Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hoops, John Wall and Johnny Damon

OK, so maybe Cleveland's GM Danny Ferry read my last post about Jamison being a better fit than Stoudemire. No worries. Yet again, I have talked myself into reasons why this deal won't work.

1. There's a reason Jamison has only been past the first round of the playoffs once in his 12 year career. He was Washington's second option behind Yosemite Gilbert, and you see where that got them. Here he'll be the second option again. This time he'll have a much better surrounding cast, but let's not act like he's a grizzled vet in the playoffs.

2. There's also a reason he was available for pennies on the dollar. He's a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of player. Do you really need a guy like that when you have LeBron? He's used to playing with specialty guys. Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson are shooters. Varejao's a rebounder/defender. Hickson is a hustler. LeBron takes care of the rest.

3. What does this do to Hickson's confidence? He's started in Jamison's first couple of games as a Cavalier, but I can't imagine that will continue. He worked hard to improve, and then had his job taken out from under him. Can he be trusted in the playoffs? Is his confidence shaken? Let's hope the answer is yes.

4. Again, when Powe comes back, there is a logjam at the 4. Jamison, Powe, Varejao, Jawad Williams and even LeBron have all been seeing minutes at the 4. Phil Jackson and Greg Poppovich would have no problem managing minutes and egos. Can Mike Brown be trusted when the game is on the line and the right decision must be made? I'm going to say no.

5. Where does the blame fall now? LeBron has no excuses. He's playing with three fellow All-Stars and has a former Coach of the Year. Orlando slides back to the underdog role, and even the Lakers are relieved of a tiny bit of pressure. All the pressure is on Cleveland now. Lose, and LeBron may leave. Win, and he still may leave. Let's also not forget the story of the last superstar to hit the free agent market: Grant Hill. It was assumed that Hill would go to another team, pair up with another star and dominate the league. I'm not wishing injury on LeBron, but you never know what will happen. For all we know, this could be LeBron's last chance at a championship.

Orlando played Cleveland this afternoon in what was a great game. LeBron had a 33 point, 9 board, 6 assist game. Shaq scored 20 and only missed one shot from the field. Jamison came off the bench with 19 points and 8 boards...and Cleveland still lost. Not to feign clairvoyance, but I knew Orlando would win the game at halftime. LeBron had 21 points and 1 assist. When he goes into "Get Mine" mode, we can beat the Cavaliers. If he plays like he did a week ago against us, Cleveland can't be beaten. In the first quarter, he went to the line 10 times and scored 15 points. In the second and third quarters combined, he took 5 shots. In the 4th quarter, he scored 11 points to finish us off. That LeBron James will win a championship this season. "Get Mine" LeBron James will be left wanting yet again.

Dwight had another great game. He had an 11 point first quarter and showed no fear of Shaq. He went right at him, around him and banked in a 13 foot jumper over him. Once, he got the ball 18 feet away from the basket, and was double teamed by Shaq and Hickson. Yes, the same Shaq who cried about how he never double teams anyone. Whatever. Later in the game, he got visibly frustrated at Mickael Pietrus and JJ Redick after three straight possessions of him not touching the ball. That's what I want to see. He has to start demanding the ball more. He only scored 1 point in the 4th quarter but played great defense on Shaq, hogged the boards and set up a couple of good shots for his teammates with his passing. After being absent for 3 and a half quarters, Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson woke up and scored 14 straight points between them in the 4th quarter to seal the win. I know regular season wins mean nothing, but Cleveland going up 3-0 on Orlando in the regular season would have definitely gotten in our heads. This was a well earned win, and hopefully another turning point for Dwight Howard to start demanding the ball.

After yet another player collapsing and dying on the field, why are heart tests not mandatory for college athletes? They should be a requirement for signing a letter of intent. How many enlarged heart deaths will there have to be? I know the cost of extensive heart testing for every athlete that plays college sports will be expensive, but isn't it worth it?

UK won a game against Vandy yesterday that they probably shouldn't have. With less than 90 seconds left, UK suffered through: a missed dunk by Patterson, missed free throws by Bledsoe and Wall and a terrible decision by John Calipari. Cal admitted his mistake right after the game, but it could have cost the Cats the game. Wall made a free throw to put the Cats up 2, with four seconds left. Vandy had no timeouts left and would have had to go the full length of the court right after the made free throw. They had no time to set up a play, until Calipari called a timeout. Why let them even huddle to think up a play? Kevin Stallings is a good coach and drew up an excellent inbound play, similar to the Christian Laettner shot that beat the Cats almost 20 years ago. AJ Ogilvy got a great look at the end of the game, but missed and Cal was saved.

Also, each passing game leads me to believe that John Wall is actually another shooting guard posing as a point guard. In his last 4 games, Wall has 14 assists and 15 turnovers. In those same 4 games, he lead the Cats in shot attempts three times (Patterson had 12, to his 11 yesterday). 55 shot attempts in his last 4 games, yet he's only hit 23 of them. To be fair, he is getting to the free throw line and making some clutch shots, but I'm a little disappointed. Part of the intrigue of Wall was that he had all the tools to be a great scorer in college ball, yet he was a pass first guy. Unheard of in today's era. It's easy to be a pass first guy when you play against the UNC- Asheville's and Hartford's of the world, but when the games get tougher, your real game shows. In SEC play, the games have been closer and his shots have gone up. Maybe I'm wrong here, and I hope I am. In those same 4 games, DeMarcus Cousins has only 36 field goal attempts, compared to the 54 he had in the four games before that. If Cousin's attempts continue to go down, and Wall's continue to go up, there will be trouble on this team.

How do you feel about the Johnny Damon to Detroit deal? Seems like a solid signing to me, but I know your disdain for all things Yankee or Red Sox related. Damon has the stench of both! Good signing?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Martha and NBA Talk

I was actually going to listen to all three of your song selections, but I got halfway through "Martha", decided life wasn't worth living and threw myself off the tallest building I could find. Man...what a downer. Good song though.

In the time since you asked me about Amare' going to the Cavaliers being the end of the NBA season as we know it, I have fully convinced myself the deal wouldn't work. Here is why:

1. JJ Hickson is no stud, but he's coachable and he plays hard. I don't know if the same can be said for Amare`.

2. I think Amare` respects Mike D'Antoni and Alvin Gentry, an assistant of D'Antoni. He didn't respect Terry Porter, threw him under the bus and didn't give 100 percent effort. Is he going to respect Mike Brown, who won't stand up to LeBron or Shaq? I say no.

3. For all his talents, Amare` has never averaged 10 rebounds a game in a season. That's in the Suns run and gun offense. Imagine how low that number will be in the Cavalier's slow offense, with Shaq and Bron getting 7 boards each a game. He is also a terrible defender. A guy like Hickson will at least get in Rashard Lewis face and make him work. Amare won't.

4. A lot is made of this Cavalier's team and their chemistry. How will trading a young guy like Hickson, who went from not playing last year to putting up solid numbers by working hard, for a vet like Amare` mess up that chemistry?

5. Leon Powe is about to come back. Assuming they re-sign Ilgauskas after he is waived by Phoenix, they have to find minutes for: Shaq, Z, Amare', Powe and Varejao. They play a great game of small ball with LeBron at the 4, so somebody isn't getting minutes.

Of course this is all moot, if they acquire Amare` and he averages 25 points a game. Just some things I've talked myself into to give Orlando a chance. I'm honestly more afraid of them getting a guy like Antawn Jamison. He shoots the three, is a better rebounder and defender than Amare` and I think he would take the backseat to LeBron with no questions asked.

The NBA is starting to turn into the MLB and I hate it. Nobody trades talent for talent anymore because it's all about cutting costs. "Hey Detroit, don't want to pay Curtis Granderson? We'll take him off your hands. Have some prospects." "Hey Phoenix, trying to dump Amare`? Have a young guy of no value to us and and old guy that will return to us right after you buy him out. The late first round pick on the house." I read Miami has offered Michael Beasley and two mid first round picks to Phoenix for Amare`, yet Phoenix is considering the Cleveland deal because it saves slightly more money. What part of pairing Michael Beasley with Steve Nash is a bad idea?

I wish ill will on Shaquille O'Neal. I wasn't trying to rhyme or be cute there: I would really like to see bad things to happen to him. In case you hadn't heard his latest barbs at Dwight Howard, this time Shaq is mad about Dwight Howard using the name "Superman". In Shaq's defense, he has had that nickname for quite a while. In Dwight's defense, it was a self anointed nickname, which would render it irrelevant if I were President. Also, Dwight didn't just take the name. He began doing the Superman dance after the Soulja Boy song and the name was bestowed on him. Granted, he could have denied the name instead of accepting it and profiting off of it, but give it a rest Shaq. He's also upset at Orlando using double teams on him. I really don't see how there is room in the Cleveland locker room for Shaq, his ego, his gut and LeBron James ego. After thinking this over, I have decided that I would honestly give 5-7 years off my life for the following things to happen this postseason:

1. A first round sweep of the Pistons. I don't know where they are in the standings, but it's the East. Almost any teams is a 4 or 5 game win streak from being in the playoffs. A little payback for putting us out of the playoffs two years straight.

2. Defeating the Celtics. Last year, all I heard was, "This wouldn't happen if KG was playing". After watching Tim Duncan blow past KG in the All Star game, I would like this theory to be put to rest.

3. A dismantling of the Cavaliers. LeBron gets his stats but his teammates fail to show again and Dwight destroys Shaq on both ends.

4. Defeating the Lakers in the Finals. Revenge for last year and another chink in Kobe's armor.

I'm dead serious. 5-7 years off my life if the playoffs played off just like that. Maybe I take sports too seriously.

I don't know if you caught All- Star weekend, but it was abysmal. Who thought Kevin Durant-Rajon Rondo-Omri Casspi would make a good game of HORSE? The three point shootout was solid. The dunk contest was the worst I've ever seen. I've taken some liberties to fix it.

1. Expand it from 4 dunkers to 8 dunkers. 4 from the NBA, the NBDL dunk champ, the college dunk champ , a streetball dunker and James White, the only man I've ever seen legitimately jump from behind the free throw line to dunk. I recommend the Air Up There for the streetball dunker. This is a great compilation of his work, but it doesn't even include his best dunk: the 720.

Or even this guy. 5'10 with a 56 inch vertical

2. Winner gets $100,000. Second place gets 0. How hard are the non-NBA guys working to get that 100 grand? How hard are the NBA guys working to not get beat by some guys off the street? This will work.

After the All-Star game, TNT revealed who the fans voted as player of the decade. Kobe came in first. LeBron came in second. Shaq and Tim Duncan got third and fourth. I'm outraged, and you should be too. First, there's no way in hell Shaq or Duncan should not be #1 on that list. I'd say Shaq, but I'd listen to arguments for both. Kobe is third. Second, LeBron is a fantastic player, but he missed the first three years of the decade. He should not be second. Third, Allen Iverson was nowhere to be found. Same with Jason Kidd. The list was disgusting.

Don't look now, but Dwight Howard may have added a three pointer to his arsenal.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Super Bowl Talk and My Favorite Songs

As you well know, I loved "The Interception".  Loved it.  The Super Bowl couldn't have been decided on a better note.  When Porter broke on that ball, the room erupted.  We clapped.  We screamed at Porter to run faster.  And, after he made it to the end zone, we laughed.  We laughed and laughed.  I was laughing 5 minutes later.  Just a perfect ending.
A number of things happened, the biggest one being this: Manning messed up the end of the biggest game of the year.  Honestly, I don't think he'll be back.  That was his chance.  Sorry Peyton...thanks for playing.
Another huge factor in that play was playcalling.  After the game, Porter said that he recognized that play, not only from watching a ton of film, but from the fact that the Colts ran that exact same play earlier on the drive.  The Saints came up with a great game plan for the game (from what I understand, they came up with one game plan for the first half, one for the third quarter, and one for the fourth quarter).  The Colts?  Bah.  They just decided to go with whatever they had from the season.  No new plays.  No different looks.  They figured their talent and Manning would win the game for them.  No such luck.  Do you know who this reminds me of?  Bill Callahan.  Gruden left the Raiders to coach the Bucs, and Callahan swept in behind him.  The Raiders and Bucs met in the Super Bowl.  What happened?  The Bucs mopped the floor with the Raiders.  Why?  Callahan did nothing.  He took the team that Gruden left, kept all the plays in tact and figured it was good enough.  After that season, the Raiders went downhill, Callahan called his team stupid, and he was gone in a couple of years.  You've seen Caldwell in action.  Do you believe he did much of anything this year?  Do you have faith that he will guide the Colts to the Super Bowl again next year?

Here's something I haven't really seen mentioned since the Super Bowl: Peyton's playcalling.  We've talked about it in this space before: he's hailed as a genius for all those audibles at the line when they work, but, when they don't, that fact is strangely omitted.  He had a terrible game on that front.  My theory is that he wanted to cement his name in the "Greatest Quarterbacks of All Time" debate, and figured he would try to win this game on his own.
He threw the ball 45 times.  That's not a ton if the running game wasn't working...but it was.  The Colts ran the ball 19 times for 99 yards.  That's a 5.2 yard average.  Sure, the 26 yard run by Addai skews the results a little.  But, even without that run, they averaged a little over 4 yards a carry.  That's pretty good.  To only run the ball 19 times is ridiculous when the average is that high.  Who does that fall on?  Manning.  Squarely on his shoulders.  It's hard to put the blame on one person, but I'd say that Manning has to take the fall for the bulk of that loss.  That interception was a's what everyone is pointing to.  But the lack of running plays is on him, and that was a bigger problem.
Do you remember when the Chargers lost to the Patriots in the 2006 playoffs?  The Chargers were at home, and were favored.  Schottenheimer was the coach, and he was carrying around the label of being a great regular season coach, but being terrible in the playoffs (mainly because he was too conservative).  The Chargers were 14-2 that year.  They came out with a pretty good drive in the first half, but they stalled around the Patriots' 30.  I believe it was 4th and 7, or something like that.  It would've been a 47 yard field goal...well within the range of Kaeding.  Instead, he went for it.  They were stopped, and the Patriots were able to start their drive with good field position (I believe they got a touchdown on that drive).  After the game, people were saying that ol' Marty only went for it there because he was trying to get rid of his reputation of being too conservative in the playoffs.  (Although, knowing what we know now, Kaeding probably would have missed the field goal, anyway.)
I think Manning had that same mentality.  "They say I wilt under pressure.  I'll show them what I can do.  I'll throw the ball and produce almost all the offense.  Then they'll talk about how great I am."  That's a killer mind game.  And, again, that falls on him.  If you want to praise him when he makes good decisions, you have to blame him when he makes bad ones.

Love your idea for Reggie Bush.  He won't do it, but it's a good idea.  What good running backs retired in their prime?  I can think of three: Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and Robert Smith.  The list of those who stayed around too long is much longer than that (Tomlinson reached that stage this year...he killed the Chargers in that game against the Jets).  He won't be lacking for money: he has endorsements, and more are sure to come.

I was able to catch the majority of the Orlando/Boston game last weekend (I don't get to watch many NBA games, so that was a treat).  Orlando looked terrific in the third period.  I can't remember the last time I saw a team play that well for that long of a period (Jordan's Bulls, probably).  They were absolutely dominant on both ends.  I was surprised if they didn't score on every offensive possession, and I was surprised if the the Celtics scored at all.  A great performance.  Of course, just in the course of that game, I could tell that they're a wildly inconsistent team.  If they can get Vinsanity producing at a competent level every night, they'll be dangerous.  But you never know what you'll get from him.
The Pistons on the other hand...yikes.  I guess we'll chalk this year up to a loss and hope we can pick up a piece somewhere (either in free agency or the draft) that can help us next year.  I've caught bits and pieces of games this year...egads.  Just wretched stuff.

Good question about LeBron.  I think it's a combination of "everyone has one" and "I have to support my friends".  But, really, he doesn't need anyone.  He'll get a max contract anyway. favorite three songs of all time:

3. "Martha" - Tom Waits
If someone has written a more heartbreaking song about lost love, I haven't heard it.  This song (the entire album, actually) sounds like it was recorded in a deserted bar at 4 in the morning.

Favorite quote: "We were all so young and foolish / Now we are mature"

2. "Let Down" - Radiohead
I love his voice, but it's really the instrumentation that gets me.  By the end, the music is huge, and his voice just seems to float over the top.  It's a song that talks about how, when we find ourselves in situations that we can't change (traffic jams, nuclear meltdowns, etc.), we should just relax, because there's nothing we can do about it anyway.  Bleak?  Yeah...a little.  But, ultimately, it's very relaxing.

Favorite quote: "One day I am gonna grow wings."

1. "A Day in the Life" - The Beatles
I always loved this song, but it wasn't until the remastered Beatles albums came out that it jumped to the top of the list.  It really is a perfect song.  The best part is the end.  The instruments just keep building and building into a mass of chaos, and, when you don't think you can take it anymore, it ends abruptly...only to have that final piano chord hit hard and hang there for 40 seconds.  There really is nothing like it.  Listen to the ending of this song loud, and see if it doesn't do something to you.  Seriously...listen to it now.

Favorite quote: "Somebody spoke and I went into a dream."

(This recording doesn't do it justice.  Listen to the remastered version.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Delayed Super Bowl talk

It's a little late, but I have to talk about "The Interception". Nobody was surprised, right? During that drive, I told someone that he was going to put a ball up for grabs. They said those days of Mannings career are over. He almost immediately threw a bad pass toward the sideline that Malcolm Jenkins dropped. I figured that was his Asante` Buckner moment, the Saints had missed their chance and now Manning would make them pay. Wrong again. A couple of plays later he threw the now infamous interception. As much fun as it would be to put all the blame on Manning, I can't. It was one part bad throw, one part bad sloppy route running by Wayne and one part a great jump by Tracy Porter. Let me say I'm neither a Manning fan or hater. I feel about him the same way I do about Kobe Bryant: I respect the level they are playing at but there's not a doubt in my mind that if things go awry, they revert to old form. For Kobe, it's bitching at teammates. For Manning, it's interceptions at the wrong times...and maybe some bitching at teammates. You know who I feel bad for? Joseph Addai. Addai had another great Super Bowl performance and again has nothing to show for it. I'll even go as far as to say that if Indy won, Addai deserved MVP. Of course, he wouldn't have gotten it, but he deserved it.

One last thought on the Super Bowl: Doesn't Reggie Bush retire? Heisman trophy, college records and championships, plenty of money in the bank...and then he signed a NFL contract on top of that, a Super Bowl ring and Kim Kardashian on his arm. Where else is there to go but down? He could potentially be a solid back in the league, but he will never live up to his draft day expectations. Nostalgia is known for clouding peoples judgment, so if he retires now, people will always remember him as being better than he actually was. Running back's not a position you grow old at so cut your losses at the ripe age of 24, and take it easy Reggie.

Orlando has been playing well lately and tonight will be put to the test against the Cavaliers. As much as I'd like to believe that this game doesn't matter, it does. We may be playing our best basketball of the season. Cleveland is on a 12 game winning streak. This matchup could very well decides who goes to the NBA Finals again. I feel good about our chances because Dwight has been a man possessed since his last meeting with Cleveland. After the last win against Boston, he called a players only meeting to receive criticism from his teammates on what he can do to be a better leader/player. That's leadership. Not dancing during the game or pretending to take pictures of your teammates before the game. Vince Carter has also looked...dare I say, good? His 48 points the other night were really something to see. After his first couple of shots dropped, you could almost see the light go off in his head: "Hey, I'm still a pretty good basketball player." After his recent play, I couldn't be more ready for the playoffs. The last 3 months on the season are only getting in the way.

Speaking of LeBron, why does he have an agent? NBA contracts are on a scale, so he can't demand a 200 million dollar contract. He'll just get whatever the max is for this year. He's 25 so assuming he signs a 6 or 7 year deal, he hits free agency again at around 32. He'll still get another good, if not a max, contract. Why have an agent at all? Anderson Varejao needs an agent. Zydrunas Ilgauskas needs an agent. LeBron James doesn't need an agent.

Your 3 favorite songs of all time. Go. My three took a bit of thinking and are probably subject to change, depending on the day. I'd have to go with:

3. D'Evils- Jay-Z. Jay-Z at his finest. A good beat, foreshadowing of his alleged Secret Society ties and Jay-Z before he was rich enough to rap about how rich he is.

Favorite quote:

"Lifes ill, poison my body,
I used to say fuck mic skills, I never prayed to God, I prayed to Gotti,
That's right, it's wicked. That's life, I live it"

One of my favorite lines in any song ever.

2. Edgar Winter- Dying to Live. A truly great song, despite people only knowing it from Eminem sampling it for a Biggie/Tupac song. A kind of cheesy song if you think about it, but still a favorite of mine.

Favorite quote:

"Now they say that there is humor in misfortune
You know I wonder if they'll laugh when I am dead"

1. Poet Laureate II- Canibus. Amazing production, amazing lyrics, no chorus. What's not to love?

Favorite quote:

"Hip Hop has never been the same since '88
Since it became a lucrative profession there's a misconception
that a movement in any direction is progression"

Your turn.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stefan Urquelle and the Super Bowl

I agree with you on the Revis hype. He's a great cornerback, no doubt, but he's far overhyped. Chad's number's don't show it but he got open a number of times against Revis and either dropped the pass or Carson Palmer couldn't get it to him. Like you mentioned, the numbers they put up for Revis sound nice until you really look at them. They don't account for zone coverages. They don't show what happened when they were matched up against other receivers. They never show penalty yards and don't give the situation in which the catches were made. I remember a couple of years ago, the Bengals were playing the Browns. The Browns had Leigh Bodden, who did always cover Chad well, but they put up some stat on how he held Chad to 3 or 4 catches that day. What they didn't mention was how each catch was for a critical first down and that he drew a big pass interference call against Bodden. They happened to omit those facts. Whatever.

I was watching Family Matters yet again the other night and it was the episode where Stefan Urquelle was introduced. It was like watching the Zapruder film, only JFK's brains being blown out was replaced with Urkel spazzing out behind a couch and emerging as Urquelle. Also, what was wrong with Steve Urkel? He threw himself all over Laura Winslow, and she was a nice looking gal, but his love was unrequited. Then they brought Myra into the picture. She was superior to Laura in every way... and Urkel shrugged her off. I'm not insinuating anything, but what teenage boy would turn down an attractive woman constantly pursuing him? Surely, Myra was a "free spirited" girl and would be willing to do anything to get and keep her man. Laura seemed to be a prude in contrast. What gives? Maybe I'm burning entirely too many calories thinking about a show over 15 years old. Whatever.

I'm tired of people saying Orlando underestimated the effect Hedo Turkoglu had on our offense. We knew exactly what we were losing and it wasn't worth giving a 30 year old man 50 million dollars over. Period. I love Turkoglu to death, but he isn't exactly making fools of Orlando with his play in Toronto. Your old pal the Sports Guy continues to insist that we should have re-signed Turkoglu (despite him ripping Toronto for overpaying Turk) and trading for VC to give us the best starting 5 in the league. A fair point until you remember that we would have the worst bench in the world. We would lose Gortat, leaving Adonal Foyal as our only big man in case Dwight Howard gets into foul trouble. Eek. As is, we've suffered through subpar play, shaky chemistry and injuries/suspensions heading into the All-Star break...and we're still second in the East and leading our division. That's taking into account that we have gotten almost no return on investment from Vince Carter. I will take this time to say something good about Vince Carter. During his slump, he had no problem conceding shots and minutes to JJ Redick or whomever had the hot hand that night. He didn't come out gunning and hurting the team by demanding minutes. He took his slump in stride and had a great game against Milwaukee. Here's to hoping that some rest over the All-Star break does him some good.

I'm finally ready to call the Super Bowl. I think the Colts win it in a game that won't live up to the hype. I can't overlook the "Happy to be here" factor that has failed so many teams. I don't believe in the "Team thats had tough break after tough break, and is destined to win" thing or else the Bengals would face the Lions in the Super Bowl every year. Peyton Manning knows that a good performance here could very well cement his status as the greatest quarterback ever. I think the Dwight Freeney injury is overstated in two aspects. First, Brees is one of the few QB's that rarely takes a hard hit because he's so quick with the ball. The Vikes front four only sacked him once and hit him 4 times, and as a unit the Vikes front four>>Colts front four. Second, I think his injury is being talked up to mess with the Saints. I'm sure he is in some pain, so why not lure the Saints into thinking they may see Freeney at 55%, when he's actually at 75-80%? I think Peyton has a good day against that defense and earns his first Super Bowl MVP, because we all know the one from a couple of years ago is a sham.

Colts 31, Saints 24