Friday, April 29, 2005

Thursday Night Review

A few comments on last night's games:

Reggie Miller must've read Bill Simmons' "Reggie was never a superstar" column on espn.com. I didn't get to see the game (how is it that the NBA can spread out the first round for over two weeks, and still not get all the games on national TV?), but he's playing as well as he ever has. He may never have been on the level of Jordan or Isiah, but he's proving that, at 39, he's still got something in the tank. If he had played as well throughout the entire season as he did after the All-Star break, he would've been an MVP candidate.

The Nets gave the Heat a great run last night, but ran out of gas. They looked tired in the overtime period, with Vince Carter and Jason Kidd settling for too many contested jumpers. They lacked energy and were outhustled in the overtime periods, highlighted by Alonzo Mourning winning a key offensive rebound off a missed free throw and Udonis Haslem going to the floor on the other end. Those of us Bulls fans who hoped the Nets might upset the Heat or at least tire them out a bit before the next round are disappointed to see Miami on the verge of a sweep and some rest for the banged-up Shaq. By the way, Vince's ridiculous shot to send the game to overtime notwithstanding, he forced a lot of shots down the stretch and just took too many shots, period. Reminded me a bit of Antoine Walker circa 2002.

Houston really went through the motions last night. So close to taking a surprising 3-0 series lead, they relaxed and let Dallas go on an 18-0 run. The Mavs are too talented a team to let your guard down against, as they proved last night. T-Mac, who's looked like he's finally taking it to the next level recently, settled a bit and faded back to his old, lazier self for a few minutes. My question is, why didn't Jeff Van Gundy make any moves during that run, aside from wear a very annoyed look on his face? When players seem to be phoning it in, he should stick some new guys in there for energy, but instead he just let it play out. The Rockets finally woke up, but it was too late. Hopefully, they'll be able to recover Saturday and keep control of the series.

I've been thinking this for a while now. Mark Cuban looks ridiculous out there. He's like a little kid, sitting on the bench with the team, jumping up and down, rocking Mavs warmups or Dirk football jerseys. He might be the coolest owner, but he's definitely also the goofiest. He also might be too close to his players, making it tough to make sound business decisions (though he did let Steve Nash go last year). It's his team, so I suppose he can do what he wants with it. Nonetheless, the Maloof brothers are active owners, yet maintain a necessary separation and dignity. Then there's Cuban, high-fiving the players, arguing with the refs, getting fined by the league. Take it down a notch, bro, you look silly.

Comments and responses welcome.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Must See TV


Hard to believe Chad Johnson
could be more entertaining
OFF the field
After a riveting Monday night of playoff basketball, things have taken a turn for the worst. The Suns and Grizzlies played some entertaining ball last night, but the game ended at like 3 a.m. The Bulls victory was compelling, but was only shown locally (lucky me!). The other four games - featuring wins by Detroit, Miami, Seattle, and San Antonio - were all horrific blowouts that would put even a diehard fan to sleep.

So what to do when a five hour block of anticipated entertainment goes awry? Easy; tune in to ESPN for their bizarre new show, "Battle of the Gridiron Stars." It's like the Real World/Road Rules "Inferno" without the debauchery, featuring a terrific brand of "we're pretending to take this very seriously" commentary, with a steady dose of trash talk thrown in. It's like the Iron Chef merging with an MTV Rock and Jock softball game.

*To read the rest of this entry, please click on the "Must See TV" link on the right side of the screen, or click on "comment" below.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Ron Mexico Central


The one and only ... Ron Mexico
Keep it right here for all the latest on our boy Michael Vick and his infamous alter-ego Ron Mexico.

For an overview of the situation, check out this gem from Gabe Higa:

"My nomination for news story of the year so far is Michael Vick aka Ron Mexico getting sued by some groupie for giving her genital herpes. I missed this story when it first broke because I didn't have thesmokinggun.com as my home page. That was my mistake. Go there and check it out. Here's the skinny:

1) Mike Vick has herpes.
2) We know how Mike likes to 'get down.'
3) Mike is using the alias Ron Mexico to get treated for his STD.
4) The underground movement for Ron Mexico apparel is so strong that the NFL had to issue a statement announcing a ban on the sale of any gear bearing the name 'Ron Mexico' on it.

Hopefully, this story will blow up into a freedom of speech issue and get seen in front of the Supreme Court. You can help by going to ronmexico.com and purchasing a t-shirt, and I'm sure EBay has Ron Mexico stuff up for auction as we speak."

Great stuff, although I will point out that it seems ronmexico.com has already been squashed, so you'll have to go to http://www.cafepress.com/ronmexico.

Playoff Chatter


Nuggets big and small
gave the Spurs trouble
Use this thread to post comments on the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Just click on the "comment" button below to break down all the upsets, bricks, horrible officiating, and Ben Gordon 30-point performances.

To get things started, here are some thoughts on each of the eight first round matchups:

Phoenix-Memphis. The Suns rolled in game one despite a lackluster game from Amare. That's a good sign. The one thing I took away from this game is that Joe Johnson should be a rich man this summer. A restricted free agent, he could be the perfect running mate for LeBron in Cleveland or a nice building block in a place like Charlotte or Atlanta. Even Denver has some cash to throw around a glaring need for an elite two guard. He's the one guy on the Suns that can create his own shot from anywhere on the floor and he's their best defender. Watch his stock go through the roof over the next few months.

Denver and San Antonio. I'm not a believer in the Spurs this year, but I certainly wasn't a believer in the Nuggets either. One of those stances has changed. In my Playoff preview column I stated that Andre Miller could be the X-Factor if he took Parker into the lane, and he did that to the tune of 24 first-half points. Parker may be improved and lightening quick but let's not forget that he's still French. Bully him and he's sure to surrender. I think the battle-tested Spurs can and will still win this series (if for no other reason than the fact that Duncan will get every call from here on out), but it's going to be a tough task with the likes of Camby, Nene, and K-Mart challenging every shot. When you consider that San Antonio got a shocking 15 points, 15 board, and 4 block performance from Nazr Mohammed and STILL lost ... well, that's not a great sign.

Seattle and Sacramento. What a horrible game to watch. The Sonics got four million offensive rebounds, a career night from Jerome James, and watched Mike Bibby launch one airball after another on his way to a 1-for-16 shooting night. Hard to imagine that happening every night in this series. I still think the Kings will get their act together and beat Seattle.

Rockets and Mavs. No LeBron, no KG, and no Kobe in the playoffs this year. No worries, we've got T-Mac, who is out to stake a renewed claim as one of the league's dominant players. The most impressive thing about this game was the way McGrady shut down Dirk on about 10 different occasions. Tracy playing defense? Yup.

Miami and New Jersey. Yawn. Bring something, Nets. The best thing about this game was the Damon Jones Show in the postgame press conference. Hilarious.

Detroit and Philadelphia. For about 16 minutes, it looked like the Sixers really did have the Pistons' numbers, but then Rasheed remembered that he's sweet and it was all over. If Wallace plays like that for the next two months, Detroit will repeat. Never saw that coming.

Boston and Indiana. The Pacers were the biggest disappointment over the first weekend. What an awful performance. Look for Jermaine and Reggie to play much better and for Raef to shoot a little less than 100% from three-point land in Game Two. I'm not giving up on the Pacers either.

Chicago and Washington. The most entertaining game so far. Ben Gordon continues to amaze, Kirk Hinrich made huge plays, and Tyson Chandler completely changed the game when he was able to stay on the floor for the fourth quarter. When you consider that Larry Hughes played flawlessly for most of the game and the Bulls got some of the worst officiating this side of North Carolina-Villanova, things look good for Scott Skiles and company. Then again, Gilbert Arenas isn't going to shoot 3-for-19 every night and Nocioni is not going to morph into KG every night (25 and 18) either. This is a series to watch.

(Other highlights coming out of that Bulls victory: listening to Nocioni talk in the locker room, Eddie Jordan saying that Nocioni was "more hungrier" on the glass, and Charles Barkley saying that the Chicago win was even more impressive because "Dong" wasn't available.

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts as the playoffs roll on.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Early Season Trades

We have all heard the saying “Buy Low and Sell High”, but when it comes to Fantasy Baseball, these are not always the best words to live by. Before agreeing to a trade or offering up a trade, every owner should spend 15 minutes and perform their due diligence on all parties involved in the trade. For example, there are certain players (i.e. Thome and Beltran) who are notorious for their slow starts. An inexperienced owner might have grown frustrated with these players after the first few weeks and be willing to part with them at a price that is a bit below their draft position. If you can find one of these owners out there, it is your duty as a good fantasy owner to swoop in and snatch these players off of their roster.

On the flip side of this scenario, is an owner who is trying to unload players that are playing well above their draft position. Two perfect examples of this are Torri Hunter and the next AL Triple Crown award winner in Brian Roberts. In most 10 team mixed leagues, you could have snagged either of these guys between rounds 13-17 and that would have seemed like a decent pick at the time. Through the first 3 weeks, these players have played better than almost anyone else at their respective positions. The common thought amongst most owners is to trade them away while you can because their value will never be any higher. I can totally understand that viewpoint because more times than not, these players production will taper off over the next month and they will fall back to the mediocre players that they were when you drafted them. If someone is willing to give you B. Sheets or K-Rod for B. Roberts, you should not think twice about pulling the trigger. However, when it comes to Mr. Hunter, I tend to disagree. The reason being that his power numbers are not the reason his value is so high, it is his SB numbers (9 SB’s thru 4/21/05) that are separating him from the competition. Barring an injury or a change in team strategy, I see no reason that he can’t steal 35 bases this year. He is obviously running more frequently and his success rate is perfect thus far. If he can steal 35 bases and then have a slight increase in his other statistics, here is what his year end stats could look like…. 98 Runs, .284 Avg., 32 HR’s, 101 RBI and 35 SB’s. Call me crazy, but that line looks eerily familiar to the numbers that C. Beltran will put up this season. Am I saying that you should trade Beltran or a player of similar draft position for Hunter? No, but if you can find someone who is willing to unload Hunter for someone like Aubrey Huff, you should take that deal and run!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Changing My Vote


MVP! MVP! MVP!
Recently I wrote a column about the NBA's MVP award (can be found using the WIS Insider link to the right) and gave the award to Shaq. Well, I'm changing my vote. Allen Iverson was already a candidate, but what he did down the stretch convinced me that he's at another level. 10 games ago, you couldn't find an expert that had Philly making the playoffs. They supposedly couldn't beat Miami or Indiana or anyone else on their schedule. Well, somehow they found a way.

Wait, not somehow. Allen Iverson is how they found a way. AI become the first player in NBA HISTORY to finish in the top five in scoring (first), assists (fifth), and steals (second). He won his fourth scoring title at 30.7 per game and trails only Jordan and Wilt for the most titles all time. He joined Jordan as the only players to average 30 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals a game for an entire season. He lead the league in minutes once again (tied with LeBron at 42.4). He averaged 32.3 points and 8.6 assists per game after winning the All-Star Game MVP. As Jason Kidd said recently in a hilarious quote while hyping AI for the MVP award: "He's always been a threat; now he's a superthreat."

Not enough? The Sixers went 8-2 over their final 10 games. Not counting the final game against the Hawks in which he played only the first quarter, AI's numbers in the other seven wins were phenomenal. He averaged 37.5 points, 13.8 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 3.9 steals per game, while shooting 53.1% from the floor and 91% from the line. I'm telling you, this will go down as one of the best stretches of the decade. His whole season will go down as one of the best. It's incredible how overlooked this whole thing has been.

Oh yeah, and he did all that with a broken thumb. But it was okay, because the other one was only badly sprained.

When you think of AI from this 2004-2005 season, remember one game. April 14 at Miami. Shaq returns to the lineup, nobody gives Philly a chance after being upended by Boston at home. A loss probably sends them spiraling out of the playoffs. All AI did was play the game of his life. He was on the floor for all 53 minutes and committed no fouls and only two turnovers. He hit all 13 of this free throws, including two that he willed in to send the game to OT. He grabbed three steals and six boards. And he threw up 38 points and a career high 16 assists, something that had yet to be done in this millennium (I was unable find the necessary game logs further back than 1999, so who knows how long it has been since someone went for at least 38 and 16 in a game). It was arguably his greatest game ever and possibly the most memorable performance of this NBA season. Pure brilliance.

So there you have it. I don't care about "first place teams" or "offseason acquisitions." I don't care about what I wrote last week or what anybody says in regard to the MVP award. Iverson's my guy.

AI for MVP! Spread the word.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bearing Down for Draft Day


The best player in the 2005 Draft
I've never been a huge NFL Draft guy. The combines, rumors, mock drafts, Mel Kiper's toupee ... it just didn't do it to me. Even last year when I was in New York during the draft, I was far more interested in following the NBA playoffs and charting my fantasy baseball team. And world events, of course.

For some reason though, I've become intrigued with this draft. It has something to do with two stud running backs coming out of Auburn and even more to do with two unbelievable wide receivers. But mainly, living here in Chicago, I'm curious to see what the Bears will do. Most of the speculation has them going for a big running back, likely Cedric Benson. I believe this is a big mistake. If Ronnie Brown slips to #4, fine, take him. If he's not there though, you have to go with Mike Williams. The former USC star is only going to be the best player out of this draft, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to nab him. Especially when you consider that if they don't get him, division rival Minnesota will.

Since I'm always interested in helping out the good people of Chicago, here are the guys that the Bears should take this weekend:

First Round - Mike Williams. A no-brainer. Ronnie Brown and Braylon Edwards are the only other guys in this draft that can be as good as Williams, but they will probably be gone by #4. Even if they were around, Williams is the guy. Ever since he made that transcendent catch during his sophomore year (the one handed palm-job in the back of the end zone - a catch that was the football equivalent of Tiger Woods' amazing chip on the 16th at Augusta), I've just known that this guy was going to destroy the NFL. Why pass on a sure thing?

Second Round - Eric Shelton. Here is where you take your big, bruising back. Shelton is wildly underrated coming out of Louisville and a perfect compliment to Thomas Jones.

Third Round - No Pick. They should try to trade for a pick and take Bryant McFadden, an exciting defensive back out of Florida State. He might be gone by the third round, but there's a chance he could slip.

Fourth Round - Marion Barber. There are some terrific running backs in this draft, so I say take another one. Barber is another strong runner that reminds me a bit of Rudi Johnson.

Fifth Round - Adrian McPherson. When Chad Hutchinson is your backup QB, it can't hurt to take a signal caller. McPherson is a gamble because of his checkered past, but he'll probably be the most talented player taken on the second day.

Sixth Round - Jared Newberry. I've heard good things about the outside linebacker from Stanford. Chicago is pretty loaded on defense, but it doesn't hurt to grab a young guy that plays hard.

Seventh Round - Brandon Jones. Back to offense! This Oklahoma receiver is wildly underrated and I think he'd be a real nice addition to a group that will be headlined by Muhammad and Williams.