Friday, May 25, 2012

Top 5 Point Guards Of All time

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Magic Johnson's skills, leadership, and determination make him the greatest point guard of all time.
After a debate with someone online, I'd like to make my case for the top five point guards of all time.

Honorable Mention: Steve Nash, Clyde Frazier, Allen Iverson, Tiny Archibald, Bob Cousy

5. Jason Kidd

Kidd has been the greatest point guard of the century. His height and strength (6 ft 4 in, 210 lbs) combined with his skills (13 points and nine assists per game) give him this prestigious rank. Kidd won co-Rookie of the Year with Grant Hill in '95. In addition, Kidd is a 10-time All-Star, six-time All NBA team member, and nine-time All Defense team member.

Kidd is second all-time in steals with 2,559, trailing only John Stockton. He is second all-time in assists with 11,842, and again only trails Stockton. Kidd has also made the third most 3-point field goals in history with 1,874. He won two olympic gold medals ('02, '08), and also won his first NBA championship last year with the Dallas Mavericks. When thinking about Jason Kidd, think about one of the most well-rounded point guards to ever play the game. He has over 100 career triple-doubles, and is still going strong at age 39.

4. John Stockton

Arguably the greatest point guard of the 90's once Magic retired, Stockton was the king of the pick and roll with teammate Karl Malone. Every year, Stockton and Malone's Jazz teams would find themselves in the top three of the Western Conference standings. Stockton was a 10-time All-Star, and even won All-Star Game MVP in '93. His lifetime averages are 13.1 points and 10.5 assists per game. How many guards can say they averaged a double-double for their career?  In addition, Stockton won two gold medals in the olympics in '92 and '96. Stockton's one problem was that he and Malone never won a championship. In all their years of winning 50+ games, the Jazz could never capture the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Stockton is the all-time leader in assists with 15,806, and also holds the record for the most assists per game in a single season with 14.5. He is also one of three players all time to have at least 1,000 assists in a season (in fact, he did it seven times). On the defensive end, Stockton is the all-time leader in steals with 3,265. Think of him as a smaller, and more efficient version of Jason Kidd.

3. Isiah Thomas

When the younger generation thinks of Isiah Thomas, they think of the terrible GM and head coach that ruined the New York Knicks (along with owner Jim Dolan). What the younger generation doesn't know is that "Zeke" was one of the greatest point guards ever.

Unlike the first two guards on the list, Thomas was one of the best scoring point guards to ever play the position. One could actually argue that Thomas was ahead of his generation, and that his playing style compares to the styles of guards today like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Thomas' lifetime averages are 19.2 points and 9.3 assists per game. He was a 12-time All-Star and won All-Star MVP twice in '84 and '86. He was a five-time All-NBA team member, and was considered one of Michael Jordan's few rivals.

What separates Thomas from Kidd and Stockton was that he was a winner. Thomas won at the college level (Indiana Hoosier 1981 National Champions) and won twice as a pro. Isiah led the "Bad Boy" Pistons to two NBA Championships in '89 and '90. As Bill Simmons loves to write about, Isiah Thomas understood "The Secret". Thomas understood basketball better than anyone during his playing time, and used it to his advantage. Despite being just 6 ft 1 in and 180 lbs, Thomas was one of the toughest and feistiest point guards ever.

2. Oscar Robertson

Talk about playing ahead of his generation, Oscar Robertson was one of the most forward-thinking players to ever play in the NBA, regardless of any position. Statistically speaking, Oscar Roberston was the most talented point guard to ever play the game. Roberston's career numbers are 25.7 points, 9.5 assists, and 7.5 rebounds per game. The Big O was the most well-rounded player of all time. In fact, Robertson is the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season. Robertson averaged over 30 points per game in six of his first seven seasons, and also was in the top five for assists per game.

As for accolades, The Big O was a 12-time All-Star, three-time All-Star Game MVP ('61, '64, '69), and nine-time All-NBA team member. He won the 1961 Rookie of the Year award, and was awarded the MVP in 1964. Despite all his talent, Oscar only won one NBA championship.

Oscar was also a very special player because of what he had to deal with on and off the court. Robertson played in the '60s when racism was still very present in the US. He was harassed by opponents, hecklers, and even his own teammates during his career. Robertson's struggles off the court could have led to his temper on the court, which was the only negative part of his entire game.

The Big O should be remembered as one of the most talented players of all time. He won an olympic gold medal, an NBA championship, and almost every individual award The Association has. His playing style was decades ahead of his time, and his career averages were elite.

1. Magic Johnson

Was there any doubt in your mind that Magic WOULDN'T be #1? His leadership, skills, ability to win, and perseverance make him the greatest point guard of all-time. Magic dominated in college and in the NBA.

After winning an NCAA basketball championship against his lifetime rival Larry Bird, Magic entered the NBA and dominated from the start. He won his first of five NBA championships in his rookie season, and is the only player ever to win Finals MVP in a rookie season. Johnson along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ran the "Showtime Lakers"for a decade, winning five NBA championship together.

Johnson was a 12-time All-Star, and won All-Star Game MVP twice ('90 and '92). He was also a member of the All-NBA team 10 times. He won three regular season MVP's ('87, '89, '90) and three NBA Finals MVP's ('80, '82, '87).

Magic's career averages were 19.5 points, 11.1 assists, and 7.2 rebounds per game. He holds the NBA record for most assists per game. If his career wasn't cut short due to being diagnosed with HIV, Magic's numbers could have been even more incredible than they already were. Magic won an olympic medal with the Dream Team in '92, after being retired from the NBA at the time.

At 6 ft 9in, and 255 lbs, Magic Johnson was the most unique point guard of all time. In fact, we may never see another point guard like Magic. Earvin "Magic" Johnson will go down as the greatest point guard to ever play the game of basketball, because of his incredible stats both individually and as a teammate, his leadership, and his determination both on and off the court.

What's Wrong With The New York Yankees?

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A-Rod homered twice last game, but the Yankees need more from their star 3rd baseman.
Rodriguez has only seven home runs this season, and is batting under .300.

With about a quarter of the season in the books, the Yankees find themselves just one game above the Red Sox for last place in the AL East.

What?! How could the Yankees and Red Sox both be at the bottom of the standings with 40 games already played? Usually the two teams are near the top of the standings, with the Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles trailing, but this year the standings are flipped.

So how could this happen?

The first obvious reason for the Yankees' early struggles is their injuries.

Mariano Rivera went down with a season ending torn ACL before he could even play in 10 games. Rivera was shagging fly balls during batting practice, when he fell awkwardly and grimaced in pain.

Mo's injury left a hole at the closer position. Initially, the Yankees moved David Robertson to closer, since he had been pitching well, but then Robertson got injured himself.

Robertson hasn't pitched in two weeks, and is still on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique. Robertson's oblique has been feeling better, but Girardi is still locking him down until he is 100% healthy. He will likely return in the beginning of June.

The Yankees have also missed starting left fielder Brett Gardner, who has been out since mid-April with an elbow injury. Fortunately for the Yankees, Gardner should be back in the lineup soon. While Raul Ibanez has been playing good baseball in Gardner's spot, Andruw Jones has been playing poorly in left field. Ideally, the Yankees would like to play Ibanez at DH, and slide Gardner back to left field.

The next reason for the Yankees' early struggles is their pitching.

With the exception of CC Sabathia, the Yankees' starting pitching has been horrendous. The Yankees rank in the bottom third of the league in almost all pitching categories. New York ranks 22nd in ERA (4.13), 24th in WHIP (1.36), 24th in BA (.264), and 27th in quality starts with just 17. That means that in over 40 games, the Yankees have had quality starts from their pitchers in less than half the games.

How should the Yankees expect to win games if they are giving up the 10th most runs in the league?

Specifically, Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda have been absolutely atrocious. Hughes is 4-5 with an ERA of 4.94, while Kuroda is 3-6 with an ERA of 4.56. In addition, Ivan Nova, who had a streak of 17 straight wins at one point, has an ERA of 5.69. Nova can't expect to win games when he's giving up nearly six runs a game.

Good news for the Yankees is that Andy Pettitte is backing and pitching well. In three starts, Pettitte has had two quality starts, and has the lowest ERA on the team. Also, the Yankees' bullpen has been solid so far, with Robertson and Rafael Soriano both pitching well.

The next problem for the Yankees is their bats.

With the exception of Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and occasionally Nick Swisher, the Yankees' bats have been almost as bad as their pitching. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira have all been missing in action this season. The Yankees' three, four, and five hitters respectively are all batting under .300, all have under eight home runs, and have combined for less than 60 RBI's so far.

The Yankees aren't scoring, because when Jeter and Granderson get one base, no one can bat them in.

The bottom of the Yankees' lineup has been just as bad as the middle of their lineup. Russell Martin, who got off to a fantastic start last season, has been miserable from the plate this season. Martin is batting just .173, and has only four home runs and 10 RBI's.

New York's bats have been decent so far, but with the lack of pitching, they need to produce more runs in order to win games.

And believe it or not, a big contributor to the Bombers' early season struggles is their schedule.

Who would have thought that playing the Orioles and Blue Jays would give them so many problems. The Yankees are just 9-9 in divisional games this season. In addition to a tough division schedule, they have already played the Rangers, Tigers, Reds, and Angels.

The Yankees, who are 4-6 in their last 10 games, have a series coming up with the A's before they travel to LA and Detroit to play the Angels and Tigers again. Their upcoming road-trip is the longest of their season so far.

Fans shouldn't be too worried about the Yankees, who are 23-21. Eventually the Orioles and Blue Jays will cool down, and the Yankees will only have to worry about the Rays and Red Sox. Also, the Yankees will be getting a few players back from the DL in early June, which should help them win more games.

The most important aspects of turning around the season though, are getting quality starts from starting pitchers, and getting production from Cano, A-Rod, and Teixeira at the plate. Manager Joe Girardi needs to keep the team focused during this upcoming road-trip if the Yankees want to make a push for the top of the standings.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

New York Rangers Advance To First Eastern Conference Finals In 15 Years

(Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Rangers are headed to their first conference finals appearance since 1997. 

The New York Rangers will advance to their first Eastern Conference finals appearance in 15 years after defeating the Washington Capitals in a Game 7 thriller.

The 2-1 victory was their second Game 7 victory of the postseason, after defeating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in the first round. Now, the Rangers will face off against their cross-Hudson rivals, the New Jersey Devils.

The Rangers knew they needed to score first if they wanted to beat the Capitals. The Rangers' three wins leading up to Game 7 all came when scoring first, while the Capitals' three wins came when they scored first.

The offensively challenged Rangers turned it around in Game 7, scoring just a minute and a half into the game. Rookie Carl Hagelin chased down the puck behind the net, and found Brad Richards for a one-timer. Richards' goal was his sixth of the postseason.

The Rangers dominated play in the first period, but Capitals goalie Braden Holtby wasn't letting anything else by him.

The Capitals came out strong in the second period, but couldn't catch a break. Vezina nominee Henrik Lundqvist denied everything that came his way. Washington got its best chance of the game at the nine minute mark of the second period when the Rangers were unable to get a line switch. For about three minutes, the Capitals' top line was drilling shots at the goal, but none of them got by Lundqvist.

After a scoreless second period, New York went back on the attack and outshot Washington 11-4 in the final period. With about ten minutes to play, defensemen Michael Del Zotto gave the Rangers a two-goal lead. Del Zotto received a crisp pass from forward Marian Gaborik, and sniped the puck past goalie Braden Holtby.

New York's two goal lead would be brief though, with the Capitals responding just a mere 38 seconds later. With Lundqvist screened in front of the net, Roman Hamrlik was able to get the puck past the all-star goalie.

The Rangers' defense wouldn't slip for the rest of the game though. Despite just a few minutes left in their season, the Capitals were unable to get the puck out of their zone. Washington's defensive struggles didn't allow them to pull Holtby until a minute left to play. The extra attacker didn't help though, as the Rangers continued to keep the puck in Washington's zone. With just seconds left, the Capitals were unable to get a shot off, giving the Rangers the win.

Henrik Lundqvist raised his arms in joy. He knew just as well as anyone else in the building that he played an MVP-like game. He finished the game with 22 saves.

While Henk played a stellar game, it was Richards who got the Rangers going early on. Richards' goal gave the Rangers the momentum boost they needed after losing it all following a Game 6 loss.

The puck drops against the Devils Monday night for Game 1. The Rangers defeated the Devils  four times this season, with the Devils defeating the Rangers just once. The Rangers know they have the Devils' number, but they can't get too confident.

The Rangers will need more offense if they want to make their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1994. While the first line has been productive, the Rangers need more offense from Callahan, Boyle, Anisimov, and Stepan, who have all slouched lately. Brandon Dubinsky will also look to return to the ice after being a scratch the past few games.

The New Jersey Devils are playing the best hockey of their season. Future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur shut down the redhot Flyers in five games. Offensively, the Devils have had no problem, as they averaged nearly four goals a game last series. Lundqvist is a much better goalie than Bryzgalov, but the Rangers' defense is up for a tough task.

It will come down to the Rangers' forwards though if they want to get by the Devils. Even with Lundqvist in net, the Rangers need to play aggressive hockey if they want to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.