Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Kobe Bryant: Selfish, Greedy Egomaniac

I'm sick of Kobe Bryant and that damned farewell tour.

After an illustrious, twenty-year career, the Laker guard is retiring at the end of this season. So his farewell tour--involving all his home games and his final appearances in various NBA cities--has been dragging on all season. Why doesn't he do it the gentlemanly, humble way and go quietly? No, he has to turn it into a circus. How typical. It's Bryant saying: what you'd expect from an egomaniac: "Laud me, celebrate me, recognize me as a great player."

This tour is just a pile of ego-stroking crap.

What makes it so ridiculous is that, right now, Kobe is terrible. Actually, he's been terrible for the last few years. What fans are seeing on this tour is a shell of a once great player. It brings back ugly memories of Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays in his last year, back in 1973, when, at 42, as a New York Met, he was stumbling around the outfield and being handcuffed by even bad pitches. That was embarrassing. So is this Bryant farewell circus..

Bryant's legs are shot. He can't elevate any more. In fact, due to age and injuries, he hasn't been able to jump effectively for the last several years. So naturally his jump shot is constantly off. Even lame defenders can force him into erratic shots. Yet he continues to be a ball-hog, demanding the ball, shooting as much as 15-25 times per game, No matter that his shooting percentage is miserable. In keeping with his me-me-me attitude, he just keeps on shooting and shooting.

And defense? For Kobe that's a thing of the past. One reason the Lakers are laboring through the worst season in their history, with just eleven wins, is that Bryant is a defensive liability. When the Lakers are on defense, they are outnumbered 5-4, thanks to Kobe the obstacle.With him in the lineup winning is nearly impossible. But this season, the Lakers' main purpose is showcasing Bryant, not winning games.

For a team supposedly dedicated to winning, how insane is that?

For the Lakers, this has been a wasted year. It was supposed to be devoted to developing the corps of young talent, including Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr and Jordan Clarkson. But the offense still centers around Bryant, who plays around 30 minutes a game.. That's stupid for two reasons. First of all, why spend time on a Bryant-dominant offense when he won't be around next year? And how can the youngsters learn when they're merely background figures?

Bryant screwed things up before the season started by taking a whopping $20 million-plus salary that made it impossible for the team, which has been struggling the last few years, to sign any top-notch talent. What he should have done in his final season is play about ten minutes a game and take a pay cut down to what he's really worth--about $10 million annually. He doesn't really need all the millions he's virtually stolen from the Lakers these last few years. He already has enough money to last several lifetimes. Why not do what team-oriented greats like Tim Duncan and Tom Brady and Dirk Nowitski have done late in their careers--take less money and leave millions to help their team sign needed players?

Help the team? Apparently that has never crossed the mind of this selfish egomaniac.

According to insiders, Bryant's teammates hate playing second fiddle to this attention-starved has-been and can't wait until this horrible season is over. The insiders add that many of his teammates don't like him.

I'm with them.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Super Bowl: How Denver Will Upset Carolina

Super Bowl 50 is commonly viewed as a David vs Goliath match, with the Carolina Panthers poised to crunch the Denver Broncos. Many experts predict a blowout, insisting the Broncos don't have a chance in hell.

Not so fast.

The underdog Broncos just might pull off the upset. The expeerts who are forecasting Denver's demise are either forgetting or downplaying the team's signature strength--its defense.This is not just a good defense, it's a great one, up there with the bone-crunching  Baltimore Ravens' crew that won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season.

The Broncos' stats are impressive. Their defense leads the league in yards allowed (283.1), passing yards per game (199.6) and sacks (52), and is third in rushing yards allowed (83.6). Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are the NFL's most lethal pass-rushing pair, teaming up for 18.5 sacks, The secondary, featuring CBs Chris Harris Jr. and Aqid Talib and safety Darian Stewart, is second to none. True, the Panthers boast the league's No.1 offense, scoring 31 points a game under the leadership of the top NFL QB, linebacker-sized Cam Newton, But the Panthers haven't had to contend with a defense this talented and this ferocious. They also have to contend with the baffling schemes of Denver's defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who's arguably the best in the business.

The Panthers have been elevated to this pedestal because they have just one loss and also because they looked so dominant in the playoffs, whipping Seattle, after jumping off to a 31-point lead, and embarrassing the Arizona Cardinals, who many thought were the best team in the playoffs. In retrospect, beating the Cardinals was no big deal. Their aging QB Carson Palmer was awful in both playoff games. Arizona's demolition by Carolina was more a function of Palmer's ineptness than the Panthers' skill.

Beating the Panthers won't be easy. They have a rugged, top-five ranked defense that should make it tough for Denver to gain much yardage. Ancient Bronco QB Peyton Manning has a dead arm and is hobbled by foot and rib injuries that make it hard for him to get any velocity on his passes. It doesn't help that the Denver running game is just passable. The Broncos will be lucky to score 17 points. But the Denver defense should keep the Panthers' offense in check and well below its scoring average.

This game shapes up to be a repeat of the 2007 Super Bowl, in which the undefeated, heavily-favored New England Patriots played the New York Giants, who were deemed dead meat.. But the Giants, behind a murderous defense and the clutch passing of QB Eli Manning, won 17-14. David, as it turned out, toppled Goliath. It can be done.

To beat the Panthers, the Broncos' defense has to rattle QB Newton, limit his running and scrambling, disrupt his rhythm, and clamp down on the Panther receivers, a task that, for this secondary, won't be that difficult. As a group, the Panther WRs are just modestly talented. Because of his speed, Ted Ginn Jr is the most dangerous of the lot. But he's inconsistent, tends to run so-so routes and is prone to dropping passes.
One huge advantage the Broncos have is Super Bowl experience. They were in the Super Bowl just two years ago, so the circus-like atmosphere is nothing new for many Denver players and coaches. However, this is a totally new experience for the Panthers, who are likely to get a case to the Super Bowl jitters and make some critical errors.

The way this game will play out is strength against strength, the Broncos' defense against the Panthers' offense. Edge to Broncos' defense.

Look for Denver to win a low-scoring game.