Are you Jason Kidding me?

One season. That’s how long Jason Kidd has been removed from his days playing professional basketball. That’s also how long Kidd has been coaching in the NBA. He lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 44-38 record, good enough for the 6th seed in the disgraceful Eastern Conference. Brooklyn was bounced in the second round by the eventual runner-up Miami Heat.

It would be hard to argue that Kidd’s first season as head coach was unsuccessful. A winning record and a playoff berth signify achievement for nearly any coach, not to mention a first-timer. Its his recent off-season behavior that calls him into question. According to the New York Post, Kidd approached ownership demanding more responsibilities including oversight of the Nets’ basketball operations department.  His request was declined, but he was granted permission to negotiate with other teams.

Enter the Milwaukee Bucks. Proud recipients of Jabari Parker and epitome of Eastern Conference futility. It doesn’t appear they intend to part ways with head coach Larry Drew, rather they may grant Kidd the front office power he desperately desires. Rumors claim that Jason seeks a “Phil Jackson-like role with Bucks”. I’m sorry, but in what world are Jason Kidd and Phil Jackson even on the same stratosphere? Seasons coached: Jackson-20, Kidd-1. Playoff births: Jackson-20, Kidd-1. Championships: Jackson-11, Kidd-0. Need I say more?

It is likely that the relationship between Brooklyn and Kidd is damaged beyond repair. The Nets and Bucks are believed to be discussing possible compensation in order to release Kidd from his contract.  Reports also state that the Nets have already begun searching for his successor. Soon we will know exactly what kind of role the Bucks have offered the young coach with an increasingly shaky reputation. It appears as though he will end up in Milwaukee one way or another.

As for me, I wouldn’t pay him a million Bucks.

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Draft Recap

There’s a special sense of anxious excitement that strikes cities with an NBA franchise on draft night. Weeks of hype left experts stunned at the depth of this year’s class and clamoring for draft day trades.  Injuries threatened top prospects like Kansas big man Joel Embiid and Kentucky star Julius Randle. Cleveland had the first pick not only for the second year in a row, but for the third time in the last four years. After last year’s draft remains widely recognized as one of the worst in league history, fans anticipated this year’s to be exactly the opposite. As the curtain closed on the 2014 NBA draft last night at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, I found myself pleasantly surprised.

Nothing crazy at the top. Cleveland took former Canadian phenom and Jayhawk star Andrew Wiggins first overall and Milwaukee drafted consensus number two Jabari Parker out of Duke. Embiid went third to Philadelphia. Arizona forward Aaron Gordon went next, followed by Australian wunderkind Dante Exum to round out the top five. A breath of fresh air; arguably the top five players taken in the top five picks.

You had to wait a little longer for the first real plot twist. Sharp shooter Doug McDermott was taken 11th overall by the Denver Nuggets. Nothing out of the ordinary? Wait. Moments later he was shipped off to Chicago for the 16th and 19th picks. Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkic went 16th, Michigan State’s Gary Harris went 19th. Only time will tell which team won this deal, but my money’s on McBuckets.

Perhaps the best moment of the draft wasn’t made by a single team, but rather the NBA as a whole. Shortly after the 15th pick, commissioner Adam Silver had a special announcement to make. The NBA would be drafting Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. Its not like getting drafted was never on Austin’s radar. In fact, up until a few days ago he was all but a lock to have his name called amongst the other prospects in the draft room. This was until a medical test revealed the unthinkable. Austin suffers from Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue and could be life-threatening. Just like that, no more competitive basketball. For a kid who was already playing without sight in his right eye, this was especially devastating. Thank you, Mr. Silver, for allowing at least part of his dream to come true.

Not to be outdone, the Miami Heat followed with what may turn out to be the most important draft day move. Just days ago LeBron James opted out of his contract, becoming a free agent yet again. Just months ago LeBron announced via Twitter that no point guard should be taken above UCONN’s Shabazz Napier. So what does Miami do? Make a draft day deal with Charlotte who took Napier 24th overall. Miami gave up the 26th and 55th picks and a future second rounder to do so, but may have found themselves back in LeBron’s good graces once again.

As for the hometown heroes, neither New York team had a pick in the first round. The Knicks impressed though, taking Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early 34th overall in round 2. Early seemingly could have gone sooner, and has been likened by many to James Posey. The Nets made a late move to acquire the 44th overall pick from Minnesota, selecting Markel Brown out of Oklahoma State. They weren’t done there however, acquiring the rights to both Xavier Thames and Cory Jefferson, the final two picks of the draft. Brooklyn’s hopeful the assortment of Brown, Thames, and Jefferson can help strengthen bench depth.

We won’t know for certain the strength of this year’s draft until the players finally step onto the NBA hardwood for the first time. Until then, we wait.

 

 

Timmy Two Times

Tim Lincecum delivered a performance yesterday afternoon that left many fans wondering if they had just suffered from déjà vu. For the second time in less than a year Lincecum no-hit the San Diego Padres in tremendous fashion. Granted the Padres’ offense is meager at best, but that in no way diminishes the fact that the Freak was able to turn back the clock to the glory days once again.

The Lincecum that toes the mound today is far from the back to back Cy Young winner of ’08 and’09. Once known for generating astounding velocity despite his slight build, wear and tear took to Lincecum’s body quicker than expected. He was once relegated to the bullpen during the Giants’ 2012 championship run and has posted two consecutive losing seasons. But, maybe yesterday’s performance is an indication of a new, more efficient Lincecum.

The performance took only 113 pitches, compared to the 148 we saw in the first no-no. After an early walk to Chase Headley in the second it was 23 up, 23 down. Never appearing to focus on overpowering hitters, Timmy challenged San Diego to put the ball in play and recorded just five 5 strikeouts in the game. If yesterday’s performance is any indication, hope remains that the once beloved kid from Washington can still be a successful major-league pitcher.

Becoming just the 32nd pitcher to toss multiple no-hitters, Lincecum has etched is name in the record books yet again. At the ripe old age of 30 years old I can’t wait to see what else he has left in store for America’s pastime.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to have him on my fantasy team.

Shawty We Got So High, Firefly

I’d like to apologize for the lack of posting recently. I took a break from the sports world and headed down to Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware this past weekend. What an incredible weekend it was. We saw legends like Foo Fighters and Outkast belt out classics, delivering performances for the ages. We watched as hometown heroes, the Lumineers, took the main stage. We were blown away by up and coming artists like Twenty One Pilots and Johnnyswim. When it was all said and done we left entertained, inspired, and covered in filth.

Now it’s back to reality. Keep an eye out for a real post tomorrow.

See you in 2015, Firefly.

Hey Group of Death, Meet America

Preface: By no means am I a soccer expert. Hell, I quit playing the game in fifth grade.

Long before the first whistle was blown last Thursday the United States were deemed dead men walking. A title bestowed upon them when the aptly named “Group of Death” was revealed. Germany, Portugal, Ghana, and of course, the USA.  Germany had the best odds out of the four, Portugal the golden boy in Ronaldo, and Ghana a history off knocking the US out of contention (2006 and 2010). Many considered Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad to struggle, and rightfully so. But I suppose that’s why they play the game.

Fans who tuned into the game half of a minute late had already missed the first goal, as it took Clint Dempsey only 29 seconds to get the US on the board. The fifth fastest goal in World Cup history and the fastest by an American provided instant hope. The fairy tale beginning gave way to a grudge match and the next 89 minutes proved to be far from perfect for the US. Ghana fought back and fought back hard, possessing the ball for the majority of the game and leaving the Americans desperately clinging on to that 1-0 lead.

Just 23 minutes in all of America held their breathe as one of the most potent goal scorers, Jozy Altidore, was carted off with a hamstring injury. A possible end to his World Cup before it truly even begun. Even Dempsey, the game’s early hero, couldn’t avoid the injury bug as he suffered a broken nose not long after Altidore went down. The United States seemed physically drained and the entire country was left to wonder if that historic goal was simply a fluke. Ghana continued to pressure what now looked like the inferior, physically debilitated Americans we all expected to see.

In the 82nd minute Ghana finally struck on a beautiful score from Andre Ayew. 1-1. Ghana looks poised to control the remainder of the game. Exasperation and exhaustion surrounded the American sideline, though a draw would not seal their tournament fate. Save a point, regroup, and prepare for Portugal.

Moments earlier, Klinsmann subbed in a pair of fresh legs in forward Graham Zusi. Zusi lines up for a corner in the 86th minute, likely the Americans’ last real chance. The kick soars into the box, finds John Brooks’ head and then finds the net. Goal! 2-1, USA. At just 21 years of age Brooks goes from halftime replacement to instant hero, delivering an emphatic knockout blow. Klinsmann’s earlier decisions appeared questionable, but his second half studs validated his decision making and vaulted the US into a tie with Germany for an early lead of Group G.

Group play won’t conclude until next Thursday against powerhouse Germany and one victory only means you live to fight another day. With 3 points under their belt and an upcoming matchup against a Portugal team who looked lost in their opener, it looks as though the United States stand a chance.

Sunday at 6:00pm can’t come soon enough.

 

Redemption is a Beautiful Thing

Twenty-eight seconds separated last year’s San Antonio Spurs from their fifth championship. Two days later, rather than parading through downtown San Antonio, the NBA’s small-market superstars found themselves at the wrong end of one of the most devastating defeats in league history. A disappointed Popovich and Co. didn’t let the circumstances thrust them into relative obscurity. No, they took what they had been dealt as the beginning of a road to redemption. Last night, in front of the home crowd, that redemption was achieved. It was a beautiful thing.

Critics who whispered doubts of an aging roster were soon silenced as the Spurs navigated their way through the tricky Western Conference to the tune of 62 regular season wins. After a difficult test from Dallas in the first round, San Antonio went on to handily outplay Portland and Oklahoma City in 5 and 6 games, respectively.  On the other side of the bracket, the Miami Heat LeBrons throttled their way through the inferior Eastern Conference. The rematch promised to entertain even the most casual of fans.

What happened next? The unthinkable. The Spurs humiliated the two-time reigning champions in five games. They didn’t just win, they won by no margin smaller than 15 points and they did it twice in Miami.

Sure, the big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili shined, but these Spurs epitomized the word “team”. At just 22 years old, Kawhi Leonard turned in three consecutive 20 point performances and was crowned the fourth youngest Finals’ MVP. The short list ahead of him: Magic Johnson (twice) and his teammate, Duncan. Reclamation project, Boris Diaw provided valuable minutes of athleticism and versatility.  Danny Green and Patty Mills prowled the perimeter, burying wide-open 3’s and stretching the floor. Quick and precise ball movement left a frenetic Miami defense confused and helped San Antonio shed any association with the word “boring”.

Erik Spoelstra tried everything to combat the Spurs’ perfected assault. As Dwayne Wade performed miserably from the field, he tried both defensive stalwart Toney Douglas and offensive specialist Michael Beasley. No dice. With Miami down 3-1, the world turned to LeBron and he turned to himself for a chance to make history. Yet no matter how Herculean of an effort he made, there was nothing LeBron could do to carry his faltering supporting cast. As the the clock struck zero, Miami’s disgruntled version of the big three sat at the end of the bench left to contemplate their basketball futures.

The 2014 NBA Finals culminated in a heartwarming ceremony. In 1997 the lottery gifted us with the dynamic duo of Pop and Duncan,  seventeen years later we experienced their pure joy in capturing their fifth championship. We witnessed the seldom-smiling Kawhi Leonard finally flash his pearly whites upon rightfully receiving his MVP trophy. We listened to the raucous crowd shake the AT&T center in excitement, as they too had been waiting anxiously since last season. We watched a year-long redemption story solidify the Spurs as one of the greatest organizations in the post-Jordan era.

Congratulations, San Antonio.

Welcome Wishes

Welcome to the Undrafted Free Agent. My name is Mike Ferrante and I am just another avid sports fan. Growing up in Ramsey, New Jersey, a small suburb adjacent to New York City, I was raised to live and die by New York sports. Year after year, my jubilation of watching promising Yankee baseball teams is quickly extinguished by the annual travesty that is the New York Jets. Sprinkle in some Nets basketball and Rangers hockey, and the puzzle to my sports’ fandom is complete.

Currently a senior, studying journalism, at James Madison University, I have taken to the blogosphere to give you all a daily glimpse into my mind. A mind constantly contemplating the ins and outs of the sports world, from the impact of Derek Jeter’s impending retirement to the Spurs’ road to redemption. It is my hope to foster thoughts, instigate arguments, and provide entertainment for any and all fellow sportsaholics.

Thank you and enjoy,

Mike