November 28, 2013
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
Lakers fans need not worry about what’s going to happen during the summer robust free agent class that will include LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony because the team extended Kobe Bryant’s contract for two years at $48.5 million on November 25.
Talk radio pundits and basketball analysts concur the Lakers ownership led by Jim Buss, over paid Bryant and thus crippled the Lakers’ chances of seriously competing for another NBA title in two years.
Die hard Laker fans will scoff at that, saying the team was smart in securing the face of the franchise and allowing him to retire as arguably the greatest Laker of all time with at least five rings and the all-time leading scorer mark.
Bryant will remain the highest paid player in the league pending what James and Anthony get in the open market, but may have taken cash over the possibility of championships.
All of this would really be great if the Lakers and their fans knew what they were getting, but the Kobe Bryant who returns as soon as Sunday, after rupturing his Achilles in April against the Golden State Warriors will not be the guy who tore the NBA up for the great part of 17 seasons.
Bryant returned to practice with the team two weeks ago and is on schedule to play any day now. His jump shot has looked crisp and spot on in practice and there reportedly have been no lingering signs from the Achilles tear.
However, even as a shadow of himself he will be much better than any of the top players expected to be drafted in the next two years. The larger question will be for how long will he stay healthy?
Bryant has already cashed a $24 million check on a $30 million contract this season, the final year of a six-year max deal.
Many were expecting the Lakers to wait until after the season to cut a deal with Bryant and gauge the temperature of James and Anthony to two top tier free agents, but loyalty to Bryant and Laker fans won out.
If the season ended right now the surprising Lakers at 7-7 would not make the playoffs. The forecast is the Lakers will win fewer than 40 games with or without Bryant and not make the post season.
Of course, the Lakers could just tank the season and pray they hit the lottery and draft Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker the two best players in collegiate basketball.
Providing they miss on either one of them the chances of getting a really good player in the first round of the draft is solid.
The question here is the Lakers plan after Kobe Bryant. There doesn’t seem to be one. Their over 300 game sell out streak snapped, the emerging Clippers now evolving into the top tenant of Staples Center and their growing popularity among local basketball fans.
If nothing else, the Lakers brass has stabilized their ship and their brand, which is all Kobe Bryant. Now they are banking that anything short of another NBA title will still be just as profitable.
November 21, 2013
By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley
AFRO Sports Desk
The world got a chance to see the top two NBA prospects early last week when freshmen Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Duke’s Jabari Parker headlined a Duke-Kansas matchup, a game that Kansas ended up winning.
With the top two likely choices in next spring’s NBA draft squaring off in a head-to-head tilt, scouts and college basketball fans got a first look at what should be a deep and prosperous draft. Parker dropped 27 points and nine rebounds for Duke while Wiggins countered with 22 points and eight rebounds, giving his Kansas team the edge in a 93-84 showcase. While both were impressive and lived up to the preseason hype, only one will go first in the draft. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate which of these young stars will hear his name called first.
Riley: The things Parker brings to the table are a collection of skills that basketball browsers haven’t seen since the days of Carmelo Anthony. A lethal scorer who can attack from several angles, Parker was outstanding in his duel with Wiggins. We saw a complete A-game, from deep, from intermediate and when attacking the rim. There was literally nothing that Duke’s Parker couldn’t or didn’t do in front of thousands at Chicago’s United Center. Wiggins is athletic, no doubt, but he doesn’t have the floor game that Parker has, and he never will. Parker is much more advanced offensively than Wiggins will ever be. You can’t teach scoring, which Parker has, and you can’t coach the intangibles that he brings.
Green: The NBA is all about the floor game—getting out on the break, cutting and hustling—and no one does it better on the collegiate level than Wiggins. Sure, Parker’s offensive repertoire is impressive, but he doesn’t have Wiggins’ legs. It’s the same debate we had when LeBron James and Anthony were coming out. James was clearly the physical phenom, but Anthony was perhaps the best scorer to come out in quite some time. NBA teams care about speed, athleticism and hustle, and no 2014 draftee brings all those qualities to the table except Kansas’ Wiggins.
Riley: Everyone has different styles, and opinions swing left and right in our industry, but athleticism can only take you so far in the NBA. Parker’s game is tailor-made to win now. He might not be as springy as Wiggins but he’s got some hop in his step. His one-handed alley-oop throw down against Kansas was evidence enough, but the acrobatic circus shot he made against three defenders even got Dick Vitale out of his seat. When you add in the rebounding, range and leadership, if I have the top pick in the 2014 draft, I’m running my card up to the podium and taking Parker as quickly as I can.
Green: You probably couldn’t go wrong with either pick, but the upside is definitely there when you see Wiggins play. Parker seems more like a finished product to me, but you can dissect Wiggins’ game and realize he has a lot more to offer as he grows and gets more diverse. He has the NBA game, no question. Can he shoot it like Parker at this stage? No. But I see the makings of a lockdown defender and furious floor-runner. Those two traits will serve him well as he gets his offense together. Once he does that, look out. Again, look at the Carmelo/LeBron debate from 10 years ago. LeBron couldn’t score like Melo initially, but look who turned out to be the greater player. I wouldn’t be surprised to see déjà vu all over again.
November 21, 2013
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Ed Reed insists Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is doing a poor job, and the safety was released by the team earlier this month because Reed spoke up about it.
Now with the New York Jets, Reed said in a conference call with the Baltimore media on Wednesday that the Houston defense "is not a good fit for a lot of people who are still down there."
Reed was waived by the Texans in the wake of a loss to Arizona on Nov. 10. After the game, he said, "Certain situations we just got outplayed and outcoached."
On Wednesday, Reed said, "The truth is the truth. You've got to put your players in a position to make plays."
Asked if he talked to Phillips, Reed said, "(He) basically just made sure I was leaving. Honestly, of all people, he's probably the guy, the reason I'm not there."
The Texans said Phillips was not available Wednesday for comment, but would be available to speak on Thursday.
Reed spent his entire career with the Ravens before signing as a free agent with Houston during the offseason. This will be his second game this season in Baltimore.
Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson, who also played with Reed at Miami, said, "People feel certain ways. Maybe that's how he felt when he was here. Other than that, I really can't speak on it. That's Ed's feelings."
November 21, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The family and attorney of the alleged victim in a sexual assault investigation involving Florida State quarterback James Winston on Wednesday sharply criticized Tallahassee police in their first public comments about the case.
The lengthy family statement said their attorney, Patricia Carroll, was warned by police that Tallahassee was a "big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable."
The statement which was first provided to the Tampa Bay Times, also said the woman "cannot fathom" why local prosecutors were not told about the investigation involving Winston until last week. Winston's attorney has repeatedly maintained his client has done nothing wrong.
Several city officials — including the interim police chief — held a hastily arranged press conference on Wednesday evening but they refused to respond to the specific allegations made against city police.
Tom Coe, the interim police chief, contended that the case was put on hold last February when the accuser "broke off contact" and Carroll "indicated" that the woman "did not want to move forward at that time."
Coe, without addressing any specifics, said statements are being made about the case and "some are not factual."
"We fully understand there is immense interest in this nationwide case," Coe said. "...My role as police chief is to protect the rights of everyone involved, the integrity of this investigation and to make sure it's conducted fairly and impartially and we try to get the truth in this case."
Winston was a top freshman recruit and backup quarterback at the time of the alleged December 2012 assault, but is now a Heisman Trophy candidate and the Seminoles are the second-ranked football team in the country.
The family said in their statement that the woman did not initially know the identity of who assaulted her and did not identify the alleged attacker as Winston until January.
Carroll, in an interview with The Associated Press, disputed the assertion by City Manager Anita Favors Thompson and Coe that the investigation into the alleged assault was put on hold because the woman no longer wanted to prosecute.
Favors Thompson, saying that she anticipated national media interest because of Winston's celebrity, emailed that information to the Tallahassee mayor and city commissioners on Nov. 12. Her email stated police "stopped getting responses from the young woman and could no longer contact her for additional follow up and information after many attempts to do so.
The city manager said an attorney representing the alleged victim's family said she "changed her mind and did not wish to prosecute."
Carroll, however, said that the woman never told police she did not want to press charges.
Carroll said that the accuser — who is from the Tampa Bay area — was going ahead with her life and attending classes at FSU when it became apparent that the police had no plans to seriously investigate the case. She left school last week when she learned that the case was about to become public.
"I had no faith whatsoever in the Tallahassee police department," said Carroll.
The statement from the family said that Carroll asked Tallahassee police detective Scott Angulo about obtaining a DNA sample from Winston. But Angulo refused to get the sample and refused to interview people— including Winston's roommate — who may have witnessed the attack. The family said the detective told Carroll that "such activity would alert Winston and the matter would go public."
When officials were asked about the allegations, TPD spokesman David Northway said they couldn't comment because it is an ongoing investigation.
The family statement also disputed that the woman was "intoxicated" at the time of the incident, saying that blood work showed otherwise.
Carroll said the woman and the family are cooperating with prosecutors "as they proceed with whatever actions they are taking in this matter."
Tallahassee police handed over information to prosecutors about the 11-month old case after two media organizations began requesting records associated with the incident. State Attorney Willie Meggs has said his office may make a decision regarding the case within the next few weeks.
Timothy Jansen, Winston's attorney, has said his client has done nothing wrong and maintains he will be exonerated. Jansen has said that he was told in February by police that the case was closed.
Coe emphatically said "the case was never closed," saying it was classified as "inactive" but still open. Coe said that after the media requests police consulted with Meggs and that the case was then "reactivated."
The family, in its statement, said the woman was "devastated" when they heard that Jansen was told about the case last February. They said that allowed Winston to create his defense and prepare witnesses.
Jansen said Wednesday he would not respond to any "specific aspects" of the investigation mentioned in the family statement.
"We are waiting, like everyone else, for the decision from the state attorney's office," Jansen said.
November 21, 2013
Richard Sherman; Poised to be Great, Look what Seattle found from Compton
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
The first thought of Compton is not a proving ground for Stanford intellectuals and National Football League stars who challenge the game’s biggest names and then back it up with their play off the field.
However, that’s because you’ve never met Compton’s Richard Sherman, a dreadlock wearing Stanford alum who prepped at Dominguez High in the Hub City and was passed over until the 5th round of the 2011 NFL draft.
Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll saw what Sherman did to his former team USC in college and figured that this was his best chance to finally beat Jim Harbaugh and he was right.
The 6’3, 195 pound Sherman played receiver for the Dons coach Keith Donnerson and averaged 30 yards a catch in high school.
During his senior year when he led the Dons to a victory over powerful Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, he caught just 28 passes for an amazing 14 touchdowns. That’s a TD on ever other catch, you’d think on that alone he would have been a hot commodity.
That he was, but the Seattle Seahawks star defensive back had aspirations far beyond the football field so he left Compton for prestigious Stanford where again he had to prove himself on the football field.
Sherman returned to the Southland last summer to share his story with youths attending a Brotherhood Crusade event on Crenshaw Blvd. to deliver a powerful message that hit home, and reminded him of just how far he has come.
“We all have options in life and I have told many of my friends that they could have done what I did, but instead they took another path and found themselves in jail or dead,” Sherman told the youths.
He reminded them that one bad decision does not have to define their future.
“Everybody makes bad decisions, I have a made a few bad decisions, but you have to move on and make better decisions and learn from those decisions,” he implored.
Usually when an athlete returns to his roots when his playing career is over, the lights have dimmed and the money is gone.
What makes Richard Sherman unique is that he spoke to a group of youngsters wearing his Seahawks number 25 game jersey and said very little if anything about his career.
That is because at the age of 25-years old he is eligible for the Masters program at Stanford and while he grew up in Compton it is not the city’s negative reputation that defines him.
Much like Venus and Serena Williams who hailed from the Hub City, he had the strong foundation of two guiding parents who inspired him to reach for the sky and not limit himself to just athletics.
He credits his family as his most import source of inspiration.
“It’s always been my family. You spend all of these years and sometimes having it kind of tough out here. I always thought I had a good life, but once you realize how hard your parents are working to keep a roof over your head to make everything seem great, you kind of want to pay them back and that’s been my motivation,” Sherman told LAWT.
That motivation has inspired him to become one of the best shut down corner backs in the NFL in just three seasons. He is also one of the primary reasons the Seahawks are favorites to win the Super Bowl and finished this week with an NFC leading 11-1 record.
Sherman is currentlysixth on the team in tackles with 31, but he also has four interceptions for 124 yards including a 58-yard touchdown.
During his visit he spoke candidly of being rewarded for his play on the field and miffs at players such as Derrelle Revis of the Tampa Bay Bucs who makes a staggering 13 million, while Sherman is collecting peanuts at $555,000.
Statistically he is better than five of the highest paid defensive backs in the NFL including the Broncos Champ Bailey ($9 million), Cortland Finnegan of the Rams ($9 million), Houston’s Johnathan Joseph ($7.5 million) and the San Francisco 49ers Carlos Rogers ($5.5 million).
He’s already scheduled to be vastly underpaid in 2014 when his paltry pay will increase to $645, 000.
In just three seasons in the league he has 16 interceptions and that’s rather high considering teams do not like to throw in his direction.
“I'm intelligent enough and capable enough to understand that you are an ignorant, pompous[ER1] , egotistical cretin. I am going to crush you on here because I am tired of hearing about it.” He told Bayless he was “better at life” than the First Take analyst.
Sherman was also involved in a Twitter feud with fellow cornerback Revis, telling him that he was the best corner in the NFL.
He also spurned former Stanford Coach Harbaugh during the Seahawks victory over their rivals this season because he says that his former Stanford coach didn’t respect him.
Sherman repeatedly taunted Patriots’ star quarterback Tom Brady during an October 2012 game. After the game, Sherman posted to his Twitter account a photo of himself yelling at Brady with “U mad bro?” Now, the “U mad bro” is a top selling T-shirt on Sherman’s website richardsherman25.com.
It is that edge that makes this Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. member poised to be great, and an example that you can come from Compton and keep your swag all at the same time?