NBA Power Rankings: Breaking Down Teams on the Rise Entering 2015-16

October 5th, 2015 by Steven Cook No comments »
Just more than three weeks remain until the 2015-16 NBA campaign tips off, upon which we'll begin to find out which teams are truly ready to take a next step and which ones will be shoved back into the league cellar. On the heels of a memorable 2014-15 season and another wild free-agency period (although not quite as hectic as last year's), the balance of power in the league hasn't quite shifted. While there have been a few contenders—namely the Spurs and Clippers—to make notable additions, even more intriguing are those teams preparing to climb the ranks and threaten for a playoff spot. More than one of those teams is out there, so let's take a look at three prime candidates after we break down a preseason version of the NBA power rankings.   NBA Power Rankings   Teams on the Rise Miami Heat (No. 9) Relentless injuries and a year-long LeBron James hangover doomed the Miami Heat ...

Neal Walk, Former NBA Player, Dies at 67

October 5th, 2015 by Tyler Conway No comments »
Neal Walk, a former NBA big man who played for the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans (now Utah) Jazz and New York Knicks, died Sunday at a Phoenix hospital. He was 67.Paul Coro of AZCentral reported that Walk had been in poor health for some time. No official cause of death has been given at this time, but Coro wrote that Walk was hospitalized for "various medical reasons." The Suns passed along their condolences early Monday morning:Selected No. 2 overall in the 1969 draft, one spot behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Walk averaged 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during his NBA career. He peaked during his five-year run with Phoenix, most notably averaging 20.2 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as part of a breakout 1972-73 campaign.A trade to New Orleans in 1974 halted his trajectory, as Walk's averages fell off a cliff. He went from a nightly double-double (16.8 ...

Stephen A. Smith Responds to Kevin Durant, Says Thunder Superstar Is ‘Lying’

October 5th, 2015 by Kyle Newport No comments »
After seeing Kevin Durant shoot down his report and call him a liar, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith responded to the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar on First Take on Monday morning.He's not backing down.Last week, Smith reported on First Take that the Los Angeles Lakers are a team Durant will consider when he hits free agency next summer.Durant didn't hold back when denying that report Friday, via Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman:Smith responded a short time later on Twitter. However, the outspoken reporter wasn't done addressing the matter. On Monday's show, Smith talked in-depth about the matter. Although he repeatedly complimented the Thunder forward, he had some bold things to say.Not only did Smith say Durant is the one who is "lying," but he also said, via @Joshmaniii, that Durant should be careful about going after him:Neither Smith nor Durant is afraid to speak his mind. Knowing that, this drama is probably ...

Russell Westbrook Gets Up and Throws Down Reverse Jam During Shootaround

October 5th, 2015 by Kyle Newport No comments »
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook's crazy athleticism and explosiveness allow him to throw down some impressive dunks.Just look at what he did at the Thunder's Blue and White scrimmage on Sunday.During the shootaround, Westbrook gave fans a treat by showing what he can do. Off a lob to himself, the 6'3" guard threw down a powerful reverse slam—with the pump.It looks like Westbrook is ready for the 2015-16 season to start.[Chris Palmer]Read more NBA news on

Lakers Face Tricky Balancing Act This Season If They Want Kobe to Be Kobe

October 5th, 2015 by Kevin Ding No comments »
HONOLULU — The Society for the Preservation of Kobe Bryant held its first meeting Sunday. The unofficial declaration of the SPKB was as follows: Regarding the critically endangered species known by the common name of No. 24 Black Mamba, we shall not allow for premature extinction under any circumstances. And to have this end badly in the friggin' exhibition opener? Heck, no! Coming off of three consecutive season-ending injuries, Bryant played only the first quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' exhibition opener in Hawaii. He then unlaced those high-tops early and was saved for another day. He was a little slow and not very sharp—shooting 1-of-5 from the field, hitting the side of the backboard on his first attempt and looking particularly at risk pump-faking into oblivion on his last one. But Bryant's energy and endurance were fine for 12 continuous minutes. Not that there's anything wrong with the whole overprotective philosophy with Bryant right now, ...

Chicago Blackhawks’ 2015 Stanley Cup Championship Rings Feature 355 Diamonds

October 5th, 2015 by Kyle Newport No comments »
These rings certainly are fit for a team that has won three of the past six Stanley Cups.On Sunday, the Chicago Blackhawks posted pictures of their latest championship rings.One word: incredible.Chicago's 2014-15 Stanley Cup championship rings feature diamonds—and then some more diamonds:On the inside of the ring, the team's road to the Cup has been included:The Blackhawks tweeted out some quick facts about the rings:These rings should give every player in the league a little more motivation to hoist the Cup next season.[Chicago Blackhawks]Read more NHL news on

NBA Rumors: Latest Trade Buzz Surrounding Channing Frye and DeMarcus Cousins

October 5th, 2015 by Thomas Duffy No comments »
Ah, basketball—sweet, sweet basketball. We’re so very glad you’re back. The heyday of the trade season is over, but as the games that count begin to creep nearer and nearer, there are still rumors floating around the league. Let’s take a look at ‘em.   The Channing Frye Flea Market According to Grantland’s Zach Lowe, the Orlando Magic are willing to deal veteran forward Channing Frye on the cheap. Here’s Lowe, who was writing about how the Cleveland Cavaliers could potentially replace Tristan Thompson amid his holdout: The Cavs are not totally without options if Thompson holds out for months. The corpse of Brendan Haywood left behind a $10.5 million trade exception, and the Cavs can trade a future first-rounder that would almost certainly become a 2018 pick. That’s enough to start talks for someone like [Ed] Davis once he becomes trade-eligible on December 15, or even Markieff Morris if he pipes up again. Sources around the league say Channing Frye ...

Fantasy Hockey 2015: NHL Player Rankings and Sleepers You Must Add

October 5th, 2015 by Tim Daniels No comments »
The 2015-16 NHL season kicks off Wednesday night with a quartet of games, including the Chicago Blackhawks beginning their title defense against the New York Rangers. That also means it's crunch time for drafting fantasy hockey teams. While the foundation of any fantasy squad is built with the first handful of picks, championships are won in the middle and late rounds. Being able to effectively target and land some sleepers, especially forwards who go on to enjoy breakout seasons, is essential to success. So let's check out some resources for player rankings for the upcoming campaign. Using numerous outlets to gauge value is always preferred over leaning too heavily on a single source. That's followed by a deeper dive into a trio of sleepers worth considering.   2015 Player Rankings The Hockey News ESPN CBS Sports TSN Yahoo Sports   Sleepers to Target Tyler Ennis (F—Buffalo Sabres) Ennis' stats from last season (20 goals and 26 assists) are relatively mundane. When you consider ...

NBA Preseason 2015: Projecting Most Intriguing Matchups on the Schedule

October 5th, 2015 by Scott Polacek No comments »
The 2015 NBA offseason will be a difficult act to follow for the actual season. Between the DeAndre Jordan saga, banana boat emojis, New York Knicks fans mercilessly booing the selection of Kristaps Porzingis at the draft and the reloading of the San Antonio Spurs, there was never a shortage of storylines. Now that the dust has settled, it is time for the Golden State Warriors to begin their title defense, LeBron James to prepare for a run at his sixth straight Eastern Conference crown and the host of challengers to steel their resolve. However, there is an entire slate of preseason contests before the games officially count in the standings. The rookies will have a chance to get their feet wet at the NBA level, new coaches will familiarize themselves with their players and veterans will shake off the rust from a long summer. With that in mind, here is a look ...

NHL 500: Ranking the Top 75 Left Defensemen

October 4th, 2015 by Jonathan Willis No comments »
We recently introduced a new project, the NHL 500, by looking at the game’s top 50 goaltenders. We then turned to defencemen, starting with the top 75 right-side defencemen. In this slideshow, we finish our work on the blue line by turning to the 75 best left-side defencemen in the game. What are we looking for here? We can explain it in one question: Taking into account the available evidence, what would a reasonable person expect from every player in the league in this coming year? Our analysis is primarily rooted in major league work, which means we’re omitting rookies. We don’t care about contracts or long-term trade value. We don’t care about what happened last year, except insofar as it predicts what will happen in the coming year. Our process leans heavily on analytics and involves creating a 100-point scale for every position. A grade of 50 indicates an average player at ...