2014-2015 NBA Eastern Conference Predictions

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If you’re looking for a story filled with parity and incredible competition, with teams battling and cannibalizing each other throughout the season, kindly close your computer, put on your jacket and go take a walk. This one just isn’t for you. Sorry, bub. The Eastern Conference is about as top heavy as Christina Hendricks driving an early 90’s Jeep Wrangler. In fact, the majority of the teams east of the Mississippi would be on the outside-looking-in come playoff time if they were out west. However, yes, there are some nice teams, and due to the myriad of off-season transactions made by the Cavs, Heat, Hornets, and Bulls, the door is wide open, and the tide is ripe for some shifting. A lot of this is due in part to the Pacers shattering (pardon the pun), with Paul George out for the year, Lance Stephenson jetting to Charlotte and Roy Hibbert slowly transforming into Greg Ostertag. At any rate, mark my words: there will be a new team in the Eastern Conference Finals, most likely two.

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1) Cleveland Cavaliers
I’m still shocked at what the Cavs were able to pull off this summer. I mean, this is Cleveland we’re talking about! Cleveland! Home of heartbreak and Comic Sans. But I digress.

LeBron took his talents home, Kyrie Irving is healthy and signed a lofty extension, and Kevin Love joins the team to create a new “big three.” Mike Miller and Ray Allen (eventually) are nice off-the-bench acquisitions that can put up points in the blink of an eye and have championship experience. First year head coach David Blatt brings with him a plethora of offensive schemes and knowledge that should create plenty of “oh-my- god-I-can’t-believe-what-I-just-saw” (KEVIN LOVE OUTLET PASSES TO LEBRON OMG!!!!!)  moments, and plenty of sleepless nights for opposing teams. After losing in the finals last year, LeBron will be playing with a massive chip on his shoulder. All we can do is pray for everyone else, or hope his shoulders collapse while carrying the entire state of Ohio.

The biggest questions surrounding this team are defense and chemistry. Offensively, the Cavs could find themselves at the top of the NBA. Defensively, the Cavs still don’t have a reliable rim protector and lack overall depth. Varejao, Love and Tristan Thompson should gobble up all the rebounds, but if you think you’re getting 82+ games out of Andy, I have a beach house in Iowa I can sell you.

With a new coach at the helm, ushering in a new system, and a bunch of new players, can the Cavs gel quickly in order to earn the #1 slot? Will Love and Kyrie be cool as the #2 and #3 options? Can Dion Waiters  take a back seat to the big three? It wouldn’t shock me one bit if the Cavs ended up moving Waiters for some front court depth before the trade deadline. Overall, I think they’ll be just fine. People forget the 2010 Heat were 9-8 the first month they played together. I’ll keep putting my money on Bron-Bron until I’m proven otherwise.

One more thing to consider: this could very well be the fifth consecutive year that LeBron plays in the NBA Finals. Neither Kobe nor Jordan ever accomplished that.

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2) Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls kept themselves busy this summer, but the biggest addition to this team will be a healthy Derrick Rose. I’m still skeptical and will continue to be until Rose can prove he can stay healthy. God, this breaks my heart. I love Rose’s game, but it simply isn’t smart to bank on a Bulls team that relies so heavily on him. There’s just no telling what kind of player he’ll be over a full season, or if he can even make it through a full season.

Signing Pau Gasol was a huge get for the Bulls. Even if he’s no longer in his prime, he still takes a boatload of pressure off Rose while adding depth at the power forward position. Pau and Joakim Noah should form a formidable front court, and having Taj Gibson coming off the bench is downright terrifying. Adding Aaron Brooks was a sneaky good signing, while drafting Nikola Mirotic and McBuckets to play alongside Mike Dunleavy gives this team some much needed scoring. Oh, and Jimmy Butler continues to get better. Double oh, Tom Thibodeau is still the coach. Triple oh, this team still defends its ass off.

On paper, the Bulls have the best overall roster in the East, and if they can stay healthy, they’re the only true threat to Cleveland.

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3) Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Drakes (as they will now be referred to until the end of time) weren’t supposed to do a damn thing last year. That notion didn’t last,. After the Rudy Gay trade, nothing was the same. The Drakes went 42-22 and locked up the #3 seed in the East, losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Nets in the first round of last years playoffs. Now, the team did their best “we’re getting the band back together” routine, with their top seven scorers all back in uniform.

Kyle Lowry played out of his mind last season, and should have been an All-Star. Demar Derozan earned a spot on the All-Star team and spent the summer gaining invaluable experience playing in the FIBA World Cup. Same goes for rising big man Jonas Valanciunas. Picking up Lou Williams from Atlanta was a sneaky good move, as he should provide a spark off the bench along with some nice backcourt depth.

The Atlantic Division has regressed, and barring injuries, there’s no conceivable reason why the Drakes can’t win it for the second straight decision. In return, this means securing home court advantage and the third seed in the playoffs. And this time they should be out for blood, with a cohesive, improved, and matured roster. I fully expect this team to go beyond a game 7 in the opening round and give either the Cavs or Bulls a slug fest of a series in the second round.

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4) Washington Wizards
Washington will be one of the best teams in the East this year, despite having the stupidest logo and uniforms in the league. As soon as Bradley Beal gets healthy, the Wiz will roll out the East’s best back court duo. Nene and Gortat will once again dominate the paint and could be the most physical duo in the league. Adding Paul Pierce was fantastic. He won’t completely fill the void Trevor Ariza left, but he’ll be a nice wing partner with Beal, and Washington’s offense should improve on the perimeter significantly. He also brings savvy veteran leadership, a fiery competitive streak and a knack for coming through in the clutch.

The Wizards are also a deeper team than they were last year. Something they sorely needed. Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. should get plenty of minutes. Dejuan Blair and Kris Humphries aren’t stars, but they can do some nice things, and should fill the role left by Trevor Booker. Martell Webster could provide a nice spark off the bench, provided he’s healthy. However, the success on this team still lies firmly on the backs of Wall and Beal. I expect them to make the jump and take this team to new heights this season. If my predictions go right, that Cavs/Wiz match up in the second round will be a can’t miss. Start prepping your popcorn now.

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5) The Miami Heat
Now that LeBron is gone, will the Heat be able to maintain their era of Easter Conference dominance (they’ve won 12 straight playoff series)? Or will they become the scorned ex-girlfriend, clad in Ugg boots and sweatpants, downing Chardonnay and Ben and Jerry’s by the gallon? One thing we know for certain, the post-LeBron era will definitely be interesting.

It’s easy to forget that in the shadow of LeBron’s departure, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, and the corpse of Rashard Lewis are all gone as well. Two out of those three played significant roles for the Heat throughout their title runs. On the other side, re-signing Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh keeps the core intact. Both have championship experience, have carried teams in the past, and are top-five players at their position. Signing Josh Mcroberts gives the Heat some needed toughness, floor spacing and scoring ability. But replacing LeBron with Luol Deng is kind of like putting a bandaid on an axe wound, though he’s still a hell of a player who should fit in well within the Heat’s system . And if Danny Granger can have anything that resembles a return to form, he should provide the Heat with some firepower they need off the bench. Also, don’t forget that Spoelstra can coach his ass off.

This team isn’t without its problems, though. Their point guard situation is a shit storm, they don’t protect the rim or rebound well, and their front court is thinner than a coked-out Kate Moss. What’s more, can all these new additions play cohesively? Can Dwayne Wade’s knees withstand another deep postseason run before they inevitably turn to ash and dust? Do they have the resiliency to bounce back after what San Antonio did to them last year? Does Bosh have it in him to carry a team? I have my doubts.

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6) Charlotte Hornets
Oh man, it brings me so much joy just to be able to write “Charlotte Hornets.” Seeing the purple and teal back where it belongs puts a Titanic sized shit-eating-grin on my face. Now, if only they could bring back Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning (pre Madison Square Garden brawl, of course).

The Bobcats were one of the feel-good stories of last season. After being a perennial cellar dweller, they finally broke out, going 43-39 and earning the 7th seed in the playoffs. Yes, they were swept by the Heat, but the season marked vast improvement and ushered in some new found optimism for the future.

MJ was busy this summer, doing something other than golfing and wearing terrible clothes. He lured do-it-all swingman Lance Stephenson away from the Pacers, along with Marvin Williams from the Jazz. Paired with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson, the Hornets have both athleticism and depth at the wing. Williams proved last year that he’s capable of playing a stretch four, and along with Noah Vonleh and an improving Cody Zeller, should be able to fill the void left by Josh Mcroberts.

Kemba Walker could very well make the All-Star team this year, and has proved he has the clutch gene going back to his Uconn days. Al Jefferson is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 22 points and 11 boards, while improving his defense. Add that to everything I’ve already mentioned and you have the makings of a pretty solid squad. If the Hornets can gel and continue to improve, then I may have ranked them too low.

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7) Atlanta Hawks
Last season, the Hawks made the playoffs without Al Horford. Last season, the Hawks found themselves in a game 7 against the top-seeded Pacers without Al Horford. This season, Al Horford is healthy. I really like Al Horford, guys. Pair him with fellow All-Star Paul Millsap (I miss you so much, Paul) and you have a duo that should flirt with double-doubles on a nightly basis. Both can shoot, rebound, pass, defend, and together, they should be able to play the high-low game with relative ease.

The Hawks also have Jeff Teague, a top-10 point guard. Only the Spurs averaged more assists than this team last season. Kyle Korver is the league’s best three-point shooter, Thabo Sefolosha, Demarre Carroll and Kent Bazemore bring defense and athleticism to the wing. Pero Antic is terrifying. Head coach Mike Buldenhozer worked alongside Gregg Popovich. They brought back the Pacman logo! In short, there’s plenty to be optimistic about in ATL.

Even with Horford in the lineup, this team is undersized, and will most likely struggle rebounding the ball. Horford has also missed 116 regular season games in the past three seasons, so I question his durability. Moreover, The Danny Ferry fiasco certainly didn’t help a front office that’s had a history of turmoil. Also, the Hawks bench isn’t anything to get excited about. In fact, I’d be surprised if the Hawks didn’t try and pick someone up via trade or waivers to add some depth. It’s going to take something special for this team to get out of the first round of the playoffs this year, but I do see the Hawks as a team on the rise.

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8) Brooklyn Nets
It wasn’t too long ago that KG, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce were Brooklyn bound. Joining forces with Brook Lopez, and Deron Williams to form a basketball Voltron and crush the Eastern Conference and bring a title to New York. My have the mighty have fallen. This year, with new head coach Lionel Hollins at the helm, the Nets will try and claw their way back into contention.

On the bright side, the Nets have a nice stable of capable big men with Garnett, Lopez and Miles Plumlee. Throw in former Swiss-Army knife AK47, and the Net should be able to win some games on size alone. If Deron Williams can stay healthy, he can still play at an elite level–same goes for Joe Johnson who’s battling Father Time. Croatian rookie Bojan Bogdanovic is a player to keep an eye on. Pairing him with Mirza Teletovic and Jarrett Jack could give Brooklyn some great shooting off the bench. They also have the best uniforms in the game.

On the dark side, this team just can’t seem to stay healthy, and with that, depth becomes a huge issue. Williams, Kirilenko, Garnett and Lopez missed a combined 148  games last season. Brooklyn continues to get older, and will have a tough time keeping up with super athletic teams like the Cavs, Raptors and Wizards. Also, rebounding is a huge concern. With all these glaring issues, I would expect Mikhail Prokorhov to shell out some more of his billions trying to sure up this team. If they want to compete, he’s going to have to.
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Even after writing and analyzing all these teams, I still don’t see anyone advancing to the finals outside of Cleveland or Chicago. Part of me hopes I’m wrong, even though I’m an admitted LeBron fan boy. Parity is always a good thing in sports, so are teams that come out of nowhere and shake everything up. Here’s hoping both of those things happens.

I need a beer.

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RIP To The Real Kony: Biggie Smalls

The King of New York.  Rest in peace to one of the greatest to ever do it.  Ready To Die will be on repeat throughout the day.   A project kid from Brooklyn, with a cassette tape demo without no song structure ended up changed hip-hop forever.  15 years ago today; let this be a lesson that senseless violence only leads to tragedy and heartache.

 

Tom Morello to Rush Limbaugh: “Hey Jackass, Stop Using Our Music!”

I woke up early this morning and while going through my daily morning routine, I saw this gem plastered all over my twitter timeline (@Johnny_UT, btw.)  I have always admired Tom Morello; from his musical talent to his outspoken support towards social injustice and the myriad of other causes he has backed.  This is the icing on the cake though, hats off to you Tom for standing up and speaking out.  Your courage is admirable.  Rush Limbaugh is everything wrong with America and people like him are what’s destroying America.  The recent hot water Limbaugh has got himself in lately is just one of many examples of Rush’s hypocritical, racist, misogynistic and hate-fueled behavior.

The partisanship in this country is a major reason for its dis-function and Rush Limbaugh is at the forefront of it all.  He uses his radio show as a platform to plant his dangerous ideologies to anyone withing listening range.  I had a conversation with the girlfriend not too long ago about how I wished Rage Against the Machine was still making music, especially in these tumultuous times.  They were an important band (and one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen) and I feel like they could still do a lot of good if they were still together.  Here’s hoping for a reunion.

Stop Kony: Invisible Children Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be.

If you have by chance logged on to one of the many social media platforms that seem to dictate our lives in the past 48 hours, you have more than likely seen and or heard about the video about Joseph Kony.  The video about him went viral a few days to an alarming response.

For those that don’t know who Joseph Kony is,  he’s the guerrilla leader of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) that is currently engaged in a terribly violent mission to establish a theocratic government based upon the 10 Commandments throughout Uganda.  The LRA’s crimes against humanity include genocide, rape, mutilation and cannibalism.  In addition, The LRA has abducted and forced an estimated 66,000 children to fight for them, and has forced the internal displacement of over 2 million people since its rebellion began in 1986.

The non-profit group Invisible Children is responsible for the video.   While I applaud them for raising awareness on this issue,  The Daily What (a fantastic blog) exposes them for the shady business that they have conducted throughout the years.  I urge you my friends to make sure you stay aware as well as doing your research about any company/organization before jumping to conclusions and donating your hard earned money.   It’s the only way to learn all the facts and avoid the grey area that is so prevalent in this case.

Read the article below.

On Kony 2012: I honestly wanted to stay as far away as possible from KONY 2012, the latest fauxtivist fad sweeping the web (remember “change your Facebook profile pic to stop child abuse”?), but you clearly won’t stop sending me that damn video until I say something about it, so here goes:

Stop sending me that video.

The organization behind Kony 2012 — Invisible Children Inc. — is an extremely shady nonprofit that has been called ”misleading,” “naive,” and “dangerous” by a Yale political science professor, and has been accused by Foreign Affairs of “manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes.” They have also been criticized by the Better Business Bureau for refusing to provide information necessary to determine if IC meets the Bureau’s standards.

Additionally, IC has a low two-star rating in accountability from Charity Navigator because they won’t let their financials be independently audited. That’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s a very bad thing, and should make you immediately pause and reflect on where the money you’re sending them is going.

By IC’s own admission, only 31% of all the funds they receive go toward actually helping anyone [pdf]. The rest go to line the pockets of the three people in charge of the organization, to pay for their travel expenses (over $1 million in the last year alone) and to fund their filmmaking business (also over a million) — which is quite an effective way to make more money, as clearly illustrated by the fact that so many can’t seem to stop forwarding their well-engineered emotional blackmail to everyone they’ve ever known.

And as far as what they do with that money:

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

Let’s not get our lines crossed: The Lord’s Resistance Army is bad news. And Joseph Kony is a very bad man, and needs to be stopped. But propping up Uganda’s decades-old dictatorship and its military arm, which has been accused by the UN of committing unspeakable atrocities and itself facilitated the recruitment of child soldiers, is not the way to go about it.

The United States is already plenty involved in helping rout Kony and his band of psycho sycophants. Kony is on the run, having been pushed out of Uganda, and it’s likely he will soon be caught, if he isn’t already dead. But killing Kony won’t fix anything, just as killing Osama bin Laden didn’t end terrorism. The LRA might collapse, but, as Foreign Affairs points out, it is “a relatively small player in all of this — as much a symptom as a cause of the endemic violence.”

Myopically placing the blame for all of central Africa’s woes on Kony — even as a starting point — will only imperil many more people than are already in danger.

Sending money to a nonprofit that wants to muck things up by dousing the flames with fuel is not helping. Want to help? Really want to help? Send your money to nonprofits that are putting more than 31% toward rebuilding the region’s medical and educational infrastructure, so that former child soldiers have something worth coming home to.

Here are just a few of those charities. They all have a sparkling four-star rating from Charity Navigator, and, more importantly, no interest in airdropping American troops armed to the teeth into the middle of a multi-nation tribal war to help one madman catch another.

The bottom line is, research your causes thoroughly. Don’t just forward a random video to a stranger because a mass murderer makes a five-year-old “sad.” Learn a little bit about the complexities of the region’s ongoing strife before advocating for direct military intervention.

There is no black and white in the world. And going about solving important problems like there is just serves to make all those equally troubling shades of gray invisible.

[kony2012.]

 

Point Blank. Floyd Mayweather is Scared to Fight Manny Pacquaio.

Yes, Money Mayweather is undefeated, but he is also uneducated and completely unashamed.  The duality of Mayweather lies in his contradiction.  He is quick to claim that he is the greatest fighter of all time, yet, he has spent the last two years putting up every conceivable road block in regards to fighting Manny Pacquaio (blood tests, fake retirements and the latest, refusing a 50/50 purse split on a title fight.)

As Boxing is a slowly dieing sport, with most of its fans switching over to MMA and other fighting equivalents, a Mayweather v Pacquiao would be the equivalent of the a pugilist Super Bowl.  Simply put, it would be the biggest and most profitable fight the world has ever seen.  The magnitude of which could help to resurrect boxing, at least for the time being.

Nonetheless, Scoop Malinowski, a writer for BoxingInsider.com elaborates on a recent interview Mayweather had with Bob Costas, where he all but said he doesn’t want to fight Manny for fear that he would get beaten unrecognizable.

This is a sad excuse for boxing as a sport and for athletic competition as a whole.  Floyd Mayweather is a great fighter, but will never be regarded as one of the best due to his behavior and unwillingness to fight the best competition.  His legacy will remain tainted until this fight happens.  One of my favorite attributes to fighters like Marvin Hagler, Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard was their hunger and desire to fight and beat any and all contenders.  Too bad Money May doesn’t share those sentiments.

Read the article below.

Mayweather Finally Admits Cowardice: Health Concerns Are Why He Ducked Pacquiao

March 4th, 2012

By Scoop Malinowski

Now the truth has finally been confirmed by Floyd Mayweather himself: He’s afraid of getting pounded on like a punching bag by Manny Pacquiao.

Mayweather admitted this to Bob Costas in an NBC show interview about why he doesn’t want to fight Pacquiao. “I am in the game to win, not just inside the ring, but outside the ring,” stated Mayweather. “My health is more important than anything.”

Costas then countered with, “Are you implying there is something to fear in Manny Pacquiao?”

Floyd: “I don’t fear no one. If you’re insinuating that I’m a scared fighter, why would you want to watch a scared fighter?”

Earlier in the interview, Mayweather mentioned Muhammad Ali’s health. “With or without Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather is okay. Floyd Mayweather fights for Floyd Mayweather. At the end of the day, Floyd Mayweather has to be happy and comfortable…Look at the Ali situation. Fans pushed him to get into fights at the end of his career that he didn’t want to get in…If Ali could trade it all in for his health, he would.”

(Note: Let me correct Floyd. Ali was not forced by fans to get in the ring with Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes or Trevor Berbick. Money, pride and a fearless belief in his skills were the motivation for Ali to take those fights.)

Floyd also said: “One shot can end your whole career. Boxing is a very deadly sport.”

Costas said Floyd has to fight Pacquiao, to see who is the best, to give the fans what they want and to pump up the sport with a much-needed big, exciting, Super Bowl event: “I come first. Self preservation. I gotta worry about my family. If the fight don’t happen, so be it.”

There you go: “Self preservation.” So the reasons Mayweather gave us for two years of ducking and dodging Pacquiao – drug tests, fake retirements, Manny has to leave Arum and be his own boss, no 50-50 split, he doesn’t need Manny, it’s all Bob Arum’s fault, etc. – were indeed mere smokescreens, bluffs and lies. Cleverly but dishonestly used to cover up the real secret truth – Mayweather fears for his health because he knows Pacquiao would simply beat the hell out of him.

Mayweather knows his skills that pay the bills wouldn’t work against Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather does not have the confidence that his all-time great defensive skills will be able to control and subdue Pacquiao and maintain his unbeaten record and his good health, against the relentless assualts that Manny Pacquiao would unleash on him.

This surprising admission by Mayweather now puts heavy pressure on HBO. The sport of boxing is supposed to be about the best gladiators testing their courage and talents against the best of the best. Now HBO must fully recognize, if they paid attention to what Floyd Mayweather told NBC’s Bob Costas, that Floyd Mayweather is a manufactured fraud, a coward who is unworthy of being marketed and promoted as a premium sports attraction. (Vitali Klitschko said he would rather die than give Dereck Chisora anything.) Mayweather is a pretender who would be better suited for the world of professional wrestling.

It would be counterproductive for the most powerful television network in American boxing to promote and market, with maximum resources, a cowardly fraud who doesn’t care about the sport or it’s fans, only about perserving his own career with safe, low-risk, set up opponents.

“I’m in a great position, a very lucrative position,” Mayweather told Costas, who was pressuring him to accept the 50-50 split with Pacquiao. “I’m NOT giving up the split. I can’t. I can’t afford to.”

Of course he can’t and won’t. Mayweather and his advisor Al Haymon manipulate HBO and the public like subordinates. With HBO’s promotional machine at their beck and call, Mayweather and Haymon think they can keep on going for as long as they wish, making easy money safe “fights” via their stooges at HBO and most of the American media.

Shouldn’t the vast resources of HBO be better served to be used to invest in true, real, fearless champions like the Klitschkos, Bute, Ward, Martinez, Doniare, Rigondeaux, Proksa, Dawson, Bradley, Peterson, etc. in order to retain the credibility and honor of the noble sport? Shouldn’t HBO be expected to deliver to sports fans the best of the best versus the best, not rewarding cowardly frauds who are afraid of getting beaten up to the point of losing their health, while trumpeting them as heroic champions?

Surely, Thomas Hauser will be able to consult HBO to wake up and adhere to this simple basic premise won’t he? Or are the powers that be at HBO so wrapped around the fingers of Haymon and Mayweather that the Mayweather fraud show will go on for another five or ten years?

If HBO continues to knowingly and willingly support a cowardly fraud like Mayweather, how many other outrageous errors in judgement can we expect to see down the road by the powers that be at HBO and what will be the inevitable consequences on our great sport which has so diminished and declined in popularity and credibility over the last 10-15 years?

Don’t forget, Mayweather already told us that he doesn’t love boxing anymore like he used to because “it’s not real anymore.”

With that in mind, can we really expect Mayweather vs. Cotto to be fought at full intensity on May 5, since Mayweather said his “self preservation” is top priority? If Mayweather is, as he says, so concerned about his health, which is “more important than anything”, how do we know for sure he and Cotto won’t make one of those Teddy Atlas silent agreements? Like Floyd told us at Fight hype, “Boxing isn’t real anymore.”

I mean, how much longer can this great deception be allowed to contaminate the sport of boxing?

And you have to wonder if, after this Mayweather revelation to Costas, the powers that be at HBO continue to permit Mayweather’s advisor Al Haymon to use and manipulate the network like his own personal broadcasting service, like he has done for the last five years with Mayweather, Broner, Arreola, Williams, Jacobs, Berto, Mitchell, etc. How many more super fights will be canceled because one fighter and his advisor fear coming out on the loser’s end, which would destroy their “great position” and leverage?

We know now Floyd Mayeather is afraid for his health and well being and that’s why he won’t ever fight Manny Pacquiao. He told this to Bob Costas on national TV. Now the chips must fall where they may.

 

US Congress passes authoritarian anti-protest law

I found this article on the World Socialist Web Site and it disturbed to the point I felt that I absolutely had to share it.  Our basic civil rights are being taken away from us right before our eyes.  THIS MUST CHANGE!  I URGE YOU ALL TO SHARE THIS MESSAGE AND GET THE WORD OUT TO HELP RESTORE THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION.

US Congress passes authoritarian anti-protest law

By Tom Carter
3 March 2012

Defend democratic rights! Support the Socialist Equality Party election campaign! For more information and to get involved, click here.

A bill passed Monday in the US House of Representatives and Thursday in the Senate would make it a felony—a serious criminal offense punishable by lengthy terms of incarceration—to participate in many forms of protest associated with the Occupy Wall Street protests of last year. Several commentators have dubbed it the “anti-Occupy” law, but its implications are far broader.

The bill—H.R. 347, or the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011”—was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, while only Ron Paul and two other Republicans voted against the bill in the House of Representatives (the bill passed 388-3). Not a single Democratic politician voted against the bill.

The virtually unanimous passage of H.R. 347 starkly exposes the fact that, despite all the posturing, the Democrats and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder with the corporate and financial oligarchy, which regarded last year’s popular protests against social inequality with a mixture of fear and hostility.

Among the central provisions of H.R. 347 is a section that would make it a criminal offense to “enter or remain in” an area designated as “restricted.”

The bill defines the areas that qualify as “restricted” in extremely vague and broad terms. Restricted areas can include “a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting” and “a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”

The Secret Service provides bodyguards not just to the US president, but to a broad layer of top figures in the political establishment, including presidential candidates and foreign dignitaries.

Even more sinister is the provision regarding events of “national significance.” What circumstances constitute events of “national significance” is left to the unbridled discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. The occasion for virtually any large protest could be designated by the Department of Homeland Security as an event of “national significance,” making any demonstrations in the vicinity illegal.

For certain, included among such events would be the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, which have been classified as National Special Security Events (NSSE), a category created under the Clinton administration. These conventions have been the occasion for protests that have been subjected to ever increasing police restrictions and repression. Under H.R. 347, future protests at such events could be outright criminalized.

The standard punishment under the new law is a fine and up to one year in prison. If a weapon or serious physical injury is involved, the penalty may be increased to up to ten years.

Also criminalized by the bill is conduct “that impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” and “obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds.” These provisions, even more so than the provisions creating “restricted areas,” threaten to criminalize a broad range of protest activities that were previously perfectly legal.

In order to appreciate the unprecedented sweep of H.R. 347, it is necessary to consider a few examples:

 A wide area around the next G-20 meeting or other global summit could be designated “restricted” by the Secret Service, such that any person who “enters” that area can be subject to a fine and a year in jail under Section 1752(a)(1) (making it a felony to enter any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so).

 Senator Rick Santorum, the ultra-right Republican presidential candidate, enjoys the protection of the Secret Service. Accordingly, a person who shouts “boo!” during a speech by Santorum could be subject to arrest and a year of imprisonment under Section 1752(a)(2) (making it a felony to “engag[e] in disorderly or disruptive conduct in” a restricted area).

 Striking government workers who form a picket line near any event of “national significance” can be locked up under Section 1752(a)(3) (making it a crime to imped[e] ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds).

Under the ancien regime in France, steps were taken to ensure that the “unwashed masses” were kept out of sight whenever a carriage containing an important aristocrat or church official was passing through. Similarly, H.R. 347 creates for the US president and other top officials a protest-free bubble or “no-free-speech zone” that follows them wherever they go, making sure the discontented multitude is kept out of the picture.

The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act is plainly in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which was passed in 1791 in the aftermath of the American Revolution. The First Amendment provides: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (The arrogance of the Democratic and Republican politicians is staggering—what part of “Congress shall make no law” do they not understand?)

H.R. 347 comes on the heels of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed by President Obama into law on December 31, 2011. The NDAA gives the president the power to order the assassination and incarceration of any person—including a US citizen—anywhere in the world without charge or trial.

The passage of H.R. 347 has been the subject of a virtual blackout in the media. In light of the unprecedented nature of the bill, which would effectively overturn the First Amendment, this blackout cannot be innocent. The media silence therefore represents a conscious effort to keep the American population in the dark as to the government’s efforts to eviscerate the Bill of Rights.

The bill would vastly expand a previous law making it misdemeanor to trespass on the grounds of the White House. An earlier version of the bill would have made it a felony just to “conspire” to engage in any of the conduct described above. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature before it becomes the law of the land.

What lies behind the unprecedented attack underway on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is a growing understanding in the ruling class that the protests that took place around the world against social inequality in 2011 will inevitably re-emerge in more and more powerful forms in 2012 and beyond, as austerity measures and the crashing economy make the conditions of life more and more impossible for the working class. The virtually unanimous support in Congress H.R. 347, among Democrats as well as Republicans, reflects overriding sentiment within the ruling establishment for scrapping all existing democratic rights in favor of dictatorial methods of rule.

This sentiment was most directly expressed this week by Wyoming Republican legislator David Miller, who recently introduced a bill into the state legislature that would give the state the power, in an “emergency,” to create its own standing army through conscription, print its own currency, acquire military aircraft, suspend the legislature, and establish martial law. “Things happen quickly sometimes—look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at those situations,” Miller told the Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyoming. Repeating arguments employed by every military dictatorship over the past century, Miller declared, “We wouldn’t have time to meet as a Legislature or even in special session to do anything to respond.” Miller’s so-called “doomsday law” was defeated in the Wyoming legislature Tuesday by the narrow margin of 30-27.

Leblog James’ 2011-2012 Mid-Season Awards.

With the lockout-shortened NBA season officially at its halfway point, here are my picks for the league’s top NBA performers.

 

Most Improved Player:  Jeremy Lin.  Linsanity has been the second best story in sports this year and I only say that because I’m a New York Giants fan.   Yes, Lin’s sample size is relatively small, but both he and the Knicks were starting from scratch.   As a completely unknown player, with no Melo or Amar’e, Lin put an entire franchise on his back and put up All-Star numbers in their absences.   Lin has taken a team that was once 8-15 and has them talking about making the playoffs again.

Honorable Mention: Andrew Bynum.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard.  When D-12’s career is over, his defensive capabilities will be compared to Olajuwon and other great defensive big men.  Amidst all the trade rumors and distractions, Howard has still put in the dirty work that has distinguished him as the best center in the association.  The Magic are in the top 10 in field goal percentage allowed (43.2 %,) his blocks are down but he still swats 2.12 shots a game (5th in the NBA,) while leading the league in rebounding (15.3 – a career high.)

Honorable Mention: Andre Igudoala.

 

Coach of the Year: Gregg Poppovich.   Manu Ginobili goes down with an injury and Poppovich still has the Spurs as the #2 team in the Western Conference.   Tim Duncan is a shadow of the player he once was, yet Popps continues to win with players like Danny Green and Gary Neal playing significant minute.   The Spurs have seen resurgence due to a new talented, young, core with players like Kawhi Leonard, Thiago Splitter and Dejaun Blair, as well as Tony Parker spearheading the attack and playing like an MVP candidate. Gregg Poppovich is the best coach in the NBA and is proving it once again this year.

Honorable Mention: Doug Collins

 

Sixth Man Award: James Harden.   Fear the beard.  With perennial All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant at the helm, Harden is still putting All-Star like numbers while leading an Oklahoma City bench that’s without Eric Maynor.  OKC is the best team in the Western Conference and the bench is thriving due to Harden’s ability to distribute, score and to get to the foul line.  Harden could and would start for the majority of teams in the NBA, but the bench role seems to fit him perfectly.

Honorable Mention:  Lou Williams.

Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving.   Proving to be the class of the 2012 draft, Kyrie Irving is playing like a seasoned vet and future all-star.  He’s a complete point guard, who can shoot, penetrate/create, pass and defend.  His combination of efficient shooting (48.5 %,) scoring (18.3 ppg) and passing has given Cleveland hope in the post-Lebron era.   The Cavs are currently 13-19 on the year and are poised to have more wins than they had all of last year (19) in a shortened season – a lot of that can be attributed to Irving.  Cleveland has found their floor general and with a few more pieces added, could be poised for another playoff run.

Honorable Mention: Ricky Rubio.

Most Valuable Player:  Lebron James.  Lebron is the best player on the league’s best team.   There is only so much he can do in the regular season to silence his critics, but what  he’s done so far is nothing short of amazing.  Despite being criticized unlike anyone in sports, he is having a career year.   While posting incredibly gaudy numbers – 27.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 6.8 apg, 54.8 % fgp and 39.3% 3pfg, he is the anchor of a defense that reminds me of the Chicago Bulls in the late 90’s.  Additionally, he had people questioning whether or not Dwayne Wade was necessary during the Heat’s 8-1 stretch with him out.  Anything less than a MVP and a NBA title for Lebron and the Heat will be a huge disappointment.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Durant.