Contentious on the Court: Referees vs Players

It’s no secret that the relationship between the NBA players and the referees this season has been contentious. Just recently, Kevin Durant was ejected in his team’s win over the Knicks. He initially accused the refs of ‘picking on him’, but after having time to cool off he apologized for his remarks. But really, this is nothing compared to what’s been happening all season.

Technicals and Ejections for Everyone!curry

So far this season, we have witnessed some new faces become a part of the technical foul and ejection club. An emotional Steph Curry was ejected earlier this season for throwing his mouthpiece in the direction of an official. Durant has also been ejected a number of times this season after having some outbursts over foul calls. Even LeBron James has been ejected this season for ‘charging’ at an official. Russell Westbrook was recently ejected for arguing a no call when he clearly got fouled. I know this isn’t all of them, but they are notable to say the least. I’m sure Draymond Green and Boogie Cousins are also shocked, considering they are usually the ones who lead the league in technicals and ejections. Though, Green has expressed his frustration with the refs, saying basically they should all be fired. He isn’t the only one; many of the players have been vocal about the refs, but out of respect for Commissioner Silver they have tried to rein it in.

Tension with Refs Leads to Tension with Each other?clips rocks feud

All of this pent up tension with the refs has to be released somehow right? Well, maybe that’s what we can attribute all of the altercations among the players to. There has been a lot of chippy play (and pettiness) going on around the league, leading some ‘fights’. NBA players don’t really fight; they just exchange words and get in each other’s face, except for Aaron Afflalo of course. Anyways, it seems most of that pent up emotion was released on MLK Day. In just about every game someone had an issue, but the most memorable was the Rockets-Clippers showdown. Only two people out of the possible five that could have been punished were suspended. The whole situation makes you wonder: do players take it out on one another because they can’t fully express themselves with the refs? I think that may be the case.

Building Rapport

There is obviously no type of trust or understanding amongst the new refs and the players. The players no longer have that group of refs that they’ve built relationships with over the years, which means they can no longer get by on minor violations, like travelling or a double dribble. These new refs call EVERYTHING, but they sometimes miss the big ones, and that’s where the frustration comes from. Hopefully this meeting at the All-Star break will result in some positive changes from both parties.

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Super Bowl Rematch

The Eagles are getting a chance at redemption for their Super Bowl XXXIX loss to the Patriots. Although this is their 3rd trip overall, the fact that they get another chance at Brady makes it even sweeter for them. With about a week left before the big game, let’s quickly recap both teams’ journeys.

Pat’s Path to SBsb nation

Most will say the Patriots got lucky in their pursuit of making it back to the SB. In the regular season, they got a lot of calls to go their way, like three overturned TDs called against their opponents. Then in the postseason, they were fortunate enough to get the Titans and the Jaguars. But let’s be real, the Jaguars WERE a challenge and unlike any defense they had been up against all season. In the end, the Jags committed too many penalties and Brady took advantage. After losing Gronkowski, Amendola and Cooks came up big for this team. And let’s not forget the defense, who stepped up in the second half and held the Jags to just 6 points. It was a hard fought, well deserved win by the Pats no matter what Max Kellerman has to say.

Eagle’s Path to SBphilly

The only reason the Eagles even made it into the playoffs was because of Carson Wentz. Fortunately for them, he played long enough to get them the number one seed, home field advantage and a bye. And just like everyone else, I wrote them off as ‘one and done’ with Foles at QB. I mean, it was just the logical thing to assume considering how he played down the stretch to close out the season. And his performance against the Falcons… all he did was ‘manage’ that game. But when Minnesota came to town, a miracle happened. Foles was out there looking like Wentz! They defeated Minnesota in a blowout, exposing their defense and proving to be Keenum’s kryptonite. The Eagles were great in all facets of that game, proving that being the underdog can be a source of motivation instead of an insult.

Who Wins It All?

In the regular season, the Patriots led the league in total offense with 394.2 yards per game. The Eagles were 4th in total defense, holding opponents to an average of 306.5 yards. Now, Tom Brady was able to defeat the #2 overall defense (and #1 passing defense) in the Jaguars, so I think he can handle the Eagles. Though, Philly did have the #1 run defense so they got that going for them. But really, I just don’t see Foles pulling off another performance like the one in the NFC Championship Game. Though, even if he is able to get going early, that New England defense is notorious for taking away all hope in the second half. As a New England native, I’m obviously going to take the Patriots. They have the QB, the coach and the defense to pull off the win. Plus with Patricia and McDaniels on their way out, they’ll all want to win together one last time.

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Troubling Times for Cleveland: Can it be Fixed?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are 2-8 in their last 10 games. Apparently, this is the worst stretch of losing in LeBron’s career. They’ve got the Magic coming up at home on Thursday after six days of rest, a sure fire win for anyone else.

Not Their Usual Struggle

At 26-17, the Cavs have not lived up to any of the expectations that people (and themselves) had for this team. They started 5-7, but then went on a 13-game win streak. This put everyone at ease for the moment, until their troubles started again. But the excuses came pouring: the team isn’t healthy; just wait until Isaiah comes back at PG; blah, blah, blah. Well, Tristan Thompson and Isaiah Thomas are back and the Cavs are still losing. They rank 28th in defensive efficiency and their role players just aren’t getting it done. Once again, it’s LeBron trying to carry this team to the Finals by himself. But with a more competitive Eastern conference this year, that just seems highly unlikely. It seems the panic is really starting to set in for everyone.

Who’s  the Coach Again?

Every team has a leader. For the Cavs, it’s only natural that their leader is LeBron. But there’s a difference between being a leader and trying to be the coach. In the game where they were being blown out by Toronto, there was a video clip of the Cavs bench that went viral. LeBron was absolutely irate about the lack of defense his team was playing. Now, this shouldn’t be a big deal right? Well, when you’re the one talking during EVERY time out and the coach is the one listening, then it’s a problem. More often than not, it seems LeBron is the coach and Tyron Lue is just the guy they put there to make it look official. I respect Lue and I think he could be a heck of a coach if LeBron would let him do his job. Obviously, LeBron leading the way isn’t working anymore, so it’s time to take your team back Lue!

Uncertain Future= Lackluster Effort?

Is it just me, or is this ‘bump in the road’ a direct result of the team’s insecurities? What I mean is, the fact that LeBron will be a free agent next year seems to be affecting the mentality of everyone else. A lot of the players expressed concern over their problems not being ‘fixable’, and that loss to the Pacers even had Lue throwing jabs. Let’s be clear, LeBron only came back to Cleveland because of a young Kyrie Irving. Now that he’s left and the age of the Cavs is being exposed, he will no doubt seek a younger team to take over this offseason. So yes, the King has an agenda, okay? Lue was not being petty here. My take on it: why am I going to play hard for a teammate who clearly has plans to bounce after this year? Especially after he fought so hard to bring me here. Why if you were going to leave me hanging anyways?

Well, the saga continues in Cleveland. Meanwhile, Kyrie is leading the Celtics to the top of the East and trolling the King on the Gram. Well, he only did it that one time… right?

Quiet Off-Season for the Red Sox

The Red Sox won the East last season but was unfortunately knocked out by the Astros in the first round of the playoffs. But let’s not take away from the season they had, winning 93 games without big bat David Ortiz. It was the season of development, though in the best possible way and with satisfactory results. But knowing they need a big bat and having no movement this offseason, Dave Dombrowski has a few fans scratching their heads.

Keeping up with Our Rivals?

The rival Yankees made a big splash when they went and got NL homerun leader Giancarlo Stanton from the now Jeter-owned Marlins. The Yankees already made it to the ALCS without Stanton, so adding him to the line-up wasn’t going to hurt them one bit. After that blockbuster deal (a.k.a. episode of collusion), everyone was looking to see what the Red Sox were going to do since Dombrowski didn’t even TRY to change Stanton’s mind about Boston. Well, it was quiet on our front and that panicked a lot of Boston fans.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Dombrowski promised us that money wouldn’t be an issue when it came to signing a big bat this off-season. Many were nervous that maybe money wasn’t a factor because he’d be willing to give up a few players, not just cash. There were rumors of maybe signing free agents Eric Hosmer of the Royals or J.D. Martinez of the Diamondbacks. Then Dombrowski announced his goal to sign both, but we only recently heard about a five-year offer to Martinez. There was also a rumor about getting Machado from the Orioles, but I don’t think he would’ve been good in our clubhouse. He’s caused too many headaches for us already as an opponent.

With Spring training around the corner, fans have become disappointed in Dombrowski’s efforts to sign a big bat. The only thing he’s done is resign Mitch Moreland, which confused everyone who thought Hosmer was the off-season target. Oh yeah, and he signed two pitchers to one-year deals. Am I missing something? It’s near impossible considering the radio silence.

James Harrison: Stolen from the Steelers

James Harrison has gotten a lot of flak for signing with the Patriots this past Tuesday. The way he exited Pittsburgh has caused some friction between his former teammates. Pouncey went so far as to say James ‘erased his legacy’ as a Steeler. Darren Woodson of ESPN had something similar to say, adding that the loyalty of the Rooney family will most likely not be there for Harrison when it comes time to honor his years as a Steeler.

Though, according to Harrison, the Steelers made promises they never intended to keep. He sought a potential trade after the first week of the regular season, noting the Steelers use of the younger players. The team assured the veteran that they had a role for him to play on defense. But they only ended up giving him minimal snaps in weeks 1,3,6,7 and 14. He didn’t even play in the biggest game of the year against the Pats, a clear message to him that it was time to go.

Let’s be real. A player leaving a team to go to a rival happens in every sport. Here’s some of my most memorable ‘traitors’ from the past:

  • Brett Favre: A Green Bay icon, Favre knew his time was coming to an end. He probably already knew how great Aaron Rodgers would be and knew if he stayed in Green Bay he would never start another game. So, he forced a trade to the Jets, but eventually ended up in Minnesota. A no-no when you consider the fact this is a division rivalry.
  • Terrell Owens: He spent time in San Francisco and Philly before going to Dallas. This would obviously anger Philly fans, since Dallas is a division rival. Though, who doesn’t hate the Cowboys a.k.a “America’s Team”?
  • Johnny Damon: After helping the Sox win their World Series title in 2004, this guy decided to go to the dark side. As a result, he could no longer sport his flowing locks and scruffy beard. Oh, and his performance suffered as well.

    damon
    Johnny Damon returning to Boston after his monstrous betrayal of Sox Nation
  • Jacoby Ellsbury: The pretty boy that broke many hearts. After his contribution to the Sox 2013 World Series Championship, he decided to follow in Damon’s footsteps and join the Yankees. I mean, they offered him a 7-year deal for $153 million. Only a fool would turn that down; but still a no-no. His performance has also taken a hit.
  • Adam Vinatieri: Everyone in New England loved this guy, and they still do. He was crucial to our Super Bowl Dynasty with all of his clutch kicks as time expired. But when the Pats wouldn’t pay him, he decided to utilize his talents in Indy. This is no longer a rivalry since Peyton left, but it’s worth a mention.
  • Claude Julien: I know he isn’t a player, but he committed the ultimate sin. After being let go by the Bruins, he went and accepted a head coaching position with the Montreal Canadiens. I know you were feeling salty, but really Claude? You could’ve gone anywhere else.
Claude montreal
Former Bruins coach Claude Julien, currently in the employ of the Canadiens

My point here: get off Harrison’s back! People are only mad because it was the Patriots but whatever. I really want to see that AFC Championship match up so he can stick it to the Steelers. And if the Pats end up winning it all with his help, then so be it. There’s always next year Pittsburgh (maybe)!

A Very Merry Late Christmas Gift

The Patriots just may get a late Christmas present in James Harrison. The former Steelers linebacker is visiting the Patriots on Tuesday after being released on Saturday. Of all the places he could have visited, I’m pretty sure New England fans were pleasantly shocked when he came knocking at our door.

Lacking Depth at Linebacker

It’s no secret the Patriots are a bit thin in the linebacker department. Donta Hightower went down with a season-ending injury in early November, leaving all of us wondering what the defense would look like. But the Pats have this ‘next man up’ mentality, so the wondering was short-lived. Kyle Van Noy has been an unsung hero for the Pats and his absence was felt when he missed the last few games. They’ve got different combinations of guys who continue to make big plays when needed, but it would be nice to have a solid veteran to anchor the defense.

Tossed to the Curb

Harrison’s role with the Steelers was cut dramatically with the transition to more pass-coverage for OLBs Dupree and Watt. He went from playing 587 snaps last season to a miserable 40. It’s as if his 80.5 sacks for them didn’t mean a thing. So did his age also play a role when the Steelers made the decision to let him go? Pittsburgh has gotten flack in the past for their defense looking old and tired in comparison to what I like to call the Polamalu years. I guess they’ve decided it’s time to focus on building a defense that’s a bit younger, faster and stronger. But even though Harrison is 39, he very much seems to be all three of those things. The man can bench a whopping 400+ lbs. and in 2015 showed us he could handle 500 lbs.!  Harrison continues to remind us on his Instagram that age is nothing but a number.

Good Fit?

The Patriots will no doubt have to face the Steelers again in the playoffs, and having Harrison would be a huge help. The Pats have had some trouble rushing the passer and stopping the run. These are two areas that Harrison performs VERY well in, so having him in our ranks would definitely allow us all to breathe a bit easier. I know the Pats want to feel more solid on the defensive side of the ball, especially with the playoffs fast approaching. Harrison may definitely be the piece of the puzzle we’ve needed all season. Perhaps everyone will get a ring out of the deal.

Tensions Brewing in Foxboro

Tom Brady’s health guru Alex Guerrero and Pats head coach Bill Belichick are at odds. According to Bob Hohler’s story for the Boston Globe, Belichick has stripped Guerrero of his special privileges that include sideline access and flying on the team jets. Every organization has its issues, except the Patriots have never allowed theirs to become public. But what makes it even more unsettling is that fact that it involves our favorite head coach and quarterback duo.

Who is Alex Guerrero?

For those who don’t know, Guerrero is Tom Brady’s trainer and business partner. He was introduced to the team years ago by former Patriot Willie McGinest and has been helping members of the team ever since. He became especially involved with Brady’s recovery after his knee injury in 2008, sticking with him throughout the entire process. More recently, they have opened the TB12 Center located at Patriot Place, just a short walk from the facility. Guerrero also assisted Brady in launching his brand and sharing their methods to feeling young and healthy, no matter the age.

Why All the Fuss?

The medical and training staff of the Patriots have been complaining about Guerrero since 2015, according to a report by the Boston Globe. The fact that other players seek help from Guerrero instead has created a very divisive environment, especially since his methods are always in direct conflict to the staff’s. To make matters even worse, he has been in trouble with the FTC and investigated by state regulators regarding physical therapy practice at the TB12 Center. Belichick has decided that he isn’t going to bite his tongue any longer; but why? What REALLY happened that pushed Bill over the edge?

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Now, everyone can be upset at Guerrero if they want. But let’s be clear: his methods work! Brady came back from his knee injury better than ever and he’s still going strong. How many quarterbacks can you say, at 40 years old, looked as great as TB 12 does now? AND can still play another three-five years because he’s in such great shape? NONE. Another miracle Guerrero has been able to work involves our favorite TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronk hasn’t played a full season since his second year in the league, all due to injury. But after his back surgery last year, he started working with Guerrero and boy has it paid off. He’s only missed one game due to injury this season and even then it was just precautionary.

Long Term Effects

While members of the team (except Brady) aren’t allowed to visit Guerrero in his office in Gillette, they are allowed to visit him at the TB12 Center. Many are waiting to see if Brady will push the issue and call for Guerrero’s ‘reinstatement’. But if he does, it could no doubt create a bigger rift between him and Belichick. It’s clear Robert Kraft’s ideology is ‘whatever it takes to keep Brady happy, then so be it’. This must be making Belichick feel like his voice isn’t being heard. Keeping with their philosophy of no distractions, this issue more than likely won’t be addressed until the offseason.

TB 12

 

Just a sports fan with an opinion