Monday, February 27, 2006

Puerto Rico, hooo...Serbia-Montenegro, hooo...

Just remember that you heard that chant here first, because when you hear the TD Waterhouse Center rocking to that in a year or two, you’ll know exactly where it came from. After a longer than anticipated delay, I’m here to weigh in on the Magic’s trade deadline moves as well as a couple of other topics of interest. It actually worked out quite well that I was forced to delay this post, because it took the Magic a couple of games before they began to truly work Darko into the rotation. It was beginning to look like the same old scenario for the Dark One after his first two games for the Magic resulted in just 4 minutes of playing time (as well as a DNP-CD) and, honestly, I was not all that surprised, considering the Magic’s managerial incompetence. However, all that began to change on Friday night as Brian Hill called Darko’s number early in the second quarter against the Sonics. As expected, the crowd roared in approval of Darko’s insertion, but not anything even close to the sound that erupted from the stands when Carlos Arroyo checked in a minute later. Though I was very pleased that the Magic were able to acquire Arroyo in their trade with Detroit, I had failed to consider the tremendous public relations boost that the Magic will receive from acquiring the favorite son of Puerto Rico. Though Miami is a far more Hispanic city than Orlando, the Central Florida area has become increasingly Hispanic itself over the last 10-15 years, with the majority of these people hailing from the island of Puerto Rico. As the consistently awful Matt Guokas pointed out, Arroyo has instantly become the Magic’s most popular player. For a franchise that needs some local buzz and is also campaigning for a new publicly financed arena, this should be a positive. By the time that Arroyo entered the game, the Magic were starting to extend their lead and Darko had slammed down his first two points at home. Normally, I would’ve settled in for the rest of the game and a few beers, but just then a couple of my friends called from the gentleman’s club around the corner from my house and invited me up (at 7:30, no less). As you would expect, I immediately set my Tivo for record and headed out to meet my friends and help some young girls pay off their college loans.

I arrived shortly (Seriously, I live maybe two minutes away from a strip club. I also live within walking distance of a 7-11, another bar, the beach, a drive-thru liquor store and an American Legion that has NFL Ticket…I’m never moving) to find my friends sitting in the aforementioned establishment. I quickly joined them for viewing of what can only be described as “questionable talent”. We ended staying for about and hour or so (though my friends had been there since 5:30, I know), after which I returned home for a few more beverages and the recorded second half of the Magic game. I ended up skipping through a large part of the second half in order to get a further look at Darko and Arroyo, even though the game was out of hand by early in the second half as the Sonics were clearly mailing it in by mid third quarter. Because of the lack of competitive play, there wasn’t an awful lot to take away from the game, other than the fact that Jameer Nelson better get back from his injury soon if he doesn’t want to end up the Wally Pipp to Arroyo’s Puerto Rican Lou Gehrig.

The Magic followed up Friday’s win with a totally uninspired performance against Houston yesterday for much of the game’s first three quarters. Apparently, the lack of announcers threw the Magic starters off their game. Though the Magicians lost again (for the 13th time in 15 games), the fourth quarter provided a glimpse of the future and, possibly, a little hope of brighter days ahead. Darko blocked four shots and Arroyo set up Hedo Turkoglu on a couple of three pointers as the Magic reserves nearly erased all of Houston’s twenty point lead before finally falling short. The efforts of Darko and Arroyo even had Brian Hill talking about getting them more minutes (and possibly starting assignments) in the near future. Hey, you’re 20-35 and you just traded the only player on your team who could be presently viewed as a “star. Why not just go ahead and do it now?

Though I’m still not sure what Darko is going to be able to bring to the Magic offensively, it has become clear that he does possess the ability to block and alter shots on a regular basis. That ability, in tandem with the athleticism and defensive instincts of Dwight Howard, should allow him to get meaningful minutes while becoming more comfortable on the court and within the Magic’s offensive system. Additionally, Arroyo has looked great thus far, using his quickness to get in the lane and create for himself and his teammates. Watching him play point guard is further reminder of how terribly deficient Steve Francis was in so many of the areas that a successful NBA point guard should excel in. I’m sure there is a reason why Jerry Sloan ended up nearly murdering Arroyo two years ago, but I’m also pretty damn sure that at least some of that was due to Jerry Sloan being crazy as well as suffering from horrible John Stockton withdrawals (insert lame Brokeback Mountain joke here).

I think that you can guess by now that I am in favor of the Magic’s trade deadline moves. Darko is an intriguing talent who’ll finally get a chance to blossom in Orlando (plus he’s seven-fucking-one). Furthermore, the Magic have the next year and half to study his development and determine whether or not he is going to be a player they deem worthy of re-signing when he hits free agency. The Magic also have two very good young (and somewhat proven) point guards on their roster to help direct an offense that is sure to stagnate from time to time when you consider the amount of youth and inexperience on this team. When you consider that the Magic only gave up Kelvin Cato (and his carny hands) and a top 5 protected pick in 2007 for these two building blocks for the future, I’m wont to say that the Magic have significantly improved their possibility for future success, and I haven’t even mentioned Steve Francis yet.

I’m not going to spend too much time talking about all the things that I couldn’t stand about watching Steve-O play basketball (I’d like to go home tonight), instead I’m going to paste an email my friend (and fellow long suffering Magic fan) Vitas sent to me last Wednesday. The email subject was “No more…”

No more…
…power dribbling between the legs
…fade away jumpers at the end of the shot clock
…constant arguing with the referees
…passes out of bounds
…crying for long lost Cuttino
…lazy defense
…“O” sign with the arms Thankfully, Steve-O has gone the way of MTV Jams
…Steve Francis

Thank you Jesus

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. I got particular joy out of the fact that Steve Francis was traded for the expiring contract of Penny Hardaway (though not as much joy as Brian Hill must’ve gotten when he was able to cut Penny), who was the only “star” player whose tenure in Orlando was filled with more whining and bitching than that of Francis. This joy was not only a result of seeing karma kick penny in his ass, but also a visceral reaction to not having to deal with the sight of Jamal Crawford shooting pull-up fadeway jumpers for the next four years. I would’ve rather held on to Francis than acquire the likes of Crawford and Mo Taylor (which the Magic were close to doing), two guys who would neither excel nor fit in amongst the current roster of young Magic players. Don’t get me wrong, both are solid NBA players, just not players that you really want on your team. I, along with every other Magic fan I spoke to, was more than happy to receive Trevor Ariza and Penny’s expiring contract in exchange for the man who once skipped a game to attend the Super Bowl.

One side note to the trade: Look for Trevor Ariza to blossom as he’s taken under the wing of another athletic, defensive, and slightly crazy small forward…Stacey Augmon. I can see the two of them shooting lotion at reporters already.

Finally, if the Magic were able to acquire Adam Morrison (who they are reportedly very high on) in this year’s draft, they would start the 2007 season with a lineup that looked something like this:

PG: Nelson, Arroyo (defensively they’ll have problems but should create just as many for opponents)

SG: Stevenson (very tough and underrated defensively), Dooling (perfect as an off the bench scorer…yes, I’ve turned around on him, a bit)

SF: Morrison (I’m not yet sold on him as a pro, we’ll see), Turkoglu (Solid, but definitely NOT an NBA starter)

PF: Darko, Battie/??? (possibly Vazquez, though I’m not counting on it)

C: Howard, Kasun (Howard is a STUD and Kasun is a lot better than people realize)

When you look at that roster, it’s not too hard to imagine this team becoming a contender in the Eastern Conference within the next few years. Obviously a lot has to go right in order for the Magic to become a contender (and not a lot has gone right for the Magic in recent memory) but the team is now positioned toward the future with a young, talented roster and $17 million dollars of cap room next summer to spend on some perimeter scoring. Presently, the future looks as bright as it has looked for this organization in quite some time, and that view couldn’t have come any sooner. The Magic’s last real shot in to succeed in Orlando is fast approaching as Dwight Howard continues to develop and moves his way toward possible free agency. If these moves do work out, then the Magic stand a great chance of re-signing Howard and possibly (one day) bringing a championship to Orlando. If they don’t work out…well, then get used to the sound of the Nashville Magic.

A couple of other notes:

I don’t know what was wrong with Matty Guokas on Friday night Maybe he was hanign out with Rudy T before the game), but he was actually making pertinent and well thought out comments throughout the broadcast. When discussing the chances of Darko becoming a legitimate NBA player, the name Jermaine O’Neal came up (as it invariably does whenever talk of an underutilized, yet highly thought of young big man surfaces) and while Guokas didn’t say that Darko couldn’t become Jermaine O’Neal (he can’t), he focused his comparisons on another player who’s become productive after a couple of seasons stuck behind more experienced, talented big men, Primoz Brezec. Not only is that a far better parallel than the Jermaine O’Neal angle (in terms of size, skill set, ethnicity), but it would also make me awfully happy if Darko were to ever fulfill Guokas’ propechy. Brezec is a solid high post passer and shooter, whose game would complement the low post development of Howard very well.

- Chad Jackson’s stock is beginning to skyrocket after he ran a 4.32 at the combine this weekend. Apparently Dee Webb ran something in the mid 4.4s, which is pretty damn impressive when you consider that he was running with a sawed-off shotgun tucked into his waistband. The only other Gator (or former Gator) that's been mentioned in the combine reports that I've seen is Ingle Martin who is evidently working his way into consideration as a possible late round pick. I haven't really watched him play since he left Florida (save for one I-AA playoff game this year) but I'm shocked that he is getting NFL consideration. Then again, Doug Johnson and Jesse Palmer played in the NFL so maybe I shouldn't be surprised at all.

- Florida lost (again) yesterday, putting the Gators at 5-6 in their last 11 games and 8-6 in the SEC. They are also 0-3 when wearing their throwback uniforms, which they’ll also be wearing during the SEC Tournament. Sweet.

Friday, February 24, 2006're doing great.

I know that I'm overdue for a post about the Magic's trade deadline manuevers, but I'm experiencing some delays in the completionof my company's monthly magazine due to the inconsiderate imcompetence of a member of our Board. She writes a letter to the membership each month and, though I clearly stated that the 22nd was the deadline for submissions, her letter has still yet to arrive in my inbox. Of course, this means that I have to delay the finalization of a couple of key elements to the magazine and will be stuck finishing up the magazine until the final hour or so of this afternoon. I swear, next month we might have a half empty magazine as my little way of driving home the point that I operate on a deadline that must be adhered to. Either that or I'll end here posting about how much I hate the peopel I work with/for...yeah, the latter is probably a more likely scenario. I'll post something this weekend...I swear.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It's time to face facts, you're a luger...a huge luger.

While that title may make some people think that I’m going to extensively cover some Winter Olympics action in this post, it may also make some people think that I really do think they’re a luger. In both instances, these people would be spectacularly wrong. Really, the only reason why I led with that title is that every time I hear an announcer refer to someone as a “luger” it makes me giggle like some silly little seventh grade kid in gym class after watching some clueless schmoe classmate get pantsed as he attempted to set the new class pull up record. It’s sophomoric and idiotic but, then again, so am I and I’m not about to start making apologies for myself.

Honestly, I’d like to be able to write an entire column on the Winter Olympics but that is going to be awfully hard since the “Olympics that Bryant Gumbel won’t watch” have been no higher on my TV viewing food chain than Second TV for nearly the entirety of their existence thus far. In my assessment, that is the perfect spot for the Winter Olympics anyway. I certainly don’t care enough about these Olympics to clog up my main TV with the various exploits of these “Snolympians” ( I made that up myself, thank you) and the Olympic coverage switches from event to event far too quickly for Picture-in-Picture to be of anything other than mild assistance. That’s why the second TV is perfect for the Winter Olympics, it allows you to occasionally glance at the action on NBC and (when necessary) quickly switch your main TV to an event of personal interest (Snow Cross, Skeleton, and Ski Jump to name a few personal favorites) at the Olympics. As a result of this approach to Winter Olympic viewing, you’ll have to go elsewhere if you’re looking for a breakdown of tonight’s Davis-Hedrick Speed Skating Battle Royale or any other ridiculously overhyped event that approximately 2% of the world’s population is even aware of, for that matter. Sorry to disappoint you.

"Have you been watching the Winter Olympics Bri?"

"Oh hell naw G! Have seen the utter paucity of brothas in that event? That shit is wack!"

"Word is bond!"

While I’m disappointing people in this space, I figure I might as well stay consistent. It’s due to this (and a tremendous lack of work ethic) that I’m going to delay any Darko related posts until later in the week when (hopefully) the Magic have decided on a proper destination for Steve Francis and I’ve had at least one chance to see Darko in action. While I have seen Darko play in the past, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t feel like the 10 combined minutes of garbage time that I’ve seen of him is enough material with which to dissect Darko’s game and therefore accurately predict his future success/failure (he is only 20). As you can probably guess, my initial feelings aren’t very “warm and fuzzy” especially when you consider that the Magic gave up $8.2 million in cap relief (better known as Kelvin Cato) and a lottery pick that is only lottery protected through the Top 5 in 2007. However, I’m going to hold off on blasting the continued ineptitude of the Orlando front office until I’ve had a little time to at least see the skills that Darko brings to the table. While I don’t expect him to come out and start dunking on Drew Gooden tonight (that would be awesome though), I would hope that the Magic give Darko enough time and touches to allow him the opportunity to display the multitude of skills that we’ve heard everybody, including his former teammates rave about for so long now.

Throughout his first two and a half years in Detroit, Darko repeatedly asked for an opportunity to play whether in Detroit or elsewhere. Considering the current state of the franchise, the Magic would be doing both themselves and Darko an enormous disservice if they attempted to hold him out of action while he acclimates himself to a new city and system. Both entities are in serious need of an infusion of excitement and promise, and the future (both short and long term) of both depends heavily on the outcome of this trade. What Darko needs right now is to feel wanted and valuable, to feel as though he is a real NBA player. Not just some guy who collects a paycheck and listens to fans heckle him endlessly as he rots on the bench. Conversely, what the Magic needs now is something to build toward, a sense of renewed optimism among the fan base that the organization is headed in the right direction and that brighter days are ahead. These two need each other. It is for these reasons that the Magic must get Darko on the court as soon as possible, and why the coaching staff must give him consistent minutes (25+) for the remaining 30 or so games of the season. Though the playoffs are still a remote & technical possibility, the Magic staff would be extremely unwise to believe that the playoffs were anything more than a pipe dream. Furthermore, using the notion of contending for the playoffs as a means to justify not integrating Darko into the lineup immediately, due to his relative lack of familiarity with the Magic’s system, would be completely unforgivable, and appropriately in line with the Magic’s normal managerial procedures. While conventional wisdom says that the Magic should hold off on giving Darko too many minutes initially because he doesn't know any of the plays at this point. I’m also quite sure that the same could be said for Mario Kasun, and that doesn’t seem to stop him from getting his heavily tattooed ass a measurable amount of playing time from night to night. Hopefully, I'll see enough of Darko tonight to report back tomorrow with some (at least) minimal insight on the man Rasheed Wallace has dubbed the "Serbian Gangsta".

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Who does #2 work for?

In light of yesterday's trade by the Orlando Magic, I should definitely be posting something of significance today. Though, I must admit that I'm not quite sure which I should mention first, the acquisition of Chad Ford's love monkey, Darko Milicic, or the fact that the Orlando Magic now boast a roster that includes FIVE point guards. Which, by the way, now allows the Magic to field the all 6'3" and under starting five that I called for in this blog so many months ago. If you remember, that request came as a direct result of the Magic's acquisitions of Keyon Dooling and Travis Diener within weeks of one another. Of course for the Magic to successfully field the smallest starting lineup in NBA history, Jameer Nelson would have to be able to actually play. This is currently an impossibility due to the mis-diagnosis of Nelson's torn ligament in his foot (originally diagnosed as a sprain) and the mind numbingly high level of incompetence that seemingly permeates the entire Orlando Magic organization. I should talk about all of this, and I will...eventually. I'm going to hold off on any further analysis or comment regarding the current direction of the Magic franchise until tomorrow when (hopefully) the organization's plans for Steve Francis have become clearer.

Besides my hope for additional player movement within the next 24 hours by the two headed General Managerial monster that is Dave Twardzik and Otis Smith, my reticence to discuss the Magic's most recent stab at front office competency is also due to my impending departure from work in less than an hour and a half. Though I wasn't lying to my co-workers when I told them I had an "appointment" at 3 pm, I'd be more than a little surprised if any of them realized that my appointment was, in fact, a tattoo appointment. I'm still not sure why, but evidently leaving work to sit in a tattoo parlor for three plus hours isn't viewed in the same light as going to have your prostate examined by Dr. Patel.

I'll be back at work tomorrow and should have something Magic/Darko related up by the early afternoon, provided that my entire right leg doesn't become infected overnight.

Finally, you're kidding yourself if you don't think that I've already purchased one these.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Basketball...the only reason we've never bombed Canada.

First off, I’d just like to thank both Villanova and UConn for what turned out to be a fantastic basketball game last night. After a fairly boring weekend of sports, this was just what the doctor ordered (If I’m the Doctor). While the game wasn’t played at the highest of levels, it was exactly the kind of intense, back and forth game that makes college basketball (especially conference games) so much fun to watch. Think about that last statement for a minute. Though we hear it often and probably dismiss it without much thought, how many games are actually fun to watch? I’d say not nearly as many as most would guess. It’s an entirely different phenomenon for a game to be fun than it is for one to be interesting or intriguing. While last night’s game was all of these things, it was, in its purest sense, fun to watch…and isn’t that the ultimate complement that a fan can pay to a sporting event? Anyway, here’s my take on some of the game’s participants and determining factors:

- Despite Villanova’s bevy of skilled perimeter players, most people had dismissed their chances against UConn prior to last night due to the enormous height advantage that the Huskies boast, especially along the front line. However, the lack of offensive skill amongst UConn’s power players (Boone, Armstrong, Nelson, Adrien) makes it especially tough for them to take advantage of this difference in size thereby imposing their will and style of play on the smaller Wildcats. In contrast, Villanova’s guards are quick and skilled enough to be able to spread the floor and draw defenders out onto the perimeter. By doing this, Villanova creates lanes for penetration while also freeing up each other for open jumpers. It is this combination of skill and athleticism that allows Villanova to create favorable matchups for their best players. On the other hand, UConn’s big men aren’t proficient enough offensively to allow them to consistently pound the ball inside and take advantage of their size differential. Because of this, it’s tough for UConn to punish Villanova inside and thus make them pay on the defensive end for employing three and four guard lineups. Further proof of this lies in last year’s National Championship game, as the primary reason that UNC was able to emerge victorious against Illinois was the consistent inside scoring of Sean May for which Illinois had no answer. As a remedy to this, I’d look for Jim Calhoun to try and post up Rudy Gay on Randy Foye or Allan Ray if these two teams meet up again this year. This move would serve two purposes: (1) Provide UConn with some semblance of consistent inside scoring and (2) force Foye or Ray to play extensive minutes defending down low which could result in either (a) foul trouble or (b) fatigued legs late in the game.

- While I don’t read any of the local Connecticut papers, I’m pretty sure that Rudy Gay is being skewered for his defense on Allan Ray and (to a lesser extent Randy Foye) in the second half. Gay did do an awful job on Ray early in the second as he repeatedly went underneath pick and rolls as well as cheated through a number of baseline screens. It was these gambles that freed up Ray and led to his four early second half threes that re-invigorated the crowd and lifted the spirits of his teammates. While there’s no excuse for Gay’s lackluster effort in those specific instances, it seems to me that just as much of the defensive blame should fall in the lap of Jim Calhoun. While Gay may be a tremendous athlete, he is still 6’9”. Even the world’s most agile 6’9” player is going to have a tough time dealing with quick 6’2” guards who possess NBA three point range. Add to that the fact that Gay’s never guarded a player of the skill and quickness of either Ray or Foye and you’ve got a recipe for confusion on the defensive end. Even when he wasn’t being run off of screens, Gay was still seemingly unsure of whether to crowd his man and risk giving up the drive or to lay off and allow the three ball. More often than not, Gay made the wrong decision. Ray’s 18 second half points are a testament to that. Once it became clear that UConn wasn’t going to be able to pound the ball inside, Calhoun would’ve been well advised to go with a lineup that featured Gay at the four and some combination of Anderson, Brown, Austrie, and Williams on the perimeter in order to better match up with Villanova’s guards.

- While I’m on the subject of Rudy Gay, I thought I’d give my thoughts on his NBA prospects. It’s been well publicized that NBA GMs are in love with his potential and that either he or LaMarcus Aldridge will end up as the #1 pick in this June’s NBA Draft. As with all things related to the NBA Draft, the stock of Gay is one based heavily in his potential and upside. In most articles about Gay, you’ll read praise for his abilities quickly followed by criticisms of his overall game. The most common knock on Gay that I’ve read is that he drifts and gets lost in games. While this may be true and will most assuredly have to be corrected if Gay is ever to truly realize his immense potential, there is another aspect to Gay’s game which, with marked improvement, could catapult him into another stratosphere as a player. That skill is one of the most basic and fundamental of all the tenets of basketball: Dribbling aka Ball Handling. Gay doesn’t take advantage of his athleticism and body enough by challenging defenses and going to the hoop. I don’t believe that this is due to a lack of fire or a reticence towards contact as much as it is a reflection on his inability to create off the dribble. On the occasion that Gay does go to the hoop it, more often than not, involves but one dribble. If Gay can jab step, dribble and take two big steps to the hoop then he is able to get to the rim quickly and decisively and the results are generally favorable. However, when Gay is stationed near the three point line he often settles for a three pointer or (at best) a pull up jumper off of one dribble. If Gay were to improve his handle to the point where he could put the ball on the floor for four or five consecutive dribbles and use those dribbles to create for himself, then he would become the kind of player who was able to take over games at the offensive end even when his jumper wasn’t falling or defenses were collapsing on him in the post. It is my assertion that Gay’s tendency to “drift” is more a product of his inability to create from the perimeter than it is a question of his head and a general lack of fire or drive.

- It's a moot point because Marcus Williams and Rashad Anderson ran the old "two man huddle" play in the final seconds of last night's game but Mike Nardi's decision to eschew a wide open and game clinching layup with less than 15 seconds left last night was completely, and totally inexcuseable, especially for a senior point guard. It's just another in a long line of examples of players being unable to think the game and instead becoming completely dependent upon their coaches to tell them how to react to each and every situation on they encounter on the court. Nardi ought to buy Allan Ray a Valentine's Day hooker tonight to show his appreciation of Ray's steal (and subsequent free throws) that sealed the game for Nova. If it hadn't been for Ray, the fans in Philly may have stoned Nardi to death.

Sweet! I'm not going to be murdered tonight!!

- I can’t adequately express how much nicer it is to watch a game broadcast by Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery (and even Jay Bilas) than it is to have to sit through anything that involves Dick Vitale. Last night’s game featured none of the hallmarks of a Vitale special (read: harping on the same point incessantly, shout outs to random friends and restaurants (Broken Egg in Sarasota!), non-stop discussion of either (a) recruiting classes or (b) the benefits of staying in school) instead, last night’s broadcast was chock full (gasp) analysis, good natured ribbing and, of course, numerous Raftery-isms such as “Onions”, “To the tin”, and the always fun kick start “MantoMan!”. If I could pay a fee to have this crew replace any crew that includes Vitale, I’m pretty sure I’d be willing to pay a couple thousand dollars a year.

- Did anybody see Jay Wright pose for a picture with two, um, well endowed co-eds last night as he was wading thru the crowd on the way to the locker room? I did, which means that Mrs. Wright probably did as well. Bad times.

While I wasn’t overly excited to watch the Kansas-OSU game last night, NBC was bombarding us all with pairs figure skating so it’s not like I had a lot of options to choose from once UConn-Villanova came to a conclusion. I actually really enjoy watching Kansas play if only because they’re a terribly young and talented team. I enjoy watching teams like this because it seems you can literally see players and combinations of players developing before your own eyes. I’d love to watch this team play together next year when the bulk of their contributors will be sophomores and juniors. However, with Brandon Rush (among others) possibly declaring for the draft once the season ends it looks as if the next month or so will be our only chance to see this entire unit in action. While Rush has far exceeded the expectations that many had for him (his basketball IQ and passing were vastly underrated) the player who received the most buzz from scouts coming into the season was undoubtedly Julian Wright. The ultra versatile Wright spent his senior year in high school playing the point (at 6’9”) and has evoked comparisons to Kevin Garnett. While Wright is versatile like Garnett, he is already a far superior passer to KG. In fact, Wright reminds me a lot more of another versatile (former) All-Star forward, Antoine Walker. While Antoine has become something of a joke at this point in his career, the fact remains that he was a top tier NBA player whose wide array of skills made him the closest thing to a true point forward since Scottie Pippen. Like Walker, Wright is 6’9” and a superb ballhandler. He is the best passer on Kansas and they are most effective when running their offense through him, as evidenced by the last 5 minutes of last night’s game. Also like Walker, Wright is still developing his offensive game at this point (Walker was hardly a finished product when he left Kentucky) and has a long way to go before he’ll be able to be a player whom an NBA team can depend on for consistent scoring. The key difference that I see between these two is the overall athleticism edge that Wright possesses over Walker. Wright is more agile and active than Walker and seems to have enough athleticism to compete down low in the NBA, which is something that’s always been a detriment to Walker’s interior scoring and could be seen as part of the reason why Walker eventually took his game so far away from the basket. I’ll give you a hint on the other “part” of the reason: It’s short, Italian and it’s not walking through that door ladies and gentleman.

One more thing that I noticed during the Kansas-OSU game: OSU freshman guard Byron Eaton’s headband. More specifically the style in which he was wearing his head band. In short, Eaton was wearing his headband on top of his head ala DeShawn Stevenson circa 2005. Don’t think we haven’t noticed you biting DeShawn’s style…streets is watching, son.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Is it March yet?

It’s a sad day here at Drunk and Stupid. I awoke this morning to news of the passing of James Yancey aka Jay Dee aka J. Dilla. If you haven’t heard of Jay Dee, he was one of the most sought after, loved and respected artists/producers in all of hip-hop. Though you may not know his name, you’ve definitely heard his talent at some point or another, as his beats permeated all of hip hop as well as many other genres of music. Jay Dee first came to prominence with the Detroit based group, Slum Village. Shortly after leaving, Slum Village, Jay Dee established himself as a top notch producer as well as an extremely underrated MC. While he had been battling health problems for some time, his death came as a surprise to most. Though Jay Dee actually passed on Friday afternoon, I didn’t become aware of his untimely death until this morning when I logged onto Proof of Dilla’s influence is all over the web today, as numerous people have posted links in tribute to the beatsmith. If you’re interested in reading more, or hearing some of Jay Dee’s songs, click on some of the links that I’ve embedded here. Finally, Jay Dee’s last album, Donuts, was released last Tuesday and it’s already in regular rotation ‘round these parts. Check it out.

I was going to bash Eddie Sutton today for getting a DUI on the way to meet his team’s charter to Texas A&M. Yet, with the news of Dilla’s passing, it’s become quite obvious that Eddie was just trying fight through the pain of Jay Dee’s death the only way that he knew how…Boone’s Farm and Hydrocodone.

I’d like to say that I have some sports related musings for this afternoon, but the weekend that was left me with little to no blog worthy thoughts on the current state of the sports world. There’s just not that much to talk about when it comes to sports this time of year. College Basketball is about another week away from really revving up for the stretch run, pitchers and catchers haven’t reported yet, and nobody really cares about the Winter Olympics. Sure, the Pistons-Heat game was fantastic yesterday (at least the 4th quarter was), but does anybody even really care about individual games in the NBA during February? I love the NBA (I even order League Pass each season) and I don’t even care that much. In all honesty, I really wish I could just go into hibernation until the first week of March when Spring (Training) has sprung, the Madness has begun (at least in it’s Conference tourney form) and the good folks at Home Box Office finally get off their well compensated asses long enough to bless us with another season of The Sopranos. I guess things could be worse, I could be working seven days a week (for below minimum wage) at a Minor League Baseball stadium while being treated with all the dignity and respect of a hubcap washer at the local Kia dealership. Not that anybody would ever take a job like that or anything.

Because of the dearth of sports this weekend, I was forced to watch (and think about) other things. As you’ll quickly realize, this is not a good thing for me. Here's hoping that UConn-Villanova supplys us with some much needed sports-related excitement. Until then though:

- I was hanging out at my friend Sammy’s house this weekend as he was flipping channels in a (futile) effort to find something to watch. Eventually I persuaded Sammy to put on the Gonzaga-Stanford game, but not before he sat on TNT’s airing of Underworld for an extended period of time. As I sat watching this movie, a question popped into my head. A question that I will pose to you:

Vampire movies have become very popular recently. It seems everytime you go to the movies you end up seeing a trailer or poster for some new movie involving vampires. Though I’ve yet to see any of these movies in their entirety, I’ve seen enough of them to notice a common theme: Money. All of the vampires that appear in these movies are extremely well fitted. They have the biggest and best weapons and are constantly wearing a ton of black leather(trenchcoats, pants, body armor, etc.). Beyond this, they routinely drive rare and expensive cars while also residing in some extremely large and finely designed lairs. Some of these vampires even have their own cutting edge technology for human hunting (or whatever it is they do). So here’s my question: Where are the Vampires getting all of their funds? These people are clearly busy during the evening hours and, by way of being a vampire, are sleeping all day which, in my estimation, doesn’t leave a lot of time for gainful employment. Are vampires, by nature, all stock traders? This would allow them to work from home while rendering them able to trade on many of the world’s stock markets. Do most vampires speculate in Real Estate? The ability to work from home applies here as well, though having to always meet buyers at night could prove troublesome. Sammy says that, "It’s old money” and that vampires all come from rich families, thus allowing these blood drinkers ample time to pursue their singular passion. I disagreed, saying that there are far too many vampires for them all to come from wealthy families. Somebody’s got to know something here.

Another thing thats really been bothering me of late is the abundance of actors who are now doing commercial voice-overs. It used to be that people could make their living off of being a good voice-over guy/girl. Those days are over, my friend. Now days you’ve got everybody from Kiefer Sutherland to Charlie Sheen selling the various goods and services of any number of companies on your television all day and all night. What the fuck? You guys weren’t making enough money on your tremendously over-hyped TV shows? The bloated paychecks you receive for your appearances at charity events weren’t paying your hooker bills anymore? Do you people just enjoy taking food off the table of hard working voice over actors? These people didn’t have your well established Hollywood pedigrees to fall back on when times got tough for them. No, a smooth, melodic voice was their only chance to make it in the cut throat world of TV and Radio. Now they don’t even have that, not when you’ve put them and their kids out on the street…and all because you wanted to be able to swim around in your pool of cash and gold like some real life version of Scrooge McDuck.

You might not recognize Tobacco Bob, but I guarantee you'd recognize his voice.

Friday, February 10, 2006

This is how we chill from...

I just posted but a few minutes ago, but then I came across news that was so awesome I had to share it (not that many people will even care). Do you know why Ron Artest wears #93 for the Kings? Neither did I, nor did I care. That is until I found out that Ron Ron wears it in homage to the Souls of Mischief and their classic record 93 'Til Infinity, which also happens to be my favorite hip-hop record of all time.

Is it possible for me to love Artest anymore than I already do? I didn't think so. Then he turns around and does something like this...and my man crush on him grows acordingly.

It's hard in here for a Director of Communications...

I should’ve known that the moment I mentioned the Pitt-West Virginia game in yesterday’s post that the game would be a slow paced, grind-it out affair. I’d have preferred a more fluid game with crisper passing and more accurate shooting, but it’s not like this was unexpected. Pitt forces a ton of teams to play the style of ball that they imposed upon the Mountaineers last night. Even with the less than impressive offensive execution of both teams, the game was still an interesting clash of styles and an intriguing matchup of each teams’ respective strengths. In fact, the game would’ve been downright enjoyable for me if I hadn’t had to listen to Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale re-read Pat Forde’s article all game long. Good job going the extra mile with your pregame research guys, I don’t know where you find the time.

Pitt is a good team that continues to be overlooked by most of the fans (even many in it’s own conference) despite a very nice season which has been significantly aided by Aaron Gray's emergence as an impact player. They are among the best teams in a very good conference. With that said, I still have trouble seeing them advancing too far into March. (See, I'm overlooking them.) This is probably due (at least in part) to my bitterness over the Panthers ruining an NCAA Tourney pool, or two, of mine in the last couple of years (I'm looking at you Brandon Knight). Beyond that though, it’s their lack of consistent offense that I find most troubling. More specifically, Carl Krauser is far too erratic and prone to bad decisions (both as a passer and a shooter) for me to trust him to lead a team that lacks another proven scoring option anywhere past the second round. Despite last night’s loss, I think West Virginia is much better equipped for tournament success than Pitt though, as last night showed, if they can’t knock down a high enough percentage of three pointers to draw defenses out to the perimeter then they become extremely vulnerable to teams that rebound well and defend the paint.

Another team that needs to be able to hit perimeter shots to be most successful is the Florida Gators. After years of being a team who relied (at times exclusively) on perimeter scoring, the Gators are loaded with big men capable of scoring against the best in the front lines country. However, the true success of Florida is ultimately determined by the ability of it’s perimeter players, most notably Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey, to consistently hit three point shots thereby opening up the paint for guys like Noah and Horford to operate free of double teams. Perimeter shooting will be of the utmost importance tomorrow as Florida matches up with the best frontline they’ve seen all year as well as the only one in the SEC that can claim to be as good or better as the University of Florida’s. I’m speaking of LSU who boast three possible future NBA first round picks in Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Tasmin Mitchell and, Tyrus Thomas who has come from nowhere (he redshirted w/ a neck injury last year) to lead LSU in rebounding while also ranking second on the team in scoring. While this game is not a “must win”, it is extremely important to the Gators for two reasons. First, after Wednesday’s loss to USC, Florida now sits two full games behind Tennessee in the SEC East. If Florida loses tomorrow, they pretty much assure themselves of no better than second place in the conference. Second and more importantly, Florida needs a win against a ranked team to stay within range of a top 2 seed in the NCAA Tourney if they want to continue to entertain thoughts of playing the first two rounds in Jacksonville. The Gators are certainly good enough to advance to the Sweet 16 without the benefit of playing in front of a partisan crowd but with the youth and relative inexperience on this team, it would be a plus.

While the Men’s Basketball team embarks on it’s most important game to date, the University of Florida’s #1 ranked Baseball team is set to open it’s season tonight at home against the University of Cincinnati. Florida returns nearly their entire roster from last year’s National runner-up, including the reigning SEC Player of the Year in 1B Matt LaPorta who teamed with two other Gators on the USA Baseball team this summer. We’ll have to see how Florida’s pitching holds up as the season progresses (especially in the SEC) before we’ll know if these guys have the necessary makeup for a run towards redemption in Omaha. However, one thing anybody can already see is the masterful job that’s been done by Pat McMahon restoring this program to it’s former glory and possibly to greater heights than any who’ve come before him.

I have to admit that I was surprised to see four Pistons make the All-Star team. Personally, I thought that Rip Hamilton would end up left off the team only to be added as Jermaine O’Neal’s replacement. Despite the fantastic season that Detroit is having (is it four All-Stars good?). I didn’t think that the Eastern Conference coaches would be able to rationalize leaving Gilbert Arenas off the team while he’s averaging 28 a game (he could be looking at the least acclaimed major scoring season of all-time) and managing to keep his team at .500. Plenty of people point to that .500 record as reason enough to leave Arenas off while citing the lack of improvement by the Wizards this year as some sort of indictment towards Arenas. Did I miss something here? The Wizards lost Larry Hughes and replaced him with Antonio Daniels, who even at his very best is a major downgrade in overall ability at the other guard spot. Yet, when you look at the abortive season that Daniels is currently having, shouldn’t we be amazed that Arenas is able to keep this team even close to.500 with a cast of characters that includes Awvee Story and Donnell Taylor. Of course, it’s all a moot point now that Arenas has been added but I couldn’t help but wonder how Arenas reacted to the news of his (temporary) snub. Did he throw another platinum chain out the window? Did he just walk up to Brendan Haywood and punch him in the face to make up for all the assists that Haywood has ruined this year? Did he go out to the parking lot and take a leak on the hood of Eddie Jordan’s car? There’s no way that Gilbert just shrugged it off and went home, is there? Somebody find out and get back to me.

One last note: Arenas' 28.2 pts/game average was the highest scoring average for a player not selected to the All-Star Game since World B. Free. Though I've seen very little of Free's game highlights I find myself thinking that maybe, between the gunning and general craziness of Arenas, he and Free might be kindred NBA spirits who've just now found each other through the magic of the All-Star snub. Seriously, doesn't Gilbert feel like he would've fit in quite well in the mid-70's NBA?

...and the Oscar goes to...

While I’m discussing the eye of the beholder dynamic that invariably makes up the selection process for any type of award, I figured that I’d discuss an Oscar nomination that more than likely slipped under your radar. The Oscars have had some curious nominees over the years for sure, but none could’ve possibly had the explosive potential of this year’s nomination of the Three Six Mafia for Best Song for their contribution to the Hustle & Flow Soundtrack It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp. That’s right the folks who brought you Spinners and Sippin' on some Sizzurp are now nominated for an Oscar. Kind of devalues that little gold man a little don’t it? While I can’t disagree with the sentiment of the song, I do find it hard to believe that this was one of the 4 best songs included in all the movies released during 2005. Whatever. I’m just psyched at the thought of these guys stumbling on stage with pimp cups in tow as they and their entourage of 35+ “businessmen” scare the ever living shit out of Pierce Brosnan and Jodie Foster. If I didn’t know this was true, I’d think that I had passed out on the couch while watching re-runs of Chapelle’s Show after chugging a whole bottle of Robitussin. Instead, I’m already making plans to at least keep the Oscars on my second TV at the off chance that these bamas actually win.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

No offense but you're not really on my level...

That's exaclty what I felt like saying to the IT guy at my work this morning while he was sitting in my office. Why would I want to say something like this to somebody who was going out of their way to help me? Well, because he was trying to talk sports with me. I love to talk sports with knowledgeable fans, really I do. It's just that talking about sports with most of the population makes me want to gouge out my own eyes with dirty peanut shells. For the most part, the general public is spectacularly uninformed and get about 90% of their sports knowledge via SportsCenter, or worse from the local sports section.

Our IT guy is probably worse than most of the people who I can't stand talking to because, well, he's an IT guy. I don't mean to stereotype here (actually, yes I do) but he fits the bill exaclty of what you'd expect from a guy whose job involves solving server problems and fixing motherboards. There's nothing wrong with that, in fact I've often wished I had spent more time around the computer in my youth. Mostly because IT jobs have always struck me as a pretty sweet gig. You pretty much answer to yourself, you can get away with being a jerk to most of the people you encounter because they have a need for your services, and you are working in a field for which the demand will not soon decline. These guys have forgotten more about computers than I'll ever know. As I'm aware of this, I don't attempt to talk shop with them...ever. I know that we can't have a conversation on the same level so I don't bother trying. Unfortunately for me, my title at work isn't "Sports Aficionado" or something like that. If it were, then maybe people would be too intimidated to approach me with things like, "Do you know what I heard? Brett Favre says he only wants to play for the Dolphins or the Bucs!" or "Can you believe that Terrell Ownes is going the Redskins?". As it currently stands, those are exaclty the kind of inane crap that I have to pretend is of even mild interest to me. Meanwhile, I die a little inside as each day passes.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'd might as well discuss some sports:

- Can anybody give me a valid reason for why Wake Forest-Boston College was prominently featured during ESPN's Rivalry Week? Other than ESPN being the media anti-christ, of course.

- Speaking of the aforementioned week on ESPN, other than Duke-UNC there's not a game that I'm more excited about than tonight's West Virginia-Pittsburgh matchup. There isn't a team whose offense I enjoy watching more than West Virginia. While it wouldn't work for most of the team's in college basketball today, it seems to be designed with this specific group of players in mind. I could watch this team play just about anybody and be entertained. My personal level of affection for this offense is helped by the fact that I've always thought a succesfully executed back door cut is one of the most beautiful sights in sports. Finally, while the media loves to obsess on Kevin "Worst Tattoos on Earth" Pittsnogle and his oh-so West Virginia roots, it's Mike Gansey who is the best player on this team and puts them over the top when it comes to competing against elite level teams. He's my pick for the most underrated player in America.

One semi-related note: I'm also pretty interested to see Michigan play Ohio State tonight. Both teams are playing very well this year and other than the first half of Michigan-UCLA a month ago, I haven't seen either team play at all.

- While JJ Redick showed some serious "onions", as Bill Raftery would say, on Tuesday night while carrying Duke to victory and while he continues to show more and more facets to his offensive game. I found it particulary funny that Vitale and Patrick took Redick's performance as further proof that Redick is destined for NBA success due to his ability to create space for himself in the final minutes against Carolina. I guess I was watching a different game than those two because I saw Redick being covered by Wes Miller in the final moments of that game. Wes Miller is a very good shooter, but he's also 5'11" and not particularly athletic. I sure hope that the future National Player of the Year can get his own shot against some sub-six foot white kid who originally played basketball at James Madison. Let me be clear: I'm not downing JJ Redick's ability. I think he is a fantastic college player and has improved tremendously over the course of his four years in Durham. I just find it terribly vexing that people who are paid to watch basketball can't figure out the differences between collegiate and NBA level competition.

- Did you know that the Winter Olympics start tomorrow? I did, but not until sometime on Monday. As much as I love the Summer Olympics, it's always been kid of tough for me to wrap my attention around the Winter Olympics. My disdain for figure skating has an awful lot to do with it, but I can't help but thinking that my inexperience with winter and winter related things (I didn't see snow until I was 19, and even then it was less than an inch, and melting) has kept me from truly appreciating all that goes on at the Winter Olympics every four years. Well, this is the year that I give it a shot. Other than Ice Skating, Ice Dancing, Ice Table Setting and whatever other skating related sports (excluding Hockey) exist, I'm going to make a concerted effort to tune in and be a fan of the Winter Olympics like I do with any other high profile sporting event. If I can stay up until 2 am to watch a tennis match (Agassi-Blake, which was well worth it) then I can force my girlfriend to watch the Olympics instead of some Tivo'd episode of Wife Swap.

- I didn't see any of the game, because I was busy watching the Magic choke away a late fourth quarter lead and lose in double OT, but apparently Dwyane Wade had ten dunks last night. Ten Dunks! That's impressive for somebody like Duncan or Garnett. For a guy who is 6'3" to pull something like that off is downright amazing.

- Finally, I'd like to issue a big "Fuck You" to the University of South Carolina. I looked the other way when you hired Spurrier. I was even glad that your football program might finally turn the corner. I even managed to contain my hatred when Florida's loss to South Carolina kept the Gators out of the SEC Championship game. However, now that you've swept the University of Florida's Men's Basketball team (handing them 2 of their 3 losses thus far) this year, you've officially been added to the list of SEC schools that I despise. Go to hell. All of you can go straight to hell.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Somebody remind me why I wore a sweater today...

Nevermind, I figured that one out on my own. Because I'm an idiot. Most people would think that after 25+ years of living in Florida, that I'd be able to figure out that it always warms up significantly in the afternoon and that you shouldn't base your clothing selection on the temperature at 8 am. Most people woul dbe wrong and , more than likely, those very same people would be laughing at me as I sit at my desk and sweat while the temperature outside has climbed to 76 degrees already. God, it sucks to be me sometimes.

You know what doesn't suck though? Duke-UNC airs tonight @ 9 pm, and I couldn’t be more excited. Actually, I could be more excited if I wasn’t sitting at work this afternoon but barring a sudden fire or bomb threat, it’s not looking very likely that I’ll be able to eradicate that. Hopefully this traditionally hyped game will be more entertaining than the traditionally (over) hyped Super Bowl. Because we all watched it (and were more than likely bored to tears), I’m not going to even bother discussing the Super Bowl, other than to say how empty my life/weekends are going to feel for the next 6-7 months without football. Oh well, as Kurtis Blow once told us, “These are the breaks!”

My Sunday featured not one, but two overhyped football games. Only one of these games consisted of actual athletes though, and I wasn’t playing in that one, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of a few of the highlights of the flag football game that came to be known as Muggs Bowl I (that’s assuming there will ever be any type of sequel).

Anyway, the game got started around 11 am and was looking about as offensively explosive as Kelvin Cato in the early going. A large part of the credit (or blame) for this fell squarely on the shoulders of my friend and QB, Kurt Seidel. Kurt is normally an adequate QB at worst. However, he was both pathetic and frustrated during Sunday’s first half, which he capped off by throwing his 4th interception of the day on the first half’s final play as our team sat a mere 10 yards away from paydirt. Part of the reason for Kurt’s ineptitude was the loss of one of his playmakers in the early going. My friend Josh got his cleats stuck in the grass as he was spinning away from a tackle and ended up with a torn ACL for his efforts. I don’t know about him, but I’d be awfully pissed off if I spent all of Super Bowl Sunday in the ER because I chose to play in goddamned flag football game. Luckily enough for Kurt and the rest of the offense, the defense played like the flag football version of the 2000 Ravens, amassing 6 interceptions while also managing to keep our opponents out of the end zone for the entirety of the day. Of course, if we were the 2000 Ravens, then somebody has to play the role of Ray Lewis. That person ended up being me. Though I was originally slated to play at the corner, we quickly decided that our defense needed more speed to counteract the rushing attack of our opponents. I ended up splitting MVP honors with my friend (Kurt’s brother) Matt who was fantastic at Free Safety with an ungodly amount of crucial pass deflections. As for myself, I finished the day with 12 tackles and 2 interceptions as well as a fairly painful sunburn (Put some sunscreen on that bald head kids!) for my efforts. The game ended at 21-0 as Kurt and the offense took advantage of some favorable field position to score the game’s first two TDs before they clinched the game with a long TD drive late in the fourth quarter. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the contributions of Trabian, who used his athleticism (something that was in short supply on Sunday morning) to become our team’s equivalent to Reggie Bush. He also had the play of the day when he reversed field three separate times for a 60+ yard TD run. Unfortunately, Trabian stepped out of bounds early on in the play and one of the defensive lineman from the other team called him on it. It was still an amazing run that left a whole bunch of us shaking our heads in disbelief.

Now that I’ve sufficiently bored anybody who bothered to venture over here today with tales of out of shape white guys playing flag football, I might as well discuss some real athletic events and/or participants because, well, nobody cares about a stupid flag football game anyway.

- With 2:20 left in the second half last night and Louisville down 4 to Cincinnatti, David Padgett received a pass near the left block and seemed ready to go up for an easy dunk (he IS 7 feet tall after all) only to softly toss some half assed floater near the rim that bounced into the waiting arms of a Bearcat player. I’m not saying that Lousiville would’ve won last night’s game if Padgett had gone up like a man and dunked the ball, but when he missed it, it really killed any momentum that Louisville had going for it at that point. More than anything, this sequence made me think of something that I had actually thought about addressing here earlier this year as I watched David Padgett be physically manhandled by a much shorter and more physical Eric Hicks in the first meeting of these two teams. What I wanted to address is this: What is the percentage of high profile white big men who end up being busts at the collegiate level? I’m not trying to pick on anyone in particular here, but it seems to me that for every Nick Collison there’s two or three David Padgetts. Just off the top of my head I can think of the following high profile recruits who ended up not nearly fulfilling the potential most had them pegged for (though I’m still not high on him, Paul Davis would’ve been included on this list prior to this season). Here's what I've come up with so far:

Brian Butch, David Padgett, Kris Lang, Eric Chenowith, Greg Newton, Joey Beard, Neil Fingleton, Jason Collier, Joel “Ghostface” Pryzbilla, Shavlik Randolph, Luke Axtell, & Tim Young. While recruiting is , without a doubt, an inexact science that will result in plenty of players whose reputations are somewhat unwarranted (regardless of position, height or skin color) but there’s seems to be inordinately high number of guys in this category who never even approach their advanced billing.

- When it comes to not living up to expectations, few have done so as spectacularly as Jonathan Bender and that’s not going to change anytime soon as young Mr. Bender and his styrofoam knees have decided to call it a career after six years and only 237 games played. Fans always heard about how great Bender looked in practice but that hardly ever translated itself to the games. Whether that was due to a lack of health, or maybe just an inability to raise his game as the stakes rose too is anybody’s guess but I’m going to say that , regardless of the reasons, Bender career track makes him as big (or bigger) a bust as the one, the only Kwame Brown. Of course, any mention of Bender immediately brings to mind (for me) the platform that resulted in his lofty draft status, the 1999 McDonald’s All-American game where Bender vaulted himself into the NBA lottery by breaking Michael Jordan’s scoring record with a total of 31 points. While I’m not questioning Bender’s talent, I have always questioned why an impressive offensive explosion in an All-Star game merited his lofty draft position. All you ever hear from scouts regarding these type of events is hand wringing about the lack of defense and passion. Yet, when Bender lit it up within this lax defensive environment his bandwagon became more crowded than the IHOP in South Beach at 5 am. I’m willing to be that the Pacers would love to be able to go abck in time and agree to at least on of the many impressive trade offers that they used to receive for Bender on a seemingly weekly basis. One additional note: Jacque Vaughan's McDonald's All-American game assist record was tied in that game by one of Bender's teammates who also ended up being my least favorite Gator basketball palyer of all-time, Brett Nelson. I remember watching that game and being ecstatic about the prospect of Nelson domianting the SEC. He certainly seemed on track for such a career midway through his sophomore year in Gainesville. Fast forward to four years later and Nelson was being serenaded with boos of the few fans of the semi-pro team here in town (Brevard Blue Ducks) while playing badly enough to warrant his mid-season release from the very same team.

Just for kicks, I decided to look up the roster for that 1999 All-American game to see how some of the other participants have fared. Whether due to unrealistic expectations, bad decision making or just personal calmity, it's astouding to see how many of these guys ended up far from where most would've guessed on that April evening: Take a look at osme of these names Or click here: Joe Forte, Donnell Harvey, DerMarr Johnson, Majestic Mapp (shout out to his brother Scientific), Casey Sanders, Kenny Satterfield, Marvin Stone, Damien Wilkins, Jason Williams. While I'm going to stop short of calling this game cursed, it sure seems like it might've been a better idea for these guys to palyed in the Jordan Classic or something.

- While Bender is still trying to find a dress shirt to fit his pterodactyl like frame, another can’t miss prospect with loads of unfulfilled potential is attempting to work his way back into the ranks of professional athletics. Josh Hamilton has apparently had his suspension from MLB extended through 2006 due to yet another relapse, though this article paints a picture of a guy who’s still trying to put his life back together and quell his demons.

- Finally, it’s a good thing for Hamilton that this guy wasn’t in Tampa recently. Actually, with the news about Hamilton’s relapses, maybe he was.

As for the aforementioned Duke-Carolina tussle this evening, you can bet that I’ll be front and center for this one. Sure Carolina may be down a little this year but if there is any college basketball rivalry that consistently gives us more good theater than this one, then I guess I haven’t been paying attention lately.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Super, thanks for asking!

…And it’s Friday. I have no idea where the week went on me. Not that I’m complaining. In fact, I’m quite excited about the weekend. Not because of the Super Bowl but because I have a three day weekend to look forward to. Normally I wouldn’t bother to take the day after the Super Bowl off as it’s a completely overplayed sporting event that always disappoints regardless of if the game is up to par or not. However, in this instance, I actually have a few things that I need to take care of on Monday. With that in mind, I decided to take the whole day off and drink with reckless abandon on Sunday afternoon. It’s not like I was going to accomplish anything at work on Monday anyway.

Beyond the Super Bowl, some friends and I have a flag football game to play come Sunday morning. Apparently some of the old barflys who frequent my friend Kurt’s bar caught wind of our annual Turkey Bowl and decided that they could teach us young fellas a little lesson about good ole, rough and tumble football…but with flags instead of tackling. Whatever. I was told that my services would be needed and I gladly obliged. As I understand it, the average age of our opposition is 45, while my team averages 27 years of age. I’m thinking that we should really put it on these old guys due to the lack of athletic ability left in the bodies of these overweight, out of shape, prostate cancer candidates. Though, to be fair, some of the guys suiting up for my side aren’t exactly pictures of optimum health either. The game seems to have taken on a life of it’s own amongst many of the participants and supposed “fans”. Don’t ask me who would waste their time attending such a non-event, certainly not me. With that said, I can virtually guarantee that they’ll be a large number of pathetic bar patrons lining the sidelines of this game come Sunday morning. If you hadn’t guessed, I’m assigning much less importance to the outcome of this event than many of my contemporaries. I actually think that some of the guys on my team are getting together for a practice/walk thru this afternoon…I’m think I’m gonna sit that one out.

However the game turns out, there will be a ton of free food and liquor in which to partake once the game has reached a conclusion. Yep, that’s enough for me. I’ll return on Tuesday with a quick recap of Sunday’s events (both football and non-football related).

Just because I’m getting my mind right for a big game doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten about my handful of loyal readers. No way am I going to forget about the people that got me where I am today.

- Speaking of people who have hit the big time, has anyone (other than my buddy John) noticed that Vince Young throws just like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite? I’m pretty sure that Young can’t throw the ball a quarter mile though. Probably more mobile than Vince Young.

- It’s already been well documented in this space that I cannot stand listening to Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale juggle J.J. Redick’s junk in their mouths all night long whenever they’re broadcasting a Duke game (which is quite often). However, Wednesday night’s Duke-BC game was a new low for the tandem. In a mild surprise, Patrick seems to be the consistently more effusive of the two in his praise of the Duke shooting guard. I’m not saying that Redick isn’t good, just that he’s not the game changing revolutionary that these two donkeys would have you believe. What was a bad situation became unbearable on Wednesday evening as Patrick eschewed the use of use of Redick’s full name in favor of simply referring to him with the singular “J. J.”, repeatedly. At first I thought that Patrick had simply muffed the call, however it soon became apparent that this was being done on purpose, as if Redick was Prince, Pele’, or some other luminary of historical significance. It almost made me pine for Billy Packer and Verne Lundquist…almost.

- By now everybody has seen that LeBron has declined the NBA’s request that he participate in the dunk contest. Though he’ll never admit it, there are two primary reasons for this. First, the purse for this event is miniscule and could hardly motivate James to so much as get out of bed. Second, and more importantly, the dunk contest is as nearly as irrelevant as the WNBA/NBA Two-Ball event. While those are the real reasons for James’ lack of participation, his quote/dig about the others participants in the event was priceless. “I can’t think of a dunk before I do it. I’ll leave it up to the guys who don’t play as many minutes as I do. Those guys can out there and throw the ball between their legs and stuff.” If I was LeBron I’d watch my back around Crazy Nate Robinson during All-Star Weekend.

- The Magic got smacked by the LA Clippers on Wednesday night. Nothing about that was exceptional. Per usual, the only thing exceptional about the Magic was the play of Dwight Howard, who continues to impress and progress while managing to lead the league in rebounding at the tender age of 19. The NBA is loaded with some serious young talent along the frontline with the likes of Howard, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire all still under 23 years old, but I wouldn’t trade a single guy in the league (save for LeBron) for Howard right now. While his offensive game continues to be a work in progress, he has an innate ability to rebound and block shots that is already superior to most of the big men in the league and, in my opinion, is something that cannot be taught regardless of how talented a player may be. He’s literally the only thing that keeps me from going over the deep end on night’s like Wednesday when the Magic makes a team like the Clippers look like the 1984 Denver Nuggets.

- While I’m talking about the Magic and going off the deep end, I might as well discuss the recently inspired play of Steve Francis. While I’m still a huge proponent of trading him and building around Howard/Jameer Nelson, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention how well he’s played since he returned from his suspension. Francis has had a career high 15 assist game as well as a triple double (though it came in a loss) and seems to have re-discovered the joy in his game again. It sounds cheesy to say something like that most of the time, but for a player as emotional as Francis is, emotions and mental state determine 75% of what he’ll be able to give you on the court on a nightly basis.

Sky rockets in flight. Afternoon Delight!

Of course, Francis came out on Wednesday night and played like he’d run a marathon during the afternoon. Absolutely no energy and even less spring in his legs. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone though because Wednesday night was also Cuttino Mobley’s first trip back to see his “buddy” Steve-O this season. As you might guess, it’s tough to have the kind of legs you need for an NBA game (or any game) when you’ve been storming a man’s castle all afternoon.

- I’ve thought about this for quite some time but I never knew exactly how to phrase it until the second half of last night’s Cavs-Heat game. There isn’t a single athlete (or possibly even human) who has a more gangsta gait than Gary Payton. It’s one thing to pull off this sort of thing when you’re strolling through the mall, but to play at a Hall of Fame level while constantly maintaining a strut of his manner (even while backing people into the post) is one of the more amazing feats of ours or any time. By the way, I’m in no way joking about this.

- I really wish that Curtis Sumpter was healthy for Villanova this season. He’s an extremely underrated and versatile player who gave his team just enough inside scoring to make them what I would consider the best team in the country. Without him Villanova is still near the top of the heap in all of College Basketball, though I feel that they’ll ultimately fall in the tournament to a team that can beat them up on the boards. Without Sumpter, the Wildcats have to rely almost exclusively on their ability to knock down perimeter jumpers and you’re always one off night away from elimination in the tournament when that is your predominant style of play. They’re still the most entertaining team to watch and are definitely one of the top 4 or 5 teams in all the land. It’s just too bad that we haven’t been able to see this team play at full strength since the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. With their current makeup, Villanova is very similar to last year’s Illinois team. If you were able add a healthy Sumpter to the mix, then this team would look a lot more like the Arizona team (albeit a more experience version) that won it all back in 1997. One last note: I'm starting to develop a bit of a man crush on Kyle Lowry. While he's not nearlyas well known as Randy Foye or Allan Ray, he's exactly what you want out of a point guard. Quick, tough and not afraid to take the ball at anybody.

- Finally, the University of Florida takes on arch-rival (in basketball at least) Kentucky in Gainesville on Saturday night. This is an important game for a number of reasons but of most importance to the Gators is maintaining the pace in the SEC East. While UF only has two losses, both are within the SEC East. Another loss would give Tennessee a two game lead on the Gators as well as pull Kentucky into a second place tie with Florida. Florida is pretty banged up right now and will need freshman Walter Hodge and David Huertas to step up an play some big minutes in this one with Corey Brewer still recovering from an ankle sprain and Lee Humphrey sitting out. Hodge will be of the utmost importance because of the need for another ball handler as well as a defender capable of harassing Rajon Rando on the perimeter. Things on the depth chart have gotten so rough that Billy Donovan had to resort to playing this guy against Ole Miss on Tuesday.

This game will come down to Florida’s ability to take care of the ball (they haven’t exactly excelled at this lately) and control the boards (ditto) as well as the play of sophomore big men Al Horford and Joakim Noah. While I don’t quite buy all the NBA hype swirling around Horford right now, he is a player who continues to develop in all aspects of his game at an extremely impressive rate. If he can have a big time game against the wildy overrated Randolph Morris on Saturday night, then the Gators are probably looking at a win and Horford is probably looking at a seat in the green room and a handshake with David Stern come June. It should be nuts at the O’Dome on Saturday night, and while I’ll definitely be watching and cheering, there’s not a chance in hell that I’ll be bouncing around like some retarded 12 year old ala Doug Flutie on Wednesday night.