Tag Archives: ESPN First Take

OKC Pulls the String on Scott Brooks

By Kaleb Page

April 24, 2015

Being a professional coach these days comes with more scrutiny than ever before. With 24-hour news cycles, social media and podcasts, there is no shortage of debate on how well a coach is actually coaching.

For much of professional coaching, especially in the past, the leash on a coach was at least three to four years. However, given the right circumstances that leash can be shortened or it can get the extension.

Scott Brooks was fired Wednesday by the Oklahoma City Thunder. After seven seasons as the head coach, the team decided to fire Brooks and look to go in a different direction. It’s surprising given what Brooks did in his time as a coach. He had a career record of 338-207 (.620) and was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2010.

When Brooks started his career with the Thunder back in 2008 the team was an awful 22-47, for the next six seasons Brooks coached a team that hit at least 50 wins four times. That doesn’t include the 47-19 season (2011-12) that had the team in the NBA finals facing off with the ‘Big Three’ in Miami (the Thunder would lose).

This season for the Thunder, in the much tougher Western Conference, was a roller coaster ride. Every time your looked to see what the team was doing, there seemed to be a debilitating injury. For a good 90% of the season the team was without their superstar Kevin Durant (last year’s MVP). Russell Westbrook battled many injuries (missed 15 games) to still battle night in night out, make a push for the MVP and becoming a nightly triple-double machine. It also didn’t help that versatile big man, Serge Ibaka, fell to injury keeping him out for the big stretch run toward the playoffs.

Despite the setbacks, the team was in contention all the way up to the final game of the season for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Even though Brooks took this team from nothing to something. It still wasn’t good enough to stay off the chopping block.

Now, there’s the argument that Brooks had long enough with a lot of talent to get more Finals appearances and even an NBA title. However, I’m not picking up what they’re putting down.

If anything Brooks deserved at least another year. He was the original guy that was the voice leading this group of young talent, and it was in the hardest conference in the association.

To be honest I think the real look into scrutiny should be at GM. Yes, GM Sam Presti is a bright mind at that position but there are some questionable moves that have put this team down this so-called path.

Let’s look at this team when they got to the NBA Finals. When they were in the Finals this team had Westbrook, Durant and James Harden (Yeah…you read that right). Now imagine, that team still together as a dynamic big three and even a big four if you factor in Ibaka. However, the GM took part in a three team trade that sent Harden to Houston and got Kevin Martin in return.

Yeah, let’s just say that didn’t pan out with Martin being an afterthought and leaving after just one year.

You could even look at the trade that let Jeff Green go and gave the team Kendrick Perkins. A deal that wrapped up so much money in Perkins, that it could have been used elsewhere (i.e. James Harden).

I know the coach is the figure-head of the team, and he will take the fall 9 times out of 10. In all honesty, it looks like there needs to be some changing elsewhere as well.

…But I guess that’s none of my business. (Enjoy Shaq and Charles Barkley’s take)

 

Nobody Wins: The Aaron Hernandez Trial

By Kaleb Page

April 20, 2015

As I got back to my apartment from class Wednesday afternoon the anticipated verdict in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial was in. After many months of legal debate between the prosecution and defense, the verdict was here.

Hernandez was convicted of first degree murder. A sentence of life in prison without a chance at parole.

Quite the unforeseen ending in what early on seemed like a person with promise of a bright future.

Hernandez, coming out of the University of Florida, was looked at as a potential first round pick and had the upside to be a difference maker for many years to come. However, there were red flags involving drug use and the people that he would be around. This meant that the once first-round talent dropped to the fourth round.

Waiting there was the New England Patriots organization, an organization that could take the risk on bringing in a guy like Hernandez and possibly find a way to shape his life in a positive way.

“Personally, I’ve always had concerns. He’s still finding himself. With the right people around, if he keeps his head straight, he’ll do very well.”Doug Pina, Aaron Hernandez’s high school football coach

That line of thinking seemed to be working as Hernandez grew into a fixture on the Patriots and grew as a better figure on and off the field. His accomplishments, coupled with his maturity, granted him a big contract extension.

The deal was made in 2012, and it was a deal to lock up the budding superstar tight-end. The deal was five-years at $40 million ($16 million guaranteed, $24 million incentives/other). This extension would allow Hernandez to be a Patriot for a long time and focus on being one of the best in the game.

“I just hope I keep going, doing the right things, making the right decisions so I can have a good life, and be there to live a good life with my family.” -Aaron Hernandez’s comments after signing his 5-yr $40 million extension

SI.com’s article broke down that quote further, and it just is bizarre to read that quote and see what the reality is today. Did he do the right things? Did he make the right decisions? Will he be there to live a good life with his family?

Across the board the answer is no.

I think it goes without saying that killing anyone is a horrible thing to do. Especially someone who is only at the age of 27 (Odin Lloyd). Odin Lloyd was a friend to Hernandez, a friend that was killed for what reason? As everyone searches for answers there seems to be none.

Simply a senseless killing that ruined many more lives than that of the defendant (Hernandez) and the deceased (Lloyd).

The list of those who are also essentially sentenced to their own version of life in prison could go on and on. Whether it is the mother of Odin Lloyd who raised her son by herself and held a close bond that made Lloyd tell his mother happy mother’s day and happy father’s day because she represented both figures to him. She is sentenced to a life without seeing or hearing from her son ever again.

It could be said too for the young daughter Hernandez has. A daughter that will really never know who her father is, and once she grows up to the point of where she can comprehend this moment in time; how will she view her father then?

It is sad to see these types of things happen in the world today. No matter if you are a friend/family member of the Hernandez family or a friend/family member of the Lloyd family, there is only one final verdict for all.

Nobody wins.

Russell Wilson: Two Sport Possibilities

By Kaleb Page

April 15, 2015

It hasn’t happened since the 80’s and 90’s.

Back when Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson did it, the feat was amazing because it was a top flight corner in the NFL also playing outfield in the MLB and an electric MLB talent running over grown men in the NFL.

Today another athlete presents a possibility of doing the same, and if he succeeded it would be just as impressive or even more so than the predecessors.

Russell Wilson as we all know is the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks and a Super Bowl champion.  As one of the rising stars in the NFL and playing essentially the most important position in all of sports, you would think that his time would be consumed entirely on the position.

However, you would be wrong.

Wilson also has interest in playing the game of baseball, and not just as a little exploit like you see when he shows up to Texas Ranger spring training. Instead he might make the plunge head first into the game.

“You never want to kill the dream of playing two sports,” Wilson said.”I would honestly play two sports.” (Interview with HBO’s Bryant Gumbel)

The NBC Sports article went through the nearly impossible task Wilson would embark on if he decided to do both sports. The article pointed out the fact that times have changed and for certain the Seahawks organization would not want to see their franchise quarterback out there risking injury.

Another key point the article made was that Wilson isn’t nearly the baseball player that Sanders and Jackson were. Which I guess I’ll take that opinion since I can’t say I’ve watched Wilson enough on the diamond.

Would if be interesting to see Wilson go for playing two professional sports?…absolutely.

Only two players have done it that have left any impact to still be remembered, and Wilson could do something similar. It could be a huge opportunity for himself to build his brand and become a bigger sports icon.

At the same time let’s be real.

The sports world of the 80’s and 90’s is a complete 180 from what we have today. With the constant scrutiny of how players play and what preparation they put in; does Wilson have the room for error?

I highly doubt it, especially if he would play baseball and then have to turn around and begin playing in the NFL at the biggest position. A turn around that would not allow for much of a grace period or a smoothing out process.

In the end, go for your dream Russell and do what you want.

Just be ready to be taking a lot of heat if it backfires.

The video below is from last year when this debate heated up again with baseball picking up and Wilson joining a team.

No ‘Hard Knocks’ in Cleveland: Browns make their Best Off-Season Move Yet

By Kaleb Page

March 25, 2015

The NFL off-season has been in full swing with many moves between teams, players and even coaches. When a move is made by the Cleveland Browns, the avid fan base is all over it to let their thoughts be heard.

This Tuesday the organization made arguably its best move of the season and it didn’t even involve a player, coach or even draft picks.

All eyes are on the Browns and more than likely to see what they will mess up this time. This move by the organization tops the moves to add Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline, etc.

The Cleveland Browns have officially declined taking part in the acclaimed NFL series ‘Hard Knocks.’ The series, which chronicles the journey of a team from the beginning of training camp until the start of the season, needs a team for this upcoming NFL year. This series has had many memorable seasons like ones with the Jets and Bengals, and being on the inside of the Browns would have set up some must see television.

Especially how the dynamic is between Johnny Manziel and the coaching staff seems way off. From an outsiders view it seems nowhere near what you would expect for someone who was drafted by the organization in the first round. I think it would have been another opportunity for those watching just to go ‘that’s typical browns’ or further provide proof that it is truly ‘the factory of sadness.’

I do think it is in the best interest of the team to decline this sort of thing. Take into account the quarterback issue the team has, the holes the team has across the board and even executives in the organization with their comments; this distraction of television cameras is definitely not needed right now.

Head coach Mike Pettine has had experience with the show as an assistant with the Jets. He made it a point (in an interview on ESPN) that a big factor in him saying ‘no’ to this was the Manziel factor.

“When we decided not to volunteer for ‘Hard Knocks,’ we discussed everything that was involved with it. [Manziel] is certainly something we needed to consider.” – Mike Pettine, Browns Head Coach

I find it interesting how the organization really puts Manziel out as the problem or even the key factor for mishaps. Yes I know Manziel has had his problems and as a young guy growing up as a fast track star, definitely needs to shape up, but there comes a time when the organization just needs to stop the underlying narrative of ‘blame it on Johnny.’

Bravo Browns, you made your best move of the off-season by staying away from the spectacle that is ‘Hard Knocks.’

Can we just not ruin your good move by throwing someone under the bus though?…Please?

 

Let Pete In

By Kaleb Page

March 19, 2015

The year was 1989 and Major League Baseball brought down the lifetime ban on one of its greatest players. A player that is the all-time hits leader for the highest level of baseball and known for his remarkable hustle on the field.

That player is none other than Pete Rose. The legendary Cincinnati Red (and Philadelphia Philly) was found guilty of breaking one of baseballs biggest rules: There shall be no betting on the game of baseball.

A simple rule that was more or less brought into effect after the Black Sox scandal that rocked the baseball world back in the 1920’s. However, Pete broke that rule and bet on the game while managing for the Reds. It wasn’t just the betting that found ‘charlie hustle’ in the MLB doghouse, it was also is insistence that he was innocent.

Ultimately Rose was found to be lying and banished from the game of baseball for life; an unfitting end for one of the most iconic players in the history of baseball.

A three-time World Series champion, 17 time All-Star and three-time national league batting champion (with 4,256 hits) should have a more prestigious ending than being shunned by the sport he gave so much to.

The debate over this topic has raged on especially with the likes of past commissioner Bud Selig. Selig was a major proponent of the ban and kept a firm stance all the way to his retirement this past year to keep Rose out of baseball.

The video above is from a past ESPN First Take episode where they debated the issue of Rose’s ban along with what might happen. It is interesting to see this story play itself out and develop even more as there was a new development in the case.

This week Rose sent a formal request to new commissioner Rob Manfred. This formal request asking for the removal of his lifetime ban. This new commissioner said he will consider the request, but wants to get all the facts in place (along with talking to Pete) before making a decision.

The video above is a more recent video from First Take where they talked a bit more extensively on the possibility of Rose’s reinstatement. The debate on the show is an interesting one and one that I have heard many times before.

As a Cincinnati Reds fan I know it is hard to contain the resentment towards the league about this ban on Rose, especially when players that do performance enhancers merely get a slap on the wrist in comparison to Rose’s punishment. It has been 26 years of time spent banished from the game of baseball.

That time should be up now.

I think those in the media that say time has been served are absolutely right. It has been long enough, for a man who played the game hard night in and night out, to get the honor he so rightfully deserves. He deserves much more than a cheesy commercial about being in the hall when he shouldn’t, and instead a formal enshrinement in Cooperstown next to the other legends of the game.

For Pete’s Sake!…Lift the ban.

Welcome to Oregon East

By Kaleb Page

March 16, 2015

Chip Kelly is the mad scientist. The man who crafted an offensive barrage at Oregon that to this day is still taking flight. His genius at the highest level of college football gained the recognition of those in the NFL, and in 2013 the Philadelphia Eagles came after him (eventually landing him).

Well it has only been two seasons in ‘the city of brotherly love,’ and right now there could be an interesting question to ask the Eagles faithful.

Feeling some buyer’s remorse?

How could a coach who went back to back seasons with a 10-6 record get the feeling of being ousted by his own fan base? As they say it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only seconds to ruin it. Well, I guess the same could be said about perceive coaching knowledge or even grasp of what makes a great team.

You could say it all started with the head scratching move to trade one of the top running backs in the league (LeSean McCoy) for a young talented linebacker named Kiko Alonso. Now the interesting thing about this is how Alonso once was an Oregon Duck. The roster now consists of seven former Ducks who played under Kelly at Oregon.

While allegiance is a good quality in some aspects, it can be a problem when it comes at the expense of talent in a bottom line league like the NFL. If you don’t pay attention you could be packing your bags fairly soon.

Oh but wait there’s more!

Tuesday, when free agency officially began in the NFL, a move was made by Kelly that was the pièce de résistance on the head scratching display.

Kelly put in the trade with the St. Louis for Sam Bradford. Who are they giving up in return for Bradford? None other than their starting quarterback Nick Foles.

Foles in 2013 had an amazing year at quarterback, throwing for 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. That year was a pleasant surprise as Foles was a mid-round selection by the team in 2012 and didn’t have high expectations coming out of Arizona. While Foles battled with injuries just like Bradford, Foles had much more success that showed promise for more seasons like the one in 2013.

Trading for a quarterback that in his five-year career has had multiple knee surgeries and only a record of 18-30-1 as a starter, while giving up on a young prospect that has real promise; definitely is a head scratching move put on by Kelly.

Whether you look on ESPN, Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, etc. there are plenty that are sharing the sentiment of: Does this guy know what he’s doing?

Even Stephen A. Smith going as far to say racism played a factor in these moves by Kelly to get rid of guys like Trent Cole, Jeremy Maclin, Cary Williams and LeSean McCoy. All of which are black athletes that were not signed back with the team. Essentially marked as not fitting the scheme or direction just like when the team released Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson in previous years. Something Smith finds quite suspect.

While I won’t go that extreme as Mr. Smith to say Kelly is being racist, I will say that Kelly better know what he is doing with these questionable moves. As I said before in this post, the NFL is a bottom line league and if Kelly isn’t careful this whole image of a genius can be tarnished. It could very well lead to Kelly seeing his way out of the league.

I guess only time will tell if these moves are good and will actually make for a successful Eagles squad in 2015.

As for now hang in there Eagles fans, it could be much worse.

Wake Up!…It’s Westbrook Time

By Kaleb Page

March 10, 2015

In the greatest basketball league on the planet (the NBA) nightly you can be amazed by the talent on the floor. Whether you tune in to the Houston Rockets and watch James Harden, Cleveland with the three-headed monster of Love, Irving and James or in a small market like Milwaukee  where “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo  puts on a show.

While the league has many great players, the premium players are starting to make the push for the most valuable player trophy. Now I bet there are those out there acting like the funny vine saying that the only person for the MVP is LeBron James, LeBron James, LeBron James, LeBron James and LeBron James.

Yes I know James is the best player in the world and should be placed in the discussion for the MVP, but there is one player who has cemented his place in not only the discussion for the MVP but for the upper echelon of stars in the league.

This player is none other than Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook. For years there has been constant debate on whether or not Westbrook can play with Kevin Durant, also whether or not he can be a point guard in the league.

If you watched the video or even remember back a few years, the sentiment shown towards Westbrook was one of doubt towards his ability at the point and with Durant. Even recently there has been the same sentiment to doubt Westbrook on what he brings to the team.

Then came the All-Star Game.

Where Westbrook out-shined the stars on the court (Yes I know it’s a glorified scrimmage) putting up 41 points in 26 minutes; just one point shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time record of 42 points (in 37 mins.).  That performance just rolled over into what has been an amazing start to the second half of the season.

On Wednesday night Westbrook scored 49 points, career-high 16 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth consecutive triple-double. Four straight triple doubles in the best professional basketball league in the world? Are you kidding me?!

Even though it was against the 76ers, you still better be giving out the love to what Westbrook is doing. Four straight triple doubles hasn’t been done since the great one Michael Jordan did it in 1989.

While Durant has been injured Westbrook has had to hold this team afloat in what is a deadly Western Conference. It still surprises me that Westbrook still is cast aside as the side dish to Durant, and still gets left out of MVP talks.

While there are few people rumbling for Westbrook to get the love; there still isn’t enough talk.

The guy,who plays with controlled chaos and as Stephen A. Smith says is the ‘ultimate assassin,’ needs to be out of the possible talks of the MVP and instead in the for sure talks of MVP.

Right now it’s Westbrook’s world and we just live in it.

The Social Media Age and Teammate Interaction

By Kaleb Page

February 12, 2015

Right now as you read this very post, you are probably getting a notification from one of your social media sites about something. Which hopefully you ignore and continue to read this post, but in today’s day and age social media surrounds everything we do. This surrounding by social media can be a good thing but equally bad as well.

While it provides us all with a connecting platform that in the past was never there and ultimately providing opportunities we never could have imagined; there is still an underlying point that can be crossed for the worse. Posting negative things, calling out people behind a keyboard, etc. has been something I’m sure all of us have seen.

Athletes are no different and many are very active with different social media outlets. That is why when a comment is made by a big figure in sports on social media, everyone critiques it. No different was it when LeBron James tweeted a statement in response to something said by his teammate Kevin Love.

This whole season for the Cavaliers it has been a continuing process to see what will be the optimal lineup and style this team will play with. It seems like since the recent additions of J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov the team has found a sense of direction. Along with that it seems like the ‘jelling’ is starting to solidify into a strong team that is enjoying its basketball.

However one player has been up and down trying to find his all-star form. That player is starting power-forward Kevin Love who even though is playing well, still is not hitting on all cylinders. In the preseason Love mentioned something about trying to ‘fit-out’ with this team as he was unsure his role and place in the team. Then after a loss to the Indiana Pacers this past Saturday, Love was interviewed and said that it was one of the toughest situations he had to deal with. Thus, on Saturday night a tweet by James was sent out with some advice:

“Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts”-LeBron James (@KingJames)

Quite the public remark to be made by ‘the King’ and one that saw its fair share of debate from those on every sports outlet imaginable. From ESPN to Fox Sports the debate raged on with if James was out of line and what will this relationship look like moving forward. After the media ran away with the tweet, James responded back saying that the media essentially needed to relax and if he has a problem with a teammate he tells them to their face.

Personally I think James would be someone to actually go up to a player and give his thoughts, but I think this tweet is nothing more than a call out to Love. A call out to basically say the team needs you (Love) to step up and be that dynamic big-man you were out in Minnesota. A public motivation point put out by James may be what wakes up Love, but only time will tell.

As for now it looks like King James is sending the message, get on board as the stretch run of the NBA season is approaching.

Is One Game Enough for Dominic Raiola?

By Kaleb Page

The game of football is a violent game. No matter what the rules are or advancements made in the name of player safety; the game will always be a violent one. Within the confines of this modern-day gladiator sport, there has to be the mindset to play hard nonstop but at the same time there should be no intent to hurt someone intentionally.

Dominic Raiola is one of the key pieces to the offensive line of the Detroit Lions. As the center and a veteran in the league, Raiola is key in getting the line in sync and making protection calls to protect star quarterback Matthew Stafford. This past Sunday in a key divisional match-up with the rival Chicago Bears Raiola made a play that will compromise that offensive line.

After a short run that was stuffed by the Bears, the pile was still on the ground and the play was just ending. For Raiola it was an opportunity to take a shot at a downed player. Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson was still on the ground when Raiola ran off to the side where Ferguson was on the ground. As Raiola went to pass Ferguson he took a hop and stomp down on Ferguson’s ankle. This action instantly got the Bears furious and words exchanged between Raiola and Bears players.

Monday Raiola’s actions were punished by the NFL at the tune of one game without pay for the final week battle between the Lions and Packers. A game that will decide the division winner for the NFC North. The thing about this one game suspension that is leaving those not only in the league surprised but national analysts as well is that this isn’t the first time Raiola has acted this way.

Watching ESPN First Take this morning, both Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith agreed that suspending Raiola only a game is not enough. Just months ago Raiola was seen throwing a punch to the back of a defensive lineman for the Patriots head and then as the final kneel down was made he went at that same players’ knees intentionally (he admitted it himself). Over the course of his career Raiola has had up to six run-ins with the NFL league office sending him some sort of fine for his actions on the field. That is why many are thinking just a one game suspension isn’t sending the message to Raiola.

Antonio Pierce was a guest on First Take and brought up an interesting discussion point. He brought up what would happen to a defensive player if this same scenario happened, say a defensive lineman stomped on Tom Brady’s or Peyton Manning’s ankle; then what? Would there still be a one game suspension? He highly doubted that and I would have to agree with him. If the league really wanted to punish Raiola it should have been at least this final game and the Lions first playoff game (possibly even the entire playoffs).

If you haven’t had the chance to see the stomp by Raiola here is a video to show that along with some further commentary (start at 36 seconds).

After reading this post, seeing the video and its commentary, what are your thoughts? Think it was intentional? Think more punishment should have been issued? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Athletes take to social media over Ferguson Verdict

By Kaleb Page

Voicing our thoughts is something all of us do when it comes to something big happening in our country. No different is this period in time when the Ferguson case coming to a close brought on many reactions from not only people in the United States, but around the world as well. One thing I won’t get into specifics on is the case or the verdict itself, but one thing I will say is that this case and the end result will be around for a long time.

After the verdict was read, not only were everyday people like you and I taking to social media to look at the reactions, discussions and to voice opinions; athletes were doing it too.

Yahoo Sports and Sports Illustrated have screen shots of some athletes tweets in reaction to the verdict and the subsequent actions in the community of Ferguson. Now I know it is good that sports outlets cover the different aspects of news that involve athletes, and this is something to cover since there are prominent athletes speaking on a big social issue at the time in this country. However, I do find a problem in doing this and highlighting certain types of things said.

When a big name athlete with a lot of influence like Kobe Bryant says, “The system enables young black men to be killed behind the mask of law” or Serena Williams says, “Wow. Just wow. Shameful. What will it take???.” What type of role does that play in feeding on to the madness we have seen on social media and in the Ferguson community?

These athletes know they hold a lot of social influence whether it is fair or not. They definitely can and do spark thoughts for people by what they say. That is why for me personally I wish athletes would just stay away from subjects like these when it is still in the heat of the moment. Don’t get into the specifics, don’t try to incite more hostile reaction, if anything just do a simple neutral message. Tweets like the ones above however, just add to the quick actions by people who don’t give time to really think on it.

I know that is human to want to speak your mind on something out there, but like I said I don’t think that it is an athletes place to jump in on this issue especially on social media. I hope that these tweets and other social media outlet outpourings by athletes similar to Kobe’s and Serena’s don’t get publicized more than they already have. Because if there is one thing sport shouldn’t be, it shouldn’t be a dividing factor on top of the many factors dividing us already.

Sport should be something that brings us all together no matter the race. I hope that athletes realize that before they post on this issue.

The video above is from ESPN First Take, and it looks at how athletes speak on social media about major issues. This video is primarily about when Ferguson just began and athlete reaction at that time. I recommend watching it all as it speaks to what I wrote above as far as reaction to the conclusion of this case (or start at 5:12 on the video).