1:17 p.m. Eastern
-Arizona fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Adam Schefter reports.
1:10 p.m. Eastern
-San Diego announced that coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith have been fired. Bruce Arians and Jay Gruden could be candidates for the Chargers.
-Arizona fired GM Rod Graves, Adam Schefter reports.
-Falcons OC Dirk Koetter will interview for the Eagles’, Chiefs’ and Browns’ coaching vacancies, says Alex Marvez.
-Mike Munchak’s staff in Tennessee will be evaluated, says Albert Breer.
-Dallas will likely hire an offensive coordinator to take play-calling duties away from Jason Garrett, says Ian Rapoport.
-Tennessee will keep head coach Mike Munchak but not exec Mike Reinfeldt, says Jim Wyatt.
-Miami will keep Jeff Ireland as GM.
11:45 a.m. Eastern
-The Jets have a staff meeting at 1 p.m. according to Ian Rapoport. Coaching changes could happen then.
-The new head coach in Kansas City will help determine the fate of GM Scott Pioli and the new GM in Jacksonville will help determine the fate of coach Mike Mularkey, says Adam Schefter.
-Chan Gailey along with his staff have been fired by the Bills.
-Cleveland will hire a coach before a GM, says owner Jimmy Haslam.
10:58 a.m. Eastern
-Buffalo announced that it fired head coach Chan Gailey.
-ESPN has four possible Jets GM candidates.
10:45 a.m. Eastern
-Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer of NFL Network both report that the Bears have fired head coach Lovie Smith.
10:40 a.m. Eastern
-Chicago has sent forms to other teams requesting permission to interview head coaching candidates, according to Adam Schefter. That means Lovie Smith will almost certainly be out with the Bears.
-San Diego is not interested in Andy Reid, says ProFootballTalk.
10:35 a.m. Eastern
-Bears assistants are worried and “it does not look good” for head coach Lovie Smith, says Ian Rapoport.
-Jon Gruden has contacted some assistant coaches if he does take a head coaching job, Alex Marvez reports.
-Mike Mularkey thinks he’s safe as Jaguars head coach, Jay Glazer says.
10 a.m. Eastern
-The Eagles have officially announced that Andy Reid has been fired as head coach after 14 seasons.
-Philadelphia and Cleveland will both go after Chip Kelly as well as Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, says Jason La Canfora. The Eagles also like Bengals OC Jay Gruden, the brother of Jon.
-Cleveland and Jacksonville are interested in Arizona exec Steve Keim, who could get a promotion with the Cardinals according to Jason Cole.
9:35 a.m. Eastern
-Jacksonville has fired GM Gene Smith, Adam Caplan reports. Two candidates to replace Smith could be Tom Gamble of the 49ers and Alonzo Highsmith of the Packers, says Jason La Canfora.
-Gamble will also be on the Jets’ short list to replace GM Mike Tannenbaum along with Brian Gaine of Miami, says Albert Breer.
-Caplan also says that the Cardinals could make a few changes today.
-NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that Cleveland already has four coaching candidates including Saints assistant Aaron Kromer. Breer also says that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly will also be on the list.
9:25 a.m. Eastern
-After a disappointing 6-10 season, the Jets fired General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano, the team announced. Rex Ryan will remain head coach.
-Kansas City finished at 2-14, the worst record in the NFL, and that led to Romeo Crennel’s ouster after one season, Adam Schefter reports. Amazingly, Scott Pioli will remain the general manager. Schefter also reports that Andy Reid and Norv Turner are expected to be fired today, and that Arizona is meeting with Ken Whisenhunt today about his status as head coach.
-With new ownership in place, the Browns, as expected, fired head coach Pat Shurmur along with general manager Tom Heckert.
Can anyone really top the calendar year LeBron James just had? Miguel Cabrera may have won baseball’s triple crown (we’ll get to him later) but James won sport’s true trifecta: a trophy for personal achievement, a championship for his professional team and a gold medal for his country.
When 2012 hit, LeBron James’ public perception could not be more different than it is now. Everyone knew he was the NBA’s best player, but he never won a title in his previous eight seasons. Loser, choker and underachiever were three adjectives associated with James when the crystal ball dropped on 12th year of the 21st century (13th if you’re being technical about it). Then James took matters into his own hands and history was made in so many ways.
The first season of the James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh triumvirate was a turbulent one filled with adjustments and role changes. James finally took command of the situation in his second season and embraced his active role as South Beach’s alpha player. James honed his post game and became more of a complete player, one who could shoot, post up on a smaller man, knife into the lane with both strength and grace and defend practically four different positions.
Miami reaped the benefits of James’ personal and professional transformation. He averaged 27.1 points per game on a career high 53.3 percent shooting to go with 6.2 assists, 7.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. His rebound and steal totals were also career highs and James deservedly captured the regular season MVP award.
During the playoffs, James was at his best when the Heat desperately needed a transcendent performance from a superhuman player. During the Eastern Conference semifinals against Indiana and the Heat down two games to one, James scored 40 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out nine assists. Miami didn’t lose another game the rest of the series. During the Eastern Conference finals against Boston with Miami down three games to two, James scored 45 points to go with 15 rebounds and five assists. Miami won that series and James took home his first NBA title with a five-game series win over Oklahoma City.
James was instantly hailed an all-time great, a consummate pro and an all-around great guy. It’s really amazing how winning can instantly change someone’s perception.
James took home the Finals MVP trophy and the championship on June 21 and training for the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team began on July 6. James was exhausted after the most physically and emotionally draining season of his life, but he truly had the Midas touch in 2012: everything he touched turned to gold. That certainly proved true during the London Olympics, when James led the team in assists and was third on the star-studded stars and stripes squad in points and rebounds as Team USA took home the gold medal.
For the highest achievement in the personal, professional and patriotic spheres, LeBron James is most certainly deserving of the 2012 SprungOnSports Man Of The Year award.
The Deserving Dozen
Usain Bolt, Jamaican sprinter- Two more individual gold medals and a new world record at the London Olympics and has cemented his status as the greatest track and field athlete of all time.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit- Cabrera became the first player since 1967 to win a triple crown, leading the AL in home runs, RBI’s and batting average.
Gabby Douglas, Olympic gymnast- Douglas became the first African-American to win the gymnastics individual gold medal at the London Olympics, inspiring a nation.
Robert Griffin III/ Andrew Luck, QBs, Washington & Indianapolis- The top two picks and rookie QB’s both led their team to the playoffs and ignited a nation-wide debate on which signal caller would end up the better player.
Eli Manning, QB, NY Giants- Manning was named Super Bowl 46 MVP as he led the Giants to its second Super Bowl win over the Patriots in February.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver/Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota- Both dynamic players led their respective teams to the playoffs after serious surgeries. Both players are top candidates for this year’s NFL MVP award.
Lionel Messi, Striker, Barcelona/Argentina- Messi led Barca to the Spanish league championship and scored 91 goals in the calendar year, a world record that perhaps only the great Messi himself could break.
Andy Murray, Tennis- Murray overcame his Grand Slam demons by winning the US Open, becoming the first Brit to win a singles title since 1936, and won Olympic gold in singles at home in London.
Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels- Trout, 21, had one of the finest season any player has seen in quite some time and was the unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award.
Buffalo -3.5 over NY Jets- Both teams are going to make big changes to their teams after this game, but the ground game of the Bills will make the difference as Jet fans grow more dissatisfied with Mark Sanchez.
Philadelphia +7 over NY Giants- The Giants will probably win, but the Eagles and Michael Vick are going to make a game of this. New York’s pass rush has to drastically improve in the unlikely instance they do make the playoffs. But Andy Reid and Vick have won eight of nine against the Giants and will make a game of this.
Miami +10.5 over New England- The Pats will have something to play for if the Texans or Broncos lose, but the Dolphins can stop the run and force turnovers. New England will probably have to throw all day to make this a blowout, and I see the Phins keeping this within single digits.
Cincinnati -2.5 over Baltimore- These two teams might see each other again next week, but since the Bengals don’t want to go into Denver or New England, they’ll be far more motivated to win this game. The Ravens will play a vanilla game without Ray Rice and Cincy will win.
Pittsburgh -10 over Cleveland- Former Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis starts at QB for the Browns and this Ben Roethlisberger guy starts for the Steelers. That is all.
Houston -7 over Indianapolis- A win gives the Texans the top seed and a loss means that Houston likely plays Cincinnati in the first round. Houston is super motivated to win this game and will pull out all the stops to top the Colts, and they’ll do it by getting its first ever win at LucasOil Stadium.
Tennessee -4.5 over Jacksonville- This is a large line because of how atrocious the Titans are, but expect a big time game from Chris Johnson. That should be enough to make up the line, no?
Chicago -3 over Detroit- As long as Jay Cutler makes fewer mistakes than Matthew Stafford, two of the most mistake-prone QB’s in the game, the Bears defense should be enough to put Chicago in position to reach the postseason.
Green Bay -3.5 over Minnesota- Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Packers have something to play for today: the second bye in the NFC. Adrian Peterson may have to break the single-season rushing record for Minnesota to win and reach the postseason but the Vikes will come up just short this season.
Tampa Bay +5 over Atlanta- The Falcons have nothing to play for and will likely treat this like a preseason game. Greg Schiano will have his Bucs playing hard and will feel good going into the offseason with a win over the conference’s regular season champions.
New Orleans -5 over Carolina- The team knows it will have Sean Payton back and Ron Rivera will reportedly be fired after the game, and this could turn ugly if the Panthers don’t run the ball for 200-250 yards. Look for the Saints to win by double digits.
Denver -16 over Kansas City- The Broncos remember how it almost lost its last meeting in Kansas City and Peyton Manning will be playing at home for the AFC bye while knowing the opposing tendencies from the last game. The only way the Broncos don’t cover is if they take their foot off the gas in the 4th quarter and let KC hang around.
San Diego -9.5 over Oakland- The Chargers will win going away in Norv Turner’s final game as coach, with Phillip Rivers putting up the strong game the team has needed all season that would have allowed Turner to remain in place.
Arizona +16.5 over San Francisco- I’m expecting a bit of fight from the Cardinals in this game, even with the Niners going all out to win the division. San Francisco will win comfortably but not by this much with the division and possibly a bye on the line.
Seattle -10.5 over St. Louis- Sam Bradford in Seattle with the Seahawks having a lot to play for, potentially? Not a good formula for the Rams. The Seahawks will blow the Rams out and continue to be the team no one wants to play in the postseason.
Washington -3 over Dallas- In Robert Griffin III’s first game on NBC prime time, he’ll play like the star he’s been all season and deliver Washington’s first NFC East title since 1999. Dallas’ defense has been porous of late and they won’t make enough plays to stop the Redskins and prevent another disappointing finish to a season.
An Emerging Star or the Same Old Story?
The Dallas Cowboys (8-7) are in a winner-take-all NFC East Championship game for the second straight year. Last year they played the New York Giants in the Meadowlands, where their secondary of Terrance Newman and Orlando Scandrick looked lost as Eli Manning and Victor Cruz took the Cowboys defense for a joy ride in a 31-14 victory. As we all know, the Giants rode that momentum all the way to their second Super Bowl title in fives years.
This year, the Cowboys find themselves in a similar situation against another hated rival. The Washington Redskins (9-6) have had one of their best seasons in over a decade with the only rookie Pro-Bowler in the NFL, Robert Griffin III, leading the charge. The last time these two teams met, on Thanksgiving in Dallas, RG3 shredded the Cowboys secondary, in what has been an ongoing issue in Dallas. Although the Cowboys get a second shot at the Skins, the consensus from Dallas fans is that RG3 will do much of the same, and the Redskins will be celebrating their first NFC East Championship since 1999.
Despite the Dallas pessimism, since the Thanksgiving loss to the Redskins, two major developments have occurred for the Dallas offense. First, Dez Bryant has emerged as one of the top receivers in football with eight touchdown catches over the past five games, and 12 overall. He has also tallied up 1,311 yards, as his yards and touchdowns are his current career highs. With he and Romo finally on the same page, and playing well together, they have an opportunity to tear apart a weak Redskins secondary. The second major development in the Dallas offense is DeMarco Murray, who did not play in their first matchup with the Skins. Murray has been a breath of fresh air at running back and is a clear game-changer that they have lacked for the six weeks he was injured.
Murray, Bryant, and Romo are becoming a dangerous trio as they are making a playoff push, but what happens if the Cowboys lose on Sunday night? The answer that many Cowboys fans might not be happy about is, nothing. Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan have done a great job in the eyes of Jerry Jones, in light of all the injuries the Cowboys endured this season. The Cowboys have six starting defensive players done for the year on IR and other key players missing time. Those players include stud middle linebacker Sean Lee and developing linebacker Bruce Carter, along with backup linebacker Orie Lemon, who are all done for the year, making the linebacker position very thin. Emerging safety Barry Church tore his Achilles in just week three of the season. Corrnerback Orlando Scandrick broke his left hand. Josh Brent, the emerging nose tackle was charged for intoxicated manslaughter after killing his best friend, and teammate, Jerry Brown. Starting defensive end Kenyon Coleman was also put on injured reserve, and starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff has missed nine games this season and has no timetable for return. DeMarcus Ware has been battling elbow and shoulder injuries and has not looked right in weeks.
As you see, on the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys have been gutted with injures and the offensive side of the ball has not been a cakewalk either. Murray was absent for 6 weeks with a foot injury, and during that time the Cowboys ranked worst in the league in rushing. Bryant is now playing through a broken finger on his dominant hand, which has limited his abilities in certain situations. However, despite all the injuries, the Cowboys are one win away from winning the NFC East. Garrett and Ryan are safe this year no matter Sunday’s outcome, because of what they have done with a team that looks nothing like they had planned in training camp. However, a loss would make it the same story of late with the Cowboys. They have all this talent and potential and seem to get nowhere with it every year.
How The Clippers Are Sailing Along
The Clippers amazingly won its 15th straight game on Thursday in a 106-77 laugher over the Boston Celtics. We all know they’re winning, but few people know how they’re actually doing it besides the strong play from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. How about field goal defense, three-point shooting, rebounding, bench scoring and forcing turnovers while committing few of its own?
LA limited Boston to 40.8 percent shooting and the Clippers rank second overall in field goal defense for the season behind Indiana. The Clips are a middle-of-the-pack team in three-point shooting, but they hit 12 of 20 on Thursday night to really put the game away. LA is a top 10 team in rebound differential, and got four more than the Celtics on Thursday. Boston is 29th in rebound differential per game.
The bench scoring has been LA’s forte this season and shows its tremendous depth night in and night out. The Clips’ bench outscored Boston’s 53-29, led by 21 points from Matt Barnes, who’s having a career year, and 17 from Jamal Crawford, who is excelling in his bench ace role this season. The Clippers also only committed eight turnovers to the Celtics’ 18, helping the team improve its second ranked turnover differential.
All these small things help the Clippers win games and extend its winning streak to 15, which is at least as many wins as 19 NBA teams have all season.
Impatience Rules In The BK
Patience is a very valuable virtue, and it wasn’t something the Nets had when they fired head coach Avery Johnson on Thursday afternoon after two-plus seasons at the helm.
Ownership was breathing down the neck of management for a championship contender, and the team thought it had one just one month ago. The Nets started 11-4 and Johnson was named the Eastern Conference’s coach of the month. There was tremendous buzz around Brooklyn, with the borough thinking it had a bona-fide winner on its hands. Ownership bought into that, but there was some kind of discord between the coach and the players.
Deron Williams, the cornerstone of the franchise, the mission and the vision, had problems with Johnson’s system and aired his beef out in public when the losing started. Gerald Wallace and team CEO Brett Yormark followed suit and the house of cards that was Avery Johnson’s tenure quickly fell and crumbled after 10 losses in 13 games. I thought Johnson would start appearing on the hot seat after the team’s losing ways last week, but it happened so damn quickly that I nearly spat out my lunch when the Nets made the move.
Ownership is impatient and he’s not going to fire all the players when hundreds of millions was invested in them. Johnson is gone now and GM Billy King is next. Expect constant turnover in Brooklyn until a true winner is built.
Stats I Care About
-One of the many things the Nets could be frustrated about is that the team has two of the top 10 players this season in Player Efficiency Rating, Andray Blatche (9) and Brook Lopez (10). Blatche is only playing 21 minutes per game, which could change under the new coach, and is shooting a career high 49.2 percent from the field with six rebounds per game. He’s averaging a double-double per 36 minutes. Lopez is shooting over 50 percent from the field and has nearly doubled his rebound total from last year, 7.1 from 3.6. The players are in place for the Nets to be a top three or four team in the East.
-Pop quiz: Name the only rookie in the top 20 in PER so far this season. Time’s up. Your guess of Damian Lillard or Anthony Davis is wrong. It would be Detroit’s Andre Drummond, who leads the league in offensive rebounding rate and is 20th in PER. He’s also in the top 10 in block percentage and 18th in defensive rebounding percentage. Even if his offensive game never develops, it appears that Drummond will find a niche as a rebounder and shot blocker in the league.
-Without Danny Granger, how the hell is Indiana still in good position to make the playoffs this season? The top scoring and field goal defense in the league, of course. And that defense revolves around Paul George. He leads the league in defensive win shares and is fifth in defensive rating. He’s been everything the Pacers dreamed of when they drafted him, a very strong move by Larry Bird.
-Since this is the last Inside The NBA for the month, let’s check out some of December’s best performers: The top five scorer you would expect, but Kyrie Irving coming in 6th at 23 points per game has to be one of the few encouraging signs for the Cavs. Cleveland also has December’s top rebounder in Anderson Varejao. The highest percentage shooters over the month (for players with at least 60 field goal attempts) is led by Rockets reserve Greg Smith, whose efficiency is one of the many reasons Houston is one of the league’s hottest teams.
-One of the league’s underrated players has become Jared Dudley, who has become an afterthought because the Suns are so atrocious. He leads guards in points per shot (1.66) in December (among players with at least 60 attempts) and is averaging 16.4 points per game this month on 55.5 percent shooting, including 46.4 from three. He’s even crept into the top 20 in offensive win shares. Not too shabs at all.
Games Of The Week
Friday- How good are the Rockets? We’ll see tonight when they visit San Antonio. Also, P.J. Carlesimo debuts as Nets interim coach as he tries to extend Charlotte’s losing streak to 17 games.
Saturday- Boston at the surprising Warriors is the NBATV game, but Indiana-Atlanta, Denver-Memphis and Houston-Oklahoma City provide strong intrigue.
Sunday- San Antonio-Dallas is the headliner game, but watch out for the Jazz against the streaking Clippers.
Monday- New Year’s eve hoops? Check out Memphis at Indiana, the top two defensive teams in the league. Or watch Brooklyn at San Antonio in the battle of black and white.
Tuesday- Andre Bynum’s return to LA was supposed to headline the first hoops day of 2013, but it’ll be the Clippers at Nuggets instead.
Wednesday- NBATV will have Memphis at Boston, which doubles as the night Beantowners reminisce about Tony Allen. Spurs-Bucks will be interesting as well.
Thursday- TNT takes the night off, but two great matchups don’t. The Knicks host San Antonio and two tough rebounding squads square off with Minnesota at Denver.