JumpBall

March 25, 2009

Tuesday Ramblings

Filed under: Uncategorized — siddhant2001us @ 9:32 AM

Welcome to another edition of the Tuesday Ramblings. Let’s begin:

• It’s been a very subdued year for March Madness. There haven’t been any huge upsets worth discussing this year and in fact every 1, 2, and 3 seed is still alive. I want to say that I like it more as a result, but in reality my greater interest is simply that I have had the best bracket of my life so far (even then it’s really just an above average 38 out of 48 picks chosen correctly.) • In the end, I still don’t really care about college basketball. So let’s focus on the NBA angle from the tournament. I really, really like what I see out of Blake Griffin. I think that if you want to win a championship, he can be your second best player or even tied as your best player if your team is deep enough. I think pairing him up with Kevin Martin in Sacramento, OJ Mayo/Rudy Gay in Memphis, or Caron Butler, Antwan Jamison, and Gilbert Arenas in Washington could potentially create a team that never missed the second round of the playoffs or even the conference finals in the case of the Wizards. If he went to the Knicks somehow, I do not see how Lebron wouldn’t jump ship and sign with New York. However, I think the best fit for him is Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant is still growing into a future hall of famer so long as he stays healthy, and they have a lot of great young pieces. With a very good GM in Sam Presti and an excellent, young head coach in Scott Brooks, this team even without Griffin has a bright future, but with him? I think, as long as everyone’s ego doesn’t get too big, that it will result in a team like the Spurs in that they will be a contender every single year and even win two or three championships. That’s certainly a lot of hype for such an unproven (in the NBA) player, but I was really impressed by his play. We will see.

• The Detroit Pistons have to be the most disappointing team in the entire league. Yes, Toronto and Washington have been bad, but neither of them had even the slightest chance to win it all like Detroit did. Yes, they didn’t have the greatest chance to win, but with all that championship experience still there with Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace, you still expected them to be there in the second round of the playoffs. Now, the only reason they will make it at all is because the bottom of the East is full of records even further below 500 then the Pistons. So the question then becomes why has this happened? My belief is not that it’s really Allen Iverson’s fault. Simply that the Pistons were trying to do too much all at the same time. They were trying to get Stuckey to blossom into a point guard, get Iverson to acclimate into the offense, hide their lack of depth at the swing positions defensively, and try to figure out which of their mediocre big men would step up. Ultimately, the main reason that this team isn’t as good is intensity. They simply lack someone who energizes this team and gets them to play good defense consistently. Rasheed Wallace can do that here and there, but he’s simply unable to do it on a night in, night out basis. I think that’s where the loss of Chauncey Billups hurts them, because he was their leader and consistency guy whenever Wallace was being Wallace and spacing out. Allen Iverson is not that guy, because Iverson isn’t the type of guy who helps out in practice (or hell even shows up to some.) He’s not someone that you want young players emulating, because he’s not going to teach them much off the court and on the court he’s too much of a one of a kind player. I’m not trying to knock Iverson by the way. He’s the type of guy that can do whatever the hell he wants the night before or even the morning of a game, and still drop 50 points on the opposing team that night despite a myriad of injuries. Listen, that’s amazing and certainly respectable in its own right, but that’s not something 99.9 percent of NBA players can do. Regardless, the mighty Pistons are no more.

• I was reading ESPN the other day when I came across an opinion piece that consulted some current/former NBA players that concluded by saying that the dregs of the East will be harder in the first round of the playoffs than those who make the playoffs in the West. I know that they’re the experts and all that, but that’s a huge bunch of BS. What I will agree with, however, is that the middle rounds will be much easier in the west than in the eastern conference. That’s because there is no one in the west who seems like they can play evenly or even match up with the Lakers while Boston and Cleveland will not only have to probably play each other to get to the finals, one of them will have to play Orlando, while the other (sorry, Atlanta fans) will have to play D-Wade and the Heat. Meanwhile the Lakers will have to play some collection of: the hobbling Spurs, the too-green Blazers, the imploding Hornets, the Nuggets/Jazz/Mavericks who match up terribly against the Lakers, and the Rockets. The Rockets could potentially make some noise if they play the Lakers because they actually match up well against them, but I honestly doubt, even with home court advantage, that they make it out of the first round. The rest of the west will probably be too tough for them to even make it to the Lakers.

• So is this an advantage for the Lakers? Certainly, they will be less beaten up than either the Cavs or Celtics should some combination of those teams meet in the playoffs, right? The truth is that it probably will not be an advantage unless there is some shocking injury to any of the Cavs or Celtics’ key players. Playing against the brutal defense presented by either of those teams in the conference finals should toughen up the victor enough to actually give THEM an edge over whoever makes it out of the west. If you want an example, just look no further than last year. The Lakers didn’t have a bad defense in the regular season, and in fact had the number one defense overall based on per possession. However, after facing the Cavs smothering defense and the Pistons brutal, physical defense, the Celtics felt that, against the Lakers in the finals, every shot they took was wide open. On the flip side, after facing the cream puff defenses of the Nuggets and the Jazz (who were physical, but actually a poor defensive team, which they still are actually) as well as the battered Spurs (who are battered once again by the way,) The Lakers simply didn’t have the physical, game experience against such mighty defenses and faltered as a result. Again, it’s a different year, so, we will see, come June.

• Moving to baseball, the WBC is over and Japan was crowned champions. It was interesting the way they simply toyed with their opponents throughout the tournament before being supremely tested by South Korea in the final. Personally, I felt the ending was the perfect way to crown a champion and generate the appropriate amount of press and hopefully interest into this international event. For those who missed it, Korea valiantly rallied in the bottom of the ninth to force a tenth inning, before Ichiro with a full count singled home two runners to finally put the game away. It was a great ending to a very interesting tournament.

• More importantly for most of America, the WBC is over, which means that regular season baseball is about 2 tantalizingly close weeks away! With that I thought I would pick my division winners and wild card for even conference. In the American league, I believe the playoffs will consist of the New York Yankees (after a year off,) the Boston Redsox (too much talent to miss the playoffs altogether, but I feel like they’re going to implode just a little and actually settle for the wild card,) the Chicago Whitesox (I just think this team has a great lineup when healthy,) and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim filling out the AL west spot (the AL west is largely terrible although the As will be frisky. I also will go ahead and predict that the Cleveland Indians, Oakland As, and Tampa Bay Rays will all fall short in the final two weeks of the season, but will otherwise be in the hunt the entire year.

• As for the National League, I think that the NY Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Arizona Diamondbacks all win their divisions while the Philadelphia Phillies scrape by with the wild card. I think both the Mets and the Cubs have dealt with their late/post season meltdowns and have actually become stronger as a result. As a big San Francisco Giants fan I want to pencil them in as the division winner, but even I know it will be a huge (and awesome) shock if they pull that off. Instead, the Diamondbacks, whose rotation is either as good or almost as good as the Giants in terms of 1-5, will most likely win, because their hitting is better. Still, I think the Giants as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Atlanta Braves will still have a chance to make the playoffs with two weeks left in the regular season.

• Moving to football, the NFL safety commission passed four safety proposals, but none were larger than the elimination of the wedge formation in football. The wedge occurs only during special teams—specifically kickoffs—and is when three blockers stand close together (less than 2 yards apart) and essentially form a ‘wedge’ for the kickoff returner. That might not be the best description in the world, but John Madden doesn’t really describe it much in his video games that I play, so is that really my fault? Anyway, the wedge has been around since forever, and eliminating it seems like quite the stretch. There have been a rash of injuries resulting from it over time, but that can be said with virtually any football play. By removing this key strategy from the kickoff team, I simply wonder how often, if at all, it will be possible to get the return for a touchdown. Just something to ponder in the long months until football season.

• Another rule change that has not been voted upon yet was the ability to review fumbles like the famous Jay Cutler one last year that cost the Chargers a game. This seems like an obvious rule change, but there are some people who might actually vote it down, because they believe it slows down the game. It does in fact slow down the game as the referees take their time to review the call, but if the alternative is to screw a team out of a win like in the case for the Chargers, then I say, by all means, slow down the game. Even if you do, it’s not like you are tacking on three hours to a 15 minute game with this. Instead, you’re adding 10 minutes to a 3 hour game, which most people won’t even notice. Sometimes, it’s best to just chill out a little more.

• That’s all for the Tuesday Ramblings. Stay tuned for next week.

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