Monthly Archives: February 2011

The NBA Trade Bazaar

This helps my interest in the NBA jump by 20,000%

My buddy Will said something funny to me Thursday afternoon as the NBA trade deadline came and went , “there is so much going on at once, it’s crazy.” He and I were combing through a myriad of websites trying to get the latest news, insight and rumors on everything and it was like a whirlwind.

Everyone from Gerald Wallace, O.J. Mayo, Rip Hamilton and Luke Harangody were going to change teams and every bit of news came faster than a Tim Lincecum fastball. It was ADD heaven. 35,000 things happening at once and me hitting the refresh button on my phone just as many times to see what was up.

Now that it’s over I can honestly say that basketball in fully in my lane right now.

I’ll be honest, the NBA season never really starts for me until this time of year. Sure I’ll watch, check out stat lines and complain about the Knicks every so often, but the NBA regular season is like watching week 17 of the NFL season, it’s pointless.

Guys don’t play hard unless it’s a big game and they don’t even make it a secret. The trade deadline however breathes life into the league right after the All-Star game. All these players trying to show out for their new teams and make an impact on the playoff race and hopefully be part of the ultimate goal, winning a title.

As early as Tuesday I found myself becoming engaged in the NBA again with the Carmelo deal and it carried over into Thursday. The league is now front and center in our minds without football controlling the screen and hockey, at least to me, is a close second (as for NASCAR… that’s a whole article by itself. Maybe one day.).

So who made the best deals and which deals should or shouldn’t have happened? Well how about we start with the deals that almost happened but didn’t:

Indiana-Memphis, JoshMcRoberts and a pick for O.J. Mayo

The Pacers needed a second scorer for the injured Mike Dunleavy so they were going to deal a coveted big man for a shot-chucking, trouble-making guard who has been assigned to the bench for most of the season. Don’t they have Lance Stephenson for that? They should be happy that deal got in too late for the league to approve. Mayo would’ve had everyone wanting to stab themselves in the throat.

Cleveland-Detroit, a pick and their trade exemption for Richard Hamilton

Rip Hamilton hates Detroit so much that he just had to stay.

Detroit has been trying to unload Hamilton since before Gucci Mane got an ice cream cone tatted on his face. The Cavs made sense for the pick and the trade exemption except they forgot a few things; one, Rip’s agent is Leon Rose… also LeBron’s agent (oops!), two,  Rip Hamilton has become an unconscionable cancer and vetoed the deal even though he’s trapped on Detroit’s bench leading his own version of the French Revolution.

(Thought on that. I know John Kuester isn’t the guy for the Pistons, but you don’t disrespect your coach like that. Screaming at him or berating your coach is despicable as well as leading your version of an uprising. If I were Kuester I would’ve told Hamilton, T-Mac and whoever else was involved to hit the bricks. Period.)

Denver-Dallas, J.R. Smith for a draft pick

Dallas wanted some extra scoring off of the bench and were looking into trading for the most confusing player in the league. It wouldn’t shock me if the Nuggets were willing to accept a psychologist as its only compensation.

Now the trades that did happen.

HOUSTON-PHOENIX, AARON BROOKS FOR GORAN DRAGIC

What I liked: Phoenix gets Steve Nash’s replacement when he dips for New York this off-season.

What I didn’t like: Houston just traded for the same thing… oh, and this was Phoenix’s way of saying see ya Steve.

Afterthought: why wasn’t Nash traded? You mean some team like Orlando couldn’t put together a package for a player that was on his way out of town?

HOUSTON-MEMPHIS, SHANE BATTIER AND COMPENSATION FOR HASHEEM THABEET AND A PICK

Liked: Memphis is serious about a playoff run and added some defense for the run and it only cost them Thabeet who was a bust in Memphis.

Didn’t Like: Houston was rumored to be sending Battier to Boston, Thabeet was better than anything Boston had? Um… ok?

Afterthought: Houston had a franchise center in Yao Ming and now has to bank its future in the middle on Thabeet who was worse than anyone anticipated… Hakeem Olajuwon is shaking his head right now.

BOSTON-CLEVELAND, LUKE HARANGODY AND SEMIH ERDEN FOR A 2ND ROUND PICK

We got rid of a premier defender and all we got was this lousy pick.

Liked: Cleveland gets some good inside help and furthers its rebuilding process.

Didn’t Like: aren’t you supposed to have as many big bodies as possible Boston?

AT: Boston must really be banking on Shaq’s return with this deal and one that will be mentioned later.

BOSTON-SACRAMENTO, MARQUIS DANIELS FOR A 2017 2ND ROUND PICK

Liked: eh.

Didn’t Like: eh.

AT: really… 2017!?!?!

CHARLOTTE-OKC, NAZR MOHAMMED FOR TWO RARELY USED GUYS

Like: OKC gets the playoff philosophy, size matters.

Didn’t like: its Nazr Mohammed… don’t expect much.

AT: OKC addressed its size issues big time before the deadline, even if Mohammed is a stiff.

CHARLOTTE-PORTLAND, GERALD WALLACE FOR 3 PLAYERS AND TWO PICKS

Liked: love this trade for Portland. You get more rebounding help and a player that does what Brandon Roy does if Roy can’t play as much as he can with two bad knees.

Didn’t Like: POTENTIALLY 5 PLAYERS FOR GERALD WALLACE?! People are trading away draft picks from this draft because no one likes it but the price was a little steep for me.

AT: speaking of this draft I don’t like how people are undervaluing it. It doesn’t look strong but there are lots of gems here. Portland and other teams are practically giving away picks for players that could add some real depth for them in the future. I’m not so sure people should be sleeping on this draft so early.

OKC-BOSTON, JEFF GREEN AND NENAD KRSTIC FOR KENDRICK PERKINS AND NATE ROBINSON

Liked: wow… didn’t see this coming. OKC gets a championship caliber big man to help them deal with the Lakers and Boston gets a really good perimeter defender to help deal with LeBron and Carmelo.

Didn’t Like: if you’re Boston why trade every big man on your roster? I know Perk has bad knees and is coming up on free agency, but battle-tested big men don’t come along every day. The depth that they had in the middle was a big reason that they were favored to win the NBA title, but now they’re left with just Shaq, Krstic and maybe Jermaine O’Neal… is that enough to win a title?

Something doesn't right about the Celtics giving Kendrick Perkins away.

AT: though I don’t agree with trading Perk I do like the Green acquisition. If the C’s resign him then they get some much need youth on their roster and they keep with defensive strategy going into the future. Plus Shaq, Krstic and Jermaine may still be enough to beat Miami in the middle.

LAC-CLEVELAND, BARON DAVIS AND A 1ST ROUND PICK FOR MO WILLIAMS AND JAMARIO MOON

Liked: Cleveland gets a lottery pick, which may turn into Derrick Williams or Terrance Jones

Didn’t Like: Baron Davis will not play hard… trust me.

AT: you think not a day rolls by that Baron Davis hates Elton Brand more and more for tricking him into coming to the Clippers?

NEW JERSEY-UTAH, DEVIN HARRIS, DERRICK FAVORS, TWO 2011 1ST ROUND PICKS FOR DERON WILLIAMS

Liked: yeah, didn’t see this coming. Jersey gets its player to build around when it gets to Brooklyn and Utah loads up on young talent.

Didn’t Like: here’s what I’ve never been able to understand about the Nets plan for trading for a superstar… when you give away picks and two serviceable players for one guy what’s left there? You want to know why Carmelo wouldn’t sign Jersey’s extension? Because it would be him, Brook Lopez and Jay-Z and that’s it. Same for Williams. I know you want a marquee name to build around but you can’t do that with nothing to work with. The Nets are shooting themselves in the foot because they might not be able to bring free agents there and D-Will might be gone in 2012.

AT: was it worth forcing Jerry Sloan to retire D-Will? Not saying you had a hand in it… but I’m saying…

NEW ORLEANS-SACRAMENTO, MARCUS THORNTON FOR CARL LANDRY

Liked: Landry gets out of power forward hell and Thornton gets out before Chris Paul dips.

Didn’t Like: Mark Cuban was ticked that the NBA allowed the deal to go through even though the salaries were far apart, can’t blame him.

AT: Can we please move this team out of New Orleans and to Pittsburgh? Come on.

TORONTO-CHICAGO, FIRST ROUND PICK FOR JAMES JOHNSON

Picture him in a Cavs uni... now add 20 pounds.

Liked: the Bulls originally were going to use the pick to get Courtney Lee. Now they’ll get a high draft pick. Thanks eh.

Didn’t Like: Demar Derozan probably can’t wait to get the hell out of Toronto.

AT: potential Bulls options in the draft with Toronto’s pick: John Henson, Jordan Hamilton, Terrance Jones, Derrick Williams, and Enes Kanter… Derrick Rose just got happier.

NEW YORK-DENVER, DANILO GALINARI, RAY FELTON, WILSON CHANDLER, TIMOFEY MOZGOV AND THREE PICKS FOR CARMELO ANTHONY AND CHAUNCEY BILLUPS

Liked: my favorite player on my favorite team, win- win.

Didn’t Like: in the end the Knicks gave up Jordan Hill, four draft picks and a boatload of talent to get Carmelo. As much as I love Melo I hated parting with Gallo and Mozgov. I’ve seen Galinari grow into an aggressive very talented offensive player and I’ve seen Mozgov’s potential. The deal leaves the Knicks short on big men and on shooters, which is essential in D’Antoni’s system. In the long run I think the Knicks will benefit from the deal, but to get to this point I think the process was way too long and cost us way too much.

AT: the fact that people are saying the Carmelo isn’t and elite player is funny to me. The guy won a national title in college, led the Nuggets to success that they’ve never seen and is a premier scorer and attraction in the league. Yet many people question his credentials. You don’t get players like Carmelo in the league every day. Maybe these feelings popped up thanks to that ongoing soap opera that was going on, but make no mistake, Melo is one of the top 5 players in the league. That’s why teams were willing to give up so much to get because they knew their offense would get a huge spike in production. Also, what’s lost in all of this is the fact that Melo wants to play in the bright lights of New York and wants all of the attention that comes with it.

Sure he’s going along with the super friends’ routine that is now popular in the league, but instead of going to a place where he can play without too much pressure he goes to the mother of all pressure cookers. All eyes are on Melo and he’s up for the challenge. He’s already brought the Garden back to life with one game and hope now arises with him and Amar’e Stoudemire running the show in the Mecca of basketball.

A little over the top? Well, yeah, I’m a New Yorker what do you expect.

This is what most fans expect after their teams make these deals. They want wins, championships and glory and the trade deadline enhances them by 20. Now that it’s over let’s see if it actually works.

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Djokovic Becomes Elite

Roger Federer now had Novak Djokovic to worry about.

Remember when Novak Djokovic was fragile? He always had an ailment, always had an excuse?

He had all of the talent in the world to garner his top 5 ranking, but would never be great because homeboy was softer than yogurt?

He was a sideshow, he was fun for a few rounds, made us laugh at his Maria Sharapova impersonations and of other players, but we were never going to take him seriously.

Andy Roddick clowned him at the U.S. Open and made light of the injuries that always seemed to hamper him. “Isn’t it both of them? And a back and a hip?… And a cramp… Bird flu… Anthrax. SARS. Common cough and cold…” I mean Roddick is the last guy to talk about a player’s shortcomings, but he was right. Even when Djokovic whipped his tail and trashed him after the match I still couldn’t take him seriously.

To me Djokovic was going to be Michael Chang, the one-hit wonder that never matched his potential. Even if he did somehow finally reach his potential he was playing in the Nadal-Federer era with a hard charging Robin Soderling and about 75 other great Spanish players coming up. So Djokovic would eventually become an afterthought… then 2011 happened.

He’s only played in two tournaments this year, but has been absolutely dominant. He’s lost only one set (second round in Dubai) he’s beaten Federer twice, including the Dubai final, and man-handled Andy Murray to win the Australian Open.

Don't be surprised if he's number one, or close enough, by summer.

All of a sudden we have a third contender in the conversation of the best tennis player in the world and with Rafa out until the French Open Djokovic has a real shot at being the number one player in the world by the time May rolls around.

Shocked?…  yeah, me too.

What happened? According to Djokovic it’s all in his serve. He says that “Last year, the serve was not there and I was struggling a lot. I was using a lot of energy. Now I get to have some free points, which is important.” Free points means less time on the court, which may explain the fact that he hasn’t lost in 2011 yet. Less time banging around on the court means less wear and tear, and while Rafa struggles to stay healthy because of that scenario Djokovic is thriving.

Also you have to take into account his performance in Serbia’s Davis Cup title last November as maybe a turning point in his career where he came through in the clutch for his country. That was probably a sign to him that he could play up to his full potential and be dominant and it carried over into this season.

So is he really a threat? Besides dominating the first two tournaments of the year, being 6-0 versus the top 13 players in the world and the number one player is on the shelf the answer is yes. He’s pondering playing in the Davis cup opener next week and will definitely be at Indian Wells when the Masters 1000 opens up. He should certainly be considered a favorite in either event with the way he has played so far and in any even heading towards Roland Garros.

It’s a far cry of what we thought of Djokovic as early as last year. The 23 year-old is playing the best tennis of his career and is becoming a power player in the game just as most analysts expected. No more submissions due to injuries, or play time on the court. Djokovic is a serious contender and one of the game’s most dominant players right now. I don’t think Roddick or anyone will doubt his game anytime soon.


The Johnnies Are Back!!!

St. John's has climbed its way back to relevance in the NCAA.

How do u remember St. John’s basketball?

Do you remember the 80’s final four run? Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson and Lou Carnesecca and the magic at the Garden?

The basketball power in the mecca of basketball that was a power in the nations best conference?

What about the 90’s? The inner city tough guys like Ron Artest, Erick Barkley and Lavar Postell that took it to Duke at the Garden, made a run at the final four and were national championship favorites?

Those were my guys, the tough defensive minded ballers that did things “Queens Style” as Artest once uttered and couldn’t be out muscled.

Six months after moving to Maryland there was a Sweet 16 matchup between the Johnnies and the Terps that had Maryland fans over-confident. The locals were ACC snobs that looked at the Red Storm like they were pushovers. Hell my teacher, a NC State grad, laughed when I told him Ron Ron and company were gonna beat up the Terps. His response? Who’s Ron Artest?

6 blocks, 4 steals later (not to mention Barkley absolutely owning Steve Francis) everyone knew who he was as well as the Storm.

St. Johns was the school N.Y. ballers wanted to go to. We as fans were proud of the Johnnies, in a city that bleeds basketball we had a machine where the best wanted to play at. The citys best point guards stayed there, the games at the Garden were just as big as Knicks games.

Ron Artest and Mike Jarvis led the last great St. John's run in the late 90's.

Then it died.

The talent started leaving. Jamie Dixon and Jim Calhoun and others invaded the deep talent pool and took them to all corners of the states. Mike Jarvis’ style of play and coaching stopped resonating with the team. Yeah there was a Marcus Hatten here, an NIT title there but nothing was sustainable.

The Garden became Duke’s second home, the John Wall showcase, Gerry McNamera arena and St. Johns was slowly becoming like DePaul University was to Chicago; a once great city power that’s now a relic.

Coming into this season St. John’s hadn’t made the tournament since 2002 and the Norm Roberts era was the fail of fails. The school needed to make a splash and did so by hiring former UCLA coach Steve Lavin.

Lavin was a great recruiter that couldn’t live up to the glory days expectations in Los Angeles. Upon his arrival in Queens you could feel a shift in the program immediately. He inherited the most esperienced team in the Big East and his way of coaching, matched with their talent level, paid dividends. They jumped out to a 9-4 start with wins over Arizona State and Northwestern and a hard fought loss to Saint Mary’s.

However, where Lavin and company have truly made their mark is in the monster that is the Big East.

St. John’s does not lead the conference, but it owns it. Top teams that have played the Johnnies have all been buried under a fury of defense and a hungry team aching to bring the once storied power back to prominence.

They have delivered and then some.

Dwight Hardy is the man to beat for Big East player of the year thanks to his performances in the Johnnies big games.

Their list of wins is a laundry list of triumphs made for a top tier program sitting at its peak instead of a program trying to regain its mojo. Georgetown, Notre Dame, UCONN, Pitt and Duke have all been slain by the Red Storm in a one month span that has shook up the nation and eyes all eyes on New York.

The star has been senior point guard Dwight Hardy. While much has been made of Kemba Walkers heroics, Hardy has been just as clutch if not more for the Red Storm. He’s been the unstoppable force that has carried them to each victory and has them sitting pretty in the conference.

He dropped 33 against UCONN, 26 versus Georgetown and 19 yesterday against Pitt. Each time he answered the bell when the Johnnies needed an a play late in games or in yesterdays case a shot to win the game. Hardy is pouring his soul out in the first meaningful games of his career and his fellow seniors are following suit.

Justin Brownlee has been a beast on the inside housing Duke last month and putting up steady numbers in Big East play. D.J. Kennedy as been a excellent secondary score finding his touch when necessary and Justin Burrell has stepped up in key situations like yesterday with 15 points off the bench to aid Hardy.

But this is Hardy’s team. Despite Walkers dominant start to the season, and Ben Hansbrough’s revelation of a senior year it is Hardy who should walk away with the player of the year award. Not since Barkley in 2000 has a St. Johns player gotten this much attention and lived up to it. Without Hardy’s heart and will St. Johns wouldn’t be this revived. They might be an N.I.T. squad instead of a team that not one single team would have a delight in playing next month on the tournament.

But more than the players, the excitement is back for the program. Madison Square Garden is rocking on Saturday afternoons again. Basketball matters in Queens like it did during the Artest years and in the early 90’s before that.

Look at yesterdays game and the Duke game. I haven’t seen that place that nuts in a long time for a St. Johns game and it felt great. Basketball matters again to a school that bases its athletic legacy on one sport and to the best basketball school in a basketball city. Call me crazy but this may be the start of something big. Maybe the New York City point guard can return to prominence, maybe the next Lance Stephenson or Stephon Marbury will stay in state instead of bolt for other colleges, maybe St. John’s can return to being the power it was when Mullin and Jackson ran wild at Carnesecca Hall. The thought of it has me going crazy with anticipation.

Its well warranted anticipation. Watching yesterday’s thriller and the last month of upsets might be a heaping appetizer of things to cone. Lavin’s recruiting skills were on display this past year as St. John’s obtained the number 2 recruiting class in the country for 2011. Even after the heavily senior laden class leaves school this year it looks like the school is in good shape for a few years and might become a yearly contender in the Big East.

You can say their a one year wonder, that they got lucky with everyone getting road games against them. However, me being the crazed New York fan that I am, I see this as a preview. A preview of the return to glory the Artest era, the Mullin days, the return to the final four and the toughest team in the Big East. Look out world The St. Johns Red Storm are back!!


The Truth About Hockey Fights

Nothing like a good old-fashioned hockey fight.

If you have a problem with fighting in the NHL, get over it.

Fighting is a part of the league like dunking is in basketball, like homeruns are in baseball. It’s a necessary evil that can used for motivational advantages, intimidation and all out fun and intrigue.

Hockey is the only sport in the world where the players police themselves. There are secret rules and codes in other sports about retribution, revenge and get back. In Hockey it’s out in the open. Got a problem with a player’s over excessive behavior? Send a goon out. Your team lacks energy? Throw your fists up. Someone going after your best player repeatedly and you’ve had enough? Pop him in the mouth.

In the NBA you get suspensions for pushing a guy too hard for coming down the lane over and over again, same in major league baseball when a batter starts raking and a pitcher gives him some sweet chin music. The NHL says you got a problem you deal with it. Unless you go Todd Bertuzzi on someone then you sit for a few games.

It’s been well-known since the inception of the sun dial that fighting and hockey go hand in hand. However, now in the year 2011 fighting in hockey is now looked down upon and thought of to be stupid.

On Pardon the Interruption this past week, hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon debated the recent brawl between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. Wilbon stated that the league should be ashamed of themselves for allowing brawls like that to continue and that the league should get rid of it for good. Former Habs Goalie Ken Dryden has been trying to get fighting removed from the game for years because he feels that the game is better without it. After the regular season in 2009 NHL GM’s got together to discuss the possible elimination of hockey from the sport.

Thank god they voted against it.

Hockey fights aren't brainless, there are a multitude of reasons for dropping the gloves.

As much as I love Dryden and Wilbon and Kornheiser they should all be beheaded for even thinking about banishing fighting from the sport. I understand that hockey has a new fan base and that American sports have been wussified to no end (hi, Roger Goodell and David Stern) but come on, enough is enough.

You can’t hit QB’s anymore, you can’t bruise a guy for getting into the lane and you can’t brush back batters for standing on the plate, at least give us the satisfaction of grown men defending their keep on the ice.

Hockey more than other sports prides itself on toughness. You see guys like Duncan Keith pulling out his teeth to stay on the ice and contribute in the playoffs last year and Steve Yzerman years ago playing on a torn ACL to lead the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup. Hockey players love being tough guys. It’s like they were born to give up their bodies for torture and pain just for fun.

Plus we as fans idolize it. We cheer when guys drop the gloves and pummel each other in the name of honor and team, we never forget guys that give their bodies every shift and every minute just to make a single play. Primary example are my New York Rangers. There are no Crosby’s, Ovechkin’s, Lidstrom’s or any other noteworthy superstars on this team, instead it’s a hit, grind and hustle team that is among the leaders in hits, shorthanded goals and penalty killing.

It’s the most enjoyable team we’ve had in years and even though we don’t score a lot I wouldn’t trade Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal for anything.

Ask most hockey fans, sure we love the stars of our team, but the faves are the Kris Drapers’, Andy McQuaids’ and George Parros’ of the world. The tough guys and the grind guys who really make wins possible.

Find me a Rangers fan that doesn't like Brandon Prust... I dare you.

Fighting and hard play are part of the game. However, there is a difference in how you let that aggression play out on the ice and toughness turns into an all-out mess.

Look at the two brawls last week between the Habs & B’s and Isles & Pens. Both were the talk of the league and sports highlight shows last week but had different meanings in terms of the way that the code of fighting should be played out.

The Habs & Bruins are long time Original Six rivals. They’ve had heated battles going back to the 60’s and 70’s that have left a mark on the history of the game. In the Bruins 8-6 win last Wednesday a series of brawls broke out that were more than entertaining. Tough guys like Travis Moen, Scott Thornton and others threw down a few times letting their emotions run over into a fury of fists on the ice. Even goalies Carey Price and Tim Thomas appeared to scrap for a little bit even though both weren’t trying to throw punches at each other.

As crazy as it seemed with both penalty boxes flooded with players and both benches bare by game’s end, it was a good brawl in the context of the game.

Everybody that threw down did it with respect. No sucker punches or cheap shots, just guys looking at each other and dropping the gloves for a few minutes then taking their seats in the sin bin. Wilbon said the league should be ashamed, I say hell no. it was old-time hockey with no dirtiness. Two teams who are fighting for their division that won’t back down from each other and letting each other know that they’re not going anywhere.

Then you have the mess that was the Pens & Isles brawl. The back-story to this is that the last two games were super physical matchups with the last one having Maxim Talbot handing out rough hits and Brent Johnson sending Rick DiPietro to the injured reserve with one punch.

Enforcer challenging a goalie... that's a no-no in the code.

(Side note: how badly has DiPi’s career gone? He was once the future of the franchise, now he’s a verb for getting knocked the **** out. Even Tim Thomas said the no one wanted to get “DiPIetroed” between him and Price. In case you were wondering Isles fans, yes he’s still got that 12 year, 62 million dollar contract under his belt. You may now send Garth Snow hate mail.)

With that in mind the Isles took the physicality to the Pens but took it too far. Matt Martin’s cheap shot on Talbot brought back memories of Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore. Trevor Gillies elbowed Eric Tangradi then as he crumbled to the ice Gillies tried to fight him then taunted him as he left the ice. Enforcer Michael Haley challenged goalie Brent Johnson while skating towards the penalty box… it was a ton of dirty hockey. The Isles were so hell-bent on revenge that they went to no end to make sure it happened. The result was a brawl that was really something the league should’ve been ashamed of.

Thankfully the long arm of Colin Campbell acted and acted fast suspending Martin, Gillies and Eric Godard who left the bench to protect Johnson, and fined both teams. Unfortunately the actions of the league didn’t sit well with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux who said that he was embarrassed by the league’s actions and that he might not want to be a part of the league if this is how they deal with incidents like these.

Lemieux was wrong. The league acted accordingly on all counts. The Isles were in the wrong and were punished harshly for their actions. If Lemieux had problems with dirty play and too much fighting then he should look in his own backyard first.

The Penguins lead the league in fighting majors and penalty minutes and they harbor Matt

Mario Lemieux chastises the league for allowing dirty plays to continue... yet employs this guy.

Cooke who has a reputation for being overly dirty. Cooke has given players concussions and put more players in danger with his overly-aggressive play including the blindside hit of the Blue Jackets Fedor Tyutin that got him suspended for four games. For Lemieux to criticize the league for not handling matters in the right way is silly and he needs to get his facts straight before speaking up again.

The league knows what it’s doing. They know what fights are good and bad for the game and try to eliminate what’s wrong while keeping the essence of the game intact. There were no suspensions from the Habs-B’s brawl because none were necessary. The Pens-Isles games was a different story. There are such things as good and bad fights in the NHL and the league knows this and regulates them with great efficiency.

Like em or not hockey fights are here to stay. It’s an integral part of the game that shouldn’t be taken away because of brawls that happen once in a blue moon or because people that watch from afar don’t like them. It’s hockey, its physical and it’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the last bit of raw physicality American sports has left, the last place where tough guys are allowed to be tough. Let’s not ruin a good thing while we got it.


Pujols Should Realize His Legacy Is Worth More Than Money

Just because Pujols is worth 300 million dollars doesn't mean that he should get it.

I don’t think Albert Pujols is greedy, I think Pujols has every right to want to be the highest paid player in the game and in history. To put it plain and simple Pujols is the best player of this generation and in the last 50 years. His numbers rival legends, not just in the glamour categories of home runs and RBI, but in his low strikeout totals, high walks and on-base percentage. In an era of free swingers like Carlos Pena and Mark Reynolds he is the throwback to Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and the man he looks to pass as the greatest Cardinal of all-time Stan Musial.

He’s the most productive and most feared man in the game. His at-bats are methodical, his swings are calculated, and his results are on point. He’s what you want your kid to be like; patient, smart and powerful.

There’s competition in power but not in importance. I love Ryan Howard but he isn’t the hitter Pujols is. Adam Dunn matches his homeruns and walks, but towers him in strikeouts and isn’t close in average. Prince Fielder can drive in runs but isn’t the marketable player Pujols is and has attitude issues.

You can run them down the line, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Morneau, Joey Votto… there are so many great first baseman in this generation, it reminds you of the shortstop revolution of the 90’s with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Omar Vizquel and Nomar Garciaparra to name a few.

You couldn’t go wrong with any of these guys at first because they all bring the wood and are the best players on their teams. However, none of them are Pujols. Pujols is the alpha dog of alpha dogs. He’s moved into the Michael Jordan class, he’s the guy that is the league MVP year after year unless someone else has a monster year and you feel bad for the guy because Pujols is so good (hi, Joey Votto). He’s the guy you want to be the cornerstone of your franchise. If there is a guy that deserves to be the highest paid player in the game it’s him.

Pujols trumps Howard's skill, but his deal should look similar to Howard's.

However, here’s the problem even though you, me, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak and Chairman William Dewitt Jr. know all of this to be true…

Pujols is delusional. He wants a 10 year, 300 million dollar deal at the age of 31 to man first base for the rest of his career. Um, no,

As a Yankees fan I’ve seen these types of deals and the problems that they cause down the road. We’re going to be paying A-Rod 27.5 million dollars a year until he’s 42 and his production is already in decline and he’s only 3 years into the deal. We won’t be able to move him and pretty soon we’ll have a left side of the infield that can only be DH’s.

The Cardinals see this as a problem in signing Pujols to such a long deal. The odds of him continuing his all-time pace of .320/40+/120+ is silly at his age.  Eventually he will fall off, and if he does, you don’t want to be paying him 30 million per year to watch him turn into Jason Giambi.

Pujols has to understand a few things about his situation; one, He plays in a mid-level market, two, this isn’t the early 2000’s were people shell out 120-180+ million dollar deals like hot cakes, three, does he really think he expects us to believe that these talks are done until next year and four, he risks hurting his legacy.

St. Louis is not New York, Boston or Los Angeles; the money has a limit in smaller markets and has to be used carefully. The Cardinals needed to get Pujols help in the lineup and they did that with Matt Holliday. Eventually they’ll need to sign Adam Wainwright to a long term deal, giving Pujols 300 million would hinder them in the long run and with The Reds and Brewers getting stronger and stronger with their moves the Cardinals need to keep pace.

Then there’s the issue of money. Pujols is worth 300 million dollars but St. Louis would be stupid to give it to him as well as ten years. The model for the deal that Pujols should be found in what was given to Ryan Howard last year. The Phillies were criticized for bidding against themselves in giving Howard the 5 year, 125 million deal, that they gave him most said that they were merely bidding against themselves and that if he’s worth 25 million then what’s Pujols worth?

However, the Phillies did a smart thing with the Howard deal. They knew potentially in free agency Howard would have asked for a longer deal for the same amount and it would’ve drawn interest from teams like the Dodgers, Angels and others. The Phillies would’ve faced losing Howard because there was no way the Phillies would have given him 7+ years and close to 200 million dollars, so they did the smart thing by making him the highest paid player for only 5 years. That way he gets his money and by the time he’s only capable of being a DH (not like he isn’t already. Sorry Ryan, I love you but defensively you’re middle of the road and that’s being nice.) The Phillies won’t have to worry about it.

The reasonable deal for Pujols is 6 years and 180 million. He gets his money and the length is reasonable for the Cardinals to work with. The problem is that you know the Angels, Dodgers; maybe the Braves will offer more money and years and put the Cardinals in a bind. Then the Cardinals will be forced to make a decision that could cripple their finances.

With that said, for Pujols to say that he won’t talk with the Cardinals until the end of next season is highly

Pujols can move past Stan Musial as the greatest Cardinal in the franchises storied history.

laughable. If he gets the money that he feels is reasonable Pujols will sign in May, June or July. Talks are always ongoing, why do you think Carmelo Anthony is still considering signing with the Nuggets even though he’s made it clear he won’t? It’s a combination of leverage and leaving your options open.

Lastly Pujols need to be the highest player in league history could hurt his legacy in the sense of the damage that he could do that could prevent him from being the greatest Cardinal of all-time.

Behind the Yankees the Cardinals are the leagues other flagship franchise (no not the Dodgers, Cubs, or Red Sox). They are the only other franchise with double digit World Series championships (10). They have arguably the greatest pitcher (Bob Gibson) and shortstop (Ozzie Smith) in the hall of fame. Stan Musial is arguably one of the greatest hitters of all-time and recent received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama yesterday… and Pujols could move past all of these guys into history with the leagues second greatest franchise.

He’s going to break countless records, win about four more MVP’s, get to 600 homeruns, 3000 hits and do it all in a Cardinals jersey. He’s their version of Derek Jeter, the face of the franchise now and possibly forever until another young kid comes along and put up the same numbers. What he should realize is that in some cases legacy is more than money. Fans don’t care about the money, they care about you. You represent them, their franchise, and their pride. Fans will talk about Pujols with great joy for years after he’s gone about his presence at the plate, his play in the field and his leadership. All of this matters to the people that pay top dollar everyday to watch you play especially when you’re in contention for a title yearly.

Pujols chase for the crown of the highest paid player could alienate that, especially if drives him away from St. Louis. It changes him forever, he goes from the greatest player ever to another greedy athlete with great numbers but who didn’t respect the game. Already with his self-imposed deadline passing media relations have reached out to see if the Yankees, with their deep pockets, will make a play for Pujols even though they are comfortable with Teixeira at first.

The game doesn’t need that. Cardinals fans don’t either. Pujols needs to get realistic and see the big picture for what it’s worth. 300 million dollars isn’t worth hurting your legacy even if you deserve it. Hopefully Pujols makes the right decision for him and baseball and doesn’t let the prize of being the wealthiest player in league history hurt becoming what matters most. He should be a Cardinal until he hangs em up; no amount of money is worth staining your legacy.


It’s Time For DeMarcus Cousins To Grow Up

Yo DeMarcus... get your $#!! together bro!

Last year in my argument for Evan Turner as player of the year I pointed out that I thought DeMarcus Cousins was the most talented and best player on the Kentucky Wildcats over John Wall.

He had the size, skill, moves and smarts to become the best big man in college and any GM picking him in the top 5 would be justified in their selection. The one problem was his attitude. Watching Cousins during a game is a roller coaster of emotion. He hangs his head during rough stretches, doesn’t hustle up the, pouts, fails his arms, and when on the bench he looks like a kid that lost his puppy.

The worst were his constant tussles with coach John Calipari. By the end of last season Coach Cal was practically pushing Cousins out of the door. He was a big baby. Very talented but very immature. He could be Patrick Ewing or Derrick Coleman.

You thought that when the Kings took him that he could grow up, be a player to count on to take charge of his actions. Maybe now in the league, which is a grown man’s game, he could flourish and be everything he’s supposed to be… after further review, that’s a big fat hell no.

Cousins hasn’t changed one bit, hell he’s gotten worse. He’s clashed with coaches, cursed out assistants and hasn’t shown one iota of respect to the men in charge babysitting him.

The worse case came this past weekend during a 99-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the final seconds Tyreke Evans took a three pointer that rimmed out and Sacramento lost the game. Cousins was furious that he didn’t get the ball down low because he felt he has his man beat (to his credit he was open and did have him beat.). However, Cousins handled it in a horrendous way. Flailing your arms in frustration, that’s understandable. Getting into an altercation with a teammate, getting kicked off of a plane, screaming for respect even though you’re a rookie as a way of lashing out… yeah… that’s not a good look Boogie.

The much better side of DeMarcus Cousins.

Cousins wasn’t out of line, he was out of his mind. There are ways of handling differences with teammates; talk to em, pull em aside, vent in a professional manner, not throwing a tantrum like a three year old. However, sad to say, that’s what Cousins is.

Cousins talents speak for themselves, he’s a double-double waiting to happen, he’s got one of the best bodies for a low post player in the game. He’s long and he’s incredibly smart. He sees the floor, he knows where to go and what to do. The sad part is that none of this is relevant because he makes that part of himself secondary to his antics.

Cousins is having a really good rookie season but you wouldn’t know it. If he’s not cursing out coaches he’s getting fined for a choke sign, if its not that its this incident.

It’s not up to Paul Westhead, the Maloofs or anyone to get him together, its up to Cousins to say enough is enough and grow the hell up.

What Cousins doesn’t understand is bad boys don’t last long in the NBA. Ask Isaiah Rider, Bonzi Wells, and Darius Miles, if you don’t get your act together then you’ll be out of the league before you get close to reaching the zenith of your potential.

I don’t want that to be Cousins legacy. I’ve seen the kid play, I meant what I said about him being better than Wall. The boy’s talent is limitless and he can be a perennial all-star.

But in order for this to happen DeMarcus, you have to do me a favor… look in the mirror and grow up. Your almost 21, stop acting like you’re 12.


The Issue With National Signing Day

Here's to hoping Jadeveon Clowney matched the hype.

I used to wonder who in the world these young recruits were that being hailed as the next saviors of their program. I wondered how do guys like Carmelo Anthony, Jason Williams, Tim Tebow and Reggie Bush get all of this pub and hype when a fraction of the population in their state has seen them.

I wondered how guys like Ron Powlus and Felipe Lopez were considered huge busts after their collegiate careers when I never understood the hype to begin with.

Let’s just that now that National Signing Day has become the most pointless new day in sports I kind of wish I still felt the way I used to.

Signing Day has moved past the NFL Draft Combine as the most pointless and overhyped sporting event in sports. You run out a bunch of 17 and 18 year olds who are being touted as the next big thing BEFORE PLAYING A COLLEGE GAME! These guys are made deities before they step out on the field on Saturdays and are expected to become superstars immediately. Anyone else see something wrong with that?

Take today for example: the nations #1 recruit Jadeveon Clowney held a press conference two weeks after Signing Day to make his decision on which school he was attending. He sat in front of the media with three hats his mother and brother and in LeBron James fashion decided that he was taking his talents to Columbia, South Carolina and be a Gamecock. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or shake my head.

All this does is bring extra attention to a young man who we don’t even know will make it past the college game and into the NFL. This is the scenario for a guy like Terrelle Pryor who was an incredibly hyped player who was set to be the next big thing at Ohio State and now probably won’t be an NFL quarterback because he isn’t that good.

Mitch Mustain was supposed to be the next big thing... unfortunately it never worked.

It’s not only the case for Pryor but the top 150 as well. The Rivals and ESPN 150 is nothing more than a sad dose of reality when you analyze all of those can’t miss talents and see where they are. When you look at these lists you see guys like Cam Newton who matched his expectations and Nick Fairley who exceeded. Yet the cases of who didn’t make are much more striking.

A few years ago Mitch Mustain was to be the next big thing at Arkansas as the local boy who was going to carry the Hogs to new heights. Four years later his eligibility is done after transferring to USC and failing to rise up the depth chart and last week was arrested for possession of marijuana. Not that glamorous is it?

Blame ESPN for all of this and Sports Illustrated for that matter. This whole new movement started with the fascination behind LeBron James as a high school senior. Before the SI cover high school seniors were like diamonds in the rough. They were treasures that were concealed waiting for that chance to shine in the right way and that’s in the actual game. After the SI cover James’ high school games were being featured as a prime-time event on ESPN with Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas. Then came ESPNU games featuring high school talents like Gerald Henderson, Wayne Ellington, Greg Oden and others. Then came National Signing Day and then came questions like today when Tom Luginbill was asked about his potential draft status in the NFL in three years… LET THE GUY PLAY VANDERBILT FIRST THEN LET’S TALK ABOUT THE NFL!!!

If the NCAA says it’s about protecting players and the student athlete itself, then why are they allowing players and programs to do this self promotion with teenagers and push their product? It’s allowing agents and other forces to come in and get in these kids ears early and puts these programs at risk for sanctions by the NCAA. It’s a show that leaves these kids open to larger amounts of scrutiny and failure.

When Kwame Brown fell flat on his face in the NBA as a draft bust it was ok because he was a professional and he knows that his face will be in the limelight as a high draft pick. Subjecting high school athletes going to college to that same potential treatment is unfair because of their amateur status.

Unfortunately were past that point. This is the new era of high school athletics. Were now looking for the next LeBron James, Bryce Harper or Jadeveon Clowney and when we find them, no matter the age, were going to see them on magazines and on ESPN. I kind of wish I didn’t know until these guys put the jerseys on with their colleges on the front again. It was better that way.