Monthly Archives: March 2012

East meets West: Bulls @ Thunder

What a great matchup on Sunday between the teams that feature the best records in both the Eastern and Western Conference: The Chicago Bulls @ The Oklahoma City Thunder. If Derrick Rose is fully healthy (a big if as it looks like he won’t play on Sunday), this would be a matchup that would feature the 2011 NBA MVP (Rose) against the 2-time reigning scoring champion (Durant), and a possible NBA Finals matchup. With this heavyweight matchup on Sunday in Oklahoma City, I want to analyze the two different rosters and give an edge to each category listed below.

Starting Lineups:

Guards: Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton (Yes, I’m pretending both Rip and Derrick will play even though I don’t see Rose playing on Sunday) vs. Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha. Had James Harden been apart of the Thunder starting back court, I would have placed this as either a tie  or gave the Thunder a slight edge. As for this head-to-head matchup, I feel Russell Westbrook is a top 5 point guard (I listed him as my 4th best point guard currently in the NBA) and feel former Bull Thabo Sefolosha is a good defender along with being a solid three-point shooter; however, Derrick Rose is a top 5 player (and the MVP) and Rip Hamilton has won a NBA Championship. If both players are healthy (and playing at a high level), the Bulls will feature one of the best back courts in the NBA.

Edge: Chicago Bulls

Forwards: Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer vs. Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka:Luol Deng has had a tremendous year while playing with a broken wrist (2011 All-Star, Great Defender, and is shooting a respectable 39.5% from beyond the arch) and as much as he’s been criticized, only one Bull has been in the starting lineup for every game this year: Carlos Boozer. Boozer has preformed better this year (even though statistically he’s having a worse season this season than he had last season with the Bulls). As for the Thunder, they feature the 2-time defending scoring champion and in my opinion the 2012 MVP in Kevin Durant alongside the league leader in blocks per game (with over 3) this year in Serge Ibaka. This combination has to be in the top 3 as the best small-forward/power-forward combination’s currently in the NBA and with both of these players so young (Durant 23 and Ibaka 22), this could go down as one of the best 3-4 combination’s of all time.

Edge: Oklahoma City Thunder

Centers: Joakim Noah vs. Kendrick Perkins: Once again, this is another great matchup between one of the most athletic big men in the league (Noah), against a center that helps provide more toughness and smarts to a young Thunder team (Perkins). Joakim Noah’s got off to a difficult start to the season (scoring in double digits in only 4 of his first 18 games) but has since picked up the pace and has been playing much better as of late. Perkins on the other hand has had one of his worst statistical season (scoring the lowest amount of points of his career since his second season and is having one of his worst rebounding seasons), but is still a great leader to this young Thunder team. The Thunder needed a player like Perkins to help with their locker-room and make them a much more veteran savvy roster when the playoffs begin. Both players bring great intangibles to their respected teams and are great players to have on your team.

Edge: Chicago Bulls

Bench: C.J. Watson, John Lucas III, Ronnie Brewer, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Brian Scalabrine, Omer Asik vs. Derek Fisher, Royal Ivey, Reggie Jackson, James Harden, Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward, Nick Collison, Nazr Mohammed, Cole Aldrich: Both rosters feature two of the best benches in the league. One is highlighted by the their depth (Watson, Brewer, Korver, Gibson, Asik) and the other has great star power along with good role players (Harden, Collison, Mohammed). This is a tough decision as both benches are very capable of not just holding a lead, but also extending the lead and putting the game out of reach. In the end its depth and defense against instant offense and solid role players.

Edge: Oklahoma City Thunder

Coach: Tom Thibodeau vs. Scott Brooks: The last two Coach Of The Year Winners (Brooks in 2010 and Thibodeau in 2011) are both arguable doing a better job in 2012 than they did the year each coach won the award. For Thibodeau, in 2011 he had to deal with the Bulls missing their starting front court for most of the year and in 2012 he’s had to deal with the team missing there starting front court for a good potion of the year. To Thibs credit, he hasn’t allowed the Bulls to miss a step as even with the MVP missing 18 games (going 13-5 in those games) Chicago still features the best record in the NBA with a 41-11 mark. As for Brooks and the Thunder, they’ve progressed ever year from a team with a great foundation (2009), to a playoff team (2010 lost to LA in 6), to a contender (lost 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals), to having the second best record in the NBA (39-12) and now the favorite to win the Western Conference. The progression that the players on the Thunder roster have made during this span has been tremendous and has made the Thunder a legitimate contender for the next decade plus.

Edge: Chicago Bulls

When both rosters are fully healthy, I feel the Bulls have a very slight edge on Oklahoma City, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two teams play (when everyone is healthy) and the Thunder come out on top. This should form into one of the best NBA rivalries for the next decade with the major players involved (Rose, Durant, Deng, Westbrook, Noah, Ibaka) all at or below 27.

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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in NBA, Sports


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Top 10 NBA Teams

The 2011-2012 NBA Season is winding down and there are a sufficient number of teams that have a chance to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy in late June. With the shortened and chaotic 2012 season, I feel any of the 10 teams listed below have the capability of winning the NBA Championship, however, the teams below are listed in the order I feel they have of winning a championship. Remember, this isn’t a top 10 list of where the I feel every teams presently stand, it’s a list of which team I feel has the best chance at winning an NBA Championship this season.

10. New York Knicks: Most people would be shocked by two things here: one, that I picked the Knicks so low on my list and two that I didn’t put the Clippers on my list. First for the why I feel the Knicks have the 10th best odds to win it all this year: because the Knicks have a superstar (Melo), a solid front court (Stoudemire (if he’s healthy) and Chandler), along with a team that as of late has played a much better style for the playoffs under new coach Mike Woodson. Those are a few reasons why I feel the Knicks have a chance to make a run in the playoffs. At the same time, I feel there are a few reasons why I feel the Knicks are at-least one year away from being in the same sentence with the Bulls and Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference. For one, Mike Woodson hasn’t been able to implement his system and Amare Stoudemire isn’t close to being 100%. If Amare can come back healthy next year and the Knicks can improve the depth on their roster, I believe New York can be a tough out (and somehow a sleeper team while playing in New York) during the 2013 season. As for why the Clippers aren’t on this list, they’re playing for a “lame duck” coach and as good as Blake Griffin is, I’m not sure he’s ready to win a NBA Championship while playing in his first playoff appearance.

9. Dallas Mavericks: For the Dallas Mavericks, I quote the great Rudy Tomjanovich moments after the 1994-1995 Houston Rockets (a team that finished 6th in the Western Conference and were down 3-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals vs. Phoenix) won the NBA Championship: “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.” I agree with Rudy T, and feel until the former Champion is eliminated, you have to consider them to be a serious contender for a NBA Championship. At the same time, the Mavs traded their best defensive player (Tyson Chandler) and have a roster made up of players that aren’t sure what’s going to happen after this season. I feel with the distractions surrounding this team (which also include Lamar Odom), along with the lack of depth on this years team, the Mavericks won’t win the championship in 2012, nevertheless, make sure to not count out the defending champs until they’ve been eliminated.

8. Denver Nuggets: The NBA feature a lot of deep teams however, no team has the quality of depth that the Denver Nuggets feature. The Nuggets are two deep at each position (Point Guard: Ty Lawson and Andre Miller; Shooting Guards: Arron Afflalo, Corey Brewer, and Rudy Fernandez; Small Forwards: Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Jordan Hamilton; Power Forward: Kenneth Faried and Al Harrington; Center: JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos, and Chris Anderson) and have 14 quality players on this roster. I feel the Nuggests should have had at-least one All-Star (most likely Ty Lawson) but instead not one player on their roster was invited to a NBA All-Star Weekend Event. Unlike last year, the Nuggets know who will be on their team next year and into the future (and won’t have to suffer through another Carmelo situation) as everyone but JaVale McGee is signed through the 2013-2014 season (McGee is a restricted free agent after this season). As deep as the Nuggets are (and if they’re able to resign McGee after the season this, will only improve their team that much more), I still feel most championship caliber teams need a superstar to take and make the clutch shots during crunch time. Denver also features a questionable defensive roster (the Nuggets defense ranks 22nd and are giving up 103.6 points per game) that will eventually catch up with them in the playoffs as the game slows down. The Nuggets are going to give a team a tough playoff series but I’m not sure they have enough to defeat the elite teams in the NBA Playoffs.

7. Memphis Grizzlies: The 2011 Memphis Grizzlies, who defeated the #1 seeded Spurs and took the Thunder to 7 games, has shown everyone that there a team that has to be taken seriously, as they have a lot of talent on their roster. The Grizzlies have one of the best front courts in the NBA (Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph) to go along with a solid front court (Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Rudy Gay) and a good bench (O.J. Mayo, Quincy Pondexter, Marreese Speights, and Dante Cunningham). If the Grizzlies are healthy, Memphis will be able to relay on their defense and inside game in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Grizzlies feature one of the worst shooting teams in the league and don’t have any good three-point shooters on their team (OJ Mayo shoots the best percentage on their team at 35%). Because of this, I’m not sure the Grizzlies have enough to be considered an elite team in the west and a true contender for an NBA Title.

6. Boston Celtics: During the first half of the 2011-2012 season, the Celtics looked like a team that was lost (15-17 at the All-Star Break) and now are back to being the Celtics that we’ve known since The Big 3 came together (15-5 since the All-Star Break). If Ray Allen is able to come back and get healthy soon, the Celtics can make one last run before Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett’s contracts are up and the Celtics go in a new direction. As old as the Celtics are, that’s not why I put the Celtics so low on this list; I put Boston at the number 6 spot because of the lack of depth on their roster. The Celtics have a good backup guard (Avery Bradley), and that’s about it as the other solid parts of their bench are either hurt (Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Wilcox, and Mickael Pietrus) or are too young (JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, and Greg Stiemsma) to have a significant affect on their roster. I think the Celtics can win a round in the playoffs and can make either the Bulls or Heat sweat in the second but I’m not sure they have enough depth to go deep in the playoffs.

5. L.A. Lakers: As good a leader as Derek Fisher is, I feel the Lakers certainly made the correct decision by trading Dereck Fisher to Houston and acquiring Ramon Sessions from the Cavs. With the acquisition of Sessions to their roster (and not having to give up very much in return), I feel the Lakers once again are a contender in the Western Conference. When everyone’s on the same page (which is a big question mark), Los Angeles has the best front court (Bynum and Gasol) in the NBA to go along with a solid back court of Sessions and Kobe Bryant. As good as the Lakers are, I still feel the Lakers have a lot of holes on their roster (especially on their bench), and I’m not sure everyone’s on the same page. If everyone can get on the same page and their bench can step up and make a few key plays, the Lakers can become a legitimate contender for another NBA Championship.

4. San Antonio Spurs: Once again, the San Antonio Spurs are close to the top of the Western Conference (3 games back of Oklahoma City) and are showing there as strong as ever. The Spurs have a great mixture of veteran leaders (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson) to go along with solid role players which are both young (Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Patty Mills, and James Anderson) and old (Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw). San Antonio always plays a great brand of basketball and with the depth on their roster can matchup against any team in the NBA. The Spurs have had success against the Thunder this year (2-1), and have proved that their veteran leadership and experience might be able to slow down the pace and contain the Thunder. As for why I wouldn’t put them higher on this list: because Tim Duncan (though effective) isn’t nearly the player he used to be, and Tony Parker is now the best player on their roster. The Spurs have shown they don’t have one player that has to take every clutch shot and instead can come from a list of players which include Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, Neal, or Jackson. If the Spurs can avoid a few teams in the playoffs (Memphis and the Lakers) I feel San Antonio can make a deep run at adding another Championship.

3. Miami Heat: As much talent as the Miami Heat have on their roster, the Miami Heat seem to have two different teams. At times the Heat look like they are one of the best teams in the league and other times they look lazy and non-interested. Miami has two of the top 10 players in the league along with another top 20 player and good role players on their roster. It seems that the Heat feel they have the capability to turn on a switch and become a dominant team in the playoffs. If they are able to turn this switch on, they’ll be tough to beat; if not, they might not be able to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals in a few months.

2.Oklahoma City Thunder: What an impressive 6 games stretch by the Oklahoma City Thunder as during their 6 game winning streak, they’ve defeated the Clippers, T-Wolves, Heat, Blazers, Lakers, and Bulls by an average of 12.5 points. Like the Heat, the Thunder have two of the top 10 players in the NBA (Durant and Westbrook), along with the best 6th man in the NBA (Harden), good interior defense (Ibaka, Perkins, Collison, Mohammed), along with two previous NBA Champions (Perkins (1) and Fisher (5)). The Thunder have the best young core of talent in the league but have to make sure they avoid a few things if they want to win a NBA Championship. One, they need to make sure Kevin Durant is the focal point of their offense which will open up shots for Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, and others. Oklahoma City also needs to make sure they establish some type of inside/post game as when the game slows down, OKC is going to need to have someone make sure they can go into the post to set up some type of half-court offense. If they aren’t able to establish an inside presence or post-up game, the Thunder will once again struggle in the playoffs. Like the Spurs, I feel the Thunder need to make sure they avoid a few teams (Memphis and San Antonio) in the playoffs if they want to have a reasonably easy time advancing to the NBA Finals; at the same time I’m not saying they can’t beat the Grizzlies or Spurs, I’m just saying it will be tough.

1. Chicago Bulls: Even with Derrick Rose missing 20 games, the Bulls have the best record in the NBA and night after night bring their A game. With Rose absents, everyone on the Bulls roster has had to contribute from the starting lineup: (Noah’s rebounding to Boozer not missing a game and Mr.Everything Luol Deng) to the bench (with the defensive interior defense of Taj Gibson and Omer Asik to go along with the depth in the Bulls back court in Ronnie Brewer, Jimmy Butler, C.J. Watson and John Lucas), to the great coaching staff. I’m not saying teams don’t try because I feel every player in the NBA wants to win but no team takes each position as seriously as the Bulls do. If the Bulls can get healthy (Rose and Hamilton) and everyone is close to 100%, I feel the Bulls are as good as any team in the NBA and can compete with every team in the league. At the same time, if everyone’s not 100%, it’s going to be tough for the Bulls to make a deep run in the playoffs and raise banner #7 in the United Center.

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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in NBA, Sports


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MLB Sleeper teams in 2012

Of course on paper it looks like there will be 6 dominant teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Rangers, and Angels); however, I feel  plenty of teams will go under the radar and become great sleeper teams throughout the 2012 season. Even though some of the teams listed below might not make the playoffs, I feel the teams that don’t make the playoffs will start to show their foundation on their roster and be ready to make a good run in the future.

Chicago Cubs:
Am I saying the Cubs will make the playoffs in 2012…no. At the same time, I do believe the 2012 Chicago Cubs will be a team that plays hard and the correct way day in and day out under new Manager Dale Sveum. If the Cubs can receive bounce back years (which I feel is very possible) from Soto, Soriano, and Byrd, along with Castro showing that he’s one of the top 5 shortstops in baseball, I believe this offense has the capability to be better than what people think. The biggest question surrounding the Cubs is their pitching staff as outside of Matt Garza, the rest of the rotation still has a lot of question marks. With Zambrano out of the rotation, I feel there won’t be as many distractions surrounding the Cubs will become a more productive pitching staff. One website predicted the Cubs would win 66 games this year and I feel the Cubs will easily surpass that total and finish with a minimum (remember I said minimum) win total of 75. Again, I’m not sure the Cubs will win the division this year, however, I feel the Cubs will tougher a lot better than people think and a roster that most other teams don’t want to play against.

Atlanta Braves: If the Braves are able to forget about what happened last year (losing a 8 1/2 game wild card lead in 2011) and realize that this is a new season; the Braves can become a legitimate threat to the entire league once the season begins. The Braves feature one of the best young cores in baseball with hitters Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward to go along with veterans (who aren’t 30 years of age) Michael Bourn and Brian McCann. Atlanta features a great young pitching staff (which goes 7 deep and has 6 of them being 26 and younger) with Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Mike Monor (who was the 7th overall pick in the 2009 draft), Randall Delgado, and Julio Teheran along with veteran pitcher Tim Hudson. In another shocking event, the Braves also have the best young bullpen in baseball with lefties Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters (both 27) and 2011 rookie of the year winner Craig Kimbrel. With team leader Chipper Jones announcing that this would be his last season playing baseball and the young Braves growing up next year, this could become a sleeper team to not just make the playoffs, but might just be the NL Representative in the World Series.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers will finally become a quieter place with the team being sold to a group that included NBA Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson. The Dodgers have arguable two of the 10 best players in the league with Center Fielder Matt Kemp and 2011 NL CY Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to go along with Dee Gordon, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Chad Billingsley, Kanley Jansen, and Javy Guerra. The core of this team is very solid and showed at the end of the 2011 season that they have the potential to be a solid roster and might be a sleeper team to win the NL West Title.

Kansas City Royals: The 2012 Kansas City Royals has a lot resemblance to the roster that the Colorado Rockies featured from 2007-2009. Colorado featured a lot of great young hitters (Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins, Matt Holliday/Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Iannetta) and pitchers (Jeff Francis, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Hammel) when the Rockies were in the playoffs twice during this span. As for the Royals, they feature a core that will either resemble those Rockies teams or be even better. The Royals have one of the best offense’s in baseball (Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain (great Fantasy Baseball sleeper pick), Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler), a solid future young pitching staff (Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, John Lamb), and good young bullpen (Tim Collins, Greg Holland, and Aaron Crow). The Royals should be the next great young franchise, become a difficult team to beat in the long-term, and if there pitching is above average has a chance to finish in second place in the AL Central.

Toronto Blue Jays: Just like the Royals and Braves, the Blue Jays feature a good solid core of players which includes Jose Bautista and Adam Lind to go along with youngsters Eric Thames, Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, and J.P. Arencibia. The Blue Jays biggest problem lies within their pitching staff which features a few solid number 3 and 4 starters (Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez, and Kyle Drabek), but no true number 1 or 2 starters on their roster. If the Jays were able to have manager (and former Red Sox pitching coach) John Farrell fix this problem and the rotation was stable in 2012, Toronto would become a difficult team to beat in 2012.

Cincinnati Reds: The Brewers and Cardinals might have won the NL Central in 2012, however, I feel the Reds “on paper” have the best team in the NL Central. At the same time, like other teams, the Reds still have a few key questions they have to make sure they address (which I’ll discuss in a few sentences). Before I get to these questions, I want to look at the positives on this roster which is highlighted by 2010 MVP Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, and pitchers Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and Sean Marshall. The Reds were hit hard with the surgery to closer Ryan Madson and now need to find a reliever who has the capability to record the toughest 3 outs in baseball. If the Reds are able to find a reliable closer (and as much as I like like Marshall, I’m not sure how successful he’ll be as a reliver), their bullpen is able to hold up, and Mat Latos is able to adjust to the Great American Ballpark, I feel the Reds might become the team to beat in the NL Central and might make a apearance in the World Series. The Reds and their fans also realize that Joey Votto’s contract is almost up (after the 2013 season) and the time for them to win and go deep in the playoffs is now.

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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in MLB, Sports


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What to expect in April at Clark Street Sports

The start of baseball season is almost here and with the start of the season, Clark Street Sports is excited to offer a great variety of new merchandise and promotions throughout the season. In our previous Clark Street Sports update, we told you about a few of our new tee-shirts that will be released this year (the Theo shirt below along with a new Cubs W shirt); however, we will also be offering other great products throughout the next few months at our Wrigley Field locations.

As always, Clark Street Sports carries the hottest Cubs merchandise (hats, t-shirts, jerseys, etc.) throughout the baseball season and at both of our Wrigleyville locations (3465 N. Clark St. and 3650 N. Clark St) fans will have the opportunity to purchase their favorite Cubs items.

At Clark Street Sports, we know that Chicagoans love to represent the players that have worn the Cubs jersey proudly at one time in their career. To allow Cubs fans to show their support of these players, we will sell t-shirts of their favorite players (Dawson, Sandburg, Santo Byrd, Dejesus, Dempster, Garza, Marmol, Samardzija, Soriano) throughout our stores all season long.

In addition to the start of the baseball season, the NBA and NHL playoffs are also upon us and as always, Clark Street Sports has both Blackhawks and Bulls fans covered. At our United Center location (1960 W. Madison St.), we have everyone’s favorite t-shirt jerseys (Rose, Deng, Noah, Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook) to make sure visitors know that the Madhouse and Madison is the best home court in their respective sports. If you aren’t able to make it to one of our Chicago locations, don’t worry, you can visit one of our Clark Street Sports suburban locations or visit us online.

The Bears offseason has also gotten off to a fast and exciting start with the addition of 3-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the roster. Along with the city of Chicago, Clark Street Sports is excited for the 2012 season with the rebirth of the Cutler to Marshall combination. In advance of Brandon Marshall reuniting with Jay Cutler in Chicago, we are offering the opportunity for individuals to pre-order their Brandon Marshall jerseys before the start of Training Camp.

In addition to the great selection of items that are featured at Clark Street Sports, we have a lot of other in store events to look forward to. With the start of the Cubs season just around the corner, along with the NHL and NBA playoffs about to commence, Clark Street Sports is planning on offering a lot of great promotions in the near future. At our Clark Street Sports tent location, we are planning on having a lot of great events and promotions throughout the baseball season. In addition to our exciting new promotions and events that will be offered throughout the year, Clark Street Sports will be offering great promotions throughout the playoffs for both the Bulls and Hawks as both teams get ready to commence on a journey’s for another championship.


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Grading the NFL Signings: The Best and Worst Offseasons

Since the start of free agency (March 11th), there have been a ton of moves throughout the NFL. With this chaotic offseason, I wanted to grade the teams with the 5 best and worst  off seasons so far.

Best Moves

St. Louis rams trade the Number 2 pick to Washington for 3 first round picks and 1 second round pick along with signing Scott Wells, Cortland Finnegan, and Kendall Langford: (A++):  The Rams released a lot of players this offseason (including former 2009 second overall pick Jason Brown) and have decided to start over with former Tennessee Titans head coach and former Chicago Bear Jeff Fisher. St. Louis started their offseason by making a blockbuster trade by moving down 4 spots in this years draft (from pick 2 to pick 6) and acquired Washington’s 2012 second round pick along with their 2013 and 2014 first round picks. With the Rams now having 9 picks in the first two rounds of the next 3 NFL Drafts, St. Louis can take their time and build a great core through the NFL Draft around former number one overall pick Sam Bradford. Their current offensive line features a nice combination of experience (Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl) along with youth (Rodger Saffold and Bryan Mattison) to help protect Bradford and block for all-pro running back Steven Jackson. Because the Rams didn’t upgrade their receiving core in free agency, they need to make sure they draft him a few good wide-outs in next months draft. If the Rams are able to not have to move up and trade one of their picks and still draft Justin Blackmon, St. Louis should be in great shape to add to their defense with the two second picks they’ll have in this years draft. If the Rams feel the Browns will draft Blackmon with the 4th pick, they might look to trade one of their two second round picks in this years draft to Minnesota or stand pat by drafting Michael Floyd and use the rest of their draft by upgrading their defense. As for the signings of Finnegan and Langford, they’ll bring more professionalism and toughness to this Rams team. With the picks they have in this years draft and the future, the Rams should easily be able to upgrade their defense in the near future. The 2012 Rams will be improved but still close to the bottom of the NFC; however, if Sam Bradford is able to show a great deal of progress this year, along with the picks they have in the next three drafts, the Rams should become an elite team by the start of the 2014 season.

Denver Broncos sign Peyton Manning and trading Tim Tebow: (A+): There are a lot of parts that made up the signing of Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos. First, John Elway now has his wish by having a prototypical quarterback in Peyton Manning and at the same time Elway and the Broncos didn’t take a significant PR. The Broncos also structured Manning’s contract in a way that will reward Manning, but won’t hurt the club’s future (the second and third years of his contract become guaranteed only if his neck checks out). With the Broncos being able to move on from Tebow by receiving a 4th and 6th round draft pick in addition to saving almost 3 million in Tebow deal, along with structuring a deal that won’t affect the Broncos too much in the future; I would say this was the best possible situation the Broncos could have put themselves in.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, and Eric Wright: (A) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a ton of money to spend this offseason, and used it wisely by signing the best wide receiver (Vincent Jackson) and offensive lineman (Carl Nicks) on the free agent market along with cornerback Eric Wright. After last year, it was easy to notice how little help 24-year-old Josh Freeman was receiving from the rest of his offense and now with the addition of Jackson to their receiving core to go along with wide receivers Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Kellen Winslow, and LeGarrette Blount and an improved offensive line, the Bucs offense will be vastly improved in 2012.  The Bucs play in one of the toughest divisions in football (NFC South), nevertheless, along with new head coach Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay should be one of the most improved teams in 2012.

New England Patriots: (A) Even though the Patriots came 5 minutes away from winning the Super Bowl, there were still a significant amount of holes on their roster. The Patriots cap was extended just before the offseason when quarterback Tom Brady decided to restructure his deal to open up more cap space for the Pats. New England started their offseason by upgrading their wide receiving core by adding wide receiver Brandon Lloyd(who under Josh McDaniel’s made the Pro Bowl in 2010). The Patriots also decided to also sign a few other players to fill in a few holes by signing former number two overall pick Robert Gallery and in addition to others. Along with the depth they have added to their roster, the Patriots  have 4 picks in the first two rounds of this years draft and should be a much better team this year than the team that lost in the Super Bowl.

Chicago Bears acquire Brandon Marshall: (B+) Even though Brandon Marshall might be suspended, I feel this was a necessary risk the Bears needed to take. The charter NFL franchise has never featured an elite number one wide receiver on their roster and now the Bears feel they have their guy. By acquiring Marshall, Chicago decided to listen to their quarterback’s recommendation and trade for Jay Cutler’s favorite target and pair him with another one of Cutler’s favorite targets (Earl Bennett). This was a risk the Bears needed to take because Chicago only traded a pair of 3rd round picks (they already had two in this years draft thanks to the Greg Olsen trade) and feature a veteran locker room (Urlacher, Briggs, Peppers, Tillman, Garza, Cutler, and Idonije) to help keep Brandon Marshall on the right track. In my mind, the only downfall that can come from this trade would be if Marshall was suspended, however, if he isn’t suspended or its a short-term suspension, I feel the Bears offense (with Jay Cutler throwing to Bennett, Hester, Bush, and Forte) will be feature a solid offense in 2012.

Buffalo Bills sign Mario Williams: (B-) The Buffalo Bills spent a ton of money this offseason by signing star defensive end Mario Williams to the largest contract to a defensive player in the history of the NFL. The Bills have been an organization that hasn’t been able to sign the profile free agents (unless you consider T.O. a free agent a few years ago) coaches as many refused to interview for the Bills opening in 2009. Even though Buffalo had to pay a hefty price for the former number 1 overall pick, this was an investment they needed to make to become a legitimate free agent landing spot in the future. As much as I feel this was a necessary and important signing for the Bills, I do believe there’s a huge risks that the Bills are taking with signing Mario Williams. For one, as good as he is, Williams isn’t even the best defensive player in the league, or a top 10 defensive player in the NFL. Also, the Bills signed a player that played in 5 games last year and has seen his sack total decrease every year since 2007. In the end, this was a risk I feel the Bills needed to make yet has the capability of going down as one of the worst free agent signings of all time.

Worst Moves

New York Jets acquire Tim Tebow: (D) If there wasn’t enough pressure and chaos surrounding March Sanchez and the New York Jets, now there is. Earlier this offseason, Sanchez signed a three-year extension reportedly worth around 40 million dollars. A few unnamed players criticized Mark Sanchez in the offseason and as the Jets were in the process of acquiring Tim Tebow, a few individuals started tweeting their displeasure with the decision the Jets were about to make. I have no idea which direction the Jets are going in and if Mark Sanchez gets off to a bad start, the calls for Tebow  from the stands will begin and the media will destroy the Jets locker room. If the New York Jets weren’t already the most talked about team in the NFL, they officially are now with the addition of Tebow to their roster.

Washington Redskins acquire number 2 overall pick along with signing Pierre Garcon: (D) I’m a big Robert Griffin III fan, with that said, the Redskins still traded away almost double the amount of what the Bears gave Denver for Jay Cuter, and three times the amount when the Giants received the draft rights to Eli Manning. St. Louis already has a franchise quarterback on their roster (Sam Bradford) and traded four top 30 picks for a player that’s never thrown a pass in the NFL. In addition to the RG III trade, the Redskins also signed former Colts wide reliever Pierre Garcon to a 5 year contract worth reportedly 42 million (which was less than Marques Colston’s contract, and only 13 million less than what Vincent Jackson received from Tampa Bay). One reason why I feel the Redskins overpaid for Garcon is when you look at the three players and the amount of 1,000 yard seasons they’ve had: Colston’s had five, Jackson’s had 3, and Garcon still hasn’t had any which shows why I feel the Redskins most likely overpaid for Garcon. If RG III becomes a franchise quarterback in the near future, I’ll change this trade the 2012 Redskins offseason grade to an A as its hard it is to find an elite quarterback. At the same time, if he’s an average or worse quarterback, this will be seen as one of the worst trades in NFL History (alongside the Herschel Walker trade).

Jacksonville Jaguars: (D-) The Jaguars entered this offseason by having 40.6 million dollars of cap space open along with one of highest ranked defenses in the NFL last year (finishing 6th). The Jaguars opened free agency by paying a high price for a wide receiver that’s only had one productive NFL Season (Laurant Robinson) along with signing a 3rd string corner back. I know the Jags didn’t need Tim Tebow and he might have not fit into new coach Mike Mularkey’s offense, (and we should give Blane Gabbert some time to develop before we make quick assumptions about his future); however, Tebow mania in Jacksonville would have been crazy and Jaguars ticket sales would have gone up by a tremendous amount. Unfortunately for Jags fans, 2012 seems like its going to mirror their 2011 season and become another tough year in Jacksonville.

Cincinnati Bengals: (F) No team entering the 2012 offseason had more cap space this offseason than then the Cincinnati Bengals (49.9 million) and yet the Bengals biggest free agent signing so far has been former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I liked what the Bengals did last offseason by drafting A.J. Green/Andy Dalton during the 2011 NFL Draft, trading away distracting wide receiver Chad Ochocinco/Johnson (not sure what his last name is anymore) to New England (for a 2012 5th round pick and 2013 6th round pick), and then the eventual midseason trade of former number one overall draft pick Carson Palmer to Oakland for the Raiders 2012 first round pick along with their 2013 second round pick. The Bengals will hopefully have a better draft than free agency as the team with the most cap space this offseason has been surprisingly quiet.

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Sweet 16: The most important players on each team

There are a lot of great players left in the NCAA Tournament, and because of this, I want to highlight the most important players on each of the remaining 16 teams left in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky: Marquis Teague: Anthony Davis might be Kentucky’s best player, but I believe Kentucky can’t win a National Championship without great point guard play from Marquis Teague. Teague struggled during the regular season (averaging only 9.4 points and 4.8 assists per game) and the Wildcats will need him to play at a accelerated level  if they want to go deep in the NCAA Tournament. In their first NCAA Tournament game, Teague improved his played a little (12 points and 4 assists) but it was during their second game (when most of the team was struggling), that Teague decided to step-up his game as he delivered 24 points and 7 assists to go along with 10-14 shooting from the field. I’m not saying Marquis Teague has to put up those type of numbers to have Kentucky win a championship, but if he can average 14-16 points and 6-8 assists per game, I feel it will be Kentucky cutting down the nets in New Orleans when April 2nd rolls around.

Syracuse: Rakeem Christmas: Rakeem Christmas has done a tremendous job trying to fill in for star  center Fab Melo while he’s been suspended. Christmas (a feshman) has been forced into the Orange lineup while having little to no time to prepare for the NCAA Tournament and yet so far he’s done a solid job. In the first two games, Christmas averaged 7 points and 9 rebounds to go along with playing 30 minutes per game (before the NCAA Tournament, he only played 20-plus minutes 5 times during his collegiate career). If he’s able to keep playing like this, the Cuse should have a opportunity at winning the East and advancing to the Final Four.

North Carolina: Kendall Marshall: If Kendall Marshall isn’t able to play this weekend; North Carolina will have a more more difficult time winning the Midwest and reaching the final four. Before Marshall was inserted into their starting lineup last year, Carolina’s offense struggled and at times looked lost, however, since Marshall was put into the starting lineup, the Heels offense has been on fire and everyone on the roster has been playing at a much higher level. I feel the Tar Heels need a solid point guard that can set-up Henson, Zeller, Barnes, and McAdoo inside if they want to reach the Final Four. If another UNC point guard can step-up and prove to be successful, the Tar Heels offense will be fine and should have a solid opportunity to make a run at another championship; if not, I don’t feel the Heels will even reach the Final Four.

Michigan State: Draymond Green: The most important player in the NCAA Tournament and  Mr. Do It All (Draymond  Green) for Tom Izzo and the Spartans of Michigan State. Only 3 people have recorded at least 2 triple doubles during the NCAA Tournament and ironically two played at Michigan State (Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Draymond Green). The Spartans have a nice combination of older players in their rotation (Seniors Green, Wood, and Thornton; Junior Derrick Nix; and Sophomores Trice, Payne, and Appling) along with a nice mix of guards and centers throughout their rotation. At the same time when Green isn’t on the court directing traffic, the Spartans offense looks confused and has a lot of problems; when he’s on the court   organizing everyone and recording triple doubles, the Spartans have a golden opportunity to return to the Final Four for the 6th time under coach Tom Izzo (3rd in 4 years) and maybe bring home the schools 3rd National Championship.

Kansas: Thomas Robinson: Like Draymond Green, Thomas Robinson is the reason why the Jayhawks went 27-6 during the season and made it back to the Sweet 16. During the offseason, the Jayhawks lost almost their entire starting lineup with the departures of both Marcus and Markieff Morris along with Brady Morningstar and Josh Selby. Kansas was able to overcome these departures and reach the sweet 16 thanks to the leadership shown throughout this year by Thomas Robinson. As for the next few rounds, if Robinson doesn’t play like an All-American, Kansas is going to have a difficult time  defeating a suddenly hot NC State Wolfpack team; however, if Robinson players like an All American, and Elijah Johnson/Tyshawn Taylor continue their great play, I feel Kansas will defeat NC State and have a solid chance at defeating a questionable (with Marshall not 100%) UNC team.

Ohio State: Aaron Craft:No question Jared Sullinger is the best player on the Buckeyes, however, I still feel Ohio State’s destiny in the NCAA Tournament will be determined by the play of Aaron Craft. If Craft (the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year) is attacking the glass and trying to find his shot on the offensive end, the other members of the Buckeyes (Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, William Buford, and Lenzelle Smith Jr.) will have an easier time finding their shot and have more opportunities on the offensive end. If Craft keeps up his play as of late, Ohio State will reach the Final Four and become a dark horse to win it all in a few weeks.

Baylor Bears: Perry Jones III: Brady Heslip came up huge for Baylor during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament scoring 17 vs. South Dakota State and 27 against Colorado. As big as Heslip was during the first two games, I feel the most important player on a very good but inconsistent Baylor Bears team is Perry Jones III. With Jones III, Pierre Jackson, Quincy Acy, and Quincy Miller, along with Heslip making his 3’s, the Bears can becomes a legitimate contender that I feel can athletically keep up with Kentucky. On the other hand, if Baylor doesn’t make their shoots, gets away from their game plan, and star Perry Jones III doesn’t play up to his potential, the Bears might get upset by Xavier.

Marquette: Jae Crowder: The Golden Eagles are led by seniors Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, whose averaged 18.5 points along with 3 assists this season. As important as Odom is to Marquette success, there’s no question that the leader of this team is senior Jae Crowder (whose averaged 17.4 points and 8.1 rebounds) while also being the leader of their team. The Golden Eagles also feature a few good underclassmen in Davante Gardner, Junior Cadougan, Todd Mayo, Jamil Wilson and Vander Blue to complement the two senior leaders of their roster. If Crowder and DJO (two of the best players remaining in the tournament) play up to their potential, the Golden Eagles should have a solid chance at defeating Florida and upsetting Michigan State in the Elite 8.

Wisconsin: Jordan Taylor: Prior to the start of the tournament, Jordan Taylor had been having a down year, but that didn’t stop him from being considered one of the best senior leaders in college basketball highlighted by the Badgers having the best defense in college basketball. Just as in years past, Coach Bo Ryan has done a tremendous job and has the Badgers playing arguable their best basketball now shown by the play of their team as of late. As for Taylor, he’s currently playing his best basketball (almost recorded a triple double vs. Montana) and has been a great leader throughout this tournament for a tough Badgers team. If Taylor continues his play, Wisconsin makes their outside shoots, and the Badgers defense frustrates the Syracuse offense, Wisconsin should have a good chance to upset Syracuse.

Louisville: Peyton Siva: Since the start of the Big East Tournament, (averaging 11.1 points and 5.67 assists during this span) Peyton Siva has been playing at the top of his game, and the Cardinals haven’t lost a game during this time. It seems that since the end of the Big East Tournament, Siva along with the rest of the Cardinals have turned up their intensity and have been playing much better as of late. Louisville, along with Siva, need to make sure they receive solid contributions from seniors Kyle Kuric (who is the teams leading scorer) and Chris Smith along with Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng if they want an opportunity to upset the Spartans.

Indiana: Christian Watford: Even though Christian Watford’s stats aren’t as impressive as they were last year, the junior forward has proved he’s willing to step-up to take and make the big shot (as shown earlier in the year against Kentucky). Since the start of the NCAA Tournament, the Hoosiers have received great contributions from everyone in their starting lineup which includes Will Sheehey (who make the game winner last Saturday vs. VCU), Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, and star freshman Cody Zeller. I’m not sure this young and inexperienced Indiana team is ready to upset Kentucky, however, if star center Cody Zeller decides to stay and not enter the NBA Draft along with the majority of their roster returning next year and a great class coming to Bloomington, Indiana in 2012 (which is highlighted by five stars Kevin Ferrell (PG) and Hanner Perea (PF) along with four star small forward Jeremy Hollowell). With the experience these players have received this year, along with the new players coming to Indiana for the 2012-2013 season, IU will be a top 5 team next year and should make a deep run at raising another championship banner.

Cincinnati: Yancy Gates: The Bearcats feature a lot of quality guards (Dion Dixon, Sean Kilpatrick, Jaquan Parker and Cashmere Wright), but  Gates is the only legitimate big man and inside presence on their roster. Yancy Gates  averaged 9.1 rebounds per game this season (while playing in one of the toughest conferences in College Basketball), and after Gates, the person who averaged the most rebounds during the regular season was guard Jaquan Parker with 5.6 rebounds per game. While Gates was suspended from their roster for 6 games (because of a fight between Xavier and Cincinnati on December 10th), the Bearcats had trouble scoring and rebounding in two of their games (vs. Oklahoma scored 55 points and 66 vs. Pittsburgh), however, once Gates returned to the team, the Bearcats were a more focused and committed team to making a long run in the NCAA Tournament. As for this weekend, if Yancy Gates can play stride for stride with Jarred Sullinger and their starting five can stay out of foul trouble, they should have a chance at the end of the game against their instate rivals from Columbus; if not, Ohio State will dominant the underdog  Bearcats.

Florida: Patric Young: Like Cincinnati with Yancy Gates, Sophomore Patric Young has become the lone dominant big-man for the Gators. Entering the NCAA Tournament, Florida had lost four of five games (@ Georgia, @ Vanderbilt, and vs. Kentucky (twice)) but since the loss to Kentucky on 3/10, the Gators offense and defense have been sharp, scoring 77.5 points per game while allowing only 47.5 points. In the first two games, its been their each member of their starting five doing their part, however, if center Patric Young doesn’t step-up and play at an elite level, Marquette’s big man Jae Crowder will dominate Florida on the glass and make it almost impossible to win. If he does show up and plays like he has so far in the tournament, the Gators are a dark-horse to come out of the West Region and reach the final four.

Xavier: Kenny Frease: In their last game vs. Lehigh, Xavier was down 15 midway through the second half and looked like a team that was lost and ready to join Duke and Missouri in loosing to a 15 seed during the 2012 tournament. That’s when 7 footer Kenny Frease decided to show up and help save the Musketeers season by scoring 25 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and went 13-15 from the field. If Kenny Frease can keep up this elevated play and fellow senior Tu Holloway can continue this tremendous stretch of play (scoring 20 or more points in 5 of his last 6 games), along with containing their turnovers so Baylor doesn’t have too many fast break opportunities, the Musketeers should have a solid chance of upsetting Baylor on Friday.

NC State: C.J. Leslie: What a great bounce back season by forward C.J. Leslie as he has led their team in scoring with averaging 14.6 points to go along with 7.5 rebounds per game, which is good for second on their roster. As good as Leslie has been over the past 4 games (averaging 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds during this stretch), the Wolfpack will need others to keep stepping up (as they’ve received great contributions from Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown), if they want this dream season to continue. If the Wolfpack keep playing the same way as they have in the first two games, I believe they will upset Kansas and reach the elite 8 then again if N.C. State is able to defeat Kansas, I feel they would have a chance against North Carolina as the two teams have already met 3 times this year.

Ohio: D.J. Cooper: Congrats to the Ohio Bobcats on making it to the Sweet 16; your reward… a match-up against an angry North Carolina Tar Heels team. Since the start of the MAC Championship (on March 8th vs. Toledo), guard D.J. Cooper has been on tear averaging 19.8 points, 6.4 assist, and 3.2 rebounds (even though he’s not even 6 feet). With the dominant play of Cooper as of late and the possibility of Kendall Marshall not playing, I feel with Cooper and Walter Offutt the Bobcats should have the edge at the guard position. However, I’m still not sure it will be enough to defeat a dominant a Tar Heels front court which features four future NBA Players (Barnes, Henson Zeller, and McAdoo off the bench). The Bobcats should be the favorites to win the MAC next year with their entire starting lineup expecting to return for the 2012-2013 season.

Here’s what I feel will occur the rest of the Tournament:

Kentucky will defeat Indiana, Baylor will defeat Xavier, and Kentucky will defeat Baylor and reach the Final Four

Michigan State will defeat Louisville, Marquette will defeat Florida, and Michigan State will defeat Marquette and reach the Final Four.

North Carolina will defeat Ohio University, NC State will upset Kansas, and North Carolina will defeat NC State for the forth time this season and reach the Final Four.

Wisconsin will upset Syracuse, Ohio State will defeat Cincinnati, and Ohio State will defeat Wisconsin for the second time this year and reach the Final Four.

In the Final Four, Michigan State will defeat Kentucky, North Carolina will defeat Ohio State, and Michigan State will get their avenge their 2009 National Championship loss by defeating North Carolina and be crowned the 2012 National Champions.

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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Basketball, Sports


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Hawks vs. Wings


Thanks to free agency and the increase of trades, many of the intense rivalries in sports are unfortunately a thing of the past. At this time, there aren’t many great long lasting hockey rivalries left in NHL, but fortunately Blackhawks – Red Wings is one of the few that has stood the test of time. No two NHL teams have met as many times as these two teams (719) and few have featured the types of players that these two teams have featured. From Glenn Hall, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Pierre Pilote, Dennis Savard, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks to Terry Sawchuck, Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lindstrom, and Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings, in my mind this is the best rivalry in the NHL.

What makes this a great rivalry?

            One reason this is a considered such an elite rivalry is because the Hawks are two of the Original 6 teams from the start of the NHL and are the only Original 6 teams in the Western Conference (Bruins, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, and Rangers are all in the Eastern Conference). Although these two teams have had a few down years, the rivalry itself has been great even when both teams were not at their best. When the league expanded in 1967, the Hawks-Wings rivalry could have dropped off, but instead intensified and was taken to the next level. During the 1970’s, the Red Wings had a difficult decade (actually until Steve Yzerman came to Detroit in 1983 it was difficult time-frame for the Wings), and the Blackhawks at the same time had a difficult time once Bobby Hull left the West Side of Chicago and went to the Hartford Whalers. Even during these difficult times, the Hawks-Wings rivalry has thrived and was seen as one of the most prominent rivalries in the NHL.

The Young talent of the 1980’s and 1990’s

            In the 1980’s, Detroit Hockey was brought back to dominance as the Wings were sold to present day owner Mike Ilitch, and then drafted Steve Yzerman with the fourth overall pick in the 1983 NHL Draft. After that, the Red Wings were back at the top of the league, and were seen as one of the best franchises in professional sports throughout the 1990’s. At the same time, during the late 1980’s the Hawks brought in a tremendous amount of young talent to rival the other dominant teams of that era (Penguins, Oilers, and Red Wings) with the additions of Hall-of-Famer Ed Belfour, and future Hall-Of-Famers Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios. These players helped lead the Hawks back to the Stanley Cup (1992), and also lead them back to the top of the NHL.

Today and the future

             Since Steve Yzerman came to Detroit in 1983, the Wings have been a routine visitor to the NHL Playoffs year in and year out. As for the Hawks, throughout the late 1990’s and into the early parts of the 21st century, it was difficult to watch the Blackhawks as they struggled to only one playoff appearance from 1997-2008 (2001-2002 lost to St. Louis in the first round). Since 2008, the have Hawks joined the Wings as a staple at top of the NHL and feature one of (if not the best) young cores in the NHL. Just before the start of the 2008 season, Rocky Wirtz took over as owner of the Blackhawks franchise and since then, the Hawks have become one of the most popular teams in the NHL. Before the 2008 season, the Blackhawks ranked as the 14th most valued team in the NHL; today, the Blackhawks rank as the 6th most valued team in the NHL. With the Hawks great young core, the stability of the Red Wings franchise, and the rising media coverage of the two teams, this should continue to be one of the elite rivalries in the professional sports and one Chicago fans need to make sure they are apart of.

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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in NHL, Sports


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