Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dirk Nowitzki: The German Wonder

Dirk Nowitzki: The German Wonder By P. Albert

The first time the NBA saw a European become a star in the league was back when Drazen Petrovic was making headlines with the Nets. Unfortunately, he never had a chance to show his true potential as he was killed in a car accident in 1993. The NBA would continue to see more and more European players enter the league even after Drazen's death, but they were never able to match the star power that he had. That is, until a German by the name of Dirk Nowitzki entered the league.

Nowitzki entered the league back in 1998 when he was chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks with the ninth overall pick. However, he was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks on draft day in exchange for Robert Traylor. Prior to entering the NBA Draft, Nowitzki declined several offers from colleges who were interested in acquiring him. He became a prep-to-pro player who decided to immediately pursue an NBA career, and this was pretty rare back then.

Dirk struggled during his rookie season and many thought that he was a complete draft bust. However, he refused to give up and by his second year in the league, his statistics had greatly improved. Playing under the guide of Don Nelson, Dirk was quickly becoming one of the league's rising stars. He became a part of the Dallas' Big Three, which consisted of himself, Steve Nash, and Michael Finley. The Big Three were nearly unstoppable on offense and helped lead the Mavs to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons (2000-2004).

But Nowitzki would eventually find himself the only remaining piece of the Big Three by the 2004 season as his close friend Steve Nash had become a free agent and signed with the Phoenix Suns. The task of becoming the team's leader was now placed on Dirk's shoulders and although he struggled adjusting to the leadership role at first, he has since taken it in stride.

Under his leadership, the Mavs would make their very first NBA Finals appearance in 2006 where they would lose to the Miami Heat in six games. He would receive a chance at redemption, as the Mavericks would make their second finals appearance in 2011 against the very same team that beat them back in 2006. This time though, the result would be different as the Mavs came out on top and Dirk finally won his first NBA championship.

Through the years, Dirk has become one of the most unstoppable players in the league because of his versatility. Once his career comes to an end, he will be regarded as the greatest European player to have ever step foot in the NBA.

P. Albert is huge sports fan. Are you a Dirk Nowitzki fan or do you love basketball as much as me? Head over to AllSportsPeople for an entire listing of not only your favorite basketball players, but for profiles of athletes from various sports - soccer, MMA and even wresting entertainers as well. Come visit us today.

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The Best Pitches for Beginning Pitchers

The Best Pitches for Beginning Pitchers By David J Weller

Many beginning pitchers believe that they need to be able to throw a lot of pitches, or at least a curve ball, in order to be effective. That is simply not the case. It is possible to be very effective with just knowing 2 or 3 pitches, even without a curve ball. In fact, throwing a curve ball at a young age can be damaging to the arm. All you need to throw are fastballs (2-seam and/or 4-seam) and a change-up. The key is to change speeds and locations. If a pitcher can keep the hitter off balance, that pitcher will be successful.

The first pitch that should be learned is a fastball. There are two common types of fastballs: a 2-seam fastball and a 4-seam fastball. The 4-seam fastball is usually taught first because it has a straight trajectory. The pitcher holds the ball with the index finger, middle finger, and thumb. The index finger and middle finger are perpendicular to the seams where the seams are the closest. This causes both of the fingers to touch two of the seams, so there are four places where the fingers connect with the seams. That is why it is called a 4-seam fastball. It is thrown hard and straight.

Once the pitcher can throw the 4-seamer, it is time to learn the 2-seamer. It is held in a similar fashion, except that the fingers are parallel to the seams. This means that one finger is on one seam and the other is on another seam. Therefore, there are two contact lines, giving it the name 2-seam fastball. This gives the ball a different spin which causes it to move a little bit from left to right. It does not have very much motion compared to a curve ball, but it is different than the 4-seam fastball. That difference is something that the batter has to consider when swinging.

The third pitch is a change-up. This pitch is thrown with the same arm movement and arm speed, but the ball speed is significantly slower. This disrupts the hitter's timing, causing them to swing early. There are many ways to hold the ball to get this effect. The most effective way for a young pitcher or one with small hands is to use three fingers instead of two. A good change-up will look like a fastball coming out of the pitcher's hand, only to arrive at the plate a split second later than expected.

You may be asking, "Why not a curve ball?" Well, at this point, it is more important for a pitcher to learn how to pitch and how to throw strikes. They will need to improve their mechanics and build their strength and velocity. Also, for younger pitchers, it can wreak havoc on their arms, causing injuries that could otherwise be avoided and may even be permanent. Once a pitcher has mastered the fastball and change-up, curve balls can be added. But for now, these three pitches should be sufficient.

The pitcher will need to be able to throw all three of these pitches where they want to. Being able to pitch inside, outside, high, and low at any time will keep the hitter guessing. Mixing all three pitches without becoming predictable will also make it hard for the hitter. The secret of pitching is not letting the batter know where the ball will be next or how fast it is coming. These three pitches, along with practice, will help any pitcher be successful.

DJ Weller has been a student of baseball for over 30 years. He enjoys passing on his knowledge to all those who are interested.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

2013 AL East Predictions

2013 AL East Predictions
By David J Weller

The AL East appears to be going through an upheaval. The bottom feeders are looking strong and the perennial front runners are starting to slide.

1 Blue Jays - They had a very successful offseason. They picked up Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle from the Marlins and signed NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey. Considering the fact that they already had Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brandon Morrow, the Blue Jays should be the team to beat in the East.

2 Orioles - The Orioles were the surprise team of the AL East last year, and there is no reason to believe that they will slip from how they finished. Their pitching staff is coming back pretty much intact. The only question is whether or not they can win the 1-run games like they did last year.

3 Rays - The Rays have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, including AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, and they are going to need that pitching staff this season. Other than Evan Longoria, their lineup does not seem to have a lot of run production. But once again, the Rays will field a competitive team with a low budget.

4 Red Sox - The Red Sox lost Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers. This is going to be a rare rebuilding year for the BoSox.

5 Yankees - The Yankees are getting old and beat up. Derek Jeter is coming off of a serious injury and Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and Michael Pineda are all out. That being said, this is still the Yankees, so they cannot be counted out until game 162.

The AL East definitely looks like it has been turned upside down. It is still a strong division, but there is a changing of the guard in progress.

DJ Weller has been a student of baseball for over 30 years. He enjoys passing on his knowledge to all those who are interested.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Scottie Pippen: Versatility Personified

By P. Albert

The Chicago Bulls once had the pleasure of having the greatest player of all time lead them to 6 NBA championships. Throughout all those championship quests, Michael Jordan had a trusted ally in Scottie Pippen. Scottie Pippen is regarded as one of the greatest one-on-one defenders of all time and many basketball pundits always mention how Jordan may not have been able to win anything without Scottie by his side. This of course is still a highly debatable topic, but for now let us focus on the kind of impact that Scottie Pippen was able to leave in the game of basketball.

The 6'9" Pippen was drafted 5th overall by the then Seattle Supersonics, now Oklahoma City Thunder, during the 1987 NBA Draft. His rights were immediately traded to the Bulls for Olden Polynice along with a future pick in the draft. During his first year with the Bulls, Pippen was primarily used as a backup for Charles Oakley and Brad Sellers, but by the following year he had earned the starting small forward spot. Pippen would continue to grow and improve as a player under the tutelage of Phil Jackson and the leadership of Michael Jordan.

Back then, Pippen and Jordan often played one-on-one against each other after practice so that they could each hone their individual skills. By the turn of the decade, Pippen had already established himself as one of the NBA's premiere forwards and defenders. He would be instrumental in helping the Bulls through the Eastern Conference Finals two consecutive times from 1989 to 1990, however they would fall to the Pistons in each of those years with Pippen suffering a migraine during game 7 of the 1990 East Finals.

By 1991 to 1993, Pippen had emerged as the Bulls premiere defensive threat and was also a pretty competent scorer as well. He helped guide the Bulls to their first three-peat from 91 to 93 and in each of those series he was assigned to guard the opposing team's best player. Questions about whether or not Pippen could lead the Bulls without Jordan were quickly answered when he helped lead them to a 55-27 record in 1994, a year after Jordan's first retirement.

Even without MJ, Pippen had already cemented his status as one of the league's true superstars and one which a team could build around. Those of us who got to watch Jordan play alongside one of the greatest small forwards of all time should truly feel blessed to have witnessed such a talented athlete.

P. Albert is huge sports fan. Are you a Scottie Pippen fan or do you love basketball as much as me? Head over to AllSportsPeople for an entire listing of not only your favorite basketball players, but for profiles of athletes from various sports - soccer, MMA and even wresting entertainers as well. Come visit us today.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

AL East Pitching Rankings - Rotation and Bullpen

Author: Walter Winston

We go over the 5 American League East teams and assign grades to both their starting rotation and their relief pitchers.

Baltimore Orioles
Rotation = D, Bullpen = B-

Baltimore had one of the best bullpens in baseball last season, but there are some warning signs here that should make them worse off in 2013. This young team won't have the starting pitching they need with their group of Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta, and the bullpen won't be able to pick up the slack of severe overwork this time around. Last season's top-end production from the bullpen after too many innings shouldn't be expected to be the norm.

Boston Red Sox
Rotation = B+, Bullpen = A-

The Red Sox dealt with big injuries to their pitchers throughout the entire 2012 campaign and should have much better luck this time around. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are #1 starters who should be better and healthier this year, while Ryan Dempster and perhaps John Lackey at the back of the rotation should win some key games for the Red Sox. Boston added former Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan who has been one of the best in baseball for a while and he'll team with Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara, Daniel Bard, and Alfredo Aceves to form one of the most reliable bullpens in baseball.

New York Yankees
Rotation = B+, Bullpen = B

The Yankees will be decidedly better with their starting pitching past the mid-way point when Michael Pineda gets healthy, but for now they still have aces C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettite around to win games. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova are a bit iffy at this point but the offense should put up enough runs to win games no matter who starts at the back-end. Mariano Rivera returns as the Yankees closer but it's tough to tell how effective he'll be after missing a big chunk of action last season, but the rest of this bullpen looks good with David Robertson, Boone Logan, and Joba Chamberlain all capable of getting key outs.

Tampa Bay Rays
Rotation = B+, Bullpen = A-

Tampa Bay is a team that wins because of their pitching and this squad always sports an excellent bullpen no matter how poorly the guys they acquire pitched in previous seasons. I've learned to just given Tampa Bay an A- or better every year and not even bother looking into the names since this team always produces. The starting rotation should be phenomenal with David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore all possessing #1-type stuff. Roberto Hernandez (once known as Fausto Carmona), Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann make up the rest of what should be one of the best statistical rotations in baseball.

Toronto Blue Jays
Rotation = B-, Bullpen = C+

Although some MLB experts are high on the Blue Jays this year, I see lots of guys who are going to regress. R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle are all National League pitchers who will take a big step back now that they are in the AL East, while Brandon Morrow still hasn't developed consistency. The bullpen was one of the worst statistically last season but should improve now that Toronto has starters that are capable of going deep into games.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

5 Players Kansas City Should Consider With the Number One Pick

By Joshua Catanzariti

There are a few approaches Kansas City could make with the first pick of the 2013 draft. They could look to try and find an instant fix at a position of need or simply draft the best player on the board. Here are a few players they might consider for the number one overall pick.

Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M- Joeckel is clearly the best player available in the 2013 NFL Draft. The left tackle spent all last year protecting Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel, and has all the things you look for in an offensive tackle. He is athletic, fluid with his feet, powerful and polished. Joeckel is a day 1 starter in Kansas City even if they did decide to re-sign free agent tackle Branden Albert.

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia- Smith is no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but he certainly possesses enough talent to be a quality quarterback in the league. His play last year leads many to believe he will slip in the draft, but he is an athletic quarterback who can make all the throws from the pocket. He is smart and can move to extend a play when he needs to, all the things Michael Vick did for Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Don't be surprised if Andy, the quarterback guru, Reid drafts Geno Smith at number 1.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah- Star is simply a beast. An extremely dominant force on the defensive line that shined throughout his college career. Star has a tremendous ability to stop the run and also vicious pass rush making him a true 3 down defensive tackle. Kansas City could make use of his bruising force, lining him up at either DE or inside at DT/NT. Considering last years first round pick Dontari Poe hasn't come along yet, Star Lotulelei could be the pick to solidify the Kansas City defense.

Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia- Jones may have a neck problem, which leads most experts to believe he will drop in the draft, but the kid can defiantly rush the passer. Pass rushers are hard to find in this league, we saw that with Seattle reaching for Bruce Irvin last year. Now I do think Jarvis Jones is a reach at number 1, but generating pass rush is a priority on defense and giving Tamba Hali a player on his opposite side would provide some excitement to the woeful Chief defense.

Trade Down- Kansas City needs talent on the offensive side and they need a lot of it. Andy Reid needs to evaluate whether there is a true number one overall pick in the draft and if the answer is no then he needs to move down. Collecting some picks for offensive weapons is not such a bad idea.

Projected Pick: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Penny Hardaway - How Quickly They Forget

Penny Hardaway - How Quickly They Forget By P. Albert

For many fans, the player known as Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway is nothing more than an afterthought, a memory of some player that most of today's fans probably don't even remember. Boy, how quickly they forget. Before injuries ruined his career and made him fade away into relative obscurity, Penny Hardaway was once one of the most talented players in the league. He was a 6'7" point guard who could do almost everything on the court. His style of play reminded people of Magic Johnson who ironically happens to be his favorite player.

His popularity back the day was pretty similar to the levels that guys like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Chris Paul are enjoying. In short, he was simply that good of a player. He was selected with the number three overall pick by the Orlando Magic back in the 1993 NBA Draft. The Magic already had a young and promising center in Shaquille O'Neal and together with Hardaway, they would go on to form one of the most dynamic duos in the league.

Hardaway made an immediate impact during his rookie season helping transform the Magic from bottom dwellers into a perennial playoff team. His style of play and his consistency made him adored by fans, especially kids who all looked up to him. As a matter of fact, several NBA players have cited Penny as someone they looked up to growing up. Guys like Tracy McGrady, Shaun Livingston, Lebron James, and Gilbert Arenas have all mentioned how much they admired Penny's game growing up.

In addition to being an elite talent in the NBA, Hardaway was also one of the league's most marketable players. His "Lil Penny" commercials would give way to the popular Lebron and Kobe puppet commercials that Nike would use several years later and his sneakers sold like hot cakes. He was also selected as a member of the 1996 US Men's Basketball team aka Dream Team II. He won a gold medal with the team, an accomplishment that he considers to be one of the greatest of his career.

He was on top of the world or so it would seem until a series of injuries would rob him of his explosiveness and ultimately, his career. After all the injuries had set in, Hardaway would never be able to regain the form that once made him an NBA superstar. It is a shame that most people will never remember just how good of a player Penny was, but for those of us who do remember, we will always look back at the awesome memories he provided us with back in the day.

If you are a fan of basketball or any other sport, head on over to AllSportsPeople to get an entire listing of all of your favorite athletes.

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