Friday night of All-Star weekend is when the NBA likes to show off it’s future All-Stars. Or, at least the guys who seem like they are going to stick around the league for a while.

It’s the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge — what the rest of us still call the rookie/sophomore game. Although for the second year in a row the teams of rookies and sophomores will be mixed together on teams selected by Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley during the TNT pregame show Feb. 7. This morning, PBT’s D.J. Foster and I took our shot at picking the teams.

Wednesday the official list of players came out and it features the big names you expected — Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and more. Here is the pool of players

Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
• Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
• Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons)
• Kawhi Leonard (San…

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The Week-End Preview: 26-27th January (Australian Open Special)

Li NaIn recent years the Australian Open has consistently done one thing, kick off the tennis grand slam season with a bang. The story lines that come out of Melbourne Park give us a flavour of what’s to come for the rest of the tennis year, a flavour that often leaves us craving for more. Finals week-end in Melbourne is the biggest sporting event in the coming two days, so it is only fitting this edition of The Weekend Preview looks ahead to two fascinating finals down under.

Women’s Singles Final: Victoria Azarenka vs Li Na (26th January) Not before 7:30 PM Australian Time

Who would have picked this as the women’s final on the middle Sunday of the competition? With Serena Williams mowing down the competition left right and centre and Maria Sharapova shrieking and smashing her way through the draw, a final round confrontation between the pair was looking more and more likely with every round. However, the tennis God’s had a completely different agenda. Serena and Sharapova both fell before the championship round; in the quarter finals and semi-finals respectively. Having said this, we cannot take anything away from our pair of deserving finalists- Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and China’s Li Na.


One of the most intriguing points about the match between Li and Azarenka is the pair’s penchant for playing their very best tennis in Australia. Azarenka the world number one is renowned for her infamous grunt and fearsome ball-striking. “Vika” as she’s dubbed has forged quite a record in Melbourne since a 2011 loss to (you guessed) it Li Na. Since then she has gone on to achieve 13 straight wins on the Melbourne Park hard-courts including a title round thrashing of Maria Sharapova in 2012. On the other side of the net, Li is no slouch either. She has built up a solid Australian Open resume in that same time frame. Since 2010 not once has the Chinese number one failed to reach the quarter-finals. There is much to suggest Li Na will this time go one step further and wrench the title from the world number one. Since she began working with her new coach Carlos Rodriguez, we can see a marked improvement in Li’s game. She seems to have lost the chronic nervousness and lack of consistency that have plagued her throughout her career. Her steady semi-final victory over Sharapova is a confirmation she now packs the mental power to go with a powerful game. In addition to this, the crowd is bound to be behind her. The affable and funny home continent hero takes on Azarenka, a figure who divides opinion. When two players who like to dominate points meet, the question is who will sustain their dominance enough to gain the victory? The answer will be delivered tomorrow morning at 7:30 pm Australian time.


Men’s Singles Final: Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray (27th January) Not Before 7:30 PM Australian Time

War. That is the word that springs to mind and aptly describes confrontations between Murray and Djokovic. Only born a week apart, the duo have engaged in some phenomenal contests. They stretch each other to their physical limits and then some; scampering left right and centre to retrieve balls seemingly out of reach. On the very same court where they will clash on Sunday, Djokovic edged out Murray in a 4 hour 50 minute semi-final skirmish 367 days prior. Djokovic took the win at the death; 7-5 in the fifth set. To say a lot has changed in those 367 days would be an understatement. Murray has gotten the grand slam monkey off his back. He stopped Djokovic in yet another five set grand slam encounter to win the U.S Open. Murray had come of age, finally chasing the ghost of Fred Perry the last British man to win a Grand Slam title into the shadows once and for all. Playing a more aggressive brand of tennis, the 25 year-old Brit has learned that to win grand slam titles you have to go out and snatch victory. As a result he has made a spirited run to the Australian Open final this year, outlasting Roger Federer in his second consecutive five set semi to set up a confrontation with Djokovic.

On the other hand Djokovic who finished 2012 ranked world number one, enters his third straight final in Melbourne with the history books in his sights. No man in the open era of tennis (since 1969) has won the Australian Open three times in a row. It must be noted that his form has not been as impressive as Murray’s leading into the final. The Serb was pushed to the limit in an epic struggle with Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round. Despite this he heads into Sunday’s final a marginal favourite. He brings to big matches a potency and competitive drive that is unmatched. The longer a match goes, the stronger he seems to become. All signs are pointing to a marathon, this final may not be about who simply wins but who conjures up enough will power to survive their opponent.


Sporting Heroes and Zero’s of the week: 20th January

It has been a mixed bag in terms of heroes and zeroes in the world of sport this past week. Whilst there were some good moments, there were no seismic shifts of the type that produce a single, indisputable hero on the sporting landscape. On the other hand, the week has produced arguably the biggest sporting zero of all time, his exploits providing a talking point for people from all walks of life and not just sport fans. 8388085381_e6f423ee9f_o

Sporting Heroes of the Week:

NBA Basketball: Kevin Durant and LeBron James7222493102_a95f3c1fcc

The NBA has been blessed with phenomenal rivalries over the years with legendary players tending to come in two’s. Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell in the 60’s, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the 80’s and now LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Although it might be premature to elevate their rivalry into such distinguished company, (the duo have only met in one NBA final’s series so far), it is clear the pair are the NBA’s premier talents. The fact both of them managed to reach career milestones in the same week means it is only right that they should share the title of sporting heroes of the week.

Thursday night saw twitter erupt, the trending topic? #LeBron20k. The reigning Most Valuable Player, (MVP),  drained a jumpshot with 2:45 seconds remaining in the second quarter of the Miami Heat’s game against the Golden State Warriors to pass the milestone of 20,000 career points. At the age of 28, LeBron James or “King James” as he is rightfully dubbed became the youngest man to pass the milestone. He has also been the consensus choice for the best basketball player on the planet for a number of years now and it is important to note the effect he has on a basketball game extends well beyond scoring. LeBron is one of the most well-rounded athletes ever to  grace the basketball court, just the 13th player ever to amass 5,000 career assists as well as 20,000 points. The King’s march towards history continues as steadily as his hairline recedes!

Our second hero is Kevin Durant, leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that owns the NBA’s best win loss record. Not to be outdone by his Team USA team mate, Durant exploded for a career high 52 points on Friday, sending his OKC team to an 117-114 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Not only did he put in the only 50+ point performance of the 2012-13 NBA season so far (even the on fire Kobe Bryant hasn’t achieved this), he did it without missing a free throw, downing a whopping 21/21 at the charity stripe, the second most ever in a single game without a single miss. During the overtime period he took over the game nailing some clutch shots to will his team to victory. Although not as historically significant as James’ achievements the night before, KD proved once again that despite his shy and retiring character off court, on court he is the undisputed leader of arguably the NBA’s greatest team.

Sporting Zero Of The Week:

Cycling: Lance Armstrong82512402_445ef5219c_m

Where to begin with this man? What hasn’t been said already? Zero of the week seems inadequate to describe the fallen hero – more like Zero of the century. I didn’t know much about road cycling growing up, but I did know that the most prestigious bike race in the world was dominated by a true sporting legend, one Lance Armstrong. This cycling demi-God survived cancer and won the Tour De France an astounding 7 times before literally riding off into the the sun set and retiring in 2005. In 2011 when the USADA accused Armstrong of blood doping as well as trafficking the bubble burst. His use of banned substances including EPO, Testorone, Steroids and The Human Growth Hormone as well as his trail of lies and bullying tactics had finally caught up with him. By the time he appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network to confirm what the world already knew his reputation was in tatters .The two part interview saw Winfrey allow far more sympathy than the 41 year old deserved but it was nice to see a man who had lived a lie come to terms with it all, right in front of our eyes. The teary eyes and confessions did stir up some empathy but it wasn’t for the man who sat in the chair. It was for those who were affected by his reckless pursuit of victory at all costs like his wife, children, team mates and sponsors, and of course those fellow competitors he might have robbed of their place in history. The Tour de France record books now have a gaping blank space against the winner’s entry for all the 7 years previously devoted to Lance Armstrong. Oprah closed the interview with the widely used cliche “the truth will set you free;” not quite. The truth will set others around Armstrong free whilst leaving him wrapped in the shackles of condemnation forever.


[nbcsports_video src= service=youtube width=590 height=332]

Kevin Durant scored 52 points, a new career-high in leading the Thunder to a 117-114 overtime win in Dallas against the Mavericks.

None of his shots were as ridiculous or as important as the one you see in the video clip above.

With under 27 seconds remaining in overtime and the game tied at 114, Russell Westbrook has possession at the top of the three-point arc. He passes to Durant just above the elbow, who turns and faces Shawn Marion about 20 feet from the basket.

With just three dribbles, Durant gets briefly past Marion into the lane, before Marion recovers in time to defend the shot attempt closely. Durant sinks the tough fadeaway floater (if there is such a thing) to give him the final two points of his 52 on the night, and the Thunder escaped with their league-leading 32nd win of the…

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The Week-End Preview: 19th-20th Janaury

It feels like a good time to post the inaugural edition of the week-end preview, for two reasons. Firstly, sport is thickly ingrained in the social conscious at this moment in time; Lance Armstrong’s confession in an interview with Oprah Winfrey left everyone’s blood boiling. Secondly, for arm chair sport fans in the UK, snow falling across the country has provided the perfect excuse to stay indoors and concentrate on the weekend’s sporting action. This Friday’s edition of The Week-End preview looks ahead to grand slam tennis down under and the Premier Leagues most high profile fixture of the week; derby day at Stamford Bridge as Arsenal take on Chelsea.

Saturday: Australian Open Tennis- Tomic vs Federer (Third Round) Starts 7pm Australian Time

A new year for ardent tennis fans is synonymous with one tournament, the Australian Open. The tennis calendar from January to November is held together by the four grand slams or majors that capture the imagination of casual and hardcore fans alike. The first of these 4 grand slams got under way on Monday in Melbourne Australia quite literally sending a ray of sunshine onto our TV screens. Once you begin moving into the second week of a grand slam the formalities are over and the gloves come off. Serious match ups between top class players begin to materialise. Tomorrow’s fascinating inter-generational third rounder is well worth watching.

Tomic vs Federer at the Australian Open haven’t we been here before? Whilst the answer is yes, the circumstances surrounding the match-up this time are distinctly different. The 2012 edition of the Australian Open saw Tomic enter a fourth round meeting with Federer riding a wave of home nation support in Melbourne before falling to the man many call the greatest player of all time. The scoreline was a straightforward 6-4,6-2,6-2 victory for Federer. That run was arguably the highlight of the young Australian’s year. From then on he went from hero to zero; the most celebrated young talent in tennis to a much maligned character. He was chastised for his lack of commitment and even accused by tennis legend John McEnroe of “tanking” (losing a match on purpose). Entering 2013 it was safe to say all the cognoscenti believed the wind had been taken out of the 20 year old’s sails. He has responded to his critics emphatically; winning seven matches in a row, including a victory over the world number one Novak Djokovic. This weekend Tomic enters a showdown with Federer in much better stead. He is mentally tougher, a more seasoned competitor with the ability to put forth a better effort against the Swiss maestro. Could we  dare think the unthinkable and expect a Tomic victory? Well, it’s less unthinkable than last time.

Sunday: Premier League Football – Chelsea vs Arsenal, Kick Off: 1:30 PM

The hallmarks of recent Arsenal and Chelsea fixtures have been lacklustre performances and disgruntled fans. As with all derbys this is a huge game for fans and players alike. Both teams’  recent league form has been indifferent; Chelsea squandered a 2 goal lead at mid-week against minnows Southampton whilst a 10 man Arsenal were comfortably beaten on Sunday by champions Manchester City. A key component in the Gunners’ play of late has been the sterling performances of Jack Wilshere. The 21 year old England international has been dynamite. A pair of determined displays against City and Swansea suggest he is back to his best following his extended injury lay-off due to an aggravated stress fracture in his ankle. If so, expect him to to run the show in the middle of the park in Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and their creative attacking trio of Oscar, Mata and Hazard. The Blues tendency under Rafa Benititez is to play poorly at home whilst Arsenal have ever present defensive liabilities. This combined with the need for both sides to grab all three points provides the combustible elements that should make for a cracking game. If last year’s 5-2 win away win by Arsenal is anything to go by then sparks could fly at the bridge on Sunday.

New Year, New Sport: Fascinating sporting scenarios headed into 2013

Whilst us mere mortals consider the new year as the ideal opportunity to hit the reset button, in the world of sport the twists and turns of the plot-line seem to roll on, uninterrupted. To kick proceedings off here on The Commentary Box, a series of posts will see us look at some of the most entertaining sporting storylines spilling over into the new year. Let’s start by looking at boxing.

 Floyd Mayweather’s skills declining?

Boxing is a sport shrouded in uncertainty: a one punch knock-out and the fight can be over in a second. The one fact that we can state with certainty is  Floyd “Money” Mayweather is simply the best boxer in the world. The American has flat out dominated the sport for the best part of six years. He practically owns the number one pound for pound position (Aside from a brief retirement which saw Manny Pacquiao take the top spot). Mayweather dominates the squared circle to the extent that it is rare for opponents to land a clean blow, let alone win rounds outright. Last year this seemed to change.On a crisp May night in Vegas, we saw cracks appear in his aura of invincibility. Up against the battle hardened Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto , (no spring Chicken himself), he was pushed harder than most analysts had expected. Floyd’s decision to fight off the ropes saw him caught by Cotto on more than one occasion. The great champion’s nose was bloodied by his opponent’s onslaught; a rare site indeed. Although he went on to win a unanimous decision, for the first time in years we were not fully convinced by the boisterous  five weight division world champion’s performance. Despite this below par performance current indications are that this is most probably a classic “much about nothing” case. Everyone has their off day, right?

The fact Mayweather has only elected to fight once a year since his 2008 comeback does add to the uncertainty, we are due to find out how much the champ’s skills have eroded, if at all. Unusually, he is scheduled to step into the the ring twice- in May and September. All the questions surrounding his supposed decline will no doubt be answered, a mouth-watering prospect for fight fans. The May showdown will most likely be against Robert Guerrero, a solid welterweight contender ranked number ten pound for pound by “The Ring” magazine. This should be a litmus test, a test that that the Mayweather we’re accustomed to would pass with flying colours. Which version of “Money” will we see come fight night, the master of the sweet science or a man who looks as old as his 36 years?

by Shingi Mararike

Grass-roots: An introduction to The Commentary Box

The Cambridge dictionary defines sport as:

“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment”

If sport wasn’t all these things it wouldn’t be as important and I doubt anyone would seek to read about it or report on it. It is the ethos of this definition that this blog intends to embody. The commentary box is the ideal vantage point for viewing sporting contests. The closest you can be without assuming the role of an actual competitor. The Commentary Box aims to ensure that readers not only visualise sport but are transported into the arena itself, whether it be a star-studded Vegas fight night or the pristine lawns of Wimbledon’s All England club. Furthermore the writing style taken and used in each post up is inspired by the narrative styles of Norman Mailer and Bud Collins among others. In simple terms the aim is to make each report informative and entertaining at the same time.

What the commentary box consists of:

The blog is divided into subsections. The intention behind the subsections is to showcase both modern day sport and iconic sporting memories from the past. Featured subsections are:

The Week-End Preview: Written with “armchair quarterbacks” in mind this previews the weekend’s must see sporting events. Published every Friday this is a look ahead to upcoming showdowns, focusing on who will be involved, what we can expect and at times dares to think the unthinkable.

The Sporting Week’s Heroes and Zeros: This is a follow up to The Week-End preview. It is published every Sunday after the smoke has cleared, the dust has settled and outstanding performers can be clearly identified. Sport wouldn’t be sport without the superhuman efforts of outstanding individuals. The Sporting Heroes and Zeros column pays homage to outstanding individual and team performances and looks at the unfortunate high profile failures deserving the tagline of “Zeroes” of the week. In sports journalism there’s no shame in kicking a man when he’s down you see!

Classics: This is the writer’s favourite space on the blog. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the classic performances and rapturous moments that have come to define sporting history. This section plucks out transcendent moments in sporting history for your enjoyment whilst offering a new and fresh perspective on those fateful events that, in the words of the great Muhammed Ali, “Shook up the world.”

Miscellaneous: Comprises of postings and analyses that don’t fit in to the other categories but are no less informative.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you stick with The Commentary Box as your go to site for sporting opinions and analyses. Get ready for kick off, tip off, the first serve, the starting gun or whatever your favourite sport is. We’re finally off and running…

by Shingi Mararike