Monday, June 30, 2014

The Legend Of The Tazered Spiritual Escape Artist

Brantford, Ontario —  Cops refuse to tell him why they are trying to arrest him, and he refuses to acknowledge their illegitimate authority over him, Spiritual Escape Artist sings in his regular rhyming scheme, which pisses off the cops. They try to taser him into submission, but the taser charges his batteries, and he breaks free of their aggressions.

Bobby Womack R.I.P. (March 4th, 1944 – June 27th, 2014)

Bobby Womack, Royalty of the Soul Era, Dies at 70

Bobby Womack, who spanned the American soul music era, touring as a gospel singer in the 1950s, playing guitar in Sam Cooke’s backup band in the early ’60s, writing hit songs recorded by Wilson Pickett and the Rolling Stones and composing music that broke onto the pop charts, has died, a spokeswoman for his record label said on Friday night. He was 70.
Sonya Kolowrat, Mr. Womack’s publicist at XL Recordings, said further details about the death were not immediately available.
Mr. Womack, nicknamed the Preacher for his authoritative, church-trained voice and the way he introduced songs with long discourses on life, never had the million-record success of contemporaries like Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Otis Redding. His sandpaper vocal style made him more popular in England, where audiences revere what they consider authentic traditional American music, than in the United States.
But the pop stars of his time considered Mr. Womack royalty. His admirers included Keith Richards, Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder, all of whom acknowledged their debt with guest performances on albums he made in his later years.
Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones inducted Mr. Womack into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. CreditAaron Josefczyk/Reuters
Mr. Womack’s 2012 album, “The Bravest Man in the Universe,” is an avant-garde collaboration with a new generation of musicians. It combines old and new material by Mr. Womack, which the British producer Richard Russell and the alternative rock songwriter Damon Albarn mixed with programmed beats, old gospel recordings, samplings of Cooke and other sounds, some played backward or sped up.
The album earned favorable reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Rolling Stone ranked it No. 36 on its list of the 50 best albums of the year.
“I don’t understand a lot of the things they were doing,” Mr. Womack said of his collaborators in an interview with The Guardian. “I would never have dreamed of doing stuff like that, but I wanted to relate to the people today.”
Mr. Womack had his first major hit in 1964. He was under contract with Cooke’s SAR label when he wrote the song, “It’s All Over Now,” and recorded it with his group, the Valentinos, which consisted of him and four of his brothers. The song was slowly rising on the R&B charts when Cooke told him that a British band called the Rolling Stones had liked it so much that they planned to record it, too.
The song became the Stones’ first No. 1 single in Britain and their first international hit, while the Valentinos’ version sank.
“I was very upset about it,” Mr. Womack said in an interview. “It was like, ‘They stole my song.’ ”
Later, he said, as Cooke had predicted he would: “I stopped being upset when we got our first royalty check. That changed everything.”
Many of his songs were recorded by others, often with greater success than his own renditions. Janis Joplin included “Trust Me” on her album “Pearl,” the J. Geils Band recorded “Lookin’ for a Love,” which reached the Top 40 in 1972, and Pickett recorded “I’m a Midnight Mover” and 16 other Womack songs.
on, and helped produce, Sly Stone’s most ambitious album, “There’s a Riot Goin’ On,” now considered a soul classic.
Bobby WomackCredit Echoes/Redferns
Bobby Dwayne Womack was born on March 4, 1944, in Cleveland. His father, Friendly, was a steelworker and part-time Baptist minister. His mother, Naomi, played the organ for the church choir. Under their father’s direction, Bobby and his brothers Cecil, Curtis, Friendly Jr. and Harry formed a gospel group, the Womack Brothers, which began touring in 1953.
Sam Cooke, who spent the early ’50s as lead singer of a gospel quintet, the Soul Stirrers, first heard the brothers sing on a visit to Cleveland, when Mr. Womack was about 7. A decade later, Cooke invited the brothers to join him in Los Angeles, where he had his own record company and was a successful secular pop balladeer.
The Womacks were raised to believe that hell awaited gospel singers who sang pop music, Bobby told interviewers, and at first they resisted Cooke’s summons. They made several gospel records for SAR before changing their name to the Valentinos and recording their first secular songs, a decision that caused a lasting rift with their father, until shortly before his death in 1981.
By 17, Mr. Womack was the lead singer of the new group, the youngest guitarist in Cooke’s touring band, and an emerging hit songwriter. His song “Lookin’ for a Love,” a remake of a gospel composition, became a modest hit for the Valentinos on the R&B chart in 1961 (a decade before the J. Geils version). Royalties from “It’s All Over Now” alone reportedly made him financially secure for most of his life.
Then, when he was 20, Mr. Womack’s career hit a wall. The Dec. 11, 1964, shooting death of Cooke, during a dispute with a Los Angeles motel owner, left Mr. Womack without a mentor or a record label. By most accounts, his decision to marry Cooke’s widow, Barbara Campbell, just a few months after the shooting, made him something of a pariah in the music world.
Unable to land a new record contract, Mr. Womack left the Valentinos and settled into backup work for contemporaries like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Joe Tex, Joplin and a young, little-known Jimi Hendrix. His solo career began to revive in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Two albums he recorded for United Artists in the 1970s are considered soul classics: “Communication” (1971), which yielded the hit “That’s the Way I Feel About ‘Cha,” and “Understanding” (1972), which included “Woman’s Gotta Have It.”
In 1981 he released two of his most critically acclaimed albums, “The Poet” and its sequel, “The Poet II,” which featured several duets with the soul singer Patti LaBelle. He joined the Rolling Stones to sing a duet with Mick Jagger on “Harlem Shuffle,” on the Stones’ 1986 album, “Dirty Work.”
In 2009 Mr. Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His marriage to Ms. Campbell, as well as two subsequent marriages, ended in divorce. His survivors include a daughter, GinaRe. 
Although hip-hop stars frequently sampled the soul music of his era, Mr. Womack refused most requests by others to use his recordings in their work, he told a British interviewer in 2004. Despite his well-publicized marital problems and struggles with drugs and alcohol, he said, he remained a gospel singer at heart.
“Me being from the old school, I would not say ‘bitch’ on a record,” he said. “I couldn’t face my mother if I did.”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mercedes-Benz Buses | Arctic Test Drive

Who Is Carmelo Anthony?

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Who Is Carmelo Anthony?

Is he an all-for-me, money-hungry limelighter who can only play when the ball in his hands, a bigger version of Iverson and doomed to never win a championship?

Or is he a basketball savant, ultra-talented scorer that is willing to do anything to win a ring, just waiting to shed his public me-first persona and show everyone who Carmelo Anthony truly is?

If 12 years in the league hasn’t shown his true colors, these next few weeks will definitely do so.

Whether Melo is in it to create a legacy as just another great scorer or whether he is in it to prove that he truly is a champion, one thing is certain; a decision made by Anthony has potential to send shockwaves through the NBA landscape on par to the Summer of the Big Three. But first, Melo has to has to ask himself the question, “Who is Carmelo Anthony?”

Another brisk winter day and another 45-minute commute from school in the books. But this commute was different, this commute made every other 45-minute ride to and from school feel like it wasn’t worth it anymore. Bold in his mind rang five words – cut from the varsity team. How could it be? He loved the game, lived and breathed basketball. And now to be cut, that just couldn’t happen. Sound like a familiar story?

However, this is the version that has gone untold. This isn’t the Michael Jordan story, this is the Carmelo Anthony story. The deep-rooted search to find out who Carmelo Anthony truly begins right there, they day Carmelo was cut from his high school basketball team.

In the world of social media that we live in, public perception can paint a positive picture for an athlete that leads to the love of an entire nation. However, it can also create a force field of judgment, fair or not, that leads to nationwide scorn. And there is nothing more difficult than changing the opinion of the masses.

Case in point, LeBron James. He has done almost everything correct in the past four years but is still held hostage by the infamous Decision. Carmelo Anthony is a passenger on the same boat. And the motivation to prove people wrong from the day he was cut from his high school team is the same chip on his shoulder that will drive him to prove to the basketball world wrong and prove that Carmelo Anthony is a champion. Let the journey begin.


Carmelo Anthony can score. Period. That’s obvious, the 2013 NBA scoring champion can fill it up from anywhere with the best that have played the game. Often called the best pure scorer in the game today, Melo knows how to get buckets and sure isn’t shy about doing so. Career-high 62 in The Garden vs. Charlotte this season, Team USA Olympic record 37 points in a 2012 drubbing of Nigeria, and the list goes on.

What is also just as obvious in the public perception is that MelO is spelled with a capital ‘O’ and no ‘D’ anywhere to be found. If that weren’t bad enough, already known as a one-way player, Melo is also known for being an offense killer isolation act, need-the-ball-his-hands type of player.
Just ask ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd his opinion on Melo, “It doesn’t matter where he goes, it’s a you problem. He can’t run from who he is, he’s a ballhog.”

Is he right?

USA TODAY Sports Images

Look at when the Knicks played the most efficient basketball – 2012 during the Linsanity run while Melo was inactive. Many of these claims and perceptions do hold weight, however they do not tell the entire story. In the search for the true Carmelo Anthony, we must search deeper.

Yes, Carmelo Anthony is a high-volume scorer. And you already know how I feel about high-volume scorers. I hold them in the same regards as a trip to the dentist’s office. Melo averaged a league high 21.3 shot attempts this season, nearly four more attempts per game than LeBron and nine more attempts than the next highest New York Knick. On the surface, this number is far too high.

To become a player who everyone wants to play with, 21.3 shots per game is going to be an extreme red flag to any potential free agent. How many times have you heard a free agent say, “I’m willing to take less to go to New York and play with Carmelo?” Never.

But is it justified? Is Carmelo Anthony’s high-volume shooting product of the system and the environment that he’s in? Melo’s usage rate (30.1) is Top 5 in the NBA while keeping his player efficiency rating (24.5) higher than that of NBA public perception darlings Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin

Although his field-goal percentage isn’t as high as the King's, at 45.2 percent it rates higher than the public’s next superstars Paul George and Kyrie Irving. And in a league that is becoming more and more reliant on the three, Melo shot it at a clip of 40.2 percent, higher than that of perceived three-point shooting extraordinaires Kevin Durant and Kevin Love.

Of the nine most prevalent recorded scoring situations recorded by Synergy Film (iso, post-up, spot-up, pick-and-roll, primary ball handler, transition, put backs, off screen, and cuts), Carmelo had a points per possession rate of greater than 1.0 in all but two of the categories. Anytime a player’s points per possession is more than 1.0, that indicates efficient. One of the two categories that Melo doesn’t have over a 1.0 – isolation. Ironic, as that is the one perceived aspect that Melo shines in.


As good as Carmelo Anthony is offensively, he needs to become a full-fledged two-way player. This is the main stigma that Melo carries around with him; no defense.

Whether it is lack of desire or the weight of carrying the entire offense on his shoulders, Melo must make it a top priority to become an elite defender. There is no doubt that he can be if he wants to be. With his frame, he has the ability to guard power forwards in the post where he has actually been the most effective.

In post-up situations, Melo is holding opponents to a 0.593 points per possession ranking him in the top 95 percent of the league, which puts him ahead of 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert (which might not be saying much after the 2014 playoffs). Where Carmelo has lacked defensively isn’t when he is matched up in isolation situations (he’s been very effective holding opponents to 28.6 percent shooting).

Instead, his glaring weakness is in the main offensive player movement situations – off screen and pick-and-roll scenarios. In off screen situations, Melo is allowing his opponent to shoot an adjusted fg% of 56.3 percent and when involved in pick-and-roll situations his defensive points per possession is at a clip of 1.06, far too high for any high-level defender.

These analytical stats scream loud and clear that Melo’s problems defensively are in his head and not his ability. In the NBA, any lapse of concentration in a defensive player will lead to a team defensive breakdown and ultimately an open look. When Melo is man up with his opponent, he is very effective in creating stops.
However, it is Melo’s defensive commitment and complete focus in secondary defensive situations away from the ball that needs to improve to transform the perception of Mel-O.


One decision made by Carmelo this summer has the potential to shift the powers at the top. And it is the one decision that will answer the question, “Who is Carmelo Anthony?” At the age of 30 he is at a crossroads in his career: Take as much money as possible and stay in New York or sacrifice the cash and become the impact piece to win a title?

Due to the Bird rights and many other seemingly ‘foreign concepts’ in the NBA collective bargaining agreement that I won’t get into, Carmelo can sign with the Knicks for five years and $129.1 million. Yeah, that’s a lot.
Even if that extension is with the Washington Generals, that’s a hard number to pass up. Especially considering rival teams can only offer him a four-year, $95.9 million deal. Not only would passing up on more than $30 million guaranteed be huge number to leave on the table for Melo personally, it would also cause a stir with the player’s union as well. But, ultimately none of that matters. What matters is, ‘Who is Carmelo Anthony?
USA TODAY Sports Images

Anthony is not going to win a championship in New York. Period. Patrick Ewing and Walt Frazier aren’t coming back and there isn’t enough magic in The Garden to produce a Knick title. If Melo truly wants to put a ring on his finger, he is going to have to move on from his roots and depart the Big Apple.

Despite popular belief and the public’s love for the gossip headlines, Miami is not an ideal place for Melo. Sorry, not happening. The Rockets? A slightly better chance, but the same problem resides in Houston – there’s only one basketball. Melo and the James Harden coexisting would be a drama in itself. That leaves one ideal spot for Melo and one spot where his championship dreams aren’t a fairytale... Chicago.

Melo needs to play with another superstar and not just any superstar, but one who can run the show and create open looks for him. Even though Melo is perceived to be a great one-on-one player, he is much better with a point guard who can quarterback the game for him.

But Derrick Rose is a volume scoring point guard, right? Perception. Rose is only a volume scorer based on the pieces that have been provided for him in his career in Chicago. When has he been able to play with an elite wing scorer? Never. Hence the need to carry the scoring load himself.

And let’s take a look at when Melo has had a high IQ point guard to create shots – 2013 New York with Jason Kidd as well as every time he puts on the red, white, and blue for Team USA. In 2013, the Knicks had one of their most successful years averaging 10.9 made threes per game on 19.3 assists per game.

Getty Images
With Team USA, Carmelo has always stood out even among the stars. In 2012 at the London Olympics, Melo shot a scorching 54 percent from the field, 50 percent from beyond the arc, and averaged 16.3 points per game. Oh by the way, he was coming off the bench. Selfishness, get-mine mentality, nowhere to be found when he is among other stars.

Carmelo Anthony is an extraordinarily talented player and one that has fallen victim to the public perception label of selfishness and greed. But is he? Is that who Melo truly is or is he the most misunderstood player in the game?

The decision that lingers is the elephant in the NBA room and puzzle piece that could have a significant impact on who is holding the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the 2015 season.

From that cold ride home from school both literally and figuratively after being cut from his high school basketball team, Melo has been out to prove everyone wrong. And he’s about to do it again. — David Nurse | Hoops Hype via USA Today

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Super Sneeze Prank — Roman Atwood Productions

Super Sneeze Prank — Roman Atwood Productions

The Courtship Or Downfall Of Lance Stephenson

The Courtship of Lance Stephenson

What happens when a rare, young, and volatile talent hits the NBA free-agent market?

Lance Stephenson’s free agency should be a mega-event. He’s just 23, with solid two-way skills at a position where talent is so scarce, Klay Thompson’s agent will be able to keep a straight face when trying to wring a max-level extension from Golden State.1
And Stephenson is an unrestricted free agent. Players this talented almost never hit the market unfettered so early in their careers, and when they do, crazy stuff tends to happen. Gilbert Arenas’s sooner-than-usual unrestricted free agency resulted in a massive contract from Washington and panicked rule changes in the collective bargaining agreement.
Any team with cap room and some guts could try to persuade Stephenson to be a fixture on the wing for the next half-decade. Rebuilding teams can’t even use the excuse about not wanting to splurge in free agency ahead of schedule; Stephenson’s age makes him a natural fit on any team at the start of its upswing. Nabbing Stephenson comes with the bonus of snatching a crucial piece from an Eastern Conference heavyweight, leaving Indiana capped out and without any means to sign an equal talent.
Come on, people! Stephenson is the gleaming big-screen TV on the oldWheel of Fortune carousel of otherwise crappy prizes. Just drop the cash and you might be able to have him!
But the chatter around Stephenson’s free agency is quiet, for two reasons:
1. He’s a difficult personality. Executives on some teams with the requisite cap room recoil in horror at the very mention of his name. Teams with minor burbling locker-room discontent are hesitant to toss in another volatile personality. Stephenson’s embarrassing antics in the Eastern Conference finals inflamed the perception of him as a rogue loon whose “personality” will nearly cancel out all the good he might do on the floor. And the question lying just underneath those (legitimate) concerns: What happens when a guy who should be on his best behavior in pursuit of his first giant NBA paycheck actually gets that paycheck?
2. It’s hard to tell exactly how good Stephenson is, and how good he might one day be. This is the challenge of player evaluation — separating out a player from his current roster and figuring out how he might do in a different place, with a different role and different teammates. Stephenson can fade into a limited role within Indiana’s killer starting lineup, and he played almost all of his minutes in lineups that struggled to space the floor.
He looks like a ball-dominant scorer, but Stephenson actually used just 19 percent of Indiana’s possessions2 while on the floor this season. If a five-man group divided possessions evenly, each guy would soak up 20 percent; Stephenson’s usage rate was very low for a borderline All-Star.
He drove the ball to the rim only about 4.2 times per game, according to SportVU tracking cameras, a mark right around those of so-so penetrators like Patrick Beverley, Nate Wolters, and Shaun Livingston.3 He’s a good 3-point shooter, but not a great one, and certainly not one other teams fear when he’s away from the ball. Opposing defenders were willing to take an extra step or two off of Stephenson to clog the lane:
Watch the tape, and his pick-and-rolls appear to have a go-nowhere quality — especially when opposing teams have their big man drop back into the paint to contain Stephenson’s drive. Presented with that obstacle, Stephenson sometimes pulls the hoops equivalent of nonsense conversation to buy time — hesitation bounces, head fakes, meaningless crossovers, dribbles that somehow result in him going backward.
All that fancy stuff resulted in a heap of ugly turnovers. Stephenson coughed up the ball on 24 percent of the pick-and-rolls he finished, a mark that ranked 145th among players who ran at least 50 of those suckers, per Synergy Sports.
He doesn’t have a reliable midrange jumper to shoot over those big guys, like Chris Paul’s sniper shot from the right elbow, which means there is no in-between on his pick-and-rolls. They either lead to crazy drives or nowhere.
His assists in the half court are mostly unspectacular. He rarely got into the teeth of the defense for drop-off passes that led to juicy shots at the rim; the Pacers, after all, ranked 27th in shot attempts within the restricted area, per
Stephenson is a highlight reel in transition, but his dimes in the half court were mostly run-of-the-mill stuff any competent ball handler could manage — pocket passes to David West and Luis Scola for midrange jumpers, post entries, and skip passes around the perimeter. A full one-third of Stephenson’s assists came when throwing the pass from behind the 3-point arc on the right wing, per SportVU data provided exclusively to Grantland.


That would seem unusual, and both Paul George and LeBron James, for instance, have more evenly distributed assist-origination charts:


James Harden has a 33 percent cluster above the arc, but it’s in the middle, which is more profitable territory, and he’s also doing a ton of damage dishing from the elbow:


It’s almost enough to convince you that Stephenson isn’t too dynamic a player. He got to the line only 2.6 times per 36 minutes this regular season, a piddling amount for a rumbling freight train. Hell, Stephenson isn’t even as productive in transition as he seems. He turned the ball over on 26 percent of his transition chances this season, per Synergy, one of the worst marks in the league.4
The Pacers’ stuck-in-gum offense needed Stephenson’s jolts of fast-break energy, but it’s unclear how much he really helped in the long run. He loves going 1-on-3, or even 1-on-4, and if just one defender can at least slow him up, another one often reaches in and pokes the ball away.
Stephenson probably led the league in the number of times an unseen defender trailing from behind reached in for a steal.
He zooms in without a plan, which means a lot of ugly jump passes and desperate wraparounds in the tight area underneath the basket. He loves going for all-in deep routes, like a quarterback throwing a bomb to a streaking receiver through double coverage. This may shock you, but lots of those passes end badly. Stephenson might be the league’s only player who committed multiple turnovers last season by tossing blind outlet passes backward over his head:
There are a ton of warning signs here, and they can trick you into thinking Stephenson is overrated. But look a bit deeper and you can find signals that Stephenson may be in the early stages of a breakout career. Those wild drives on the pick-and-roll happen a lot, and there is a method to the wildness.
On possession-ending pick-and-rolls in which Stephenson goes around the screen — meaning he actually uses it — he drives to the basket area nearly 45 percent of the time, a monster number relative to the league average, per Synergy. He took the same percentage of his shot attempts from inside the restricted area as LeBron James, per, and he hit nearly 70 percent of them.
He is a creative player with an arsenal of tricks that compensate for his lack of a midrange game. He has a killer hesitation dribble; just when an opposing big man thinks his help duties are over and begins his retreat, Stephenson will blow by him:
He’s smart about faking toward a pick, getting the defense to commit in that direction, and then bolting the other way:
And when he gets into the lane, he has indeed shown that he can make the sorts of close-range passes that lead to the very best shots in the game.
Fans think Stephenson is selfish, but he’s not. He was probably Indiana’s best passer this season, and he’s especially good at reading the floor from the perimeter. He’s a step ahead in terms of understanding when a cutter will come open along the baseline, and he’s dynamite at making the extra swing pass from up top to a spot-up shooter in the corner.
He has also learned to cross up big men backpedaling to shut off his drive, and when he knows that defender is a ground-bound sieve, Stephenson will go right at his chest and bulldoze his way to the rim:
And remember: He’s playing within a peculiar context in Indiana. The Pacers don’t have a single big guy who can catch the ball south of the foul line and finish without a dribble; sometimes, their big men struggle to catch the thing at all. A lot of Stephenson’s assists lead to midrange jumpers because those are the shots West and Scola prefer.
Chris Paul’s assist-origination chart is even more perimeter-heavy than Stephenson’s:


You can do outside-in damage when your bigs can run and jump. And Stephenson’s assist chart isn’t so dramatically different from those of other creative players that it should make a team blanch. About 42 percent of his dimes led to a shot attempted within 10 feet of the rim, a number on par with those of LeBron (45 percent) and George (44 percent), and not so far from Paul’s figure (49 percent), per SportVU data.5
Indiana’s driving lanes are always tight because the team doesn’t have a power forward with killer range beyond 18 feet. Its perimeter players have an awful habit of standing in the way, in no-man’s-land around the baseline, instead of spacing out to the corners. Stephenson is part of that problem sometimes; he loves to linger near the paint and cut in for offensive rebounds.
Plop him amid more shooting and with an explosive leaping big man, and Stephenson might become a different player — especially if he’s something like a no. 1 option. His driving numbers aren’t that low once you account for how many times he touches the ball. He’ll develop a midrange shot, and he has flashed a bullying post-up game in favorable matchups.
He’s already a solid defender, and he has learned good habits in Indiana’s killer system. He stays close to corner shooters, cheats only off of guys who have earned that treatment, and generally sticks to the scheme. He’s tenacious, and he’s a freaking brute — a human cinder block with a measured wingspan north of 6-10, big for a shooting guard. The dude battles, and that counts for a lot in the NBA. Defense is unglamorous, and he seems to like it.
Stephenson conceded to me early in the season that he had occasional blips in his focus on defense, especially in recognizing when an opponent was about to nail him with a pick. That still happens; he’ll die on a screen now and then:
He can get a bit jumpy tracking his man, and Bradley Beal roasted him enough that Frank Vogel shifted George onto Beal by Game 2 of the Pacers’ second-round series against Washington.
But Stephenson is a good defender, and there’s no reason to expect that to change.
I feel like I’m at the end of a Shark Tank pitch: So, teams, who wants to dive in with this two-way shooting guard who might be kind of crazy?
If some team takes the plunge, the Pacers might be in trouble. George making an All-NBA team added another couple of million to their cap figure for next season. If the Pacers want to keep Scola — and remember, they gave up a ton to get him — they’ll only be around $7 million or $8 million under the tax before addressing Stephenson.
They can buy out Scola for about $1.9 million, saving themselves nearly $3 million, but they’d have to fill an extra roster spot. They could also use the stretch provision on Chris Copeland, or find a salary-dumping ground for a bit player like Ian Mahinmi. But those moves carry costs, both on the court and in real dollars. Regardless of the cap gymnastics involved, the Pacers can, if they wish, offer Stephenson about $10 million per season. But they can be outbid.
Let’s scour the list of teams with cap room and/or a need at the position to find the likeliest candidates for a Stephenson splurge:

Probably Out

Dallas: The Mavs will have cap room, but’s Marc Stein has reported that they aren’t interested, and that matches what I’ve heard.
Utah: For a host of reasons, no.
Orlando: The Magic are rebuilding, and Stephenson could be the heir to Arron Afflalo as the shooting guard who rises up with the franchise. But the Magic are unusually concerned with gathering high-character guys, and Stephenson would be a gamble for them.
Sacramento: Multiple executives from other teams have mentioned the Kings as a potential landing spot if Rudy Gay opts out of his contract, but that doesn’t appear to be Gay’s plan. The Kings just spent a lottery pick on Ben McLemore, and Yahoo! has reported that they might have their eye on a bigger target — Kevin Love.
Phoenix: The Love thing hovers over a lot of potential free agents as the domino that needs to fall first. Phoenix has a million extra first-round picks and an intriguing young piece in Eric Bledsoe, and may well try to suss out the Love situation before moving elsewhere.
And a lot of the Orlando “character” concerns apply here, even though Phoenix needs long-term wing help. The team is in a happy place after clearing out Michael Beasley and other toxins.

The Wild Cards

Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers need to, like, field a team for next season, and they’ll have north of $20 million in cap space. Opening the vault for Stephenson wouldn’t take them out of 2015 free agency, since Stephenson isn’t going to command anything close to a super-max contract.
And here’s another wrinkle a lot of front-office guys are kicking around: We now live in a world where half the league enters each offseason with a ton of cap room, just as the cap is rising at a fast and unpredictable rate. Every team is trying to chart the cap and figure out smart ways to spend in this environment. A lot of executives are wondering if teams with room will try to use it up by offering mammoth one- or two-year contracts to “risky” players, and/or structuring deals so that the guaranteed salary declines each year.6 What if the Lakers offer Stephenson a one-year, $15 million contract, or a similar deal with incentives in Year 2?
Stephenson knows he’s considered a character risk, and will surely try to lock up as much long-term cash as possible. But it’s an interesting potential curveball.
But the Lakers already have a shooting guard, as well as loftier free-agency goals for the next two summers.
Atlanta Hawks: No one can figure these guys out, which means Danny Ferry is doing his thing. They have cap flexibility and a good roster, though they dangled Al Horford at last year’s trade deadline in a very targeted fashion, per sources around the league.
I love DeMarre Carroll, but any team starting him has a need on the wing. Look at this starting lineup: Jeff Teague, Stephenson, Kyle Korver, Horford, Paul Millsap. Hell, you can start Pero Antic at center and bring Millsap off the bench. Anyone in the East dying to face that team in the playoffs?
But Ferry comes from the Spurs tree, which means he prizes coachability and quiet workers. Mike Budenholzer is a shooting zealot, and Stephenson might not be a good enough marksman yet to pique his interest.
Chicago Bulls: They’re reportedly deep into the tunnel of Love, and they’d need to use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer to open up the requisite space. Jimmy Butler is entrenched at shooting guard, but that brings up a larger point: The wing positions are basically interchangeable on most teams. Butler and Stephenson are both long and strong enough to guard most NBA small forwards; Stephenson at least made LeBron work for it in the conference finals until the Pacers rolled over in Game 6.
The two together could be terrifying, and Stephenson is a more advanced ball handler, capable of easing the load for Derrick Rose — something in which the Bulls should be very interested now.
But the Bulls are looking at other options, and Stephenson is likely too combustible for their taste. They’d love to find a better shooter, especially with Butler’s plateau as an offensive player last season.
Milwaukee Bucks: O.J. Mayo flopped, and the team needs a shooting guard who can help Brandon Knight run the show. Stephenson is young enough to be a long-term rebuilding cog.
But the Bucks had some dicey locker-room issues last season, and the team’s new owners are preaching patience. The Bucks are probably fine being bad again next season, doing the rebuild thing slowly.

The Sign-and-Trade Possibilities

Denver Nuggets: Denver is looking at zippo cap flexibility until July 2016, and it has a bunch of interesting players on movable contracts. The Nuggets just seem ripe for … something. Stephenson has a good relationship with Brian Shaw, and Randy Foye isn’t the long-term answer at shooting guard. Both teams need to be careful about the tax implications of engaging in a sign-and-trade, and the odds are always against a complex deal coming together. It’s unclear if the front office is interested, regardless of Shaw’s feelings.
New Orleans Pelicans: Lots of rival executives mentioned the Pelicans, but it’s hard to see a match on either side.

The Best Possibilities

Charlotte Hornets: Michael Jordan is talking big, and the Bobcats have money to spend. Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are nice players, but MKG is in the midst of a full-blown shot reconstruction, and Henderson can’t reliably shoot from deep or create off the bounce.
Stephenson would provide some juice for an offense that needs it, as well as ensure that Kemba Walker isn’t overburdened. He just spent four years learning a defensive system that isn’t much different from what Steve Clifford runs. Charlotte got a taste of winning, and they’re hungry for more.
Detroit Pistons: Welcome to the job, Stan Van Gundy! The Pistons need anyone with some offensive skill on the wing, and they’ll have about $12 million in cap room even accounting for Greg Monroe’s cap hold. Stephenson’s off-the-bounce skills would ease Brandon Jennings into more of a hybrid role after a miserable season, and Van Gundy likes fighters.
But you can bet that Detroit is weighing the risk of adding a thorny personality into what was a sour locker room last season. Still: Don’t be shocked if they make a play.
Indiana Pacers: The Pacers’ issues with Stephenson are well documented. He stole rebounds from teammates to inflate his own stats, he went on some haywire vengeance tour after the coaches left him off the All-Star roster, and everyone with the team grew tired of his on-court circus act against Miami.
But he’s a skilled 23-year-old player, and if he bolts, the Pacers would have no ready means to replace him. They could split the full midlevel exception between two wing players, but go that route and you’re paying combinations like Jerryd Bayless–Nick Young.7
And this is a two-year team now for the Pacers. Both West and Hibbert have player options for the 2015-16 season, and if they exercise those, they’ll be free agents in July 2016. The team will have to find a successor for West soon. The league expects the tax line to rocket up to $81 million for 2015-16, and Indy players have no potential bonuses that could screw up their cap figure, according to several league sources. The Pacers could pay Stephenson $10 million per year, duck the tax in each of the next two seasons, and go forward building the next iteration of the team.
Indiana has three bold deal-makers in Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh, and Kevin Pritchard. It will shock no one if they pull something unexpected to sort this out and accelerate any transition they think is necessary. Trading Hibbert probably isn’t off the table, and unloading George Hill’s contract would give them some breathing space and the chance to search out a more dynamic lead ball handler.
Stephenson should fit any long-term picture the Pacers have of themselves; they know him best and he’s comfortable there. But price could be an issue. Indiana is hoping Stephenson has cost himself some money, and there are lots of teams waiting around to see if the market starts in the $6 million–$8 million range — a spot at which they might dive in. The Pacers would outbid that, but it takes only one daring team to take a leap and smash that market apart.
Objectively, in basketball terms, some team should do it. But the non-hoops issues are what make Stephenson the most interesting free agent of the summer. — Grantland

And The Top 5 Highest Paid Soccer Players Are...

Cristiano Ronaldo © Maxisport/

#1 Cristiano Ronaldo, 29

Position: Forward
World Cup team: Portugal
2013 earnings: $73 million
A five-year contract worth $206 million from Real Madrid and sponsorships including Nike, Samsung and Herbalife have boosted Ronaldo's net worth to make him among the highest-paid athletes in the world.''

Lionel Messi © mooinblack/

#2 Lionel Messi, 26

Position: Forward
World Cup team: Argentina
2013 earnings: $65 million
The winner of the World Player of the Year -- or FIFA Ballon d'Or -- for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, along with a collection of additional trophies, Messi is considered among the best players of his generation.
His sponsorships include Adidas and Pepsi, but his new contract with Barcelona could land him in earnings competition for 2014 with 2013 No. 1 earner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. © Christian Bertrand/

#3 Neymar da Silva Santos Jr., 22

Position: Forward
World Cup team: Brazil
2013 earnings: $28 million
With a contract with Barcelona that pays him a salary of $74 million over five years and endorsements with L'Oreal, Nike and Castrol, Neymar should be moving up in earnings over the next few years, especially as he hits the world stage this summer. He's expected to shine at the World Cup in his home country Brazil.

Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. © Kostas Koutsaftikis/

#4 Wayne Rooney, 28

Position: Forward
World Cup team: England
2013 earnings: $22 million
He's a 10-year soccer veteran, with Samsung, Nike and HarperCollins paying him endorsements worth a total of $4 million. And Rooney is on a quest to become the all-time leading goal scorer for Manchester United and for England.

Sergio Aguero © Kostas Koutsaftikis/

#5 Sergio Aguero, 26

Position: Forward
World Cup team: Argentina
2013 earnings: $21 million
Being Puma's highest-paid soccer player is worth a pretty penny. Along with that endorsement deal, this Manchester City player is endorsed by Pepsi and Gillette.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Luis Suárez — The Hannibal Of Soccer Bites Again

Giorgio Chiellini Bitten By The "Hannibal" Luis Suárez In Uruguay’s World Cup Win Over Italy

[VIDEO: This is Suarez's third biting incident. The Uruguay striker previously bit Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic during a premier match in April 2013 and was suspended for 10 games.]

Italy's Giorgio Chiellini shows his shoulder, saying he was bitten by Luis Suarez.
Italy's Giorgio Chiellini shows his shoulder, saying he was bitten by Luis Suárez.

Luis Suarez reacts in pain after he appears to bite Italy's Guirgui Chiellini.
Luis Suárez reacts in pain after he appears to bite Italy's Guirgui Chiellini.

Giorgio Chiellini of Italy pulls down his shirt to show the ref bite marks from his clash with Luis Suarez.
Giorgio Chiellini of Italy pulls down his shirt to show the ref bite marks from his clash with Luis Suárez.
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