Saturday, April 23, 2011

Random Playoff Ramblings

-Dwight Howard would be a fool to re-sign with this team. This is a team that has been so poorly constructed that mortgaging the prime of his career to it would be a critical error, unless he cares about loyalty over winning, publicity or even money. Dwight staying would make him a legend in Orlando. If canonization is what he wants, he stays. If he wants to win, he goes to Chicago. If he wanted the money, he would have signed the extension with Orlando before the CBA expires and a new one is instated that will likely limit max salaries. If he wants a bigger market, he goes to LA. If he wants to make a splash, he goes to the NJ/NY Nets with Deron Williams or even the Clippers with Blake. When the JRich/Turk/Arenas trades were made, it was understood that the defense would suffer, but the offense should thrive. Not the case. People not named Dwight Howard are shooting 33% from the field in this series against the Hawks. Jason Richardson is at 30% for the series and managed to get himself ejected from Game 3 and suspended for Game 4. Hedo Turkoglu is at 25% and falling. Gilbert Arenas has managed to see his minutes go from 12 in Game 1, to 6 in Game 2 to DNP in Game 3. To be fair to Gil, in the 18 total minutes he was on the court he managed to shoot a blistering 37% from the field. Thank goodness he's only owed 62 million over the next three years.

-Speaking of the Jason Richardson ejection, it lead to something I can't remember seeing in a NBA game. After Richardson and Zaza Pachulia mixed it up, the refs rightfully went back to the tape to see how the fight started and to hand out penalties. Richardson and Pachulia were ejected. The thing I've never seen is that Dwight was retroactively given a tech for the elbow to Zaza's head that started this. Can't argue with that as he did flap his wing at Pachulia's head, but I can't remember a guy that wasn't originally called for a foul, being given a technical. Thankfully he wasn't suspended for Game 4, but I just thought it was interesting.

-Carlos Boozer apparently screams "Gimme that shit!" after every rebound he collects. This humors me.

-The Honorable Hubie Brown: "Atlanta can run an isolation with confidence on every Orlando defender except Dwight Howard. That's a problem." Well, said Hubie.

-Can we stop the slow motion, zoom in shots of turned ankles? I don't need to see someone's foot perpendicular to the floor for the 8th consecutive time. One was enough.

-I really like the Pacers. They have a ton of solid pieces, they aren't afraid of the Bulls at all and they play hard. Darren Collison, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansborough and Danny Granger are all nice young players. Paul George is extremely raw but has one of the higher upsides of anybody in the 2010 draft. All those guys were picked #10 or later in the draft showing the Pacers know how to draft. With Dunleavy, Tinsley, Foster and TJ Ford coming off the books, they will have a lot of cap space to play with. Convincing someone to come play in Indianapolis will be hard the hard part. Still, they have a passionate fanbase and deserve a little good fortune after the Artest Melee that broke up a great team. I think they have a nice future.

-Lost in the great year that Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin had, was a nice campaign by John Wall: 16 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 8 apg and a hair under 2 steals per game. The obvious comparison to Wall coming out of college was Derrick Rose. Rose's numbers as a rookie? 17 ppg, 4 rpg, 6 apg and a steal per game. Rose had a higher FG% and less turnovers. Wall got to the free throw line more and had more assists with considerably less talent. Rose did it with Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, John Salmons, Tyrus Thomas and half a season of Kirk Hinrich. Wall did it with Nick Young, Andray Blatche, Javale McGee, a touch of Gilbert Arenas and half a season of Kirk Hinrich. Wall's assist numbers this year beat Rose's career high in assists, also set this year. I don't think Wall ever hits the 25 ppg Rose put up this year. He's more of a true point. Still, 20 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals a game could be in play as early as next season for Wall. He had an even better stretch after the All Star Break where he got over the injury bug, cut down on the threes, and raised his free throw attempts and rebounds. Very excited to watch his career play out.

-It's been great watching Chris Paul at work. He's obviously lost a step, but it still a joy to watch. Here's to hoping his knees take after KG and Amare, guys who were once considered done after knee surgeries but have bounced back nicely, and not Brandon Roy, who is a shell of his former self and bitching to anyone who will listen. I recently read Ric Bucher say a lot of teams would pick Derrick Rose over anyone if they had to start a team today. Over LeBron. Over Dwight. Over Durant. Even with the knee problems, if you tell me I can get this Chris Paul for the next several seasons, I'm not even sure Rose is the first PG I'd pick in that scenario.

EDIT: Hours after the above was posted, Brandon Roy scored 18 in the 4th quarter, including the game winner, to bring Portland back from a 23 point deficit. Touche`, Brandon. Touche`.

Some non-playoff related thoughts.

Where do you stand on the One-and-done rule in basketball? There's been some brouhaha about the story of Josh Selby. Basically, Selby was Rivals #1 overall recruit last year. He commited to Kansas, missed some early games due to eligibility concerns, battled the injury bug and wasn't all that effective once he hit the hardwood. He skipped out on Kansas' end of the season banquet and withdrew from spring semester classes to prepare for the draft. Now he's projected as a late first/early second round pick. I can't imagine a guy with that potential lasts until the second round though. Do the rules need to be changed in your eyes?

NFL Draft is around the corner. ESPN has brought back a bit where Jon Gruden grills the top QB prospects over film and on the practice field. I love this segment. Gruden may or may not be a little out of his mind, but I'd absolutely want him coaching my quarterback. He asked Cam Newton about how he'll handle the complicated playcalls in the NFL. He then asked for a complicated call he used to make at Auburn. Cam replied, "We just run our plays by numbers. I look over to the board on the sideline and see '36' so we run '36' out there". Cam then compared himself to a loaded gun, while mentioning, "I know this is a violent symbol...but that gun is me." He's all but guaranteed to a Bengal now.

Eghck.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Playoff time and the Melkman

Playoff time indeed. I love the NBA playoffs. A lot of people complain that the first rounds are too long. Not this guy. I love it because there seems to be a good game on every night for the next two or three weeks. The one thing I hate about the playoffs is that offensive flopping spikes. You know the move Paul Pierce has perfected where he raises the ball a quarter of an inch, the defender raises a hand to scratch his head and Pierce hurls himself into the chest of the defender and fires the ball at the rim. Of course, he gets the call and goes to the line. Rinse, lather, repeat.

I've said my piece about the MVP "race" this season, but forgot to mention this. My favorite part of this entire lovefest is people playing the, "Michael Jordan says Rose should be MVP. When the best says you're the best...you're the best" card. Yes, Michael Jordan also thought it was a good idea to draft Kwame Brown. And Adam Morrison. By all means, take his word as law.

As far as a playoff favorite goes, I think you have to go back to the Lakers. Bynum appears to be healthy, they are one of the hew teams that has appeared to masted the ability to turn it off/on and they don't have the Celtics to worry about sans Perkins. They have too much length with Bynum/Gasol, Odom might be playing the best ball of his career, Kobe is looking for #6 and Phil might retire after the season. I just can't see anyone beating them four times in seven games.

As far as Simmons, I can't take him seriously anymore. In a recent podcast with Chuck Klosterman, he argued that a sharp shooting female could make it on a NBA roster. I was surprised and appalled that someone with his NBA knowledge would make such a ridiculous claim. Klosterman tried to throw him a lifeline by asking does he think it would work, or just that a struggling team would try it to get some interest in the team. Simmons wouldn't back off. I really encourage you to give it a listen. Then Simmons came back with his, "My wife took one look at Dwight Howard and decided he should dominate the NBA." He's not even trying anymore. I also thought it was funny that he says he has season tickets and didn't care about seeing Dwight in person. Smash cut to me reading his book and a footnote claiming that Dwight Howard is someone you really have to see in person to appreciate his game. The only time I find myself reading Simmons now, is so that I know what article they are talking about when they rip him on FireJayMariotti or Bottom of the Barrel. The podcasts are somewhat entertaining depending on the guests. You hit the nail on the head with him. The "Trust me, that Boston Garden crowd willed Michael Jordan to stop at 63 points instead of scoring more. You just had to be there" stuff is a little much. But that WNBA player making the NBA takes the cake.

The Capitals will win the Stanley Cup this year. Call it a hunch.

I'm currently watching Dwight demolish the Hawks. 31 points, 8 rebounds. Solid day at the office. It's halftime. I guarantee that if Orlando loses this, Dwight will be blamed. This team sucks.

You know how I know it's baseball season? Because "The Melk's gone bad!" coming out whenever Melky Cabrera messes up, kills me. It's been too long, Melk man. It's been too long.

Joey Votto has been on base at least once in every game this season. Jay Bruce is off to another slow start and the offense is still cooking. Jonny Gomes drew 39 walks in 148 games last season. Through 13 games, he has 15 walks already. I'm hoping a couple of days off will do Chapman some good. I also realize that Dusty Baker is his manager. I'm legitimately afraid.

Could you care any less about this Barry Bonds business? I tried but it's just not possible for me to care any less about this story. And I like Barry Bonds.

Good points on the signing with a major record label thing. I believe Joe Budden did something similar to Tyler, the Creator, in signing a one album, no strings attached deal. His one album deal was a digital release, which leads me to wonder if that will be the next big thing. Kudos to you for putting me on to Odd Future. I've had Earl, Bastard, and #ofwgkta in heavy rotation this week. What these guys are doing at that age is remarkable to me. I stuck my toe in the rap waters when I was 15 or 16. Laid down a couple tracks and they were nothing like what OF is doing, especially Earl Sweatshirt. "Ray say Earl's a real charming racist. Your birthday day? Have some caKe caKe caKe, bitch" by far exceeds anything I've ever written in my life.

Our old pal Norm McDonald has a new show "Sports Show", on Comedy Central. I caught the first episode and it has some potential. It's pretty much McDonald ripping on anything going on in the sports world. I'm interested to see where this goes.

Friday, April 15, 2011

MLB, NHL, and Music

Baseball.  Ah...baseball.  The Tigers have won three in a row (including two against the Rangers).  They're currently on a west coast road trip (A's, then Mariners), and those are always fun (games starting at 10, getting over around 1).  The offense has been a little slow (with the exception of Cabrera...he's been killing the ball), but the pitching has been surprisingly good.  Even Phil Coke threw 7 scoreless innings.  Phil Coke!  That guy is a middle-of-the-pack reliever at best.  He's not supposed to be a serviceable starter.  I'm still wary about the team as a whole, but they've been looking good recently.

The Reds have been looking terrific.  Votto is picking up right where he left off.  Janish is looking fantastic (I still maintain they should have started him over Cabrera last year).  The pitching looks good.  They just look like a great team.  I'm a little concerned about Chapman's decrease in velocity, but hopefully all he needs is a couple days off.  I kind of assumed he would take over the closer's role at some point this year.  All he needs to do is stay healthy.

What's that smell in the air?  Playoffs!  We'll go NBA first, because I know you don't follow the NHL.  Who is your pick for winning it all?  For the first time in a long time, there doesn't seem to be a clear favorite.  The Lakers are the default pick, but I just don't see it this year.  The Bulls had a great regular season, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them win it...but I don't have much confidence in them.  Part of me wants to see the Heat put it together and destroy everyone on their way to the title.  I think that would be a lot of fun...but I think I'm in the minority on this.
Of course, I can't bring up the NBA without a little more on the MVP discussion.  I'd be surprised if Rose didn't win it...but it just doesn't seem right.  "The Bulls had injuries.  Rose improved his offense.  He bought into the system.  He works harder than anyone."  Well, Howard had his entire team retooled around him midseason (with no one really caring too much about defense), improved his offense (really, he has been unreal this year...he improved his offensive game so much from last year, yet I haven't really heard anyone praising him for it), and he also works extremely hard.  Of course, it doesn't show up as much as it does with Rose.  Howard dominates the paint, but he doesn't have to move much.  In the meantime, Rose is running around everywhere, making reverse lay-ups and hitting three pointers.  Howard's game isn't sexy, but he's one of the few dominant centers in the league right now.  I know I'm preaching to the choir, so I'll stop.  But your boy Simmons KILLED Howard in his past article.  I got mad reading it.
Speaking of Simmons...
I had to take a break from his book.  I'm about halfway through, but I couldn't read anymore right now.  What made me stop was his segment on McGrady.  "McGrady can't be ranked higher, because, if he was better, he would have gotten to the first round of the playoffs at some point in his career.  That's what great players do."  I hate that stuff.  Hate it.  Sure, it's odd that McGrady never got to the second round, but that's not completely his fault.  Unless I'm mistaken, basketball is a team game.  I know stats don't tell the whole story, but check out his career playoff numbers:
28.5 points, 6.2 assists, 6.5 rebounds.
That's not bad.  In fact, that's pretty damn good.  According to Basketball Reference, McGrady's 28.5 ppg playoff average is 5th all-time (behind Jordan, Iverson, LeBron, and Jerry West).  What I'm saying is, it was not all McGrady that led to his teams playoff failures, and Simmons doesn't seem to want to recognize that.
I pick out McGrady because that's where I stopped.  But there's a lot of that kind of thing in the book.  "It's this way because that's how I know it is, and if you disagree you're completely wrong."  It just started pissing me off, so I had to stop.

Now...NHL.
The Wings won their first game, which was terrific.  They fell behind, but they battled back and won 4-2.  Zetterberg (one of their best players) has been injured, so hopefully they'll get him back soon.  They've been a streaky team this year, and they kind of limped to the finish line...but I believe in them this time of year.  Game 2 is tomorrow.  I'll be wearing my Yzerman jersey and cheering them on.

To answer your music question: I can see an advantage in signing with a major label, but definitely not a long-term deal.  For instance, Tyler, the Creator is releasing his new album on XL...but it's only a one album deal.  Packaging CDs/vinyl and getting them out there is expensive stuff.  If you can get your label to front the cost, that's less money that you're spending.  But for releasing digital albums?  There's nothing like the do-it-yourself method.  Hype the album through YouTube or Facebook or Twitter.  Release mixtapes.  Get feedback.  When you release the album, you get the bulk of the profits.  Even a place like iTunes gives artists a fairly high percentage of the sales.
And all of this definitely gives the artist more power when dealing with a major label.  You brought up Lupe, so we'll go with him.  He signed a 3 album deal before Food & Liquor.  He's locked in.  Now, if that first album sells well enough (it did), they may give him more artistic license.  If it doesn't sell well enough (like The Cool), then the label may try to control it a bit more (which we saw with Lasers).
Now, take Tyler, the Creator.  He released an album on his own (as has all the Odd Future crew).  They're getting some more press, and he wants to get his new album out there.  Well, he can release it digitally himself, or he can try to reach a wider audience and get his album physically in stores.  That's a lot of money for himself.  So he shops it around.  In his case, a smaller label (XL) comes calling and wants to release the album.  Awesome.  Well, they can't really tell him what to do, because he's already done the album.  He gets to shop the album, not himself.  He's not signing for 3 albums.  He's signing for one album...and that album is already done.  "Here's Goblin.  If you like it, release it.  If you don't, I'll go somewhere else.  If no one wants to release it, I'll do it myself."  Everyone wins.  The label gets money without pouring too much into it.  The artist reaches a wider audience, and is able to maintain their creative vision.
There are other factors, to be sure.  For instance, the label covers Lupe's studio costs, which can get quite expensive.  Tyler would have to pay for his own (but, since he does everything himself anyway, it's not really a big deal).
So, there are still reasons to sign with a major label.  But those reasons are dwindling.

From the looks of things, I will be the DJ for a zombie from in Danville sometime next month.  I'm very excited.  To prepare myself for this, I've decided to watch a ton of horror movies, paying attention to the music and moods of the movies.  I'm trying to review all of the movies I'm watching over at my zombie blog.  Check it out if you get a chance.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wrapping up the NCAA Tourney

I've seen this movie before. Wildcats headed home because of inability to shoot from three or the charity stripe. Last year, in a 7 point loss to West Virginia in the NCAA Tourney, the Cats shot 12% (4-32) from 3P and 55% (16-29) from the free throw line. This year, in a one point loss to Connecticut in the NCAA Tourney, the Cats shot 33% from 3P (9-27) and 33% (4-12) from the free throw line. I could point the finger at Cal for these, as I did last year, but I have to give credit where it is due. He did one hell of a job this last month or so. This team is not overflowing with talent. Three highly touted recruits (Knight, Jones, Lamb) and three role players (Liggins, Miller, Harrellson). That's it. Star of the class Enes Kanter didn't suit up once this season and Calipari still got this bunch to the Final Four and within one point of playing for the championship. Somewhere after the loss at Arkansas in late February, Cal got this team to stop making mistakes with the game on the line and turn the defensive intensity up several notches. In the last 40 days, this team beat Florida twice, won at Tennessee, brought home the SEC Championship, avenged last seasons loss to West Virginia, beat #1 overall seed Ohio State and got some payback on UNC for a loss earlier this season. Obviously, I wish the Cats wouldn't have taken so many terrible threes yesterday (Looking at you Brandon Knight) or forgot about Josh Harrellson in the second half, but this team went a lot farther than I thought they would. Three of Rivals.com's top six recruits are headed to Lexington next year, and being joined by the 25th player on that list. Add in Doron Lamb giving a weak commitment to coming back, and there is still reason for excitement in the Bluegrass. Still, another loss of this nature is troubling. I was, and I guess I still am, a believer that one day Cal will gather enough talent to win a title despite shooting or coaching woes. One year he will trot out a modern Fab Five that will just overwhelm everyone and lead him to his first title. Now, with the VCU's/Butler's of the world showing that mid majors that have played together for a couple of years can absolutely make some hay in the tournament, I'm not so sure. I am extremely excited to find out though. Loved that Gus Johnson video, but hate that it was so short. There are so many places to go with that. That video could have been 30 minutes long and still been gold. You know what else could have filled 30 minutes of tape? Announcing lowlights from the NCAA Tourney team of Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery. My goodness.

Man oh man, baseball is among us and the Redlegs are looking good. Ramon Hernandez with the perfect ending to Opening Day. Drew Stubbs getting off to a great start. Joseph Votto back on the grind. Scott Rolen is still batting cleanup and Francisco Cordero is still being trotted out as closer so I know Dusty Baker is alive and well. Cardinals are winless. Things are looking good.

Need a good laugh? Here you go:
Above is over 12 minutes of clips from the Suns-Lakers game last week. Roughly 95% of it are brutal mistakes, offensively and defensively, by one Vince Carter. Laughably bad mistakes. I watched this and nodded several times after watching him pull a lot of these shenanigans in Orlando. The "let my guy blow past me and point and who should be covering him now" was his specialty. There seems to be a little outrage that the great Steve Nash has to put up with VC and his antics. Where was this outrage when the same Carter was expected to be the missing piece to the Magic? Oh that's right, it was directed at Dwight Howard for failing his team in the postseason. Nevermind that Carter is now coming off the bench for a 37 win team, but was expected to be Orlando's second best player. Or that Rashard Lewis came off the bench for a 19 win team before being shut down for the season, and that a couple of months ago he was supposed to be Orlando's third or fourth option. Yet I digress, watch some of that Carter video is you have a chance. Some of those mistakes would get you sat down at the YMCA.

Haven't checked out Odd Future yet. Had heard the name, but haven't listened to them yet. I will though. I listened to Wiz Khalifa's debut album this week and was a little disappointed. It was a solid debut album, but you could definitely tell there was a song or two he was probably pressured into putting on the album. Same with Lupe, and countless others I'm sure. I pose to you this question: Is there a reason to sign with a major record label in 2011? It would seem that dollars they would spend on you for marketing, can be done on your own now. Mixtapes getting your material to the masses online. Your own YouTube channel to keep them out there. Twitter to see how fans feel about them, advise them of upcoming releases or tour dates, etc. All for free. If there is an album coming out now, I know about it long before some advertisement that a major record label could run. Not a lot of money gets to the artist for each CD sold through a major deal. CD sales are low, so an independent deal would presumably allow you to see more money per CD sold. You don't own your own publishing unless you're an established artist. I'm sure I'm missing something but, in your eyes, is there any reason to sign to a major record label these days?