After winning the MLS Championship this past season, LA Galaxy star David Beckham was expected to return to Europe and sign with a club eagerly courting him. However, Becks decided to pledge allegiance to the United States when he signed a two-year deal to remain in Los Angeles.
This move will not only bolster the Galaxy’s lineup given Beckham’s apparent skill and valuable veteran leadership, but it allows the league in general to promote such a star. MLS does not have many superstars that reconsidered household names. Many American players use the MLS as a stepping stone to the bright lights of the European leagues. Becks, however, is enjoying his time on the west coast and his decision to stay benefits everyone.
The MLS is fighting desperately to become mainstream in the US and if there’s one thing that American sports fans relate to its big name players.
The NBA markets it’s top stars like Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, etc., as does the NHL with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
Whether you’ve watched his mind-blowing bending free kicks on YouTube, or you’re a fan of that Spice Girls’ husband, you know who David Beckham is. You know he’s a sick soccer player and you know that he has the ability to pull you into the sport.
The Galaxy are now in a position to market the hell out of this signing and show their fans that superstars want to come back and play in LA and are committed to winning. They can attract other stars and keep the championships coming and bring in more and more fans to their stadium and viewers at home.
The fact that Becks’ new deal is for two years shows his commitment to the team and league. While it’s considerably shorter than his previous contract, the man is 36 years old and he could be done after another two seasons.
I’m sure that everyone hopes other top players will follow in Beckham’s footsteps and keep bringing in publicity and star talent into the league. Becks seems to be happy in LA and who knows which other stars will feel the same way. This signing could be the best thing that has happened to the Galaxy and MLS in a long time.
After a standout career at Florida State, where he teamed with Knicks PG Toney Douglas and Wizards SF Chris Singleton, Kitchen signed in Israel and had to adjust to new life in the Middle East. Kitchen, a 6’4 25-year-old guard, has averaged 14.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in the Israeli Super League. Kitchen spoke to SprungOnSports about his new life, his past experiences and what the future holds for him in basketball.
SprungOnSports- How’d you get from being Florida State’s starting point guard to playing 6,500 miles away for Macabi Rishon LeZion? How’d you find out about Israeli basketball?
Derwin Kitchen- I knew nothing about Israeli basketball before my agent told me about the offer they made. To be honest I didn’t even know where Israel was located on the map.
SOS- What do you think was the biggest adjustment to living in Israel and what do you like the most about the country? What do you miss the most about America?
DK- The biggest adjustment for me was learning to live on my own in a foreign country. I was very excited but nervous also, because I knew it would be challenging. The playing style was tough at first because I had become accustomed to doing things a certain way in college, but I have figured things out a little bit.
The thing I love most about the country is the weather. I’m from Florida, so I love the warm weather and Israel is no different. The thing I miss most about America is probably just having family and friends around me all the time. Israel is not so different from America, so it’s nothing to miss really besides some of the nice restaurants and food. Israel is a Kosher country, so they don’t eat certain things over here that we eat back home in the states.
SOS- What changes or improvements have you made to your game and what are the biggest differences between the ACC and the Israeli Super League?
DK- The biggest adjustment I’ve tried to make on my game is just being more consistent with my mid range and three-point shot. Towards the end of my senior year at FSU I started to be more aggressive, which is something that I try to do here, but also having a balance of knowing when to be aggressive and when to slow things down and run the team and get my teammates involved.
The biggest difference between the ACC and Israel I think the size difference and the intensity of the games. In the ACC, there were always at least two big men 6’8 or better on each team and out here I notice that most four-men out here are really three-men that just happen to play the four. The ACC games were more intense than here because most games are played in big arenas with more than 10,000 fans so the energy and intensity of the games are much more exciting. The competitive side of things I would say Israel is better. We all know the ACC is very competitive night in and night out and I don’t think it’s any different out here in Israel; every game is important so every team wants to win.
SOS- How would you compare the level of play in Israel to other leagues around America and Europe?
DK- I don’t know much about other teams around Europe.
SOS- Who were your biggest influences growing up in Jacksonville and who have you modeled your playing style after?
DK- My biggest influences growing up as far as sports I can’t think of anyone from Jacksonville. Besides, I was more into wanting to play football growing up until I was 12 when I started playing organized basketball. Jason Kidd has always been my favorite player, so I always tried to mold my game after him, which is hard to do but I tried my best. I always want to fill up the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, points and sometimes steals which is something J. Kidd has done his entire career.
SOS- Who was the best player your played with and against while at Florida State and why?
DK- The best player I played against while at FSU, I would probably say Tyler Hansbrough or Evan Turner. The best player I played with at FSU is either Chris Singleton or Toney Douglas. Chris did so many different things for our team the three years we played together. He defended, scored, played hard. Toney led our team the one year we played together. I would say those two.
SOS- Your former teammate Chris Singleton was picked 17th overall by the Wizards this past June, one pick after New York took your former opponent, Iman Shumpert of Georgia Tech. What are your thoughts on that decision and what would you say to the Knicks if you had the chance?
DK- I would say they made a great decision with the choice they made by selecting Iman. I played against Iman for three years and he improved every year and growed into a great player. All NBA fans know the league is becoming a point guard league and Iman can definitely become one of the top point guards in the NBA because he has all the tools, he can defend, he has the size at 6’4, he’s athletic, he can shoot a little and is a willing passer.
SOS- Do you see yourself in Israel for a long time? How do you see your career progressing and where do you see yourself five years from now?
DK- Playing my entire career in Israel would be nice but most guys never stay in the same country their whole career so we will see what happens. In five years I hope to be still playing at a high level and competing, trying to help some team win a championship. I plan to play until I’m at least 35, but that’s a while from now so we will see how that goes. In five years I want to be a much better player than I am now.
A special thanks to Kitchen and AJ Mitnick for helping set up the interview!
College hoops is a bit past its halfway mark and conference play is in full swing across the country, so let’s see which teams are among the top 12 in the collegiate version of The Dirty Dozen.
1) Syracuse Orange- Jim Boeheim’s team is one of two undefeated teams in the nation, and they do it with a strong 2-3 zone that leads the nation in steals and a deep bench with seven players who can efficiently score at any time.
2) Kentucky Wildcats- Anthony Davis is on pace to break the single-season NCAA blocks record and Doron Lamb leads the most talented team in the country. No SEC team comes close to keeping up with John Calipari’s Wildcats.
3) Baylor Bears- There’s really no shame in getting your first loss at Kansas, a team that’s won 85 of 86 at home. The Bears boast a great deal of depth as well, led by bigs Perry Jones and Quincy Acy. Saturday’s game against Missouri will be huge.
4) Duke Blue Devils- For some reason it doesn’t seem like this team is as strong as past editions, but with Austin Rivers and Seth Curry in the backcourt and the Plumlees inside, Duke can score and not waste many offensive possessions.
5) Missouri Tigers- First year coach Frank Haith has his Tigers playing their best ball in a long time in a really strong Big 12. Marcus Denmon and Kim English has Mizzou fourth in the nation in scoring and second in field goal percentage at over 50 percent.
6) Kansas Jayhawks- Being the third strongest team in your conference is usually an insult, but not in this case. Bill Self has done a tremendous job in Lawrence, with Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor leading an underrated group.
7) Ohio State Buckeyes- The class of a deep Big 10, the Buckeyes have a nicely balaned team led by big man Jared Sullinger, but Aaron Craft and Willie Buford lead an unheralded supporting cast for coach Thad Matta.
8) North Carolina Tar Heels- UNC has to respond to a 33-point blowout loss to Florida State, and the team is currently underperforming given the team’s lofty championshp goals. The Heels lead the nation in scoring and rebounding, now they have to win more.
9) Georgetown Hoyas- In a Big East that isn’t as strong as it usually is, G-Town has been consistent enough to maintain a top 10 ranking. G Jason Clark leads a team with no bona fide stars, but a good, balanced team that finds ways to win.
10) Murray State Racers- Despite playing in the Ohio Valley Conference, Murray State is one of two unbeaten teams in the country. With wins over Dayton and Memphis on the resume, the the Racers are no slouches and could go into the NCAA’s undefeated.
11) San Diego State Aztecs- Steve Fisher’s Aztecs no longer have Kawhi Leonard, but they opened the Mountain West schedule with consecutive wins over contenders UNLV and New Mexico to take early control of the underrated conference.
12) Michigan State Spartans- After two straight losses to conference foes Northwestern and Michigan, their hold on a spot isn’t very strong. Draymand Green and Keith Appling lead a fundamentally sound club under Tom Izzo.
Sprung Jinx Dooms Thunder
After ranking Oklahoma City number one in Wednesday’s Dirty Dozen Power Poll, the Thunder fell at Washington, the undisputed worst team in the league to date. How does something like that happen? Simple. Give the worse team extra possessions, that usually does the trick.
Washington improved to 2-12 on the season by forcing 21 OKC turnovers and grabbing 19 offensive rebounds to just six on the glass for the Thunders. JaVale McGee had 11 rebounds, six of them offensive, and Washington defeated Oklahoma City 105-102 despite shooting just over 38 percent from the field. Give a bad team a chance and once in a while they may actually convert on it.
“It’s tough, especially when we weren’t mentally focused to start the game,” said Thunder PG Russell Westbrook, who scored a game high 36 points. “They stuck around and stuck around and they kind of got a win.”
When you look past a team and give them at least several more chances to hit shots with extra possessions, sometimes even the worst teams could snap a seven-game losing streak. That’s exactly what happened in DC on Wednesday night.
The West’s Improving Second Tier
In the Western Conference right now, despite the OKC loss, there’s the Thunder as the top team and then there’s this layer of five or six teams bunched up in a way. A pair of those second tier teams, San Antonio and Denver, got huge road OT wins over Eastern Conference contenders on Wednesday.
In Orlando, Tony Parker had 25 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as the Spurs got its first road win, they’re 9-0 at home, 85-83 in overtime. Dwight Howard had 24 points and 25 rebounds, but his usually sharp teammates had a rough shooting night against the stingy San Antonio defense. Ryan Anderson was 3-13, Jameer Nelson was 2-16 and J.J. Redick was 4-11. Based on advanced scientific calculations, that adds up to a 9-40 (.225) shooting night for a usually reliable trio.
“It took every minute of that game and we couldn’t make shots at the right time, but we continued to make stops, continued to push,” said Tim Duncan, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds in a win that snapped Orlando’s five game winning streak.
Another team continuing to push out West is Denver, who got 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists from Andre Miller off the bench in a 108-104 OT win over Philadelphia, cooling off the hot Sixers. Both these teams are deep and played at a high level, but Miller, the Nuggets’ better defense and three more three-pointers made was the difference.
“Andre was spectacular tonight,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “He was our best guy down the stretch.”
“He was fabulous,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said of Miller. “I don’t know if I ever saw him play a better game.”
Bench players like Miller step up for Denver in every game and provide an unlikely spark that helps the Nuggets defeat teams that may have a more talented starting five or may be bigger up front. However, the depth of this team and their ability to play a fast paced style is going to win them games throughout the season and make them a tough team to beat in the postseason.
Minnesota Is Vastly Improved, No Joke
The Timberwolves have the same record as the Knicks and a better record than the Celtics for a pair of reasons. One is their improvement on the defensive end and their second is a guy named Ricky Rubio.
Minnesota has emphasized stronger effort on the defensive end under new head coach Rick Adelman and the one season turnaround has been incredible. After allowing a league worst 107.7 points per game last season, a full two points worse than the next worse team in Golden State (along with New York), the Wolves have cut that down to 92.5 points allowed per game, which is 11th in the league. When you’re talking about allowing 15 fewer points per game, that’s a really big deal.
“It feels good. It’s something that’s been lacking the last few years,” Kevin Love said after scoring 20 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in a win over Detroit on Wednesday. “In games like this where it’s ugly on the offensive end, we were still able to get the job done.”
“We’re just a lot tougher than definitely we were last year,” said bench player Anthony Tolliver, ”we just get tougher by the game.”
The rookie Spanish point guard Rubio had what we call a countdown game, thanks to the folks at MSNBC and Current TV who were not contacted for this piece, with nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals. Rubio never seems to have an empty game where he only does well in one aspect of the game; he’s always doing a few positive things for his team in every game, and that’s what makes him such a valuable asset.
With their newest player acclimating well to the NBA and Adelman’s defensive mindset catching on with his players, the Timberwolves are a greatly improved basketball team.
Knicks Left Their Depth In Los Angeles
On the same night the Knicks managed a total of seven bench points and Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony shot a combined 12-44 in a loss to Phoenix, Clippers guard Chauncey Billups scored 21 points including the game-winning buzzer beater in a victory over Dallas. Coincidence? Probably, but New York has no third scoring option unless you count Iman Shumpert and the Knicks are somehow struggling for offense after scoring triple-digits at will last season.
“I know we’re 6-8, I know we’re in a little bit of a crisis here,” Knicks Head Coach (for the time being) Mike D’Antoni said. ”But we’re playing hard, playing good defense. There’s some good things we’re doing. We’ve just got to figure out the one part and that’s the part that should be easiest. It’s become a problem, and if we solve it, we’ll be pretty good. We just have to do it sooner rather than later.”
That quote doesn’t really inspire confidence. While the Clippers have the depth and scoring ability to possibly win a round in the Western Conference playoffs, the Knicks are lacking in both departments and are struggling to stay afloat. One player like Billups wouldn’t make up the entire difference, but D’Antoni could lose his job without a viable third option behind Anthony and Stoudemire.