Mariano Rivera On Pace For Return By Opening Day, Knee Feels 95 Percent

Mariano Rivera continues to progress towards a return to his role as New York Yankees closer in 2013. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Mariano Rivera continues to progress towards a return to his role as New York Yankees closer in 2013. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees are hoping to get back their closer Mariano Rivera for the start of the 2013 season and reportedly the news continues to be encouraging. According to Bryan Hoch, Rivera is not far off from his throwing program. Hoch covers for the Yankees for MLB.com.

@BryanHoch: Mariano Rivera plans to start throwing in about a week, says his knee feels about “95 percent.” via Twitter

 Rivera has been rehabbing his surgically repaired ACL, he tore the ACL in early May of last season so it’s realistic that he’d be ready by April for Opening Day.

 Rivera’s 43 years old, however he’s also the career saves leader and arguably the best closer of all-time. The Yankees have had an interesting offseason because of their goal to maintain payroll flexibility moving forward towards 2014. If they can start the season with Rivera firmly back in place as their closer for 2013 it will go a long way towards getting their fanbase excited.

Kobe Bryant Dunks On Chris Paul (VIDEO)

 Every now and then Kobe Bryant gives one of those highlight-worthy performances that cause this kind of response … Damn !!!!

 Late in the first quarter of the Lakers 107-102 loss to the Clippers at Staples Center, Bryant took advantage of a Chris Paul turnover with a steal and then attacking  from the left side of the court with a monster dunk with the right hand over Paul who was trying to prevent the inevitable.

 Stat-wise it was another night at the office for Bryant as he finished with 38 points, however it wasn’t enough to knock off Paul and the red-hot Clippers. The Clippers improved to 25-8 on the season while the Lakers fell to 15-17 as they continue to search for some sort of consistency in the win column.

The Nets Are Interested In Jeff Van Gundy, Is The Feeling Mutual?

Former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy (seated here next to Patrick Ewing) is reported to be very high on the radar of the Brooklyn Nets as a potential head coaching candidate. (Getty Images)

Former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy (seated here next to Patrick Ewing) is reported to be very high on the radar of the Brooklyn Nets as a potential head coaching candidate. (Getty Images)

The Brooklyn Nets are on the hunt for a new head coach and it already appears that they have some interesting names on their radar. Former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy has reportedly emerged as a serious candidate for the vacancy that was created by the firing of Avery Johnson.

ESPNNewyork.com is reporting that according to a league source, Van Gundy is held in high regard by the Nets and could very well be as high as second on their list of choices. Phil Jackson would be their top choice if he’s indeed interested in the job.

Currently the Nets are going with P.J. Carlesimo as the interim head coach and he led the team to a win over the Charlotte Bobcats in his first game.

Van Gundy currently works for ESPN as an NBA analyst and perhaps may see this as an ideal fit for him should he decide to get back into coaching. However, another league source also noted that Van Gundy may instead want to take the Nets job after the season instead of during. This is logical if indeed Van Gundy may feel he needs more time to evaluate the overall makeup of the Nets before he’d take on such a role.

If Jackson is interested in the Nets coaching job, team owner Mikhail Prokhorov should put his money where his mouth is and write whatever check it takes to get him to Brooklyn. However, Van Gundy would be an intriguing number two choice. He knows the area, having established his coaching credibility with the Knicks. Now it’s just a matter of determining just how much Van Gundy is interested in the position. Read more of this post

Avery Johnson Should’ve Seen It Coming

The Brooklyn Nets didn't get off to the start they were looking for and now Avery Johnson is now their former head coach. (Ken Godfield/NY Daily News)

The Brooklyn Nets didn’t get off to the start they were looking for and now Avery Johnson is now their former head coach. (Ken Godfield/NY Daily News)

This was the year that Avery Johnson had been waiting for as head coach of the Nets franchise. His team finally moved out of New Jersey and into their $1 billion arena in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Nets were opened their 2012 season with a new building, new uniforms, new colors, and high expectations due to the $330 million upgrade they invested into their players. Well whenever high expectations are involved, the need for results is never too far behind.

 The Nets ran out of patience waiting on Johnson to find a way to turn their struggling team around and as a result was fired as head coach by team owner and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. It was the team’s performance in the month of December that sealed Johnson’s fate. The Nets were playing like a team without an identity or any emotion whatsoever. At the time of Johnson’s firing, the Nets were 14-14, with a 3-10 record in December. It was a complete about-face from their hot 11-4 start to the season which had their fanbase beginning to buzz with excitement.

 Things can change within a New York minute. Johnson went from NBA coach of the month in November to unemployed in December.

For all the positive headlines the Brooklyn Nets were getting in November, they quickly turned into the negative as the calendar turned towards December. The team began to lose and now all of a sudden their franchise point guard Deron Williams didn’t like Johnson’s offense. Kris Humphries and his $24 million that the Nets paid him over the summer was benched by Johnson. A blowout loss to the New York Knicks and then on national television with another blowout loss to the Celtics on Christmas day.

Deron Williams and Avery Johnson could not find a way to make it work together in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Deron Williams and Avery Johnson could not find a way to make it work together in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The reality of this is that Johnson’s margin of error heading into this season was extremely thin. He was in the final season of a three-year deal and it appeared that the team gave him no assurances of a new deal on the horizon. The reasoning behind that was obvious, this team wants and needs to win now. The worst-case scenario for Prokhorov and his Nets franchise is that they go through this season looking like the same old Nets who were dreadful to watch play in New Jersey. That’s exactly who they were beginning to look like. Read more of this post

The Pro Bowl, Major Problems For The Giants, and The Knicks w/ JR Smith

 

JR Smith does it again with another game-winner for the Knicks. (christian petersen / getty images)

JR Smith does it again with another game-winner for the Knicks. (christian petersen / getty images)

Is that JR Smith or John Starks 2.0? The Knicks have themselves a spark coming off their bench this year named JR Smith. Throughout his career Smith has never met a shot he hasn’t liked and it’s most likely the first thing people would see on his file. However when it comes to the Knicks in 2012 it’s been all about players buying into head coach Mike Woodson‘s system and Smith has definitely done that. Smith’s streaky ways can shoot a team in or out of a game, however lately it’s helping the Knicks win games. In the Knicks 99-97 win over the Phoenix Suns, “Swish” made a tough shot to tie the game with 10.6 seconds left and then with 1.0 seconds left he makes the game-winner with a miracle jumpshot. It reminds me of John Starks in the mid-90′s for the Knicks who played the game with the same reckless abandon that Smith is doing today for them. They both are fearless on the court and not afraid of taking the big shot. We loved Starks when the shots were falling and we wanted to throw him out the building when they were not. JR Smith a.k.a “JR Swish” is cut from the same cloth and it seems only right that he’s doing what he does in a Knicks uniform.

Congratulations to Victor Cruz, Chris Snee, and Jason Pierre-Paul (JPP) of the Giants on being selected to the NFL Pro Bowl. There are some valid and interesting debates that can be had over this year’s Pro Bowl nominations. I think it’s a great individual accomplishment for a professional athlete to be named to an all-star, especially if it’s coming from their peers as well as the fans. That being noted, I have no desire whatsoever to watch the actual Pro Bowl game. I used to look forward to watching All-Star games because it was a chance to see your favorite players all on one field or one court together. However in this era of free agency and super-teams, that luster isn’t really there anymore. The other reason is that these games are just flat-out boring to watch now.

Wide receiver Victor Cruz earned himself a Pro Bowl selection for the New York Giants. (juilo cortez / ap)

Wide receiver Victor Cruz earned himself a Pro Bowl selection for the New York Giants. (juilo cortez / ap)

 One look at the Giants this season and it’s coulda, woulda, shoulda … If their was any team that needed some good news it was the Giants because their 2012 season has turned into a complete mess on the field. Read more of this post

Jamal Crawford and The Clippers Have The NBA On Notice With Win Streak (Video)

 Jamal Crawford has always been one of my favorite players to watch in the NBA and it appears that he’s landed in the right spot this year with the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers. Give Crawford enough time with the basketball and he’s a highlight waiting to happen, as the Denver Nuggets apparently found out on Christmas night with this behind the back move. It was clearly good enough to impress die-hard Clippers fan Billy Crystal. The Clippers just keep on winning, their 112-100 victory over the Nuggets ran their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games. This team is for real. Read more of this post

Adrian Peterson Continues His Inspiring Run Towards Greatness

What Adrian Peterson has accomplished in 2012 is nothing short of greatness. (NY Times)

What Adrian Peterson has accomplished in 2012 is nothing short of greatness. (NY Times)

What Adrian Peterson is accomplishing this season in the NFL is nothing short of amazing. Peterson leads the league in rushing with 1,812 yards, and has scored 11 touchdowns. He has nine 100-yard rushing games, two 200-yard rushing games, and he’s reached triple digits in 8 consecutive games. Those are all great feats, however what makes it astonishing and historic is that Peterson is less than a year removed from needing major surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his knee.

 Those amazing numbers Peterson has put up this season has his Minnesota Vikings in position to secure a playoff spot and him in position to make history against the Green Bay Packers in their season finale. Peterson needs 207 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of  2,105 yards set in 1984.

 While I don’t think Peterson is going to win this year’s MVP award despite carrying the Vikings offense, he deserves to be in the conversation and is clearly the comeback player of the year. Rushing for 200 yards in a game isn’t common in the NFL, however whenever Peterson reaches that mark I’m never surprised. It seems as if he can reach it every week if he wants to. Rushing record or not, it’s been an amazing year for Peterson and should be an inspiration to anyone watching.

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