Monday, April 30, 2007

NBA Playoff Action

A couple of really good games on Monday... also, the Cavs swept the Wizards. Glad that's over. Although Antawn Jamison was really good in a losing effort for the Wiz. But here are my thoughts from the other 2 games:

- I think that whoever winds up winning the Houston/Utah series, neither of them will be able to hang with the winner of Dallas/Golden State. Not enough offensive firepower for either team, and I'm not sure they can even come close to matching the pace of those teams. Yao Ming was looking extremely gassed at the end of this one... how would he feel playing the Warriors pace?

- It's been said before, but I just love watching Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes play. Ditto for Paul Millsap, who is really good.

- Rockets take the series lead 3-2... I kinda think this is going to be one of those series where the home team wins every game. In other words at this point I'll take Houston in 7.

- Coming into the playoffs I thought the Spurs were going to win it all, and I see nothing to change my mind now. Beating Denver in a must-win situation for the Nuggets in Denver is great. That's really an excellent win.

- Where did the JR Smith that averaged nearly 16 PPG before the All-Star break go? Yeesh, he looks awful out there.

- Nene and Camby, on the other hand, were brilliant.

- As always, nothing flashy for the Spurs, but they get it done. They made the plays they had to down the stretch, and just got it done. That's fun to watch.

Golden State @ Dallas Tuesday night at 8:30 PM CDT... be there or be square. Mavs will come out firing. I don't think we've seen the end of them quite yet.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

NFL Draft Final Thoughts

All (or at least some) of my thoughts:

- Like everyone else, the pick of Ted Ginn by the Dolphins at #9 was a bit perplexing. Brady Quinn's a pretty darn good QB prospect, and that's one thing they needed. Instead, they passed on him to get a great punt returner and slightly above average WR. I really do like Ginn, and the fact that they got John Beck in round 2 softens the suckiness of the pick some, but unless Cam Cameron knows something we don't, this was just perplexing.

- That first round was looooooooong. Do they really need 15 minutes between each pick? Really? Even reducing it to 12 minutes would help.

- Keyshawn Johnson on Adrian Peterson: "His character is extremely well." I have found out that I really dislike Keyshawn no matter what he's doing.

- Speaking of Peterson, got to take a look at the Vikings draft. I really, really liked it, just like Ragnarok, and the Norseman.. Adrian Peterson is a great pick in round 1... they went BPA instead of just drafting for need, and I couldn't be happier. In subsequent rounds they filled needs with guys with tremendous upside, such as with Sidney Rice and Marcus McCauley. I love it.

- The Lions might suck again, but with Mike Martz calling plays for an offense featuring Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, and Mike Furrey at WR, they should be fun to watch.

- There was some thought that the Saints shouldn't have taken Meachem because they have other needs, but I liked the pick. I've said before I think Meachem is the 3rd best WR in the draft, so I think nabbing him at 30 makes the Saints offense just that much more potent.

- For the record, my QB rankings: JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, John Beck, Trent Edwards, Drew Stanton.

What did you think about the Draft? What stuck out to you?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Interview with a Tigers Blogger

With the Twins and Tigers series coming up this weekend, Ian from Bless You Boys and Sweaty Men Endeavors and I had a little cross-blog interview. I asked him questions about the Tigers, and he asked me questions about the Twins. We did this year, and due to popular demand (at least that's what we tell ourselves) have brought it back. I'll post Ian's responses here, and mine will be over at Bless You Boys.

(1) I think it's safe to say that Gary Sheffield has struggled thus far since coming to Detroit. What seems to be his problems? Can they compete for a division title if he is only average?

Ian: From what I've seen, I think Sheffield's just trying too hard. He came to a World Series team and got a big contract extension, and I think he's putting some pressure on himself. And it's only gotten worse as he continues to slump. He's swinging at bad pitches and seems to be pulling most every pitch. He just looks uncomfortable; even his stance looks different from what I remember.

And no, I don't think the Tigers can compete if Sheffield doesn't figure it out. They have a decent record right now, thanks to their pitching, but I don't think that can last throughout the season. Eventually, they need Sheffield to provide the run production expected of him. There's no other player on the roster (well, maybe Magglio Ordonez) who can put up those kinds of numbers by himself.

(2) To be blunt, Sean Casey has been pretty atrocious thus far. Do they have any other options to turn to if he keeps struggling like this?

Ian: Definitely. Marcus Thames has already been starting against left-handed pitchers, so I don't think it's too much of a stretch to think he could play that position every day, if necessary. Or Chris Shelton, who was the first baseman most of last season, could be called up from AAA Toledo. Either move would probably strengthen the lineup. However, the defense at first base would suffer, and that's not an unimportant consideration to Jim Leyland. Casey's already saved several throwing errors with his glove. But if neither option is to the Tigers' liking, they'll try hard to trade for another first baseman.

(3) Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman have both followed up successful seasons last year with great starts to this season. If you had one game to win, which guy would you rather have on the mound?

Ian: I'd choose Bonderman, and not just because of his experience. Before the season, I thought Tigers fans were laying it on a little thick, saying he could be a Cy Young Award candidate, but so far, he's pitched to that level. Two of his last three starts have been phenomenal, and he'd bring that talent and determination to a must-win game. For whatever reason, Bonderman can still struggle in the first inning, but if a team doesn't get to him then, something clicks and he locks in. He could absolutely go nine innings in a Game 7, and I don't think you can say the same thing about Verlander.

(4) I must admit, it usually gives me hope as a Twins fan to see Todd Jones coming out to pitch the 9th... but then he usually gets the job done (even with the measly K rates). What makes him so effective?

Ian: I think a lot of Detroit fans often ask the same question. But it seems like Jones succeeds largely through stubbornness and conviction. He knows what kind of pitcher he is, so he pitches to contact and lets his defense make the plays. If Jones tried to blow fastballs by everyone, he'd get hammered out there. But as long as he keeps his ball moving, so the batters can't square it up, he'll be effective. He'll allow at least one baserunner per save situation, but then induce a double-play grounder to close out the game. A few times a season, he'll have a meltdown and blow a three-run lead. Yet he comes right back the next day, just as all the good relievers do.

(5) Where do you see the Tigers finishing up this season? Who do you think are their main competitors in the Central?

Ian: It probably looks like a hometown pick, but I really do think the Tigers are the best team in the AL Central and will eventually finish on top. With Kenny Rogers' injury, they no longer have the best starting rotation in the division, but I'd still like their top four over anyone else's. What I'm most encouraged by - and what should worry the other teams in the Central - is that they've been competitive despite disappointing production from their lineup and inconsistent pitching from the bullpen. Sheffield should eventually start hitting, and if Casey doesn't, the Tigers will somehow upgrade the position. And the starting rotation will be bolstered either by Rogers' return, or a call-up from the minors, such as Virgil Vasquez or Andrew Miller. So ultimately, this team is in good shape.


Once again much thanks to Ian from Bless You Boys and Sweaty Men Endeavors. Ian does great work on the Tigers, Detroit in general, and really all of sports. So be sure to check him out!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday Debate: Pedro Martinez or Sandy Koufax

I'm planning on starting up a feature on here called Thursday Debate... I'll look at both sides of a sports debate, give my take on it, and then put up a poll and let you decide.

For this first edition, I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at which pitcher had the better peak... Pedro Martinez or Sandy Koufax. To clarify, by peak I generally mean at least 4-7 years. For Sandy Koufax, that was 1962-1966. For Pedro Martinez it was 1997-2003. These are the years I'll focus on.

In many cases, I find that your opinion to this question will say a lot about how you view baseball. If you are more of an "old-school" fan that prefers to base most of their judgements on what they see, you'll probably go with Sandy Koufax. If you are more "sabermetrically" inclined and place greater emphasis on the statistical side of the game, you'll probably go with Pedro Martinez.

Comparing across eras is so difficult in baseball because even though the rules are the same, lots of things change. That is why it is especially important to compare these guys against their peers.

From 1962-1966, the league ERA in Sandy Koufax's league was about 3.29. From 1997-2003 in Pedro's league the ERA was about 4.65. So right there we begin to see the huge difference between the eras. In simple terms, Koufax pitched in the greatest pitching era of all-time, while Pedro pitched in one of the greatest hitters eras of all time.

Now let's take a look at some of the numbers for each.

Pedro Martinez (1997-2003)
- 1408 IP (201 per season)
- 2.55 ERA (ERA+ of 215)
- 252 K per year
- 11.28 K/9
- 45 BB per year
- 5.6 K/BB

Sandy Koufax (1962-1966)
- 1377 IP (275 per season)
- 1.99 ERA (ERA+ of 168)
- 289 K per year
- 9.46 K/9
- 63.2 BB per year
- 4.57 K/BB

What does this all mean? Well, the first thing is that Koufax pitched a lot more innings. But then, that was the norm back then, which makes it less impressive (in comparison). Still obviously a plus for Koufax though. Koufax has the lower raw ERA, but as the ERA+ shows Pedro's was a lot more impressive compared to his era.

Other numbers suggest that Koufax had a little better control, but Pedro made up for that by striking almost 2 more batters per 9 innings and having a better K/BB ratio.

Postseason numbers also play a role... in 3 postseason series Martinez was 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA. In 3 postseason series Koufax went 4-2 with a 0.94 ERA. So Koufax had more chances, but both guys were incredible.

Anyway, putting it all together, in my opinion Pedro Martinez had the best peak of any pitcher ever. He was more dominant when compared to his peers than Koufax, and that puts him in front for me. Also, if pressed, I'd probably say Pedro's 2000 season was the best pitching season ever.

But enough about me... what do you think? Vote in the poll and leave your reasons in the comments?

Which better had a better prime?
Pedro Martinez
Sandy Koufax

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

No big surprises

Maybe it was a little surprising to see the relative ease that Chicago and (especially) Phoenix won with, but the fact is that both of these teams are superior to their opponents.

The Heat are just not a very talented team overall. They need Dwyane Wade to be great to win a series like this, and he's just not healthy enough. He was good tonight but they need the superhuman Wade from the playoffs last year. With the shoulder injury, I don't think he has it in him right now. Bulls are clearly just too deep, too quick, too athletic for the Heat to handle.

In the Phoenix/LA series it's clear that the Suns are a lot better than they were last year and the Lakers are worse. Amare Stoudemire can get anything he wants down low, because who on LA is going to stop him? On the perimeter, the Lakers just do not have anyone quick enough to matchup with Leandro Barbosa. The Lakers need to get 50-60 from Kobe to have a chance I think... and even then, the Suns might be too good.

The 3rd matchup was between the Nets and the Raptors, which I assume was the best game of the day (being as I don't have NBATV I didn't get to watch it. Raptors obviously had to get that game at home. Through 2 games in the hostile environment, Vince is 13/43 from the field. Also in this game... how in the heck has Anthony Parker been playing overseas for the last 6 or 7 years? Is Bryan Colangelo a genius or what?

Finally, and I try to stay away from such blatant self-promotion, but I posted some videos over at Sports Videos with some clips from Inside the NBA. You should check them out because the NBA on TNT is probably one of the best things ever?

Your thoughts? Do Miami or Los Angeles have any chance?

Monday, April 23, 2007

NFL Draft Predictions

I already know I'm going to be too lazy to do a mock draft, so I figured I should just give some of my predictions and thoughts... I might have some more as we get closer to the Draft, but here's my thoughts for now:

As of now, my WR rankings:
1. Calvin Johnson - Nothing needs to be said.
2. Ted Ginn - He seems to be dropping, but he's just explosive with the ball. Whether he's getting a handoff, making a catch, or returning a kick, he is always a threat to score. There are better pure receivers in this draft, but not too many guys that are better playmakers.
3. Robert Meachem - I actually had him ranked high before it was cool to do so. Size, strength, speed... he's a physical specimen.
4. Dwayne Bowe - Another big guy... after CJ, he is the best WR here and going up and getting the ball in traffic.
5. Dwayne Jarrett - Another guy that is dropping like a rock, but I think teams are getting a little carried away. He's compared to Mike Williams because he's from USC and is a little slow, but he's a hard worker, and he knows how to get open and catch the football. I think he'll be just fine as a possession receiver.

- Joe Thomas going fishing instead of going to the Draft... that is awesome.

In a perfect world, here's the rankings of guys I would most want on the Vikings:
1. Calvin Johnson
2. Joe Thomas
3. Adrian Peterson
4. Gaines Adams
5. Laron Landry

- I think whoever takes Michael Bush in round 3 or 4 is going to wind up really happy.

- I know about the Lions and their history with WR... but I'd take Calvin Johnson if he's there at #2. He's the best player in the draft. You can't let past mistakes take you away from doing what is best for the team now.

- I am older than Amobi Okoye.

- I see Drew Stanton going in round 2 or 3 in most mocks, but I just don't see him being successful in the NFL. He's got some talent, and he was playing without much of a supporting cast at MSU, but he was just a little inconsistent for me. I just don't see him ever being a good NFL starter.

What are some of your thoughts?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

NBA Playoffs, Day 2

Some impressions from Day 2 of the playoffs, a day which featured some good upsets and some good well-played games:

- As good as Kobe and the Lakers were for 3 quarters, they were just atrocious in the 4th. The offense just totally bogged down, because they passed to Kobe and everyone else just stood around. So this led to Kobe forcing shots (because there was no one else doing anything and because he just doesn't trust his teammates). He jacked up shots, they didn't go down, and the Lakers got 10 points in the 4th quarter.

- Leandro Barbosa was the Suns MVP in Game 1. He was awesome.

- Allen Iverson is maybe 6'0'' 160 lbs., and has taken 11 years worth of beating in the NBA... and he's still as good as he's ever been. It's just amazing. And yet he never had any help the last few years in Philly. Thanks Billy King.

- I think the Spurs will be just fine (as 2/3 of the Big 3 did not really play that well), but if AI and Carmelo combine to shoot 21/40 throughout the series, then they'll be in trouble.

- Baron Davis was awesome, but the real reason for Golden State winning was that Dallas just didn't make shots. They only shot 35%, and held Dirk to 4/16 shooting. I doubt that will continue, but it's not like the Warriors winning should be a huge shock.

- I agreed with what Sir Charles said... the Mavs should make Golden State play their game rather than vice versa. That's a big key to the series.

All series Game 1's are in the books... what do you think so far?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

NBA Playoffs, Day 1

I'll update this some throughout the day as I watch the games.

- In a road playoff game in a hostile environment, Vince Carter is 4/15 with 10 points, and he's been settling for fadeaways all game. Huh. Who would have ever imagined that? Oh wait, everyone.

- With 6 minutes to play, Kidd had 7 points, 15 assists, and 9 rebounds. Jefferson has 27 points on 11/20 shooting. Thank goodness for those guys making up for the slack of Vince Carter.

- A spark from Jose Calderon as he becomes the 4th Raptors player into double figures. He hit a 3 right in Kidd's face one possession, and then drove right by him for a layup on the next one. Nets 84, Raptors 82 with Bosh heading to the line with 3 minutes left. Playoff basketball is great.

- Well Vince was decent down the stretch (though he finished 5/19 from the field), and the Raptors just couldn't hit enough shots. Still, this is what makes playoff basketball good. Lots of intensity, a great crowd, and a tight game towards the finish. Final is Nets 96, Raptors 91.

- As Jon Barry said, a spry Shaquille O'Neal in the first half. 17 points (on 8/10 shooting), 5 rebounds, and he's looking very quick on the block.

- Luol Deng's pretty good.

- I think there's just too much talent, too much depth for the Bulls. If the Heat are going to stick with the Bulls throughout a 7-game series, they need Dwyane Wade to be excellent. With the injured shoulder he just doesn't seem capable of it. Also, the Bulls might be the best team in the NBA at guarding him... Kirk Hinrich and now Thabo Sefalosha both perform very well against him.

- Well I guess the Heat almost did have enough... for one game Antoine Walker seemed to think he was back in Boston and in his mid 20s... where has that been all season long?

- Bulls win, but still has to be encouraging for the Heat. For one, Wade and Shaq were both hampered by foul trouble all game. Secondly, other than Kirk Hinrich, every key member of the Bulls played a great ballgame, maybe not something they can sustain throughout. And the Heat still went on the road and had a chance to tie late.

- Both early games with the same score... Bulls 96, Heat 91.

- Detroit vs. Orlando.... yawn.

- Well the Magic at least made it a game, but it wasn't enough. Seems like we've seen that before from Detroit... they dominate, get bored, slowly let the other team in it, and then kick it back into gear when they need to. It was good enough for game 1. Pistons 100, Magic 92.

- Deron Williams or Chris Paul? Late 3rd here, and Williams has 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. He might be my pick right now.

- With the score 53-52, Derek Fisher blows the layup, the Rockets throw it down to Yao for a dunk. Now its 54-53 Rockets... that could be a big boost to Houston's momentum, which had been slowly building up for the past few minutes.

- And Houston does indeed take care of business. 28 for Yao, 23 for McGrady, and everyone else fills their roles. Wash, rinse, repeat as far as the Rockets season has gone. Rockets 84, Jazz 75.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

NBA Playoff Predictions

With the long, grinding season over, we've finally reached the NBA playoffs. To be honest, I found this NBA regular season to be pretty dull for the most part, but we've got a lot of great playoff matchups. Here's my picks:


(1) Detroit Pistons vs. (8) Orlando Magic
The Magic just aren't playing very good basketball right now. They've got some good parts, but I think Detroit is just too talented and too experienced. Magic might steal 1, but Detroit is number 1 seed for a reason. PISTONS IN 5.

(4) Miami Heat vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
I think Dwyane Wade is great, but I don't really like this matchup for Miami. The Bulls basically gave Miami everything they wanted last year in the first round, and now the Bulls are better and the Heat are worse than they were. If Wade was at full strength, maybe. But as it is, I think the Bulls will be too strong, especially defensively, against the Heat. BULLS IN 6.

(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) New Jersey Nets
Everyone seems to be picking the Nets here, but I'm not so sure. I think the Raptors are the better defensive team, and they're a little more balanced. Plus, the Nets bench it just so bad. Either way, it will definitely be a tight series, and if I were a Raptors fan, I would boo Vince Carter mercilessly. RAPTORS IN 7.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Washington Wizards
I feel robbed. Instead of LeBron vs. Wade in round 1, we get this. I can just about guarantee it won't be as exciting as the series last year between these 2 teams. CAVS IN 4.


(1) Dallas Mavericks vs. (8) Golden State Warriors
Interesting matchup here for obvious reasons... Golden State has performed very well against Dallas this year, and the Warriors coach is Don Nelson, who is pretty familiar with this Mavs team. Still, let's not get carried away. There's a reason the Mavs won 67 games. MAVS IN 5.

(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Utah Jazz
Jazz have a very solid starting lineup with the potential to cause problems for Houston. Deron Williams is going to be really tough to guard, and Mehmet Okur can pull Yao Ming away from the basket. But this is a really good Houston team... they have the two stars, tons of great role players, and they just do what it takes to win. As I've said many times, the Rockets actually remind me a lot of the Heat last year as a team. ROCKETS IN 6.

(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Denver Nuggets
Obviously the Nuggets star power is enough to cause anyone problems, but this is San Antonio we're talking about. They're great defensively, and I think they should be able to slow down a good but slightly predictable Denver attack. I think Bowen will frustrate Carmelo some, and the duo of Parker/Ginobili will be able to stay with AI enough to not let him take over enough games to win the series. This should be very entertaining, but the Spurs are a little too good. SPURS IN 6.

(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers
This was probably the best first round series last year, but I don't think we'll see a repeat of that. For one, Phoenix is better. They've got some guy named Amare Stoudemire that should be able to dominate down low. That's even bigger because the Lakers are not as good inside as they were last year. The series should still be entertaining because of the Kobe vs. the Suns aspect, but I don't think it will be as good as last year. SUNS IN 5.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Odds & Ends

I don't really feel like putting a ton of coherent thoughts up, but some things that caught my eye:

- Joey Crawford suspended indefinitely. Bravo David Stern, bravo. Tossing Duncan for laughing (as well as asking him if he wanted to fight) was one of the worst reffing moves I've ever seen. Actually, it probably was the worst. As Tim Duncan said, Crawford wanted his TV time, and he got it. Good riddance.

- Great videos over at The Sports Flow today... this is the stuff I should be putting on Sports Videos, but I've been kind of lazy.

- Refer to WBRS and The Big Picture for expressing similar thoughts as mine as far as all of the events in Blacksburg. Not much to say really. Nothing I write here will be able to accurately convey the tragedy there.

- On a completely different note, I tried to be first on the Francisco Liriano bandwagon, picking him up in all my leagues. This year, my recommendation is to run (stop reading) and go pick up Tim Lincecum right now in all of your leagues. Stash him on the bench, because he should be up soon. In AAA for the Giants, he has thrown 18.2 scoreless innings this year with 14 baserunners allowed and 28 strikeouts. Pick him up immediately.

- Fire Joe Morgan... maybe the best site ever.

That's what I got.

Monday, April 16, 2007

My 2007 NBA MVP Winner

Yesterday I looked at the "Other" Awards in the NBA, and today it's time for the MVP. The prevailing theory everywhere seems to be that this is a two-horse race between Dirk Nowitski and Steve Nash, but I'm not sure I subscribe to that theory.

We'll get to that later, but first another note. Two guys may very well have made this list (almost certainly would have) had they not gotten injured. One is Dwyane Wade. He was actually my MVP of the first half, and I still think he's been the best player when he's played, but the injury drops him from consideration. The second is Yao Ming, who was extremely good, but again gets knocked out because of injury.

Which leaves my top 7. Apologies to Gilbert Arenas, Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh, and Amare Stoudemire, who just missed the cut.

(7) Carlos Boozer - Utah Jazz

Boozer finished 4th in the NBA in rebounding, and has just been an efficient and effective post player for the surprising Jazz. In scoring 21 points and grabbing 11.8 rebounds per game, the raw numbers are there. But he's also shooting nearly 56% from the field, getting to the line over 5 times a game, and getting 3 assists per contest. Boozer has been one of the big reasons for the rise of the Jazz this year.

(6) Kevin Garnett - Minnesota Timberwolves

As usual, KG quietly gets the job done. He's still the best rebounder in the NBA, and he compliments that with a versatile offensive game, great passing skills, and very good all-around defense. He is perhaps the most unselfish player in the League, giving 100% every night for a team that has basically been run into the ground by Kevin McHale. At age 30 he is still one of the premier players in the NBA and places #6 on my ballot.

(5) LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers

It is telling that LeBron finishes 5th here, and in many respects had a very disappointing season. There was all the talk early on about how it didn't really look like he was trying all that hard, and I'm not sure that was unwarranted. In any regard, he simply didn't progress this year the way we all thought and hoped he would. His shooting percentages are all done, including (most notably) his FT percentage, which seems to have forced him to shoot more jumpers. His rebounding and assists numbers are also slightly down, which isn't what everyone expected from the King. A strong playoff performance (like last year) will go a long way towards making everyone forget this regular season, but let's not get too carried away. He was pretty darn good.

(4) Steve Nash - Phoenix Suns

I suspect this is the placement that will make people unhappy, but that's ok. I actually do think Nash has been better this year than his 2 MVP years, I just think he didn't really deserve the MVP the last couple of seasons. He's a great player, and a great PG, I just think there are guys more valuable than him. The number of assists per game is gaudy, but also aided by the fact that his supporting cast is superb and the pace the Suns play at gives them a lot more possessions. Still, he is a great passer, great shooter (maybe the best in the NBA), and he handles the ball extremely well, especially with the offhand. Putting Nash at 4 isn't a slight to him, it's just recognizing that there are some really good players that are just a little better than him.

(3) Kobe Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers

His PPG average is down about 4 points, but Kobe has been better this year than he was last year. He is taking a lot less shots per game and as a result has been a more efficient scorer. He gets to the line about 10 times per game, which is good because he is a very good FT shooter. Another aspect of him toning down the shots some this year is that he got his teammates more involved, which upped his APG to 5.4. Even with him handling the ball so much, he still has a pretty low turnover rate, which just adds to his effectiveness.

(2) Tim Duncan - San Antonio Spurs

Obviously Duncan isn't flashy, but he's just a great player. He averaged 20 and 10 like he has done every year of his career except one (last year, when he was bothered by foot injuries), but his impact goes beyond that. He shot 55% this year, which is superb for someone shooting 14 shots per game like he does. He's also one of the best interior defenders in the NBA, as he once again anchored one of the best defenses in the League. He's not going to wow you, but with the efficient offensive game and great defensive work, he's #2 on my MVP ballot.

(1) Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas Mavericks

Dirk continued his rapid ascent to superstardom with his best year to date, a year that is good enough to win him NBA numbers. As of now he's a 50-40-90 guy... he shoots 50.1% from the field, 41.9% from downtown, and 90.3% from the FT line. And he's a 7-footer. And that's not all. He also averaged 9 RPG, and posted a career high in APG with 3.4. He's not the best defensive player around, but he's the best all-around player in the NBA, and one that is deserving of winning the MVP.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

My 2007 NBA "Other" Awards

The playoffs start in a week or so, so I figured that was enough for me to give my awards. I like to devote a little more time (and length) to my MVP ballot, so I'll save that for tomorrow. Today I'll just give my awards for everything else.

Coach of the Year

1. Sam Mitchell
2. Jerry Sloan
3. Avery Johnson

Mitchell has done a fantastic job with the Raptors this year (in conjunction with the arrival of Bryan Colangelo). Toronto was 27-55 a year ago, but will have anywhere from 47-49 wins this year. Sloan and Johnson have both done admirable jobs in the tougher West, but Mitchell gets the nod for me.

Rookie of the Year
1. Brandon Roy
2. Rudy Gay
3. Andrea Bargnani

No real competition here, as Roy has definitely been the best rookie. Bargnani was showing great improvement until the injury, but still did enough to get the 2 spot on my list. Rudy Gay has done a little bit of everything, and gets the 2 spot.

Most Improved Player

1. Kevin Martin
2. Al Jefferson
3. Monta Ellis

Tons of great candidates, but these three stick out the most to me. Don't look now, but Kevin Martin is avergaing over 20 PPG this year. He's a good shooter, gets to the line often, and doesn't take bad shots. Meanwhile, Al Jefferson has been one of the few bright spots for the Celts, as he has established himself as one of the best young posts in the NBA. Monta Ellis has thrived under Don Nelson's system.

Defensive Player of the Year
1. Marcus Camby
2. Tim Duncan
3. Emeka Okafor

Camby has managed to stay pretty healthy this year, which is usually a large problem. But he's a very good shot blocker, good help defender, and great rebounder. Tim Duncan tends to get overlooked, but he's just really, really solid for a traditionally great defensive team. Okafor, as usual, is very good defensively, nodding out guys like Bruce Bowen and Shawn Marion.

Sixth Man of the Year
1. Manu Ginobili
2. Leandro Barbosa
3. Jerry Stackhouse

Ginobili came off the bench more games than he started, qualifying him for the 6th man. He's just really good and efficient offensively, and sneaky defensively. I've mentioned how much I love Barbosa's game on this blog many times, but I think Ginobili is a little better. Stackhouse does a little bit of everything for the Mavs, which makes me put him #3.

Who are your picks?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Playoff Race: Western Conference

Yesterday I took a gander at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, today it's time for a look at some of the biggest storylines in the West.

- All the great teams - In my opinion, the 4 best teams in the NBA are in the West in Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Houston. And the Jazz, Nuggets, and Lakers are pretty darn good as well. I think of the first 4 teams can win the title, and unlike the East (where a lot of teams can win because they're no one is that good), these guys can all win because they're excellent teams.

- A possible Phoenix/LA matchup - Last series was classic (at least for 6 games), and we could be looking at that again. The Suns are better this year with Amare Stoudemire in the mix, but the Lakers still have Kobe Bryant, and he's pretty good himself. This would be another great series which would take place if the seeds hold.

- Golden State as a possible 8 seed - The Warriors, more than anyone else, have had Dallas' number this year, winning both games between them. They are of course coached by former Mavs coach Don Nelson, which potentially makes this a compelling matchup.

- The streaking Nuggets - The Nuggets have won 7 games in a row to move into the 6th seed. Plus, anytime you have two guys that can score like Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony can, they're dangerous. If we possibly see a Denver/Phoenix matchup, well, how fun would that be?

- The quality of play - I've basically mentioned this throughout, but I am totally psyched for the Western Conference playoffs because of the quality of the teams involved. The thought of another Dallas/Phoenix conference finals matchup has me salivating... and the earlier rounds should be just as excellent. I can't wait.

How about you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Playoff Race: Eastern Conference

As we get towards the end of the NBA season, it's time to take a look at the playoff picture and some of the potential storylines. Let's start with the East, because I'm too lazy to do both conferences right now.

A possibly great 4/5 matchup - As things sit right now, Miami would be the 4 seed (because they will win their division) and Cleveland will be the 5 seed. Meaning Lebron vs. Wade. We all saw what these guys did in the playoffs last year... playing against each other in a 7-game series would be really great to see. I'd rather see it in the conference finals, but I'll settle for it here.

The race for the 8 seed - Then again, does this really matter? Right now Orlando is the 8 seed at 36-42, but Indiana is 2 games back and Philly is 3 games back. Regardless of who finishes 8th, these teams are not good. In other words, I'm not all that optimistic that any of them can hang with Detroit.

The Wizards could be the worst playoff team ever - I mean, they're a solid club at full strength... but (no disrespect to Prada over at Bullets Forever), without Arenas and Butler they're really bad. Their bench was already thin, and now Donnell Taylor is their 6th man. I have a feeling it will be a short and ugly playoff appearance for the Wizards this year.

Competitive 2nd round matchups - If the seeds hold, we could get some really good matchups, and I think any of 5 teams are very capable of winning the conference. The first round doesn't look like it will be very exciting (except Heat/Cavs), but possible matchups involving Detroit vs Miami/Cleveland and Chicago vs. Toronto would be very competitive.

Anyway, as you can tell, I'm not really excited about the playoffs in the East this year other than seeing LeBron in the playoffs... the West, on the other hand, should be awesome. We'll do a recap of what things look like tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The MLB Season so far

A little over a week into the MLB season, and I haven't really mentioned it at all... until now! Here is some of the good and the bad so far in the MLB season.

Good - The top of the NL East - The Braves are 6-1, Mets are 5-2, and the Marlins are 5-2. Through 7 games, the Mets have outscored their opponents 47-16. That's pretty good.

Bad - The bottom of the NL East - We knew the Nats would be bad (1-7) but the Phillies at 1-6? They're scoring over 4 runs a game, but the pitching staff has mostly embarrassed themselves. Obviously too early to panic or draw too many conclusions, but yikes!

Good - Alex Rodriguez - Can Yankees fans finally shut up about this guy? After being booed after an error in the first game of the year, all A-Rod has done since is hit twice as many HR as anyone in the AL.

Bad - Snow in Cleveland - I need Travis Hafner and Felix Hernandez to play for my fantasy team!

Good - Rich Harden - He's been healthy very early on, and that's about all you need to know. He's always had the talent.

Good - Zach Greinke - After battling lots of problems last year, he has looked like the top prospect he once was in his first 2 starts. His ERA is 1.38, he's got 12 Ks, and he has shown great control with only 1 BB. This hasn't translated into any wins yet, but that's not his fault.

Bad - Kei Igawa - It's just one start, but that can't be encouraging for the Yankees... 5 IP, only 2 Ks to 3 BB, 2 HRA, and 11 total baserunners.

What has stuck out to you most so far?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Kenny Mayne

These days, I generally try to avoid ESPN as much as possible (Sportscenter included), because most of their programming isn't that good. So while I knew Kenny Mayne was back on Sportscenter, I hadn't really seen him on it yet.

But a couple of nights ago I watched part of Sportscenter with him on it, and it reminded me so much about why Kenny Mayne is my favorite thing about ESPN. The guy is hilarious.

Here is a sampling of a mere 20 minutes of Sportscenter that I watched:

- "Maicer Izturis, no relation to Al Newman."
- "Barry Bonds with homerun #735. Not this season, that would be a record."
- "He hit that ball over some fencing they put up in the outfield prior to the game."
- "He was traded for a player to be named later. Right now no one knows his name, they just say 'What's up big guy?'"

Again, this was in like 20 minutes, and I was laughing my head off.
*Note: It was like 1:45 in the morning when I started watching.
*Note 2: Then again, it is like 1:00 in the morning as I type this.

So if having Kenny Mayne back on Sportscenter was all a cunning ruse just to get me to watch again, well, it may work. He's the best.

Other Mayne quotes from throughout the years (many from The Sportscenter Altar):

- "I am amused by the simplicity of this game."
- "Tell 'em what they've's an American League baseball game."
- "We're gonna show it again, cause we have editing equipment."
- "But we all know that games aren't played on paper...they are played by little men inside our TV sets." (this could be the best ever)
- "Jeff Gordon takes the checkered flag, and he'll have to give it back for the next race."
- "Now on to tackle football news..." (Note: I just like the shtick where he calls it 'tackle football' or 'ice hockey')
- "We show you this to see how women 18-34 feel about the play."
- "Portions of this game were taped for training purposes..."
- "He scored [number] off the bench. Had he been on the bench, he'd have been out of bounds."
- "That's his first homerun. The media pressure will be intense for his second."
- "He makes the restaurant-quality play."
- "[Football player] has decided to tackle people on behalf of the [NFL team]. Terms of the contract are not disclosed, but we believe it has something to do with money."

Thoughts? Do you like Mayne as much as I do?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Easter (Links!)

I'm on Easter break right now, so I'm kind of lazy. So I'll just go with some link-giving.

A little bit of everything, from the coaching hires to thoughts on Barry Bonds. [The Sports Flow]

Ricky Williams has apparently kicked his drug habit. And an interesting question.. would you be upset if you found out your favorite players occasionally smoked marijuana? [WBRS Sports Blog]

As if you already didn't have enough reasons to like Colin Cowherd... here's another one. [The Big Picture]

Can the Gators win the College Baseball World Series now too? On a related note, I am starting to hate the University of Florida. Too selfish with all the winning. [Shot to Nothing]

As Tim Brewster tries to revive a struggling Gopher football program, this isn't exactly what he needs right now. [Signal to Noise]

And Happy Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

College Basketball Coaching Changes

As you probably know, lots of changes have been taking place in college basketball as far as coaching goes over the past few days... here are some of my thoughts.

- Billy Donovan is back, which did surprise me a little. I really thought he would leave for Kentucky. To be honest, I kinda wanted to see him go to Kentucky just to see what he could do (Kentucky is still one of the best jobs in America), but I'm not disappointed that he's staying in Florida. He's already established himself as one of the best coaches in America (maybe the best), and it'll be interesting to see how he builds on the momentum from the titles.

- Bob Huggins to West Virginia was a little befuddling to me... all that buzz and excitement at KSU. Bill Walker will be back after tearing his ACL, and he just brought in a top 3 class to KSU (including Michael Beasley). And he's gone, just like that? Look, Huggy's a great coach. But after all of the scrutiny and allegations at Cincy, and then bolting after one year from the school that brought you back, would you want this guy coaching your team? I'm not sure I would.

- The whole Dana Altman situation was just strange. Hey, I think it's fine that a guy makes the decision to stay where he's happiest... too bad though that he couldn't have made the decision before he decided to accept the Arkansas job.

- I really like the hiring of John Beilein for Michigan. The guy is just a good, good basketball coach. Even if he's not getting all of the top recruits, he knows how to recruit guys that fit into his system and then teach that system to them.

- It's hard for me to even make a guess as to who will be the Kentucky coach. Latest news is that they're going after Billy Gillepsie, but for some reason I just don't see it. I think Mark Few and Tom Crean are the most likely to get the job, but that's pure speculation.

What are your thoughts on the changes so far and who do you think will the Kentucky coach?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Will they stay or will they go?

It certainly wouldn't be a shock to see any of these guys stay, but if I was a betting man, I'd bet that none of them will be taking finals next year (of course, that might be the case whether they're in school or not).

Here's how I would rank them as far as likeliest to come back:
1) Mike Conley
2) Kevin Durant
3) Greg Oden
4) Brandan Wright

What do you think these guys will do?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What could be... 2007-2008 Top 15

OK, the season is over but I'm not ready to let of college basketball quite yet. Here are my thoughts on what next year's top 15 could look like... based on the premise that no underclassmen decalred for the draft (which obviously won't happen). I thought it would be interesting to see what could be.

1) Florida Gators
Lose: Lee Humphrey, Chris Richard
Comments: They lose 2 out of the top 6, but would you bet against them? Walter Hodge could step in for Humphrey, and the fine recruiting class coming would add depth. The Oh-Fours would be title contenders for the 3rd straight season.

2) Kansas Jayhawks
Lose: None
Comments: This was one of the top 2 or 3 talented teams in America last year, and with nobody leaving they'd be back near the top once again. Another year for that excellent starting 5 to grow together, and another year for the extremely talented freshman class to grow up and become even better. Kansas could be scary good next season.

3) UCLA Bruins
Lose: None
Comments: The Gators exploited the Bruins weakness in the Final Four... they're too reliant on Arron Afflalo for offense. With the addition of Kevin Love (a big man that is good offensively, which the Bruins didn't exactly have this year), the continued maturation of Darren Collison at point, and hopefully better health for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Bruins would become a much better team offensively to go with the surly defense.

4) Ohio St. Buckeyes
Lose: Ron Lewis, Ivan Harris
Comments: They lose 2 starters, but with the freshmen becoming sophomores and the talented class coming in, they hardly miss them. With Greg Oden healthy and playing like he did in the title game, and an even better Mike Conley, the Buckeyes would be very strong contenders for the Title. A healthy Oden could put up something like 22 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks a night.

5) Georgetown Hoyas
Lose: None
Comments: Final Four notwithstanding, the Hoyas were a very good offensive team last year, and would be even better with another season running John Thompson's timing based offense. The frontcourt of Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green, and DaJuan Summers might be 2nd only to the Gator trio in the college basketball nation.

6) Texas Longhorns
Lose: Craig Winder
Comments: For all intents and purposes, Texas would return everyone. Including Kevin Durant, who might be able to put up 30 per game with another year. Throw in the continued development of DJ Augustin, Justin Mason, Dameon James, and sharshooter AJ Abrams and this would be a well-oiled offensive machine.

7) North Carolina Tar Heels
Lose: Reyshawn Terry, Wes Miller
Comments: This ranking might be a little low, but that says more about the strength of the top 6 rather than UNC. With another year for all of the young players learning Roy Williams' secondary break, the Heels would be one of the top offensive teams in the country. Another year of maturation for Lawson would leave him as one of the best PG in America (as if he isn't already), as he and Brandan Wright would be a dynamic duo. Oh, and that Hansbrough guy isn't bad either.

8) Tennessee Volunteers
Lose: Dane Bradshaw
Comments: Things started to come together for the Vols more and more as the season went along, as Bruce Pearl continues to get players that are a good fit for his system. The glue guy Dane Bradshaw is gone, but every other major piece returns, including the dynamic freshmen big men in Wayne Chism and Duke Crews. Add that to the great shooting guards and the Vols would challenge the Gators in the SEC.

9) Duke Blue Devils
Lose: None
Comments: The Blue Devils big problem last season was athleticism, which should be aided by the addition of Kyle Singler, one of the top 5 recruits in the country. Also returning in this hypothetical scenario is Josh McRoberts, who (like him or not) is a very skilled big man. The guards also return, as does the ever-improving Gerald Henderson. Singler and Henderson form a dynamic duo on the wing.

10) USC Trojans
Lose: Lodrick Stewart
Comments: The story here, of course, is the addition of the polarizing OJ Mayo. But like him or not, he's immensely talented and takes USC to another level. If the chemistry is good between Mayo and talented holdovers Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt, and Taj Gibson, the Trojans immediately become one of the best teams in the Pac-10 and a darkhorse title contender.

11) Louisville Cardinal
Lose: Brandon Jenkins
Comments: Louisville was one of the most improved teams in the country in the 2nd half of last season, and that should continue with almost everyone returning. Edgar Sosa showed he can be a big-time player with his performance against A&M, and Terrence Williams has the talent to do the same. Inside, with a healthy David Padgett and Juan Palacios, Rick Pitino's boys can play with just about anybody.

12) Michigan St. Spartans
Lose: None
Comments: Perhaps the most improved player in the country, Drew Neitzel is back to lead the Spartans on a Tourney run. But there is much more for Tom Izzo to work with, including Raymar Morgan, who was very good as a freshman. They also have solid depth down low, adn Travis Walton is a very good defender on the perimeter. Toss in a possible top 10 recruiting class and the Spartans will be a threat in the Big 10.

13) Memphis Tigers
Lose: Jeremy Hunt
Comments: The loss of Hunt hurts, but the addition of top 5 recruit Derrick Rose should help to ease the pain. Everyone else is back, giving John Calipari another talented squad with potential to make a deep run in the Tourney. Memphis should once again roll through Conference USA.

14) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Lose: None
Comments: Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young were two of the most talented freshmen in the country this year, and are talented enough to make the leap and become two of the best players in the country. Add a supporting cast of Anthony Morrow on the wing and Dickey on the inside, and Tech will be very tough.

15) Washington St. Cougars
Lose: Ivory Clark
Comments: It was a great first year for Tony Bennett, but now the expectations have been raised. Fortunately, almost everyone returns. The Cougars should again be very good defensively while remaining efficient offensively. That formula worked this year and should make the Cougars a solid team again next year.

Apologies to: Marquette, Indiana, George Mason, Oregon, Kansas St., Texas A&M

What changes would you make?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Florida is pretty good

Well, that's about what I expected. Ohio St. showed flashes that they could make it interesting, but in the end Florida was just the better team, and this one was never really in doubt.

Even Nantz disappointed... he pulled out something like, "Florida takes its place in history. Back-to-back." I'm not going to say he read my post and decided to keep the puns on the down low this year... well, actually that's what I'm going to say to make myself look important.

One thing I have to mention... for anyone complaining that Oden didn't have a signature game, well, there you go. He was fantastic. 38 minutes, 25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks, and he was getting almost anything he wanted down low. A brilliant effort and his best game as a freshman in what will probably be his final collegiate game.

But he just didn't have enough help, mainly because of the enormous difference in 3-pointers. Gators were 10/18, Buckeyes were 4/23. That's the ballgame.

Great season for the Buckeyes with all of the freshmen, but when it came down to it, for the 2nd straight year the Gators were clearly the best team in the country. Congratulations to Florida and all of their fans!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Title Game Prediction

In all honesty, this Tournament hasn't really been as exciting as I was hoping for. It was a great regular season, and there have been great matchups and great games, but a lot of the Tourney hasn't quite lived up to the hype.

The Final Four was no exception there. The matchups looked like they would be fantastic, but the games weren't that good. This title game is the last chance to save us.

It's a matchup between two really good and really talented teams... Florida is older and more experienced, while Ohio St. may have more physical talent. They played earlier and the game was tied at 40 with 17 minutes left (though Florida ran away with it from there), but the Buckeyes are a lot better now than they were back then.

Still, I kinda feel like this game will reflect the rest of the Tournament... the potential to be great, but it won't quite live up to the hype. The Sports Pulse is picking Florida by 15, The Sports Flow is picking Florida, and I've got them as well. And unfortunately, I think the margin of victory will be around double digits.

My reasons:

- Corey Brewer - He shut down Arron Afflalo (when he was in the game) and will be able to do the same to Ron Lewis. The 6'4'' Lewis won't be able to many shots up over the long-armed Brewer. Also, another interesting matchup would be if Donovan decides to put Brewer on Conley for stretches... I'm not sure how well this would work, but Brewer might be able to bother Conley with his length.

- There's been some talk about Mike Conley being the best freshman PG ever... but hold on a minute. I love the guy and I think he's great, but let's not forget, he doesn't really have a jumpshot. I mean, he's still wildly effective without it, but he's better as a freshman than Magic Johnson was? Than Kenny Anderson was? His game is predicated on getting in the lane (scoring wise), and that could be tough against a great defensive duo in Noah and Horford, not to mention Brewer flying in from the wing.

- Oden will be under constant pressure defensively. Hey, Oden's great, but he's not exactly been able to avoid foul trouble all the time. With Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Chris Richard down low for the Gators, Oden should be under constant pressure. He has to avoid the cheap fouls (the moving screen, the charge, etc) in this ballgame, and frankly, I'm not sure that he'll do it.

Add it all up, and I've got the Gators winning fairly handily. Hopefully I'm wrong and we can get a great game.

Who do you have winning it?


Well, that sucked.

It kinda looked like a replay of last year's title game. Florida was not as dominant in this game as they were last year, but they were plenty good enough.

Really, it came down to 2 keys:
1) Arron Afflalo was a nonfactor - He scored 17 points, but that was basically all in garbage time. He picked up 2 fouls within 2 minutes, and picked up a 3rd midway through the first half shortly after Ben Howland brought him back. Josh Shipp provided enough offense to keep things interesting in the first half, but with no contributions from their first team All-America, UCLA didn't have the firepower in the 2nd half.
2) Florida hit 3-pointers - After a slow start they finished 9/22, which was a good enough. UCLA almost always doubles the post, so if you can rotate the ball quickly around the perimeter and known down shots, you can beat them. Florida wasn't hitting these shots for the first 8 or 9 minutes, but after that they were real good.

Really, that was the ballgame. UCLA didn't play awful, they were just outmanned. They took care of the ball very well (only 3 turnovers), they just couldn't get shots with Afflalo being such a nonfactor. It sucks, but it was a bad time for the starting backcourt to go 8/28 from the field and 4/15 from downtown. Congratulations Gators.

As for the OSU/Georgetown game, the Buckeyes were better when Oden was out than Georgetown was when Hibbert was out. Obviously that's not the way I thought it would go down, but it did. As is becoming a theme, Mike Conley was really good and he controlled this game. Same old.

On a final note... take a good look Buckeyes fans, because I think this will be the last game Greg Oden and Mike Conley play for Ohio St. I've always kind of been of the opinion that if one was gone, the other would be too, and this Tournament has propelled Conley (most likely) into the top-ranked PG. So with that being the case, I think he'll go, and I'm betting Oden goes with him.

Buckeyes vs. Gators Monday night. We've seen that before.