Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rolando Blackman could kick Kevin Stallings' ass...

It’s gonna be a short post today which, not so coincidentally, coincides with the short week I’ve had (or am having?) at work this week. Between traveling back from San Diego and taking tomorrow off to attend to “personal business” (read: getting drunk and sleeping in) I’m only spending three days in the office this week. Combine that with missing last Friday to travel out to San Diego, and this week has amounted to little more than a game of catch up for yours truly.

Can’t really say I mind though. San Diego was nicer than I expected and I continued my streak of running into/meeting quasi celebrities in airports while traveling. Honestly, I could care less about meeting these sorts. (Other than the time I met Rolando Blackman. Who was as cool as he seemed in the mid-80s.) However, I do get a kick out of seeing these normally pampered people being made to wade through the stinking mass of humanity at the airport like the rest of us. So, just like when I embarrassed Paul Davis in Chicago this year I similarly embarrassed both Andruw Jones and Antonio Daniels as they worked their way through the Atlanta airport. Truthfully, there’s not much more to report about these encounters other than Antonio Daniels should think about investing in a little Proactiv. Anway, here’s some random thoughts from the past week:

- Speaking of Paul Davis, have you seen the new commercial he’s in? You’re probably saying “Paul Davis has a commercial?” Well, technically, no. He’s the Clipper who’s getting dunked on in that new Dwyane Wade Gatorade commercial (the evil/good Dwyane one). Now, I’m sure that Paul’s just looking to supplement his income but why would you ever, ever agree to be viciously dunked on in a national TV commercial? Maybe Davis has been dunked on so much that he’s just immune to it by now. I don’t know, there just seems like an easier way to make some extra cash.
- I was watching NBATV’s first half highlights earlier this week and I ended up slowing down the replay of Gilbert Arenas’ game winner against Milwaukee from earlier this year. You know what’s amazing about that shot? Not that he turned away before it went down, or even that he had the onions to shoot it. It’s that he nailed a pull up jumper from 29+ feet out. Seriously, I slowed it down and its at least 29 ft. I’d pay money to watch Gilbert work out alone and see where his legitimate jumpshot range ends. I mean, what are we talking here? 35, 40 ft.?

- I know it sounds like I’m just jumping on the bandwagon here, but I’d like to say that I called both Gerald Green and Jason Kapono as the respective winners of the three point and dunk contests. Anybody who saw Green in the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest had to know that he’d take the dunk contest. Seriously, there was no question whatsoever. As for Kapono, he was only gonna lose if somebody got crazy hot and broke a record or something. That’s all the guy does is shoot wide open threes. Plus, he barely jumps. This contest was made for guys like him.

- As for the Dunk contest, I’d like to be the 3,000th person to state that Dwight Howard was absolutely, unforgivingly robbed on his sticker dunk. It wasn’t just Jordan who screwed him either. Two other judges (Dr. J was one) gave him 8s.

Are you kidding me? The guy slapped a sticker 12’6” in the air while grabbing a lob and dunking with authority. That’s impossibly hard to do and takes an amazing amount of coordination. Of course, we all knew Howard would get screwed for being so tall but to overlook the skill and originality involved in the dunk was criminal. That was as bad as the scores on Iguodala’s behind the backboard dunk last year. If the NBA is going to insist on continuing with this contest, the least they could do is give the judges instant replay monitors.

I realize that the NFL Draft is more than a month away, but the combine began today so I figured I’d touch on a few first round topics.

- Everybody seems to be conceding that Joe Thomas is a can’t miss prospect at OT. Me, I’m not so sure. I don’t doubt that he’s a rare athlete for his size and it’s tough to argue with his career at Wisconsin. However, itsthe fact that he played his career at Wisconsin that gives me pause. The toughest transition as an OT in the NFL is usually in pass pro. So, it stands to reason that a player who’s had little practice and/or schooling in pass pro will struggle to adjust to the schemes and speed in the NFL. With that said, is there a major football program out there that passes the ball less than Wisconsin? It’s not like this kid is coming out of a pro style or spread attack where he got tons of reps in pass pro. I could be wrong, but I remember Robert Gallery being labeled similarly coming out of Iowa. How much do they pass the ball there? I won’t even mention how bad the previously highly touted tackles for OSU looked against Florida’s speedy D-Ends in the National Championship game…oh, whoops.

- Another prospect who I’m not completely sold on is the one whom everybody else seems to be in love with: Calvin Johnson. Listen, I’m not questioning his hands, strength or character. I am, however, extremely interested in seeing what kind of 40 and shuttle times he posts. Take a look at all the “big” wideouts drafted early in the past few years and see how many of them could be labeled as busts. In nearly all of them (save for Rogers, Charles) the common trait was a lack of explosive speed. While I watched Johnson numerous times thoughout his career I can’t ever remember being blown away by his speed, or seeing him run away from a db. Now, this might’ve been because Reggie Ball was under throwing him by 15 yards. That’s certainly a possibility. I just need a little more evidence before I’m ready to anoint him as the next “sure thing” wideout. And yes, I am overly skeptical b/c he seems destined to play in Tampa. Still though.

- There's another wideout that also troubles me. This WR is none other than Tedd Ginn, Jr. He’s fast as all hell, that much we know. However, it remains to be seen whether he has the discipline and toughness needed to be an impact receiver in the NFL. When I watched him at OSU he rounded off his routes and rarely, if ever, went over the middle for balls. Nearly every catch he made was either a WR screen or a deep pass. I’d gladly take him in the first round but I’d be very weary of taking him anywhere in the top 15. On top of that the team everyone has slated to choose him is Minnesota, which I don’t get at all. Their offense was stagnant and lacked a home run threat last year, but is Ginn the answer? He seems to replicate a lot of what Troy Williamson does (or is supposed to do). Sure, he probably has better hands than Williamson, which isn’t saying much, but would you really want to spend another #7 (thats where they took Troy) pick on a speedy wideout with as many questions as Ginn has?

- Question: Are women’s mustaches invisible to them? I’m being serious here. There are an ungodly amount of women who walk around with a mustache these days. I’m not just talking about older beasts either. One of my girl’s friends has been rocking one for about six months now. She’s a really attractive girl, but this thing is killing her. Just today, I saw a woman in the gym whose stache was visible from 20 ft. away. Are you telling me this woman can’t see the caterpillar on her face when she’s getting ready in the morning? What in god’s name is going on here?

Finally, I’d like to address the Kevin Stallings issue. I’m sure most of you saw the clip of Stallings acting like a spoiled little brat during Saturday’s Florida-Vanderbilt game. I’m also sure many of you wondered why Stallings wasn’t assessed a technical. What exactly were the refs doing on this play? First, they allow Stallings to delay the game (tech) and then they stand by as Stallings proceeds to slap Joakim Noah’s hands away and talk shit to him while doing so (tech). As if that wasn’t bad enough, the refs then (two of them, by the way) grabbed Noah and start lecturing him on the matter. That, my friends, is Grade A horseshit. At minimum, Stallings should’ve been t’d up, and more than likely should’ve been tossed for harassing a player in that manner. Loss not withstanding, I now pledge to hate Kevin Stallings for the rest of my adult life. Of course, such ridiculous behavior is to be expected from a former pupil of that asshat Roy Williams. All I know is Stallings better hope he never runs into me in an airport because I’ll do a lot more than point at him.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentimes!!

Since it’s Valentines Day I figured I’d focus this post on something near and dear to my heart: Basketball. Also, since it’s getting close to March, even the most apathetic of sports fans are turning their attention to the hardwood. Honestly, what other choice do they have at this point? You can go watch out of shape pitchers run laps at Spring Training this week if you like. Trust me, seeing Livan Hernandez barely jog around a baseball field isn’t nearly exciting as it sounds. Seriously. (On the other hand, watching his mistress squeeze into a pair of skin tight white pants is something to behold).

Before I get to basketball though, I need to mention the football game I participated in on Super Bowl Sunday (Mugs Bowl II). I’d have given a much more comprehensive update if there was much worth telling. Basically, the over-30 team didn’t get any better while the under-30 team (my team) got markedly better with some well placed additions on each side of the ball. After I picked off the game’s 2nd pass and ran it back for a TD, the route was on. The defense took 3 picks back for TDs on this day while leading the under-30 team to a 49-0 victory. That’s a combined score of 70-0 over the past two years for the under-30s. Somehow, I don’t see a rematch next year. Now, onto basketball.

Most of these thoughts are from the past few days of basketball viewing and will be compiled in bullet form. If you’re not happy with this format, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s busy around here and I have to leave for San Diego on Friday morning for work. That’s right, I’ll be in San Diego all weekend and I won’t be doing anything but working. Fuck me.

- I have to admit, when Chris Webber joined the Pistons earlier this month it barely registered on my radar. The only reason I even cared was that I was happy the Magic didn’t try and bring him into the fold. I couldn’t see what he was going to bring to the Pistons that would change them much. Of course, I forgot what Webber can be when you put him around other talented, capable and unselfish basketball players. His versatility and skill have finally allowed Flip Saunders to effectively use his offensive strategies as the Pistons coach. He’s already made Richard Hamilton a more effective and dangerous scorer while also giving Rasheed Wallace more room to operate out of the low or high post. Basically, this move has worked out perfect for both sides. The Pistons have another facilitator of their offense (which takes some of the playmaking load off of Chauncey Billups) and Webber is on a team where he won’t have to be the go-to guy during crunch time. It seems so simple now when you watch him play with Detroit that I still can’t believe I missed it initially.
- There is not a single player in all of college basketball that annoys me more than Jared Dudley. He’s ugly, his game is ugly and he’s absolutely obnoxious on the court. That he’s on his 7th year of eligibility doesn’t help much. I still can't figure out how he's so effective offensively. It's like defenders are still taking him lightly.

- Speaking of BC, am I the only person who is secretly hoping that former BC center Sean Williams falls to his team in the second round of the NBA Draft? I mean, he’s waaay too big a risk to spend a first round pick on, but with his size, athleticism and natural shot blocking instincts, he’s an absolute lock to lead the league in blocks one day. If you got him around the right organization, he could even be a borderline All-Star in the same way that Theo Ratliff was earlier in his career.

- I tuned in to the Memphis-UAB game last week to take a peek at Memphis. They’re an intriguing team b/c they have a ton of talent and play in a shit conference where they are rarely tested. Its nearly impossible to get an accurate handle on their potential in the tournament. So I was surprised to see former Indiana coach Mike Davis prowling the sidelines for UAB. I had completely forgotten that he took the job there. Evidently, Davis also forgot…that he was going to be on national television on this particular evening. The man’s nails looked like they hadn’t been cut in a month. To give you an idea of how bad they were, I’d say they were somewhere between your average cokehead’s nails and Michael J. Fox’s nails in Teen Wolf. Completely and totally creepy.

- Is there any player more frustrating to watch the Josh McRoberts? He’s the classic jack of all trades, master of none player. I can’t name one thing he excels at. However, nothing is more frustrating than watching him attempt to score from the low block. It the same thing everytime: He dribbles for a few seconds, picks up his dribble and wheels over his right shoulder. Then, he pumps fakes toward the hoop and wheels around in an attempt to get his defender in the air for a foul or an up-and-under move. One problem here: Since he never shoots that 10-footer off the glass, nobody goes for the pump fake. Inevitably, McRoberts ends up throwing up some contested shot or throwing the ball back out. At a legit 6’11”, the kid can’t even score when isolated against collegiates. Its unbelievable. He’ll be lucky if he’s as productive as Shavlik Randolph in the NBA.
- I have a couple of minor points about Bill Simmons’ basketball blog (which is lovely) that I have to mention:

First, he says that he’s watched two of the last three Gonzaga games but he goes on to mention that Josh Heytvelt and Theo Davis as key players for Gonzaga. Umm, yeah. Davis is currently redshirting. Good to know you’ve been paying attention, Bill. Secondly, Simmons called Kevin Durant the highest scoring freshman since Pete Maravich. While he’s not far off here, I seem to remember another PG from LSU who scored at a far more prodigous rate than Durant. You might remember him as Chris Jackson, or Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. However you remember him, here’s his stat line from his freshman year: 30.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, 49 percent FG percentage. Frankly, there’s no excuse for omitting Jackson here. None.

Hey Bill, remember me?

- It’s well documented that I love Hubie Brown. Not only is he the best in-game analyst there is in the NBA. He’s funny too, and I’m not talking about his use of the third person. I’d almost forgotten how great Hubie was until I heard him constantly referring to Tim Duncan as “Timmy” during Sunday’s ABC broadcast.

- Did anybody else notice that UCLA was wearing Royal Blue jerseys against West Virginia on Saturday? When did they stop using Baby Blue (or whatever the choose to call it) for their primary color? I feel like this contributed to the loss in some manner. Yes, I’m aware that I’m crazy.

- If you’re a big man (or any type of frontcourt player) who has a questionable shooting touch why wouldn’t you work to perfect the glass jumper from 10-18 feet? While its somewhat of a lost art, it’s a pretty easy shot to perfect if you put in the necessary amount of work. From an averages standpoint, it’s a much more high % shot than your normal jumpshot with a higher margin of error for successful attempts. Take a guy like Kansas’ Julian Wright. His only perceived weakness among NBA scouts is his outside touch. If he worked on this shot, his offensive efficiency would nearly double due to the threat posed to the defense. Of all the things that make/made both Tim Duncan and Scottie Pippen successful offensive players, the glass jumper would rank in the top 3 for each of them. I’m just saying.

- One of the things that gets overlooked about the University of Florida basketball team’s success is the play of Chris Richard. While Noah and Horford (rightfully) get all the attention and credit, Richard supplies the Gators with a third viable scoring and defensive option on the interior. His size, strength and skill are unmatched by anybody's third inside player in the country. In fact, you could make the case that he’d start on 75% of the teams in the country (if not more), and I believe he’ll eventually end up in the NBA as a fourth big man for somebody. Without him, Florida has at least 3 more losses this year and, more than likely, isn’t the defending National Champions.

- Can somebody explain to me why it took 30 years for the University of Tennessee to retire Bernard King’s jersey? The guy was a 3 time SEC Player of the Year and easily the most recognizable name in the history of the program. It’s not like we’re talking about UNC or Indiana here. Really, it took thirty years to do this? You’ll have to forgive me if I feel like race played a role here.

- Both Corey Brewer, the SEC and possibly the nations best defender, and Chris Lofton, the SEC and possibly the nations best shooter, wanted to play at the University of Kentucky coming out of high school. Despite being a McDonald’s All-American (Brewer) and Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky (Lofton), neither were recruited to play at the University of Kentucky. UK told he Brewer was “too frail” while Lofton was deemed “too one dimensional” to play for UK. Meanwhile, UK has found room for such impact players as Ramel Bradley, Bobby Perry and Joe Crawford during that same time. As much as UK fans like to bitch about Tubby Smith, I think they have a legitimate gripe when it comes to the recruitment (or lack thereof) of these two. I can’t imagine what Tubby and his staff were thinking when they declined to recruit these two, who, by the way, have each been starting since day one at their respective schools.

- Finally, I’d like to officially declare that this weekend’s NBA All-Star game will be among the most boring and sloppy that any of us have ever witnessed. No Nash + No Kidd = Tons of turnovers and deep three pointers. Can’t we just get Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Luke Ridnour and Shaun Livingston to play all-time PG like the older (and bigger) kid would do when we all played football growing up?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

No I didn't take NSD off, though I did consider it.

My frustration with the new blogger is sapping what little motivation I had left for this blog. Actually, its not completely a lack of motivation that has been responsible for my downturn in productivity as much as its been that in combination with my new work related responsibilities. However, I’ve already spent too much time bitching about that in this space over the past few weeks so I’ll save you any further boredom on that front today.

Honestly, I’m just not very inspired by much of what is going on out there to sit down and type out my usual array of theories/anecdotes on a regular basis. With that said, it’s a bit of a slow day at work so I figured I’d at least pop in and get some thoughts down while I had the time.

As many of you are undoubtedly aware, today is National Signing Day for college football. This years NSD isn’t nearly as exciting as some of the past NSDs (2003 remains my all time favorite with players such as Reggie Nelson, Joe Cohen, Andre Caldwell, Chad Jackson, Antonio Cromartie and Craphonso Thorpe all announcing on NSd with UF in their top 2 or 3), due in large part to the University of Florida having most of their class wrapped up by the end of last week. Still, there were/are a few blue chip prospects out there that I’ve been interested to see where they land and its always interesting to see some guys change their mind and bail on “commitments” when it comes time to fax in their LOI. The Gators pulled in surprise commit from 4 star safety Jeremy Finch today that should further boost their already nationally top ranked recruiting ranking. Finch is the ultimate example of how ridiculous this whole recruiting thing has gotten. With colleges all across the nation fawning over the young man, he committed to his third school in nearly as many weeks this morning by spurning his original destination (Michigan) and his second (Indiana) in order to come down and play for Urban Meyer and the Gators. Once Finch signed on, its been pretty slow on the Gator front, save for a couple of tenuous moments while awaiting the arrival of LOIs from guys like Carlos Dunlap, Lorenzo Edwards and a few others. At this point, Florida is pretty much done, with one possible exception: Belle Glade WR DeonteThompson. Thompson is a recruit that may Gator fans consider to be crucial despite a bevy of highly rated WRS littering the Florida roster. The logic behind this is twofold. First, Thompson is the only remaining receiver left of the three that were targeted by Florida for NSD. Both Ahmad Paige and Terrance Toliver opted to sign with SEC rivals Tennessee and LSU, respectively. Evidently, the Gators were confident enough in Toliver's supposed silent commitment to them that they slow played Paige only to end up losing Toliver to LSU and inadvertently driving Paige into the fat, grease coated arms of Phil Fulmer. Secondly, Thompson hails from the South Florida football hot bed of Belle Glade which has produced such stars as Reidel Anthony, Santonio Holmes and Fred Taylor, among others. A commitment by Thompson to the University of Florida could go a long way toward re-establishing the pipeline to Gainesville that once existed in Muck City, as Belle Glade is affectionately known. Thompson is set to announce his intentions at 3:30 this afternoon. For full coverage of the NSD goings on, click here.

The other National Championship team at the University of Florida will take on the much improved University of Georgia team tonight at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens this evening. While UGA is a possible NCAA Tourney team this year, their thin frontcourt doesn’t seem to stand much chance of holding up against a Gator frontline (and team) that is playing its best ball since last year’s NCAA Tournament.

Of course, I won’t be watching the Gators tonight because the broadcast will be blacked out due to the Orlando Magic’s game tonight against the Atlantic Division leading Toronto Raptors. The Magic were embarrassed by the Raptors last time they met and have seemingly not recovered since. The team that started out the season so hot has fallen on increasingly hard times due to a combination of injuries, poor execution and a disturbing lack of on-court chemistry. The losses of Keyon Dooling and Trevor Ariza have robbed this team of what little athleticism it originally possessed and left it with few, if any, perimeter players capable of slowing down even average scorers. In addition, the energy that each of these players provided on offense that helped offset the slow down post up game preferred by Brian hill is now completely absent and has rendered the Orlando offense as little more than five guys standing around while waiting for somebody, anybody to create a shot for themselves or others.

Earlier this year, I spoke of this problem for the Magic. It seemed to go by the wayside as Ariza became more acclimated in his role and Dooling began to round back into form in late December. However, with both of these players now on the shelf the Magic are left with a frightingly thin bench almost completely devoid of difference makers. For a team whose bench comprised over 50% of it offense during the first ¼ of the season this is a major problem that shows no signs of ending soon.

While I doubt this happens, I’d like to suggest that the Magic explore the possibility of trading for Corey Maggette. While I’m not an enormous Maggette fan, he is young athletic and capable of scoring in bunches. Additionally, he makes a relatively affordable salary while also managing to be the kind of “good citizen” that the Magic clearly prefer. Maggette has been unhappy coming off the bench in LA all year and has recently begun losing minutes to none other than Doug Christie in the Clippers’ rotation, so there may be no better time than now to explore this trade and try and infuse the Magic with a much needed boost in energy, scoring, athleticism and, hopefully, wins.

Finally, one last thing. It was a popular sentiment among many fans that the carping amongst NBA players about the (formerly) new ball was a complete joke and yet another example of pampered millionaires complaining for the sake of complaining. While I can’t argue that the level of bitching was a bit much, I do have to admit that the style of ball used does have an effect on the way certain players shoot, and therefore, produce. I’ll use a couple of Magicians as an example. Early in the year, Jameer Nelson was struggling mightily with his shot and, as a result, much of the rest of his game suffered. At this same time his backup, Carlos Arroyo, was lighting it up to the point that many fans wondered if he shouldn’t be starting. Brian Hill never relented, partially due to concerns about team chemistry. Eventually, Nelson started to play better but his shooting % never completely recovered. However, with the re- introduction of the old ball, Nelson immediately began to shoot and score at a much more prodigious rate. He scored over 30 in the first game with the old ball, and when questioned about the change he responded flatly, “It’s the ball”. I saw him say this and he was almost defiant in his answer. It was clear he hated the new ball and felt markedly more comfortable with the old NBA ball.

While Nelson has continued to shoot well, Arroyo’s play has suffered dramatically with the re-introduction of the old ball. In fact, Arroyo briefly lost his starting job to Travis Diener earlier this month due primarily to his pronounced shooting slump. While Arroyo has never mentioned the ball publicly, consider this: Arroyo’s best play is almost always in international competitions where a synthetic ball (similar to the formerly new NBA ball) is used. If you look at the numbers, it is clear that Arroyo’s slump has directly coincided with the re-introduction of the old leather NBA ball. While this may sound like a tremendous leap in logic to some, I say that one need only look at the results on the court for proof that the ball really does matter. Take a look:

Nelson (shooting %)

Nov/Dec: 39%
Jan/Feb: 45%

Arroyo (shooting %)

Nov/Dec: 44%
Jan/Feb: 32%

The splits in their 3 pt. shooting is even more pronounced. While I don't doubt that some of this is psychological, its hard to completely ignore the numbers.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Out the doh...

That's where I'm headed right now. I've been dealing with a moderate amount of back pain for most of this week, due in large part to an especially violent collision I had with an opposing player and, subsequently, the basket support last weekend. While the pain had been pretty manageable earlier this week, the after effects of playing all 40 minutes in my City league game last night has rendered me pain stricken and somewaht immobile today.

As a result of this, I'm off to see the chiropractor this afternoon. I'll probably be back at work later in the day but there's no chance that I'll be hunching over a keyboard typing out my usual dose of Friday afternoon nonsense. Instead, I'm gonna try and take it easy for the rest of the day and hope my back starts to heal up a bit before the 2nd Annual Mugs Bowl on Sunday morning. You may remember me writing about the inaugural version of this game last year around this time, or you may not. Either way, the game is kind of a big deal and I'm expected to contribute pretty heavily to the defense again this year so I'm looking out for my health today. Hopefully, my back feels good enough tomorrow that I'll be able to supply you guys with a brief rundown of Sunday's big game. Oh yeah, I might talk about the Super Bowl too. Anywho, that's all for me today.

Special thanks to TJ for hooking me up with some links on this page. This would've happened along time ago but, as the title clearly explains, I'm stupid. Among other things.
Update: I know its late in the day but you absolutely MUST read this story about the goings on within the University of Memphis Athletic Dept. Good god, even Miami fans would be embarrassed by a breaking scandal of this magnitude. Of course, I'm sure John Calipari had no idea any of this was going on. None whatsoever.