Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1/31: Blake Griffin Breaks Twitter

Greetings everyone... my apologies on the absence over the weekend and through Monday... let's get back to it...
  • The lead story in the sports world is one solitary play in the Clippers/Zombies game last night. I'm generally against the "highlight" culture that manifests itself in this day and age of sports (especially in the NBA), but there's no denying the ridiculousness of the Blake Griffin dunk last night over Kendrick Perkins. Twitter virtually shut down as a result of it, and for a game that wasn't broadcast anywhere besides NBA-TV, that's a pretty impressive feat. That said, let me take a step back and cool off the people with the "best dunk ever" talk. Hyperbole can be a dangerous thing.
  • Clippers 112, Zombies 100 - To the actual game! You often hear about "2-man teams" and that's generally not the case, but Oklahoma City was about as much of a 2-man team as you can be last night. Durant and Westbrook combined for 67 points and both shot 50% or higher, but James Harden (2 of 10 for 7 points), Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins combined for just 11 points in 96 minutes, and the rest of the supporting cast wasn't much better. You can't win that way against a quality opponent. For LAC, there were 6 guys in double figures led by the masterful (not exaggerating) play of Chris Paul who shot 12 of 16 for 26 points to go along with 14 dimes (and just 2 TOs). Outside of that, I thought the key to victory was Caron Butler, who started off with 11 points in the first 6 minutes, and finished with an economical 22 points just by knocking down open jumpers off of the play of Paul. Riveting game.
  • I'm staying far, far away from Super Bowl "hype" (like Antrel Rolle's supposed guarantee even though he didn't even say anything), but it's worth mentioning that Rob Gronkowski didn't practice again on Monday for the Pats with that high ankle sprain. I fully expect he'll be in uniform, but high ankle sprains aren't 2 week injuries, and if he's limited, that puts a dent in the Pats offense simply because he's one of the most uncoverable players in the league when he's right.
  • Memo to Dwight Howard: I've defended you to the millionth degree throughout this season because you're an incredible basketball player, but please, please, please shut up! With the latest team to surface (Chicago), it's becoming absurd. While I respect the honesty it takes to openly discuss playing for other teams DURING THE SEASON, it's borderline crazy at this point, and with his team in a tailspin, it needs to stop.
  • The Indianapolis Colts will reportedly hire Bruce Arians as the offensive coordinator. The formers Steelers OC who tutored Ben Roethlisberger seems like a decent choice to head up the Andrew Luck campaign, but I'm interested to see what talent stays around, and the direction of that unit.
  • NBA Box Score Round-up - Philly outlasted Orlando 74-69 in the ugliest game of the night. The Sixers play incredible defense, and that doesn't always make for great cinema, but Orlando was flat-out awful on offense (again!) shooting 33% for the game and notching 42 points in the first 3 quarters combined. On the bright side? Ryan Anderson had a career-high 20 rebounds. There you go... Derrick Rose put up a Rose-like 35 points and 8 dimes in Chicago's 10-point road win in Washington... Man, the Hornets are pretty bad without Gordon and Kaman, huh?... Michael Beasley is alive and well in Minnesota, scoring 34 points off the bench in their road win in Houston. Kevin Love (29 points), and Rick Rubio (18/8/11) were both very good on this night as well, and I have to mention Kevin Martin scoring 29 points on 15 FGA. Such a Kevin Martin game... Dallas throttled Phoenix in Phoenix last night behind 21 from Vince Carter and 25 from Delonte West. I have no idea, except to say that Phoenix is not very good at all... and finally, the Jazz held serve at home 93-89 over Portland last night led by a 19/15 from Paul Millsap. He's really had it going lately and is getting some underground all-star buzz from out there.
  • One college hoops game of note last night was Missouri eeking out a 67-66 road win in Austin against the Longhorns. Missou is historically a terrible road team, but this is their second good road win in a week (beat Baylor in Waco), and that's a really interesting team with their experienced (and deep) guard play.

What to watch for on Tuesday...

  • NBA - Hawks @ Raptors - SportSouth 7:00 - Toronto nearly beat the Hawks on MLK day without Bargnani, and he's playing here, so watch out.
  • NCAAB - #10 Michigan State @ Illinois - ESPN 7:00 - Very nice Big 10 game here, as Sparty has to go on the road against a real, live tourney team.
  • NCAAB - Clemson @ #18 Virginia - ESPN2 7:00 - I only advertise this game for the opportunity to see Virginia's Mike Scott. His numbers don't jump off the page because of the style that the Cavaliers play, but if you adjust the numbers for pace, he'd be the leader in the national POY race, and that's not an exaggeration.
  • NCAAB - #20 Wisconsin @ Penn State - Big Ten 8:00 - I'm a sucker for Jordan Taylor and the Badgers.

There you have it...

Friday, January 27, 2012

1/27: Schiano, Peyton Manning, etc.

Greetings everyone... all over the map today...
  • Greg Schiano is the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs. First off, I do think Schiano has been an above-average college coaching in transforming Rutgers from perpetual doormat to legitimate Big East threat, so let's get that out of the way. That said, I think this is a confusing hire (at best), and I'm not sure what he's done to warrant one of the 32 NFL jobs. Tampa swung for the fences and missed on Raheem Morris, who was a young guy who had never been a coordinator even, and this time they courted Chip Kelly (who passed), and settled on Greg Schiano? The entire search was kind of a mess with names like Marty Schottenheimer and Mike Sherman prominently involved, and while I would've rather gone with Schiano than an aging re-tread, I still don't believe in college guys on the whole. As a Falcons fan, I'm pleased.
  • Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay are reportedly "at odds". Irsay is upset that Manning went public with negative comments that portray the Colts and their facilities in a negative light at the moment. Here's where I'm confused: If you're Jim Irsay, you can cut Peyton Manning today. What is there to be "at odds" about? This is in no way an even relationship.
  • Celtics 91, Magic 83 - If you woke up this morning and saw the box score with no game story, you would've thought this was a ho-hum game between two of the better teams in the East. What that wouldn't tell you is that Orlando led by twenty-seven points in the first half, before a complete implosion in the 2nd half that saw them score just 25 points. Boston keyed up the intensity in a noticeable fashion in the 2nd half, but there's absolutely no excuse for the performance of Orlando in the final 24 minutes. Dwight Howard finished with a 16 and 16, but it was no coincidence that he posted a -25 rating for the game, as he was generally uninspiring, and not particularly assertive/aggressive. Here's the key/problem for Orlando: Jameer Nelson is bad. As recently as 2009, Jameer was playing at an all-star level before being injured, but he's now in the bottom-third of the league's starting PGs, and there's no end in sight with his 39% FG and 8 point/5 assist averages. 8 points! For Boston, I really liked what I saw from Pierce (24 points, 10 assists, 6 boards), and Garnett was the Garnett of old in the 2nd half, but to win this game without Rondo, on the road, and down 27 is pretty crazy.
  • Clippers 98, Grizz 91 - The key for me in this one was Vinny Del Negro's willingness to limit Chauncey Billups' minutes. It's weird how quickly I've soured on him in that situation, but his lack of conscience shooting the ball is alarming. At any rate, I thought Chris Paul was masterful as usual netting 18/7/7 and despite a rough shooting night, he made a conscious effort to get to the line (1o of 11), and there's a lot to be said for that at 6 feet tall. Blake was efficient and effective (20/9/8) and Mo Williams had it going in parts of this one to finish with 18 off the bench. For Memphis, it came down to guard play. I thought Mike Conley and OJ Mayo were flat-out awful here, and Mayo (5 of 19) was doing his best Iman Shumpert impression. I'm generally a fan of OJ, and would like him to be more aggressive and get more minutes, but jeez. One positive was the play of Marc Gasol, who continues to threaten his brother in the "best Gasol" debate.
  • College Hoops Round-up - North Carolina defeated the in-state rival Wolfpack behind 21 points and a career-high 17 boards from Tyler Zeller. Dominant from the tip. Florida eeked out a road win in Oxford 64-60 despite a 10-point halftime deficit. Patric Young keyed the run with a team-high 15. And, Wisconsin edged Indiana at home 57-50 despite shooting under 40% as a team and 4 of 17 from three thanks to an absurdly low 4 turnovers. The real key? Holding Cody Zeller to just 7 points in his 19 foul-strapped minutes.

What to watch for on Friday...

  • NBA - Hawks @ Pistons - SportSouth 7:30 - The Pistons stink, but Greg Monroe is worth watching.
  • NBA - Knicks @ Heat - ESPN 8:00 - This game would be infinitely more entertaining if it was at MSG just to see what Lebron would do, but the Knicks are a mess right now.
  • NBA - Zombies @ Warriors - NBATV 10:30 - Really nice night cap, and with Curry now back for GSW, they can threaten anyone at home.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

1/26: Welcome Back, Kirk

Greetings everyone... let's go...
  • Kirk Hinrich returned to action for the Atlanta Hawks last night. Oh, did you forget he was on the team? I feel like most people have, but with all of the headlines and subsequent misery that the Horford injury created (myself included), it's nice to have a real, live NBA player to add to the rotation. Hinrich posted 7 points in a limited role (14 minutes) last night in the 103-83 lambasting in San Antonio, but I thought he looked fairly crisp, and he converted 3 of 4 field goals. What does his return mean for Jeff Teague? My guess is not a whole lot. Teague has cemented himself as the starting point guard, and for as much of a Hinrich fan as I am, I feel like Teague should remain the starter. Hinrich should be in a 20-25 minute a night role as the primary (only) backup PG, and I feel like he'd be a better 2-guard option than the magnanimous Willie Green as well. The Hawks 9-man rotation on nights where the opponent doesn't have Dwight Howard should be: Teague, Hinrich, Johnson, McGrady, Williams, Radmanovic, Smith, I. Johnson, Zaza, with Collins as an emergency big and Willie Green as the guy who only plays with foul/injury issues. Done.
  • The Colts have hired Ravens DC Chuck Pagano as their head coach. The line of Baltimore DC's to be promoted to other jobs (or do fantastic college work like my man Greg Mattison) is getting longer and longer, and while I had honestly not heard of him, that position brings some instant credibility. I would've liked to have seen what Jim Tressel would've done with an NFL job because, as much as I hate him, I think he's a very good football coach, but this may work out in Indy.
  • Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in tennis in the middle of the night last night. I saw about half of a set because I'm an insomniac, but the overall "draw" of that duo matching up is kind of washed out by the start time. It's really unfortunate for tennis, because that's really the only battle with any sort of mainstream buzz.
  • Kevin Love and the Minnesota T-Wolves have agreed on a 4-year max extension. The curious portions of this move are two-fold. First, the Wolves explicitly refused to give Love the 5th year, and I'm confused as to what they're holding out for. Secondly, because of that refusal, Love apparently insisted on an opt-out after the 3rd year that not-so-coincidentally lines up with the end of Rubio's rookie deal and Rick Adelman's contract. I have a feeling that Love will be a free agent after 3 years, but if Kahhhhhhnnnnnnn can assemble some talent that actually fits around him, and Rubio blossoms? He could stay.
  • Pacers 95, Bulls 90 - This game gets its own bullet because of the bad blood that is boiling between these two squads. There were multiple quotes post-game from the Bulls vowing revenge for how the Pacers celebrated about a regular season win, and with the two being division rivals, this is heating up. All ten starters in the game notched double-figures in scoring, and Ronnie Brewer may have had his best game of his career with 20 points and 10 boards while filling in for Luol Deng. The Bulls got an ugly 6 for 20 from Rip Hamilton, and he'll be crucial to keeping them afloat without Deng for an extended period.
  • NBA Box Score Round-up - On the court, San Antonio throttled the Hawks 103-83. I mentioned Hinrich above, but the key to this game was the Hawks (lack of) defense. San Antonio shot 51% from the field and nearly 50% from 3 while out-rebounding the Hawks by 10, and that tells the story. DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner had 17 apiece for the Spurs. Yes. Remember when the Knicks solved all of their issues in that thrashing of Charlotte? Well, they dropped a road game to Cleveland last night to fall to 7-11. Break up the Knicks! (lol). Philly dropped a surprising home tilt to the Nets last night in OT, as Deron Williams spurred NJ with 34 points (14 of 28) and 11 dimes. The Wiz won a basketball game last night. We won't talk about the fact that Charlotte started Matt Carroll, BJ Mullens, and Derrick Brown in the game. Chris Bosh and Lebron James combined for 59 points in the Heat's 101-98 road win against hapless Detroit. That's kind of ho-hum, but Austin Daye exploded for 28 for the Pistons in just 30 minutes and Greg Monroe posted yet another 20-10. Like both of them. Man, I love James Harden. 18 points on just 5 field goal attempts last night (9 of 10 FT) in their 10-point win over NO, and he continues to be one of the most efficient perimeter scorers in the league, and I'm growing a similar beard to his. Take note. Minnesota spoiled the Dallas ring ceremony night with a 105-90 pounding of the Mavs in Dallas. Kevin Love had 31 and 10 (ho-hum), and Ricky Rubio was Ricky Rubio with a splendid 17-point, 12-dime, 7-rebound, 4-steal game despite shooting just 4 of 16. If he ever shoots the ball at a league average level, he's a star. Period. Is Paul Millsap an all-star? I don't know who he'd make it over, but there's some buzz about the Jazz forward after a 31/11 last night in their double-OT win vs. Toronto and his 18/9 averages on a team that is better than expected. Denver absolutely obliterated Sacto on the road last night 122-93, and there's not much to say about it other than one team is much, much better than the other. Oh, and congrats to Dan the Italian on a big contract extension (4 for 42). The Dubs got a 32/6/7 from a suddenly-upright Stephen Curry, and that, coupled with 26 from David Lee, was enough to hold serve at home against the Blazers. Ray Felton is really struggling for Portland (2 for 10 last night) as his shooting dips below 37%. Eat a salad, Ray! And finally, the battle of LA was a physical battle last night. The Lakers won the game 96-91 behind 66 from the big 3, but I thought the key to the game for them was the random outburst from Andrew Gaudelock off the bench who notched 14 points in 20 minutes. Also, big-ups to Ron Artest (yep) on lock-down D all night and his non-coincidental +20 in 38 minutes. For the Clips, it was as simple as a dreadful game for Mr. Bad Shot (1 of 8 and it seemed worse), and a 6 of 16 from Mo Williams. It was bound to happen.

What to watch for on Thursday...

  • NCAAB - NC State @ #8 North Carolina - ESPN 7:00 - The "other" battle of North Carolina. NC State has been a pleasant surprise early going 4-1 in ACC play, but they start playing the cream of the crop from here on out, and they'll get a wake-up call in Chapel Hill.
  • NCAAB - #13 Florida @ Ole Miss - ESPN2 7:00 - Road games in conference. Also, Florida is a bit enigmatic, and it'd be nice to see them take care of business against a real, live team on the road.
  • NBA - Celtics @ Magic - TNT 8:00 - A rematch of that putrid game from the other night that saw Orlando put up 56 points. Something tells me Dwight and the fellas will actually show up tonight at home.
  • NCAAB - #17 Indiana @ #25 Wisconsin - ESPN2 9:00 - No one generally wins in Madison.
  • NBA - Grizzlies @ Clippers - TNT 10:30 - This is a quietly nice game. Looking forward to see that front-court matchup, and I wish Zach was involved. Also, Mike Conley gets a stiff test.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1/25: Prince to the D, etc.

Greetings everyone... my apologies on the absence yesterday, but here we go...
  • Prince Fielder is a Detroit Tiger. In a move that universally shocked the public, the Tigers locked in the portly first basemen with a 9-year, $214 million deal. First of all, that's entirely too much money for Fielder, but the fact that these exorbitant sums keep happening in baseball contracts make it less surprising. He's already a below-average defender, and there's little-to-no chance of him aging well with his body type, but he (smartly) heads to the American League where he can spend his final 5 years as a DH. The biggest issue is the fact that Detroit has backed themselves into a major corner. For the 2012 season, this is a slam dunk move, as they lost Victor Martinez for the year and were in need of a 2nd impact bat to play with Miggy Cabrera, but going forward to 2013 and beyond, where are all of these guys going to play? All three are bad defenders, and you can only stash one at DH. There are widespread reports of Cabrera playing 3rd base, but I think that would be an utter disaster defensively when he's put on literally 60 pounds since he last played there, and it'll be worth keeping an eye on.
  • Kevin Love to stay in Minnesota? The St. Paul Pioneer Press actually reported a "done deal" yesterday, but ESPN is now reporting that, although the sides are negotiating, the deal is close but not done. This is huge for the T-Wolves as they basically have no shot to re-sign him if he hits the market, and with what I've seen from Rubio, I like the Love/Rubio duo going forward. I understand the questions about Love as "Number 1", but there are only so many of those super-duper-stars and none of them are going to Minnesota unless they're drafted there. Lock him in and pencil in 24 and 14.
  • The Oakland Raiders will reportedly hire Dennis Allen. Who is Dennis Allen? Well, admittedly, I had no idea prior to yesterday, but the current Broncos DC is a fast-riser in the profession and this deal screams Raiders because it's cheap, etc. Who knows?
  • NBA Box Score Round-up - Dwight Howard is now the Orlando Magic's all-time leading scorer as he broke the mark during a 102-83 road win in Indiana. The guy who he passed (Nick Anderson) would've taken most people 10 guesses, but it's kind of funny to see a guy break this kind of franchise mark when he's begging out of town. On the court, this is an impressive bounce-back win for Orlando after a pathetic 56-point showing against Boston, and I still believe Orlando is the 3rd best team in the East. Tyson Chandler had his best game of the season with 20 points and 17 rebounds in a 111-78 blowout win by the Knicks over the awful Bobcats. It is honestly a debate between Charlotte and Washington for "worst" status, but it's just that the Bobcats don't have the utter clowns that the Wiz have so the attention stays away. Miami outlasts Cleveland 92-85 thanks to 35 from Chris Bosh including 17 in the 4th quarter. That's a nice win for the Heat without Wade, and a decent road showing for the Cavs, who are battling for the fringe East playoff spots. The Phoenix Suns stink. There, I said it. Steve Nash said as much last night after they dropped a home game to the Raptors, and that roster is just not going to cut it. At any rate, Andrea Bargnani put up 36 points last night for the Raps and that was enough to hold off Nash (17 and 14 dimes) and Gortat (21 and 12). And finally, Portland holds serve against Memphis 97-84. Marcus Camby had a Reggie Evans-like line with 3 points, 22 rebounds, and 5 blocks in 32 minutes, and LA added 23 and 6 in limited minutes. One knock on the Blazers is the continued willingness to shoot horrendous shots by Jamal Crawford, but I think they knew what they were signing up for.
  • College Hoops Check - Road wins galore! Kentucky, the new #1 team, keeps that in tact with a 13-point, ugly win at Georgia, but there is no shame in ugly road wins. Baylor did the same in Norman against Oklahoma with a 77-65 win led by 21 and 12 from Perry Jones. San Diego State has it going yet again in the MWC with 11 straight wins including last night's pretty impressive road win against a good Wyoming team. And, the Victors Valiant (aka the Michigan Wolverines) eeked out a 66-64 win at Purdue last night by holding Robbie Hummel relatively in check (16 points) and getting a big 19 from Tim Hardaway Jr. to off-set a lackluster game from Trey Burke. Alas.

What to watch for on Wednesday (chronologically)...

  • NCAAB - Villanova @ #25 Louisville - ESPN 7:00 - The names of the schools make this game sound better than it is because Nova kind of stinks and Louisville is in a rough patch, but still decent Big East hoops.
  • NCAAB - #2 Missouri @ OK State - ESPN2 7:30 - Missouri is better (much better), but true road games in conference are no joke in college hoops.
  • NBA - Pacers @ Bulls - NBATV 8:00 - Indiana is coming off a pretty bad home loss, but this is a certainly a potential playoff preview matchup in the East.
  • NBA - Hawks @ Spurs - SportSouth 8:30 - The annual death march to San Antonio. The Hawks rarely (if ever) play well there, but the Josh Smith vs. Tim Duncan matchup is hilarious for so many reasons.
  • NCAAB - Minnesota @ Michigan State - Big Ten Network 8:30 - Really nice matchup here. I'm really high on the fighting Izzo's.
  • NCAAB - #6 Duke @ Maryland - ESPN 9:00 - Big-time rivals, and it's on the road, but I can smell Maryland from here.
  • NBA - Clippers @ Lakers - NBATV 10:30 - The battle of LA has so much more juice this year than ever, and that'll continue this evening.


Monday, January 23, 2012

1/23: RIP Joe Pa, NFL, etc.

Greetings everyone... going to be hitting the top stories very quickly this morning...
  • Joe Paterno has passed away at the age of 85. It is obviously so interesting to see the reaction to his passing simply due to the events of recent weeks and months, but without getting into all of that, it's sad to see him pass so quickly after "retirement". One of the greats in the history of the coaching profession, and he'll be remembered for that if nothing else.
  • Giants 20, 49ers 17 (OT) - A couple of fantastic games on Sunday. The Giants took advantage of two special teams gaffes by Kyle Williams including the game-clincher on a fumbled punt return in OT that set-up the game-winning Lawrence Tynes field goal. These two teams had identical yardage totals in regulation (wow), and this is about as even a game as you'll ever see. Alex Smith sported 2 touchdowns and 0 INTs, but the failure of the Niners offense on third down (1 for 13, and the one was the final play of the game) did them in ultimately, and for the Giants, Eli Manning set a Giants record with 58 attempts, but took care of the ball, and in the end that was enough. Oh, and who is more unguardable: Victor Cruz or Vernon Davis?
  • Patriots 23, Ravens 20 - In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't watch this game as I was in a van headed back from a weekend trip, but I hear Billy Cundiff missed a field goal? I did manage to catch the expedited NFL network version of this one, and was shocked at what I saw. Tom Brady was outplayed by Joe Flacco. Let me repeat. Tom Brady was outplayed by Joe Flacco. Never in my wildest dreams would I expect that but it happened. Flacco went for over 300 yards, 2 TDs, and only 1 INT vs. Brady's 239/0 TD/2 INT performance, and it's not that Brady was awful, but he wasn't Brady. That said, the Pats did a nice job of limiting Ray Rice (21 carries, 67 yards), and won the game despite losing the turnover battle 3 to 1. I feel like this will be the "Cundiff Game" for all time though, as 32-yarders shanked that badly don't happen in the NFL everyday, and I feel bad for the guy.
  • For a brief moment last night, it looked as though Oregon's Chip Kelly was headed to Tampa to take over the Bucs, but as of Monday morning, ESPN is reporting that Kelly has passed on the job. I'd be very interested to see what would happen if he actually took it with that spread option offense and the tempo that he likes to play, but it looks like we may be waiting a while.
  • NBA Box Score Roundup - Paul Pierce went for 34 and 10 assists as the Celtics get a road win against hapless Washington 100-94. The C's were without Rondo, and Ray Allen left the game early, but Pierce had his best game of the season and that was enough to outlast John Wall (27/10/7) and the Wiz. Mo Williams is on fire right now. The Clipper guard went for 26 last night for his 3rd straight good game, as the Clips sent Toronto to their 8th straight loss. Miami dropped a home game to the Bucks 91-82 thanks to typically stingy Bucks defense that held the heat to 37% shooting. Lebron managed 28 and 13, but the Heat got absolutely nothing from anyone not named James or Bosh. Brandon Jennings "led the way" with 23 for the Bucks, but shot 1 of 10 on threes. Stop. Shooting. And finally, the Pacers get a nice road win in LA over the Lakers 98-96. Roy Hibbert led the scoring for Indy with 18 and took a huge charge late to seal things. Kobe put up 33 and 8 for the Lakers, but it wasn't enough.

What to watch for on Monday...

  • NBA - Magic @ Celtics - 7:30 NBA-TV - Boston is really struggling, but Pierce showed some life last night, and if they are full strength, they could beat Orlando.
  • NBA - Hawks @ Bucks - 8:00 SportSouth - I honestly think Milwaukee is the better team when Atlanta is without Al Horford, but there are nights that the Bucks simply can't score, and that could rear its head tonight.
  • NBA - Grizzlies @ Warriors - 10:30 NBA-TV - Every time the Dubs play at home, it's entertaining. Done.
  • NCAAB - Syracuse @ Cincy - 7:00 ESPN - The Orange won't be Number 1 as of this afternoon after losing to ND this weekend, but this is a tough road test at any rate, and a nice Big Monday game.

Enjoy it...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

NFL Conf. Champ Previews

Greetings everyone... My apologies on the disappearance for the weekend... duty calls... but here we are to preview the big NFL Sunday...
  • Ravens @ Patriots (-7) - 3:00 CBS - This is the better game IMO. More storylines, better teams, and best QB. The Pats are the favorite in every respect as the #1 seed, but with the Pats having bowed out in an anything but graceful fashion the last two years, and the Ravens having success against them in the recent past, this is a matchup to watch. On the Baltimore side, I outright do not trust Joe Flacco at all, and for that reason, I can't possibly pick the Ravens on the road against a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady. It's that simple for me. I could talk about the Pats secondary issues all day, but against Joe Flacco, I think that'll be masked, and even if he has some limited success early, Belichick has shown in the 2nd half of games repeatedly this season that he makes the necessary adjustments. Oh, and did I mention Tom Brady plays quarterback for the Patriots? Give me the Pats.
  • Giants @ 49ers (-2.5) - 6:30 FOX - Doesn't it seem like everyone likes the Giants? Take this into consideration. The Giants were playing for their playoff lives on the final week of the regular season, and the Niners clinched a playoff spot in August it seems like, so the fact that the Giants are the "public" team here is scary. Eli Manning is playing the unquestioned best football of his career at this point, but the huge key for the Giants offense has been the re-emergence of their running game. Make no mistake, this is a pass-first team at this point, but having a healthy, productive duo in Bradshaw and Jacobs helps them. I firmly believe this game will come down to the Niners O-line vs. the Giants D-line. Alex Smith has played his best this season, and as much as it pains me, I actually believe he can win this game if he's given time in the pocket. That said, the Giants DL has been a total wrecking crew late in the season, and if they are in the face of Smith all night, I don't trust him to take care of the football. For the Niners to win, I think they need to play this game in the 20s, and their defense, coupled with their elite special teams, can probably keep it there. With a gun to my head, I'd pick the Niners at home because I generally don't trust the Giants to show up for the 4th straight week, but I am by no means convinced.
There it is. Enjoy the last weekend where you have multiple football games.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

1/18: The Ramblings...

Greetings everyone... all over the map today, and a bit short due to time... let's go...
  • Detroit Tigers C/1B/DH Victor Martinez is out for the year with a torn ACL. This is an especially brutal injury, not only because he's their 3rd-best player and an all-star caliber guy, but because of the timing (really? January?) and the length of injury time. I'd expect Detroit to be in the market for guys like Carlos Pena as short term fill-ins.
  • More baseball: The Braves locked in Michael Bourn, Jair Jurrjens, and Eric O'Flaherty to 1-year deals before arbitration, and it seems to be pretty good value, especially with Bourn and Jurrjens. Bourn received less than $7 million on his deal, while Jurrjens garnered a respectable $5.5 million with incentives. Done and done. Tim Lincecum is going to arbitration today after he asked for a record $21.5 million while the Giants countered with $17 million (also would be the record), and I have a feeling he may win that one with his resume, but the current record? That would go to Cole Hamels who got $15 million from the Phillies as the highest paid non-free-agent-eligible pitcher in history.
  • The Indianapolis Colts fired Jim Caldwell. Excuse me while I yawn again, as this was the biggest no-brainer in the history of Earth after that tank job, and all of the front-office changes. Moving right along.
  • NBA Check - Miami put up 39 points in the 3rd quarter to overcome a 17-point deficit and eventually win by a staggering 22 points over the Spurs. Lebron finished with 33/5/10. Ho-hum. David Lee had his best game of the young season finishing with 29 points (13 in the 4th) to finish off the Cavs in Cleveland 105-95. Dwight Howard was Dwight Howard last night with a pencil-it-in 25 points and 17 boards in Orlando's serve-holding win over Charlotte in O-Town. The Bobcats really stink. Chicago got a dominant home win even without the services of one Derrick Rose thanks to a season-high 31 points from Carlos Boozer, who, for one night, earned that massive salary. Corey Brewer led the Nuggets in scoring last night with 22 points in a road win over Milwaukee. What are the odds? And finally, Lob City smashed head-first into a wall in Utah as they lost by 29 without Chris Paul and Mo Williams. Not a single Clipper of note in this one, and Utah was led by Paul Millsap's 20 in limited minutes.
  • Hail to the Victors, valiant! A Stu Douglass lay-up with 36 seconds left, and a wild defensive sequence on the other end led to the Wolverines 3rd straight win over Sparty (after MSU had won 18 of 21 in the series). I was really impressed by the work of freshman PG Trey Burke who notched 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting against one of the better defensive guards in the country in Keith Appling. Any time you can win a game while notching just FIFTEEN rebounds (in the entire game!!), that's semi-impressive and staggering. Go Blue.
  • Anthony Davis is a monster. The Kentucky freshman had the best game of his college career with 27 points and 14 rebounds last night, but the most impressive aspect of his game is defensively. His basket protection ability is staggering with his ridiculous length, and you can almost see NBA guys salivating.

What to watch for on Wednesday...

  • NBA - Blazers @ Hawks - ESPN 8:00 - I'd love to be in the building tonight, but I'm en route out of town as this one tips off at Philips. Interested to see what the lineup construction looks like, as the Hawks have been going small a lot but that may be difficult against the size of guys like Aldridge, Wallace, and Batum. I think Portland was the better team with Horford, so you can imagine how I feel now.
  • NBA - Mavs @ Clippers - ESPN 10:30 - I don't know if Chris Paul is back, but if he isn't, cover your nose.
  • NCAAB - Cincy @ UConn - ESPN2 7:00 - A nice conference matchup, and UConn has the talent to keep your eyes on the screen as a tune-up for Hawks/Blazers.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

1/17: MLK Hoops Wrap, etc.

Greetings everyone... tons of hoops from Monday, so let's go...

  • Hawks 93, Raptors 84 - Since I was in attendance for this one, I'll lead with it. The Raps were without their #1 option (Bargnani), and the Hawks were obviously without Al Horford, which led to anything but a barnburner here. The "star" of the game was Josh Smith who finished with 28 points and 15 boards, but not before his now-customary TEN (10!!!) jump shot attempts. Yes, on this night, he managed to knock down 7 of them, but if there's anything we know, it's that this is the worst possible shot for Smith, and when he was attacking the rim on Monday, he was utterly unstoppable. Elsewhere, Jeff Teague posted a 13-point, 6-assist game, but was exposed defensively by both Calderon and Barbosa at different points in the game and it's starting to become a trend when you look back to the last few opponents (Rubio, etc.). By far the most curious decision of the night was Larry Drew's insistence on playing Willie Green for the entire fourth quarter with Marvin Williams sitting cold on the bench. We've been over the Willie Green thing ad nauseum, but it doesn't make a ton of sense to me. For Toronto, I was impressed from what I saw of Barbosa (22 points of efficient offense), Calderon (13 and 11; always in control), and Amir Johnson (13/10 in only 25 minutes). DeRozan was pretty bad, and the fact that the Raps have to play Gary Forbes significant point guard minutes with their current, healthy roster is not a good thing. Alas, it's a win.
  • Zombies 97, Celtics 88 - Five straight losses for the C's for the first time in the Garnett era. OKC closed the game with 4 consecutive three-point makes (2 by Westbrook, 2 by Thabo), and exactly one of them was an open look (lol). Durant and Westbrook combined for their normal 54 points, but the key was Sefolosha who finished with 19 points on just 9 FGA to off-set a subpar game from James Harden. Boston was balanced throughout the night, but they were still limited to sub-40% shooting, and Garnett just couldn't get anything going offensively (5 of 19) with Ibaka swarming him. I still think Boston is a playoff team, even with the schedule stacked against them, but it's not exactly a "fluke" that they have the record they do without any depth to speak of, and no one on the way.
  • Lakers 73, Mavs 70 - What a hideous basketball game. Both teams shot less than 40% from the field, and less than 20% from 3-point land. There were three guys that I would say had "good" games on either team. Dirk finished with an efficient 21/7 for Dallas, while Bynum had a pretty big night (17/15) for LA, but the x-factor was Derek Fisher. You've all heard me crap on Fisher in the recent past, and I stand by it, but he was unquestionably effective last night finishing with 13 points on just 9 field goal attempts, and knocking down the game-winner from distance after Kobe was doubled. It also helps Fisher that he didn't have to guard an opponent who could murder him off the dribble since Kidd is statuesque as well, but at any rate, he played well. Bad basketball.
  • Box Score Roundup - Ryan Anderson is your current leader in the most improved player race. The Orlando forward put up 30 in their 102-93 road win @ NYK, and is currently averaging 18 and 7 alongside Dwight. The Grizz got a 16-point home win over short-handed Chicago led by 24 from Rudy Gay, but I'm not sure you can take a lot away from a win over the Bulls without Rose. FWIW, Mike Conley absolutely torched John Lucas to the tune of 20/7/8. Break up the Sixers, after yet another home win (undefeated there) against Milwaukee last night. The Bucks are now 0-8 on the road. Yeah. Is John Wall alive? It seems so after a 38-point, 8-dime outburst against one of the better defensive PG's in the game in Lowry. Of course, the Wiz couldn't parlay that performance into a win since, you know, they are the Wizards. 25 and 8 from Kevin Martin and 16/6/5 from Lowry in the road win for Houston. Kyrie Irving has 20+ points in 5 straight games after 25 last night in the Cavs win over Charlotte. Worth noting. Portland gets a nice road win in NO led by Aldridge's ho-hum 22 and 9, and he got help with 12 dimes from Ray Felton. And finally, Kevin Love is a man among men. 33 points, 11 boards and a game-high +22 for the T-Wolves in their home win over Sacto. Luke Ridnour bounced back from a horrendous game on Saturday (don't worry, he was as bad as I say he was) with 25 points and 9 assists, while Ricky Rubio went 9/8/8 alongside him.

College Hoops

  • Kansas 92, Baylor 74 - Somebody remind Kansas that they aren't supposed to win the Big 12 again this year. Thomas Robinson led the way with 27 and 14, and the enigmatic Tyshawn Taylor posted a season-high 28 points for the Jayhawks in knocking off previously unbeaten (and trendy) Baylor. BU got a nice game from Perry Jones (18 points), and 17 from Quincy Miller, but they were no match for the vets from Kansas. For the record, I believe that Thomas Robinson is the best player in the country (or at least 1b to Jared Sullinger), and I'm officially all in on him.
  • Syracuse 71, Pitt 63 - I didn't see this game, but the sad thing is, it was probably the best game Pitt has played all year, and they still lost by 8. Now 0-6 in the conference, and the grease fire persists.
  • Marquette 74, Louisville 63 - Speaking of grease fires, Louisville has now lost 5 of 7 and stand at 2-4 in the Big East after being in the top 5 nationally prior to conference play. That Marquette team is really scrappy, and I like Darius Johnson-Odom (19 points) a lot.


  • Tim Tebow is Denver's starter next year! Great! Awesome! Why are we talking about Denver's QB situation right now?... oh...
  • Team USA Hoops has announced its 20-player pool for selection on the 2012 olympic team, and there are limited surprises. The new class? LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin. I'd say they got that right. Lamar Odom and Rudy Gay are the "worst" of the 20 players on the list, but you never know who will actually be available due to injury, rest, etc. by the time we get there. Stay tuned.
  • The Falcons hired Dirk Koetter as the OC over the weekend. I have no issue with it whatsoever simply because a) he's a pass-first guy in a pass-first league, b) he runs a great screen game and any Falcons fan knows that's been lacking to the millionth degree with the previous regime, and c) he's put up points everywhere he's been with the exception of Jacksonville, and he was saddled with Blaine Gabbert. Done and done.

What to watch for on Tuesday...

  • NBA - Spurs @ Heat - NBA-TV 7:30 - The Spurs haven't won a road game yet, and that'll likely continue when they go into Miami sans Ginobili, but this is still a nice matchup of contrasting styles and the only "national" NBA game on the night.
  • NCAAB - #9 Michigan State @ #19 Michigan - ESPN 7:00 - Well, you know where my allegiance is. This may be the equal of the Ohio State rivalry (basketball only), and it's always fun when these two get together. I'm a big Tom Izzo fan, but there's no love lost. Mich State is one of the early "surprise" teams in the country after being unranked to start the year, and Michigan has it's best roster in over a decade.
  • NCAAB - Arkansas @ #2 Kentucky - ESPN 9:00 - I really hate the 9:00 SEC Tuesday time slot, because, well, the SEC stinks at basketball, but with Kentucky as must-see-TV every time they hit the court, it could be worse. Worth watching for Anthony Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist alone.


Monday, January 16, 2012

1/16: NFL Wrap, Aussie Open Picks, etc.

Greetings everyone... let's hit the NFL first...
  • 49ers 36, Saints 32 - What a game this seemed to be. With the interest of full disclosure, I missed the entirety of this one while at the Hawks/T-Wolves extravaganza on Saturday night, but here we are anyway. I have to publicly apologize to Alex Smith for all of the doubts and dismissals after his 299 yard, 4 TD (1 rushing), 0 INT performance including the game-winner with under 10 ticks to go. He finished with a higher QB rating than Drew Brees (who threw for nearly 5 bills, but threw 2 picks as well), and put up 36 points. All you can ask for. This was the best game of the weekend.
  • Pats 45, Broncos 10 - Because I realize that this game has already gone through the entire media cycle, I'll just say this, Tom Brady is better than you. 26 of 34 for 363 and 6 TDs. Six. Touchdowns. Done.
  • Ravens 20, Texans 13 - Weird game here. The Ravens scored 17 points in the first quarter by themselves, and the teams combined for just 16 points elsewhere. Jacoby Jones may have been the Ravens MVP, and he plays for the Texans. I thought Joe Flacco was typically underwhelming (14 of 27 for just 176) but he avoided the big mistake, and that was all he needed to do against the grease fire that was TJ Yates (0 TD, 3 INT and it was worse than that). Baltimore tried everything to give this thing away, but Yates couldn't take it.
  • Giants 37, Packers 20 - Obviously, this is the shocker of the weekend. The Giants go on the road, win by 17, and it could've been worse had they gotten the call right on the Jennings fumble early (egregious). Eli was spectacular, but I thought Hakeem Nicks was unquestionably the best player on the field on Sunday going for 165 and 2 TDs including a long catch-and-run, and of course, the hail mary at the end of the half. Aaron Rodgers was by no means awful yesterday, but he wasn't typical Rodgers either going just 26 of 46 and missing a few threw throws you'd never expect him to miss. Couple that with 3 lost fumbles and the aforementioned hail mary, and you have a dagger loss.
  • Aussie Open Picks? Is that really in the title? Well, yes, yes it is. My close friend James is a tennis diehard, and has done the courtesy of forwarding me some informed picks. They are as follows: Novak Djokovic as the Men's champ (Jarkko Nieminen as a sleeper), and Serena Williams as the Women's champ (Christina McHale as the sleeper). Thanks, James.
  • A pair of big-time injury concerns in the NBA: Dwyane Wade's ankle injury isn't going away, and there is no timeline on when he'll come back. This isn't a season-challenging situation, but it's still troubling for them. Also, Chris Paul went limping off the other night against LA and while the MRI on his hamstring was negative, he's day to day.
  • NBA Box Score Roundup - The Warriors notch their first road win of the season in a 99-91 triumph over the Pistons. Monta Ellis led the way with an efficient (for him) 22 points on just 14 FGA, while Greg Monroe notched 25 and 8 in the losing cause. Utah came out with a surprising 10-point road win in Denver thanks to a complete annihilation of the Nugget front-line by Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Denver went small with a lot of Gallinari and Harrington, and the Jazz beat up on them as a result with 44 and 24 combined from Jefferson and Millsap. And finally, Tim Duncan put up his best game of the young season with a 24/11 against the Suns in the Spurs 102-91 win. While we're here, I really, really enjoy Kawhi Leonard's work. Just a note.
  • One college hoops game to hit: Ohio State beats up on Indiana in Columbus 80-63. Jared Sullinger put up a ho-hum 16/9, but the story was Lenzelle Smith Jr. who had a career-high 28 points on 10-12 shooting. I still firmly believe that OSU has the best starting 5 in the country, and when rotations shorten a bit, they are scary.
What to watch for on this MLK Day...
  • NBA - Bulls @ Grizz - ESPN 1:00 - Nothing like live hoops on a Monday at 1:00 pm, and with two playoff teams, that's a nice warmup.
  • NCAAB - #15 Louisville @ #24 Marquette - ESPN 3:30 - The Cardinal are scuffling a bit right now, but these are two "lock" tourney teams in the always competitive Big East.
  • NBA - Raptors @ Hawks - SportSouth or NBA-TV 4:00 - I'll be in the building this afternoon as the undermanned Hawks run into Toronto. That's about as exciting as it gets.
  • NCAAB - Texas A&M @ #9 Missouri - ESPN 5:30 - Missouri is a complete gauntlet at home, so good luck to the Aggies.
  • NCAAB - Pitt @ #1 Syracuse - ESPN 7:30 - Most shocking record in college hoops is Pitt at 11-7 and 0-5 in the Big East. That seems unfathomable to me, and it'll only get worse today.
  • NBA - Zombies @ Celtics - TNT 8:00 - Did you know Boston was 4-7? How about the fact that they've looked as bad as that record indicates? No depth at all, and showing age isn't exactly where you want to be when the young OKC team comes to town.
  • NCAAB - #4 Baylor @ #10 Kansas - ESPN 9:30 - Easily the best college game of the day, and maybe the most compelling of any game all day. Baylor is finally living up to their immense talent, but going into the Phog is never easy, and Thomas Robinson will beat up on Perry Jones.
  • NBA - Mavs @ Lakers - TNT 10:30 - This is always an entertaining rivalry-type matchup, and Kobe has notched 40+ in 4 straight games. I'm in.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

NFL Divisional Round Preview & A Baseball Trade

Greetings all... My apologies on the late post today as I couldn't get it done this morning, but I wanted to make sure and hit the NFL games, and the semi-shocking MLB trade from last night... let's go...
  • Sources everywhere are reporting that the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners have collaborated on a deal that would send Michael Pineda to the Yankees in exchange for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi. This deal is shocking on many levels, but before we get there, Montero is the Yankees top prospect who is a "catcher" who can't catch, but he's an elite hitting prospect that profiles as a DH, while Pineda is a big-time young pitcher with top-of-rotation stuff, and an already impressive rookie season under his belt. Noesi is the secondary portion of the deal, but there are some scouts that really like his stuff as a prospect pitcher. All that said, this deal is confusing. The Yankees side of the deal is kind of a no-brainer because of their pitching woes in the past (and they also signed Hiroki Kuroda to a 1-year deal which I loved) and the fact that Montero is position-less and would've been penciled in at DH prohibiting them from saving the legs of their older position players. On the M's side, it's less clear what they're doing. Pineda had a big-time year, their home stadium (Safeco Field) is notorious for killing right-handed power (Montero fits that bill), and young, stud pitchers are generally more prized than a position-less bat. But, the craziest part of the deal is this: when is the last time you saw a prospect-for-prospect deal of this magnitude? Easily the #1 prospect in each organization, and 2 of the most talked-about young players in baseball. Just a wild deal here, and with the Pineda move and the Kuroda move, I'd have the Yanks as the favorite right now.
To the NFL...
  • Saints (-4) @ Niners - Saturday 4:30 FOX - This is the closest matchup of the four on paper and in the mind of Vegas. The Saints have it going on all cylinders offensively right now, but set foot on the road, outdoors and against one of the best defenses in the league. I absolutely think San Fran will at least slow the Brees show because the Saints aren't the same team outside, and I do trust the San Fran defense, but this game will unquestionably come down to Alex Smith, and that's a terrifying proposition. I will give him props in that he played better this season that I ever thought he could (I'm a notorious Smith hater), but do you really trust him against an opportunistic defense in a playoff game? I don't. Give me the Saints.
  • Broncos @ Pats (-13.5) - Saturday 8:00 CBS - This is the most-hyped game of the four simply because of Tebow, but I'm going to stay away from that story as much as I can. It comes down to the fact that I absolutely don't believe Denver can slow down Brady and company enough to let Tebow work the magic late. If it gets into an ugly game, Denver has the better defense, and a play-making QB, but I think New England scores at will and cruises.
  • Texans @ Ravens (-7.5) - Sunday 1:00 CBS - I'm torn on this one. I'm more anti-Ravens than just about anyone because I think Joe Flacco stinks, I don't trust a single player on that offense not named "Ray Rice", and they are famous for laying eggs in really random, inopportune spots. That said, am I really supposed to take someone named "TJ Yates" on the road in a playoff game against that Ravens defense? I think it would take a Flacco meltdown for the Ravens to lose here, and while that's in play, I can't pick it. Ravens by 10.
  • Giants @ Packers (-7.5) - Sunday 4:30 FOX - The Giants hype has gotten out of control. There are certain things that justify it (their pass rush, Eli is playing great, their running game has emerged), but take a look at who they've beaten (that ridiculous Cowboys team twice, the hapless Jets, and the bland Falcons) and that stinker they laid against Washington, and remember this: Green Bay is 15-1, and if anything went right in that KC game, they're 16-0. Stop it. Take the Packers.
Enjoy the slate...

Friday, January 13, 2012

1/13: RIP to the 2012 Atlanta Hawks, etc.

Greetings everyone... somber day...

If you haven't heard by now, Al Horford has been diagnosed with a torn pectoral muscle (and not the previously reported strained shoulder) that will sideline him for between 3 and 4 months, which effectively ends his season with the way the schedule is constructed. This is obviously a giant blow to the Hawks since a) he's their best player, and b) there is absolutely no depth behind him outside of Zaza Pachulia. In the end, I believe there are two rational scenarios for how this plays out and they are as follows:
  1. The Hawks stand pat, make a half-hearted attempt to lure a free agent center, and "compete" for the playoffs. I absolutely disdain this scenario for a variety of reasons. I tweeted yesterday that there is no real scenario in which the Hawks could expect to ascend past the #8 seed in the playoffs with the currently constructed roster, and I firmly stand by that. Miami, Chicago, Boston, New York, Orlando, Indiana, and Philly were all either better already, or relatively even with the Hawks WITH Horford, and all are considerably better when the Hawks go without him. Oh, and there's no guarantee that teams like Milwaukee or a healthy New Jersey wouldn't make a run at the Hawks either. I can't stress how much this loss is felt on the court simply because of the way the minutes would have to break down going forward. I am semi-comfortable with Zaza Pachulia playing an expanded role, as I've consistently felt like he's been underutilized, if anything, in the past. That said, there is no way he's playing more than 30 minutes per night (without even discussing foul trouble), and with Jason Collins as the only other center option on the roster, I don't see a way to fill 48 minutes at the center position without playing Don Nelson-like lineups with Josh Smith or Ivan Johnson (who stinks btw, and that narrative is driving me insane) at the center spot. Did I mention the best available free agent centers are Erick Dampier's corpse and Joel Przybilla (who wouldn't really come)? Are the Hawks really in a position where they want to be going balls-to-the-wall to try and garner the 8 seed? I prefer option #2....
  2. Trade Josh Smith, "Bottom Out", and re-construct the roster a bit. Ok, hear me out. No one ever wants to rebuild, especially when you're discussing a team that's made several consecutive playoff appearances, but the Horford injury provides an excuse that this ownership group apparently desperately needs to do so. Management seems content to trot out this nucleus with no cap flexibility, and only one "developing"player (Teague) while still telling the fan base that better times are ahead. I don't see it, and with the entire paragraph above, there's no upside this season, especially when considering the Hawks are already over the cap for next season thanks to the big-money deals for Johnson, Smith, Horford, and Marvin Williams. There are exactly three trade-able assets on this roster, and they are Al Horford (now injured, and never being traded unless it was for Dwight Howard anyway), Jeff Teague (likely not moving), and the one and only Josh Smith. With Smith set to make $13 million this year and next, wouldn't it make sense to peddle him to a team with existing cap space (or a trade exception) in a move to acquire a first-round pick in a loaded 2012 draft, and/or a young, cheap piece? If you couple this result with the fact that there's NO scenario where the Hawks make the 2012 playoffs without Smith and Horford, and you suddenly have a lottery pick in the aforementioned loaded draft, and whatever you got back for Smith with increased cap flexibility. Do I think this will ever happen? Absolutely not. It would require the foresight to build for the future, which is something the ASG has shown themselves incapable of doing, but I firmly believe this is the move, and while the Horford injury simply provides the needed impetus, I've felt this way dating back to the end of last season.

Done and done.

Let's move on to anything (or everything) else.

  • It was free throw madness in the NBA last night. Dwight Howard broke the all-time record for most FT attempts in a single game last night when he went 21 of 39 from the stripe thanks to the Hack-a-Howard strategy put forth by Golden State coach Mark Jackson. Howard finished with a ludicrous 45 points and 23 rebounds last night in Orlando's 117-109 win over GSW, but the story is the free throw record. And, in the Milwaukee/Detroit game, both teams combined to shoot 41 for 41 from the line, in by far the most total free throws attempted/converted in one game without a miss in NBA history. The previous record? 16 for 16. That's not a misprint. Wow. Oh, and while we're here, Greg Monroe had the best game of his young career last night for Detroit with 32 points and 16 rebounds. I really, really like that kid.
  • Bud Selig gets a two-year extension as MLB commissioner. Didn't you think we'd be rid of good ole Bud after this year? Nope! At any rate, I'm tired of debating the merits of how much money he makes (who cares?), and this is only a story because I don't know a single person who thinks Bud Selig is competent, and they keep extending him anyway.
  • NFL Draft Early Entries: Trent Richardson and Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama, Orson Charles of Georgia, and Morris Claiborne of LSU have all declared. Richardson and Claiborne are slam-dunk first rounders as the #1 player at their respective positions, I've heard 1st-round buzz around Kirkpatrick, and Charles is a 2nd-round guy at this point. There you go.
  • There is gaining momentum around the "plus-one" playoff scenario in college football. After a BCS meeting garnered what seemed to be millions of ideas for playoff systems, the 4-team playoff is gaining traction, and even the NCAA President is saying he'd back that proposed system. Something is coming.
  • NBA Box Score Roundup - After my extended Hawks discussion above, it seems comical to have to report that they won by 30 points over hapless Charlotte last night at Philips. Josh Smith had 30 and 13 for the Hawks, but the story is how bad Charlotte played (55 to 30 on the glass in Atlanta's favor... without Horford!), and the fact that Atlanta won this game without the services of Marvin and McGrady as well. Good grief. Memphis got a nice 94-83 home win in front of the ruckus crowd at FedEx Forum (been there) over New York. Iman Shumpert shot the Knicks out of the game with a 3 of 15 first half (and 5-20 overall), and he wasn't aided at all by Amare who finished with 6 points in 20 minutes due to fouls and shooting 1 of 7. Oh, and free OJ Mayo. And finally, Cleveland outlasted Phoenix on the road thanks to a career-high 26 from Kyrie Irving. The Duke product shot 11 of 17 and netted the 26 in just 28 minutes, while Varejao (17 boards), and Jamison (23 points) did the heavy lifting in the paint.
  • College Hoops Check - Duke held on for dear life in their 61-58 win over a hard-charging Virginia team. Duke's Ryan Kelly missed 2 free throws late (shocking actually) and UVA saw 2 three-point attempts go begging at the gun. UVA's Mike Scott is probably the best player in the country you don't know about, and may be the player of the year right now in the country. He had 23 and 9, but with the pace UVA plays, his numbers are staggering. Minnesota went into Assembly Hall and knocked off #8 Indiana 77-74 last night led by 18 from Austin Hollins. The Big 10 is scary deep this year. And, St. Mary's absolutely blitzed Gonzaga 83-62 at home last night to take control of the WCC picture. Matthew Dellavedova (who is somehow still in college) had 26 and 6 for the Gaels and the team shot 51% as a team. Nice.

What to watch for on Friday...

  • NBA - Bulls @ Celtics - ESPN 8:00 - Boston has struggled to a 4-5 start, but this is definitely not an easy matchup for the Bulls on the road. Rondo vs. Rose is must-see TV.
  • NBA - Heat @ Nuggets - ESPN 10:30 - In a desperate attempt to have every Miami Heat game on national TV (laughter), they face off in Denver. The Nuggets are deep and talented, and this is one team Miami can't simply run out of the building in transition, especially in the altitude.

Enjoy it..

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Personal Mea Culpa to Brady Hoke

Brady Hoke was hired as the head football coach at the University of Michigan on January 11, 2011. On that day, and most of the days leading up to that date, I pretty much killed the idea of Hoke as the head coach of Michigan. He had an unproven resume as an HC including a pretty mediocre 13-12 record in 2 years at San Diego State, and I was in no mood for another blind rebuilding process after the Rich Rodriguez disaster. On top of that, I was actually on board with keeping Rodriguez for one year (provided he got rid of Greg Robinson) because of the progress the offense had made, and the way he was using Denard Robinson. Basically, it was the perfect storm of frustration in my mind as a life-or-death Michigan fan.

So, why am I writing this post? Well, I want to publicly state the fact that I was wrong about Brady Hoke. Now, I'm doing this with the strong caveat of only a one-season sample size, but in my wildest dreams, I wasn't picturing 11-2 and a BCS bowl win in year one, and Hoke deserves tons of praise. Unequivocally, the best move that Hoke made was bringing in Greg Mattison to run his defense. Mattison was a finalist for the 2011 Broyles award as the best assistant coach in the country, and overhauled a defense that was near-last in the NCAA in 2010, and made it a top-25 unit in the country the following year with identical personnel. Brady Hoke made that hire.

The culture is back. The swagger is back. Brady Hoke did all of that, and along with Dave Brandon as the AD, I feel infinitely better about the state of the program that I love more than any other sporting entity.

I was wrong, Brady. Hail to the Victors.

1/12: Insert Clever Title

Greetings everyone. I couldn't summon the will to pen a witty title this morning, so there you have it. Let's hit some sports.
  • Clippers 95, Heat 89 (OT) - The most entertaining game of the night doubled as the night cap here, with this one going deep into the night. Chris Paul was exquisite in posting 27 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and only 1 turnover, and leading the Clips to this win. Lob City also got 20/12 from Griffin, 20 points from Caron Butler (tuff juice!), and a big-time 8/11/6 block performance from Deandre Jordan including a flying 2-hand block that made me do a triple-take. For Miami, Lebron did Lebron-things (23/13/7), but shot just 9 of 17 from the line on the night, and 1 of 6 from the field in the 4th quarter and OT. There were rumblings of the "clutch" debate yesterday in the mainstream media, but I expect the return in full force today. All I will say is calm down. Please. At any rate, this is a big win for the Clips, and aside from the always pathetic coaching from VDN, the only negative to come out of this one is the play of Chauncey Billups (2 of 11) who thinks this is his team somehow. I can't even talk about it.
  • Al Horford strained his shoulder last night. That doesn't seem like a big deal until you realize that a) he's the Hawks best player, and b) they have absolutely no alternative if he were to miss significant time. It's a seemingly minor injury so I'm not in full panic mode, but if last night's 96-84 loss to Indy is any indication, he needs to be back, soon. The Hawks shot just 37% from the field last night led by 2 of 10 from Jeff Teague and 1 of 7 from Radmanovic and the ineptitude crested with a 9-point 3rd quarter. For Indy, Danny Granger returned with 24 points in 27 minutes to be the engine for them. Alas.
  • Lakers 90, Jazz 87 (OT) - This game gets its own mention because of the Kobe Bryant traveling road show. Kobe had 40 last night (on 14 of 31) and notched back-to-back 40 point games for the first two 40-point outputs of the entire season in the league this year. Big-time shout outs to German knee doctors.
  • NBA Box Score Roundup - Demarcus Cousins is playing the best basketball of his career, but you wouldn't know that because all we hear about is Paul Westphal and trade demands. Cousins posted a 21-point/19-rebound thrashing last night in their win against Toronto, and is now averaging 16 and 11 on the season. The Sixers crashed back to earth with a 85-79 road loss to the Knicks. Carmelo had 27 points for NYK, and Philly's top 5 scorers all shot south of 50% from the field. Dirk had a ridiculous and-1 that put a lid on a Mavs road win in Boston with a 90-85 score. Nothing particular of note on either side in an uneventful/ugly-ish game. Kevin Durant (29 points, 10 boards) is good at basketball and the Zombies beat the Hornets by 10. Carry on. John Lucas III notched 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists last night. Quick, who does he play for?... waiting.... waiting.... The Bulls! Derrick Rose missed their 78-64 win over Washington and Lucas went to work on John Wall. The pathetic Wizards notched the aforementioned 64 points on just 31% shooting and got blitzed on the boards 62-46. I've been championing the John Wall bounce back from a rough start early, but you can't get blasted by John Lucas. Yikes. San Antonio is 7-0 at home (and 0-4 on the road) after a 101-95 OT win over Houston. Duncan put up 17 points and 11 rebounds in a game that saw him pass Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list. That's worth noting. New Jersey hit 20 three-pointers last night in Denver.... and lost. That's pretty tough to do, but when you allow 123 points and a 60/61/80 slash line to the opposition, that'll happen. 8 guys had at least 9 points for the Nuggets, but the game of the night has to be Jordan Farmar who had 26 off the bench in just 23 minutes of action. Gigantic accolades. And finally, Orlando outlasted Portland 107-104 despite allowing the Blazers to put up 36 points in the final stanza. 7 guys in double figures for Orlando was enough here despite Dwight taking only 9 shots and going 3 of 12 from the line. Eesh.


  • I wouldn't want to be Mark Sanchez's PR person this morning. The Jets pretty boy QB has been lambasted at every turn for a solid week now, and the hits keep coming. Now is when the Peyton Manning rumors really start to churn.
  • Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson will reportedly spurn baseball (he's a Rockies prospect) to try and make it as a QB in the NFL. This isn't entirely surprising because of how fantastic he was in Madison this year, but with his diminutive size, it's certainly a risk.
  • The favorites all won in college hoops last night, but this gives me an opportunity to mention the 14-3 Michigan Wolverines, who eeked out a 2-point win at home against Northwestern last night. It's really nice to live in a world where U of M hoops is relevant again.

What to watch for on Thursday...

  • NCAAB - #17 Virginia @ #6 Duke - ESPN 9:00 - This is the game of the young ACC season so far. Virginia is the only sure-fire tourney team in that league outside of the Big 2, and Mike Scott will come ready.
  • NCAAB - #23 Gonzaga @ St. Mary's - ESPN2 11:00 - Long-time readers will know how I feel about the West Coast Conference (unabashed love), and this is always the matchup of the year in that league. Must-see TV for the college hoops diehard.
  • NCAAB- Wisconsin @ Purdue - ESPN 7:00 - Rugged Big 10 hoops battle here pitting 2 of my favorite players in the country against each other in Jordan Taylor and Robbie Hummel.
  • NBA - Bobcats @ Hawks - SportSouth 7:30 - I'm kind of sick of watching the Bobcats (and Nets) but it's not a bad time to catch Charlotte, especially with the injury bug that's hit the Hawks.
  • NBA - Knicks @ Grizz - TNT 8:00 - This would be much more entertaining if Zach Randolph could go, but at any rate, not a bad game at all.
  • NBA - Magic @ Warriors - TNT 10:30 - Dwight Howard vs. the always entertaining GSW front-court, and an opportunity to see either Jameer Nelson or someone of that ilk try to stay in front of Monta Ellis. Good times!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

1/11: Mularkey, Kobe, etc.

Greetings! In case you missed it, I spent yesterday ranking the NBA's point guards, and that post should be below this one. At any rate, let's get to it...
  • Mike Mularkey is now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. I would (probably) not lead with this story if it didn't have direct ramifications for the hometown Atlanta Falcons, but with Mularkey under big-time fire after the abysmal offensive performance on Sunday, this couldn't come at a more curious time. On the Falcons side, it does them the PR favor of getting rid of him without actually having to make a decision on him, and for the Jags, I can't believe it would be a positive to introduce a guy as the head man who's offense just went scoreless in a nationally televised playoff game. Alas, here we are. Both coordinator jobs are now open for the Falcons and the search begins in earnest.
  • Kobe Bryant had 48 points last night. This wouldn't be a big deal if it was 2007, but Kobe hasn't notched a total that high since 2009, and he did it in style after the game by basically saying that he hates the Suns AND making reference to someone listing him as the 7th best player in the league. I really like angry Kobe.
  • More NFL coaching moves: Hue Jackson ousted by the Raiders in a very "Raiders" move. You'd think 8-8 would be enough to retain your job, especially when your star RB was banged up all year, and your QB went down in a heap early in the year only to sign Carson Palmer off the couch, but it wasn't in this case. Brian Schottenheimer is out as the Jets OC, as well. This was a done deal the minute they flamed out, because they weren't canning Rex Ryan, and someone was going.
  • Ryan Madson is reportedly signing with the Reds for 1 year, $8.5 million. This is an absolute steal for the Reds if you consider the closer market that the Phillies hilariously set with that instantly ridiculous Papelbon contract, and you have to like the 1-year nature of this deal for the volatile closer position. I really like this move for them.
  • NBA Box Score Roundup - The Wizards won a basketball game last night for the first time this season. It was a typically ugly Wizards box score, but the Raptors were plain worse, shooting 39% and committing 22 turnovers. Rashard Lewis led the way with 15 for Washington. The newly-starting Chandler Parsons notched 20 for the Rockets in their 82-70 road win over hapless Charlotte. I really like Parsons game but it was kind of a surprise to see him in the lineup over Budinger. Can't really say McHale made a bad move on this night, however. The Bucks scored 106 points last night. They should throw a parade through the streets of Milwaukee for that one, but the Spurs defense is a bit of a mess right now. Milwaukee got 34 from Stephen Jackson in the win. Derrick Rose threw up a big-time 31-point/11-assist performance to offset big games from Love and Rubio as the Bulls won by 11 on the road in Minny. Gerald Wallace put up a clutch 20 for the Blazers as they held serve at home against the Clips 105-97. LA was hit hard by Chris Paul's foul trouble and an ugly 13-32 from Billups and Butler. And finally, The Dubs beat the Heat in OT in Oakland. Nate Robinson rose from the dead with 24 points (14-14 FT) off the bench to help Monta Ellis (ho-hum 9 of 25 lol), but the story for me was 20-10s from both Dorell Wright and David Lee. Miami got 26/11/7 from Lebron and 34 from Wade, but LBJ disappeared late (stop me if you've heard this before), and they couldn't get the ball to go through the rim in the 4th and OT (22 points in 17 minutes). Done and done.
  • College Hoops Look-in - Brandon Paul may have had the game of the year in college hoops last night. 43 points on 11 of 15 shooting with 8 threes and 13-15 FT for the Illinois junior in their 79-74 upset win over #5 Ohio State, including a ridiculous falling-out-of-bounds 3 to seal it late and a huge block on Sullinger. That's just one of those priceless nights where a kid can't miss. Awesome. Baylor holds off K-State on the road 75-73 thanks to 17 and 8 from Perry Jones to overcome Rodney McGruder's 30 for KSU. And, Providence absolutely throttles spiraling Louisville 90-59 at home last night. This was an outright upset, but the way in which they did it was the shocker. The Friars shot a 53/60/86 slash line and dominated the glass while getting a combined 54 points from Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts. Trouble in Louisville.

What to watch for on Wednesday...

  • NBA - Hawks @ Pacers - SportSouth 7:00 - Really nice game here for the Hawks. Danny Granger missed their last game with food poisoning, but should be back here, and this could be a potential 4-5 matchup in the playoffs.
  • NBA - Mavs @ Celtics - ESPN 8:00 - Rough starts for both of these veteran teams, but this is still a nice matchup.
  • NBA - Heat @ Clippers - ESPN 10:30 - Battle of the 2 most hyped teams in the league this year. Done.
  • NCAAB - #2 Syracuse @ Villanova - ESPN2 7:00 - Road tests in the Big East against decent teams. Always an adventure.
  • NCAAB - Northwestern @ #13 Michigan - Big Ten Network 6:30 - These 6:30 tip times always freak me out. That is all.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Challenge: Ranking the NBA's Point Guards

Greetings everyone... I was issued a challenge, and I'm going to deliver... below is the comprehensive ranking of the NBA's point guards as I see it... let's go...

Tier 9 - The Best of Rest
  • 35) Steve Blake - For purposes of this list, I had to include at least one PG from every team (**With the exception of the hapless Kings who refuse to actually PLAY a point guard), so Blake is here. He's unquestionably the better player between him and Fisher, and he's playing much better this year after being released from the world of the triangle offense. I've always had a soft spot for Blake and if he's your backup, you're in great shape.
  • 34) Mario Chalmers - Not a big fan of Chalmers' work in general, but he's a starting NBA point guard so he makes the list. He's posted an exceptional PER this year because of his unsustainable 58% from the field, but he's kind of a liability at times offensively. He's an above-average defensive guard because he's really long and good on the ball, but I think he'd be best used off someone's bench.
  • 33) Ramon Sessions - Sessions was the cut-off point for me of whether to be included on this list on my own free will. He's posted excellent PER ratings before included a career-high of 19 last year, and has career averages of 11 points and 5 boards. What does he do well? Eh, not a whole lot, but you could do much worse for 25-30 minutes a night at the point and he's worthy of inclusion.
  • 32) Luke Ridnour - For all the Ricky Rubio fuss (we're getting there), I think Ridnour has been pretty darn solid in Minnesota. He's posted a "league-average" PER of a little over 15 for the past 2-plus seasons, and as an assist rate of over 7 per 40 minutes. If he can shoot closer to the 44% from 3-point land that he shot last year, this is probably a little low, but at any rate, he's a very solid option.
  • 31) Rodney Stuckey - It was kind of difficult choosing who to go with for the "Detroit PG" slot on this list. Stuckey is playing off the ball a lot this year, but I think he's a default PG still, and I'll rank him as such. I'm against the shoot-first PG in general, and Stuckey is certainly that. High usage rate, career 12 FGA per game with a career high of 15 FGA per in 2009-10, and less than 5 assists per game for his career. Yikes. He can certainly score, but his career 42/27/83 slash line would indicate that it isn't particularly efficient, and on top of that, he's now overpaid. Congratulations Pistons!
  • 30) Kemba Walker - Forgive me everyone, but I don't really see it. Yes, Walker is a gutty, talented scorer and the fact that he utterly carried UConn to last year's title can't be ignored, but he's not a true point guard, he's very small, and I don't know if he has the skill-set to be a starting PG instead of a backup scoring combo guard. Blasphemy I know, and he'll have the chance to prove me wrong. Alas, here we are.

Tier 8 - The Should-be Starters

  • 29) Jason Kidd - For any confusion, the tier "title" above refers to the fact that there are 30 teams in the league, and therefore, the top 30 should, in theory, be the 30 starters (again, I'm leaving off Sacto lol) Yeah. Kidd is one of the hardest players to evaluate on this list. He's an unquestioned 1st-ballot hall-of-famer, and one of the 10 best point guards ever, but he also can't guard a soul at the moment, and he shot 36% from the field last season. If you're telling me I have an elite roster, and all I need is a facilitator? Kidd jumps way, way up this list, but as a pure player at this moment, he lands here.
  • 28) Jeff Teague - This may seem low, or may seem high depending on your opinion of Mr. Teague, but here we are. I firmly believe this ranking will rise in the coming months/years but thanks to the hapless management of his minutes in the first 2 years, he's experiencing the growing pains that he should've gone through as a rookie. That said, he's still shooting 49% from the floor and posting reasonable assist and turnover ratios. The issues are with finishing at the rim, and with his complete meltdowns defensively at times to the point where the opposition is singling him out in key spots with often subpar guards attacking him. The ceiling IMO is of an above-average but not-top-10 PG for Teague, and I don't think the basement is any lower than fringe starter. He's a nice player.
  • 27) George Hill - I've always had an irrational love for George Hill. He was wildly undervalued when playing behind Tony Parker in San Antonio, but with his exile to Indiana, he's gotten a bit more attention. He's certainly a combo guard because of his good size and ability to defend 2-guards, but he qualifies for the list. He'd be higher if he were a better passer/distributor, but I'm a sucker for defense, and he's one of the top-10 defensive guards on this list, and if Darren Collison continues to play terrible (small sample), he may get more run in Indy.
  • 26) Lou Williams - Williams is a bit of an interesting case, because he's certainly not a natural point guard, but he's the backup at both spots for Philly, and he's posted very nice numbers the last couple of years. As of this writing, he's 2nd in the league among PGs in PER this year (very, very small sample but still) and he's posted above-average ratings of over 18 in the last 2 seasons. He's a 14 a game scorer in about 25 minutes over the last 2 full seasons, which translates very well, and he's electric with the ball in his hands off the dribble. Jrue Holiday is the better player, but Williams is a nice option.

Tier 7 - The Enigma

  • 25) Baron Davis - Let me just say this. There's little-to-no possibility of Baron actually being the 25th best PG in this league. It's either a lot lower (if he's fat and doesn't care) or A LOT higher (if he's in shape and going off). But, because of the volatility that that brings, I can't rationally put him much higher than this. Let me take you back to the 2007 playoffs when he was running all over Dallas in front of a packed house in Oakland. When the 23 point/9 assist per game Baron, one of the strongest, most physically gifted guards of his generation, was literally unstoppable averaging 25 a game with 7 assists and 3 steals per in the playoffs. And then, let me take you to a half-empty Staples Center in 08-09 when he was putting up a 15/7 line with a hilariously bad 37% FG clip and was 40 pounds overweight. The pendulum is insanely huge for Baron, but if he's invested this year in New York, the sky is the limit.

Tier 6 - Something to be Desired

  • 24) Jarrett Jack - Always had a soft spot for Jarrett Jack. He flat-out battles all the time, and can defend both 1's and 2's with competence. He's been handed the Hornets' PG job after the Paul deal, and has played really well early this year (16 points, 8 assists, 17 PER) to make me look a little bit smarter. Just a valuable asset because of his flexibility.
  • 23) DJ Augustin - Augustin would be so much better if he were more efficient. A career 41% FG shooting number is masked a bit by a solid 38% from 3, but since he can't defend anybody (undersized, not that quick, etc.), his offensive efficiency has to be there. His assist numbers have slowly crept up each season, so that's a positive sign, but he'll also be chased down for minutes by Kemba Walker.
  • 22) Jameer Nelson - Remember when people thought Jameer was a top-10 point guard? Seems foggy now, but that actually happened. He had one exceptional year (08-09) where he shot 50/45/89 for 42 games before getting hurt, and ever since, he's a 44% FG shooter who can't defend, posts mediocre (5-6 apg) passing numbers, and doesn't really do anything particularly well. He's certainly league average at least, but Nelson has gotten some credit in the past that I don't think really bares out in how he's produced. Also, it helps to play with a center that can make up for every defensive mistake you make.
  • 21) Jose Calderon - Ole! I'll let you decide whether I'm saying that because he's from Spain or because he can't defend anyone (answer: it's both). I've always been high on Calderon even going back to the Calderon vs. Ford debates I'd have on a weekly basis when that was an argument (sorry Ryan). He has good size, he's an elite passer (over 10 assists per 40 minutes for his career), and one of the most efficient shooters in the entire league posting a career 49/38/88 slash line with career bests of 52/43/98. That's the good part. The bad part? He's a really, really, really bad defender. Most Euro guards are pretty bad on defense, but Calderon takes it to another level, and to go with that, he's not aggressive enough offensively for my liking at times. I really like his game, but the defense can't be ignored.
  • 20) Brandon Jennings - This one may surprise some people. Ever since Jennings threw up the double-nickel in MSG as a rookie, the hype machine has been churning a bit. Check these numbers out. He has a career true shooting % of under 50% (awful), under 6 assists per 40 minutes (pretty awful), and he's a career 38% (!) shooter on 15 attempts again. That's bad, folks. And on the other side of the ball, he's not exactly a world-beater defensively despite above-average quickness that leads him to nearly 2 steals per. I don't hate Jennings at all, and it's undeniable that his talents are there, but the lack of efficiency is a bit troubling for me.

Tier 5 - The Rookies

  • 19) Kyrie Irving - Both of these were pretty tough to rank. Irving is a guy that doesn't take anything off the table, and doesn't do anything in an electric fashion. He's posted a very, very good 19 PER rating in his short NBA stint so far, averaging 22 points per 40 minutes and nearly 8 assists. That's really nice. The efficiency offensively leaves a bit to be desired so far, but I honestly don't see a non-injury scenario in which he's not a top 12-to-15 PG perennially, and there's something to be said for that.
  • 18) Ricky Rubio - I'm irrational about Ricky Rubio. He's everything I love in a point guard. Pure passer, great court vision, really long and active defensively, and pass-first. What's not to like? His shooting stroke is his rumored downfall, but he's managed to post a 55 % TS so far, and 45% from the field. Take that and run with it, especially with his 11 assists per 40 minutes. Rick (no "y") is quickly rising up my favorite point guard list. Do yourself a favor and just watch him run the show one night.

Tier 4 - You Know What You Have

  • 17) Darren Collison - Collison is a guy I've always really enjoyed, but there are questions about his ceiling. Is this it? Very good D, 13 points, 6 assists? That's pretty solid, but unspectacular when you consider what's around the league. I've always valued defense higher than most (especially at the point) so there's something to be said for a guy with his length to bother opponents, but the offensive game needs some maturing to crack the elite.
  • 16) Andre Miller - If there was ever a guy you get different opinions about, it's Andre Miller. He's insanely slow, and he has absolutely no shooting range. I realize that. But he's big for a PG (6'3-6'4), has a good post game, is an above-average passer, and there's something to be said for consistency. At 35 years old, he's never posted a season with a sub-15 PER, never lower than 7 assists per 40 minutes, and hasn't shot less than 45% from the floor since 2003 with LAC. You know what you're getting, and it's average at the very worst.
  • 15) Raymond Felton - He's been woeful this year. Let me get that out of the way, but it's still a less-than-10 game sample size, and it's easily dismissed. Posted a career-high 9 assists a game last year to go along with 17 points, and while those numbers aren't reachable in the Portland offense vs. the NYK version, I think Felton brings a lot to the table. He seemed to have fixed his notorious issues with finishing at the rim last year, and if that continues, he's definitely worthy of this position. One caveat? He visibly put on weight last year, and doesn't seem to have lost it. Worth noting for a PG who needs to have quick burst.
  • 14) Devin Harris - Remember him? The guy who averaged 21 points a game just 3 seasons ago in NJ? That was a bit of a fluke, but Devin Harris is a career 13 a game scorer (with that rising to 16 a game as a starter) who does a lot of things well. He's insanely quick, and can stay in front of just about anybody on defense. One negative is his relatively inefficient offensive game (usually a low-40s % shooter), and his spotty injury history, but I think Harris has gotten a bad wrap for "falling off" after that first breakout year in NJ. The 21-a-game guy isn't coming back, but 16 and 7 with above-average defense is pretty nice.
  • 13) Mike Conley - Warning! Irrational love fest! With Conley's collegiate affiliation aside, I've always had a man-crush on him. Great speed, left-handed (I'm a sucker for that), and an improved shooter that peaked last year with career highs in points (14) and assists (7) per game. He's good at staying in front of quick guards, with a little trouble with bigger guys who can out-muscle him. I think the ceiling is a bit higher than what he's shown this far, and I expect him to reach it. Never a superstar, but an unquestioned above-average PG.

Tier 3 - Young and Upcoming

  • 12) Jrue Holiday - I almost put Holiday in the class below this, but then I remembered how old he is. Despite this being his 3rd year, he's only 21 years old, and improved across the board in year 2. 14 points and 7 assists last year and rising. He has great size (6'4) and reach along with the requisite quickness to be an insanely good defender if he can figure out how to beat a ball-screen (an issue when I've seen him). If he can continue to improve his range and become even an adequate 3-point shooter, the sky is limit, and let's not forget that he's just 2 years older than Kyrie Irving and the same age as Ricky Rubio.
  • 11) Ty Lawson - Maybe the quickest player in the entire league. He's been electric so far in 2012 (22 PER, 16 points, 6 assists, 50% FG), and has made the mini-leap as the perfect engine/creator to that up-tempo, deep Nuggets team. He has some limitations with his size (listed 6-feet, no chance), but he's been an efficient shooter (career 51/40/77 line) and that helps make up for a lot of it. I really like what I've seen from him in an expanded role as the unquestioned starter.
  • 10) Kyle Lowry - Some people might think this is too high. Some people might think I'm overreacting to a small sample size of this season. It's neither. Kyle Lowry is a top-10 point guard. This year's averages are out of this world (league-leading 26 PER, 15 ppg, 10 apg, 6 rpg line) and unlikely to continue at quite the same rate, but after his 14/7/4 last year, I think he could be in line for season averages of 16/9/5 or so this year, and if you combine that with his elite defense and strength, that's the recipe for this ranking. It's a shame that that team's rotation is in shambles, so Lowry will likely go virtually unnoticed, but he should get more love.
  • 9) Stephen Curry - We all love Steph. He's one of the best shooters on planet Earth, and has a Nash-like court vision at times, but there are a few hiccups along the way. First of all, he's almost at the point where injury-prone is a concern simply because he keeps having the same recurring ankle injuries. That's a small-ish issue in the present, but because of his size and already limited athleticism, he can't afford to be hobbled. And then there is his defense. He's honestly kind of a trainwreck defensively in terms of on-ball because he's either ultra-aggressive and gets blown by or he gets muscled off by bigger guards. In his defense, he's pretty long for a PG, and a very smart help-side guy, but because of his limitations, it's pretty unlikely he'll ever be even an average defender. That said, it's so difficult to overlook a guy who can shoot a career 47/44/91 slash line in that type of offense, and if he can ever get out from underneath Monta Ellis, the sky is the limit numbers-wise.
  • 8) John Wall - I'm as shocked as anyone that he didn't land in the next tier up, but it's pretty difficult to ignore how bad he's been so far this year. I had him penciled in to make the jump, and he still might, but he's posted a below-league-average 14 PER this year while shooting 35% and committing 4 turnovers a game vs. 7 assists. It's a very small sample, but it's looked pretty bad. Wall is a freak athletically with 6'4 size, and maybe the fastest end-to-end speed in the game, but he still lacks some decision making maturity, and has an inconsistent (at best) jump shot. I do like that he's cut down on his 3 point attempts (only 3 this year, vs. nearly 1.5 a game last year), but I'd like it MORE if he simply improved enough (28% last year) to make it an occasional weapon to keep defenses honest. He's got elite skills defensively, and while he makes the occasional lapse, he's already above-average there and could be ridiculous if he puts it together. I'd be a little surprised (still) if he didn't make the leap to the next tier by the end of the season, but he's not getting a lot of help from that woeful supporting cast.

Tier 2 - The Upper-Echelon

  • 7) Tony Parker - 3 titles. 4 years of 20+ PER including last year. A career 49% FG shooter with over 16 points a game and his assists have gradually risen throughout his career. That's Tony Parker. You may have been shocked to see him in this tier (I know someone will be, cough, Ryan), but I think Parker is perpetually underrated when you take a look at the league's landscape. I honestly don't even think there is a debate that anyone behind him is in front of him at this very moment (Curry and Wall are virtual locks to pass him without injury, but still) and I've always felt that Parker hasn't gotten his due. Has he ever been the best player on that team? Absolutely not, but it's not his fault he was given the right to play with Tim Duncan (greatest PF of all time) and Manu Ginobili (their current best player). Oh, and he was 6th in PG PER last year behind the 5 guys above him on this list not named Rajon Rondo, and he's a career 18.5 PER (behind only Nash, Paul, Williams, Rose, and Kidd on career list). Not the only measuring stick, but here we are.
  • 6) Steve Nash - Still here, huh? Steve Nash hasn't posted a PER under 19.5 in a decade. Read that again. He's slowed down a bit physically, but that hasn't stopped him from posting a ridiculous 13 assists per 40 minutes for the last season-plus, and shooting 50/38/93 in the process. He's still one of the best offensive players in the game, and if he was surrounded by a similar talent level to the one he had five years ago, he'd still be talked about just as much. I've preached about his defensive limitations in the past (he's pretty bad) endlessly in this space, but always with the caveat that a) they don't ask him to defend, and b) he's a brilliant help defender. Nothing but praise for Nash here, and what he's done for the past decade and is still doing at age 37 is ludicrous.
  • 5) Russell Westbrook - Lots and lots of discussion about Russ in the league for the past 2 years. The good: Insane athlete, great finisher, high assist rate, good rebounder for his size, good free throw shooter, elite defensive tools (and sometimes uses them). The bad: Shoots too much (high usage rate), turns the ball over too much, low field goal percentage, streaky/bad 3-point shooter (career 27%, 33% last year). What does it all mean? I think Westbrook is an up-and-coming star who's still 22 years old and not fully mature yet. The dissension issue with Durant is overblown, but Westbrook's usage rate is actually a problem, and not just because Durant is the better player. At any rate, there's no denying the physical tools of Westbrook, and his innate play-making ability to the point where he's a top-5 PG in the league.
  • 4) Rajon Rondo - Always a weird evaluation. He doesn't bring the same offensive arsenal of everyone else in this stratosphere, but his unique game and elite, elite, elite defensive pedigree brings him in ahead of Westbrook. He's managed to shoot nearly 50% from the field the past 3-plus seasons (tough to do with that jumper) while notching double-digit assist rates, and being a Kidd-like rebounder from the PG spot. His jumper has taken a step forward this season in confidence and technique and that'll go a long way to improving his career 11 ppg. Defensively, he's the best of the non-specialist guys at the PG position with his freakishly long arms and alarming quickness. If his free throw shooting and mid-range game improve to average levels, he'd make a run at the top 3. Oh, and he has a ring, can't be ignored.
  • 3) Deron Williams - The forgotten man. He's been dreadful this year (34% shooting) and his team is really, really bad so he's not going to receive the mentions he'd normally garner, but he's still elite. I've always been on the Paul side of the Williams/Paul debate, but that was never a slight against Williams. He's notched 4 straight 20+ PER seasons, and career averages of 17/9 with a 46/35/81 slash line. That's really impressive stuff capped off by last year's legitimate 20 point, 10 assist season. I've often heard the argument that if you had 10 different categories among point guards, Williams would be in the top-5 in each one, which speaks to his well-roundedness, but he doesn't have the court vision/command of Paul or the outright explosiveness of a Rose or Westbrook. If I have a critique, it's that he's often below-average on defense purely do to lack of effort (I assume this because I've seen him be fantastic), but that comes with the territory as a team's #1 offensive option. Really a great player.

Tier 1 - The Best of the Best

  • 2) Derrick Rose - The league's reigning MVP. The most explosive scorer (by far) of the point guards, and one of the best athletes in the entire league. He improved his jump shot last season to the point where it was a legitimate weapon, and along with a rising assist rate, his game crested with the MVP award and a ridiculous season by the Bulls. If there was a weakness with Rose, it's with his jumper still. Although it's greatly improved, it isn't consistent enough to overcome on some nights, but the advantage with him is that he has the ability to get the cup at will. I've never been a fan of the shoot-first point guard, but when you can do it with 8+ assists per 40 minutes, it makes it a bit easier. I'm expecting to catch some flack for this ranking, but with respect to Rose, I absolutely appreciate how electric and fantastic he is and will continue to be. He's an unquestioned top-6 player in the league for me with Lebron, Wade, Howard, Durant, and Paul.
  • 1) Chris Paul - Speaking of Paul, he may be the best short point guard in the history of league (notice I used the word short so Magic wouldn't strike me down with lightning). He has a career PER of 25.2 (3rd on the active list behind Lebron and Wade, and even ahead of Duncan and Kobe after their declines caught up) and career averages of 19 points and 10 assists per game with a 47/36/85 slash line. Oh, and he's led the league in steals 4 times before the age of 26. Admittedly, he's lost half a step with the advent of the knee injury that's limited him the past year or 2, but he's still a very capable defender. Above all, he has a mastery of the floor like no one in the league sans Nash and Kidd, and athletic skills that neither of those guys ever possessed, plus he's at the point where he's shooting 40% on threes for the last 2-plus seasons. There's no weakness here (aside from the knees), and if we're picking a player for a game this afternoon, I want Chris Paul.

There you have it... Comments appreciated!