With all due respect, the Lakers must hire Mark Jackson

After one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Lakers are looking to rebound. This starts with finding the right coach who will fit the team like a glove. With the recent news of the Purple and Gold interviewing Mark Jackson, he could be the perfect hire to hoist banner number eighteen in the Crypto.Com Arena.

What could Mark Jackson bring to the Lakers?

Mark Jackson’s basketball mind is vastly underrated when it comes to his coaching style. He is often credited with laying the groundwork for the Golden State Warriors dominance. He coached a deadly young duo in the Splash Brothers, so just imagine what he might do with two seasoned veterans in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Sure, he hasn’t coached in years, but you never lose your passion for basketball; it’s ingrained in you.

Jackson also creates a degree of defensive feasting. Meaning he will make it difficult for his opponents to score. When looking at his tenure with the Warriors during the 2013-14 season, they were ranked fourth in team defensive efficiency. That same season, the offense tanked top 10 in team scoring.

Averaging well over 104.4 points per game should indicate that not only was that team capable of locking down opponents, but numerous buckets were also made.

If Jackson is hired, think about how high that defense rating would be! Think about how much scoring would improve if he became the Lakers’ coach. He has the ability to unlock so much within their team roster and bring back memories of the Warriors club he coached not long ago.

How this Helps Lebron and Anthony Davis

This hire would greatly benefit the Lakers team because of the intense energy Mark Jackson brings to his teams. It could also be viewed as his revenge tour. You get a coach who has an a high emphasis on defense and scoring. Who do the Lakers have on their roster who is a defensive assassin and an ageless marvel who still chases down blocks and scores in the high twenties as if they are still in their fifth year of their career?

Oh, two people named LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Having these two also helps Jackson since it gives him an opportunity to prove his critics wrong. His hiring is even endorsed by Lebron himself. So, with all due respect Lakers, please give Mark Jackson the position and bring another Larry O’Brien to Los Angeles.

The Real MVP: Is Luka Doncic Overlooked?

Superstar Luka Doncic drives to the basket against MVP candidate Nikola Jokic
Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The MVP award candidates have been announced: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. When I look at that list, I can’t help but notice a player missing. All year he has been overlooked as a real MVP award candidate. Now, he is left off the finalist list: Luka Doncic, the young superstar. He shouldn’t just be on the finalist list; I believe he should win the award. Doncic is the real MVP of the league this season.

This is not a discredit to the great seasons Jokic, Embiid, and Giannis had. The combination of individual and team stats show that Doncic should be leading the MVP conversation. Each finalist showed why they belong in this conversation and Doncic deserves to be in that conversation as well. Their statistics and team stories give us a better look at their MVP resume.

Nikola Jokic

The reigning MVP came back this year looking just as good — if not better — than last year. Per game, Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 7.9 assists. He added almost a block and over a steal per game on the defensive side. Those numbers led the Nuggets in each category. The flashy passes and triple-doubles have made Jokic a fan favorite.

Denver’s big man is cementing himself as the best passing center of all-time. He has broken records with his ability to do it all, notching the highest PER in history. He does everything on the court, all while having a 66% true shooting percentage. This season showed that he will be in the MVP conversation for years to come.

The Nuggets as a team had a difficult season. After losing Jamal Murray to a torn ACL last season, they knew it would already be a tough season. On top of losing Murray, Michael Porter Jr. left a game on November 6th with back tightness. He has not returned since and they are hoping he can return for this current playoff run. This left the Nuggets without two key players.

Without those two, Denver finished the regular season with five other double-digit scorers. Jokic led them to a 48-24 record, finishing sixth in the Western Conference.

Joel Embiid

The Process is still proving why he deserves that nickname, and this year Joel Embiid was trying to prove he is the real MVP. After leading the league this season in points per game with 30.6, he showed how dominant of a center he really is. While shooting 50% from the field and 37% from three, defenses have struggled all year to contain Embiid. Being able to take anyone in the paint and step back for three was key for his MVP candidacy.

On the boards, he averaged 11.7 rebounds per game. Embiid showed his complete skill set by taking the ball away once a game and sending 1.5 shots back. Embiid improved as a passer this year with a career-high 4.2 assists per game. It was a career year for Embiid, and his individual numbers are putting him in the MVP spotlight.

Philadelphia has been put on a rollercoaster this year. The Ben Simmons saga continued into this year. After Simmons’ struggles in the playoffs, he didn’t report to training camp, got kicked out of practice, and didn’t play the regular season, for reported mental health reasons.

On February 10th 2022, Simmons was traded to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden. While others were in the trade, those were the two main stars involved. James Harden came to Philly, and they finished the season fourth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 51-31, tied with Boston and Milwaukee. Behind Harden and Embiid, there are three other double-digit scorers: Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Seth Curry.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Last year’s Finals MVP continued to cement his legacy by averaging 29.9 points, 5.8 assists, and 11.6 rebounds per game. His length helped him average just over a block and steal per game. Giannis shot 55% from the field and 29% from three. He added eight points from the line each night, as defenses struggled to keep him off the line this year. The Greek Freak made his sixth All-Star game this season, while also being named to the NBA 75th anniversary team. He is looking to add to his trophy case with a second MVP, to further his case as a legend.

The 2021 NBA champs are looking to repeat this year after finishing third in the Eastern Conference at 51-31. They have six double-digit scorers, if you count Pat Connaughton (9.9), and the capability of going back-to-back. The trio of Giannis, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton hasn’t been as efficient this year, as all of their shooting percentages have taken a dip. Yet, the Bucks still rank tied for third in offensive efficiency.

On the defensive side, they rank 14th in efficiency and tied for fifth in rebound rate. They are the champs until they are dethroned, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Luka Doncic

The 23-year-old superstar lit the league on fire again in his fourth season, averaging 28.4 points, 8.7 assists, and 8.3 rebounds (career-high) per game. With the ability to score in just about every way, he shot 46% from the field and 53% from three. On a per game basis, Doncic led all guards in points and rebounds, ranking fifth in assists. His play-making ability has forced him into the “next young superstar” conversation with Ja Morant. Doncic can take over games in a heartbeat.

On the defensive end, Luka has taken a huge leap. He set career highs in steals and blocks per game. While it might not look like big improvement on paper, he has become a very good on-ball defender, helping Dallas finish 6th in defensive efficiency.

Dallas got off to a slow start this season. So, they made a move before the trade deadline to move center Kristaps Porzingis and a 2022 protected 2nd round pick to Washington. In return, they received guard Spencer Dinwiddie and small forward Davis Bertans.

Many people were critical of the move, including myself, thinking they could have gotten more from Porzingis. However, the Mavericks finished fourth in the Western Conference with 52 wins and 30 losses, one game behind the Golden State Warriors. This team has been one of the more surprising and underrated teams in the NBA. The teams success is heavily credited to Luka Doncic, with only three other teammates averaging double digits, if you don’t count Tim Hardaway Jr. who has been hurt since January.

When you break it down, it becomes clear that Luka Doncic absolutely deserves to be in the NBA MVP discussion. Doncic may not be the front-runner for the award, but to leave him out of the MVP race all-together was a mistake.

2022 NBA Playoffs First Round Preview

Boston Head Coach Ime Udoka talks in the team huddle

The first round of 2022 NBA playoffs is officially underway. With key injuries to some teams, the first round could get very interesting. Some teams are being undervalued, while some are overvalued. The only thing we know is that history will be made. Every series has a story, so let’s take a look at the match-ups of the first round and who could be potentially upset.

Eastern Conference

The Eastern Conference has many young teams battling to make their mark. With players like Jayson Tatum, Trae Young, and Tyler Herro, the East looks like it could become the conference to beat in a few years. In the 2022 NBA Playoffs First Round anything can happen. Here is a breakdown of each match-up:

(1) Miami Heat vs (8) Atlanta Hawks

Starting off the first round of 2022 NBA playoffs are the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. The Hawks are not a normal eight seed. They have won nine out of their last eleven games and have essentially the same roster as last year’s team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals.

On the other side, you have a Miami Heat team that is two years removed from the NBA Finals in the bubble. Since then, they have added Kyle Lowry. This match-up includes one of the best defensive teams in Miami going up against one of the best shooting teams in Atlanta. However, the Miami Heat were on pace to win 58 games with Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, and Bam Adebayo. Add Tyler Herro to that mix and factor in Atlanta being 26th in defensive rating, this could be a quick series.

Prediction: Heat in 5

(2) Boston Celtics vs (7) Brooklyn Nets

Prior to the season, many people had the Nets going to the finals. With Kyrie Irving missing over half of the home games this year, the Nets dropped to the seven seed after winning their play-in game.

On the other side, you have the Celtics who had a slow start to the season, starting 23-24 before finishing 51-31 while beating Brooklyn in three of their four meetings. They were one of the hottest teams in the NBA after the All-Star break and they are hoping to keep the momentum going against the Brooklyn Nets. However, they will start the series with a key injury in Robert Williams III (torn meniscus). This has proven to be key as the Celtics are 7-7 without Williams and 40-21 with him.

Prediction: Celtics in 7

(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs (6) Chicago Bulls

Even though both teams have an MVP candidate — Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar DeRozan — the Bucks have won all four games against the Bulls this season. The reigning champs have looked just as strong this season. While the Bulls have had an up and down season, battling some injuries as well as having some players with down seasons.

This could be one of the more lopsided match-ups, with the Bucks seeming to have Chicago’s number. They have won 15 out of the last 16 against the Bulls, including all 12 in which Giannis has played. It is an understatement to say the Bulls will have their hands full against the reigning champs.

Prediction: Bucks in 4

(4) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Toronto Raptors

Another match-up that could go either way in the East with the Raptors and 76ers. It involves two very different teams. On one side, you have the 76ers who rely heavily on their stars, Joel Embiid and James Harden. While on the other side you have the Raptors, a team that likes to share the ball. This results in any player being able to lead the Raptors on any given night.

All four of the games this season have been decided by six points or less, with the Raptors winning three of the four games. It is one of the most anticipated series of the first round.

Prediction: Raptors in 6

Western Conference

The Western Conference has been looked at as the best conference in NBA for years. After all, they have four teams in the top five in wins in the NBA. The West side of the 2022 NBA Playoffs First Round will involve close games across the board. Here is what to expect in each match-up:

(1) Phoenix Suns vs (8) New Orleans Pelicans

Last year, the Suns lost in a heartbreaker to the Bucks, and this year they are proving why they got there. They have looked even better this year, winning 64 games, even with injuries to Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton. On the other side we have the Pelicans who have been missing Zion Williamson this whole season. After squeaking by the Clippers without Paul George, they now face the powerhouse Phoenix Suns.

The Suns won three of the four meetings against the Pelicans. Even with the potential return of Zion Williamson, this has the potential be one of the most lopsided series of the first round.

Prediction: Suns in 4

(2) Memphis Grizzlies vs (7) Minnesota Timberwolves

Memphis shocked many people this year with explosive performances from Ja Morant, finishing 2nd in the West with 56 wins. However, Morant has consistently struggled this year against the Wolves with the presence of Patrick Beverly. These two teams split the season series.

With inconsistent performances lately by Karl Anthony Towns, the Wolves will need key players to step up. Anthony Edwards is one of those players to watch. The young Grizzlies are looking to become the fourth youngest championship team.

Prediction: Grizzlies in 6

(3) Golden State Warriors vs (6) Denver Nuggets

Denver and Golden State had some amazing games during the regular season as they split the four games. With Steph Curry expected to return, the Warriors are set for a championship run. The emergence of Jordan Poole and having two of the greatest shooters ever makes them a dangerous team.

On the other side, we have an MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets have key injuries with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, which will make it tougher for Jokic to carry them past a team that has championship experience. This could be the best series in the first round.

Prediction: Warriors in 6

(4) Dallas Mavericks vs (5) Utah Jazz

With the unknown status of MVP candidate Luka Doncic, the Mavericks will have their hands full. When he comes back, he is looking to prove how valuable he is.

With Donovan Mitchell being capable of taking over games, the Jazz are looking to make a run to silence the critics. Many believe that Utah will never win it all with Gobert and Mitchell. It will be a series to watch closely as both teams have players looking to make their mark in the league.

Prediction: Jazz in 6

Tyreek Hill is the Stephen Curry of the NFL

Tyreek Hill is among the most unique players in the NFL, and his skills may be most comparable to one of basketball’s greatest players.

Tyreek Hill had his opening press conference with the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, and his confidence is contagious.

Among the topics of conversation, an appreciation for Mike McDaniel and his scheme was prevalent. It’s clear that, after having a falling out in Kansas City, Miami was a place Hill believed that he could succeed at — or past — the level he did previously.

While it’s unknown what Hill’s role will bring in McDaniel’s system, it’s clear that they can both elevate each other.

McDaniel brings a new scheme, centered around wide zone runs and timely play action. Hill, on the other hand, brings an element of speed the league has never seen before.

However, it’s his gravity, and how that plays into the entire offense, that’s so exciting for McDaniel and the Dolphins. That innate ability is rarely seen in football. It’s so rare, in fact, that his best comparison might be NBA superstar Stephen Curry.

The Gravity of Stephen Curry

For those unfamiliar with Curry, the three-time NBA champion has the most three-pointers made in NBA history, and is regarded as the greatest shooter of all-time. He has made a living on making defenders pay, and his other-worldly skill has brought fear into those tasked with covering him.

“If teams are going to throw the kitchen sink at Steph, they’re going to pay”

Steve Kerr (Warriors Head Coach)

Everybody knows that Steph Curry can score better than just about anyone in the NBA, but it’s how his play effects others on the team that makes him different.

Due to his ability to get such a high volume of points in a short amount of time (along with him being able to threaten any space on the court), teams instantly go for the double team (and sometimes more).

The ideology seems sound: stop Stephen Curry and, in turn, shut down the rest of the team. However, this is the exact opposite of the case.

Stephen Curry’s manipulation of leverage and gravity opens up opportunities for others.

By dedicating an extra defender to Curry, the rest of the court now has one less defender, leaving somebody open.

This now gives the rest of the offense an opportunity to be just as dangerous. Teams will go after the star with everything they have, which takes the ancillary pieces out of their focus. This allows said players to operate in a much less congested space and make big plays for themselves.

A Similar Effect for Tyreek Hill

This exact effect has transpired for new Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill during his time in Kansas City. Much like Stephen Curry, Hill has a generational talent, and while it isn’t three point shooting, it brings the same type of impact.

His speed, which has been brought up time and time again, brings the ability to attack any space on the field with maximum effectiveness. His long range as a deep threat is one of the most unique skills in league history. So much so, that it can only truly be compared to an athlete in a different sport.

A prime example of this can be found in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs against the Buffalo Bills.

Reaping the Benefits of Hill’s Gravity

This play, shown below, shows just how much explosiveness Hill has, and what can happen if he isn’t doubled. Buffalo comes out in a pretty balanced defense, not shading over to Hill’s side, which ends up being a big mistake.

As he comes over the middle, Mahomes puts a perfect pass between the numbers. After that, we see just how much of a game-breaker Hill is. When defenders believe that they have leverage, he finds a way to make them look silly and destroy their angles.

He does so right here and finds his way into the end-zone.

Tyreek Hill destroys angles and finds his way into the end-zone.

On the following possession, we see the effects of Tyreek’s big play potential, and how teams will give up big plays elsewhere to limit one from him. Due to his ability to make a home-run play at any point, Buffalo lines up way too deep.

Kansas City is running low on time, but this is too much room for Mahomes to work, and it’s clear that this defense was called in response to Hill’s generational speed.

The Bills’ fear of Tyreek Hill as a deep threat leaves Travis Kelce wide open underneath.

By lining up their defensive backs deep, Buffalo was unable to account for the middle of the field. Thus, Kansas City was able to take advantage of matchups, which left Travis Kelce with too much room to work. This put Kansas City deeper into field goal range and was a crucial play in pushing the game to overtime.

Without Hill’s speed and explosiveness, the prevent defense likely isn’t called. This begins a domino effect that likely ends with Kansas City losing this game. Thus, likely ending their playoff run a round early. It’s clear that the gravity Hill attracts is extremely important and brings great potential to Miami.

The Bottom Line on Tyreek Hill and his Gravity

Miami has one of the best young cores in the NFL now. Behind Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, and Cedrick Wilson, there are several players capable of having big games.

The probability of doing so has just gone up. Tyreek Hill will continue to draw the best defenders, with teams often coming out in preventative defenses with two-high safeties or double teams. As it did in Kansas City, the surrounding pieces will be too much to handle.

The gravity that Hill brings simply isn’t matched by any NFL player, and his generational talent, similar to Stephen Curry’s, will do wonders for the Dolphins’ offense.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

Women’s History Month: A look at Women in sports

As Women’s History Month begins, let’s look at some incredible examples today.

As March begins, so does one of the most important months of the year: Women’s History Month. Women in sports have changed nearly every aspect of the industry for the better. It would be impossible to do each of them justice, but the work they’ve done deserves to be celebrated.

A powerhouse in baseball

Baseball has long been known as one of America’s favorite pastimes. It is the oldest major professional sport in the world, founded in 1876. Over the course of nearly 150 years, it has changed the lives of many, including Kim Ng.

Kim Ng has long been a part of the world of baseball. Currently, she serves as the general manager of the Miami Marlins, making her the highest-ranking female in baseball. Ng is the first female general manager in MLB history, but it didn’t come easy. Along with being the first female executive, Ng is also the first East Asian American to achieve such a high position in baseball.

Ng’s career in baseball began as an intern for the Chicago White Sox in 1991. Since then, she has held the titles of special projects analyst, assistant director of baseball operations, director of waivers and records, assistant general manager, and now general manager. Kim became the first and youngest woman to hold many of these positions, breaking the glass ceiling time and time again.

Ng serves as an inspiration for women everywhere. Her current position and the path she took to get here show young women everywhere that in a male-dominated sport as old as baseball, women can and will leave their mark.

Hockey’s leading woman

When you think about hockey, it may be easy to get caught up in the brute force and fearlessness it takes to play the sport, but never-ending skating sessions and broken sticks didn’t scare Kendall Coyne-Schofield; they invited her to stay for more.

Coyne-Schofield’s relentless pursuit of greatness has led her to the top. She is now regarded as one of the best women’s hockey players in the world. The three-time Olympic medalist has paved her way in the world of hockey, winning countless awards and receiving never ending recognition.

Her hockey career was the first of its kind, leading her to become the first woman to ever take place in the NHL All-Star Skills competition. Coyne-Schofield replaced NHL superstar Nathan McKinnon in the fastest-skater challenge in 2019, where she placed seventh.

Fresh off a silver medal in Beijing, she is still a member of the USA Women’s Hockey Team. Coyne-Schofield has also gotten the chance to put her hockey knowledge to work as a coach. In 2020, she was hired as the first female player development coach for the Chicago Blackhawks. If that wasn’t enough, Coyne-Schofield has also changed the world of NHL color commentary, a position she held for the San Jose Sharks in 2017.

The impact she has left on the world of hockey and young women everywhere is bigger than any accomplishment summary could explain, but luckily, her advice is available for all, “Always follow your dreams, believe in yourself, and be willing to put in the work it takes to accomplish your dreams.”

Trailblazing the NBA

If you follow basketball closely, you’ve heard of Becky Hammon. She is an exceptional player, a phenomenal coach, and a role model for women everywhere.

Hammon’s playing career was monumental, but what she’s done since then has changed the course of basketball history. In 2014, Hammon became the second female coach in NBA history when she was hired by the San Antonio Spurs, a team she had collaborated with closely in the past. Later that year, Hammon was named ESPNW’s Woman of the Year.

Since 2014, Hammon’s success has only multiplied. One of her most notable accomplishments came in 2020 when she served as the first-ever female acting head coach in the league. Her tremendous work ethic, basketball knowledge, and coaching abilities led her to become the head coach of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces in 2021. She is now the highest-paid women’s basketball coach in history.

Hammon’s tremendous talent for basketball has been recognized by all. She has been praised by coaches, analysts, and, most importantly, her players. NBA legend Pau Gasol wrote an article titled, “An Open Letter About Female Coaches“, where he talked about the importance and excellence of Hammon.

“I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. Im not saying she can coach enough to get by, Im not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. Im saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”

Gasol emphasized the importance of females in basketball after witnessing Hammon’s impact on his team firsthand. Hammon is an inspiration to women everywhere as she continues to blaze trails in the world of basketball and sports.

“Well into adulthood, you have to be careful of the voices that you listen to. You got to guard your eyes, what you’re seeing, you got to guard your ears, what you’re hearing, because eventually, that stuff seeps into your heart. I think what settles into your heart is eventually what you become.” Hammon told the Bronx Times.

Her advice and her actions show young women everywhere that they can accomplish whatever settles into their hearts, whether it’s been done before or not.

Football’s first ladies

In recent years, the NFL has begun to implement female coaches. In 2021, they had a league-high 12 female coaches. They also now have a handful of female referees. Along with women on the field and in the facility, the NFL’s media has also seen an increase in female reporters and journalists. These women have all seen doors opened for them in football by two of the most influential women in the league thus far, Amy Trask and Erin Andrews.

Amy Trask was the NFL’s first female CEO. She became the CEO of the Oakland Raiders in 1997, a position she held until her retirement in 2013. Trask served as Al Davis’ right-hand lady for decades as she changed the world of football as we know it.

“I’m asked all the time if I was tested because I’m a woman. The answer is, we’re all tested all the time. Whether it’s because of our gender, our race, our ethnicity, our age, our seniority, our educational background – we’re tested all the time. Well, what’s the best answer when you’re tested? Pass the damn test.” Trask told SBNation. She showed women everywhere that your input, your dreams, and your skills are valuable, especially in a sport that consists of thousands of men.

Erin Andrews has followed Amy Trask’s lead as one of the most influential women in football. She has risen through the ranks of sports reporting since 2004, and she is now the lead sideline reporter for Fox Sports NFL broadcasting team.

Andrews has inspired hundreds of other sports reporters and women to chase their dreams, and now the NFL embraces the talent of many female football journalists and reporters.

Women like NFL Network’s Colleen Wolfe, Erica Tamposi, Cynthia Frelund, and Rachel Bonetta, CBS Sports’ Aditi Kinkhabwala, ESPN’s Dianna Russini, and many, many more women have broken down barriers. They show each day how important women are to the world of football, and they have opened countless doors. The NFL, as we know it, is headed in a new direction; a direction filled with female input on the sidelines, in the facility, and in front of the camera.

Inspiring change in soccer

One of the biggest stories in sports recently has been the settlement of a gender discrimination lawsuit in soccer. On February 22,2022, U.S. Soccer and the Women’s Players agreed to settle a lawsuit that has been active since 2016.

The terms of the agreement have finally equalized pay for men’s and women’s national soccer teams. This change was led by the hands of the US Women’s National Team’s own public figure and trailblazer, Megan Rapinoe.

Rapinoe has long been one of the best women’s soccer players in the country. She has led her team to two World Cup titles and an Olympic gold medal. Her on-field accomplishments are only surpassed by one thing: her world-changing activism.

She stands proudly for racial and gender equality, leading the charge for women everywhere. Her latest accomplishment on equal pay for women marks the beginning of a new era in major league soccer.

It’s impossible to explain the impact these women have had on the world of sports and sports media. Each day they show a male-dominated industry why their talents are more than valuable, they’re necessary. They serve as role models for women and girls everywhere, because if you see it, you can be it.

This Women’s History Month, take the time to recognize the women in sports that have impacted your favorite team. Spend time speaking on and celebrating the changes they’ve made and the glass ceilings they’ve shattered. This month, take the time to encourage the women in your life to follow their wildest dreams. They are destined to change the world thanks to the help of those that have come before them.