Lakers With Artest Could be Great or Terrible

The Los Angeles Lakers are only a few months past this most recent NBA championship. Of Course they took the title for a fourth time in the last decade and did so by way of a Hall of Fame coach and arguably the best 2-guard in the league.

However the Lakers had other key players that more than contributed to their 2008-2009 title. Pao Gasol did major work for them in the post while Lamar Odom provided the versatility that all teams desire from a power-forward. Lets not forget Trevor Ariza who was an amazing defensive stopper for L.A. and who came up with a few big time steals in the playoffs to seal victories for the team.ron-artest-lead

So the question begs if the Lakers had such a great chemistry on their team and perfect fit players at every position, why did they let Ariza go and bring in Ron Artest? Of course Artest may be an upgrade on the court but Ariza for this specific team is more valuable. You don’t have to worry about Trevor causing problems off the court, in the locker room, or with the media. With Artest you definitely do. Ariza also made all the plays you would have wanted him to make without taking away from Kobe’s brilliance.

Here is why Artest is probably the worst off-season acquisition the Lakers could have made. Bringing in a fellow all-star who desires and expects attention and setting him next to Kobe is simply a bad idea. It was different bringing in Gasol who is humble and isn’t a media whore. But Artest is going to want interviews and the spot light and photographs and I bet he will do what is necessary to make sure he gets all of that.

Championship caliber teams are always about chemistry and not simply about talent. Remember when the Lakers had Shaq, Kobe, Malone, and Payton all on the same starting roster. That did not work out for them. Surprising as it is you need a balance of players that compliment each other and that are not just individually talented.  The lakers had that last year and by getting rid of Ariza for Artest they may have lost it all. It will be exciting to see.

Follow me on Twitter: @DinoGomez.


Arenas is Ready to Go

Gilbert Arenas is lethal on the basketball court. He has an amazing pull up jumper and a silky smooth drive to the hoop. Washington fans are thankful that his most recent surgery went well and that his recovery is almost complete. Flip Saunders commented this week that Arenas is almost at full strength in the weight room and is basically at full speed on the court. Saunders continued forward to say that his all star point guard/shooting guard will make them an elite playoff team this year. I’m not sure about that second remark but in regards to the first one, it will be great to see this all star back and contending with those other great stars in the league.

Follow me on Twitter: @DinoGomez

Tony Vallario: Founder of SportCue

Tony Vallario is the founder and creator of the newest social networking platform, SportCue. I found SportCue via a recommendation I received over on LinkedIn for a new type of “Facebook” that is directed at those individuals within the sporting industry. What a brilliant idea! A social networking platform that is solely for those within the niche of sports.logo

SportCue is still just breaking into the market having launched only two weeks ago. Upon visiting the platform and signing up I immediately found myself pondering the potential it has for growth and success. I reached out to Tony and contacted him right away. I wanted to be the first to interview him about SportCue as well as ask him what his plans are for the company’s future.

Q.1. Tony, you created a new sports social networking platform that seems to be a mesh between LinkedIn and Facebook but that is for those individuals involved with a sports-related career. Can you tell us about SportCue in general? What made you decide to pursue such a project and what is your goal for SportsCue?

1) “Sportcue.copicm is an on-line social medium designed specifically for those either within, or looking to get involved in, the sport industry. Whether it be through rec, collegiate, semi-pro, pro, entrepreneurial business ventures, etc. revolving around sport, is a platform with which individuals could connect with one another and share views, information, opinions, stories, pictures, etc. As you mentioned, similar to that of LinkedIn and Facebook, it truly is just a “concentrated and niche” social network.

What ultimately got me started on is that I came up with an idea when I was in grad school about a business revolving around the recruitment of high school athletes because I personally loved to follow the recruitment of high school football (I used to intern the recruiting dept at Indiana University for the football team throughout the years as a student). I wanted to create a social network that would allow high school athletes to put themselves on the internet and connect with other high school athletes. Then maybe further down the road as this social network grows, collegiate athletic departments would use this platform as a tool to recruit student athletes to their university via searching through the athletes profile, stats, video, etc. Well, as I began creating the business plan for that venture I began to find that there was a tremendous amount of competition that I was unaware of at the time that already had a huge leg up on me (i.e, Fox Sports was planning a site, as well as ESPN). So I knew all along that I wanted to do something in relation to sport because that’s my passion, but since that particular field was beginning to crowd pretty quickly, I started to think of other things. That’s when I came up with the idea for I knew that the business of sport was growing and was only going to increase its growth in tphotoshop-lighting-bulb-logo-icon33he near future.  That’s how I came up with the idea. I thought, “you know, there are truly a lot of people who are looking to break into the industry, or who are already in the industry and would love to communicate and talk with others in the business”. If I learned one thing from my time at Indiana, it was to always network, and what better way than to do that than through an on-line social network.

Honestly, is truly still in its beta phase. Yes the site has been around for a few months, but I have big plans for this business. I want to add so many features to the site (i.e. articles, listings of jobs, links to collegiate educational programs that offer sport marketing, management, communication, etc. I want to add forums). There are really so many things that I want to implement into the site, but it will just take time.”

Q.2. SportCue is a very clean platform that is easy to navigate and includes a spot for a personal blog. Did you create this by yourself? In other words, do you have those computer and web design skills yourself or where did you turn to put together such a website?

2) “Yes, the sipicte looks “clean” so to speak, and I hate to say it, but I was certainly not the one who had the skill to create such a design. I laid out what i wanted in terms of features for the site and the platform was created from my ideas not from me (I only wish I could do something like that). The way the site was created was that my cousin, who is a wiz when it comes to computers and such, introduced me to one of his friends who said he could create the site for me for a small fee. I agreed and a few months later, was up and running. Now I have to say, that I am currently working on trying to get someone new to come in and help take the site to the “level” with which I described above, and hopefully that won’t take me more than just a couple months to iron out.”

Q.3. I see your only 24 years of age, so you’re extremely young. Did you just finish college and get into this project of starting SportCue right away or what was your path to starting SportCue over the last few years? For those entrepreneurs that are just graduating college and whom wish to start their own sports related business, what’s their best first move?

3)” This may spicound funny, and I’m sure some people are going to hate me after they hear or read this, but I feel as if I’m almost old… Yes I’m 24, but I have big plans for this site and I don’t want to waste any time trying to get it to where I think it could and should be. So I’m constantly trying to think of things and implement things to because I don’t want to have any regrets and I certainly don’t want time to pass me by so to speak. I wish I could have started this venture sooner and maybe it would have been a little further along right now, who knows? Anyway, I graduated undergrad from Indiana University with a BA in Sports Marketing and Management in 2007 and I stayed on to get my masters there in Sport Management (I graduated grad school in the summer of 2008). For any “young people” out there who wish to start there own sport related business, all I have to say is go for it; you honestly have nothing to lose (you will always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take). I’m sure there are countless great ideas floating around out there that revolve around sport, you just have to go after it. Design a business plan, do research, and just go for it… that’s truly the best advice I could give.”

Tony makes starting a social networking platform sound relatively easy with his casual descriptions of the process but I’m guessing he is just quite modest about his own work ethic… either way what a brilliant idea he had during this social networking era that we have just entered. With that said, lets recap Tony’s entreprenueral process to starting SportCue.

  1. Brainstorm Business ideas/Company
  2. Do research on that business idea/the company you want to create.
  3. Network. You have to in order to find business partners/help starting a company.
  4. Create a business plan (needs to be very detailed and is more difficult than suggested)
  5. Double check who your potential competitors are. Tony found he was up against ESPN if he stood with his first company idea.
  6. Try again. As the famous quote goes that Tony reminded us of: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Allen Iverson certainly understands that.

Thanks again to Tony Vallario for his time and for checking in. Make sure you’re networking at the right place and visit SportCue. Want more Basketball, social media, and the business? Follow @DinoGomez on Twitter.

Oregon Preview

Here is the first review/preview for the upcoming Pac10 Basketball season.  It might seem arbitrary that I’ve chosen a look at the ducks first, but it’s the club I know best and for that reason, will be the easiest to do.  So…O

It’s certainly no secret the Oregon Ducks struggled mightily this past year. Only a season removed from an NCAA appearance, and two seasons removed from an elite eight run, the 08-09 Ducks finished the season with eight total wins.  Of those eight wins, just two came in Pacific 10 conference play.  Why were they so bad?  They were young.  The Ducks had one lone senior available for the entirety of the season, Churchill Odia.  Five freshmen: Michael Dunigan, Josh Crittle, Matthew Humphrey, Drew Wiley, and Garrett Sim played significant minutes as head coach Ernie Kent struggled to find a consistent group.  The young players showed promise at times but were wildly inconsistent. Coach Kent took a lot of heat for the difficulties the Ducks faced and at the end of the year met with former Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny about his future.  Not long after that infamous meeting, Kent decided to let go of his long time assistant Mark Hudson in favor of venerable Arizona assistant Mike Dunlap. Dunlap brings an impressive resume to Oregon, including two NCAA division 2 championships and a stop in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets.  Around Eugene there is a palpable feeling that Dunlap will bring much needed energy and direction to the program.

So what does the future hold for Oregon?  Well, the Ducks only lost three players this off-season.  Seniors Churchill Odia and Frantz Dorsainvil have run out of eligibility while sophomore point guard Kamyron Brown transferred under suspicious circumstances.  (Rumors suggest the coaching staff essentially told him there wasn’t a spot for him.)   But the feeling around the program is that the incoming talent should be more than sufficient to cover the losses. The blue-chip of the class is Wisconsin product, and Rivals top 150 recruit, Jamil Wilson, a 6’7” forward.  Apparently Wilson is the complete package with the ability to play both inside and out.  The Ducks also signed Oregon player of the year E.J. Singler, younger brother of Duke star Kyle Singler.  Most believe he isn’t of his brother’s caliber, but he’s a tough kid and should be a solid player in the future.  Lastly the Ducks signed forward Jeremy Jacob and point guard Malcolm Armstead from powerhouse Florida powerhouse, Chipola junior college.  Obviously the coaching staff is hoping the transfers will add immediate depth and experience to a club that sorely lacked steady hands.

More important than the off-season additions however is the return of every player who either started or saw significant minutes.  With another year under their belts, the young guys should be ready for the grueling Pac10 season.

At center, former McDonalds All-American Mike Dunigan has the sheer athletic talent to be a great player in the league but he needs to improve his footwork, along with his touch around the basket.  Dunigan also has some sort of ridiculous penchant for foul trouble, he can’t seem to stay out of it.  Josh Crittle, the lesser known of the two sophomore centers to-be, actually was more consistent than his more notorious counterpart.  Crittle flashed good touch around the basket and usually managed to stay on the floor.  Reports claim that both of the young big-men have shed considerable weight for the upcoming season.  Either way, after last year’s over-whelming trial by fire, the centers should be ready for the quality and size of players in the conference.  Especially when considering conference stalwarts like John Brockman and Jeff Pendergraph have moved on to the NBA.

The guard spots seem to be the most settled.  At shooting guard is the predictably mercurial Tajuan Porter.  The 5’6” shooter is almost lights out when he’s open off the ball but struggles badly when asked to create for others.  For his size he’s not a bad defender, but has been bothered in the past by rangy defenders.  He has a decent pull-up jumper but is inconsistent when asked to finish in the lane.  Look for Tajuan’s play to improve with growth at the point guard position. Transfer Malcolm Armstead is rumored to be a steady player, and Garrett Sim proved that he was dangerous when “on.”  The competition should certainly help. If the Ducks do manage to get good point guard play, Tajuan will have the opportunity to do what he does best, spot up and shoot.

Predicting the starters at the forward spots is nearly impossible.  Senior Joevan Catron is a leading candidate.  He’s a quick but undersized power forward with nifty moves, but he tends to disappear for long stretches.  Also over the course of the years Catron hasn’t demonstrated the ability to shoot very well.  Chances are, sweet shooting big-man Drew Wiley and newcomers Jamil Wilson and Jeremy Jacob will push for time at the 4 spot.  Wiley plays a bit like a guard and needs badly to improve his strength, especially in his hands.  I can vividly recall rebounds being ripped away from him.  Jamil Wilson may have the ball skills and quickness to pose match-up problems at the 4 spot but as a freshman he probably lacks the strength to handle more mature players.  Jeremy Jacob is reported to be a solid player with a nice mid-range jumper, something the Ducks lacked.  His age and maturity may also be a benefit to him.  At small forward the two established guys are sophomore south-paw Matt Humphrey and junior Lekendric Longmire.  Jamil Wilson could also challenge for time here, as he is rumored to be an athletic slasher.  Humphrey and Longmire are passionate guys and good athletes.  Humphrey is the better shooter and more skilled of the two, but Lekendric seems to make big plays.  Humphrey got more and more minutes near the end of last year and I expect the trend to continue with maturity.  Lekendric could be a very nice energy guy off the bench.  In any event, Ernie should have plenty of options with the interchangeability of the 2-4 positions.

In all reality the Ducks should have plenty of opportunities to do well in the conference, but are they mature enough?  It’s been a tumultuous off-season for the conference, with top teams losing a lot of talent and interesting coaching changes.  Other than Washington and Cal the conference is relatively unproven.  I expect the Ducks to finish in the middle of the Pac(k), but could even see them finishing as high 3rd or as low as 9th.  Since that isn’t much of a prediction, I’ll go on record saying they’ll finish 5th.

All-around the Oregon team should be much improved, because really, how hard is it to be better than they were?  Although Ernie doesn’t have a great track-record of late with developing inside big-men, I believe Dunigan is gifted enough to pave his own way.  Look for both his scoring average to jump up into double-digits and rebound numbers to improve as well.  (If he stays on the floor.)    The Ducks must also find consistency handling the ball, turnovers were a problem last season.  The best sign for the future though was the fact that the Ducks never quit on their season… At times they were certainly frustrated, and it showed, but other than a small incident involving Tajuan Porter there was never a lack of effort.  That effort finally paid off in the end of the conference season with back-to-back wins against Stanford and Oregon State.

Possible Red-Shirts:

1)    E.J. Singler
2)    Teondre Williams
3)    Drew Wiley?

Predicted Starters (really wide open…):

1)    Garret Sim
2)    Tajuan Porter
3)    Matt Humphrey/Jamil Wilson
4)    Jeremy Jacob/Joevan Catron
5)    Mike Dunigan

Chris Denker from NetScouts Basketball

NetScouts Basketball is an organization that specializes in connecting players with professional teams. They work to bring players visibility and the opportunity to play professionally. In the same breath, Netscouts helps to lead teams to the best available players or to those players which would compliment their team. They operate the largest database of collegiate scouting reports combined with player footage and have an organization of basketball gurus who have experience coaching, playing, and scouting.

Today I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Chris Denker, the co-founder and managing partner of NetScouts Basketball LLC. I spoke with him over the phone for half an hour in regards to his wealth and knowledge of the game of Basketball. I learned a great deal very quickly.il1n0s00

The following responses from Chris Denker are summarized as close to his actual responses as possible but in no way may be accounted for as completely accurate.

1). Chris, I see you’re the co-founder of NetScouts Basketball LLC. How did you go about creating such an organization and what led you to do so?

Chris Denker: ” Well I’ve coached basketball for over 20 years now. I coached 14 years at the division one level and I have coached internationally in Europe. I’ve coached both men’s and women’s basketball. I’ve been over in London and have spent a good amount of time in England all together. I ran a few clubs there for men and women’s teams. Before long, people started to get to know me and I became an ambassador of sorts overseas. I began introducing the game to younger kids and players. Of course basketball is not big in some places overases. Soccer comes first and then you have rugby, baseball, and football.  Basketball is growing huge right now however.

Then I came back to the States to coach some semi-professional all-star teams and before long was coaching at a few big camps. Ones with extremely talented players who could potentially turn pro… I started helping some of these players to make their way to a professional level internationally. Then I realized that there was a niche to help players find pro teams. Soon after I helped start NetScouts… it’s great… I have friends who play in the NBA,  I scouted the NBA summer league last year. Met some people who were interested in my scouting and draft reports… started offering scouting as a service. Now I’ve scouted over 1200 players and have reports available for teams on players all over the world… there are so many different professional basketball leagues in Asia and all over…”

2). I see you also act as a shooting and drill instructor for your own basketball camp (Denker Basketball Academy of Instruction). Can you tell us a little about that? Did you play basketball in college any?

Chris Denker: “It’s something I’ve done for a while as a coach. I would run individual workouts. Yes I played in college and started coaching actually while I was still in college. When I graduated I began at the high school level and worked with players to improve their game. Once I moved up to the college level, well I could no longer run workouts for players that weren’t yet in college because of recruiting violations. So I stopped instruction for a while when I coached at the college level and now that I’m not associated with any specific collegiate team, I have began instructing again. Also I’ve met players who have asked for my assistance on the court…”

3). Your speaking in Las Vegas this weekend at the SMWW conference/NBA conference and then your off to scout the NBA summer league. Any players your looking out for?

Chris Denker: ” It’s always fun to see the draft picks play… of course you want to see Blake Griffin… for me I like and this goes along with NetScouts but to watch those players who are on the cusp of playing in the NBA. Not all players go straight from college into the NBA, some have played all over and are working there way back up to the league… all NBA teams have their own scouts so its fun to find those players that they overlooked… this past year Dahntay Jones broke into the starting lineup for the Denver Nuggets but previously was not given a chance to play on the court. (side note- Jones’ salary was under 800k this year as a result of not playing much in the past but after starting with the Nuggets, he was just offered $11 mil over the next four years with the Indiana Pacers.) The biggest story of this past year would probably be Anthony Morrow. He was undrafted out of Georgia Tech and really didn’t play much when he was in college. But last year in the summer league this guy never missed a shot during warm ups. Now granted its warm ups but still you wondered if that would carry to the game. So you got this 6’6″ skinny shooter who doesn’t play in any of the first 3 summer league games but who lights it up in the remaining few games of the summer and earns himself a spot in the NBA. He now plays on the Golden State Warriors… its great just looking for that golden nugget that nobody else sees.”

I stopped bombarding Chris with questions there and want to thank him again for his time and for such powerful responses. Just hearing about everything that goes on inside the scouting world really makes you want to fly out to Vegas immediately  in order to watch these players develop. Hopefully someday… until then I recommend you all follow Chris Denker on Twitter and stay current with news from the NBA summer league by checking out his blog.

Jennings: Making life hard on himself

Brandon Jennings hasn’t done anything in his career yet to warrant the media attention he has been given. He didin’t play well in Italy last year but continually insists that his greatness is yet to come in the NBA. RecentlAAGZ201_16x20-2006Logoy video footage was release of Jennings talking on speaker phone with rapper Joe Budden about Jennings upcoming rookie season. In the footage which has since been removed from Youtube, Jennings insists that guard Ramon Sessions would be cut from the Milwaukee Bucks this season with his addition and that he would easily be able to beat out Luke Ridnour to become the starting point guard for the team. Since footage of Jennings talking trash has been released to the press, Jennings has been quick to apologize as he should.  Here is a player who hasn’t played a game in the NBA yet and has already lost his teammates respect. All I know is that Jennings better be absolutely amazing this year as he so claims because every point guard he matches up against will bring their best game in order to shut him up. His teammates are not going to be excited to help him out either, especially Luke Ridnour who I’m hoping puts him in his place.

Rasheed Wallace chooses Boston Celtics

Rasheed Wallace was one of the leagues best available free agents until this evening when reports surfaced that he has officially chosen Boston as his next location to play. Wallace was considering San Antonio, the Orlando Magic, and the Dallas Mavericks as other possibilities but in the end it looks like he chose Boston in order play alongside Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. Immediately the discussion on ESPN is whether Wallace will provide the lift the Celtics need to return to an NBA final. My answer is contingent upon whether Cleveland adds any more pieces to their team.Rasheed_Wallpaper_NBA

Right now I would imagine an Eastern Conference final featuring Boston and Cleveland with Boston slightly edging out Lebron and the big Diesel. However if the Cavaliers add anything more, I mean anything more like a better towel boy that keeps the players better hydrated, then it would seem the duo of Shaq and Lebron with solid complimentary players would still be too much for Boston to handle. Lets face it those Boston stars are getting up there in age. Not to say that Shaq isn’t but that is only one player compared to the core starting 4 of Boston. On paper Boston does looks better, on the court Cleveland does. This Celtics line up can be compared to that of the Los Angeles Lakers a few years back when they had 4 future hall of fame players in the starting line up: Kobe, Shaq, Malone, and Payton. That line up also looked amazing on paper but did not on the court. The NBA championship teams of the most recent years tend to be built around a perfect mesh of young talent and clutch veteran play. Big news that Wallace has chosen Boston but still no upgrade for the Celetics. Trevor Ariza would have been a better fit there with the defense that he brings, his youth, and his low-key profile.