Sunday, February 26, 2006

The "Anything But Francis" Thread

Everything that can be said about the Steve Francis trade has been said. But seriously, what the hell is Isiah Thomas thinking? Okay, sorry, gotta let it go.

But wait, is he actually TRYING to screw the Knicks over? Ah, crap, my bad. I promised to leave it alone.

As you probably know, the Francis trade signaled rock bottom for the embattled NY GM, and it has become one of the easiest punching bags in the history of sportwriting. I don't think there is one sane person on the planet who honestly thought that trade was a good idea. But just in case there was, back-to-back blowout losses to the Nets and Wizards took care of that particular movement.

Consider this the place to come chat about the (boring) trade deadline, the lack of a functioning brain inside Isiah Thomas' skull, or anything else. In fact, we prefer "Anything But Francis."

(Don't have any other ideas? Here are some primers: The fact the 76ers are considerably better whenever Webber is not on the court, the fact that the Celtics are 5-2 since they started playing second-round steal Ryan Gomes for 42 minutes a game (and making Draft Guru Dritz and I geniuses in the process), the mystery that is "T-Macs personal problem," the distinct possibility that Eric Snow is the very worst player in the NBA, and even an investigation into the fact that seemingly 60 NBA players are claiming to be on the next Olympic team. Have at it.)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Slam Dunk Scandal!

The Dunk Contest ended moments ago and while it was generally pretty exciting and managed to bring some of the flair of the event back, the whole thing wound up being a joke. Andre Igoudala, who had perhaps the most inventive and impossible dunk in contest history (jumping under the backboard), and who consistently rammed home spectacular dunks with very few misses mixed in, somehow ended up on the short end of the stick (no pun intended). That's because the 5'9" (more like 5'7") Nate Robinson took home the crowd despite missing over 20 dunks in a mere two rounds. He missed eight times in a row while trying to go through the legs, and it got so painful at one point that I had to pause it on TiVo, wait five minutes, and then fast-forward until he finally made a dunk. Just excruciating. Somehow he still managed a 44, so when The Other AI threw up a 50, it was still a ballgame. Sure enough, Nate pulled off the Spud Webb Dunk, scored a 50 and tied it up when Igoudala had his worst dunk of the night (and most misses) in response. This took us to the finals, where Igoudala went through his legs along the baseline and rammed it home on the second try, but was screwed with a 46. Robinson, on the other hand, took an unfathomable 14 attempts at a gimmicky throw-off-the-glass attempt. He finally had to adapt it, and when he finally made it, he somehow got a 47. Just lame. You know there is a problem when the "fan favorite" is met with silence and a smattering of boos because the superior performer got ripped off. Kobe looked ready to slay somebody, Iverson could be seen screaming "we were robbed!," and the whole arena felt dreadfully uncomfortable.

The bottom line is that while I like the fact that missed dunks no longer count as "zero," there needs to be some kind of balance. Perhaps after 3 misses, you can't get a 10 from any voter. Then after six misses, no 9's. And so on. That way, there is some sort of penalty for taking 10 minutes to put the ball in the basket. My only hope is that they take advantage of this new momentum, fix the rules, and that Igoudala comes out next year like Creasy in Man on Fire.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Who Will Have the Edge?

There has been a lot of talk about Shaun Alexander in the aftermath of the Super Bowl, but the more intriguing running back that might be on the open market is Edgerrin James. He will come at a slightly lower price, but is just as good as Alexander and is one of only a handful of backs in the NFL that can run, catch, and block with equal skill. Plus, James is durable, can run in short-yardage situations, and doesn't get tired very often. What all that means is that you don't need a bunch of specialists when he's your tailback. Give him the ball 400 times and expect 1,750 yards and 15 touchdowns. It doesn't look like the Colts appreciate these qualities, which means the Edge is going to be on the open market? Where will he go? Obviously, as a top-five back, Edge is an upgrade for most teams. However, some squads already have a quality RB, some have younger runners that may be better options in 3-4 years. My guess is that there are probably three or four teams that would be the best fits for the Edge. Let's try to figure out who they are.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Finding the Surprise Contender

Every year an NBA team emerges in the second half of the season, rattling off winning streaks and striking fear in the hearts of would-be opponents. Last year it was the Nuggets. Who will it be this season? It's an interesting question, because every NBA expert has seemingly narrow the field of "contenders" to seven (Detroit, San Antonio, Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland, and the Clippers). Obviously, the Pistons loom largest, followed by the Mavs and Spurs. The other four teams are more "conference finals" type of contenders. But seriously, there isn't anyone else? How can that be? I decided to select one "outsider" franchise to tab as my sleeper pick for the 2006 Playoffs. I flirted with the Nets, but ultimately, I can't embrace any team with a Collins Brother starting at power forward. Indiana is a team that always seems to bounce back. Memphis plays good defense. And the Sixers have some talent and Mo Cheeks teams always seem to do better in the second half of the season. However, my choice is the Sacramento Kings. They haven't had their entire team on the floor for a game since the Artest trade and I think when they do, they are going to look pretty good. Artest and Bonzi Wells are tough (and crazy) players that can provide post scoring while Brad Miller and Abdur-Rahim work in the high post. Bibby is as clutch as they come. Peja's mopey attitude is gone. Kevin Martin is emerging as a Peja-like deep threat. Francisco Garcia can't shoot, but plays defense like Andrei Kirilenko. Kenny Thomas cleans the glass. I'm telling you, this team is going to round into shape.

The best part for the Kings is that not only are they a mere three games out of the playoff picture in the West, but they are only four and a half games out of the all-important sixth seed. The team that snags the #6 seed will avoid both Dallas and San Antonio until a potential Conference Finals matchup. Remember where you heard it first.

Playing to Win the All-Star Game

All anybody talks about when it comes to the All-Star game is who gets snubbed. Rarely is there ever any discussion of the actual game. What if coaches really tried to win? What if they didn't care about getting everyone playing time and instead treated it like the playoffs. They would figure out their crunch time five, feature and 8 or 9 man rotation, and screw the other three guys. Speculation regarding who Flip Saunders will pick to replace Jermaine in the starting lineup (most likely Sheed or Bosh) got me wondering ... what if we looked at the All-Star teams and really tried to find the best squad for a serious competition? Could be kind of fun. So that's what this thread is for. I'll start us off ... feel free to jump in with thoughts and opinions.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Worst Officiated Super Bowl Ever?

I can't say for sure, but this might have been the worst officiating in any Super Bowl. Seattle was constantly undermined by the officials and never given a chance to win. Here are just a few of the many horrible calls that come to mind:

- The offensive interference called on Darrell Jackson in the first half. Not only does Hines Ward push off on virtually every route, this wasn't even a push off. Jackson put his arm out for balance and to get himself untangled with the defensive back. Unbelievable that they called something that had previously gone unflagged probably a hundred times in 39 previous Super Bowls.

- The bizarre "undercut" call on Hasselbeck. I still have no idea what they were thinking. How does a guy make a tackle and get called for a blocking penalty? Not only that, but Roethlisberger actually did go low and undercut a guy on that Randel-El pass play moments later.

- The no-call when Alexander was drug down by Porter. This is the infamous "Horse Collar" play that was made famous in the offseason when the rule was changed (spawned by Roy Williams busting TO's leg last year). For such a recent and notorious rule, the refs sure didn't know about it. And here's the thing: Alexander had the corner and Porter's only hope was the old horse collar. You HAVE to call that.

- The phantom holding call on Locklear that negated a pass play to Stevens. Seattle would have had the ball at the one for a sure 17-14 lead. Instead ... well, you know how it went.

These are just the plays that come to mind. I didn't even count the disputed TD from the first half. What an embarrassing effort to cap off an embarrassing playoffs for NFL officials.