Saturday, January 30, 2016

J-Speaks: Super Bowl Week Without ESPN's "Mort"

Starting tomorrow if, not sooner, there will be wall to wall coverage of Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, CA by ESPN, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Every one of the ESPN family that covers and talks about the NFL will be there from Eric Allen, Trent Dilfer, Hug Douglas, Herm Edwards, Mike Golic, Tim Hasselbeck, Meril Hodge, John Clayton Ron Jaworski, Ray Lewis, Sal Paolantonio, Wendi Nix, Josina Anderson, Bob Holtzman, Suzy Kolber, Mike Tirico, Steve Young, John Gruden, Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth, Tedy Brushi and Damien Woody. On top of that, the “Sunday NFL Countdown” unit of Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Chris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson and Tom Jackson will be there. The ESPN family will be missing one person. The one guy who is as good as anybody in finding and delivering information to us the viewer on everything and anything going on in the NFL, especially during this upcoming week.

Longtime NFL reporter and analyst for ESPN Chris Mortensen has taken a temporary leave of absence because he was diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer.

“More than a week ago, I was diagnosed with a Stage IV throat cancer,” Mortensen, who his colleagues call “Mort,” said in a statement back on Jan. 15.

“My focus shifted significantly to gathering information about the specifics of this cancer. The initial diagnosis was confirmed Friday and there is another test remaining that will determine the pest possible treatment plan that will commence in the very immediate future. Consequently with the support and encouragement from ESPN president John Skipper and many others at ESPN, I am temporarily stepping away from my normal NFL coverage duties to better engage this opportunity to fight the good fight that is projected to affect almost 1.7 million Americans with new cases in 2016. I have many inspirational examples of men, women and children who have faced this very fight. We all know somebody right? I also have the love and prayers of my wife Nicki, my family, my friends, colleagues and most of all, my faith that serves as source of tremendous strength.”

The 64-year-old Mortensen, who has been delivering NFL news for ESPN since joining the network in 1991 appearing on some of the networks main shows “Sunday NFL Countdown,” “Monday Night Countdown,” “NFL Live,” “Sportscenter” and “NFL Insiders” in addition to giving us the scoop around Super Bowl week and the NFL Draft. He also has made regular appearances on many shows for ESPN Radio.

Mortensen’s sidekick Adam Schefter, who joined ESPN in 2009 after working as NFL Network’s inside reporter for five years said to Sports ( that he and a core of ESPN NFL staffers learned of Mortensen’s diagnosis back on Friday, Jan. 15 via e-mail.

“It was jarring, a professional and personal whammy,” Schefter said. “I consider him one of my closet friends. If I have issues in my life, he knows everything. He keeps me upbeat, grounded, a great friend, a great sounding board, I love the guy.”

In the days since then, Schefter has said he has spoken and texted with Mortensen every day. He more often than not has talked or texted him multiple times during a day

He is not the only one who has those kind of feelings for Mort.

Schlereth, who won two three Super Bowls in his career as an offensive lineman for the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins said that Mortensen had a wonderful P.M.A., positive mental attitude. Schlereth said on the Jan. 15 edition of “NFL Live,” “That dude has one of the most positive mental attitudes that I have ever been around.”

“He will attack this with great vigor and a great sense of humor and he’ll go after it and I’m there with you Mort. Love you brother.”

“NFL Live” host Trey Wingo said back on Jan. 15 that during game day at ESPN’s main headquarters in Bristol, CT Mort is the one that has the most energetic of anyone in the room. That he will get everybody going if given the opportunity.

That is something that will surely be missed, especially this upcoming week, the biggest of the NFL season.

“More than anything else, we miss you for the laughter my friend. So comeback when you’re ready. We’ll be here for you. We wish you nothing but the best,” Wingo said back on Jan. 15 on “NFL Live.”

Before he became a fixture at ESPN, Mortensen, who was born in Torrance, CA on Nov. 7, 1951 was with the The National Sports Daily covering the NFL from 1989-90, where he was one of the first writers hired by editor Frank Deford, who these days works on HBO’s “Real Sports.”

He was the beat writer for the Atlanta Braves from 1983-85 and then for the Atlanta Falcons from 1985-86. He covered the entire NFL for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution from 1987-89 and in 1987 received the very prestigious George Polk Award for a piece he did on the subversion of amateurism by sports agents and college athletes. He remains the sole recipient of the award since Red Smith in 1951. Mortensen also worked for Sports Magazine and The Sporting News.

To put how good of an NFL reporter Mortensen has been into perspective, he has covered every Super Bowl since 1979.

This battle that Mortensen is now facing makes the one he had against many Boston, MA fans and even some of those in the Boston media on Deflategate.

For those of you that might been under a rock the past year, this is a story that pertains to how the New England Patriots was the controversy involving the New England Patriots in the 2014 American Football Conference (AFC) title game where allegations were made that the Pats had tampered with the footballs that were used in this contest against the Indianapolis Colts, who they defeated 45-7 back on Jan. 18, 2015.

The league and Commissioner Roger Goodell announced back on May 11, 2015 that four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady would be suspended the first four game of this past season.

After Brady’s suspension was upheld, the case moved to federal court and on Sept. 3, 2015, Judge Richard M. Berman, a Senior U.S. federal judge of the District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated the four-game suspension of Brady on the grounds that “…the requisites of fairness and due process,” were not involved in the process leading to the penalty that came about.

While Brady was vindicated, a number of staffers of ESPN’s NFL staffers and of the show “Outside the Lines” received threatening phone calls, e-mails and tweets. Some of which were threats of physical violence. Mortensen was among those targeted.

One person who has been in Mortensen’s corner in this time of great uncertainty has been former Patriots’ great linebacker, who help them win three Super Bowls is current analyst for ESPN Tedy Bruschi, who 11 years ago came back from a mild stroke.

“You never know when it’s coming. The toughest that you’ve ever had in your life. I’ve experienced that personally,” Bruschi, who along with then Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith who were both named the NFL Comeback Players of the Year in 2005 said back on Jan. 15.

“From there, it’s about how much fight you got and from what I’ve learned from Mort the last seven years, I know you’ve got a lot of fight man. So this is yours. So I hope you welcome it and I hope you except the challenge and fight it like I know you will because from I’ve known about him and the support that he’s shown me since I first came here as an analyst, he’s a great man. He’s a good friend and I know he’ll fight.”

The greatest thing that when you are going through a tough, challenging moment in your life is to have faith in yourself to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Have an unwavering confidence that you will make it. More than anything else, you need to have people who have a high level of respect for who you are and what you bring to them that they believe in you enough that you will get through that tough moment and be better off for it.

The ESPN family has had two of those kinds of people in this position that Chris Mortensen is in now. Stuart Scott, the at sight game host for “Monday Night Countdown,” host of “NBA Countdown,” and one of the main anchors of “Sportscenter” fought bravely with his battle with stomach cancer, but passed away from it in January 2015 at the young age of 49.

Longtime west coast-based reporter for “Sportscenter” Shelley Smith back on Oct. 1, 2014 announced that she hand been diagnosed with breast cancer. After multiple radiation treatments, her cancer is in remission and has said she is “basically cancer free.”  

Besides having his ESPN family in his corner, Mortensen will have his wife Micki by his side and his two adult children, which includes son Alex, who played collegiate football for both Arkansas and Samford. He served as an offensive graduate assistant for the 2015 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

Most of the ESPN family and a great deal of their NFL commentators, show hosts and analyst will be in Santa Clara, CA getting ready for Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos versus the Carolina Panthers. They will do a great job as they normally do from top to bottom getting us ready for what should be a great game, there is a guarantee of some extra focus and outstanding work knowing that one of their own will not be physically with them, but in spirit.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Chris and his family as he faces this challenge. He is an extremely respected colleague, who has the complete support of his entire ESPN family. We wish him strength and hope in the battle ahead and look forward to his return whenever he chooses,” ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement.

Information and quotes are courtesy of 1/15/16 3:30 p.m. edition of “NFL Live” on ESPN with Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth and Tedy Bruschi; 1/15/16 article “Chris Mortensen, ESPN Reporter and Analyst, Diagnosed With Throat Cancer,” by Richard Deitsch;; http://en.m/;     

J-Speaks: 2016 NBA All-Star Game Roster Analysis

In two weeks from tomorrow, the city of Toronto, ON in Canada will be the host of the 65 National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game, which will be televised for the 14th consecutive season by Turner Network Television (TNT) at 8 p.m. from the home of the back-to-back Atlantic Division Champion Toronto Raptors. The NBA’s unofficial mid-season exhibition will be held outside the United States for the first time in its history, which will be seen by fans in over 200 countries and heard in over 40 different languages. This All-Star game will not only showcase new rising stars in the league, but it will also be a final showing of one of the best players to ever lace up his kicks on the hardwood.

Five-time NBA champ, 2007-08 league MVP and two-time Gold Medal winner Kobe Bryant (15.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.5 apg) of the Los Angeles Lakers (9-40) will be playing in his 18th and final mid-season classic as announced earlier this season he will retire at the end of this season, his 20th in the league.

Bryant has won MVP honors at the All-Star game four times, which includes the 2002 game in his hometown of Philadelphia, PA. He is the top scorer in the history of this exhibition and he edged out reigning MVP Stephen Curry of the defending NBA champion and Western Conference leading Golden State Warriors (42-4) to be the top vote getter to be a starter with 1,891,614 votes. Curry (29.9 ppg-Leads NBA, 6.6 apg, 5.3 rpg, 51.1 FG%, 45.5 3-Pt.%) finished third in All-Star voting with 1,604,325 votes.

It is hard to imagine that his first appearance in the All-Star game was back in 1998 as a starter for the West, sharing the same court as the player he has been compared to the most and is the only one to ever come close to being in the same sentence as the legendary Michael Jordan in terms of his game; his approach to basketball; his demeanor on the court; the number of championships he has won and how he has become a global icon.

Joining Bryant in the starting five for the Western Conference All-Stars is the dynamic duo of the Oklahoma City Thunder (36-13) is forward Kevin Durant (27.2 ppg-T-3rd NBA, 8.0 rpg-Leads team, 4.5 apg, 50.8 FG%, 38.7 3-Pt.%), who has scored 20-plus point in 34 consecutive games that he has played and guard Russell Westbrook (24.1 ppg-7th NBA, 9.9 apg-3rd NBA, 7.3 rpg, 2.4 spg-Leads NBA, 45.5 FG%-2nd best of career), who garnered six triple-doubles this season, second in the NBA.

Rounding out the starting quintet for the West is first time All-Star and one of the best two way players in the game and the 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard (19.9 ppg-Leads team, 6.7 rpg, 1.9 spg-Leads team, 50.6 FG%, 48.8 3-Pt.%-Leads NBA) of the five-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs (39-7), who has increased his scoring in each of his five seasons in the league.

Leonard’s emergence as the Spurs go to scorer and the play of forward LaMarcus Aldridge (15.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg-Leads team, 48.8 FG%), who made the All-Star team for the fifth straight season and in his first season with the Spurs has allowed the team to keep pace with the Warriors in the standings without wearing out the “Big Three” of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

The West team will be coached by Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich and his staff. This will be the fourth appearance by the future Hall of Fame head coach and 1970 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Backing up the starting five of the West All-Stars along with Aldridge is the NBA leader in triple-doubles with eight is first time All-Star of the aforementioned Warriors Draymond Green (14.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg-Leads team, 7.2 apg-6th NBA), who has lived up to the five-year $82 million contract he signed this off-season with numbers even better than last season, when he was in the running for Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year.

“It sounds amazing. It’s definitely something that I could never imagine happening,” Green said to Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal on TNT NBA Tip-Off this past Thursday night. “It’s been a life-long dream of mine to one day see that happen, but I could’ve never imaging it happening like this.”

The third Warrior to make the All-Star team this season is the second part of the “Splash Brothers” in Klay Thompson (20.9 ppg, 46.6 FG%, 42.7 3-Pt.%), making his second straight appearance in the mid-season exhibition and the 11th overall selection in the 2011 draft out of Washington State University has been at the top of his game averaging 25.3 and 23.0 points per contest in December and January respectably and is second in “The Association” in three-pointer made with 140.

Curry, Thompson and Green are the first trio of Warriors to participate in the All-Star game since Hall of Famer Rick Barry, Phil Smith and Jamaal Wilkes played in the mid-season classic during the 1975-76 NBA campaign.

Guard James Harden (27.7 ppg-8th NBA, 6.9 apg-8th NBA, 6.3 rpg, 1.5 spg) of the Houston Rockets (25-24) makes his fourth straight appearance in the All-Star, all have happened since he joined the Rockets when he was traded from the Thunder. He has had 19 games of at least 30 points and six games of at least 40 points this season and has garnered two triple-doubles in the last six games and came close on two other occasions.

Making his third consecutive All-Star Game is forward/center Anthony Davis (22.9 ppg-10th NBA, 10.2 rpg-9th NBA, 2.4 bpg-2nd NBA) of the New Orleans Pelicans (17-28), who is the only player to average 20 points, 10 boards and two block shots per contest this season. He has also garnered 23 double-doubles, which ranks 10th in the league.

Center DeMarcus Cousins (27.2 ppg-3rd NBA, 11.2 rpg-4th NBA) of the Sacramento Kings (20-26) makes his second straight appearance. He and Davis are the only players in the league this season to average 20 points and 10 rebounds. Cousins is also tied for third in the league with DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers (31-16) with 27 double-doubles and had a streak of 11 straight games with double-digits in points and rebounds, which ended when the Kings suffered a 112-97 setback at the Portland Trail Blazers (22-26) this past Tuesday night.

To put into better perspective how much Cousins game has grown in 2015-16, he made 11 three-point field goals entering this season. He has made 44 in 130 attempts so far this season.

Rounding out the West All-Star roster is Clippers’ starting lead guard Chris Paul (18.8 ppg, 9.6 apg-4th NBA, 2.1 spg-6th NBA), who will be making his ninth appearance in a row.

In the Eastern Conference, their starting five is led by the forward LeBron James (24.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.4 apg, 50.6 FG%) Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers and the team’s coaching staff will also be heading to the All-Star Game.

Last week, the Cavs made major news that they fired their head coach David Blatt, who led them to The Finals a season ago, where they lost in six games to the Warriors and replaced him with assistant coach and two time champion with the Lakers as a player Tyronn Lue. He will become the first head coach to be the lead man on the sidelines at the All-Star Game and have the fewest amount of wins, which is two right now in three chances, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Prior to Lue, Hall of Fame head coach, four-time NBA champion and President of the Miami Heat Pat Riley was first with 24 wins when he was selected to coach the West in the 1982 All-Star Game.

The rest of the starting five for the East consist of swingman Paul George (23.6 ppg-8th NBA, 7.2 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.9 spg, 37.9 3-Pt.%) of the Indiana Pacers (24-22), who is averaging career-highs in points and assists per game and in three-point percentage. Not bad for a guy that had a serious leg injury sustained during an exhibition game for Team USA two summers back.  

Perennial All-Stars Carmelo Anthony (21.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.1 apg-Leads team) of the New York Knicks (23-26) and Dwyane Wade (18.8 ppg, 4.7 apg, 46.1 FG%) are both making their ninth appearance in the mid-season classic. For Wade, this is his ninth appearance in succession. Wade will be joined in Toronto by fellow teammate and former Raptor for seven seasons Chris Bosh (19.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 47.6 FG%, 37.3 3-Pt.%), who will be making his 11th straight appearance in the All-Star Game.

For both players, this appearance unlike their past others is more meaningful in the aspect that while they are still dynamic players, they are not the same player that can dominate a game scoring wise as they have in the past. They have had to count on the rest of the team to make major contributions to the cause of winning.

For the Knicks, that has been very important for them as they already have more wins then as season ago, which was the worst in franchise history. The play of Kristaps Porzingis, who is in the running for Rookie of the Year as well as the play of new additions, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams are huge reasons for the Knicks’ resurrection in the 2015-16 campaign that has them on the outside of the playoffs looking in right now, but in a position to make a run to get into the Top 8.

In South Florida, the Heat have lately been dealing with injuries to some of their key cogs like starting lead guard Goran Dragic, starting forward Luol Deng, starting center Hassan Whiteside and bench players like forward Josh McRoberts and center Chris Andersen.

Even with those injuries though, the team is currently in the No. 6 spot in the East and have started to get some of their key players back. If they can get healthy, they should make it back to the postseason after a one-year absence.

Rounding out the starting quintet for the East is Kyle Lowry (21.0 ppg, 6.5 apg-Leads team, 5.0 rpg, 39.1 3-Pt.%) of the Toronto Raptors, who will be making his second consecutive appearance and is a major reason why his team has won a franchise record 10 straight games, who is averaging career-highs in scoring per contest, three-point percentage and free throw percentage at 88.3 percent. Lowry will be joined by his starting backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan (23.1 ppg-9th NBA, 4.5 rpg, 4.1 apg), who is also having a career-year in terms of scoring, rebounds and assists per contest as well as free throws made, attempted and percentage at 84.5 percent.

Their play at the offensive end as well as the team’s recommitment to the defensive end is a big reason why they have won a aforementioned 10 games in a row, which they accomplished with a 103-93 victory versus the New York versus the Knicks, who were without Anthony because of a left knee injury and Porzingis because of a upper respiratory infection. Lowry led the way with 26 points, 10 assists, six boards and three steals despite being questionable for the game with a sore wrist that he injured in the Raptors’ 106-89 win versus the Washington Wizards (20-24) this past Tuesday night.

“We’re just going out there playing hard and having fun,” DeRozan, who had 26 points, four assists and two steals on 9 for 18 from the floor and 7 for 8 from the foul line said to NBA on TNT sideline reporter and host of NBATV’s “NBA Inside Stuff” Kristen Ledlow after the game. “I tell the guys every time we go out there play hard on both ends and everything else will take care of itself.”

Making his second straight appearance in the mid-season classic in his fifth season in the league is swingman Jimmy Butler (22.4 ppg-Leads team, 5.3 rpg, 4.3 apg) of the Chicago Bulls (26-19). Last season’s Most Improved Player who increased his scoring by 6.9 points per contest a season ago, has had seven games this season of 30 points or more after having just seven games 30-plus total in his first four seasons.

Paul Millsap (18.0 ppg-Leads team 8.8 rpg-Leads team, 3.4 apg, 1.9 spg) of the Atlanta Hawks (27-21) is the lone representative on this year’s All-Star team as he makes his third straight appearance. He along with center Al Horford, sharp shooter Kyle Korver and lead guard Jeff Teague all made it a season ago.

Representing the struggling Washington Wizards (20-24) in the All-Star Game for the third year in succession is their starting lead guard and the KIA Eastern Conference Player of the Month for December 2015 John Wall (19.5 ppg-Leads team, 9.8 apg-3rd NBA, 2.1 spg-5th NBA), who is tied with Sacramento Kings lead guard and former All-Star Rajon Rondo amongst guards in double-doubles with 24 and in overall double-doubles is tied for seventh in the league overall with Rondo and rookie center of the Minnesota Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns with the aforementioned 24.

The two first time selections to the 2016 All-Star Game are a former lottery pick in 2012 who many thought was a player who could be a steal or a major bust when he came out of Georgetown University and the other was the 60th and final selection of the 2011 draft when he came out of the University of Washington.

Starting center Andre Drummond (17.3 ppg, 15.1 rpg-Leads NBA 1.5 bpg-Leads team, 1.7 spg-Leads team) of the Detroit Pistons (25-22), who will be the first Piston to make the All-Star team since Allen Iverson back in 2009 has gone from a question mark into a player that has increased his scoring and rebounding the past three seasons, including this one. He is the league leader in double-doubles with 38; has had 26 games of at least 15 rebounds this season; nine of games of at least 20 boards, where the Pistons have a 6-3 record in those games and he had a career-high of 29 caroms on Nov. 3, 2015 in a 94-82 loss versus the Pacers. Durmmond also had 25 points and three steals in that setback.

His emergence along with the solid player of the other five starters in Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova are a major reason the Pistons are a huge the Pistons have a chance to make their first appearance in the postseason since 2009.

When Isaiah Thomas came into the league four seasons ago, the only claim to fame that the 5’9’’ former Huskie, who again was the final pick in the draft, was that his father lost a bet and named his son after the great Hall of Fame lead guard that led the Pistons to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.

Thomas (21.5 ppg-Leads team, 6.7 apg-9th NBA) has become known to the entire league now as a first time All-Star, averaging career-highs in points and assists per contest and free throw percentage at 89.4 percent.  

To put how far Thomas has come into perspective, in 216 career games with the Kings in his first three seasons, he started 153 of them. When he was acquired by the Boston Celtics (27-21) at the trade deadline a season ago from the Phoenix Suns, he had started just one game in the 67 games he played combined for both teams a season ago. This season, Thomas has started 45 out of 48 games and is a big reason why the C’s have a serious chance of making the playoffs for a second consecutive season and general manager Danny Ainge has this team miles ahead of where they were projected by many to be when they via trades said goodbye to the likes of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rondo and head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers, who led the Celtics to their 17th NBA title eight seasons ago when they beat Bryant and the Lakers in six games.

The main event of TNT’s 31st season of NBA All-Star coverage will have it all. We will be saying goodbye to one of the greats in Bryant, who in his first appearance in the aforementioned unofficial mid-season classic had 31 points in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge and NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Some of the best in the game that have continued to do it like Bosh, Wade, Paul, Durant, James, Westbrook and Anthony have will be on hand proving again will show why again and the new comers and players on the rise like Curry, Thompson, Thomas, Cousins, Wall, Green, Butler, George, Leonard and Davis will show why the future of the NBA is in great hands going forward.

The 65th NBA All-Star Game in Toronto, ON will be a site to see and it can be seen on Valentine’s Night, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. on TNT. The game will also be simulcast by TSN and Sportsnet ONE in Canada and it will mean a lot for them, especially with the team’s starting backcourt as participating in the contest.

“It’s a blessing. It’s great for the city. For this organization. It’s big,” DeRozan said to Ledlow this past Thursday night. “We’re going to go out there, represent the organization best we can and this whole country.”

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 1/27/16 2:30 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime” presented by KIA with Rick Kamla, Steve Smith and Isiah Thomas; 1/28/16 2:30 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime” with Vince Cellini, Kenny Smith and Greg Anthony; 1/28/16 7 p.m. edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal; 1/29/16 edition of “Inside the NBA” on TNT presented by KIA with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal;|?|;|?|;;;; http://en/m/;;

Thursday, January 28, 2016

J-Speaks: Ten Year Anniversary of "The Black Mamba's" Historic Night At Staples Center

Ten years and six days ago this month, Perennial All-Star and five-time NBA champion of the Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant had one of the greatest scoring nights in the modern era of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Literally with the stroke of his right hand willed the Lakers to victory versus the Toronto Raptors. At the same time, he left an unforgettable impression on not just fans in Staples Center that Sunday night of Jan. 22, 2006, but on a future Lakers draft pick; four Laker employees that still work for the organization; the public address announcer for Staples Center; a play-by-play commentator doing his first Lakers broadcast alongside longtime color analyst; a Hall of Fame head coach and this blogger.

On the aforementioned date of Jan. 22, 2006, future first ballot Hall of Fame guard of the Lakers Kobe Bryant, a.m. “The Black Mamba” had the second highest individual scoring performance in NBA history when he had 81 points going 28 for 46 from the field, including 7 for 13 from three-point range and 18 for 20 from the free throw line in 41 minutes and 56 seconds of playing time in leading the Lakers to a come from behind 122-104 win versus the Toronto Raptors.

The highest scoring game in the history of the NBA was done by the late Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlin, who scored 100 points back on Mar. 2, 1962 in leading the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 victory versus the New York Knicks at the Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, PA.

To put the once in a generation performance on that Sunday night a decade ago into perspective, Bryant has topped the 60-point mark or more five times in his career, which is second in league history to Chamberlin’s 32 times. There have been over 1,300 instances that an NBA team scored less than 81 points in a single game. At the time of this occurrence, the other four starters for the 65th NBA All-Star Game that will be taking place in Toronto next month, which were announced during NBA on TNT pregame show a week ago in Kevin Durant and Russell of the Oklahoma City Thunder); reigning league MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs all were in high school.

“It means a lot to me. To be back here, it’s strange because it seems like it was yesterday,” Bryant said this past Friday night to Time Warner Cable Sportsnet sideline reporter for the Lakers Mike Trudell before the Lakers hosted the Spurs. “Ten years went by in a hurry.”

The two men that were very lucky to call that historic performance were then Fox Sports West’s Bill Macdonald, who was calling his first Laker game ever alongside longtime Lakers’ color analyst Stu Lantz. Macdonald was filling in for the play-by-play commentator Joel Meyers, who on assignment elsewhere on that day.

Lantz said of the historic performance by Bryant that he was “sitting at the Staples Center watching a video game.” “It was the most special game that I’ve called that wasn’t a championship.”

This dream night though did not get off to a great start as the Raptors lead by the likes of perennial All-Star Chris Bosh, swingman Jalen Rose, guard Mike James, sharp shooting forward Matt Bonner and rookie reserve forward out of the University of Connecticut Charlie Villanueva were shooting the lights out and were killing the Lakers and were leading 63-49 at the break.

“The night was kind of funny because it was just a normal Sunday game. The first half was pretty standard,” then Laker cheerleader Jessica Elliott said.

“There was sort of a lethargy in the arena from Kobe’s teammates,” then Orange County Register beat writer for the Lakers from 1999-2013 Kevin Ding said. “The feeling was well this maybe one of those nights where the Lakers just kind of mail it in and they don’t have their best effort.”

The outlook was so gloom and doom that Lakers’ beat writer for the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan had already began writing his story on the game that the Raptors were going to win.

Then the second half came around and Bryant, who had 26 of the Lakers 49 first half points had a look in his eyes according to  Alison Bogli, who was observing the game from the scorer’s table that this game was not going to slip away.

He came out guns blazing in the third quarter scoring 27 of the Lakers 42 points in the third quarter as the Lakers outscored their visitors from over the Canadian border 42-22 in the period.

In the words of longtime Lakers’ trainer, who along with Bryant will be retiring at the end of this season, “He got rolling? You were like, ‘Okay. We’re going for a ride tonight.’ ”

Staples Center Music Director Dieter Ruehle concurred when he said of the moment, “Kobe was really like hitting most of the shots.”

Bryant was on such a role that one of the Lakers’ camera operators Rusty Breslow got on the phone of one of the Lakers regular camera people who was not at Staples Center on that night and said that “Kobe might score 60 points tonight.”

“As a Laker girl sitting on the court, whenever a Laker scores we stand up and we cheer. As his point total just kept growing and growing, we were standing more and more,” Elliott said of Bryant’s scoring tear.

Bryant’s kept the pedal to the medal in the fourth and final stanza as he saved his best for last as he scored 28 of the Lakers’ 31 points in the period.

While he was in that unbelievable scoring zone that only the best of the best seem to get to, Bryant felt the energy of all those in attendance at Staples. The crescendo of cheers of shock that they could not believe what they were witnessing.

Then assistant equipment manager and now the head equipment manager Carlos Maples was so into the game, his reaction to what was occurring at that moment was, “Wow. He gets 70, I’m just going lose my mind.”

He did not get 70, Bryant got 72 points when he connected on a 14-foot jumper that made the score 113-96 and surpassed Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor for the most points scored by a Laker in a single game. The previous mark held by Baylor was 71. Chamberlin was third with a 66-point performance.

Bryant was on such a role that Staples Center public address announcer Lawrence Tanter, who has been calling Lakers games since the 1981-82 season when they were playing at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, CA that the scorer’s table and the stats crew upstairs had a devil of a time keeping up with what scoring record Bryant was shattering or shattered next.

“We kept interacting with the stats crew upstairs like what record is he’s approaching now,” Tanter said.

As Bryant was scoring the last of his 81 points from the charity stripe, nearly everyone was on their feet in the arena, even Lantz, who said that it was his instincts that made him rise out of his seat and acknowledge Bryant’s out of this world performance. In the words of Macdonald at that moment, “This entire crowd on its feet. Including my partner.”

“I had to get up and stand and give the ovation that the rest of Staples Center was giving him. It was really something special,” he said. “He’s always doing something that not only amazes me, but everybody.”

The only that would put the cork on the bottle of this great evening was the final salute, something that Fox Sports West Television Director Jerry Weinstein was rooting for.

He got it at the 04.2 mark of the fourth quarter as Bryant exited to a thunderous ovation and hugs and congratulations from his teammates and then Head Coach Phil Jackson, who also saw the great Michael Jordan have a night to remember when he scored 69 points at the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 1990.

As Bryant made his exit, Tanter announced to the audience that Bryant had scored the 2nd most points in a game in NBA history, something that he never has done.”

“I mentioned that he scored 81 points. I’ve never done that before and why I did it? I don’t know. History,” Tanter said.

Macdonald during Bryant’s exit crystalized the performance for those watching on TV by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen you have witnessed the second greatest scoring performance in NBA history.”

For me, this moment made me take notice of the eventual five-time NBA champion; the 2007-08 regular season MVP; 18-time All-Star and the closest thing to Michael Jordan. On the conclusion of this contest, I can finally say in my 23 years of following the National Basketball Association as a huge fan, I can say who my favorite player is and his name is Kobe Bryant, “The Black Mamba.”

“For me to put on such a great performance at that time, it was fun for me,” Bryant said on the Week 19 edition of “Backstage: Lakers.”

This was not only the highest scoring night of the modern era in the NBA, it was a night where Bryant showed his sheer will and never surrender attitude that has been the hallmark of his career and he left an amazing impression on all of those in attendance at 1111 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90015.

Elliott, who is now the Game Entertainment Manager for the Lakers said, “I feel extremely lucky to have been sitting courtside for one of the greatest games in NBA history.”

Ruehle said, “I’m fortunate to have witnessed that out there.”

“The very next year, I got drafted by the Lakers and I told him the story,” Jordan Farmar, who was selected by the Lakers in the 2006 NBA draft after his sophomore season with the UCLA Bruins said of that experience. “I was just a fan enjoying the game.”

Macdonald became the full-time play-by-play commentator for the Lakers five seasons ago and he and Lantz have been calling Lakers games for now Time Warner Cable SportsNet.

Ding now covers the NBA for Bleacher Report, which is based out in Los Angeles and Bresnahan is still the Lakers beat writer for the L.A. Times and also can be seen on “Lakeshow,” with Dave Miller, Trudell, Kelli Tennant and Jamie Maggio.

On the Anniversary of Bryant’s 81-point performance, he managed to score just five points going an abysmal 2 for 9 from the field, including 1 for 4 from three-point range with six assists, just two rebounds and three turnovers in 27 minutes as the Spurs (39-7) beat the Lakers (9-38) at Staples 108-95 extending their then winning streak to 13.

While the fans witnessed another Lakers defeat this past Friday night, they did walk out of the arena with a serious memento as their ticket stubs carried a photograph of Bryant from that aforementioned Sunday night 10 years ago as well as those lucky fans that bought commemorative T-Shirts from that night.

“It’s wonderful to see him 10 years later. See him still be able to go out there and play,” Bogli said. “Just seeing someone go down in history as one of the greatest players ever.”

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of the 1/22/16 10:30 p.m. ESPN news crawl during their NBA telecast of the Indiana Pacers at Golden State Warriors with Mark Jones and Jon Barry; 1/27/16 8 p.m. edition of “Backstage: Lakers” Week 19 on Time Warner Cable Sportsnet;;;;;

Saturday, January 23, 2016

J-Speaks: Eastern Conference Leaders Axe Their Head Coach

When you are winners of nine of your first 11 games in the month of January and you are head and shoulders the best team in your conference, the players and the rest of your organization should be over the moon happy. When you are a team though that has championship or bust aspirations and when two of those losses are against two teams that have the same aspirations as you and one of those teams embarrasses you on national television and you do not enjoy two solid wins be double-digits that is a bad sign. That was the current state of the Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers and they did something about that this past Friday.

The Cavs (30-11) on Friday afternoon fired head coach David Blatt, who lead the team to the NBA Finals a season ago, but his team minus All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving because of injury.

Coaching in place of Blatt will be assistant head coach Tyronn Lue, who according to a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne has a new three-year nine million dollar contract, which includes a team option with a buyout on the last year of the deal.

This is the first head coaching opportunity for the 38-year-old Lue, who played 11 NBA seasons (1998-2009) with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won two NBA championships; Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks. Lue is now the second youngest active head coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA).  

Blatt, who was 83-40 in his season and a half as the leader on the Cavs sideline became the first head coach since the 1970-71 NBA campaign to be fired when their team has the best record in its conference. Blatt’s record was the fourth best in the NBA in that time span.

The team was 19 games over .500 this season and the starting lead guard Kyrie Irving and perimeter defensive ace Iman Shumpert were on the shelf to start the season missing the first 24 and 21 games because of knee and wrist injuries respectably.  

“When you have clarity of purpose that we have as a franchise, decisions like these tend to be make themselves,” Cavs general manager David Griffin said about the decision of the team to let Blatt go in a news conference this past Friday.

“Ownership has instilled at a very deep level in this organization what we are all about and every decision is made as an answer to the following question. Does this put us in the best position to deliver a championship to Northeast Ohio? And every decision we made is made with that question in mind.”

To bring what Griffin said into more clear focus, the Cavs entered their Jan. 14th class at the San Antonio Spurs (38-6) with an eight-game winning streak and some serious momentum. It was a chance to make a serious statement against a team that they might see in June if they make it that far.

After a marvelous first quarter where they had a 32-20 lead over the Spurs, the Cavs were out-scored 79-73 over the next two quarters and were outscored 55-45 in the second half falling at the Spurs 99-95 snapping the Cavs eight-game winning streak and extending the Spurs home winning streak dating back to last season to 32 consecutive wins. The Spurs with their 108-95 win at the Lakers this past Friday night have won 13 straight games overall.

The Cavs bounced back less than 24 hours later with a 91-77 win at the Houston Rockets (23-22) to close their road trip at 5-1 and garner their first win in Houston since Mar. 26, 2006.

The Cavs next big test came on Martin Luther King night this past Monday with their second meeting with the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors (40-4), who returned to Quicken Loans Arena for the first time since capturing their first title in 40 years when they beat the Cavs in Game 6 of The Finals this past June.

Unlike their Christmas Day encounter in Oracle Arena, where the Warriors won a nip and tuck slugfest 89-83 on national television, this contest was no contest.

Every adjective to describe how the defending champs took down the Cavs from how they chewed them up and spit them out to they took them to the cleaners, the beat them 132-98.

The Warriors led by as many as 43 points in the game shooting 54.1 percent from the field; going 19-40 from three-point range; scoring 21 points off 16 Cavalier turnovers; compiling 33 assists to the Cavs 22 and holding their own in the paint being outscored by just two 40-38.

Warriors’ guard and reigning MVP Stephen Curry was magnificent with 35 points going 12 for 18 from the field, including going 7 for 12 from three-point range with five boards, four assists and three steals. Finals MVP Andre Igoudala had 20 points off the bench going 7 for 8 from the floor, including 4 for 5 from long distance. Forward Draymond Green nearly had his ninth triple-double of the season with 16 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds to go along with two steals. The other half of the “Splash Brothers” Klay Thompson had 15 points and Harrison Barnes had 12 points.

One thing that happened during the Cavs being blown out by the Warriors on Monday night that was pointed out by ESPN NBA Countdown host and analyst Jalen Rose is that four-time MVP and perennial All-Star LeBron James, who led the Cavs with 16 points in the aforementioned ugly setback sat in ex Cavs’ head coach Blatt’s chair during one of the time outs.

Rose said on the 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” to anchor Lindsay Czarniak this past Friday that it is not unusual that happened.

When that person doing it though is a four-time MVP, two-time champion who returned home with the soul goal to bring the city of Cleveland its first professional sports title in over five decades and when a team is 17-4 against team under .500, but just 4-4 versus team playing at .600 and over is saying that in the biggest of games that the players and the coaching staff, in particular the head coach are not on the same page.

“Therefore David Blatt unfortunately for him and his family was fired on his day off,” Rose said to Czarniak this past Friday.

To bring this point into better focus, the Cavs after that loss this past Wednesday won at the Brooklyn Nets (11-33) 91-78.

James and Kevin Love each had 17 points to lead the Cavs. Love also had a game-high 18 rebounds. Starting center Timofey Mozgov was the only other player to score in double-figures with 11 points to go along with five rebounds.

On the back end of a back-to-back, the Cavs returned home to face another hot team from the Western Conference and this time they were up to the challenge as they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers (28-15) this past Thursday night 115-102.

James led the way with 22 points going 9 for 17 from the field with 12 assists and five rebounds. Starting shooting guard J.R. Smith also had 22 points going 6 for 7 from three-point territory. Irving had 21 points and Love had another double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Mozgov had another 11-point performance with five boards, two blocks and two steals.

The Cavs, shot 50.6 percent versus the Clippers and shot 46.4 percent from three-point range going 13 for 28. They out-rebounded the Clippers 47-35; recorded 29 assists to the Clippers 19; outscored their visitors in the paint 42-34 and held the Clippers to six fast break points.

After these two straight wins however, things seemed to not be right with the team from a comradery stand point and that has been something that has been going on for quite some time now.

That is something that ESPN First-Take commentator Stephen A. Smith pointed out during “Sportscenter” on Friday of how James has shown how is comfortable being around Smith, forward/center Tristan Thompson and Irving.

A season ago, a photograph was taken in a hot tub and a number of the Cavs were in the photo except for Love.

James tried to get things square with Love over this past summer by spending some time with him in Santa Monica, CA, according to Shelburne and that was key in Love signing a max deal last summer of five years at $113 million.

The other key was the experience Love had in seeing what The NBA Finals were like a season ago, even though he was not able to play because of a shoulder injury he sustained in the opening round versus the Boston Celtics.

“You felt last year, he [Love] didn’t fit in with that team both culturally on the court and spiritually or whatever it was,” Shelburne said of Kevin Love’s role a season ago.

“But when he got to The Finals and he saw and he experienced what it was like, even though he was injured. Even though he couldn’t play, that’s what he wanted to feel.”

While he has performed played well with double-doubles in the last two games and has put up better statistics this season averaging 15.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, he is only shooting 41.3 percent and has looked nothing like the Kevin Love that was 20-plus point and 10-plus rebound per contest performer that made him an All-Star back with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

On top of that, there was no outrage or even a call out from the print or broadcast press about this, which Shelburne also pointed out this past Friday on “Sportscenter.”

Going back to the coaching changes, when the Cavs were in the process in looking for a new head coach two off-seasons ago, their final two choices according to Smith were Blatt and the new head coach now in Lue, who the Cavs paid a serious amount of money to lure him away from the Clippers.

On top of that, Lue more often than not was the one who was drawing up plays in timeouts and on many occasion was the one who had no problem getting on the likes of James, Smith and Irving, especially in film sessions, which is something that former Cavalier pointed out to Czarniak on Friday.

That among other things was a major reason that Blatt according to Smith was on the clock of not if, but when he was going to be given the boot.

“When you look at David Blatt and you saw that he was still there as the coach, although you liked him. Although you respected what he did in Europe and you respected that he had a basketball acumen. When you looked at him in terms of going up against contemporaries and you sense that he didn’t measure up and everyone in the locker room seemed to get that,” Smith said.

“David Griffin ultimately reached the conclusion that others had reached before him, but he deserved credit for finally making the move that he made.”  

One other big question that came into focus about this move is how involved was James in this, Griffin made it very clear that while James is the leader of the Cavs on the court and his goal is the same as the organization, he had no role in Blatt being relieved of his duties as head coach of the team.

“I didn’t talk to any of the players before this decision,” Griffin said. “It’s really critical to me for everybody to understand this is my decision. This is our basketball staff’s decision… My job is to lead a franchise and to lead an organization where it needs to go and that’s what I’m tasked with doing and that’s what I did.”

In getting back to James, Griffin said that, “he desperately wants to bring a championship to this team. LeBron doesn’t run this organization. LeBron is about this organization and he’s of this organization and he’s our community, but this narrative that somehow were taking direction from him is just not fair.”

Fair or unfair, the task of getting the Cavs to the ultimate prize no falls on Lue and while he may not have any head coaching experience, he has a ton of knowledge from his playing days and is a well-respected individual in the league.

No one understands that better than his former boss and head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers in Glenn “Doc” Rivers, who Lue spent three seasons as the Director of Basketball Development from 2009-11 with the Celtics and as an assistant coach with the Clippers in 2013-14.

“This man has the ability to tell you the truth and be very, very clear and direct with you either without offending you or offending you in a way that’s beneficial to you,” Smith said about Rivers feelings about Lue via a text message this past Friday.

Former Cavs’ center Brendan Haywood said to Czarniak on this past Friday’s “Sportscenter” that while Blatt had a hard time giving constructive criticism to the players, especially James during film sessions, Lue had no problem telling James that he was late on a defensive rotation or how the likes of Irving and Smith needed to show more effort on certain plays.

“He wasn’t scared to challenge them,” Haywood said of Lue’s ability to reach the players, especially high profile Cavs. “So guys really, really started to respect Tyronn Lue because of that.”

Another telling sign of how good Lue was in his short time with the Clippers, after their aforementioned setback at the Cavs this past Thursday, perennial All-Star lead guard Chris Paul, who led the Clippers with 30 points, nine assists and three steals at the end of the game met up with Lue on the court and gave him a big hug.

That really shows how good Lue was as an assistant when one of the best players in the game and who NBA on TNT/NBATV analyst and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley calls “the best leader in the NBA” goes over and shows love to a former assistant coach.

The hope now is that Lue can do become the fourth person to take over as head coach of an NBA team mid-season and lead them to the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The last time that happen was in 2005-06 when then Miami Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy, who is now the leader on the sidelines for the Detroit Pistons was relieved of his duties when the Heat were 11-10 and team president Pat Riley took the reins. The Heat finished the season 41-20 and went on to win the championship by beating the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

Prior to that the Lakers of 1981-82 replaced then head coach Paul Westhead, who was 7-4 after 11 games with Riley, who went 50-21 the rest of that season and including the playoffs 61-23 overall and the Lakers went on to win the championship that season and added three more titles in 1985, 1987 and 1988.

The first time this happened was in the 1979-80 NBA campaign when Westhead replaced Jack McKinney, who went 10-4 to start that season to and the team went 50-21 the rest of that season. They beat the Philadelphia 76ers in six games that season to capture their seventh title at that time. This was also the game that Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson started at center in place of Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and had 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

The Cavs have been the favorites to win the East right from the jump of and by their record, they have played up to expectation. As mentioned earlier though, they are 0-3 against the Warriors and Spurs. The Cavs with the talent they have should win the East, but do have the toughness and focus to win it all if they see the Spurs or the Warriors in The Finals this June if they make it there? Griffin hopes that the coaching change will be a major step in that direction and the players if they have any reservations about the decision have to role with the punches and perform.

“I know what something that’s not right looks like and I believe this was the right decision to make and it’s very possible that it’s the wrong decision to make…,” Griffin said. “They don’t have to like it. They do though have to respect it that this is what we’re trying to do.”

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 1/22/16 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” with Lindsay Czarniak, reports from NBA Countdown analyst Jalen Rose, Stephen A. Smith, ESPN Senior Writer Ramona Shelburne and ESPN NBA Senior Writer Marc Stein; 1/23/16 8 a.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” with Sara Walsh and Matt Barrie;;; Sporting News Official 2006-07 NBA Guide.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

J-Speaks: "Big Blue's" New Headman

In 12 seasons under the guidance of head coach Tom Coughlin, the New York Football Giants won three National Football Conference (NFC) titles (2005, 2008 and 2011) and two Super Bowl titles (XLII and XLVI). The last four seasons however have been ones to forget with now playoff appearances and including this past season going 6-10 three consecutive losing ones. In the minds of the fans and the organization, it was time for a change and both the organization and Coughlin decided it was time to part ways and find a new leading man to run the show. In a 10-day span, the team interviewed six possible candidates and last week they found they found their new man in the guy that made their offense one of the best in the NFL the past two seasons.

Last week, the Giants introduced Ben McAdoo, the team’s offensive coordinator the past two seasons as the new head coach of the team on a four-year deal. Terms of deal were not disclosed.

He is the 17th head coach in their storied history and at age 38 is the second youngest head coach in the NFL, behind Miami Dolphins new head man Adam Gase at 37 years of age and is just 3 ½ years older than the Giants two-time Super Bowl winning signal caller Eli Manning.

Whether the team made the right choice remains to be seen, but McAdoo felt right at home when he was officially introduced by the Giants as their new head coach this past Thursday.

“This job is not for the faint of heart and I’m the right man for the job. I like the pressure. This what you live for,” McAdoo said. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s the football capital of the world. What could be better?”

The major hope is that this hire by Giants’ president and CEO John Mara does not end like the one his father Wellington made back in 1974.

Back when John was in college, Wellington hired the late great defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger of the famed “No-Name Defense,” of the back-to-back Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins, including their perfect 1972 season, where they went 17-0 under the direction of Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula.

Following the 24-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl III, Wellington Mara hired Arnsparger to be the new head coach of the Giants. He lasted just 35 games, going 7-28 before being fired midway through the 1976 NFL campaign.

What should give Giants fans comfort that they made the right decision in who they made their new head man on the sidelines is that in two seasons as the team’s OC, the Giants offensive production has been one of the best in the NFL, just like he helped Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense at his prior stop become one of the most prolific in the league.

Prior to the arrival of McAdoo, who the last seven seasons as the tight ends and then the quarterback’s coach of the Green Bay Packers, the Giants averaged 307.5 yards per contest and scored a total of 294 points, an 18.4 average in 2013. In 2014 under the guidance of McAdoo, Giants averaged 367.2 yards per game and scored a total of 380 points, a 23.8 point average and this past season, the Giants averaged 372.3 yards per game and scored a total of 420 points, a 26.3 average.

“He’s been an offensive coordinator for two years and ideally he would have been a coordinator for longer than that,” Mara said this past Thursday. “My instincts told me he’s the right guy.”  

One person happy with the team’s decision is Eli Manning, who has had the two best seasons of his career with McAdoo as the play caller.

His completion percentages of 63.1 and 62.6 over the past two seasons respectably have been the best of his career since four straight seasons of 60.3, 62.3, 62.9 and 61.0 from 2008-11. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards the past two seasons, which includes a career-high of 4,416 this past season. The 2010 season is the only time that Manning had thrown for over 30 touchdowns with 31. The past two seasons, Manning has thrown 30 and 35 touchdowns the past two seasons and after throwing a career-high 27 interceptions two seasons ago, he has thrown just 14 the past two seasons.

“I’m excited. I’m excited for the Giants’ organization and for the team,” Manning said this past Thursday. “I think Coach McAdoo is a great coach, a great teacher, and will be a great leader of this team.”

The only thing that might give people pause about the Giants new hire is the fact that McAdoo has never been a head coach at the high school, collegiate or pro football level.

His journey to being the Giants head coach began in 1996 as an assistant coach for the Homer-Center Junior/Senior High School Wildcats in Homer City, PA for two years. In 1998, McAdoo was an assistant coach at Indiana Area High School for two years.  

In 2001, McAdoo was the special teams and offensive assistant for the Michigan State University Spartans. One year later he became the tight ends and offensive line coach for the Fairfield University Stags in Fairfield, CT before the program was disbanded. In 2003, he served as an offensive assistant at the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.

His first NFL opportunity came for the New Orleans Saints in 2004 as an offensive assistant coach/quality control coach. He moved on the next year to the San Francisco 49ers as an assistant offensive line coach/quality control coach.

Prior to joining the Saints in 2004, McAdoo was hired by the University of Akron as an assistant coach, but left after the recruiting process.

In early 2005, McAdoo was hired to coach the offensive tackles and tight ends at Stanford University in early 2005, but left the Cardinal after the spring to join the 49ers.

While he may be young, McAdoo from his track record has been around football a long time and has been a part of some solid college football programs and some solid NFL teams. On top of that he learned from two of the best in the aforementioned Coughlin and Super Bowl winning head coach of the Packers Mike McCarthy. More than anything he brings a familiarity and a presence something that co-owner John Mara said the Giants were looking for in their search for a replacement of Tom Coughlin.

“We wanted to find somebody who had the intelligence. The determination and the work ethic and the leadership skills to be a successful head coach in the National Football League,” Mara said this past Thursday.

While McAdoo was very mum about who will be on his coaching staff, it is expected according to reports that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will remain in his position.

Sources also say that “Big Blue” quarterback’s coach Mike Sullivan will be promoted to offensive coordinator and former Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, who worked with McAdoo in Green Bay will join the Giants as their new quarterback’s coach and possibly their new assistant coach.

What will not change for the Giants under McAdoo is that the clocks at the Giants training facility in New Jersey will always be five minutes ahead. It was something that Coughlin did in his time with the Giants saying that if you were five minutes early you were on time.

One thing that McAdoo did make clear is the philosophy that he wants his team to be at all times when the 2016 season begins and that this new era of Giants football is an evolution, not a revolution.

“Our offense. Our defense and special teams must play as one and our identity will be sound, smart and tough. Committed to discipline and poise,” he said this past Thursday.

For the Giants to get back to the playoffs though, the roster must be improved on all sides, especially at the defensive end where the Giants to put it bluntly were God awful. That responsibility of reshaping the roster via the NFL draft this April and free agency falls in the lap of the aforementioned Mara and General Manager Jerry Reese, if you had a chance to check out CBS Sports Network’s “Time to Schein” with Adam Schein has been calling for the firing of Reese the past couple of months.

“We’ll make tough decisions together and we’ll build a football team with a winning tradition that we’ve always had around here,” Reese said this past Thursday.

McAdoo echoed the sense of urgency of this upcoming off-season saying that he “looks forward to working with the Giants’ GM.

“We have a lot of work to do, and it will take a collaborative effort for Jerry and I to achieve what is always the goal for this franchise: another Lombardi Trophy.” 

When the New York Football Giants and Tom Coughlin, who should be in the Hall of Fame when his moment comes decided to part ways after 12 seasons, the organization needed a new voice to get them back to the top of the NBA mountain. They hope that McAdoo is that guy and that voice to do that.

Whether he has the kind of career like some former NFL assistants who went on to become Hall of Fame or future Hall of Fame head coaches with multiple Super Bowl victories like Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Joe Gibbs or Bill Walsh remains to be seen.

The hope is that he is not a former great assistant who flamed out as the head man on the sidelines like Romeo Crennel, Todd Haley or most recently Jim Tomsula or Mike Pettine, who were fired at the end of this past season by the 49ers and Cleveland Browns respectably.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 1/16/16 6 a.m. edition of WABC 7 “Eyewitness News This Morning,” with Michelle Charlesworth, Rob Nelson and Amy Freeze, report from weekday sports anchor Rob Powers; 1/17/16 5 p.m. edition of WABC 7 “Eyewitness News,” with Sandra Bookman, Joe Torres, Jeff Smith and Laura Behnke, report from weekday sports anchor Rob Powers; 1/15/16 Newsday article “Big Ben Officially Big Blue Boss,” by Tom Rock; 1/16/16 Newsday column “Owner: Much Ado About Mac,” by Bob Glauber;;;;;