2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Learned

Years from now, when people look back on 2010, what will they remember as the defining sports moment? Uh, they can only pick one? We discovered that Tiger Woods likes to play the field and that Brett Favre doesn’t mind sending pictures of his anatomy to hot sideline reporters via text message. We found out that LeBron listens to his friends a little too much and that Ben Roethlisberger needed a serious lesson in humility. But we also learned that athletes such as Michael Vick and Josh Hamilton haven’t blown second chance opportunities (or third and fourth chances in the case of Hamilton). It was also nice to see a certain pitcher turn down bigger money so that he can play in a city that he loves.

We’ve done our best to recap the year’s biggest sports stories, staying true to tradition by breaking our Year End Sports Review into three sections: What We Learned, What We Already Knew, and What We Think Might Happen. Up first are the things we learned in 2010, a list that’s littered with scandal, beasts, a Decision and yes, even a little Jenn Sterger.

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

Tiger Woods gets around.

We hesitate to put this under “golf” because the only clubs involved were his wife’s nine-iron hitting the window of his SUV and the various establishments where Tiger wined and dined all of his mistresses…over a dozen in all. This was the biggest story of the early part of the year, but it got to the point that whenever a new alleged mistress came forward, the general public was like, “Yeah, we get it. Tiger screwed around on his wife. A lot.” He has spent the rest of the year attempting to rebuild his once-squeaky clean image, but it’s safe to say, we’ll never look at Tiger the same way.

LeBron wilts when his team needs him most.

Say the words “LeBron” and “Game 5” in the same sentence and NBA fans everywhere know exactly what you’re talking about. In the biggest game of the season, LeBron looked disinterested, going 3-of-14 from the field en route to a 120-88 blowout at home at the hands of the Celtics. There were rumors swirling about a possible relationship between LeBron’s mom and his teammate, Delonte West, and there’s speculation that LeBron got that news before tipoff and that’s why he played so poorly. Regardless of the cause, LeBron played awful in that game, and it turned out to be his swan song in Cleveland as a member of the Cavaliers. Talk about leaving a bitter taste.

You can auction off your talented son’s athletic abilities and get away with it.

The NCAA set a strange precedent this season while dealing with the Newton family. The always inconsistent and completely morally uncorrupt NCAA decided in its infinite wisdom that despite discovering that Cecil Newton shopped his son Cam to Mississippi State for $180,000, and that is a violation of NCAA rules, that Cam would still be eligible because it couldn’t be proven that he knew about it. Conference commissioners and athletic directors around the country spoke out about the decision, while agent-wannabes and greedy fathers everywhere had a light bulb go off in their own heads: As long as we say the player doesn’t know about it, it could go off without a hitch. What was Cecil’s punishment in this whole thing? Limited access to Auburn for the last two games of the season. Easy with that hammer there, NCAA. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mark Cuban seeks to create college football playoff

April 10, 2010: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during the game between the Sacramento Kings and the Dallas Mavericks at Arco Arena in Sacramento, CA. Ben Munn/CSM.

After two failed bids to buy a baseball team, Mavs owner Mark Cuban has now set his sights on fixing the college football postseason.

“The more I think about it, the more sense it makes as opposed to buying a baseball team,” said Cuban, who tried to buy the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers within the last few years. “You can do something the whole country wants done.”

Cuban said he envisions either a 12- or 16-team playoff field with the higher seeds getting homefield advantage. The homefield advantage, Cuban said, would ensure the college football regular-season games would not lose any importance.

The bowl games could still exist under Cuban’s plan, but he said he would make it more profitable for programs to make the playoffs than a bowl.

“Put $500 million in the bank and go to all the schools and pay them money as an option,” Cuban said. “Say, ‘Look, I’m going to give you X amount every five years. In exchange, you say if you’re picked for the playoff system, you’ll go.’ “

I think 12 or 16 teams is too aggressive too early. In my proposed eight-team playoff, all of the teams that would miss the playoffs (Michigan State, LSU, Arkansas) had an opportunity to seal a bid earlier in the year, but failed to do so. This ensures the regular season keeps its importance, which is something that BCS apologists bring up every time they attempt to defend their flawed system.

Other than that, I’m glad to see Cuban focusing his efforts on this, because a college football playoff seems to be going nowhere fast. Maybe throwing money at the problem will convince schools to go to the playoff instead of the BCS, but it’s going to take a lot of convincing.

Big names show up to CBA negotiations

Per ESPN…

LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul were among the players who attended a negotiating session between the NBA and the union Thursday.

“It’s important for me that all of us, as being the faces of the NBA, to be involved in the negotiations and what’s going on,” Anthony said as he left. “Our future is in jeopardy if we can’t come into a mutual agreement.”

LeBron and Wade are locked into long term deals, and it would be very difficult for the owners to negotiate any kind of changes to those contracts. The guys that really have something to lose with an owner-friendly CBA are Anthony and Paul, who will be signing new deals in the next two years.

Regardless, the show of force from the players’ side is important. The owners need to know that the league’s biggest names are behind the union in these negotiations.

The four-hour bargaining session Thursday was the first since February’s All-Star weekend, when the players — also strengthened by the surprising attendance of some big names — rejected the owners’ proposal. The union recently submitted its own proposal, but commissioner David Stern has indicated it’s similar to the current CBA, and the owners are seeking significant changes to the system.

Stern has estimated the league will lose about $370 million this season, which the union disputes. The sides began discussions last year but remained far apart, creating fears of a lockout next summer.

Stern cracks me up. He effuses positivity whenever he’s asked about the financial state of the league — to the point that I think he’s trying to hypnotize his audience — but now that it’s time to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, the league is suddenly $370 million in the red. After going on and on about how well the league is doing worldwide, he’s pleading poverty.

However, the CBA does need a few changes. Contracts need to be guaranteed only to a certain point — say, 50% in years 3-4-5 — or they need to be kept to a maximum of four years. Too many franchises handicap themselves by giving long-term, lucrative contracts to players on the decline. Also, there’s nothing a team can do when a perfectly good player is hamstrung by injuries after signing his deal (i.e. Michael Redd or Tracy McGrady).

I’d also like to see a harder cap. Teams with free-spending owners like James Dolan, Jerry Buss or Mark Cuban make things that much tougher on small market teams who can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses. Fortunately, these teams — the Knicks, Lakers and the Mavs — are generally way over the cap, so they aren’t competing directly with the small market teams for free agents. (The Knicks were obviously the exception this summer, but they’ll be over the cap before too long, especially if they rehire Isiah Thomas in a year or two.) All in all, the salary cap rules aren’t too bad — at least it’s not uncapped, like baseball.

Two more trade ideas for Chris Paul

Earlier today, I suggested a few trades that the teams — Lakers, Knicks and Magic — reportedly on Chris Paul’s short list could offer the Hornets.

Chris Broussard is now reporting that L.A. is not one of Paul’s preferred destinations, while Portland and Dallas are. Here’s a look at each team and the kind of deals they can offer.

TRAIL BLAZERS

Would both teams agree to a straight up Chris Paul/Brandon Roy swap? Since Roy is a base year compensation player, other assets would need to be included. Roy’s knees are a concern, but he’d give the Hornets a great backcourt (with Darren Collison) to build around. If the Blazers are unwilling to part with Roy, they could send LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller to the Hornets for Paul. If the Hornets require that any deal include Emeka Okafor’s massive contract, the Blazers could include Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph to even things out.

I doubt the Hornets would go for a deal that didn’t include Roy or Aldridge, but you never know. How about this deal that would include Przybilla and Miller along with Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez and Greg Oden?

MAVERICKS

You know Mark Cuban started salivating when he heard that the Mavs were on Paul’s short list, but what can Dallas offer? They have plenty of talent, but they don’t have the kind of young talent that the Hornets would be interested in. Their best young player, Roddy Beaubois, is a guard, and the Hornets don’t really need guards with Collison and Marcus Thornton on the roster. Still, he’s a valuable asset, so he would probably be included.

How about Paul and Okafor for Beaubois, Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler? Chandler can’t be traded with another player, so it would have to be executed as two separate trades (Paul for Chandler and Okafor for Beaubois and Butler). The Mavs would get their guy, but I don’t know how a Chris Paul/Jason Kidd backcourt would work. Still, Dallas shouldn’t turn down a chance at Paul because they still have Kidd.

For the Hornets, they’d get a good young asset in Beaubois and immediate salary cap relief in Butler (who is a good player in his own right) and Chandler. The Mavs could always throw in a couple of first round picks to sweeten the deal. In the short term, New Orleans could start Collison, Thornton, Butler, West and Chandler, and they’d have loads of cap space to reload next summer.

There’s no doubt that the phone lines in New Orleans are burning up with this latest news. Just when you thought the NBA offseason was winding down, this happens.

Nowitzki gives Mavs ‘hometown discount’

It looks like Dirk Nowitzki is staying in Dallas, and he agreed to a deal for less than the max.

With no guarantee the capped-out Mavericks can land the elite sidekick he seeks to keep Dallas relevant in the Western Conference, Nowitzki agreed Saturday night to give a hometown discount to the only team he’s ever known, reaching terms with owner Mark Cuban on what sources close to the talks say is a four-year deal worth $80 million.

That’s $16 million less than the $96 million maximum Nowitzki was eligible to receive and likely would have commanded had he been serious about shopping himself on the open market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time, given Nowitzki’s stature in the league as a former MVP and the fact that his game is aging well at 32.

Only in the NBA does a player sign a deal for $20 million per season and people say that he gave his team a ‘hometown discount.’ The extra $16 million would allow Mark Cuban to take on some additional contracts since the Mavs are perennially over the luxury tax.

From the start, it was clear that Nowitzki wasn’t going anywhere. Pundits talked about how he’d be a great fit here or there, or with this player or that player, but Nowitzki is a very loyal guy and Cuban has been good to him.

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