- 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 15, 2009
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.
March 25, 2009
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.
March 18, 2009
- The World Baseball Classic is going to be a huge success. First, there was the Netherlands beating powerhouse Dominican Republic not once but twice. Then, came today’s Team USA’s ninth inning rally to beat formidable opponent Puerto Rico. Last Sunday, my friends and I even went to Petco Park to watch Japan play Cuba. To be honest, it wasn’t that far away from being as full capacity-wise to a regular Padres game—although that may say more about the Padres fans than anything else. Still, the fans are smart and passionate. With some exciting games already getting press, it is only a matter of time before this thing catches fire. That’s especially true now that baseball is no longer an Olympic sport.
- So what chance does Team USA have of winning? Honestly, it is a complete toss up at this point of the tournament. The sample size of games remaining and completed are too small which generally means that whatever team strikes fire is the one to win rather than the most talented or consistent team. Pedroia being out actually is a blessing in disguise because he stunk up the joint whenever he had to bat. I say Japan is the favorite right now, followed by America, and then South Korea. I know that Japan lost to Korea tonight and has to beat Cuba just to be in the semifinals, but I do think it will happen. Plus, I expect Japan to destroy Korea in a rematch. There were a lot of fluky things going on tonight.
- Speaking of Japan, they are simply dominant right now. Yes, their hitting is more than solid, but their main for this is pitching. I got to see Dice-K live and, let me tell you, he looked great. He was great at getting out of jams and actually got better as the game went along. He does allow too many people on base, but at the end of the day his whip is never as high as you think it should be, and his era is much better than you can ask for. He’s going to sell a lot of tickets whenever he plays.
- Last baseball point: Manny Ramirez tomorrow is going to try out playing cricket for a promotional event. He’s doing this right after
- March Madness is upon us again! I am effectively done trying to accurately predict what is going to happen there. I did fill out a bracket, but I did so basically using zero logic and just going primarily on seeds and familiar names. That’s because if I used logic and experience I would end up losing anyway to someone who…used zero logic and went based on gut feelings. March Madness: turning idiots into geniuses and geniuses into pig farmers since 1862.
- Ok, in all seriousness, I have Oklahoma winning it all the last time I fiddled with my bracket. The only reason is because Blake Griffin is the number one pick for sure in the NBA draft and that’s good enough reasoning for me.
- Moving to football, I sincerely hope that Marshawn Lynch gets past his current off the field issues right now. Lynch plays behind a mediocre line which hurts his stats, but the kid can just flat out play football. He has a fair amount of quickness that gets defenders to miss, but more importantly is that he consistently moves the chains. You cannot tackle Marshawn Lynch with just one defender very often. I still remember a play early in his rookie season where he knocks down one defender, dodges another, knocks down one more, gets his helmet knocked off, and then gets the first down. I want that guy on my football team.
- By the way, Lynch is in trouble for having a concealed weapon in the trunk of his car. First of all, it isn’t clearly written why the police searched his car in the first place. I think there may in fact be tinges of racism involved, but I wasn’t there and I do not know, so who knows, really. The second point I would like to make is that pro athletes in the last five years have been getting robbed or shot at an alarmingly high rate. Listen, I would prefer that everyone was peaceful and the world was only a happy place, but that’s just not realistic. Lynch lives in a world where his peers are being targeted. With that in mind, is it completely crazy for him to have a weapon? I understand he should get his paper work in order, but my point is that as long as he does get that paper work in order, he should not receive a suspension at all. Just yesterday, Carl Landry of the Houston Rockets was shot after getting out of his car while trying to figure out what happened after an accident. It could be a random incident, but if you are Marshawn Lynch doesn’t that worry you all the same? Listen, I understand that generally having a gun in that situation probably just makes it worse, so I am in no way condoning Lynch for having the gun, but at the same time, I can kind of understand.
- There is a lot of talk about the collective bargaining agreement in the NBA which must be extended by the league by December 15, 2010. If it is extended, then the NBA is good through the 2011-2012 season. The question becomes what will the league, which in this economy has all the power, try to pull on the players? My guess is that David Stern will try to lower the length of contracts to 5 years max for resigning your own players and 4 years for other team’s free agents. He may even try for 4 and 3. The league will want to do this because it helps bail out teams whenever they get fooled signing a free agent who doesn’t pan out because at least then he’s only on the team for around 4 years before they can get rid of his salary. Plus, the shorter the length of the contract, the smaller the chance there is for a player to not try. Clearly, the players would be better off with that not happening, because if it does then they lose that extra financial security. Their best chance for success in arguing against lowering contract length would be that one, it already was lowered to its present levels of 6 and 5, and second, that the more players there are during free agency, the less continuity there is for rosters. The lack of continuity is going to lower the level of play, which is a fair reason for arguing against the lowering of the lengths of contracts.
- The second thing the league will try to pull is increasing the age limit once again. At this point they will probably aim for getting it to 20. I think that this is something that is good for the NBA, as it will improve the overall quality of play. I do think however, that the restriction should be scrapped once the NBA has a truer minor league system (ie, 30 minor league teams for the 30 NBA ones.) By then if you do draft someone who isn’t ready, you can send him down to your minor league affiliate. Technically, you can do that now, but because NBA teams currently share a D-league team with one or two other NBA teams, sending down a player is risky, because you have such little control over him at that point. Once you have your own team, you can choose the system that you want in place, and can effectively grow your own players in your farm system. At the very least, if you do draft a player that is too young for the NBA, you can just have him play for your minor league team and have him rack up a cult following much like he could do in college, except now he’ll get paid. For those who have not figured it out, I cannot wait for a true minor league system to come into place.
- That’s all for now folks. Good luck for March Madness!
March 11, 2009
- My friend Jono (no relation to Bill Simmon’s friend Jacko) is the only true boxing fan I know. I personally like boxing and I will always watch a fight on ESPN Classic if it is on, but Jono is the one who actually stays on top of the whole thing. Anyway, we were discussing the upcoming Pacquiao/Hatton fight when the discussion came to ticket prices. Front seats cost 10,700 dollars. On the flip side, the worst seats in the back, they still cost 268 dollars. So which one is more ridiculous, especially in this economy? On one hand 10,700 dollars is just ridiculous. Who the hell has that kind of money? 268 dollars on the other hand gets you crappy seats with obstructed views, but at least you’re not out almost 11 thousand dollars plus you can still tell people you saw a fight live. Anyway, my pick? I think I’m going to wait for it to come on ESPN Classic. Kind of a cop out, but who the hell still has that kind of money to blow anyway?
- I just spent a few hours (or it felt like hours) arguing over fantasy baseball stat categories with my friends. Anyway, that led to a discussion about the importance of wins as a stat category. It is, after all, the most celebrated stat for pitchers with 300 wins being the equivalent of 500 homeruns for hitters. Anyway, this isn’t news for those of you who love the stats, but wins are actually a terrible metric for how good a pitcher was or is. That’s because it has so little to do with a pitcher’s actual performance. Listen, last year Matt Cain had an era of 3.76. He ended the year with 8 wins. Meanwhile, Ted Lilly had an era of 4.09 and had…17 wins. Cain had more strikeouts while Lilly had a much better whip. Ultimately, those two guys both had very good seasons. However, many people would tell you that Lilly was the better pitcher because he had more than double the wins of Cain. However, all the other stats as I’ve posted, show them to be about equal if not the slight edge going to Cain. The only reason the wins are higher is because Ted Lilly plays for the Cubs who score runs like crazy while Matt Cain plays for the Giants who only score enough runs to avoid being sent down to Triple A. So having wins is really just a way to penalize a player whose teammates are not so good and to reward guys who play for winning teams. Anyway, I argued that as a result, wins should not be used as a category, because to me fantasy sports is all about creating a team of players that you think can beat your friend’s collection of players. Thus, all that matters are the players you choose, not so much their situations, because after all, this is a fantasy team. So what happened after giving my impassioned speech? It was a success! Ok actually…it was shouted down and we’re still having wins as a category. It is what it is.
- My best friend is a huge Portland Trailblazer fan so I had to make sure I was there to watch his Blazers play my Lakers. Of course rather than have a nice, clean, close game we had the Blazer blow out LA and have the whole game marred by Ariza sending Rudy Fernandez to a hospital and a fight breaking out that included Lamar Odom leaving the bench and ultimately being suspended for doing so. First of all, I saw the play where Ariza knocked Rudy down. Its one of those plays where if the timing was better it is an amazing block. Instead Ariza was late and Rudy was taken off a stretcher. It wasn’t a dirty play, but since Ariza was so far behind Rudy, it was a reckless one. So what it comes down to was that Ariza wasn’t thinking and ended up with that reckless act of knocking him down. This isn’t a defense of Ariza by the way. My point is that he should have been suspended for not thinking. This is the NBA, which is the best league in the world. If you forget to think and you injure a player, you should be penalized for having been caught not thinking. If he is penalized, then he’ll think twice before doing something like that. If he’s not, then he probably won’t. Sometimes it is that simple.
- Man, the Raiders decided not to sign Khalif Barnes or Terrell Owens leading to a variety of speculation about what they will do with their first round draft pick. It is kind of understandable that they didn’t want to do anything that would decide their draft pick just yet, but they effectively lost out on two decent players to take a huge risk on some college player who by the way would only be able to fill one of those two holes on their team. I guess I cannot stress how fun it is to be a Raiders fan, because they just keep you wondering day after day…
- Shaquille O’Neal needs to come out and say something random that’s good about the NBA. We need this guy spending more time talking about what he’s done or what is good about the league and less about how much he doesn’t respect Stan Van Gundy or Dwight Howard. This guy has the potential to be great ambassador for the game when he retires, and I really hope he doesn’t burn all his bridges before he gets the chance.
- That’s all for the Tuesday Ramblings. I’m sorry the number of posts has gone down in the last few weeks, but I have finals coming up next week so it is what it is. Some of you have been clamoring for a return from my co-writer Ankur. Let me just say, he is busy scouting a really great prospect in Tibet right now. I can’t wait to see what he says about that guy. Apparently, it is quite the journey, which will make for quite the story. Good times.
March 4, 2009
- The decision to appeal the Judge’s decision that certain evidence against Barry Bonds be inadmissible without collaboration from his former trainer stinks of desperation. This will delay the trial an additional 19 months and further add to the costs on everyone’s side. Basically, the prosecution is saying that they have nothing, and really hope something comes up in 19 months that will save them. The Feds have spent too much money in this witch hunt of Barry Bonds, and are trying not to lose face, but I really, really hope they just cut their losses now. After all, that money they are spending is tax money that in these tough economic times is hard to justify being spent here.
- Speaking of Bonds, now that A-Rod has been revealed as a steroid user, why won’t anyone sign Bonds? He still has great eye sight and should still have decent power. If he plays 80 games for you, he’ll probably still get you 15 home runs. Plus, in these troubled economic times, Bonds is a guaranteed ticket seller.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made some very interesting off season moves. They added Derrick Ward and Kevin Winslow to their list of playmakers while keeping Antonio Bryant and Earnest Graham. This is all good and dandy except that uh they left out on huge thing: the quarterback. My two cents would have them at least bringing back Jeff Garcia if not also drafting his replacement. Otherwise, I think offering their number 1 is the least they can do in order to try and obtain Jay Cutler right now.
- Speaking of Jay Cutler, way to piss off your franchise quarterback, Denver Broncos. In a division as volatile and mediocre as the AFC west, the Broncos had a great chance of making the playoffs next year. Trust me even with their terrible defense, all they needed were a handful of decent personnel moves and they would be getting home court in the first round. Anyway, all that was true until the franchise pissed off their only dependable offensive piece in Cutler. In a game like football where talent levels are ultimately close to equal, emotions are often what carry a team to victory. It may sound cliché, but the team that wants it more generally will win the game. Thus, the Denver Broncos better try to patch things up in a hurry or else it would be in their best interests to ship him to the Bucs for as many picks as they can weasel out of Tampa Bay. Actually, as a fan of the Raiders, I would really prefer them to do the latter.
- Speaking of the Bucs, they are one of a handful of teams that have gone younger in terms of head coaching age. The media is hyping it up as the NFL simply being a copycat league trying to emulate the success that the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers have had with Mike Tomlin, but I don’t buy it. The real reason that experienced coaches who have had success are out of jobs and inexperienced young guys are landing the opportunities of a life time is that it’s seen as the smart business decision. You have to pay more for experience, and, if the Steelers can win without it, then the stereotypical tight-wad owner will want to pay a lot less to get a coach that still has a chance to win it all. One of my points being that owners will simply jump onto whatever trend saves and possibly makes them the most money.
- The other point I want to make is that experience does in fact matter in this league. The media likes to complain about teams recycling coaches, but there is in fact solid data to support teams hiring a coach who has been fired before. A second time head coach has dealt with all the first time jitters and has a system in place instead of building from scratch and with no experience to draw on. He also has most than likely learnt from his failures. The proof is in the pudding: Bill Belichek, Tony Dungy, and John Gruden are all current era coaches who won a championship while coaching their second team. That’s just something to think about for all the owners who are all to ready to save money by hiring some hotshot secondary coach or something to lead their franchise.
- Apparently, this is the Tuesday Ramblings where I just bitch and whine about the economy’s affect on our sports leagues. Anyway, the NBA is no different. Instead of trading for that missing piece, teams are just signing the best players that are getting cut. Boston added Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore, Cleveland is reported to have added Joe Smith, and San Antonio is rumored to be adding Drew Gooden. Each move is one that could put each team over the top. Looking back, I’m pretty sure this is the NBA’s way of telling me that I need to stop writing trade columns to discuss the most important trades of the season. Yeah, that has to be it.
- You know who could really use Robert Horry? Phoenix. He helps space the floor even more for Shaq on offense, and probably is still an adequate (if not good) defender on the other end. With all the other powers sans Lakers making moves to improve, the Suns cannot afford to stand pat especially since they resisted the urge to blow up their team during the trading deadline.
- I really hope some more teams move to California, clearly four teams is not enough, because Anaheim and San Jose are likely destinations for two more NBA franchises in the next 5 years or so. By the way, one of those teams will most likely be the Hornets, which means rather than endure the futility that comes with the first couple of years of rooting for an expansion team, some lucky fan base will get to just root for Chris Paul. 6 teams…I get the feeling other states must hate California. They have 3 NFL teams (and probably a 4th to LA someday,) 5 MLB teams, and 4 (most likely soon to be 6) NBA teams. That’s like having 60 flavors of ice cream to choose from while the rest of your block combined as maybe 10 and often has to convince themselves that frozen yogurt is basically close enough (no, it isn’t by the way.) The people of Nevada may now tie weights around their ankles and jump off a cliff.
- That’s all for now folks, hopefully I finish these Power Rankings and have them up for you to read later this week.
February 25, 2009
- Dustin Pedroia recently came out to say that the Sox would not miss Manny at all, and when he listed the players who would be the reason why they would not he completely ignored David Ortiz. First of all, I think he’s wrong. When you lose on of the greatest hitters of all time, you’re going to miss him no matter what. There is a lot more that you as a pitcher can do when you’re not worrying about a Manny Ramirez/ David Ortiz combo and that’s just the way it is.
- Speaking of which, why is it that when people talk about how baseball is a sport of haves and have-nots, they never bring up the Red Sox? They always bring up the Yankees and that’s of course deserved, but they never bring up the Red Sox who, by the way Dustin Pedroia, have amazing pitching depth as a result of them going out and spending whatever they want on pitchers. Anytime you take an 8 million dollar flier on John Smoltz to maybe be your fifth starter, you have officially joined the spending level of the Yankees.
- That being said, who cares? If you are the fan of a team, don’t you want them spending all of the money you put into the team by buying tickets, hats, food, drinks, jerseys, etc on the team? Trust me there is nothing more painful then putting your hopes on a team that decides its better to sign the cheaper Ray Durham to protect Barry Bonds than spend the money they have made from selling out consistently on someone like Vlad Guerrero. Yeah, I’m still not completely over that.
- Albert Haynesworth is reportedly signing with the Washington Redskins which a huge coup for them. Think about all the other teams in their division and what that completely hampers. You think Brandon Jacobs (if he resigns) Marion Barber or Brian Westbrook will find themselves running in the middle much next season against Washington? I know it’s only one signing, but expect Washington to make the playoffs next season. That’s how good and valuable Haynesworth is.
- Nmandi Asomugha is really good, but is he really a top five player in the NFL? Personally, it’s not my money and I don’t care. I’m just really happy to see him and Shane Lecher resigning with the Raiders. Having a cornerback like that means the opposing QB has just the other half of the field to throw to. I heard this quote from somewhere so I’m going to repeat it: “Two-thirds of the world is covered by water. The rest is covered by Nmandi Asomugha.”
- Gutsy move by Donovan McNabb, but also the right one. There are a lot of teams that could use a good quarterback. If a team that has frequently discussed replacing him over the last few years doesn’t want to pay to improve, why should McNabb waste his time going there? You know who would welcome McNabb if the Eagles decide this demand is too high? The Niners, Lions, Seahawks, Chiefs, Jets, and those are just the names I could come up with in ten seconds.
- The big news in the NBA today is that Stephon Marbury has been cut by the Knicks. Again I think this is a dumb move by the Knicks, but it is what it is. As a Lakers fan, I am not to thrilled to see him probably go to the Celtics and give Rondo the ability to play fewer minutes and save himself a bit for the playoffs.
- Speaking of the Celtics, I love their move to sign Mikki Moore. He’s not a great rebounder, but he just strikes me, after reading some farewell posts by Kings fans, as one of those great chemistry guys who helps you even more off the court. I’m not looking forward to facing a Celtics team that could be bolstered by both Moore and Marbury.
- Apparently the Grizzlies turned down an offer from Phoenix that had Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, and Mike Conley going to the Suns for Amar’e Stoudamire. I’m shocked. A Mayo-Stoudamire would have been quite something. From what I understand, Memphis back out due to concerns that Stoudamire wouldn’t resign, which is just ridiculous. It is more likely that the Grizzlies didn’t want to pay the huge extension that Stoudamire would have wanted. I think you have to make the trade especially since Mayo’s play has seemed so defeated these last few months. He truly seems to just be going through the motions, which is killing my fantasy team…er, I mean Grizzlies fans.
- That’s all for today. Tune in next week for another set of Tuesday Ramblings.