Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tour de France update

July 17th Stage 14, the tour de France is more than half completed and the clear winner is still yet to be decided. Stage 12 showed that Contador might not have much left in the reserves to win a fourth tour this year. As the Schleck’s attacked on the last climb of stage 13 and Condator had no response. Contador’s riding has shown that the tour of Italy may really taken a lot of him and ruined his chances for yellow in pairs. While Schleck has played the race smart as well as all of Leopard Trek. The team remains intact which is a rarity in this year’s tour with the horrific crashes that have ended Alexandre Vinokourov’s career (broken femur) as well as American Chris Horner’s, tour campaign. Team RadioShack has been hammered by injuries and crashes. The Radio Shack team came into the tour with 4 viable options to win the tour as well as the ability to win the team classification of the tour but with Chris Horner’s crash has made that goal unattainable. Thomas Voeckler of Europcar is now riding in the yellow jersey after taking it away in stage 8 from Thor and has rode with it for the last six stages. The Pyrenees will certainly cut the real contenders from the pretenders and the race should factor to four riders, Frank and Schleck, Cadel Evans, and Contador. The most likely winner of the tour will not distance themselves from the rest of the field until the high alp stages come and really splinter the race apart. If I had to pick the final podium today it would be the Schleck’s at one and two almost interchangeable at the top and Evans in the 3rd position.

Written by FTS Cycling expert Will Raschke

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Best fit for Minnesota Timberwolves head coaching vacancy

The Minnesota Timberwolves highly publicized, wishy-washy feeling about whether or not to retain head coach Kurt Rambis after two disappointing years came to an end earlier this week. After posting a record of 32-132 during his tenure as the head man for a very young, inexperienced, and immature T-Wolves team, Rambis will not return to the sidelines of the Target Center.

Rambis had great success as an assistant coach under Phil Jackson with the Lakers. The tutelage he received from arguably the greatest coach in professional sports history, and his key role helping the 1980's Lakers teams to four of its' five championships earned him great respect amongst NBA owners and GM's.

Originally, Rambis had said he was going to implement many of the triangle offense teachings he learned while in Los Angeles, but the more I watched the Timberwolves over the past two seasons, the more I saw that Rambis was a very confused coach. The Triangle offense did not match the team that had been constructed around him. This Minnesota team was much too young, and undisciplined to run an offense that requires so much focus, discipline and trust. A lot of times, you could see the players on the court blatantly go away from the Triangle, and do whatever they pleased, which showed in their record.

Rather than adjusting the offense to suit the personnel on his squad, it seemed that Rambis just kind of went through the motions and let his team dictate what went on throughout the game. It is because of those reasons that Rambis is now out of a job after just two years in the Land of 1,000 Lakes.

Here's what Timberwolves GM David Kahn had to say about the situation:

The T-Wolves are one of two teams who have a head coaching vacancy this off-season, here are three of the best options to take over for Rambis:

1. Don Nelson - 3-time NBA Coach of the Year, Most wins as a coach
Years Coached: 31in NBA history
Teams Coached: Bucks, Warriors, Knicks, Mavericks
Regular Season Record: 1335-1063 .557%
Playoff Record: 75-91 .452%
Championships: 0

Nelson is one of the most highly regarded coaches in the history of the NBA. His great resume and knack for being a "players coach" would fit perfectly in Minnesota. The Timberwolves young, dynamic and athletic roster would greatly benefit from the free-flow, uptempo offense that Nelson would implement. Another attribute that Nelson brings is, he won't give minutes to players, "just because", as Rambis did with Darko Milicic. I think the young guys would show respect for Nelson, and the system he would allow them to run. Would it result in more victories? I think it probably would. Would it turn them into a playoff team? No.

2. Rick Adelman - Two time Western Conference Champion
Teams Coached: Trailblazers, Warriors, Kings, Rockets
Years Coached: 20
Regular Season Record: 945-616 .605%
Playoff Record: 79-78 .503%
Championships: 0

Like Nelson, Adelman has a very respected coaching pedigree. He led Portland to two NBA Finals appearances in 1990, and 1992, losing to the Pistons and Bulls, respectively. Some of his finer coaching moments came with the Sacramento Kings in the early 2000's, in which he led his squad into many playoff
battles with the Lakers. Adelman's offense is not nearly as fast break oriented as Nelson's, but he does open up the floor a lot for pick and rolls, back-cuts, and pulling his bigs' to the high-post to create. With a very athletic team, Adelman's of
fense is sure to catch on quickly.

3. Lawrence Frank
Teams Coached: Nets
Years Coached: 7
Regular Season Record: 225-241 .483%
Playoff Record: 18-20 .474%
Championships: 0

Frank broke onto the scene with New Jersey in the 2003-04 season. Many people doubted Frank's ability to coach at the NBA level because he had never played the game at that level. After many successful seasons at the helm of the Nets, Frank
was fired after an 0-16 start to the 2009-10 season. Frank's latest coaching job was serving as an assistant to Doc Rivers in Boston, in which he was named the lead assistant after Tom Thibodeau took the head coaching job in Chicago. In New Jersey, Frank ran an uptempo, pick and roll offense much like you would see with the Hornets, or Warriors right now. That type of offense suits the Wolves perfectly, with a lot of athletic big guys, and Spainish PG sensation Ricky Rubio coming over, Frank could be a nice fit in Minny. There have been reports of Frank being the lead candidate for the Pistons head coaching job, as well as the Tennessee head coaching job left vacant by the firing of Bruce Pearl. If those rumors are true, it may be difficult to snatch up Frank.

*all coaching stats are from Basketball-Reference

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Michael Beasley likes to speed, and get caught with marijuana.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward, Michael Beasely, was cited for speeding and possession of marijuana on June 26 in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Beasley was doing 84 mph in a 65 mph zone, and during the same stop, he was cited for having over a a half ounce underneath the front seat of his car.

Beasley said the the "assassin of youth" was not his, but it actually belonged to a friend of his whom he had just dropped off at his respective home.

Beasley has had problems with ganja in the past, and run-in's with the law are nothing new to this former Miami Heat and Kansas State star. When the T-Wolves acquired Beasley from the Heat just about a year ago, Minnesota GM David Kahn had this to say about his newest acquisition:

"He's a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana and has told me he is not smoking anymore, and I told him I would trust him as long as that is the case."

Well, David Kahn, looks like Beasley betrayed your trust; now, what are you going to do about it?

The Timberwolves used the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft on a PF (very similar to Beasley) Derrick Williams out of Arizona. With a back log of forwards that include Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Wesley Johnson and Brad Miller. With yet another problem with law enforcement, Beasley could be shown the door sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2011 Tour de France: Days 1-4

The 2011 Tour de France, is a head on collision of two heavy weights of the cycling world. Andy Schleck riding with the pressure of leading his new team Leopard Trek and capturing the yellow jersey that’s eluded him for 2 consecutive years and Alberto Contador, who has had his off the bike incidents with the World Anti Doping Agency. Contador has the experience of winning the tour 3 times

(2 consecutive years), he too also has the pressure of coming to a new team, Saxo Banx Sungard, Schleck’s former team which stated it did not have the money to sign Andy to a longer contract. This single action has created the rivalry that is Andy and Alberto. If Contador can win this year’s TDF he will be compared to the greats of cycling, in the world such as Eddy Merck, Lemond, Armstrong, and Hinualt to name a few of the greats.

July 2nd, the opening stage to the tour was a typical start to the tour, the hustle and energy can only be seen in person. Once the wheels hit the ground the race was anything but normal. With the crash that trapped Alberto Contador behind the main contenders, makes one question what were Saxo Banx’s tactics? Why would you have you’re ace in the back of the peleoton when every other team that has a general classification challenger was in the front of peloton protecting their rider? The crash cost Alberto 39 seconds, which is ironically the same amount he lead Andy Schleck after the chain drop incident of the 2010 tour de France and would eventually drop behind 1:20 off of the yellow jersey worn by Philippe Gilbert. Gilbert rode a brilliant race and blew apart the field within the last 300 meters.

July 3rd, the second stage of the tour was the team trial. A race of truth as the individual time trial is referred to be the legendary Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. The team trial is the test of deep a team is from top to bottom. This would be a day for the American team Garmin-Cervelo who had never won a stage in the tour. The Garmin team had put all of their efforts into winning this stage even tracking the weather for 4 months prior to the tour, once the tour route was announced. With their effort to win this gave Thor Hushovd the yellow jersey.

July 4th was American Tyler Farrar’s day; Farrar was a question mark for the Garmin Cervelo team after the death of his close friend Wouter Weylandt, who tragically died during a crash in the Tour of Italy. The Garmin team again worked as a well oiled machine as they had the day before during the team time trial. The race started with the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank in the top ten well within the yellow jersey and Alberto Contador having dropped back another 22 seconds to put himself 1:42 seconds behind Thor. There was and still is some thought that Alberto may be able to get close to Andy and be a challenger for the yellow jersey but how much energy will he have to defend the jersey after having to make up the time deficit he’s created for himself this early in the first week of the tour. Alberto would finish 1:38 behind Andy and Thor would retain his yellow jersey.

Stage 4 showed that Alberto still has the legs and the ability to factor in this tour. The race would end on a photo finish with the Australian Cadel Evans stealing victory from Alberto. The finish helped Alberto gain 8 seconds back from the 1:38 he followed Andy by, the reason why there is so much importance on the time difference between Alberto and Contador because these are the two heavy favored winners for this years tour. This attack and attempt to win the stage shouldn’t surprise the cycling community, Contador is man with his back to the wall and will do anything to protect his pride even with doubt creeping in the community questioning if he still has it with all the distractions the looming suspensions and the possibility of having a tour win stripped from him.

My final thoughts after the first 4 days of the tour are that the tour hasn’t been won by anyone just yet but it may have been lost by one Spaniard, with the pride of a nation upon his shoulders.

Written by Five Tool Sports Cycling Expert Will Raschke

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sharks Make Bold But Correct Decision In Trading Dany Heatley

In yet another blockbuster deal, the San Jose Sharks have dealt All-Star forward Dany Heatley to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Martin Havlat. A move many did not expect, the Sharks traded away one of the NHL’s elite goal scorers only two years into his tenure. Heatley was expected to thrive in the powerful Shark offense, feeding off of slick passes from fellow All-Star Joe Thornton, yet he failed to live up to his lofty expectations. Heatley scored 39 goals in his first season, and 26 last year. Over 35 playoff games, he would only net 5 goals. One could never question Heatley’s talent and ability, but his heart has always been an issue. Many feel he does not possess that killer instinct needed to be a dominant force night after night, and after a long grind of 82 games leading into a post-season, that passion and motivation is what carries you to a Stanley Cup. With the Sharks coming off of another disappointing loss in the Western Conference Finals to the Vancouver Canucks, GM Doug Wilson seems to be determined to take his team to the next level, no matter what the cost may be. Dany Heatley departs the Sharks having played in 669 career games with Atlanta, Ottawa, and San Jose. He has 689 points over his 10 year career (325 goals, 364 assists.) The Minnesota Wild get an extreme talent with no heart in their acquisition of “Heater.”

Martin Havlat, a former teammate of Heatley in Ottawa, is a talented veteran wing, and former All-Star, with plenty of postseason experience and success. He has appeared in 67 career Stanley Cup Playoff Games, scoring 49 points, including 28 points in his last 26 games. An 11-year veteran, Havlat has played in Ottawa, Chicago, and Minnesota.

In 621 regular season games, Havlat has earned 512 points (209 goals, 303 assists.) Not the flashy, cocky player Heatley has been known to be, Havlat is a tough nosed forward who comes to life in big moments. This shows true in his Stanley Cup Playoff performances and consistency on the ice. A knock against Havlat is that he is somewhat injury prone, having never played a full 82 game season and missing considerable time over stretches with Ottawa and Chicago. If Havlat can avoid serious injury, his on-ice presence, grittiness and speed will be a welcomed addition to the already potent Shark offense, lead by perennial All-Star Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, and talented second-year Forward Logan Couture.

The Sharks have been contenders year after year, yet have always failed to make it over the hump. Over their 20 year existence, they have been in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 14 times, yet have never reached the Stanley Cup Finals. With the acquisitions of top tier defenseman Brent Burns and now Havlat, Doug Wilson and the Sharks are moving in the right direction to change the curse the franchise has faced since its conception, and possibly have the opportunity to hoist their first Stanley Cup. Shark fans throughout hockey have been dying to host the Finals at the Tank, considered to be the loudest arena in all of hockey, and that dream might soon come true.

Written by Five Tool Sports Hockey Analyst Derek Ugland

You can follow him on Twitter: @dsmoothe32