Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Did anybody really think the NBA would suspend Houston Rockets' center Dwight Howard for tonight's game? No way that was ever going to happen. Remember this is the money-grubbing NBA we're talking about.
What happened is that Howard clobbered the Golden State Warriors' Andrew Bogut at the 8:06 mark in the third quarter of the Houston's 128-115 victory on Monday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Howard was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul.
Rod Thorn, president of the NBA's basketball operations, announced that, upon review, the penalty would stand. If it had been upgraded to a Flagrant 2, Howard would have been suspended and unavailable for tonight's crucial Game 5. The Warriors' lead the series 3-1 and could claim the Western title with a win.
Actually the call should have been changed to a Flagrant 2. It should always have been a Flagrant 2. When the foul happened the refs blew the call. What Howard did was worse than what Atlanta forward Al Horford did to Cleveland's Matthew Bellavedova in the second quarter of Game 3 of that series, which got Horford ejected immediately. In reviewing the Howard foul the league had a chance to right a wrong. So if the NBA was being fair and consistent Howard would be on the same Flagrant 2 boat as Horford and would not play tonight.
But, let's face it. What's important to the NBA is money. Fair play and consistency in penalties, who cares? The NBA wants a big audience for tonight's game. If it promises to be competitive, people will watch. Without Howard, it wouldn't be competitive and many fans wouldn't tune in, which hurts ratings, which hurts the NBA's wallet.
Consequently the NBA does what is necessary to attract the biggest audience, which means Howard plays, and fair play be damned. So that bogus Flagrant 1 stays a bogus Flagrant 1. This is just more evidence for conspiracy theorists who swear the NBA rigs games based on TV ratings.
Chalk up another stain on the NBA's soiled integrity..
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 12:02 PM
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
All of a sudden, in the wake of the LA Clippers' choking away the Houston Rocket series, a feud between Clippers' point guard Chris Paul and center DeAndre Jordan is taking center stage. Is there really a feud? If so what's behind it?
According to three sources close to the Clippers, here's what's going on. It's basically a clash of attitudes. One source referred to Paul as a "mini Jordan," meaning he thinks of himself as the Clippers' answer to Michael Jordan. Remember, Michael was the hard-nosed, dictatorial leader of the Chicago Bulls in their '90s heyday. Paul has tried to assume that lofty, tough-guy,.Jordanesque position as leader of the Clippers, but he has run into some opposition. One player who doesn't relish that attitude is DeAndre Jordan, a hang-loose, laid-back kind of guy.
The essence of the feud is that Jordan doesn't like Paul's pushy, bossy attitude. To Jordan, it feels like he's being shoved around and he doesn't like it. When Paul came to the Clippers a few years ago, Jordan was still raw and just a promising player, while Paul was a hot-shot All-Star. Jordan was just a second-tier player, so he had to take a subservient position to big-time Paul. But since then Jordan has blossomed into one of the top three defensive players in the league. He's a potent force who's actually more valuable than Paul. Finding another first-rate point guard would be a lot easier than finding an athletic, shot-blocking, top-notch rebounding rim-protector like Jordan.
Quite simply, Jordan has become a huge force on the Clippers--and he knows it. He feels he's above being pushed around by Paul. But Paul only knows how to be one thing--a pushy leader. That's his way. It doesn't please his teammates. Rumor has it that when he left the New Orleans Hornets in 2011, some of those players were happy to see him go.
He and the Clippers' other star, Blake Griffin, clashed when Paul first came to the team. Griffin, then, was the No.1 guy but Paul asserted himself right away as top dog. Griffin balked. There was bad blood between them for well over a year, before they finally declared a truce. When Doc Rivers came to the Clippers, replacing Vinnie Del Negro as head coach, his first order of business was to smooth relations between his stars.
Actually, this Paul-Jordan feud is nothing new. These two have been at odds since last year. The conflict has just been getting steamier in the last few months. Rivers has had to do what LA Lakers' head coach Phil Jackson did with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal--play referee. Jackson's biggest job on those championship teams wasn't dealing with Xs and Os but playing mediator between those two, making sure they didn't kill each other.
There have been many flareups between Paul and Jordan, report the sources, including some heated locker-room arguments and some conflicts that have been visible at court side during games. So far, though, the beefs have been neatly covered up. That's been possible because the LA media isn't as blood-thirsty and tabloid-oriented as media in other big cities.
One of the issues is that Paul has been riding Jordan about his horrible free-throw shooting. Sources say Paul thinks Jordan hasn't been working hard enough to improve this weakness. Jordan, however, resents Paul butting in.
Another problem, report the sources, is that Jordan is miffed at Paul doing his Michael Jordan imitation when he hasn't had the success that Jordan had. Michael helped the Bulls win many championships so his teammates felt obliged to succumb to his harsh leadership tactics. Paul, however, hasn't even been able to lead the Clippers to a conference championship game. So DeAndre resents him acting the tough-leader role when he hasn't lead them to anything close to a championship.
The feud is surfacing now because DeAndre is about to become a free agent. He can either sign a max deal with the Clippers, for $100 million, or go to another team for less money. Dallas has been mentioned as a possible new team for Jordan, a Texas native who was born in Houston and went to Texas A&M.
Clipper fans fear that if Jordan is not on good terms with Paul that may push him to leave Los Angeles. That's not necessarily true. There have been horrible fights between NBA players, sometimes to the point of fisticuffs, and that never forced the warring parties to jump ship. Do you think things were smooth on those Michael Jordan championships teams?. Actually they were plenty rocky. That was also true on Pat Riley's Knick teams and, way back in the old days, there was plenty of player strife on Bill Russell's Celtic teams. Recently, the Cleveland Cavaliers were a mess for months, but the players, led by LeBron, resolved the conflicts. Problems can be successfully handled internally. They don't have to break up teams.
This is where Rivers comes in. It's up to him to smooth over any problems and convince Jordan to stay with the Clippers. My guess is that he will stay. Paul and Griffin learned to co-exist. So can Paul and Jordan. If Jordan leaves, blame Rivers for being a lousy mediator.
By the way, expect a bunch of media stories in the next few weeks quoting Clipper players and various other sources denying there's any rift between Jordan and Paul.
Ignore those stories. That's just publicity b.s.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 4:23 PM
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Look for the LA Clippers to climb out of that hole they tumbled into Thursday when they lost game 6 at home to the Houston Rockets, 119-107. But losing is the wrong word to describe what happened. What the Clippers really did was choke the game away.
It was really ugly. So, naturally, were the late-game stats. With about 2 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, the Clippers were ahead by 19 and cruising. Then they barreled into an iceberg, turning into the Titanic. They were outscored 40-15 in the fourth quarter, a historic playoff turnaround. Actually they just scored 12 points in the fourth. It was 15 because Chris Paul.buried an uncontested three-pointer at the buzzer. At one point during that epic collapse they went nearly seven minutes without a field goal.
But that's all past. Forget that colossal choke. Sunday is a new day for the Clippers, a day of redemption.
The Clippers you see Sunday won't be that wobbly outfit that turned to jelly with the game on the line on Thursday.
In Thursday's game LA was pressing ferociously in the fourth quarter, pressing so hard on offense they forgot to play defense. The Rockets scored so easily because the Clippers defense was non-existent. LA players, crippled by the pressure, slipped into a mental fog and visibly slowed down, making the Rockets several steps faster. The more the Clippers pressed the more they crumbled. For the Rockets it was almost like pregame practice. Coach Doc Rivers was no help. He was powerless. He had never seen anything like it. He didn't know how to stop the bleeding.
The strangest part of the loss was that Houston's fourth quarter blitz happened with their best player, James Harden, who hadn't played very well most of the game, on the bench. The Clippers were mostly destroyed in that quarter by two so-so role players, Corey Brewer and Josh Smith, who scored 29 of the 40 fourth quarter points.
Here's why the Clippers will win Sunday. First of all, in the back of their minds on Thursday, they knew they had another game, that Thursday's game wasn't the end of the series. That sense of urgency that usually short-circuits such meltdowns wasn't in play. But now they have that sense of urgency. For another thing, this game is more important to the Clippers. Winning it means they go to a conference finals for the first time in franchise history. That gives them extra motivation. The Rockets have won NBA championships so it's not as crucial to them.
The game is particularly critical for Chis Paul, one of the great point guards of the last decade. He has never been to a conference final, never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs. This game is his chance to finally silence his critics. Even if the Clippers get to the finals and lose, it won't be so bad for him. But not reaching that level, once again, will gnaw at Paul and pump up his critics for the entire off season. He's desperate to win this game and his desperation will fuel his team.
One key stat is in the Clippers' favor. Teams that get a 3-1 lead in a seven game series win it 96% of the time. However there's another stat that works against them. In game7s in playoff history, the road teams have prevailed overwhelmingly, 24-95. But the Clippers can offer a stat which counters that one. They have been pretty good in game7s in recent years with this core unit. In the last three years the team has won its last three game7 efforts, including one on the road in Memphis in 2012. And, don't forget, just about two weeks ago, the Clippers beat the Spurs in a grueling game7, a team that's far better than the Rockets.
Another thing in the Clippers' favor. The Rockets wouldn't have won without spectacular games by Brewer and Smith. Those guys are unlikely to run wild again. The Clippers will see to that.
One more thing. The Clippers are favored by 2. Odds makers and gamblers have a sense that Thursday's game was an aberration, a blunder that, odds are, won't happen again on Sunday.
The worse in this series is behind the Clippers. They won't slip into that abyss in consecutive games. They are too talented for that.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 3:49 PM
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
A funny thing happened on the way to the fix of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. Pacquiao's bum shoulder got in the way.
There was certainly a plan for a Pacquiao win. Would Mayweather have gone through with it and spoiled his spotless record with a loss? We'll never know.
The dream outcome would have been a close, action-packed Pacquiao win. That would have guaranteed a rematch that would have done two things--set up another whopping, money-making, pay-per-view bout and kept interest in boxing alive among casual fans in America for another year or two. But Pacquiao's ailing shoulder ruined that plan. It turned out there was little action in the fight because, with only one good shoulder, Pacquiao couldn't make a dent in Mayweather's steel-curtain defense. The fight, a Mayweather cruise, was a snooze-fest for all except the knowledgeable boxing fans who appreciate the nuances of the sport.
This is what happened, according to sources in touch with both Pacquiao's camp and the depths of boxing's seamy underworld. A plan for a Pacquiao win, which made sense and was on the table, wasn't possible because, with his bad shoulder, no one would believe he could beat Mayweather. A healthy Pacquiao couldn't realistically beat Mayweather, so a wounded Pacquiao would have no chance. A Pacquiao win would look like what it was--a fixed fight. That plan, say the sources, was nixed when it was clear Pacquiao was hurt.
So what was left?. Just to capitalize on the inside info about Pacquiao's shoulder, which had been carefully guarded. The sources say the word dribbled out about Pacquiao's bad shoulder days before the fight. Naturally some who knew took advantage by betting on Mayweather. The wagering, of course, report the sources, was handled smartly and discreetly, with relatively small bets, scattered worldwide, made through many proxies, so there would be no.spikes to arouse suspicion. Apparently some people made a lot of money on this inside info.
Where do things stand now? A rematch is certainly possible once Pacquiao's shoulder heals. Since people now know he wasn't really healthy, this effort against Mayweather doesn't really count. The rematch wouldn't generate the same, high-level interest, particularly since this fight wasn't exciting and both aging fighters would be even older. But there would still be a decent payday for all concerned.
And the fix? We'll have to see which way the wind is blowing then.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 3:22 PM
Friday, May 1, 2015
Is the mega-million-dollar superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fixed? Damn right it is.
There have been rumblings for months, from deep in the bowels of the gambling-boxing-gangster underground, that things will go according to a script in this fight. Forget who's the better fighter. Forget who has the longest reach or superior footwork or the quickest, deadliest jab or who's more skilled at dodging jabs. None of that matters. It would matter if this was just fighter against fighter. But that's not what this match is all about. It's about money, about business..
What matters in this case is the business of boxing. What will happen in this fight is what's best for business, what will make the most money for those involved, what will make money for gamblers who know the script.
A Pacquiao victory makes sense, since it would set up a rematch, which would be the best thing for the sport.
There's another fortune to be made from a rematch. If good guy Pacquiao whips bad-boy Mayweather, that would set up a lucrative rematch. Mayweather would win that, setting up a third, best-two-out-of-three bout. Fans would be enthralled, the pay-per-view business would be booming and boxing would be, for the next year or two, a prominent sport.
But if Mayweather wins easily, boxing is dead. It's that simple.
Here's the problem. Boxing, a dominant American sport in the first half of the 1900s, is on its last legs in this country. Most of the American public doesn't give a damn about it. So, after this huge Mayweather-Pacquiao payday, boxing would be dealt a knockout blow if Mayweather pummels Pacquiao. These are the only fighters who matter on a national level. Pacquiao is the only fighter who has a chance against Mayweather, who has already announced he'll quit after one more fight, one that he'll certainly win since, after Pacquiao, there's no real competition. That would mean no more big pay-per-view bouts. Mayweather could retire.undefeated, at 49-0. But his chances of making millions would also retire. Mayweather, who's made $420 million in his career, is a notorious spendthrift, like Mike Tyson was at his worst. Insiders insist that he's a candidate for bankruptcy. So money-hungry Mayweather surely doesn't want to derail the gravy-train.
Is fixing a fight possible? Of course. What nearly destroyed boxing in the last half century is flagrant corruption--bribing officials, boxers taking dives, etc. You think those shady elements have abandoned the sport? No way. People who know how to make a dive look good are still around. Fixing a fight is much easier than fixing a basketball or football game since there are fewer people involved.
By the way, if Mayweather wants to win this bout, he could do it. According to knowledgeable insiders, against a dedicated, focused Mayweather, Pacquiao wouldn't have a prayer.
A Mayweather win is a victory for honesty. But it's also a victory for stupidity since it would deal a death-blow to the sport and eliminate the possibility of a big-bucks rematch, taking money out of Mayweather's pocket. There's a crooked plan in place. Mayweather just has to follow the script.
Does honesty or corruption rule in this fight.? I'm betting on corruption.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 5:46 PM