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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tomlinson Motivates Shutout (Hustling Backwards)

LaDanian Tomlinson has been a revelation this season with the New York Jets. After his last two sub-par seasons with the San Diego Chargers which had many people questioning if this was the end of his run, he's found the fountain of youth (or a darn good HGH supplier) in Jersey, rushing for 490 yards and 5 TDs this season.

Greg Garber did an in-depth piece for ESPN titled "Lombardi Strikes ex-Bolt with Inspiration", examining Tomlinson's impact on the youthful NY Jets, and the platform they have put him on to reach his ultimate goal: a Super Bowl win. Much was made of his use of Vince Lombardi quotes to inspire the team, and motivate himself.

I read the piece, then watched the pre-game for the Green Bay Packers and NY Jets, where they showed Tomlinson giving a riveting pep talk to his team. The speech was passionate, riveting, right up there with the one Al Pacino gave his team during halftime of "Any Given Sunday". I was ready for some football!

And the, the Jets go out and lay their biggest egg of the season, getting shutout 9-0 at home coming off a bye week. They allowed the NFL's 23rd ranked rushing defense to 119 yards, and forced Mark Sanchez to remind folks of his rookie season performances with 2 INTs and a QB rating of 43.

Not going to place the blame of the poor performance of the offense entirely on LT's shoulders, given that he did run for 55 yards on 16 carries, and became just the sixth player to rush for over 13,000 yards in his first ten seasons. Still, with all the hype surrounding LT, it would have been nice for at least someone on the offensive side of the ball not to look so offensive.

Sanchez threw bad INTs. Tight end Dustin Keller allowed Charles Woodson to snatch the ball out of his hands for one of the picks. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes dropped some very catchable passes. Braylon Edwards was cutting patterns short and not coming back to the ball much like he did regularly with the Cleveland Browns. And Shonn Greene, the actual starter at running back continued to underwhelm, carrying 6 times for only 22 yards.

Not exactly what I expected after all the Lombardi talk.

"Mama said there will always be days like this," Tomlinson said after the game.

I'm sure Mama said a few other things that he relayed to his offensive mates behind closed doors.

("You betta not neva embarrass me like that in public again! Go get a switch!")

What Would Jimmy Do?

Jimmy Johnson has very few regrets from his NFL coaching career. One thing he says he would have done differently: sitting Dan Marino.

On Fox NFL Sunday, Johnson explained that toward the end of Marino's career with the Miami Dolphins, the Hall of Fame quarterback was injured, struggling, and in Johnson's eyes more of a detriment to the team than an asset. Johnson says he toyed with the idea of benching Marino in 1999, but ultimately decided against it, citing Marino's status, even though he felt the backup (Damon Huard) gave the team a better chance to win..

He used this analogy to explain why he feels Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress should bench his future Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre.

In six games this season, Favre is 2-4, has thrown 10 interceptions to only seven touchdowns, and has a QB rating of 68.6. Adding injury to insult, he has two broken bones in his left foot, and possibly a broken marriage after a "sexting" scandal involving former NY Jets employee Jenn Sterger. He's 41 years old, immobile, and being paid $20 million this season.

The Vikings have no leverage to bench the ailing Favre, after bending over backwards this summer to woo him into returning. Favre currently has his consecutive games started streak that sits at an NFL record of 291games. Speculation is that Favre wants to get that up to 300.

After the Vikings most recent loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football, Childress attempted throwing Favre under the bus. In the press conference, he had this to say about a Favre interception that led to points for the Packers:

“Yeah, the (interception) to Desmond Bishop, I’d have to look at that because I’d like to know where we’re going with the football, because I believe the play was designed to go to the other side and I think Percy’s standing there in big air, so not sure why we’re looking at the left-hand side...”

The interception was only one of three for Favre that game. The Vikings lost 28-24.

In Johnson's eyes, the Vikings are sacrificing team success for the appeasement of one player. He said he openly treated star players on his teams differently than others, but never at the expense of compromising the idea of team unity.

Johnson won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, a National Championship with the University of Miami, (FL), and is a spokesman for ExtenZe, a male-enhancement medicine. Childress has won a playoff game. He may want to listen up.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Up, Gangsta!

Meet Earl Smith III, also known as J.R. Smith. New Jersey native. Professional basketball player for the Denver Nuggets. Millionaire.

And now, allegedly an internet gang-banger. "Blood" to be specific.

Smith was photographed throwing up Blood gang signs during a night out on the town. The night soon became infamous because he put out a Tweet earlier in the day, asking for women followers to join him and his crew in a limo (obviously for Bible study). There ended up being 18 scantily-clad women who made the cut, and he posted photos of the evening on his Twitter account.

Another photo of the same night was posted by one of the ladies, and it shows Smith throwing up signs associated with the Bloods.

Smith is a talent, no doubt. Watch him drop 43 points off the bench against the Chicago Bulls, or hit 11 threes against the Sacramento Kings, and you know there is no denying he plays basketball well. Still, there is one big reason why Smith has been in the NBA for seven years, and still cant find a team willing to make him a starter, or pay him big money.

J.R. Smith is just plain dumb.

It's not nice to say, but its true. He was drafted out of high school by the New Orleans Hornets, where he averaged 10 ppg his rookie season, and by all accounts drove Byron Scott bat-bleep crazy. The team traded him to the Bulls a year and a half later for center Tyson Chandler. The Bulls then traded Smith to the Denver Nuggets for two second round picks and Howard Eisley without ever having him suit up.

Translation, they didn't want any piece of that idiot.

Of course Smith blossomed into some sort of quasi-star in Denver, because the Nuggets organization is a rest haven for headcases. Smith blends in well with the likes of Kenyon Martin, Chris "Birdman" Anderson, "team leader" Carmelo Anthony, and head coach of the head cases, George Karl. He's become a cult hero to Nuggets fans who have come to expect up-and-down performances, incredible dunks, streaky shooting, and of course him throwing up "PIRU" after a made three.

(Oh, wait, I forgot. We're still pretending not to know what he's doing with his hands on the court, and assume that he means "three", or "bulls-eye". I'm sorry.)

Outside the safe surroundings of the Pepsi Center however, Smith might want to watch himself with all that Blood stuff. Denver, as DJ Quik once famously said, is just like Compton. There is a heavy gang pressence in the city. The sports world and the Denver gang culture have crossed paths on more than one occasion. The most famous and tragic being the Darrent Williams killing.

For his own safety I hope he realizes, soon, that this buffonery, or dare I say straight up coonery, can cost him the ultimate price. No, not another appearance in a Waka Flocka Flame video (he's already got that), but his life.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Blow The Whistle (Or Not...) - The NBA's New Rules on Techs

As you may have heard and noticed, the NBA is instituting new rules for what warrants a technical foul this season. Already, there have been 21 techs whistled in the first 18 games of the season. That number estimates to a whopping 1,435 technical fouls (simple math; divide 21/18 then multiple the result by 1,230 games. Trust me on this). If refs continue to calls techs at that rate, the total number would almost double the amount of techs called last season (roughly 750).

Let's think about that for a second. Think about the effect a technical foul can have on the flow of a game. It kills momentum. A tech gets the crowd riled up (hope they don't call any in Detroit). They warrant the players fines, which have been doubled for this season, and techs also stop the clock thus making NBA games longer. DING DING, we have a winner ladies and gentlemen!

I have a background in media and advertising sales, so I can see the benefit of the NBA (which has been rumored to be down in revenue) secretly wanting to extend games. The extra TV run time would allow for the NBA to generate more advertising revenue, as well as garner the money from the fines. Do the math; if the league fines players DOUBLE for technical fouls and at the rate they are being whistled, that's almost 3-4x as much extra $$. David Stern may be on to something there.

As far as the effect on games, I say let the players play. Basketball can be an emotional sport, and of course NBA players never think they commit a foul. Not to mention that some of the technicals that have been whistled so far have been borderline ridiculous. Maybe the refs will lighten up as the season progresses. Maybe the players will learn to stay off the men in striped shirts (although I doubt that will happen).

Either way, I really hope the refs don't take the term "whistle while you work" too liberally. Makes for better basketball all around.


"What, Me Worry?" Why The Los Angeles Lakers Are Still The Favorites

The picture above is probably the face Kobe Bryant made when someone told him the Miami Heat were the favorites to win the NBA title. I guess some people assume that adding three high priced free agents was enough for the Heat to leap-frog the Los Angeles Lakers as the league's best team. Those same people probably fail to realize that the Lakers have three consecutive NBA finals appearances, winning the last two. Sure, Miami adding #6 (what we at "The Blog" refer to as LeBron James) and Chris Bosh as well as retaining Dwayne Wade was impressive, but you would be silly to overlook the the additions the NBA Champs made over the summer as well.

First things first, Kobe will be back healthier this season after knee surgery and a lot of rest in the off season. Late last season it was apparent that Bryant was not 100% and he still managed to average 27 ppg, 5 boards and 5 assists. Along with Kobe resting, Pau Gasol decided to take the summer off and come back fresh to start the season. Gasol looked a lot more aggressive in the preseason and the opener Wednesday, scoring a team high 29 points. With Andrew Bynum recovering from knee surgery (what else is new) expect  Gasol to be leaned upon heavily in the paint until Bynum's return (looking like sometime in mid November).

Another player who benefited from the summer was Lamar Odom, who has been playing with a new confidence after his Team USA experience. Regardless of his inconsistency, Odom is one of the most versatile players in the NBA; a 6-11forward who can dribble like a guard and rebound with the best in the league. If he can keep this up all season he could be a problem. Ron Artest comes back in top shape and should be better this year than last season now that he has spent a year in the triangle.

As for additions, the Lakers had a quiet but solid off season, adding point guard Steve Blake and forward Matt Barnes. Blake is an intelligent, pass-first point that limits turnovers and can knock down an open jumper (see here from Wednesday). He is a definite upgrade over Jordan Farmar. Matt Barnes is a scrappy defender and just does the little things every team needs to win. The Lakers also drafted well, picking up Devin Ebanks (a better version of Trevor Ariza) and Derrick Caracter in the 2nd round. The two rookies may play significant roles throughout the course of the season.

So have the Lakers done enough to return to the Finals? Yes get my vote. They have all of the pieces back from last year's squad as well as some nice additions. A top seed in the Western Conference and a strong playoff push is very much feasible (SAT vocab word there). Whoever the Lakers face in the Finals is definitely in for a battle.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

NBA Rookies To Watch 2010-2011

Every season there is an aura of excitement as well as uncertainty surrounding the NBA's incoming rookie class. Especially for someone like myself as I always tend to analyze prospects potential to be good professionals (I have a dream of one day being a scout). Will the top draft picks be able to live up to expectations? Will the "sleeper" pick make the team look like geniuses or look silly (we're looking at you, Kwame Brown). With all that said, here is a look at my picks for 10 rookies to watch this season, (5) for better and (5) for worse:

1. John Wall (1st overall, Washington Wizards)

By now you have heard about the ultra quick and crazy athletic point guard for the Wizards that everyone is excited about. Well believe the hype. Wall is a can't miss NBA star in the making. He can get to the basket at will and if he continues to work on his jumper he will be a serious problem. Things are looking up for the Wizards.

2. Blake Griffin (1st overall in 2009, Los Angeles Clippers)

Griffin missed all of last season with a knee injury but watching his play in preseason gives you a taste of what  he is capable of. He attacks the rim relentlessly and is good for a couple highlight dunks a night. He has even flashed signs of a jumper and nifty handles for a 6-10/250 power forward. Not to mention he's still only 21. He and Wall should be locked in a battle for ROY.

3. Wesley Johnson (3rd overall, Minnesota Timberwolves)

I remember before the draft mentioning that Johnson reminded me of a smoother version of Shawn Marion, with his ability to rebound, block shots and finish above the rim. Those attributes all hold true and Johnson is also much more polished offensively. He has a real nice jump shot and is fundamentally sound. He should get plenty of burn for the lowly Timberwolves.

4. DeMarcus Cousins (5th overall, Sacramento Kings)

Cousins is an absolute beast in the paint. He put up monster numbers while teamed up with Wall as freshmen at Kentucky, all in a system that may not have taken full advantage of his post potential. Cousins has excellent hands and is a load to keep off the glass. He even has a little bit of a face up game and can take slower centers off the dribble. Cousins should be 1st team all rookie and a future all-star if he can control his emotions.

5. Cole Aldrich (11th overall by the New Orleans Hornets, traded to the Thunder)

Aldrich makes this list as he fills a definite need for a clear playoff contender. He's big, knows his role and will block and alter shots. Aldrich can knock down a shot jump shot, and showed a decent hook shot and post game in college. Aldrich is the definition of a "value" pick and should make a nice impact for the Thunder this season.

The "Worst"

5. Evan Turner (2rd overall, Philadelphia 76ers)

I know, I know, Turner was spectacular last season for the Ohio St. Buckeyes and he may have a solid pro career, but this is about the 2010-2011 season, where Turner will struggle. He and Sixers current star Andre Iguodala virtually play the same position and the Sixers will experiment with Turner at the point but that isn't his game. His arrival won't have a big enough effect on the season for me to consider him a stud. Yet.

4. Derrick Favors (3rd overall, New Jersey Nets)

Favors is the youngest player in the NBA this season and will face some growing pains. He has legit NBA size for a power forward and reminds me a little of Amare' Stoudemire but this season won't be the one where we see his full potential. If I'm wrong, then why did the Nets stock up on power forwards in the off season? I rest my case.

3. Epke Udoh (6th overall, Golden State Warriors)

This was a real reach as the 6th pick, especially when there were so many other players that Golden State could have used. Udoh is older than your average NBA rookie and only produced one decent season at Baylor and won't see the court until December or January due to injury. And I doubt he'll play much when he is healthy.

2. Eric Bledsoe (18th overall by Oklahoma Thunder, traded to the Clippers)

Entering his freshman year at Kentucky, Bledsoe was considered a top point guard prospect with excellent athleticism. But he was forced to play off the ball as Wall was the point, which probably stunted his growth as a floor general. He may be a decent back up one day but he will be hard pressed to see the floor this season. Another year running Kentucky after Wall left would have served Bledsoe well. But hey, he's a millionaire so I guess it was a win for him.

1. Daniel Orton (29th overall, Orlando Magic)

Talk about a reach. Orton barely played as a freshman for Kentucky (notice a trend?) and only 13 minutes when he did, averaging a little over 3 points and 3 boards per. You can't teach size, and Orlando figured he could eventually be serviceable backing up Dwight Howard. But Orton looked down right horrible in summer league play and couldn't avoid getting a ton of fouls. I don't see any of the skills you would look for in a 1st round big man, but 'm no expert. I'm sure the Magic could have done better than Orton though.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NBA Season Preview: Southeast Division

I hope you didn't really think those guys hooping down in South Beach were the only contenders down in the Southeast. This division sent four teams to the playoffs last season, including the Orlando Magic (2nd seed), Atlanta Hawks (3rd seed), the pre-Lebron & Chris Bosh Miami Heat (5th seed), and the Charlotte Bobcats (7th seed). Every team seemed to come back a little stronger including the Washington Wizards, who have no. 1 overall draft pick John Wall now on the roster.

This division again may send 4 teams to the playoffs, but it may not be the same four as last season. There is tons of talent here, so if you only focus on the "Big 3" then you could be missing out on some really good basketball. Here's my forecast of the division standings, worst to first (including each teams odds to win the O'Brien Trophy)

5. Charlotte Bobcats 60 to 1

Although the Bobcats finished last season with 44 victories and the 7th seed in the East, they were swept in the first round by the Magic showing they were not yet ready to contend with the big guns. I'm not sure they can duplicate that regular season success after losing Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler in free agency. 3rd year PG D.J. Augustin had a hard time staying out of Larry Brown's dog house last season, but is now the starter. He will be pushed for minutes by Shaun Livingston (if he can stay healthy). Charlotte is still athletic on the wings with Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson but depth and lack of post play could haunt them all season. But we might be able to get a few laughs out of the travesty that is Kwame Brown (who has the distinguished title of Jordan's first draft "bust".. I wonder if MJ still thinks he's "soft", hmmm)

4. Washington Wizards 60 to 1

The Wizards may want a mulligan for last season, which saw their star player the DC Sniper aka Gilbert Arenas suspended for playing with fire(arms) in the locker room. But the season wasn't a total wash as PF Andray Blatche emerged as a nice scoring threat, young center Javale McGee came on late as a force rebounding and blocking shots and they won the draft lottery and the right to draft John Wall. Wall will make an immediate impact pushing the tempo and finding his teamates for easy baskets and looked very comfortable in the pre season. I think he and Arenas can make a dangerous back court combination (if Gilbert stays focused). The Wizards also traded for vet guard Kirk Hinrich and he should bring a leadership presence to the team. If they can keep Josh Howard focused (and away from the 'trees') and Gilbert returns to shooting the lights out (I couldn't resist) the Wizards should challenge for the playoff spot that will be vacated by Charlotte. Shoot 'em up Agent 0, er, 6!

3. Atlanta Hawks 35 to 1

With all the buzz surrounding free agency during the summer you may have forgotten that the Hawks won 53 games and were the 3rd overall seed in the East. I like to think of them as "Team Bipolar" as they can blow out a team one night then get blown out themselves the next. (Sidebar: If they added Delonte West they should consider changing their name to that; kidding). But what did the Hawks do to get better? Absolutely nothing. They failed to address their point guard issue (Mike Bibby is getting up there), but the Hawks did manage to retain star Joe Johnson. I just hope he saw the Wiz of Oz and asked him for some heart. Nonetheless Atlanta should still manage to win close to 50 games and be a top 4-5 seed in the playoffs before fizzing out in the 2nd round. Ho hum.

2. Orlando Magic 8 to 1

That "other team" in Florida, the Orlando return the same core group that made it to the Conference Finals two seasons in a row, losing to Boston in 6 last year. Reigning defensive player of the year Dwight Howard has been working out with Hakeem Olajuwon, so maybe he's learning a little touch instead of throwing the basketball at the hoop as hard as possible. The Magic retained shooter J.J Redick and added the other NBA nomad Quentin Richardson (who was traded FOUR times in 2009 before playing for the Heat last season) so they have weapons on the perimeter if teams choose to double Howard. Big key will be how Chris Duhon handles the back up point spot. Should be interesting.

1. Miami Heat 8 to 5

Pressure? The Miami Heat basically asked for it. They sacrificed their whole roster for free agency, landing LeBron James during "Decision" (we here at the Blog refer to him as #6) and also bringing in sidekick Chris Bosh to join Dwayne Wade in South Beach. Now they have to prove it. The whole roster is basically new except for Wade, Joel Anthony, Carlos Arroyo, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem. They added a few shooters to spread the floor with Mike Miller (who is out until around January) and Eddie House, but there are a couple glaring issues. 1.) Depth. They have none. And 2.) who takes the big shot? Both #6 and Wade need the rock to be effective as neither is a spot up shooting threat. And Bosh, well A'mare he ain't. They may all win a title together, but I don't thing 2010-2011 is the season.

We'll see how it all play out...


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Game 1 for "Super Team" and the NBA

The NBA season is officially started and I cannot be happier. The Miami Heat will be under the microscope plenty this season, blowback from the summer of 2010. We all know what it is, so I'm not going to get into that. Instead, let's examine how they looked in the first game of the season. Yes, I know there are 81 regular season games to go, but the Boston Celtics did expose the Miami Heat superstar's vulnerabilities...

1) "6" absolutely can not shoot, but he can be streaky. There was a point in the 3rd quarter when he scored 8-11 straight. Hit a couple 3's and got to the free throw line a lot (at that point he was 50% from the line... superstar smh). 31 points is a great number and when he decided to take over, he was straight to the cup. When he decided to try to out-shoot Paul Pierce, however, Boston outscored them handidly. I'm just saying...

2) Chris Bosh, 3-11 shooting, is not the answer down on the box, offensively or defensively.

3) D. Wade gets a pass for his dreadful shooting night (4-16), since he was injured and did not have the opportunity to get much gametime in the pre-season.

As a team, the main issue here is if Wade or "6" are not getting fast break points or to the basket in general, how are the Heat going to consistently score? Key word in that is "consistently". The illustration of that is the 1st half of the game in which they put up 9 points in the 1st qtr and 30 points at the half as a team. Those are both franchise lows for anyone keeping count, smh. Again, I know it's Game 1 and I'd be willing to bet this poor performance will not happen again, but the Celtics D put up a blueprint. I hope the teams that are not as good defensively were at least taking notes.

- @lostherod

NBA Preview: Southwest Division

If you were to say the Southwest Division was the "Senior Circuit" of the Western Conference, you wouldn't be too far off as the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks are the two oldest teams in the league, and New Orleans Hornets are not too far off at fifth oldest. (based on average player age). So does that mean the youngest team (Memphis Grizzlies) should run all over the vets? WRONG. Despite their ages, the vets in the division know how to win, and this should be one of the most competitive division races in the NBA as anyone can come out on top. Just don't be too upset if this preview is as bland as Tim Duncan's post game. Bland, yet effective! (we will be keeping with the theme of worst to best, including odds they will win the title)

5. Memphis Grizzlies 75 to 1

Someone has to be in last place. Too bad it looks like it's going to be Memphis. The Grizzlies return virtually the same roster from 2009-2010 that won 40 games, with the addition of defensive specialist Tony Allen from Boston (yawn). They did manage to retain restricted free agent Rudy Gay by throwing entirely too much money to him so don't be shocked if he doesn't always play up to that max contract. The Griz do have some solid pieces with Gay, O.J. Mayo, a revitalized Zack Randolph (who somehow scores without ever jumping) and the 'other' Gasol (Marc) but they neglected to address their biggest hole, back up point guard. Mike Conley is decent at best but Acie Law isn't. The Grizzlies will be hard pressed to duplicate last year's win total.

4. New Orleans Hornets 75 to 1

Remember all that rumbling that Chris Paul wasn't happy in NO and wanted to be traded? Don't be fooled into thinking he's happy just because they traded for Trevor Ariza's terrible shot selection. True, they got more athletic on the wing with Ariza but they also got weaker in the back court by dealing Darren Collison to the Pacers. Peja Stojakovic is old and not the threat he once was. David West is getting older. Adding Italian shooter Marco Belinelli and PG Jeryd Bayless looks good on paper but not exactly blockbuster moves. So did the Hornets really do enough to keep CP3 happy? I say no, but the Hornets can still make things interesting.

3. Houston Rockets 35 to 1

The Rockets managed to stay over .500, despite missing their biggest piece Yao Ming (pun intended). They relied heavily on the shoulders of Aaron Brooks who raised a lot of eyebrows by averaging close to 20 ppg. That was no fluke as the little fella can really play. The Rockets traded Ariza and return Kevin Martin who is always good for 20 a night and some tough defenders in Shane Battier and Louis Scola. Yao is slated to only play around 24 minutes a night, but that should be good for 15-18 ppg and close to 10 boards. The x-factor here may be Scola's post game. He was absolutely unstoppable on the block in the World Games this summer so look for him to be more assertive, especially when Yao hits the bench.

2. San Antonio Spurs 25 to 1

Every year we expect the Spurs to be on the decline and they get off to a slow start and every year they come on late in the season and end up making a run in the playoffs, although last year's run ended by being swept by the Suns. They bring back the same boring starting five as last season but are adding a little youth to the bench by drafting swing man James Anderson for Oklahoma St. The Spurs can expect to get nice production from other youngsters George Hill (who may be their point guard of the future) and PF DeJuan Blair. Blair is said to be in great shape this season and collects rebounds like a man possessed. Expect close to 50 wins, low scores and another playoff appearance. Business as usual.

1. Dallas Mavericks 20 to 1

Dirk Nowitzki golden locks and company are back and looking to attempt a return to the Finals, and have loaded up with post players to be able to throw at the Lakers this season. Why else would you sign Tyson Chandler and keep Brendan Haywood, as well as acquire Alexis Ajinca from Charlotte (yes, that's a man's name). But we can't forget the Mavs are the league's oldest team (Jason Kidd is pushing 38) and not very athletic outside of Shawn Marion, and he's not what he used to be. One thing to watch: Caron Butler is in a contract year, so that means big numbers and inspired play all season from him. I still say slot them down for 53-55 wins and a second round exit to either the Thunder or Lakers, whichever one finishes 2nd in the West.


Western Conference Preview : Pacific Division

The Pacific Division of the NBA is the home of fast paced basketball, no real defense and the simple fact that the O'Brien Trophy is resting within the division with possibly the best team in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers. With that said, I actually think the Pacific is going to shock the NBA world with the possibility of sending 3 teams to the playoffs!!! Wanna hear it, hear it go... * I will also keep with the Vegas odds theme * (good call @marcusjnorris)

5) Sacramento Kings 100-1

I honestly think positions 2-5 will be a toss-up in the Pacific Division, but the Sacramento Kings could hold down the last spot. Led by last season's Rookie Of The Year, Tyreke Evans, the Kings are going to push the pace of the game and try to out gun teams. The keys for success here lie with how DeMarcus Cousins evolves in his rookie season and if Omri Caspi can be a consistent threat. The L's will fill up in the record column until they learn how to close teams out. The Kings were in a lot of games last year, but could not seal the deal. Again, the 2-5 slots are up for grabs, but I think end of game scenario's will end up hurting the Sacramento Kings.

4) Phoenix Suns 50-1

Bold prediction here, but I have a theme working for my 3 team playoff prediction. The Phoenix Suns cannot be that bad when you have a Steve Nash that can make the worst of players look and play better. The question here is who will replace the dominating presence of A'mare Stoudemire. Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson will more than likely take on the bulk of the scoring for these Suns, but generally speaking, jumpshots may end up being the achillies heal. The X-Factor will be Robin Lopez, if he can average anything close to a double-double the Phoenix Suns could be in good shape.

3) Los Angeles Clippers 75-1 (Playoff 8th Seed)

Yea, I said it, the Los Angeles Clippers will be the 8th seed in the West this year. I think Eric Gordon will be much improved after his experience with Team USA and quite possibly lead the Clippers in scoring. We are all excited to see if Blake Griffin is going to hold up for the season and what he will produce. Judging by the pre-season, Griffin is a double-double waiting to happen. Chris Kaman is solid on the block and can give good production. The X-Factor is Baron Davis. Baron Davis is an all-star caliber player, when he wants to be. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Baron becomes the leader the Clippers need and gets them to that 8th seed.

2) Golden State Warriors 150-1 (Playoff 7th Seed)

Bold prediction on the 7th seed, but here is what I see. The Golden State Warriors are going to live and die by the decisions of one Monta Ellis. Monta can score the ball with anyone of the top scorers in the league. The problem is that Monta is a volume shooter/scorer and that can be what puts the Warriors in the 7th seed of the playoffs or with one of the worst records in the league. Stephen Curry is the other shooter/scorer and his experience with Team USA will help him improve this season. Curry has one of the purest shots in the league and can put up good numbers, if he is on. Jumpshots are clearly up in Golden State, which is why the addition of David Lee will pay off royally. Lee is a hard working rebound machine and you have to believe some of those will come on the offensive end, he also has post game which is needed. Two X-Factors here... First, can Monta and Stephen become a dynamic scoring duo? Second, will Reggie Williams get a chance to do what he can do? Williams is a good scorer that can definitely add an extra threat. With that said, I think the Golden State Warriors will sneak into that 7th spot in the Western Conference Playoffs.

1) Los Angeles Lakers 7-2 (Playoff 2nd Seed?)

The reigning and defending back to back NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers are looking to send Phil Jackson off into the sunset with an unprecedented 12th championship on 4 3-peats. It's no secret the Los Angeles Lakers will go as far as Kobe Bryant wills them to go, but health will be a concern for this season's Laker team. Kobe is coming off knee surgery and that needs rest, but Kobe is going to play and I will not count out the best player in the world if he wants to play. We know how Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom will fit within the offense and clearly it equals championships. Not to be a broken Laker record, but the concern is the Laker bench. I think additions of Matt Barnes and Steve Blake will add good defensive depth, so it just depends on how they fit in the offense. Let Shannon Brown dunk and maybe Sasha Vuacic can re-discover his confidence and jumpshot after his recent engagement. The X-Factor is Andrew Bynum and how soon will he be back from yet another knee injury. My advice is to sit Andrew until January and let him get back to speed from there, because the Lakers do not need him in the regular season. They do however, need to let him get some time in and get re-adjusted to the speed of the game and Lamar Odom back to leading the bench. So health concerns and re-adjustment will probably put the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2nd seed of the Western Conference, but I do see them with the 3-peat. The Champs are here again!!!

Oh and by the way, the theme I mentioned for playoff positioning is "improvement by playing for Team USA Basketball." Which is why I think OKC and Kevin Durant will take the 1 seed...

- @lostherod

NBA Season Preview: Central Division

What a difference an NBA off-season can make. We all know about how #6 jumped ship and left e-Mo Williams crying at the alter (this song probably sums up how e-Mo feels). That move alone shifted the whole balance of the standings (to quote Kanye, no one man should have all that power). But that wasn't the only significant change in the Central. The Chicago Bulls successfully managed to acquire every relevant Utah Jazz member not named "Deron". Indiana finally landed the point guard they've been needing since, well, ever. Detroit was silly enough to give ol' man river a deal and a shot at playing time (while competing with 8 other guard/forwards. Motivation? Not so much).

But who is the cream on the Central Division crop? Here's my view, weakest to strongest (with Vegas odds of each team's title chances). Remember, gambling is illegal so no blaming us if you get "the man" on your back.

5. Detroit Pistons 100 to 1

The Pistons used to be somebodies. They used to be contenders. Then they did something that made everyone scratch their heads; traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson (and we all see how that worked out for them). Now they are experimenting with another 30+ vet with something to prove but also with a history of injuries. If Tracy McGrady can make it through the season and put up a respectable 15+ ppg than the move doesn't look that bad, but T-Mac has to not only stay healthy, he also has to compete with Austin Daye, Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshawn Prince for playing time. Maybe Joe Dumars has lost that magic that got the Pistons to the back to back playoffs appearances. Maybe they should bring back Rasheed Wallace and start another arena brawl. That might be the most exciting thing for Pistons this season.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers 100 to 1

All Mo Williams jokes aside, Cleveland too a very bit hit this summer. The franchise went to perennial title contenders to lottery team virtually overnight. And who's slotted to replace #6 as the starting small forward? The great Jamario Moon and his career 7 ppg ladies and gentlemen! Cavs fans can look forward to one thing this season: cheap tickets and the J.J. Hickson project. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this isn't quite what Antawn Jamison and Byron Scott signed up for.

3. Indiana Pacers 100 to 1

Raise your hand if you knew the Pacers were only 9 games under .500 last season... Yes, they lost 50 games, but considering their point guards were Earl Watson and the Get Along Gang, that ain't as bad as it looks. Bring in Darren Collison (who put up 18.8/9/3.5 filling in for Chris Paul as a rookie last season) and put him together with Danny Granger and that should be good for a few more W's. Losing Troy Murphy may hurt a tad, but if Roy Hibbert can learn how to rebound as a 7-footer should they should be ok. Watch  out for rookie Paul George (and someone please get Lance Stephenson anger management classes or relationship counseling).

2. Milwaukee Bucks 40 to 1

Quietly, the Bucks had a solid off season by picking up Corey Maggette (who gets more calls than anyone this side of Kobe) swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts from NJ and the human suitcase who goes by Drew Gooden (playing for his seventh team in FOUR YEARS! He should try to play for every team in the world; why settle for just the NBA?) But the Bucks biggest addition may be the return of Andrew Bogut, who was an all-star before that nasty arm injury late last season. If PG Brandon Jennings can improve his shot selection and avoid the sophomore slump the Bucks should contend for a middle playoff seed. But a lack of depth in the paint will keep them from serious contention.

1. Chicago Bulls 18 to 1

Don't look now but the Chicago J... I mean Bulls are back amongst the NBA's elite, led by all-star point Derrick Rose. Even though the Bulls missed on adding #6 in free agency, they were aggressive and added Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer and sharp shooter Kyle Korver from the Jazz's playoff teams to go with Rose, Joakim Noah's pony tail and Luol Deng (who seems to have been on the trading block since birth). The Bulls reluctance to include Noah in a trade for Carmelo Anthony may prove to be a very smart move as they need to size to contend with Boston & Miami for the Eastern crown. I like the Bulls chances, and like Rose and Slim Chin say (that Asian guy that's in all the recent comedies) "Fast Don't Lie" (I have no idea what that means exactly, but it's still funny).


NBA Season Preview: Atlantic Division

This may be the final National Basketball Association season in the history of the world (Of the world, Craig!). With the players strike looming at the end of the season, and 2012 right around the corner (which will be the end of mankind), its safe to say few if any NBA seasons have been anticipated as eagerly as the 2010-11 is.

Major story lines abound: the Los Angeles Lakers attempting a three-peat, Lebron James looking to prove his "Decision" was the right one, Carmelo Anthony allowing La La to wear the pants in the house and force a trade to the New York Knicks, Kevin Durant possibly stealing the MVP award from Lebron by swaying voters with his world class talent and "aw-shucks" personality, the Boston Celtics using the Smokey from "Friday" approach (The older the berry, the sweeter the juice)... and those are the mainstream stories.

Can't forget these gems for true NBA junkies: the Utah Jazz trading for Karl Malone 2.0 (Al Jefferson) and teaming him with Deron Williams' Ceasar, Steve Nash playing with some guys from the Phoenix area YMCA adult league, Blake Griffin leading the Los Angeles Clippers to the eighth seed in the west, John Wall doing the "John Wall Dance" in front of a half empty crowd and an awkward looking Russian billionaire, Dwight Howard possibly learning an actual post move from Hakeem Olajuwan, Derrick Rose looking incredibly uncomfortable in those Adidas commercials with the Asian dude from "The Hangover"...

Most importantly, J.R. Smith, Chris Anderson, and Kenyon Martin forming some sort of neck tattoo Voltron in the middle of a game, and using their powers to stop a terrorist attack at the Pepsi Center.

(And the All-Star game is in Los Angeles too? Sheeeeeeeeeeet.)

Without any further delay (or lame jokes), lets preview the Atlantic Division. We'll do power rankings from leas to greatest. Short and sweet, Las Vegas odds to win the title will appear next to the team name. Gambling is still illegal, along with prostitution and marijuana. Act accordingly.

5.) Toronto Raptors 200 to 1

They will be terrible. PG Jose Calderon is serviceable, and Demar Derozan will make a few highlight dunks, but their starting small forward is Linus Kleiza, and they paid Amir Johnson $34 million when no one else would have given him half that amount. I will pick them to win one big game this season: Wednesday, Feb. 16 2011 at home against the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade may miss the game with an injury or a custody hearing. There may even be an "incident".

4.) Philadelphia 76ers 100 to 1

Doug Collins is the head coach (red flag number 1). Number 2 overall pick Evan Turner is suffering from maturity issues (red flag number 2). Elton Brand's knee (red flag number 3). Philly fans tortured by a Phillies NLCS upset, and the Eagles eventual January folding, will take all their anger and apathy out on this admittedly mediocre team (red flag number 4).

3.) New Jersey Nets 125 to 1

The fact that I predict they'll be better than the 76ers and the Raptors should be cause for celebration in New Jersey. That will be quite the improvement from last year's 12-70 season. Avery (Ayyy-VOR-EE) Johnson will lean heavily on his guards (Devin Harris, Terrence Williams, Jordan Farmar, and Anthony Morrow) who would all combine to make one better than average NBA point guard. Troy Murphy will also be a compliment as a rebounder alongside Brook Lopez. I predict a not-to-shaby 32 wins.

2.) New York Knicks 50-1

Amare' Stoudemire and Raymond Felton will indeed make that big of a difference, and once the trade for Carmelo Anthony is finally done (it's gonna happen) don't be surprised when you see the Knicks in the second round of the playoffs.

And for the record, if you don't want this Carmelo-to-NY trade to happen, you're one of those parity-loving socialist, you have abandonment issues, and you generally suck the life out of all fun things. Your friends hate you, and your father is extremely disappointed in the decisions you've made in life.

1.) Boston Celtics 8-1

Facts are facts. The Celtics had a lead in the 4th quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals just four months ago. This offseason they added a fourth future Hall of Famer (a motivated and in-shape Shaquille O'Neal), another O'Neal (Jermaine) to bang bodies, and one bad yellow mother shut-yo-mouth (I'm just talking about Delonte West). Not only did they make smart free agent signings, but they drafted well (guard Avery Bradley from Texas and forward Luke Harangody from Notre Dame). The Celtics are primed to make yet another deep playoff run, possibly challenging talented guys from South Beach.

Starin' at NFL Week 7 Through My Rear View

My seventh favorite Tupac Shakur song of all time (of all time!) will serve as the theme for this post.

"Staring Through My Rearview" was one of Pac's original posthumus releases, appearing on the 1997 "Gang Related" soundtrack. Of course, more resourceful folk like myself had it a tad bit before then, as part of the many Makaveli bootleg mixtapes. The song wasn't the greatest one that Pac had ever done, yet of the songs released after his murder it captures the essence of what I'd always viewed him to be. Reflective, introspective, yet still angry, and of course down for his "homies".

(In case you were wondering, the six songs that rank above "Staring Through My Rearview" are: 6.) "Smile" feat. Scarface, 5.) "So Many Tears", 4.) "Hail Mary", 3.) "Keep Ya Head Up", 2.) "I Get Around" feat. Digital Underground, and 1.) "Brenda's Got a Baby". Each song holds its own as a song, and holds up over time. If you disagree, screw you. It's my list.)

Anyway, I chose to use this song to help us accurately reflect on the week that was in the NFL. Tupac had a Seven Day Theory (only God knows what the heck it was), and I have my Week Seven Theory. My theory simply states, we know who the cream of the crop in the NFL is, even if we don't know we know it yet.

(Keanu Reeves says, "Whoaaa...")

Follow me now, as we stare at Week 7 through our rearview.

"Multiple gunshots fill the block, the fun stops"

New York Giants 42, Dallas Cowboys 35

Green Bay Packers 28, Minnesota Vikings 24

The season effectivly ended for the two losing teams this week. The Cowboys not only lost a home game to their division rivals, but they lost quarterback Tony Romo for at least one month. The Vikings will never sit Brett Favre, and Favre won't ask for time off until he reaches that magical number of consecutive starts (300).

Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers were able to beat their ex-husband and division rivals at the same time.

The New York Giants looked bad (Eli Manning threw 2 INTs before his first completion), then great (after trailing 10-0, they managed to take a 24-20 halftime lead, and extended it to 38-20 by the end of the third), and then terrible again (horrible fourth quarter INT by Manning, as well as an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble, allowing the Cowboys to get the game to within one score). Business as usual.

"You get shot while the whole block staring..."

Falcons 39, Bengals 32
Patriots 23, Chargers 20

The Chargers, Falcons, Patriots, and Bengals were all generally viewed as contenders in their respective conferences at the beginning of the season. Once the games started, however, each showed signs of not being as solid as previously thought.

The Patriots gave the New York Jets their first win of the season, and the offense looked terrible in doing so. The Falcons needed a fumble by Nate Clements during an interception return in order to keep them from losing at home to the winless 49ers. The Bengals "TOcho Show" couldn't get off the ground because Carson Palmer was delaying production. The Chargers lost games to the division rival Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, as well as the rookie QB led St. Louis Rams.

In the matchup between the Falcons and Bengals, each team revealed its stripes, for better or worse. Much like their Week 1 loss to New England, the Bengals allowed the Falcons to take a 24-3 halftime lead behind big pass plays from QB Matt Ryan to WR Roddy White. White finished with 11 catches for 211 yards and 2 tds. The Bengals woke up in the second half, scoring 22 third quarter points and taking a 25-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.

But poor coaching (two missed two-point conversion late in the third, when an extra point would have given them a three-point lead), poor defense (along with White's production, RB Michael Turner ran for 121 yards and 2 tds), and one untimely turnover (Cedric Benson's fourth quarter fumble) resulted in the seven point loss. The Bengals are now 2-4, and as Terrell Owens said via postgame tweet, "Wht in Bengal Nation is goin on?!!!". Indeed.

The Falcons meanwhile ascend to 5-2, and sit atop the NFC South. They've won five of their last six games, and seem to have found the chemistry on offense they had back in 2008 with the Ryan-Turner-White combo.

In southern California, the Patriots continued to show that they will win games by being stubborn, spiteful, and fueled by nothing but the desire to be turds in the punchbowl. The Pats traded away Randy Moss three weeks ago, brought in Deion Branch to replace him, and Tom Brady has a QB rating of 75, and has thrown exactly two TDs.

Their record over that time: 2-0. They won both games by the exact same score, 23-20. Go figure.

They've shown that they will indeed make the playoffs, despite having no real quality strength to point to. They have no running game. They have no deep threat. Their defense ranks 29th against the pass, and is in the bottom half against the run. Yet they are 5-1, and tied for first in the AFC East with the Jets.

The Chargers are in full-fleged panic mode, but that's really nothing new. Week 6 last year, they were 2-3. This year 2-4. Last year, they finished the season by winning the last 11 games in a row. This most recent loss (a typical heartbreaker where Phillip Rivers pulls the team back from a deficit, only to lose out on a missed field goal), dropped them to 2-5.

With four games remaining against AFC West opponents, and one game against San Francisco, they can still pencil themselves in for 7 wins if they get their act together. But getting above .500 will be problematic, since they'd have to win at least two games against Indianapolis, Houston, Tennessee, or Cincy.

"I will never understand this society..."

Carolina Panthers 23, San Francisco 49ers 20

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18, St. Louis Rams 17

Kansas City Chiefs 42, Jacksonville Jaguars 20

None of these six teams are any good, but two either lead their division, or are in a first place tie. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won 4 games against the bottom of the barrell competition. That doesn't stop head coach Raheem Morris from saying his team is the best in the NFC. (*Antoine Dodson voice* You are sooooo duuuummmmmb...)

The Kansas City Chiefs are actually halfway decent, but they benefit greatly from playing in the lackluster AFC West. Still, Thomas Jones and Jamal Charles are making quite a duo in the backfield, and Dwayne Bowe made two sepctacular TD catches. They'll end up at 9-7, and in the playoffs.

"Go on baby, scream to God, he can't hear you..."

Oakland Raiders 59, Denver Broncos 14
Baltimore Ravens 37, Buffalo Bills 34

The Oakland Raiders should have been arrested for what they did to the Broncos. In Denver no less. This game should be enough to get Josh McDaniels fired as head coach.

Meanwhile, don't look now but the Raiders are 3-4, and second place in the AFC West, Even they don't know how they've done it.
As we all know by now, God doesn't care at all about the Buffalo Bills. They jumped out to a 24
point lead, only to see almost all of it gone by halftime. Then, after going down by ten, the Bills came all the way back, and forced overtime on a last second field goal. Then with Buffalo driving in overtime, Ray Lewis literally took the ball from tight end Shawn Nelson's hands. The rest was history, an all to familiar one to Bills fans.

"First they try to murder me, then they lie to me..."

Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Miami Dolphins 22

In the ultimate hose job of the week, Ben Rothlisberger ironically benefits yet again from insufficient evidence. His goal line fumble should have been ruled Dolphins football, but the referees clamed ignorance, and the Dolphins fall to 3-3. The Steelers didn't look dominant, but they did make big plays. The Dolphins struggled to score TDs in the red zone, and in the end that lost them the game just as much as the referees incompetence.

"Now you see em, now you don't.
Some n----s be here for a moment, and then they gon'... What happened to em?" - E.D.I. Mean

Washington Redskins 17, Chicago Bears 14

Tennessee Titans 37, Philadelphia Eagles 19

The Chicago Bears were who we thought they were: a team unable to protect Jay Cutler. Cutler also was who we thought he was: a very generous giver of INTs. The loss dropped them to 4-3, and all signs point to them making a steady decline as the season plays out. The Redskins improve to 4-3, and are by far the hardest above .500 team to figure out.

The Tennessee Titans used 27 4th quarter points to win against the Eagles. Kevin Kolb was unable to move the offense when the Titans were rallying in the 4th, and because of that, we may not see him again this season. Head coach Andy Reid announced Michael Vick will be returning as starting quarterback following the bye week.

"I can feel your heart beating fast, guess its time to die..."
Cleveland Browns 30, New Orleans Saints 10
The feel-good story of the 2009 NFL season is over. The New Orleans Saints will not repeat as champs, and Drew Brees WILL have another multiple interception game like the one he had here. Anyone who has ever celebrated on Bourbon St. knows that for all the fun and beads tossed, the hangover is a real one.
"Who dat gon' beat dem Saints?"
Well coming down the stretch they play the Steelers, at the Ravens, at the Bengals, and at Atlanta. We can start there.

Monday, October 25, 2010

NFL Trimester Report: AFC South "Contender or Pretender"

Many experts (and some the 'not quite' experts) proclaimed the AFC South to be the most competitive division in the NFL, and that prediction has somewhat held true as the division has a combined 15 victories to date. Loaded with play makers on every team, any game played within this division has potential to be a great one. On paper, that is. Now on to the review of the division so far...

Tennessee (5-2)
The Tennessee Titans have been able to simply get the job done so far. They feature arguably the NFL's most electric player in running back Chris Johnson who can break a huge run at any moment. The most significant difference this season has been the play of QB Vince Young who is among the league leaders in passing efficiency. Kenny Britt is beginning to look like a legit no. 1 receiver. One glaring weakness in the pass defense, but if they can continue to limit turnovers and keep opposing teams out of the end zone, the Titans should be in good shape for the rest of the season. They still have to face Indy a coupe times late in the season which could determine who takes the division. Contender

Houston (4-2)
The Houston Texans can score points. Period. QB Matt Schaub is showing that his big season last year was no fluke. Wide receiver Andre Johnson is, well, Andre Johnson. The biggest surprise has been running back Arian Foster, who has been outstanding this season after closing out '09 on a high note. Offense is clearly not an issue. The Texans troubles lie with their defense. They are dead last in defending the pass and 31st in total yards allowed. And in this division that is definitely not going to get it done. Pretender

Indianapolis (4-2)
As long as Peyton Manning is their quarterback, the Indianapolis Colts will always be ranked among the best teams in the league. The man is an absolute surgeon out on the field. It's amazing what the offense accomplishes with such a poor running game. RB Joseph Addai may be on pace for over 1,000 yards but the Colts still rank in the bottom 5 in rushing. Add in a season-ending injury to TE Dallas Clark, and the pressure is definitely on Manning to find ways to get spread the ball to Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. The Colts defense is shaky and gives up a ton of yards on the ground, doesn't force many turnovers and hasn't really generated a strong pass rush. They also have lost their first two division games. But in the end, you really can't feel safe betting against Manning. Contender

Jacksonville (3-4)
So who are the Jaguars exactly? Are they the team who beat the Colts on a 59-yard field goal, or the team that has lost their last two games by a combined score of 52-23? The latter gets my vote. The only facet of the game the Jags have been consistent in is inconsistency (let that marinate for a second). QB David Garrard is as erratic as they come and self-proclaimed fantasy football star RB Maurice Jones-Drew has been anything but. And the defense? The only defensive unit worse in the NFL are the winless Buffalo Bills. Yikes. Pretender


The Turkish Answer

When money talks, alcoholism flies thousands of miles to play basketball.
Allen Iverson has agreed in principle to a 2-year, $4 million deal with Besiktas, a Turkish pro team, according to Yahoo! Sports. Iverson is expected to sign the deal this week, and fly out to Turkey to report for duty.

The 35-year old Iverson was unable to field any worthwhile NBA suitors, after a very tumultuous 2009-10 NBA season, in which he played three games for the Memphis Grizzlies, retired, came out of retirement, returned to play for the Philadelphia 76ers, took a leave of absence in March, and later had Stephen A. Smith report that his alcoholism was spiraling his life out of control.

And he's also getting divorced.

The former league MVP and 17th leading scorer of all-time will travel to the United States and meet with Besiktas executive board member Seref Yalcin to discuss the details of the deal, which include arrangements that can be made for his children to go to school in Turkey.

For anyone who has followed the career of Iverson, this news is pretty depressing. To many, he was less a basketball talent, and more of a cultural icon. At barely 6 feet tall, Iverson drove to the hole amongst the giants, played with relentless passion, and brought the hood with him every step along the way. Iverson brought the tattoos and the long hair to the league, and largely because of his platform, spilled it over into the society at large. Wasn't a good thing, or a bad thing, just a "thing" thing. He was the "Tipping Point" of the hood becoming mainstream in the NBA. He was the reason David Stern and league owners enacted a dress code.

He is also the reason players like Monte Ellis, Jason Terry, Eric Gordon, and other under sized two guards aren't forced into playing the point. Iverson was a shooting guard, no "ifs", "ands", or "buts" about it. When he got the ball, it was pretty much a 90 percent chance that it was going up, and not around.

He was also the most open, honest, and quotable player of his era. As always was the case with Iverson, that unique quality of his had its own good and bad sides. We all remember his "Practice" tirade, but there was also this jewel (pun intended) about the fans relationship with the players: "Its unfair because, the people booing, I believe, wouldn't want to have their child booed. Fans don't understand our lives and what we go through. They don't look at us as humans. We love the fans because they support and love the game, but at the same time it hurts when they turn their back on us."

And really, at this point, the fans, the ones that repped A.I. over the course of his 15 year odyssey through the NBA, is all he has left. If you loved him for his persona, or just appreciated the way he maximized every ounce of physical potential out of his 6'0", 170 lb frame, with freakishly long arms (for real, I think he is half orangutan), this last phase of his career has to be a downer, at least a little bit.

Good luck in Turkey, "Bubba Chuck".

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NFL Trimester Report: AFC North "Contender or Pretender"

So what makes a team a "contender"? It takes more than a collection of big names and a lot of so-called talent. While those factors do help, having the ability to pull together as a team and finding ways to win in the face of adversity is the key quality of a "contender". With that said, let's get into the profiles of the AFC North...

Pittsburgh (4-1)
It was difficult to predict how the Steelers would look going into the season as their franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The Steelers managed to jump out to a nice start by utilizing a ball control offense behind RB Rashard Mendenhall and a stingy defense. The defense is only giving up an amazingly low 63 rushing yards per game, rank fourth in total defense and allow the fewest points in the NFL (12 per game). The Steel Curtain is legit. With Roethlisberger back under center (he looked very good in his first game back) this gives the Steelers offense that big play element that could possibly put them over the top. Here's one for you Steelers fans w/ the terrible towels (Pittsburgh representer Wiz Khalifa's "Black & Yellow") Contender

Baltimore (4-2)
The Ravens have already notched a couple of nice victories so far, having issued to serious contenders their only losses early in the season (beating the Jets 10-9 in the season opener and and a 17-14 victory over the Steelers sans Roethlisberger). Joe Flacco seems to have already developed nice chemistry with Anquan Boldin as the two look like they have been playing together for years. The offense is still waiting for RB Ray Rice to get going but they still are able to move the ball. The defense,still led by intense LB Ray Lewis, has been excellent against the pass early on as well, and will be getting S Ed Reed back this week. The Ravens are definitely a team to be reckoned with the rest of the season. Contender

Cincinnatti (2-3)
2010 was supposed to be the season that the Bengals turned the page and became one of the best teams in the league but something seems to be lacking. QB Carson Palmer has been erratic so far which has limited the play making ability of boistrous wide receiver tandom Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco (both who appear to be more concerned with their off the field personas instead of on the grid iron). We won't even talk about their show together. Their remaining schedule looks pretty tough, so it may be time for the aging Bengals to start rebuilding for the future as their window is quickly closing. Pretender

Cleveland (1-5)
The Browns went into this season in full rebuild mode afer drafting Colt McCoy to be their eventual starter and signing vet Jake Delhomme to hold down the spot until McCoy was ready. We all know Delhomme is not very good. At all. Injuries to Delhomme and back up Seneca Wallace forced the Browns to go to McCoy a little earlier than expected so fans are getting a glimpse of the future right now. The Browns won't win many games this year, but given the right weapons and McCoy might finally be the quarterback they have been looking for. If they can keep him upright, of course. Pretender


Stack in Black (and Red)

The Miami Heat can now finally consider themselves legitimate title contenders.

The NBA season is just days away from beginning, and the Heat had built up a small amount of hype over the offseason. Today it was announced that the team has inked Jerry Stackhouse to a contract. Stackhouse was signed after it was previously announced small forward Mike Miller would be out until January with an injury.

The 36-year old Stackhouse played last season with the Milwaukee Bucks and averaged 8.5 ppg while shooting a very "Stack-esque" 40% from the field. The former NBA scoring leader will be the second player the Heat signed this offseason who at one time led the league in scoring.

The other was some guy named Lebron James.

No word on how much Stackhouse will be expected to contribute, given the Heat also have the younger James Jones who also plays the small forward position, and neither is expected to start. It's probable that Stackhouse will assume a team role similar to the one Gary Payton took on the team's last (and only) championship run; a veteran reserve who may be called on from time-to-time, but isn't expected to be an every game star.

Stackhouse was the third overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1995, and made the All-Rookie team averaging 19 ppg. But he was traded away to the Detroit Pistons following an unsuccesful attempt to team his talents alongside Allen Iverson.

Stackhouse rejuvenated his career in Detroit alongside Grant Hill. After Hill signed with the Orlando Magic in 2000, "Stack" led the league in scoring with 29 ppg in 2001, and led the team to the playoffs in 2002. He was traded by the Pistons to the Washington Wizards for Richard Hamilton that same offseason.

After two mediocre seasons in Washington playing alongside fellow North Carolina Tar Heel legend Michael Jordan, he traded again, this time to the Dallas Mavericks. Stackhouse spent five seasons in Dallas primarily as a 6th and 7th man. He played on the 2006 Mavericks who lost to the Heat in the Finals. Stackhouse was suspended for Game 5 of that Finals after a flagrant foul he committed against Shaquille O'Neal.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Addition By Contraction... Wait, What?

Say it ain't so Stern!

Saw this story over at Apparently NBA Commissioner David Stern thinks the league may need to drop a couple teams in markets to get player costs down, which could spell trouble for cities with the lowest NBA attendance (yes, you Minnesota & Charlotte).

Despite the financial woes the NBA seems to be facing, David Stern has done a decent job with the league since becoming commissioner back in 1984 (except for "rumor" of the fixed 1985 draft that landed Stern's hometown Knicks Patrick Ewing). He does have a few "fails" on his resume, such as the lame hand checking rules, allowed zone defense and of course the NBA dress code.

Under Stern, the NBA has added 7 teams, expanded it's global influence and the league's media presence has grown tremendously. While fewer teams may bring costs down and ultimately raise competition levels, the fan in me hopes this does not come to pass. I like to enjoy as many games and highlights as possible (not to mention all the dreams and jobs that would be sacrificed). I doubt this change would really go down, and let's all hope I'm right. Which reminds me, I need to get my NBA League Pass game up...


Stick A Fork In 'Em... Yankees @ Rangers Game 6 Preview

Down 3-2 in the series, The NY Yankees are facing elimination and an abrupt end to their quest for a 28th World Series title. They send 18-game winner Phil Hughes to the mound to face a Texas lineup that led the AL in batting average for the regular season and also leading MLB in postseason hitting. Hughes so far is sporting a 5.73 ERA this postseason, and gave up 7 runs to the Rangers while losing Game 2. Previous to Game 2, Hughes was 7-4 with a 3.47 ERA on the road in the regular season.

The Yankees will face veteran right hander Colby Lewis, who is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in two starts this postseason and was 6-4 with an ERA of 3.41 at home this season. Lewis also ranked 7th in the AL in strikeouts and will attempt to again keep the Yankees at bay with a mix of off speed pitches. Lewis was the victor in Game 2 while holding the Yankees to only 2 runs in 5 and 2/3 innings.

Player to Watch: Texas OF Josh Hamilton
So far this postseason MVP candidate Hamilton is leading the AL in home runs (4) and RBI's (8) despite only batting .216... in the regular season Hamilton led the AL with a .359 batting average, and hit .390 at home and .401 against right handed pitching.

Prediction: Rangers send the Yankees packing and will make their first appearance in the World Series behind their offense in a close one. Texas 6 - NYY 4


NFL Trimester Report: AFC East "Contender or Pretender"

I like to jokingly refer to this as the "Hollywood" division, thanks to HBO's popular "Hard Knocks" series that featured Rex Ryan and the Jets (sounds like a 70's cover band, but that's just me. Moving along...) Throw in Tom Brady and his Justin Beiber haircut, Brandon Marshall and his inability to get in the end zone and the NFL floor mat that is currently the Buffalo Bills and voila, you have the 2010 AFC East. So without any further delay let's get into it, shall we?

New York Jets (5-1)
Going into the season many people were on the fence about the Jets Super Bowl potential, and rightfully so. They brought in a slew of new veteran faces and QB Mark Sanchez was coming off a sub par rookie season, though he did flash signs in the playoffs. But so far, the Jets have validated head coach Rex Ryan's confidence. Sanchez has limited turnovers and gotten the offense in the end zone, RB Ladanian Tomlinson looks rejuvenated, and the defense has looked almost as good as advertised (with or without Darrelle Revis and his shaky hamstring). The Jets are 3-0 on the road, and their only loss so far was by 1 point to Baltimore in the opener. Looks like Rex knew was he was talking about. And Antonio Cromartie still has a LOT of  kidsContender

New England (4-1)
This '10 version of the Patriots is a far cry from the '07 version that was lighting up the scoreboard like a game of Madden, but they are still competitive. Yes, they traded Randy Moss to the Vikings for a 3rd round pick and a box of pop tarts, but he only had 9 receptions and a few touchdowns at the time. Still, there is no substitute for that kind of talent. They replaced him by trading the pop tarts to the Seahawks and reuniting Brady with Deion Branch who in one game already has as many receptions as Moss had with the Pats. While the move was a but of a downgrade talent-wise, you can bet that the Pats will get max value out of Branch. They feature a running back by committee format that has actually been productive. Rookie hybrid TE/WR Aaron Hernandez has been surprisingly effective and Wes Welker is back and healthy. The Patriots biggest issue is they have no pass rush and they give up almost 275 passing yards a game, and even let the Bills hang 30 on them. That ain't gonna cut it. Pretender

Miami (3-2)
So far, the Dolphins look like the definition of an "average" team. Chad Henne is your average NFL starting quarterback. Not really good or bad, just average. Big off season acquisition Brandon Marshall only has one touchdown reception so far and how are the rest of the receivers? Average. Their running game with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams? Average. Defensively they rank in the middle of the pack. What's that spell boys and girls? Gold star for you if you guessed average. Know what average gets you at the end of the season? 8-8 if you're lucky. Pretender

Buffalo (0-5)
The season for the Bills resembles something like a car accident, just not the kind you have any interest in watching. They are not very good at all and there really isn't anything for fans to look forward to. Maybe the development of rookie speedster RB C.J. Spiller with bring a glimmer of hope now that Marshawn Lynch has been shipped off to be be Pete Carroll's headache in Seattle. But that is doubtful. Remember when the Bills went to four straight (and lost all four) Super Bowls? Yeah, neither do the fans. Move along people, there isn't much to see here. Pretender


The Mentality and Personality of a Wide Receiver

Over the years, quarterback and wide receiver have become the most heavily scrutinized positions in football. Maybe its because one can't ultimately be successful without the other? Maybe its because they tend to be the most outspoken players in locker rooms? Maybe both.

This piece is about the guys on the receiving end. Often the second most identifiable position in the game. You have the ones known for being flashy and outspoken like Terrell Owens, Chad (Johnson) Ochocinco, Randy Moss, Chris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson, and then you have your more workman-type receivers, Jerry Rice (pictured above), Marvin Harrison, Miles Austin, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson, to name a few.

So the question is, which type makes for a better receiver? Its a damned good one too.

The mentality of a wide receiver is an interesting one. Johnson summed this up best with the title of his 1996 bestseller, Just Give Me the Damn Ball. While brash, you have to admire his confidence. Who wants a receiver that doesn't want the ball thrown to him? All of the great ones demanded the ball be thrown their way in pressure situations. When the "demanding" gets quotable, we have the difference between diva and workman.

The most glaring issue with an outspoken/diva receiver is the distraction factor. For some reason wide receivers more than any other position player have a way of attracting attention to themselves, for better or (most often) for worse.

A perfect example is Terrell Owens. Statistically, Owens is one of the greatest receivers in history and is a beast on the field, but his legacy is tainted by numerous controversies stemming from his untimely outspokenness to the media, and his cocky on-field persona. We have no problem with the cocky on the field antics, but publicly bad mouthing your quarterbacks and coaching staff is a no-no. In that same regard, you can have a Randy Moss or Chad (Johnson) Ochocinco type, receivers that have reputations as great locker room presences but are very flashy and demonstrative on the field. I think that's a fair trade for their production. Chris Carter and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin were very much the same way (just don't forget about that magic dust, ahem).

Then you have the less flashy, but just as productive wide receiver personalities, such as Rice, Tim Brown and in today's NFL, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and the Houston Texans Andre Johnson. These are the type that go about their business week in and week out without creating waves, or headlines. I'd venture the average fan couldn't pick Johnson out of a lineup. (Fitzgerald is fairly recognizable. More plainly, he resembles Mr. Ed with dreadlocks.)

Former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Harrison was epitome of the "quiet/workman" group during his playing career. He scored 128 receiving TDs without a single memorable celebration. He was often praised for his quiet demeanor and workman-like approach to the game, and then... well...

Marvin had some legal trouble that shed light to a side of Harrison not consistent with being a workman. (Translation: He may or may not have shot a guy, and then may or may not have had him killed to prevent him from testifying. Allegedly.)

Back to the original question, what is the right mentality a receiver should have? When push comes to shove, which do you want on your side?

The NFL definitely has an opinion on the matter. They don't like the diva, no matter how talented or productive they may be. One of the most important ethos projected by the league is solidarity, and an unhappy wide receiver complaining about touches doesn't fit. Organizations have been willing to look past a number of character flaws, but insubordination isn't one of them.

Case in point, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall has been arrested for domestic violence, assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct, an driving under the influence. He's also caught 307 passes and scored 23 TDs from 2007-09 as a member of the Denver Broncos. Naturally, he signed a 4 year, $47 million ($24 million guaranteed) deal this off season.

Meanwhile, Owens, someone who has never been arrested or even accused of a crime, and is third all-time in receiving TDs, is playing on a one year, $2 million ($1 million guaranteed) deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. He didn't even have a contract until the last week of July.

Aside from the ten year age difference (Owens is 36, Marshall 26), there isn't a substantial reason Marshall should be making $23 million more in guaranteed money. Look at their 2010 production:

Marshall 2010 - 5 games, 37 catches, 467 yards, 1 TD

Owens 2010 - 5 games, 31 catches, 476 yards, 2 TD

Do you see a $23 million difference?

Yet, his detractors will say Owens is being paid more than enough money. They'll point out that for all his accomplishments, he's never won the Super Bowl. He's been called a team cancer for every team he's played for other than the Buffalo Bills. His touchdown celebrations are infamous. Plus he has the reality show ('The T.O. Show") that subsequently spawned another wide receiver centered show, "The Flavor of Ochocinco", err "Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch".

No one receiver should have all that power.

And that's really what it's about; power. There is only so much to go around on the football field, and it won't be going to the wide receiver any time soon.

That doesn't mean these guys don't know their self worth. Randy Moss publicly quit on two organizations (Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders) and may have privately quit on a third (New England Patriots) was able to have a trade orchestrated to bring him back to an organization (Vikings) he had already quit on. Moss caught Brett Favre's 300th career TD pass in his first game back with the Vikings. He set the single season TD record (23) by catching Tom Brady's 50th TD of the 2007 season. He, not Brady, was the key reason the 2007 New England Patriots became the first NFL team since the 1972 Dolphins to win 16 regular season games. He scored 47 TDs in the last three seasons alone. Moss does not have a contract for next season.

But Dallas Cowboys wideout Miles Austin does. Austin was an undrafted rookie out of Monmouth University in 2006. He stayed on the roster by playing special teams in Bill Parcells last season coaching the team. When Owens was released, he rose to the spotlight, outplaying his counterpart, Roy E. Williams, and earning an All-Pro nod this past season, his fourth in the league. He signed a 6 year, $54 million extension this offseason. $20 million guaranteed. Still, he's only scored 16 TDs in his entire career.

See what a little solidarity gets you?