Archive for June, 2012

Okay, so now that I’ve given all grace and glory to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, enough is enough.

I’ve never been a fan of the self-proclaimed King, and the only thing I’ve ever liked about the Heat, realistically is Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal raising the roof in 2006. Watching Wade do so with James after winning this year’s title didn’t bother me much, but what I can’t stand seeing now is all the articles about a rematch and how this is the next big rivalry of the NBA.

Uhm, excuse me. Did anyone forget about Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls?

Anyone else forget if his season painfully ended in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and it was a torn ACL-injury in Game 1 that ultimately played a significantly played a role in the Bulls losing in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs to the Philadelphia 76ers?

Just as Michael Jordan, albeit never forgotten, was seemingly becoming a distant memory, April 28 became a day Bulls fans had nothing about His Airness to ponder until next year.

Well, as I saw the 2013 NBA Championship Future Odds come out not too long after James proclaimed “It’s about damn time” on national television, and I saw the Thunder and Heat were both +250 to win next year’s championship, I see Sportsbook.ag agrees with me that Chicago is going to be right back in the hunt.

The Bulls are next in line at +500, followed by: the Spurs (+700), Lakers (+1200), the Mavericks (+1500) and at +2000, the Celtics and Pacers.

So I’m not sure why there are so many columnists out there talking about the Thunder and Heat returning for another trip to the NBA Finals next June.

The Thunder? I can see it.

The Heat? I’m not so sure they have an easy path.

First order of business is to get Wade healthy, even if that means shipping him off to Germany to see the Kobe Bryant’s doctor to get that knee back in shape. I’m telling you now, if he doesn’t get that knee fixed NOW, the Heat won’t be around later. Next order of business, find a legitimate big man who can defend guys like Roy Hibbert, Joakim Noah, Brook Lopez and Dwight Howard. Also, there has to be some sort of stipulation that Wade does not play in London, while James and Bosh get enough rest before and after the 2012 Olympics, cause it can be a tiring experience that cuts into needed rest. The Olympics begin in a month, with a full warm-up schedule preceding the games. Remember, Bosh was injured earlier in the playoffs, and we don’t know how he’s feeling now.

Now, as for the Bulls, this is what I read on their website:

“Derrick Rose is doing terrific. He’s been diligent in his rehab. He’s made tremendous progress to this point,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “The surgery obviously was a huge success. The biggest thing that has been encouraging about Derrick has been his mentality towards the rehab. He’s working each and every day, putting a lot of effort into it. We’re optimistic that if he continues to make the kind of progress that he has that we will see Derrick back on the floor at some point next season.”

That’s encouraging news for the Bulls, and the city of Chicago.

Again, I can see the Thunder returning, cause of the Western Conference contenders in line to make a run, I don’t trust the Spurs, Lakers or Mavericks. After the Thunder, the next viable number I see that might be worth an investment at its price: the Los Angeles Clippers at +3000. I mean, why not?

That organization has already started building for the future, while the Spurs, Lakers and Mavs have yet to clean house and start over. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see the Clippers continue their ascension in the Western Conference to challenge for the title and move into the NBA Finals.

HOTTIE – If you read my Blog before Game 5 of the NBA Finals, you read about my note regarding Miami-based model/professional sports dancer Alexis Augusto. Well get used to reading about her here, cause I’m going to remind all my players, readers and followers to vote for her every chance I get. I promised her I’d do so, as she is in the running for Maxim Magazine’s Hometown Hotties. And the first step is to get her into the Finals, that way we can get a bit more intimate with her, as I told her Thursday we’d conduct a one-on-one interview so her fans could get to her know her better.

She’s all in! Now it’s up to you to go to her PAGE and vote for this sports fanatic hottie. And trust me, she knows her game.

She’s been on the Miami Dolphins cheerleading roster, she’s been on the Florida Panthers Ice Dancer roster. She was a cheerleader for Florida Atlantic University. She’s a fitness model for VPX Redline and loves her some Yankee pinstripes. The list goes on, but believe me, this lady is all about competition.

As a betting man, my money in the Maxim Magazine Hometown Hottie competition is on Italian-American bombshell from Brooklyn, New York.

Goto her PAGE and vote for her now.

Prior to this series, I told you the Miami Heat were the value play, at anywhere from +150 to +170.

Anyone out there questioning me now about my NBA Finals series pick on the Heat – which again, you got at no charge just before the series started? I tried to tell you the value was with the Heat, and that we’d see experience take over, and a bit frustration take hold of the young and inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder.

And no, I’m not counting my chickens before they’ve hatched, but now that I’m up 3 games to 1 in this series, I can tell you I’m in position to get back my initial investment by betting Oklahoma City on the moneyline in Game 5. The Thunder are +135 pretty much across the board. So if you bet the Heat to win this series on my recommendation, here’s how you need to figure on getting your initial investment back IF you want to hedge.

For every $100 you wagered on the Heat to win the series, you can wager $74 on the Thunder tomorrow night. So let’s say you $500 invested on Miami to win it all, a $370 wager on the Thunder at +135 tomorrow would get back $499.50 provided the Thunder win.

If the Heat wrap it up tomorrow night, you’d lose the $370, but you’d also win about $800 for your series bet. Subtract your hedge, and you’re still up a little more than $400. The hedge is entirely up to you though.

Personally speaking, I would probably be out to recover anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the initial investment if I were you. And then progressively grab some of your investment as the series moves forward.

KING – As one of his biggest critics, I have to admit, LeBron James is playing his ass off this postseason. If the self-proclaimed “King” James scores 29 more points in this series, he will join Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan as the only players to have scored 700 points in one postseason.

Notably, only two players – but three times – in postseason history has a player averaged 30 points per game, 9 rebounds per game and 5 assists per game: Oscar Robertson in 1963 and James in 2009 and this postseason.

It’ll be long overdue if he can finally place a ring on his finger. I’m just wondering if I will finally be able to call him “King” after doing so.

TIGER – Haven’t had a chance to comment on last week’s collapse in San Francisco yet, but let it be known I am a big Tiger Woods fan. I will root for him until he retires, and already am watching the odds on next month’s British Open. According to Golfodds.com, he is a 10/1 favorite to win the Major, which will be held at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes course in Lancashire, England, from July 19-22.

Strange enough fact I came across from last week, and prior to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win, the last time Junior won a race had been coincidentally the exact same weekend Tiger Woods captured his last major victory (U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, in San Diego, CA.) on June 15th, 2008. Since that day, Junior had been mired in an unlucky 114 race skid. And though Tiger had won eight tournament victories in 2009, none of them were majors.

HOTTIE – Last, but certainly not least, I have to mention Miami-based model/professional sports dancer Alexis Augusto. Caught up with her recently and promised I’d mention to all my readers/followers/players she is in the running for Maxim Magazine’s Hometown Hotties.

This girl is a sports fanatic, and trust me, she knows her game.

She’s been on the Miami Dolphins cheerleading roster, she’s been on the Florida Panthers Ice Dancer roster. She was a cheerleader for Florida Atlantic University. She’s a fitness model for VPX Redline and loves her some Yankee pinstripes. The list goes on, but believe me, this lady is all about competition.

As a betting man, my money in the Maxim Magazine Hometown Hottie competition is on Italian-American bombshell from Brooklyn, New York.

Goto her PAGE and vote for her now.

So here we go, it’s time for the Miami Heat to put up or shut up.

Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena now becomes the most pivotal game of the championship series for the two-time Eastern Conference champs. And even though they’re just 4-5 on the Playoff road, let’s keep in mind two of those wins were pivotal.

Sure, if they lose tonight, then win three straight at home, they will face another big Game 6. But the Heat don’t want to worry about that scenario. I’m sure they’d much rather try to steal this one.

Bad news for Heat fans, since moving to Oklahoma City entering the 2008-09 season, the Thunder are 3-0 in series when they win Game 1.

And how important is winning Game 1? Well, teams winning Game 1 of the NBA Finals have won the title 47 of 65 times (.723).

How do the Heat contend with the Thunder tonight?

Simple… put LeBron James on Kevin Durant, who scored 36 points in Oklahoma City’s Game 1 victory of the NBA Finals. Durant is the ninth player in NBA history to score at least 36 points in his NBA Finals debut. James is going to have to step up in this one, and not only put together an offensive show, but will have to stop Durant.

Durant exploded in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 of his game-high tally in the final 12 minutes. Durant’s 17 points in the final quarter are tied for the most fourth-quarter points in an NBA Finals game over the last 15 postseasons.

The Thunder outscored the Heat 58-40 in the final 24 minutes, as Durant and Russell Westbrook took over the game. Thus, I think the Heat are going to have to spread themselves out much more efficiently in this one, saving some of that oomph for the fourth quarter.

On offense, James scored 17 of his 30 points on 58 percent shooting against Kevin Durant, but was held to seven points on 29 percent versus Thabo Sefolosha. He’s going to make some adjustments on both ends of the court.

Especially knowing Game 2 might be even more critical than Game 1. Only three teams in NBA history have overcome a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals: the 1968 Boston Celtics, 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and, looky here, the 2006 Heat.

The Heat are mired in ATS slides of 3-8 versus the Northwest Division, 0-4 in NBA Finals games and 0-8 as the underdog. On the flipside, the Thunder are on ATS streaks of 6-0 as the chalk, 5-0 at home and 22-7 against Eastern Conference teams.

While the Oklahoma City Thunder have opened up as series favorites over the two-time Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, I implore all of you Kevin Durant lovers/LeBron James haters to remember my Top 5 points before making your future bets on the NBA Finals.

1. The Miami Heat, under the guidance of Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade, albeit with Shaquille O’Neal in the middle, have already won an NBA title once, and know what it takes at this point.

2. These particular Miami Heat were already undone once, last season, by another team out to win their first NBA title, like the Oklahoma City Thunder, that being the Dallas Mavericks, who won in six games, 4 games to 2.

3. Those Dallas Mavericks knew what it was like to lose in the NBA Finals, as they fell in the 2006 Finals to the Miami Heat, the ones led by Riley, Wade and O’Neal. The Mavs were spearheaded by veterans like Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler – not a group of youngsters like the Thunder.

4. This will be LeBron James’ third trip to the NBA Finals, and though I hate to use cliches, “the third time is a charm” might be in order at this point in his career. The three-time league MVP averaged 22.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists for the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the 2007 NBA Finals, won by the San Antonio Spurs. Last year he averaged 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the Finals, but the Mavs took home the trophy. This year, so far in the postseason, he is averaging 30.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and  5.1 assists. He could very well be on a mission boys.

5. And again, there’s the youth factor. As much as I admire the Thunder, and how they did knock off the last three NBA champions – the Mavericks (2011), Lakers (2009-10) and Spurs (2007) – make note of the personnel on those teams. The Mavericks were a shell of last year’s surprising championship team, especially without Chandler. The Lakers were a mess all season, even the oft-injured and aging Kobe Bryant. And the Spurs, well, they were the No. 1 seed over teams like the Mavs, Lakers and even the Thunder. But in the end, they just couldn’t hang with OKC. Now the Thunder gets a team with plenty of talent, and one that will have been rested by the time Game 1 comes around.

As of 10 a.m. (pst) Sunday, Sportsbook.ag had the Thunder as -160 favorites. Ask me, and the value right now could very well be on the underdog Heat, at +140.

While it’s certainly understandable why everyone is sulking over the dispatched chances of Belmont Stakes-, and Triple Crown-, hopeful I’ll Have Another, I continue to scoff at the notion there is no reason to bet – or watch – the third leg of horse racing’s trio of marquee races.

Eleven others have failed to duplicate Affirmed’s accomplishment in 1978, most recently in 2008, when Big Brown fell short after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

And the reality is, while there were plenty of bettors who would plunk down those $2 win bets – okay, maybe there would be some $5 whales – on I’ll Have Another, I’m thinking there was just as much value in looking for the longshots to pull the curtain closed on the 12th attempt at the Triple Crown in 34 years.

Yes, I admit it, I’ve occasionally felt like one of those “I’ll see another Triple Crown winner before I die” horse-racing fans, and was kind of excited to see I’ll Have Another take its shot at having another prance to the winner’s circle; but I’m not going to let its retirement sway me from betting the race.

Sure, the sport took a major hit, and could have used an injection much stronger than Lasix to boost interest for the summer, before Breeders Cup 2012. But hey, there’s always Bob Baffert, right?

When all else fails in thoroughbred high stakes, we look for the white-haired gent in shades, you know, the cool lookin’ fellow. Baffert always seems to save the day with something stirring to talk about. Remember 2001, when Point Given became the first horse since 1967 to win the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, the G1 Belmont, and the G1 Travers Stakes?

That horse was supposed to show up in Louisville, for the Kentucky Derby. It finished fifth, astonishingly, bi Monarchos and Invisible Ink delivered a $1,200-exacta.

But Baffert and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens proved they had the Horse of the Year, and made their point with Point Given.

Baffert’s been on the receiving end of what trainer Doug O’Neill is going through, having a horse win the first two races and not nab the third of the Triple Crown. Of course, O’Neill will never know with his horse out, while Baffert found out the hard way with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), who all failed to win the Belmont Stakes.

Well, here we are in Elmont, New York and Baffert didn’t have any success with Bodemeister in the Derby. He yanked the horse out of Pimlico, electing not to run him in the Preakness Stakes (I actually wondered if he was conceding the Triple Crown to I’ll Have Another at that point). And now we’re at the final chapter of this annual trilogy, and Bodemeister is stabled up somewhere, and it leaves me with one choice on the one race I’ve always had an affection for since Julie Krone won the Belmont in 1993 aboard Colonial Affair.

I’m taking Paynter, the 7-2 third choice for Zayat Stables. Lightly raced, the colt has won two of three starts, most recently an allowance race at Pimlico just a few races before I’ll Have Another took the Preakness. I’m never making a bad choice when taking jockey Mike Smith aboard a horse, the guy is a proven winner.

History is on this horse’s side, from his sire, Canadian Hall of Fame horse Awesome Again. Not to mention his Hall of Fame trainer. Awesome Again won the 1998 Breeder’s Cup Classic trophy along with four other major race victories, while my favorite trainer to turn to has cashed in nine times in Triple Crown races.

Sure, horse racing may have taken a hit in never knowing whether I’ll Have Another could have won another, but when all else fails, turn to the white-haired gent in shades.

You know, the cool lookin’ fellow.

LONGSHOT EXOTICS – With the favorite scratched, and me turning to the third-choice with Paynter, I’m looking for a longshot to couple it with, or at least include in my exotics. And that has to be Unstoppable U, which reportedly showed little in a May 19 workout but apparently has improved dramatically since then. On the track, this colt has won his first two starts: a maiden special weight and an allowance race, by a combined nine lengths. Talk about a beast, this is a runner, and a horse that knows this track. It enters off an April 27 victory in an optional claiming race at Belmont.

This horse trained here his whole career, and that’s going to be a big edge. Fact is, to be successful in Elmont, you have to train at this track to win at it. There’s a reason they call Belmont ‘Big Sandy;’ there’s an edge to horses that have been here.

Whatever you today in this race, be sure to include Unstoppable U for a small win bet, an Exacta and most certainly all of your Trifecta boxes.

See you in the winner’s circle.