• 2012-2013 NBA season has been defined by critical injuries

    The number of franchises playing without their All-Star players or prospective All-Star players is nearly ludicrous. Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bynum, Kevin Love (just returned), Ricky Rubio, Danny Granger, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose and Amar'e Stoudemire have all missed a significant chunk of the season.

    A good team is able to play well with favorable circumstances. But, great teams, the teams that exude championship caliber poise are the ones that muster wins with significant setbacks and injuries.

    On the Miami Heat’s road to the 2012 NBA Finals, the Heat had to overcome the absence of their explosive power forward and third scoring option Chris Bosh for several playoff games against the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics. This nearly pushed the Heat to the brink of elimination, but the poise of Lebron James willed them to the ultimate goal.

    In the Dallas Maverick’s road to the 2011 NBA Finals, the Mavericks had to overcome a season-ending injury to second-leading scorer Caron Butler. The Mavericks needed other role players Jason Terry and Shawn Marion to step up and eventually produced an outstanding offensive team due to the poise and leadership from veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.

    In the 2010 NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics were defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers in a highly contested Game 7, because they could not overcome the loss of defensive anchor and starting center Kendrick Perkins to a PCL tear in Game 6. These moments define the character and makeup of a team’s grit and resilience.

    Thus far in the 2012-2013 season, a few teams have illustrated the ability to overlook their losses and continue to fight. A few have not. Let’s take a quick look at these teams.

    Dallas Mavericks:

    Despite the absence of Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks have maintained a record above .500. OJ Mayo’s timely rise to stardom keeps the Mavericks more than just afloat and right in the midst of the fiery Western Conference playoff hunt.

    Philadelphia 76ers:

    The 76ers front office fought hard to bring franchise player Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia. However, with Bynum’s knee issues lingering potentially into mid-season, Jrue Holiday had to become the franchise’s savior. He has averaged nearly 18 points and eight assists a game to keep the 76ers afloat until Bynum’s return.

    Minnesota Timberwolves:

    The Timberwolves probably had the most arduous task -- they had to play without electrifying playmaker Ricky Rubio and their most productive power forward Kevin Love. However, Nikola Peković stepped up in a big way to make up for the rebounding and scoring deficiencies caused by Love’s absence.

    Indiana Pacers:

    The Pacers should technically be performing the best because of their dependence on a more balanced and collective offensive attack. David West, Roy Hibbert and George Hill are all excellent scoring options. However, this team has failed to live up to expectations with a sub .500 record thus far.

    Los Angeles Lakers:

    The Lakers were confused to say the least while trying to play the Princeton Offense without Nash. However, with the dismissal of Mike Brown and arrival of new coach Mike D’Antoni guiding the offense in LA, the Lakers have managed to win four of their last five.

    Chicago Bulls:

    Considering that a Rose-less Bulls was a .600 team last season, the Bulls going .455 thus far is actually quite disappointing. Perhaps it is becoming evident that the Bulls cannot compete in a superstar league without their own superstar.

    New York Knicks:

    The best team in the NBA thus far. They have done this without All-Star power forward Amar'e Stoudemire. Quite honestly though, they are so much better without Stoudemire. A Knicks team with either Carmelo Anthony or Amar'e Stoudemire would fare well. But, a Knicks team with both suffers from severe defensive lapses, rebounding deficiencies and chemistry issues.

    The grit and resilience developed through these arduous times often define a team. Only time can tell which of these teams have developed that resilience.

  • Alex Smith doesn't deserve to be sat by the San Francisco 49ers

    NFL football is a cutthroat line of work, as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is currently discovering.

    Smith had done everything right. He led the 49ers to a 6-2 start and the top seed in the NFC West, dropping only two games to a Vikings team on a hot-streak and the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Last year he threw fewer interceptions than any other starting quarterback, one fewer than Aaron Rodgers and 18 fewer than league leader Ryan Fitzpatrick. He also leads the league in completion percentage in 2012 at 70 percent.

    But when Smith suffered a concussion in the 49ers’ Week 10 bout against the St. Louis Rams, coach Jim Harbaugh filled his place with second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Taking over in the first half, Kaepernick led the 49ers to a 24-24 tie. While the result was a disappointing way to end a rivalry game, Kaepernick brought a new mobility to the team’s offense.

    The following week, the 49ers routed a Chicago Bears team that boasted a 7-2 record and held the top seat in the NFC North, slicing and dicing one of the league’s best defenses. While Kaepernick put forth an impressive performance in his fist NFL start, much of the 49ers success was attributable to their own defensive juggernaut, which recorded six sacks, two picks, and a safety on the day.

    When Week 12 rolled around and Smith was cleared to play, Harbaugh opted to keep Kaepernick at the helm. Smith watched from the sideline as Kaepernick led the team to another victory, this time over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.

    The result left the 49ers sitting pretty at 8-2-1 and on top of their division, but chances are Alex Smith did not celebrate the victory on Bourbon Street.

  • Jeffcoat will return for 2013 season

    Head coach Mack Brown confirmed Monday that defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will return for the Longhorns next season.  He suffered from a season-ending pectoral injury during Texas’ loss to Oklahoma.

    He had four sacks so far this season to begin his once promising junior campaign.

    “Jackson has already told us he is coming back,” Brown said.

    The defense only has two seniors on defense this season with defensive end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro. Junior linebacker Jordan Hicks will also return next year.

  • Case McCoy to start for Texas in regular season finale against Kansas State

    Longhorns head coach Mack Brown announced Monday that junior Case McCoy will start at quarterback for Texas in its regular season finale against Kansas State on Saturday.

    McCoy replaced sophomore David Ash in the second quarter of the Longhorns' 20-13 loss to TCU, and again in the fourth quarter. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 110 yards and was the quarterback for the team's lone touchdown drive before throwing the game-sealing interception with a little more than a minute left to play.

    McCoy, who made his last start in last season's regular season finale against Baylor, also took over for Ash against Kansas earlier this month. He entered the game with Texas trailing, 17-7, before marching the Longhorns into the end zone twice and leading them to a 21-17 comeback victory.

    Ash was listed as questionable last weekend after suffering a rib injury during the loss to TCU. He was 10-for-21 with 104 yards and committed three turnovers, two interceptions and a lost fumble, all in the first half, in that game.

    Senior punter Alex King, who played quarterback in high school, is listed as Texas' third-string quarterback, behind McCoy and Ash. Freshman Connor Brewer, who has not played at all this year, is listed as the team's fourth-string quarterback.

    Texas has not beaten Kansas State in Manhattan since 2002.