All posts by ryanfort

I love sports! All I do is talk and write about it. Trying to take my writing skills to the next level as well as my blog! Please support me by following and spreading the word about my blog.Follow me on Twitter @RyanD1Bound; Follow us on Twitter @fortonsportsinc and email us at fortonsportsincorporated@gmail.com

Hawks (1) vs Nets (8) Preview : Mutual Understanding

Atlanta Hawks (60-22) vs. Brooklyn Nets (38-44)

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A few years back a lot of us were wondering “why in the hell did Atlanta trade away Joe Johnson?” A couple of seasons later we see why. Joe Johnson isn’t/wasn’t that guy we thought he was. He wasn’t a franchise caliber guy and he couldn’t lead a team. JJ benefited from being around players who could already play. Not guys that needed him to make them better. After a few early playoff exits the Hawks grew tired of him and decided it was time to move on. Smart move.

After the trade Atlanta has improved from year to year (top three East team last season before the Horford injury,) while the Nets remained stagnant. DeRon Williams & Joe Johnson haven’t produced like their pay implicates and I think we know why… Both players just aren’t that good. Williams is a system guy (Jerry Sloan in Utah) and JJ is best served as a 2nd or 3rd option (see a few of the early Nash led Sun teams). The Nets don’t have a sense of direction and are stuck in no man’s land.

These two teams met four times with the Hawks winning 4-0. The Nets went 11-5 to close the season sort of ending it on a role. But even with that I just don’t think they’re a true playoff team.

Starters:

PG: J.Teague vs. D.Williams

SG: K.Korver vs. M.Brown

SF: D.Carroll vs. J.Johnson

PF: P.Millsap vs. M.Plumlee

C: A.Horford vs. B.Lopez

This series really isn’t all that appealing. Pacers vs. Hawks would’ve been far more interesting but it is what it is.

The Nets have the talent to make things tough but the question is will they? Brook Lopez is a top 5 scoring center, Joe Johnson is too big of a wing player for the Hawks to guard and D-Will is a veteran point guard who’s played in a Conference Finals before.

Atlanta are the Spurs of the East. They can play inside-out, outside-in, rebound, defend and everything else. Their only downfall might be how they don’t have a guy who takeover late in the game. You can get by with that in the season but in the postseason having a go to guy is critical.

Keys:

Atlanta

They’re the best team in the East but i don’t think the gap is too far. In this specific series Atlanta should be able to exploit Brooklyn’s defense with their impeccable passing. On the defensive end if they can contain Brook Lopez and keep Williams from distributing they’ll be fine. Brooklyn isn’t that good.

Brooklyn

The Nets. If Brook Lopez can establish himself downlow and the bench is performing the Nets can make it a series. Williams is going to have hell with Teague all series long but if he gets him the post he’ll have an advantage. Joe Johnson also needs to have that F*** you type of series great players usually tend to have against a foe…. oops

Prediction Hawks beat the Nets 4-1. Atlanta is just too good for BKN. The real test will be in round two for Atlanta.

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Cavaliers (2) vs Celtics Preview (7) : Times Have Changed

Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29) vs. Boston Celtics (40-42)

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In a way I find this series a tad bit ironic. Years ago LeBron’s last game as a Cav was against who? Years later his first series back in a Cavs uniform is against who? Like the Cavs, Boston has went through it’s own mini rebuilding stage. The Celtics got rid of old heads Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, traded away Rajon Rondo & let Doc Rivers walk, replacing him with bright young coach Brad Stevens. This new Celtics team pales in comparison to the old KG lead squad from years past. They may be quicker, more athletic and younger but they aren’t as dangerous as a unit. At least not for the next few seasons.

This past offseason the Cavs went from being a mediocre squad to being a contender. They brought in LeBron James, Kevin Love, Shawn Marion and few other Heat players to shape up the roster. Once starting center Anderson Varejao went down the Cavs brought in Timofey Mozgov and then swung deals to bring in the likes of Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Kendrick Perkins. With pieces being juggled around the Cavs struggled early and often. From mid-March to now the Cavs have been rolling and seems like a lock to represent the East in the Finals.

Starters:

PG: K.Irving vs. M.Smart

SG: J.Smith vs. A.Bradley

SF: L.James vs. E.Turner

PF: K.Love vs. B.Bass

C: T.Mozgov vs. T.Zeller

Both teams are going to deal with the inexperience factor. Outside of Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner no one on the Celtics roster has ample playoff experience. Starting point guard Marcus Smart is a rookie in this league and is still learning how to deal with various aspects of the game. I.Thomas, the Celtics best player, comes off the bench and he’s never played in a playoff game. Boston is in the same position as Milwaukee; young, talented and well coached but inexperienced.

Three of Cleveland’s main contributors (Love, Kyrie, Thompson) have never played in a playoff game. With Boston being their opponent the Cavs will have a nice chance to groom and establish themselves as a playoff squad. If Love and Kyrie aren’t playing at a high level the Cavs won’t make it out of the East.

These two teams played four times this season splitting the season series 2-2. They Celtics swept them in their final two match-ups but it doesn’t hold much weight because Cleveland rested their starters. Sorry not sorry.

Keys

Cleveland

The Cavs just need to play to their strengths. LeBron is the best player on the planet and Boston has no answer for him. If Cleveland can get easy looks and lock in defensively this series will be over quickly.

Boston

The Celtics have the better coach in Brad Stevens and as absurd as it may sound they also have the best PG in this series coming off the bench. (Thomas.) If the Celtics can make LeBron work, keep K.Love out of the offense and contain Smith and Kyire they’ll have a shot at making this series interesting. Winning two straight games at the end of the season against Cleveland was a confidence builder. (Btw Boston finished the season 24-12.)

Prediction Cavs beat the Celtics 4-1. A few games may come down to the wire but in the end LeBron James is the best player on the planet and has no business losing this series. Like the Bulls, Cleveland has a chance to tune up in preparation for a huge second round match-up between the two. All I’m waiting for.

NBA Playoffs Preview (Round 1)

 NBA Playoffs Round One:

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Click on each link to take you to each preview/prediction…

Raptors (4) vs. Wizards (5)

Ryan Fort:  (http://wp.me/p33YLP-E8)

Players To Watch:

Lou Williams, Paul Pierce, John Wall, DeMar DeRozan

Warriors (1) vs. Pelicans (8)

 Fort:  (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ek)

Players To Watch: Andrew Bogut, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday

Bulls (3) vs. Bucks (6)

 Fort:  (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ee)

Players To Watch: Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, The Greek Freak, O.J. Mayo

Rockets (2) vs. Mavericks (7)

Fort: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ef)

R’Mon Allen:

Players To Watch: Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, James Harden

Cavaliers (2) vs. Celtics (7)

Fort: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Eg)

Allen: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-ED)

Players To Watch: Evan Turner, I.Thomas, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving

Hawks (1) vs. Nets (8)

Fort: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Eh)

Players To Watch: DeRon Williams, Joe Johnson, Jeff Teague, Brook Lopez

Blazers (4) vs Grizzlies (5)

Fort: ( http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ei)

Players To Watch: Whoever isn’t injured

Clippers (3) vs Spurs (6)

Fort: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ej)

Allen:

Players To Watch: CP3, K.Leonard, D.Jordan, Tony Parker

Follow us on Twitter:
@Fortonsportsinc , @RyanDFort & @RmonAllen for live tweets during each game.

Rockets (2) vs Mavericks (7) Preview : City Tension

Houston Rockets (56-26) vs. Dallas Mavericks (50-32)

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Dating back to the T-Mac & Yao collapse against Dallas, maybe even before then the Mavs and Rockets have had a huge disdain for each other. The owners dislike each other. The players dislike each other. Simply put, everyone within each organization dislikes the other. Basketball aside these two cities often get in disputes on which city is the best in Texas. This matchup gives us our first series that features two rivals……. Man this is going to be fun.

The Rockets haven’t been healthy for most of the season and made a few in season acquisitions to shake up an injury riddled roster. Houston brought in power-forward Josh Smith and ex-Maverick (championship squad) Corey Brewer. MVP candidate James Harden kept the Rockets afloat while Dwight Howard was out of the lineup due to a few nagging injuries. With Harden playing at an MVP level, Brewer and Smith leading the bench and Dwight Howard back from injury the Rockets are going to be a tough out.

The Mavericks, like the Rockets, also made a few moves. The Mavs traded for point guard Rajon Rondo and signed forward Amare’ Stoudamire mid way through the season. Before the trade the Mavs were arguably the best offensive team in basketball. After the trade however, the Mavs took a step back in all aspects of the game. With that being said the Mavericks finished the season on a minor role going 4-1 in their last five games.

Starters:

PG: J.Terry vs. R.Rondo

SG: J.Harden vs. M.Ellis

SF: T.Ariza vs C.Parsons

PF: D.Montiejunas vs. D.Nowitzki

C: D.Howard vs. T.Chandler

Mark Cuban has already started the war of words. He claimed Houston wasn’t a good team outside of James Harden and they are a very predictable foe….. Back during free agency Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, said that Chandler Parsons wasn’t a max guy and basically dissed him. To rev things up even more the Rockets traded for ex-Mav Jason Terry knowing they had intentions of bringing him back….

During the regular season the Rockets beat the Mavericks 3 out of 4 times. The games were competitive but Harden just seemed to be too much for the Mavs. There shouldn’t be much stock put into that record though knowing the Mavs are a different club in the postseason.

Keys:

Houston

The Rockets are an explosive team that relies on shooting the three and getting to the free throw line. In this specific series they can’t be a run and gun team. They have to defend and dominate the inside. If Dwight can have his way with Chandler and he dominates the glass the Mavs won’t be able to pose much of a threat. (Horrible rebounding squad.) The Mavericks also don’t have a player that can guard Harden one on one. His size alone is another aspect of the game Houston should take advantage of.

Dallas

The Mavericks are a better offensive and defensive team than the Rockets. The main problem they have is being consistent. In order to beat the Rockets the Mavericks need to force someone other than Harden to score. If they can make shots consistently, rebound and defend Harden the Mavericks will win the series. It’s time for playoff Rondo and playoff Rick Carlisle. If Carlisle’s schemes are being run to near perfection and Rondo is right this series will end quickly.

Prediction Mavericks upset the Rockets 4-2. The Mavericks have more experience and in my eyes just might be the better team in general. Houston lives and dies by the three and they have no clear cut 2nd option to be exact. Harden still has to prove himself to be a playoff guy and Dwight has to prove he’s serious about winning. Too much trying to prove and won’t be enough doing. The Mavericks have it.

Bulls (3) vs Bucks (6) Preview : Defense

Chicago Bulls (50-32) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (41-41)

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The Bulls brought in a whole lot of talent this offseason on the offensive end of the ball. Pau Gasol (low post scorer), Aaron Brooks (scoring point guard), Nikola Mirotic (European star), and rookie Doug McDermott (shooter), all make the Bulls more potent on offense. With all of the new talent as well as the emergence of Jimmy Butler and the defensive prowess of Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose can finally pick and choose his spots without having to forcefully do everything on his own.

Milwaukee has been a bit of a surprise this season. Jason Kidd has coached this team up without having rookie Jabari Parker or center Larry Sanders, two players who were supposed to be vital in this teams growth and success. From top to bottom this team has little to no playoff of experience which usually spells doom.

Starters:

PG: D.Rose vs. M.Carter-Williams

SG: J.Butler vs. K.Middleton

SF: M.Dunleavy vs. G.Antetokounmpo

PF: P.Gasol vs. E.Ilyasova

C: J.Noah vs. Z.Pachulia

Both teams have top 10 defenses and offense that can be lackluster for long stretches. With these two teams being division rivals and right up the road from each other expect a nice old fashioned, physical, defensive oriented series. The Bulls have defensive ace Thibs as head coach while the Bucks have the length and speed to disrupt the passing lanes. Very intriguing right?

The Bulls won the season series 3-1 with all but one game being fairly close. Neither team scored 100 points in any of those games.

Keys:

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have entirely too much talent to let this series get away from them. As long as they control the ball and force turnovers instead of coughing up the rock themselves the Bulls should win this series fairly easily.

Milwaukee Bucks

To make this series interesting the Bucks have to get into the head of D.Rose and force him to over think and force things. If they can contain the paint and force turnovers the Bucks could potentially scare Chicago… Jason Kidd is going to need to coach the series of his life to be completely honest.

Prediction Bulls Sweep the Bucks 4-0. The Bulls have the advantage defensively, offensively, experience wise and coaching wise. I really see this as a tuneup series to prepare for a 2nd round bout with the Cavaliers…

Warriors (1) vs. Pelicans (8) Preview : Something to Prove

Golden State Warriors (67-15) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (45-37)

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Ever since he was drafted Steph Curry has been proving doubters wrong. His first couple of seasons in the league were filled with ankle injuries, thus sparking the ”what if he was healthy,” line. We’re seeing right now what the answer to that quote would be as Curry is tearing the league up. He’s already in the debate for best shooter ever and he’s arguably the best point guard in basketball. This season alone has seen Curry put the Warriors in elite category. They’re arguably the best team on both ends of the court and only seem to be getting better in each game.

In just his third year being a pro Anthony Davis has already led a team to the playoffs. Playing in a small market Davis hasn’t really gotten the recognition he deserves in regards to him being deemed an elite player. He’s in the conversation for MVP as well as Defensive Player of The Year.

Starters:

PG: S.Curry vs. J.Holiday

SG: K.Thompson vs. E.Gordon

SF: H.Barnes vs. T.Evans

PF: D.Green vs. A.Davis

C: A.Bogut vs. O.Asik

Both teams have been a surprise this season. No expected the Warriors to make the huge leap they did going from Mark Jackson to Steve Kerr as coach. Not too many outside of the city of New Orleans saw Anthony Davis leading a Pelicans team to nearly 50wins and a playoff berth with Monty Williams as head coach.

The Warriors won the season series 3-1 winning the games played at home by an average margin of 21.5 points. When playing in New Orleans the Warriors won a game by six points (OT was needed) and lost by three points in the other game.

Keys:

Golden State

The Warriors have to continue playing the way they have been. Thompson and Curry should be able to light up the Pelicans back court and stifle Anthony Davis down low (Bogut must remain healthy). G’State also has arguably the best bench in basketball having guys like Igudola, David Lee, Barbosa and Shaun Livingston coming in and maintaining/expanding leads of their own. This team is ultra deep and they should be able to use that to their advantage.

New Orleans

The Pelicans are nice young feisty team that possesses a ton of talent. (A coaching change could bring out the best in Holiday, Evans and potentially Gordon.) They can run the floor and they have floor spacers in Ryan Anderson & Quincy Pondexter who come off the bench. To have a chance against Golden State the Pelicans have control the tempo of the game and they have to make things rough on Stephen Curry. If Davis can dominate down low and Holiday contains Curry to an extent the Pelicans have a shot. Tyreke Evans also has to be productive as well.

Prediction Warriors beat the Pelicans 4-2. G’State will win a couple of games by a large margin, but with that being said I’m expecting Anthony Davis to have a Curry like coming out party (few years back against Denver) and dominate one to two games. Tyreke Evans will also be essential in the Pelicans claiming a 2nd victory in this series. The talent gap isn’t too far apart when describing the starting lineups. It’s the bench that’ll kill N.O.

Raptors (4) vs. Wizards (5) Preview: Opposite Strengths

Toronto Raptors (49-33) vs. Washington Wizards (46-36)

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After starting out hot both the Raptors and Wizards flamed out early due to injuries and in the Wizards case, trades. The Wizards dealt with injuries in regards to shooting guard Bradley Beal and the Raptors dealt with injuries revolving around starting guards Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan. After the Christmas break the Wizards dropped as a team while the Raptors were inconsistent in their approach as well.

Toronto was a team that could win on the road as well as at home. They have up-tempo style of play and will usually push the ball following a rebound. Point guard Kyle Lowry is their best playmaker while shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is their best scorer in general. Off the bench the Raptors are led by 6th man Lou Williams (3rd leading scorer) and have guys like Greivis Vasquez, James Johnson and Patrick Patterson who can make plays as well.

The Wizards weren’t that good of a team away from home and often struggled in games that required a lot of scoring. During the season Washington made a midseason deal with the Kings trading away backup point guard Andre Miller for another backup in Ramon Sessions. Like the Raptors, Washington plays an up-tempo style but they aren’t nearly as deep and can’t score in a half court set.

Starters:

PG: K.Lowry vs. J.Wall

SG: D.DeRozan vs. B.Beal

SF: T.Ross vs. P.Pierce

PF: A.Johnson vs. H.NeNe

C: J.Valancinas vs. M.Gortat

These two teams met in the regular season three times with the Raptors winning each game.. (103-84, 120-116 OT & 95-93) The first and last time they met the games were in Toronto with Bradley Beal missing each game. The one time Beal did play against the Raptors they lost at home in OT.

Throughout the season Toronto was a top 10 offensively while Washington was a top 10 team defensively. In the postseason, with the game being slowed down the Wizards have the advantage in that aspect. And despite not having home court advantage the Wizards have players on the roster who know how to win on the road (Pierce game 7 of last year Nets vs. Raptors.) and have ample playoff experience.

Keys:

Wizards:

John Wall is the best player in this series & he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder. If he can consistently get to the paint and create opportunities for his teammates they should be alright offensively. When Wall and Beal are sitting the bench needs to step up their play.

Raptors:

Toronto has to lock in on defense if they want to beat the Wizards. Scoring and not being able to defend won’t warrant any type of advantage. If Lou Williams can continue his dominant play off the bench and keep the Raptors afloat offensively the Wizards will be in trouble.

Prediction Wizards beat the Raptors 4-2. Wall and his team were in this same position last year when they played the Bulls without home court advantage. The Wizards played liked a team worthy of being an Eastern Conference finalist at the beginning of the season and I believe they’ll get back to that form in this series.

One & Done or More to Come?

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“Never judge a Quarterback off of his first year,” is a great quote to live by.

Ever since I was told that I’ve started to evaluate quarterbacks differently. Instead of judging them off of their first year I give them a three year process. The three year mark is a long enough frame because various things come into play within those three years.

In the very first year, a quarterback will often struggle with the pace, flow of the game. They don’t know their teammates as well which could lead to a few chemistry issues. Another problem is that most quarterbacks drafted high in the draft go to bad teams. Due to lack of experience, how are they supposed to be successful right off the bat? And even with those problems, opposing defenses don’t know to fully prepare for them, thus giving them a slight edge.

There has been cases where they fail in their first year and there have been cases where they succeed in their first year. One sample is never enough.

In year two, defenses are better prepared for the quarterback. They watch film, tapes and a lot of other useful tactics that help in their approach towards stopping them. Quarterbacks struggle and history shows that quarterbacks or any position, for that matter, struggle in the second year. That’s just how it goes.

Only a handful of quarterbacks didn’t endure the second year slump and those pretty much the franchise caliber guys. (Luck, Wilson etc)

Year three is when the player finally comes into their own. They’ve matured. They’ve gained experience. And they’ve seen a variety of defensive looks. Case in point, they’re more comfortable with their surroundings, coaches, players etc.

Whatever the case may be year three is when you find out if you have a stud or if you have a dud.

This evaluation can work for every quarterback, outside of Robert Griffin lll.

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Coming in as a rookie RG3 was arguably the best QB in his draft class. He had a tremendous arm, was very dead on when throwing the deep ball and had Olympic level speed. He was a tremendous athlete whose only downfall was not being able to slide at the appropriate times when facing pressure.

Nevertheless during his rookie season Griffin dominated the league. He was one of the highest rated passers. His completion total was decent and he had nice TD-INT ratio. In a week 17 showdown against the Dallas Cowboys Griffin outshined Tony Romo in a game that had playoff implications. RG3 even had a 14pt lead against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs following the win against the Cowboys before he got injured.

Unlike year one, year two wasn’t nearly as good.

Problems brew in the locker room between players and coaches; Griffin was injury riddled; the whole Redskins organization was in a flux. At the end of the season Mike Shanahan was fired and the Redskins moved in a different direction. To top it all off RG3 was injured yet again sending his mobility and health into a state of question.

That offseason the Redskins filled a couple of holes. They went and signed Jay Gruden as head coach, brought in safety Ryan Clark (Steelers) and defensive lineman Jason Hatcher (Cowboys) to shore up the defense and even stole wide-receiver DeSean Jackson away from the Eagles. They looked prime for a renaissance if RG3 was healthy and in tip top form.

Last season, RG3’s third year, ended up being a mess as well. He missed bits and pieces of Training Camp/pre-season action and wasn’t fully ready to go week one of the season. Need playbook, new coach and having a new target all added onto his struggles. At one point he even lost the trust of a few teammates.

Last season wasn’t even about football for him. It was more about him finding common ground with his new coach and his teammates, as well as regaining his health the thing that he ultimately failed to do.

Griffin was in & out of the lineup last season as well, but he did show signs of improvement when he was healthy. The jury is still out on whether or not RG3 can be a nice solid QB. His 2nd & 3rd seasons were injury riddled and filled with constant change in regards to the situation around him. (Luck and Wilson have always been in stable environments.)

If anything year 4 will start to tell the true story of Robert Griffin lll. He’ll have more time learn the playbook, get in sync with his weapons and get a better connection with his coach. More importantly he’ll finally be going through an offseason where he is completely healthy. (Hasn’t happened since his rookie year.)

So don’t doubt RG3 just yet. There is still some time left for him.

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Murray, Misleading, Money, Mistake

For the longest amount of time the Dallas Cowboys had been a mediocre team that showcased a multitude of deficiencies, year in and year out.

For a couple of years the problems came on the defensive side of the ball. While other years, it was poor O-line play, and lack of experience coaching wise. But even with those problems being at the forefront, there was still a problem that lingered and hindered them for a long period of time. That problem happened to be the lack of a run game.

During the 6-10 and countless 8-8 seasons, the ‘Boys went through a plethora of runningbacks. Guys like Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, Phillip Tanner, Felix Jones and Sammy Morris had opportunities to shoulder the load, but none of them seized control of the moment like DeMarco Murray did in 2011.

Drafted in the 3rd round with the 71st pick he wasn’t sought out to be the #1 back. He was looked at as guy, for some, who would be a decent backup to Felix Jones. Meant to ease his load as he was often injured. Little did we know Murray was going to end up being a capable back.

DeMarco Murray’s Career Stats (Rushing)

Year  Games  Attempts  Yards   Y.P.C    Fum   TDs

2011:   13          164         897         5.5        1          2

2012:   10          161         663        4.1          2         4

2013:   14          217        1,121       5.2         2          9

2014:   16          392        1,845     4.7           3         13

When Murray was coming onto the scene and taking over for Felix Jones, he started to generate some buzz and make a name for himself. He was a hard runner who had pretty good vision, but would leave yards on the field as he tended to follow his blockers. And was deemed as a guy prone to injury. Solid, but not a stud. (AP, Charles, McCoy, Forte, Foster, Lynch, Rice, Turner).

As the years went by and he progressed, there started to be talk in regards to feeding him more and let Romo take a backseat. That argument really didn’t have much spring to it until after 2013 when he played in 14 games. His most to that date.

With Jason Garrett’s coaching job on the line, Romo’s back issues, and Murray’s contract being up; the Boys decided to run Murray, much to his liking this past season to see what he could do and also because it was the smart thing to do. Murray responded by breaking Smith’s franchise record yard count with 1,845 yards, and helped Romo have a career year and led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record.

Good things happened when he was fed the ball. They maintained drives. Opened up opportunities for Dez and Witten. Kept the defense off the field. Controlled time of possession. Spectacular.

From the outside looking in Murray seemed/seems to be the sole reason for the Cowboys success when that isn’t the case at all.

Did he help? Sure, but it’s deeper than him.

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From 2011-13 the Boy’s finished 8-8.

In 2011: the O-line wasn’t that good and ended up being the start of the rebuilding process as the Cowboys drafted left tackle Tyron Smith in the first round. (Murray also drafted). Injuries came all across the line plus Murray didn’t play in three of those games. This team was also one of the most heavily penalized teams. Garrett was the play caller.

In 2012: the defense ended up being historically bad. (3rd worst all time.) Rob Ryan was the defensive-coordinator, and despite his progression as a player, Murray showed a knack for getting injured. Star linebacker Sean Lee missed 10 games gutting the defense. Jason Garrett was the play caller. They were still heavily penalized. Rarely forced turnovers. However, Dez was officially established. And Murray missed 6 games.

In 2013: the Cowboys drafted center Travis Frederick in the first round aiding the line. Monte Kiffin became defensive coordinator changing the scheme of the defense. Sean Lee missed 5 games. Murray missed 2 games. And Tony Romo missed the final game of the season. The defense was a record setting defense and the worst in NFL history, ever. Bill Callahan was play caller. (Offensive coordinator as well.) Heavily penalized still.

In 2014: the Cowboys drafted guard Zack Martin. (All-Pro as a rookie). Murray played in all 16 games despite getting injured. Romo played in all 16 games. Rod Marinelli became defensive coordinator. Scott Linehan became the offensive coordinator as well as play caller. Callahan was moved to offensive line coach. The defense was slightly on par with being average. Sean Lee missed the full season. This team wasn’t penalized as much as previous years, and the defense forced the 2nd most turnovers in the league.

As I stated before, Murray was a key cog in the Cowboys success but he wasn’t the main reason.

Guys like Witten, Romo, and Dez made the game easier for him as he did for them. All of those guys were already proven stars while Murray was still on the cusp.

Having Murray did hide the defense some; but how much of it was really him when the defense was second behind Houston in forcing turnovers?

His leadership on the field was nice too, but does that out do Rolondo McClain’s and Justin Durant’s leadership on the other side of the ball? Oh wait, what about Dez being vocal and rallying guys hyping them up? Was that just Murray too?

I’m guessing Marinelli making the most of what little talent he had defensively was more about Murray too.

Football is the greatest team sport there is. Each man HAS to do their job for the other to succeed. Collective effort bottom line.

With all of that being said DeMarco Murray did deserve to be paid. Just not by the Cowboys.

Dallas couldn’t have afforded him and still have money to make some moves on the defensive side of the ball. Throw in the facts that the o-line is elite, Murray is prone to injury and that he started to slow down at the end of the season and the decision is a no brainier.

Running-backs can easily be replaced. You can have a two back tandem, a three headed monster, or just one stud and have a nice amount of production. Especially with a good offensive line.

With this upcoming draft being RB heavy, the Dallas Cowboys can easily find a replacement for DeMarco at a CHEAPER cost for four more years. Simple and smart. There will be money to add new players as well as feed your own.

The Bengals have a two headed monster. The Bills had a two headed monster. The Ravens found a quick Ray Rice replacement in Forsett….

The Boys are playing it smart right now, which is good. They know what they are doing.

Recent history shows they have a plan…

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Food For Thought:

Backup RB Joesph Randle

2013: 13 Games 54 Attempts 164 yards 3 YPC 2TD

2014: 16 Games 51 Attempts 343 yards 6.7 YPC 3TDs

Was it really Murray making the o-line or did the o-line make RBs in general better?

Only time will tell.

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Twitter: @FortonsportsInc @RyanDfort

Kobe Bryant: Facing A Reality

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THE INTRO

When I first started watching basketball, Michael Jordan was no longer that guy. Gary Payton was washed up. Karl Malone was ring chasing. John Stockton was taking up space. Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon were gone. Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller were shells of themselves. Patrick Ewing was no where to be found, and Clyde Drexler was out. The league itself was vastly different.

When my interest in the NBA peaked, Allen Iverson was dominant. Tracy McGrady and his cousin Vince Carter were stellar. Shaq and Kobe were a hell of a tandem. Kevin Garnett was elite. Dirk and Steve Nash were coming into their own. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were making noise in the East. And Tim Duncan was just extremely boring. (I know I left off guys like David Robinson and Jason Kidd off but y’all get the point.)

Out of all of those guys though, there was no one I liked more than Kobe Bean Bryant.

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MY STORY

When it came to Kobe there wasn’t anything you could tell me.

You couldn’t diss his game, talk about his personality, or belittle him in any way without me being ready to argue.

In my family and amongst my small group of friends, everyone has had atleast that one specific guy they watched faithfully and would go to war for.

My father’s guy was Magic; my uncle’s guy was Jordan; my mom’s guy was Isiah Thomas; my great grandfather’s guy was a tie between Larry Bird and Julius Irving.

They followed their guys faithfully, like I’m doing now and tried to tell me it’s not going to be a happy ending. I didn’t really believe them until that foresight became a reality.

Personally I thought they were full of s#!% and didn’t know what the hell they were talking about; until I sat down and thought about each player.

MJ’s downfall was him coming back and playing at age 40 for the Washington Wizards. Larry Bird’s career couldn’t continue because his back was out of sorts. Isiah’s career ended after he tore his Achilles. Magic on the other hand retired due to the HIV/AIDS situation. He later came back and wasn’t the same guy.

My guy is in the same boat at this point in time.

A few years back I was in denial. I’ll own up to it. I had just witnessed the Lakers lose in five games to a hungry OKC team (2012) that featured the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. In response, I looked for excuses to help Kobe out.

The thing is, there weren’t any.

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THE OBVIOUS

In that specific series, Westbrook was tearing him apart, Harden was giving him buckets, and Durant was giving him fits with his length making it hard for him to score. As a matter of fact, James Harden was playing him tough defensively as well. The whole series in general wasn’t pretty. Kobe couldn’t get to his spots, he couldn’t contain anyone and he was a step slow.

That series against OKC ended a four series stretch of Kobe struggling. Against Dallas in 2011, he struggled against Shawn Marion and others from that championship team; losing 4-0. The series prior to that, he struggled against Chris Paul and his no help Hornets; winning 4-2, and in the series against Denver prior to the OKC matchup, Kobe struggled against the fast paced Nuggets. That series went the distance 4-3 and was more about Andrew Bynum.

That series against OKC ended his Postseason career.

At that point in time, the writing on the wall was very clear to everyone else outside of me, Kobe was in his decline.

That offseason he participated in the Olympics where he was out of place and out of sorts. It was as clear as day that he didn’t belong on the court with a few of those guys. It was so obvious to the point where Coach K was reluctant to play him in certain stretches.

Even with the putrid performances in the Olympics, I still believed. Especially when the Lakers landed Dwight Howard and Steve Nash that same offseason.

When the those trades first surfaced, I was as hype as anyone. I thought Kobe would be rejuvenated and eager to play (as he always is) and I started stating a lot of other things that you generally say when a player has lost it.

But again, I was over hyped and I continued to look past the new Kobe’s obvious deficiencies in skill.

REALITY SETS IN

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During that season I wrote an article (Are You Talking About Kobe Bryant) talking about how Kobe was better than ever and stating that he was beating Father Time. From a numbers perspective I was right, but from a physical standpoint he wasn’t getting the same looks or shots that I was accustomed to seeing.

After working hard, all season long, to get the Lakers into the playoffs; Kobe’s Achilles popped days before the postseason.

I couldn’t help but shed a tear when ESPN aired his injury statement. I knew his best chance at getting ring number 6 was gone. And I also knew he was never going to be the same again.

When Kobe said he was going to comeback better and defy the odds I regained a slimmer of hope. I thought that because he was determined and hungry along with the fact that he loves to prove people wrong, then he would come back elite.

I was wrong…..

In the 2013-2014 season, after playing in 6 games Kobe broke a bone in his knee. All I could do was throw my hands up and accept it for what it was….Father Times never loses and Kobe is no longer Kobe.

He was just K.Bryant from that point on. The guy who played in six games and averaged a measly  14pts, 6ast and 4reb… No longer special.

I, as I’m sure many Lakers fans did, sulked over that demoralizing season. The Lakers were bad. Kobe was gone. What do you do now..

The NBA as a whole became unfun for me. I truly wasn’t ready to face the truth and I also didn’t have anyone else to cheer or root for. I was just uninterested.

After the season concluded and free agency along with the draft went by, I finally got over my depression. I had heard that Kobe was looking better, more fit, slimmer, and healthier.

I sat and pondered about Kobe and his recent years some more and decided I’d give it one more go. He had just turned 36 and basically had a year off.

With 36 being a fairly decent age and him having a year off for rest and to get healthy; I felt he would regain his old form…. Dumb I know.

A month or so before the season started, ESPN produced their yearly NBA Players Rankings. At first glance I was furious at how wrong they did Kobe by placing him at #40 on the list.

Guys who hadn’t accomplished anything thus far in their careers (Love, Wall, Kyrie etc) were ahead of him and I didn’t understand the reasoning until the season actually started…

This year Kobe was officially washed up. He would chuck up shot after shot. Committ turnover after turnover. And he would also get beat off the dribble damn near every defensive stance….

I mean he still had the same “I’m gonna come at you” mindset as he always did, but his ability just wasn’t anywhere close to prime Kobe.

After a series of minor injuries and players, as well as pundits, speaking out about his current style of play; Kobe became more of a facilitator.

That role suited him more since he wasn’t capable of dominating the game from a physical stand point. By using his IQ and unique passing ability he was able to prolong his season and delay the inevitable injury that was soon to come…

On Thursday, January 22nd, Kobe’s season was over. He had torn his rotators cuff in a game against the Pelicans the day before…

Three straight seasons…. Three straight season ending injuries…

TODAY

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As much as I hate to say it…. Kobe is done…

He can no longer stay healthy. He can no longer dominate games for long stretches. He can’t keep up with anyone defensively..He’s no longer that guy.. And the old guy won’t ever be returning.

Kobe’s mileage finally caught up with him: All of the long seasons that resulted in Finals apperances.. All of the playoff runs that resulted in 3rd and 2nd round exits…The hardwork he put in trying to comeback from injury… Playing in the Olympics. Everything.

ESPN was accurate when they declared that 39 players were better than Kobe. I was just too blind to see it.

Now opening my eyes I see how Rose, Bledsoe, Wall, CP3, Westbrook, Lawson, Rondo, Curry, Kyrie, Lillard, Dragic, Lowry, Parker, Beal, Ellis, Butler, Klay, Harden, DeRozan, Wade, LeBron, Durant, George, Leonard, Melo, Dirk, Love, Randolph, Griffin, Bosh, Aldridge, Davis, P.Gasol, M.Gasol, Dwight, Cousins, Noah and a few more are all better players at this point…

Now that the word is in and we know Kobe is out for nine months, we have to ask ourselves: Was that his final game?

He’s under contract for one last year after this season.. The Lakers are tanking and no one seems interested in joining a rebuilding project. I mean why should he return? He’s the 3rd leading scorer in NBA history. A 5x-NBA Champ, an MVP and is universally (peers wise) regarded as the ”Best Player” of his generation and has been deemed as the second best shooting guard to ever play the game… There is nothing left for him to prove at this point that will have any significance on where he places in NBA history.

REFLECTING BACK 

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Kobe’s demeanor and personality wasn’t liked by many.

People didn’t like the arrogance and cockiness that was coming from a sidekick (to Shaq) who wanted to be like Jordan. They would often ridicule his ambitions and aspirations as he was nothing more than a lesser version of the original. And they would also belittle his game by saying he was a ball hog and that he couldn’t pass.

It was just too soon for someone to come in and be the heir to ”His Airness”.

People often cite Kobe for piggy backing onto the likes of Shaq. They’d state that Kobe wasn’t doing anything and Shaq would do all of the work; when in reality Kobe would be the one to close games and facilitating making sure everyone was contributing. Those minor details will forever be overlooked because of how Shaq dominated the Finals’ boxscores.

By tying in the attitude factors, Kobe’s quote on quote ”Piggy Backing” on Shaq, the fallout between him and Shaq, and Phil Jackson’s quote on stating how he was ”uncoachable”, you can see why people hated Kobe so much. Throw in the rape charges and loss of endorsements and you’ll begin to see why Kobe’s fan base is a bit lackluster.

Unlike Bird, Magic, LeBron, Durant, Jordan and Doc.J, Kobe’s fan base is much smaller. Allen Iverson’s fan base may be greater because of his impact on to the whole NBA landscape.

Kobe is the NBA’s version of Tom Brady, both great players, but disliked because of their personality and accomplishments.

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ACCOLADES 

Even though his career may not fully be over, (it needs to be) he accomplished everything he should have. (Outside of two more MVPs and a few more scoring titles)

2x Olypic Gold medals

25x 50pt games

5x 60pt games

Slam Dunk Champion

MVP

2x Finals MVP

2x Scoring Champ

5x NBA Champion

9x First Team All Defense

3x Second Team All Defense

11x All-NBA First Team

2x All-NBA 2nd Team

2x All-NBA Third Team

17x Allstar Selections

4x NBA All-star Game MVP

All Rook 2nd Team

2nd Most Points in a game (81pts)

3rd All-Time Points Leader

2x Best NBA Player ESPY Award

Numerous Lakers Records

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CONCLUSION

Coming back shouldn’t be an option. He’s done enough to make a claim as a Top 10 player of all-time. The only thing he should do is accept the reality for what it is…..His time is done. Y’all have accepted it, I’ve accepted it and now he needs to accept it.

No one beats Father Time

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Ryan Fort

Twitter: RyanDFort, Fortonsports Inc