Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Flop, Cry...Reward...

Let me say something before I get started here. I love basketball. Truly. I watch basketball of all forms on television. I play in 3 separate basketball leagues. On those days when I'm not playing in these leagues, I have a regular group of 15-20 guys with whom I play pickup basketball. Some of my friends and family may even tell you that I play/watch too much basketball. This love affair with basketball is precisely why I hate the San Antonio Spurs.

Don't get me wrong, the Spurs are both an immensely talented and well run team. However, they are also a team full of whiners, floppers and cheap shot artists. (Okay, that last one was primarily directed at Bruce Bowen but I'm pretty sure Kurt Thomas isn't fully free of guilt here either). As I sat watching the Spurs take down the Phoenix Suns late last night, I found myself intensely rooting for Phoenix. Or was it against the Spurs? Upon further reflection, it was most certainly against the Spurs. I have no reason to root for Phoenix but I cannot stomach watching what the Spurs continually get away with their actions. On two consecutive possessions last night, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan went flying to the floor without any contact from the opposition. Of course, both of these flops were rewarded with foul calls. Fouls that were charged to Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal, respectively and changed the very tenor of the game. While Parker and Duncan each do their fare share of flopping they aren't even close to the most egregious violators of my basketball sensibilities. Manu Ginobili acts as if he's been shot nearly every time there is even the slightest bit of contact and is consistently rewarded by the referees. He's a great player, one of the truly underrated guys in the NBA but his style of play overshadows his talents and somehow makes him less of a star in my eyes. He's certainly not the only soccer-esque flopper in the NBA, just the most frequent and highest profile.

I've officially reached my breaking with both this team and flopping in the NBA. ( I consider the Spurs the primary reason flopping has become so pervasive.) The amount of flopping on picks, drives to the hoop and scrums underneath basket has rendered many NBA games virtually unwatchable and most Spurs games downright infuriating. These antics take away from the game and rewards players who look for an easy way out. The Spurs aren't the only team who do this, just the most successful. When you combine their style of play with the constant stream of incredulous looks they display whenever a foul is whistled on them it makes me want to reach out and punch their leader, Gregg Poppovich, in his pocked marked face. Some may say that the Spurs are merely engaging in gamesmanship and taking advantage of every opportunity afforded them. I say that they're borderline cheating and, most certainly, disrespecting the game.

To this team and organization, winning is the only excuse they need to attempt underhanded tactics (see: The unbelievably lopsided Kurt Thomas trade, which was executed with the assistance of former employee, Seattle GM Sam Presti. Which doesn't even begin to discuss the manner in which they employed the Hack-A-Shaq strategy in the Suns series). I can think of no NBA team that is more worthy of the public's scorn and venom. Yet, it seems as though only a few NBA fans care, or even notice, what this team has perpetrated upon the NBA. They have literally changed the way that the game is played and not for the better.

I'd like to see the NBA institute fouls for flops but that seems unlikely. I'd like to see the Spurs just play basketball and stop trying to find easy ways to win but that seems even less likely. More than anything, I want to see basketball played in a manner in which the most skillful and deserving team wins. Not because they know all the little, dirty tricks but because they outplayed their opponent. However, thats not where the NBA is right now and until something drastic is done its not going to happen anytime soon.

So, until that point I'll resign myself to rooting against the Spurs and for teams that at least attempt to play basketball in an honest manner. I'll sit on my couch, occasionally cursing the way this team plays and silently hope that the NBA, its referees and the fans will see this team for what they are...not just champions (because they undoubtedly are) but floppers and whiners deserving of our attention and shame.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

It ain't quite football but its close enough...

I was under the impression that any college football fan had already been made aware of the fact that ESPN is televising The University of Florida's Orange & Blue Game this afternoon. That is, until I received a bitter voicemail from TJ complaining about the recruiting advantages this allows the Gators whilst he cursed the name of Jeremy Foley. (Hey, we all get one of those...right Ron?).

Even though I'm a little disappointed that TJ somehow missed out on this news, I'm guessing he was knee deep in William & Mary practice reports, its still worth mentioning how utterly ridiculous today's broadcast is. It's one thing for a spring "game" (its a practice people) to be televised locally, or even statewide, which is commonplace in the south. However, its something entirely different for a game to be reaching all corners of our great country. As people much smarter (and gayer) than me are fond of saying, we're through the looking glass here. Its insane and somewhat inane that ESPN would deem a college program's glorified scrimmage as broadcast worthy, but thats where we as a college football nation have been heading lo these many years. And, I'm not one to stand in the way of I might as well add to the days festivities with a little guide of who/what to watch (with an emphasis on youth) for during today's celebration of Gator Football. (Note: Yes, this is just a practice. But a practice with a national television audience and 80,000 fans in the stands. If somebody can't handle the spotlight today, the odds on them delivering in front of hostile SEC crowds are slim).


-Deonte Thompson: After redshirting last year, this former prep AA WR has been lighting it up this spring. He's amongst the fastest of all Gators and possesses some Harvin like moves with the ball in his hands. Hailing from the famed "Muck" (Belle Glade to be specific), much has been expected of Thompson since he signed with Florida. He's got a good chance to be UF's #3 WR this fall and big time performance today could go a long way toward making that a reality.

- Carl Moore: The nation's #1 JUCO WR is also expected to make a large impact on the Gator offense in the fall. Moore is unlike any other Gator receiver by virtue of his size (6'4", 220), speed and hands. He was slowed early by learning the Gator playbook but has come on in recent weeks. Think USC's Mike Williams in terms of size and potential impact in the red zone.

- Chris Rainey: Rainey's not going to be the workhorse back that Urban Meyer's craved since he set foot in Gainesville. However, he has the speed and moves to be a gamebreaker from the tailback position and ultimately take the Gator offense to the next level in terms of explosiveness. He's put on 15 lbs since last year when he weighed in at a paltry 155 lbs. Expect to see him break at least one run of over 30 yards. (Note: If you're betting on today's match races, take Rainey. You can buy me a drink with your winnings as a thank you).
-Emmanuel Moody (and/or Mon Williams): Here is where the Gators expect to find their workhorse back. Moody has struggled for much of spring adjusting to the spread and figuring out his individual responsibilities. However, the light has come on recently with Moody putting together a dynamite final week of spring. He's loaded with talent and ability, its a matter of him doing it when the lights come on in Gainesville, so today should be a good preview. Fellow texan Williams is coming off ACL surgery last fall but seems back to full speed. He's big, fast and has some moves to boot. One of these two will be the starter at tailback by mid-fall, well, if the Gators want to win the SEC then one of them better be.

- QBs (Cam Newton & John Brantley): You see, theres a chance Tim Tebow may get injured at some point in his career due to his proclivity for running headfirst into opposing defenders. As a result of this, a viable backup QB is essential for the Gators. Newton is a 6'7", 260 beast who actually dwarfs Tebow. He's got JaMarcus Russell like size and ability and, unfortunately, inaccuracy thus far. Brantley is a Gator legacy and was ranked as the best pure passer in the nation just two years ago. I like Brantley to grab the #2 spot right now.


-Matt Patchan: One of the nation's top OT recruits, this early entry has played extensively at DT this spring with surprising results. New DL coach Dan McCarney loves his motor and size. He looks like he's got a shot to start his career over on defense. I've only read about his play in practice reports so I'm interested to see him in pads today.

- Safeties (Jamar Hornsby/Major Wright/Ahmad Black): Much was made of the Gators' corners inability to lock down receivers last year but, truth be told, the safeties may have been worse. Wright had a great freshman season but still has much to prove about his ability to play in space in the passing game. The other safety spot is wide open, and Jamar Hornsby and Ahmad Black are the leaders (at least until Will Hill and Dee Finley get to campus). Hornsby is an athletic freak who's just now getting healthy after tearing up a knee in high school and, thus beginning to make plays int he secondary. Black is undersized but is seemingly in possession of tremendous instincts and a thirst for hitting. If one of these two can play great today then they go into the summer as the leader.
-Carlos Dunlap: The biggest freak on a team full of them. He's 6'8", 290 and has blazing speed off the edge. The guy returned kickoffs in high school for Christ's sake. Florida needs to replace Derrick Harvey at one end and Dunlap has been the most dominant pass rusher for the Gators thus far in the spring. This is his coming out party, potentially.

- Defensive Tackles (Troy Epps/Torrey Davis): Florida has exactly zero proven DTs on their roster. Epps is a JUCO transfer who's played better as the spring has worn on. If he can make an impact on the line then the complexion of Florida's defense will change dramatically. Davis is the Gator's most talented DT but he's been an inconsistent presence during the spring due to his off the field issues. When he's on the field he can be dominant, he needs to prove that he get on the field and show a consistent effort level when he's there.

- Linebackers (Jeremy Finch/Lorenzo Edwards): One of these two guys will be starting at LB for Florida in the fall. Both are extremely young, athletic LBs who've been making tons of plays this spring. Finch was slowed by a broken leg during last year's game vs. Tennessee. Edwards redshirted in order to put on some much needed weight. At this point, I'd give Finch the edge based on his experience from early last year and his pass coverage skills but Edwards may be Florida's fastest LB.

So there you go. Erin Andrews is back at her alma mater, the stands are packed and I'm half drunk. Let's play football.

Friday, April 11, 2008

My flava's good, my flava's good!

Holy Shit! Max Kellerman once tried being a rapper? And he was signed to Ruffhouse Records? How has it taken so long for me to find this out? I mean, I always had some suspicions about his musical leanings, based on the beard and all but still. This. Is. Awesome.

Do you know what would happen if somebody got Max and Ric Flair together to record a single? My head would explode from the heretofore unseen levels of awesome. This is literally the only thing that could take my mind off of tomorrow's telecast of the Orange & Blue game. Well, almost the only thing.

Monday, April 07, 2008

This just in...

I'm a fucking genius. You see, thats what happens when I correctly pick the National Title game in my bracket. I get a little sold on my wisdom and intelligence. Unfortunately for me, I'm also a damned idiot and, honestly, the idiot shows up much more often than the genius. So despite being the only person amongst 25 or so people in my pool to pick tonight's Kansas-Memphis matchup, I'll be taking runner-up honors and getting exactly $0 for my trouble.

Oh well, at least I can point to my NBA Fantasy team being in the finals of the Wheelhouse/G:TB affiliated league as further proof of my limitless basketball knowledge. What? Oh, I lost to Slater this past week? And now I have to play TJ, who renames his fucking team every other week?

Wow, this is a little embarassing. I mean not nearly as embrassing as this , but still. How about we just get to tonight's game. Although there's a ton of really intriguing individual matchups tonight (Dorsey vs. Kaun, Rose vs. Kansas' 3 headed PG), the one I'm most interested in is Brandon Rush vs. Chris Douglas-Roberts.

I love CDR and think he's just as important to the Tigers as Rose with his size and ability to create off the dribble (Which is truly the basis for everything Memphis does on offense.) but he's yet to face somebody with the size & athleticism of Rush. If he can continue to efficiently score on Rush like he has all tournament, and year, long than Memphis will win. However...I think Kansas is just too deep along the frontline and Rush will make things tough enough on CDR to effectively slow down Memphis' halfcourt offense enough to win by 5. So that's it, its a 75-70 win for Kansas and Sasha Kaun yanking Bill Self's rug off his head in celebration.