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The Voice of the College at Florham

"News is the first rough draft of history." - The Voice of the College at Florham

NBA playoffs: LeBron vs. Kobe?

CHRIS NIMBLEY
Sports Editor

As I am writing this there are still three days left in the NBA regular season; by the time you read this the playoff seeding will be set. As it is right now, the Western Conference is a jumbled mess.
There is no telling who will be the number two through eight seeds in the West. The Lakers are the number one seed; that has been set in stone for some time. As of April 12, Portland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City will be battling it out for the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds, while Dallas, Denver, Utah and Phoenix are fighting for the two through five slots. There is no telling how these last three days will play out and what matchups will come in the playoffs.
What makes this so great is it really doesn’t matter who gets seeded where. Well, not to your average basketball fan; we win no matter what. There are so many different intriguing matchups that it would be impossible to see a potential matchup that wouldn’t be interesting.
The West is loaded with a bunch of great teams besides the Lakers; still, most people seem to think the Lakers will steamroll right through the conference and find themselves back in the championship. I have my doubts about the Lakers, but I also have a hard time seeing anyone beat them in the West.
Full disclosure here: I’m a Nets fan and I have a natural hatred in my heart for the Celtics and Lakers. So, yes, I do have some biases against said teams, but believe it or not the biases will not come into play here.
What happens to me during the course of any sports season is that I root for my team, and those teams have never changed, then if my team is out of it I start rooting for the teams or players I enjoy watching the most. Which means I will be rooting for the LeBrons and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Unless you’re an NBA junkie like me, with the NBA League Pass and two televisions set up next to each other, you probably haven’t had a chance to fall in love with the way the Thunder play basketball. Kevin Durant is quietly becoming the third best player in the league, behind Kobe and LeBron, of course, and your average fan isn’t even aware of this transformation.
The average fan will hear bits and pieces of this type of talk, but will brush it off as pure hype. For those that do I feel sorry for you; you don’t know what you’re missing. The hype is real; in fact, he needs more hype. This kid is only 21 years old and is already going to win a scoring title on a playoff team. He is averaging 30.1 points per game with 7.6 rebounds a game. He is 6-9, but handles the basketball like a point guard, has probably the nicest pure shot since Reggie Miller and has all the confidence in the world. I have watched numerous Thunder games this year and I ‘m shocked at how many times I saw Durant step up and take over a game with ease.
Durant is not the only reason to like the Thunder. They have one of the best young point guards in the league in Russell Westbrook. They are surrounded by a core of young, talented role players, who know their role and do not get in the way of the stars, unlike some other teams built around a superstar and role players who think they can be superstars too.
I will be rooting for the Thunder, but the reality of the NBA is that they are too young to win more than a round or possibly two depending on who they get matched up against, but they could very easily get bounced in the first round. Teams don’t just make the playoffs for the first time and win championships in the NBA; you need to go through a couple of tough playoff defeats before you can move on.
In the East, it’s LeBron I’m rooting for and it is pretty self explanatory. The man is a freak of nature, the things he does, the speed he moves at and the intensity he shows are all enough to leave you in awe, especially when you see him play live. You can’t even begin to imagine the difference in seeing him play live, just the energy he brings into the building is enough to get anyone excited. LeBron is clearly the most dominant player in the league; the problem is his team is terrible, I mean really terrible. He is surrounded by shooters, who continually fail to make big shots when they count and for some reason these people insist on taking the shots instead of just giving LeBron the ball and getting out of his way. Their best offense is when LeBron grabs a defensive rebound, runs up the court himself and 3.2 seconds later is dunking the ball.
The NBA is a star-powered league; there is no real reason why the championship shouldn’t be the Cavs vs. the Lakers, except for the ego of their teammates getting in the way. Artest, you are not Kobe Bryant, even when you were still good you were never Kobe level good, stop pretending you are and get out of Kobe’s way. The same goes for Mo Williams and anyone not named Antwuan Jamison on the Cavs. Watching random Lakers and Cavs games I constantly find myself wondering how these teams can possibly win playing like this; there are so many better teams than them, but there just aren’t many teams that can beat either of them in a seven-game series. Boston is too old and fragile, Atlanta will make it harder than most people think, but they are not getting four wins against LeBron. The Magic could actually beat the Cavs again, but that’s it, nobody else is posing the slightest threat.
In the West, Utah can’t win a road game, Dallas and Phoenix are too soft, San Antonio is too old, Oklahoma City and Portland are too young. In the next couple of years you will see some of these teams – Thunder, Bulls, Bucks, Trailblazers etc. – emerge as powerhouses, but that will have to wait. The moment has passed for teams like the Spurs and Celtics; the time is for Kobe and LeBron, unless Dwight Howard decides he has something to prove. Still, in the end, it will most likely come down to the fact that Kobe will be Kobe and LeBron will be LeBron when it matters and I, of course, will be rooting for the LeBrons.

New York Jets upgrade their defense

CHRIS NIMBLEY
Sports Editor

The New York Jets refuse to be handcuffed by the new rules of free agency, which limits their ability to improve their team.
This offseason in the NFL is like no other in the history of the sport. The owners of NFL teams and the players union have been unable to come to a new collective bargaining agreement so we are heading into the 2010 season with no salary cap.
Since 1994, there has been a limit on the amount of money teams can spend to field a complete team. With no salary cap it essentially means teams can spend as much money as they want, giving the wealthiest teams a clear advantage. At first this might seem like an advantage for the Jets, unfortunately because of last season’s success, they and seven other teams have a distinct disadvantage from everyone else in free agency. The difference between this year and the years that predated the salary cap are the rules of the Final Eight that kicks into effect when there is no salary cap.
The Final Eight rule means that the last eight teams playing in the playoffs face restrictions on what they can do in free agency. These teams are only allowed to sign a free agent if they lose one of their own and they can’t pay the new free agent more first year money than the player they lost, which means the Jets must get creative.
In the NFL, teams build championships through solid drafting and key free agent pick-ups. Last year, the Jets were knocking at the door of the biggest free agent, linebacker Bart Scott, the minute they were allowed to talk to him. This aggressiveness convinced Scott that the Jets wanted him more than others and Scott played as much of a role as anyone not named Darrelle Revis in the Jets’ success last year. This year the Jets can’t do that; they are at the mercy of everyone else and can only sit and watch other teams sign the big name free agents.
The Jets general manager, Mike Tannenbaum, has been as aggressive as any other GM over the years and even with his options limited he has shown he will continue to be aggressive. With free agency beginning at 12:01 a.m. on March 5, the Jets made a big move hours before free agency began. They managed to make a trade that will have more of an impact on their team than most, if not all, of the other big name free agent signings that have since taken place and will continue to take place. The Jets sent a 2011 draft pick to the San Diego Chargers for cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie is without a doubt a top 10, if not top five, corner in the NFL and now he will be plugged into the best defense in the league and asked to cover the opposing team’s second-best receiver. This is clearly a win-win situation; surrounding Cromartie with this type of talent will only make him better and having a top flight corner as your number two corner will only make it that much harder for teams to pass on the Jets.
Last season, the Jets had the number one ranked pass defense and overall defense, but still there were holes that needed to be filled if they want to be able to beat the elite teams like the Colts or the Saints. The biggest reason for the Jets’ defensive success was the play of Revis. Revis has been the most dominating shutdown corner the NFL has seen since Deion Sanders; only Revis can play against the run and actually tackle people – something Deion never did. The Jets’ weakness against a high-powered passing game was that they only had one Revis. When they lost to the Colts it wasn’t because of the Colts’ best receiver, Reggie Wayne, as Revis shut him down all game. It was their inability to cover the other receivers the Colts threw at them. With Cromartie it is hard to imagine Austin Collie or Pierre Garcon consistently slicing through the Jets defense as they did in the AFC Championship game last season.
This one move of trading a 2011 draft pick for one player already has to scare quarterbacks throughout the league. Last season, the Jets gave up just 154 passing yards per game, 30 yards less per game than any other team, at least 50 yards less than all but five other teams. Adding a clear top 10 cornerback to the team has to be giving quarterbacks in the AFC East nightmares, and yes, that includes Tom Brady. Brady and many other quarterbacks were already frustrated with the different schemes and looks the Jets defense gave them. The Jets were able to do these exotic blitz packages because of the presence of Revis. The addition of Cromartie on the opposite side of the field gives the Jets even more room to play with and take chances.
Cromartie is in the final year of his contract so he must perform if he wants to get a big payday and anyone who has watched the NFL knows players tend to step it up in a contract year. He has been a dominating force and a big time playmaker; add him to a team that allowed only 154 passing yards a game and any team that plays the Jets next year will be entering not only “Revis Island,” but what I now call the “No Fly Zone.”

The recruitment of LeBron James

CHRIS NIMBLEY
Sports Editor

Friday in New York City began with a parade to celebrate the Yankees 27th World Series victory and the night ended leaving the Knicks and their fans with only that to hang on to.
For the past couple of years the only thing that could excite the Knicks fan base was the thought of LeBron James possibly joining their beloved Knicks in 2010. The fans have been given the idea that somehow the Knicks have been this bad for so long and its all right because they were going to make a run at James during this offseason. The media and the Knicks management have been toying with their fans over this idea of James coming to save this once proud franchise.
The Knicks have an incredibly loyal fan base, but it is tough for a team to only get this type of attention when a specific player on another team comes to play in their arena. When James comes to New York City he does not steal the spotlight from the Knicks; he is the spotlight.
“I have been a Knicks fan my whole life,” said 26-year-old Nick Thomas, “but I’m here to see LeBron tonight. Hopefully this time next year I will be watching him play for the Knicks, but until then I have to settle for watching him beat my Knicks.”
James deals with being the spotlight everyday of his life and pretty much everywhere he goes he is the most famous person around. Every time he plays on the road he has to know many of the fans are there to see him, not their home teams players, but it is never as painfully obvious as it is when the Cleveland Cavaliers come to Madison Square Garden to play the Knicks.
The Garden used to be a notoriously hard place for opposing players to play. Sure, there were players who thrived off that and had success, but the fans would give them hell anyway. Michael Jordan never received any type of warm welcome from the crowd; Knicks fans hated him and never hesitated to let him know it. When James comes to town it’s a completely different story, instead of hurling insults at the guy they roll out the red carpet for him. Obviously the difference is that, when Jordan was playing, the Knicks were competing for championships. They were just always losing to Jordan and his Bulls; now the Knicks lose to everybody. The fans want to see some quality basketball, so they come to watch James play and dream of him playing for the Knicks next year.
Entering the arena there were clearly more James jerseys than Knicks players’ jerseys. There were plenty of people jumping the gun and wearing Knicks jerseys with the number 23 on it and the name James on the back. It cannot be easy for the players who are actually on the Knicks to know that their years of losing has driven this proud fan base to root so openly for another player over their own team. The team can’t blame the fans, though. Simply put: James puts on a better show night in and night out than the Knicks do.
In team sports there is the old cliché that no one person is bigger than the team, but in this case there is no denying that James is bigger and more known than all of the Knicks put together.
In the 90s the Knicks would routinely have celebrities in the arena to watch their games, but now they only come to see James and Kobe Bryant. This night was a perfect example as to why that is. James took over from the opening tip, scoring 19 points and five assists in the first quarter, to open up a 40-21 lead. The Cavs never looked back and put it on autopilot from that point on. James finished with 33 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
The Knicks managed to make a late rally to pull within nine points, but the outcome was never in doubt. James and the Cavs controlled this game from the beginning and the fans loved it, showering James with cheers the entire game.
“The guy is an animal, I mean look at how he just picks the Knicks apart. I know the Knicks are a bad team, but that doesn’t take away from the show he puts on,” fan Jermaine Rodgers said. “We have been told to be patient and wait for this offseason, it’s all us Knicks fans have to hope for. If he doesn’t sign with us I don’t think we can recover. I don’t think there is a plan b; he is the only plan.”
“This couldn’t have been planned better. I had come to grips with the fact that LeBron wasn’t going to come here, but for him to come here on the day of the parade for the Yankees and C.C. hopefully pushing hard to recruit him, it gives me some hope that he might actually sign here,” said fan Justin Wadleigh.
On Friday night the Knicks had many of the newly-crowned World Series champion New York Yankees at the game, along with other celebrities like Jay-Z, but there was no secret that they were there because James was in town. Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia knows James very well and they both consider each other to be good friends from Sabathia’s days playing for the Cleveland Indians.
Since Sabathia signed his contract last year with the Yankees, he has been asked about the possibility of trying to help recruit James to come in play in New York. He has always entertained the idea, but he has never seemed so confident that playing in New York was great until now; it could be that winning a championship will do that. With the odds now seemingly stacked against the Knicks signing James, Sabathia and his new championship ring have become their best hope of saving this franchise.

Mixed feelings on Vick’s return

CHRIS NIMBLEY
Sports Editor

Michael Vick is making his comeback to the NFL after serving two years in a federal penitentiary and losing over $200 million for charges of running a dog-fighting gambling ring. When Vick first signed with the Eagles the move concerned many not only in the general public but also in the Eagle fan community.

From listening to talk radio many of the fans seemed more concerned about the possibility of PETA protests at games, but one fan took the Vick signing to a completely different level. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, “One fan is so mad at the Eagles that he is literally selling his loyalty to the top bidder. An item for sale on eBay is headlined, ‘Ex Philadelphia Eagles fan needs a new team to follow.’ It includes the following explanation: ’Disgruntled ex-Philadelphia Eagles Fan is looking for a new team to follow for the 2009 Football Season. Now that they have signed Michael Vick, I have zero desire to follow the Eagles this season, and until he is released from being an Eagle, I will no longer root for them.’”

Now enter Giants Stadium, where the Eagles were playing the Jets in a preseason game on Sept. 3. Just walking through the parking lot there were signs that some people were there in full force ready to unleash their own personal wrath on Vick. In front of one of the main parking gates someone had a hearse all decorated in flowers with a sign that read “Eagles R.I.P. M. Vick!”

Inside the stadium things were relatively quiet at first except for the normal cheering for the Jets players. Once Vick first ran onto the field all that silence changed instantly, as the crowd erupted into a loud chorus of boos. Now, it is normal for an opposing player to get booed, but not like this. This being a preseason game and all, every other Eagles players got virtually ignored; the crowd seemed to be waiting on Vick to enter the game to unleash their venom on him. Throughout the game you could hear periodic chants directed at Vick such as “Who let the dogs out? Vick, Vick.”

Not everyone in the stadium booed Vick; obviously Eagles fans cheered or sat quietly, but there were a surprising number of people wearing Jets jerseys who were cheering for him. They were just drowned out by the much louder boos. When talking to individual fans it was a different story. The number of people who thought Vick deserved a second chance was about 70 percent of those who were interviewed. The 30 percent who did not think he should be back in the NFL had much stronger opinions and much more anger and passion.

There were jerseys that summed up that person’s feelings perfectly. There were many old Falcons Vick jerseys and a lot of Virginia Tech jerseys, where Vick went to college. People wearing those jerseys were all cheering him and showing their support. There were, however, some jerseys that showed their displeasure with Vick. There was a 12-year-old kid with an old Falcons jersey saying “Con-Vick-Ted.”

The young kid, Ryan Gavin, got the jersey from his mom, Debbie. When asked if they felt he deserved a second shot and if he has paid his debt to society, Debbie Gavin answered, “Hell no, he is an a—— and he deserved to be punished more. He doesn’t deserve the right to be able to make millions of dollars or be praised and cheered. Maybe it’s just the dog lover in me, but I think it’s disgusting what he did.” Ryan echoed his mom’s answer. There was a second son, Jeff Gavin, 14, who disagreed with his mom and brother but all he would say was, “I don’t like what he did, but I think he deserves a second shot.”

There were others who agreed with Debbie and Ryan Gavin. One Jets fan, Andy Raines, said, “He doesn’t deserve to be back. He should have a lifetime ban. He lost the right to play in the NFL.” The people who disagreed with him being allowed back pretty much all said similar things; simply put, they thought what Vick did was disgusting and there was nothing he could do to redeem himself. There was only one Eagles fan interviewed who felt that way; others were glad Vick got another chance, but were more worried about how he was going to fit in to the team.

One Eagles fan said, “I wish he went to another team; I just don’t know how he fits in with the team.” Jermaine Reed, another Eagles fan, said, “Hell yeah he deserves another shot; he’s just not with the right team.”

Others disagreed. One fan, Josh Eagen, said, “I’m glad he is getting another shot and he probably won’t get much playing time, but he is with the right team with Andy Reid and [Donovan] McNabb, they will help him down the road.”

A Giants fan named Brian Anderson said, “I don’t agree with what he did, but Donte Stallworth killed someone in a DUI and got 20 days in jail, Leonard Little killed someone in a DUI and got another DUI years later and never got more than a four game suspension, so yeah as much as I don’t like him being on the Eagles he deserves to be able to work and football is his job.”

A Jets fan named Kathy Mitchell said, “As a player Vick is a great talent. As a person I think it’s terrible what he did, but he paid his debt to society. As long as he doesn’t get in any more trouble I’m fine with it.”

Voters take advantage of absentee ballots

More and more people are relying on absentee ballots to cast their votes in the upcoming election. According to NJ.com, “Officials are scrambling to process a record number of registrations in New Jersey. New Jersey now has a record 5.3 million registered voters, due in part to the 575,145 new voters who registered between the Jan. 1 and the Oct. 14 deadline. Of those 5.3 million voters, at least 200,000 have cast their votes using absentee ballots, as of Oct. 21.”

An absentee ballot is defined as a ballot submitted in advance of an election by a voter who is unable to be present at the polls. It is typically thought to be used by soldiers away at war fighting for our country but who still want to take part in choosing the next president. Students who attend school out of state or far enough away that traveling to a polling place is a major inconvenience also make up a large portion of absentee voters.

However, you do not need to fall into one of these two categories to forgo traveling to a busy polling place on Nov. 4. While it is too late to get an absentee ballot by mail, according to the N.J. division of elections Web site, if you work or have classes all day and just cannot find time to go sit in what could be some very long lines than you could have still cast your vote by absentee ballot. According to a New Jersey election information Web site, www.866ourvote.org, a voter may apply for an absentee ballot “in person to the County Clerk until 3:00 p.m. the day before the election.” Judging by the results of a survey completed by 202 Fairleigh Dickinson students, there are a lot of people taking advantage of absentee ballots. Some students are using the absentee ballots because they live in another state, but others have clearly decided it just seems easier and more convenient to send an absentee ballot in, instead of having to fit travel time to a polling place into their schedule.

The survey showed a variety of reasons why people want to make sure that they are voting. One of the questions on the survey was, “Are you planning to vote” Many people declined to give their reasons, but there were plenty of others who decided to explain why they think it is important that they vote. The most common theme seems to be along the lines of, “Yes, I want my voice to be heard” or “Yes, I want to play a role in the democratic process.” Many people expressed the feeling that it was their “duty as an American” to vote and others just seemed excited about being able to participate in an election for the first time in their lives. “Every vote counts” and “because we need change” were two more common answers given by students.

There were, of course, some people who said they would not be voting. Some responses were along the lines of, “No, I do not feel strongly about someone who could run a country.” Another answer was, “No, because I do not believe much will change no matter who is president as long as compromising bi-partisanship and greedy corporations control everything.” Then there were some undecided voters to account for, as not everyone has their mind made up. These students are not sold on either candidate, but they feel they still want to participate. One student answered, “I am still debating for myself, where I do not want to participate in a choice of two evils, but I do not want to sit and do nothing.”

This trend of absentee or early voting is rising more and more with each election. People are opting for the convenience and time-saving factors of voting early instead of taking time off of work or school to go to the polls, in the 31 states that allow early voting. According to msnbc.com, “election experts predict that a third of the electorate will already have voted by Nov. 4, up from 15 percent in 2000 and 20 percent in 2004.”

The convenience factor does not only apply to the voters. The hope is that this will make life a lot easier on election officials, who will have much more time to sort through the votes and make sure they are correct and will not be quite so overwhelmed with votes all coming in on Nov. 4.

CHRIS NIMBLEY
Staff Writer