Saturday, May 31, 2008

Quote of the Day

Apparently, Bengals WR Chad Johnson was supposed to give away a Lexus to the winner of a raffle, but instead gave the car to some chick he, in all likelihood, was giving Little Chad to. ("Cinco? I thought you said it was ocho!"). Cincinnati area attorney Eric Deters, who is representing the plaintiffs in a class-action suit, was asked if he thought Chad was bright:

"No not at all. Mental agility of a small soap dish."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Joba Chamberlain to Start on Tuesday

Beat writer Peter Abraham is reporting that Joba Chamberlain will start for the Yankees on Tuesday, June 3rd for the Yankees in their game against the Blue Jays. He'll probably pitch around 5 or 6 innings maximum (65-70 pitches), then go for a full ~100 pitch game his next time. The rotation will look like this:


Personally, I've always been in favor of moving Joba to the starting position. Statistically, no matter how you break it, good starting pitching beats a great set-up man. That Joba has a solid variety of pitches and speeds separates him from Mariano Rivera, who made his whole hall of fame career with his cutter. I will say that the transition came faster than I or really anyone expected, but it nevertheless is the right move. If Rasner can keep up his Aaron Small impression, the Yanks starting rotation will be pretty formidable. Now they're just gonna have to figure out what to do with their subpar bullpen.

NBA Mock Draft 2.0

1st Round

1. Chicago Bulls: Michael Beasley
(Kansas State) [PF, 6-10, 235 lbs, 19 yrs] - Rumor has it that the Bulls are enamored with Derrick Rose, but with the recent hiring of Doug Collins, they have to take Beasley. As ESPN's John Hollinger writes, Collins has always run a very slow-paced offense, whereas the Bulls are built to be a fast-paced team. Slowing down the offense could work with a front line of Beasley and Joakim Noah, but it doesn't make much sense with Rose.

2. Miami Heat: Derrick Rose (Memphis) [PG, 6-3, 205 lbs, 19 yrs] - Miami will take whoever drops into its lap at #2. They have to be rooting for the Bulls to take Beasley, as Rose, Wade, and Marion would make for some exciting basketball.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brook Lopez (Stanford) [C, 7-0, 260 lbs, 20 yrs] - O.J. Mayo would be a better pick, but Minnesota is already loaded with young guards. Lopez should be a good fit next to Al Jefferson, even if he doesn't have the same upside of a Mayo or an Eric Gordon.

4. Seattle Supersonics: O.J. Mayo (USC) [SG, 6-4, 195 lbs, 20 yrs] - Supposedly the Sonics are very high on Jerryd Bayless, but it would be very hard to pass up on Mayo here. Mayo has as much potential as any player in the draft and a nucleus of Mayo, Durant, and Jeff Green sounds dynamite.

5. Memphis Grizzlies: Anthony Randolph (LSU) [PF, 6-11, 220 lbs, 18 yrs] - Memphis is lacking in size more than anything else, as the Darko experiment proved unsuccessful. They could take Eric Gordon here as well, but more likely they opt for the big man and select Randolph.

6. New York Knicks: Jerryd Bayless (Arizona) [PG, 6-3, 190 lbs, 19 yrs] - Many believe that D'Antoni's experience with Italian basketball and Danill Gallinari's skill set make the Italian forward a natural pick here, but the Knicks need a point guard above all and, whether or not this factors into the decision, the New York fans will riot if the team takes an international player unknown to casual fans over a talent like Bayless.

7. Los Angeles Clippers: Eric Gordon (Indiana) [SG, 6-4, 215 lbs, 19 yrs] - The Clippers don't have much in the way of shooting guards right now and Gordon's potential is too much to pass up on. They'll take long looks at Gallinari and PGs Russell Westbrook and D.J. Augustin, but landing Gordon this late could be a steal.

8. Milwaukee Bucks: Danilo Gallinari (Italy) [SF, 6-9, 212 lbs, 19 yrs] - While Gallinari doesn't fill a particular need, he is the best player on the board at this point. He could rotate in as SF/PF with Yi Jianlian and Charlie Villanueva, giving the Bucks three versatile forwards with excellent long-term potential.

9. Charlotte Bobcats: Kevin Love (UCLA) [PF, 6-10, 275 lbs, 19 yrs] - While this may seem a bit high for Love, the Bobcats have drafted successful college players with questionable pro prospects since the very beginning. Plus, with his high basketball IQ and sound fundamentals, we may have finally found a rookie who Larry Brown actually likes.

10. New Jersey Nets: DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M) [C, 7-0, 255 lbs, 20 yrs] - Jordan has phenomenal size and athleticism and the only knock on him is his questionable motor. It would be hard for the Nets to pass up on such a talent, especially with the best players on the board being point guards; a position at which the Nets are loaded.

11. Indiana Pacers: D.J. Augustin (Texas) [PG, 6-0, 180 lbs, 20 yrs] - It's a bit of a toss-up here between Augustin and Westbrook, but Augustin is much more proven as a point guard and is probably the best pure point guard in the draft. Augustin's size, or lack thereof, raises questions about whether he can be effective in the NBA, especially considering his Elite Eight struggles against Derrick Rose, but Indiana still takes a chance on him here.

12. Sacramento Kings: Russell Westbrook (UCLA) [PG, 6-3, 189 lbs, 19 yrs] - The Kings need a replacement, or at least a backup for Beno Udrih, though he played very well after taking over for Mike Bibby. Westbrook is more of a combo guard right now, but the Kings can play him off the ball until he develops into a better point guard.

13. Portland Trailblazers: Donte Greene (Syracuse) [SF, 6-10, 225 lbs, 20 yrs] - While it's unclear whether Greene would play the 3 or the 4, he is a very athletic wingman with three-point range on his jumper who could be another key piece for the up-and-coming Blazers. Point guard is more of an area of need, and there's no doubt they'd grab Augustin or Westbrook if one is available, but there are no PGs at this point who wouldn't be major reaches at #13.

14. Golden State Warriors: Darrell Arthur (Kansas) [PF, 6-10, 225 lbs, 20 yrs] - Arthur could provide some much-needed defense and his mid-range shooting ability and athleticism should play well in Don Nelson's system.

15. Phoenix Suns: Brandon Rush (Kansas) [SG, 6-7, 205 lbs, 22 yrs] - If the Suns are going to make a title run, they have to do it now, making Rush the logical pick. As a 22-year old with experience playing under pressure, plus strong perimeter shooting and defense, he should be able to contribute immediately to a Suns playoff run. Or I suppose they could trade the pick for cash...again.

16. Philadelphia 76ers: Marreese Speights (Florida) [C, 6-10, 245 lbs, 19 yrs] - The Sixers are in dire need of three-point shooting, but with Rush taken, their best bet is to improve their depth at center and acquire a low-post scorer. Of course, if they believe they can sign Elton Brand or they trade for a big man, they probably address their shooting guard needs here.

17. Toronto Raptors: Kosta Koufos (Ohio State) [C, 7-0, 265 lbs, 19 yrs] - The Raptors need help at center and Koufos would seem an excellent fit, with his size, skill, and shooting ability. Not to mention, the Raptors add another European player to their already-diverse roster.

18. Washington Wizards: JaVale McGee (Nevada) [C, 7-0, 237 lbs, 20 yrs] - McGee should make a nice backup for Brendan Haywood, as he is more of a scoring big man who was an effective three-point shooter in college. He is also an excellent shot-blocker and could help the Wizards' interior defense.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Chase Budinger (Arizona) [SG, 6-7, 205 lbs, 20 yrs] - More than anything else, the Cavs need to get LeBron some help on offense, and Budinger should be able to provide that. He's an excellent scorer with deep range on his shot. While his defense is suspect, he is athletic enough that he could be a capable defender if properly motivated.

20. Denver Nuggets: Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis) [SG, 6-6, 195 lbs, 21 yrs] - The Nuggets will take a long look at the point guards available (namely, Lawson and Chalmers), but their best bet would probably be to add a shooting guard like Douglas-Roberts. He'll give them a much-needed perimeter defender while also providing another shooter off the bench.

21. New Jersey Nets: Joe Alexander (West Virginia) [SF, 6-8, 220 lbs, 21 yrs] - Alexander could be a steal this late in the draft. He needs to improve his three-point shooting, but he is a superb athlete and should look good running the floor with speedsters Devin Harris and Marcus Williams.

22. Orlando Magic: Robin Lopez (Stanford) [C, 7-0, 245 lbs, 20 yrs] - Brook's twin should give the Magic a boost on the defensive end, often drawing comparisons to Anderson Varejao. After Dwight Howard, the Magic don't have much to offer as far as big men and Lopez should be, or at least develop into, an upgrade over Adonal Foyle.

23. Utah Jazz: Roy Hibbert (Georgetown) [C, 7-2, 275 lbs, 21 yrs] - The Jazz were a very poor shot-blocking team last season and as a result committed a criminal amount of fouls. Hibbert gives them shot-blocking and interior defense and though there are concerns about his lumbering pace, Utah relies mostly on half-court sets, so it shouldn't be a major issue.

24. Seattle Supersonics: Ty Lawson (North Carolina) [PG, 5-11, 195 lbs, 20 yrs] - Lawson excited NBA scouts and GMs with a standout performance in Day One of the Orlando pre-draft camp. Seattle improves their point guard depth by adding Lawson here, after picking Mayo earlier in the draft.

25. Houston Rockets: Bill Walker (Kansas State) [SF, 6-6, 235 lbs, 20 yrs] - It would be hard for the Rockets to pass on Walker this late in the draft. He was thought to have top 5 potential before his ACL injury, but still had a strong season. He is still a very good athlete and a strong three-point shooter. If he can stay healthy, he could be a real steal this late.

26. San Antonio Spurs: Ante Tomic (Croatia) [C, 7-2, 237 lbs, 21 yrs] - The Spurs could also go for Nicholas Batum here, but more likely they take Tomic and let him develop overseas for a few more years.

27. New Orleans Hornets: J.J. Hickson (NC State) [PF, 6-9, 240 lbs, 19 yrs] - Hickson gives the Hornets some much-needed size. His athleticism and speed should make him a good fit running the floor with Chris Paul.

28. Memphis Grizzlies: Nicholas Batum (France) [SF, 6-8, 210 lbs, 19 yrs] - Batum is still raw and fairly inexperienced, but that's not a problem for the rebuilding Grizzlies. He has a ton of upside and the Grizzlies should be able to get him some playing time, or they would have the option of letting him develop further in Europe.

29. Detroit Pistons: D.J. White (Indiana) [PF, 6-9, 240 lbs, 21 yrs] - The Pistons add a big man who should provide solid rebounding and some mid-range shooting. There is no particular area of need for Detroit but after taking three guards in last year's draft, it's hard to imagine they'd take another one here.

30. Boston Celtics: Mario Chalmers (Kansas) [PG, 5-11, 195 lbs, 20 yrs] - Hard to say whether he'd be any better than Gabe Pruitt, who didn't log significant minutes this season. If nothing else, he'd be a popular pick, as his championship game heroics made him one of the best-known players in the draft.

2nd Round

31. Minnesota Timberwolves: Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky) [SG, 6-5, 200 lbs, 22 yrs] - Lee improves Minnesota's shooting guard depth, plus allows them to draft a second player with a girl's name.

32. Seattle Supersonics: Jason Thompson (Rider) [PF, 6-11, 250 lbs, 21 yrs] - He played very well for Rider and already has an NBA-body. His stock would be higher had he played against better competition in college.

33. Portland Trailblazers: Wayne Ellington (North Carolina) [SG, 6-5, 175 lbs, 20 yrs] - Ellington has been one of the better players at the Orlando pre-draft camp and should give Portland some help with its three-point shooting.

34. Minnesota Timberwolves: Trent Plaisted (BYU) [C, 6-11, 245 lbs, 21 yrs] - He's been a very inconsistent player in college, but his talent is enough to get him drafted here.

35. Los Angeles Clippers: Nathan Jawai (Australia) [PF, 6-10, 270 lbs, 21 yrs] - Jawai provides some depth at power forward, which could prove essential should Elton Brand leave via free agency.

36. Portland Trailblazers: Serge Ibaka (Congo) [PF, 6-10, 220 lbs, 18 yrs] - With a pretty full roster, the Blazers can stash Ibaka abroad for a few years and allow him to develop.

37. Milwaukee Bucks: Joey Dorsey (Memphis) [PF, 6-9, 260 lbs, 22 yrs] - Dorsey's pro future is questionable, but many scouts see him as a future Ben Wallace-type player. Milwaukee could use his defensive presence in the middle.

38. Charlotte Bobcats: Davon Jefferson (USC) [SF, 6-8, 215 lbs, 21 yrs] - He needs to work on his fundamentals, but he has great overall potential and could help Charlotte down the road.

39. Chicago Bulls: Alexis Ajinca (France) [PF, 7-1, 240 lbs, 20 yrs] - While he won't contribute immediately, the Bulls have the depth to bring him along slowly or let him develop abroad for now.

40. New Jersey Nets: Jamont Gordon (Mississippi State) [SG, 6-4, 225 lbs, 21 yrs] - Gordon gives the Nets another piece for their bench, in a backup combo guard.

41. Indiana Pacers: Richard Hendrix (Alabama) [PF, 6-9, 260 lbs, 21 yrs] - He's looked good in Orlando so far. While he's a bit undersized, he's worth a look at this point.

42. Sacramento Kings: Gary Forbes (Massachusetts) [SF, 6-7, 220 lbs, 23 yrs] - He's having an excellent pre-draft camp in Orlando and has established himself as a second round pick.

43. Seattle Supersonics: Victor Claver (Spain) [SF, 6-1, 217 lbs, 19 yrs] - Claver is considered one of the top European prospects in the draft and could be a steal in the mid-second round.

44. Golden State Warriors: Shan Foster (Vanderbilt) [SG, 6-6, 205 lbs, 21 yrs] - Foster is one of the top three-point shooters in the draft and he should be able to find a niche in Don Nelson's offense.

45. Sacramento Kings: John Riek (Prep School) [C, 7-2, 230 lbs, 18 yrs] - He needs a lot of work and experience before he's NBA-ready but his superb size and athleticism make him a worthwhile gamble.

46. Utah Jazz: Danny Green (North Carolina) [SF, 6-5, 210 lbs, 20 yrs] - Not particularly athletic, but his basketball IQ and shooting could make him a nice fit in Utah.

47. San Antonio Spurs: Rudy Mbemba (Sweden) [PG, 6-0, 186 lbs, 20 yrs] - The Spurs add a potential backup point guard, who can develop overseas for a year or two.

48. Washington Wizards: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA) [SF, 6-7, 215 lbs, 21 yrs] - While his offensive game is very limited, he could help the Wizards improve their lackluster defense.

49. Phoenix Suns: Omer Asik (Turkey) [C, 6-11, 230 lbs, 21 yrs] - The Suns can either add this defensive-minded big man, or stash him overseas.

50. Seattle Supersonics: Keith Brumbaugh (Hillsborough CC) [SF, 6-10, 215 lbs, 22 yrs] - An outstanding talent who has been hurt by poor off-court decisions. The Sonics can gamble on him and let him develop int he D-League.

51. Dallas Mavericks: Ryan Anderson (California) [PF, 6-10, 225 lbs, 20 yrs] - A big man with three-point range? Doesn't Dallas have one of those already? That didn't stop them from drafting Nick Fazekas last year and it won't stop them from taking Anderson here.

52. Miami Heat: Nikola Pekovic (Serbia) [C, 6-11, 245 lbs, 22 yrs] - The Heat need size and in Pekovic they get a big man who can provide some low-post scoring.

53. Utah Jazz: Lester Hudson (Tennessee Martin) [SG, 6-3, 190 lbs, 23 yrs] - Hudson is a combo guard with the potential to be an effective scorer. The Jazz take a chance and hope he develops some point guard skills as well.

54. Houston Rockets: C.J. Giles (Oregon State) [C, 6-11, 235 lbs, 22 yrs] - The Rockets develop a center to backup Yao once Dikembe Mutombo retires (which has to happen someday).

55. Portland Trailblazers: J.R. Giddens (New Mexico) [SG, 6-5, 200 lbs, 23 yrs] - He's a good athlete and effective shooter who will fight for a spot on the Blazers' loaded roster.

56. Seattle Supersonics: Malik Hairston (Oregon) [SG, 6-6, 200 lbs, 21 yrs] - Hairston doesn't have any one specialized skill, but he could still find a niche with his all-around talent.

57. San Antonio Spurs: Pat Calathes (St. Joseph's) [SF, 6-10, 210 lbs, 22 yrs] - This point-forward with a high basketball IQ should be a good fit in San Antonio.

58. Los Angeles Lakers: Rodrigue Beaubois (France) [PG, 6-2, 170 lbs, 20 yrs] - The Lakers can let him develop abroad, hoping he'll be an adequate backup for Jordan Farmar down the road.

59. Detroit Pistons: Jeremy Parge (Gonzaga) [PG, 6-2, 220 lbs, 22 yrs] - Quick, aggressive defender who could be useful as a defensive specialist and third-string point guard.

60. Boston Celtics: Kyle Weaver (Washington State) [SG, 6-6, 185 lbs, 22 yrs] - He's not much of a scorer, but the Celtics could make him useful as a defensive specialist.

Quote of the Day

Brent Barry, upon hearing that NBA said that Derek Fisher should have been called for a foul for jumping into Barry at the end of game 4:

"That's awesome, because Doc Brown is waiting for me outside, and we're going to get in the DeLorean and fire up the flux capacitor and we're going to go back and shoot a couple of free throws."

Changing of the Guard?

Last night the Lakers vanquished the defending NBA Champion Spurs, securing themselves a berth in the NBA Finals. This raises several pertinent questions:

1. How good are the Lakers?

During this playoff run, they've essentially demolished their opponents. The Nuggets were a 50 win team, and looked completely outclassed by this Laker team (in fact, they looked about like we expected the Atlanta Hawks to look against the Celtics). The Lakers then went on the beat the two participants in last year's Western Conference Finals, losing only three games in the process. Since fleecing the Grizzlies, the Lakers are an impressive 34-9 in games in which Kobe and Gasol have played. Charles Barkley says this team has more talent than the Laker teams of early this decade (you know, the ones that won three straight titles and had Shaquille O'Neal in the prime of his career).

While this teams has a lot to accomplish before it can be compared to those earlier Laker teams, Barkley's claim is not as absurd as it sounds at first glance. The 2000-2001 Lakers (the middle year of the three year reign) went 56-26, or one game worse than this year's brand. They were led by Shaq (28.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.8 bpg) and Kobe (28.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.7 spg). Derek Fisher chipped in with 11.5 ppg and 4 apg. And beyond that...Not much. Certainly nothing approaching Lamar Odom (the Lakers 3rd option). After the top 3, the main contributors (using the term generously) for the 00-01 edition were Rick Fox, Horace Grant, Isaiah "Don't Call Me J.R." Rider, Ron Harper, Brian Shaw and Robert "Not a Hall of Famer" Horry. If memory serves, Tyronne Lue contributed some valuable minutes in the finals guarding Iverson. But that's it. That group pales in comparison to the Lakers, who, beyond the top 3, can trot out a less athletic but better shooting and much smarter Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, Radmanovic, Vujacic, Luke Walton, and the mighty Ronny Turiaf. And this doesn't even include the injured Andrew Bynum (who would've been the third best player on the 01 Lakers) or Trevor Ariza (who would've been the second best athlete on the '01 fact, he might be the second best athlete on the '08 Lakers).

So what does this all mean? Do I think these Lakers are better than the threepeat Lakers? Certainly not yet. But this is an extraordinarily talented team with a fantastic mix of young and old and one of the three best players in the league in the middle of the prime of his career. They've made the NBA finals despite their best low post presence missing the entire 2nd half of the year. They're only going to get better, and the league will have a lot of catching up to do if they're going to prevent another Laker dynasty.

2. Is the Spurs' run over?

By and large, the answer to this appears to be yes. The Spurs are an ancient team by any objective standard. Unless you count Matt Bonner (and I don't) they have a grand total of one (count'em, one) regular contributor under the age of 30 (Mr. Eva Longoria is just 25). Duncan is 31 but an old 31. The toll of battling Shaq, Webber, Garnett et. al. all those years is starting to take its toll. Don't get me wrong, he's still an extraordinary player who performed extraordinarily well against the Lakers, but he has clearly lost some quickness and lift, as evidenced by his sudden decline in blocked shots per game, losing half a block per game from last season. While he is skilled enough to continue to play at an all nba level for another 4-5 years, he cannot be relied upon to carry a team on his back anymore.

Manu Ginobili is an interesting case. He's 30, arguably still in his prime, and earlier this season played some of the best basketball of any player in the NBA this year. The playoffs, however, were a completely different story. His injured ankle left him a shell of his former self. His long range shot was gone, he couldn't get to the basket, and he couldn't guard anyone. Is this bastardized version of Manu a sign of things to come? How soon will he lose that step that he needs to be an effective player? If it's sooner rather than later, then the Spurs are in a lot of trouble, because they don't have anyone in line to be his replacement. We've heard a lot about how well the Spurs have drafted over the years, but the problem with drafting foreigners like they have is that, while they give you NBA ready players, they give you 30-year-old NBA ready players with little shelf life whose tools may already be declining. I believe they still own the rights to Tiago Splitter, and he could inject some youth into this team...but he also could stay in Brazil.

I would rank the Lakers, New Orleans, and Utah ahead of this Spurs team for next year in the conference, and it's entirely possible the Suns, Rockets, Mavs, and even the upstart Portland Trailblazers with Greg Oden and this year's lottery pick could surpass them. Yes, I still believe the Spurs will have an upside that could win them the championship next year, but their margin for error is much much smaller than it's ever been before. And you better believe that the Western Conference (and some NBA TV executives) are delighted about that.

Are the Rays for Real?

We find ourselves approaching the end of May--the end of two months of baseball. Typically, this means a few things: the Yankees or Red Sox are in first, Tony LaRussa is still crazy, the Pirates are under .500, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays stink. 2008, however, is a different story, as the Rays sit atop not only the AL East, but atop the entire AL, and second overall only to the Chicago Cubs in overall record. Moreover, Tony LaRussa is--... well, the Pirates are--... okay, so not all that much is different, but the fact is that we've seen 54 games played and the Rays are 32-22. What's going on here? And is this a fluke?

The Rays have reminded me in previous years of the Arizona Cardinals. Every year, they have the tools to potentially be a contender (Edgerrin James, Larry Fitzgerald, etc), and you hear from a few sources that this is their year. They then promptly go 70-92 (or 6-10, as it were) and look forward to next year. This year, though, is a different story. For two months, at least, all of the cogs are actually turning for the Rays.

The big story, of course, is pitching. Their rotation has been their weakness since their entry into the league. I don't even need to mention their atrocious bullpen history. This year, though, their pitching staff has kept it together: Scott Kazmir is 4-1 with a 1.5o ERA. James Shields' ERA is 3.38 through 74.2 innings pitched with 52 Ks. Troy Percival and JP Howell have been surprisingly effective as well, resulting in a stunningly not terrible bullpen.

Their hitting is formidable as well. BJ Upton is hitting .306 with 32 RBI. Carlos Pena has 10 HRs. Carl Crawford has 14 stolen bases. Their secondary producers like Jonny Gomes are also getting it done.

But can the Rays last? Signs don't necessarily point to no. After all, Kazmir was on the DL for a while, and his return only improved the already hot team. Not only that, but looking at their overall offensive trend, they truthfully started off slowly and got their bats hotter as April ended and May went along. Their AL East rivals aren't exactly getting better with the Yankees in an odd period of transition, the Blue Jays apparently stuck in 80-win team mode and the Orioles not fooling anyone (Ignoring the Boston 'every single player is on the all-star team' Red Sox).

Of course, the baseball season is long. We're not even in June yet, after all. Chances are likely that the Rays fall below .500 by the All-Star break--but their rebuilding stage certainly seems to be over, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them take the AL wild card. Either way, it's exciting to see them rise and be legit, if only for a few months. Maybe taking the 'Devil' out of them really did help... but whatever it ultimately is, I know one thing for sure: getting them the hell out of Tropicana Field will only make things better for everyone involved.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Unmitigated Basketball Prediction

As you may know, there is basketball tonight. Namely, the Spurs host the Lakers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. You've probably heard hours worth of previews, so instead of discussing the Bryant/Bowen battle, or Duncan's penchant for big game numbers, or how Ronnie Turiaf is actually the Lakers' secret weapon, I'm just gonna cut to brass tacks. Pure gut instinct prediction! And hey, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and if I'm right, everyone will shower me with praise and money. I hope. I mean, it's possible. Right? Please send me money.

That said, here it is:

Lakers 78
Spurs 91

You don't even need to watch the game now! Enjoy!

Eastern Conference Finals: A Battle of Incompetence

Watching game 5, I was struck by three things:

1. The utter incompetence demonstrated by the Boston Celtics when they attempted get an open look - any open look - down the stretch. Every possession was Rondo dribbling 30 feet from the basket till there were 8 seconds left on the shot clock and then lobbing some horrid pass to Garnett or Pierce 22 feet from the basket, where they had to chuck up a heavily contested fadeaway jumper or turn it over trying to get closer. It was an embarrassing display.

2. The utter incompetence demonstrated by the Detroit Pistons, namely Rasheed Wallace, in maintaining their composure down the stretch. His technical foul was a huge difference in the game. That one point allowed Boston to intentionally foul to prevent a three point attempt, and after Stuckey missed one of two, allowed Garnett to ice the game with two free throws to put Boston up 4. If I were a Piston fan, I would be furious with him. You CANNOT get a technical foul with four or however many minutes left in the game. You just can't.

3. The utter incompetence demonstrated by the referees in attempting to call a consistent game. First they allowed nothing, then they called everything. A bump was a flagrant foul; a neck tackle was not. It was as absurdly and poorly officiated game as I can remember seeing, and the league should be embarrassed. And as awful as Rasheed getting that technical was, those refs need to swallow their whistles. It's an intense game; shrug it off, zebras.

This series was destined to go seven games from the beginning, and you can rest assured that David Stern has already given the officials a stern (ZING!) talking to, and we will see a clear home team bias for the last two games. We can also be certain that Sam Cassell is looking forward to his own personal version of Red Auerbach's victory "cigar":

UPDATE: Rasheed agrees with point 3: "All that bull(bleep)-ass calls they had out there. With Mike [Callahan] and Kenny [Mauer] -- you've all seen that (bleep)," Wallace said. "You saw them calls. The cats are flopping all over the floor and they're calling that (bleep). That (bleep) ain't basketball out there. It's all (bleeping) entertainment. You all should know that (bleep). It's all (bleeping) entertainment."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NBA Mock Draft 1.0

(Note: this was formatted on Mozilla Firefox and may not read as well on Internet Explorer or other browsers. Not much I can do about it. Blogger is just that good.)

1st Round
1ChicagoPFMichael BeasleyBeasley gives the Bulls the low-post scorer they've been missing, plus rebounding. Chicago will take a long look at Rose, but Beasley has to be the pick
2MiamiPGDerrick RoseLike Seattle last year, Miami can take whichever consensus Top 2 prospect falls into its lap. Rose and Wade should make an excellent backcourt
3MinnesotaCBrook LopezO.J. Mayo would be a solid pick here, but Minnesota needs a big man to pair with Al Jefferson and Lopez is a good fit with his shooting and shot-blocking
4SeattleSGO.J. MayoPairing Mayo with Kevin Durant sounds great on paper, but could it really work? Mayo's got the talent to be the best player in the draft and is worth the risk
5MemphisSGEric GordonMemphis has a lot of holes to fill and they would have to consider a big man such as Anthony Randolph, but its most glaring need is at shooting guard
6New YorkPGJerryd BaylessMike D'Antoni needs a point guard to run his fast-paced offense and Bayless should be a great fit. This pick would be a good start to rebuilding the Knicks
7L.A. ClippersSFDanilo GallinariPoint guard is more of a need, but with Rose and Bayless off the board Gallinari is a sensible pick. He and Thornton should be an excellent combination
8MilwaukeePFAnthony RandolphThe Bucks would be tempted to trade if put in this position, as drafting Randolph would cut into Villanueva's and Yi's minutes, but if they go big, it could work
9CharlottePFKevin LoveThis would continue the Bobcats trend of picking great college players with questionable NBA futures. Love fits the Larry Brown mold as well
10New JerseyCDeAndre JordanA long, athletic center with great potential, Jordan would give the Nets their best inside scorer since the departure of Kenyon Martin
11IndianaPGRussell WestbrookTough call here between Westbrook and Augustin and this pick could go either way. Westbrook seems like a safer option, as he's got much better size
12SacramentoPGD.J. AugustinBeno Udrih played well filling in for Mike Bibby, but he's hardly a long-term solution. Augustin is the second-best pure point guard in the draft
13PortlandSFJoe AlexanderPortland gets another young, athletic forward to work with. A point guard would be ideal here, but with the top four PGs off the board, they pick a swingman
14Golden StateSFDonte GreeneThe 6-10 forward is a bit of a tweener, but with his ability to play the 3 and the 4 he should be a good fit in Don Nelson's offense.
15PhoenixPFDarrell ArthurOf course Phoenix probably trades this pick for cash, but on the off-chance that they keep it, Arthur's defense and athleticism makes him a good pick
16PhiladelphiaSGBrandon RushPhiladelphia could go for a big man here, but Rush could fill the Sixers' need at SG. There are concerns about his injury history, however
17TorontoCMarreese SpeightsAs well as Rasho Nesterovic played down the stretch, the Raptors could use an upgrade at center and Speights could be a good fit next to Chris Bosh
18WashingtonCKosta KoufosKoufos gives Washington another good option at center and as a skilled big man with some shooting range should complement Brendan Haywood well
19ClevelandSGChase BudingerThey could opt for a center here, with their aging big men, but Budinger's explosive offensive game could solve the Cavs' shooting guard woes
20DenverSGChris Douglas-RobertsDenver might choose a point guard instead but the better option might be to take a perimeter defender to play alongside Allen Iverson.
21New JerseySFBill WalkerThere are still good big men available, but Walker is a good gamble here. He's got lottery potential and it's just his injury history that's a concern
22OrlandoCRobin LopezThe other Lopez could help out Orlando with his defense and rebounding, especially now that Adonal Foyle is entering the final year of his contract
23UtahCJaVale McGeeMcGee provides shot-blocking on a team that desperately needs it. Aside from Kirilenko, no Jazz player averages more than one block per game
24SeattlePGTy LawsonAfter taking Mayo with their first pick, Seattle gets some help at point guard with Lawson. While he won't start as a rookie, he could be a valuable backup
25HoustonSFNicholas BatumLanding Batum this late could be a steal. The Rockets could afford to bring the 19-year old along slowly, but he should be able to find a niche
26San AntonioCAnte TomicThe Spurs could use some young blood immediately, but this late in the draft they will likely take a player like Tomic and stash him overseas
27New OrleansPFJ.J. HicksonAbove all New Orleans needs depth, particularly at the 4 and 5. Hickson would be an upgrade over Melvin Ely and Chris Anderson
28MemphisPFJason ThompsonA big man with an NBA body, Thompson should be able to give the Grizzlies some solid minutes at center even as a rookie
29DetroitCRoy HibbertOne of the biggest concerns surrounding Hibbert is his speed, or lack thereof, that wouldn't matter in Detroit, where they play at the league's slowest pace
30BostonPGMario Chalmers

He would fight with Gabe Pruitt for minutes, but with his shooting ability and ball-handling skills he should be an upgrade over Eddie House

2nd Round

31MinnesotaSGCourtney LeeThey're already set on big men and could use the help at SG
32SeattlePFD.J. WhiteSeattle adds some size and inside scoring after adding two guards
33PortlandPFAlexis AjincaPortland can stash Ajinca overseas as their roster is pretty full already
34MinnesotaCDeVon HardinMinnesota rolls the dice on Hardin's lottery talent and lackluster effort
35L.A. ClippersPFNathan JawaiJawai provides some depth at PF in case Elton Brand leaves
36PortlandCJohn RiekTons of upside, but still very raw. Portland can afford to wait
37MilwaukeeSGWayne EllingtonThe Bucks add another three-point threat to back up Michael Redd
38CharlotteSFDavon JeffersonJefferson's athleticism makes him a good complement to Jared Dudley
39ChicagoPFSerge IbakaThe Bulls can wait a few years for the 18-year old to develop
40New JerseyCTrent PlaistedThe Nets take a chance on a big man with first round talent
41IndianaPFRichard HendrixA bit undersized, but he's worth a look this late in the draft
42SacramentoSFVictor ClaverOne of the top European prospects, he could be a bargain this late
43SeattleSFKeith BrumbaughIncredibly talented, but off-court issues have hurt his value
44Golden StateSGShan FosterExcellent 3-point shooter who could find a few minutes as a specialist
45SacramentoCOmer AsikThe Kings add a raw big man with good size and defensive ability
46UtahSFDanny GreenHis shooting and basketball IQ could make him a valuable role player
47San AntonioPGRodrigue BeauboisFrench point guard could become a reliable backup to Tony Parker
48WashingtonSFLuc Richard Mbah a MouteMbah a Moute could improve Washington's lackluster defense
49PhoenixSGJ.R. GiddensExcels as a shooter and an athlete and could be a good fit in Phoenix
50SeattleCNikola PekovicThe Sonics stash a big man overseas rather than overload the roster
51DallasPFJoey DorseyDallas gets a defensive-minded big man to replace Desagana Diop
52MiamiPFRyan AndersonMiami needs some size, with no reliable options at center
53UtahSGJamont GordonUtah gets a combo guard who might be able to spell Deron Williams
54HoustonCC.J. GilesDikembe Mutombo can't be Yao's backup forever…or can he?
55PortlandSGRobert VadenPortland gets a shooter with deep 3-point range to fill out the bench
56SeattleSGMalik HairstonAll-around talent without one specialized skill, but he might find a spot
57San AntonioSFPat CalathesThe point forward with a very high basketball IQ should be a good fit
58L.A. LakersSGLester HudsonHe's a tweener, but the Lakers gamble on his offensive potential
59DetroitPGRonald SteeleHe could become a good backup PG in the Lindsey Hunter mold
60BostonSGKyle WeaverLimited scoring ability, but his defensive talent could get him drafted

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Big Shot Bob...Hall of Famer?

Over at ESPN, J.A. Adande states his case for Robert Horry to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The article is long, but his argument can pretty much be boiled down to this:

1. He won 7 Championships
2. He made some big shots in the playoffs

Let me get two things out of the way before I dissect Adande's piece: First, I have nothing but respect for Robert Horry, who's a classy guy, a terrific clutch performer, and, rumor* has it, one hell of a salsa dancer. Second, my standards for inclusion in any sport's hall of fame are incredibly high. Generally, if there's any sort of debate over whether or not a certain player should be included, I fall on the side of "no way in hell."

This is no exception.

Horry has had three seasons where he averaged more than 10 points a game, maxing out a robust 12.0 in 95-96. He has once averaged more than 7 rebounds per game (7.5 in 97-98). For his career, his numbers are 7.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.9 bpg. Fine, and not wholly indicative of his contributions to the many good teams he played on. But not even close to hall of fame worthy.

No problem, says J.A. Adande. His legacy of winning dwarfs his statistical insufficiency. And he trots out a precedent: K.C. Jones.

"The NBA hasn't seen a winner like Horry in three decades. John Havlicek retired in 1978, the last member of the Boston Celtics' 1960s dynasty to check out, and one of only six players in NBA history with a championship ring collection larger than Horry's seven. Of those six players -- Bill Russell (11 rings), Sam Jones (10), Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Tom Sanders and Havlicek (eight each) -- Sanders is the only one not in the Hall of Fame. But the fact that K.C. Jones is makes the case for Horry.

Jones averaged 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in his nine-year career. Horry has averaged 7.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in 16 seasons. Jones proved there's a place in the Hall for underwhelming statistics if they came on winning teams."

Adande left out the fact that Jones, in addition to his 8 NBA titles (in 9 years!), won 2 more college championships with Bill Russell at San Francisco, an Olympic gold medal, and 2 more championships as a head coach ('84 and '86 with the Celtics). Though I would deem his inclusion controversial myself, by all reports his defensive and playmaking presence was a key to those 8 championship teams. Tom Sanders, mentioned above, had better career numbers than Jones or Horry (9.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg), and 8 championships (in 13 years), and yet is deemed unworthy of inclusion.

Robert Horry won 7 championships in 16 years. He won them riding on the coat tails of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Shaq, Kobe, Duncan, Robinson, etc. Occasionally, he hit a huge (often wide open) shot late in the game, generally after one of the previously mentioned players had been double teamed. He was a very good positional defender, a solid spot up shooter, and, early in his career, an athletic asset on the fast break.

And he is not a hall of famer.

Not even close.

*There is no substantiation for this rumor. I'm starting it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

An O'Brien Trophy Monopoly

It's that time of the year again, when we've finally gone through what feels like 18 weeks of basketball playoffs and are left with the final four, battling for another week until we're left with only two teams. This year's contenders are the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs in the West, and the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons in the East. And I probably couldn't be more disappointed.

Now, granted, Boston and Detroit are probably the most entertaining teams in the East, and the best match up for competitiveness. Indeed, it would be hard to justify wanting more of the Cleveland "LeBron James and four sandbags" Cavaliers, or any other ultimately mediocre team (though Atlanta going far would have been up there with George Mason). Similarly, San Antonio and Los Angeles were arguably the best teams in the West this year. New Orleans was a fantastic story, and I was rooting for them, but you'd be kidding yourself if you thought they would have had an answer for Kobe et al.

My big gripe with this outcome is that these four teams--Lakers, Spurs, Pistons, Celtics--are four of the eight different teams that have won the NBA championship in the last 28 years. Since 1980, only eight have won.

And saying eight makes it seem like more teams than it really feels like; in 1983, the Sixers won it all once. Similarly, the Heat won it once in 2006. So outside of these anomalies, a mere six teams out of 28-30 (depending on the year) have dominated the championship for nearly three decades. The Lakers won 8 times, the Bulls 6 times, the Spurs 4 times, the Celtics 3 times, the Pistons 3 times, the Rockets twice, and then Miami and Philly.

That's not even looking before 1980. Let's not forget that from 1959 through 1966, the Celtics won it every single year, and then again in '68, '69, '74 and '76. The Minneapolis Lakers also won it four out of the first five times the NBA had its modern championship. This isn't really a modern trend; sure, there are odd teams like the Syracuse Nationals or the Golden State Warriors winning once or twice, but largely, only a handful of teams seem ever to win.

What accounts for this ridiculous streak? Dynasty is the obvious answer, almost hardly worth mentioning. You assemble a good team, and if you're able to lock those players up, you'll probably win it all a couple of times in a row. But these are all different time periods that the Celtics and Lakers consistently won. Doesn't it seem a bit anomalous that they would be able to assemble such powerhouse teams so many times over history? And the franchises in Minneapolis, Detroit and San Antonio are hardly overflowing with money. After all, if money were a factor, the Knicks would have won at least once since 1973.

I'm not saying that it's inexplicable that these same franchises keep finding ways to dominate. But it does bother me that the same teams win over and over--especially this year, where the West was the most competitive conference in NBA history, and yet we almost ended up with the same Western Conference Finals match up as last year (SA vs Utah). In a year where New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix and others seemed like legit contenders, the same teams ended up on top. And when this 28th year ends, we'll still only have eight unique champions.

Here's hoping that next year, we get a Memphis/Indiana finals. Screw the terrible ratings; I want to see something new for once.

NBA Draft Lottery Fallout

A few observations following Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery:

Doesn't it just suck that two of the five best teams in the Eastern Conference next could be the two teams that picked one and two in the draft? One of my dark secrets is that I picked the Bulls to make the NBA finals before this year started (which just goes to show you should never ever listen to me). Instead they collapse, fire their coach, and are magically rewarded with Michael Beasley, who gives them exactly what they've been missing the last 4/5 years. It's not quite David Robinson out for the year, the Spurs tanking and ending up with Tim Duncan, but it's not far. Additionally, the Miami Heat go into next year with a starting lineup of Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem, and Blount/Zo whoever at center. That's the 2nd or 3rd best starting 5 in the conference (also the perfect spot for D'Antoni to have ended up. Too bad for him.)

If the Knicks take Danilo Gallinari, you might as well move the team to Rome. NY will not have it.

Most Knick fans will wind up hoping for Mayo (who'll be taken by Minnesota at 3) and will have to settle for DeAndre Jordan, who won't be a productive NBA player for at least 3 years, or well after the Knicks will have traded him, packaged with David Lee, Q-Richardson and Jared Jeffries for a one legged version of Jermaine O'Neal.

It doesn't matter where he goes: Brook Lopez will be a bust in the mold of Rafael Araujo.

The best player taken outside the lottery will be Kevin Love, who'll fall to the mid 20's over concerns about the fact that his vertical needs to measured in centimeters.

My favorite non top 2 player in this draft is Joe Alexander, who will probably go somewhere around pick 10 (Charlotte would be a nice fit for him).

I am notoriously bad at figuring out who the good prospects will be, which means that when Brook Lopez wins his sixth championship ring, I will be found at my local Food Emporium, telling Kevin Love that I prefer paper bags.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Owners end NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement

There's a lot of hysteria about the possibility of an uncapped season in a couple years, but it probably won't happen. I was going to write about the reasons why it's unlikely, but Pat Kirwan from already did it for me.

Click here for story.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

D'Antoni: The Reactions

Listening to WFAN sports talk radio over the last few days has thrown my world into chaos. When the D'Antoni news broke, I, for one, lept around my room in a state of unadulterated joy. "The Isiah era is over!" I cried. "We brought in a real basketball mind to be president, and a coach who won 58 games a year! Finally, we're on the right path!"

Then I turned on the radio.

*Mike from Yonkers: "I dunno, man, I just don't think this guy is the right fit."
Joe from the Bronx: "Mark Jackson would've been a much better chance."
Cleon from Red Hook: "It's just more of the same. You a loser in Phoenix, you gonna be a loser in NY."
Are Knick fans insane?!? Has the Isiah era (like the Bush administration) left us all so jaded, so cynical, so distrustful, that we no longer have any hope for anyone who's ever been involved in basketball?

We, as Knicks fans need to start breathing deeply and recognizing a few things:
1. We now, for the first time in almost 10 years, have good, solid basketball minds in the front office and on the bench. This is nothing to sneeze at; rather, it's something to be thrilled about.
2. This is a full fledged rebuilding process. It's going to take at least two, maybe even three years for Walsh and D'Antoni to put together the core of players they want.
3. Since Walsh hired D'Antoni, that means one of two things: either A) D'Antoni has signed up to coach with a style suited to the roster that Walsh is planning on putting together, or B) Walsh is committed to bringing in the players best suited for D'Antoni's style in Phoenix. Either one of these is a good thing. This is not Isiah and Larry Brown, these are two excellent basketball minds on the same page.

Many of the complaints around D'Antoni center around the fact that he couldn't get over the hump and win a title in Phoenix. Now, this may be a valid concern for some teams trying to get over the hump. This is not a concern for a team that's won a little more than 200 games in the last 7 years. Let's build a winner first, please?

*Note: I was driving, so I was unable to take down names or notes. All supposedly direct quotes in this paragraph are paraphrases, and all names are made up. It just sounds better that way.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

NFL Draft Grades

Now that we've all had time to digest the thrilling NFL Draft, here's how each team did.

First off, let me give the entire league a general thumbs up for not drafting a wide receiver in the top 10- and even in the first round.

A- : Kansas City Chiefs : Glenn Dorsey DT, Brandon Albert OT, Brandon Flowers CB. KC fans should have been cheering in the streets when Dorsey fell to them, and they wisely used their second pick to address need on the other side of the ball. Flowers in the second round was a solid pickup. Too bad they traded Jared Allen, or maybe the Chiefs would be in the conversation for one of the best D-lines in the league, but without the trade they don't get Albert.

B+ : Buffalo Bills : Leodis McKelvin CB, James Hardy WR. Wisely drafted the (arguably) best all-around corner in the draft and waited until the 2nd round to address the WR need.

B+ : Baltimore Ravens : Joe Flacco QB, Ray Rice RB. Flacco is a good pickup for where he is drafted. He will need a year or two to adjust, but should make the Ravens into a contender in the near future. One wonders if the Ravens defense will be able to holdover until that happens.

B+ : Pittsburgh Steelers : Rashard Mendenhall RB, Limas Sweed WR. Two of the best players at their respective positions. The Steelers need all the help they can get with their schedule, and the funny thing is that after losing 2 home games against Jacksonville in 2007-2008, they go to Jacksonville in 2008-2009. Failed to address first-round needs on the offensive line.

B+ : Washington Redskins : Devin Thomas WR, Fred Davis TE, Malcolm Kelly WR. In about 6 hours, Washington revamped basically their entire offense for the better. Jason Campbell won't have any excuses if he fails next year with two of the top WRs of the '08 class in addition to Chris Cooley and Santana Moss. The only thing they didn't do was draft a safety, which is a little questionable. And odds are one of the two WRs will work out.

B : Miami Dolphins: Jake Long OT, Philip Merling DE, Chad Henne QB. Chad Henne brought down the Dolphin's grade from an A-. QB isn't the problem in Miami, and they could have used their third pick to draft a linebacker like Dan Connor to replace Zach Thomas or a wide receiver like Early Doucet or Mario Manningham.

B : New Orleans Saints : Sedrick Ellis DT, Tracy Porter CB. Traded with New England to stick it to the Bengals, who still won't have a run defense.

B : Arizona Cardinals : Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB, Calais Campbell DE. Two solid players who should at the worst be passable starters. Can't get much worse than Antrelle Rolle anyways.

B : Tampa Bay Buccaneers : Aqib Talib CB, Dexter Jackson WR. #1 pass defense in the NFL doesn't mean much when you don't play against a good team your entire season. It's nice to see a team that realizes that. D. Jackson should be groomed to replace Joey Galloway.

B : Dallas Cowboys : Felix Jones RB, Mike Jenkins CB, Martellus Bennett TE. Jones should compliment Marion Barber nicely, while Jenkins will make a nice replacement for Roy Wil...err, a nickel corner. Bennett is a good blocking TE that can also go out and catch passes. Another weapon for Tony Romo- so as long as they aren't in the playoffs, the Cowboys should be a great team next year.

B : Seattle Seahawks : Lawrence Jackson DE, John Carlson TE. Hopefully Carlson is the kind of TE that Seattle has been missing for the past couple seasons. Jackson should be a nice complement to Patrick Kerney, but the real reason they get a B is because they finally released Shaun "jelly legs" Alexander.

B : Philadelphia Eagles : Trevor Laws DT, DeSean Jackson WR. Hopefully Jackson will be a little more reliable than Kevin Curtis and/or Reggie Brown. Also picked up a first rounder in 2009 for basically pocket change.

B- : Oakland Raiders : Darren McFadden RB. Should have drafted Glenn Dorsey and maybe move into the top half of the league in rush defense. Oakland was already stocked with B- only because McFadden is ridiculous.

B- : NY Jets : Vernon Gholston DE, Dustin Keller TE. Props for not letting a monster like Gholston slip to the Patriots. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen if Gholston can be convinced to play every down by the Jets mediocre coaching staff. And please stop making a big deal about Gholston facing Jake Long twice a year. Gholston got one sack on Long, but was shut down the rest of the game and even got pancaked more than once.

B- : Denver Broncos : Ryan Clady OT, Eddie Royal WR. Not bad pickups, probably could have done better than Royal at #42 but a solid day 1 for the Broncos. Let's hope Royal can avoid shoving his arm through home entertainment centers unlike a certain other Broncos starting WR.

B- : Chicago Bears : Chris Williams OT, Matt Forte RB. Goodbye Cedric Benson! Finally! Williams should give Forte someone to run behind in the very competitive NFC North. Whether or not the Bears' QB will be worth protecting remains to be seen.

B- : Detroit Lions : Gosder Cherilus OT, Jordon Dizon LB. They didn't draft a WR!! Amazing. Cherilus is a bit of a reach, but basically any half-decent O-lineman is an improvement considering the frequency that Jon Kitna is on the ground. Maybe that's why he's always looking up at the sky praying.

B- : New York Giants : Kenny Phillips S, Terrell Thomas CB. Addressed a value/need pick at the safety position. Got possibly the steal of the draft in Mario Manningham late in round 3. It's hard to knock their not drafting a linebacker until the 4th round.

B- : Indianapolis Colts : Mike Pollack C (Tony Ugoh OT). No first-rounder this year, but Pollack should be a suitable replacement for Jeff Saturday and Tony Ugoh turned into a starter his rookie season in a very competitive division. Peyton Manning can continue his dominance.

B- : Minnesota Vikings : Tyrell Johnson S. Replace or complement aging Donovan Darius.

C+ : St. Louis Rams : Chris Long DE, Donnie Avery WR. Ok, I honestly don't understand drafting Donnie Avery at #33 when every WR was still on the board. I have, however, recanted my belief that the Rams should have taken Glenn Dorsey over Long as I forgot that they had Carriker playing on the outside at DE instead of DT.

C+ : Cincinnati Bengals : Keith Rivers LB, Jerome Simpson WR. Didn't get Sedrick Ellis. Drafting Simpson over Sweed, Kelly, and DeSean Jackson is a little questionable. Keep them out of jail!

C+ : San Diego Chargers : Antoine Cason CB. Not a very large draft class for the Chargers, but decent enough. Cason should be a starter by the time Jammer retires... or by the time he should retire.

C : New England Patriots : Jerod Mayo LB, Terrence Wheatley CB. At least Belichick didn't get stupid in his arrogance. Mayo should be able to learn from Seau, Bruschi, and Vrabel and be productive immediately. However, one has to wonder how he is literally going to replace all 3 of them at the same time when they all die of old age sometime in the middle of next season. Lastly, the Patriots don't have a good track record of home-grown linebackers. Probably could have been at least a B if they hadn't cheated and were able to keep their own first round pick.

C : Houston Texans : Duane Brown OT. If they wanted a tackle, why not just stay put at #18 to grab Cherilus or trade up a few spots to get one of the consensus first-round tackles?

C- : Atlanta Falcons : Matt Ryan QB, Sam Baker OT, Curtis Lofton LB. Matt Ryan and Joey Harrington on the same team is going to be the most pathetic QB controversy outside of Chicago. Sam Baker was a major reach, and if they wanted a tackle they should have traded up higher to get a better one.

C- : San Francisco 49ers : Kentwan Balmer DT. It's hard to know how to grade the 49ers. Part of me likes the nose tackle pick to give already-matured Patrick Willis more room to run around and make tackles, but on the other hand can Mike Martz really turn Alex Smith, Arnaz Battle, and Isaac Bruce into a fearsome offense? My guess is no, so I think they should have taken a WR or traded out of the first round to get more picks. Nobody has really said it, but the 49ers need to go into rebuilding mode because of their selection of Alex Smith.

C- : Green Bay Packers : Jordy Nelson WR, Brian Brohm QB. Why draft a WR? Last I checked the Packers weren't needy in the passing department, Brett Favre or not. I also don't really understand drafting Brohm, as this just puts unnecessary pressure on Aaron Rodgers. I guess none of it really matters because as soon as Brett Favre walks back into Lambeau Field he's going to suit up and start.

D+ : Carolina Panthers : Jonathan Stewart RB, Jeff Otah OT. Gave up way too much for Otah. If they were going to draft an OT, why not use their first pick and not reach and trade into the late first round if necessary to get Stewart? I doubt he would have been taken before the Chargers.

D- : Jacksonville Jaguars : Derrick Harvey DE, Quentin Groves DE. Trading up from #26 to #8, only to reach for a DE? Until it's shown to be a stroke of genius it's a failure. Starting 2 rookie DEs is just asking for trouble in a division with upper-tier offensive lines in the Colts' and the Titans'.

X : Cleveland Browns : Lots of later round picks. I don't care about later round picks not named Tom Brady. The Browns built through free agency this year and had pretty good drafts the last couple of years.

F : Tennessee Titans : Chris Johnson RB, Jason Jones DT. Here's an idea Tennessee, instead of setting VY up for failure, how about drafting someone to catch his passes? Or instead of drafting a second rate DT, why not re-sign your pro bowl franchised player to the long term deal he deserves? Idiotic draft (unless Johnson lines up at WR and VY learns to bomb it, unlikely given his retarded sidearm throwing motion). Total failure.

Reactions to Mike D'Antoni Heading to New York

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Observations From Game 3

A few thoughts while watching this boring if somewhat competitive game in Orlando:

1. I hate the Pistons

2. Do the Magic, collectively, have the worst hands in the NBA? It seems as though they are constantly letting rebounds fall right through their hands, getting stripped, etc.

3. Dwight Howard is not yet nearly as good as he could be

4. I really hate the Pistons

5. In about three years, watch as story after story comes out revealing Tayshaun Prince to be among the dirtiest players in the NBA. He already delivers at least two cheap shots per game with his freakish elbows; When he starts losing a step, he'll be up there with Bowen and Stockton.

6. You know, all things considered, for such a raw deal as SVG got, it wasn't that bad. He got to sit around, do nothing, make half a million dollars, and then take over a team with a comparable if not better foundation for the next five years. Plus he gets to live closer to Disney World.

7. Of the 40 starters left in the NBA playoffs, the Magic have the 3rd worst (Maurice Evans). The Cavaliers have the only two worse: Devin Brown, and the gangrenous corpse of Ben Wallace.

8. I f*@kin' hate the Pistons...

9. But the Magic just aren't ready. Pistons in 6*.

*This pick is conditional upon Chauncey Billups being able to play. Otherwise it's a tossup.

I Told You Guys! No Sweat!

What's good, cats and kittens, Barry Z back in the house! That's right, you all thought I was in the bullpen nowadays. Well, I've got good news: after my stunningly impressive zero bullpen outings, the skipper Bochy has finally seen the light. I'm a starter again, baby! Woohoo! And things are going to be different this time. I've learned my lesson from my two warm-up sessions in The Hole.

Now I'm back, and I'm better than ever! Say hello once more to 90 MPH fastballs and hanging breaking balls! May is a new month, and I plan to pitch that way. Best news of all: Sabean said that if I need Tommy John surgery, I get a two year extension. Isn't that exciting? Maybe if Donnie Walsh is still looking for a head coach in a few weeks, he can look up Brian's number. That guy is my hero!

Well, I'm off to buy myself some more money. Take care!

Brian, You're Right

Cleveland has the worst coaching staff left in the playoffs. Maybe it's not all Brown's fault, but that performance last night was some of the worst in game management I've ever seen. If I had to rank the remaining coaches, it would look something like this:

1. Pops
2. Phil
3. Sloan
4. Scott
5. Flip or Stan...Flip I guess, he's up 2-0
6. Stan
7. Doc
8. Me
9. My pants
1,892. Mike Brown

If I had the energy I would extend this to ranking all sorts of different positions. But I don't.

Cavs in 6

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Four Things As Successful As New Orleans' First Quarter 'Dunk Through a Flaming Hoop But Fail to Put Out The Fire' Break

1. The 1899 Cleveland Spiders
2. The Isiah Thomas Era
3. Appeasement
4. These guys

Maybe they should have released the levees. Right Tom Selleck?


Tom Selleck

Friday, May 2, 2008

Go Hawks!

In what has so far been a tremendously entertaining series (at least when the games have been in Atlanta) The 37-45, no-business-whatsoever-being-in-the-playoffs Atlanta Hawks have forced the 66 win regular season juggernaut Boston Celtics to a seventh game (thanks to some swarming team defense, a few dubious calls, and Ray Allen's seemingly instant regression from sharpshooter to shoe shiner.

Of course, Boston will almost certainly beat this upstart Hawks team in game 7, but the question arises: Has this series irreparably chinked the Celtic armor? Boston has looked overwhelmed and intimidated on the road, and completely unable to slow the opposing team's best player (Joe Johnson) in crunch time without sending ridiculous double teams 28 feet from the basket. Surprisingly, they've also had real trouble finding ways to score down the stretch. James Posey has been their most consistent late game threat outside of Pierce. Ray Allen's been throwing up bricks, Sam Cassell's been throwing up everything, and KG looks so nervous, so unwilling to control the ball, that he might as well just be throwing up.

Should Boston win as expected, all of these problems will be compounded by a Cleveland team that will always have the best player on the court and can bring out a team of shooters far superior to any Atlanta could offer. A lineup down the stretch of Boobie Gibson, Delonte West, Wally Sczczcduofdsfsvcerbiak and Joe Smith (who can hit from 17' in) coupled with LeBron James, would give the Celtic defense fits.

What say you, loyal readers (and by that I mean PSB staff)? Am I overreacting, or is my sense of Boston's inadequacy More Than A Feeling? Does Cleveland Rock? Can King James put an end to the Boston Three-Party?

Cavs in 6 (if it gets there)

Sixers Are Finally Outrun

The Philadelphia 76ers were finally ousted by the Detroit Pistons last night, as the Pistons romped 100-77 in Game Six. While it wasn't exactly an encouraging way to go out, the Sixers gave Detroit a lot more trouble than most people expected.

This series showcased Philadelphia's potential. They are already one of the most athletic teams in the league and Maurice Cheeks used that to his advantage this year, introducing an up-tempo style and a pressure defense. Often employing the full court press, the Sixers at times resembled a college team.

Problem is, they also resembled a college team in a few other respects. Like many college teams, the Sixers couldn't shoot the NBA three or consistently knock down free throws. In the regular season, they were the NBA's worst in free throw percentage and three-point percentage. They could get away with that against bad teams, but it wasn't going to last in the playoffs. Considering how poorly the Sixers shoot, it was a little surprising the Pistons didn't play zone defense more often. Other than Lou Williams and Rodney Carney, no one was going to burn them, and even Williams and Carney are fairly erratic. (The Sixers had a great shooter in Kyle Korver who would have driven those percentages up, but trading him improved their team defense and opened up playing time for Thaddeus Young.)

Despite their impressive playoff appearance, the Sixers some work to do. Even without any major additions, they can be expected to improve next year through the improvement of their young players. Williams, Young, Carney, and Jason Smith should all get better in the off-season. Young is a particularly exciting prospect as a hyper-athletic 19-year old who displayed impressive shooting, rebounding, low-post scoring, and defense in his rookie season. Williams also seems primed for a breakout year and could well be the next Monta Ellis.

Andre Iguodala has some work to do, but if he can improve his shooting, he has the best potential on the team after Young. But his status with the team is far from certain as he heads into restricted free agency. The Sixers will almost certainly bring him back, but the negotiations could get ugly. Iguodala turned down a contract extension before the start of the season, but seemed to justify a bigger deal with a strong regular season. However, his postseason struggles undoubtedly hurt his value. Iguodala puts Ed Stefanski in a difficult spot. He has to re-sign Iguodala (as well as Williams) but if he overpays, he will waste most of the cap room the Sixers have acquired.

If Stefanski can get reasonable deals for Iguodala and Williams, the Sixers should have about $10 million in cap room. While that won't be enough to get a top-tier free agent, it should net them a good supporting player or two (perhaps a long-overdue replacement for Willie Green). The Sixers will also have the 16th overall pick in the draft.

There's much work to be done, but with their impressive young core, the Sixers have a bright future in this league. In their two wins against the Pistons the NBA saw a glimpse of the Sixers' potential, but there is more to come. Much more.