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Thursday, June 3, 2010

2010 NBA Finals Preview

This year’s much anticipated NBA Finals features one of the most heated and storied rivalries in all of sports. The Boston Celtics will attempt to dethrone the Los Angeles Lakers for league supremacy. This will be the twelfth meeting between the two teams in the Finals; Boston leads the all-time Finals series 40-27 with nine championship titles to the Lakers two against one another.

The Celtics, whom have been considered significant underdogs in each of the previous series’, are prepared to recapture NBA glory for the second time in three years. They’ll have a chance to denounce the Los Angeles again, as the Lakers were the team the defeated two years ago.

The Celtics return the same starting lineup from the ’08 championship team. Once referred to as the “Big Three,” Boston now has a fourth member of the band. Point guard Rajon Rondo has established himself as an elite player in this league. With his blinding speed and quickness, staying in front of him on defense is close to impossible. Even if you give him space to disallow him from beating you off the dribble, it allows him to spread the court and involve his teammates. And if necessary, he’ll knock down the medium-range jump shot without hesitation.

Paul Pierce, the best actor/flopper has struggled to find a groove and stay hot for an extended period of time throughout the playoffs. Kevin Garnett has been a force in the middle and a constant pain in the butt to all those on defense. He appears to be healthy for the first time since the Celtics championship season. Last but not least, Ray Allen has been simply great. Allen is known for having the sweetest shot in all of basketball, but his defense has been phenomenal. After slowing down LeBron James and Vince Carter in the previous series’, Allen will be asked to attempt to slow down the best basketball player on the planet, Kobe Bryant.

Kobe Bryant. Need I say more? “The Black Mamba,” is hungry and the scowl is back. Through several severe injuries this season, Bryant has pushed through the pain never complaining or providing an excuse. If able to lead his team to a fifth NBA championship during his tenure, Bryant would be qualifying himself for legendary status. He is a true warrior and we are privileged to have the opportunity to watch greatness.

With a supporting cast of potential all-league starters, Bryant will most definitely have help. The Lakers return the majority of the ’09 championship team with the addition of the strange Ron Artest. He is a shut-down defender, but can make you scream at the television at times for his mental mistakes. Pau Gasol is a star, continuing to produce on both ends of the court. Regardless if Bryant is getting his, the Lakers must get the ball inside to Gasol to have a balanced attack. Lamar Odom could be the best player on a lot of teams, but through his unselfish willingness to do what is best for his team by coming off the bench, the Lakers have become a dynamic force. With a terrific all-around game, Odom is the key to the Lakers success.

This will be a great NBA Finals. Both teams are prepared to go to war, doing whatever is necessary to win. With no other real rivalries in the NBA, this is the match-up that everyone wanted; the league tries to fabricate rivalries that really mean nothing. With a combined 33 championships between the two teams, the Celtics and Lakers represent greatness and tradition. But one team must be victorious, and the Los Angeles Lakers will win the series in six games, 4-2. Kobe Bryant will not let his team lose.

Tune in tonight at 9:00pm on ABC for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. In the spirit of Hollywood: lights, camera, ACTION!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hockey's time is now

Two months ago today, hockey was officially back as one of the four major sports. Today, it is no where to be found. To the surprise of most, hockey is actually still here and the Stanley Cup Finals are currently in progress. The Chicago Blackhawks lead the series versus’ the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-0.

Following a spectacular performance from Team USA in this year’s Winter Olympics, our country was at last captivated by the grand game of hockey. SportsCenter was leading off its telecasts with its highlights and most of all, we wanted more. With such young American born talent as Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks and Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils, the NHL finally had the players to market its newfound resurgence into the sports world.

With an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the tidal wave of momentum, the NHL dropped the puck. But why? How could no one outside the cities of Chicago and Philadelphia care about the Stanley Cup?!

The majority of the NHL’s regular season games can only be found on the Outdoor Network or Versus. As big of a sports fan, ODN and Versus are not on top of my to-watch list even if I’m lucky enough to find the channel. The league must forcefully insert itself into the public eye, allowing its viewers and targeted audience the ability to watch their product. Having more games on relevant sports networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports is critical. But the problem may lie within the actual product, not the provider.

To watch a game on television in its entirety can become drawn out and boring for the casual sports fan. The argument can be made that hockey is the most exciting sport to watch in person. With the constant action and thrill a goal being scored, it’s truly an awesome rush of emotion. But on television, it’s difficult to feel as you’re disconnected from the explosion of that emotion and energy within each arena.

The NHL has done a poor job of marketing its players and product. The only players to be featured regularly are Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitials. Regardless of the fact that both that both of these players are foreign born athletes, there are many players throughout the league that would be terrific representatives hockey.

The NHL must build a foundation by getting its young athletes (while continuing to include Crosby and Ovechkin as well) into the public sports forum, enabling the opportunity to progress and reach its potential with a young fan base. It will not be easy, but in time it is very possible. Hockey is not dead, but the clock is ticking.

In the meantime, tune in tomorrow night at 8:00pm on Versus, for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Though leading 2-0, this series is far from over as the Flyers have already come back from a 3-0 deficit in an earlier round. This is an opportunity to witness the great hockey. The skating is sharper, the shots are faster and the hits are truly bone rattling. These men will leave it all on the ice, including teeth, for hockey immortality and to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.