Saturday, November 8, 2008
1st and foremost, it's on the NFL Network, which I'm sure many of us don't get considering it's not a part of many basic cable packages. I'm not going to spend extra money just to watch one more game per week. Then there's the fact that the game is actually on Thursday, which isn't nearly as cool as it seems. I'd much rather wait the 3 extra days so I actually know which of my fantasy players will actually play. I also HATE that shortened week garbage. It makes things unbelievably unpredictable. You can't guess gameplans nor the readiness of players. Take this 1st week for example, Denver @ Cleveland. You had a rookie runningback on the Denver side, who has only had 3 carries all season, taking the starting job on a shortened week against a decent Browns defense. Who the hell could have predicted what was going to happen? It was a crapshoot play no matter how you looked at it. Same scenario on the Browns' side. Romeo Crennel decided to give the starting job to Brady Quinn after his team had been led to a 3-5 record behind former starter Derek Anderson. During a normal week, I would have said Quinn is a solid start to above average start considering he was starting off against a putrid Denver defense. Instead, Brady Quinn was another crapshoot play. Both Torain and Quinn ended up with solid games, but who could have predicted that (NOTE: Torain is reportedly out of the rest of the season due to an ACL tear). Point is, having games on Thursday nights makes things extremely difficult to predict. It puts teams at a disadvantage in terms of practice time and preparation. I just don't see how this is a good idea...
Just a sidenote, in one of my leagues (12 person with PPR and a flex spot), I started both Quinn and Torain. My other QBs were Roethlisberger and Frerotte. I actually thought to myself that Frerotte would be the "safest" play, but Roethlisberger's injury update wasn't given until yesterday that he practiced and would be probable. I took a risk on Quinn (239 passing yards, 2 TDs) and it paid off. The other play on Torain as my flex was tough too. On Thursday, I still had no clue what was going on with Steven Jackson, one of my other options this week for my flex play, and took the risk on the hyped 5th round rookie runningback that none of us have seen before. Both plays obviously paid off, but I was sweating the decision all week and now I'm sweating my players for Sunday too. Fantasy football is awesome until times like now. All you think about is your players and how they must perform in order for you to achieve one of those elusive playoff spots in your respective league. If you lose, you feel it all week until your next matchup, or if you're eliminated because of it, you keep coming up with injuries and excuses until you get tired of them yourself. If you win, you are just hoping for another win next week and the week after that until it's all over whether you win of lose. Realistically, no one in your league is satisfied unless they win it all... and there's only one of those guys in each league every year. This is why we love fantasy football - for the trash talk, the constant complaining and the reason to hate one member every year. It's addicting and probably bad for our health in the long run, but stopping isn't really an option. Good luck during the stretch run and in the fantasy playoffs should you make it that far
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I hope you've heard about the Pistons/Nuggets blockbuster trade at this point. Personally, I love it for both teams from a fantasy perspective. The Nuggets don't have the versatility they had before with Iverson, but JR Smith will be a starter now and we already know how explosive he is in limited minutes off the bench. Now he should be playing 30+ min/game consistently. The addition of McDyess would have hurt Nene's value a bit, but reports are hinting that McDyess will be bought out and signed elsewhere. If that's the case, Nene and Kenyon Martin's value don't change. In fact, their touches should increase with the departure of AI, perhaps increasing productivity. Also, I shouldn't have to remind you, but Carmelo Anthony was leading the league in scoring last time he was playing on an Iverson-less Denver team (remember before that MSG "brawl" and 'Melo got suspended?). I would put Carmelo up with the top scorers in the league now, if not THE top scorer. On the Pistons' side, the guy this could hurt is Rip Hamilton. I could easily see Rip coming off the bench at some point this season to play the "Manu Ginobili" role. He'll still get his minutes and touches, but not starting would bump his value down slightly. Iverson's value might also take a hit. I can't imagine him scoring 25+ppg at this stage in his career and moving from a running team to a half court oriented team. One of my preseason favorites, however, Rodney Stuckey, may be the big winner from all this. We already knew the Pistons love the upside of this kid. Now it seems like they're willing to commit to him being their future starting point guard. Iverson's $20.8 million contract expires after this season and Stuckey will be the man. Detroit will give him as much run as they can this year and in the future.
To sum it up:
Trade winners: Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, Nene, Linas Kleiza, Rodney Stuckey
Trade losers: Allen Iverson, Anthony Carter, Rip Hamilton
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Honestly, Kobe is actually beginning to grow on me. He's a controversial character who can make any situation become a questionable one referring to himself. He could just answer a simple question of his favorite color and people would hound him for it. No other player in the NBA can speak to that flaw and I love that a player like Kobe (undoubtedly the BEST player in the WORLD) can be judged in such a distinct manner. He's a great player, but like he said in the Steven A. Smith interview, "Let me be ME!". And that has a magnanimous truth to it. He can not be MJ because he doesn't have the trust in his teammates nor the charisma to be such an electric figure on and off the court.
The Lakers WILL lose this series and it's not because of Kobe's talent, it's because of Kobe's inability to assess a situation. He can't make the correct play in the 2nd half of a tightly contested game because he only understands that he's the one to make things happen. Michael understood that upon entering the final crucial moments of a game, to trust his teammates to be where they should be and to defer to them in order to win the grand prize. After all of the Lakers' struggles this past season, Kobe still doesn't get that. As much as he wants to win the games, he still believes that the only way to do so is with him taking that last shot, no matter how big the stage. He still wants that spotlight and until he understands that giving his teammate the winning shot means more than anything else, he won't achieve the level of play that those before him have understood.
I hope that Kobe can achieve this one day (perhaps even next season) and with the help of a legendary coach like Phil Jackson, I don't doubt that he will. Once he understands this step, he will become an all-time great. In many eyes he already is, but in my honest opinion, he has one step to go before he becomes the undisputed 2nd best player in NBA history. He must trust his teammates, not just in speech, but in demonstration.
Monday, June 9, 2008
"While it is hard to stray away from the Laker bias that has exponentially accumulated throughout the years…DF with .4 seconds remaining or Horry ending the Sacramento Queen’s playoff runs…I will try to be as objective as possible…
A recipe for the rest of the series in my opinion is:
Game 3: A must win for the Lakers, which will only be done through great defense...they must force Boston’s role players like Powe, Brown and Cassel to struggle...Doc will quickly lose confidence in, at least, Powe as someone that can't get it done on the road.
Game 4: due to the lack of role player performance in game 3 for the C’s, Doc messes with his rotation and Boston doesn’t find a rhythm in the game and gets blown out.
Game 5: kobe and pau dominate in a game that cements their status as elite championship caliber players and the lakers win a hard fought game with clutch play in the 4th quarter
Game 6: boston opens up the game very well but the lakers take control of the game by the mid-3rd and close the game out in the garden
A few important things that must be done throughout this 4 game sweep (unbiased like I said) luke needs to be kept off the floor and radman needs to play bench minutes with ariza starting and odom playing better ball. Another key is “The Machine”-like shooting from the 3pt like by Sasha."
Back to me. As far as I can tell, these are pretty ideal thoughts for a Laker fan. I picked the Lakers in 6 before the series began and although I believe this is still possible, I don't think it's likely anymore. I'll stick with my guns though until it's not possible anymore.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
First let's remember how both teams got to this point. Both teams went through their fair share of difficulties in these playoffs, but if it's been possible, the Lakers have gotten through this deep West playoff field as strongly as any team could have shown. Everyone thought that Denver had a shot at beating LA because the Lakers didn't have Bynum back yet. Well, Bynum's not going to return now and LA's in the finals. Moreover, they completely dominated a talented Nuggets team that looked like they didn't belong in the same league. The next round, people thought Utah might be the best team in the league (for whatever reason) and didn't think the Deron Williams/Carlos Boozer would be too much to handle. It was also said that the combination of Ronnie Brewer/Matt Harpring/Kyle Korver (KYLE KORVER?!?!?) could "contain" Kobe. Then obviously came the defending Champs, and at this point, even I thought the Lakers were susceptible to a disappointing end to their long, surprising season. There was no answer for Tim Duncan, the Lakers didn't have enough experience, but in the end Kobe was the one who was unstoppable. He took 11 free throws in the entire series, but still scored 30+ points/game. I would not have thought that to be possible especially against the stingy Spurs defense featuring Bruce Bowen as a perimeter defender, but Kobe welcomed the challenge. Now they face a similarly built team in the Boston Celtics, who went through their own struggles.
The Celtics were widely picked to beat the Hawks in a sweep, or at the very worst, in a 5 game series. This was not the case. Instead Boston had its deep playoff run in jeopardy as a young Hawks team extended the 66 win Celtics to a 1st round game 7. I personally was shocked, but Boston won game 7 easily at home and moved on. Then came the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Lebrons. I actually thought this would be the breakthrough series for Boston, but the Cavs somehow extended the series to 7 games as well, which turned out to be a great game, a legendary battle between two of the great closers in the game, Paul Pierce
and Lebron James, a battle, a game... that I missed. That's not the point though. The point is that Boston found another way to prevail and proved that Home Court advantage does mean something. Anyways, then came the Eastern Conference Finals in which the 2 teams that were on a crash course all season, finally met. The Pistons and the Celtics. People at this point were already doubting the C's. They can't win a road game, they have no rotation, they can't score... The pessimism got to a climax once Detroit won game 2 in Boston. Then everyone thought there was no way Boston could come back. I said before the series began that both teams are way too good to win all home games. I thought the series would go 7 games with each team winning 1 road game, which means Boston would advance. Boston did even better however. They showed that perhaps the long series in rounds 1 and 2 might have done something for their collective experience and ended up taking 2 games in Detroit to take the series in 6.
Now that the past is out of the way, the matchups are an interesting factor. KG proves as that Duncan-like presence for Boston, but unless he asserts himself the way Timmy does, the Lakers will be fine. KG has shown again and again that he's got the talent and ability to take over games, he just doesn't have the mindset or selfishness to actually do it. With the rest of the matchups, the only one that sticks out is how the Celtics will try and guard Kobe. Boston was the best defensive team in the league in the regular season and even though it seems like they have the personnel to guard premier swingmen like Kobe with the likes of James Posey, Paul Pierce, Tony Allen, etc... they haven't had to go up against Kobe in a long series before. The Spurs in the previous series have had long series with Kobe before and as seen, still couldn't do anything about him. Overall, I think both teams have great chemistry and have very balanced, talented rosters, but one team has Kobe. The other team should have a closer gap because KG should close that a bit, but the fact is he doesn't. He doesn't let the game come to him like Kobe does at the end of games and as alluded to before, he doesn't take over. In fact, he seems to push it away. On my Championship team, I don't want my main man with that kind of personality. Paul Pierce will take over games, but he's not Kobe Bryant.
Prediction: Lakers in 6
Sunday, May 11, 2008
LA Lakers/Utah Jazz: This team has arguably been together for a few seasons now, but their 2nd option, Pau Gasol, has been with them for less than half a season and all of their supporting cast is young still even if they have emerged. They beat an overmatched team in the 1st round (Denver) in 4 games simply because they were that much better. This round, they got the Western Conference Finalists of last season and a great home team. This one's looking like it could go 7, even though I think the Lakers will win.
New Orleans Hornets/San Antonio Spurs: This one isn't as much about the Spurs losing in New Orleans (Chris Paul is just unstoppable and his teammates play better at home - simple as that) as it is about the Hornets discovering themselves in a tough series. I think the Spurs will extend the Hornets as long as they possibly can, but not having homecourt could eventually hurt them since these Hornets are clearly legitimate and around to stay for a while. Next season, they will be amongst the favorites for the title.
Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers: The Celtics are simply a better team than the Cavaliers. They were also the best road team in the league during the regular season. I will blame this on the coaching. They had a rotation set for 3/4 of the season and went away from it. Now they look sketchy on the road. The team is experienced and has leadership, just not a coach who can decide on what he wants to do in crunch time. They need to figure out their road issues soon though because I do believe Detroit can beat Boston at least once in Boston. The Cavs are just too overmatched in this series to steal one away from home. The best they can do is hold court at home and hope for some ridiculous Lebron game 7 heroics.
Detroit Pistons/Orlando Magic: The worst series. Orlando has been a team full of holes all season and it's quite clear in this series. They just match up terribly against these Pistons. They don't have a PG big enough for Chauncey Billups, a swingman fast enough or athletic enough to chase and stick with Rip Hamilton, nor a swingman good enough to keep Tayshaun Prince at bay. Just awful. I can't wait for the Conference Finals.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Let's see, Detroit has woken up from its ridiculous slumber and taken a 3-2 lead on Philly and I don't doubt they will finally shut the door on the series in game 6 even if it is on the road. Boston has gotten out-energized in 2 games in a row, but it's a young Hawks team who's excited. I still don't think that Atlanta squad can win in Boston, which means the C's will still win the series. I actually think they will close it out on the road in game 6 as well. One thing of note, I'm happy Mike Woodson's job is basically safe after all the crap he's had to go through to get that team playing well. Then there's Cleveland, who I told you would have some close games with Washington, but still win the series in fine fashion - they'll close it out at home in game 5. Orlando's already through in 5 games (terrible call on my part - Toronto needs to address their rebounding/big man woes and get a guy who can take over the game scoring off the dribble).
Out West, New Orleans "shocked" everyone by dominating Dallas for the majority of that series and LA didn't give Denver a shot in that series. Flat out, that one wasn't even close. San Antonio also finished off Phoenix in fine, painful fashion as they are accustomed to doing. I don't think the rumors of D'Antoni getting fired are legit. He deserves to stay at least as long as Nash can still play at his high level. Then there's Utah, who I've been saying all year is OVERRATED. Sure, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer were magnificent in last year's playoffs getting to the conference finals, but were they really? They won a game 7 in Houston last year (who weren't nearly as good as they are this season - although much better with Yao than without) and beat a worn-out Golden State Warriors squad that just matched up terribly. Now we see them struggling to beat a undermanned, undersized Rockets team. I just don't understand how people love that Jazz team and think they're so great. Deron's a great player, but he's even inconsistent at times. Carlos Boozer just isn't good on the defensive end. Mehmet Okur has been their most consistent option in the series and they rely on Andrei Kirilenko to do way to much, which is never a good thing. I think Utah will win this series, but in the next round, they are going to get exposed by a GREAT Lakers team.
So now onto the next round match-ups (as long as the 1st round plays out correctly, which by the way, who would have ever thought the last four series in the 1st round would be DET/PHI, BOS/ATL, UTAH/HOU and CLE/WASH. I barely count the Cleveland series since that one's going to end in 5. Gotta love the NBA)
Cleveland @ Boston: This series is one people are starting to question. People think Doc Rivers is finally imploding after a seemingly masterful season. They think Boston, all of a sudden, doesn't have options at the end of games. The Celtics don't have a set rotation anymore. Why is Cassell playing at the end of games instead of Rondo? Who can guard Lebron? All legit questions unless you forget that Boston was clearly the best team during the NBA season. They won 66 games, most people recall, BUT they also LOST games as well. And it's not like they never lost multiple games in a row. That happened too. I almost feel dumb for having to convince people that Boston should be and will show that they're the favorites in this series. Sure, they'll have problems with Lebron, but who doesn't? And moreover, Boston led the league in defense this season, by a lot too. They have the DPOY in Kevin Garnett and I'm sure they can figure out a way to limit Lebron and basically stop the rest of that Cavaliers team. As long as Pierce is relatively healthy (which is somewhat of a big IF) I would pick these Celtics in 5, but since that's not certain, I'm going to pick them in 7, not because I think Cleveland is that good. I'm confident that the 3 games before game 7 that Boston win will be 10+ points, while Cleveland will sneak out with a few "Lebron games". If I'm Boston, I take a look and see that I can put Tony Allen (for quickness), James Posey (a bit bigger) or Leon Powe (even more size) on Lebron to give him different looks. As for the rest of the Cavs, who cares? They all helped him enough against Washington (who's not a better team than the Wizards, that's a questionable statement at best), but that was because the Wizards are an awful defensive team and have been for years.
Orlando @ Detroit: See, now this actually might be a series... if not for 2 factors. I don't think anyone on the Pistons is containing Dwight Howard. He's too big for anyone on Detroit. He might have just as sick a stat line against Detroit as he did against Toronto. The problem is, Detroit has 2 match-ups against Orlando that are just as lopsided, if not more lopsided. At least with Dwight, he's only hurting you in one way. With Detroit, Chauncey Billups is going to punish whoever is checking him, whether it be Jameer Nelson (too small) or Carlos Arroyo (just not good enough). He had a bad series against Andre Miller (you're telling me NO ONE wanted this guy when Philly was shopping him??), whose got great size, but that's not going to be a problem against Orlando. Then there's Rasheed, who's a match-up nightmare for just about everyone, but especially the Magic. Who is going to guard him?? You're going to put Rashard Lewis on him in the post? Wow, that would be murder. So even though Dwight will get his, the Pistons team is too talented to lose this one. I think Detroit would win in 5, although I'm tempted to say 6 games since we all know they like to give games away sometimes.
Utah @ LA: Like I said before, I don't know why everyone loves Utah so much, but they did show me one thing: they lost a game at home and the way I see it, if Houston can beat Utah for one game in Salt Lake City, the Lakers definitely can. LA's got a great match-up as well. Utah's got absolutely no one to guard Kobe who, last I checked, was still pretty damn good and on a mission. I think Boozer and Gasol can neutralize each other's effectiveness. Neither can play any defense and both are pretty talented offensively. I think Deron Williams can be limited by a combination of Fisher, Farmar and Vujacic (lots of size, athleticism and quickness in that trio). LA in 5.
San Antonio @ New Orleans: I would have felt a lot better about the Hornets' chances in this one if San Antonio lost that game last night. It would have worn the Spurs down some more and let New Orleans scout a little bit more. With that said though, it's going to be tough to pick either side in this one. New Orleans seems to match-up so well against the defending Champs. Chris Paul is just better than Tony Parker, David West played real solid against Dirk last round and Duncan will be a similar match-up. Likewise, Tyson Chandler doesn't have to worry about defending Kurt Thomas or Fabricio Oberto and can patrol the paint. The one issue is Manu. He would be a tough one to contain, but maybe New Orleans goes small again with Pargo and Paul and out-quick the Spurs or bring in Bonzi and hope he can do something. As much as I love the Spurs (they're healthy, which is scary), I think the young Hornets might actually win this series. They've got homecourt, which has been huge for them, and I see this series going 7. Both teams will get one on the opposing home floor and extend this series the entire length. New Orleans in 7.
Update: So, with Toronto out of it, and if all the remaining series go accordingly, I will be 7/8 in my 1st round picks.
Conference Finals Picks: New Orleans @ LA Lakers (change from San Antonio, although obviously the Spurs could still make that spot) and Detroit @ Boston (same as before)
Finals Pick (and wish for it to happen): LA Lakers @ Boston (LA wins in 7)
Thursday, April 17, 2008
East 1st Round:
#1 Boston Celtics VS #8 Atlanta Hawks
- There are so many storylines heading into this 2008 NBA playoffs and the Hawks making the playoffs after an NBA long 9 seasons has got to be one of the better ones in the 1st round. It's too bad that they have to match up against the premier team this season in the Boston Celtics. I never want to say a team has no chance against another one, but in this case it's pretty easy. The C's swept the Hawks 3-0 during the regular season and are on a mission after winning 66 games. Doc Rivers has this team rested after a long regular season that featured many blowouts and that will only continue in this series. I think this will be the least exciting of all the series because of the Celtics' dominance and Hawks' complete inexperience and youth. It will be a nice learning experience for the up-and-coming Atlanta Hawks, but this series is going 4-0 to Boston.
#2 Detroit Pistons VS #7 Philadelphia 76ers
- Who would of thought one season after trading AI that there would be another AI emerging in Philly? It's another great story in the East for an underdog team facing a perennial power. Detroit's always been a cruise-control regular season team and they have the veterans and experience to understand that. The thing different about this season's Piston team from last years, but similar to that championship squad is energy from the younger players and depth, both coming off the bench in guys who have emerged for them like Jarvis Hayes, Jason Maxiell and more recently, Rodney Stuckey. These guys will be the X-factor in how far the Pistons advance (either the Conference Finals or NBA Finals). I love how Andre Miller played through all the trade rumors all season and emerged as a near-top tier Point Guard. This team is still too young to win a series though, especially one against a team as good as the Pistons. I do see Detroit slipping up a game or two though. 4-1 to the Pistons.
#3 Orlando Magic VS #6 Toronto Raptors
- The Raptors probably got a better matchup here than if they would've played Lebron's Cavs. They've got the Point Guards in Jose Calderon and TJ Ford, which is a position that the Magic severely need to improve upon. I don't like but a handful of guys to match up with Dwight Howard in either conference, but Chris Bosh is an All-Star big man and Toronto's got a few big guys to throw at Howard to slow him down in a long series. There was no way the Raps could have matched up against Lebron (another one of their weaknesses - lack of a good/great defensive wing), but against Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, I think they've got a chance. The Raptors are deeper than the Magic and play a more defined style of basketball. Most people are paying attention to that Cavs/Wizards series, which is getting all the hype because of the media paying attention to Lebron and Gil, but this series may very well be the best Eastern series under the radar. I see Toronto pulling out a tight series on the road in game 7. It'll be a tough task for them, but I think last year's playoff disappointment helped this team in terms of experience. 4-3 Raptors.
#4 Cleveland Cavaliers VS #5 Washington Wizards
- OK, this series has me a bit confused. The Wizards stand a chance against the Cavs HOW?? The Cavs have beaten the Wizards both the past two seasons in the playoffs. Sure last year Washington didn't have either Caron Butler or Gilbert Arenas, but that series wasn't close either way. It's not like the rest of that team showed up. The year before it was a fantastic 7 game series that was decided by gamewinners that were questionable calls or no-calls by the zebras. I get all that, BUT have we forgotten that Cleveland has a man named LEBRON JAMES? The man that singlehandedly beat the Pistons last season, the man who's better this season and looks more determined than he has in the past 2 playoffs. He got to the NBA finals last year and now you think that he's going to allow his team (no matter how bad the supporting cast is) to lose in the 1st round? Unbelievable. Here's what I think, Lebron's going to be Lebron and pull off his heroics as he has all season in the 4th quarter. This means that if the games are close (remember: Washington still doesn't play any defense) that Lebron's going to take over when it matters and win some of those games himself. The series might be exciting, but at the end of the day it'll be 4-1 Cleveland at home.
Tentative Eastern Conference Finals pick: Boston over Detroit in 7 at home.
West 1st Round:
#1 LA Lakers VS #8 Denver Nuggets
- This is where the real playoffs are, in the West. Only 7 games separate 1st place (LA) from 8th place (Denver) and although I think Denver would have gotten torched by New Orleans if they drew them, I think they've got a legit shot at making it a series with LA. We all know Denver doesn't play defense outside of Marcus Camby, but without Bynum for potentially a few playoff games, LA could be a bit vulnerable. Kenyon Martin could do a decent job on Pau Gasol, leaving Camby to do what he does best, which is help defense and blocking a ton of shots. Then there's obviously AI and Melo out on the perimeter doing their scoring bit and explosive guys like JR Smith and Linas Kleiza coming off the bench, but the thing about the Nuggets is that they're as streaky a playoff team as they come. I could easily see them beating the the Lakers in 6 games, streaking into the 2nd round if they shoot well enough and are focused enough after going up 3-1 in the 1st 4 games to win a 4th game at home, but am I sane enough to predict that... No, definitely not. When it comes down to it, Los Angeles has played some of the best basketball of any team this season. I would say only Boston has played more consistently and with more intensity. Kobe, since the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, has had that look. He knows this team is good enough win a championship, especially if Bynum returns to form in these playoffs (big question mark now since he hasn't played in forever and who knows what kind of shape he's in). The team is still relatively young, but with as much talent and energy as they've got as a team, I can't see them losing to a schizophrenic Nuggets team after the great season they've had. I see a 5 game series ending in LA, where the Lakers advance to the 2nd round. Carmelo is going to have the TMac first round questions soon enough (and what used to be KG's trademark).
#2 New Orleans Hornets VS #7 Dallas Mavericks
- Even though there are so many close series in the West, this one might be the toughest for me. I love Chris Paul and his game and how he dominates the game from the Point Guard position (I think he has more so than even Nash because he plays the position at both ends, but he's not the best 2-way PG yet. I'll still give that honor to Chauncey Billups), but this Mavs team is obviously proven and have just as capable a leader in Dirk Nowitzki. I don't have a strong argument for picking the Hornets other than the fact that they've been great all season and Dirk might still be feeling a bit of that leg injury he suffered a few weeks ago, even though no one's talking about it. David West might be able to neutralize Dirk and if he can, Chris Paul can take over the series because at this point in his career, even Jason Kidd can't do the things Paul does, not can he stop him. I'll say this one goes seven and Mark Cuban will have to think about changes after a 2nd consecutive 1st round loss.
#3 San Antonio Spurs VS #6 Phoenix Suns
- If this series doesn't have to most and most controversial storylines, I don't know which one would. After the Spurs won questionable games in this series last season (the Steve Nash nose, the Phoenix suspensions, Tim Donaghy reffing a couple of the games, etc...), they obviously went on to win the NBA finals. Now the 2 rivals meet again, although I hesitate to call them rivals since the Suns have never beaten the Spurs in a playoff series, and this time in Round one. It almost seems unfair, but hell, how can we as fans honestly complain to have the privilege of watching these two square off? It's going to be a great series and perhaps the most intense of any other series in the 1st round. I honestly can't wait. I hope it goes seven games and that's why I'm predicting it does. Honestly, I don't know how I could possibly pick the defending champs to go down in round 1 in a 7th game at home so I'm going the conservative route and picking the Spurs. I'm sorry to the Suns' fans out there because your window is definitely closing, but it's the Spurs we're talking about here. 4-3 Spurs at home in game seven (By the way, if this actually happens 3-4 of these games will probably end up being instant classics).
#4 Utah Jazz VS #5 Houston Rockets
- This might be the most painful series for me to watch, if not for anything else, because of my sympathy for T-Mac's unbelievably painful 1st round losses in recent memory and if that must continue again this season, it'd just be too bad. Seeds really don't matter here. Houston had the better season record so even though they're the #5 seed and Utah's #4, the Rockets are actually the team with home court. I think for the Rockets to win this series, they have to win that game 7 at home that they lost last year against these same Utah Jazz. Personally, I've thought Utah has been relatively overrated all season. Don't get me wrong, they've got a ton of talent with a great PG-PF punch with Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, and then there's Mehmet Okur who looks healthy now after his mid-season injury. They've got all the offensive weapons you could want, but defense is their issue. If AK-47 goes down in this series, which is definitely a possibility, they've got no one to guard T-Mac who, I would have to believe, has all the motivation in the world to win this series. He's already come out and said something to the extent of "it's not on me this time", but you think that means he doesn't want out of the 1st round? If anything, it's a psychological trick to try and get the Jazz to let their guard down a bit. Anyways, Ronnie Brewer gets steals, but he's not the 1-on-1 defender Kirilenko is and if AK goes down to injury, which he's accustomed to doing from time to time, the Rockets have a great shot at winning this series. With all that said, as painful as this is for me, I'm picking Utah in 6 games. I just think in the end, they've got too much talent and could easily pull out a game in Houston (where T-Mac plays worse than on the road) and 37-4 is pretty impressive to be at home (best in the NBA) to close out the series in game 6.
Tentative Western Conference Finals pick (this one is extremely difficult): Los Angeles Lakers over San Antonio Spurs in 6 games.
NOTE: I am hoping for that I'm wrong in round 1 and Phoenix makes a run and its LA/PHX in the WCF. That would make for one of the great NBA postseasons in a long time. A great rivalry series in the Conference Finals and a potential Laker/Celtic Finals. Got to love the NBA.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
This season's NCAA tournament would seem to have been a boring higher seeds ride, considering it was the 1st time ever all 4 #1 seeds made the Final Four, which wasn't surprising, surprisingly since all season Kansas, UNC, UCLA and Memphis seemed to be one tier above the rest (if that makes any sense, hopefully it does). This "boredom" was not so. The tournament gave birth to new stars, teams and stories. The best of which could not even be decided upon if it was up to me... but I'll try. It's between Davidson's Elite Eight run with their star Stephen Curry and Kansas completely dominating Roy Williams' UNC Tar Heels after all the talk in the Final Four (others that easily were in consideration: Kansas' unbelievable overtime victory behind guard Mario Chalmers, Western Kentucky's mid-major Cinderella story as a 12 seed into the sweet sixteen, which was highly overlooked because of all the stories and the rest of the highly competitive games). The reason I chose Stephen Curry was because up until that shot by Richards to try and defeat the eventual Champ, Kansas, HE was THE story of the tournament. It wasn't even close - America found it's new college basketball icon and he had a baby face. Curry's already declared that he's staying at school next season and I'm not sure if it's the smartest long-term move, but it does guarantee this - that he WILL be a leading candidate for player of the year (even if Tyler Hansbrough stays for his senior year) and he will put Davidson on the map as a Gonzaga-type "mid-major" school (which essentially means that Davidson will have a chance to be on the national level for the long-term as long as they keep commitment to the basketball program). The Roy Williams' story was simple. He's said in the past that he would never schedule a duel with his former team of 15 years so basically the only way they ever would meet would be in the tournament, which seems unlikely if this weren't 2 elite programs, but we're talking about Kansas and UNC here, two perennial top 10 programs in the nation in all aspects. Clearly, the matchup was bound to happen eventually and now, after a national title already with UNC and 5 seasons in between, Roy met his old team. Albeit, all of his former recruits have since graduated or moved on, but Jayhawk fans are some of the most passionate in the country and many wouldn't let Roy's statement of "never leaving" Lawrence go. After all this, an essential beatdown of the Tar Heels and a clutch, dramatic National title win, hopefully the rest of Kansas will forgive Roy Williams as well and move on (or then again, they could just turn of Coach Bill Self if he takes the job at Oklahoma State - that would just be a mistake for both parties). The stories were plentiful though, obviously many of which were about draft prospects as well. There's a good reason why the National title game gets so much attention. In fact, some of you may have noticed that there were no NBA games scheduled that night. It would be foolish to compete with that event and scouts can watch those players easier if their team isn't playing the same night. I gave my top 5 prospects about a month ago here:
At this point, there can't be too many changes, although I'm sure Derrick Rose's performance in the tournament, leading that Tiger team to the title game may have swayed some people and Eric Gordon may have dipped a bit on some charts. I still like Beasley, Rose, Bayless, Lopez (not Gordon anymore) and Mayo as my top 5 guys. Jordan and Gordon quite easily drop from this group because Gordon seems a bit one-dimensional for my liking, although the kid's got unbelievable range and athleticism and his hurt wrist may have contributed a bit to his late season dipping numbers and DeAndre Jordan just isn't ready for the NBA. Sure, he's 7'0" tall, 260 lbs and has great length, but if he can't dominate the college game at that size, he's in no man's land for at least a couple of seasons in the quicker, longer (in terms of gameplay and season) NBA game.
That makes it easier for me to talk about the NBA. The West is still not set in stone, as the 7th and 8th playoff seeds are still two musical chairs with 3 teams vying for a seat. Denver, as I've predicted (even after Dirk's leg injuries), would still be the odd man out and I'm sticking by that. I just think Golden State, with their style, can string enough wins in a row to push themselves in and Dallas has pulled ahead of the other 2 teams by a couple of games, which at this point in the season is a huge deal. I also gave my MVP picks (along with the other picks) a while back:
I stand by my Chris Paul pick and what seems to be the deciding factor for reporters and the voters (the people who actually decide the award) is if CP3 can lead his Hornets team to a #1 seed. If he does, he'll be the most deserving MVP since KG got it in 2004 (I believe? It was the season he won and took the T-Wolves to the WCF). We've seen quite a few controversial ones in past years (Nash VS Shaq in 2005, Nash VS Kobe in 2006, Dirk as an "underqualified" MVP last season). I agree there's got to be some sentiment for Kobe, after the great year that LA has had, but can we remember something - LAL has made the playoffs the past 2 seasons, New Orleans wasn't even CLOSE and to shoot up to #1 is completely, utterly incomprehensible and the hands-down best player, game-changer, "makes-all-of-his-teammates-better" guy is none other than Chris #3 Paul.
As for the NFL Draft, I basically have no clue what's going. What I hear, though, is that Miami is already negotiating with Jake Long (Offensive Lineman, University of Michigan) as the 1st overall pick. I can't really say I can disagree with their way of thinking considering Joe Thomas went #3 last season and if not for Adrian Peterson's magical rookie campaign, Thomas would have been Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was easily the most ready to play out of the top 3 (JaMarcus Russell and Calvin Johnson were the top 2 picks, respectively). Anyways, I'll be watching closely at what my Bengals do considering they've made the 1st step towards a better campaign with the waiving of oft-problem-seeking WR, Chris Henry, and still having Chad Johnson complaining over whatever network will have him speak. Here was one I wrote on the Bengals and what they should do to hopefully pass these off-field issues:
The beginning of Baseball season is useless to talk about since the season is so long and unless there's a big trade, there's not much to be interested about... So there's the Masters and usually I wouldn't be excited about Golf, but how could you not be excited when one of the great players of any sport of all time presents himself with an impossible (so far) task. Tiger basically said that he should have won the Grand Slam already and he's just not been lucky enough to get the "right 4 tournaments". This is just as good as anything MJ could say about predicting a sweep of an anticipated playoff series or A-Rod giving himself the task of hitting 100 Home Runs or the simplest comparison would be Roger Federer predicting himself to win the Tennis Grand Slam (although, he's a shoo-in for 3/4 of those every year anyways it seems - He's THAT good).
Anyways, this month will conclude soon and once May and June go by with the NBA playoffs (which is ridiculously long as many others have pointed out), the "boring" of the year will begin, when all summer there will just be Major League Baseball, America's favorite pastime.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
12:00 pm: My day starts in Charlotte, NC, where the ACC tournament was coming to a close between the Clemson Tigers and UNC Tar Heels. Like the rest of tournament has been so far, this game didn't fail to impress. Both these teams have already guaranteed themselves a spot in the tourny and are now just playing for seeding and bragging rights.
12:50 pm: Ty Lawson scrambles for a last shot before halftime and the shot wiggles out... I was ready to jump out of my seat.
1:11 pm: Just realized the orange/baby blue split on the sidelines. Pretty funny to see. On another note, it's ridiculous to watch that Tiger full court trap. Maybe that's how this team has been playing all season, but I can't possibly see them keeping this up for 40 minutes not with this kind of intensity, but at this point in tournaments, a lot of teams are running on pure adrenaline.
1:17 pm: They show the graphic for last time Clemson was in an ACC title game (1962). I don't know what's more impressive - Dick Vitale's senior year at Seton Hall or 31 cents for a gallon of gas.
1:27 pm: Clemson's starting to fall apart just as I suspected. They're playing softer and more timid than they were in the 1st half. The Tigers are missing shots and not getting 2nd chances, while UNC is starting to run and get their game going without any relent.
1:45 pm: It's getting down to the 5 minute mark and Clemson's making a last run attempt. The score's 74-67 and Danny Green's fouled out of the game. I'm going on a quick lunch break (don't worry I'll be watching the game while eating though).
2:03 pm: 4 point game, UNC's Wayne Ellington at the free throw line trying to ice the game. Ellington misses one. Clemson gets off a solid look from three (Ogilesby) and Carolina rebounds to get the win.
2:14 PM: Never mind on that call. 15 minutes later, UNC is fouling Clemson like they're the ones needing a miracle comeback. This is ridiculous. The game finally ends at UNC 86, Clemson 81, but it was not a smooth ending for the Tar Heels and they need to figure some things out before getting ready for the tournament.
Next game(s): Big Ten title: Illinois VS Wisconsin, Big 12 title: Texas VS Kansas, SEC title: Georgia VS Arkansas
ESPN is running the Big 12 title game, which by all means is probably the best game of the afternoon. The most intriguing has to be the SEC title matchup since Georgia is an under ".500" team going for an auto-bid and taking a potential bid away from other "bubble teams". The matchup I'll be watching though is the Big Ten because of the home bias for Wisconsin, even though this game will probably ugly and relatively unwatchable to the average fan.
2:24 pm: Eww, I just realized Billy Packer and Jim Nantz would be doing the Big Ten title game. I might be watching a lot of the Big 12 title contest.
2:40 pm: It's not even possible for this Big Ten game to be uglier right now. 14:07 mark in the 1st half and the score is... 8-4 - Ill. - Wait! 8-7! Wisco hit a trey.
2:46 pm: This Big Ten is at 10-10... I'm switching to the Big 12 and it's eff'in 35-34. Who in their right mind would watch the Big Ten when there's a game of this caliber on right now. KU and UT are just shooting lights out. Both these two teams are showing why they're both threats to win it all.
2:59 pm: Just decided to check in on the SEC and UGA is up 26-9. There's no typo there - the 16-16 Bulldogs are up on Arkansas 26-9 with 10:00+ left in the 1st half. If Georgia makes this tournament, someone on that bubble is gonna be quite bitter.
3:01 pm: The Big 12 is at the half and we'll have to refer to this score again once the Big Ten has reached their halftime as well, but this score is currently on pace for triple digits for both teams. Halftime score: 46-45 Texas.
3:11 pm: The Big Ten is at the half with Wisconsin leading 29-22 on Illinois. Wow, I honestly just hope that this game reaching triple digits combined scoring. Don't let that close score fool you either. A 7 point lead in this type of contest might as well read 39-22 in other leagues.
3:14 pm: So I'm reading the KU/UT box score and Augustin's got 18pts in the 1st half (by the way, the 2nd half of the contest just began) and I had to think to myself, DJ Augustin is quite easily the best point guard in the country and he's probably also the best 1-on-1 player as well. There's no other guy in the country that makes plays as easily off the dribble as Augustin, for his teammates as well as himself. If he stays at school after this season, which he may considering he is a bit undersized for the next level, he's got to be the frontrunner for player of the year next season, unless Tyler Hansbrough is at UNC again next season, which he obviously may as well. IMHO, Augustin should enter the point guard deep draft because he's got enough talent and savvy to be a lottery pick.
3:28 pm: Kansas is showing how good they can be. Mario Chalmers is trumping DJ Augustin's performance with 25pts of his own. They just have so many weapons and talent that any of them can go off on a given night. Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darnell Jackson, Sharron Collins... The list continues and all of them can play defense, which isn't showing in this hot-shooting affair, but is definitely true. The score is 57-54 Kansas at the 11:00 mark in the 2nd half.
3:32 pm: Checking in on my Badgers and it's going well. Wisconsin has taken a 39-26 lead with 16:00+ minutes left. As long as they keep up the D, which is one of the great ones of this season, they should cruise to the title and a #2 seed.
3:37 pm: Just checked in on an NBA score (LAL @ HOU since Houston's going for 22 straight wins) and the Rockets are beating the Pau Gasol-less Lakers 59-44 at the half. The game is on ABC if you want to see the Rockets continue to target history.
3:50 pm: Wow, that's about all I can say about this Big 12 game. It's completely crazy how up-and-down it is and it's definitely lived up to the hype. The teams keep going back and forth, Kansas just made a bit of a comeback to take a 70-69 lead on Texas.
3:53 pm: The graphic was just shown and there have been 14 lead changes and 6 ties. 72-71 Kansas.
3:54 pm: Went to the Big Ten score - 53-35 Wisconsin, and even though there are 8 minutes left, an 18 point lead in the Big Ten against a defensive team like Wisconsin is just not gonna get overcome. Sorry Illini, your NCAA tournament bid looks to be over.
4:05 pm: Kansas has a 78-73 lead with under a minute left. Chalmers has 28pts going to the line. Hits the 1st and then hits the 2nd. 80-73 and the Big 12 title will goto the Kansas Jayhawks as well as what i believe will be a #1 seed. Texas will likely drop to a #2 seed, along with Wisconsin, Tennessee and Duke (those are my predictions anyway).
Final Scores of these final tournaments:
ACC: 86-81 UNC over Clemson
Big 12: 84-74 Kansas over Texas
Big Ten: 61-48 Wisconsin over Illinois
SEC: 66-57 UGA over Arkansas
4:18 pm: The SEC is now switched to CBS after the finale of the Big Ten tournament. Georgia, after their ridiculous start, has come back down to Earth and is in a tight one with Arkansas. There are just under 4:00 left and the score is now 56-53.
4:24 pm: WOW, Georgia may have just clinched the contest. Billy Humphrey just hit a trey ball with just under 2:00 to put the score at 61-53 for the Bulldogs.
With the games over, the bracketology basically only just begins. Over the next hour or two, the committee will release the entire bracket and there will clearly be snubs and teams that "shouldn't" be there. I'll give my thoughts when they occur.
4:49 pm: Some downtime before the selection process begins so I turned on the Houston/LAL game (Thanks G-Nads for letting me watch the Lakers lose and Kobe stttruggle). And I gotta admit, Houston's looking impressive. I get that you need to be hot to win 21 straight (perhaps 22 now - they're up 96-86 with 3:15 left), but this team looks pretty legit. T-Mac is playing like he cares and that he wants to take this team as far as they can go. The role players know exact what to do and they do everything that is needed to win.
5:00 pm: The Houston/LAL game is almost over, with Houston's 22nd consecutive victory coming in with little doubt. I've switched over to CBS where the seeding and bracket is being released.
5:01 pm: The #1 seeds are just as I thought they'd be a week ago, UNC as the #1 overall, Memphis, UCLA and Kansas (in that order). UNC is out East, Kansas is the Midwest, UCLA is in the West and Memphis down South. UCLA and Memphis would be slotted to meet each other in the final four, with Kansas and UNC to meet on the other side.
5:08 pm: The East region is now being revealed. Indiana is an 8 seed, WOW. This is real surprising to me. I knew IU had a bad close to the season, but didn't think they would drop past a 6 seed. It just shows the end of the season is really crucial for the tournament seeding. The 2 seed in this region is Tennessee, which is chilling since Tennessee was on the cusp of a #1 seed. A real intriguing matchup at 1st glance already is the 4/13 matchup between Winthrop and "Wazzu". WSU has struggled throughout the Pac-10 and Winthrop has been a tough win for many top tier teams in the past few seasons.
5:15 pm: The Midwest region is the 2nd region to be revealed. The #12 seed in this region was Villanova, a team that was definitely on the bubble. Wow, I can't believe this just happened. At 1st look, this bottom half of the bracket might be the toughest in the field. With Georgetown at the #2, Wisconsin at the #3 and USC at the #6, any of those teams could come out of this region to potentially face #1 Kansas in the Elite Eight. I like that 5/12 matchup, a lot. I think #5 Clemson's weaknesses shooting FT's makes them an easy candidate for a loss, especially against a bubble team like #12 Villanova, who's played so many close games in the deep, tough Big East
5:23 pm: Next is the South. MSU is the #5 in this region and I don't think they'll have too much difficulty taking down Temple. Pittsburgh rose a ton by winning their Big East title to get a #4 seed in this region. Texas is the #2 in this region and are my early favorites to be in the final four out of this region. They might have a tough time with Stanford, who's the #3 seed in this region. Looking at this region early, I'm seeing a lot of tough matchups, which makes this region one of the deepest revealed so far.
5:31 pm: Here's the last one: the West. The #5 in this one is Drake, who surprisingly won the MVC. They face #12 Western Kentucky. This makes my one favorite pick of a 12 upsetting a 5 stand because I actually like Drake and believe they're a legit team. Arizona broke the bubble and made it as well as a #10 seed. Georgia, a part of the last game played, got in as a #14 seed and play #3 Xavier.
Well, the brackets are now out and from what I've seen, there are quite a few surprises. I can't believe my Badgers didn't get a #2 seed. They were without a doubt the #1 team out of the Big Ten, a weak conference this season, but also the conference that has sent 2 teams in the past 4 years to the final game. I was surprised Villanova and St. Joseph's made the tournament with at larges, while teams like Illinois State, Va Tech, Arizona State and Ohio State did not make it. Many of the selections seemed pretty correct, but from what I'd heard recently, ASU and UofA had very similar resumes and for one to get in and not the other is a bit questionable. I also thought Va Tech showed enough during the season and in the ACC tournament to make it in. They finished ahead of Miami in the ACC and got the shaft, while Miami is dancing. A simple way to pick my favorite would be to just pick it. I like UNC. There's not really much doubt in my mind right now. They've got a couple of potentially tough games with IU (#8, 2nd round), Notre Dame (#5, 3rd round) and Tennessee (#2, Elite Eight), but I think the fact that they have some "home" games to play (all of their games are in the state of North Carolina until the Final Four) for the Final Four will get them out of their bracket. That being said, I think they are stronger than any other team in the nation and is playing as well as anyone else and with these facets considered, they will get there at the very least and have a great shot at winning it all. All this being said, I will spend much of my next four days figuring out my brackets and will update some upsets and picks I see happening. Happy March Baby! (Thanks Tibs for the idea of a Running Diary on one of the biggest sporting days of the year)
Thursday, March 13, 2008
*NOTE: This wasn't very characteristic of me, but I did leave the draft about 2/3 through (it was 27 rounds and many of the other owners had already left) so many of my latter picks were autopicked unfortunately.
C: Geovany Soto (15)
C: Jason Varitek (19)
1B: Garrett Atkins (5)
2B: BJ Upton (2)
3B: Alex Rodriguez (1)
SS: Michael Young (8)
CI: Kevin Youkilis (16)
MI: Dan Uggla (13)
LF: Chris Duncan (14)
CF: Ichiro (3)
RF: Bobby Abreu (6)
OF: Hunter Pence (7)
OF: Corey Hart (9)
UTIL: Ryan Doumit (20)
Bench: 1B - Carlos Delgado (21)
Bench: CF - Gary Matthews Jr. (24)
Bench: CF - Mike Cameron (25)
SP: Cole Hamels (4)
SP: Roy Oswalt (10)
SP: Ben Sheets (12)
SP: John Maine (17)
RP: Billy Wagner (11)
RP: Kevin Gregg (23)
P: SP - Jeff Francis (18)
P: SP - Ian Snell (22)
Bench: SP - Curt Schilling (26)
Bench: SP - Bronson Arroyo (27)
(#) - Round I drafted this player. Autopick was in effect after round 19 (Jason Varitek was my last pick.
Here are the league categories (some are a bit ridiculous):
Runs, Hits, 1B, 2B. 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, K's and Batting Average for offense
IP, Wins, CG's, Saves, Hits, Total Earned Runs, K's, Holds, ERA and WHIP for Pitching
So as you can see, there are quite a few players that I'll be looking to drop for other guys. For starters, I need to get a couple of more relievers for everyday type production for guys like Schilling (out until at least the ASB in July) and relatively useless OF's like Matthews Jr. and Cameron. I felt like my draft was relatively solid until the autopicking kicked in. One thing I did regret was taking the point of drafting catchers late too far. This league plays 2 starters and I maybe should have reached a bit earlier and gotten a guy like Joe Mauer so the position would have at least have been somewhat solidified. Getting the 1st pick was also nice since this will be the 2nd year in a row I'll have A-Rod in this exact league (last year I "reached" for him at the 3rd overall pick). I'm relatively satisfied with this team and if some of my post-draft waiver moves go through, my team should be fine to start the season. It was a good way to get a feel for future drafts though. I'll probably be in 3 or 4 leagues when it's said and done. I'm not as big on baseball as basketball and football, but it's definitely something to do in the long summer when no other sports are going on.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Now onto what this is actually about, and that is "Championship Week" and the last of the games proceeding. Last night was a beautiful thing for UNC fans, including myself. They clicked on every level and showed how good they can be with a healthy Ty Lawson. They went into one of the toughest places in the country, Cameron Indoor, in Durham, NC and just took a game from 2nd place Duke. Earlier in the season, Duke shot lights out from beyond the arc in a close game in Chapel Hill, but UNC got it all back with their performance last night, capped off with a great defensive stand to keep the Blue Devils scoreless in the last 5 minutes of the game. The game was a sweet way for Tar Heel fans to head into the ACC tournament as the 1 seed and potentially the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, the bracket for which is released a week from today. This is generally the most exciting time of the year for fanatic sports fans like myself. The NCAA tournament bracket is always fun to fill out and around the end of the tournament, the MLB Baseball season kicks off, the NFL draft is in April as well and PGA's 1st major, The Masters are around this time too. 2008 is finally getting started and it's gonna be fun.
A couple other random basketball notes I'd like to point out. It seems as the college season is coming to a close, people are starting to paint their picture of this summer's NBA draft, which I make an event every year because it's so exciting to see potential future stars and discuss such ideas with friends. From what I've read, there's a consensus top 5 for this year and those guys are (in this order):
1. Michael Beasley - SF/PF - I can't say much about this one. It's completely deserved, as he's been a man among boys in the Big 12 conference, putting ridiculous numbers and literally carrying that Kansas State team on his back. He's gotten them to a NCAA tournament berth and he should leave after one season. Not only did he keep his word and still attended K-State when the man who recruited him, Bob Huggins, left for a better job, a job he never would have gotten had Kansas State not given him an opportunity when so many other passed (that's another story though), but he's put up astronomical numbers while leading this team. I would say he's similar to Kevin Durant of last season in terms of freshman impact, but Beasley's been better IMHO. Durant was magnificent, but Beasley basically has one teammate (Bill Walker) who helps him out, while Durant had quite a bit of talent around him, albeit they were all young. The numbers are similar, but their games are quite different.
2. Derrick Rose - PG - He's the consensus #2 on just about everyone's list. The only thing I could argue against Rose going at the 2 spot is that it's a deep pool for point guard in this '08 draft class (Jerryd Bayless, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, DJ Augustin, OJ Mayo... the list goes on and on), but that's no knock on Rose. He's without a doubt the #1 floor general prospect. He's got the size at 6'3" and he's got all the tools to become at least an All-Star on the next level.
3/4. Depending on needs, I've seen Jerryd Bayless, PG out of Arizona, and Eric Gordon, combo guard out of IU. So far, all 4 guys I've thrown out here have been freshman and it's with good reason. All these guys have been putting up ridiculous numbers as 1st year players and will be scouted a ton over the next month. I like Bayless a bit more than Gordon since Bayless comes from a rich history of guard-producers with his position at 'Zona. Arizona's also got a 5 star point guard recruit coming in next season in Brandon Jennings. From what I've seen, he's going to be a "one-and-done" guy as well - ubertalented and has all the potential in the world to be great. With Gordon, I see him being an undersized, but athletic 2. He's a great talent, but has to work on quite a few areas of his game, including decision making, ball handling and defense. He's a great prospect, but I wouldn't say he's as much a lock as the other top 3.
5. This pick isn't quite as set in stone. I could see 3 different guys in this 5th spot. Between bigs Brook Lopez (Stanford) and DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M) and guard OJ Mayo, I like this pick a lot because you have a few choices who are all great. I love Lopez' all-around game at Stanford and think he's athletic and big enough to make a difference on the NBA level. With Jordan, I don't know as much about him, but he's real long and big, which is a need for more than few NBA teams. I actually like Mayo the most out of these 3 (and perhaps even more than Gordon and Bayless) because I think he's got the highest ceiling to grow and develop. He's got so much talent and ability that given the right situation and motivation, he could become a top 10 NBA player some day.
The coming weeks will tell basketball fans so much about these players and it will be on what is IMHO the most exciting stage of them all, a single elimination tournament in which anything can happen. It's gonna be a fun ride. Just for the record before the brackets come out, my 4 #1 seeds are UNC, Memphis, UCLA and Kansas - in that order, and my 2 favorites have been UCLA and UNC all season. Those two teams are the most complete and play the best when they're on their games, which is more often than not.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
I have loved Chad Johnson since he entered the NFL. He seemed like a good-natured, fun-loving athlete who was a key component in turning around the Bengals franchise. Not only that, but he also had the support of most critics, many of whom hate on Randy Moss and Terrell Owens all the time, those two being 2 of the most flamboyant wide receivers in the game, still. Chad always backed up his trash talk and media gathering attention and produced when it counted - on Sundays. The past couple of season however, it seemed that the self-dubbed "Ocho-Cinco" was starting to get negative attention on a franchise that was full of them. I don't need to remind you of the multiple arrests of many players on that team. Johnson was generally one of the guys that avoided that bad attention though. Then it leaked that he was butting heads with All-Pro starting QB Carson Palmer and subsequently, the trade rumors began to mount. Johnson out of Cincy? I personally was hoping it was all just a rumor. Things died down again as the Bengals were bumped from the playoff picture for the 2nd season in a row. It seemed like the team that was once up and coming was backtracking. This team with all the talent just couldn't get it together, so I couldn't really blame the media for stirring up controversy in the form of trade rumors. It would seem like the team needed to head in a different direction, even if fans like myself loved the personalities on this team. The leader, gun-slinging QB that is Carson Palmer, the quiet solid halfback in Rudi Johnson and the flamboyant, sometimes crazily outspoken star wideout in Chad Johnson. I could accept a change in this team, but with these allegations against Chad, something doesn't seem right. Now I believe that the Bengals must move someone and that someone has to be Chad Johnson. From a team perspective, clearly many of these players don't have the direction and maturity to play with one-another, which means they aren't going to win a title with this nucleus anyways. From a strategic standpoint, the team is built around offense, and it's been quite clear that you need a strong defense to win a title in the NFL. You keep your quarterback, but all other pieces are expendable. Chad Johnson needs to be moved because amidst the media playing him out to be one of the better WR's in the league, the way I see it, receivers who attract attention to themselves, are not great teammates. Guys like Marvin Harrison, and more recently Randy Moss, are soft-spoken and have that great talent. With those two attributes, you help your team on the field and keep everyone humble. There are 52 players on a football team and if one guys gets all the spotlight, ala Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, the team chemistry is clearly not at a premium. I honestly don't care if the rumors are true or not, the fact that a story like this about your star player is believable means he needs to go, especially on a team where character is already a joke around the league.
I also need to comment on Marvin Lewis' side of the story. This man was brought in a coach of a bad team. He surprisingly turned it around far quicker than anyone could have imagined and made the correct and gutsy move to go with Carson Palmer after Jon Kitna had an All-Pro season. The man was loved for that move. Cincinnati was nothing without him and now many people have hope to make a run in the playoffs season after season. My question is: How can you keep a coach that was brought in as a previous defensive coordinator who can't break the top 20 in the league for defense? Also, how can you keep a coach that can't keep his players from getting arrested? A coach is supposed to be the leader and genius of a team. Marvin Lewis changed around a team that had a ton of talent on offense and doesn't seem to give a crap on defense. He got the team to the playoffs after a decade long drought. All that is good and dandy, but no coach should be immune to getting fired unless he's won multiple Super Bowls or is clearly the man for the job. Lewis is neither at this point. He's gotten this team as far as he's been able to (11-5 and a 1st round exit) and his time is now done. He and the Bengals both need to move on before Carson Palmer realizes that his time to win is thinning. Palmer's entering the prime of his career, now 5 seasons in, and he's the building block. Someone else needs to be brought in to fix that defense and cut all of the malcontents on this team, and there are quite a few. The team isn't going anywhere in the AFC as is and the 1st step in a positive direction would be to fire Lewis (or get him to "resign") and trade Chad Johnson while he still has value. PLEASE don't let the fans of the Cincinnati keep holding out false hope.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
From a fantasy perspective, I honestly almost fell out of my chair when I 1st read this this afternoon. I have Yao in one of my leagues and I'm currently in the hunt for the #1 overall seed and a deep run in the playoffs. With this news, needless to say my chances definitely dropped a bit. This was also probably the 1st big season-ending injury of the NBA season. No one with as big a name as Yao has been ruled out for the season yet. I picked up F Jamario Moon from FA after I found out the news, but I'm now down to 1 C-eligible player in that league. Over the next few days, I will be looking at guys like Anderson Varejao (just returning from his long injury), Josh Boone, Darko Milicic (again...) and Mark Blount. Before this injury, I might have been confident going into the playoffs (starting in less than a month), but with this I'm just hoping I can hang onto my top 2 seed and a 1st round bye (2 games behind 1st and 4 games ahead of 3rd). Losing Yao is huge since he was likely your 1st round pick (or early 2nd in my case) and he brings a ton of big man numbers to the table (FG%, FTM, FT%, pts, rebs, blks). It makes winning the title a lot harder, but if you pull it off, which I still plan on doing, it makes it all the sweeter.
This Yao injury also makes me question his durability for next season. It sounds as though Yao plans on returning to basketball just in time for the Beijing Olympic games, but that just scares me even more. Next season, if I'm in a spot at the end of the 1st round/beginning of the 2nd and this 7'6" center is available, he's not gonna be on my team. I will pass on Yao next season for sure unless 11 other people feel the same way and allow him to drop to me in the 3rd round. He's played an average of 55 games/season these past 3 seasons (including this one) and those aren't good numbers by any standards. We're looking at the new Marcus Camby as an offensive center right now, not good company to be in. People questioned Yao's durability at his size coming into the league, now those speculations seem pretty legitimate.
Last season I had something quite similar happen. I lost Gilbert Arenas toward the end of the season just before the fantasy playoffs. I won that league outright, 1st place regular season and postseason. I would even say that losing Gilbert with the season he had last season was a bigger loss than Yao at this point. So if you've lost Yao for the season, don't get too down on your team, find guys on the waivers and try to make up for his loss with more spot starts and activity. It just goes to show that the sporting world is quite unpredictable.
Friday, February 22, 2008
GM/Front Office: As ridiculous as this would have been last season (for both teams I'm about to mention), these two teams have gone from the potential bottom of their respective conferences to probable favorites. With that said the best front office goes to the . There are quite a few reasons for this too. Even with the relationship between Jerry Buss and at a low, the still never folded and kept their former unhappy superstar through the bad times and made this team a favorite again with a young core, great talent and depth. Keeping Bynum was also a key component. He looks like the next great Laker big man. He's only touched the his potential as he's been a great post presence on both offense AND defense this season, up until his knee injury. If he comes back healthy before the playoffs and gets back into game shape, the could be looking at a healthy, fresh Bynum going into the playoffs. Now that's scary. We obviously can't overlook the move in early February that put these over the top IMHO, that was getting Gasol for . cent on the dollar. That was one of the MOST LOPSIDED deals I have ever seen or heard of. Enough said, the take this. The close 2nd would be Danny Ainge and the , who not only made the bold acquisitions of aging and Ray Allen, but surrounded the PGA with great defensive players and surprisingly good depth with rookie Glen Davis, James Posey and . They made great moves, but I still think is 2nd to LA in this situation, not to take anything away from the C's.
COY: Phil Jackson. No doubt in my mind either. He's got 9 titles and looks poised to make a run for a record 10th. He's gotten everything anyone could have out of this Laker bunch that no one really expected to do much this season. Now they're sitting 2nd in the West and are just going to get better when their young stud Andrew Bynum returns. If this team wins 60 games, there will have been a total of 0 people who predicted that and Phil Jackson will be a bigger reason for that than people will give him credit. People have always said he's had the talent. Well, most people thought coming into this 2007-08 season, the Lakers didn't have too much talent or potential (Kobe quite clearly made his feelings known as well), yet Phil's got this team playing like a team and they are contenders. Whoever is 2nd isn't really close in this discussion, but I would have to put Byron Scott in there for consideration. I don't think he's a genius as a coach by any means, but he does have this team in a spot no one thought they'd be as well.
ROY: Reluctantly Kevin Durant. This award is honestly just a stats award and Durant's putting up 20ppg, while no one else is even close. This rookie class has also been a weak one so I'm barely even gonna call this an award. Durant's putting up 20pts while shooting a pitiful under 40% on the season. He's the most talented rookie so he should have the best numbers on a team that has basically no scorers, who can create their own shot. Al Horford is #2 on my list since he's got the 2nd best numbers and his team is in contention for the playoffs after a loooong layoff and he's starting at center for that team.
MIP: Rudy Gay. This award usually goes to a young, up and coming player and Rudy Gay fits the bill in every way. He didn't play that much last season, his rookie year, but this year he has emerged as the Grizzlies' building block and basically "untouchable" guy. The man has all the talent to be a perennial All-Star and has seen his scoring average increase from 10 to 20 this season. aren't good by any means, but this guy is. My close second is Andrew Bynum, despite the extended time missed because he's been a beast while he was playing and definitely played a role in that Laker winning percentage before the injury and the Gasol trade.
DPOY: I think has to get this award for the 2nd season in a row because without him, I don't see the Nuggets being able to play their crazy uptempo offense. He creates deflections, blocks shots, gets steals and rebounds at an amazing clip. All of these factor into being able to run. I love , who's impact has made the Celtics the hands-down best defensive team in the league, but Camby plays in the West and that's where the tougher competition is. This is probably the closest 1st vs. 2nd award for me since I love KG's impact in , but I'm going Camby for now because of his arguably similar impact and his defensive numbers are better.
MVP: This would seem like the most controversial spot, but I'm going with Chris Paul. Maybe the Hornets hit some bumps before the end of the season, but they're in 1st place right now. No one even thought this team would make the playoffs, much less be in 1st place in the deeeeep West. You can call me out on the fact that I love Chris Paul and his game, but the way he's played this season and his impact on his team's record is undeniable. He's putting up 20+ppg, 11apg and 3spg. Those numbers are unheard of. NO ONE has ever done that. We can talk about how good that team really is and how "other teams have taken them lightly", but that doesn't deny the fact that they're in 1st place through 50+ games. couldn't keep it up, but this Hornets team has. Honestly, people want to put Lebron, Kobe and KG into the equation as well, but IMHO it's not really close at the stage of the season we're at. I'll give my close second, but realistically it's a tie at the 2nd spot between KG and Kobe, although I may lean more towards Kobe. I have to put KG in there for his impact on the C's record and defense. Those defensive numbers are almost unprecedented in the modern era of basketball (I'd say past 1980, the Celtics as a team that is). The strongest argument for Kobe would be the fact that his numbers are obviously once again through the roof, but also that he's been deserving in the past, but has never won it before. For some reason, however, I don't think the media would be all that sentimental for Kobe and he won't get votes that way. Kobe's 28-5-6 line is great and his team has been great (2nd place in the West, just 1 game behind Paul's Hornets) and any of these 3 guys are fully deserving. I wouldn't be surprised if the media completely screws this up by the end of the season though and throw the award at Lebron James.
Like I said, I'm not a big fan of all this speculation and considering they don't give out midseason awards, this is almost pointless. A lot could happen between now and the end of the season considering there's about 30 games left, especially this season when nothing has been guaranteed by any means. It will be an exciting finish though and should be fun to watch which potential 50 game winner gets bumped from the playoffs, while half of the Eastern playoff teams might end under .500. Good stuff from the NBA.
San Antonio made their under-the-radar move that could push them into contention as well. For Brent Barry, Francisco Elson and their 2009 1st rounder, they got Kurt Thomas, a guy to play alongside Tim Duncan and help defend the suddenly big frontlines of the West (Gasol/Bynum, Shaq/Amare come to mind). I think the move definitely improves the Spurs, who don't need Barry anymore IMHO with the emergence of Ime Udoka (a better defender and decent shooter in his own right) and Kurt Thomas is definitely an upgrade over Elson. I like the move a lot for the Spurs, but honestly, I don't think this aged team is as good as some of the other younger, improved teams in the West and even a couple of teams in the East. I don't usually disrespect/overlook the Spurs, who are there every season simply because they know how to win... but they don't win in consecutive years, and I don't see that changing this year. Needless to say though, the Spurs are chugging along and making their strides quietly like they always have. Before we know it, they'll probably be back in the conference finals yet again.
The Rockets and Hornets made the 1st move closing in on the deadline yesterday by swapping Bobby Jackson (to the Rockets) for Bonzi Wells and Mike James. This deal wasn't nearly as big a splash that many other trades have been this season, but it was still a big move for New Orleans. The biggest knock so far this season on the 1st place Hornets has been their youth and bench. They seem to have covered some toughness issues and depth issues. I think Wells will replace Mo Pete in the starting lineup at the wing. Peterson's been absolutely awful on a great team this year and you can't score 10+ppg with Chris Paul setting you up... not sure what you can do. Wells will bring a tough mentality to a team that wasn't lacking, but his presence in the post won't hurt. James will get more PT in New Orleans rather than the crowded small guard situation in Houston, who seemed to have no use for James anymore for whatever reason. New Orleans got James at a bad price (2 years left for $10+ million), but he brings depth and scoring to that bench, which they can use as much as they can get even though Jannero Pargo has been emergin recently. Houston gets rid of 2 guys who weren't playing that much, although I liked Bonzi as a backup to the oft-injured T-Mac. They still have role playing bench guys like rookie Aaron Brooks, Luther Head and rookie Carl Landry, who do very similar things as Wells and James and took on an expiring contract in Bobby Jackson, so overall the deal doesn't hurt them, but they did lose some depth. Bobby Jackson also has a good rep for being a tough guy, winning the sixth man of the year in the past as a guy who could hit clutch shots so he may actually improve a Rockets team that's now won 10 in a row and streaking.
By far the biggest deal yesterday occurred right at the deadline, an 11 player deal that involved Chicago, Seattle and Cleveland. Here's why I don't like how it happened. Basically, it seemed like Danny Ferry (Cavs' GM) made a huge trade happen to accommodate Lebron's "demands". I didn't like it when Kobe demanded and trade (and then retracted it and then it was on again...) and I don't like it when guys, even Lebron and Kobe, come out and call out their front office to get something done. Sure, it makes the league more exciting for fans like you and me, but it screws up the hierarchy in which the league is built. The owners and GMs are there and paid to make the decisions on who they believe fits best on a team and when you've got an All-World player like Lebron criticizing his talent around him, it just pressures the guys making the decisions, in this case Ferry, to make a rushed decision. With that said, I think the Cavs actually did win in this trade that sent Cleveland Joe Smith and Ben Wallace from the Bulls and Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak from the Supes. The trade also sent the Bulls Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons, Shannon Brown and Larry Hughes from Cleveland and sent Seattle Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall from the Cavs and Adrian Griffin from Chicago. Every piece Seattle got was an expiring contract. I think they could have tried to get a draft pick or two as well, but hell, this deal was literally done AT the deadline (3 pm eastern yesterday). For Chicago, I was almost indifferent because they got an another awful contract, Larry Hughes, for the awful contract they gave up, Ben Wallace. They got a solid frontcourt guy in Gooden for one of their most consistent guys this season, Joe Smith. Albeit Gooden is younger, but I've never been a big fan of the guy. He just doesn't seem that good. The other guys are both young and we'll just have to wait and see what they can do... probably in the D-League though because of the Bulls' ever-growing "young nucleus" of talent. There are just too many "solid" players on that team with not enough minutes to go around. At this point, I am completely certain the Bulls could have swung a better deal for Gasol, at least than what the Lakers gave up. The most intriguing part for the Bulls is to see how Hughes affects Thabo's starting spot. Either way, with Hinrich, Thabo, Gordon, Deng AND Hughes, that's a lot of wing/guard players for 2-3 positions. I think Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas will get extended minutes now to see what they've got. Now onto the Cavs. I actually think the trade was pretty solid for them, not as good as some other people might suggest, but getting another shooter in Wally to help out Gibson from the perimeter definitely helps Lebron's ability to create and kick. Delonte West is the starting point guard right away and he should put up the roto numbers that we're used to so I would grab him if I have use for a guy who might put up 11pts, 4rebs, 4assts, a steal and a three. He should be pretty consistent playing alongside Lebron too. Getting Ben Wallace for the Cavs was an upgrade considering they got rid of Larry Hughes, who just couldn't play in Cleveland anymore. The Cavs also got Joe Smith who's proven that he's still got some game. The deal definitely puts the Cavs as the legit 3rd team in the East, which still means they'd be the 11th best team out West, but I won't get into that.