Orlando scored nine points in the third quarter in a 74-69 loss on Monday in Philadelphia. It was their third lowest point total of the week! They scored 56 points a week ago in a blowout loss in Boston and a putrid 67 in a lopsided defeat at the woeful Hornets. The night before that, they blew a 27 point lead and fell to the Celtics yet again.
After that loss in New Orleans, Dwight Howard demanded that his teammates change and play better. Apparently, that call has fallen on deaf ears. Orlando has now lost four straight and five of six, and change is clearly necessary for the team to stay afloat this season and for the Magic to keep Howard for the long haul.
However, general manager Otis Smith says he has no plans to make major roster changes. “If a string of losses causes you to change your plans, then I’m in the wrong job,” Smith said Monday night. Guess what? Smith is in the wrong job. Such a woeful stretch of basketball should cost Smith and head coach Stan Van Gundy their jobs because drastic measures need to be taken to ensure Howard stays in Orlando. He’s becoming discouraged and frustrated and there are several contending teams who could realistically acquire Howard right now.
The NBA is a Darwinian landscape in an 82-game season and even more cutthroat in a shorter one. Smith has to either adapt, and change this roster now, or move aside so someone could do it for him. The tragic Magic need external help before their franchise crumbles with the loss of Howard.
Clippers Thrash Thunder With Griffin’s Powerful Help
Everyone is talking about Blake Griffin’s incredible dunk, and for good reason. It was the best dunk in a very long time and made Kendrick Perkins look like…Stan Van Gundy.
But it was the overall play of the Clippers as a team in its 112-100 win over Oklahoma City that was most impressive. Los Angeles shot over 56 percent from the field, including 13-25 from three, with Caron Butler and Mo Williams helping the Lob City tandem of Griffin and the dazzling Chris Paul.
“Chris Paul was running around, getting what he wanted to get on the floor and making passes to guys for wide-open dunks and 3s,” Kevin Durant, who had 36 points and 13 rebounds by the way, said. “It’s tough to stop.” The Clips have won three straight and seven of 10 to assert a bit of control in the Pacific Division, and the team could only be building more chemistry going forward.
Smooth Jazz Buries Blazers
Utah shot just 38 percent from the field, but they outrebounded Portland by 14 on Monday and scored13 straight points in the fourth quarter to shock and stun the Blazers 93-89. Al Jefferson sat out the game with an ankle injury and all Paul Millsap did was score 19 points, grab 15 boards and block a pair of PDX shots.
“We definitely had control and we let it slip away,” said Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 25 points and seven rebounds. “No excuses. They kept playing hard and they ended up coming back and stealing one.”
Utah has no stars, but a lot of young bigs and supporting pieces who are meshing together well under head coach Tyrone Corbin, in his first season at the helm in the SLC. Devin Harris and CJ Miles are playing well and Josh Howard was an underrated offseason acquisition. Quietly, Utah occupies the fifth seed in the Western Conference, right ahead of the big name Spurs and Lakers. Hopefully Corbin gets more credit as the Jazz’s success continues.
It’s that time of year again. We’re past the All-Star game and the rest of the season consists entirely of battling to secure a playoff spot. As always, it’s fun to predict who will win the league’s yearly awards. After more than half of the games have been played, it’s safe to say that we have as clear a picture of the nominees as ever. Let’s see who is at the top of their game.
Hart Memorial Trophy – Season MVP – Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
It’s tough being the second best player on a team only because the best one also happens to be the best in the league. With Sidney Crosby sidelined for what appears to be the foreseeable future, Malkin has stepped up his game immensely. Not only is he leading the NHL in points, but he’s also the main reason the Penguins are still relevant in the Eastern Conference.
Vezina Trophy – Best Goaltender – Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
No offense to defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, but the Predators would be going nowhere without their man in between the pipes. Rinne is near the top of the league in every goaltending stat category and is Nashville’s hero. To me this trophy isn’t just performance but also what the goalie means to his team and that gives Rinne the extra boost over players like Henrik Lundqvist and Jimmy Howard.
Norris Trophy – Best Defenseman – Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
This trophy is also not entirely about individual performance, or offensive production (sorry Erik Karlsson). Chara isn’t just his team’s captain, he is arguably Boston’s best player. He’s a dominant force for the Bruins defensively, hence his +26 rating (which is insane). It’s also his time to start officially taking over from Red Wings’ Captain Niklas Lidstrom.
Calder Trophy – Best Rookie – Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
The kid is great. He’s having a very solid year offensively on a team that is filled with young players and sorely lacks leadership and depth. It’s not easy being the first overall pick and making people believe you deserved it, but RNH is really the only rookie we’re hearing about this year. He was a major factor in the Oilers’ rise in the standings and will be a cornerstone in their lineup for a long time.
Jack Adams – Best Coach – John Tortorella, New York Rangers
The reason I go with Torts here is based on the fact that I don’t think the Rangers are a very good “team”. They have a handful of stars but, overall, I’m not overly impressed with them. However, they do sit atop the Eastern Conference standings having played less games than everyone else beneath them except for Boston. As we all saw in HBO’s 24/7 series, Tortorella knows how to kick his team into gear and with his coaching the Rangers could be poised for a solid Cup run this spring.
Selke Trophy – Best Defensive Forward – Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Toews is arguably one of the best all-around players in the league. He’s a dominant scorer, a killer in the face-off zone and is a tremendous leader for a Chicago Blackhawks team trying to return to the Stanley Cup Finals. I think this is a no-brainer since no player really comes close to Toews in his depth on both sides of the rink.
Sixers Interested In Amar’e
With Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic injured and not exactly offensively dynamic when healthy, the surprise runaway leaders of the Atlantic Division are looking for interior help. Philadelphia recently asked the Knicks about struggling superstar Amar’e Stoudemire, according to CSN Philadelphia.
Nothing is imminent and the talks were described as due diligence, but the rumor is indicative of two emerging trends. One, the Sixers are going to make a push to become an elite team in an Eastern Conference that’s extremely thin after Chicago and Miami. They’re going to go after a big man up until the trade deadline in March.
Another trend is that the vultures are circling around the Knicks’ decaying carcass. New York has lost 13 of its first 20 games and the Stoudemire-Carmelo Anthony-Tyson Chandler troika is not working out at all. Teams are going to be asking the Knicks about dealing for one of these three players as long as the Knicks continue to struggle under beleaguered head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Lakers Consider Gilbert Arenas
The Lakers lack scoring, which is something that hasn’t been said about the team in a long time. Los Angeles is 20th in the league in scoring and are exploring for ways to improve offensively. One possible solution? Sign Gilbert Arenas and pair him with Kobe Bryant in the backcourt.
There has been little to no interest in Arenas since he was waived by Orlando in December under the new Amnesty Clause, and the Land O’Lakers blog at ESPNLA says this would work to the team’s advantage. The blog also said that Arenas would likely have to be interviewed by the team and pass a physical, neither of which has been scheduled just yet.
The thought of having Arenas on the same team as Metta World Peace would certainly be exciting for the folks covering the team, but how Arenas works within the team dynamic would be something to watch. If he can mesh with the lineup and the offense, there’s no doubt he could improve the LA offense.
Teams Interested In Trade Bound Kaman
Chris Kaman has not fit in well with the New Orleans Hornets since he was acquired from the Clippers as part of the Chris Paul trade. Hornets General Manager Dell Demps said on Friday that Kaman would be traded and he will not play another game for New Orleans.
Southwest Division rivals San Antonio and Houston are among at least five teams that have asked about Kaman since Friday’s announcement, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The Hornets are reportedly looking for a center in return to add depth along with Emeka Okafor and Jason Smith. Kaman has averaged 11.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over his career and could help the Spurs, who are ranked 18th in the league in rebounding margin. Houston is third in that department, so adding Kaman to their interior rotation would improve the Rockets even more in that department.
In an age where people are rapping about some of the most outlandish and unrealistic things in life, it’s good to see (and discuss) some people integrating sports into their lyrics to try to get their message out. TJ Fredette (yes, the brother of Sacramento Kings rookie Jimmer) and Kyler James decided to team up and record a single about the return of the NBA after the lockout, appropriately called “Locked In” it was pretty refreshing. Recently, SprungOnSports was able to talk to TJ and Kyler about their music, their influences and the impact sports had on their divergent paths in life.
The Group Stage
SprungOnSports- What role does sports play in your life and what made you decide to integrate sports into your music with songs like Locked In?
TJ Fredette- Sports have always played a major role in my life as it has for all of my family. My grandparents on both sides were major sports fans, particularly basketball and football. My father taught my siblings and I how to play a soon as we were old enough to run and we just fell in love with competing. I can’t remember many nights going by when we were growing up when there wasn’t a game on the TV. It was our main source of entertainment as a family back then and still is today.
Since sports is such a major part of my life, I can’t imagine not incorporating something I’m so passionate about into my music. Sports and music are the best of both worlds to me and I truly believe they go hand and hand, so when I make a song like Lock In, it just feels right. I like to make sports specific songs that athletes can listen to before a game and get hyped to. There is a unique source of power that is on display when you write a song about something you know and love.
Kyler James- Sports plays a big role, my first love ever was baseball. Basketball was second and I really got into it. However, now that music is involved it was a smooth transition from putting the sports actions into words.
SOS- What made you guys decide to make Locked In and has their been buzz about the song in basketball circles?
TJF- I had the idea to make Lock In while the NBA lockout was going on. I knew that the NBA was probably going to take a negative hit with fans being so disgusted about the whole situation, so my idea was to put out some positive vibes to fans, players and even owners in hopes that people would start to concentrate on the greatness of the NBA and its history, as opposed to just focusing on the troubles the business side was going through.
Joe Budden is my favorite artist and I knew he had a great knowledge of the NBA just by listening to his lyrics for years. He often speaks about NBA players and situations in his rhymes and he’s always on point when doing so. I wanted so bad to have him feature on the song because I knew he would kill it and bring such a powerful element to not only the song itself but to the whole cause. My boy Kamar Malone made the Budden feature happen so I owe all the credit to him for getting us Joe to appear on the track.
As for the buzz in basketball circles, it has actually taken off more in the world of high school basketball than anywhere else. The NBA is a tough entertainment field to tap into but we are still trying to get the league to use the song in some capacity. However, I have received many messages on Facebook and Twitter from high school players who love the song! Even though its is a song about the NBA, many varsity high school basketball teams have told me they are using it as a warm up song for their games. It’s always great to hear things like that and I believe the song will continue to catch people’s ears and hopefully eventually be used by the NBA.
KJ- The idea was brought to my attention by my manager Kamar “Solo” Malone that TJ had a song he wanted to do with me. I thought the sports idea was brilliant, especially around the time the NBA lockout was in effect. Funkmaster Flex (world famous rap DJ) posted it up on his website and got some NBA folks talking about it.
SOS- What inspired you growing up to go into music and what people were the most influential so far in your career?
TJF- I was inspired to get into music by my passion for it. I have always been so moved by music of all kinds and I also have always been a talented writer. I guess it just made sense to combine my love for music with my talent for writing.
I had a friend in high school who came from Harlem, and he was heavily involved in writing rhymes, freestyling, and keeping up with anything pertaining to hip hop. He used to write rhymes in class and one day he challenged me to give it a try. By the end of that class i was hooked! I just loved the challenge of trying to come up with clever lines and using word play to form a rhythm with my words. From that day forward, hardly a day has gone by where I haven’t written a rhyme. I would say that friend who challenged me to write rhymes that day, along with some other mentors that have helped me to mold my craft have been my greatest influences. I actually have too many to name and I don’t want to leave anyone out, but they all know who they are.
KJ- It’s funny cause music always been apart of my life; whether listening to it in the house all day cause it was playing, to my mother singing in the room practicing ’till she gets it right. I’ve been doing music for only a year now, anybody that was a part of that whole 90′s movement as far as good music goes was a big influence to me.
SOS- What makes you the next breakout artist in the hip-hop game?
TJF- I think my originality is what makes me the next breakout artist. I believe that I can reach a broader audience than most artists out there because of my unique writing style. I feel I have the right recipe for making music positive enough for young kids as well as parents to listen to, while at the same time having enough of an edge to also peek the interest of more hardcore hip hop fans. I’ll never be a gangsta rapper and people who only want gangsta rap I might never appeal to, but i think a lot of hip hop fans just dont want to hear artists claim to be something they aren’t, and they will never get that from me.
I also feel I have the ability to make hit songs, which is one of the most crucial parts of finding success as an artist. There are a lot of very talented lyricists out there who dont have what it takes to make a hit record. I’m confident in my ability to write great lyrics and great songs to go with those lyrics.
KJ- My story telling ability that has a modern, future sound which is rather unique in this time. Me being able to write any type of song or in any genre being a all around entertainer/songwriter/artist. But my personality plays a big role. However, they won’t expect it coming from a kid from the projects (laughs).
SOS- What’s your next upcoming project and why should people be excited and go buy what you’re selling?
TJF- My next project is my album I’m working on called FredetteAboutIt. People really need to be excited about this project for many reasons. One, you will get a little bit of everything on this album. You will get some catchy party songs, serious personal experience songs, emotional songs, inspirational stories, clever punch lines, radio friendly songs, creative use-your-imagination type songs, and basically any kind of hip hop song you can imagine.
Also, the beats for this project are the best beats I have ever worked with. No fillers on this album, I’m concentrating thoroughly on making every song a hit! I will also have some amazing features on this album and a couple surprise guests that you won’t wanna miss! One last reason you have to buy FredetteAboutIt is because you will get to hear a lyrical style that is very unique in content as well as delivery. I can’t compare myself to any other artist because I really feel my originality can’t be put in a box, and that originality will be put on total display on this album.
KJ- I got the no back-up plan project coming up (NB-UP) sometime in 2012. It’s going to be a free mixtape with 14 tracks of original material. No features, just me. I really want the people to get to know me off the bat, and the best way to do that is break down these stories in track form. Let them know what I’m seeing through this poverty vision. Basically a bird’s eye view. I feel this mixtape is going to create a powerful message to the new generation.. All type of music on the no back-up plan mixtape. This should be fun.
One On One With Kyler James
SOS- What was it like growing up in the projects in the Bronx and how did you gravitate toward a career in music?
KJ- Growing up in the projects as a kid seemed so normal until you reached that age when you know it’s real. Its like a jungle, literally. I’m from the bottom and seen so many different things within one setting it’s scary. After playing around in the studio that was built in someone’s project apartment, I took a different outlook on the music tip, like this can be a serious career. Music was the getaway from all the negativity I was around. Youngest of four boys.
SOS- You wrote on your Facebook page that the “ordinary American dream of going to college and working a 9-5 job for a weekly check” was not for you. When did you realize that wasn’t going to be your path?
KJ- For the record, whoever is in school right now more power to you!! The More education the better and further you go. However, as we all know, school isn’t for everyone. I realized that even before the music took action in my life. I always knew I wanted to do something big, but wasn’t too sure on what it was. Balancing a 9 to 5 throughout the process became a bit stressful and I always told myself it’s something else I’m not supposed to be doing. That’s when I started getting good feedback, with people telling me “you have an extreme amount of talent, kid.”
SOS- What one word do you think best describes you and why?
KJ- Unexpected. Because you can’t put me in a specific box. It’s like you never know what you’re gonna get. Especially with my music, you never know what song concept you’re gonna hear from me, or what direction I’m gonna take, story wise or just period.
SOS- What do you think your biggest hit is to date and how are you using new and emerging technologies to market yourself to a global audience?
KJ- Well all the music is on the mixtape (NB-UP), which is set to release this year. As far as hits that’s up to the people when it’s released how they adapt to it, and I know they are gonna fall in love with it. Now if you want my personal opinion every song on the mixtape is a HIT (laughs). Social media is the way things work now, it’s either you join the wave or get lost in it. You can follow me on Twitter, (@TheRealKJames) Facebook or YouTube. Follow follow.
SOS- Where do you see yourself in 5 years as an artist and as a person?
KJ- Five years from now I see myself in a good space of mind musically. Also having a certain amount of accomplishments under my belt, five years is a lot of time (laughs). But depending on how hard you’re working, you won’t even notice the time fly. As a person I think I’ll be a little more mature than I already am now, just making myself a better person. Any errors, just correcting them along the way.
One On One With TJ Fredette
SOS- I have to ask: what was it like growing up with Jimmer?
TJF- Growing up with Jimmer was a blast! I loved having a younger brother, so he came everywhere with my friends and I. He was an incredible talent when it came to sports and I enjoyed every minute of watching him develop as an athlete. Most of all he was just such a fun loving, friendly kid that everyone wanted to be around…our bond began to develop on the day he was born and has only grown every day since.
SOS- Did you ever feel you had to do something to get out of Jimmer’s shadow and differentiate yourself and make yourself unique?
TJF- Nah, never. I do what I do and Jimmer does what he does. He has obviously seen an incredible amount of success in the world of basketball and he will only continue to see more. He’s reached heights that most people working on their crafts will never see. I work hard on my music and I love doing it, so regardless if I ever reach the top of the charts or not I will never have any regrets with my decision to pursue success in something I’m passionate about.
I will continue to put out music for a long time and whatever happens happens, but for me to say I feel I need to get out of Jimmer’s shadow would basically be saying I’m threatened in some way by his success and that could never be the case. I’m very comfortable in myself and what I do and I have nothing but confidence in my abilities. However, I can’t control how many people become fans of my music unfortunately. It’s not like sports where you control your own destiny by how you perform. In music, you have to rely on other people for most of your success. I will do everything I can to make the best product I can and promote it the best way possible. After I’ve done everything i that i can, from there I just have to be positive and hope for the best.
SOS- Growing up in Glenn Falls, NY, I know you and Jimmer are big time Giants fans. Tell me why they’re going to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 46.
TJF- I believe the Giants will win because they have a way of playing their best in the biggest moments. They also have the confidence factor having already beaten the Pats this season and in the last Super meeting they had together. Also, I feel Eli is playing the best football of his career and I think he will only get better come Super Bowl Sunday!
SOS- What do you think your biggest hit is to date and how are you using new and emerging technologies to market yourself to a global audience?
TJF- My biggest hit to date has been Amazing, a song I wrote about everything Jimmer and I did to get him to reach his dream of playing in the NBA. I think it was able to do well because people love stories like the one involving Jimmer and his road to success as an underdog having to beat all odds to get where he wanted to get. The Internet and social networking is huge as far as being able to put your music out there to a mass audience. I try to use that tool to my advantage as much as possible as I think any artist should.
SOS- Where do you see yourself in 5 years as an artist and as a person?
TJF- I don’t like to put an exact prediction on where I will be as an artist, but I will say I do expect to see more and more success each year as an artist until the day I decide I’m getting too old and it’s time to move on. Progression is my main goal and I will continue to show progress each year. As a person, I see myself married in five years living comfortably with my wife somewhere in New York. I believe I will be making a living off of music and entertainment in some capacity and I’ll still be traveling and cheering for my little bro in the NBA!
Thursday Stock Watch
Wisconsin- The Badgers won its fifth straight Big 10 game over the slumping Hoosiers 57-50 while only committing four turnovers in the game. Wisconsin is now 6-3 in the conference, just a half game behind conference co-leaders Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State.
Saint Mary’s- The Gaels won at Loyola Marymount for its 11th straight win and SMC now has 20 victories on the season. They are 9-0 in West Coast Conference play, but they’ve put themselves in good position for an at-large bid no matter what.
Wagner/Robert Morris/St. Francis (NY)- It was a very, very good night for the upstarts chasing LIU Brooklyn in the Northeast Conference. Wagner, which fell to LIU last week, took care of business to go to 7-2 in conference play, is now tied with St. Francis (after they beat St. Francis of PA) and Robert Morris, which beat LIU. In simple terms, LIU is now at 8-1 being chased by three teams tied for second. It’s going to be a great race.
Nevada- The Wolfpack separated itself from the rest of the WAC by winning 68-60 at New Mexico State to go to 6-0, two games ahead of everyone else in the conference.
Indiana- What had been a 15-1 start has disintegrated with four losses in five games, including Thursday night’s setback in Madison against Wisconsin. The Hoosiers now sit in seventh place in the Big 10. Their resume will get them into the tournament, but they’re making things difficult.
Ole Miss- After beating Mississippi State a week ago, there was hope for some success for the Rebs. They led Florida by 10 at halftime, but squandered that lead and a great opportunity to beat a very good Gators team. At .500 in the SEC and no signature win, they’ve become an afterthought.
Iowa- The Hawkeyes had a gimme game at home against Nebraska to get back to .500 in the Big 10 and really blew it. At 11-10, tournament dreams may have officially gone by the wayside.
Butler- A loss at UW Milwaukee on Thursday brought the two-time finalists to 6-4 in the Horizon League and 12-10 overall, currently good for fifth in the conference. They’ll need a lot to make the NCAA’s this year.
LIU Brooklyn- That loss to Robert Morris brought the Blackbirds down to a one game lead on three other teams aggressively chasing the NEC lead.
Stock Also Down- Valparaiso, New Mexico State, Washington State.
Friday- The Ivy League lead is on the line tonight in New Haven when Harvard visits Yale in this rivalry matchup. Elsewhere, MAAC action heats up with a trio of important games and Boston University plays at Stony Brook (9 p.m. ESPNU) for the America East conference lead.
Saturday’s Top 10 Games
1) Mississippi State @ Florida, 1:30 p.m. ESPN3- The lone ranked battle of the weekend features two of the top four from the SEC and a great individual matchup between Arnett Moultrie and Patric Young.
2) West Virginia @ Syracuse, 1 p.m. ESPNU- With Fab Melo of the Orange out for a while with academic issues, Kevin Jones will be the key to a Mountaineer upset inside in this top four Big East battle.
3) Kansas @ Iowa State, 2 p.m. ESPN- The Cyclones play really well at home with Royce Young leading the charge, they played Missouri tough earlier this season, and the Jayhawks will have a decently tough task to win at Ames.
4) Saint Mary’s @ BYU, 9 p.m. ESPNU- After winning at Virginia Tech this week, the Cougars get a big opportunity for a signature win at home and the chance to significantly boost their at large hopes.
5) Virginia @ NC State, 8 p.m. ESPN2- We can assume that Duke, North Carolina and Florida State are locks to make the Big Dance, but how many more bids do they get? A win in Winston-Salem could really give the Cavaliers a nice win for the selection committee to look at.
6) Texas @ Baylor, 1 p.m. CBS- They played Kansas tough and got a must-win game over Iowa State, but how will the Longhorns play Baylor with the Bears coming off two huge losses last week?
7) Kentucky @ LSU, 4 p.m. ESPN3- It’s the first road game for the top ranked team against an inconsistent Tigers club.
8) Louisville @ Seton Hall, 8 p.m. ESPN3- Both teams are .500 in the Big East but we know they’re better than that. Which team will emerge with the momentum going into the second half of conference play?
9) Washington @ Arizona, 7 p.m. ESPN- While a win for Washington would be enormous as they try to chase down the Pac 12 lead, this could almost be a must-win for the Wildcats as they try to play to its potential and reach the Big Dance.
10) Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt, 2 p.m.- This is a huge opportunity for MTSU, who already has 20 wins, to get a signature win against a vulnerable Commodores team. Will Vandy slip and fall?
Five More- St. Joe’s @ Temple, Valparaiso @ UW Milwaukee, Southern Miss @ UCF, Arkansas @ Alabama, Marshall @ Memphis.
Bonus Four More- Saint Louis @ UMass, VCU @ Georgia State, St. Francis (NY) @ Robert Morris, Denver @ UALR.
Sunday- Michigan @ Ohio State on CBS (1 p.m.) for the Big 10 lead? Yes, please! Indiana must beat Iowa (6 p.m. Big Ten), Notre Dame visits UConn (Noon, ESPN3) and Stanford has a gigantic game at Pac 12 leader Cal.