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Eagles Rookie Wide Receiver Nelson Agholor Getting Rave Reviews After Preseason Debut

19 Aug

Originally posted on The Chris Murray Report:

By Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report 

and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun 

Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor gave up Eagles a glimpse of what he can do with a spectacular 34-yard touchdown pass.  Photo courtesy of NFL.com Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor gave up Eagles a glimpse of what he can do with a spectacular 34-yard touchdown pass. Photo courtesy of NFL.com

Although he has yet to play a regular season game in the National Football League , Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor has impressed his coaches and his teammates with his work ethic, his speed and his ability to catch the football throughout organized team activities in the spring and training camp in August.

“You talk about going straight forward, that boy Nelson just goes from zero to 100,” said teammate and fellow wide receiver Jordan Matthews. “I’ve just seen it day in and day out. They talk about explosive efforts every day in practice, that cat has them. You turn on the film; he’s out on every single catch.”

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Stop Telling Athletes to Just Shut Up and Play

13 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

cardaleJones

A fan on Twitter chided Ohio State quarterback for expressing his views on the Black Lives Matter Movement.

PHILADELPHIA—Last month, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones took to Twitter to express his support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and was met with the typical response from fans that African American athletes get whenever they speak on social justice issues.  

Jones tweeted: “#AllLivesMatter why is that the only ones getting beaten, killed when unarmed, & mysteriously dien in custody African-American …You tell me that #AllLivesMatter well I say how do you define “All”?

An Ohio State fan responded with: “Worry about getting us fans another championship …Stay out of this bulls—.”    

Jones shot back at the fan with a Tweet steeped in sarcasm: “Sorry Mr. master, I aints allow to tweet nothing but foolsbaall stuff I donts want you think I more than a foots ball playa sir.”

The fan then apologized to Jones and later shut his Twitter site down.

Last week, I wrote about the complaints that several former Philadelphia Eagles players have leveled about ill treatment at the hands of head coach Chip Kelly, some of which has accused the former Oregon coach of racism. In a recent story on the Bleacher Report website, a pair of unnamed Eagles said that it wasn’t racism, but Kelly’s need to have total, dictatorial control of his team.

Like it or not, some veteran ball players aren’t going to take too well to that kind of coaching and some like former Eagle Brandon Boykin are going to complain about it, possibly in front of a live microphone.

Now whether or not I agree with the athlete isn’t the point. His right to be honest and have his own opinions is. While I have no problem debating the veracity or even the credibility of an athlete’s point of view, it bothers me when fans and media people tell athletes, especially African-American athletes, to just “shut up and play.”

For example, you might have thought that former Eagle Cary Williams’s complaints about Kelly’s hard practices causing team burnout late in the season may have been a little ridiculous considering some of the completions he gave up in some of those games, but I appreciated the man’s honesty.

And it’s hard to take reporters seriously when they complain about clichéd responses from athletes when sincere, heartfelt answers that challenge whatever the prevailing narrative is at the moment also bring scorn.  

Of course, the first response that seems to come from social media or sports talk radio when professional athletes speak their minds is that they have no right to complain because of the millions of dollars they make. It’s as if money is supposed to suppress your right to express yourself.

You’re supposed to turn a blind eye to injustice just because you’re rich. Your financial security means that you can’t protest your work conditions the way Curt Flood did in refusing to be traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies, the move that eventually led to free agency in Major League Baseball.

Being a Black man of means doesn’t mean that you won’t still have problems getting a cab in New York or Boston. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t get pulled over by the cops for no reason other than the color of your skin like any other Black person in America.

For African-American athletes there’s a perception that they should be grateful for making the millions they make and shouldn’t rock the boat by daring to make a statement about something that impacts everyone, including them. While there is a certain amount of gratitude that these athletes probably have for their God-given abilities, they’re in the NFL because of that ability and their hard work. It’s something they’ve earned…and they shouldn’t be expected to give up their First Amendment rights in order to enjoy it.

What’s really ironic about all this is that I’ve heard those complaints in blue-collar, union towns like Philly, Baltimore, Boston, Pittsburgh, New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit.

Seems to me that you folks need a little bit of a history lesson, so let me help you out.

Were it not for people like Walter P. Reuther (United Auto Workers), A. Philip Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), and Cesar Chavez (United Farm Workers), people who refused to just “shut up and work” and rocked the boat instead, that 40-hour work week, with the living wage, the paid sick and vacation days and the healthcare plan that so many of you union workers enjoy wouldn’t exist.

Might want to remember that the next time you want to shut down your favorite athlete on Twitter.

 

 

 

Serena Williams Wimbledon Triumph Puts Her One Step Closer to Tennis Grand-Slam

12 Jul

Originally posted on The Chris Murray Report:

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Serena Williams Wins her sixth Wimbledon singles title and her 21st overall. Footage courtesy of ESPN. Serena Williams Wins her sixth Wimbledon singles title and her 21st overall. Footage courtesy of ESPN. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—Serena Williams didn’t play her best match against Garbine Muguruza in the Ladies Singles Final at Wimbledon. She lost the first two games of the first set, had eight double faults and withstood the storm of tumultuous rally by her Spanish opponent.

Throughout the fortnight at Wimbledon, Williams has overcome losing the first set in matches and even survived an opponent’s match point in the quarterfinals. But fighting through those obstacles further magnified her legend as one of the greatest tennis players of all-time—man or woman.

In the end, Williams was the only one left standing and came away with a 6-4, 6-4 win over the game 21-year-old Muguruza. The win puts Williams one step closer to…

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How Ya Like Me Now: Former Sixer Andre Iguodala Basks in the Glow of a Championship

18 Jun
NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala takes questions from reporters after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games for the NBA crown.  Photo by New York Daily News.com

NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala takes questions from reporters after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games for the NBA crown. Photo by New York Daily News.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—When Andre Iguodala was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2012 as a part of the four-way deal that landed the 76ers Andrew Bynum, most Philly fans said good riddance.

After all, the Sixers were getting a legitimate impact center in Bynum and Iguodala never really panned out as a No. 1 scoring option. At the time, the 76ers and their fans were so giddy about Bynum that they threw him a big party at the National Constitution Center. It was like Andre-who?

It’s funny how things turned out.

Bynum, a man with bum knees, never played a minute in a Sixers uniform. Iguodala, who got traded to the Golden State Warriors a year later, ended up having the last laugh.

On Tuesday night, there was Iguodala holding two trophies—the NBA Finals trophy and the Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy. The guy the Sixers sent packing a few years ago is now on top of the world with Golden State while his old team has struggled to put out reputable starting five on a nightly basis.

Oddly enough, Iguodala said it was his time with the Sixers prepared for him for his championship run with the Warriors.

“I think all those years and going through everything I went through, the good and the bad, can prepare you for this moment.  Being in Philly I had some teams‑‑ we were a very close group.  I think we maximized our talent,” Iguodala said. “I’ve been on teams that we’ve been close knit and it helped us just getting to the playoffs because we weren’t the most talented, but we got there because we played so hard together.”

What makes this Finals MVP award special for Iguodala is that he didn’t have to be the top scorer for his team. That’s Stephen Curry’s job to put the offense on his shoulder and he certainly did that, especially in the fourth quarter of the Warriors last three wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the title.

Iguodala had the most important job in this series—slow down Cleveland’s LeBron James. He held James to 38. 1 percent shooting after Game 3. No, Iguodala didn’t complete shutdown James, who was having an MVP series, but he kept him from having one for the ages.

“LeBron doesn’t have any weaknesses, or he doesn’t have a glaring weakness,” Iguodala said. “ So you’ve got to pick up on the smaller things to try to make him uncomfortable.  Like knowing which side he likes to shoot threes off the dribble, which side he likes to drive.  One side he’ll drive left more often, and the other side he’ll drive right more often.”

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he admired Iguodala’s willingness to contribute as the sixth man was important to Golden State’s run to the NBA title.

“You could make an argument that it could have gone to Steph, it could have gone to LeBron,” Kerr said.  “But for us, it’s really fitting that the award went to Andre because he sacrificed his starting role from the first game of the season.

“He had never come off the bench once in his entire career, and he sacrificed that job to make Harrison better, to make our bench better, and that set the tone for our whole season.  An All‑Star, an Olympian saying, okay, I’ll come off the bench.”

Iquodala also came up with some big three-point buckets in both Game 5 and Game 6 of the series that halted the Cavaliers attempt to comeback in the game. In the series finale, Iguodala scored 25 points, pulled down five rebounds and added five assists. For the series, Iguodala averaged 16 points per game.

Not bad for a guy who was supposedly a 100-1 shot to win the Finals MVP over 2015 league MVP Curry and a four-time MVP in James.

Iguodala is proof that you don’t have to be the leading scorer or the star to be valuable to your team. Playing your role-whether you are a defensive stopper, scorer off the bench, or a rebounder like Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman—is just as important to your team’s success as being the superstar.

Curry, whose scoring led the Warriors to the NBA’s best record, said he definitely appreciated Iguodala’s efforts.

“Obviously he deserved that Finals MVP for the way he impacted the game on both ends and was always ready,” Curry said. “Andre stepped up to that challenge every single night and a huge reason why we’re celebrating right now.”

 

South Philly Forty: Eagles Purge Continues with the Release of Evan Mathis

12 Jun
Two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis is free to negotiate with other teams after he was released by the Eagles.

Two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis is free to negotiate with other teams after he was released by the Eagles.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Just when you thought the drama at NovaCare had kind of subsided just a wee bit, the Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made another eye-raising move on Thursday by giving the heave-ho to two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis.

While the team hasn’t made an official announcement just yet, Mathis himself made the announcement on Twitter: “Thanks for the memories Philly.”

I guess the first thing that should jump out at you in the midst of Kelly’s purge of the team’s best veteran players is that being outspoken or even looking like you’re a critic of this regime will get you fired. Since assuming command of the team’s football operations, Kelly has made it clear that while a player maybe good, no one is above being kicked to the curb.

You can’t say that move was about race or any of his moves including the trade of running back LeSean McCoy. Kelly has made it emphatically clear that this is his team, ride or die.

The Eagles have become the real-life version of the 1970s football movie, “North Dallas 40.” Kelly, who makes all the personnel decisions, has become B.A. Strothers, the demanding coach played by G.D Spradling, who likened a football team to a well-oiled machine. In one scene the coach in the film if one of those gears from that machine flies off on its own, he would pull it.

Kelly has definitely done that when anyone dared to be a critic of his football ideology. McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Cary Williams have all been shown the door in one way or the other.   The latest casualty of Kelly’s totalitarian rule is their malcontent Pro Bowl offensive lineman.

Mathis did not show up for the team’s “voluntary” organized team activities mainly because he dared to not be happy with his contract. He wanted more money and he wanted it guaranteed. The Eagles response to Mathis was stay home and don’t ya come back no more.

What makes this move even more painful for Mathis was that he was scheduled to make $5.5 million and $6 million next season. Despite his accomplishments on the field for the last couple years, some observers around the league are saying that it is highly doubtful that’s he going to make that kind of money at 33-years-old—he turns 34 in November.

Throughout the offseason, the Eagles had been looking to trade Mathis, but could find no takers. Given Kelly’s penchant for putting the kybosh on guys who don’t buy into the system, general managers around the league figured why give up a draft choice or a player to be named later when you can sign him as a free agent, possibly at a cheaper price.

The irony of this was that Mathis bought into Kelly’s holistic approach to the football which involves proper diet and nutrition along with getting plenty of sleep. I guess in Kelly’s mind Mathis wanting more money is a violation of a team that he wants to carve into his own image.

And so even with the departure of former head coach Andy Reid and former team president Joe Banner, the Birds are still the Logan’s Run of pro football where turning 30-something can be hazardous to your job security no matter how good you were the past couple of seasons.

Somewhere in the state of Ohio, Banner is smiling at Kelly’s handiwork.

Meanwhile, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner will be vying to replace Matthew. My caveat to Kelly is that if you’re going to cut guys they have to be better than the guy being let go.

Running back DeMarco Murray had better have the kind of season to make fans say, LeSean who? Quarterback Sam Bradford needs to stay healthy and be productive enough to make people forget Nick Foles. The Eagles defense with its young defensive backs needs to stop people.

In other words, the end-result of all the offseason moves had better translate into a division title and a run deep into the playoffs. If it doesn’t, Kelly will find out in no uncertain terms that he, too, is expendable as the players he’s cut or traded.

23 /23 Hype-sight: Comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan Has Become a Tired Conversation

4 Jun
NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

As the 2015 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors continues this weekend, conversations at a sports bars, man caves and your local sports talk station will undoubtedly turn to the subject of LeBron James, his place among the NBA’s greats, and whether or not a series loss from the Cavaliers changes things.

But there’s one name that I’m tired of hearing as a part of that discussion.

Michael Jordan.

Jordan vs. LeBron is one of those discussions that I try to avoid because it’s one that really makes no sense. It often disintegrates into a bizarre intergenerational fight between two cults of personality that has nothing to do with basketball.

Because James was seen as the “NBA’s Golden Child, “The Chosen One, the ”Messiah” or the “Son of Basketball” and a bunch of other goofy names when he came to the NBA, Jordan partisans show James no love despite his numerous accomplishments. To suggest that James’s name should be spoken in the same breath with their basketball immortal is heresy to them.

For example, Jordan partisans are always quick to point out that because James has only two rings to Jordan’s six, he will never be as great. Of course, Jordan didn’t play all five positions on the court to get those rings, but that logic always seems to get lost in these discussions.

(Now I could point out that if greatness is measured by NBA Championship rings, Jordan needs to bow down at the feet of Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell. Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles, something that neither James nor Jordan could ever accomplish. But did I mention that most of the folks having this particular argument have any knowledge of basketball history, and thus have never heard of Bill Russell?)

I was just on Facebook and someone posted a stat that compared Jordan and James scoring averages after the first 141 playoff games in their careers. Jordan had the better scoring average which reassured his followers.

Then someone posted Jordan’s and James record in the NBA Finals—which was …you guessed it advantage Jordan. Of course, everything I’m saying I’ve seen LBJ parishioners do the same thing with their man coming out on top.

To be honest, I don’t care either way. But the comparisons between the two are totally and utterly ridiculous, especially considering that they play different positions and have their own unique qualities that make them great players.

Jordan was a great clutch scorer who made his teammates better and played defense. James is a versatile player who can score, rebound and share the ball. He’s taken three different teams to the NBA Finals and has made other guys around him even better by his leadership and will to win.

Both James and Jordan were the best of their time.

So do me a favor okay?

Let’s keep this in perspective. We got to enjoy the ups and downs of Michael Jordan’s career and the championship years, not-so-championship years and everything in between.

How about letting the LeBron James Era unfold the same way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LeBron James and his Young Cavs Hope to Bring Home a Championship to Cleveland

30 May
LeBron James celebrates with his teammates after the Cavaliers punched their ticket to the NBA Finals.

LeBron James celebrates with his teammates after the Cavaliers punched their ticket to the NBA Finals.

Can the Prodigal Son Bring Home an Title to a City That Hasn’t Experienced a Pro Title in 51 Years

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

For the first time in a long time, I’m actually looking forward to the NBA Finals.

In fact, I believe that the series has the potential to be an instant classic.

The series between the Cleveland Cavaliers, champions of the Eastern Conference and the Golden State Warriors, the Western Conference Champions, will feature two Most Valuable Players—Cavaliers superstar LeBron James and Stephan Curry, winner of this year’s MVP award—that have the ability to put their teams on their backs.

But while there will certainly be a lot of overarching storylines emerging from this potential series, the one that will surely stand out is actually based on something that happened last summer: LeBron James’s Return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Or put another way, Will the return of the prodigal son lead to Cleveland’s first championship parade in 51 years?

Last summer, with much of the fanfare that went with his departure, James decided to return to his hometown Cavaliers. Because of this, a town that was so angry when he left that they burned his jersey and an owner in Dan Gilbert who is probably still trying to digest the prodigious amounts of crow he had to eat in order to get him back, found themselves having to cheer for James again.

To his credit, James didn’t take the nonsense coming out of his hometown personally upon his return.

“It’s a hardworking city and if you work hard, they work hard for you,” James said. “They give everything back. … We’re just trying to work hard for the city and they give it all back to us.”

James, who is playing in his fifth straight NBA Finals, has another opportunity to add to an already outstanding legacy.

“For us to be sitting at this point today being able to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals, this is special. Very special,” James said after the Cavalier series-clinching win over the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s not a position that a lot of us, myself included, expected the Cavaliers to be in. I personally thought it would take a lot longer to go from a 33-win season that kept it out of the playoffs to the top of the mountain. But if it happens, and the Cavaliers win the NBA championship, James, accompanied by all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, would have led one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of the league.

The team struggled at various times throughout the season and added a few players along the way to make them better. They started the season 19-20, but finished 33-9 the rest of the way. Cavaliers head coach David Blatt credited James and the team rallying around each other for the turnaround to their season.

“We’ve got a group of players that have a lot of grit and a lot of character,” Blatt said. “And we have a champion (James) who leads them in the right way, a guy who is not only a fabulous basketball player, but he’s an experienced winner who’s about the right things and who leads his guys in a way that empowers them and does not belittle them, in a way that lifts them.”

The key acquisitions the Cavaliers made during the season have come up huge in the playoffs. Imam Shumpert and J.R. Smith were a couple of players who were not happy playing for a God-awful New York Knicks team. Shumpert scored 16 points in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals and held Atlanta’s Kyle Korver to 4-of-11 shooting. Smith dropped 28 points in the Cavaliers win in Game 1.

There have also been outstanding performances from journeyman Matthew Dellavedova, who subbed for an injured Irving in the second half of the Cavaliers series-clinching win over the Chicago Bulls. He scored a team-high 19 points.

Forward Tristan Thompson has been all over the boards for the Cavaliers, averaging 9.9 rebounds per game. He has also been a top-notch defender.

But, the one constant, of course, has been James, who is averaging close to a triple double in the playoffs, scoring 27.6 points per game while pulling down 10.4 and 8.3 assists per game. Thompson said James has been a motivating force for the team ever since he decided to come back to Cleveland.

“Once he decided to come back, the first thing I did was call the coach and get in the gym and get ready because I know how serious (James) is about being successful and doing something special here in Cleveland,” Thompson said. “It just motivated myself, and I think it motivated all the guys on the team to just get better.”

While it isn’t going to be an easy road to the championship, a Cavaliers win could cement James’s legacy within the NBA.

At the very least, it’ll give a city that hasn’t seen a championship in 51 years something to shout about.

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