Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bold Predictions from the NFL Draft

Just some lists and other stuff featuring my bold (and not so bold predictions)

QBs - Best Career
1. Jay Cutler
2. Matt Leinart
3. Kellen Clemens
4. Vince Young
5. Tarvaris Jackson

RB - Best Rookie Year
1. Reggie Bush
2. Joseph Addai
3. Laurence Maroney
4. LenDale White
5. DeAngelo Williams

Return Specialists - Best Career
1. Jeremy Bloom
2. Devin Hester
3. Willie Reid

Defense - Most Sacks as a Rookie
1. Kamerion Wimbley
2. Mario Williams
3. Ernie Sims
4. Manny Lawson

Most Receptions as a Rookie
1. Vernon Davis
2. Santonio Holmes
3. Chad Jackson
4. Greg Jennings

ESPN Personalities Most Likely to have their Head Explode
1. Mel Kiper Jr.
2. Michael Irvin
3. Merril Hoge
4. Chris Mortenson/Tom Jackson (sitting at a table with Irvin, Kiper, and Berman)

Guy who watched too much of the draft
1. Me

Saturday, April 29, 2006

NFL Draft Day 1 Recap

It was a long grueling day, spent with a lot more NFL Draft watching than was necessary. It was up and down as a Vikings fan... thought there might have been a chance Cutler fell, then it looked like LenDale White would have a shot at falling in round 2, etc. Anyway, here's my best and worsts from the day presented with some seemingly random titles.

Vikings Draft Grade - B-. In the first round, I was hoping for Cutler, Sims, or Greenway. Cutler and Sims were gone, and the Vikings took Greenway, so I'm happy there. In round 2, when White started to slip, I was hoping the Vikings would move up to take him, but they didn't. I was sure they would take Kellen Clemens from Oregon at #48, which I was totally on board with. He's got a good arm, he's mobile, he's accurate, and I was getting legitimately excited about him. They passed on him to take Cedric Griffin, a guy they probably could have had at #51. Then Clemens was picked #49. At pick 51, I kinda didn't know what I was hoping for anymore, but I knew that it wasn't a Center from New Mexico who most were projecting as a 5th rounder, but that's what they got. I've since become more optimistic about it, since Cook can probably play G or T, but still, it was disappointing. Then they traded both of their 3rd rounders to move up and get Tavaris Jackson from Alabama St. I don't know a lot about him, but I like what I hear. He's got a big arm, his accuracy has been improving, and he's atheletic. Ron Jaworski (more on him later) was raving about him. Phil Simms had this to say:

But there was one quarterback I saw, albeit very briefly, who really caught my eye. I saw two throws made by Alabama State quarterback Tavaris Jackson, and I was really impressed. Then I saw a few more throws from him on NFL Network from his workout at the combine, and to say I was intrigued is an understatement. Wow!

It looked big-time. Not just okay or good. What little I saw looked big-time. Then I found out a little bit about him. He started out at Arkansas and transferred to Alabama State because he was going to sit behind Matt Jones and Arkansas wanted him to switch positions. So he was good enough to be recruited by a Division I-A school and he must be a good athlete if they were willing to move him to another position.

Jackson has good size, he's muscular, and has a fluid throwing motion, very fluid. He looked natural. We'll see what happens.
All in all, about worthy of a B-.

ESPN Guy I like the most - Ron Jaworski. I think he really knows his stuff, at least on the offensive players. He seems like he watches a lot of tape, knows the ins and outs of playing QB, and is easy to listen to. Of all the ESPN football experts, he's my favorite.

ESPN Guy I like the least - Merril Hoge. I swear, there is not one prospect Hoge likes. Listening to Hoge talk about Vince Young, I'm actually surprised the guy won any games in college. And that pink shirt, well, not so much Merril.

Team Whose Decisions I liked the least - Houston Texans. It's not that they didn't get good players, because they did. But I thought they could have done so much better. I already wrote my thoughts about passing on Bush. Then, in round 2, with a terrible OL that has basically been a sieve since the team came into existence, Winston Justice, considered by many the 2nd best OL in the draft, falls into their lap... and they pass on him to take Demeco Ryans. They partly rectified that with a nice pick of Eric Winston in round 3, but I'd take Bush and Justice over Williams and Ryan.

Best Day 1 - I think Philly, New England, and the Jets had the best day 1. Philly got Brodrick Bunkley, very possibly the best DT in the draft at pick 14, and then traded up to get Winston Justice, who they were considering in round 1, with the 39th pick. New England got Maroney, my #3 back, but a very talented back that should fit them well in round 1, and then traded up to get Chad Jackson, either the best or 2nd best WR in the draft. Very solid picks there. The Jets solidified their line by not succumbing to the more popular pick of Matt Leinart and going with D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the best sure thing in the draft, and then taking C Eric Mangold with their 2nd pick in round 1. In round 2, they traded up to get the 4th best QB in the draft in Kellen Clemens. In round 3 they got a LB Anthony Schelegel from Ohio St. that is another very solid football player. Got to like what Eric Mangini and Co. did with their first draft.

Best Trades - Denver moving up to get Jay Cutler and Pittsburgh moving up to get Santonio Holmes. I really like Cutler, and I think he's the 2nd best QB in this draft, with maybe the potential to be the best. Great pickup for the Broncos. As for the Steel Curtain, they moved up to get their man at WR to replace Randle El. I like Jackson a little more than Holmes, but Holmes should be a very good WR.

Biggest 1st Round Steal - RB Joseph Addai, Indy at #30. I really like Addai, he's quick, he has good vision, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. I think Indy will be able to plug him in right away and he'll be able to replace most of what they lost from The Edge.

Biggest 1st Round Bust - QB Vince Young, Tennessee #3. Given time (read: a couple of years to sit on the bench) I think he'll be good. But I don't think he'll be given enough time, and he is nowhere near ready right now. He has bad mechanics, he has no experience in a pro-style offense, etc. The tools are there, he has a strong arm and he's super athletic, but I really didn't like this pick for the Titans. I thought they'd be much better off reuniting Norm Chow with Matt Leinart.

Note: I wanted to take John McCargo who was picked by the Bills, but that seemed a little too easy.

Biggest 2nd Round Steal - RB LenDale White, Tennessee #45. I really don't know how he fell this far. Did teams not watch him play? He's had some bad workouts, and his attitude may not be great, but he's still an extremely productive football player. I think he'll be a very good RB for the Titans, which is why I was really hoping the Vikings would trade up for him. Honorable mention goes to Kellen Clemens, who I think will be very good in this league.

Biggest 2nd Round Bust - CB Davin Hester, Chicago Bears #57. I know he's very explosive and can be a great return man, but he doesn't really have a position, and he wasn't good enough to start on his college team last year. He's elusive as anyone in the draft, but I don't think he'll ever be anymore than a return man, and I think they could have gotten something more in round 2.

Biggest 3rd Round Steal - WR Maurice Stovall, Tampa Bay Bucs #90. He's had some trouble with his hands, but he's very tall, has decent speed, and really has improved. He feel further than I thought he would, and I think eventually he'll be a productive #2 WR in the NFL. Nice value pick here.

Biggest 3rd Round Bust - QB Brodie Croyle, Kansas City Chiefs #85. Hard to call a 3rd round pick a bust, but I can't see Croyle developing into a starter in the NFL. He's small, he's a little inconsistent, and he's a little fragile. I was very glad the Vikings bypassed him, because I'm really not high on him at all. We'll see.

NBA Recap

What a night of basketball! This was college basketball style... we had two games going on at one time, what a novel concept! But the best thing was that all the games were tight and came to the wire... let's jump right in.

- The Cavs bounced back from their loss with a 97-96 win, although they had a little help, namely in the refs deciding to let LeBron take as many steps as he needed for the final play. But hey, I'm not complaining. It was still a great shot for "The King, which followed Arenas' hoop and the harm that put the Wiz up 1. On the ensuing possession, Arenas got a great look that just rimmed out. LeBron finished with 41 points, 5 boards, and 3 assists (although the assists were low because no one on Cleveland could make a shot). Arenas led Washington with 34, as Arenas and LeBron combined to score 31 of the 51 4th quarter points. A great game to watch.

We were also treated to an unbelievable pass from LeBron... got his man up in the air, stepped through, and then through a bullet to Zydrunas who finished with a layup.

The one other thing about this game, and it doesn't really relate to the game per se, is how solid Mike Tirico is in the booth along with "Snapper" Jones. Just really enjoyable to listen to. I really think Tirico will be excellent next year as the PBP for Monday Night Football.

One intriguing subplot here was how much Eddie Jordan resembled my depiction of a vampire. All black, hair slicked back, it was very creepy.

- In game 2, the Kings officially made it a series with a buzzer-beating win against San Antonio, 94-93. Ron Artest scored 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, hit big shots down the stretch, and held Manu Ginobili to 8 points and 7 turnovers. Uh yeah, good to have you back Ron. Tim Duncan was superb for the Spurs, with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 blocks.

Play of the night goes to Kevin Martin, who's acrobatic finish over Tim Duncan as time expired kept this thing from going to 3-0. After the game, Jim Gray asked him how this game felt as compared to Game 2. That's journalism at its finest.

- The nightcap featured the balanced Lakers against the Suns, and the Lakers really controlled tempo throughout, although the Suns kept it close until the end. Lakers pulled it out 99-92. I'm really liking my Lakers pick more and more, although now I'm even starting to wonder if the Suns can extend it 7. Over the past two games, the Lakers have been the better defensive team, more efficient offensive team, and they look more composed and balanced out there then Phoenix. Lamar Odom (15 points, 17 rebounds) is playing like a man possessed, and they are getting great balance. All 5 starters scored in double figures, and Kobe was actually the last of them to reach it.

The Suns are just having lots of trouble stopping the big men down low, and as a result they are not able to get into their fast break that often, and as they are showing, they are not that good in the half-court game. Shawn Marion has just not been effective this series, and if Phoenix is going to win, he needs to play a lot better.

As a final side note, please ESPN, don't have Bill Walton commentate Luke Walton's games. I beg of you.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Texans reach agreement with Mario Williams

It appears that the Texans have reached a deal with 'Super Mario' (has that nickname jumped the shark already?) making him the #1 pick in the NFL Draft. This of course, means that Reggie Bush is still out there.

You can quote me on this: Houston is making a big mistake. Don't get me wrong, Williams is a heck of a player, and most years, he's worthy of the #1 pick. But not in a draft with Reggie Bush. I think Bush is too explosive to pass... he's great running, catching, or in special teams. Len Pasquerelli, who I like, agrees, calling it a "Texans Sized Mistake."
When you are as a team as bad as the Texans have been, you need to make solid football decisions, and eschewing a playmaker such as Bush, who will have an immediate impact on the league, in favor of a guy still in his gestation period is a dubious call at best.

I understand that the Texans want to build a great defense, but I just can't reason passing up Bush. Michael Irvin gets a lot of flack, but I thought he said something that made good sense. One way you can make a defense better is to keep them off the field. If you can build a great offense (with the Texans would have the making of with Carr-Bush-Johnson) it can force the other team to be 1-dimensional, or keep them off the field for longer periods of time.

Anyway, we'll see how this plays out obviously in the years to come. For now, count me in the crowd that thinks Houston is making a big mistake.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

2006 NFL Mock Draft

Sure, everyone and their mother has made a mock draft at this point. I've even seen another blogger do an NBA Mock Draft already (which was cool). But, well, I'm a sucker for conformity, and I've been writing a lot about the NBA lately, so it's time to mix it up. Feel free to make fun of me when somehow all of my picks are wrong.

1. Houstan Texas - RB Reggue Bush (USC)
Players like Mario Williams or D'Brickashaw Ferguson are probably better fits for their needs, but I don't see how they can pass on Reggie Bush. In my opinion, he's the best RB in the draft, the best pass-catcher in the draft, and the best punt returner in the draft. With a talent like this, there's no way the Texas can or should pass on Reggie Bush.

2. New Orleans Saints - DE Mario Williams (NC State)
After they signed Drew Brees, they don't really have a need for a QB, although Matt Leinart is still an option. I see them going with Mario Williams here, a guy that has been compared to the late, great Reggie White. While that's a bit lofty, he is extremely athletic and should be very good.

3. Tennessee Titans - QB Matt Leinart (USC)
There's been rumors that the Titans favor Vince Young, who is more in the mold of Steve "Air" McNair, but I think they'll reunite Norm Chow and Leinart. In my opinion, Leinart is the best and most polished QB prospect in the draft, and I think this should be a relatively easy decision for the Titans. We'll see.

4. New York Jets - OL D'Brickashaw Ferguson (Virginia)
Vince Young would obviously be a tempting pick here, but with the Jets already with Chad Pennington and Patrick Ramsey, D'Brickashaw is the safe pick. Their Line was not good at all this year, and by all accounts Ferguson is a beast of a man, and that's pretty good, I think.

5. Green Bay Packers - LB A.J. Hawk (Ohio St.)
The best LB in the draft, and really just a stud at that position. If Ferguson and Williams are already off the board (and it seems they will be), this should be a very easy pick for the Pack. He can make an immediate impact for Green Bay, and should be a very good player for a long time.

6. San Fransisco 49ers - TE Vernon Davis (Maryland)
They could go defense and go with Michael Huff, but they need some offensive weapons for young QB Alex Smith. While they do have Eric Johnson, a solid TE, Vernon Davis is a WR/TE hybrid, in the mold of a guy like Antonio Gates. Think better than Kellen Winslow, only without all the baggage (and presumably the bad driving habits)

7. Oakland Raiders - QB Vince Young (Texas)
Young is not a QB that fits Davis' normal preference for QBs, but I don't think Davis will pass him up. While last year's 3rd round pick Andrew Walter seemed to be the QB of the future, I think Davis will jump at the chance to get someone of Young's physical abilities, even if he's a little raw.

8. Buffalo Bills - DT Brodrick Bunkley (FSU)
It seems likely that if the Bills stay in this spot, they'll take a DT, and Bunkley, along with Haloti Ngata, is one of the top 2 DT on the board. While I've heard that Marv Levy likes Ngata better, I think we'll see Bunkley here, because he fits better in Buffalo's scheme than Ngata does.

(9. Detroit Lions - WR Chad Jackson (Florida)
No, I'm just kidding.)

9. Detroit Lions - DB Michael Huff (Texas)
Matt Millen is prone to do anything in these drafts, and while I'm in favor of him drafting a WR just to see the reaction of the people at ESPN, I think we'll see Michael Huff here. Cutler would be tempting, but I think McCown can be a viable long-term answer there with Martz as the Coordinator. I think logic will prevail here, and Huff will be the choice.

10. Arizona Cardinals - QB Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt)
While a LB like Ernie Sims or Chad Greenway, or an OL like Winston Justice would help them out more now, I think they'll look long-term and select Jay Cutler. After letting Josh McCown go, they've got Kurt Warner alone there, and while he can play when he has time to throw and has good WR (and he does), the chances are probably good that he won't be a long-term answer. Which is why I see Cutler as the pick here.

11. St. Louis Rams - LB Chad Greenway (Iowa)
This is where the draft gets a little tricky, because there are more options for the Rams. They could go for a LB like Greenway or Ernie Sims, or they could opt for help in the secondary with Clemson CB Tye Hill. In the end, I think they'll go with Greenway.

12. Cleveland Browns - DE/OLB Kamerion Wimbley (FSU)
The Browns are improved, but they could still use some help on the defensive side of the ball. Ngata would be an intriguing choice here for the Browns, but I think they'll go with the speed rusher in Wimbley.

13. Baltimore Ravens - DT Haloti Ngata (Oregon)
Ravens would be ecstatic if Ngata falls to them. He's a big DT in the mold of Sam Adams or Ted Washington, which is a good fit to take on bodies and allow Ray Lewis to do what he does best, which is roam around and find the ballcarriers. Ngata is the logical choice for the Ravens.

14. Philadelphia Eagles - OT Winston Justice (USC)
The second OL off the board after Ferguson. With Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan at the tackles, they could use a little youth, and Justice is very talented. Chad Jackson is also a possibility for the Eagles, but I think that if Justice is still on the board, he'll be in Eagle Green next year.

15. Denver Broncos - WR Chad Jackson (Florida)
With Rod Smith getting old and Ashley Lelie underachieving, it makes sense for the Broncos to look for a WR here, especially with none of them taken so far. Chad Jackson and Santonio Holmes are the top two WR, and I think the Broncos will go for the former Gator, who seems to me like the best WR in the draft.

16. Miami Dolphins - WR Santonio Holmes (Ohio St.)
With Daunte Culpepper, Ronnie Brown, Chris Chambers, & Co. already on board, they have the makings of a good offense. Adding another quality WR, which Holmes is, would go a long way to help continue to improve that offense even more.

17. Minnesota - LB Ernie Sims
If by some chance Cutler falls here I'll jump for joy, but I don't think that will happen. The more likely scenario is that either Chad Greenway or Ernie Sims falls here, and the Vikings take whoever is left. I think that will be Sims.

18. Dallas Cowboys - S Donte Whitner (Ohio St.)
The Cowboys could use a safety to play opposite of hard-hitting Roy Williams, so Whitner makes sense here. He's quick and can make plays. The Cowboys might also look at Manny Lawson or a CB here, but I think they'll go with Whitner.

19. San Diego Chargers - CB Tye Hill (Clemson)
With the Chargers looking for a CB, and the best one still up on the board, this should be an easy choice for the Bolts. He's a little small, but he's quick, athletic, and a good tackler. He should fit in quite nicely as the nickel back.

20. Kansas City Chiefs - CB Jimmy Williams (Virginia Tech)
He has fallen off a lot since the end of the year, as he was once considered a top 10 pick. He has the talent, but the questions about his attitude have made him drop this far. However, he has the most potential of any CB in this draft, and that's too enticing to pass up at #20.

21. New England Patriots - RB DeAngelo Williams (Memphis)
This pick shows just how deep this draft is. Williams is the 2nd best RB in the draft, and in a lot of years would be a top 10 pick. I think he'll be a fine RB for a long time, and if the Patriots grab him at 21, I think this could wind up being one of the best picks of the first round.

22. San Fransisco 49ers - CB Johnathan Joseph (South Carolina)
The 49ers went offense in their first pick with Vernon Davis, so I think they'll look to upgrade the defense now. Joseph is the best CB left on the board, and should push for playing time immediately. Manny Lawson is another possibilty here.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - CB Antonio Cromartie (FSU)
An intruiging prospect because he was hurt all of last year, he's a big talent who's stock seems to be going up. The Bucs could opt for an OL in this spot, but if Cromartie is still available, I think they'll take him here.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - TE Mercedes Lewis (UCLA)
The Bengals could use help defensively, but after the run on DB before them, I think they'll opt for TE, and the best one left on the board is Mercedes Lewis from UCLA. He has good hands and decent speed, and should be a solid player in the NFL.

25. New York Giants - LB Bobby Carpenter (Ohio St.)
Carpenter is coming off an injury late in his college career, and the Giants did sign Lavar Arrington, but I still like Carpenter here. He's a smart player, who is still pretty athletic, and while he doesn't have the potential of a lot of the earlier LB, he is a safe pick here.

26. Chicago Bears - DB Jason Allen (Tennessee)
With Mike Green gone, and the top 2 TE off the board, I think the Bears will look for secondary help here, and Allen is a nice prospect. He could wind up playing either S or CB, but I think he'll wind up as a solid safety for da Bears. Ashton Youbody is another possibility.

27. Carolina Panthers - LB DeMeco Ryans - Alabama
With the best safeties off the board, the Panthers could look at a RB, but I think they already have some depth there. I think they'll go for a young LB, and Ryans is the best one of those left.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars - DE/OLB Manny Lawson (NC State)
The Jags get a break as Lawson falls all the way down to 28. A tweener, he's a good pass rusher and should immediately provide depth and push for playing time in a solid Jacksonville defense.

29. New York Jets - RB LenDale White (USC)
White seems to be falling all over the place, but he is still a quality RB. He's been hampered by injuries which has caused him to have some bad workouts, but with the Jets needing help for aging Curtis Martin, RB looks like the pick here, and LenDale White fits them best.

30. Indianapolis Colts - RB Laurence Maroney (Minnesota)
Now that Edgerrin James is in the desert, the Colts need a RB. Maroney is extremely talented - he's fast, can find the holes, and has decent hands. The Colts should be able to just plug him in and not really miss a beat offensively.

31. Seattle Seahawks - CB Ashton Youboty (Ohio St.)
One more Buckeye off the board. The defending NFC Champs are still a little thin in the secondary, and Youboty makes sense here. He has decent size, and has the skills to compete for a starting spot right away.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers - WR Sinorice Moss (Miami)
If LenDale White is still on the board, I think they'll go with him here. Nick Mangold from Ohio St. is another possibility. However, I think if White is gone they'll go with the undersized by playmaking WR Sinorice Moss to replace Antwaan Randle El. Moss is explosive after the catch, and can help replace Randle El's production as a punt returner. He could be a nice complement to Hines Ward in time, and for now, he can settle in as the slot receiver and special teams player.

Reason #42 why you're not an NBA Coach/Phil Jackson is really good

After game 1, lots and lots of people were in a huff about the Lakers seemingly changing their gameplan from the regular season, from having Kobe carry the load to spreading the ball out and having a more balanced attack. ESPN even asked their experts 8 questions that were basically different ways of asking if they agreed with the Lakers Game 1 gameplan. The answers were like a Seinfeld episode: "Why would they do that? They can't change the gameplan in the playoffs? What are they thinking?" They even asked whether Kobe was just trying to prove a point or if he was actually trying to win the game. As if Kobe will just throw the game to prove a point.

One game later, all of that seems to be erased. Kobe still wasn't his usual gunning self in Game 2, but he played an excellent game, and once again the Lakers had a great gameplan, as they defeated the Suns 99-93.

Early on, they pounded the ball inside and then got back and played defense. Kwame Brown only had 12 points, but he was very effective in the first quarter. Lamar Odom was big again, scoring 21. Devean George was solid off the bench. The Lakers did a great job at contesting the 3-ball, and it showed in the boxscore. The Lakers were 9/16 from beyond the stripe, the Suns were 9-27.

The biggest thing I think through 2 games is how much Lamar Odom has really dominated Shawn Marion. In game 2, Odom scored 21 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and had 5 assists. Marion scored 13 points and had 9 rebounds, but he had no assists and he shot 5/15 from the field. This was huge.

I think LA would be wise to let Nash do his thing scoring wise and try to keep everyone else out of it. Nash had 29 last night, but because the other guys weren't getting a lot of looks, they didn't have good balance. The highest scoring team in the NBA had 42 at the half, and only 93 at the end of the game. As Free Darko said, it's times to realize that these Lakers aren't just a one-trick pony, but they're really solid all around. And I think a lot of credit for this has to go to the Zen Master, who is using his magic once again.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

And your 2006 NBA MVP is... Steve Nash?

According to "reports" (I've never understood exactly what these reports were), Steve Nash is the NBA MVP for the second straight season.

If you have read my MVP rankings, you'll know that I had Nash at #5 behind LeBron, Kobe, Dirk, and Wade respectively. 17 out of 20 ESPN "experts" agree. That makes Nash 2 for 2 on undeserving NBA Awards.

Don't get me wrong, Nash had a very good year, he played better this year than last year, and he's the best PG in the NBA. But let's call a spade a spade, for all of his offensive skills, he's a bad defensive player and he gets outplayed far too often. If Nash is this valuable, why did his old team get better after he left?

I just can't see how Nash can deserve this over LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or Dirk Nowitski. Dirk's team is better, LeBron's team is about as good only he doesn't have as good of a supporting cast, and while Kobe's team is a little worse, he doesn't have the supporting cast Nash does. Looking at the numbers, Nash isn't in these guys' leagues.

You're probably getting the impression that I don't like Nash, but that's not true at all. I love watching him play, and I love watching the Suns play. But Nash is not the MVP. It's hard to fathom how Nash can have 2 MVPs and John Stockton, who was far better, has none, which I know doesn't really have to do with this, but it's still kinda amusing. It's deja vu all over again in the MVP voting.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Favre to Return in '06

Finally, a resolution to the Brett Favre story today, as "sources" say that Favre has informed the Packers that he will indeed play next season.

If you'll recall, Favre was waiting because he wanted to see if the Packers would be competitive next year, because he did not want to go through another 4-12 season like he did this year. Resolution obviously must have come when the Packers signed big-name free agents Ryan Pickett and Marquand Manuel, who obviously will put the Packers over the hump next year. (yes, that's sarcasm)

Anyway, I'm just glad that we finally have a resolution to this story, because I was really getting sick of it, and now we won't have to go through the Draft with everyone speculating over whether he will be back or not. Now if only he can do something about those interceptions.

Cavs/Wizards Game 2

What a difference a couple of days make.

In Game 1, LeBron dominated the flow of the game on the way to a Cavs victory. In Game 2, well, not so much, as the Wizards took it by a 89-84 score.

For the Cavs, LeBron led them in scoring with 24 points, but that's a little misleading, in that he shot 7/25 from the floor including 1/6 from downtown. He did pull down 9 rebounds, but he only had 2 assists to go along with 10 turnovers. All night long, he made stupid turnovers and tried to make impossible passes, missed a wide open dunk, and misfired on a lot of close shots. Jared Jeffries, who guarded him for much of the game, sagged way off and basically dared LeBron to shoot jumpers, and LeBron wasn't overly eager to comply.

The real star of the game for the Cavs was forward Drew Gooden (who's working for a new contract), who finished 24 points on 11/12 shooting, and pulled down 16 rebounds. He was seemingly everywhere, and really kept Cleveland in the game.

On the Wizards side, we got our first real look at the Big 3, as all of them scored over 20 points for the Wizards. Gilbert Arenas led them with 30, while Butler and Jamison each had 21, including some big 3s down the stretch from Jamison. They all had at least 6 rebounds as well.

Remember the hype surrounding Caron Butler out of the draft, and all of the comparisons to Paul Pierce after he slipped to #10? Well, he's really living up to them now. He's an excellent shooter, both from the mid-range, from downtown, and from the FT stripe. He's a solid rebounder, and he's a good defender.

In the end, too many turnovers for LeBron, too much offense from the Big 3, and we're headed to Washington with the series tied at 1. Game 3 is Friday night.


Since it's late, and I just got done writing a 3-page essay, I'll just hand out some links of some things that I liked, and hopefully you'll like them too, otherwise this is all for not. The good thing is that I am confident that you will enjoy them, or I would be posting them. Anyway enough of my nonsense.

Hey, I'm Keith Hernandez.

Sweaty Men Endeavors has got to be pretty happy right now. The Tigers are playing well in the Central, the Pistons should have no trouble beating Milwaukee in round 1, and I think the Red Wings are playing well (what, you think I follow hockey?)

Sometimes, it's ok to steal.

What did we learn in all of the game one's in the NBA playoffs? Quite a lot, actually.

From the Steph Surfing page, I found a link to a lot of Charles Barkley quotes, and quite frankly, the more Barkley quotes we have, the better.

This is not at all sports-related, but I chuckled when I saw it.

Anyway, LeBron is back in action tonight, so that should be a good time. Clips dominated, and the Heat are up 2-0 against the Bulls heading back to Chicago. But you probably knew that already.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Suns/Lakers Game 1

A highly entertaining game, but not quite what I expected. This figured to be a close series, and if game 1 was any indication, it will be, as the Suns won 107-102, but it was the way that it was so close that was so surprising. The Lakers being in this game had less to do with Kobe Bryant and more to do with the balance of everyone on the team. Here's the numbers for the five starters from LA.

Kobe Bryant - 22 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Lamar Odom - 21 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists
Luke Walton - 19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
Smush Parker - 15 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist
Kwame Brown - 14 points, 6 rebounds

Through 3 quarters the Lakers were playing a great game... they had slowed down Phoenix's fast break game (the Suns scored 36 points and hit no 3-pointers in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined), they were getting the ball inside, and everybody was contributing. Then in the 4th, the Suns were able to get up and down again, Tim Thomas hit some big shots, Leandro Barbosa played well, and while the role players for the Lakers still played well, Kobe never got it going from the outside. He finished up 7/21 from the field, and only 1/6 from beyond the arc.

For the Suns, Tim Thomas shined qith 22 points and 15 rebounds. Barbosa was big off the bench with 15. Steve Nash was himself, scoring 20 points and dishing out 10 assists. Guys like Boris Diaw and Raja Bell struggled a little bit, but the aforementioned players made up for it.

The most entertaining matchup of the game was Lamar Odom vs. Shawn Marion on the low block. Both players put up good numbers (Odom has 21 and 14, Marion had 19 and 6), but they made each other work all day for everything they got. These guys are overshadowed in this series by the perceived stars, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, but these two may have just as big of a hand in this series as those two. This is going to be a fun battle to watch throughout, and if game 1 is any indication, a very fun series to watch.

First Day of the NBA Playoffs

A triple-double, a high-scoring and close game, and a missed shot that could have sent a game to OT... not a bad way to start the playoffs.

The star of the day, of course, was my MVP LeBron James. In his first career playoff game he notched a triple-double, scoring 32 points, dishing out 11 assists, and grabbing 11 rebounds just for good measure. But even beyond the boxscore, I was just impressed with the way he controlled the game... he played at the pace he and the Cavs wanted to play at, he hit some outside jumpers, and absolutely blew by his man nearly at will. He didn't really force things either. He did take 27 shots, but I can't really remember "bad" shots, he was getting doubled on every possession and he was patient when it came.

Cleveland basically played a very good game, Washington played very poorly, and that's mostly what there is to it. Donyell Marshall played well off the bench with 19 and 7 in 23 minutes, but he was set up more than once by LeBron. For Washington, the big 2 really struggled, shooting a combined 15/47 for 48 points. However, this shoudln't really be too disconcerting for the Wizards, because Arenas, Jamison, and Butler will play better. The biggest thing they should be worried about is that they don't really have any way to stop LeBron. Heck, I saw former Dakota Wizard Billy Thomas on LeBron at times today, and well, if that happens often, they're in big trouble.

I was not able to watch San Antonio/Sacramento today, and this turned out to be a lucky break, because the Spurs dominated 122-88. What the heck happened here?

By the same token, I didn't catch anything but highlights from the Miami/Chicago game (the weather was just great, and well, tennis was a good time), but it looks like this was a fine game, as the Heat won 111-106. Looking at it, the thing that stands out is Shaq scoring 27 points, grabbing 16 rebounds, and swatting 5 shots. He's basically been resting since the end of last year's playoffs (if you've followed the Heat at all, I'm sure you know this), so he should have a lot left in his tank. Be afraid Eastern Conference, because if "The Diesel" can summon up some of his play from the days of old, then Kazaam, the Heat are back to being a very, very legitimate threat to hang with Detroit.

I did catch the 2nd half of the Clips/Nuggets game, and even though it was close, I can't really say it was all that exciting. The Clips led by 10 heading into the fourth, but had to hold on for a 89-87 win. Carmelo had 25 points in this one, but he only shot 9-26, and that had a lot to do with the fine defense of Quentin Ross and Cuttino Mobley. One thing I have to say is that aside from Carmelo and maybe K-Mart, the Nuggets are really, really boring to watch, mainly because they can't hit an outside shot. (they were 1/6 from downtown last night). Another underrated factor in this series is the strong alien/non-alien ratio for the Clips. I don't care what you say, there is no way that Sam Cassell and Chris Kaman are from Planet Earth. And you're not going to convince me otherwise.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

LeBron at the half

19 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists.

This is fun.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

NBA Playoff Predictions

I should probably be studying for a Calculus test, but well, this is more fun.


1) Detroit Pistons vs. 8) Milwaukee Bucks
I do like the Bucks, and I think they have some weapons that can make this series a little interesting... Redd can shoot, they've got two solid PG, Simmons is a nice wing man, and Bogut & Magloire are skilled down low. But there's no way they can stick with the Pistons in a 7-game series. I think they might be able to steal one, but that's it. PISTONS IN 5.

2) Miami Heat vs. 7) Chicago Bulls
I really like the future for the Bulls. They have a young core, and should be getting some great picks in the draft the next couple years as a result of the Eddy Curry trade. Unfortunately, I don't like them as much for the present. I think Gordon and Hinrich are good enough to get them one game, but there will be too much DWade all the time. HEAT IN 5.

3) New Jersey Nets vs. 6) Indiana Pacers
I don't really like the matchup for the Nets, because the Pacers have some guys that can be physical with Vince Carter (Stephen Jackson, Danny Granger), and that really takes them out of their game. Plus, the Nets don't have anyone that can really match up well with Jermaine O'Neal in the post. However, the biggest reason why the Nets have the advantage is that Jason Kidd is still their point guard, while the Pacers have Jamaal Tinsley/Anthony Johnson. I think we'll see a very good series for Kidd, as the Nets prevail in a tight one. NETS IN 7.

4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5) Washington Wizards
Both these teams are talented and athletic, which is why I think this will be the best playoff series in the East. Cleveland obviously has LeBron James, but Larry Hughes is coming back from injury, Gooden and Ilgauskas are solid in the post, and Flip Murray has brought energy since his arrival. On the other side of the coin, Arenas is a great offensive player, Jamison is a nice all-around player, and Caron Butler is becoming the stud that everyone thought he would be. There should be a lot of points scored here. In the end, I think we'll see a monster series from LeBron (provided the ankle is not a problem), and a tight win for the Cavs. CAVS IN 7.


1) Detroit Pistons vs. 4) Cleveland Cavaliers
I've made my love for LeBron known here, but the Cavs don't have the weapons to overcome the Pistons. They are too good defensively, and their offense is too efficient. LeBron's first trip to the playoffs will be a relatively short stay. PISTONS IN 5.

2) Miami Heat vs. 3) New Jersey Nets
The key matchup here is Vince Carter vs. whoever guards him, probably Dwyane Wade. If I were the heat, I wouldn't be too optimistic about this, simply because the best way to stop Vince is to be physical with him, and that would wear down Wade, who needs to be huge for the Heat. Plus, there's the size advantage Vince would have. I think the Nets have the advantage out on the wings with the big 3, but while Collins is solid defensively in the post, he can't stop Shaq and Zo. With home-court advantage, I think Wade brings just enough to oust the Nets. HEAT IN 7.


1) Detroit Pistons vs. 2) Miami Heat
This is boring because I have things going according to seeds, but that's how I see it. This is a rematch of last year's conference finals, but while Miami is a more talented group this year, I don't think they match up any better. Shaq's a year older, and Haslem still won't provide a lot of offense. The key is if Walker and Posey can outplay Tayshaun at the SF spot, then I think the Heat have a very solid shot at this game. But right now, I think Detroit is too good, and their offense is improved from last year. Miami should have won last year's conference final, but I don't think Detroit will need the help of an injury to Wade. PISTONS IN 6.


1) San Antonio Spurs vs. 8) Sacramento Kings
Despite the seeds, the Spurs can't take this for granted, because the Kings are playing very well. Ron Artest is the best defender in the NBA and Mike Bibby is very consistent and has a good playoff track record. That being said, these are the Spurs, and I expect them to be focused as they always are at this time of the year. Spurs in 5.

2) Phoenix Suns vs. 7) LA Lakers
I think the Suns are the most entertaining team in the NBA to watch, but if I was a Suns fan I'd be worried here. For one thing, Phoenix still is not that good defensively. They give up over 102 PPG, which is a bit misleading because of the style they play, but they allow their opponents to shoot over 45% from the field, which is the worst among Western Conference playoff teams. Secondly, the Lakers are playing very well lately. Lamar Odom is playing great basketball, the role players are doing their job, and Kwame Brown is starting to somewhat live up to the hype. Third, and most important, Kobe Bryant plays to the Lakers. I think he's the one guy that can single-handedly lead his team to a series victory. He averaged over 40 points a game in the 4 meetings between these two teams. I can see Kobe averaging about 45 a game over the series, and this being the most entertaining series of the first round. Excuse me while I take a drink of the Kobe Kool-Aid. LAKERS IN 7.

3) Denver Nuggets vs. LA Clippers
I'm finding it hard to get a read on this series. I think this will come down to the health of the Nuggets big men (K-Mart and Camby), and I think they're relatively healthy. I like what Cassell brings, and I like Brand and Maggette offensively, but I think a lot of this series will come down to Corey Maggette or Quinton Ross on Carmelo Anthony, and with that matchup, I'll take Carmelo. NUGGETS IN 6.

4) Dallas Mavericks vs. 5) Memphis Grizzlies
Congratulations Memphis Grizzlies! You finished with the 4th best record in the Western Conference. Your reward? You get to travel to Dallas to play the team with the 3rd best record in the NBA. I really like the Grizz, and I like how Jerry West has slowly but surely improved them each year, and if they had lost their last game and were playing the Nuggets, I'd pick them. But they don't have the firepower to beat the Mavs in a 7-game series. MAVERICKS IN 6.


1) San Antonio Spurs vs. 4) Dallas Mavericks
Obviously, the Mavs have had a fantastic season, and they are capable of winning this series. Dirk is a bona fide star, and they are solid at all spots and have good depth. That said, I don't think they are good enough yet to stick with the Spurs. Too experienced and too talented. SPURS IN 6.

7) LA Lakers vs. 3) Denver Nuggets
Here's me drinking some more of the Kobe Kool-Aid. I think we'll see a lot of Kobe guarding Carmelo, and Kobe's defense is overlooked more than any other part of his game. The Lakers have a decent amount of big bodies they can throw down low on Denver's big men, and all they'll be asked to do is play defense and rebound, which is what Kwame can do. I look for another big series from Kobe, and more great effort from the Lakers role players. LAKERS IN 6.


1) San Antonio Spurs vs. 7) LA Lakers
This is where I step off the Kobe bandwagon. I think he'll be able to dominate games earlier, but against Bruce Bowen and Manu Ginobili on the wing and then great help defense down low, I'm not so optimistic. For the Spurs, round 2 is the conference finals, because it's smooth sailing to the championship after that. SPURS IN 5.


Eastern Winner: Detroit Pistons vs. Western Winner: San Antonio Spurs
It may be the boring pick, but I really think that all roads lead to an NBA Finals rematch (and to Rome). In my mind, I have a hard time envisioning these guys losing before this point, provided they can remain healthy. This year, I think things may be tilted in Detroit's favor. They've basically been resting for a while now, having locked up the East a while, they have home-court advantage, and their bench is better than it's given credit for. And not to sound like a broken record, but their offense is better under Flip. Another thing is, I don't think Rasheed Wallace will be leaving Big Shot Rob open for anymore late shots. PISTONS IN 7.

NBA Regular Season Ends

The playoff matchups:

1) Detroit Pistons vs. 8) Milwaukee Bucks
2) Miami Heat vs. 7)Chicago Bulls
3) New Jersey Nets vs. 6) Indiana Pacers
4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5) Washington Wizards

1) San Antonio Spurs vs. 8) Sacramento Kings
2) Phoenix Suns vs. 7) LA Lakers
3) Denver Nuggets vs. 6) LA Clippers
4) Dallas Mavericks vs. 5) Memphis Grizzlies

Expect some predictions sometime later this week.

Twins Update: What a game!

What a win for the Twins, coming from behind for a 12-10 win in 10 innings! Who says they have no offense?

The Twins fell down 9-4 after 5 innings in a game in which starter Kyle Lohse gave up 8 runs in only 3.1 innings, putting them in a hole and forcing them to go to the bullpen early. After a 4-run 6th cut the lead to 9-8, rookie Fransisco Liriano gave up his first run of the year (to raise his ERA to 0.96), but then Torii Hunter responded with a HR in the bottom of the inning to make it 10-9.

After an uneventful inning and a half, K-Rod was brought in for the bottom of the 9th. After the Twins loaded the bases with no out, Justin Morneau popped out and Tony Batista struck out, bringing up Lew Ford. After working it to a full count, Lew Ford drew the walk from Rodriguez, tying the game 10-10.

Joe Nathan worked the 10th, and in the bottom of the inning, with a runner on 3rd and 2 out, Pinch-hitter Michael Cuddyer (please, please start this man at 3B) hit a pitch to right-center field that cleared the fencing for the game-winning, walkoff Quadrangle. Twins win 12-10. What a game!

The Twins look to get over .500 and win the series Thursday night, and they will send Scott Baker to the hill. Baker is 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA on the year.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


This has been one of the best MVP races ever, both in the quantity of candidates and the quality of candidates. In reality, there are 6 or 7 really good candidates, which is compared to last year, when there was maybe 1 or 2, or maybe 3 if you have a liberal definition of "candidate." Anyway, let's go right into it:

Just Missed the Cut: Elton Brand - LA Clippers, Chris Paul - NO/OK Hornets, Shawn Marion - Phoenix Suns, Pau Gasol - Memphis Grizzlies, Allen Iverson - Philadelphia 76ers, Kevin Garnett - Minnesota Timberwolves

These guys all had fantastic seasons, but with the strong class, just aren't quite good enough to make my top 7. Brand has been consistently solid all year (and throughout his career), and has been helped by the Paper Clips pickup of Sam Cassell in the offseason. I talked about Chris Paul yesterday, and with all he's done with that franchise in one year, I had to include him, but he's not quite good enough to be there quite yet. His day will come. Shawn Marion has stepped up his game in the absence of Amare Stoudemire, and you could possibly make a case that he's more valuable than Steve Nash to Phoenix. He can shoot, he's a very good rebounder, and he's the best defender on the Suns. In Memphis, Pau has had his best season yet leading the Grizz to a #5 seed out West. AI and KG have been very good, but on losing teams, which never helps your MVP cause. All of these guys have had great seasons, but not quite as great as these guys...

7. Carmelo Anthony - Denver Nuggets

Anthony had a breakout year this year, really solidying the three way rivalry with him, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James, which in this guy's opinion is the best thing the NBA has going for it right now. Don't look now, but Carmelo is only 8 months older than LeBron. He averaged 26.5 PPG this year, and while his rebounding and defense is not great at this point, he's made more clutch shots than anyone else in the NBA this year, and that has to count for something. Just a fun, fun player to watch, and I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more of this guy in the next 15 years or so.

6. Chauncey Billups - Detroit Pistons

In case you can't tell, I'm not really a subscriber to the theory that the MVP Award should go to the best player on the best team. Billups has had a great year, but he's helped a lot by the guys around him. Don't get me wrong, he's been fantastic - he has the best assist/turnover ratio in the NBA this year, he's 4th in the NBA in Assists per Game, he's 5th in the NBA in 3-Point %, he plays very good defense, and he's money at the end of games. That being said, these Pistons are so good and so balanced... would they really be that much worse with an average PG in there? Put a guy like Brevin Knight in there and these guys still win 55 games, as a team they are that good. Billups puts them at another level, and he's a big reason I think they'll win the title (whoops, I'm not supposed to reveal my picks for a couple more days), but without him they're still really, really good. That's why I think this is a good spot for him.

5. Steve Nash - Phoenix Suns

According to Skip Bayless, Nash is the runaway MVP. However, if you know me, you'll know that I value Skip's input about as much as I value my mother's input on the NBA (read: none at all). Yes, Nash has been better this year than last year. The Suns supporting cast a whole is a little weaker (although they are deeper), and Nash's numbers are better. But the same things that made me think Shaq should have been the MVP last year are still prevalent, namely that Nash is outplayed badly more often than he should, and that he doesn't play defense. He's doing great things, but you should at least play a little defense if you're going to be the MVP.

4. Dwyane Wade - Miami Heat

Shaq is there, but if you've been following the NBA you'll know that by now Wade is the man in Miami. Wade's 27.2 PPG are 5th in the NBA, he's 6th in the NBA in Steals per Game with almost 2, and he's 11th in Assists with 6.7 per contest. Oh yeah, and he grabs 5.7 rebounds per game just for good measure. According to John Hollinger's PER Rankings (need Insider), Wade is 4th in the NBA, which is where I have him. Another thing I like about Wade is that he shoots almost 50% (49.5%, actually), and he doesn't shrink in the 4th quarter (6th in the NBA in 4th Quarter scoring) He's efficient, he plays defense, he's unselfish, and you can count on him late. And the coolest thing? He's only 24, and that's the oldest of the Carmelo/Wade/LeBron triumvirate. I love this game.

3. Dirk Nowitski - Dallas Mavericks

Dirk has taken the next step forward to become one of the most consistent performers night in and night out in the NBA. At 26.6 PPG, he's having his best scoring year, he's pulling down 9 rebounds per game, and he's having his best shooting year percentage wise. And all the while he's the undisputed leader of the Dallas Mavericks, probably the 3rd best team in the NBA. His +/- is fantastic. Anyway you look at it, Dirk is having an outstanding season, the best in his career, and I'd have a hard time seeing him out of the top 3 or 4, especially with the way the Mavs are playing.

2. Kobe Bryant - LA Lakers

Ulimately, it was basically a coin flip between Kobe and LeBron for me for MVP, and I put Kobe in 2nd, but just barely. Kevin Antcliff has him #1, and it is hard to argue. He's really been fantastic all year, and he's got the 81 point game that will stick in a lot of people's minds. Kobe's leading the NBA in PPG with over 35 (he also has attempted over 300 more shots than the next highest total in the NBA, which is LeBron). The biggest secret in all that is that he is actually a good passer (4.5 APG is solid), decent rebounder, and a very solid defensive player. He's basically carried a mediocre team (Smush Parker is their 3rd best player for crying out loud!) to the 7th seed, where I think they have a realistic shot to make a run to the Conference Finals since they'll be able to avoid both San Antonio and Dallas in the first 2 rounds if they win.

Another point this Lakers season, and I'm basically stealing this idea from Bill Simmons, but isn't this pretty much exactly what Kobe could have hoped for? He's the undisputed leader of the team, he takes all the big shots, and the rest of the players still play hard. He's got one of the greatest coaches ever in Phil Jackson, who is doing a marvelous job this year getting everyone to play hard around Kobe and cater to his game, and basically letting Kobe do his thing, and it's working. Isn't this exaclty what Kobe wanted?

I must admit, if Mamba won the MVP Award, I wouldn't complain. However, in my eyes, the next guy has been just a little better.

1. LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers

Quite simply, he's the best all-around player in the NBA right now. agrees. Kobe is a little better defensively, and a little better shooter, but LeBron does everything else better. As I wrote 3 months ago when I compared Kobe vs. LeBron, LeBron is the most athetically gifted player ever. He can drive by anyone 1-on-1, he's faster than anyone else, and he can jump higher than anyone else. Add on the fact that he's got unbelievable vision, he can rebound, and he's getting better defensively. The scary part? He's only 21, he does not have a consistent outside jumper yet (33.5% this year from beyond the arc), and he's still shooting 48% on the year. He doesn't even have that good of a post game yet, and he still put up 31 a game. He has 5 triple doubles, he was 2nd in the NBA in FT attempts. Did I mention he's 21? I'll let Bill Simmons finish it out, because he describes the LeBron Factor (as I'll call it from now on) better than I can:

The intriguing subplot: LeBron is figuring out how to take over down the stretch, personified by what happened on Saturday in New Jersey (17 in the final quarter). At least once a game, he does something so explosive, so athletic, so incredible, you can't even believe it happened. The last time I remember feeling this way about a professional athlete was Bo Jackson, who wasn't just great ... he stood out. I attended a spring training game once when Bo scored from third base on a 180-foot pop fly -- standing up. It was awesome to watch.

Well, LeBron reminds me of Bo. On those plays when he says, "Screw it, I'm scoring" and heads toward the basket like a runaway freight train. He's like a young Barkley crossed with a young Shawn Kemp crossed with young Magic, but with a little Bo thrown in. Out of anyone in the league, he's the only player who can cripple the other team with one monster play.

The one thing I am sure about? This is going to be a great playoffs, and with starts like LeBron, DWade, Carmelo, and Chris Paul, expect more of the same in the future. And that gets me excited about the NBA!

Monday, April 17, 2006

NBA Awards - Those Other Ones

I'll take a look at my MVP pick tomorrow, but for now I'll give you my picks for all the other awards.

Rookie of the Year
This really shouldn't even be a question if you've be following the NBA at all this year. Chris Paul of the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets has been a man among boys this year, at least as far as rookies are concerned. The stats are gaudy enough: his 16.3 PPG leads all rookies. His 7.9 APG leads all rookies. His 5.2 RPG are 4th among all rookies. He's 3rd in the NBA in steals per game (2.24). He's 6th in the NBA in Assist/Turnover ratio (3.38). But beyond that, he's completely rejuvenated the franchise. This team is coming off the loss of Baron Davis as well as the loss of their hometown. With Paul, they were a serious contender in the playoff race all year. They'll get fan support whether they're in Oklahoma City or New Orleans. That sound you hear is both of the Atlanta Hawks fans left trying to close their head in the oven. With all due respect to guys like Raymond Felton, Charlie Villanueva, and Andrew Bogut, Chris Paul is the runaway winner here.

Coach of the Year
As usual, there's no clear-cut winner of this award. You could make arguments for guys like Flip Saunders of Detroit, Lawrence Frank for New Jersey, Gregg Popovich of San Antonio, Avery Johnson of Dallas, or heck, even Phil Jackson of Los Angeles. My vote goes to none of these guys. I have to give my award to Mike D'Antoni of the Phoenix Suns. With arguably their best player hurt for all but a few games, as well as having to replace 2 other pieces of the starting lineup, he has the Suns sitting at 53-28 and they will have the #2 seed in the West. They place such a unique style of play, up and down all game, that D'Antoni can fit a lot of guys into his system, as he has shown this year with guys like Boris Diaw (who we'll be seeing a little later), Raja Bell, James Jones, as well as others. Sure they have Steve Nash and Shawn Marion, both very good, but D'Antoni makes this possible.

Most Improved Player
While recognizing the accomplishments of guys like Tony Parker, Andres Nocioni, Smush Parker, David West, and Gerald Wallace, this one is easy for me. To me, the most improved player has definitely been Boris Diaw of the Phoenix Suns. He averages 13.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 6.2 APG, and is really a triple-double threat every night (he has 4 triple-doubles so far on the year, which is 3rd in the NBA). This coming off of last season with the Hawks, where he only played 18 minutes a night and scored less than 5 points per game. Now, he's arguably the 3rd best player on a playoff team, and can play all 5 positions. And with his unselfishness, he's a joy to watch out on the court.

Sixth Man of the Year
Ben Gordon is certainly a candidate to repeat, and guys like Eddie House have some type of argument, but this year the clear 6th Man of the Year is Mike Miller of the Memphis Grizzlies. He has started 8 games, but the majority of his games have come off the bench, where he averages 13.9 PPG and 5.4 RPG for the playoff-bound Grizzlies. A month ago he scored 41 off the bench against Denver. He shoots over 40% from beyond the semicircle designating the area where shots are worth 3 points. He's been an offensive sparkplug off the bench for a playoff team. I've got to go with him as my choice for the 2006 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

Defensive Player of the YearI would probably go with Ron Artest, but he hasn't played enough games. Ben Wallace is an intimidating force down low, but they are so good defensively it doesn't feel right to honor just one member, especially when a guy like Andrei Kirilenko is out there. AK-47 has been nothing short of a defensive force out there, as he is 2nd in the NBA in blocks per game with 3.19 (behind only Marcus Camby). He averages a 1.48 steals per game. At 6'9'' he is tough defensively down low or out on the wing. If it's your fancy, he's also a very solid rebounder, pulling down 8 per game. Add on to that that his wife allows him one free, uh, groupie per year, and well, how can we not give the award to this guy?

And these are my choices for the other NBA awards. Make sure to check back tomorrow (late Tuesday night) for my MVP choice, as well as my top 5 or top 8 or whatever, depending on how ambitious I am. Less than one week until the playoffs start!

Happy Easter!

Hopefully everyone had a great Easter!

Anyway, mine was great, as the weather here was absolutely gorgeous, which is always a plus. Anyway, that's why my posting hasn't been too great the past couple of days... it was the weekend, the weather was great, and I was home for Easter break. I'm short on time now so I'll just give a little preview of the week ahead.

I'll give you my NBA Awards (with of course extra attention being paid to the fantastic MVP race), and my NBA Playoff previews. I really think this is shaping up to be an excellent postseason... lots of stars, some excellent teams, but some very solid upset possibilities. I'll try to forecast it, as it should be very good.

Anyway, that's all coming up in the days ahead as we get back to a normal week and I get back from Easter break. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Francisco Liriano

If you haven't heard of this guy, now would be a good time to learn.

Liriano, age 22, was one of 3 players aquired by the Minnesota Twins from the SF Giants in exchange for AJ Pierzynski (the others were Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser), in what has to be one of the most lopsided trades ever.

Liriano has pitched in 4 games for the Twins so far this year, for 8.1 innings pitched. Thus far, the returns have been stellar. In his 8.1 IP, he has struck out 13 while walking just 1 batter, giving up 5 hits (.167 BAA), and a WHIP of 0.72. Oh yeah, and he hasn't allowed a run yet. He mixes a mid to high 90s fastball with a low 90s slider and a mid 80s changeup, which are all extremely good, especially for his age.

While he's coming out of the pen right now, I wouldn't expect that to last too much longer if he keeps pitching like this. With the Twins, winners of 5 straight looking like they could be contenders, it wouldn't surprise me to see Terry Ryan deal Kyle Lohse (in his walk year) for another bat, probably at 3B (although Tony Batista is hitting very well right now). If that happens, look for Liriano to join the already-good rotation to make it even more dangerous.

Francisco Liriano. Get to know the name, because this guy is going to be around for a long, long time.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


A little bit of everything as we approach the Easter holiday.

- The Sixers are really pretty much screwed at this point, after they lost to Miami big. This, couple with Chicago (although that was a bad charge call late), Milwaukee, and Indiana winning puts Philly in a bad spot right now. At 37-42 they really have to win out to have any chance, especially with how the tiebreakers are right now. And really, they probably don't deserve a playoff spot. They have some big talent, but they don't play any defense and a lot of time it doesn't even look like they're giving effort. It's a shame.

- The Twins are back to .500 with a 5-1 win over the Yankees today. Scott Baker pitched 7 great innings, only giving up 3 hits and 1 run, and the Yanks only got 4 hits for the game. Looks like that first week pitching from the Twins may have just been a fluke, as hoped and expected.

- Best record in the MLB? Try the New York Mets, who sport an 8-1 record after a 4-3 win Thursday. Tom Glavine struck out 11 in 6 innings to get the win, showing that his quest for 300 wins is still going strong, as he stands at 277.

- Bill Simmons gives his MVP choice, which is always an entertaining read. Ditto about The Armchair QB.

- Leinart falling to #7? According to The Gatorade Dump's mock draft, yes, as they have the Titans settling on Vince Young.

Friday, April 14, 2006

So that's why LenDale White sat out all those workouts...

Much of the confusion from LenDale White's refusal to participate in many pro day auditions was solved today as an MRI revealed he has a torn hamstring. This will, at the very least, halt all of the Maurice Clarett talk, as he has a very legitimate reason for not running the 40.

So in a twisted way, this does liberate him a little, as it proves not he was not just 'out of shape' or anything like, but he actually couldn't participate in the drills. On the other hand, this will probably hurt his draft stock, and could very well drop him right out of the first round.

Of course, just a couple years ago Willis McGahee suffered a major knee injury in his final collegiate game and wound up getting drafted in the first round (thanks to some good work from his agent), so you can't drop White out of the first round yet. But for right now, all that earlier talk about him going high in round 1 or even in the top 20 should be all but dead.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Apparently some teams do want those playoff spots

Well it was a good day to be contending for a playoff spot in the East, as all teams slotted 6-9 won their games on Wednesday.

The Bulls defeated Atlanta 96-90 to improve to 37-41.
The Sixers defeated the Nets 116-96 to improve to 37-41.
The Pacers defeated the Celtics 117-112 to improve to 38-40.
The Bucks defeated the Wizards 100-97 on a late shot from Michael Redd to improve to 38-40. A side note is that this drops the Wizards to 39-39, so it is still possible for them to miss the playoffs.

And by the way, Philly would get none of the tiebreakers, though they are officially in 9th right now.

Tonight showed why I have a hard time putting Philly out, because even though this has not been a good season, and even though they can't play defense, they still have Allen Iverson, who scored 40 points and dished out 10 assists tonight. He's capable of doing this at any time, and if they get contributions from other guys like they did tonight (5 guys total in double figures) they are tough to beat.

Most impressive win of the night was for Milwaukee. Like Philly, they played a playoff team, but unlike Philly the team they played still has something to play for, because Washington is still fighting to hold on to the 5 seed. Redd hit a short jumper to put them up by 1, and then Ford stripped a driving Arenas late, and hit a couple of free throws to seal it.

After today, I feel more strongly that it will come down to Philly and Chicago for the last playoff spot. Regardless of who gets it, it should be a very interesting final week provided the teams play like they did on Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Does anyone want the last 3 Playoff spots in the East? Anyone? Bueller?

As of right now, there are 4 teams (Milwaukee, Indiana, Philadelphia, and Chicago) fighting for 3 playoff spots, or in other words, the right to lose by a lot in round 1. All 4 are within one game of each other, and all are at least 3 games below .500. Indiana and Milwaukee are 37-40, Boston and Philadelphia are 36-41.

Only the Bulls are over .500 over their last 10, at 7-3. Milwaukee has lost 7 of 10 and 4 in a row. Indiana has lost 7 of 10. Philly has lost 6 of 10. Here are the remaining schedules for the teams.

Milwaukee: Washington, @ New York, Atlanta, Detroit, @ Washington
Indiana: Boston, Minnesota, @ Charlotte, @ Toronto, Orlando
Philadelphia: @ New Jersey, @ Miami, @ Orlando, New Jersey, @ Charlotte
Chicago: @ Atlanta, Washington, @ Miami, @ Orlando, Toronto

My thoughts? Milwaukee and Indiana look to be in. Indy's schedule looks fairly easy, so I think they'll nab the 6 seed. The Bucks should be able to get at least one from Washington and beat NY and Atlanta, so I have them at #7. For the final spot, while I love the Sixers and I love AI and I love his heart out there, that schedule looks too daunting. Depending on how you view Charlotte, that's 5 legitimately tough games. As much as it pains me to say it, I think the Bulls will nab the 8th and final playoff spot.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sportscenter Anchors Homerun Calls

Since I'm bored, I decided to compile a tidy list of homerun calls from various Sportscenter anchors that I like, because Sportscenter was actually good back in the day. In no particular order:

Craig Kilborn - "Good wood. Solid spank. Major league crank."

Kenny Mayne - "Your puny ballparks are too small to contain my gargantuan blasts! Bring me the finest meats and cheeses for a clubhouse feast!"

Kenny Mayne - "This land is mine for as far as the ball shall travel!"

Kenny Mayne - "He hit it over some fencing they had set up in the outfield."

Kenny Mayne - (obviously for a players first career HR) "That's his first homerun. The media pressure will be intense for his second."

Keith Olbermann - "It's deep, and I don't think it's playable."

Karl Ravech - "Two words...YARD WORK!"

Steve Berthiaume - "Say hello to my lil friend!"

Anyway, if you're scoring at home (or even if you're by yourself!) I'm pretty much a big Kenny Mayne fan. But anyway, just thought it might be cool to quickly compile this list.

Twins Update: Uh, not quite the start I envisioned

I realize the Twins had a really tough start to the schedule... 3 games at Toronto and then 3 at Cleveland, two teams that seem like they will be factors in the AL Playoff races this year, but still, 1-5 and last in the AL Central? That's a little disappointing.

In contrast, the Indians (5-1) and Tigers (5-2) are off to very good starts, and the White Sox sit at 3-4, which puts the Twins 4 games back already, and the season's only a week old. It's way, way, way too early to panic, but this has not been very encouraging.

Last year, they combined a really good pitching staff with a really bad lineup. This year? Neither is producing. They're averaging 4.5 runs per game, which is passable, but that number is inflated because they put a 13 spot on Toronto in the second game of the year. Look at this line: .225 AVG/.270 OBP/.370 SLG. That's brutal. Pitching wise, they have a 5.88 ERA, which is partly effected by a couple of subpar starts by Johan and a terrible outing from Lohse.

The bright spots? Shannon Stewart and Fransisco Liriano. Stewart has an OPS over 1.000 and Liriano has pitched 4.2 shutout innings and looked fantastic during them. Let's just say that Kyle Lohse is feeling the pressure.

Other than that, not much to cheer about. And they need to start playing better, because their next two series' are vs. Oakland and vs. New York, meaning that if they continue on this slide, they could find themselves in a very big hole.

More Brett Favre Goodness

I was checking out my archives today looking for something I had written for something earlier when I came across a post about Brett Favre where I talked about he said he was leaning towards retirement. Notice the date of that post. January 31. About 2 1/2 months ago.

And then I wrote about the same issue again yesterday. This story just won't go away, and it's been out in the media for longer than even I remembered!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Brett Favre still undecided, everyone still cares about this story.

Er, scratch that, it seems that nobody really cares anymore.

After it was announced that Brett "might" announce his decision over the weekend, he called a press conference on Saturday to announce.... wait for it... that he hadn't made a decision.

"The fact that we're sitting here today at this press conference, to me, is a joke because I don't have anything to tell you," Favre said. "Somebody assumed that I would."

Favre says he does not want to come back and be 4-12 again, and only wants to play if they have a chance to compete for the Super Bowl, which must be building a lot of confidence in the players they have right now.

At this point, does anyone care about the will he/won't he story anymore? I respect what Favre has done throughout his career, even (or maybe especially) as a Vikings fan. He's had a great, first ballot Hall-of-Fame career, and he's the most durable player ever, but let's be honest, he was not good last year.

No, he didn't have a lot of help, but that doesn't excuse the rookie mistakes, throwing into triple coverage, etc. There's no other way to put it than that the Packers offense was decimated by injuries last year, including to Brett's top WR (Javon Walker) and top RBs (Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport) but 29 interceptions is still 29 interceptions. He's still got a strong arm, but he tries to make throws he can't anymore and forces the ball into places that they shouldn't go.

Can Favre still be a really good player? Probably. Will he have the chance to? The answer to that looks like it will come later rather than sooner.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

NFL Schedule is Announced

They released the NFL Schedule sometime in the past couple days, and after looking it over a little bit, it all looks fine and dandy aside from one thing, why games on the NFL Network?

Personally, I don't have NFL Network, and I do not know of one person that does. I'm sure they're out there, maybe I just don't know the right people. Do you have NFL Network?

Anyway, for a couple of examples, how about Thanksgiving Day? They decide to add a third game, which will be that night between Denver and Kansas City. Personally, I like keeping with tradition, but I'm ok with adding the third game. The game, however, will be shown on the NFL Network, meaning, I won't get to see it even if I want to.

Another example is the Vikings at the Packers on a Thursday night in primetime on Thursday, December 21. This is probably the game I most look forward to each year, is when the Vikings play in Lambeau Field. This year, however, the game will be shown on the NFL Network, which I assume means that I will not be able to watch it, unless I'm missing something here.

Which I guess is my question, am I missing something? I don't think there were any games on the NFL Network last year, and there are at least a couple that I know of, and I'm fairly positive there are more. Do a lot of people have NFL Network and I just don't know about it? Or will you, like me, be missing some of the big games this year?

EDIT: Some of my questions were answered in the comments, and as it turns out, I was a little bit wrong on some things. Which was a good thing, in this case.

Friday, April 07, 2006

RIP Maggie Dixon

Sad news out of West Point today, with the story breaking that Army head women's basketball coach Maggie Dixon is dead at age 28 after suffering an arrhythmia heart episode on Wednesday. This comes just a few weeks after she led the Army Women's team to their first ever NCAA Tournament berth by beating Holy Cross in the Patriot League Championship, at which point she was lifted up by the Cadets. Maggie is the sister of Pittsburgh's men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon, who led the Panthers to the NCAA Tournament before a 2nd round loss to Bradley. They are believed to be the first sister/brother tandem to coach in the NCAA Tournament at the same time.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Andy Katz have written about it better than I ever could, but I still wanted to extend my sympathies for such a terrible event, especially after the highs that the Dixon's had to have been feeling earlier this month.

She died late Thursday night at age 28 in New York with her family at her side.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Frozen Four Recap

Well, things didn't go quite as planned for the Sioux, as they fell to Boston College 6-5 in the early game Thursday. In the other semifinal, Wisconsin stomped Maine 5-2 to the advance to the Championship.

As I said yesterday, I really don't know hockey, but even I could see the Sioux defense was not so good today. Craig Collins, a Hobey Baker Award Finalist, finished with a hat trick for BC. The Eagles jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the 1st period, and then UND battled back to cut it to 3-2 early in the second. After that, BC got 2 more before the end of the period, and they went into the intermission up 5-2.

Eventually, it was 6-3, and UND scored to make it 6-4 with a few minutes left. With the same score and under 2 minutes to play, the Sioux pulled goalie Jordan Parise, and finally got on the board again to make it 6-5, but there were only 12 seconds left. They did get a last second desparation shot, but it was easily stopped, ending the Sioux year.

Anyway, this about meets my quota of hockey posts for the year, so I won't subject you to anymore hockey ramblings. If you do want to read more, you should check out the Official NCAA Blog at the Double-A Zone.

This, quite frankly, is extremely amusing.

Found this site on Deadspin earlier today, and it's so funny I have to share.

The site is Scamboogah, and he's posted some "photos" of NBA families that were photoshopped by some guy named Thumbboy. What he's done is photoshopped an NBA player's head onto the body of each person in some type of family photo, such as the "Bill Walton Kids" and the results are really, really funny.

I'll let you see for yourself. Scamboogah.