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Wednesday, June 25, 2014 @ 11:53am

It's not 1984, but...

By: Doug Franz
If you are between the ages of 25-35, you have no real memory of the 1984 NBA Draft. There's a chance if you type "1984" into Google, "1984 NBA Draft" will come up as the first option. It was that big.

Four Hall of Famers.

Seven All-Stars.

Nineteen 5+ year players.

One great dunker (had to give Terence Stansbury some love for that cool 360/Statue of Liberty dunk in the dunk contest).

Thursday is your 1984.

The 2014 draft is amazing. It's not quite as good as the 1984 draft, but it really isn't that far off. If you're younger than 35, this will be the draft you look back on like those of us 40 and above look at Michael, Hakeem, Charles and Stockton.

I don't see a guy that I would label as a sure-fire Hall of Famer. However, I see about 20 guys I would consider taking at No. 5. This draft is crazy deep. We are blessed to have a Ryan McDonough in charge of the Suns' draft because a mistake this year will set a franchise back two years.

Seven teams have more than one pick in the first round. Five teams have a legitimate shot at LeBron James, and how those teams handle Thursday night might affect his decision. One team could "draft" Kevin Love.

The Suns could trade up to the eighth spot. Phoenix could package picks and players to Minnesota for Kevin Love. They could pull a draft and stash. It's not far-fetched to trade one of the first-round picks in this loaded draft for two future first-round picks.

My favorite scenario is to draft Adreian Payne and Dario Saric. Leave Saric in Europe to mature. Trade a pick for future picks. Sign Luol Deng in the offseason.

June 26, 2014 will be the date we look back on as a huge moment in Suns history. I believe it will be a positive one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 @ 11:43am

NFL, you've been warned

By: Ron Wolfley
Doug Flutie is right. And it should stand as a warning to the NFL.

"The game in Canada was more exciting, more explosive, more wide open," Flutie wrote in Peter King's Monday Morning QB. "It was what the NFL is now becoming. We were going no huddle, over the ball, from the time I got up there. No-back sets, six wide receivers, throwing the ball all over the field. There is a 20-second clock between plays rather than 40. It just creates a pace that the NFL is now realizing to be more exciting-and actually more effective. The NFL is turning into a no-huddle, up-tempo, fast-paced, throw-the-football type of game now. The CFL has been that for the past 30 years."

The NFL should consider itself warned. Do we want our football to be like the CFL? Please, in the name of all that is good and righteous, tell me NFL fans do not believe Canada does football better than we do football.

The CFL is one-dimensional, a ballistic hodgepodge of artillery fire without explosives. Where's the metaphorical blood? They throw the ball with impunity and the balance of the game is debased, derailed and otherwise deposed. The hollow barrage becomes boring, predictable and assumed. Throwing the ball is taken for granted, just another play in the same chain as the last play.

What's interesting is that Flutie meant this to be a compliment to the NFL, a compliment to the league for imitating Canada's version of football.

I dry heave all over this notion.

I am a confessed traditionalist when it comes to the game of football but there's a reason why: balance breeds contrast, complexity, strategy and a sense of rightness in the Realm of Mother Gridiron. Balance brings the third dimension of football into the equation, where teams run, throw and use play-action to move the ball, acquire territory and bring their enemy low by pushing the pig into their kingdom.

Playing smashmouth football does NOT have to be boring. Just ask the fans of the San Francisco 49ers and the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Ask them if their style of play is boring.

I want to thank Doug Flutie. He may have done more to warn progressives like Roger Goodell of the evils of unbalanced football than all the traditionalists like me put together.

Mr. Goodell, the NFL is becoming the CFL! And there's an easy fix: allow DBs to put their hands on receivers again. Do away with illegal contact penalties and enforce pass interference. This will create balance once again. Stop making rules that encourage offensive coordinators to do nothing but throw the ball.

Flutie penned a masterpiece while filling in for Peter King. And Roger Goodell should heed the warnings of Flutie's ill-played compliment. There's a Raven perched above his chamber door…and it's not John Harbaugh or Joe Flacco.

Quoth the Boston College Eagle, "Nevermore."

Monday, June 23, 2014 @ 2:04pm

Michael Bradley and US Soccer: Good people choke, too

By: Doug Franz
Wonderful people can choke.

Great business people can do great things to put their company into a position to succeed only to be the reason the company fails.

No one should attack Michael Bradley's character as a man. He's given all that he can give to build US soccer. Among people that love the game, Bradley's talent and heart has helped to improve US soccer on the world stage. Michael Bradley is a wonderful person.

Michael Bradley choked.

The US soccer movement can't have it both ways. Either American soccer is the cute little engine that could and we give Michael Bradley a pat on the head while handing him a participation trophy or raised expectations were not met.

If you want the soccer specific stadiums, more MLS coverage on SportsCenter and for soccer to replace hockey in the "Big 4" -- or expand American psyche to include five major sports -- the players must be subject to judgement by the same standards of American excellence.

Imagine LeBron James with the ball at mid-court of Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The Heat are up by 2 with the shot clock turned off. All LeBron has to do is hold the ball over his head and Miami wins. Then Tony Parker strips the ball from James and scores the tying layup to set up overtime. What would the world say?

Michael Bradley was atrocious in Game 1 of the 2014 World Cup. Consistently, his touches ended with a Ghanian possession. In Game 2 he played better, but three times zero is the same as 18 times zero. His improvement from atrocious to below average wasn't good enough for someone from whom a lot is expected.

Missing the empty net goal was difficult enough to swallow. Sure, it happens. It's about the same analogy as Steve Nash with a blocked shot. It happens, but it never should. It's a play that a team leader must make.

Unfortunately, that wasn't Bradley's only disaster. His turnover at midfield at the end of the game was horrific. That ball has to be sent to the corner flag. It's as if Sidney Crosby had the puck in his own end with four seconds left with a one goal lead but he doesn't want to ice the puck. It is a decision you hope a junior varsity soccer player will make. By the time a player reaches varsity soccer, it's inexcusable for a midfielder to hold onto the ball in a double-team at that point in the game.

The die-hard, knowledgeable soccer fan struggles to come to grips with the fact Michael Bradley choked. He's a good guy. He's a guy that has helped to bring the U.S. to a respected place internationally. He also must play exponentially better if the U.S. is to advance.

If it wasn't for Michael Bradley, the USMNT may not be participating in World Cup. Due to Michael Bradley, the USMNT may not be advancing, either.

Friday, June 20, 2014 @ 11:43am

David Blatt being the Cavaliers coach could appeal to LeBron James

By: Ron Wolfley
The more I researched David Blatt the more I thought of Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs and what they did to Miami. And I wondered if LeBron might find this kind of basketball appealing?

The rumors of LeBron returning home are picking up steam, yet everybody knows the next head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers will impact that possibility.

Pop is considered one of the best strategists in the game -- a coach that demands his team to play like a team, a coach that demands ball movement, a coach that incorporates heavy doses of the Princeton offense.

Having said this, think of what we just saw in the Finals. Think about the pinpoint detection, diagnosis and dissection of the Miami Heat defense. I think that dissection left an indelible mark on LeBron James. I could be wrong, just a theory.

David Blatt is a proponent of the Princeton offense, having played there as a point guard himself for four years. Do you think LeBron James might be attracted to something like that, knowing he is a team player and a guy that felt the weight of the world on his shoulders?

I think he would.

And I think of the Spurs as an organization. How many players do they have from overseas? How many foreign players are on their team and contributed to destroying the Heat? Is David Griffin trying to model the Cavaliers after the Spurs and, if so, do you think LeBron James would look favorably on that? Also, do you think David Blatt has a good relationship with overseas scouts, coaches and players? Say yes.

Finally, imagine LeBron's protégé, Kyrie Irving, playing like Tony Parker?

Thursday, June 19, 2014 @ 5:45pm

49ers' offense will be different?

By: Ron Wolfley

There actually was some important news that came out of the San Francisco 49ers' minicamp, according to a report on ESPN.com. No offense to Vernon Davis and Alex Boone and their contract holdouts, but Greg Roman hinted the offense has gone through a change during the offseason. Why is that important? Greg Roman is the offensive coordinator for a team that has been to three consecutive NFC championship games.

"Starting with the beginning of the offseason, we as the offensive staff, after three years here, it's time to clean out the garage type of thing," Roman said. "We went through everything we've done and really stripped it back down to its most element, basic parts and start over at square one."

Sounds like a simplification of their offense to me. Rarely will you strip it down when you've had great success on offense, unless you feel like your system and the verbiage you use is too complicated and/or convoluted.

So what is Roman getting at?

I think the 49ers might look at going with 11-personnel more often in run-down situations (1 & 10 - 2 & 1-6). Last year, with all of the issues they had at receiver, the 49ers were dead last in the league in 11-personnel in run-down situations. Number 32…

11-personnel: 1-Back, 1-TE and 3-WRs.

Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson and Vernon Davis (eventually) with Frank Gore at running back and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. Those are playmakers, baby.

I think they're going to try and get these playmakers on the field at the same time and employ the simpler is better strategy. Philosophically, very much like what Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos but running different plays and different formations with Kap at Q. The 49ers are going to play to their strengths and let the defense dictate what they do.

We'll see what Greg Roman has planned. But if I had to guess, I expect to see a ton of 11 personnel in run-down situations. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

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