SportsNet - July 2012
Bells have rung out across the UK as the final countdown to the start of the 2012 Olympics began. The 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony takes place on Friday night, July 27, and the world will watch as the greatest athletes on the planet battle for the gold.
The Olympics schedule for men's basketball in the London Games includes five first round games for the U.S., including matchups against France and Argentina.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant led Team USA, aptly dubbed the "Redeem Team," to the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, which means they once again have enormous targets on their back.
The 2012 version of the Team USA is loaded with talent. Three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant and his teammate Russell Westbrook add supreme athleticism to the backcourt, while rebounding machine Kevin Love and this year's Defensive Player of the year Tyson Chandler will man the painted area.
The team went 5-0 in exhibition play, and although they were threatened by Brazil and Argentina, they were never truly in a position to lose. To end their Olympic tune-up, they dominated a gifted Spanish team 100-78.
The Cincinnati Reds have been contending all year, but their recent seven-game winning streak has catapulted them closer to the National League's best record. On the morning of July 6, the Reds were sitting at 44-38 and two games behind the Pirates in the NL Central. Winners of 14 of their last 16 games, they own first place, and sit just a game back of the league-lead Nationals. They're doing it with pitching, led by staff ace Johnny Cueto (12-5, 2.23 ERA). The Reds have allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of the 13 games since the break, adding up to a 2.59 ERA since the All-Star game. Those type of performances have helped Cincinnati offset the absense of Joey Votto's bat, out since mid-July with a torn meniscus.
London Olympics 2012: Where Usain Bolt vs. Yohan Blake And Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte Rank Among Top 5 Olympic Rivalries
1) Usain Bolt v. Yohan Blake
Bolt remains the world record holder in the 100 and 200 meters, however, Jamaican teammate Yohan "The Beast" Blake is on his heels. The youngest ever 100-meter world champion also ran the second fastest 200-meter race of all-time last year when he blazed a 19.26. He also had Bolt staring at his heels in both the 100 and 200 meters at the Jamaican Olympic trials.
Blake is a 5-foot-11 speed demon who gets off the blocks quicker than Bolt, however, the 6-foot-5 reigning 100-meter gold medalist has the longer stride and most top line speed in the world. Unfortunately, Bolt has also been hampered by a right hamstring injury caused by a bad back.
Blake's advantage in the starting blocks is the reason that he is favored in the 100 meters while Bolt is the 200 meters.
Bolt is a naturally laid back competitor who has been known to rely on his natural talent. On the world's stage, it will be truly interesting to observe whether Blake's rigorous training has allowed him to surpass Bolt as the world's fastest man.
2) Ryan Lochte v. Michael Phelps
The teams of the NFC North enjoy longstanding reputations for great defensive play. Even in 2011's offense-first climate, the division featured some of the league's best individual talents on the defensive side of the ball.
Of all the division's sackers, stoppers and ballhawks, these five Pro Bowl stars have earned the most respect from players and fans alike:
1. Jared Allen, Vikings
Jared Allen led the NFL in sacks for the second time last season, shattering his previous career high with 22. The leader of the Minnesota defensive line also deserves some credit for the team's solid run defense, as he amassed 66 tackles (four for loss) last year.
Allen just turned 30 this spring, so there's little doubt he'll be a fixture among the league's sack leaders for several seasons to come.
2. Charles Woodson, Packers
The best cover corner in the division by leaps and bounds, Charles Woodson has reinvented himself since arriving in Green Bay. Blasted for underachieving in Oakland after being drafted at No. 4 overall, Woodson has averaged 6.2 interceptions a season since joining the Pack in 2006.
The NFC East has become an offense-first division in recent seasons, but its teams still have a proud defensive tradition and feature some of the finest defensive playmakers in the game.
Here are the top five defensive stars causing havoc in the NFC East:
5. London Fletcher, ILB, Washington Redskins
Ageless wonder London Fletcher continues to defy father time, to consistently deliver elite production from his inside linebacker position.
A stout force in the middle, Fletcher is an expert at reading the game and his intelligence and instincts compensate for his diminishing speed. The 37-year-old led the NFL in tackles in 2011 and is the cornerstone of the Washington Redskins' 3-4 scheme.
4. Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Criminally underrated defensive end Trent Cole is a dominant force for the Philadelphia Eagles. He has thrived in line coach Jim Washburn's wide-9 alignments.