Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Roger Clemens may or may not be on the Astros

Well, I saw earlier from Deadspin via Newsday that Clemens had agreed to a deal with the Astros for about $3.5 million per month, which would equal to about $10.5 million for the year. Then, when I went to find another source for it, it seems that this is not a done deal, and Clemens hasn't even spoken with the Astros since Sunday.

Now, I'm willing to believe the Astros and basically every other news source on the web that the deal is not done, but I would think a deal for Clemens somewhere would be imminent. For that kind of money and considering how good he was last year, I can't figure out why he hasn't signed yet.

Last year, at age 43, Clemens had a 1.87 ERA, which basically means, if by some freak chance Roger Clemens is still available in one of your fantasy leagues, pick him up right now. I suspect he's gone, but maybe there's a small chance he's available somewhere, and make no mistake, he'll be pitching somewhere this year. I think Houston, not only because it's convenient for him as far as traveling is concerned, but it's also in the NL, and Roger's a smart guy who knows that it's a lot easier when you don't have to face the DH.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Interesting note on the Suns/Mavs series

I was reading TrueHoop the other day, and I ran across this post which I found to be really interesting. Basically, it talks about this:

It occurs to me that whoever wins the Dallas-Phoenix Series will become prototype 1A for how to build a team in the newest version of the NBA.

Obviously, it's not quite that simple, but I thought it was interesting.

Of course, the Suns are almost forced to play this way now because of injuries, especially to Amare Stoudemire. They have no inside prescence, so running and gunning is the only way they could have gotten this far.

For the Mavs, it's been a much longer process that Cuban has basically tweaked time and time again. He's gone from "get the most talent possible no matter how well they fit in" to getting talented guys, but ones that fit the system, and that has transformed the Mavs from a high octane all offense/no defense team to a more grind it out team, and one that's 2 wins away from the Finals after. It's really been interesting to watch.

The underrated thing about these teams is that you need to have a good coach (D'Antoni and Johnson are two of the best) to be able to implement the schemes and make adjustments. It's one thing to have talent, it's another thing to know how to best use and maximize that talent, and that is what D'Antoni and Johnson have been so excellent at.

But I do agree with the basic point of what TrueHoop was getting at - I think quicker, multi-position players will be more sought after than the slower, grind-it-out guys. With the way the game and the rules are changing, I think that can be safely assumed. Which suits me just fine.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Who do these NBA prospects compare to most?

In my mind, the leading spot on the Web for covering the NBA Draft is, which you've probably visited if you follow the draft at all. One of my favorite things that they is find an NBA comparison for most of the prospects, which I find interesting. Alas, I thought it'd be fun to do some comparions of my own to see how they stack up with and other sites around the web. Here's my comparisons for 10 NBA players, so tell me if you think I'm off base or if you like some of mine better than (some will be similar). Feedback's appreciated here!

LaMarcus Aldridge: My Comparison - Nenad Krstic - compares Aldridge to Channing Frye, and I can see those comparisons, but I think he's more like Nenad Krstic. Aldridge is a better rebounder, but I think their offense is similar in that they can both hit the medium range jump shot and they can both be effective at times down on the blocks, but may need to get a little stronger.

Adam Morrison: My Comparison - Wally Szczerbiak - A lot of people compare Morrison to Larry Bird, but other than the fact that they both have long hair and are/were great scorers, I don't see anything else similar. Morrison is nowhere near the rebounder, passer, or even defender that Bird was. I think Wally Szczerbiak is a more valid comparison, although Morrison is better at creating his shot, Wally World is a better pure shooter. But beyond the scoring, neither guys really excel in any other areas, whether it's rebounding, being great passers, or defensively. But they can both score.

Tyrus Thomas: My Comparison - Shawn Marion - Obviously Thomas does not have the outside jumper (especially beyond the arc where Marion shot a very respectable 33% this year), but I think they compare in a lot of other ways. Both have freakish athleticism, they're excellent rebounders, run the floor, and play solid defense. Once Thomas begins to develop more range on his jumpshot I think he can have a Marion-like impact.

Randy Foye: My Comparison - Chauncey Blllups - The Gatorade Dump mentioned that they think Foye looks like the second coming of Chauncey Billups, and while I do think the comparison is apt, I don't think Foye will ever be quite as good as Billups is. However, they both have some similar skills - solid handling the ball, solid passers, good defensively, and a good outside shot. I think Billups is the better shooter and defender, but Foye looks a lot like a poor man's Chauncey Billups to me.

Rudy Gay: My Comparison - Tim Thomas - compares Gay to Pippen, but I don't see that comparison. To me, Gay is very similar to Tim Thomas in that they both have a varied skill set but they can be a little inconsistent. At times, Thomas can hit the outside shot, go down and score on the block, and be a great rebounder (which he's shown throughout the playoffs), but as we know from the rest of his career, he can also disappear for long stretches. Gay seems similar to that, at least in my eyes. Gay may have been the most "talented" player in the NCAA last year, but he didn't always show it. Still, he has a nice 3-point shot, handles the ball well going to the basket, he's a good rebounder, and he has the best pull-up jumper of anyone in the draft. But still, you never know quite what he's going to bring on any given night, which reminds me of Tim Thomas.

Marcus Williams: My Comparison - Steve Nash - compares him to Deron Williams, but in my mind he's more like Steve Nash. But then again, I've stated before that I am the charter member of the Marcus Williams Fan Club and I think he'll be a fantastic player in this league if he can stay out of trouble. But he does remind me of Nash in that on the fast break he's got incredible vision and makes the right decisions, but he can be turnover-prone in the half-court. Also, both guys can find different ways to score near the basket, especially with a little floater. Obviously Nash is the better outside shooter at this point, but as long as Williams can keep improving the outside shot like he did last year he'll only get better, and I think his career path could be a lot like Nash's.

Rodney Carney: My Comparison - Richard Jefferson - I've heard comparisons to Shawn Marion, but I don't think Carney is that type of player. Critical Fanatic called him Shawn Marion v2.0, but I guess I'd have to disagree with that, and say he reminds me a little more of a poor man's Richard Jefferson. Unlike Marion, Carney is not that good of a rebounder, as he averaged only 4.3 rebounds per game last year. He is unbelievably athletic and great in the open floor both at the rim and with a decent outside shot, which reminds me more of Jefferson. However, I'm not sure that he's going to really be able to create his own shot off the dribble very well in the NBA, which is why I'm not quite as high on him as others are. I don't think he'll ever be as good as a Shawn Marion or Richard Jefferson, but he should be an effective player provided he gets on a team that likes to run the floor.

Hilton Armstrong: My Comparison - Theo Ratliff - Hilton's been rising up the draft boards a lot over the past year, and might even find himself in the lottery now. To me, he's a little more offensively minded and skilled than Ratliff while not being quite the defensive force Ratliff was in his prime. He's got a respectable 15-foot jumper which I'm not sure Ratliff ever really had. However, he's got good athleticism and great timing on the defensive end, which is why he got 3.1 blocks per game last year. And this for a guy that played 12.4 minutes per game as a junior.

Rajon Rondo: My Comparison - Jacque Vaughn - Rondo is not quite as inept as Jacque Vaughn is on the offensive end, but defensively I think they're similar. They're both good on-the-ball defenders and good help defenders, evidenced by Rondo averaged 2.6 steals per game as a freshman and then 2.0 steals per game as a sophomore. Rondo is a much better penetrator and finisher than Vaughn, but that outside shot and free throw shot are still ugly. If he can improve shooting the ball, Rondo can move up to be the 2nd or 3rd best PG in this draft, otherwise, I think his ceiling isn't that much higher than Jacque Vaughn.

Brandon Roy: My Comparison - Shane Battier - I've seen predictions that Roy will have a Dwyane Wade like impact coming into the league, but I think there's a lot of problems with that. I think coming out of college Wade had the better jumper, handled the ball better than Roy, and is a better finisher. I think Wade was and is just much more explosive than Roy, which isn't really a slight to Roy, because Wade is one of the top 5 players in the NBA. I think Roy is more like a Shane Batter, although not quite as good as Battier is defensively, in that he does everything well. He has a solid handle, he's good passer, plays hard defense, and will do what it takes to win. compared him to Jalen Rose, and I do kind of like that comparison, because at his prime Rose could play both guard spots, hit the open jumper, penetrate, or find the open man. I think Roy will be a solid player for a long time, either as a great 6th man or a solid starter, but I don't think he'll have the superstar impact of a guy like Dwyane Wade. One thing I do know is that along with Rudy Gay, Roy has the most balanced and varied skill set of anyone in the draft.

What do you think? If I'm way off base with some of these, feel free to let me know!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

So, who is going to win the NL West?

If someone would have told me at the start of the year that the NL West would be the only division in the MLB with every team above .500 at this point of the season, I probably would have laughed. But it is in fact, true, at least as of the end of the games on 5/27. Here are the records:
  1. Arizona Diamondbacks: 29-19
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers: 28-21, 1.5 GB
  3. San Fransisco Giants: 26-23, 3.5 GB
  4. San Diego Padres: 25-25, 4.5 GB
  5. Colorado Rockies: 25-24, 4.5 GB

Almost seems hard to believe, especially considering that the Padres won the division last year with an 82-80 record. This year, however, I think everyone has a legitimate shot at the division, even the Rockies. Here's reasons the teams should be optimistic:

  • Diamondbacks - Brandon Webb has developed into a legitimate Cy Young candidate with Orlando Hudson playing 2nd. And with the addition of Johnny Estrada and the strong play from Chad Tracy and Shawn Green, they've scored the 3rd most runs in the NL. Another positive is that young stud Stephen Drew is on the fast track to the big leagues.
  • Dodgers - They need more consistent pitching efforts from Derek Lowe (like he had on Saturday), because they have a good enough offense to win the division. Jeff Kent is old but can still rake, Nomah is hitting the ball very well, and JD Drew is one of the best hitters in the league. Once again, health is a key issue.
  • Giants - They're playing over .500 ball even with Barry Bonds hitting very poorly, which should turn around. Jason Schmidt is his old self again, and if they can get more outings like they got from Matt Cain last week, they'll have a shot.
  • Padres - They have the experience after making it to the playoffs last year, although experience is overrated. The good news is that Jake Peavy is excellent, and guys like Khalil Greene are improving all the time. It's tough to hit in that ballpark, but they need to improve that. They have a team ERA of 4.05 which is 4th in the league, so the pitching is solid.
  • Rockies - Could their pitching actually be a strength? Well, we can't go quite that far, but their 4.32 team ERA is in the top half of the NL. If the pitching can hold up, they have a young but potentially dangerous lineup, especially since they play half their games in Coors.

How do I think it will end up? Well, I think in this case the pythagorean records are a little telling. According to those, the Dodgers should be about 31-18, which tells me that they have lost some close games that could have gone either way (6-10 in 1-run games). Which is why I think the return of Eric Gagne (threw a rehab inning in AAA) is big. He can solidify the backend of the bullpen which will obviously help the Dodgers in close games, which is why I like them to win the West as long as they can stay somewhat healthy. If they don't, I think the Diamondbacks are the next strongest team from top to bottom as far as offensive and pitching wise.

My predictions for end of the year standings:
  1. LA Dodgers: 93-69
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks: 88-74
  3. San Diego Padres: 83-79
  4. San Fransisco Giants: 83-79
  5. Colorado Rockies: 76-86

What are your predictions?

Twins Update: Francisco Liriano is the cure to all ills

After yet another bad Carlos Silva start a couple of weeks ago, Ron Gardenhire finally heeded my advice and put Francisco Liriano into the starting rotation. Friday was his second start of the year, and it was a good one, as Liriano pitched 5 shutout innings on the way to a 3-1 Twins win. He's still on a pitch count (which I strongly support for a young guy like this), which is why he only went 5 innings, but he allowed 4 hits (walking 1) while striking out 6 in those 5 innings, which lowered his ERA to 2.51. As I said 10 days ago, pick this guy up on your fantasy team IMMEDIATELY if at all possible.

In other good Twins news, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the Ballpark Bill at the Metrodome in a special ceremony before the game.

The new stadium will be located in the Warehouse District north of the Target Center, and it will be ready for the start of the 2010 season. The $522 million project -- $130 million of which will be paid by the club -- will fund the 42,000-seat, natural grass ballpark that has a view of the Minneapolis downtown skyline.

Currently, the Twins stand at 21-26, but considering the rise of Liriano and the new Ballpark that will be built, things could definitely be worse.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The time has come for word verification on comments

I've tried to hold off on having to use word verification on my comments because I think the less work for commenters the better, but I had to add it after a wave of anonymous spam comments over the past couple days. Hopefully this will at least slow them down.

So anyway, hope you don't mind, and feel free to comment away!

Detroit wins Game 2; other stories

I am afraid I did not get to see much of Game 2 between Detroit and Miami other than the final 5 minutes or so, so my knowledge of the game was limited. I will say that the reffing at the end of the game was not all that good - Posey pushed Chauncey Billups out of bounds and Detroit got called for a 5 seconds call. The Pistons made some stupid fouls in the last couple minutes, Rasheed Wallace in particular, but the game should not have been as close as it was, ending up 92-88.

Other links from around the Web that I found interesting:
  • Critical Fanatic offers their initial lottery picks, with the caveat that these are how he thinks the picks should go. The Gatorade Dump goes one further and just does a complete first-round mock draft.
  • The Mighty MJD gives his 2011 NBA All-Star team predictions... pretty interesting stuff (and an idea for a future post). One obvious yet notable omission - Greg Oden.
  • Sports rumblings from the Armchair QB.
  • Expanding the NCAA Tourney? I must agree with Seth Davis, sometimes more is not better.
  • Air Jordan to own part of the Bobcats? Hey, it could happen.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This is like a really entertaining pickup game

Seriously, is there a better way to describe Game 1 between the Mavs and Suns? Up an down all game, 239 points combined, and both teams shooting over 50%. Cap it off by late game dramatics, with both teams hitting lead-changing shots in the final seconds, and really, what more can you ask for? One of the most entertaining NBA games I've seen in a while, as much for the ending as for the style of play throughout. Some thoughts:

- Dirk didn't really shoot well from the outside, but he played a heck of a game. 25 points and 19 rebounds, including 8 offensive. He wanted every offensive rebound out there, and very often, he was successful.

- Steve Nash was absolutely atrocious on the defensive end - he let guys drive by him at will, he was terrible on the pick & roll, etc. - but he was great offensively. Aggressive when he had the openings, passive when other guys were open, and he hit some big shots down the stretch. He had 2/3 of the Suns assists for the game.

- If Josh Howard and Raja Bell have to sit out because of injuries, it's obviously enormous but I think the loss of Bell would hurt the Suns more than the loss of Howard hurts Mavs, for a couple of reasons. For one, Bell has been the Suns most consistent outside shooter, but more importantly, they need him to guard Jason Terry. Howard is big for the Mavs, but they're deeper than the Suns, so they'd be better able to absorb the loss.

- I would be a little worried if I were the Suns because the Mavs defended the 3-point shot well because they stayed on shooters. Now, Phoenix still won despite only making 5 3s, but they won't shoot 55% all series, and I don't think they'll be able to count on 34 a game from Boris Diaw.

- Not much else to say, except that this game was just totally awesome.

The NBA Playoffs (So Far)

I wrote a piece for Sportolysis as part of his new "Visitors" section, so if you want to check that out, go here. It's basically about my thoughts on the playoffs so far, and then has my picks.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Raptors get the #1 overall pick

Despite having only like an 8% chance to win the lottery, the Toronto Raptors will have the #1 pick in this year's NBA Draft. The Bulls, who got this pick from the New York Knicks, will pick 2nd, followed by the Charlotte Bobcats. The Portland Jailblazers, who had the best chance for the #1 pick, will pick 4th.

You can check out Critical Fanatic for some of his early suggestions for picks, as that is a good read, and he is very high on Brandon Roy. Myself, I do like Roy, but he's outside my top 3. As of now, I like Tyrus Thomas, Marcus Williams, and Andrea Bargnani as my top 3 players in this draft.

If I had to make a guess right now, I think Toronto will go with (presuming they don't trade the pick) LaMarcus Aldridge from Texas. They need a center, and he most fits the Center mold at the top of the draft. However, new GM Bryan Colangelo did do things differently (and very effectively) in Phoenix, so it's impossible to tell anything at this point.

But either way, you can expect a good portion of NBA Draft coverage from me as we get closer and closer to the NBA Draft!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

NBA Conference Finals Predictions

After two totally awesome rounds, we're down to the final 4. In the Eastern Conference, we have a rematch from last year, as the Detroit Pistons will take on the Miami Heat. In the Western Conference, we have another playoff rematch, although last year it took place in the second round, as the Phoenix Suns will take on the Dallas Mavericks. Let's take a look at each series.

Detroit Pistons vs. Miami Heat
Technically, this is a rematch from last year. However, Miami is a much different team this year, after Pat Riley overhauled the roster in the offseason. Gone are Damon Jones and Eddie Jones, starters last year, and in are Jason Williams and Antoine Walker. The result? A more talented team, but it took them a while to find their groove. But now that they have, they're a legitimately scary team with the talent to win it all. Heck, they probably would have beaten Detroit if Dwyane Wade had been 100% in Game 7.

For Detroit, it's the same old story for them. We know what they have, and we know what they do. It will all depend on what type of intensity they play with, because if they play like they did in Games 3-6 against the Cavs, Miami can and will beat them. I do think Detroit did at least come to their senses somewhat in that 2nd half... they began playing their old style of defense, which is to say that they absolutely shut the opposing team down. I think they'd do well to stick with that strategy.

As far as the series goes, let me just say that Dwyane Wade is the best player in the series, and one of the top 5 players in the NBA. Also, I do like this Miami team more than last year, because I think that when things are going right they have a lot more balance and scoring options. However, Shaq is just not his old self. He can't play as many minutes, and because of the refs or otherwise he has not been as effective in thos minutes. I think with Wade on board they can again extend it to 7 games, but I think it'll be a new year, and the same results. PISTONS IN 7.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns
Very interesting matchup here as well, if only because of the coaches, because Avery Johnson and Mike D'Antoni are absolutely 2 of the top 4 coaches in the NBA. Add on to that that these teams are talented and play fun-to-watch styles, and this should be another entertaining series.

When Phoenix is hitting their 3s (like they were in Game 7) they are unbeatable. Against a super-athletic team with a lot better coach (AKA the Mavs as compared to the Clips), I don't see them doing this as much. As Dallas showed against the Spurs, they can play smallball if need be, which will probably negate any positive Kurt Thomas would be able to bring.

I think this will be very entertaining, but I think the Mavs defense is just too much better than the Suns defense. I think whoever Steve Nash guards, whether it's Devin Harris or Jason Terry, will just put up really big numbers. Dirk, as always, will be excellent as well. MAVERICKS IN 6.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bye Bye LeBron, Bye Bye Happiness

Ok, I'm still happy. But I will say that I am going to miss watching LeBron in these playoffs. For a 21 year-old in his first stint in the playoffs, he was nothing short of amazing. But we know all of that already.

Today in the 2nd half, it was all about Detroit. Where was that defense all series? Granted, no one, James or otherwise, could hit an outside jumper to save their lives, but even so, the Detroit defense was absolutely suffocating, holidng Cleveland to 23 second-half points in the 79-61 series clicher. According to my research (read: I think I saw this during the broadcast), it was the lowest point total of any team in a Game 7.

LeBron was excellent in first half, but in the 2nd half Detroit collapsed on him and shut down the lane, drawing charges on multiple occasions. On the high pick & roll, they just went ahead and hedged hard, and then doubled LeBron, which was made all the more effective because no one else could do anything offensively (Cavaliers players not named LeBron James shot 9/41 from the field).

The biggest issue for Detroit, at least as far as their series against the Heat is concerned, is how bad Rasheed Wallace was. They need him to be a little more Sheedtastic against a better all-around team than the Cavs, which the Heat are. Shooting 4/16 and scoring 13 points will not get it done for the Heat. I really don't think this will be a problem because Sheed has been pretty consistent since he arrived in Detroit, but I had to come up with something! (Image from Need4Sheed)

Anyway, the Pistons, as expected, move on, although the series was a lot closer than was expected. This is completely overused, but well, I am a witness. And whether they lost to Detroit in Game 7 or not, I'll remember this postseason for LeBron for a very long time. I guess I'll see you next year LeBron. Oh, and work on that jumper a little more.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Previewing the Game 7s

With three game 7’s forthcoming in the NBA Playoffs, I thought now would be a good time to do a little preview of the games, as well as my predictions. By the time you read this, some or all of the games probably will have happened, so feel free to mock me when my picks are eventually wrong. Here we go.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Detroit Pistons
Cleveland had the chance they were looking for to close out Detroit in Game 6 at home, but the Pistons prevailed 84-82, setting up this Game 7 in Motown, which is not real good news for the Cavs. While Cleveland was able to win Game 5 in Detroit, I don’t think they’ll have as good of luck this time around. The Detroit crowd should be a little more raucous this time around, which could fluster the young Cleveland squad.

The prevailing theme in this series is that everyone (myself included) seems to think that Detroit is the more talented team, they’re just not really playing with urgency yet. You would think that Game 7 would be a good time to play with that urgency, but if it hasn’t happened yet this series, maybe it won’t ever come. Or maybe LeBron James is just that good already. Either way, I think we’ll see more of what we saw in Games 3-6 than what we saw in Games 1-2.

That being said, I do like Detroit to take care of business at home in Game 7, although it won’t be easy. DETROIT BY 6.

Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs
As far as the quality of the teams and of the games, this has been the best series of the playoffs easily. These may be the two best teams in the NBA (especially with the way Detroit is playing right now) and 5 out of 6 games have been extremely entertaining. It's a shame the series has to end, but it does.

The Mavs will get a boost with Jason Terry returning to the lineup after missing Game 6. Although, even without Terry, the Mavs showed that they are faster and more athletic than the Spurs. So that is the real key to the game - how Parker, Ginobili and the rest stop the penetration of Devin Harris and Jason Terry. Assuming all else goes how it has been (Duncan will get his; Nowitski will get his), the guard play will determine this one.

In the end, I do love how Harris and Terry have played this series, but in a Game 7 in San Antonio, you won't find me betting against Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, and the defending champs. SPURS BY 3.

Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns
Like the other Western Conference matchup, this has been extremely evenly matched. We've seen a little bit of everything so far - extreme rebounding discrepancies, double OT, and the Clippers, yes those Clippers, headed to a game 7. Like the rest of the games in this series, this should be a high scoring, and it will depend on how Phoenix rebounds and if they can shoot a decent percentage from beyond the arc.

Believe it or not, I think the biggest question mark for the Suns might be Steve Nash. Don't look now, but he's been outplayed by Sam Cassell so far in this series, and in the spurts that Dunleavy has guarded Nash with Shaun Livingston, Livingston has controlled the matchup. Nash needs to make good decisions, especially down the stretch, and he needs to make some outside shots, which he hasn't done so far in this series.

This is a tough one to call, but I think the more inexperienced Clippers can win this game. Nash has been underrated all year, and he has not really impressed this series, with Raja Bell and Shawn Marion being Phoenix' best players so far. The X-Factor is Leandro Barbosa, because he has the capabilities of getting hot and scoring a quick 20. I don't think it will be enough, even in Phoenix. CLIPPERS BY 4.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Sports Blogs I read

First off, my apologies. I wanted to write this post Thursday night, but I started a new job and got off there at midnight, and then I watched a tape of the Suns/Nuggets game, and by that point I was getting a headache was really tired, so I just went to bed.

Now, I thought of this a few days ago, and thought it would be cool to just make a list of the sports blogs that I frequent. I thought this would be a good way to make others aware of them and recognize them for the efforts. If yours is not on the list, chances are I don't know about it, forget it, and it just hasn't been updated ina while. Other bloggers, feel free to copy this "idea" (which I suppose isn't really that original). Here they are, in alphabetical order.

Blog Maverick - I'm not really a devoted reader of the blog, but it's interesting to occassionally look into the mind of billionaire Mark Cuban, because there's really no other blog like this.

Critical Fanatic - Has the daily sports buzz, which is nice. Also has a share of Cubs ramblings, and it's always enjoyable to me to read Cubs fans complaining about their team. :) Also had excellent stuff for the NFL Draft.

Dan's Take - All around sports goodness. Doesn't always focus on the big stories, but has other interesting stuff ("That guy" at your home poker game) which continues to make the blog interesting.

Deadspin - If you count this as a sports blog, probably the best out there. Updated many times throughout the day (and weekend), provides the big stories, obscure stories, and everything in between.

Double-A Zone - The official NCAA Blog. Well written, and covers all levels of the NCAA from Division 1 Division 2, to Division 3. I really enjoy this blog.

Every Day Should Be Saturday - All about college football, and quite frankly, I can't disagree with the premise that every day should be a Saturday (except this Saturday, when I work 4-midnight!)

Free Darko - Generally posts long, well-written messages about the NBA. A fun read if you like the NBA.

Give Me The Rock - Another good NBA blog, with a lot of focus on fantasy basketball.

Kevin Antcliff - A little sports, a little bit of everything else. Always good stuff from Kevin.

My Opinion on Sports - Usually has his eye on Oklahoma stuff and the Dolphins, but does cover lots of stuff nationwide. Posts frequently, so there's usually something new to read.

Need4Sheed - This blog is Sheedtastic. Need I say more?

Pacifist Viking - Mainly focuses on the Vikings but also does some NBA stuff. Well written.

Sportolysis - For more of a worldwide sports perspective.

Sweaty Men Endeavors - Might be my favorite. Very well written, funny, smart, etc. He does write a lot about crappy teams like the Lions and Tigers :), but he also writes about national stuff, and is smart and objective. Very enjoyable blog.

Squeeze Play Sports - A lot of their work is focused on stuff in the LA area, but they do a lot of cool things such as live (or running) blogs of different sports events, and that's always cool.

The Armchair Quarterback - A self-proclaimed ex-kicker, which obviously qualifies him for football work. Solid all-around.

The Big Picture - Another of my favorites. Always very entertaining stuff on here.

The Gatorade Dump - Has done some excellent work on both the NCAA Tournament and a good amount of NBA stuff. Very well-written blog.

The Mighty MJD - This is the guy that writes for Deadspin for the weekends, so you know it's entertaining. Also usually pretty spot on when it comes to analysis and things of that nature.

The Sports Pulse - Don't always write about the big stuff, but it's always entertaining. For instance, the last few posts have been about Charles Barkley, Ryan Leaf, and Coach K playing video poker.

YAYSports NBA - Quite simply the most entertaining NBA blog out there. Great work with Photoshop, great writeups, and really funny all around. They're also trying to make a movie, so donate money for that.

Yoco Hoops - To satisfy some college hoops needs.

I'm assuming I missed a lot, so either leave a message for me in the comments to recommend some more good ones, or better yet, create a list of your own on your blog!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers/Value Picks

We're about 1/4 of the way through the year, but there are still a lot of players that are undervalued at this point. Here's a few of them at C, IF, OF, SP, and RP.


Josh Willingham - Florida Marlins - He's playing LF for Florida, but in most leagues he still qualifies at C, which is a good thing. He's batting .286, and he has 7 HR and 29 RBI. Florida's not that good, but Willingham is solid and batting behind Cabrera. He may be available in mixed leagues.

Johnny Estrada - Arizona Diamondbacks - Estrada's just a really solid hitter. The only reason Atlanta got rid of him of was to make room for Brian McCann, who's been excellent in his own right. Estrada is batting .314, has a few HR, as well as 25 RBI and 14 R. A nice option at Catcher.


Mike Cuddyer - Minnesota Twins - Qualifies at 2B, 3B, and OF, which makes him even more valuable. He has always had hitting talent, and always put up great Minor League numbers, but never really got comfortable in the Majors. Now, he's getting to play everyday in RF, and at age 27, is making the most of it. In May, he's batting .375 and he has 8 doubles. He's a nice option at this point as long as he continues to play everyday.

Mike Lowell - Boston Red Sox - Qualifies at 2B and 3B, and he is starting to play everyday and hit the ball well. In May, he's batting .340 with a couple HR, 11 RBI, and 9 2B. Also has scored 12 runs in the potent Sox offense.

Jose Lopez - Seattle Mariners - He's just been really, really solid, but not many people seem to know about him. He's got a solid .295 average, but he's also contributed 5 HR, 30 RBI, and 23 Runs. From a 2B, this is excellent production.

Bill Hall - Milwaukee Brewers - He doesn't really have a set starting spot, but he still gets a solid amount of playing time, and qualifies at 2B, 3B, and SS. Has a nice .291 average, and 8 HR when not playing everyday is very good. Also has scored 23 runs.


Matt Murton - Chicago Cubs - His power hasn't really come much yet, with only 2 HR, but he's got a .271 average, 17 RBI, and 18 R, and he's even got a couple of stolen bases. Last year he hit 7 HR in 140 AB, so he has decent power potential.

Curtis Granderson - Detroit Tigers - Not playing really well right now, with only a .255 average, but he hits for decent power and he's fast. He has 6 HR and 3 SB, and has 20/20 potential. He's been batting leadoff for the Tigers, so he should score a nice amount of runs this year (21 so far).

Dave Roberts - San Diego Padres - He won't provide any power or RBI, but he hits for a nice average, and he'll steal a lot of bases. He's batting .284 right now, and has a very nice 14 SB in 15 chances. If you need steals and he's available, pick him up and he should shore that up for you.

Barry Bonds - San Fransisco Giants - He's obviously not a sleeper, but I do think he's undervalued. His numbers have not been good this year - .233 AVG, 5 HR, and only 14 RBI. Which is why he could be available for trade. I think he's still a very good hitter, just in a slump right now. I'd expect the average to be up around .270 at least by the end of the year, and around 30 HR. If you can trade for him at a reasonable price, I wouldn't hesitate to do it.


Fransisco Liriano - Minnesota Twins - He's set to make his first start on Friday, and that's a very good thing for fantasy owners. I've written about him here and here, and well, let's just say I'm high on his potential. He's got a great fastball, and absolutely filthy slider, and a good changeup. It will take him a while for his arm to get to the point where he can go deep into games, but he should provide quality innings and a good amount of strikeouts, without walking a lot of guys. If he's stll available in your league, stop reading and pick him up right now. You won't regret it.

Tony Armas - Washington Nationals - It seems like he's been around forever, but he is becoming a solid, reliable pitcher. He's got 4 wins, and his ERA is a paltry 3.02. With a over 2/1 K/BB ratio, and a WHIP of 1.12, while playing in the large expanse that is the Nationals home park, well, I can see him keeping this up.

Dave Bush - Milwaukee Brewers - His ERA is a shade over 4, but he has a K/BB ratioof almost 5/1. And with a WHIP of only 1.09, and an improving Brewer offense, he's a solid pickup.

J.J. Putz - Seattle Mariners - Now that he has emerged as the closer in Seattle after the disappointing start of Eddie Guardado, he's a must-own, and should rack up a good amount of saves. He has 4 of them already, but his WHIP is under, and his ERA is under 2. He also has 28 K in 19.2 innings.

Joel Zumaya - Detroit Tigers - This is pretty much for really deep leagues only, because he's still in middle relief. But, he's been excellent. He has 20 strikeouts and 7 walks in 18.1 innings. He has a 2.45 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and he's holding opponents to a 1.88 BAA. If/when Todd Jones gets hurt, Zumaya will take on a bigger role, and that coule make him very valuable.

Any other big ones I missed?

Suns win Game 5 in Double OT

I wasn't even planning on writing about this game, but it was too good not to mention, frankly. In double overtime, the Suns took the 3-2 series lead with a 125-118 victory, although the game was even closer than the 7 point difference would indicate.

The Clippers almost had the game in the bag, as they had a 111-108 lead with 3.8 seconds to play on the first overtime. However, Raja Bell caught the ball in the corner, and knocked down a 3 right in Daniel Ewing's eye, tying the game at 111, and sending it to a 2nd OT. Lots and lots of talk about how you should be fouling there, and I would agree, but I really don't think Ewing had time to. Bell caught it and shot it, and if Ewing would have fouled Bell would be going to the line to shoot 3. Can't take that risk.

Lots of excellent individual performers tonight for both teams. For the Clippers, you have to look at Elton Brand (33 points, 15 rebounds) and Sam Cassell (32 points, 5 assists), obviously. For the Suns, Shawn Marion (36 points, 20 rebounds) and Raja Bell (22 points, solid defense) led the way.

One unsung hero for the Clippers, I thought, was Shaun Livingston. Steve Nash was practically invisible in the overtimes, and that was because Shaun Livingston was guarding him. Earlier in the game, when Cassell was on Nash, the Suns pick & rolled the Clips to death. Then they made a switch, and Livingston shut Nash down. And to clarify, Livingston was decidedly not out of bounds when called for it.

One final note, I've heard over and over throughout these playoffs about how clutch Steve Nash and Sam Cassell are, but I don't see it. They take lots of big shots, and invariably they do make some, but they miss a huge amount of them. Look no further than the end of regulation. Sam Cassell gets called for an 8-second backcourt violation. Then Steve Nash takes a deep 3, which was not a good shot, and misses. Sam Cassell comes down and fires up a bad 3 with about 5 seconds left on the clock. Bad mental mistakes, bad shots.

All in all though, what a fantastic game in what has been a fantastic playoffs so far. Hopefully it will continue throughout. Game 6 is Thursday night.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Stop this Timeout Madness

Here was the Play-by-Play at the end of regulation in the Mavs/Spurs game:

0:39 - Jason Terry hits 2 FT.
San Antonio Full Timeout.
0:38 - Brent Barry throws the ball out of bounds.
0:23 - Jason Terry hits a jump shot.
San Antonio Full Timeout.
0:15 - Michael Finley hits a three-pointer.
Dallas Full Timeout.
0:08 - Dirk Nowitski hits 2 FT.
San Antonio 20-Second Timeout.
0:00 - Overtime.

4 timeouts in a span of 31 seconds. And the thing is, this is a common occurrence. I understand the need for timeouts late in a close game, but the sheer amount of them called ruins the flow of many great games and makes the endings hard to watch. Make no mistake, this was a great, well-played basketball game, but all these timeouts made the end of regulation boring, just the opposite of what it should be.

And while I'm on the subject of this game, the last foul call on Bowen (while Nowitski was driving to the hoop) was just a terrible call. If anything, it was Nowitski that committed the foul, seeing as how he was the one creating separation by pushing off with his off arm. I know Bowen is an extremely physical player, but the refs should not be deciding the games. Let the players play, because a bad call like this is the difference between a 2-2 series and 3-1 series. As Chuck Barkley said after the game, "The reffing has sucked." [/rant]

Wait, the Pistons lost again?

It's true, the series is tied up at 2 games apiece. Admittedly, a little hard to believe, and not just because I had Detroit in 5. This game was, in fact, "guaransheed", and that's usually a good indicator that the Pistons will win. Tonight, no so much, as Cleveland pulled it out 74-72.

Admittedly, the loss of the Rasheed to a sprained ankle (or at least, the loss of effectiveness of Rasheed) was huge. Although, as YAYSports points out, Cleveland was also playing without their starting SG. However, in my mind, I do think Rasheed is more important to Detroit than Hughes is to Cleveland, especially considering how Hughes has played this postseason (not so great) and how Flip Murray has played this postseason (very well).

Unlike Game 3, this wasn't so much LeBron taking over the game as it was Cleveland playing good defense and Detroit uncharacteristically missing some relatively easy shots (such as Hamilton's short jumper after Big Ben pulled down an offensive rebound). LeBron was not very good at all shooting tonight, finishing 8/23 from the field, including something like 2/13 in the 2nd half. But the all-around game was there again, with 8 rebounds and 9 assists. Anderson Varajeo and Donyell Marshall contributed off the bench, and the Cavs even got a nice scoring effort from Eric Snow.

For Detroit, only 33% from the field, including 4/15 from downtown - ouch. Rip Hamilton led the team with 30 points, butit uncharacteristically took him 25 shots to do it. Chauncey Billups, normally Mr. Reiliable in the clutch, never got it going.

For Game 5, the Pistons are going to Need Sheed to be back close to his normal self in order to get the offense back together. Detroit's defense was excellent again, but they need to remain potent offensively. If they don't, we could be in for a shocker in this series.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Knicks considering a buyout of Larry Brown

Reports today are that the New York Knicks, led by everyone's favorite Isiah Thomas, are considering a buyout of the final 4 years of Larry Brown's contract. Brown signed on before last year to a 5 year contract.

And so the joke that is the New York Knicks continues on. Remember, this is the same team that employs as many as 5 shoot-first PG's. They're far, far over the cap, and no real hope of contending anytime in the near future.

Last summer, they signed Brown as an attempt to get a little bit of legitimacy, overlooking the small fact that Brown was really a bad fit for the Knicks. He likes hard-working, defensive-minded veterans. The Knicks are young, offensive-minded, and Stephon Marbury is still the "star" of the team. Brown likes to overhaul his teams the way he sees fit. The Knicks were too far over the cap, in too big of a market, and had too much Isiah Thomas for that to work. It was really an awful fit, which is obvious now.

The buyout, if it happens, could be worth up to $40 million, but then again, money has never been a problem for the Knickerbockers. They've got the highest payroll in the league. Next year's not looking so good for them either, as they'll still be young and bad. And to make matters worse, they will swap draft places with the Bulls in the draft thanks to the Eddy Curry debacle trade.

If I'm Larry Brown (although last I checked, I'm not), I'd be praying for a buyout, because things aren't going to be getting any better in the Big Apple.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Cleveland will not go quietly into the night

Or at least, they've cut the series to 2-1 with a 86-77 victory, especially impressive since Larry Hughes did not play after the death of his brother. My condolences to the Hughes family.

Now about the game. Detroit pretty much did the same thing last series against Milwaukee, when they lost game 3 by like 20 points. Today they at least made it a close game, but either way they go home with the loss.

In Game 3, it was all about LeBron late, when he scored 15 of his 21 points in the 4th quarter, leading some to call him the Anti-Kobe (I'll let you decide for yourself there). He also had his second playoff double, obviously registering his first earlier in these playoffs. He finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.

In the grand scheme of things, I doubt this will really mean much. I picked the Pistons to win in 5, and I see no reason to divert from that. Cleveland may be able to steal one more game, but I seriously doubt they can do more than that. But for tonight, this is enough, especially with LeBron passing another hurdle - coming up big and leading his team to a victory against a legitimate great team in the playoffs. He's 21 years old. He really has absolutely no ceiling whatsoever.

Anyway, Game 4 is Monday sometime, and I fully expect Detroit to come right back and get the win to go up 3-1. With all due respect to Cleveland, they're just not an elite team yet.

In the other matchup, which I was not able to watch much of because I was out and about, Dalls pulled off the 104-103 win. Tim Duncan continued his rampage through Dallas with 35 and 12, but Dirk scored 27 (21/24 FT? Can anyone comment on how he got to the line so much?), and for the second straight game Devin Harris was excellent. Game 4 is officially a must-win for the Spurs, because falling down 3-1 to a team of Dallas' caliber is really not a good idea.

Twins Update: Good Pitching + Good Hitting = Success

And just like that, the Twins are in 3rd place. With an 8-4 win over the White Sox, the Twins haved moved to 17-19, 7 games behind the Sox. Today, a hit by Justin Morneau (Bat-Girl's Boyfriend of the Day) in the fifth put the Twins up 5-4, and they obviously never looked back.

Radke was very shaky early on, but he did get the win despite giving up 4 runs in 5 2/3. Franciso Liriano pitched 2.1 solid innings, giving up just 1 hit and striking out 4. Juan Rincon pitched the final inning for the Twins.

Yesterday, in Game 1 of a 4-game set between the Twins and White Sox, the Twins took it to the Sox 10-1, getting 7 strong innings from Johan "Cytana" (1 ER, 10 K), and getting HR from Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Tony Batista.

These two wins guarantee the Twins at least a split of the series, but hopefully they can finish the job and take at least 3 out of 4. On Sunday, Carlos Silva will pitch against Mark Buehrle. On Monday, Scott Baker will take on Freddy Garcia. Let's go Twins!

NBA Playoffs - Two Game 3's

Two solid game 3s on Friday night, both were fairly entertaining and well-played. My observations from each:

Heat over Nets 103-92
  • The NBA scheduling sucks. The teams that played Tuesday don't play again until Saturday, and the teams that played Wednesday played again Friday. I guess I don't get it. I understand it's for the TV, but it still doesn't make much sense to me.

  • While the reffing with regards to Shaquille O'Neal has been inconsistent (to be kind), you can't overlook the job Jason Collins is doing this series. He's going up against Shaq 1-on-1, and he's always in good position, has drawn charges on Shaq and other Heat players (from good help defense), and has kept Shaq in check. He provides nothing offensively, but he is very, very solid defensively.

  • Hubie Brown is very old, but he is still very good as the color man. He knows the game exceptionally well, he's pretty clear, and can even crack a joke now and then. Granted, there has never been a bad call, because he seems to agree with absolutely every call the refs make, but that's just a small notch against a fine commentator.

  • There's just no way to say this in a good way, but the Nets half-court offense sucks. It sucks badly. Basically, if they don't get anything in transition, they give it to Carter, and then either have a high pick & roll, or they isolate Carter. Eventually, the defense catches on.

  • It seems to me that whenever things are going against the Nets, Vince Carter starts to settle for fadeaway jumpers and stops taking the ball to the hoop. I know there's been the knock that he's soft (which I pretty much agree with), but it more seems that when things are going against the team he gets frustrated and starts settling for fadeaways, and things go from bad to worse. Now, he can make those shots, and does on occasion, but it hurts the Nets long-term.

  • Coming in, I expected to see a useless Gary Payton, but he's still a decent player. Well, he has no outside jumpshot, and his on the ball defense in pretty poor, but he still handles the ball, distributes it, doesn't try to do too much, and is a solid help defender.

  • Heat lead the series 2-1. I would presume that Game 4 is Sunday, but then again, it's probably not smart to presume anything when it comes to NBA scheduling.

Suns over Clippers 94-91
  • Let's just get this out of the way. As good as Tim Thomas has been this postseason, any team that signs him to a big deal is stupid. He's in the perfect spot right now, and he's trying hard since it's the playoffs. He's still a finesse player, doesn't always give best effort (let's be honest, there's a reason the Bulls were willing to pay him to just sit at home). He fits here in Phoenix, but as soon as he goes somewhere else, I expect we'll see more of what we've seen throughout his career. Same goes for Bonzi Wells.

  • One other non-game related thought: At some point, I turned it over to ESPN 2 during the commercial break, and unfortunately Quite Frankly with Stephen A Smith was on. And Smith was interviewing a couple of guys that do Jiu-Jitsu. Uh yeah, let's just say that show is awful.

  • While we're on the subject of announcers, I must admit I'm not a big fan of Bill Walton if he's in a 2-man team. However, the trio of Mike Tirico, Bill Walton, and Steve "Snapper" Jones is very enjoyable. Tirico is one of the best in the business at play-by-play, Walton throws in his great exaggerations, which are actually rather amusing ("Elton Brand represents everything that is right with the NBA. And with the world."), and Jones makes fun of Bill every chance he gets. They're very enjoyable.

  • The Suns are not normally a very good defensive team, but they were solid in Game 3 because they were active. They contested shots, they were active in the passing lanes, and asa a result, the Clippers only got 91 points.

  • At one point in the 4th quarter, Vlad Radmanovic had scored 14 straight points for the Clippers. If you predicted that beforehand, come with me, you're picking out my numbers for a lottery ticket.

  • Interesting move by Mike Dunleavy to play Shaun Livingston over Sam Cassell for much of the 4th quarter. I'm not crazy about the move, but I can see some logic. Livingston was controlling the game, and plus he is a bad matchup for Nash. Livingston is too big and quick for Nash, which he showed a couple of times late. This is obvious, but as long as Livingston stays healthy he'll be like superstar good. Another interesting thought about this decision - maybe Dunleavy is trying to prepare for next year? After all, Cassell is a FA. Food for thought.

  • On a day when the Suns could not get into their offense (7/27 from beyond the arc), and when the "MVP" Steve Nash really struggledwith his shot, they still pull out the 94-91 victory to take the 2-1 series lead. Very nice job by the Suns, and great game for Shawn Marion, who finished with 32 points and 19 rebounds.
On Saturday the Pistons/Cavs have the early game, and then Mavericks play the Spurs as 7 Central on ABC. Hopefully we'll see a continuation of Friday night.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A dull day of sports

No NBA playoff games, no Barry Bonds HR, and a lot of Law & Order watching for me. Here's a little bit of what happened.

Aaron Rowand had the real best catch of the year, and he broke his nose in the process.

Rick Sutcliffe got drunk... and then went on TV.

Mark Cuban fined $200,000 for a blog post? Say it ain't so NBA!

True Hoop takes a look at some possible strategy for the Suns in Game 6, including the possibility of the Suns actually going smaller rather than bigger, which would be surprising since the Clips made a living on the offensive boards in Game 2.

Rick Adelman was fired as coach of the Kings after this year's first round exit.

Brandon Webb for Cy Young? 6 wins and a 2.30 ERA is a good start.

And of course, Baby Boomer Trips is there for all your travel needs!

Most importantly, year 1 of college is done for me! So if I'm not able to update Friday, you'll know why, I'm headed back home for the summer!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Final 40 seconds of UCLA vs. Gonzaga

It's been a slow day in sports (more on that later), so I'll put up a video here of the final 40 seconds of the UCLA/Gonzaga NCAA Tournament game, in part because I thought it was really awesome! :)

Bonds still at 713; Zambrano finally gets a win

... and the Cubs win, 8-1. The big story, of course, is that Bonds is still at 713, after he was robbed by Juan Pierre yesterday, and shut down by Carlos Zambrano today.

Bonds went 0-3 with a BB today. If you'll recall, the MLB has said that they will not have a special ceremony when Bonds passes Babe. Critical Fanatic, while admitting to be less than a fan of Bonds, disagrees with that, saying "A failure to acknowledge and celebrate this historic moment is more of disrespect to Babe Ruth than it is to Barry Bonds."

Myself, I find it a disservice and disrespect to Bonds. Steroids or not, he's one of the best ever, and becoming 2nd on the all-time HR list is kind of a big deal.

The more important news from the today is that my fantasy teams and Six Pitchers team can rest a little easier tonight knowing that Zambrano finally got a win. He pitched 8 innings, giving up 1 run, moving his record to 1-2 with a 3.88 ERA. May there be many more wins for Zambrano (but not the Cubs!) in the future!

Chris Paul is NBA Rookie of the Year

Chris Paul of the New Orleans/Oklahoma City was named the NBA Rookie of the Year, garnering 124 of 125 votes. The other first place vote went to Deron Williams.

Deron Williams? How did he get a first-place vote? He finished 6th in the voting, which sounds about right. But who in the would vote him #1, and why does this guy still have voting rights? Let's look at the numbers.

Paul - 16.1 PPG, 7.8 APG
Williams - 10.8 PPG, 4.5 APG

I'd give more stats, but who really needs them? It can't really be a team things, because the Jazz only got 3 more wins than the Hornets. I gave my award to Chris Paul, and I didn't even think it was really close.

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.

But hey, I can't complain too much. It's only one guy after all. At least they gave it to the right person.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Charles Barkley attempting to hold his breath underwater

Saw this on TNT Monday night, then I was reminded of it from the link on Deadspin. Sir Charles says he is attempting to hold his breath underwater for 9 minutes like David Blaine attempted, then said he was hoping for at least a minute. He lasted 24 seconds. Pretty funny.

Checking in with the Second Round Playoff Matchups

It seemed like Round 1 just ended, but we're already 6 games into Round 2. I admit, I haven't been able to watch as much basketball lately because of studying for finals, but I've been able to see bits and pieces to know what's going on. Here's a little look at each series.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
  • With the Mavs 113-91 victory, the series is tied up at 1.
  • Looked like the Spurs finally ran out of gas in Game 2. Mavs controlled the game on both ends, shooting 46% and only turning the ball over 6 times.
  • Good to see Tim Duncan back to his normal self, scoring 28 points in Game 2. He also had 9 rebounds and 4 blocks.
  • If you can't wait for Game 3, well, find a good hobby, because it's not until Saturday.
Phoenix Suns vs. LA Clippers
  • Game 1 was about what I expected. Elton Brand was a beast in the low post (40 points on 18/22 FG), but the Clippers still lost.
  • It seems obvious, but you just can't play the Suns pace and expect to beat them. Clippers played about as well as they could, shooting 60% from the field, but it allowed Phoenix to get into their game and have the huge edge in 3-point shooting.
  • If Leandro Barbosa makes a habit out of scoring almost 20 a game off the bench, Suns will win this series and be a very dangerous club in the Conference Finals.
Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Well, Detroit showing just how good they are, dominating both games of this series, regardless of what the score wound up being in Game 2.
  • I still can't see anyone beating Detroit in a 7 game series, barring an injury.
  • 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists for LeBron. Very impressive. Throw in a performance like that, and 2/3 of Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Flip Murray having a good game, and that's a recipe for the Cavs to steal a game.
  • I still think Cleveland will be able to extend this to 5 games, but no further.
Miami Heat vs. New Jersey Nets
  • A Nets Game 1 win doesn't surprise me, but 38-21 in the first quarter? Did Miami forget to show up?
  • Air Canada, er, Air Jersey to the FT line 19 times in Game 1. Looks like maybe he's starting to shed that soft label. Now the Nets just have to hope they keep winning so Vince keeps trying.
  • Richard Jefferson being doubtful for Game 2 is a huge blow, obviously. That is huge defensively and in the open court. New Jersey's half-court offense is not that good, so they need to get out and run, so this is a big blow, especially if he's out for any length of time.
  • Obviously, Miami really, really needs this Game 2. Can't go down 0-2 when the first 2 were on your home court.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Catch of the Year?

This is why Torii Hunter wins Gold Gloves:

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Final Word on the 2006 NBA MVP Award

If you follow the NBA at all, by now you know that Steve Nash won the NBA MVP Award for the second straight year, with LeBron James finishing 2nd, Dirk Nowitski finishing 3rd, and Kobe Bryant finishing 5th. If you follow my blog at all, you know that I thought this was a travesty, because on my ballot I had LeBron 1st, and Nash back at 5th.

Anyway, I'm past that now. I still find it hard to believe that a guy who plays no defense can win not one but two MVP Awards, but whatever. A couple of quotes caught me eye today:

First, from the Daily Quickie, while not exactly a sports "expert", there was something there that I found true, but odd:

LeBron's runner-up finish, meanwhile, should make him the prohibitive favorite for next season, as voters develop "Nash fatigue."

No matter what Nash's stats are next year, voters won't want to give any player three MVPs in a row.

Even Jordan didn't get that treatment.

Then, from Marc Stein's chat:

Bruce (Montpelier, VT): I still can't come to grips with the concept of 2 Nash MVPs compared to 1 for Shaq. Should we pencil in number 3 for Nash given that he will have Amare back?

SportsNation Marc Stein: I hear that one a lot. Nash shouldn't have been MVP because someone like Shaq hasn't won more than one. Or that Nash can't go back-to-back because he isn't as legendary as the other eight back-to-backers. As a voter, I'm not comparing Nash's season to a Magic season or Jordan season from the past. I'm assessing where he falls based on the competition of the current season.

SportsNation Marc Stein: As for your first question, no, I wouldn't worry about Nash winning three in a row.

My question is... why not?

Marc Stein says that he is just comparing Nash's one season to other players, nothing else. Then, he seems to imply (to me at least) that there's no way Nash would win 3 in a row. The Daily Quickie says it more explicitly. I can't understand this way of thinking.

If Nash is the best player in the NBA next year (which, in the voter's eyes, means he's at least top 5), then why wouldn't you vote for him? It's this way of thinking that is why Shaq only has one MVP or that Jordan doesn't have more - they were so dominant that the voters just didn't give it to them. That's a shame.

Am I off base here? Do you see what I'm saying?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Looking Ahead: My 2nd Round NBA Playoff Predictions

I know 2 games are already in, as San Antonio beat Dallas 87-85, and Detroit beat Cleveland by a lot, but I'm giving my picks anyway, because it's my sports blog, and I can! So here we go.


1) Detroit Pistons vs. 4) Cleveland Cavaliers
Well, we saw Detroit dominate Game 1, but that didn't influence my pick. None of the games will be that big of blowouts, as I don't even think it's possible for Detroit to shoot that well. But right now, Cleveland is not nearly good enough to hang with the Pistons. They are good enough, I think, to steal 1 game like the Bucks did in round 1, but that's about it. PISTONS IN 5.

2) Miami Heat vs. 3) New Jersey Nets
A matchup that was hyped a lot before the playoffs began, but it lost a little bit of its luster when both teams struggled a bit in round 1. Still, both are very talented, and it should make for an entertaining series. Chicago made Miami look old in the first round, and New Jersey has that fast break capability as well. The key will be whether VC will still play aggressive after a hard foul or two from Udonis Haslem, and who Jason Kidd guards. If Kidd is ever forced to guard Dwyane Wade, that's a big matchup problem for the Nets. My guess, Wade carries them enough to keep it close, and the Big Fella does enough to push the Heat over the top. HEAT IN 7.


1) San Antonio Spurs vs. 4) Dallas Mavericks
This has been said about a million times, but it's a shame these teams have to meet in round 2 instead of the Conference Finals. If Game 1 is any indicator, we're going to be seeing a lot of these things:
  • Manu Ginobili acting like he's been hit by a truck after any type of contact.
  • Bruce Bowen doing everything but giving Dirk Nowitski a clothesline to stop him defensively.
  • Tim Duncan showing again and again why he is one of the top PF of all-time.
  • Dirk Nowitski being forced to bring out his full repertoire against Bruce Bowen, and firmly establishing himself (if he hasn't done so already) as one of the top 5 players in the NBA.
That being said, I still think the Spurs are a little too tough. The Mavs are much improved defensively, but the Spurs are always tough on that side of the ball. I think Game 1 was a pretty good preview. We're going to see a lot of good basketball being played, a lot of close games, but ultimately, the Spurs being a little too tough to overcome. SPURS IN 6.

2) Phoenix Suns vs. 6) Los Angeles Clippers
Very intriguing series, because the Clippers big men are a little more skilled than the Lakers big men were, and because Sam Cassell will be smart enough to realize that you absolutely can't play the Suns pace. So look for Brand to put up huge numbers in this series. But I think Phoenix' young players matured a bit in the first round. Leandro Barbosa was great at the end of the series, Boris Diaw was great, and James Jones started to play well. My only concern is Nash's ankle, but I think that will be well enough for Phoenix to get in their game, and for Barbosa and Diaw to keep playing well. SUNS IN 7.


Looking Back: My 1st Round Predictions

Now's the time to look back and laugh at me for my 1st round predictions. Let's look at how I did.

Detroit Pistons vs. Milwaukee Bucks
My Pick: Pistons in 5.
Actual: Pistons in 5
Comments: Hey, off to a good start! I figured Milwaukee would be able to steal one game from Detroit, which they did in Game 3. After that, it was all Detroit.

Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls
My Pick: Heat in 5.
Actual: Heat in 6.
Comments: The Bulls were better than I thought, and they made the Heat look very bad in Games 3 and 4. They neutralized Shaq Fu a little more than I thought, but then he took over in the series clincher.

New Jersey Nets vs. Indiana Pacers
My Pick: Nets in 7.
Actual: Nets in 6.
Comments: Through 4 games, I was feeling confident here. The Pacers were playing well, and the Nets weren't getting enough help from those not part of the Big 3. In Games 5 and 6, the Nets played a little better, despite Anthony Johnson (Anthony Johnson!) dropping 40 on Kidd and the Nets in Game 6.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Washington Wizards
My Pick: Cavs in 7.
Actual: Cavs in 6.
Comments: Well, the most entertaining series of the first round, partly because of 3 game-winners for the Cavs giving them 3 1-point victories, and partly because there was little to no defense being played all series, and I'm shallow like that.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Sacramento Kings
My Pick: Spurs in 5.
Actual: Spurs in 6.
Comments: I knew the Kings would be able to make this competitive, but they were better than I thought. I barely knew of Kevin Martin before this series, but he played very well and even got a game-winner. Bonzi Wells (note: in a contract year) dominated Bruce Bowen all series long. Very entertaining series to watch.

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers
My Pick: Lakers in 7.
Actual: Suns in 7.
Comments: See here.

Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Clippers
My Pick: Nuggets in 6.
Actual: Clippers in 5.
Comments: Well, I counted on a couple of things that didn't happen: 1) Carmelo being able to dominate a couple of games and win them by himself. 2) Most importantly, the Nuggets actually showing up. This isn't meant as a slight to the Clippers, because they had an excellent series, and they should be optimistic about their chances next round, but the Nuggets didn't really come to play. Other than Game 1, what an awful series.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Memphis Grizzlies
My Pick: Mavs in 6.
Actual: Mavs in 4.
Comments: I knew Dirk & Co. were good, but in hindsight, I underrated them. They're tough defensively, and Dirk is one of the top 5 players in the NBA. Great series for Dallas.

And with that, the first round predictions are officially in the book. Now on to Round 2 Predictions, which I'll cover in my next post.

Where was Kobe?

Clutch. Big game player. Plays best when it matters. Heart of a champion.

Throw them all out, at least as far as I'm concerned, after watching the 2nd half of the Suns domination of LA, 121-90.

Am I overreacting a little? Probably. I feel a bit cheated. One of the best playoff series in recent memory, and it deserved a better ending than this.

I'll admit, I drank the "Kobe Kool-Aid." I said before the series began that I thought he'd put the Lakers on his back and carry them to a 7-game series win:

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.

After 6 games, I remained convinced. Kobe had played a great series, getting teammates involved when necessary, passing well, shooting well, and playing good defense. Only in Game 6 did he "take over" and assert himself scoring wise. He scored 50 on 20/35 shooting, and the Lakers had the game and series wrapped up until Shawn Marion had the ball bounce to him, kicked it out, and Tim Thomas hit a 3.

I understand Kobe was in an extremely unique situation. He had to try to balance when to be assertive and when to be passive. With some, he couldn't win. I understand that. That's no excuse for his play in the 2nd half.

With the team down 60-45, Kobe kept them even remotely close in the first half, scoring 23 points on 8/13 shooting. He had no help inside, which was the Lakers gameplan early. Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom played their worst games of the series. Smush Parker was himself, which is to say he struggled mightily. Kobe needed to take this game over, or at least try.

Instead, he was beyond passive. In the 2nd half, he was 0/3 from the field. He scored 1 point, which came after a 3-in-the-key technical foul on Phoenix. He didn't even look to shoot. He looked like a young Vince Carter after taking a hard foul.

Even beyond the numbers, he didn't look like he cared. He didn't move without the ball. He didn't really put much effort from what I can tell into scoring, and it showed with 2 offensive fouls just from laziness. Defensively, I didn't see any effort. And this was Game 7 of a playoff series.

"If we were going to get back in this type of game, we have to have everybody contributing," Bryant said afterwards. Apparently, he didn't include himself when he said that "everybody" had to contribute. Kobe didn't even try to do his part.

Bill Simmons, while not really an NBA "expert," is usually pretty insightful on the NBA, and had this to say on Friday:

Which reminds me, if Kobe doesn't completely eviscerate Bell in Game 7, everyone on the planet is banned from making any more Kobe-MJ comparisons. We all know that MJ would have dropped 55 on Bell, shut down Nash on the other end and disemboweled D'Antoni for good measure. Kobe, if you're going to steal MJ's fist clench/shake from Game 1 of the 1998 Finals without asking, you need to take this all the way. You cannot lose Game 7. You can't. Even if you're playing 4-on-5 and Jax keeps refusing to play Vujacic.

Let's just say Kobe failed.

I'm not saying any of this would have made a definitive difference the way the Suns played. They earned the win. For 6 1/2 games, Kobe was great.

Too bad he was nowhere to be found for the final 2 quarters of the series.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Another Night, Another Classic


What else can you say? A fitting end to an unbelievable series, with Damon Jones coming on, playing the last few seconds, and hitting the game-winner in OT to push to Cavs to a 114-113 victory.

Lots and lots and lots of things to like about this one. Another great game by LeBron. An unbelievable shot by Gilbert Arenas (followed by a couple of huge missed FT), Damon Jones not playing all game until hitting the game-winner, and so on and so forth. Let's go over it in seemingly random points:

- LeBron showed his versatility tonight, scoring 32 despite not really having an outside shot. Lots and lots and lots of layups for him. After watching Game 6, I'm convinced of a few things regarding LeBron: 1) He's the fastest player end-to-end in the NBA. 2) He is the best finisher in the NBA. 3) He is the best player in the NBA. At age 21.

- Watching the game, I thought Larry Hughes was aboslutely awful. 3/17 shooting, 9 points, 4 turnovers... and now I see he had 12 assists (including the final one). Still, playing 50 minutes, going 3/17 with 9 points? Ouch.

- I must give Caron Butler a hand here. 18 points, 20 rebounds!, and 5 assists, and he was working hard all night. I was really, really impressed with him throughout the series.

- I really just can't say enough about Damon Jones. His line in the boxscore: 0 minutes, 1/1 FG, 2 points. Sitting through the game on the bench, and then through overtime, and then entering and hitting a shot right away? That's difficult, believe me.

- Gilbert Arenas' 3-pointer at the end of regulation was really one of those times where you do a double-take because you're not sure if you actually just saw what you think you did. That shot was about 5 feet behind the 3-point line. Nothing but net. I just sort of blinked because I didn't think we could all be this lucky. After how exciting the NCAA Tournament was this year, I actually kinda figured the NBA Playoffs would be a bit of a letdown this year. That couldn't have been farther from the truth. They've been unvbelievable.

- 2nd and 3rd best players for the Cavs in Game 6? Donyell Marshall and Flip Murray.

- What does Drew Gooden have to be thinking right about now? After Game 1, his stock couldn't have been higher. In Game 6, he played 13 minutes in an OT game, scored 2 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, and was the 3rd best PF on his own team.

- Watching Eric Snow and Jared Jeffries play offense is some type of cruel and unusual punishment. Seriously, I watched Jared Jeffries lead Indiana to a National Title game. Now, he can't make an outside shot to save his life. What the heck happened?

- Anyone know what LeBron said to Gilbert Arenas when Arenas was at the FT line?

- Congrats to YAYsports and all other Cavs fans after this. Good luck with Detroit, because the Cavs are going to need.

Phoenix/LA Game 7 Saturday night. Be there or be square (or be both, if you want).

Twins Update: Ron Gardenhire, meet Francisco Liriano

Dear Ron Gardenhire,

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but there's some guy named Francisco Liriano on your team. Coming into the year, he was considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, and nothing he has done so far has shown that to be false in any way. He has a 6:1 BB:K ratio through 16.1 innings. That's pretty good.

Well, I do know you're aware of this, but Kyle Lohse had another poor outing tonight. 4 innings, 9 hits, and 7 runs. This raises his ERA to 9.71. No, that's not a typo.

The point is Ron, with the team at 11-18 and looking more anemic by the day, shouldn't some type of change be made? If you're going to continue starting guys like Tony Batista and Juan Castro, can't we at least have a chance in the pitching staff? Like, put Liriano in the rotation and take Lohse out? Take a look at the numbers. Take a look at any numbers. I'll even give some to you.

Juan Castro - .269/.284
Tony Batista - .316/.400 (well, I guess that's not so bad. i'll bet you a wooden nickel it gets worse by the end of the year)

But hey, at least Jason Kubel's getting ABs down in AAA!


P.S. Are you as worried as I am about having to face Joel Zumaya for a long time as I am? He's going to be a great pitcher, whether it's in the Pen or in the Rotation.

Game 7 is forthcoming

Once again, the Suns have escaped to live another day, beating the Lakers 126-118 in an overtime thriller. The game was sent to OT when Tim Thomas hit a 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds left, tying the game at 105, followed by Kobe trying to win the game, relatively speaking. It didn't quite make it to the rim.

This sets up a Game 6 Saturday night, and it really should be a fabulous game. Raja Bell will be back, and tempers will definitely flare. I guarantee Kobe will bring his A-Game (whether it's good for LA or not), and the Suns will be geared up to win the game in front of their home crowd.

In Game 6, Kobe scored 50, but that may have been part of the problem. This tells me 2 things: 1) LA didn't get the ball inside enough (Kwame was 8/9, Lamar Odom was 8/14) and most importantly 2) LA played Phoenix' game. Unlike the first four games of the series, LA tried to match Phoenix's pace, for some reason unknown to me. Sure, they practically had the game in the bag until Marion rebounded a missed shot by Nash and kicked it out to Thomas, but that tied it at 105, which is not where the Lakers want the score to be. In overtime, this was even more apparent, as Kobe tried to beat the Suns by himself, reverting back to regular season form, and the Suns ran them out of the gym.

I'm sure you'll read lots of stuff today and tomorrow about how the Lakers blew their chance, and how they can't beat Phoenix at home in Game 7, but I don't see it that way, not with Phil Jackson coaching the Lakers. If I can tell that the Lakers trying to match the Suns pace was a bad idea, I can guarantee Phil knows it too. I expect Game 7 to be very physical, and I expect Phil to get the Lakers to slow it way down, and Kobe to be playing more like he did in Games 2 and 3, pounding the ball down low. The game will depend on if Phoenix can run their style or not (Phoenix when it scores over 100: 3-0. Phoenix when it doesn't score 100: 0-3) With Phil Jackson at the helm, I expect the Lakers to slow the game down, pound the ball inside, get back on defense, and when a hard-fought game 7.

Before the series I picked the Lakers in 7, and I'm sticking with it. Hopefully we'll see more of the same in Game 7 as we've seen throughout, because this has been special.