thankfulAs humans, we spend a good portion of our lives complaining.  Complaining about things we have, thing’s we’d like to have, situations, etc.  We get so caught up in wanting more, or wanting things to go a certain way that we sometimes forget how fortunate we are.  We overlook a lot of things: the air that we breathe, shelter, food, family, love, H2O, warmth, and most importantly life.  Some people aren’t fortunate enough to have these things, and would happily trade places with us; yet we completely disregard these blessings, and complain.  We shouldn’t have to wait for Thanksgiving Day to feel appreciative of everything we have. Everyday we wake up is a good day to be thankful. Nevertheless, happy thanksgiving to you and yours.

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One of One: Rebranding the image of Desean Jackson


Washington Redskins return from their bye week this Sunday in hopes of rebounding from a disappointing loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The team currently sits in the basement of the NFC East standings at a putrid 3-6 record. Despite the issues that seem to plague this team on the field, whether it be the instability of the offensive line, questionable play calling (offensively and defensively) or the inability to get stops on defense, the Redskins continued to draw attention to themselves during the off-week.

A pair of Redskins, safety, Ryan Clark and wide receiver, Desean Jackson, both made appearances on ESPN’s “NFL Sunday Countdown” and FOX’s “NFL Sunday” respectively. Though it is common for players to make guest appearances on television or radio during their bye week. In the NFL, you have no choice but to market your brand and more importantly yourself. The NFL only advertises faces such as Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and so forth. But, when you have two, strong-willed players such as Clark and Jackson from a team where dominating headlines is more important than winning, you can expect a scandal.

After coming off a miraculous victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football, the Redskins announced that Quarterback Robert Griffin III would make his first start since dislocating his right ankle in Week 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The decision created an uproar amongst the fans and rightfully so. They just witnessed the improbable: A third string quarterback in Colt McCoy returns to his home state of Texas and beats Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys in his billion dollar playground. The fans wanted to see how much more they could get out of McCoy.

Although he was impressive at some moments, Robert Griffin III ultimately came up short in his return. The Redskins, again, lost a game they should have indeed won and the rumors began to swirl that the locker room was divided over whether or not Griffin came back too soon. The speculation of an apparent rift within the locker room became a topic of discussion, while Desean Jackson visited FOX “NFL Sunday.”

“When the decision was made for Colt [McCoy] to be benched and RGIII to come in and start, you kinda feel guys feeling a certain way about that,” Jackson said. “In the locker room, I had to stand up and say something like, ‘As players, that’s not our job. We can’t worry about that. The only thing we can worry about is going out on Sundays and putting your best foot forward. You worry about what you’re gonna do on the field, and let the coaches, the owners and everybody else have that relationship with RGIII or whoever’s making that decision. As players, we gotta take care of what we can do.”

-Desean Jackson, on ESPN’s Britt McHenry’s report of Griffin “alienating” himself from teammates.

When the Washington Redskins signed Jackson in the offseason, many thought they were signing a great player, who also had character issues. There were many who thought that this was another Dan Snyder signing that would ultimately back fire. I’m sure there were some who had a wager as to how long it would be until Jackson wanted out of D.C. What the Redskins didn’t know is that they were signing a leader.

Desean Jackson has been on record to say that he leads by example and he is doing that and then some so far during his career as a Redskin. In eight games, Jackson has totaled 784 receiving yards for an average of 21.8 yards per reception, which is best in the National Football League. In four of his last five games, Desean has totaled over 100 receiving yards. Simply put, the boy can flat out ball and he’s tired of his teammates pointing the finger. He wants everyone to be held accountable because that is what separates winning from losing in this league.

Now in his seventh season, Jackson does not want to be remembered as the problem, but as the solution. He has since put his time in Philadelphia behind him and seems to be more vocal amongst his teammates here in Washington. If the Redskins want to have a repeat of what occurred during the last seven games of 2012, they would be wise to follow the lead of #11.

Thanks, Philly.

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Parental Advisory – The Football/Concussion Debate

LeBron James is widely regarded as the best athlete in the world of sports. He has an array of accolades that include two NBA championships (and still counting), two finals MVP awards, four league MVP awards, ten-time all-star, scoring champion, and countless others. He will undoubtedly be a first-ballot hall of famer once his time on the court comes to an end. As impressive as his legacy has been thus far, his legacy off the court with his children is equally important to LeBron. LeBron Jr. and Bryce Maximus share an unconditional love of sports much like their father; however, there are some sports they will not have the privilege to partake in for quite sometime.

Before leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a decisive victory over the Denver Nuggets last week, LeBron made comments regarding his reluctance to letting his children play football. He cited the health dangers related to the physical nature of the game as the primary reason. As we are all aware, football is the most violent contact sport in North America. There have been numerous incidences of players suffering gruesome injuries, but none more prevalent than concussions.

youthfootballThe Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines concussion(s) as “a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works.” The definition does not illustrate the severity the injury truly entails. Concussions have the potential to permanently damage the cognitive functioning of an athlete, especially the youth. Changes in our ability to think, speak, eat, drink, etc. can be lost if the situation is not handled properly.

LeBron’s reservations are warranted. I think if I had children of my own, I would not allow him or her (yes, woman are just as capable of playing football as men) to participate either. According to the CDC, the frequency of “traumatic brain injuries in sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes in high-school and college aged students.” You can imagine that number increases when you expose children to contact sports at a younger age.  Parents across the country aren’t willing to expose their children to such risk.

concussionThe National Football League has been under much scrutiny over the past several years as it struggled with lawsuits from former player suffering from chronic, debilitating brain conditions. Even as the league has taken steps towards reducing the number of concussions, there are still players who are continuing to play through such injuries despite medical advice. The irresponsible behavior by these players has direct influence on members of the youth football community. When watching their favorite player walk off the field after a helmet-to-helmet hit, and then return only a few players later, wouldn’t that make a young athlete feel invisible as well? I hate to pose hypothetical questions, but as a parent it has to make you reconsider what activities you wish to have you child enroll in.

Now, James’ comments did not go without criticism. ESPN radio personality and former NFL veteran, Mike Golic shared his response on LeBron forbidding his children from playing the sport:

“I completely shove it. Football, to me, is especially at the youth league, is as safe as its ever been. There is such a premium now on playing football, on concussion awareness, on equipment fitting, [and] on proper tackling. The NFL’s “Heads Up” program, which I think is fantastic for kids, to learn to hit the right way. The next generations of our players are going to tackle better and have better fundamentals and technique. It’s not going to get rid of all injuries. People make it sound like the sky is falling. That’s why my wife is out there mostly talking with moms. She was out at clinic in Detroit this past weekend. We all know, for the most part, moms are making most of the decisions a lot on their kids playing or not. When you have the stars come out, I can’t stand when they blatantly say that. It (Youth Football) is as safe as it has ever been to play.”

 I respect Mike Golic heavily. I listen to him almost every morning on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the morning. He provides a unique insight into the world of a professional football player. He has played over 7 seasons in the NFL, many of which he played through injury. But on the issue of concussions in youth sports, I have to stand against his comments. For children as young as Lebron Jr. and Bryce Maximus, they are much more susceptible to concussions and other traumatic brain injuries while participating in contact sports, such as football. The fact is, a child’s brain is still in the process of development. There is a lack of myelinated-covered nerve fibers that allow communication between the brain and the rest of the body. With the right amount of force and acceleration, these fibers have the potential to rupture, possibly resulting in a concussion.

I do not want to persuade anyone from barring their children from playing contact sports, such as football, but I wish they took the time to examine the true risks involved within the game itself. There will always be risk. There will always be the chance for injury, but injuries that can be prevented deserve our greatest attention.

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NBA Spotlight: Nikola Vucevic

When we think of the best centers in the NBA today, we think of players like Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Joacim Noah, etc.  One name that almost never comes up is that of Nikola Vucevic.  This man deserves his credit, and I am here in attempt to rightfully grant him the recognition that he has been deprived of.  Ever since his departure from the Philadelphia 76ers, where he played sparingly, Nik Vucevic has established himself as one of the best centers in the NBA today, and its time we take notice.

nik vucevicStanding at exactly 7 feet tall, Nik has the perfect size to be an NBA center.  His 260 pound frame makes him solid enough to take a pounding down-low yet agile enough to move his feet on defense.  In his four years in the league, he has established himself as one of the best rebounders in the game, putting up as many 20 rebound games as any other elite big in the game during that span.  Typically, most dominant rebounders aren’t considered elite unless they have some sort of an offensive game to go with it; Nik Vucevic however, DOES.  With a consistent mid-range jumper and a more than respectable low post game, Nik is capable of “giving you the business” when given the chance (just ask Brook Lopez of the Nets).  Defensively, he isn’t exactly Bill Russell; however, he is far from a liability.  He makes offensive players work for their points, and he moves his feet adequately well (not to mention his glass eating ability on that end).  From a skill-set standpoint, he certainly deserves respect as one of the best centers in the league.

From a statistics point of view, Nik holds his own against the NBA elite centers.  He is one of very few centers to average a double-double in the past few years.  Nik started off in his sophomore season where he averaged 13 points and 12 rebounds a game.  In year 3, he bumped up the scoring to 14 a game, while slightly reducing the rebounding average to 11.  So far this season, he is putting up 19 points and 12 rebounds a game!  The only other centers to be putting up numbers like this? DeMarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard.  If those two are considered Elite, why isn’t Nik given his respect?  The man once snatched 29 rebounds against the Heat in 2012; how many centers can say they’ve done that?  Not to mention, he has reached the 30 point mark on a couple of occasions in the past few years; how many centers can say the same?

Vucevic is overlooked for a couple of reasons: 1)Because he plays on a losing team 2)He gets the job done in a plain fashion.  The Orlando Magic, post Dwight Howard, have not been a successful team.  This has led to the team getting little to no publicity on national television.  For this reason, many people do not know of Nikola Vucevic and his abilities.  The basketball junkies who do, tend to discredit him, claiming that it is easy to put up good numbers on a bad team.  As Charles Barkley always says however, any man who can pull down 14 rebounds in a game is a “bad” man; Nikola Vucevic certainly falls into that category.  In addition, the Magic are actually a very competitive team in spite of their record.  They play hard every night but seem to fall short most games due to inexperience.  The point I’m trying to make is that the numbers Nik Vucevic puts up aren’t misleading.  Secondly, Nik’s “Plain Jane” game doesn’t bring a lot of attention to him.  You’ll never see him on Sports Center posterizing anyone, and you’ll never see him in a Slam Dunk Contest a la Blake Griffin.  In short, his style of play does not bring any attention to his game; hence making him virtually unknown.

Despite it all, those who follow the game closely with an objective mind cannot deny the fact that Nikola Vucevic is one of the best centers in the NBA.  His skills, statistics, and overall productivity put him in a category of elite NBA centers, and it is about time people start to realize that.  Nik does the dirty work, while putting up points.  This is very rare in the league today, as the few other players who do the same are regarded as upper echelon.  The time has come for Nik Vucevic to be given his props, and I am here to start the movement. The Orlando Magic organization has certainly taken note, signing him to a four year $53 million contract.  I look for bigger and better things to come for the USC alumnus.

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Reverting from Panic: Cleveland Cavaliers Edition

cavs strugglesThe Cavs are off to a 1-3 start and of course, this has turned into a hot topic for the basketball world.  When LeBron decided to return to his hometown of Cleveland, many assumed that gone were the days of losing in Ohio.  When Kevin Love decided to join Bron and the Kyrie, many automatically picked the Cavs to win it all this year.  Although LeBron came to Cleveland with a humble approach, emphasizing to all that winning championships was a daunting task and would take time to accomplish, many still expected the Cavs to be one of the top teams in the NBA this season.  Unfortunately for the Cavalier fans however, this has not been the case thus far.  Although it has only been 4 games so far, the Cavs have looked anything but good thus far.  Despite it all, I am here to assure Cavalier fans that they have nothing to worry immensely about.

When you make the decision to date someone, you reach that conclusion based on the assumption that you believe the two of you will be a great fit for each other.  After spending more time with each other, you get to unveil some tendencies and ultimately react to them by adjusting, or by simply accepting those tendencies for what they are.  The same applies in basketball.  LeBron James and Kevin Love made the decision to team up with Kyrie Irving because they believed that the trio was compatible, and would be able to compliment each other well on the basketball court.  Now that they’ve made the decision based on that premise, they are finding out that this isn’t an easy process as LeBron predicted.  The team as a whole is still going through the process of discovering tendencies, and once that is accomplished, a reaction will follow suit.  This reaction has to be an adjustment of some sort by each player, with the end result of winning a championship in mind.

What have the Cavs discovered so far? Lets start with the good: 1)The Cavs have legitimate low post scoring options in LeBron and Kevin Love; they will kill most teams 1 on 1 with individual coverage in the post. 2)This roster is equipped to do damage in the open floor, starting with Kevin Love’s amazing outlet passes.  3)Rebounding is an advantage for this team, as Tristan Thompson is a force on the offensive glass, to go with the efforts of Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao. So far, that seems to be about it. Now the negatives: 1)Coach Blatt is using his core guys too much, and not relying on the deep bench that the Cavaliers have at their disposal. 2)Kyrie Irving needs to stop trying to cross everybody up and score fancy buckets.  3)LeBron seems to be coasting TOO MUCH.  4)Dion Waiters does not fit in with the starters.  5)The team as a whole needs to develop a sense of urgency. 6)Defense is yet to exist in Cleveland.

There are many other minor issues that can be pointed out; however, for the sake of this article we will focus on those listed.  Cavalier fans need not panic.  All these issues will be solved in a matter of time as the players get well acquainted, and Coach Blatt gets a hang of things. First, Coach Blatt must trust his deep bench and allow multiple players to contribute to the outcome of the game.  Reducing the minutes of the key players will certainly lead to an increased effort, knowing that they will be rested when fatigue becomes a factor.  Secondly, Kyrie needs to adjust his game a tad bit to make things easier for himself.  He needs to utilize his shooting ability to spread the floor for K.Love and LeBron, use his ball handling and quickness to create easy baskets for others, and use his speed to become an efficient cutter off the ball.  Next, LeBron, as the leader of the team, must come out every night and set the tone.  He needs to realize that this team will go as far as he takes them, and that his teammates feed off of him.  Next, Coach Blatt needs to stick to the choice of bringing Dion Waiters off the bench.  Dion as a player must also embrace the 6th man role and take advantage of it to go out there and become the focal point of the 2nd unit offense.  Next point, the whole team needs to realize what is at stake for them.  In order to win a championship, they must always come out with the mindset to kill all opponents.  EVERY team is going to bring their A-game to face this team, due to the high expectations that everyone has for them.  With that being said, the casual approach that they currently have will not be enough to get by on a nightly basis.  The whole team must simply WAKE UP.  In all 4 games that have been played so far, the Cavs have found themselves trying to come back from behind to get a win.  This is the result of a causal approach to start the game.  If they come out and play hard from the get go, this won’t be the case as this team is simply too talented.  Lastly, this team has GOT to defend.  Although the bulk of the players assembled on this team have made their big bucks from getting buckets, this team will not go anywhere if they don’t put it together on the defensive end.  Every player must take it upon himself to shut down his man on a nightly basis.  These players are too gifted physically to not be good defenders if they were to commit to that end.  It is all a mindset, and that mindset must be developed now!

In sum, we all knew that the rise to the top for the Cavaliers was not going to be a walk in the park.  Although we didn’t expect them to struggle this bad, I am here to assure fans that everything will be fine .  It’s only a matter of time before this multi-talented team is able to put it all together and live up to the expectations.  Remember, just like in a relationship, this is going to take some adjusting and getting used to.  I expect this team to function like a well-oiled machine from the All-Star break going into the post season.

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NBA Update: Week 1


season 15The NBA season has been off to a great start so far.  Starting with the opening night thriller between the defending champs San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, the NBA season has definitely lived up to the hype thus far.  Surprisingly enough (or I guess not so surprising due to his well-documented “stage fright”) LeBron had a very shaky first game in his official reintroduction to the city of Cleveland.  Despite the 1-1 start so far, the Cavs have shown flashes of what we can expect to see from them down the line when all systems are intact.  LeBron’s former team, the Heat, are off to a blazing start themselves.  Dwayne Wade seems to have found his old form, playing with an extra bounce to his step.  Had he played this way last season, the Heat might’ve “3-peated” and LeBron would’ve never left! But that’s beside the point.  The identity of the team remains the same, as the quick passing-lane wing defenders continue to disrupt offenses and create easy fast breaking points for the team.  Mario Chalmers has embraced his new role as the backup point/shooting guard, and Luol Deng is certainly doing the best that he can to help fill the void of losing a player of the magnitude of a LeBron James. 

klay-thompson-blake-griffin-nba-playoffs-golden-state-warriors-los-angeles-clippers-850x560On the West Coast, Blake Griffin has been off to a hot start, averaging 31 points through his first two games.  Although he struggled in the recent loss to the Kings, Blake is making a case for himself in the MVP race.  DeMarcus Cousins of the Kings is also off to a great start, putting up monster numbers against the Clippers last night.  Speaking of monster numbers, Anthony Davis has lived up to the expectations of many coming into the season, putting up video game type numbers across the board.  His numbers thus far are good enough to put him in contention for MVP; however, as we all know the Pelicans are going to have to win a lot of games in order for that to happen.  On the subject of winning a lot of games, the Warriors seem to be en-route to doing so, coming out sizzling to start the season.  Steve Kerr has been orchestrating the offense beautifully, making some key decisions such as the choice to bring Iguodala off the bench.  That, to me, was a great decision, as Iggy can play the 1, 2, or 3.  His versatility is perfectly suited for the 6thman position.  Klay Thompson, however, deserves a bulk of the credit for this great start that the Warriors are off to.  Klay is simply loving life as of now, signing a contract extension, embarking on a hot streak, and cuffing a dime piece in Hannah Stocking.  Life couldn’t be much better for Klay right now.

russell-westbrook-nba-oklahoma-city-thunder-phoenix-suns-850x560Although many teams are flourishing, the same cannot be said for teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder.  OKC started off the season with the unfortunate news that the MVP, Kevin Durant, would be out for about 6-8 weeks due to injury.  Two games into the season, Russell Westbrook was also added to the Injury List, after a right hand injury.  The Thunder, who many had picked to win the West, are now faced with the possibility of not even making the playoffs if they dig themselves too deep of a hole! On the plus side however; this opportunity has given players like Perry Jones Jr. the chance to step up to the big stage and show what they are capable of.  He has shown flashes of brilliance, replicating a lot of what Kevin Durant is accustomed to doing.  The Thunder isn’t the only Western Conference powerhouse to get off to a slow start.  The Portland Trailblazers are also off to a slow start, with Damian Lillard struggling mightily to shoot the ball.  The Los Angeles Lakers are another team off to a woeful start, although that was somewhat predictable.  Detroit on the East has certainly not lived up to expectations, looking like the Pistons team that we have grown accustomed to seeing in recent years.  It might be too early to draw any conclusions on any team just yet, however I think it is safe to assume that what we have seen thus far isn’t too far off from what we can grow to expect this season.  Kobe, you might end up with another lottery pick next draft.  The MVP trophy might make its way to the west coast, and the Larry O’Brien trophy might make its way back to the East.  Stay tuned.

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