Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012: Daytona 500 Race

By Keith Antigiovanni

The 2012 Daytona 500 Race finally concluded late monday night with Matt Kenseth winning for the second time in four years but it was a struggle for NASCAR to complete the event because of the weather.

The race was originally scheduled for sunday afternoon but was postponed throughout that day and then most of monday until the race began monday evening which amounted to Monday Night NASCAR for TV viewers.

The media bills this event as the "Super Bowl of stockcar racing" which I dont quite understand because it is the first race of every NASCAR season while the Super Bowl is the final game of the professional football season. Maybe NASCAR has it in reverse which is fine as long as they dont start driving their racecars backwards.

According to NASCAR fans a strong finish in this race gives the teams a good start on the season but it doesnt necessarily equal the NASCAR title. For example Jimmie Johnson recently won five straight racing titles (2006-2010) but only once won Daytona (2006) however you can argue that his 2006 win in this race helped jumpstart a "racing dynasty".

It is interesting to see what drivers won the Daytona during Johnson's reign as NASCAR's champion:
2007: Kevin Harvick, 2008: Ryan Newman, 2009: Matt Kenseth, 2010: Jamie McMurray and 2011: Trevor Bayne.

Richard Petty has the record for most Daytona 500 wins with 7 (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1981) and Cale Yarborough has the second most with 4 (1968, 1977, 1983, 1984). Out of Petty's 7 NASCAR titles only twice did he win the Daytona 500 in the same year (1964, 1971) and out of Yarborough's 3 NASCAR titles he won Daytona only once (1977) during his 1970's dynasty (1976-1978).A more recent champion Jeff Gordon won 4 NASCAR titles but only once in the same year he won Daytona (1997).

Based on that it is unclear how Daytona 500 can be the "Super Bowl of  stockcar racing". Maybe it is because of the excitement after almost four months off.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Miami Heat: Under the Radar

By Keith Antigiovanni

After the Miami Heat's underachieving performance in the 2011 NBA Finals the team is going under the NBA radar through the first half of the season with a 27-7 record and 8 game winning streak.

Because of the ridiculous media hype before the 2010-2011 season when Lebron James and Chris Bosh signed Miami was already given the NBA title and labeled a "dynasty" but the reality is that the Heat made huge strides last year and have improved every year since 2008 when they went 15-67.

Another factor to consider is that the Dallas Mavericks victory in the Finals last year was no fluke. The Mavericks had been to the playoffs in 11 straight years and missed out on their first NBA title in 2006 when Miami beat them in 6 games.

In only two years after Miami won the title they finished at 15-67 which prompted former Coach Pat Riley to step down and go back to his General Manager job. Riley then hired former assistant Erik Spoelstra. Under Spoelstra they have gone from 15-67 in 2008 to 43-39 in 2009, 47-35 in 2010 and then 58-24 in 2011 with the Southeast and Eastern titles.

This year the expectations were not as high but Spoelstra's team shares the best record in the NBA with the Western Conference leader Oklahoma City Thunder. If Miami keeps winning will the hype from last year return? Will Lebron James wilt under the pressure to win his first NBA title? Only time will tell but what we do know is that Miami is now one of the premier franchises in the NBA.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

NBA: No Respect for the Spurs?

By Keith Antigiovanni

If you have followed the NBA the past two weeks then you know who Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks is by now while he has help lead the Knicks to their current 7-game win streak. It’s a great story but as usual the so-called “National” media is ignoring the San Antonio Spurs who are on a 9-game winning streak of their own or the perennial last-place Los Angeles Clippers now first place in their division.

The “National” media believes a rookie player who plays in New York is the top story despite that the Knicks are only a .500 (15-15) team at this time while ignoring the “Small-Market” Spurs who are 21-9, 1.5 games behind in the Western Conference, lead their division without one of their top players, Manu Ginobli, for the past six weeks.

You might say so what, the Spurs win every year which is exactly the point of why they should get more coverage and respect but not when you take into account that the “National” sports media is not really national it is regional specifically the tiny northeast part of the country and the Spurs are perceived as a bunch of boring professionals who only go out and win basketball games.

 In other words they are only known for winning, the same way legendary professional sports teams such as the 1950’s Boston Celtics or 1960’s Green Bay Packers are known for. Since the 1990-1991 season San Antonio has posted the best regular season record in the NBA (1127-563 .67%), qualified for the playoffs 21 of the past 22 years and won 4 NBA titles while the Knicks have not won an NBA title since the Watergate Hearings. Instead of the “National” media giving these guys some respect after winning for the past 23 years they are obsessed with the latest “flavor-of-the-week” coming out of NYC.

If you want to ignore the Spurs and look at an underdog story then how about more Los Angeles Clippers coverage. Even with Chris Paul in the lineup it was a stretch to think this team could ever turn their fortunes around after four decades of futility. The Clipper franchise began in Buffalo, NY back in 1970 then moved out west to San Diego between 1978 and north to Los Angeles. In all that time the Clippers have only posted 6 winning seasons and have never won even won a division title. 2012 could be the year that all changes if they can hang on to their lead in the Pacific and hope the Lakers do not make a second-half run. The Clippers are currently 19-9 and have the third seed in the West.

Tonight, Friday February 16, 2012 the Spurs and Clippers will be playing at the Staples Center. The “National” media needs to focus on this game as their top story or it might be time to turn in their press credentials.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2011-2012 NBA Season Thru 6 Weeks

By Keith Antigiovanni

After 6 weeks the playoff standings are becoming much more clear particulary in the Eastern Conference where only 8 teams are above .500 while the 11 teams in the Western Conference are competing for the 8 postseason tickets in April.

In the Southwest division the San Antonio Spurs (18-9) have won 6 straight and are 2.5 games in the lead, The defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks (15-11) are again trailing their arch-rivals. The Houston Rockets (14-11) and Memphis Grizzlies (13-13) are also in the playoff picture.

The Pacific division is a surprise with the Los Angeles Clippers (15-8) 2 games in front of the Los Angeles Lakers (14-11). The Clippers have the 3rd best record in the West behind the Thunder and Spurs.

The Oklahoma City Thunder (20-5) lead the Northwest division and the West meanwhile the rest of the division (Denver, Portland, Utah and Minnesota) are still in the race.

The Southeast is still competitive with defending East champion Miami (19-7) on top followed by Atlanta (17-9) and Orlando (16-10).

The Bulls (22-6) are 3.5 games up on the Indiana Pacers (17-8) and have the best record in the East and entire NBA.

The Philadelphia 76ers (18-8) lead the Atlantic, four games over the Boston Celtics (14-10).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

NBA'S Lone Star Rivals

By Keith Antigiovanni

Five weeks into the 2011-2012 NBA Season the two Texas powerhouses, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, are tied atop the Southwest Division again. The defending NBA champion Mavericks are 14-9 along with the defending division champion Spurs at 14-9.

Despite the Mavericks overtime win over the Spurs on sunday night these two bitter rivals remain locked in a tight division battle the way they have the past 11 years in fact Dallas and San Antonio have the most wins in the regular season since the start of the 2000-2001 season.

The Spurs came into this abbreviated campaign with a 634-268 in that span but won 3 NBA titles in all 3 appearances while the Mavericks were 620-282 after 10 frustrating years of 50+ win playoffs' seasons with no championship. Dallas' 2011 NBA title helped put them in the upper echelon of teams in the 2000's and gave them bragging rights against their in-state rival Spurs.

Dallas, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers have not only dominated the conference by winning combining to the West the past 12+ years since the end of the 1990's M.J.'s Chicago dynasty but have also combined to dominate in the NBA Finals with a record of 10-3. The Spurs are 4-0 and the Lakers 5-2 while the Mavericks are now 1-1 in the final round both against the Miami Heat.

The only question will either the Mavericks or Spurs represent the West again? Both are off to sluggish starts but Dallas has made the playoffs 11 straight years and San Antonio has made the postseason 21 of 22 years.  Based on history you can conclude that both will get hot down the stretch but will they make it deep into the playoffs and possibly face each other in the Conference finals in a re-match of the classic 2003 WCF?

Up and coming teams such as the Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder and even the surprising Los Angeles Clippers might be the "new kids on the block" in the West but until they still have to prove that they can knock off Dallas, San Antonio and the LA Lakers.