Sunday, March 30, 2008

AL West Preview


(Editor's Note: it should be obvious by the linguistic style, but I'll say it anyway. This was written by the fabulous Lizzy from the venerable and all-too-powerful Babes Love Baseball blog. She's grand for doing this on such short notice.)

Yeah, it's time again. The Baseball season is ALREADY FUCKING HERE, so we're previewing the whole shebangs the only way we know how: by making shit up. Today is the AL West, aka, the division with only four teams, proving I am probably the laziest sack of shit blogger on the planet. Yeah, fuck off. Although a friend of mine had a fantastic reaction when I told him I was writing this.
"The American League has a west division?"
And this year, for the first time ever, the American League West is going to rule the roost of the American League. Eric Bedard, Ichiro Suzuki, Felix Hernandez, Vladimir Guerrero and Felix Hernandez have formed a coalition during the offseason to annex the bloody fuck out of the American League East.
The plan is simple. Lure the east superstars out of their homes and into a shed, where they will be forced to play Joel Zumaya in Guitar Hero until they have carpel tunnel. Carpel tunnel of incredibly painful proportions; like after a 13-year-old boy discovers xtube.com. (Editor's note: I prefer redtube, myself) This shed will be located in an AL West city, aka the most depressing city in the entire United States, Seattle.

First on the list is none other than the American League's biggest star, Alex Rodriguez. Now, since Barry Zito owes Oakland/all of humanity at least 76 favors (see brilliant post below by Phony Gwynn) after he signed that asinine contract with San Fransisco, Barry will have the privilege of donning a blonde wig and a Gucci minidress and hanging around outside the Yankee locker room after the third home game of the season. Mesmerized by Zito's curvaceous, soft and hairy calves and firm, round posterior A-RAH will then taken from the rear by Mike Piazza (tee hee), have a chloroform covered banana shoved down his throat, and thrown on a plane to Chateau Zumaya.

Derek Jeter would naturally follow, as upon seeing his butt-buddy in peril, and since he's too dumb to know any better he'd just faint at the sight of A-RAH with another 'woman' and have his body thrown on the same plane.

Who's next? Manny 'being Manny' Ramirez. How is that going to be done? Shiny spinning rims. A couple of cherry flavored blow pops, three serious bong rips, 12 White Castle sliders and the promise of a trip to Lego Land. Very simple.

Vlad plans to take down David Ortiz in the battle of "really dude, I'm the best fuckin Dominican DH in baseball." Luring Ortiz into a room filled with mango salsa and blonde women with huge tits, Vlad the Impaler will then take down Big Papi with an ether soaked rag up the nostrils. Off to casa de Zumaya, bitch!

King Felix will bust out a Nancy Kerrigan knee whack on Josh Beckett. And guess what? I did mention Eric Bedard would be part of this, but he's just going to stand around and watch, because HE'S A TOTAL PUSSIFIED ASSHOLE.

Suck it, American League East! Where would you be without your bong-hitting homerun hitters, your loud-mouthed owners and pitchers, and your tranny-chasing 3rd basemen. The WEST COAST PLAYAS ARE TAKING OVER! PUFF DADDY IS TAP DANCING, PENIS SMOKING FRIEND OF DOROTHY.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the Pacific Ocean of the United States of America will win this division. And it won't even be close. Sorry, Seattle.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Watching the MVP (no stats included)


Chris Paul gets my theoretical vote for MVP. I know Kobe hasn't won it before and deserves it. I know KG made the Celtics more than relevant-- he changed the way men played basketball with his presence. I know LeBron James is LeBron James. I know it. Paul, however, changed the way I looked at basketball once, and lead a insurgence in New Orleans that cannot be denied as the single best collection of people playing to their talent level in one season that weren't "superstars" at the start of the season. Honestly, if you knew David West would not only reach, but surpass his peak level, Tyson Chandler would become one of the best all-around young forwards in the league AND the bench (including the unpolished-but-fun in Jannero Pargo) would blossom simultaneously, raise your hand.

*Raises hand.

Like many others, I knew about Chris Paul. When I watched him at the end of last season, I knew the leap was inevitable, but more so, I knew his game was already exploding. This comes from knowing exactly how to watch him.

I had a head start, by accident, with Paul. I lived 30 minutes from Wake Forest and never saw him play a minute. I went to several North Carolina State games and none of them was against Wake. I had my chances and never took them. Then, in a wonderful and heaven-sent gesture, my friend Matt produced tickets to see a pair of first-round NCAA Tournament games, the latter of which was Wake Forest vs. Manhattan. Funnily, I had seen Manhattan once that year against NC State and knew how sneaky and quick they were.

But I had never witnessed a live Chris Paul. I said "holy shit" more times in one game than I did in my first week of college coming out of an all-male military high school. He was astounding, and what's more, he was so good he turned the crowd away from cheering for an underdog. If you've never been to a first-round game, the reason you're there is to see "the game" where the little guy wins. Not here. Paul was a one-man show without a supporting cast. Erik Williams was a big, slow, fouling oaf, and Justin Gray was a hot-headed, fairly lazy 2. There was Vytas Danielus, but there also wasn't, in a way.

Paul ran the break so quickly, he had to take skitter steps to let his team catch up to their lanes. He made that team so much better, that Erik Williams was discussed as a viable pro prospect. In a close game, I saw Chris Paul decide he was going to take the game over with no help whatsoever-- something the NCAA doesn't see often (see the fixation on Stephen Curry). This is why I've never had much interest in Ty Lawson, Jarrett Jack, Javaris Crittenden or Raymond Felton as a pro prospects coming out of the ACC-- they were ruined when I saw Paul.

Unfortunately, most people watch Paul the exact way they watched the last episode of the Sopranos or The Wire-- awaiting the crazy ending they sat through five years to see. They expect the plays to be flash and glitter; alley-oops, fade-away threes and no-look skip passes. While those plays happen, they happen with less effect than the tiniest plays before them. He does two things before a play develops that floor me every time I see them, and they lead to my adulation and MVP rating.

Paul may have the most purposeful first-step I have seen. Unlike fellow MVP candidates Kobe or Lebron, Paul's first step is rarely toward the basket. His is more like Iverson, but the likelihood of finding open lanes instead of open space. He puts himself in perfect position to have three options other than the shot. The first step is a preternatural beast and it should improve vision, create separation and not waste the movements of the other players. Paul is so efficient that passes are already delivered before cuts are made. His first step not only sets up the play, it defines the movement of the rest of the shot clock. Against Detroit, he had an ankle injury and still dropped 6 assists in the first few minutes. That was all first-step, and when Rip and Chauncey closed in on him, it rendered him ineffective for the most part. New Orleans lost badly.

Last night, he got into rare foul trouble. Still, in a play highlighted by NBA.com (surprisingly good wrap-ups and highlights longer than just 25 seconds of dunks and dazzle have made them my go-to in lieu of ESPN), Paul drove toward the lane but not into it despite having an inside path on Rajon Rondo. Why? Because the help defense would be coming from the weak-side due to his ability to alley-oop with Chandler and West. So he drove two steps to the weak-side to pick up a second defender, went up and hit the open (weak-side, of course) shooter for a midrange jumper. Paul drives to pick up defenders instead of look for contact or kick-outs. You can't call the play a kick-out. He never touched the lane. It was like a back-pass near the mid-line in football (soccer, sure). It set up everything by not being greedy. The open-lane penetration was a perfectly sensible idea, though the most likely to end up with a contested shot. He chose the way to points rather than the way to the ideal close-range leaner. (NOTE: watch the game-winner against Cleveland posted above. His purposeful side-step in the lane draws LeBron off of West-- an All-Star leaving another All-Star alone in the closing seconds. Classic.)

Paul's ability to make his teammates better depends less on his teammates than it does for any other MVP candidate. It's that simple. He's that good. Kobe had to get a team to firm his handle as the best in the game. LeBron can't be argued against numbers-wise, but his team tried to bulk up as well. He's also dealing with the Eastern Conference. I don't like how maligned they are, per se, but in the MVP debate, Paul plays a more solid set of contenders every single night, and puts up insane numbers in the process. KG has two other bona fide superstars next to him. Paul has what he has-- a good team that has no business leading the West with less than 15 games to go.

I wonder if most people really know why. You can listen to the critics and list the numbers, but there is something about seeing it in the middle of a quarter-- a sidled step to find a better lane with 17 still on the shot clock, a drive to the wing to free up the post, or, yes, a high screen-and-roll with an alley-oop result-- that tells you that this team would be scores of unrealized potential without the most valuable player taking that first step.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

NL West Preview

Yeah, it's time again. The Baseball season is ALREADY FUCKING HERE, so we're previewing the whole shebangs the only way we know how: by making shit up. Today is the NL West, God's division of choice. Don't believe that? Then go ahead and explain the last month of the 2007 season. Go ahead. I'm waiting, taintmoth.

San Diego Padres-- Ok, so, three division previews, three blatant acts of homerism. Do I care that I can say I could hit seventh for this team, and almost totally mean it? No. Do I really believe the Friars will finish ahead of the D(ouche)Backs? No. But I'm typing this thing, and this is what it says. But it will happen. Jake Peavy will use his three-year, $52 million extension as ammunition. Literally. The southern boy will bring an old-style musket to games and shoot down opponents with wads of $5 bills. Mark Prior will make about 10 or 15 starts, and, surprisingly, his arm will not turn into Bisquick. When Khalil Greene starts to bleed after taking a spike to the shin in August, everyone will realize that he's not a robot, and this knowledge will bolster the team and shoot them to the top (a .254 team average and league-low home run totals notwithstanding). Record: 93-69, NLCS losers.

Arizona Diamondbacks-- Randy Johnson has clearly sold his soul to the devil. It's the only possible explanation. The man is 44 and has reportedly been throwing smoke in camp. He also listens to heavy metal and plays the drums. Heretic! Late in the season, to get a boost, Johnson will feast on the flesh of some of the D-Backs' younger players. First he'll entice Stephen Drew into an empty trainers' room with a Maxim and a Ribwich. There he'll sever his carotid artery with a boxcutter and slurp the blood like a Chianti. Then, when Chris Young enters to investigate, Johnson will club him over the head with a bat and eagerly lap up the goo inside. Then he'll go out and no-hit the Giants. Record: 91-71, NLDS losers.

Los Angeles Dodgers-- Joe Torre. What more can you say for the guy? Other than the fact that he's got a 894-1003 record (.471 winning percentage) when he pilots non-Yankees teams that don't hemorrhage money out their ass? Umm ... not much, I guess. He manages people well, right? Well, isn't that the name OF THE FUCKING JOB? We'll see how stoic ol' Joe looks when Andruw Jones waddles up to yet another ducksnort bloop hit in shallow center, then follows it up at bat with a lazy fly ball to left. I don't even have anything bad to say about Nomar. I hope he can hit at least one more home run, so he can feel his cleat hit that thick rubber at home, then give hi-fives to his teammates before spontaneously combusting. God I hate this team. I will personally give $20 and a few month-old Playboys to the first earthquake to swallow these blue-clad fucknuts up. Record: 86-76, no playoffs.

Colorado Rockies-- Ahh, the feel-good hit of the summer. Or, one that involves baseball and not a badass bass-driven song about copious amounts of awesome drugs. Too bad that shit ain't happening twice. When Jeff Francis falls back to Earth at the tune of about 13-11 with a 5.13 ERA and a WHIP of who-knows-what, the Rockies will decide divine intervention is needed - again - ... and sign Pope Benedict XVI to a two-year, $12 million deal. Aside from a mid-90s heater and a nasty slider, PB-16 features a surprisingly lively stick, becoming a poor man's Micah Owings. It's not enough, though, as Matt Holliday succumbs to a late-season bout of mono after hanging out with LaDainian Tomlinson and Hope Solo while making another pretentious, snarky, "We can be funny, too, if you disregard our terrible past of making women and children work for next to nothing in sweatshops overseas! No, seriously, French Toast! That's so random it's hilarious!" Nike commercials. Troy Tulowitzki continues to be the best and most-clutch athlete in American pro sports with a last name that ends in "owitzki," however. Record: 85-77, no playoffs.

San Francisco Giants-- Realizing he's made a mockery of, in order: 1) working-class America 2) the institution of baseball 3) every other pitcher in the big leagues 4) the hitters he pitches against 5) every pitcher who had ever pitched in the big leagues, the minor leagues, college, and high school 6) capitalism 7) the Giants' front office and, finally, 8) the Giants' fans, Barry Zito formally apologizes for signing the most absurd deal in history, grabs his acoustic guitar and a surfboard, and hitchhikes down to Malibu. Feeling unburdened, the Giants then give Barry Bonds a prorated contract for the rest of 2008 worth roughly $19 million. His back zits proceed to drive in more runs than the entire lineup. Record: 158-4 ... wait, this isn't the AARP league? It's the National League? Of MLB? Oh, then ... 69-93. Bingo!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NL East Preview

Yeah, it's time again. The Baseball season is ALREADY FUCKING HERE, so we're previewing the whole shebangs the only way we know how: by making shit up. Today is the NL East, brought to you by Will aka billyfabs, writer of the Mets-centric Smear The Queer, a Kristeva-influenced moniker befitting rabid sports homerism and athlete-desiring homoism. (Ed. note, billyfabs is the reason to wake up in the morning... seriously.)

New York Mets-- Yeah, like I was really going to predict anything less than this. So they ended last season by choking harder than Pierce Brosnan in Mrs. Doubtfire, so what?! (Didn't that shrimp still look delicious? I love shrimp.) They went and got Johan Santana, who will win 20 games and hit seven home runs and cure cancer and buy you a dog (or parakeet, if you're allergic and/or totally lame). Pedro Martinez will ask to borrow your parakeet for, uhhhmm, no reason. John Maine will continue to be the only white boy in the rotation, as well as the most under-appreciated (ban affirmative action! No, not really. I'm brown). Sometime in May, El Duque will have finally found enough caulk and spirit gum and rubber bands to put together a body currently ailing of bunions, cavities, migraines, dead arm, hangnails, menopause, gout, and scurvy to emerge as the Mets' most effective starter until he goes down in August due to a bee sting. He bequeathes his rubber bands, et al to Moises Alou. Finally, David Wright will cause another seven thousand men to question their sexuality. Record: 97-65, World Series.

Philadelphia Phillies-- Pedro Feliz is one happy peter to not be playing for the Giants anymore. Lamentably, Philadelphians will not shower his performances with anything approaching brotherly love. Jimmy Rollins will field more grounders with his big mouth than his glove, while newly-minted starter Brett Myers will hit more Mets in the head than he does his wife [/obligatory]. Seriously these guys began spring training talking about starting a brawl with the Mets. Just because Rocky's from your town doesn't mean Carl Weathers still won't own your ass, guys (and yes, I am aware that I am comparing the Mets to Carl Weathers. Baby, they got a stew goin'). You stay classy, Philly! Totally not reinforcing those negative stereotypes at all! Meanwhile, Kyle Kendrick will be traded to Paris Hilton for one of her chihuahuas. Record: 85-77, no playoffs

Atlanta Braves-- His reconnaissance mission over, Tom Glavine returns to Atlanta with scouting reports of every Mets hitter, neglecting to realize that I shit faster on mornings after a full night of burritos and whiskey (read: Tuesdays, approximately 10:24 AM) than he can throw, thus negating his espionage. Jeff Francouer adds a banana-eating shitpuff grin to go along with his curious at-bat facial arsenal of smirk/grimace. Having harumphed through: a) a fight with John Smoltz, b) losing the Gold Glove to David Wright, and c) the Braves being left out of the Mets-Phils "We're the team to beat!/"No we are!" pas de deux, Chipper Jones's career ends after he contracts a severe case of vaginitis. Meanwhile, Bobby Cox don't give a fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. 12 ejections. Record: 81-81, third straight season without a postseason appearance. Again: Bobby Cox don't give a fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Washington Nationals-- So the Mets got rid of Paul Lo Duca and Lastings Milledge, their two enfants terribles in exchange for two nondescript whiteboys who SURELY won't give Omar Minaya any headaches (anti-Semitic remarks notwithstanding). Not to mention Elijah Dukes, who will enjoy many a club-hopping with Lo Duca. Oh, and Dmitri Young is still on this team, right? Delicious. Who can pay attention to the presidential race when the real DC drama will take place in brand new Nationals Park? I'll kinda miss the shitbox that was RFK. Record: 76-86, playoff chances looking about as good as John Edwards' campaign did

Florida Marlins-- This team still exists? Huh. Record: 62-100, no playoffs but will probably win World Series in 2011

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

AL East Preview

Yeah, it's time again. The Baseball season is ALREADY FUCKING HERE, so we're previewing the whole shebangs the only way we know how: by making shit up. Today is the AL East, currently led by the Boston Red Sox by .5 yen, er, games.

Boston Red Sox-- Yeah, I know, I picked 'em last year to win it all merely by bias. But I was still right. In any event, things will be cruising along early-- a halfway decent 15-7 record-- when Manny Ramirez decides he's going to war. Citing his "hatred of the terrorists", he will report to Theo Epstein his desire to serve his country. Theo, shrewd man that he is, will still trade his rights for two players to be named later and the working arm of Nomar Garciaparra from the Dodgers (AKA Red Sox West). With these parts, and the hair the Marines shave off of Manny, Theo will create a hybrid player named Hydroponic Jones. He will hit for the cycle in twenty straight games before violating drug policy, leaving the Sox with a platoon of Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss. Record: 95-67, World Series.

New York Yankees-- The team will respond well to Joe Girardi's principled, military-style discipline until they lose a key game to the Angels in midseason. Joe Girardi will describe A-Rod as a prima donna in a media leak. Misunderstading his new manager, A-Rod will think he said Pre-Madonna. A pouty, unhappy A-Rod will fire back and say that he is the "Queen of Baseball. Madonna isn't fit to soil my cleats." He will slump after hearing snickers from his teammates every time he settles in for the next pitch, causing the Yanks to falter in the second half. The laughter will stop, however, when Jason Giambi's old tumor problem comes back in the form of a second head that takes over his body and destroys itself. Charged by the loss of a teammate, and by Hank Steinbrenner's annexation of Tampa Bay, they will make the playoffs, only to lose in the first round again. 93-69, ALDS losers.

Tampa Bay Satan Fish, er, Rays-- I have no idea what is going to happen to this team, but I got a hunch they're due to launch from the depths to the semi-depths. I do think, however, that Joe Madden will opt to have Rocco Baldelli repaired bionic man style from spare parts of his first car ever-- a Yugo. Also, Scott Kazmir will evolve into the ace that noone cares about on a team few think exist. He'll be like a violet in a field of dead bulls. GO RAYS GO. 80-82, no playoffs.

Toronto Blue Jays-- A mediocre start will prompt A.J. Burnett to try to throw nothing but fastballs in one game. As a result, shards of his shoulder and back will coat the front row of fans. A class-action lawsuit will take up most of the team's attention and Troy Glaus will testify that Burnett "always wanted it this way" in a tearful moment. Meanwhile, the team will suffer the indignity of a 14-game losing streak while Vernon Wells goes on strike for more pitches to hit. Oh, and they lose the lawsuit on grounds of, um, disgusting. Yeah, that'll do. 75-87. Playoffs? Not a chance.

Baltimore Orioles-- The entire city of Baltimore will rise up like flames and overthrow Peter Angelos. A radical sect of this movement will advance on Washington DC and burn down RFK Stadium, forcing the Nationals to play in Richmond at the R-Braves AAA stadium. They will advance, an angry horde thirsty for the blood of baseball's elite. Yankee stadium will fall, Fenway next, David Ortiz's body covered in the blood of Bartolo Colon, Detroit razed like London in 1666 and then, in the grandest design of all, Bud Selig will be removed in the bloodiest coup in MLB history. Meanwhile, the team blows and they didn't really want this anyway. 50-112. Playoffs? Good Morbid God THERE'S SO MUCH BLOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDDDD.

Monday, March 24, 2008

On Seeing a Really, Really Good Team in Person, and Being Completely Bummed Out By It

On Friday night, May the 21st of 2008, I took a bus trip to the Meadowlands and, in particular, an ugly, boxy whore of a stadium, emblazoned on its broad shoulders with orange hexagons and off-white columns and clearly marked by the large, unfurled pictures of hardball heroes of the present as a basketball arena but branded "IZOD CENTER" in strange, WASP-y golfing letters right there on the side, for all the people betting at the greyhound track or swooshing down the artificial ski slopes to see.

I, myself, was even wearing an Izod shirt, to which I say: fuck myself. Shame on myself, you yuppie, stiff-souled buffoon. You should have come prepared.

It may have been the woman proclaiming her undying and everlasting love for Allen Iverson over and over, screaming frailties and cloudy-sweet nothings into the ears of everyone but her intended target from way up in the nosebleed section, miles and miles and miles from the on-court action. Or it may have been the man himself, only two days removed from an extremely emotional and heartfelt return to his beginnings, his woven-haired womb, where he had the chance for the fairytale ending with a three at the buzzer to win it, but the clock struck the northern number, the ball struck the rim, and all was gone. But he is here tonight, and seeing him in person - hitting leaners and fadeaways and short-range jumpers and driving and slicing and knifing and cutting - is like drinking St. Ides from the Holy Grail.

It may have been the countless alley-oops to Kenyon Martin, the much-maligned one soaring effortlessly through the air and throwing down dunk after dunk after dunk after dunk after dunk after dunk, the microfracture surgery finally becoming itself in reverse: fracturing, shrinking, forgetting.

It may have been the unheralded bench players like Eduardo Najera, rattling bones and throwing elbows for the one thing he must have above all else: the ball. Or Linas Kleiza sprinting to the wing and splashing down threes here and threes there, all these threes everywhere, the son of artists painting with a palette made of all the colors of the rainbow.

But, unfortunately, it also may have been the rage welled up inside me when, after getting the Nets in the penalty, the petulant Nuggets would swing the ball around the perimeter only to have long-limbed Marcus Camby fire up a 20-foot jumper, which was all the more absurd considering Carmelo Anthony, unguardable by most all standards, looked at Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter in the eyes and deemed them unworthy to try to stop his tenacious forays to the hoop.

Or it may have been the countless times the Nuggets, clearly possessing more talent, would race out to a double-digit lead, then play pathetic and porous defense - flat-out failing to frolic on the help side - and let their adversaries back into the game, giving them life. Giving them hope.

I don't have any hope. The Nuggets are fun to watch, for sure. And on this night they delivered a 125-114 victory. Entertaining, yes. Exciting? Of course. Effective? They scored more than their opponents, did they not?

This team, however, is a very, very, very good basketball team that will, when the playoffs start, be throwing their locker-room belongings into duffel bags, exchanging off-season plans for vacations and whatnot, wishing each other good luck on whatever minor surgeries or procedures their gifted bodies require, giving each other the handshake-hug-backtap - that heterosexual male staple of hellos and goodbyes - and, generally, telling each other "We'll get 'em next year."

You can chalk it up to injuries. You can explain it away as the single greatest year in any one conference in the history of major team sports, and the Nuggets, a team named for a precious metal buried deep within the ore of the highest mountains, being a lonely heap of scrap metal filled with some brass here and some silver there, but with no feet or rope or claws to help them climb to the peak. You can do all that. But the truth is, for one night like so many, I saw the flashes, the inklings, the possibilities of greatness. Traits which will slither and die by the wayside, buried under the headstone "Denver Nuggets 2007-2008 Succumbed to injuries, a historically superior Western Conference, and the inability to play any semblance of team defense for an entire 48-minute stretch."

Such a shame, these things. Such a pity.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Defending Roy Hibbert


No offense to my castlemate here at the Pretzel-life, but calling Roy Hibbert slow and soft is not the most intelligent argument against Georgetown's NCAA chances. This isn't just Phony, everyone seems to think Hibbert is defective. They seem to miss the excellent passing from the high post, the help defense, and the weak-side shot blocking that keeps the ball in play for the fast break. They miss the soft touch, the high-banks and the ability to screen the key. They miss the subtlety of John Thompson's system and how invaluable Hibbert is within it.

Furthermore, I got Georgetown winning it all because they form an offense/defensive scheme around strengths rather than to cover up weaknesses. Sure, Hibbert isn't the standard variety big man, but doesn't that bode well for him? If I am forming a team with their system, who do I want? Hansbrough? Hibbert? Beasley? Sure, Ty's the ultimate competitor and Beasley's upside is through the roof, but they wouldn't play in the kind of structured offense that Georgetown does. UNC runs and Kansas State bangs and penetrates. Georgetown, in a motion offense, needs a Hibbert more than they need a classic big man.

In thinking about Roy Hibbert, I consider him a power forward in the same vein I consider Tim Duncan a power-forward. No, I'm not comparing their skill level, but I am comparing their game. Timmy doesn't bang and buck nearly as much as a Shaq or any other "big-men", but he provides all the little things that makes the team a championship contender perennially. As does Hibbert. Georgetown has a threat to post up smaller forwards, turn and face larger guys and make them follow him out to his range (12-15) giving their guards a chance to get to the lane. Maybe he's not going to take that many midrange jumpers, but he sets picks all over the floor and forces the defense to extend and guard out of position. Beasley doesn't do that (not a knock-- he doesn't have to). Hansbrough does this occasionally, but Lawson doesn't really need picks. Aside from the game-winner over Virginia Tech, Hansbrough maybe took four jumpers in the entire NCAA Tournament. Good thing, too.

Defensively, he has some work to do, but who doesn't? He is not a monster shot-blocker or a complete rebounder, but he uses his size to make penetration harder and cuts off the baseline nicely. The knock on most big men is their lack of mobility from being pinned down the entire game. Using the two examples from before, Hansbrough typically does nothing to help his guards of forwards if they get beat. He's a great rebounder, though, and that makes up for it. Same with Beasley. Hibbert does everything fairly well rather than one or two things expertly. In last year's win over UNC in the Tourney, he hit a pair of bank shots, got a couple of rebounds and scared the shit out of Brandan Wright to the point that Wright stopped five feet short of a sure dunk to try and finger roll a ball on the break. ON THE BREAK. Brendan Wright 's arms can reach a rim from where I am sitting on 23rd Street and he tried, more than once, to finger roll from a few feet away.

While he may be softer than most, and maybe a step behind in running the floor or grabbing a rebound, Georgetown is just fine being within striking distance in every game they play. Since he's been there, they've been fantastic-- Final Four last year, top-two seeding, Big East champs (regular season) and a championship threat.

I seriously doubt anyone defending him or trying to shoot over him is worried about how soft or slow he is. If they are, it's more than likely an afterthought while Georgetown motors along toward another fantastic season.

Having said this, of course, I can guarantee they will lose to Baltimore County Community College Correctional Facility or whoever they play tomorrow. Of course.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Predilictions... nah, just predictions.


East:
UNC
Indiana
Notre Dame
Washington State
St. Joe's
Louisville
Butler
Tennessee

MIDWEST:
Kansas
Kent State
Clemson
Vandy
USC
Wisconsin
Davidson
Georgetown

SOUTH:
Memphis
Oregon
Michigan State
Pitt
Marquette
Stanford
Miami
Texas

WEST:
UCLA
Texas A&M
Western Kentucky
SanDiego
Purdue
Xavier
West Virginia
Duke

Final Four: UNC, Georgetown, Texas, UCLA
Wins it all: Georgetown

YOU HEARD ME. My upsets are minimal this year, but there's some good ones.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Forever Blowing (and Stroking and Kneading and Rubbing) Bubbles

Mount St. Mary's did us all a favor last night, beating Coppin State 69-60 in the NCAA Tournament play-in game and sparing us, for at least one whole day, of the MSM going all "Coppin State is the worst team to ever get into the field of 64" and whatnot.

The thing is, they should be in.

This argument has probably been made elsewhere, but why aren't the final two at-large teams selected forced to "play" their way into the tournament? Here's some reasons why they should.

1. We all know that a #16 has never beaten a #1, and probably never will. Sure. Got it. But if you take the last two at-large teams and have the winner play the supposed "weakest" #1, well, now you've got some spice. And don't sell me that "you should be rewarded for being a #1 seed" shit. If you're a true national title contender, you should also be able to beat the sixth-best team in the ACC, eat their lunch, and make-out with their hot sister.

2. Why have the rule that conference tourney winners get an "automatic" bid if it's really not "automatic"? I used to have an "automatic" can opener that required you to put the can in at just the right angle, and then you had to press down on the top the entire time it opened the can. Guess what? I threw that "automatic" can opener out because it was a piece of fucking shit, then bought a "hand-held" one that works just as well and doesn't challenge my limited spatial skills.

3. Some people seem to think that the play-in game gives the "little guys" some national exposure. Let me squelch that one for you: NOBODY WATCHES THIS GAME. We all just wait for the highlights after the game or the next day and say shit like "Oh, looks like Lower Peninsula School for the NorthwestSoutheast IUPUI-OU812 St. won and is gonna get their fucking asses handed to them by [insert large school with astronomical athletic budget here]. Cool." But if you've got Arizona State playing Virginia Tech? People tune in.

4. I don't care how bad your team was during the year, if you muster up the balls to win three or four pressure-packed games in a row, you deserve to see your team's name - no matter how long or obscure or initial-ridden - on the bracket. None of this "Play-in game winner" shit.

5. Along the same lines, those first two days are magical. Who cares if you're relegated to the 10:50 a.m. tip-off on Thursday, and you're going to get crushed like white ass at an NBA party? Just being a part of that, and getting a few extra days off of classes, is key.

6. The play-in game participants played their conference tournament final in a gym that seats 8,000 and was 85% full. The game was broadcast on a regional network, whose satellite truck had fishing gear in the back of it. The graphics looked like something NBC shit out in the 70s. Villanova, however, played their conference first-round game at Madison Square Garden and had it broadcast on ESPN - sponsored by Aeropostale! Do you know who sponsored the SWAC tournament? Winston Pfeffer of Tupelo, Mississippi. Twenty bucks.

7. Instead of getting screwed over, some lucky mid-major (Butler, anyone?) may actually get the seed they deserve.

8. Aside from a few exceptions (Villanova as an 8 in '85, Kansas as a 6 in '88), bubble teams don't win shit. Sorry, Arizona. Good luck with that pissy weather and all those ugly bitches.

9. Even if it's just a clip of your center getting posterized, every conference champ should be a part of "One Shining Moment." Or have a game called by Gus Johnson. They're almost equal.

10. "But they seed them according to who's the best team, and a middling team from a major conference is better and has better talent than the best team from a small conference." Fuck you. And fuck you, too, NCAA. Really, that's the best one.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Way It Is.





Being forced to watch Sportscenter when you don't want to should be a crime. I can catch up with all the scores and highlights without being subjected to the not-so-subtle name drops and product placements. In fact, as of late, I've taken to the soothing sounds of NBA.com for all my needs. Having watched tonight, though, I stumbled upon the fantastic revelation that ESPN's mind-control cannot subvert the regionalism of sports.




Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.




I was raised on the beauty of College Basketball, and converted to loving the NBA. Whither goest Tobacco Road's underdog darlings (the often forlorn and forgotten North Carolina State), goest my family. I often, while not really paying attention, get text messages or calls in disappointment without knowing a score or being worried about the "big game."




In fact, most of my friends pledge allegiance to the UNC or Duke flags. Of the three people I know that actually attended the college, precisely none of them knows dick about basketball. Only one of them feigns caring about the team, but not all that often. Her husband and share the allegiance of Wolpackery.




So, then, why are colleges than none of attended so important? It's a confluence of ideas: regionalism playing a huge part-- the Panthers and Hurricanes are the only real alternatives, and even then they have no natural rivals. Though, I've recently become unenraptured (not a word, I know) by the sport of children, though I still watch when possible and lament the failures of young athletes with my father and sister when necessary. I can still tell you why N.C. State is not a good team despite even more distance (mental and physical) than ever before as an NYC resident.




It's a part of the North Carolina tradition. Bitching about sports is universal, and this predates the enfranchisment of our Stanley Cup and one lost Super Bowl chance. To hammer the point home even more, you'll see more San Diego Chargers jerseys in Raleigh, North CArolina than you might see Panthers jerseys on certain Satuurday afternoons. I'll give you three guesses why.




It was not so odd then, that despite heavy hinting, an entire highlight reel and the audacity of the co-anchors revelling in the glory that is the Big East that the ACC Tournament topped their poll of "Which major conference tournament are you most looking forward to?" No matter how exciting the Big East is-- their cavalcade of teams, ESPN backing and massive advantage as far as talent goes this year amongst the ranks, the ACC will beat them in ratings and hold the intrigue of a region.




I'd go so far as to say the Yankees spring wins and Josh Beckett's strained back muscle might hold more weight right nw than the fate of the 'Cuse. The imaginations of the Mets fans and the fresh indignance on the faces of Yankee lovers are more prevalent than the Georgetown bashers or Providence haters. Several hours south, however, country-club members and dishwashers alike are still fuming over the Carolina-Duke game from days ago. People still lament the addition of Miami and Boston College-- even Florida State (the assholes that started the defections)-- for muddling what was a great tournment.




Nice try, ESPN. You got a ways to go before the Big East's relevance surpasses the rallying cry of the South's most prominent sports strongholds.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

BoL Went to See RZA, and All You Get Is a Lousy Blog Post about Chicago



I saw RZA the other night and I gotta tell you, I don't remember much. Three or four white-boy indie bands into the show, I was full of so much booze, weed and cocaine I could have written a Robin Williams routine. What I do remember, I remember well. He shouted out the Gravediggers and did one of his guest spots off one of their seminal albums. He, of course, poured out some of his red wine-- that's right he was swigging a bottle of wine on stage-- for ODB. He called out wack hip-hop and called for us to uplift the best that underground music had to offer (fat chance, dude). Then, after about 30-40 minutes, he walked off stage and let his crew freestyle for a long time. I have no idea which Sunz of Man were on stage, I was urinating against a wall at the time.

I likened it, the next day, to watching your favorite team in the dregs of a lost season. RZA has no reason to do this anymore, he is just performing for the thrills of the crowd, albeit smaller and smaller as Wu-Tang becomes less and less viable. Little did I know that the Bulls and Celtics would remind me of this scenario not two weeks later.

I'm in the middle of a great period for my sports teams. I take it as seriously as I should. I won't bullshit here-- I have two middling jobs with no shot at advancement, I'm alone, I'm in the middle of a long-term writer's block and I am in personal crisis regarding my place in life's veritable food chain. The fact that the Celtics, Red Sox and Redskins all are playoff to championship caliber teams gives me stasis, in a non-life improving sense. I admit it.

Having said this, times are tough in Chicago. Rex Grossman turned into Rex Grossman, and the Bulls conglomeration of talent, well, lots its zeal after failed deals involving Luol Deng. Some blame the failure to spin championships on ownership tightness, or failure to pull the trigger on "the big deal," but I see Chicago as a Wu-Tang scenario. Right now, the glory days are still within reach. In fact, the shadow of a team considered one of the best in football history ('85), one of the greatest dynasties in history (6 titles? Damn.) and the highest pinnacle of athletic talent realized in universal thought (Wennington, obviously) (no wait, it's Jordan). I know time has elapsed, but mindsets are still affected. The Rex Grossman/Luol Deng (the latter of which I will focus on) conundrums prove this.

First of all, in case you don't know, The Bears resigned Rex Grossman for another year. Also, the Lakers benefited infinitely, very recently, from comments involving Deng's untouchable nature. Grossman's incompetence is overshadowed by his arm and Deng's inability to handle the ball or score with consistency against bigger players (see the Celtics game tonight for proof). In a city where potential has actually blossomed, where championships were won on the shoulders of giants, it's hard to lose potential; harder still to leave behind the idea of a homemade perfection.

This is not to say that Jordan still looms on the fans' mind. More than once this evening, a Bulls-fan friend of mine was lamenting the idea of untouchable. "Why is this guy untouchable? He can't handle the ball, even." Somewhere inside him, however, there was the hope that he was just in a sophomore slump and that he could develop his ceiling, etc. Somewhere, the man looked for the hope that the team could evolve around the kids-- the drafted products would peak together and become a force. He found no hope.

It comes hard, the realization that the Al Jeffersons and Ryan Gomes's of the world are cultivated and hyped and then sold for the mercenaries. Sometimes you get the wounded warriors-- Iversons or Garnetts-- and everything is fine. Other times, you get the greats on their way out-- the Waltons or Chamberlains (Shaqs). In any of the cases, the dream of a homemade product is rarely a viable option. For every superstar drafted, there are three poking around in bad systems or held in check by megalomaniac front offices/coaching staffs. For every Jordan falling in love with Chicago or Bird being the heart of Boston, there's an Allen Iverson tired of losing or a Garnett ready to win. A young team must capitalize and move on.

Standing and watching RZA go through the motions of his Bobby Digital regime was fun in it's way. The hope of a young team finding its step is fun too. Having seen the past RZA and Wu's heyday as a young man made me want to believe that RZA had it still-- that he was still as viable as his outdated lyrics and outmoded beats from the mid-90s. Having seen the glory days of the product growing up, or being a part of it makes it impossible not to see the perfection in the youth movement or the foundations of a championship. Perfection is rare. Jordan and Welcome to the 36 Chambers are rare versions of perfectly realized potential and the quicker one lets go of those, the quicker the team or the performance becomes what it is: another in the decay of perfection.

(Note, look closely at the picture, and my roommate is being crucified under a banner with my nickname on it. Thanks to Paul for making that. Seriously, he's the funniest motherfucker on the planet.)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

George Karl's Lawyer Is A Functional Illiterate, Possibly A 13-year-old Girl

As many of you have probably heard, a cartoonist by the name of Andrew Feinstein recently started up a little blog called FireGeorgeKarl.com. And oh, what a sensation it's become.

George Karl's lawyer, Bret Adams, got into the act by infamously e-mailing Feinstein. Hilarity ensued.

Before the Nuggets took down a tired Suns team 126-113 in Denver, I decided to get in on the fun, too. I wrote Adams an e-mail and tagged it "A heads-up."

I have been saying numerous bad things about your client lately, especially last week when they struggled to put away a poor Clippers team that was missing two of its top three players.

Maybe you should sue me into bankruptcy.

Signed,

A Nuggets Fan Living In New York Who Thanks The Heavens For FireGeorgeKarl.com and is contemplating starting HireLarryBrown.com.


The response was quick, and cobra-like.

Sorry you have so little going on in your life.

Sent from my iPhone

Ouch.

How did he know that all I do is work, fornicate, play Wii and drink?

After I responded that I was "[s]orry I don't have the entire internet laughing at me," Adams retorted with this gem:

Actually only people like u without a life, can deal with that

Sent from my iPhone

Adams then decided to take time out of his Wednesday to:

  • swing by Forever 21 to check out the collection of spring skirts
  • Google Image some shots of Chad Michael Murray from "One Tree Hill"
  • flirt with the new counter guy at Jamba Juice
  • play three games of Solitaire and two games of Free Cell
  • ask Brittany about that knockoff Coach bag she bought in Chinatown
  • download the new Vanessa Hudgens song on iTunes
After some head-scratching regarding his previous statement I unleashed the fury on Adams, mocking his sentence structure, age, intelligence, and ability to speak in his native tongue.

Thankfully, he didn't write back.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Strange, Focused Curse of Ritchie McKay

If you peruse the current men's college basketball standings, you'll find that there's only three teams - three out of well more than 300 - that are completely winless in their conference.

They are: Rice, in Conference USA; Oregon State, in the Pac 10; and Colorado State, in the Mountain West.

One baseball school in Texas. One former powerhouse in the Northwest. And one non-anything school on the front range of the Rocky Mountains. On the surface they don't have much in common, but if you delve deeper you find out that two of them - Oregon State and Colorado State - were once coached by the same man: Ritchie McKay, current coach at Liberty.

There is nothing that needs to be written that hasn't been written before. In fact, two of McKay's other former programs - Portland State and New Mexico - are doing quite well. Portland State leads the Big Sky Conference (20-9, 13-2), and New Mexico is third in the MWC (22-7, 9-5).

So why OSU and CSU? It may be because a player named Ron Grady transferred from Oregon State to Colorado State to play for McKay, only to learn after a year that his coach was leaving to head up the program he had just left behind.

Or maybe it's because both of them are terrible programs that are headed in the wrong direction.

If you picked three teams out of all the programs in Div. I-A out of a hat, though, it'd probably be a long damn time before you found two that had been coached by the same person.

That's how it works, however. Some programs make the right decisions and move along, and some just take the hit.

Speaking of which, if you take "hit" out of "Ritchie," you get "Rice." Coincidence?