- I really hope Roger Goodell not only allows Vick back into the league, but that he is given another chance to quarterback in this league. He made a mistake, and he paid the price. Shouldn’t it be over now? It could have been worse. I’m not saying killing dogs isn’t terrible, but at least he didn’t get drunk and kill a woman with his car and then get drunk and drive again. If he did that then he would be named Leonard Little and play for the Rams. Instead, Vick indulged in dog fighting an act so despicable and heinous that he lost a lot of money, went to jail, and was suspended from his job. What more could you ask for in a fair and just society? Let him back into the league under a short leash and see if he can redeem himself.
- Michael Crabtree has finally ditched his walking boot and is reporting that his foot feels fine according to the AP. He wasn’t fast to begin with so hopefully this doesn’t hurt his stock too much. A lot of teams could and should acquire a talent like Crabtree. Both of the Bay Area teams should really try and go for him.
- Actually, as good as Crabtree is, fans shouldn’t be too disappointed when their team drafts an offensive lineman. I know they’re not the sexiest pick to hear, but just remember that having these tackles on your team means that your skill position players will have more time and space to play better. The top four tackles this year all have solid chances of becoming multiple-time all stars. If I had to bet on which one will become the greatest, I would bet on Michael Oher who is actually currently ranked as the lowest of the four. Oher has the prototypical body, solid technique, and a better motor than people believe. The man was born to play left tackle in the NFL. He is another guy I would love one of the Bay Area teams to draft.
- By the way, it is definitely time to lower rookie salaries in football. The NFL should adopt the system which the NBA uses that pre-slots the amount of money that each draft pick can receive. Since NFL draft picks are typically shorter than NBA contracts (and thus the window to make substantial money is shorter in football,) the length of these slotted spot contracts should be just two years with a team option for a third. That way if the player is clearly a bust. He is cheap and easy to dispose of while if he is worthy of a high payment, he can receive it while still entering the prime of his career. The players are going to have to make a lot of concessions in the next bargaining agreement. They might as well concede something that only affects people not yet in the players union. The agents who receive commission on those extravagant contracts are the only ones who will object, but the union is in too tough a spot to argue for people not yet in there.
- Moving to baseball, it turns out Elijah Dukes was actually paid for the so called charity work that caused him to be five minutes late at the stadium. Considering that he was never going to get demoted to AAA and that he was fined the same amount that he was paid to attend the little league function that was the reason he was late. Then he was benched for being late. If you ask me, that is completely reasonable for a team to do that wants to create a sense of discipline in the clubhouse and knows its going to lose a lot of games anyway.
- Here is a tip to all fantasy baseball owners: get Matt Cain onto your team as soon as possible. He has steadily improved his numbers each year, and is finally getting run support (sort of.) Expect him to be a top 10 contender for cy young this year. In fact as long as he stays healthy, that is my stone cold baseball lock of the year!
- I can’t believe Dwight Howard won defensive player of the year for the NBA. This award officially means nothing. Howard is an average AT BEST man to man defender and only affects so many shots because most of his teammates cannot keep their men out of the lane. Is he getting better? Yes, just like his post moves, his defense has a lot of potential, but he simply isn’t there yet. Howard won the award because KG was hurt and couldn’t be given the award again, Duncan’s Spurs had a poor overall team defense, no one individually stands out enough in Cleveland, and for some reason people are scared to give the award to a swing player. You know who should have won the award? Shane Battier should have been given the award. He guards great scoring swing players, and is a great help defender. He isn’t a so called ‘sexy’ pick, but he is the right one.
- Eddie Jordan should be a top candidate to be hired by an NBA team with a vacancy. No offense to Byron Scott who was the head coach at the time, but Eddie Jordan was the brains behind those Nets teams making the finals and his Wizard teams were always fun to watch. When you need to sell tickets, what more could you ask for?
- The NBA should not be concerned with Erick Dampier’s comments about wanting to put Tony Parker “on his back.” If Parker is going to drive to the hoop, Dallas is well within their rights to foul him—yes, even foul him hard. It isn’t like its going to happen and the referees will ignore it. Parker will pick himself up and get two free throws. If he is scared of getting hurt, he should watch Vince Carter’s tapes from the last few years and never drive in ever. Listen, if Dampier is clearly fouling Parker too hard and trying to actually physically injure him, then give him a flagrant foul or eject him and move on.
- Ricky Rubio is declaring for the draft! He already was good enough to hold his ground against Jason Kidd and Chris Paul during the Olympics. Sure, he won’t be quite as good early on as he has to adjust to the NBA style and his teammates, but this kid has some great potential. Once he develops a jump shot (probably by his third year or so in the NBA) he will be a top three player in the NBA and a top 20 player overall. He is the type of player who can lead your team to a championship. By the way, Blake Griffin probably does not have a ceiling that high. That is something to think about for whomever lands the number one overall pick.
- I made a lot of predictions during these ramblings…It wasn’t my intention, but it happened none the less. Hopefully by this time next year, Ricky Rubio, Michael Crabtree, Michael Oher, Michael Vick, and Matt Cain haven’t become derailed by injuries or revealed to have a lack of talent. Was that enough to reverse jinx them? I hope so…
April 22, 2009
April 17, 2009
Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Detroit Pistons (8):
Why the Cavs will win: This team has the best chemistry and defense in the NBA. This year’s Pistons basically have the opposite of that. I think Moe Williams cannot wait to be guarded by Rodney Stuckey. Be physically with Rasheed Wallace, the last thing you want if for him to get energized or feel like he can punk you. You want to end this series as fast as possible, and rest up for the second round.
Why the Pistons can win: It is a proven fact that if you look Rasheed Wallace in the eye in the wrong way, he can turn you into stone. Cavs fans better hope he doesn’t turn his voodoo onto Lebron James. That is about the only chance the Pistons have of winning by the way. In all seriousness, for the Pistons to win, Rasheed Wallace has to go all out. This has to be his greatest series ever. He has to stop penetration on defense on one end, and start scoring in the paint on the other. He cannot take a game off. The Pistons as a whole have to force James to shoot jumpers and just hope he misses.
Prediction: Cavs in 4
Boston Celtics (2) vs. Chicago Bulls (7):
Why the Celtics will win: This team was dealt with a huge loss when they found out that Kevin Garnett is most likely out for the playoffs. Even though I’m pretty sure that’s BS and KG will find his way back into the lineup by the second round or the conference finals, this team is going to pretend his loss is a rallying cry, and stomp all over the Bulls. Oh and before you consider the fact that the Bulls are playing well, don’t forget they’re being coached by Vinny Del Negro.
Why the Bulls can win: Because Kevin Garnett is hurt, and the Bulls have been playing well lately. John Salmons and Ben Gordon have bee money since that trade, and Tyrus Thomas has finally started realizing his potential. Just kidding, the only chance the Bulls have is if Del Negro resigns. Still, Bulls fans should just be happy they made the playoffs anyway.
Prediction: Celtics in 6
Orlando Magic (3) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (6):
Why the Magic will win: Dwight Howard plays offense in the post like a man on vacation (the opposite of a man on a mission.) You can stop him with a mildly competent defensive player in the post. However, the Sixers don’t have that, and that’s why despite injuries, the Magic can and will win. Also, the Magic trick teams into shooting three pointers by the dozen. They just leave you so wide open that you cannot help yourself. Anyway, the 76ers best players are terrible behind the line, so if they cannot play at the pace that they want, they’ll probably get swept.
Why the 76ers can win: I’m pretty sure Hedo Turkoglu is the most valuable player on the Magic. If he’s too hobbled, then there is a window for the 76ers to steal some games. It won’t happen in the first round, but the Orlando Magic are a gimmicky team, that will get killed by the Cavs or a healthy Celtics in the playoffs. You live by the three; you die by the three. The Magic aren’t special in that regard.
Prediction: Magic in 5
Atlanta Hawks (4) vs. Miami Heat (5):
Why the Hawks will win: For some reason, the Miami Heat are a popular pick to upset the Hawks. That is mostly because of Dwayne Wade. Still, the Hawks are really good at home, have home court advantage, and are playing against a team with Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony playing big minutes. Jermaine O’Neal would be rolling over in his grave if he had to see this team on TV—except he’s too busy dragging his sack of bones up and down the court for this year’s Heat team. Yeah, Al Horford should have some fun with him.
Why the Heat can win: Dwayne Wade…yeah, he’s that good.
Prediction: Hawks in 7
Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs. Utah Jazz (8):
Why the Lakers will win: The Jazz are a physical team. They will foul you and try to get into your head. However, if you wait long enough on offense, you are going to figure out that they are a terrible defense. Also, the Lakers with Odom back on the bench are much deeper, and can afford to wait out the Jazz. This is going to be a short series.
Why the Jazz can win: They can win or at least make the series somewhat interesting, because Deron Williams—my pick for the best point guard in the NBA—is being guarded by Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, and Jordan Farmar. Actually, despite that huge advantage, even Jerry Sloan doesn’t think they have much of a chance, but hell I had to write something…
Prediction: Lakers in 4
Denver Nuggets (2) vs. New Orleans Hornets (7):
Why the Nuggets can win: This team is so much more focused than last year’s team that it is ridiculous. Billups has been a huge improvement over Allen Iverson. Carmelo Anthony has to be in the discussion for most skilled offensive player. If this team can get anything from their big men, they will give Byron Scott and his coaching staff fits. On the other side, help on Paul, and whoever has Chandler has to stay on him and not give up any alley oops. You cannot allow the Hornets to be energized.
Why the Hornets will win: Anthony just hasn’t shown the killer drive that he should have shown by now. Ultimately, that means he isn’t going to give the Nuggets that much more than David West is going to give the Hornets. However, even though I said all those nice things about Billups in the earlier section, Chris Paul is going to absolutely murder him. It isn’t going to be close. If Billups backs down Paul, Paul has Chandler to back him up. Billups is going to have no help as Chris Paul will run circles around him over and over again.
Prediction: Hornets in 6
San Antonio Spurs (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6):
Why the Spurs will win: No Ginobili? No problem! Remember when I said Chris Paul is going to run circles around Billups? Multiply that by a thousand and you get Tony Parker vs. Jason Kidd. If the Spurs want to win this, they have to keep it simple. Dribble penetrate and run screens for Parker. When you’re not doing that, get it inside to Duncan. It isn’t just that you expect your stars to carry you either. The Spurs are full of shooters, and they need to exploit the Mavericks help defense to get open. My money is on them doing it well.
Why the Mavs can win: They have the better starting five in terms of talent. If Josh Howard heats up and Erik Dampier slows down Tim Duncan, then this Spurs team is vulnerable. The Mavs have to close out on all shooters, and get back on defense after every basket. If you want to beat the Spurs, you have to stay disciplined on defense, and creative/patient on offense. This isn’t the same Spurs defense that we have come to expect. They are vulnerable this year, and the Mavs can exploit it, as long as they get serious about doing some of the small things consistently.
Prediction: Spurs in 6
Portland Trailblazers (4) vs. Houston Rockets (5):
Why the Blazers will win: This team is deep and has home court where they are incredibly hard to beat. Brandon Roy has to create early for his teammates because he’s going to be hounded by Shane Battier and Ron Artest. LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be the key to this series for the Blazers. He’s faster than any of the big men that the Rockets can send his way, and he has to out tough Artest in the post. If he can do that, then the Blazers might even be able to steal a few on the road. As it is they’re biggest advantage is their improved play at home. As long as they can keep the score close at the end of the game, they can trust Brandon Roy and Travis Outlaw will take over the game.
Why the Rockets can win: They have a lot of advantages here. They can try to neutralize Roy by sicking Battier onto him, and Aldridge by sending out Artest. On the other side, Blake can’t keep up with Aaron Brooks and no one has the size to keep up with Yao. You have to force Roy to play defense to get him too tired to be clutch once the fourth quarter comes around. This is going to be a great series.
Prediction: Blazers in 7.
April 15, 2009
- So Isiah Thomas has gotten a job as a college coach at FIU. Listen; there are a lot of reasons to hate on the guy. He effectively killed the CBA, and his Pacer team made a huge jump in the standings after he was fired. Plus, his Knicks teams sucked. These are all facts, and I get that. However, there should be some defense of him. On that Pacer team (and even to some extent on that Knicks team), every single player talked about how they loved him as a coach, which should bode well for him over at FIU. Second, its time people calmed down about his tenure as Knicks’ GM. His public spats were with Larry Brown and Stephon Marbury, and no one can claim those are two easy people to get along with. Plus, New York is a place that demands a winner, so Thomas must have always felt like he had to swing for the fences with every trade that he made, which if you look at his trades does in fact explain most of them. Also, he’s a good scout, which is another thing that will help him in his current job. So before you keep on hating on the man, just know there are some reasons why he could very well put FIU on the map. And if he doesn’t? Well, at least Bill Simmons will have some more jokes to write in his column. In that sense, its win-win for us either way!
- I have an idea for the New York Yankees, move Teixiera to third and play Nick Swisher at first! Radical? I’m not sure. Tex has played third before; he can probably do it again. Swisher is simply batting well and you’d rather have him in the lineup then Cody Ransom any day. Now, the counter to that is that Teixiera is a super star and thus unwilling to move to third, but I would argue that New York is a completely different ball park. Him moving to New York would be written about constantly as Yankee fans wrote stories of how great they think he is for agreeing to move. Tell him about all the endorsement money and fans that he would make for agreeing to move, and I guarantee you that he moves to third faster than you can say Alex Rodriguez.
- Josh Beckett deserved that 6 game suspension. What was he thinking? I’ve never understood why baseball has this godfather like clause of revenge. Someone hits one of your batters, possibly on accident? Then you aim at one of their’s on purpose. Its not even a revenge thing all the time either. At this point, it is just the answer to any baseball problem. Guy run too slowly after a homerun? Bean him with a baseball! Guy gives me a look after I gave up a base hit to him? Bean him with a baseball! Guy is my rival from high school back when we were in Venezuela and high school didn’t exist for us which makes this even more ridiculous then it had to be? Bean him with a baseball, drink a beer, and feel 10 times better then when that guy didn’t have a baseball sized bruise on his shoulder. It might be time to try something else. I’m just saying.
- The Lakers had 9 players with at least three assists last night when they played the Utah Jazz. I’ve been so down on them lately, as they have been so up and down towards the end of the year, and Kobe has seemed tired down the stretch. Now, one game doesn’t change that, but when you see games like that, you can’t help but fall in love with this team all over again. On the other hand they allowed 112 point to the Utah Jazz at home…I still cannot figure this team out. Good luck, Phil Jackson.
- I hate that people are angry at the Cavs for having fun on the bench. Who cares? If the Celtics are so mad…why did they pull the exact same type of antics at the beginning of the year? Sorry Ray Allen; that is just karma biting you in the ass. Antics are just a part of sports. They always have been and they always will be. I would rather that they stay then become like the home run celebration and slowly fade away. When I hit a game winner at some park somewhere, I’m going to strut or do something stupid to highlight my minor achievement. Seeing a player who has arrived at the highest stage of basketball do the same thing or have his teammates do the stupid stuff for him on the bench? Kind of helps me relate to the players I am seeing on the screen. So, basically the moral of all of this is that what they are doing is stupid, but that because I am just as stupid, it is just a-ok with me. This is why I don’t teach kids ever…
- So, the NFL schedule is out. That’s great; it gives me something to obsess over and figure out…until the NFL draft comes along and changes everything anyway. Wonderful, then when I finally convince myself how the Niners or Raiders are going to make the playoffs, some player will get badly hurt early in preseason or during off season workouts, and by then I might as well just wait for the regular season to start or buy the new copy of Madden. I’m not sure what my point is, but in any case, if you want to see your team’s schedule, you now can.
- Speaking of the Niners and the Raiders. I’m not sure which one I like more. I used to be a Niners only fan, but then they cut Jerry Rice who I consider the greatest football player ever. So despite the fact that most of my friends are Niner fans, I switched to Oakland for my allegiance. At first it worked out too, because I hated Jeff Garcia, and I’m pretty sure he is the most overrated quarterback of all time. Anyway, I never stopped being a Niner fan; I just started liking the Raiders more and justified it in my head by saying I simply had an AFC and NFC team to root for and for the time being would root for the Raiders over the Niners. Simple enough? It was until the Raiders signed Jeff Garcia. Remember, I hate that guy. I hate him so much I wonder if he is a top three reason why I root for T.O. to this day. This is what I have decided; if he doesn’t start, I will root for the Raiders over the Niners. If he does, I completely jump ship and root for the Niners over the Raiders and hope Jeff Garcia decides to retire soon enough. Still, I am open for suggestion, so please if there are any comments or advice you guys want to leave for this, please give it.
April 8, 2009
- This is a special edition of the Tuesday Ramblings as these are being written from Times Square!
- Let’s start with baseball. This is the opening week of the season and it is about time! America needs its baseball. If you’re looking for a lot of early predictions for the season now that the games are underway, you’re probably in the wrong place. One of the hardest things to do in sports is to understand that the first week is technically just like any other baseball week: some guys are going to have good and bad games, but ultimately it will not prove to be a useful barometer for the rest of their season. The sample size is simply too small. In fact many of the players having good weeks are doing so right now because they are simply in better shape and more ready to play baseball earlier than their counterparts. Once the rest of the MLB catches up to them their stats could very easily drop right off. The opposite could be said for some slow starters. Many of these guys are simply struggling to remember that they should have been ready for these games as these are the ones that count. Yet, when they get into the right mindset and enter into game shape they could also start to return to their normal projected stats or even spike as they get more comfortable. In the end, just remember, it’s only going to have been a week.
- On the other end of the sports world (the one where sample size counts for nothing,) UNC has clinched the NCAA men’s basketball championship. So, just in case anyone was wondering which team in college basketball could go on a five game winning streak first during the last two weeks of March, well, it was UNC. I still don’t get college basketball…
- Despite their NCAA championship, NBA teams should not be in too much of a hurry to plunder UNC’s roster. One of the dirty little secrets of college basketball is that its power houses do not always create the best players at the next level. Look at UNC’s rival Duke. They have produced in the last 15 years: Grant Hill, Elton Brand, and a host of role players. However, to be fair, those have all generally been very solid, smart role players. Thus, if you are near the end of the first round or have an early second rounder and could use a solid role player, it is then that you have the best reason to draft from the defending college champs.
- The basketball Hall of Fame announcements came out recently. Among those getting enshrined: Michael Jordan, John Stockton, David Robinson, and Jerry Sloan. I have no idea who Vivian Stringer is but she is also getting enshrined. That is the problem right now for NBA fans. There is a hall of fame for only NFL players, coaches, contributors and (for the most part) only MLB players, managers, and contributors. As for the NBA, they share their hall of fame with the international community. There isn’t anything gigantically wrong with that, but there simply would be a large market for an NBA only hall of fame as well. That way someone like Vivian Stringer (who is the third winningest coach in women’s college basketball) can be properly celebrated for her contributions to the game of basketball, and at the same time not be shoved down the throats of NBA fans. This isn’t meant to be disrespectful to Stringer; I simply never saw her play, and would rather a day be made to celebrate the NBA that I did watch, rather than the college basketball whose appeal I still cannot understand.
- Michael Jordan transcended the game of basketball. While he was the NBA’s greatest player of all time, he was and still is also a global icon. His fans included (other than simply normal basketball fans) people who had never even seen a basketball. Hell, Kim Jong-il the dictator of North Korea is reportedly a huge basketball fan to the point that Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ended her summit with Kim by presenting him with a basketball signed by Jordan (thank you wikipedia!) That being said, there is a foolish growing sentiment that Jordan should have been enshrined alone. Listen, if you want to spend a day hero worshipping Jordan’s impact on the game of basketball, just go to your nearest store that sells Nike or Hanes products. Stockton, Robinson, and Sloan were not in the same class as Jordan as players/coach, but they were not so far off that they should have to wait a year.
- Ultimately that’s the worst development that has occurred since Jordan’s retirement. People have decided to turn the greatest basketball player ever into a legend that cheapens his true self. Jordan was able to bring basketball to the masses. The fact that he no longer plays basketball does not mean that the masses should suddenly turn in those balls simply because Kobe or Lebron are not his Airness. Jordan was not some god that was so amazing that no one has a chance of ever being close to his level. At least for me, the appeal of Jordan’s greatness was that he was so strong willed and disciplined that he worked himself into becoming the greatest basketball player of all time. Not that he wasn’t talented (he was ridiculously so,) but it was his work ethic that kept him at the top of his game and not some random born-with ability.
- As for John Stockton, he will go down as one of the greatest point guards of all time. If it wasn’t for Jordan, Stockton would probably have two championship rings, and my Lakers were always flummoxed in the late 1990s whenever they faced him. He was a great passer, a clutch shooter, and a smart defender. What’s more is that he so routinely sacrificed his body for this love of the game. Time after time, Stockton would hit the deck in order to draw a charge against a man much larger than he. When Chris Paul ages into the second half of his career, he should be given all of Stockton’s game tapes in order to learn from the last man to wear short shorts (although I was in fact happy that that fashion statement retired when Stockton did.)
- As for the present in the NBA, it cannot be a good week for a San Antonio Spurs fan. That’s because Manu Ginobili was lost for the rest of the year due to a fracture in his ankle. The news was quite a blow to the veteran Spurs who were already showing too many signs of age. Hopefully, Ginobili is able to return next year at full strength, but this has quickly become a nightmare for the entire NBA and not just the Spurs. While you want to support your players when they decide to play for their countries in international competitions, the risk of injury or making an existing one worse—especially in slightly worse arenas with slightly worse training staff—is simply higher than in the NBA. The solution in my eyes is to have the countries or non governmental organizations within the countries insure any NBA players (or any international players for that matter) some percentage of their salary so that if they do get hurt, the owner is not penalized for allowing his players to show their national pride. Another possible solution would be to give NBA teams immediate cap relief should one of their players get hurt while playing in international competition. These aren’t perfect solutions should Dirk Nowitzki or Manu Ginobili for example get hurt, but they can’t hurt either.
- That is all for another edition of the Tuesday Ramblings. Join us again next week when Jumpball once again tackles the prominent issues in sports for the week!
April 3, 2009
What is an MVP? Merriam-Webster defines MVP as an abbreviation for most valuable player or “a heart problem in which the valve that separates the left upper and lower chambers of the heart does not close properly,” which is not helpful at all. When typing in ‘most valuable player,’ the dictionary defined it as, “error, no suggestion, try again with a different word.” Well, now we know why Steve Nash almost won the award three times in a row.
Basically, there are no fixed or real rules for the MVP award, which is why it is normally so hotly contested in the media. This year is clearly different though. Everyone has already decided that the award should go to Lebron James this year. Hell, almost everyone had decided this before the all star break. It is hard to blame the voters too. All James has done this season is average 28 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.8 spg, and 1.2 bpg. In addition, his Cavs have the best record in the NBA largely due to his contributions and leadership. In many years he would be a shoe in. Plus, it isn’t like he has a lot of competition this year. Dwight Howard remains offensively challenged whenever he can’t dunk, Kobe Bryant cannot shake a late season shooting slump or the fact that his team in general is wildly inconsistent, and Chris Paul’s Hornets have taken a step back under his watch. If you take it a step further, there are more players who can’t even really be candidates this year, but either were or probably will be:
• Yao Ming, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Brandon Roy aren’t currently considered talented enough by most people to win the award (and thus cannot be possibly as valuable as the incredibly talented James.)
• Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Tim Duncan, and Al Jefferson have missed too many games.
• Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups have canceled each other out.
• The same actually can be said for Tony Parker and the aforementioned Duncan.
• Dirk Nowitzki will never win another MVP award because of the way he so effortlessly choked away his last one.
However, there is one player who cannot be discounted like all the others this season. He is someone who deserves to be considered at the same level as Lebron James, someone who has delivered game winning threes one game and game winning blocks the next, someone who was probably the best player for Team USA over the summer yet rather than appear fatigued this season has been remarkably consistent, and someone who inexplicably found a way to get up eight times even after only falling down seven.
Why not Dwyane Wade? The most common argument against Wade and for James is that the Cavs have the best record in the NBA while the Heat are 15th out of 30 NBA teams. The Cavs are on pace for a near perfect home record (40-1) while the Heat have a lower overall record than the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Phoenix Suns. However, it is ridiculous to point to a team’s greater record as proof of one player’s having a greater value than another. While it is true that a great basketball player will generally be able to have a greater impact towards his team’s overall success than a great baseball or football player, this is not the case here. Wade’s team has a worse record because the Heat are considerably worse than the Cavaliers in almost every aspect of the game of basketball.
Take a look, it is true. Despite being constantly disparaged over the years as being a random hodgepodge of below average talent, the Cavs are actually a perfect blend of complimentary role players for Lebron James. Mo Williams for one is a great side kick. Meanwhile, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (aside from being a top ten center in this league today,) Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, and Sasha Pavlovic are all dead eye shooters who can hit an open jumper created by a driving Lebron James or be involved in screen and roles with him. Then finally you have Anderson Varejao, Joe Smith, JJ Hickson, and when healthy Ben Wallace to rebound the hell out of the ball at both ends to create numerous opportunities for Lebron James and his collection of shooters to score. Everyone has well defined roles on offense, and more importantly these guys when put together play great team defense. As I write this column on Thursday night, the Cavs are allowing a league low 90.9 points per game.
Now take a look at the Heat. This team actually averages fewer points (98.1) than they give up (98.2.) While the Cavs are a team with well defined roles and constant defensive intensity, the Heat are…not quite the opposite of that, but not particularly far from the opposite either. Once you look past Wade, there really isn’t too much to see. In the front court, Michael Beasley has the potential to be better than anyone that Lebron currently shares a locker room with, but he sure as hell isn’t now. Beasley is constantly making mistakes (something rookies are prone to do) and cannot be trusted this season with starter’s minutes. In his place are Udonis Haslem and Jermaine O’Neal. Haslem actually is the type of role player who would fit in with the Cavs. O’Neal is the type of gimp who would fit in at a rest home for the elderly. The starting small forward for this team is Jamario Moon. He is a jack of all trades that should be coming off the bench and providing a spark, but instead he plays 27 minutes a game for this team. In the back court you have (other than Wade) Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook. Both of them actually have the potential to be fantastic role players someday, but like many of these Heat players, they were simply not there yet this season. The rest of the roster is some sort of collection of D-League All Stars and Mark Blount. I think that’s enough said.
So clearly, Lebron James benefits from a much better supporting cast than Dwyane Wade. Yet, Wade’s team is still going to make the playoffs and if they can pass the 76ers, be favored to get into the second round of the playoffs (sorry Atlanta.) Hell, even if they do not, Orlando sure as hell isn’t looking forward to playing the Heat and the only reason they aren’t is because they are terrified of the prospect of playing against D-Wade. That isn’t to say that Lebron James isn’t also feared, it’s just that when you play the Cleveland Cavaliers you have to watch out for Lebron James, leaving any of their shooters open, and boxing out all their voracious rebounders. Plus, even if you are lucky enough to stifle all of the above, you still have to deal with their constant, hounding defense. That’s an incredible amount to worry about. With the Miami Heat, all you have to worry about is stopping Wade. Yet the Heat are still a plus 500 team because Wade has been so lights out this season.
Sure, the discussion becomes hazier (and includes Kobe Bryant) when you are talking about the best player in basketball, but that’s not what the award is called. It is the most valuable player award, and in terms of value for just this season, Wade has been worth more to the Miami Heat than Lebron James has been to the Cleveland Cavaliers. A large part of that is because the Heat are much worse than the Cavaliers and thus much more in need of a superstar of their skill set. In many ways it is unfair to penalize Lebron for playing for a better team, but if situation didn’t matter, the award would be given to the best player and not the most valuable one. In terms of value for his team, no team owes more to its success than Dwyane Wade. That isn’t to say that Lebron James isn’t valuable. He is. In fact I have him at number two. However, that’s as a clear number two this season to number eight.
At this point, you either get it or you don’t.
April 1, 2009
- I don’t understand college basketball. John Calipari heads to Kentucky and no one bats an eyelash. Yet, if a player wanted to switch teams, say because he wanted to restore the glory of a fallen school and get a pay raise for doing so, he would have to sit out an entire year. Plus, college basketball players don’t get paid (err, at least not publicly.) I’m just saying. There is a weird double standard going on here, and I’m not entirely sure why.
- Kobe Bryant is going through one of the worst slumps of his career. Considering the Lakers are losing a lot of games that they should win as a result, it’s surprising that this hasn’t received greater press. Still, I can also understand why there isn’t a lot of alarm right now. The Lakers have home court advantage already throughout the Western Conference. They also probably can’t catch up to the Cavs for the Eastern Conference. Thus, there isn’t a whole lot to play for, which could be part of the reason for the slump.
- The bigger problem that the Lakers are dealing with: their bench without Odom has been terrible. They have no direction on offense, and are basically guaranteed to give up whatever lead the starters have acquired. Jordan Farmar is the person that I blame the most. The kid shoots every time he touches the ball, and basically throws the offense out of sync when he does so. Still, Sasha Vujacic is eternally streaky, Luke Walton is smart, but hopelessly not athletic, and I hate Josh Powell. I should have something more constructive to say as a basketball analyst about Powell, but the Laker fan in me gets in the way. I hate the guy. Every once and a while he has a good game, but for the most part he just irritates me. I cannot wait for Bynum to get healthy so I never have to see him in a game for more than 5 minutes.
- In other LA news, Isiah Thomas almost becoming a member of the Clippers has become huge news, and I think its time I said my piece about the man. I just feel bad for him. He entered the Knicks in a no win situation. That team was full of bad contracts and aging players. He drafted well, and continuously tried to trade for players he felt could make a difference. He swung and he missed—pretty badly, sure. Still, he tried. Plus as a coach, he certainly had his moments. My ultimate point being that Thomas took over from Scott Layden who did a terrible job as well. Yet, it is Thomas who has become the reviled one even though Thomas at least has some bright moments (in the form of good, late draft picks.)
- Garry Sheffield was cut today. He is sitting at 499 homeruns. I generally believe that athletes should choose when they should retire, but if, hypothetically, Sheffield were to ask me what he should do, I would tell him to retire. He’s been injured for much of the last two seasons, and his long term health could be at risk if he decides to play again. A couple of homeruns won’t greatly improve his chances of making it into the hall of fame, because voters would assume that the numbers are inflated anyway due to the steroid era. Besides, Sheffield admitted to using the both the cream and the clear so his chances of making the hall of fame aren’t great anyway, unless they change their mind about PEDs. If he does want to keep playing, I would suggest that he sign with the Mariners. They have tons of money and could use even an average hitter for their DH spot. It isn’t going to be the type of situation that has him going out with a World Series ring or even being semi-competitive, but it does give him a chance to keep playing baseball in a relaxed environment. Plus, if he can become a team leader and helps his young teammates improve their game, maybe he convinces voters he has done enough for the game in general to get into the hall. Essentially, I’m imploring him to do what Bernie Mac did in Mr. 3000. Not original, but that’s the game plan.
- Jay Cutler is now officially on the trading block. As a Raider fan I could not be more delighted. The Broncos had a poor defense and no running game. Their best wide receiver is a head case, and they are now dealing with a young inexperienced coaching staff. Their one bright spot was their young quarterback Cutler who showed extreme promise. Obviously he isn’t perfect, but if you’re a middling team trying to convince yourself that, I don’t know as this is off the top of my head, Shaun Hill is your quarterback for the season, don’t you owe it to your fans to try and sign him? Honestly, I’m surprised that 20 teams aren’t considering signing him.
- That’s it for this week. The ramblings are a bit shorter than usual, but on the Brightside, there is another column coming out on Friday for the first time in a while so this is it until then.