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Countdown to Training Camp: Can Malcolm Jenkins Lead the Eagles Secondary

17 Jul

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—The last time the Eagles had a true enforcer at the safety position was in January of 2009 when Brian Dawkins started for the Birds in the NFC Championship game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins walking off the field with Eagles backup quarterback Mark Sanchez. Jenkins is fast becoming the leader of the Eagles secondary. Photo by Chris Murray.

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins walking off the field with Eagles backup quarterback Mark Sanchez. Jenkins is fast becoming the leader of the Eagles secondary. Photo by Chris Murray.

Since then, none of Dawkins successors at that position have come close to matching his intensity or effectiveness at that position. For all that was said about the improvement of the defense in 2013, the Birds defensive coaches were not happy with the play at the safety position-both free and strong.

The Eagles pass defense ranked 32nd in passing yardage and the coaching staff attributed that to the back end of the defense at the safety position. Assistant defensive backs coach Todd Lyght said tackling was the main culprit.

“In an NFL defense, you have to have great tacklers at the safety position because that’s the last line of defense,” Lyght said. “Last year, we missed some tackles at the safety spot that really hurt us and gave up some big yards. That’s part of the game. That’s one area we’ve addressed and we’re going to get better at. … The big thing for us is that we have to be tacklers in the secondary.”

Malcolm Jenkins (27) participates in minicamp drills in late June. Photo by Chris Murray.

Malcolm Jenkins (27) participates in minicamp drills in late June. Photo by Chris Murray.

The most notable acquisition from the offseason is former New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. Defensive Coordinator Billy Davis likes Jenkins versatility because he’s also played at the cornerback position. He said Jenkins is a physical player who is also good at pass coverage.

“I think Malcolm is going to wear a lot of hats for us and hopefully there’s a lot of big hits in the secondary and Malcolm’s apart of that,” Davis said. “His ability to cover, his ability to play multiple roles and wear a lot of hats is what attracted us to him. … He’s not just a box hitter or a post safety, he can do both. I think those are the things that separate Malcolm.”

Last season with the Saints, Jenkins had 68 (44 solo) tackles season with two forced fumbles, two interceptions and six passes defended.
Jenkins said he wants to bring his knowledge of opposing offenses, his ability to deliver a hard hit and his knack for covering receivers.

“In the secondary I feel we have the toughest jobs out on the field and the safety position is demanding because you have to need the knowledge to put guys in the right position because you’re the quarterback of the defense,” Jenkins said.

“It’s also becoming one of those positions where you have to be in the box but you also have to cover receivers and cover tight ends. It’s very demanding both physically and mentally.”

What has impressed the coaching staff about Jenkins during the organized team activities and minicamp is his leadership on and off the field working with players like Earl Wolfe and Nate Allen.

“Malcolm Jenkins is a great leader,” Lyght said. “I love what he’s brought to the room. His intelligence, his tenacity, his intensity in practice and I love his leadership qualities because he doesn’t really get on the players, but the way he leads, he turns everything into a competition which elevates everybody’s intensity.”

Lyght said that Jenkins has had a positive influence on younger players like Wolfe, who went from sitting in the back of the class during film sessions to up front with Jenkins.

Davis said Jenkins often leads the group in film sessions and meetings long before the coaches come into room to get things started.

“They’ve had meetings without us which is a great sign,” Davis said. “These guys get together and they watch film. They’ve got 100 questions. These are the signs that the guys are doing their work.”

During minicamp, Jenkins made that he’s not necessarily the inside the box free safety that Dawkins was or is going to play the role that Earl Thomas plays in the Seattle Seahawks secondary.

“One of the reasons they brought me in is because for this specific scheme you need safeties that can be versatile you don’t have a true free or strong safety,” Jenkins said. “Both guys have to play in the box, both have to cover receivers and both have tight ends and have to be the quarterback.”

 

You Can Go Home Again: LeBron James Wants to Bring an NBA Title to Cleveland

12 Jul

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were teammates at the 2014 All-Star Game. Now they are teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving was the MVP of the All-Star Game.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were teammates at the 2014 All-Star Game. Now they are teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving was the MVP of the All-Star Game.

PHILADELPHIA—LeBron James decision to re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers is reminiscent of that old biblical parable, “The Prodigal Son.”

Four years ago, James left Cleveland as the city’s most hated man since Art Modell moved the old Browns franchise to Baltimore. Today, the city and team owner Dan Gilbert have killed the fatted calf and is welcoming James home with open arms.

While this will go down as a good “feel good” story, the bottom line is that James made a good business decision from a basketball stand point and for his family. In his letter to Sports Illustrated, James made a point to say that he wanted to bring home a title back to Northeast Ohio.

Behold! The next great journey in the Book of James—bringing home a title to a city that hasn’t won a major sports title since 1964 when the Cleveland Browns shut out the Baltimore Colts 27-0 to win the NFL Championship of the pre-Super Bowl era.

What makes this challenge even more unique is that with the Cavaliers there is no guarantee or certainty that this team is going to be in the NBA Finals next year. James will be playing alongside talented young players like point guard Kyrie Irving and No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins. He will also have to get used to a new head coach in David Blatt.

There’s also a possibility of the Cavaliers landing former Minnesota Timberwolves big man Kevin Love. James is also looking for the Cavaliers to bring in shooting forward Mike Miller and possibly Ray Allen, who can still fill it up from three-point range despite being darn near 40.

Unlike 2010 when he jilted Cleveland for a Miami squad that included superstars like DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh, James will be playing with a rising, young squad in the middle of rebuilding. Compared to his Heat squad that was built to win immediately, James will have to lead a team that will no doubt go through the growing pains of being a playoff tested team.

While a few sports pundits and a few Las Vegas bookies believe that the Cavaliers will be in the NBA Finals next year, I think the process may take a little longer that. I might go with 2016, 2017 or even 2018. And that’s the beauty of the challenge awaiting James and the Cavaliers over the next couple of years.

None of the current group of Cavaliers players has any playoff experience. Can those players elevate their game to be on the same page as James? It is going to be that age-old debate that we have on social media about superstars—who are supposed to make players better around them.

The Cavs will have to make other additions to shore up any weaknesses. The one thing that James will have in Cleveland that he didn’t have in four straight appearances to the NBA Finals (two championships) with the Heat is a true point guard in Kyrie Irving.

The 6-foot-3 Irving averaged a career-high 20 points and 6.1 assists per game. Irving is a speedy ball-handler who can penetrate the defense, attack the basket and hit it from the outside. In three years in the league, Irving is shooting 37 percent from three-point range.

The Irving-James combination, along with a few players to compliment their talents, is eventually going to be hard to beat. If the Miami Heat had a point guard who can penetrate and score like Irving, they would have won four straight crowns instead of two.

But the caveat with Irving is his ability to stay healthy for a full 82 games. He missed 38 games in his first two seasons with a montage of injuries including a broken nose, a fractured jaw and he had a torn bicep last season. He played in 71 of 82 games in 2013-2014.

Irving signed a five-year, $90 million extension through 2020.

With James at his side, maybe Irving doesn’t kill himself every game with the burden of carrying the offense by himself. James can do the hard work of taking the ball to the basket. When you have a point guard like Irving who can penetrate and shoot, you open up the floor for players like James and you know what he can do.

To be sure, the Cavaliers will not win the title overnight. They have to establish team chemistry, hope young guys like Wiggins can develop into solid NBA players, add some pieces and more importantly, stay healthy.

If James can lead a young, rising Cleveland squad to an NBA title, it will certainly add to an already outstanding legacy. This will not be an easy mountain to climb considering that teams like Indiana, Chicago, Washington and other squads in the Eastern Conference are getting better.

The fact that it won’t be easy makes this an even more compelling story. Stay tuned.

 

I

 

Countdown to Training Camp: McCoy Says Birds are Ready to Take it to the Stage

10 Jul

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

LeSean McCoy says he's the best running back in football and can't wait for the season to start so he can prove it. Photo by Webster Riddick.

LeSean McCoy says he’s the best running back in football and can’t wait for the season to start so he can prove it. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has no illusions about the huge target on his back coming into the 2014 season.

That’s something that McCoy knew last season en route to being the NFL’s leading rusher. The former Pitt star believes that there is a target on the entire Eagles team as they go about proving that last season wasn’t a fluke.

“When we put up numbers rushing the ball after the first game (2013), they were gunning for me and so that’s never going to change,” McCoy said. “People always talk about you putting stuff up on the bulletin board, but you know it’s football. They’re going to hit me if I talk or I don’t talk. It doesn’t matter to me.The good thing is that I have a supporting cast around me. So if they do want to take me out, this guy is going to make plays.”

Of course, McCoy was talking about teammates like Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper stretching the field in the way former Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson did last season. The Birds will also have former Saints running back Darren Sproles using his speed to open the field for McCoy as well.

McCoy is also expecting another outstanding season from quarterback Nick Foles, who had a breakout season leading the Birds to the playoffs in 2013.

“It all starts with the offensive line and then Nick, he’s the same Nick from the records he had from last year to this year. He’s more confident knowing that he’s the starter. He’s the guy no matter what happens,” McCoy said.

“Then you add Sproles in the backfield and we can do some things together. There’s no drop off there. I think the big difference might be DeSean (Jackson), but Macklin’s back and you won’t see that much of a difference. We all know Maclin can play. The new rookies we got are pretty good. I’m anxious to see how this works out.”

In 2013, McCoy gained a league-leading 1,607 yards rushing while scoring nine touchdowns. He also caught 52 passes for 539 yards and two touchdowns. In all, McCoy amassed 2,146 yards from scrimmage to lead the NFL.

“Good things come to those who work really hard and he’s worked really hard and now he’s reaping and that’s a good thing,” said former Eagles running Brian Westbrook, who played with McCoy when he was a rookie. “I saw the hunger, I saw the drive there. The talent was there as a second rounder so you have to develop it. He’s done a great job.”

McCoy was recently honored by the Philadelphia Sports Congress as its John Wanamaker Athletic Award for his prowess on the field and his involvement in the community.

Another honor that McCoy recently received from is that he was voted among the NFL’s Top 10 Players of 2014 as voted by his peers around the league. McCoy also turned more than a few heads during the offseason by saying he’s the best back in the league.

“As a back, I do everything — from running, catching, blocking, third-down guy — mixed in and out,” McCoy said in a recent ESPN interview. “There’s nothing that if you ask me to do that I can’t do. So, that aspect, I said the last three years, there isn’t a back that’s been more productive.”

With training camp and the 2014 season looming on the horizon, McCoy said he’s done with all the trash talk. He said it’s time to take it to the stage and do it when the game’s count.

“I don’t want to keep saying it over and over, now it’s time to prove it,” McCoy said. “I’ve said how I felt about it. I’ve said what my numbers show and so now it’s time to prove it.

“It‘s time for training camp and to put the pads on. At the end of the year and we’re at the same place again, I’ll say the same thing again. I’m tired of talking about it. Muhammad Ali said it a lot but he didn’t say it all the time.”

 

 

 

Feets Don’t Fail Me Now: Sixers Gamble On Injury Prone Draft Picks

29 Jun

chrismsports:

Some edits and updates

Originally posted on The Chris Murray Report:

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

PHILADELPHIA-Last Sunday I was a guest on 94 WIP-FM with Ricky Ricardo and we were discussing the NBA Draft and the possibility that the 76ers would draft Kansas’s 7-foot center Joel Embiid who has a stress fracture in his right foot.

A fan called the show and vented his spleen about how felt it would be idiotic for the Sixers to take draft another big man in the draft with a damaged leg. It was to the point where the caller was breathing to the point where it sounded like he was hyperventilating.

While there are bigger things than basketball to be that upset, the sentiment among fans is certainly understandable given how the 76ers franchise seems to be enamored with…

View original 486 more words

Feets Don’t Fail Me Now: Sixers Gamble On Injury Prone Draft Picks

29 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

PHILADELPHIA-Last Sunday I was a guest on 94 WIP-FM with Ricky Ricardo and we were discussing the NBA Draft and the possibility that the 76ers would draft Kansas’s 7-foot center Joel Embiid who has a stress fracture in his right foot.

A fan called the show and vented his spleen about how felt it would be idiotic for the Sixers to take draft another big man in the draft with a damaged leg. It was to the point where the caller was breathing to the point where it sounded like he was hyperventilating.

While there are bigger things than basketball to be that upset, the sentiment among fans is certainly understandable given how the 76ers franchise seems to be enamored with big men with leg and foot problems.

The Sixers made the injured Embiid the third pick of the draft much to the chagrin of Sixers fans, who are wondering what are general manager Sam Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown trying to do? This guy has the same fractured navicular bone that ended the careers of Bill Walton and Yao Ming.

During the last three years, 76ers fans have been enduring big men with leg problems. Last year, the Sixers drafted Nerlens Noel, who did not get any playing time with the team because he was rehabbing the ACL in his left knee.

And speaking of big men with bad feet, the Sixers fans are still smarting from the “thievery” of one free agent center Andrew Bynum whose bum legs prevented him from putting on a Sixers uniform. That was a true embarrassment for the franchise considering the huge welcome for him by thousands of 76ers fans at the National Constitution Center in 2012.

Meanwhile, Hinkie has been telling fans to patient with the team. On one hand that’s understandable, the Sixers rebuilding process is going to take some time. Hopefully, fans won’t have to experience another 19-63 season.

I know a large number of fans are upset about the team picking Embiid because of his injured foot and they should be given the team’s recent history of injuries. They are also ticked off about acquiring 6-10 Croatian power forward Dario Saric, who will spend the next two years playing for a pro team in Turkey.

The bottom-line here is that the gambles this management team is making had better pay off into the team being a contender for an NBA title or Hinkie and Brown will be run out of town quick, fast and a hurry.

If Embiid and Noel become the forces in the low post the Sixers think they can become with a mature Michael Carter-Williams at point guard and Saric is the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, Hinkie and the Sixers will be hailed as geniuses who will never want for a steak dinner or alcoholic beverage in this town again.

The seasons, like last year, that they will have tanked will be looked upon as a fond memory, especially if there’s a parade down Broad Street in the next five or six years.

Now if those injuries keep bothering those guys to the point to where they are missing a significant amount of games, every columnist in this town (including yours truly), sports talk radio host and fans on the various social media platforms, will never let the Sixers hear the end of it.

It will go down in the lore of bad moves personnel moves by Philly sports teams like the Phillies trading pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, the Eagles drafting combine workout wonder Mike Mamula who turned out to be a bust or the Sixers drafting Charles Shackleford over Brad Daugherty.

 

Utley’s Walk-Off Homer Backs Up Stellar Effort by Phillies Bullpen

27 Jun

Originally posted on The Chris Murray Report:

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins.

Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins.

PHILADELPHIA – Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Phillies fans is watching the offense struggle to score runs, especially when their pitchers—both starters and relievers– are doing all they can to keep the team in the game.

It took the Phils offense 14 innings to finally put the game away on Chase Utley’s two-run walk-off home run to give the Phillies a 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins in front of 34, 168 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

But it was the effort of the bullpen—Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Ken Giles, Mario Hollands and winning pitcher Justin De Fratus—that kept the Phillies in the game.

“I think the bullpen is on a roll as a group,”…

View original 519 more words

Utley’s Walk-Off Homer Backs Up Stellar Effort by Phillies Bullpen

27 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins.

Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins.

PHILADELPHIA – Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Phillies fans is watching the offense struggle to score runs, especially when their pitchers—both starters and relievers– are doing all they can to keep the team in the game.

It took the Phils offense 14 innings to finally put the game away on Chase Utley’s two-run walk-off home run to give the Phillies a 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins in front of 34, 168 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

But it was the effort of the bullpen—Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Ken Giles, Mario Hollands and winning pitcher Justin De Fratus—that kept the Phillies in the game.

“I think the bullpen is on a roll as a group,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “They’ve found their niche in the game. We’ve got situational guys and they’re feeding off each other. Competition within themselves and they’re just all doing the job.”

Like a hot hockey goalie, the Phillies bullpen stood on its collective head against the Marlins for seven innings and allowed no runs on three hits. They have not allowed an earned run in 24 of their last 25 innings. (They have 0.72 earned-run- average in nine games since June 17). Since June 3, the Phillies relievers have an ERA of 1.10.

“It’s a good thing to see and it just shows the hard work they’ve put in,” said Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels.

Meanwhile, it was Utley’s first walk-off homer for the Phillies since 2006 when he did it against the Houston Astros. The Phillies second baseman had been struggling and was 1-for-10 for the homestand coming into Thursday night’s game. Utley was 3-for-7 with three runs batted in against the Marlins.

Utley was in an 0-2 hole after taking an off-balance swing at a pitch. He made up for it on the next pitch by knocking the ball into the seats in right field.

“Especially after that swing in the dirt and so it was good to see him regroup and get a pitch he can really handle,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “He’s a grinder. Three RBI in the game, scrapped out a hit and the big shot at the end.”

With the exception of three solo homeruns to Giancarlo Stanton, Jarrod Satalamacchia and Marcell Ozuna, Hamels threw well enough to keep the Phillies in the game. He gave up six hits-three of which were not the long ball. He struck out seven with no walks in seven innings on the mound.

“It’s a situation when you get behind in the count, especially to all three of those hitters, they’re very good. They have power and when you make a mistake, they’re going to hit it a long way,” Hamels said. “When you don’t get ahead of hitters in general you put yourself in a bad situation.”

Hamels left the game in the top of the seventh down 3-2, but somehow his teammates got him off the hook for the loss when Domonic Brown scored from third when Marlins first baseman Jeff Baker mishandled a routine ground ball hit by shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who hustled down the line.

“Jimmy put the ball in play and hustling down to first base makes a difference there,” Sandberg said. “It was an open door and then we depended upon our bullpen and we used about all of it.”

The Marlins jumped on the scoreboard in their half of third when Satalamacchia belted a solo home run to the left field seats. Stanton homered in the fourth and Oduna hit one out in the seventh to give Miami a short-lived lead.

The Phillies scored their first two runs on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Ruiz that scored Utley. The Phils tied the game in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Utley that scored centerfielder Ben Revere.

 

An Inspiration to Youth: Karega Leaves Snider Foundation A Better Place

26 Jun

Tarasai Karega’s experiences as an African-American female collegiate hockey star has inspired inner city youth both on and off the ice.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

For four years Tarasai Karega has been coaching young people and inspiring them to do well on the ice and in the classroom as a program coordinator with the Ed Snider Hockey Foundation. Submitted Photo.

For four years Tarasai Karega has been coaching young people and inspiring them to do well on the ice and in the classroom as a program coordinator with the Ed Snider Hockey Foundation. Submitted Photo.

PHILADELPHIA—Former collegiate hockey star Tarasai Karega knows all about believing in what some would say is an impossible dream.

In a world where young African-American girls aren’t supposed to aspire to play hockey, Karega not only accomplished that dream, she became an All-American who led Div. III Amherst to a national championship.

Because she had experienced the growing pains of being a hockey player of color, Karega was able to share the experience of learning a new sport during her time working with the mostly young Black and Latino youngsters that she worked with in the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation at the Laura Sims Skating Rink on 63rd Street in West Philadelphia.

“There are a lot of times when a kid falls on the ice and says they can’t do it, she said. “I think of time when I wanted to give up and thought I couldn’t do it, but I had to keep pushing through because I had this dream that I wanted to achieve. A lot of times I see myself in the kids.”

As the program coordinator of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation since 2010, Karega has found her joy in watching a growing number of young people learn to love a sport that has taken her places she could have never imagined while her helping get her education.

“Personally it’s been a great opportunity for me to help kids learn to love the sport that I grew up loving and that has taken me all over the world,” Karega said. “It’s great to be able to share with them the love of hockey.”

Karega, who is working on her master degree in sports management at Temple, will be leaving the Ed Snider Foundation in July to pursue a career in that discipline. Her accomplishments at the Snider Center have included increasing the number of kids participating in the program and helping to oversee the rink’s transition from an outdoor facility to an indoor one.

Tina Sloan-Green is the president and founder of the Black Women in Sports Foundation, an organization that specializes in connecting young women with non-traditional sports. She applauded Karega’s ability to engage parents and staff in a sport that sometimes needs explanation.
“I think she was instrumental in getting parents and young people involved because ice hockey is a hard sell,” Green said. “She could relate to young people and their parents. (Karega) came in with a passion for her sport.”
In addition to her work with the children, Karega said her greatest joy has been watching the joy of parents whose kids are excelling on the ice as well as improving their grades in the classroom.

“When you see a parent get excited about their child scoring their first goal … Or getting excited about their child improving in school, I know that we, as a staff, have had some influence on them in some way through our homework help, through our tutoring services that we provide.

The kids are learning that academics are important,” she said. “It’s great to see the parents get happy about seeing their children succeed in the classroom and on the ice.”

Karega (wearing no. 13) knew how to put the puck in the net during his days at Amherst. She led the Lord Jeffs to a Div. III national championship. Submitted Photo.

Tarasai Karega (wearing no. 13 in white) knew how to put the puck in the net during his days at Amherst. She led the Lord Jeffs to a Div. III national championship. Submitted Photo.

Karega’s insight into the sport comes from her days a youth hockey player in Detroit. During her senior year at Cranbrook-Kingswood High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, she was voted Michigan’s Ms. Hockey and scored the game-winning goal in double overtime to lead her school to a state championship.

Playing for Div. III Amherst College, Karega scored 61 goals and 51 assists for 112 points in 110 games. She was a first-team All-New England Small College Athletic Conference as a sophomore and she helped lead Amherst to a national championship.

From the time she started playing youth hockey when she was nine, Karega heard all the name-calling and the cries of “Black girls aren’t supposed to play hockey!” While playing at Amherst, Karega said she got her share of extra-curricular big hits. She had a concussion during her senior year.

Instead of reacting to it with anger or the need for retaliation, Karega said her revenge was putting the puck in the net and excel on the ice.

“Yeah, I want to retaliate, I want to fight back, but increasing that score on the board is really hurting people in the long run,” Karega said with a smile. “Your play on the ice shuts people up.…putting pucks in the net is never a hindrance to any team.”

Green, who had eight girls from her program participating in the Snider Hockey program, said Karega did a good job of coaching the kids to be good teammates to help each other.

“The girls were able to be peer role models for each other and sometimes kids can learn better when they learn from their peers,” Green said.

“She brought a lot of enthusiasm and she was very personable with the kids and their parents,” said Donnell Hudson, a parent with two kids in the program. “(Karega) was good at getting the shy kids out of their shyness. She was about making it fun. … She is awesome.”

Karega said her favorite player was Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk because he played well without having to resort to fighting and being angry.

One of things that Karega hopes she has imparted to her kids, whether they become hockey player or lawyers, is to not let their anger get the best of them when they are facing adversity.
“It’s important that they learn to face challenges because life is a challenge, there’s no red carpet, there’s no booklet on how to live life without issues, racism or homophobia,” she said.

“I try to teach kids to think first and not lead with their emotions; to lead with their brains, so that they don’t regret things and someone would have learned something from them.”

 

Brown’s Fielding Miscue and Lack of Offense Doom Phillies in Loss to Miami

26 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Domonic Brown has been struggling at the plate and in the field. His misplay of a fly ball cost the Phillies in Wednesday's loss to the Miami Marlins. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Domonic Brown has been struggling at the plate and in the field. His misplay of a fly ball cost the Phillies in Wednesday’s loss to the Miami Marlins. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—It was one of those nights where the Phillies (35-42) could point to doing really well in couple of facets of their game, but found themselves faltering in others.

They got solid effort from their starting pitcher  and a solid effort from their bullpen. The usual suspects of not enough hitting and a bad mistake in the field sealed their doom in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins in front of 23, 360 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett didn’t have a bad night at all. He had eight strikeouts while allowing just five hits and three runs. But he had one bad inning that wasn’t exactly his fault.

With two on and two outs in the fourth inning, Miami leftfielder Marcel Ozuna hit should have been an easy fly ball to Domonic Brown in left. But the Phils outfielder over ran it and the ball ended up going to the left field wall to score Giancarlo Stanton from second.

That led Burnett giving up a two-run double to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to give the Marlins a 3-0 lead they had no business having in the first place.

To his credit, Brown didn’t hide from reporters in the training room or in the showers after the game, he took full responsibility for his blunder in the field.

“That’s a play I gotta make for my team,” Brown said. “That changed the whole game. I told A.J. I was sorry about it. But that play has to be made. It was a hard-hit line drive. I made a break in and that was definitely a big mistake. It was a low liner, I took a step in, but it was too late.”

Takeaway Brown’s blunder in the field, the Phillies might have come away with a 2-0 shutout, but that’s the maddening luck of a mediocre team that just can’t seem to get it together.

“If that ball’s caught right there, there’s no runs up on the board, it’s the third out,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “A .J had enough stuff to throw a shutout the rest of the game.”

Meanwhile in a solid display of backing up your teammate when stuff hits the fan, Burnett said there was no need for Brown to apologize to him. He said he should have gotten Saltalamacchia, who was 1-for-15 against him with nine strikeouts before that at-bat.

“I felt like I should have picked (Brown) up the next at bat. That’s what we do. You pick each other up,” Burnett said. “If the pitch is a little bit low to (Saltalamachhia) and you pick (Brown) up. He plays hard, he comes in everyday and prepares and goes about his business. It’s not like he’s trying to miss balls out there. Plays like that happen you gotta pick your teammates up.”

On the offensive side, the Phillies had their shots. In the second inning, they had men on second and third with just one out, but could not score. With the bases loaded and one out, the Phillies could only get a sacrifice fly from Chase Utley that scored Ben Revere.

An RBI single by Brown scoring Marlon Byrd in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Marlins lead to 3-2. That’s as close as they would come.

Miami starting right-handed pitcher Henderson Alvarez wasn’t necessarily the second-coming of Cy Young or Walter Johnson, but he did well enough to keep the Phillies bats at bay. He allowed just two runs (one earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts and a pair of walks.

 

The Better Team Won: LeBron’s Greatness Not Diminished By Finals Loss

16 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

The Spurs simply outplayed the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. (from left to right): Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.

The Spurs simply outplayed the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. (from left to right): Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.

PHILADELPHIA—Now that the San Antonio Spurs have emphatically captured the 2014 NBA Finals in five games over a proud, but outgunned Miami Heat squad, I hope fans will realize that the better TEAM won.

The emphasis on team with all caps goes out to all those on social media, sports talk radio and in various sports bars throughout the country who are under the impression that winning championships come down to the individual efforts of one superstar by himself.

In this series, fans were in one of two camps those who adore and worship LeBron James and those people who want to see him fall on his ass every time he steps out on the court.

To a generation of fans weaned on 24-hour cable sports networks, sports talk radio and social media, James not getting “his” third ring will somehow invalidate his greatness as a player. That’s the cult of personality among NBA fans today.

LeBron James scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds in the Heat's Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. The Spurs won the series 4-1.

LeBron James scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds in the Heat’s Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. The Spurs won the series 4-1.

LBJ detractors are out in full-force saying that he choked and is overrated, etc. Some are saying that it is proof positive that he is not as good as Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six titles and current Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant who has five championship rings.

Of course, that’s total nonsense because seemingly lost somewhere between the rants of those two guys on ESPN’s First Take and some of the silly arguments I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter is one obvious and simple thing: basketball is still a team game.

Always has been, always will be—whether you’re talking Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls winning six titles or Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics winning 11 titles in 13 years. Contrary to popular belief, Jordan and Russell had other guys around them to help win those crowns.

One little detail that folks seem to forget—The Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics names are on the trophy—not Jordan’s or Russell’s.

If wasn’t for the collective efforts of players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, Jordan and the Bulls would not have won those titles. If Russell didn’t have Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, John Havlicek or Don Nelson, the Celtics would not have won.

In the case of the Spurs, you had a core group of three great players Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker that’s won championships together as a unit along with a solid supporting cast and a coach in Greg Popovich, who molded that team into playing as a singular unit.

The 2014 edition of the Spurs got a tremendous contribution from an unexpected source from Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who slowed down James on defense and was a huge contributor on offense, especially in the last three games when he averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per game.

The former San Diego State star gave the Spurs that stop on defense, a key rebound, a big dunk or a big three-point bucket among all the Spurs Hall-of- Fame stars. Under Popovich’s system, everybody can be great because everybody can contribute.

Explaining that there is a team concept in basketball to NBA fans caught up in the cult of personality is the equivalent of your mom telling you to eat your greens because they’re good for you when you’d rather have ice cream.

On one hand, I do believe that all great teams need that one superstar, that go-to guy in the clutch when the game is on the line. That superstar also needs a solid group of teammates behind him to play specific roles. He can’t do it all by himself—everybody has to play defense and everybody has to contribute whether it’s setting the pick to get a teammate open or making a key offensive rebound.

James played well for the Heat and he did everything he could to help his team in the 2014 Finals. He averaged 28 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, four assists while shooting 57 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from three-point range. Arguably, those are Finals MVP numbers.

Unfortunately, the rest of his team didn’t play well enough when he needed them. That’s because the Spurs exposed, as they did in last year’s Finals, the Heat’s weakness at the point guard position and a thin bench.

At the end of the day, the best TEAM won.

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