he’s out. Harden and Irving face the same problem.  They aren’t much of spot up shooters, they create their own three point shots. JJ Redick is my dark horse pick, because honestly if he didn’t shoot so well he wouldn’t be in the league right now. Which leaves Klay Thompson, who has my favorite shooting stroke in the league, and Mr. Automatic himself. Both are great spot up shooters and both can light it up on any given night. 

Its a toss up between these two but I’ll give the nod to Thompson winning it all. Its hard to bet against a dude that dropped 37 points in one quarter. 

 

To wrap up the Saturday night events comes the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. It is usually my favorite event to watch however in recent year’s it has been a disappointment to say the least. Again this year we are stuck with no big name players. However one of my favorite players to watch, Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo is pretty intriguing but I think his frame and size prevents him from doing a dunk appealing in a contest. Having said that, if there was a contest for posterizing players, he’d be at the top of my list. Mason Plumlee has the same problem, I don’t like the idea of having a big 7-footer in the dunk contest. We don’t care about how powerful of a dunker you are, its about finesse and don’t tell me Plumlee has finesse. 

I’ve seen Oladipo throw it down plenty during games and he has the creativity but the rookie Zach Lavine is my pick to win it. And if you have any doubts, just search Zach Lavine’s highlights on youtube, you won’t be disappointed. The kid can fly. 

 

Last but not least, the All Star game itself. Its a fifty fifty bet on who wins since it’s the best of the best, and honestly it doesn’t really matter who wins. 

But I just like the Western Conference roster a bit more

And the fact that overall, the West is so much better than the East tells me the West will win. And I’ll go ahead and appoint Anthony Davis as the MVP. I think he will get plenty of easy dunks early on, snatch a good deal of rebounds, and block quite a bit of shots. And yes, I believe this is foreshadowing for Anthony Davis. He has plenty of MVP’s coming his way soon. The dude will be the dominant force in the NBA within 2 years. 

NBA midseason predictions

The NBA season has lived up to all the preseason hype that surrounded it.

Midway through the season, we have seen a triple overtime game, Klay Thompson break the NBA record for points in a quarter with 37, and so far the top three teams in each conference have never won a title, which could be a compelling story come playoff time. But with the season halfway done, lets look at some predictations: 

Eastern Conference

Before the season started, the biggest prediction fans had was that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls would clash in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fans and even analysts knew better than to say the Wizards or the Hawks (yes the Atlanta Hawks) would be the top two seeds in the conference come All Star break. So what is happening in the East?

Well, Cleveland struggled out of the gate. But to be fair, it isn’t easy starting the season with a rookie head coach, a reloaded roster, and the abundance of expectations the team faced. However, now that Lebron is healthy and J.R. Smith and Mozgov seem to have found their place on the team, the Cavs have won seven straight. Still in my opinion, they can’t win with this current roster. A big part of their problem is that Kevin Love doesn't fit in their roster. He seems misused and even lost at certain times.

On the other side, Chicago can’t seem to avoid the injury bug, but thankfully Derrick Rose is slowly looking to be back to normal. This season Noah, McDermott, and Dunleavy have continuously missed games due to injury.

However, if the Bulls can get healthy, they are still my favorite to win the East. They have a point guard in Rose that has veteran experience and they have the biggest frontline in the NBA in Noah along with a rejuvenated Gasol and a high energy Taj Gibson. With rookie Nikola Mirotic finding his groove in the rotation and Jimmy Butler a clear cut favorite for most improved player, this team can be dangerous come playoff time.

But wait, I almost forgot the top three teams in the conference. Atlanta has been a great storyline thus far. No superstar on the roster, and yet they are currently on top of the East riding a 17 game win streak. Sorry to break your hearts Hawks fans, but I don’t see this team representing the East in the Finals. Simply put, they don’t have a go to player. We haven’t seen a team without a superstar win since the Pistons did it in 2004. Next the Wizards. Again, this team has the pieces to be a contender in the next few years. They’re just too young right now. But the backcourt of Wall and Beal will continue to be one of the dominant duos in the NBA. As for the Raptors, there is just no big men on that team that can bang with the Hawks or Bulls come playoff time. So have fun during the regular season, because come playoff time your team will come just a bit short.

Western Conference

Lets just start off by saying the Oklahoma City Thunder sit at 10th in the Western and two games out of the 8th and final spot. That right there should tell you how crazy the West has been this year. Quite frankly, a three-game losing streak can drop you from third place to 7th place very easily. So how can I possibly distinguish who are actually contenders and who are just not there yet.

Well I’m going to start off by saying, the defending champ Spurs will be just fine. Kawhi Leonard is back and slowly they are finding their groove. And nobody is better than resting their players during the regular season to keep fresh during the playoffs than Gregg Popovich.

Next, the Golden State Warriors have been arguably the most impressive team this year. Stephen Curry is the leading candidate for MVP and Klay Thompson is cementing himself as a true star in this league. Not to mention, Steve Kerr has these guys playing stifling defense. Draymond Green has played himself into consideration for a max contract this offseason. Plus, having home court advantage throughout the playoffs can be huge for a Warriors team that is 21-2 at home.

Sitting at second is my pick to win it all. And here’s why. The Memphis Grizzlies might be the most balanced team in the NBA. They have the strongest frontcourt duo in the NBA with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Mike Conley is having a career year. With the addition of Jeff Green, they got a versatile player who can defend multiple positions and knows how to put the ball in the basket.  They have the league’s third best defense in points allowed. If they can acquire one more solid bench player near the deadline, they will be the team to beat come playoff time. Moving along, Portland unfortunately had its chances cut short when Lamarcus Aldridge injured his thumb which requires surgery. Even with him delaying surgery, there’s no telling how much his game will be altered while playing through pain.

Now the next few teams in the West, Clippers, Rockets, Mavericks, all have one flaw that scares me. They rely on the jump shot, way too much. Yes, Harden is playing at an MVP caliber but where has his “Robin” Dwight Howard been? Harden can’t and won’t do it alone. For the Clippers its simple, there’s no depth. The addition of Austin Rivers seems a bit bizarre with a team that needs much more help. And for the Mavericks, Rajon Rondo hasn’t been the missing piece. Actually he’s been the opposite. They are now 11-9 since acquiring him. Yeah that sure was a “blockbuster” trade, Cuban.

So in my prediction, we will be seeing the Memphis Grizzlies versus the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals this season. And the ultimate winner? The Grizzlies. Even after saying all that, what do I know? Except that there is plenty more basketball to be played, and so many more factors that can alter the playoff picture. But for now, this Memphis team looks poised to make a deep run.
 

Barnes boosts strong recruiting board

Longhorns basketball Coach Rick Barnes made waves last year when he landed five-star recruit from the Class of 2014, Myles Turner. Turner, the seven-foot center from Trinity High School in Bedford chose the Longhorns over Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, Arizona, and Kentucky. Considering the lengthy historical success of the aforementioned programs -- as well as their standing as traditional college basketball powers -- many viewed the commitment of Turner to Texas to be a surprise.

Barnes continued his strong recruiting efforts this year, as thus far he has snagged four-star guards Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach from the Class of 2015 and looks to bring fellow guard Admon Gilder to the Longhorns program as well. 

While the recruitments of Turner and Davis were to some unexpected, when looking at Barnes’ recruiting track record, they are from an anomaly. Barnes holds one of the more impressive resumes in all of college basketball when it comes to producing pro prospects, and in his time at Texas, Barnes has amassed an astounding list of players that have come through the Longhorn program to make it to the NBA.

The 2014-2015 season will be Barnes’ 17th season with the Longhorns, and in that time Barnes has had 17 players drafted into the NBA. There are ten Longhorns currently active on NBA rosters, the eighth highest of any program in the country, and second in the Big 12, trailing only Kansas.  

Most notable of the NBA players to come out of Texas is Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. This upcoming season will be Durant’s eighth year in the league, and in that time Thunder star won one MVP award for his play during the 2013-2014 season, and has already won the scoring title four times, trailing only Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.  

During Barnes’ tenure as the Longhorns head coach, he has produced players with a laundry list of accomplishments. Among the players to come through the Longhorns program under Barnes are nine first-round draft picks, five top-ten picks, two NBA champions in Dexter Pittman and Cory Joseph, two NBA All-Stars in Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge and one NBA MVP in Kevin Durant. 

As a recruiter, Barnes plays to his strengths. While the Texas program may not have as much history as Kansas or as much NCAA tournament success as Duke, it has proved time and again that it is capable of producing quality NBA talent. If Barnes is able to continue his run of getting players to the NBA, the recruits will keep coming, and the Longhorns program will remain a collegiate basketball power. 

Former Texas point guard Terrence Rencher racked up 2,306 points and 440 assists in his four years with the Longhorns.

Photo Credit: Ted S. Warren | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part of a weekly series looking back at past Texas athletes and where they are now. This week features former men’s basketball shooting guard Terrence Rencher, who played for Texas from 1991-1995.

Since he was a kid, Terrence Rencher has been checking off the boxes on his to-do list.

Be Mr. New York Basketball: Check.

Play college basketball: Check.

Become Texas’ all-time leading scorer: Check.

Make the NBA: Check.

“I am a big dreamer,” said Rencher, a shooting guard. “I see myself doing things before I get to that point.”

Growing up in the Bronx borough of New York City, Rencher knew more about college basketball than other kids. He knew the programs, the players and the coaches. It wasn’t until he was in 11th grade, after seeing the “Runnin’ Horns” beat DePaul on national television, that Rencher began to consider Texas.

“I enjoyed watching them play,” Rencher said. “The guards were having fun and had free reign to make plays.”

So, when it came time to be recruited, Rencher reached out to then-Texas head coach Tom Penders, and, before he knew it, he was playing in Austin. After starting all four years at Texas, he quietly became Texas’ all-time leading scorer with 2,306 points and 440 assists.

“The NBA was just another step in my progression,” Rencher said. “I didn’t think of it as a big deal or a one-in-a-billion situation. I just felt I’d have that opportunity at some point.”

He was taken 32nd overall by the Washington Bullets before a draft-day trade sent 

him to Miami. Then, midway through his rookie season, he was dealt to the Suns, where his NBA career came to a halt. His rookie season saw him playing just 11 minutes a game and scoring fewer than 3 points a contest. So, with that, his overseas journey began. He played in Italy, Croatia, Germany, Israel and Greece.

“In a way, it was a step back because it wasn’t the NBA,” Rencher said. “At the same time, my NBA experience wasn’t a whole lot of playing time. I was excited about going to Europe and being a contributor.”

Rencher quickly learned the atmosphere was different abroad than in the states — especially when you’re the star.

When he hit a game-winner in a KK Split Euroleague Playoff game, the Croatian fans began to toss his wife up and down in the stands to celebrate.

“We stopped going out after that because we kept being recognized,” Rencher said.  

By 2007, at age 34, the Longhorn legend, who had claimed MVP honors in Italy and Germany, began to feel the wear and tear of a lifetime of basketball. He knew he had a few more years left in the tank, but he was itching to rejoin his wife and daughter, who had moved back to the United States.

“I was alone without my family,” Rencher said.

The next chapter of Rencher’s life started with finishing his degree.While in Austin, he began his “natural progression” into coaching. He assisted with the Texas team as a student-mentor and was the head coach and basketball program director at the Regents School of Austin.

Then, after graduating, he found himself on the sidelines as a graduate assistant for Rick Majerus at Saint Louis University.

Rencher has since bounced around, going from Tulsa to Texas State to Sam Houston State and then back to San Marcos as an assistant coach, where he is today.

But there’s still some more check boxes left unmarked.  

While the next one is to coach in the NCAA tournament, one is bigger than the rest — to be a head coach.

“I don’t think any good coach gets into the business to be an assistant his whole career,” Rencher said. “I want to have the opportunity to run my own program. That’s the big box left unchecked.”

James' move to Cleveland more about money than basketball

ESPN and TNT fended off other TV competitors to retain rights to broadcast NBA games for the next nine years. This deal was a reported 2.66 billion dollars a year by New York Times. The deal is worth nearly 3 times as much as the old deal. So where does this extra money being generated go to?

 

That’s a question LeBron James and the players association want answered fast. When the NBA went into the lockout in 2011, the owners and players signed a new CBA for five years, so this is set to expire in two more years. Which means there will be plenty of more negotiating between the two sides on where this extra revenue will be going.

 

The reason James signed only a two year deal with Cleveland had nothing to do with basketball but everything to do with money. James absolutely knew there would be a new TV deal producing much more money. If everything goes accordingly, James and other top free agents will be able to sign longer deals for more money.

 

This much revenue could open the door to baseball like contracts for the NBA. For example, Albert Pujols signed a 10 year, 240 million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Angels in 2012. However under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, players can only sign a max of five years with their current team, or four years should they choose to sign with another team.  

 

James realizes how instrumental this can be in terms of players’ ability to capitalize when negotiating contracts. He also understands if the owners and National Basketball Players Association don’t start discussing a potential deal, the NBA could see another long lockout in 2016.


The reason the lockout lasted 161 days in 2011 was the owners claiming they were losing money. Now with the way NBA franchises have been selling and of course the money produced by this TV deal, no way that argument still stands. Hopefully the fans and certainly the players don’t have to go through another lockout.

Why to follow the NHL

As you may have noticed, both the NBA and NFL have had their share of controversies. The NBA has dealt with two racist owners, former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson, and the NFL is continuing to deal with a storm of incompetence and player misdeeds. However, the NHL has kept its nose clean. Basically, what I'm saying is that, if you want a guilt-free sports entertainment experience, watch and follow the NHL.  But, of course there are more reasons why you should divert your attention from the controversial NBA and NFL and instead pay attention to the NHL.

First of all, the sport is absolutely insane. Thanks to 45 second shifts for players, an average speed of 23 mph for skaters (compared to 16 mph for an average NFL running back), and a hard, rubber puck flying around, there is plenty of pandemonium to be in awe of. All game long, mobs of players crash the nets attempting to get the puck out of trouble or into the net. All game long, skaters are looking to grab the puck on a breakaway after a failed line change. And, all game long, fans are kept at the edge of their seats. For the fan who is bored by constant commercials in the NFL and never-ending timeouts and fouls at the end of NBA games, the NHL is definitely the sport for you. There is beauty in the chaos.


Another reason to like hockey? Canadians are nice. That sounds weird, but hockey is Canada’s gift to the world and its players are incredibly likable. Take for example, superstar player Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. After being named the EA Sports NHL 15 cover athlete, he still went home to Quebec in the summer to raise $100,000 for children in his native city. So, while he could have basked in the glow of his achievements, he instead chose to give back to the community. This example of Patrice Bergeron is not an isolated case, but one that exemplifies the effort hockey players give off the ice.

The biggest reason to like hockey has to be the playoffs and the chase for the best trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup. As soon as the regular season ends, players on playoff teams start growing their beards and getting ready for the most intense playoff experience in sports. Players play differently in the playoffs, as they are more aggressive offensively, defend more tightly, and hit more often. The NHL playoffs are most definitely an intense experience. And this doesn’t even take into account the anxiety and emotion fans feel as their team bears down in the final minutes of an elimination game that has gone into overtime. Oh, and don’t forget about that Stanley Cup. It’s huge, weighs about 35 pounds, and players cannot wait to put it above their head in triumph after a hard-fought playoff run. Ordinary players are made heroes when their names are engraved into the trophy after winning it all. The Cup is everything.

If any of this sounds good (and it should), you’re in luck. You can start the NHL season fresh as it returns in a few weeks on Oct. 8. 

 

 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Kevin Durant never saw himself being anything less than great in the NBA.

“I just don’t want to be a player in the NBA; I want to have an impact,” Durant said in an April 2007 press conference when he announced his decision to leave Texas after one season and declare for the NBA draft.

On Tuesday, his impact was felt more than ever.

Durant was named the NBA’s 2013-2014 Most Valuable Player award winner Tuesday, earning 119 of a possible 125 first-place votes. For the five-time All-Star, it is the first of his career, and the first ever by a former Texas Longhorn.

“Our entire basketball family is so proud of Kevin and this well-deserved honor,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said on Tuesday. “Knowing Kevin, he will consider this a team award.”

Long before Barnes ever brought Durant to Texas in 2006, the 6-foot-9 small forward was just a kid learning the game in the street courts of Maryland.

A child in a single parent home growing up, Durant spent his childhood bouncing around from apartment to apartment with his brother and mom. Basketball became his outlet, as well as his family’s backbone. It’s this part of his life that stood out in his acceptance speech on Tuesday.

“The odds were stacked against us,” Durant said through tears as he looked to his mom, Wanda, who was in the crowd and had Durant when she was only 21. “Everybody told us we weren’t supposed to be here … when something good happens to you, I tend to look back to what brought me here.”

Durant played for three different high schools as a teenager, including Oak Hill Academy. He transferred to Montrose Christian School for his senior season, where by the conclusion of his time there, was the MVP of the 2006 McDonald’s All American Game. He was widely regarded by many as the second-best high school prospect of 2006, behind Lawrence North’s Greg Oden, and had committed to Texas prior to starting his senior campaign.

In his one season with the Longhorns, Durant had one of the best individual seasons in school history.

He became the first freshman in NCAA history to earn consensus National Player of the Year honors, and remains one of only two freshmen (Anthony Davis in 2012) to ever accomplish such a feat.

That year, Durant led the Big 12 Conference in scoring (25.8 ppg), rebounding (11.1 rpg) and blocked shots (67). He was the only player to rank in the Top 10 nationally in both scoring (fourth) and rebounding (fourth).

But perhaps what he’s most remembered for as a Longhorn are the memories he left at the university seven years ago.

Games like the double overtime contest against Texas A&M, when Durant had 30 points and hit three free throws in the final moments of overtime to give the Longhorns the 98-96 victory.

Most Longhorns fans won’t choose to remember the Durant that led the team to a disappointing second-round loss in the NCAA tournament that year. They’ll choose to remember the Durant that created a magical environment at the Frank Erwin Center. The Durant that would hit impossible three-pointers from the corner and the Durant that would effortlessly slam down alley-oops.

Durant changed Texas basketball, and the program's decision to retire his No. 35 jersey is proof of that. It’s no surprise that he’s had just as much success at the pro level as he did in college.

This season in the NBA, Durant, a four-time All NBA First Team player, averaged an NBA-best 32 points and 7.4 rebounds per game during the regular season. He won his fourth scoring title in five years, something only Michael Jordan, George Gervin and Wilt Chamberlain have done before. He also became the first player since Allen Iverson in 2000 to win both the MVP and scoring title in the same year.   

Durant led the Thunder to a 59-23 record this season, the second best in the league, and has his team in the second round of the playoffs after a 33-point showing in game seven against the Memphis Grizzles to end the first round.

“Basketball is just a platform for me to inspire people.” Durant said at Tuesday's award ceremony. “I play first off because I love it. As a second-grader, I had a Grant Hill jersey. That’s the first time I walked into a gym. And that’s where I fell in love with the game.”

That love has propelled Durant to places he even acknowledges he wasn’t supposed to have reached as a poor child in Maryland: high school prominence, the Texas Longhorns, the NBA and now, the most valuable player in the best basketball league in the world.