Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My NBA All-Star Game, Part 2

If you missed Part-1 of my version of the NBA All-Star Game, click here. Enjoy Part-2.

The Eastern Conference starting five is staunch, but the bench is lacking a pick in experienced depth. Let us take a gander in to how well the Western Conference is shaping up.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Player: Kevin Durant
Age/Position: 22/Small Forward
2010-11 Stats: 28 PPG, RPG, 3 APG

The NBA’s leading scorer. Also, the guy responsible (with help from Russell Westbrook) for taking Oklahoma City from an 8th seed, to a solid lock for a 2nd seed—maybe even the one seed if San Antonio stumbles in the second half of the season. Has any team ever done this, playing with the exact same team as the year before? Remember how close the Thunder were last year to knocking off the eventual Finals Champions Lakers in the first round? Will Kevin Durant be the sole reason Kobe never gets to his goal of at least tying Jordan’s six titles? Something to ponder.

UTAH JAZZ
Player: Deron Williams
Age/Position: 26/Point Guard
2010-11 Stats: 22 PPG, 9 APG, 1 SPG

His assist are down slightly from their usual ten this year, but his scoring is up by about four points. Deron has been the Jazz best player since they drafted him ahead of Chris Paul. Before either of them had played an NBA game, everyone was up in arms about the Jazz passing over Paul, but that uproar has become a thing of naught. Yes, statistically over their careers Chris Paul has gotten it done just a little bit better, with the winning edge attributed to his stealing capabilities. But on the court, Deron Williams is more a presence, if that makes any sense. The Jazz finished with a regular season record of 26-56 the year before drafting Williams. The next season they hit .500 with a 41-41 standing.

Then 51-31…
Then 54-28…
Then 48-34 (year he was hurt and missed 14 games)…
And last year 53-29.

That’s all D-Will. What about Boozer? That’s all D-Will too.

DENVER NUGGETS
Player: Carmelo Anthony
Age/Position: 26/Small Forward
2010-11 Stats: 23 PPG, 8 RPG, 3 APG

If I am a Nuggets fan, with the New Jersey Nets officially backing out, and the Carmelo interview still lingering—“Playing in New York would be the ultimate dream”—I could not wait to ship Carmelo. It would not be out of hate or contempt either. I would want to send him away as quickly as possible, so the inevitable USS Ex-Carmelo sinking could begin, and improve my chances in the draft. Denver is a poor mans version of Cleveland. To tell you the truth, a sick part of me thinks he will ultimately end up staying. Not a lot of people think so, but some people love getting money, even when they have tons of it. Maybe he is a Bretton James of the world and his number is just more. However, not likely. If Carmelo doesn’t get traded and leaves in free agency, even more unlikely, the Nuggets’ draft pick will not be as high as one would like, and also means you have Gary Forbes waiting in the wings until someone else is signed. Who is Gary Forbes? Exactly.

PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS
Player: LaMarcus Aldridge
Age/Position: 25/Power Forward
2010-11 Stats: 21 PPG, 9 RPG, 1 BPG

This selection is in no way attributed to Brandon Roy being done for the season with the knee surgery. Ever since the first time I saw LaMarcus Aldridge play I have always believed him to be the Blazers best player. If anything the Roy injury has confirmed my opinion, because I thought Roy, in ways, contributed to making Aldridge better. However his numbers have increased instead of tapering.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Player: Kevin Love
Age/Position: 22/Power Forward
2010-11: 21 PPG, 15 RPG, 2.5 APG

Kevin love is yesteryears’s Charles Barkley, except Love is taller by four inches, has ten more pounds on him, and probably does not have a crazy gambling addiction. But still, the similarities are almost identical.

Keeping tradition—by tackling the tough issues—at HITS, I have noticed that Kevin Love does not have a nickname. It is about time someone has addressed this issue. The only one I could find on the Internet was “Lovehandles” from his playing days at UCLE but it was referring to him being slow and a bit soft in the midsection. It came off as more of a punk than anything. Not fitting for someone averaging a fifteen rebounds a game. If you recall, in June 2010, I coined the nickname “The Albastraus” in reference to Washinton National’ pitching phenom Steven Strausburg. Once again we turn our attention to an up and comer sports athlete.

Right off the bat, Barry White’s ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love’ calls to the mind. For a number of reasons, we could call Kevin Love: White Barry.

A) Because it is the inverse of Barry White, and Love and White are inverses’ of each other (one black, the other white). And;
B) Kevin Love cannot get enough rebounds. A play on words of the song with not being able to get enough of something.
C) Barry White is known for his baritone, low, and smooth voice. Kevin Love plays a deep, smooth, low post game.
D) We need to expand the “white” food-groups-sports-nicknames, because all we have now is ‘White Chocolate’.
E) HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE CALLING SOMEONE WHITE BARRY!??!!

Ok, it is a stretch. We’ll kick it around and get back to you.

A quick Google search will show that Barkley over his career averaged 22 points, 11 boards and 4 assist on his career. Love is doing it a bit better on the boards, and Barkley did it a bit better on the assist; which make sense because Sir Charles played the SF/PF and White Barry (let that palpitate on the tongue for a moment) is a primary power forward. Stats—even though Love is just starting his career and Barkley is finished—are a wash. Both were drafted 5th overall. They each took until their 3rd NBA season to be selected as and NBA All-Star. Together, they owe a combined $18 million dollars to the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas…

This is where the comparisons stop. Despite Charles Barkley’s 11 All-Star selections, 5 All-NBA First Team appearances, an NBA MVP (1993) and a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team: he never was able to claim an NBA Title. And I guarantee you he would trade all of the accolades for one. Kevin Love is in a much better situation to grab a title or two; if the right things happen for Minnesota.

Timberwolves’ Title Hopes Adjustment Check-List (in order):

1. They need a new head coach. A name and/or seasoned guy with some cred. Sorry Kurt Rambis, but you’re not that guy. If I am Rick Aldeman, I am doing EVERYTHING I can to get out of Houston because Yao Ming is fin, and if I am T-Wolves owner, Glen Taylor I hire a mob “cleaner” and wack whoever I need to get this done.
2. Unload Luke Ridnour, Corey Brewer, your lottery pick (likely 3rd overall), and some cash considerations to a team like the Atlanta Hawks, in exchange for Josh Smith. You’ll still have a really high second round pick, and could land Jimmer Fredette if BYU does not go to far in the NCAA tourney.
3. Promote Jonny Flynn to your starting point guard immediately.
4. Put Darko Milicic on your bench to spell Love and Michael Beasley, and move Love to center and Beasley to power forward.
5. Get on the phone the call up Ricky Rubio and say, “Quit being a chump buster and come play in the NBA. Everything is poised for you. You and Jonny in the backcourt, will have Josh Smith, Michael Beasley, and Kevin Love to open up it up for you. Green light buddy.” Nothing but silence on the other end of the line.T-Wolves intern taps you on the shoulder, informing you that Rubio does not speak a lick of English.
6. Find a Spanish translator ASAP.

Just sayin, the Minnesota Timberwolves are poised.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Player: Kobe Bryant
Age/Position: 32/Shooting Guard
2010-11 Stats: 25 PPG, 5 APG, 5 RPG

Moving on.

PHOENIX SUNS
Player: Goran Dragic
Age/Position: 24/Point Guard
2010-11 Stats: 8 PPG, 3 APG, 1 SPG

Stop freaking out. I did not sustain a serious head injury while writing this column, and I intentionally did not put two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash as the Suns best guy. Remember the selection process is based upon past, present and future. Nash certainly has the past—aforementioned MVPs—and you could even make the case for present because he is averaging a double-double at 17 points and 10 assist a game. But when in comes to future; I’m sorry to break it to you Suns fans, but Nash is only going to be able to do what he has done in the past: be likeable and have decent numbers. But he is not going to get you your treasured NBA Title. The sooner you face that fact the better. There is no way he can do it with his supporting cast.

Steve Nash is 36. Thirty-Six. He is your best offensive weapon with his creating ability or his scoring, when he wants to. Your next two available offensive options are Grant Hill, 38-years old, and let’s face it—the Ken Griffey Jr. of the NBA—and Vince Carter. Vince Carter is 33-years old. His knees are 86.

I’ll give you Nash credit, because I too, know Nash can still contribute at a higher level. But it won’t be enough. At least not in Phoenix because there are not enough pieces. With Amare… maybe, but they tried that route and it never panned out. Once you come to grips with your Phoenix Suns reality, you can accept Dragic as your man. You’ve seen it too. Turn that frown upside down.

I’ve seen him play and he has all the tools. He’s smart; you can tell. He has paid a lot of attention to Steve Nash and you can see Nash’s input in Dragic’s game. He’s electric. The only thing holding him back: Hill, Carter and Nash. Kind of a weird sentence to write, but it is time. Maybe the Suns could get something in trading Nash—but I would not want to lock in to anything long term with another team in trading him. It would have to be the right piece, and I do not see anything screaming “take this trade”. Hill and Carter need to retire. The best bet for the Suns is to land somebody in free agency or go through a re-building year or two and hit it big in the draft. Start preparing for the Clippers and Kings—because in five years they will be your Pacific Division contenders—when Lakers finally go post-Kobe.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Player: Monta Ellis
Age/Position: 25/Shooting Guard
2010-11 Stats: 26 PPG, 6 APG, 2 SPG

Hardest selection to break down. Harder than the Atlanta Hawks decision. I really like putting Stephen Curry here, because nobody though he could produce as well as he has, and basically like he told everyone to shut-up. David Lee makes a good case too with his 16 points and 9.7 rebounds a game. His points are down from his New York totals, but expect that with guys like Ellis and Curry in the Warrior’s backcourt. They basically break even for me, so the tiebreaker goes to the guy who is doing it better right now and that guy is Monta Ellis. He is solid and has been consistent for the last couple of years.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Player: Blake Griffin
Age/Position: 21/Power Forward
2010-11 Stats: 23 PPG, 13 RPG, 3 APG

My brother-in-law had a Facebook status which read, “Is Blake Griffin black or white?” The answer is unclear, but what we do know is Black Griffin played the role of the Albino in Epic Movie. Multiple sources can confirm this.

What does this have to do with his game? Nothing, but maybe it is the source of his secret power. It is anybody’s guess at this point. Blake Griffin cannot be contained. There is one particular highlight burned in to my mind, epitomizing the type of player Blake is. Against the San Antonio Spurs, on an Eric Gordon drive—sucked two defenders in to the middle of paint—Griffin got the ball in the low post of the paint. Probably 5-6 feet from the basket. The only guy down there is one of the greatest, if not thee greatest, power forwards of all-time. Tim Duncan.

Now Tim Duncan is a vet, obviously. And there is nothing wrong with giving up an easy basket instead of picking up a foul and turning a two-point play, in to a three-point play. But instincts are instincts. When Griffin got the ball, Duncan was in good enough position to move over in front of the basket and contest the shot; which he started to do. Meanwhile, Griffin sees Tim make the move over and that was it. Griffin let the demon out of the cage. You could see the unlatching of its gate in his body language. It happened in a fraction of second, but completely noticeable. Griffin explodes to freight-train status and elevates for this barbarian jam and you see Duncan’s face say, “I’m gonna ge… yeah, you can have this dunk, you’re still young” but lying underneath the submission there was a recognition of “I never had that level of intensity or power.” It was fear. In the eyes and face of Tim Duncan. Griffin would have snapped Duncan’s elbow the opposite way had he tried to block it.

SACRAMENTO KINGS
Player: Demareke Couvans
Age/Position: 20.5 (averaged)/Centered Power Guard on Point Forward
2010-11 Stats (Combined): 30 PPG, 7 RPG, 5 APG, 2 SPG, 1 BPG

Scientist have genetically combine Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins in to a super player. Basically if you created a super player and combined them in to one player you’d get LeBron James. And thinking about grants a unique perspective on just how good ‘ole Bron Bron is. But we’re not here to talk about The King, rather the King’s best player.

And I cannot decide; check that—I do not want to.

The last two drafts, the Sacramento Kings had the 4th and 5th overall picks. In 2009 the Kings went with Tyreke Evans. 2010 it was DeMarcus Cousins. I think they both can be the franchise guy. But who?!

Key point for selecting Tyreke:

Dude, won Rookie of the Year last season. That is elite company. Just dive back one decade and you see names like: LeBron James, Pau Gasol, Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Durrant, and Derrick Rose. You’re like, “dang”. The Kings do know who they are (yet) but when they do, Tyreke will and can play a big part in any scenario you come up with. So why not the knee-jerk reaction to pick him as the Kings rep for the All-Star game and move on? Well, because I’m a freaking homer when comes to the Kings and I want to give my due diligence.

Key point for selecting DeMarcus:

I see someone who reminds me of Chris Webber. Like a lot. When DeMarcus was at Kentucky, I thought he (and still do) was a better asset to the team than John Wall. BLASPHAMY! Well, he was. So get over yourself. Remember that super-soft-like-a-dolphin-would-feel-like shot Chris Webber had? Cousins may not have it exactly, but it is there. Plus he plays the inside came with some finess. And he’s smart. And only a rookie, so how high could his development go before we know how good he’ll actually be? Can he be the King’s next Chris Webber? And yet, I digress. Chris Webber won Rookie of the Year in 1993… and Tyreke just won that last year… soo…. yeah. I’d say Cousins is Top-5 out of the current rookies in the league right now, but nobody is going to take the top honor of Rookie of the Year from Blake Griffin. It can’t be done.

After three hours of locking ourselves in the HITS think tank, the writers have decided to play the numbers and go with Tyreke Evans, even though many here at the website could justify putting Cousins in. Acknowledging said fact was a key point the HITS legal team wanted in the settlement of selecting Evans.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Player: Tony Parker
Age/Position: 28/Point Guard
2010-11 Stats: 17 PPG, 7 APG, 1 SPG

For any wanting to throw me some backlash here, just see the Phoenix Suns portion of this column. Same thing. The Spurs are old, but have somehow only lost seven games. If the Spurs somehow beat the Heats in the Finals, I think we see Tim Duncan go the rout of Michael Strahan and retire on top. It would pour another layer of cement, over the current layer of cement, that is his best-of-all-time-at-my-position career.

Tim Duncan’s looming retirement shoves us in to Tony Parker. My breakdown of the Spurs and the TP selection will be delivered with as much flair and bedazzlement as the way they play the game.



Welp, big gulps. It looks like I’m done.

Fun fact: In a not-so-fun-fact for those closely involved, Eva Longoria recently filed for divorce with Tony Parker last December, after allegations sufaced of Tony fooling around with the soon-to-be ex-wife of former teammate, Brent Barry. Millions of men worldwide, celebrated the .0000002 percent increase of their chances of getting with her. This number is a 100% increase from the old .0000001 percent chances they formally had.

Bottom Line: Eva Longoria >>> Erin Barry (but just barely).

DALLAS MAVERICKS
Player: Dirk Nowitzki
Age/Position: 32/Power Forward
2010-11 Stats: 23 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 APG

For no reason, other than this Youtube video that will never get old.

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
Player: Chris Paul
Age Position: 25/Point Guard
2010-11: 16 PPG, 10 APG, 2.7 SPG

The collective, approving nod, of this selection should have transpired five seconds ago or as you are currently reading this sentence. Nod your head if you nodded when you read the first sentence, realizing you were already nodding when you saw Chris Paul’s name next to chosen player.

CP3 is someone who I have always liked. And something about the prospect of him becoming a Seattle Supersonic makes me want to like even more. Which is weird, because I have said before, I never have been a Sonics fan, but like the idea of Seattle having an NBA team.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Player: Zach Randolph
Age/Position: 29/Power Forward
2010-11 Stats: 20 PPG, 13 RPG

Zach will not ad, well, anything, if you are looking for more than just points and rebounds, but who cares? 20 and 13. My goodness. Could Zach Randolph be one of those guys who suffers from Elton Brand Syndrome? Playing great but basically playing on teams nobody really pays close attention to, outside of the fans and fantasy team owners. Zach has had those type numbers practically his whole career. With Rudy Gay and Co., why are they not than just a .500 team? The answer is Pau Gasol.

When Pau Gasol was given the Los Angeles Lakers for nothing, and really do mean nothing, Memphis lost all of the momentum they had for themselves. What happened was, Kobe went to Jerry Bus and Phil Jackson and said, “I need a big man.” To the best of my knowledge, the Grizzlies were eavesdropping and offered, “You can have Pau.”

“What do you want for him?”

“Oh, we didn’t think of that. Umm, I don’t know. You can just have him.”

“You don’t want a favor or something down the road…?”

“Uhhmm, naaaa. Just have him.”

(Kobe, Phil and Jerry looking cautiously from side to side)

“All… right,” more of question than an acceptance.

That is exactly how the trade happened! Tell me, right now, what and who the Lakers gave up for Pau Gasol. Right now! YOU CAN’T! BECAUASE NOBODY KNOWS! The sole missing piece needed to secure back-to-back NBA Championships for the Lakers and not a single person knows what happened in the trade other than Pau going to LA!

I mention this because the Minnesota Timberwolves are today’s version of the Memphis Grizzlies when Pau was on that team. The Grizzlies were oh so close to breaking out. They had the players they needed, and just lacked the right-fit coach to make it happen. Then suddenly Pau gets gift wrapped and the rest is history. Have the Timberwolves found that Spanish translator yet?

HOUSTON ROCKETS
Player: Kevin Martin
Age/Position: 27/Shooting Guard
2010-11 Stats: 23 PPG, 3 RPG, 2 APG

Get out Rick Adelman! Get out now! I almost hate the Kings trading of Kevin Martin to the Rockets more than their selection of Spencer Hawes. The Kings, in a three team deal, traded sure-thing Martin for… wait for it… Carl Landry, Larry Hughes, and… wait for it again… Joey Doresy. Meanwhile the Rockets get rid of Tracy McGrady and the New York Knicks make out like bandits with the rights to the Rockets 2012 first round pick—with the rights to upgrade that pick to 2011 (likely 12th overall) if they so desire.

What happened?

If you’re a Rockets fans you are thanking you lucky stars because Yao Ming is finished.


RECAP AND WESTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS

Point Guards: Deron Williams, Goran Dragic, Tyreke Evans, Tony Parker, Chris Paul
Shooting Guards: Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin
Small Forwards: Kevin Durrant, Carmelo Anthony
Power Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph
Center:

Starters:
Chris Paul
Kobe Bryant
Kevin Durrant
Dirk Nowitzki
Kevin Love

Bench:
Carmelo Anthony
Deron Williams
Blake Griffin

Zach Randolph
Tyreke Evans
Monta Ellis
La Marcus Aldridge
Kevin Martin
Tyreke Evans
Goran Dragic


SO WHO WINS THIS THING ALREADY?


East
Rajon Rondo
Derrick Rose
LeBron James
Amare Stoudemire
Dwight Howard

Vs.

West
Chris Paul
Kobe Bryant
Kevin Durrant
Dirk Nowitzki
Kevin Love

This is a wash. I cannot decipher it. Will Hunting couldn’t break this thing down, so it would have to go to the benches. The West has an overwhelmingly deep bench. And I cannot deny them the victory in this game. I’m open to your opinions if you have them, but you can the rosters just as well as I can.

Should be a great real life All-Star game this year. Cannot wait for Blake Griffin the dunk contest.


Super Bowl Pick:

It stays close for 3 quarters, when Green Bay steps on the gas in the 4th quarter. Aaron Rodgers Superbowl MVP.
GREEN BAY 35, STEELERS 21

My NBA All-Star Game, Part 1

Last summer I did a three-part column on my made up version of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game. The premise behind the idea was this: instead of fans voting on their favorite players and the All-Star teams being created that way (with 3 or 4 players sometimes coming from the same team); what if every team had to be represented and every team had to send their best player—fans voting accordingly. With the NBA’s All-Star game looming, I decided to do the exact same thing for basketball as I did for baseball. Enjoy.

To recap there will be a few rules adopted from my MLB version and put in to effect in this NBA take. In my opinion, the baseball column was a lot trickier to iron out because almost every position in baseball is super specific and technical, whereas in basketball—for the large part—most players can play all five positions.

Proposed All-Star Selection Guidelines:

• All players representing their team must play their regular season position, unless there is another player from a different team that also plays said position (again, in baseball this rule played a bigger role). If said position has multiple representatives, a player may switch to a position that is vacant or lacking depth.
• Roster size will be dependent upon how many teams are in each conference. In baseball the National League has two more teams than the American League. Basketball keeps it nice and tidy with a 50/50 split at 15 teams per conference.
• The best player chosen for their team is not necessarily the person putting up the best numbers for that particular season, rather the one who is collectively considered that teams best player overall. Past production, accomplishments and future potential is all factored as part of the selection. There are no restrictions for rookies.

In the baseball column I did a three game series, but for this column I’ll keep in line with the real NBA All-Star game, and stick with one. Another wrinkle from the June/July column is I would ask people who were homers of certain teams I did not like, and get their opinion on the best player. It would eliminate bias on my part and represent the best player, in the best possible way. For the NBA however, I only hate one team: the Los Angeles Lakers and the best player on their team is a no-brainer. It should not be too much a roadblock to offer a fair evaluation of each team. Without further delay, faithful HITS readers, I give you my version of the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, starting with the Eastern Conference.

BOSTON CELTICS
Player: Rajon Rondo
Age/ Position: 24/Point Guard
2010/11 Stats: 10 PPG, 13 APG, 2.5 SPG

I am so glad the Celts have Rondo because I would be so bugged if I had to write a paragraph on why I thought Paul Pierce is good. Rondo is so good (and so young) he has added longevity to the careers of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Pierce, because he makes all of the other players around him not have to work as hard. They don’t have to be the offense because Rondo does such a superb job of creating it. So far this season, Rajon has only had two games where his assist totals have been in the single digits—eight and nine respectfully. But he has had ten games of getting 15 or more assist; including two games in which he dished out 22 and 24 dimes.

Fun fact: Rajon Rondo was drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Suns, but then traded to Boston for the Cleveland Cavaliers first round pick (24th overall) and cash considerations. Phoenix in turn, draft Rudy Hernandez but then trade him to the Blazers for cash considerations.

Bottom line: Rajon Rondo >>> Cash

NEW YORK KNICKERBOCKERS
Player: Amare Stoudemire
Age/Position: 28/Power Forward
2010/11 Stats: 26 PPG, 9 RPG, 2 BPG

You know I love me some Ray-Ray, but lets be real with ourselves. Amare is enjoying the best season of his career. It’s funny what a fresh start will do for someone. Amare has been a 20-and-10 guy (even though technically he’s never gotten the 10, but a handful of 8s and 9s) his whole career and easily has another six years left in his tank. The Knicks think so too. $100 million dollars is coming Stoudemire way over the next five years. Last season the Knicks were 19-32 going in to the All-Star break, this year with Amare they have already bested that mark by 4 games.

Fun fact: Amare Stoudemire was drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Suns. Of course he wasn’t traded but instead opted out of his contract and took an offer from the Knicks. When he signed with the Knicks, it reunited him with form Phoenix Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni, who also left Phoenix on his own accord and took an offer from the Knicks. Hmmm….

Bottom line: Amare Stoudemire >>> Cash ($100 million)

Is anyone else noticing the emergence of a trend here…

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Player: Andre Iguodala
Age/Position: 26/Shooting Guard
2010/11 Stats: 14 PPG, 6 RPG, 5 APG

I really, really wanted to put Spencer Hawes as 76ers best player. Except not. I’m not bitter per se but Spencer Hawes sucks and was a complete waste of the Sacramento Kings 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft. OK, I am bitter. Thanks for nothing Spence. You played ONE season in the Pac-10—a weak Pac-10 I might add—and averaged 14 and 6. Lookout, everyone! A gangly 7’1” white ginger, who barely weighs 250 pounds, just finished his freshman season for the 19-and-13 Washington Huskies!

Mimicking the exact emphasis in the “ICED-MOCHA-FRAPPUCCINOS!” line from Zoolander: LET’S DRAFT HIM WITH OUR 10th OVERALL PICK!

I was never impressed. How you were ever a Top-10 pick is beyond me bruh.

I should probably get to Andre… but before that I’d like to take a moment of silence for Elton Brand. “Elton Brand you say?” Yes. Elton Brand, who currently plays for the 76ers, and who also was drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Su… just kidding. He was the #1 overall pick by the Chicago Bulls. I had you going there for a moment. Elton Brand mind you, was deserving of a Top-10 pick. And he lived up to it. But who noticed? Off the top of your head, could anybody reading this HITS column spit out his career stats? Even ballpark them?

Elton Brand has had Tim Duncan-esque numbers for his almost his entire career 20 PPG and 10 RPG; up until the 07-08 season when he only played eight games and ruptured his Achilles tendon. Career changer. Eight seasons of quality. The number one pick, playing great and nobody notices. That will happen when you spend most of your career with the Clippers and post-Iverson 76ers. You get neglected and wither away. The sad part of the story is how it could have been so different.

After a money freshman (co-Rookie of the Year) and sophomore season with the Chicago Bulls, Elton Brand was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Brand had another awesome season, and at the end of it (2003) he became a restricted free agent. The Miami Heat offered Brand a 6-year deal worth over $80 million dollars and the Clippers had 15 days to match it. If the bells aren’t ringing yet, 2003 was the year Miami drafted Flash aka #3 aka Dwyane Wade. A Dwyane Wade caliber player is something Brand never had. Think Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. Great player; but wasting away in a bad situation. Had the Clips passed on the match sheet to keep EB, the Heat would not have been able to afford Shaquille O’Neil—but with Brand the Heat did not need Shaq. They still win the 2004 title with Elton. Of course, the Clippers matched the offer and the rest is history. A moment of silence for a career forgotten.

Andre Iguodala on the other hand is still young. Young enough he could bounce out of Philly and better his situation. Or the Sixers could luck out in the draft and return to some prominence. Iguodala is good. In fact Andre is really good. True, Andre is going through a sub-par season for him, but it is more to injury than to lack of skill. He’ll bounce back to his 18-19 PPG.

TORONTO RAPTERS
Player: Andrea Bargnani
Age/Position: 25/Center
2010/11 Stats: 21 PPG, 6RPG, 82% FT Shooter

Andrea has been getting better every single season since he was drafted 1st overall in 2006. Check out these improvements from the Italian big man:

2006: 11 PPG, 4 RPG
2007: 10 PPG, 4 RPG
2008: 15 PPG, 5 RPG
2009: 17 PPG, 6 RPG

The big man of the Raptors future. Plus they have the addition of DeMar DeRozan out of USC from the draft and they just traded for one of my favorite players (even though he is WAAY over the hill) Peja Stojakovic. I like the way Toronto is piecing together this team.

BROOKLYN NETS
Player: Brook Lopez
Age/Position: 22/Center
2010/11 Stats: 18 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.5 BPG

I put the Brooklyn Nets because we all know they’re moving there in a year or two. Also, Brook Lopez is the Nets. If Nick Humphries was not crashing the boards as much (9 per game) then Lopez would have a higher total. Even in the Nets traded and got Carmelo Anthony, I’d still put Brook here. Dude is solid.

CHICAGO BULLS
Player: Derrick Rose
Age/Position: 22/Point Guard
2010/11 Stats: 24 PPG, 8 APG, 4.5 RPG

The Chicago Bulls uniforms still today are the dopest in the league. For two years now I have been waiting to get their Game Official white silk bottoms for Christmas. Maybe the $120 sticker price I peeped at the NBA Store when I was in New York last year has had something to do with me NOT getting them. Oh well, I still want ‘em. If I ever do get them, I can pretend I am Michael Jordan circa 1996—and when I am not pretending to be MJ, I can pretend to be Derrick Rose.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching him go seven games against the Celtics in the 08-09 playoffs, and also last year against the Cavaliers. He elevates his game. This year, with the additional pieces they’ve added in Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver, they’ll make it past the first round of the playoffs. And do it on the shoulders of Derrick Rose.

INDIANA PACERS
Player: Roy Hibbert
Age/Position: 24/Center
2010-11 Stats: 12 PPG, 8 RPG, 1.8 BPG

A lot of people would be quick to jump and say Danny Granger. Granger is good and leads the team in scoring, but with Danny I think we have already seen how good he will be for his career, whereas with Hibbert, he seems to be getting better and better. He finally is starting majority of the games and will likely be a double-double guy in the very new future.

Fun fact: The starting line-up of the Pacers are all Top-21 first-round picks: Darren Collison (21st overall, 2005), Mike Dunleavy (3rd overall, 2002), Danny Granger (17th overall, 2005), Tyler Hansborough (13th overall, 2009) and Roy Hibbert (17th overall, 2008). Extend that even further to the bench and you get six more first rounders: TJ Ford (8th overall, 2003), Brandon Rush (13th overall, 2008), Paul George (10th overall, 2010), Dahntay Jones (20th overall, 2003), James Posey (18th overall, 1999), and Jeff Foster (21st overall, 1999). Eleven out of the fifteen roster spots! The next closest team is the Boston Celtics at 10, but four of those ten players were drafted in the 1930s and have a combined age of 12,518.

Fun fact #2: The Pacers are a team which represent one of my most memorable what-the-hell-is-happening?! moments—not just sports moments, but all moments—of all time.

Moments making the list:

1) Any episode, of any “finding true love” reality show, mainly The Bachelor, in which a contestant tries to woo the show’s featured person by demonstrating a talent—in a setting that does not even come close to warranting the exhibition of one—and the person who is watching the debacle unfold feels painfully awkward. Meanwhile the producers are thinking a collective, “jackpot,” while I sit at home and scream in to a pillow.
2) Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear off and while my friend Scott Whitmore’s dad started yelling, “HE JUST BIT HIS EAR!” before most of us realized what had just happened.
3) Kanye during the Hurricane Katrina special.
4) Kanye grabbing the mic at the VMAs
5) Kanye releasing 808s and Heartbreaks after previously dropping behemoths of The College Dropout, Late-Registration, and Graduation.
6) Watching the child birthing video in my 6th grade health class.

So you say, “Is the moment ESPNs Reggie Miller: Winning Time?” No, but Reggie Miller was in attendance for the event. “Could it be Rick Smitts’ extremely gross, trying to pull off a svelte styled moustache and failing?” Pfff, yeah right. The answer is the Artest Melee. Duh.

I remember sharing The Melee moment with my close buddies Brett (partner in crime from the Ray-Ray column), Ross, Kyle, Garrett, and Stevie. It is kind of crazy to think this happened seven years ago. We were in Garrett’s basement living room and had just finished hooking up their new HD receiver to the big screen (HD programming was just a few months old). Thinking back to the night, it felt something like destiny really. We had just turned the channel to ESPN HD for the first time and we were catching the tail end of the Pacers/Pistons game. We barely had time to digest the visual upgrade of what sports would be like to watch, when all of sudden Ben Wallace and Ron Artest get in to it, and minutes later Artest gets clunked with a beer. Our initial reaction was like a gun was pulled on us; wide-eyed and frozen in place. That soon changed in to us screaming at the TV as the melee snowballed. It was like the clip from Rocky IV where Rocky is about to knock out Drago and the scene quickly switches to Rocky’s kid at home, bouncing up and down and punching at the TV with his buds. Favorite moment of The Melee, was Ross bellowing, “OOOHHHH!!!!” and then seeing the replay of Jermaine O’Neal landing a devastating haymaker on some idiot Pistons fan. Queue the Chris Tucker quote from Friday.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Player: Brandon Jennings
Age/Position: 21/Point Guard
2010-11 Stats: 18 PPG, 5 APG, 1.2 SPG

I pick Jennings here because he is younger, better and smarter/original than Andrew Bogut. The younger and better is self-explanatory, but allow me to explain the smarter/original factor.

Andrew Bogut Originality: Australian. Played center for a Mountain West Conference school. Not the first, not the last.

Brandon Jennings Originality: American. First person ever to forgo college and play professionally in Europe.

Andrew Bogut Smartness: Paid zero dollars (that we know of) to play basketball post high school, pre-NBA.

Brandon Jennings Smartness: Paid $3.6 million dollars (and we do know) to play basketball post high school, pre-NBA.

With the whole Cam Newton getting paid or not getting paid, I like how Jennings flat out showed the world, “I want everybody to publicly know that I want to get money for playing ball.” So what did he do? He skipped college, as the nations top ranked prep recruit, and went over to Europe to play, got paid, until he was 19 and draft eligible.

DETROIT PISTONS
Player: Greg Monroe
Age/Position: 20/Power Forward
2010-11 Stats: 6 PPG, 6 RPG and 1 BPG

I choose Greg because Ben Wallace needs to retire and stop hogging up a starting roster spot. When Wallace finally calls it quits, then I see the Pistons moving Charlie Villanueva to center, and Monroe will become the starter at PF. The Villanueva/Monroe split time thing is not working. Under a new format, Monroe can and will develop into a bigger contributor. Give him 2-3 years and watch his stats skyrocket.

CLEVELAND CAVELIERS
Player: LeBr…. Uhh…
Age/Position: …(beginning to panic)…
2010-11 Stats: …. (…. crickets chirping…) …

Remember when Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert, sent out a press release right after The Decision, and in it he guaranteed that the Cleveland Cavaliers would win an NBA Championship before LeBron James?

It’s like the passing of Princess Diana; everybody knows where he or she was when it happened. I was lucky enough to get a picture to document the moment.

Good luck winning more than 20 games in a regular season for the next five years. You know Dan, statistically, your team has better chance of having a losing streak longer than the total number your team could win in a season. Yikes. If I had to pick their best player on your team, at gunpoint, I’d probably say J.J. Hickson, for no other reason than I have zero desire to be shot in the face.

MIAMI HEAT
Player: LeBron James
Age/Position: 26/Small Forward
2010-11 Stats: 26 PPG, 7 RPG, 7 APG

Does this need explanation? It doesn’t? Ok, good. If the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers were high school girls in 1991, Miami would probably form a hip-hop group call M.C. Luscious and make a rap video like this.

ATLANTA HAWKS
Player: Al Horford
Age/Position: 24/Center
2010-11 Stats: 16 PPG, 10 RPG, 1 BPG

A lot of options to choose from with the Hawks. I narrowed it down to Josh Smith or Al Horford and decided I’d flip a coin. Both play great, are about the same age and put up the same numbers. Unfortunately, I did not have any change on me when I wrote this, so I executed the only logical scientific method left to me. I asked my wife who she thought was win in a drag race, based on nothing but looks from the neck up.

“What’s a drag race?”

“When two people line up and race a car or motorcycle for a quarter-mile.”

“Why does it matter what they look like then?”

“Just answer the question.”

“This is stupid.”

In case you’re wondering, when I showed her the pictures, Al Horford won in a landside. Looks always affect the way you assess a basketball player. You probably don’t even realize you do it. Take Sam Cassell for example. Sam Cassell is so ugly, it is safe to say aliens will never abduct him. And when you think of Sam Cassell, you think of him as a so-so point guard, but it is not the case. Ole’ Sam, for the better part of his career, got you 18 points, 8 assist, and 4-5 boards a game. Think Rajon Rondo like production, but Cassell turned the ball over less. One turnover a game to Rondo’s three or four. Like it or not, looks factor and because of it, Al Horford represents the Hawks.

ORLANDO MAGIC
Player: Dwight Howard
Age/Position: 25/Center
2010-11: 22 PPG, 13 RPG, 2 BPG

Another one of those I-don’t-have-to-think-about-who-I-am-picking-here choices. Did you know Dwight has already had four 20-20 games this year? He just needs 66 more to tie Wilt Chamberlin’s single-season record of 70. Will that ever be broken?

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
Player: Gerald Wallace
Age/Position: 28/Small Forward
2010-11: 16 PPG, 8 RPG, 2 APG

I really like Gerald Wallace. I like what he contributes to his team and also think Charlotte is the best fit for him? So what does he need to take the Bobcats at the next level?

If you finished the NBA season today, the Bobcats are the 9th or 10th worst team in basketball. Looking at Chad Ford’s Top 100 Big Board, and assuming Charlotte would get the 9th or 10th overall pick, that lands the Bobcats either UConn’s Kemba Walker or Europe basketball prospect Donatas Motiejunas. They already have DJ Augustine out of Texas, who they drafted 8th overall in 2008, playing point guard. Adding another point guard in Walker doesn’t make the most sense. Motiejunas, at seven foot, will likely play center, and the guy playing that spot right now, is the only number one overall draft pick making less than million dollars a year—Kwame Brown.

So do you roll with Dontas Motiejunas and hope you land the next Dirk Nowitzki, or do take Kemba Walker with the realization that Steven Jackson is a 32-years old shooting guard? Or do you draft Kemba and trade him? What if Kemba is the next John Wall? Speaking of John Wall…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Player: John Wall
Age/Position: 20/Point Guard
2010-11 Stats: 15 PPG, 9 APG, 2 SPG

Wall has Derrick Rose potential, but if not, being John Wall is still pretty good. I am by no means a supporter of the Wizards, but I was really happy to see them get rid Gilbert Arenas. Sure during 2006 and 2007, when Gilbert Arenas was shooting the lights out and putting up the stats, those stats never translated in to more wins for the Wizards (42-40 in ’06 and 41-41 in 07’). How you guys landed the five seed in 2006 amazes me. Arenas shot the ball because he could, Wall can, but doesn’t. Give Wall a year or two and we will see the Wizards in the playoffs.


RECAP AND EASTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS

Point Guards: Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, John Wall
Shooting Guards: Andre Iguodala
Small Forward: LeBron James, Gerald Wallace
Power Forward: Amare Stoudemire, Greg Monroe, J.J. Hickson
Centers: Andrea Bargnani, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, Al Horford, Dwight Howard

Starters:
Rajon Rondo
Derrick Rose
LeBron James
Amare Stoudemire
Dwight Howard

Bench:
Al Horford
Andre Iguodala
Gerald Wallace

Brandon Jennings
John Wall
Andrea Bargnani
Brook Lopez
Greg Monroe
Roy Hibbert
J.J. Hickson


Click here for Part-2, of My Version of the NBA All-Star Game.


.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Buzz

I have written before about the emotions sports can invoke within a person. It is addictive like drugs. Like a ‘runners high’ but instead; a ‘sports high’. I love the sensation as it sneaks up on you and suddenly pounces like something out of a National Geographic special. The way it can physically feel as it pulses through your blood stream. It is like a deadly virus, living, but the kind you want to catch. The impact of a great sport moment imprints a unique signature in each of us, but when discussed over a burger and suds, it identifies and comes across as the exact same, indescribable moment. I love it. When reflected upon, the moment becomes communicative, delineate even, which is nuts because you are talking about something that in ways, cannot be articulated. Sports moments can be enjoyed at anytime and at any place. More often than not, a favorite sports moments typically is centered upon an improbable comeback or win. I have witnessed several in person.

Story #1
One of them involves University of Washington scoring sensation, Isaiah Thomas. He played ball at the same high school I attended before he transferred to South Kent School, a private basketball school, in Connecticut. The two seasons before he made the transfer, my dad and I made it point to go and see as many games he played in as we could. Just one of those players who you know is going to excel at the next level.

In one specific game, a play-in game to determine seeding for state playoffs, we were down by 6 with less than minute. I do not remember the team we were playing against, but they had the ball and drained the clock down to 25 seconds before an Isaiah steal. Thomas tried to get an open look for a three, but instead drove to basket and was fouled; count the bucket. Thomas converts the three-point play; opposing team calls timeout, we’re now down by 3 with 10 seconds left in the game. During the time out I remember the buzz. The feeling I said pounces on you; well it was waiting in the darkness under the bleachers, and everybody sensed it. People were standing and talking to those around them about what just happened, what needed to now happen, and how who was going to make what needed to happen, happen. There were a lot of happening going on, OK. Keep up.

Also during the time out, I remember watching one of the assistant coaches go over to the end of our bench and point to one of the kids—cannot remember his name for the life of me—who played “swing”. If you played swing in high school it meant that you were good enough to start for junior varsity, and were just barely good enough to ride the pine for varsity in case someone got hurt. Nobody got hurt on the last play so what the hell was this guy thinking? At this point I think there are only five people in the building who know this JV kid just checked in to the game: me, the assistant coach, the kid himself, and maybe his mom and dad. That’s it. He tears off his warm-ups and on the inbound; Isaiah again steals the ball but is tangled up by two of the opposing teams’ players. They end up on the ground. Fans are going ballistic; hollering and screaming like caged animals because of the craziness of the moment. Somehow, from his back no less, Thomas hurls the ball from almost half court, to the corner, right next to our bench now minus one JV kid—to the very kid whose butt normally filled the bench’s absence. The clock is clicking down like the graphic from 24 right before a commercial break and this kid has the presence of mind to not only take a step back, so he can get behind the three point line to potentially tie the game, but also has the ice in his veins to throw a monster pump fake on the person charging towards him to block the shot. JV takes one dribble so he can side-step the player who was flying by, and poses with his hand raised, wrist bent, as he flicks the ball at the top of his release.

(Quick story break: Have you ever noticed during last second shots, before the actual shot itself, it is so noisy you can barely process you thoughts, but as soon as the person is in the motion of going up for their shot, the room falls deathly silent. Everybody takes one collective breath and it feels like the janitor flicked a switch to turn the building in to a pair of noise canceling headphones. It is one of the main addictive ingredients in the sports high. Back to the game.)

As you guessed, like something out of movie, the three-pointer doesn’t even touch the rim. Perfect swish. Everybody is hopping up and down like a 4-year old girl who just got a pink Barbie Hot Wheels for Christmas. We’re going to over time baby! But wait… there is still time on the clock. Oh no, everybody is out of their positions! Get back! Get back! The opposing team is in the process of in-bounding the ball to throw up there own prayer! This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening. Call timeout!

Too late.

Ball is in-bounded. We counted our eggs before they were in our basket. Everything becomes blurry. The kid receiving the pass is about to turn around chuck the ball the full length of the court for game changing three of his own—when—mother freakin’ Isaiah Thomas—who I had forgotten even existed!—steals in the inbound pass and kisses the ball off the glass and in to the basket for the game winning steal, and lay-up. My mind explodes.

Thomas went on to become the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year for Washington and was last year’s Pac-10 Tournament MVP, helping the Huskies reach the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. He is now in his junior season averaging 17 points, 6 assist, 4 rebounds and 1 steal a game for the 20th ranked purple and gold.

Story #2
I had never been to an NFL game before, so in 2004 when my beloved Dallas Cowboys came to Seattle for a Monday Night game I found myself scratching three things off of my sports bucket list: going to an NFL game, going to a Monday Night Football game, and seeing the Dallas Cowboys play. A trifecta.

By the end of the 3rd quarter, the Cowboys were leading the Seahawks 29-17 and I was feeling good about rockin’ my old school Deon Sanders jersey in a sea full of cranky Hawks fans. By the two-minute warning in the 4th quarter, I was whistling a different tune. Dallas was now down by 10. With 1:45 showing on the clock Keyshawn Johnson hauled in a 34-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde in the back of the end zone. Luckily for Jerry Jones and myself, the NFL was two years out from implementing coach’s challenges, because on the replay Keyshawn only had one foot in bounds and the 12th man let the officiating crew know about it. Didn’t matter because the touchdown was signaled good. Dallas now down 39-36.

I took the moment to shout, “We’re coming back!” before the eventual onside kick. Immediately after I piped up, your quintessential Seahawks-lifer behind me, with the Seahawks jacket, haircut, and prescription eyewear from 1986 screams, “SIT THE ---- DOWN!”

That is when I felt it. The moment was building. You start to look at things in a new perspective. It’s like the energy heightens all of your senses so you can appreciate the moment even more. When I looked down on to the field you could see the Cowboys’ onside unit with a confidence and swagger you did not find in the hands team of the Seahawks. Seeing the ball end up in the arms of Jason Witten after the onside attempt confirmed my awareness that the moment had definitely arrived. Three plays later Julius Jones bust one for 17-yards up the middle for the game-winning touchdown. Fourteen points, in under two minutes for an un-probable win during my first ever NFL/MNF/Cowboys game.

Both of those stories were sealed in to my mind and built upon a moment I did not expect to be part of. It is important to remember that every great sports moment, does not have to be a come-from-behind story—or even a win for that matter. When undefeated Wake Forrest came to Provo for basketball in 2008, ranked as the #6 team in the country, the Cougars were a one loss team (and that one loss was because of a bull excrement PAC-10 officiating call against #17 Arizona State where they waved off Charles Abouo’s game-winning tip and BYU lost 76-75… I’m totally over as you can tell). BYU had the current NCAA home winning streak of 53 games too. Greatest game I have ever been to. The entire game had that electric tangible feel. From tip off, to the buzzer sounding at the end of the 2nd half. Not any single moment, but the entire game. My favorite game. And it turned out to be a BYU loss.

When your team plays another team, and that team has three of their starting five—Al-Farouq Aminu, Jeff Teague, and James Johnson—eventually all going in the first round of the NBA draft (Aminu 8th overall in 2010, Johnson and Teague going 16th and 19th in 2009) it is really tough to win. BYU out rebounded, had more assist, and the same amount of turnovers, but it was not enough to push them over the top. At one point we were even up by 8. So what happened?

Jeff Teague happened, and Aminu and Johnson had some HUGE blocks (what are the odds of those three guys making plays during a big game…) but I think the biggest game changer for Wake Forrest was from someone who did not even play for them, but rather their opponent. BYU’s Jonathan Tavernari. Homeboy took thirteen three-point attempts and only made four. Just four! That means you miss three, to make one. One thing that always bugged me about JT was his need to draw attention to himself in really big games by shooting a bunch. Wake Forrest was a perfect example. More than fifty percent of the three point attempts he jacked up in the game were forced. But still, even with the loss, it was the best game ever and it was because of the energy. Like medically pure cocaine.

Anytime I hear somebody say that the Marriot Center’s seating capacity (23,700) is too big, all I have to do is think about the Wake Forrest game and say to myself ‘no it isn’t.” I saw what the Marriot Center was capable of, and if you were there and saw it too, then you’d never do anything to alter it. Except maybe paint the seats white. Just saying. There has never been anything like that game…

… until now.

This coming Wednesday, BYU will again host a 6th ranked, undefeated team in the San Diego State Aztecs at home in the Marriott Center. Although BYU my not be carrying a 53-game home winning streak this time around, they are however ranked 9th in the country and have the nation’s leading scorer, an All-American point guard and front-runner for Player of the Year in Jimmer Fredette. Throw in Jackson Emery and you have the best backcourt in the NCAA. Did I mention Jonathan Tavernari graduated?

When Wake Forrest came to town it was big because they were a ranked ACC team, we were not but wanted to prove we could play with the big boys and it would have thrust our team in to the Top 15 for sure. Plus we had our home win streak to protect. This time round, it is a big game because San Diego plays in the same conference as us and whoever wins this game probably wins the conference title. Even more important is if we beat them and win out—maybe even lose to them at their house—BYU could, with a little bit of luck, be looking at a possible one-seed come March or at least a solid two-seed. Two. Seed. Uncharted territory. There is so much to take in. Let’s do a quick breakdown.

PROS

- BYU’s loss to UCLA reeeeaaaaalllly helped them. It relaxed them. If BYU had won that game, there would be a stress or attitude of “We cannot lose a game. If we do then our whole season is ruined.” Being undefeated is almost like serum that gives you immense strength but will slowly poison you to death. BYU got their loss out of the way and bounced back; SDSU is on the serum.
- Jimmer Fredette plays for BYU and not SDSU.
- Jackson Emery is playing at a really high level, but Jimmer shadows it, but it plays in to Jackson’s silent ninja-assassin playing style. They allow one another to achieve greatness.
- We’re at home and our home court holds 23,700 vicious fans. I expect 25,000 on hand. You really think the Duke’s Cameron Crazies 1,000 seat student section is just holding 1,000 and that is it? More like 1,600. Our 8,000 strong student section can swallow you alive.
- My fanship confidence is at an all-time high

CONS

- San Diego is ranked #6 for a reason.
- Kawhi Leonard plays for SDSU and not BYU.
- As a team, they do not turn over the ball very much. Currently they are 13th in country for fewest per game.
- The have good road wins against Gonzaga and New Mexico.
- Last time a 6th ranked, undefeated opponent played us at home we lost.

Anything can happen. Every time I think something is going to turn out in a certain way, it turns out surprising me. I’m ready to feel it.


This weekend's NFL Playoff Picks:
HOME team in CAPS
Last week: 3-1

STEELERS over Jets
Packers over BEARS

Friday, January 14, 2011

What is a SuperDraft?

At HITS we try to keep you as current as possible in the world of sports, and from time to time we try and educate the masses on sports topics you may have heard, but not necessarily knew much about. Case in point: the MLS SuperDraft.

What is the SuperDraft?

Soccer is growing in the United States. Want to know how I know that? Because sports writers and sports talking heads have told me so. I don’t actually for sure know if it is growing, but I hope those claims are true. It is however, safe to say that it is becoming more and more trendy, and trends can turn in to followings—so I guess maybe it is getting bigger. Whatever, that’s not the point. The point is to keep you ahead of the curve and break stuff down, explaining things like the MLS SuperDraft in layman’s terms. This way if soccer does break into a NFL, NBA and MLB status some day, you can be the guy people turn to because you were there at the beginning. An insider. Status and saving face; isn’t that what life is about?

THE MLS SUPERDRAFT:

If you heard ‘MLS Draft’ you wouldn’t really think anything of it. You know what a draft is and the basics of them. But when you hear the word ‘SuperDraft’ the mind instantly assesses the addition of the word super injected into something which was once familiar, and then it becomes foreign. It is not as complex as you think it is. A decade ago, when the sport was still trying to decide how they wanted to do things, there were two drafts.

1) The MLS College Draft and;
2) The MLS Supplemental Draft

The College Draft—exactly how it reads—was a draft for players graduating from their respective universities. The Supplemental Draft was for players who were currently graduated and/or playing in the United Soccer Leagues. The United Soccer Leagues (USL) work just like Major League Baseball’s farm systems do, except the teams in the USL are not owned and operated by the big league club. Hence players can be drafted by any of the MLS teams.

In 2000 the league decided to merge the two drafts in to… wait for it… a SuperDraft. You say, “If there is only one draft, why not just call it the MLS Draft?” Well, ‘lil sports learners, the Supplemental Draft made a comeback in ’03 but then went away in ’04, only to comeback again in ’05 and stick around until ’08, when it was again disbanded. This is where it will start to get a bit fuzzy.

All of this had to do with creation and disassembly of MLS Reserve Division. The MLSRD was created for teams’ reserve squads to play a 12 game schedule against other reserve squads. The teams would technically play under the MLS team name too. It got quite confusing to keep track of all these different teams. For those of you who like to keep score at home, we have the United Soccer League breaking down in to three units consisting of the UPL First Division, UPL Second Division, and the Premiere Development League (PDL). Then there is the MLS Reserve Division and finally the actually MLS. Why so many teams? What’s happening?! Why are they doing this? “Is this real life?

They do this to make it as confusing as possible for anybody trying to introduce themselves to the sport, to the point they say, “To hell with this wishy-washy sport, I can’t keep up. This is why soccer will never catch on. I’m watching basketball.

OK, that’s not why they’ve organized the sport, but it is something to consider when analyzing the popularity and growth potential. Truth being told, they probably added all of these various divisions because a lot of people love to play soccer and why not make an outlet, ya know? Don’t worry too much about it because it can become overwhelming if you let it. Fortunately, the Reserve Division was put away in 2008, so all we have to keep track of at this point is the actual MLS and the USL’s three-part farm system…

…except they just brought the Reserve Division back again for 2011 sooo… yeeeaaaauuuhhh.

Moving on. Now that we know of the various levels one can play at within the realm of Major League Soccer, and the history of the draft, we can look at how the actual draft turned out this week. I had a few impressions.


Key Observations from Thursday’s 2011 SuperDraft:

Observation #1
Everybody selected in the MLS SuperDraft played at the University of Akron. No, not really, but almost. Five of the Top-8 picks did however.

Observation #2
The SuperDraft is a 3-Rounder. Nice and tidy, just like the NBA (two rounds). The NFL has seven rounds, but NFL teams are bigger and guys get injured all the time, so it is not as big as I think it seems. The MLB is flat out ridiculous—just another reason to switch to cricket—and can have up to 50 rounds. No thanks.

Observation #3
The Seattle Sounders FC did not have single first round pick, but somehow had four second round picks, and five overall (more than any other team except the New England Revolution). I’m still digesting the no-first-round-picks if this helps them or not. I’ll get back to you.

Observation #4
During a commercial before the draft, I saw Chris Hemsworth, the guy who played James T. Kirk’s dad at the beginning of Star Trek (2009). He is playing the lead role of Thor in the movie of the same name. Three words:

Dude.
Got.
Shwapped.

He didn’t just get swole, he got swoleder. Shwapped and swoleder = buff. Like Brad Pitt in Troy, Hugh Jackman in Wolverine, Christian Bale in Reign of Fire/Batman Begins/The Dark Knight, Ivan Drago Rocky IV. It got me thinking: How sweet would it be to get paid a couple hundred thousand to a couple million dollars, to get BIG?

30 second day dream:

Studio Executive #1: Mr. Fish, we’d love to offer you the role on the upcoming comic book blockbuster [making two brackets with thumbs and pointer-fingers, unfurling an un-seeable banner in the air, exclaiming]: Colossus.

Turning to my agent, and seeing him give me a confirming nod and multi-million dollar cha-ching fist pump: Absolutely studio-excutive-movie-making head. When do we start filming?

Studio Executive #2: In 10 months. We need you to start working out immediately. We’ve made all of the arrangements.

Standing up as the meeting concludes, shaking hands, perma-grin on my face: This is awesome, I won’t let you guys down. Nothing but chicken and water for me boys!

Superficial laughs exchanged, heading towards the office door, Executive #2 speaks: Haha, among other things.

Me: Haha.. huh?

#1: This is Hollywood. Not the Baseball Hall of Fame. Little boost aren’t going to get you kicked out of the box-office.

Wheels beginning to turn slowly… little boost ‘aye: You got it. I’ll be huge, just what you need.

Executives’ 1 and 2 glance and each other, #1 speaks: We need you Colossus.

Agent gives them the winking, click-click, double-guns you-got-it, while I take the envelope containing my 2 million dollar advancement check and head to the gym.

Observation #5
Alexi Lalas’ burns are pretty tame. Comparatively speaking. At the start of the World Cup last summer, they were a bit too unruly for TV, but he trimmed them down. Some people still don’t like them. The Boss had made several references to them, but I don’t think she remembers what Alexi used to look like on a daily basis in his heyday.

Observation #6
The Vancouver Whitecaps made out like bandits with forward Omar Salgado and mid-fielders Michael Nanchoff and Jeb Brovsky. Nanchoff especially; that guy can create.

Observation #7
Blake Griffin is a mad man. Nobody expected this type of game or season out of him. 22 PPG and 12.7 RPG. Everybody is loving it. On Twitter, LeBron James and Michael Vick have been tweeting back and forth about Vick coming down to Miami and playing point guard. It’s all been in good humor. I tweeted at both of them and suggested that LeBron come up to Philly and play wideout instead of Vick heading south. Big surprise, but I didn’t get a retweet if you can believe it. Anyhow it brings up an interesting thought. LeBron has the size and athleticism to make the jump to the NFL, more so than I see Vick with the finesse to run an NBA offense. BUT, could you imagine Blake Griffin as a defender in the MLS or English Premiere League? Clearly he’d have to get his conditioning up and he’d drop some of his size because of it, but my goodness, can you imagine. An enforcer out on the soccer pitch. I’d love to see an old McWorld commercial about it.

Observation #8
Back to the Thor movie. Natalie Portman plays the leading lady in the film. On my count, that now puts her in 4 movies slated to release in a 10-month span. Girl is putting in work. I’ve also noticed the same explosion with Oliva Wilde and Elizabeth Banks. Black Swan, Thor, Your Highness, No Strings Attached, Tron, Cowboys & Aliens, The Next Three Days (x2), and The Change-Up. It seems like these chicks are in every movie being released. They’re everywhere. Do they ever rest or have time for themselves. It reminds me Dion Sanders.

Dion Sanders played BOTH sides of the ball in the NFL. Danny Woodhead of the New England Patriots technically did it this year, but nobody has done it like Dion did. Dion was an impact player on offense AND defense. Will that ever happen again? Plus you have to factor in the Dion also played professional baseball—at the same time he played football—too! And he was good at both! Is anybody even athletic enough to do it? Is the Vick to Miami Heat or Blake Griffin to the Seattle Sounders FC not so much of pipedream?

There is almost too much to take in. I’m blame the SuperDraft for data overload.


This weekend’s NFL Playoff Picks:
HOME team in CAPS

STEELERS over the Ravens.
FALCONS over the Packers.
Jets in an upset of the PATRIOTS.
BEARS over the Seahawks, unless Marshawn Lynch causes another earthquake. At which point a possible rematch of Seahawks vs. Steelers will definitely create some momentum.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cricket, anyone?

Last Tuesday I said on my Facebook that if Edgar Martinez did not get elected in to the Baseball Hall of Fame, then I would in turn, boycott Major League Baseball for an entire season.

…… (crickets chirping in the background. Hey wait a minute! Crickets….)


“Cricket!” (Please tell me I am not the only one to catch the movie reference here, even though it is one word.)

If you got the movie reference then you and I can have potential to become great friends. But yes, you read that right, I will be following cricket this spring instead of baseball. No more 3-4 hour Yankee-Red Sox’s games for me. Oh no. You can credit the HOF voters to my baseball absence. There are other factors too. Why watch the American game for such a piddled amount of time? Not a lot of people know this, but cricket is where it is at. Only the purest coinsures of the bat and ball game, relish in the delight that is cricket. Furthermore, I will not be watching just any type of cricket, but rather the most elite form of cricket: Test Cricket.

With Test Cricket—widely regarded as the ultimate test of playing ability and endurance—matches can last up to maximum of five days. Instead of five minute TV breaks between innings for baseball, I’m switching to the more gentlemanly sport with three 2-hour “sessions” accompanied by 40-minute lunch break immediately followed by a 20-minute break for tea. How you like them apples? We’re elevating our game this New Year at the hangintheresports website (which will henceforth be referenced as HITS) and we suggest you do the same.

Gone are the evenings of settling down in the couch, with my crazy delicious combo of Red Vines and Mr. Pibb, watching Roy Halladay masterpieces or Josh Hamilton long bombs. No more nights of staying up to watch Baseball Tonight and the day’s web-gems, or screaming at the tube while John Lackey pitches his way to a 14-11 season. Instead there will be literal days of slothfulness from watch just “ah” match, as I waste away in front of the television—my wife occasionally spraying Frebreze on me to fight off the stench. With matches lasting so long I will have plenty of time to silently curse the Baseball Hall of Fame voters. You see, upgrading to cricket from baseball will allow me to trade terms like “nasty cutter” for “wicked googly”. The times when I’d slam a batter for striking out with “what a bum” I now can barrage the player as a “golden duck”. I am pretty excited. It should make for interesting summer columns here at HITS.

But I did not write this column to gush over my soon-to-be new favorite past time. Edgar Martinez—the should be first-ballot hall of famer—is the real topic. That’s the issue. To start, let’s just get it out of the way by stating the obvious reason why “Eeeeeedddddgggaarrrrrrr, Eeeeeddddddggggaaaaarrrr” was shunned from the honor he so very much deserved. He was a designated hitter.

The DH. Not just any DH, but the greatest DH to ever play the game. I remember Edgar’s last game and the late (and certainly great) Seattle Mariner’s play-by-play guy, Dave Neihaus, even talking then about #11 having difficulty getting in to The Hall because of the position he played. I have never been able to comprehend it. The numbers are there. “My, oh my” are they there. Take a gander:

CAREER STATS

BA: .312
HR: 309
RBIs: 1,261
Hits: 2,247

Five seasons with an OPS 1.000 or higher, seven-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger recipient, and the 2004 Roberto Clemente Award winner.

You mean to tell me because the guy didn’t earn a gold glove, his numbers and accomplishments mean less? So, if I make some diving plays on defense, then the next time I hit a homerun it is worth more? I don’t get it. And I do not like the double standard.

American League pitchers don’t bat; does this mean their pitching numbers ought to be diluted? No, it doesn’t. Your job is JUST to pitch and that is it. You’re not going to be evaluated—or should I say DE-evaluted—based on what you do when you bat. It should go vice-versa if you play the designated hitter position. I would even go on to argue that had Edgar Martinez played third base—as he did from time to time—throughout his career, and had he played the position really crappy but still put the same numbers up on the offense… Edgar Martinez is a first ballot HOFer. Easy. It drives me mad. Edgar Martinez was a fantastic ball player and everybody knows it.

To take his case even further, you need to put what he accomplished side by side, against what he over came. Edgar Martinez was diagnosed with Strabismus. For those who do not know what that is, Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes are not aligned properly. It causes a lack of coordination between the muscles that control your eyes. It messes with your depth perception. Kind of a big deal if your job is to hit baseballs thrown from different angles and speeds—night in and night out—at the Major League level. Next time you go to the batting cages, try taking a few swings with one eye closed and you’ll get the idea.

That is one of the reasons why Edgar Martinez was one of my favorite baseball players; not to mention the player responsible for what is known to Pacific Northwesterners as The Double.

There are two very distinct sports moment that are burned in to my mind. I can recall them with vivid clarity. Coming in a close second is Michael Jordan’s crossover jumper against Bryon Russell in the final seconds of the 1998 NBA Finals (Michael Jordan’s last professional basketball game as far as I am concerned). Coming in at number one is The Double.

In 1995 I was eleven years old. I was in the incarnating years of cementing my sports loyalties. With baseball, it was an especially important year for me. It was the year I took my first taste of New York Yankee hatred. The season also marks my introduction to the rivalry between the Yanks and Soxs; introduced to me by my father. That hatred would become further cemented a few years later when New York dismissed Seattle from the AL Championship Series in consecutive seasons, but this isn’t about that.

This is about ‘Alive in ‘95’ baby!! I still have the VHS commemorating the entire season. I’d easily fork over $70 for the Blu-Ray edition if one existed.

For those needing a refresher course, late in the ’95 season the Seattle Mariners were 13 games back in their division and improbably came back to win the franchises first-ever American League West Division title against the Angels. The title was decided by a one game playoff. Their opponents in the divisional series, as mentioned previously, were the New York Yankees. In the five game series, Seattle fell behind 0-2. Mariners’ fans were crestfallen, certainly after a 15-inning Game Two heartbreaker. Miraculously, Seattle clawed back to force a series deciding game five that would go in to extra innings.

There are so many signature moments in Game Five, I have goosebumps by just stirring the memories.

Breakdown of The Double:

- Lou Pinella HAD to start Randy Johnson against the Angels just for the Mariners to even make the playoffs;
- and because so, Randy couldn’t pitch until Game Three against New York.
- In Game Five, with the game tied 4-4, at the top of the 10th inning, Lou Pinella went to bullpen and called out The Big Unit on 1-days rest.
- Queue goosebumps.

Mariners fans looooooosssst it. Randy Johnson executed the most gangster strut in sports history. Think Wild Thing from the movie Major League and times it by real life. In 1995 Randy Johnson straight up owned baseball. An 18–2 record, 2.48 ERA and 294 strikeouts. AL Cy Young Winner. Booyah.

Watching The Big Unit walk from the bullpen—something NOBODY had ever seen because Randy always started games—still to this day is most intimidating sports moment I have ever witnessed. 6 feet and 10 inches. Mullet billowing from his cap. He walked the entire way to the mound. No jogging. Just a walk. A warrior, like a Gladiator entering the Colosium (in this case the Kingdome). I don’t remember who batted, but they never stood a chance. It could have been Lou Gerhig, Albert Puljos and Jimmie Foxx waiting in the wings to take an at bat; it didn’t matter. The moment was that powerful.

- Johnson strikes out the side
- At the top of the 11th the Yankees get a run; three outs from clinching
- In the bottom of the 11th Joey Cora lays down the bunt for a single. When Dave Roberts stole second in the ’04 Sox/Yankees series it had the same feel.
- Next up is The Kid. Ken Griffey Jr. KG already homered in the game to keep it close and at this at bat he came through with a clutch single.
- Runners at first and third.
- Edgar Martinez steps to the plate. Takes a called strike one.

The mood was electric. The energy was palpable. The concept of time took on entirely unknown meaning. Try as one may, my words could never describe the moment or do it justice, so I’ll let you take a moment and watch it with ole’ Dave giving you the play-by-play.

Magic. Go ahead and watch it again before you continue reading on.

That feeling; the feeling that can only be felt within your body during an incredible sports moment, hit the highest peak it could, and rung with such fervor that it has yet to be duplicated.

As soon as that ball landed in left, there was nothing that could have stopped The Kid. He was headed home on winged shoes. Every person in that stadium or watching on television knew that Junior was getting waved around third. The relay from left could have been fired from a cannons and it still would not have made the plate in time. For that moment I remember I felt omnipotent. I could accomplish the impossible. Those are the feelings which make sports so resonating. Jordan’s jumper, Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria last summer, and The Double.

Edgar Martinez immortalized himself. A lot of people do not remember, but the Seattle Mariners were on the precipice of extinction. On the cusp of going bye-bye a la Seattle Supersonics. The magic of what happened that season, spurred to people to vote for the building of what became Safeco Field. If Edgar, Strabismus and all, does not get that hit then perhaps today there would not even be a Mariners’ to write columns about. It is an interesting thing to contemplate.

All the people who I’ve talked to understand that he’ll get in (and he will) but Edgar Martinez was a first ballot guy and the voters took that from him. He’ll never get that back. Shame on you voters. You make watching cricket this year all the more digestible.