Archive for December, 2011

 

 

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HJygXfVRQ0%5D
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What Am I Watching This NBA Season?

Posted: December 27, 2011 in ALL II
Tags: , , , ,

The shorten season shines the spotlight on the stars and rightfully so.  This means other critical storylines get put on the backburner, players and themes that frequently alter the course of the season.   At worst, these will be the stories that people most often discuss and totally misinterpret.  Below are the themes and storylines I will be watching over the NBA season!

  • It seems clear to me that the West is by far the better conference but will the top heavy East overshadow the depth of the West?  Probably.  Everyone is going to ignore the under .500 teams in the 6th seed in the east while several teams will be out the playoffs in the West.
  • How much defense will be enough for the Knicks to win games?  The elite offense does little to hide the porous defense and the absolute value of Tyson Chandler, the second coming of Kevin Garnett as a defensive force.  Mike D’Antoni’s job is going to be in danger all year long so I am going to be focused on the work of NY Knicks defensive assistant coach…former Hawks coach Mike Woodson.  No wonder people are not listening to him in NYC.
  • Will Danny Grainger take a step up or level off to be the best player on a meaningless franchise only to be traded to a contender but not getting any better?
  • Can the Toronto Raptors finally find a star to consistently put up on banners to advertise going to Raptors games?
  • Will 46% player BRI loving Michael Jeffery Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats’ forward Boris Diaw regain his poetic form of old?
  • How many NBA rules and international laws will be broken as New Jersey Nets Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov runs for President of Russia, tries to get Dwight Howard to join the Nets, and keep Deron Williams – the second best point guard in the NBA behind Chris Paul- from leaving for nothing?
  • Will Christopher Wesson Bosh (a man who went from being a number one player with no talent to a number three player with tons of talent around him, a man who averaged 19 and 8 on 50% shooting, and a man who did show up throughout the NBA finals) finally get some credit respect?  No he happens to not be one of the five best players in the league but 19-8 looks real nice as a third option.
  • Will Joakim Noah finally be exposed as the fraudulent, overrated player that he has been his entire career?  When does a “dominant” rebounder (defined as gets boards when no one boxes him out) and defensive presence become a liability at the end of every game?
  • Who will lose their voice first: Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy or Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau?
  • Mil-town Bucks Center Andrew Bogut: second best center in basketball? (Yes!)
  • Will the much unappreciated Rajon Rondo again remind the Celtics that it is foolish to trade him and continue to keep this aging team afloat during the back-to-backs this season?  (Why are the aging Celtics always trying to push him out the door when he is the only solid long term piece they have?)
  • Will the flash and skill of John Wall be able to counter the debacle that is Reshard Lewis?
  • What will Washington Bullets Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert do when Lebron drops 50 on them leading to Cleveland locking up the most lottery balls in the 2012 NBA Draft?
  • How many errant shots will shooter – and sometimes scorer- Ben Gordon take in a ten minute period? (Bonus: How long will it take for the Pistons to organize another mutiny and attempt to get new coach Lawrence Frank fired?)
  • While I am personally interested in seeing Atlanta Hawks Forward/Center Al Horford make the jump to a top three center (from a top five center), I need to ask: Joe Johnson?  $119 million?
  • Michael Curry is listed as “associate head coach” of the 76ers.  There are also three assistant coaches and of course head coach Doug Collins.  What exactly is Curry doing that is so special to get that title?
  • Utah Jazz Forward/Center Al Jefferson, a man that commands a double team when healthy: 20, 10?  (Absolutely)
  • Will the Sacramento Kings pump in this level of production value into every win this season to stay in Sac-Town? (Also, to go from the blackout to the pale Jimmer Fredette – nothing but net – was too shocking for my eyes).
  • Will the Portland Trailblazers acquire doctors that specialize in knee analysis? (ZING!)
  • Do Houston Rockets fans realize that incredibly smart and recently screwed out of Pau Gasol GM Daryl Morey 1) acquired Hasheem Thabeet and 2) moved him from the D-League back to the 2011-12 roster?
  • How will NBA Union President Derrick Fisher be received by his fellow players, particularly in the first go around through the league?  (When will Kobe choke out his first teammate?)
  • Knows that my World Champion Dallas Mavericks are biding their time to pick up a major free agent next year but why does that mean acquiring perennial loser Vince Carter and the often misunderstood though clearly incompetent Delonte West?  How many shots will Mark Cuban take at David Stern this year (Cuban, of course, voted against the new CBA and vocally expressed displeasure about the Hornets trades)?
  • Will new Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson say “Mamma there goes that man” when his mother comes to Warriors games?
  • Does the addition of Rudy Gay mean the Grizzlies will be better than an 8-seed in the west?  (NO!)
  • Will T-Wolves coach Rick Adleman finally announce that the team is satisfied with their point guard situation? Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuubio!
  • Steve Nash is finally an underrated player which may bode well for a Suns team cruising under the radar.
  • David Stern made the most of the New Orleans situation.  Will the Hornets get an owner this year?  I imagine so!
  • Denver Nuggets’ only star JR Smith is live from China.  No wonder the NBA did not blink at the notion of players playing abroad: never made sense and was not feasible.
  • I am curious to see Tony Parker regain his footing as a tier two point guard who, quite frankly, never got the respect he deserved during the championship run.
  • Despite the slow start, Ric Bucher and I believe Russell Westbrook maybe the best overall player on the Oklahoma City Thunder.  We also think that other players may feel this way so obviously I will be watching to see this dynamic grow between an elite scorer and someone who can be an elite player.
  • Clippers Deandre Jordan can become a huge free agent if this year highlights the type of growth he showed last year.  Will year two of Vinny Del Negro lead to player development!?

Now to fix my remote after two Mavericks blowouts to start the season.

 

 

NBA Preview

Posted: December 25, 2011 in Collaborative Posts

ALLEN

Rookie of the Year: Derrick Williams
I know everyone is high on Kyrie Irving but I don’t think he will be good immediately since he has not really played many games in the last couple of years.  Williams will be a force, especially on the defensive glass.

Coach of the Year: Vinny Del Negro (aka See Me In The Playoffs)
All he does is take teams to the playoffs and when they get there they play hard.  Last year he struggled but now has CP3 and a retooled squad in control of the LA.  Also, has any coach given us a more exciting highlight in the trapezoid

Sixth Man of Year: Lamar Odom
Seriously no homerism here…

MVP: Lebron (I will continue to get robbed out of MVP trophies because I play with two top premier players) James
Honerable mention to the guy I actually think will win it: Dwight Howard

Atlantic Winner: New York Knicks
Short season built for this run and gun team.  Celtics older and more strategic.

Central Winner: Chicago Bulls
This is by far the worst division in all of sports.  What on earth is going on with Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, and the second best team and oddly the Bulls’ pain in the tush the Pacers!?  Horrendous.

Southeast: Miami Heat

Northwest: Oklahoma City Thunder

Pacific: LA Clippers
Note: Lakers fans will not be happy with me in a few lines

Southwest: WORLD CHAMPION DALLAS MAVERICKS BASKETBALL

Finals Match Up: Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks
It should be noted that I did not want to pick the Thunder.

NBA Champion: Miami Heat

Biggest Disappointment: LA Lakers
On their way to being a 39 win team and struggling to make anything work.  If Miami was a three man team that could succeed because of talent, the Lakers are a three man team that will fail miserably.  Kobe will meltdown and snap at Mike Brown at least four times.

CHIKA
The 2011-2012 NBA season is shaping up to be an exciting, drama-filled season. Off the court, the Chris Paul trade fiasco and the impact on the franchises involved in the trade will be a constant topic of discussion. How about Dwight Howard? Will he stay or will he go and if he chooses to leave, which team will acquire the best center in the game?

On the court, how will the shortened, condensed season affect teams and the quality of play? The consensus is that young, deep, and most importantly, talented teams will have an edge over old, decrepit teams like the Lakers, Spurs, and the Celtics.

Only time will tell.

Here are my predictions for the 2011-2012 season.

Division Winners

Eastern Conference
Atlantic
New York Knicks: The Knicks will score a lot of points despite the fact that they are thin at point guard. Signing Baron Davis will help but no one is truly certain how productive Davis will be because of his unenthusiastic, disinterested play over the past couple of years. However, Davis has shown a tendency to be engaged when he is on a team that has legitimate playoff hopes.

Central
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls won the Central Division by 15 games last year and are seemingly a better team this year after they addressed the weakness at the 2-guard position with the signing of Richard Hamilton. Need I say more?

Southeast
Miami Heat: The only legitimate contenders in this division are the Heat and the Orlando Magic and more than likely, Dwight Howard will not be a Magic for the entire season. So, the Hawks will be the only threat to the Heat. Once again, need I say more?

Western Conference
Northwest
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder are young, deep, and talented. So is Denver and Portland but what will put the Thunder over the top is that they have two superstars (i.e. Durant and Westbrook) to Portland’s one superstar (i.e. LaMarcus Aldridge) to Denver’s none.

Pacific
Los Angeles Clippers: With the addition of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Caron Butler, the Clippers have built a starting five that is as talented as most teams in the league. Their problem is that they lack depth in the frontcourt and a viable defender at 2-guard. However, the Lakers also lack viable depth at every position and Kobe is no longer the best player in this division. Blake Griffin and possibly, Chris Paul, are now better than Kobe. (Yes, you read that correctly).

Southwest
San Antonio Spurs: Many, including me, forgot that the Spurs finished the ’11-’12 regular season 2nd in the NBA in wins. The fact that all of the key players from that team are returning and that Tim Duncan came into camp in great shape doesn’t bode well for the rest of the division.

Disappointment of the Year
The Lakers will finish no higher than 6th mostly because there is a dearth of talent after Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum. Also, Kobe finished last season with the 2nd highest usage rate in his career (35.1), which was the highest value by any player in the NBA last season (usage rate is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor). That is absolutely absurd considering that he was 32 years old and is a declining player. For the Lakers to reach their potential this season, they must play inside-out. Gasol and Bynum should be the primary offensive options for most of the game until crunch time. Unfortunately, Kobe is stubborn and still thinks that he is as good as he was 4 or 5 years ago. As a result, he will continue to use up a substantial amount of the Lakers’ possessions, which will cost them a couple of games. I do not have any faith in Mike Brown to tell Kobe to cool it.

Surprise of the Year
The Minnesota Timberwolves will contend for a playoff spot. For the first time since firing Flip Saunders, the Head Coach has experienced playoff success and the team can field a competitive starting five.

Rookie of the Year
Usually, to win the RoY award requires three things: (1) substantial hype coming into the season, (2) an opportunity to play a lot, and (3) ability to contribute right away. Several players fit those criteria but the ones that stand out to me are Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. Irving was highly touted thorough out his freshman year at Duke even though he only played 11 games and Walker is a household name because of his excellent play in the regular season and in the tournament. Both players were drafted into situations in which they will be given free reign; success or failure will not determine their playing time. And finally, they are skilled enough to compete from the beginning of the season. Ultimately, my pick for this award is Kyrie Irving because he is the better player.

Sleeper: Derrick Williams; sufficiently talented to contribute right away but Minnesota has several players that play his position. So, he might have the opportunity to play a lot and but will not rack up numbers that warrant the Rookie of the Year award.

Coach of the Year
Lionel Hollins: The Grizzlies made a deep run in the playoffs last year without Rudy Gay. Insert a healthy Rudy Gay and this team will win a lot of games.

6th Man
To come up with my prediction for this award, I went through all the teams that I think would make the playoffs or at the very least, compete for a postseason spot. I settled on five players: Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, James Harden, and O.J. Mayo. I then eliminated Terry, Crawford, and Odom because of this fact: in the 28 year history of 6th Man of the Year award, only twice has a player won this award two times, with the last time being in 1992. So, needless to say, the chances that Terry, Crawford, and Odom to win this award for the second time are very slim. This left Harden and Mayo and I chose Mayo simply because I foresee that Harden will be permanently inserted into the starting lineup sometime during the season.

MVP
Kevin Durant: The Thunder might finish with the best record and Durant in the best player on the team. (Allen, you are crazy!)

Conference Winners

Eastern Conference
Miami Heat: Although the Heat have not solved their problems at center and point guard, the team will make it out of the East because there is not a complete team in the Eastern Conference. Other than Derrick Rose, the Bulls lack a player that can create off the dribble against elite defenses. The Knicks do not play a high level of defense. And the Celtics are just too old.

Western Conference
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder lost in the Western Conference finals last year despite having leads in the final minutes of several of the games. Another year of experience and an improvement in Westbrook’s decision making and in Durant’s ability to get open will lead to the first ever appearance by the OKC franchise in the NBA Finals.

Champions
Oklahoma City Thunder: Since the end of 2011 NBA Finals, I have been proclaiming with confidence that the Heat will win the championship in 2012. But after taking a closer look at the roster of OKC, it is clear that the Thunder have the most complete team in the NBA. The Thunder can defend the paint, have good perimeter defenders, and have elite wing scorers. From Durant and Westbrook to Cole Aldrich, this team legitimately goes 10-deep and because of that they will be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the playoffs.

Bunker – EIC
Rookie of the Year: I refuse to make a  prediction, because I don’t think any rookie will have any significant impact. I can pretend to care about the rookies and do some further research explaining why Derrick Williams will be a better player than Kyrie Irving. Or why Kemba Walker doesn’t fit into the Bobcats system. Although I am excited to see Ricky Ruuuuuuuuuubio. Oh yeah. Jimmer Fredette ROY.
Coach of the Year – Mark Jackson. I think he’ll turn the team around and get them to the playoffs. They have a great offense and I think he’ll bring the defensive toughness necessary to make the team successful.
Sixth Man of the Year – Eddy Curry. 10pts. 5 rebs. and the key to the Miami Heat championship run. (Also another category I refused to do real research on)
MVP: I would give it to Dwight Howard, but he’s going to be moving around and there’s a chance he may lose motivation in Disney Land. Chris Paul. He deserved it the year Kobe won it, but this year I think he will really get it.
Playoff Standings
Eastern Conferece
1. Miami Heat
2. New York Knicks – I’m in the extreme minority here, but I think the Chicago Bulls’ success last year was a bit fluky. Derrick Rose played out of his mind and the defense was impeccable. I don’t think they can repeat that same success, especially because they will not sneak up on the better teams this year. I feel like the Knicks can pull off that sort of run this year due to how much offense they have. If Chandler and D. Coordinator Mike Woodson can bring defense to a city that prides itself on toughness (which I think they will), I think the Knicks have a shot at overtaking the Bulls
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Atlanta Hawks – Only because I think Boston will take a few steps back.
5. Boston Celtics – Too old.
6. Orlando/New Jersey Nets (depending on who has Dwight Howard)
7. Indiana Pacers – A very young and talented team that will give teams fits this year.
8. Charlotte Bobcats – I think they are the best team that didn’t make the playoffs last year.
I just realized how bad the Eastern Conference becomes after the top 4 teams.

Western Conference

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

2. Los Angeles Clippers – Lob City with the MVP Chris Paul

3. Dallas Mavericks – Gotta give it to the World Champs.

4. Los Angeles Lakers

5. Denver Nuggets

6. San Antonio Spurs – A scary sixth seed given the shortened season.

7. Portland Trailblazers
8. Golden State Warriors – Mama There go that man.
NBA CHAMPIONS: MIAMI HEAT. For the love of God, big 3 just get it done.

Live Journal – New York State of Mind – Giants vs. Jets. Live from Manhattan Island.

12:09 – I got off the Bolt Bus from Washington D.C. I forgot how cold it was in New York. I was quickly reminded when I saw a host of Marmots and North Faces, I was left with a thin red and black hooded sweatshirt. I walked straight down Spring Street, looking for the closest sports bar with a good drink deal.

12:20 – I got to Off the Wagon at 109 MacDougal, which was surprisingly empty given there were a host of great games coming up. I gave New Yorkers the benefit of the doubt, it was Christmas Eve.

12:22 – After taking my seat at the bar, I heard a stampede. I turned around to see 12 Jets fans running upstairs, followed by five or six Giants fans, running in as if they planned the whole thing.

12:35 – A racially ambiguous Jets fan confronts me speaking in what I thought was English. Translation: “What team are you cheering for, because I am confused by your neutral colors. You are wearing black, which indicates you are neither a Jets fan nor a Giants fan.” He also mentioned that it’s okay if the Giants lost, because if the Cowboys won, the Giants still had a chance to make the playoffs. At that point, I knew I was the pretentious fan; I turned around and dismissed him without even responding. [For those who don’t know, if the Giants lost this game and the Cowboys won, the Giants would be eliminated from the playoffs]

12:44 – ESPN promo with Antrelle Rolle and Brandon Jacobs discussing what it means to be a New Yorker. Stupid. There is no reason there should be three hours of NFL Countdown. It’s a pure waste of television time.

12:50 – The crowd began erupting as the ESPN analysts make their picks for the NYJ-NYG game. I realized at the point, the bar was split by floor: Giants fans downstairs, Jets fans upstairs (with a sprinkle of Giants fans roaming around). I was of course stuck with the lowly Jets fans. I didn’t know people actually cheered and booed picks.

12:56 – Glad to see the most hyped game of the week in the biggest market getting the B-team treatment from Fox. I was highly disappointed to see Kenny Albert and Daryl “Moose” Johnston. If I had my choice between the two animals I’ll take a lame unenthusiastic Buck over a dull Moose every time.

1:00 – Kickoff – Fifth of 22 J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS! chants.  I hate the chant, mostly due to jealousy. The best I have is “GGGGGG MEEEENNNNNN”. There is no way to arouse a spontaneous chorus with that. Pitcher #1

1:05: Giants hand the ball off twice for a total of two yards and Eli Manning throws a pass short of the first down. 3 and out! Good start for the Giants. I put my head down, while the sixth Jets chant breaks out.

1:13: Giants stop the Jets on 4th down. I pump my fists in the faces of the Jets fans next to me. Only to see that the Giants had 12 men on the field. Good. Another gulp of Bud Light.

1:15: Josh Baker Touchdown reception from Mark Sanchez. Moose praises Brian Schottenheimer and Sanchez for sticking to the game plan aka run the ball for at least 6 yards in the first two downs, so that Sanchez doesn’t really have to play Quarterback. Bitter.  Giants 0 Jets 7

1:25 : Eli sacked. The Jets fans erupt. I move closer to the edge of the bar. The game is eerily resembling the Redskins game, where the Giants came out flat. They struggled to move the ball. Eli looked awkward, which isn’t saying much, but he looked dopey in the first few drives. Again not saying much.

1:31: Another Giants drop. For as much as the statistics and analysts love to credit the Giants “young explosive” wide receiver core for the reason Eli’s having such a great year, Eli would be putting up Dan Marino-esq. numbers if they held onto the ball. The Giants lead the league in drops. Drive killing and touchdown-squandering drops, but of course all of the blame will go on the slouching shoulders of the younger Manning.

1:33: Brandon Jacobs sighting. Trucks Kyle Wilson. As much as a malcontent that guy can be, no one can deny that when he’s running hard, he adds something special to the Giants’ offense.

1:37: Another punt. Another Jets chant

1:48: Victor Cruz makes a nice catch and run to the goal line. I can’t stand this guy. He’s either breaking off 80 yard runs and making circus catches or running the wrong route or having the ball bounce off of his face. Frustrating, but all anyone says is “I love that guy, he’s on my fantasy team!”

The Goal line also means there’s a chance that Brandon Jacobs could score! Which means inappropriate touchdown dance! I’m very excited for this.

1:51: 2 more drops lead to a Giants field goal. No Brandon Jacobs dance, no touchdown, also robs me of the excuse to do the dance, without seeming as though I’m a sexual predator. JETS fans go craaazy. DEFENSE! DEFENSE! J- E… ninth chant. Someone screamed about “Revis Island”, I also heard something about the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot and Tim Tebow.  Jets 7 Giants 3

2:05: I don’t know who the Giants Special Teams coordinator is, but he should be fired immediately. They have not had a significant return or game-changing play as a result of special teams. Besides punt returners fumbling of course.

2:13: Jets fans completely misunderstood the illegal touching rule. In the mean time, the excitement in the game slowed down significantly at this point. The game was an offensive struggle at that point. This left a lot of time for the women in the bar to get distracted and begin talking about one another. This included the women commenting on the perkiness of each others’ breasts, not that I was listening. I also overheard one woman (Jet fan of course) accuse the other woman of having “breasts so huge, she could  feed a whole village in the Philippines.” I just googled “Population of villages in the Philippines” and I agree.

2:16: Bar tender offers me buffalo wings. She clearly understands men, but doesn’t understand black men. You know what they say, if you ever build a canoe, paint it black, because it won’t tip.

(At some point): Victor Cruz takes an 11-yard catch and turns it into a 99-yard touchdown. Oh! No Brandon Jacobs dance, but I get the questionably offensive salsa touchdown dance. I’ll take it. Giants take the lead for the first time. Jets 7 Giants 10

2:25: Aaron Ross picks up a fumble and runs into the end zone for a touchdown. It didn’t look like a fumble. A closer look revealed that it was a very close play. It looked as though Antrelle Rolle kicked the ball out of the receiver’s arms. Either way, it was inconclusive, which means the play should stand.

2:27: The play was reversed. Much to my dismay. 11th Jets chant.

Bladder Relief : I bumped into an old blue collar white male wearing a random jersey of some back-up center that I’m sure even Pat Hanlon is unaware exists. “Terrible call”, he said leaning over the urinal. “But we’ll get them,” he said as he spilled on the floor in front of him. “In Eli I trust,” he grunted. He pat me on the back. Still unsure, whether he bothered to wash his hands.

2:35: Jets missed field goal to end the half.

HALFTIME: Where the ridiculous happens. The atmosphere evolved from a stadium to a parade. Not Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades, but more along the lines of Labor Day Parade, Puerto Rican Day Parade, grope fest type of parade. It happened so quickly. A minute after I digested the groping/dancing, a rock version of the driedel song began playing. Although the bar was filled with primarily gentiles, they all grouped together both Jets and Giants fans, swayed back and forth singing along.

2:52: Giants Defense gets a three and out? – Yes! Pitcher #2

3:29: Bradshaw trucks Rodney Pool and the bar goes crazy. Jets 7 Giants 17. This feels good. The Jets fans are slowly coming to the realization that they could lose the game.

3:52: Sanchez driving. Throws a fade route to Plaxico Burress for the Touchdown. Revenge! I have Jets fans hounding me, until… YES! Pass Interference, Offense number #17.

3:54: Right on cue. Sanchez fumbles!

Shot interlude

3:55: Play reversed. Jets fans rejoice. JETS chant #16

4:00: 3rd and Goal from the 2. Pro-Bowl Center Nick Mangold fumbles the ball. However, no one in the bar realizes that the Giants recovered the ball. JETS chant #17.

4:01: Jets fans are confused when they see the Giants with the football. Jets 7 Giants 20

4:02: Hakeem “Great Hands” Nicks, has the ball bounce of his hands and chest for another undeserved blow to Eli Manning’s stats. Why wouldn’t they run the ball? Coughlin/whoever calls plays confuses me. Judging by his reaction, I think Coughlin was confused why they didn’t run the ball.

4:05: Pierre-Paul comes up big with a strip sack. I pump my fists in the face of the Filipino-village breast feeding woman. She called me a faggot. I think that was uncalled for.

4:06: Rex Ryan wins another challenge. The Giants just can’t get a break.

4:10: Sanchez runs it in for a Touchdown. JETS chant #18 and #19. Jets 14 Giants 20

4:15: The Cowboys-Eagles games starts and throws my focus off for a bit. I miss a few plays including a rare DJ Ware first down.

4:20: Sanchez gets the ball. Can he be that clutch player every Jets fan claims he is. He drops back, Chris Canty grabs him in the end zone and he throws the ball to D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Safety! Giants fans lose it jumping on top of the Jet fans, again the word Faggot and bitch was thrown around a lot. Jets 14 Giants 22

4:23: Free-kick on-side kick. JETS chant #22. Giants recover.

4:25: Ahmad Bradshaw ends the day with a touchdown! Jets 14 Giants 29

 

Dallas vs. Giants next week! I’m live.

With the Penn State Nittany Lions in an absolute free fall, one would think Pennsylvania’s lesser brother would benefit from the football void.  The much maligned and often ignored Pittsburgh Panthers could take advantage of Pennsylvania talent (yes, I laughed when I wrote that too) and at the very least make a run for football powerhouse.  It is hard not to see how they don’t do more with their advantages.  For one, being in State College is a detrimental thing because no one knows where it is.  Pittsburgh is a recognizable city with a football fan base ready to be coopted by amateur athletics. Although playing in an embarrassment of a conference (Big East) this leads to a much easier path to a BCS bowl game than the Big Ten where Penn State struggles to compete let alone get to post season glory.  Although few would have predicted the Penn State debacle it is hard to imagine why the Panthers could not be a more meaningful football program.  Happily the answer is revealed through coaching!

Former Wisconsin Badger offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was named the new head coach of Panthers, its fourth head coach in 13 months and sixth overall if you include interim coaches.  I did not know if I should use the four or six number but as Major Rawls would advise: the horse is out the barn.  Since the Deputy likes dots and most people don’t read Pitt Panthers’ forums on a weekly basis, a little summary will suffice.

  • Dave Wannstedt coached Pitt from 2005 until 2010.  Pitt being Pitt struggled during those years but in 2009 went 10-3, winning double digit wins for the first time since the early 1980s.  Coach earned a two year contract extension in early 2010 but was forced to resign in late 2010 due to not meeting the high expectations of going to a BCS bowl game.  Suffice it to say that everyone was shocked and it was one of the least popular/unnecessary moves in College Football.
  • Michael Haywood was hired to lead the Panthers in late December 2010. On New Year’s Eve, Haywood got into a domestic dispute with his wife and was arrested for felony domestic violence.  After being released on bond on Jan. 1, he was fired by Pitt.  0-0 record!
  • Assistant coach Phil Bennett won Pitt’s bowl game, thanks to Wannstedt’s work over the season before being pushed out and the one Haywood could not coach.  He apparently did not impress anyone one so he left to be an assistant at Baylor.
  • Todd Graham took over and actually coached a full season at Pitt.  He established a disrespectful relationship with his players – blaming QB Tino Sunseri for Pitt’s struggles and coaching them to 6-6, second in the Big East.  Under his tenure, three assistant coaches left Pitt and everything built by Wannstedt went to hell in a hand basket.
  • Keith Patterson was named interim head coach for their bowl game.  He lasted long enough to lead one practice.
  • And now, Paul Chryst.

This is a Grade-A disaster and that sits at the feet of athletic director Steve Pederson.  His high standards and subpar program meant the firing of Wannstedt, easily their best coach in decades.  It also means he is oblivious to the world around him where West Virginia and Cincinnati easily are more enjoyable places that Pitt for football reasons.  The players feel betrayed and unless you build up the equity to survive the ruthlessness of college football coaching carrousels, plays do not want to go to your school.  It is why Penn State will continue to out recruit them despite the black eye of having a 1960s offense and unspeakable crimes (no pun intended for those who did not go to authorities – darn athletic directors).  Many will point to the coaches as the perpetrators of ineptitude but digging a little deeper will reveal some issues to be more systemic than others.  Pederson cannot be held accountable for Haywood but he is primarily responsible in not elevating an assistant, for hiring someone who makes Todd Haley eligible of Personality of the Year, and for firing their loyal alumna who also happened to win games at a tier two or three program.

What the hell happened to the Pitt Panthers football program?  Fixing things that were not broken.

MLB Bidding War – Is it Worth it?

Posted: December 21, 2011 in Bunker
Tags: , , ,

Major League Baseball teams engage in an annual bidding war for the new Asian flavor of the month. Every year brings about a new can’t miss Asian superstar that will change the face of baseball. These superstars have one great year, fade away and the teams are stuck paying these average players huge salaries. None of these players have won a cy Young and only one player has won the MVP. Yet they are paid on the same level as some of the best pitchers and hitters in baseball, while producing pedestrian statistics at best. I have nothing against recruiting Asian players from overseas, but to bid on these players as if they are top-tier major league talents. They have time and time again historically failed. With an exception: Ichiro Suzuki. I will argue even the was grossly overpaid given his production.

Let’s take a look at some of the examples of the most publicized players from the Pacific who have come over to the MLB.

Hideo Nomo (arguable the best pitcher ever to come over)


Career ERA – 4.24.
Winning Percentage – 53%
Average Innings – 150
Average Starts – 23

So at best we are talking about a guy who will win you maybe 10 games and whose skills significantly diminished after teams got used to his awkward motion. The Dodgers paid him over $27,000,000 in the 90s for that production. Was it really worth it? In the season in which he made $9 million at the age of 35, Nomo was 4-11 with an ERA over 8.25.

Ichiro Suzuki (best hitter to come over)

Career Batting Average: .326
Hit Total: 2428
HR Total: 95
Stolen Bases: 423

In over 11 season Ichiro has been paid about $130 million dollars. In those 11 years, Ichiro has picked up 2 batting titles, 10 Gold Gloves, won a league MVP, lead the league in hits 7 times and lead the league in steals once. For all this, all the Mariners have to show for it is a disappointing loss to the New York Yankees in the ALCS in 2001 and have not sniffed the playoffs since. Again $130 million on your best player, only to get singles hitter, who, for all his speed is very conservative about stealing bases. For all his speed, couldn’t play center field.

Hideki Irabu (RIP)

Career ERA: 5.15

Enough said. Besides the fact he only had 80 starts over a 6 year short lived career and won less than half his games, he was called a “Fat pussy toad”  by his Boss.

Dice-K Matsuzaka

Career ERA – 4.25

Dice K is the prime example of how a bidding war can go terribly wrong. The Red Sox won the bidding war for Matsuzaka’s rights to a tune of $51 million. He was a sure thing. 7 pitches, including the famed GYROBALL . In his first two years Dice K won 33 games. Since then only 16 games over the next three seasons. $51 million and doesn’t seem like he’s even close to being a starter anymore.
Now we’re onto a new phenomenon! Yu Darvish. And the Rangers have won the sweepstakes on the new can’t miss Japanese player. The posting bid was $51.7 million. It is estimated that the total investment will be a little over 9 figures. $100,000,000!

Am I the only one who thinks that some of these players are just not worth that much money? When will GMs be willing to look passed the hype and look at the history of the productivity. In other sports they have realized that certain fads just don’t translate (the “mobile QB”, who isn’t a pocket passer in the NFL and the 7’4 + Centers who have 0 body weight in the NFL.), somehow baseball GMs haven’t caught on yet.

Here’s to 9 figures to two years of a real ROI. [Return on Investment]

Youth Movement in the NFL

Posted: December 20, 2011 in ALL II
Tags: , ,

I needed to see the league from a macro-perspective to figure out what is happening with the coaching carrousel and the play on the field.  For one, I hardly accuse athletes of quitting because it is disrespectful and ignorant but what is happening in Tampa Bay is the definition of a team that lacks leadership.  Conversely, Miami found itself in the last month emerging as one of the toughest outs in football meaning the GM waiting until a loss to fire Tony Sparano.  Shameful.  Still, at stake is the over-evaluation of talent combined with little patience for young coaches.

Sanchez, Flacco, Chika’s main man Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  These players were touted about as the big fish, promising futures, and won in bunches.  Some of these plays do show consistent talent: Flacco, the quarterback I liked the least throws the best deep ball of the group and arguably in the NFL but is a walking liability.  AFC title game in 2008, keeps beating Patriots in the playoffs.  That masks some faults.  Sanchez is a walking risk/reward maven did not need to leave USC after one year but his regular seasons make it difficult to back him.  Two AFC title game appearances and 9 Touchdowns, 3 Interceptions in his postseason career hides warts.  Ryan could not lose in the Georgia Dome until he lost in the Georgia Dome.  0-2 in the playoffs does not help either but is widely regarded as a top ten, franchise level quarterback.  Freeman overachieved and finally landed back to earth.  Same with Fitzpatrick.

With the quarterback position evolving it seems clear that teams need to slow down and evaluate their talent beyond the on-field production of wins and playoff appearances.  Front offices and the suits also do not know how to assess the play on the field and the role they play in relation to the players.  The fired, YOUNG coaches shows the importance of winning now often at the risk of misevaluating players and overrating “franchise” talent.  The youth movement is over but the expectations on young quarterbacks are higher and more elusive than ever.

On the other end of the spectrum is my man Alex Smith.  It took seven years and nearly seven offensive coordinators – something that is totally underrated but invaluable- but he finally looks like the overall 2005 number one pick.  Maybe young coaches get it.  Smith is succeeding with Jim Harbaugh, fresh out of college and more flexible with his players.  Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, and every other Mike could not translate.  Josh McDaniels’ Tim Tebow pick, still indefensible, looks good under the veteran leadership of John Fox.  The entire thing is too hard to predict but the pendulum will be swinging to older leadership next year.  The question remains – especially with Peyton Manning looming as a possible offseason acquisition- when will patience run thin on the field generals whose window of opportunity is steadily closing.

Everyone knows that Tim Tebow is a polarizing figure.  Some, particularly bitter NFL players who do not pay child support, think he is a great running back while others have been converted by his mystical picking apart of prevent defenses and picking up the pieces of other player’s mental blunders.  His religion, however, is a lightning rod for people who believed it is being disrespected or thrown in everyone’s face like a really athletic televangelist.  But this may be over the top.   Students at Riverhead High School began Tebowing in the school’s hallway resulting in four students being suspended for one day each.  The reason?  Tebowing may cause “a dangerous situation.”  Silly students and their fun and games.

Check out the full story here via Yahoo! Sport’s Prep Rally: N.Y. teens suspended for Tebowing in schools hallway.

Is this surprising coming from someone named Metta World Peace?

Of the Heisman candidates, we all know that Andrew Luck is considered to be the best NFL prospect. Who is the second best? Three writers weigh in.

Bunker

I’ll take RGIII. I may even take RGIII over Luck, but for the sake of this article, let’s forget Luck. The NFL is moving further away from your standard pocket quarterback. Now, I’m not jumping on the Tebow bandwagon, but I feel as though with the inexact science that is putting together a cohesive O-Line, the mobile Quarterback will have greater value. Unlike Michael Vick, RGIII is weighs more than a buck-eighty. Standing at 6’2 225lb., he has the ability to be both a pocket passer, which he showed flashes of greatness during his Heisman season and make plays with his feet. He will be a poor man’s Cam Newton next year and there’s no questioning his character or work ethic. I think RG3 is a can’t miss pick. He will bring excitement, discipline to any team. I question his ability to throw from the pocket, however, his ceiling is higher than Barkley’s. Barkley is a USC Quarterback. There is something about USC quarterbacks that when they make it to the NFL they just don’t get it done. So Barkley, like Palmer, Sanchez, and Leinart, he will fall short of the hype.

ALL II

It is hard to evaluate NFL talent from college tapes especially when the game is changing as often as today’s NFL.  I can confidently assert that we are in a pass happy era: quarterbacks control the offense more, make more calls at the line, throw farther, and process information faster.  Players like Tim Tebow and Cameron Newton give hope to the hybrid quarterback but products like Vince Young and Michael Vick give some pause.  Defensive stars get exposed and set up islands given the system they play in more than individual talent.  What has not changed is the role of the running back.

Monte Ball will be the best NFL prospect because his quickness, secondary speed, but unique ability to finish runs.  I am not totally sold on the viability of the bigger back (Richardson) as an every down back that can dominate throughout a career.  Ball’s size (maturity people…no adolescent laughs) makes me certain he will succeed at the next level.  I think he has the most pure talent after Luck and a game translatable to the professional level. When I look at other backs that achieved success in their careers, Ball reminds me of Ricky Williams – without the extracurriculars.

Cheeks

For a long time, elite athleticism at the quarterback position was an undervalued characteristic. Usually, quarterbacks who possessed exceptional speed and/or agility were asked to switch to a skilled position other than quarterback. Reasons for wanting a the quarterback to change positions ranged from less-than-stellar throwing mechanics to lack of experience in a pro-style offense. In addition, setting aside several years to develop these types of quarterbacks were thought to be a misguided use of time.

Well, times have clearly changed. Athleticism at the quarterback position is now valued (See Vick, Newton, etc.).  Provided that one shows the capability to develop the requisite skills to become a good pocket passer, mobility and speed are very coveted attributes by NFL executives, coaches, and scouts. This is why I think that Robert Griffin III will be the best NFL prospect out of the Heisman candidates besides Andrew Luck. Beyond the fact that he is a good guy and has a great work ethic, RGIII has all the tools to become a complete quarterback. He is fast1, mobile, has a strong arm, and is very accurate (72.4 completion %). But most importantly, he seems to be committed to becoming an excellent pocket passer. Most athletic quarterbacks tend to rely on their athleticism and neglect to improve on the fine details of the position (i.e. footwork, football intelligence). Such does not seem to be the case for RGIII.

1 Big 12 Conference 400-meter hurdles champion in the spring prior to his freshman season

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