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  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several months you know that Paul George has become the new go-to-guy for the Indiana Pacers. All of his stats are up and he also has more double-double’s this season than what he had in his first two years combined. So far he’s made his first all-star team and is the front runner to win the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. But all of this might not have happened if Danny Granger wasn’t out with knee tendinitis.

The front office and the people of Indianapolis have gravitated towards Paul George so what does this mean for Granger’s future with this organization? If you’ve ever typed in his name on twitter or even gone to a Pacer game you will know that the fans are not too fond of him. They feel that he hasn’t worked on his game enough to reach his full potential.. After his all-star season where he scored 25 ppg, the people expected him to continue to blossom into this scoring machine. But what they don’t know is that he only scored at that rate because of their former head coach’s (Jim O’Brien) system. His shot attempts were way higher in that system than what they are with coach Vogel.

With pieces falling into place for Indy who is expendable? Will they resign David West or make a move for the best available option? DJ Augustine has been a bust of a pick up for them and at one point he lost the back up point guard position to rookie Ben Hansbrough. DJ was suppose to provide energy and scoring off the bench but just hasn’t produced like they would hope.

I can see the Pacers making a package deal with Granger, DJ, and maybe West (Depending on if they want to give him a contract extension). But who could we get in return? Could they make a move for Indiana native Zach Randolph? Memphis has been cleaning house to avoid penalties from the luxury tax next season. After acquiring Ed Davis, a young big man with a promising future, they could decide to eventually move Randolph.

Some other people who have been in trade talks are J.J. Redick and Aaron Afflalo, Avery Bradley, Monta Ellis, Nick Young, Thaddeus Young, Andre Iguodala, Marcus Thornton and Vince Carter. When the Pacers get rid of Granger they will most likely move the 6’10 Paul George from shooting guard to small forward. Lance Stephenson is a capable guard but he’s no starter. They will nedd help at the shooting guard position.

J.J. Redick is a great shooter and hustles on defense but other players that I’ve named would make more sense. Monta Ellis would give the Pacers that instant offense that they’ve been missing for quite some time but the downside to Ellis is his attitude. At times he can be hard to please. His on-ball defense can be sketchy at times as well. He can get steals in the passing lane but more times than none you’ll get burnt from taking that risk.

Then there’s Nick Young and Marcus Thorton. Young isn’t consistent enough nor is he a defender that Coach Vogel would have confidence in. Lance Stephenson would take his starting spot before the season even starts. Marcus Thorton is a guy who can flat out fill it up. I can see him fitting in well with this current roster.

Vince Carter and Thaddeus Young are two other guys who’s names have been floating around also. The Pacers will not make a move for Vince Carter, that should be a given for obvious reasons. Young is very doubtful to me as well. He’ll bring more size and athleticism which is a good thing but it’s not really needed as much as scoring.

The next player would be a great fit but would be a risky trade, that player is the “Poor Man’s LeBron,” Andre Iguodala. He’s one of the most athletic guys in the league and also has good offensive skills, but consistency has been a problem for him this season but we all know what he can do when fully engaged. But the one part of his game that separates him from the other guys that I have named is his defense. He is for sure one of the best defensive guys in the league and if he isn’t feeling it on offense he’ll most likely always be solid on defense.

There are plenty of other names that have been floating around but as far as the Indiana Pacers go i say that these guys make the most sense for their roster needs. Granger most likely will not be traded this season because of his knee issues but anything could happen. I know for a fact that he will not be wearing the Pacer blue and gold for much longer. He will have to play at his absolute best when he returns if he wants any hope of staying in Indy.

This season will be one that will show us how strong the core of the Pacers really is. With the emergence of George Hill as the starting point guard late last season the Pacers traded Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones to Dallas for their backup center, Ian Mahinmi. That trade would be the start to a series of roster change.

During the off-season the Pacers picked up center Miles Plumlee, out of Duke, with the 26th pick in the draft, and traded draft picks to the Sacramento Kings to receive rookie guard Orlando Johnson.

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With the departure of Collision to Dallas and A.J. Price to Washington, they needed to find a backup point guard. They found the right guy for the job in D.J. Augustine from the Charlotte Bobcats.

Next the Pacers acquired 2007 Slam Dunk Champion, Gerald Green. After his first stint in the league he bounced around the world playing in different leagues, trying to develop his game and grow, not only as a player but also as a person. He hoped to return to the NBA better than before.

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Last season he made his return, late in the season, with the New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets). The short time he was there he had a flurry of electrifying dunks, and one, that by many people, was considered the dunk of the year. Hopefully he will continue to grow as both a player and a person in Indy.

The next player is Lance Stephenson. I know you’re all thinking “wait, he’s been on the roster for a few years now.” Which is true, but now he will actually have a role that requires more than having his butt in a seat. With losing Leandro Barbosa to free agency, and trading Dahntay Jones to Dallas, that leaves Stephenson and rookie Orlando Johnson as the backups at the shooting guard position.

When Larry Bird was in charge of the day-to-day operations for the Pacers, he always said that he likes Stephenson’s game. It’s a new year; he’s wearing a new number (#1). Maybe this year he won’t just be famous for making choking gestures towards LeBron James and will be more known for what he can do. Only time will tell.

The last players to get picked up are point guard Sundiata Gaines, and forward Sam Young. I’m not too sure on how much they will use Gaines but I do expect Young to get playing time. He’s an excellent all-around defender. He can guard wing as well as post players and offensively he brings more speed and athleticism to the pacers roster.

The core of the roster is still the same. The starting lineup is the same five that were the starters during the second half of the season last year. Indianapolis native George Hill will start at point guard, his G2-Zone partner Paul George is at the shooting guard, the captain, Danny Granger at small forward, Big David West will provide veteran leadership as he will start at power forward in his second year with the team. Then finally, after coming off of his first All-Star appearance in 2012, Area 55’s Roy Hibbert will be the center holding down the middle.

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I think that the Pacers will regret not resigning Barbosa. He was a veteran who brought craftiness and reliability to their second unit. I wish that they would have used Dahntay Jones more also. He’s one of the best defensive guards in the league and he deserved more minutes. With Barbosa gone I feel like Jones would’ve came up big for them this year.

Another issue that was partially address was the lack of athleticism along the front line. They have size, which is good, but there’s no hybrid big. Mahinmi adds athleticism but he’s not who will use it to his advantage. Plumlee is deceivingly athletic but I’m not sure how much he’ll get used because of depth needed at other positions. The Pacers really need an athletic, quick power forward who’s a “garbage man.”

Set aside the lack of athleticism up front and the question mark on the bench for their shooting guards. The Pacers will have a lot of production from their starters. This may be the year where everything comes together for Paul George. Granger still has the ability to return to his All-Star form. Then Hibbert gets better every season.

I expect this team to run differently on offense than they did last year. They should feed the ball into the post more. Rather it be West or Hibbert, that ball should be fed their first. The starting unit that they have will definently be more of a half-court team. I don’t see them getting out on the fast break as a main part in their scheme. Without Collision they really don’t have a speedy guard that can push the ball with aggression.

With Derrick Rose expected to be out for most of the season, I don’t see any reason to why the Pacers can win the central division. We pretty much know what to expect from the Bucks, Cavaliers and Pistons. With Rose out there’s no obstacles in their way.

Since the Bulls are not expected to do much of anything this season, that leaves an open spot at the top of the Eastern Conference. Miami will definently be number one in the conference at seasons end but the Pacers have a shot at getting that two slot. Boston has a ton of good new pieces but they’re just that, “new.” They still have to mesh with each other. Same thing goes for the Brooklyn Nets. They have a ton of fire power but they still have to get chemistry with each other. The Knicks probably have the biggest question mark above them in the conference. They’re full of stars but often look pitiful. They’ve tried to address their lack of defense with adding Jason Kidd, and Marcus Camby, but I’m not sure how good that will turn out for them. They also signed Rasheed Wallace and no one really knows if he can still play at a championship level.

The Pacers have talked about contending for a title all summer. They feel that they’re one step away from making it to the finals. They took the Miami Heat to six games last year in the playoffs, and at one time, had them on the edge of elimination. The Pacers organization wants to keep moving forward with this core group of players. It’s been a long time since the Pacers were loved in Indy, and they feel that now is the perfect time to get those seats in Banker’s Life Field House filled. There’s a lot of buzz around the city, let’s see if they can live up to the hype.

Here’s a video link to the Indiana Pacer’s season preview on nba.com: http://www.nba.com/video/channels/nba_tv/2012/09/24/preview-20120917-pacers.nba/index.html

Aside  —  Posted: October 4, 2012 in sports

SUMMER UPDATE

Posted: July 12, 2012 in sports

Sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to make any post. I know i’m well over due for one but due to me being busy with work and summer school i haven’t really had much free time; not having Internet at home doesn’t help much either. I’m working on getting Internet and i assure you all that i’ll be back to posting things regularly.

– Lance

 

Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. was born August 14, 1959.  He’s one of the most recognizable figures not only in the NBA but in the sports world. After having successful campaigns in high school and college, Johnson was selected first overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1979 NBA Draft. In his rookie season he did what no other rookie had done by winning a championship and being named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (Had to start at center due to Kareem Abdul Jabbar being out with an injury).He went on to win four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s. But no playoff series that Magic played would be harder than what he went through with the HIV virus.  

Before 1981 there wasn’t anything in medical publications about HIV. It was around before then but it wasn’t as much of a serious issue to the world. The only way that people thought you could get this was to have intercourse with the same sex. People had this idea that if you weren’t a homo-sexual you wouldn’t have anything to worry about. You might get something that is curable but as far as HIV you won’t get that. This sounds crazy now but back then awareness for this was low.

 L.A., in the 80s, was the spot for high profile celebrities. It was known for being the entertainment capital of the world. But no movie star, music artist or producer was bigger than Magic Johnson. With his play on the court and infectious personality he took the people of L.A. by storm. It was his town and if you were around him in public you knew that. But when you have fame and power you sometimes think that you are invincible. Magic found out the hard way that he wasn’t.

With the success of the Lakers and the big star that Magic had become, the Forum Club (located at The Forum where the Lakers played) became one of the hottest night clubs in the city. According to Chris Rock you could compare it to Studio 54 in Las Vegas. (The Announcement, ESPN Documentary) Anyone who was anyone would be there after the Lakers home games. Rock later on goes to say that it was “The Groupie Capital of The World”.

With the Forum Club becoming the spot for groupies it gives us an idea of what went on there and also what happened after club hours. Magic didn’t just get the virus out of nowhere. He was a big star and women threw themselves at him every minute that he was in the public light. It was a carefree time during the 80s. Have fun at night and don’t worry about it the next day. Thoughts of getting AIDS and HIV didn’t bother anyone. Once again, those diseases were thought to only be something homo-sexual men could get.  

While taking a nap before a pre-season game with the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, Utah, Magic received a phone call from the team doctor, Dr. Michael Mellman. Mellman told Johnson that he needed to come back to Los Angeles because he had something important to tell him about the physical that he had taken before the pre-season. After the call Magic hopped on the first flight back to L.A. Back in Utah his teammates thought that he just didn’t want to play because it’s not uncommon for a veteran player to fake and injury or sickness to get out of playing. So they had no idea at all that Magic had HIV.

Dr. Mellman told wanted Magic to come back to L.A. because he felt that telling someone that they have something as serious as HIV over the phone was inappropriate. After Magic’s arrival at Mellman’s office he sat Magic down and told him that he had HIV. A whirl wind of thoughts went through his mind after hearing this. He was not only concerned for his health but also the health of his wife Cookie and his unborn baby.

After Magic found out about having the virus he missed a string of games before even holding the press conference. To cover up being HIV positive he just told everybody that he had the flu. But the longer they strung this out, the more skeptical the media became.  A day before Magic decided he wanted to make it known to the public about his situation his agent got a call from a local radio station and they had a source that claimed he was going to retire from basketball because he has AIDS. They couldn’t keep it a secret anymore and his agent knew that. So he called up Magic and suggested that he hold the press conference that day.

November 7, 1991, Johnson made a public announcement that he would retiring from the NBA.  Dr. Mellman didn’t want him playing because he wasn’t sure if the grind of a long NBA season would weaken his immune system or not. Also they didn’t know if the virus could be spread by anything else other than blood. They did not want to take that chance.

At the press conference Johnson let the world know that his wife Cookie and their unborn child did not have HIV. He also went on to say that he was going to dedicate the rest of his life to help raise awareness for the virus. When this was announced people thought for sure that he’d be dead in months. People were saddened because they’d never expected someone like Magic to get something as horrible as HIV. This press conference, in a way, was one of the first key events where people around the world realize that contracting HIV could happen to anyone.

To further provide awareness for the virus, Magic, not very long after he made his announcement, admitted to having unprotected sex with multiple women throughout his career. At the time, it was uncommon for anyone to contract such a virus from heterosexual sex. The initial thought was that Magic was having relations with other men. He believed many of those rumors were spread by then, Detroit Piston’s star, Isaiah Thomas

Before the press conference it was a lot of tension in the room. When I was looking at clips it was obvious that media was kind of fed up with the whole situation. They just wanted an answer. For Magic to be out two weeks and all of a sudden have a press conference was odd. There was a lot of speculation on what exactly was going on.

A lot of the media didn’t seem to be overly sympathetic towards Magic. When watching the news you’d hear “Earvin “Magic” Johnson has contracted the AIDS virus” after he clearly said he had HIV and not AIDS. They said that Magic was now a statistic. To me that sounds like they were not only anticipating death but also trying to say “we knew that it was only a matter of time before an athlete gets this”. A lot of people in the media twisted his words.  

The regular media differed from the sports media. Obviously the sports media was going to be more sympathetic towards the situation. Their job wasn’t so much to raise questions on how he got the virus and if he was going to be ok. Their role was more so being a comforter. For sports fans’, finding out Magic had HIV was up there with tragedies like the Kennedy assassination. People knew for sure that they were losing their hero and they didn’t want to hear negativity from the sports media.

I think Magic and his camp handled this in the best way possible. They didn’t want the team’s play to be affected by thoughts about Magic having HIV and if he was going to live or not. Also he was able to avoid the bombardment of questions early on. Also he was already stressed out enough about the state of his family so having the whole world knowing early on would be too much for one family to handle. Avoiding the truth gave them some time to gather their facts so that when the time comes for them to make a public statement they’ll already have some answers for any question thrown their way.

When questions were being asked at the press conference you might as well say the reporters were fitting him for his casket suit. He was constantly telling them that he feels great and that his life has changed but he plans on living for a long time. The way people thought about HIV and AIDS back then was that it’s a ticket for the grave.  Everyone was skeptical but really you can’t blame them for thinking the way they did. There were no cases of people who beat it. All you hear was the high percentage of mortalities after getting HIV.

I love this story because it changed the worlds view on sex and how important it is to be cautious about how you handle your sex life. Now we see campaigns to raise awareness, not only for HIV and AIDS, but for many other sicknesses. Magic, even through immorality, still comes out as a hero. His flashy play style, awards, and lovable personality may have put him on top of the sports world  but his mistakes have had a long lasting effect. He said that God gave him the disease for a reason and that reason was to let the world know about this disease and let them that anyone could get it. I think he has done a great job in doing so.

 

If I was head over the NCAA I wouldn’t make any dramatic changes to the system that is in place now. I honestly like how things are now. There are a couple things that I would change but these things would not change the landscape of college sports. But the “one-and-done” rule is one thing I would change.

It’s good for the NBA game but for colleges and universities it’s a nightmare. I don’t see their being anymore great teams with groups of upper classmen. There will be a few but not like back in the day. It’ll be rare to see powerhouses like the old Duke Blue Devil teams or the old IU squads.

The freshmen are great players; don’t get me wrong, but their making it hard for coaches to build up their programs. They’ll be hot for a moment but after that it’s back to the drawing board because you have a whole new group of kids coming in.

A lot of coaches have had to change the way they recruit now due to the one-and-done rule. Rather than building for the future, they’re building for now. You might come across a kid like Jared Sullinger who will stay for a second year but that’s a stretch. If their NBA draft stock is high, they’re already marking their calendars and booking flights to New York for the draft.

But set aside building up programs for a minute, let’s focus on the quality of basketball. These “super-freshmen” are great but they are still raw talent that needs to be nurtured and developed. I’m seeing more poor judgment from players now than I have before. NCAA men’s basketball is probably one of the only sports where the teams from 30 years ago can beat the current ones.

My last issue with the one-and-done rule is kids thinking that they’re ready for the NBA when they’re really not. There have only been a few freshmen in the last couple of years that I felt were NBA ready. I look at these freshmen and compare them to LeBron James or Kevin Garnett when they were high school seniors. There’s no comparison. LeBron and K.G. were light years ahead of them.

These freshmen come into college and have one good season and think that they’ll be studs in the NBA. I’ve seen this fail way too many times. I can understand if you were in a situation where you’re injury prone, like Eric Gordon, and you need to go to the league now because of financial reasons. But if you can play; play. Be patient, your time will come.

Developing your craft and maturing as a player, in college, will only benefit you more when you make that decision to go to the NBA. When watching NBA games you can tell which young players stayed in college for 3-4 years. Their composure is good, and they’re also more fundamentally sound. Are they more talented; maybe not. But they have confidence in themselves to get the job done.

I’m not saying that all these things are true for all freshmen who come out early because that’s far from the truth. Look at Derrick Rose, led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals and won the league MVP award. I just wish that more freshmen would stay.

From meeting Marcia Debnam for the first time it’s obvious to see that she is a people person. It’s evident that she loves what she does and there’s no questioning that. She has been working at Indiana University for 23 years. Currently she is the Career Services Director at the IU School of Journalism. She also teaches a couple classes and holds journalism workshops. She’s a University of Georgia graduate and also received her Master’s Degree from Indiana University in 1981.

On Thursday March 29th, Marcia spoke to my sports journalism class about networking. She gave us tips on how to “take advantage of people in a professional way”.  She explained how to properly approach people, how to thank people, and other things as simple as finding out what common interest you have with the people you’re trying to network with.

When networking remember it’s key not to make everything about yourself. What can you bring to the table? Are you a hard worker? Are you willing to go above and beyond the task given to you?

These are all questions that you need to address with yourself before even attempting to woo someone into hiring you.  Stay humble and let your prospective employer know that you appreciate them even giving you an opportunity to show if you’re built for the position or not.

Marcia also touched on branding yourself. Some people call it an old fashioned concept but that’s just not true. Building a positive brand will and will always work in your favor. Being friendly is an easy thing to do. Even if you’re not friendly it’s easy to fake it. No one likes to be around a grump all day. No one wants to hire someone that they feel will be a grump. This isn’t just a short term deal (unless you mess up and get fired or end up quitting). You’re (hopefully) going to be with these people for a long time.

When branding and networking, do not shoot yourself in the foot. What she meant by this is have some credibility. If you know you don’t have the skills to perform a task don’t say that you do. Or at least let them know that you would be willing to try even with little experience. Be honest with people because in the long run you’ll be happy you were.

With the networking aspect you don’t want to lie, or “stretch the truth”. Let’s say I’m your boss and I have a friend that needs help with a serious issue that requires a professional to come in and fix it. If I recommend you to them and you get over there and flop sporadically and leave a bad impression then that looks bad on me. I lose credibility and you do as well.

Acknowledge that networking is a process. You’re building a relationship with someone; don’t treat it as a drive-through. If you try to speed things up and get right to the point then you’re not being sincere.

The people that you’re networking with want to see sincerity and want to feel like you’re actually interested in them. They know you want the job already; you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t. Being a user isn’t good, be honest and let people know what your intentions are. Building a good relationship with employers can give you benefits that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t.

Lastly there’s one thing that can put you over with anyone that you’re trying to network with (employers as well). This next tip could possibly be the one thing standing in your way of getting the job you want or meeting people that will take you to your next level of sucess. That one, all important thing is your attitude. The impression you leave will be the first thing that people remember.

Having a bad attitude obviously won’t get you what you want. Having one leaves room for employers to hesitate when thinking about hiring you and you hit a road block when trying to network.

They’ll remember you as the downer or the complainer and look to other people to get what they need. You may be as qualified as other people but if you have an attitude problem you’re only hurting yourself. The networking process isn’t hard. It’s only as hard as you make it.

Football is the most watched sport in America today. People love violence and what better sport to watch than football. It’s not as gory as MMA and it isn’t a sport that can be scripted like professional wrestling.  When you watch it; there is always something different from when you last watched it. It’s huge now but in my opinion baseball is still America’s pastime. Over time, there have been many events in baseball that would affect the world of sports.

Baseball may be a dying sport but its past is very relevant today. The breaking of the color barrier is a huge event that has helped shape sports into what we have today. Jackie Robinson, in 1947, became the first African American player to be up at bat in the modern major leagues.  Before Jackie it was over a half century earlier that a black player got a chance to play in the major leagues.

The breaking of the color barrier gave everyone a chance to play professional sports. It was not just blacks that got a chance; everyone of any race, creed, or color had the same opportunities. If you look at major sports now all you see is a mixture of people. Everyone is accepted. Baseball started this trend. Thanks to people like Branch Rickey and Happy Chandler giving Jackie Robinson a chance, many athletes today get a chance to make a name for themselves in their respective sports.

Baseball is huge in the U.S and it’s without a doubt the biggest sport for kids. If you watch ESPN and ESPN2 during the spring and the summer time you’ll catch the little league world series or even just exhibition games. These games are serious games too. They play top kids in the country and they also have foreign teams come over and play them. On top of those games you have softball too which is coming into its own as of late.

Football, from the pre game tailgating, to the intensity of players on the field, all the way to the cheerleaders is pound for pound the undisputed champion of sports. But that’s now. You can’t change history. Early on football wasn’t big at all. There were fans but no one really grew up wanting to go see a football game in the early 1900’s (Created in 1876). Baseball, on the other hand, goes back way before football was even thought of. It dates back to 1846. This without a doubt is the one and only American pastime.

You can’t base the recent success of one sport and discredit the long history and success of another. I’ll admit that I’m more a fan of football than I am baseball but I recognize which sport has had more of a lingering effect in today’s sports. Before the 1980’s you can’t even name one big figure in football. Nothing really pops in your head. But you look baseball and I guarantee you that you’ll be able to name at least 10-15 names if you were asked to on the spot.

Baseball fans are some of the most diehard fans out there. Even though their fan base doesn’t grow like it should it’s still a sport that’s deeply rooted in America. These people are very proud of their sport and will let you know that there’s no way football is the new pastime. They won’t accept hearing those words from anyone

After the steroid era the growth of baseball’s fan base slowed down. Steroids hurt the integrity of the game and that hurt its chances with potential fans. Like anything else, when something gets old or damaged it gets replaced by something else. People are replacing baseball with other sports. I think it’s safe to say that football was one of those substituted sports.