Monthly Archives: April 2010

Same Old Story For The Red Wings

Nicklas Lidstrom, 3 rings. Henrik Zetterberg, 2008 Conn Smythe trophy winner. Kris Draper, 4 rings… did you really think the Detroit Red Wings were even the slightest bit tense about their game 7 against the Phoenix Coyotes? If you did, you must not know these boys at all.

These guys are used to this.

Sure the Coyotes put a 5 spot on the Wings in game 6 to force a game 7, but the Red Wings came out as if game 6 was nothing more than an aberration. “They got lucky,” rookie goaltender jimmy Howard said after he got lit up 5-2 in game 6. He played like it in game 7 stopping 32 of 34 shots while Ilya Brygalov was shelled for four goals in the second period, two by two-time Selke trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk. As a matter of fact it was basically the same names doing the damage that Detroit fans have been used to since the start of the 2000 season.

Lidstrom scored two goals in addition to Datsyuk’s two, Zetterberg had 3 assists, Johan Franzen chipped with an assist and quality penalty killing, even Detroit newcomer but Ex-champion Brian Rafalski (won two cups in New Jersey) had two assists. The Red Wings may be getting long in the tooth, but they can bring the pain to foes younger than them.

“Their top players came out and dictated the pace and we had no answers. They were relentless. They turned it up another level that we couldn’t get to,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after the game. TIppett is used to the Wings rocking his teams to sleep when he was coach of the Dallas Stars for the better half of last decade.

The Wings at the beginning of the season looked like a team on the decline and found themselves on the outside looking in, in the Western Conference playoff picture in February. Then those same names started the Wings on a roll that pushed them to the fifth seed in the conference and now they meet the San Jose Sharks, who the Wings have owned in the playoffs winning all three of their playoff meetings all-time.

“We were playing against one of the top teams in the world, and the way they played tonight, I don’t know if anybody can beat them,” Bryzgalov said after the game. That’s bad news for a Sharks team that is still fighting the demons of playoffs past and that can’t seem to get their top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley going. If the Sharks want to advance to the conference finals for just the second time in franchise history then they need more than the one goal the Thornton-Heatley-Marleau line collectively scored in the Colorado series.

The Wings immediately headed for San Jose after smoking the Coyotes last night. They’re on a mission to get back to the Stanley Cup and avenge last year’s loss to the Penguins, and it shows. They’ve got possibly the hottest goalie in the playoffs in Jimmy Howard, and a few guys you may have heard of. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Rafalski; same names, same team, and seemingly the same result. Sickening isn’t it? Not to Detroit fans. It’s just business as usual.

The Magic Move On But With One Big Problem

Orlando can beat Charlotte in four straight games the way it did all they want. You don’t need Dwight Howard to ball hard against a team with no real inside scoring presence nor defensive presence.

If the Magic want to win they need D-12 out of foul trouble.

You can chuck up all of those threes if you want, let Jameer Nelson be your go-to scorer, all five foot ten of him. The fact of the matter is that if the Magic want any shot at winning a NBA championship they need Dwight Howard on the floor and not in foul trouble. If he can get pushed around and coaxed into foul trouble by Tyson Chandler, Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace imagine the problems he will encounter with King James, Josh Smith and Al Horford.

The Magic won this series basically with hot shooting from Nelson, Rashard Lewis and others as Howard never saw 30 minutes in any game in the series. In fact Howard’s series was beyond abysmal. He averaged 9.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds and shot 13-35 from the free throw line. That’s half of his point per game total in the regular season and four boards less. What did skyrocket were his foul totals. Howard committed 22 fouls in the four game series while fouling out twice. It got so bad that teammates bestowed a new nickname on Howard, “Foul on You.” Talk about a name fitting of someone.

“It’s been frustrating, but everything happens for a reason. That’s the only way I look at it,” said Howard after a morning shoot around. The bright side for him and the Magic has been the play of his supporting cast.

The aforementioned Nelson averaged a team high 24 points a game in the series while Vince Carter and Lewis chipped with close 16 per game a piece. While scoring and staying in games was an issue for Howard defense most certainly wasn’t. Howard averaged 5 blocks per game including 2 games with seven plus. Yet still the focus has to be on Howard’s ability to not have himself removed from a game in key stretches due to foul trouble. “We watched, I think, nine clips, maybe 10 clips, just trying to get an understanding of what’s going and what their strategy is in the whole thing,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a very smart guy, but you’re in very difficult, very physical situations out there. He’s got to take a lot of hits and a lot of grabbing and holding. Obviously, he has to handle that in the right way.”

Which is very true, Howard is stronger than most players in the league and his aggressiveness does tend to get him in trouble. One problem could be the Magic’s lack of a true power forward to help take some of the physicality away from Howard. At the same time Howard should know his surroundings and play with a little more brains than brawn.

The MVP candidate that he and coach Stan Van Gundy have both pumped up have to return to form in the next series whether it’s the Hawks or Bucks. If Howard can’t stay out on the floor for more than 29 minutes against teams with more experienced personnel than the Magic won’t get back to the finals this year or beyond. Superman has to return and hope “Foul on you” doesn’t keep interfering.

Draft Fever

Bradford went number 1 overall, but was it the right choice?

After all of the waiting, breaking down of game footage, deciphering the ins and outs of every possible angle, the constant slurping of Tim Tebow, the NFL Draft is finally here. A three day event where you’re more likely to find a quality starter in the fourth round than the fifth round.

For every Peyton Manning there’s a Tim Couch, Randy Moss’s are lost in between the Freddie Mitchell’s, it’s such a crap shoot that honestly, none of the preceding events mean anything to the draft, or to any one player’s future.

Remember how Todd McShay was lauding out how great JaMarcus Russell’s pro day was, and how scouts marveled at how Kyle Boller could throw a football 60 yards from his knees? Remember how Mike Mamula was a combine darling and it pushed him from the third round to the first found? Do you remember anything about them? No.

That’s what I mean. This whole thing is really a sham because you really don’t know what you’re getting until week 1 of the NFL season. Tim Tebow’s new fantastic throwing motion looks amazing, let’s see how it holds up with Justin Tuck breathing down his neck. Let’s see Jimmy Clausen throw tight spirals facing the Steelers complicated defensive schemes. Any bum off of the street can run a sub 4.7/40 or jump up real high and test their vertical. What do I care that my quarterback can’t lift 225 pounds more than 10 times? As long as he’s not Jay Cutler throwing picks everywhere I don’t care.

It’s stuff like this that makes the NFL draft and the process of the draft so silly. Owners and GM’s actually factor in how C.J. Spiller can catch passes out of a machine and cut with no linebackers chasing him down. It punishes guys like Myron Rolle for taking a year off to become a Rhodes Scholar because it shows disloyalty to a team (when in reality I would take Myron Rolle in the first 30 picks of the NFL draft over half of the players projected to go in the first). It’s this process that has Darrius Heyward-Bey going in the top 7 while Steve Smith of the Giants goes in the middle of the second round.

It also makes for a great time on TV. Watching GM’s scramble to send in picks or trade up for a guy that they feel will put them over the hump is just silly, ridiculous, and good fun. I’m still trying to figure out how the Minnesota Vikings can screw up getting in a pick on time in two consecutive years… WHEN YOU HAVE FIFTEEN MINUTES TO DECIDE ON A PLAYER!!!!

Oh and by the way, that also makes this draft more ridiculous than any other. How can you take ten to fifteen minutes deciding on a player that you’ve scouted watched and made lists for and other options? If I were a GM my draft picks would come in, in no more than 2 minutes, Eli Manning gone? Screw it, take Philip Rivers. It’s simple.

Of course it’s never made to be simple, this year your favorite team’s GM will either a. be smart and pick for his team’s needs, b. pass on a player that will be stellar because of stupid issues, c.  take a gamble on a player that has no business being picked so high, or d. do something completely and utterly stupid. It happens every year, the Jags draft Darrell Harvey at no. 9 when he was a late first rounder (how’s that working out?) everyone passes on Randy Moss, take Heyward-Bey in front of Michael Crabtree or maybe stay put and get Patrick Willis when he somehow falls out of the top ten.

It’ll happen again this year, watch. In a perfect world the teams would draft for their needs and not do something stupid because they feel it’s a more proper pick (like taking Bradford over Ndamukong Suh). If the draft really went the it should it would look something like this:

Note this was started before the draft so it’s been modified to include a little analysis with the actual picks as well:

1. St. Louis Rams: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska (actual pick Sam Bradford)

This guy should've gone number 1.

The problem with picking Suh in this day in age that everyone craves a franchise quarterback. Even though it’s been proven that having that quarterback doesn’t necessarily mean being successful. Steve Spagnolo is a defensive coach; he specializes in making quarterbacks run for their lives. Why not take the best PLAYER in the draft who just so happens to be a defensive juggernaut? Did you see the Texas game? He murdered the offensive line and Colt McCoy. It makes more sense, bet it won’t happen.

2. Detroit Lions: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma (Suh)

No big difference here. Apples to oranges. Either one works in either system.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee (McCoy)

It was too early for the Bucs to get a pass rusher, or wide receiver that Josh Freeman desperately needs, so Berry would make sense as a ball hawk of a DB. McCoy works in helping to stop the run however, no beef there.

4. Washington Redskins: Russell Okung, T, Oklahoma State (Trent Williams)

This is different from the Suh, McCoy comparison. There are concerns that Williams have a problem with his work ethic and that he may not be able to tap into his endless potential, not so for Okung. Okung has been high on everyone’s board since the end of the season and seems to be better suited to jump in and start right away. The main thing is that the Redskins needed to get someone to protect McNabb. Ask Jason Campbell what that line is like.

5. Kansas City Chiefs: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma (Berry)

Matt Cassel is a bum. Period. They need a defensive back, but if there is anyone that needs a franchise QB it’s this team.

6. Seattle Seahawks: Trent Williams, T, Oklahoma (Okung)

Take the best offensive lineman available. With Walter Jones retiring you need a lineman to protect whoever is under center.

7. Cleveland Browns: Earl Thomas, S, Texas (Joe Haden)

Two things about the Haden pick from Thursday night: 1. A reporter said that the Browns were considering taking Kyle Wilson but opted for Haden because he went to Florida whereas Wilson went to Boise State. If you draft a player over another based on school instead of talent, then you’re asking for trouble. Two, my buddy Will’s reaction to the pick. He hates Joe Haden because the Browns just traded picks for Sheldon Brown, and I think he also hates his big ears. That kid has some satellites doesn’t he? (also who the hell was his T-pain looking friend with him? These are your Cleveland Browns, take a overrated defensive back, get a rapper along with it.)

8. Oakland Raiders: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (Rolando McClain)

OH MY GOD THE RAIDERS ACTUALLY MADE A SMART PICK!!!! I can’t believe that this actually happened.

9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony David, OL, Rutgers (C.J. Spiller)

I think the Bills need a quarterback, but you need a lineman to block for them. The Spiller pick to me was a bit of a reach because you have Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, the lineman made more sense.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee (Tyson Alualu)

They needed a defensive tackle; they took a guy projected in the second round, tenth… um….

11. Denver Broncos: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State (traded to San Francisco- picked Anthony Davis)

No Brandon Marshall, receiver makes sense, more on this later.

12. Miami Dolphins: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama (traded to San Diego- took Ryan Matthews)

Even with Karlos Dansby they need another linebacker, or pass rusher. Also San Diego didn’t need to jump this high to get Ryan Matthews, he would’ve been there late.

13. San Francisco 49ers: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho (traded to Philadelphia- took Brandon Grahmn)

The 49ers need help everywhere on the offensive line. Badly. They couldn’t run the ball at all last year and Joe Staley is the only decent lineman they got. Taking Davis early and adding Iupati works well for them.

14. Denver Broncos: Jerry Hughes, LB/DE, TCU (traded to Seattle-took Earl Thomas)

More defensive help is necessary. Another pass rusher to help Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams is on an island in the middle of that defense.

15. New York Giants: Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas (Jason Pierre-Paul)

This is all i could find on this guy, Jerry what are you doing?

WE NEED LINEBACKERS!!! It’s not even funny. Danny Clark and Gerris Wilkerson are not getting it done and losing Antonio Pierce hurts. Plus the offensive line is getting old and there’s a hole in the middle with Fred Robbins leaving. The team that was a gunshot away from repeating now looks to be the weakest team in the division and getting help in the front lines would be a great help.

(by the way, this Pierre-Paul kid frightens me. First of all he is a juco transfer, started playing football in his junior year of high school and reportedly had a horrible combine. Yet you know how Jerry Reese loves these defensive ends that look like Justin Tuck. I have a bad feeling that we should’ve taken Derrick Morgan.)

16. Tennessee Titans: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, USF (Derrick Morgan)

You’re welcome Jeff Fisher. You’re f****** welcome.

17. Carolina Panther: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame (traded to San Fran- Mike Iupati)

John Fox is another underachieving season from being tossed out of Carolina. So why go with a quarterback that everyone is 50/50 on? Because I think he’s being undervalued. People are putting Clausen in the same class with Brady Quinn but there’s a huge difference. Clausen can handle a huddle and can put the ball in tight spots where you could look at Quinn and no that he wasn’t an NFL quarterback yet due to his lack of recognizing defenses and poor accuracy. Carolina could use help on the defensive line and at wide out, but do you really trust Matt Moore? Really?

18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida (Pouncey)

No brainer her. They need line help, and they get it. (they also need some sanity and need to stop following up the Cincinnati Jail Bengals)

19. Atlanta Falcons: Brandon Grahmn, LB/DE, Michigan (Sean Witherspoon)

Grahmn would’ve fit better because he’s more of a pass rusher than Witherspoon but Witherspoon works well.

20. Houston Texans: Joe Haden (and T-pain), CB, Florida (Kareem Jackson)

Anything would help that pass defense. Yuck!

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Colt McCoy, QB, Texas (Jermaine Gresham)

Cleveland got him, Cincy should've.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: 1. This is way too high to take McCoy and 2. Are you over Carson Palmer? Yes and yes. Let’s face it, Carson Palmer looks like Jesse Palmer right now. He’s never really gotten over his injuries and its more than affected his game. Towards the end of last season Palmer looked like he was going to fall off of the face of the earth. You can’t blame Chad Ochocinco for not being able to get anything against Darrelle Revis, Palmer couldn’t get him the ball because he couldn’t get anything on it. This is Palmer last year to get himself right or Cincinnati is going to have to consider a QB next year. I think they should go with McCoy, not this early but maybe next round to get him ready just in case. (in reality the Gresham pick makes sense because every QB needs a pass catching tight end, if his QB can get the ball to him)

22. New England Patriots: Ryan Matthews, RB, Fresno State (traded to Denver- took Demaryius Thomas)

In order for the Pats to keep up with the Jets they need to run the football. Lawrence Maroney is a bust and they can’t just throw the ball all over the field and expect to win games. They need a running back to grind it out and get yards on the ground.

23. Green Bay Packers: Bryan Buluga, OL, Iowa (Buluga)

Aaron Rodgers just kissed Ted Thompson. He also asked him to keep drafting offensive linemen.

24.Philadelphia Eagles: Sean Witherspoon, LB, Missouri (traded to Dallas- took Dez Bryant)

Roy Williams pack your bags.

25. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Wilson, DB, Boise State (traded to Denver- took Tim Tebow… more on this in another article)

Kyle Wilson is a underrated DB, and you know why. Being a Mid-major football player turns people off from you. Yet when you watch the guy play, he can ball. The Ravens need defensive backs like the Orioles need a new owner. Besides Ed Reed that secondary is as weak as you can get.

26. Arizona Cardinals: Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State (Dan Williams)

The fact that Dan Williams fell this far is amazing.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Rodger Saffold, OL, Indiana (traded to New England- took Devin McCourtey)

You need someone once Flozell Adams gets suspended for trying to injure defensive linemen, not that I’m mad at him or anything.

28. San Diego Chargers: Taylor Mays, S, USC (traded to Miami- took Jared Odrick)

Defensive back help is key with Antonio Cromartie gone now.

29. New York Jets: Kareem Jackson, DB, Alabama (Wilson)

For depth only.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Patrick Robinson, DB, Florida State (traded to Detroit- took Jahvid Best)

After the NFC title game, help in the secondary would be nice.

31. Indianapolis Colts: Everson Griffin, DE, USC (Hughes)

I’m pretty sure that Dwight Freeney would love another pass rusher to take the heat off of him.

32. New Orleans Saints: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (Robinson)

I’m pretty sure the people of New Orleans are happy with whatever they get. Their grateful regardless.

However, it won’t happen like this. Teams will screw up, they’ll draft too high or trade down to make themselves feel smarter than they already are. Someone’s going to get overlooked; someone’s going to make teams pay eventually. I just can’t wait for the games to start again because all of this lead-up to the actual games gets pretty annoying.

A Little Baseball Reality Check

Don't panic, Tex will turn it around.

You know what you learn from the first two weeks of baseball? Nothing. The first month, two even for that matter. The first two weeks are like extended spring training where pitchers and hitters play with each other in full game action without any short limits on pitch counts and can go full speed. All these two weeks are, are just like the opening night of your favorite play: they’ve rehearsed, dry runs and costume designs, or redesigns (love the Tampa Bay blue unis) and now let’s put it all together in front of a nice crow.

So naturally there are going to be some bumps, bruises and miscues as the show goes along. Just keep this in perspective baseball fans… THERE ARE 162 GAMES IN A SEASON!!! DON’T CRY ABOUT YOUR TEAM SUCKING WHEN NOT EVEN 10% OF THE SEASON IS IN THE BOOKS!!!

This isn’t the NFL were having two bad weeks of football could kill you by week 17, its ok that Mark Teixeira is hitting .114, its ok that the White Sox are having troubles hitting the ball, or that Jimmy Rollins and Brandon Webb on the DL. We haven’t even hit interleague yet.

Here are some early season trends that will continue, will come to a halt soon, or if they’re not fixed could mean trouble down the line:

Mark Teixeira, New York Yankess: .114/1/6. Tex is a slow starter by nature, last year he didn’t hit his first home run of the season until his 58th at-bat, he finished with a league leading 39. The Yanks have jumped out to a fast start thanks to great starting pitching (no not you Javy Vazquez) and timely hitting from 5th in the order down. Tex normally heat up in late May so keep your shirt on.

Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers: .244/0/3 15 strikeouts. This is a guy that’s averaged 40 homeruns and 120 RBI in the last 3 seasons establishing him as one of the premier first basemen in the game. What’s disturbing is his strikeout total. He’s on pace for over 200 K’s this year and he’s never had 140. A visit from the pitching inept Pirates should start to get him going.

The Boston Red Sox: 4-9, 4.65 Team ERA. Their lead hitter is Jason Varitek, every starter has an ERA of more than 4 except Clay Buckholz, Kevin Youkilis is hitting .211 after a brilliant opening game against the Yankees and David Ortiz is still ready to set Boston reporters on fire… as much as I want this to continue it won’t. Youkilis is one of the best hitters in the game, but he has no protection in the lineup with Ortiz struggling early behind him and Victor Martinez hitting .208 in front of him. it would also be of help if Jacoby Ellsbury would get out of his personal funk and become the threat on the base pads that he was last year, he has only two swipes so far this year. The rotation is a different story. Dice K’s shoulder still isn’t responding properly and Time Wakefield, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and newcomer John Lack have been awful. Lackey’s bomb on Monday against Tampa was the latest shelling suffered by the starting rotation. They have the best bullpen in the game, but it means nothing if the rotation can’t get their stuff right and give the pen the support they need. I think the Red Sox will get it together, but with the way that the Yankees and Rays have jumped out, it might be a little hard to come back if this is still the case in May.

New York Mets: 5-8. David Wright is struggling, again. Jose Reyes can’t hit, and Johan Santana is struggling. The papers in New York are calling for phenom Ike Davis to come up and bring some thunder to the struggling lineup. They need Crash Davis and Ike Turner at this point. I knew the Mets weren’t going to be good, but they may be worse than I thought.

Jason Hayward, Atlanta Braves: .302/3/15. He’s been better than advertized in Atlanta thus far from the opening day homer to the game winning hit on Sunday. However, he is a rookie, he will hit a wall and his average and production will dip. His strikeout total will continue to rise.

Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants: 2-0, 1.86 ERA, 0.88 WHIP. Zito looks like the guy from his Cy Young winning days in Oakland. A bust in his first two years in San Fran Zito has looked like an ace again going 6 innings in each of his first three starts. I don’t think he’ll keep up at this pace all year but he certainly won’t be the bust that he’s been the last two seasons.

Barry Zito is starting to earn his money.

Houston Astros offense: .233/2/12. You think they need Lance Berkman? Carlos Lee is batting .104 in the early going. Team that with an already erratic staff and you see why they’re in last place in the Central, and will stay there.

Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies: 3-0, 1.12 ERA 21 K’s. yeah, like you didn’t expect that to happen.

Josh Willingham, Washington Nationals: .359/3/10 .692 slugging. He’s making Nats fans forget that Adam Dunn is… well… done. His power numbers aren’t a surprise because he was a big bopper in Florida. His average is shocking as he’s never hit more that. 277. His average will drop but he should go for 30/100 this year.

Chicago White Sox: where do we start? They’re 5-9, no one has a batting average over .260, Jake Peavy is struggling, so is Gavin Floyd, they are last in the majors in hitting and run production and Mark Buerhle is the only thing going good for them pitching wise. They sit in last place currently, yes the Royals are Hitting, pitching and playing better than them. While I don’t think it will continue, you have to wonder if the Chisox are capable of pulling themselves out of this mess. The leadership of Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye is missing and nothing that Ozzie Guillen is doing thus far seems to be working. Hopefully they get better, but who knows.

Ok, there. There are a few things to digest early in the season. Some guys are hot and get cold and vice versa, unless you’re the Mets, they’re already done. Just keep this in perspective, its April there is time for change. However, early bad habits do have lingering effects.

The Great NBA Playoff Unknown

The matchup everyone wants might not be the one that they get.

Don’t believe everything that you have read, heard, or even seen.  Don’t believe the little playoff simulators, the odds makers, trends, blah blah blah.

The NBA second season has officially arrived, and everyone thinks they have it all figured out. Cavs-Lakers, Cavs-Mavs, Magic-Lakers… honestly you don’t know nothing.

The reality is that the last three weeks of NBA basketball was not only boring and uneventful, but it lulled everyone to sleep and has given fans, players and writers a false sense of security. Once the top 8 clinched in the west, teams were “jockeying” for position when in reality it didn’t matter who was playing who in the first round as long as it wasn’t the Lakers. The Jazz, Nuggets, Spurs, Suns, Blazers and Thunder could’ve finished 3-8 in any order and it wouldn’t have mattered (and still doesn’t, it’s either the Lakers or Mavericks in the finals). No team is dominant; they have issues somewhere and won’t stand a chance in the Western Conference finals… see that’s what you are supposed to be thinking right?

Ok I’ll stop messing with your heads and get down to it… ANY TEAM CAN WIN THE TITLE THIS YEAR! THERE IS NO FAVORITE! No team is truly dominant, every team has a big problem, anything can happen, whether your coach and GM get into an MMA fight, or your center and alpha dog two guard are beefing (again) or you’re just counting the days until your star players bolt for greener pastures (ahem Miami, Cleveland) there are concerns on every team that could eventually kill their chances.

There are chemistry issues in Chicago and Los Angeles, concerns about lack of experience in Oklahoma City, questions of age in Boston and San Antonio, injuries in Portland, Denver, and Milwaukee, and teams that may put too much pressure on themselves knowing that things could be different next year in Cleveland and Atlanta.

Here are some logical yet crazy situations that could happen over the next two months:

Oklahoma City can beat the Lakers. Even though Phil Jackson just mind-bleeped Kevin Durant. The concern is youth for the Thunder, but what about the dysfunctional family that is L.A.? Are they focused enough to repeat with Kobe chucking up shots again, Pau Gasol spewing venom at Kobe and Ron Artest fading late in games. Couldn’t you see Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor off of the bench going hog wild into the paint and creating havoc? This isn’t a chip in for the Lakers, the Thunder are Hungry and ready to jump on whoever is in their path. Plus this is the most underrated defense team in the league, Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha will give Kobe fits.

Boston could get to the Eastern Conference finals. Everyone has them left for dead due to age and health. They won’t be together past next year as Ray Allen looks to be gone and Doc Rivers may leave. I just have a feeling that the Celtics have been playing dead for months. They got off to a hot start then hit the cruise control button and had some questionable losses to horrid teams. Yet last week when they played the Cavaliers you saw the fight come out in them, KG cursing up a storm, Allen dropping 33 and just an all-around gutsy performance. They understand that 60 of the 82 games of the season are pointless and the real season is the postseason. Maybe after game 30 they just said you know what, we’ll get a top 4 seed just let everything fall into place. Crazy, but not out of the question.

They're well rested and ready to roll.

San Antonio could win the NBA championship. See Boston. Just in reverse

The Nuggets could pull it together and make a finals run. The first 40 games of the season this was the true life scenario of the NBA: Carmelo was MVP, the Nuggets were neck and neck with the Lakers and no one team in the NBA could matchup with them. After Carmelo’s injury here’s what happened: George Karl gets cancer, Kenyon Martin gets injured (again) and goes batty on a trainer, Ty Lawson gets injured, Chauncey Billups gets injured, and the Nuggets fell apart. The Mavs, Suns and Jazz all past them in the standings and left the Nuggets for dead. Yet they have home court in round one and seem to be in good health, plus we know how iffy Utah is even with a MVP-like season from Deron Williams. It’s possible that they can regain some steam and make a run even past the Lakers.

The Jazz, Suns, Mavs, and Hawks could all get bounced in the first round. The Jazz are terrible on the road, the Blazers can keep up with the Suns even without Brandon Roy. The Hawks and Mavs are interesting and here’s why:

  1. Both teams are versatile at all five positions and off the bench.
  2. They have superstars that put up numbers, but have a reputation of fading in close games.
  3. They both had great runs from the midseason on, Dallas through the Caron Butler trade and Atlanta finally coming together after years of playing together.

Yet I don’t feel secure in trusting these guys in their first round matchups at all. Dallas draws San Antonio in the first round and Atlanta draws a scrappy Milwaukee team without Andrew Bogut, both Scott Skiles and Gregg Popovich are better coaches than Mike Woodson and Rick Carlisle and most importantly… ITS DALLAS AND ATLANTA! They’re underachievers! They may get to the second round and that’s it. I have no faith in either of these teams, especially Atlanta which is highly combustible and Joe Johnson may have a foot out of the door already.

Chicago could beat Cleveland… in 5 games. Don’t laugh. I know Vinny Del Negro and John Paxson almost beat the crap out of each other a week ago. I know you couldn’t get a lick off of that bench. I know there isn’t a being on earth, let alone on Chicago, that can guard Lebron James, but in 3 of 5 positions on the floor, Chicago is better that Cleveland. Consider this if you will, did you watch Cleveland without Lebron down the stretch? Terrible. Awful. Without James they are a 36 win team period. Mo Williams can’t guard Derrick Rose (and will go into hiding around game 3), Big Z, Shaq and Anderson Varejao will get housed by Joakim Noah, it’s almost amazing how quickly we’ve forgotten the motor on this guy. When the games get tougher, Noah steps his game up. He’s been a big game player since his days at Florida and its finally coming out in his third year in the league. The biggest piece though is Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich has almost been dealt 85 times in the last 3 years and has been shuttled in and out of the lineup the last two years. He’s now playing off guard and guarding the opponent’s best shooter and making their lives hell. If Delonte west, Boobie Gibson or Jamarrio Moon can’t shake Hinrich, then Lebron could be making plans for New York sooner than we think.

Orlando will win the title. They’re angry. Dwight Howard led the league in blocks, rebounds, and technical fouls. Stan Van Gundy is chipping away at other stars credibility. Matt Barnes is grilling Kobe Bryant and picking fights with other team’s big name players. J.J. Redick has grown an angry new do… okay so some things are more fearful than others. The Magic still made a bad deal in essentially letting Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee go and thinking that Vince Carter is a go to guy this late in his career (and that its Vince Carter, he normally mails in it around February). Yet this team of any in the league is the most complete and the most focused. There is no chatter between Howard and Stan Van Gundy, no crazy side story involving an injured point guard, no big injuries, no nothing. Their quite normal compared to everyone else in the playoffs. They beat L.A. at home in a rough and tumble game that saw the fight come out of the Magic. They’ve only lost three times since March all to three playoff teams. They’ve been the most consistent team all year long save for losing 7 of 9 early in the year. You go into Magic games knowing what to expect from minute one to forty-eight, Redick giving you points off of the bench, Mikael Pietrus shutting down the opponent’s best player, and no one getting anything inside on Dwight Howard. They’re the model of consistency that most teams crave to be and want, and it should carry them to a title…

Or Los Angeles could win, or Dallas could prove me wrong, or Cleveland will whip Chicago. Who knows, just be glad that the slow crawl to the end of the regular season has past and that the real season is about to begin. Just don’t be surprised by whatever happens until June. You think you know what’s going to happen. Keep in mind, you don’t.

Same Old Story In San Jose

Here we go again. That’s what the San Jose Sharks this morning after a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the opening game of the Western Conference playoffs.

More playoff disappointment for the Sharks.

This isn’t unusual for San Jose, just ask Anaheim last year. In the exact same scenario the top seeded Sharks were upended by the 8th seeded Ducks in 6 games. In fact the Sharks, who have been the dominant regular season team of the Western Conference ever since the end of the lockout, haven’t made it to the conference finals since the 2003-04 season when they fell to the Calgary Flames in 6 games. The Sharks have been ousted by a lower seed in their last 6 postseason series, including two 8 seeds (Edmonton in 2005, and Anaheim last year).

This loss to Colorado was even more puzzling considering that Colorado had a horrendous second half after the Olympic break and had clinched a playoff berth in the last two games of the regular season. The young Avs came out flying from the gate and outplayed the Sharks.

The winning goal may have been indicative of what kind of luck the Sharks have in the playoffs. Chris Stewart centered a pass that deflected off of defenseman Rob Blake’s skate and past Evgeni Nabakov. “Nabby was set, was in good position,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “It went off Blake’s skate. That happens. There’s nothing we can change there. There’s nothing we can do about that. It’s a break that went their way. Bad break.” No kidding. Now one year after catching nothing but bad breaks against a young and hungry Ducks team, the Sharks find themselves in the same position against Colorado.

“If you’re thinking about that kind of stuff you’re not in the right mental frame of mind,” defenseman Ryan Clowe said. “What are losses in the past years going to do for us? These guys have a lot of character. The visiting team always wants to steal a game on the road. We would too. We just have to bounce back, work it out in practice, and come back.” However, you have to wonder if these playoff disappointments really are getting to them.

After the Joe Thornton trade made them a contender in 2005 the Sharks have been a regular season powerhouse. Yet they have constantly been disappointing when it comes to the playoffs and have underachieved dramatically. You have to wonder what another first round exit as a number one seed will do to these guys going forward, and if changes will be made after the season.

Sure it’s only one game, but it’s a reoccurring theme for the Sharks. Once the playoffs come around, they hit the auto pilot button and cruise. It’s killed them before, and after last night’s loss it looks like it’s happening again.

The Patriots Run Is In Danger

The acquisition of Santonio Holmes is one of the many reasons the Patriots are in trouble.

There’s about to be a changing of the guard in the AFC East if the Patriots keep standing pat (no pun intended).

In the last twenty-four hours the New York Jets continued to add to their already impressive offseason haul, even though some of their deals make you wonder if their trying to win football games or become a halfway house for criminals and heathens.

The Jets added Santonio Holmes for a fifth-round pick (that’s right a former Super Bowl MVP was traded for a pick that might never see an NFL field. Wow) in an effort made by the Steelers to control their wild off the field issues that they have faced this offseason. Holmes joins new additions Antonio Cromartie, Ladanian Tomlinson and possibly Jason Taylor as the Jets, who were two quarters away from the Super Bowl, load up for another run.

No to be out done the Miami Dolphins have given Chad Henne an early Christmas gift in acquiring one of the game’s top Wide Receivers in Brandon Marshall. Marshall was acquired early Wednesday morning and signed a 4 year 47.5 million dollar contract extension to be Henne’s number one target. The deal also means that the Dolphins have decided to give up on first-round draft bust Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn’s problems with catching the ball were highly publicized last season and a team, that hasn’t had a receiver with a 100 catches season was in desperate need to strengthen a poor passing game.

(By the way when I say Ted Ginn Jr. had catching problems, I meant he couldn’t catch a cold. He was always a suspect pick by the Dolphins in 2007. He was never a reliable receiver at Ohio State and it showed in the NFL. He is electric on kick offs, but I don’t think the Dolphins want to pay a first round pick 5 million to return kicks and not catch balls. They could get Dante Hall for that.)

However, Marshall comes with his own baggage as well. Marshall has been suspended several times for character misconduct, and was involved in the shooting and death of former teammate Darrent Williams. Marshall is one strike away from a possible year-long suspension by Roger Goodell, which makes the trade even more risky, yet understandable.

All of this means that the Patriots may need to make a big splash in the NFL Draft next week to keep up with their divisional rivals. It has been an interesting offseason in Foxboro as the Pats have lost tight end Ben Watson to the Cleveland Browns, and have growing concerns with the age and depth of their defense. Plus there is the Randy Moss factor. Moss is in the final year of a productive three year deal, and judging from his comments earlier in February he doesn’t expect to be back.

“I understand the beast, the nature of it. I think that just with what I think and what I know I don’t think they’re going to re-sign me back. So, after this season if there is not a lockout I’ll be looking for a new team. I got a lot of respect for the Patriots and what they did for me and my family. So, the only thing I can do is just play this year out and see what my future holds after that.” Those were Moss’s own words.

Can you blame him? This is the same team that dumped Deion Branch and David Patten after their last title run, and unceremoniously got rid of Troy Brown.

The Pats face tough decisions in looking for a new running back now that it looks like Lawrence is a certified bust, no tight end, a suspect secondary and uncertainty with the health of Wes Welker after tearing his ACL in Week 17 against the Houston Texans.

When looking around the division you can understand why there is cause for concern in Foxboro. Rex Ryan has already shown his lack of fear for Bill Belichick, and the Dolphins already have a pension for making Tom Brady’s life miserable whenever he visits Miami. Unless the Pats can make a late run in free agency, or use those four picks that they have in the first two rounds wisely they could have a hard time keeping up with the newly stacked Jets and the highly talented Dolphins.

Though the division hasn’t officially been handed over yet, it seems like it is getting close. The Jets showed that they were a major player last year, and haven’t slowed this offseason, while the Dolphins are out to prove that last season 7-9 campaign was a fluke. Some of that Belichick magic sure would be useful right now if you ask me.